weblog - 2008/9
Dec 31 Lake Tahoe
again the Levy-Solomons clan is assembled on the shores of Lake Tahoe in
Brockway Springs at the north end of the lake on the Nevada-California
border. The weather has been ideal. There is plenty of snow for the
skiers, but not enough to hamper driving. Outside temperatures have been
warm (relatively) so that activities like skiing, sledding and ice skating have
been enjoyable. From the ski slopes to the restaurants it is hard to tell
that there is a recession in progress. Apparently the casino have been
hard hit. Fitzgerald's and other famous venues in Reno have been boarded
up. As yet they haven't resorted to removing the Gamblers Anonymous
signs. We got quite a few good pictures and you can see them by clicking HERE.
Dec 9 Houston
It is December 9 and it is snowing in
Houston. Alas it is melting as it hits the ground. The temperature
here is in the low 30's - very unusual. One bit of news - we have a new
addition to the fleet. We bought a Mini Cooper. Everyone seems to
smile when they see the car. The whole car is good looking but no doubt
the outstanding feature is the checkered flag mirror covers picked out by Pat.
Nov 29 Killeen
A classmate of Mark's has put together a
video about Barack Obama's Honolulu roots and posted it on U Tube. Just
before the end of the video there is a nice picture of Mark in uniform.
Click this LINK
to see the video.
Nov 25 Killeen
In March 2007, a picture of Barack Obama's
fifth grade class appeared on the front page of the New York Times. Obama
was standing in the back row, while seated in the front row at the extreme right
was Mark Solomons. Now a journalist with the UK Mirror decided to
follow up on that picture and find out what happened to the members of that
class. The resulting article can be seen by clicking here
Nov 19 Honolulu
had been many years since we visited the Arizona memorial so we went to Pearl
Harbor to see it.. The memorial has been improved, a museum and theater
having been added. They greatly enhance the experience. As always, a
visit to Pearl Harbor is a solemn and sobering experience. The
Arizona sits on the bottom but part of its tower is seen above the
surface. Oil is still leaking from the wreckage and somehow that seems to be a
link to the sailors entombed below. Mark and Andy's grandfather was one of
the driving forces behind the building of the memorial and his name is
Nov 16 Maui
we arrived on Maui it was a gloriously clear day so we headed straight to
Haleakala, a volcano which rises more than 10,000 from its sea level base.
It is the home to two endangered species, the nene goose and the silversword, a
beautiful plant. The nene goose is the state bird of Hawaii. The
volcano is considered active but we weren't too worried as it hasn't erupted in
the last 300 years. We had been to the summit before, but it was always cloudy
or rainy. The view on a clear day is unforgettable. We spent the
night at the Ritz-Carlton hotel on the north end of the island which, we
discovered too late, is known for bad weather this time of year.. On the
other hand, the drizzle allowed us to see some beautiful rainbows.
Nov 11 Houston
Someone has to kick start the economy, why
not us? We are off to Hawaii for two weeks of fun and sun. We'll spend a
few days visiting friends on Oahu and then do a two day trip to Maui.
Oct 30 Killeen
spent a few days with Mark, Margaret, Andy and the grandchildren. Mark
just got back from the National Training Center in California and had just a few
days at home before heading off to Iraq on November 3. We participated in
the Halloween festivities including pumpkin carving and trick or treating.
Johnny went as Harry Potter and Katie was his friend Hermione. It was
interesting to see the kids in the neighborhood in their costumes. We
recognized very few of the characters. What ever happened to Donald Duck
and Mickey Mouse. Saturday marked the end of the youth soccer season and
we saw Johnny and his Tigers teammates in action.
Sep 26 Houston
We have a new car. It is a red and
white Mini Cooper with checkered flag mirror covers. A picture will appear
Sep 19 Puntarenas, Costa Rica
tour concluded with a two day stay at the all-inclusive Double Tree resort.
It is a first class facility located on a sandy beach, but frankly, the
water was pretty uninviting. We were told it clears up in the dry season,
but we have our doubts. There were three large pools with swim-up bars so
we didn't miss the ocean. The itinerary called for a three hour trip to a
national park, but we opted to strike out on our own ad give zip-lining a
go. It turns out to be one of our trip highlights. We traversed
eight platforms with the final leg a 2,000 foot ride high above the jungle
canopy. Pretty exciting stuff.
Sep 17 Fortuna, Costa Rica
from the jungle, we had another long boat ride and bus ride, this time broken up
by a visit to the Del Monte banana packing plant. Then it was on to a very
nice hotel at the base of Costa Rica's most active volcano - Arenal. Steam
and ash are almost constant with lava flows visible at night. Our
accommodation was very nice, a free-standing cabin with a back porch viewing
platform. We were visited by toucans and other colorful birds in the
morning. One afternoon we traveled to Los Chiles for a boat trip on the Rio Frio.
Despite the names, we were told the water was quite warm. We followed a family
of howler monkeys to the border with Nicaragua.
Sep 15 Tortuguero, Costa Rica
an hour and a half on a paved road, an hour on a gravel road and an hour on a
boat, we arrived at our destination on the Caribbean coast.. This is one
of the most remote location we have ever visited. The Laguna Lodge hotel
is more than adequate despite having no TV or telephone service. The hotel
is situated between a river and the Caribbean, with a nice lounge on the bank of
the river, where you can sip cocktails and observe the maritime activities.
In the back of the hotel is a wide sandy beach used by green sea turtles to lay
their eggs. The mama turtles leave tracks in the sand as they make their
way back to the sea. The river bank vegetation hosts a large number of
white-faced Capuchin monkeys.
Sep 13 San Jose, Costa Rica
few years ago we stopped in Costa Rica on a Panama Canal cruise. We
decided at that time to return someday and see more of the country, so here we
are. We are traveling with Caravan Tours. An all land tour is a
first for us. The company provided a new Mercedes Benz bus which was very
comfortable. The Barcelo Hotel where are staying for two night is very
nice, but the city of San Jose doesn't have much to offer except wacky
drivers. Crossing the street here is an adventure. We visited the
Poas volcano which has lots of steam but no lava in recent years. We also visited
a reserve where we encountered one of Costa Rica's signature red frogs.
Sep 12 Houston
Hurricane Ike is coming and we are
going. Timing is everything. Our flight to Costa Rica leaves at 9:15
and the airport closes at noon. See ya later.
Sep 1 Houston
Day weekend saw the arrival of Margaret, Mark and their kids, Deanna and Andy,
and Monica and Mike for a joint celebration of Johnny's ninth birthday and Pat
and Lew's 25th anniversary. We celebrated Saturday night at a Japanese
restaurant where the Iron Chef put on a great show of dexterity with cooking
tools and food (the food tasted good , too). Early Sunday morning a
few hardy souls traveled to Galveston for a fishing excursion on the Bay. The
total catch was one small trout, landed by Johnny.
Aug 18 Carmel
highlight of the weekend was the Concours d'Elegance held on the Pebble Beach
golf course. This is the top showcase for beautifully restored classic
cars, many of which are valued at $1,000,000 plus. I'm sure many of them
look better now than when they were new. The event also featured General
Motors concept cars from the 40's and 50's. Most looked they were designed
for The Jetsons.
Aug 17 Carmel
Seca racetrack is the site of the annual antique car races. Races are held
for various car age groups with the pre-1930 group first and the most fun.
We stayed around long enough to see the four oldest age groups. Some of
the cars were almost one hundred years old but they still go pretty fast.
Mario Andretti was the honored guest and he gave a demonstration of his skill
driving the 1978 Lotus ground effects in which he was a winner on the Formula-1
Aug 16 Carmel
are in Northern California for the annual Pebble Beach classic car
weekend. The first event is the Concorso Italiano, a showcase for
Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghini's and a host of other Italian sports
cars. Here we are with our gracious hosts, Marsha and Sam Dodson.
Pat and I thought we'd be the biggest celebrities there until Jay Leno showed
Jul 30 Houston
We went to our first Astros game of the
season. Our local heroes have fallen on hard times. Tonight they
fell behind 8-1 early in the game, and although they made a game of it had too
much of a hill to climb. The game was fun with six home runs combines,
including what will probably be the last in a Cincinnati uniform by Ken Griffey,
Jr. Looks like he is headed for the White Sox
Jun 24 - July 10 Norway - see Recent
Jun 23, Wimbledon
Today is the first day of the annual tennis championship, so we
had to give it a try even though we couldn't find advance sale tickets.
Traditionally, ground passes go on sale every day during the tournament. It is
necessary to join a queue in order to buy the passes. Everyone in the
queue is given a ticket. Our tickets were numbers 6033 and 6004,
representing our position in the queue. We arrived at at 9:00 and got in
to the stadium at noon. This isn't as bad as it would seem as Wimbledon is well
organized to handle the people. The queue is in a field where food, water
and toilet facilities are available for those waiting for the line to start moving.
Jun 22, London
The Globe theater has been reconstructed on the south bank of
the Thames. We saw a production of King Lear which was impressive but
a little on the boring side. Some of the key characters' voices didn't
carry too well in the theater so it was hard to keep up with the action.
We had seats in the upper stalls, but the people downstairs have to stand
through the performance, which appeared to be pure torture. I think they overachieved
in making the reconstruction authentic.
Jun 21, London
our first full day on the south bank of the Thames. The area has been
redeveloped making it a fun place to stay. We were able to walk easily to
The Swan restaurant we we met up with Ginny and David Mortimer, good friends
from our time in Brazil. Their kids, Katy and Andy, who were teenagers at
the time, joined us for lunch. They are grown up now, Katy even brought
along her husband.
The theatre in London is hard to beat. We took in a performance of The 39 Steps, a hysterically
of the classic 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film. Four actors take on about
thirty roles requiring perfect timing. They managed to pull it off making
for a very entertaining evening.
Jun 20, London
We barely had time to wash clothes and we
are off again, this time to London for a few days before embarking on a cruise
to Norway. We are staying in a very cozy hotel near London Bridge.
Despite a steady drizzle, we walked over to Saint Paul's cathedral, but got
there too late to get inside. We "dined" at a neighborhood pub,
the George Inn where we sampled the meat and wine pie.
Jun 13, Penticton
In the Okanogan Valley, Silly. This place is unknown except to bridge
players, tri-athletes, and Canadian wine buffs. Located four hours north
of Spokane Washington, this city is a gem. The weather is delightful, the
people friendly and the scenery is spectacular. When we weren't playing
bridge we toured the area discovering some interesting vineyards, and a place
named Tinkleberry's in OK Falls which arguably has the best ice cream in the
world. The only distressing factor was having to pay $100 US to get
back $98 Canadian. I guess this was a gentle warmup for having to face the
pound sterling and the Euro later this week.
May 18, New York
We are just back from a week in New York
with Jann and Dick Brown. Our primary mission was to see a couple of
shows. We ordered tickets to two revivals that had not yet opened, so we
had to hope for the best. On Friday night we saw A Country Girl
featuring Morgan Freeman and Frances McDormand, two of America's finest
actors. It was fun to see Freeman and McDormand up close, but they never
seemed to generate and sparks. Some critics loved it but we thought it was
good but not great. Gypsy, with Patti LuPone, was a different story.
From the moment LuPone walked onto the stage until the final bows there was
electricity in the air. The three lead characters were all nominated for
Tony awards and I wouldn't be surprised if at least two emerge as winners.
LuPone is a lock.
We had planned to do a lot of walking but
the weather did not cooperate. We mostly did indoor stuff, but did mange
to go round trip on the Staten Island ferry. You can't beat the price
(free) and you get pretty close to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The city has always been pricey, but it
appears that an effort is being made to show foreign visitors that New York is
not part of some banana republic where their Pounds and Euros would go
far. We had breakfast one morning at the Plaza hotel and were somewhat
taken aback to find that a cup of coffee and an order of toast cost $22 plus tax
and tip. In the interest of full disclosure, the toast order did come with
May 5, Lincoln, NE
knew eastern Nebraska was a tourist destination? We gathered up Nancy and
Packy Maxwell who joined us for this capitalist pilgrimage and headed to the
state capital, Lincoln, about 60 miles away. On the way we stopped off at
the Strategic Air Command museum, a paean to General Curtis LeMay, a
distinguished military man who unfortunately is best remembered as George
Wallace's running mate in 1968. We drove past the University of Nebraska
football stadium, which locals informed us is the third largest city in the
state on Saturdays in the fall. The state capital is a very impressive
building, with a statue named "The Sower" atop its dome . We had
to ask the guide to spell it out before we got the meaning. When we
visited, we lucked out and found a guide who was very knowledgeable and helpful.
She not only knew everything there was to know about the state government, but
also pointed us to Lazlo's microbrewery and restaurant for lunch in the
redeveloped Haymarket district.
May 3, Omaha
has to be seen to be believed. The Berkshire meeting starts at 9:30, the
doors open at 7:00, and when we arrived at 6:00, there was already a line
outside the Qwest Center.. The outside temperature was 40 degrees and the
wind was howling. The people in front of us came prepared with plastic
garbage bags to ward off the weather. They had an extra bag which Pat
gladly accepted. Only her fingers were visible. The wait was worth
it as Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger are very entertaining and
informative. In addition to the annual meeting and Q&A session, many
of the B-H companies display their wares in a large exhibition room in the same
building. Everything from See's candy to pre-fab homes are on
display. It's not obvious what all of B-H's companies do. One
company seemed to have something to do with livestock, but it wasn't clear
what. Warren wasn't available to have his picture taken with us, so we had
to settle for this longhorn. The woman tending the animal volunteered to
take our picture. She appears in a full-page report on the meeting in the
current issue of Time magazine.
May 2, enroute to Nebraska
Despite the high cost of gasoline, we
decided to drive north to Omaha to participate in the Berkshire Hathaway annual
meeting, dubbed by one wag as Woodstock for capitalists. We stopped in
Oklahoma City last night and dinner with Terry and Cindi Ruder, friends from our
days in Rio de Janeiro. We ate in a restaurant named Cafe do Brasil, owned
by a Brazilian who serves authentic Brazilian food and drink. We sampled
the caiparinhas, moqueca, and other Brazilian delicacies. After dinner we
stopped at the Murrah Building memorial. Very moving.
April 26, Fort Hood
exciting day in central Texas as Lt. Col. Mark Solomons was honored in a Change
of Command ceremony at Fort Hood. Mark is commanding the 2-8 CAV, part of
the Iron Horse brigade of the Army's First Cavalry Division. The
traditional ceremony featured a marching band, soldiers in civil war uniforms,
inspirational speeches, and concluded with a full-on cavalry charge on
horseback. Incoming commanders arrived, and outgoing commanders departed
on horseback. The event program featured stories on each of the incoming
and outgoing commander's accomplishments and honors. Mark's write-up is on
the left. Click here to see a photo
collage of the ceremony highlights.
April 9, Sedona, Arizona
only had one day to see Sedona and Jerome which is not nearly enough. We
vow to return. Sedona is surrounded by fascinating rock formations which
give it a uniquely beautiful backdrop. Lot's of interesting shops and jeep
tours of the surrounds which we will do on our next visit. Jerome is an
old mining town built on a mountainside. The road from Jerome heading
south toward Phoenix is scenic but a little bit scary. I would not want to
drive it in a snow storm.
April 9, Chandler, Arizona
did not strike twice as your reporter and Mary Pat Gentry played yester day in
an open pairs event at a regional tournament here in Arizona. However
today Pat and Mary Pat blew away the field in Flight A of the stratified pairs,
winning by almost three full boards. Most tournaments are won by half a
board or less (your reporter won last week by less than one tenth of a
board). Congratulations to the ladies. I took advantage of the
beautiful weather here by taking in a rare day baseball game between the Arizona
Diamondbacks and the L.A. Dodgers. The D-backs won 4-3 in a very good game
that had three lead changes. The ballpark is first rate, but traffic in
Phoenix is awful.
April 6, Houston
At the sectional bridge tournament today, the
bridge unit announced the winners of the masterpoint awards for 2007. The
winner of the Diamond Life Master award (5000-7500 masterpoints) was none other
that Pat Levy. Nice going.
April 4, Houston
do happen. Your reporter and his partner Mary Pat Gentry were the winners
of the opening event of the April 2008 sectional bridge tournament in
April 2, Houston
For the first time since leaving Hawaii we
are a two car family. We finally bit the bullet and bought a Cadillac
CTS. The car has a lot of gadgets and seems to have a mind of its
own. We are planning to drive to Omaha in May and hope to have figured out
the navigation system before we head out. (picture to follow)
March 23, Austin
to Austin for the annual Brown family Easter extravaganza. Saturday night
we went to dinner at North. a hot new Italian restaurant recommended by your
blogger. The food was OK but the restaurant was very noisy (maybe we're just
getting old). The waiter did a good impersonation of Manuel from Fawlty
Towers. It took him three tries before getting the drink order straight,
took a dinner order for an item which had been taken off the menu, and came out
one time with the food but couldn't find our table. The extended family
for Sunday lunch has grown to forty. Mark, Margeret and family attended as
did Andy. Mark was heading to Virginia for a course so we dropped him off
at the Austin airport on the way back to Houston.
February 26, Valley Glen
and Ross have a new member of the family - Bailey. Here's the story:
We want to introduce you to our new Home Puppy
Bailey!!! She is an 8-month-old Golden Retriever and we are simply in love with
her. She was rescued from a Pet Store some time ago, when her previous owner saw
a sad, sickly, frail little girl in a store window. He took her home, but he
travels so much her new he could not give her the home life she needed. When
ever her dogwalker took her to the Dog park Kelly & I would always shower
her with love, and always told the dogwalker "If she ever needs a new
home..." Well it turns out she did, and we jumped at the chance. She is
settling in wonderfully, and Taki loves her so much! (Sarah is indifferent, but
that's Sarah.) Bailey will go to the Park with-us every day, and we are so happy
our home has 3 dogs once again!!!
Ross & Kelly
February 25, Houston
Not too much excitement at the Oscars this
year. Jon Stewart (who I usually like) never got going, and there were no
big surprises. You may recall that I rated Juno higher than No Country for
Old Men, but my vote didn't count (sort of like the Florida Democrats).
The best picture doesn't always win Best Picture.
February 24, Galveston
just returned from a week-long cruise on the Royal Caribbean Voyager of the
Seas. The ports of call were not too exciting but the ship was a
revelation. It is immense so can cater to everyone's interest. Their
is a full-size ice skating rink aboard as well as a 9 hole miniature golf course
and golf simulator. There are at least 10 bars, most of which feature live
music. There is even a sports bar where 24/7 soccer is occasionally
interrupted by NBA basketball. The picture on the right gives you some
idea of what the inside of the ship looks like. The English style
telephone booth is in front of the Pig 'n Whistle pub. There were
organized bridge games and lectures, with over 100 players from Houston
participating. Guess who won the most points. Too easy? The
picture gave it away. Well at least your reporter came in second.
February 10, Houston
Today was the final day of our annual
regional bridge tournament in Houston. Pat marked the occasion by
finishing first in the Stratified Open Pairs, Flight A event. Your
reporter was occupying a chair.
January 27, 2008, Harker Heights
took a ride up to see the grandchildren and to help Mark celebrate his
birthday. On Saturday Mark and Margaret went to a wedding so we had
babysitting duty with Andy. Pat, Andy and Katie went ice skating (sort of
- the surface was hard plastic) while Johnny and your reporter checked out some
'toons. After a nice dinner on Saturday night, we went bowling and then
returned for some street skill demonstrations. Mark, under the watchful
eye of his mother, son, and brother showed his prowess on the in-line
skateboard. This recent invention has a name but I don't recall what it
is. Katie impressed all with her skill on the two-wheeler.
January 20, 2008, Houston
honored Mark's birthday and her mother's memory by providing the altar flowers
at St. Martin's church.
January 1, 2008, Lake Tahoe
did 2007 go? Acceleration of time must be a phenomenon of the aging
process. Today may be the most beautiful day in the history of Lake
Tahoe. Margaret and Mark got someone to take their picture at the top of
Diamond Peak. With the Lake Tahoe in the background, this photo looks like
a post card. Andy continues to ride down the slopes on a snowboard.
December 31, Lake Tahoe
another family tradition, everyone dons silly paper hats and drinks
champagne. Johnny decided to be a non-conformist and removed his hat
before posing for the family portrait. We have
had a series of spectacular sunsets this week and tonight was no exception.
December 30, Lake Tahoe
weather is perfect for skiing, gambling and watching football on TV. Of
course the weather is always perfect for gambling and watching football.
Margaret, Mark, Andy, and the grandchildren are hitting the slopes every
day. Katie has been promoted to Chinstrap Penguin while Johnny has been
promoted to Advance Intermediate.
December 28, Lake Tahoe
are gathered at the lake for our annual end-of-year family gathering.
Keeping up with inflation the stakes were raised in the card game
competitions. Defending Texas Hold'em champion Andy was roundly defeated
by Monica who had an amazing run of winning on the river card. Six players
entered the double elimination cribbage playoff. Andy came up through the
losers bracket to come away with the top prize.