Friday, August 29, 2008

Love Birds

I was a little bit worried that our tree-trimming would scare off the local bird population, but I'm happy to say that we still have a cacophony of chirping coming from the back yard. The culprits for some of the most twittery of the chirping are a small flock of peach-faced lovebirds. Last spring we had a couple of them in the yard, but now we've got a group of 8-10 of them, and they were still hanging around last night, after the cutting was all done. I didn't have my super-telephote lens on the camera as I was walking in the yard, but did pretty well with my kit zoom lens, and some judicious cropping.

Tree Trimming

Between the heat of a Phoenix summer, and all the travelling I've been doing (and yes, will soon get back to posting pictures from), the yard has gotten a bit unkempt. So I've spent some time the past week or so trimming all the hedges, bushes, and many of the trees. The highest of the trees, the palms, were going to be the biggest challenge, and Jaime wasn't so keen on me buying a stepladder & chainsaw and attempting to do it myself. When a knock came at the door a couple days ago, and the guy on the other side asked me if I wanted him to trim the palms, I decided I should take him up on the offer. He and his friends came by yesterday to give them all a haircut. Almost a mohawk in some cases, but they are now a lot lighter, and the dead branches and dried out seed pods all were taken down and carted away. Turned out to be just in time, as well, since a big ol' monsoonal storm ripped through the area last night, and there are more forecast for this weekend. Pictures above and below show the trees before trimming on the left, and after trimming on the right. Quite a shave! Now maybe I should do the same for myself...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Do Re Mi

I guess I'll start at the beginning, since I hear it's a very good place to start. The trip was a celebration of my parents' 65th birthdays and 40th anniversary, all of which occured last year. My sister Gabrielle and her husband Chris are currently living in Africa, and Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo (of Heart of Darkness fame). Gabrielle, my other sister Dominique, and I, along with our spouses, gave our parents the present of a family trip to Africa. The Congo, however, is not a tourist friendly place, so we had to choose some other part of the continent to visit. After a fair bit of web surfing and guidebook reading over the past year, we settled on the "northern circuit" of Tanzania and the island of Zanzibar just off the coast as the best place for our trip.

There were eight of us going on this trip, starting from four different locations: my parents from Pennsylvania, Dominique & Ted from California, Gabrielle & Chris from Kinshasa, and Jaime & me from Arizona. That made the air routings a bit of a mess, but it all worked out in the end. Jaime and I flew from Phoenix to Chicago, where we met up with Ted, who had flown in from SFO. Dominique was already on the east coast for a conference, so she went with my parents to JFK. We six were all supposed to meet up in London, where our flights were scheduled to arrive only 5 minutes apart. In Chicago, I brought Jaime and Ted into the American Airlines Flagship Lounge, the special airline club with free food and booze for those of us who spent too much time on airplanes last year. Meanwhile, my parents and dominique were in the admirals club at JFK, which they got into for free since they all (and us too) had upgraded our seats to business class for the transatlantic flights. We connected via cell phone before departing, and it was fun to have a lounge-to-lounge conversation. The picture above left shows Ted and Jaime enjoying the Chicago flagship lounge.

We got into London around noon. The business class seats on American are quite comfortable, as is the whole business class experience (food, drinks, movies, all of it). Unfortunately, flights to heathrow are pretty short, only about 6 hours, which isn't enough time to properly enjoy it all, and get sleep too. So we all took a short nap at a hotel near the airport after arrival. Then we hopped on the tube and went downtown to meet up with our friends Renny & Bill, who moved to London from San Francisco about six months ago. They played tour guide for us as we walked around in the rain, looking for a good place for dinner (see the picture, above right). After rejecting an italian place, a middle eastern place, and a tavern (and there were no indian curry houses to be found in that part of town), we sent our advance scouts (Bill & Dominique) ahead without us to battle the rain and find a good restaurant which had space for eight. They succeeded in their quest, and we had a very nice meal at a Thai restaurant, lots of conversation, and then finally headed back to our hotel to catch some bed-ridden shut-eye before our next long flight on Monday.

Tomorrow, the journey continues...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Serengeti Splendor

I'm back home in Arizona, and almost back onto the right time zone. Jaime and I got home around 11pm on Monday night, having travelled for 43 hours to get home from Stone Town in Zanzibar, the last spot on our two week family safari to northern Tanzania and Zanzibar.

The trip was awesome. I shot 3250 pictures with my new SLR, and another 170 image pairs with my 3D camera rig. Now I've got to go through and process them all. Step one, downloading them onto my computer, is complete. Next I've got to back it all up to DVD, then start the big sort/tag where I throw out the less appealing ones, and keep the better ones. Then I can try optimizing some for printing, and others for posting on the blog. I haven't looked at them all yet, but here's one I found from a quick glance through the pictures I took on our first day in the Serengeti (which was something like our fifth day on safari, having previously visited Tarangire, Lake Manyara, and Ngorongoro crater, and Olduvai parks/camps). This was just before sunset on what was probably our most spectacular day, in terms of packs of big animals, including a pride of nine lions who had just finished a hunt (they caught and killed a cape buffalo), and a large herd of elephant grazing near a water hole. Pictures of those will get posted soon, I promise, once I figure out what sort of theme or order I want to put into the posts.

Oh, and I'll be posting a goodly number of 3D pics as well, in cross-eyed format, so start relaxing those eye muscles now.

Right, and a comment on the above picture. That's a Thomson Gazelle grazing under an acacia tree (one of the 100+ acacia varieties which grow in that part of the world).