Feb 282009

I try to travel to Seattle at least once per year. There are at least a dozen or more friends of mine who ended up in Seattle for one reason or another, and it’s always a pleasure to see them. I’m always amazed by how quickly time passes–until I just did the math right now, I didn’t realize that I’ve known many of my Seattle friends for almost twenty years!

I flew to Seattle from Las Vegas for $80 on Virgin America. It’s unclear to me how Virgin America is making money. The flight was terrific, but it was also only half full. I had to switch planes in San Francisco, but I didn’t mind. I enjoy Virgin America’s flights.

I visited Seattle well before their terrible winter storms that shut down most of the city–if anything, it was unseasonably warm, pleasant, and dry. Seattle rarely has the torrential downpours of the northeast, but it frequently is covered by a gray, steady misty drizzle of rain that manages to float underneath any rain coat or umbrella. Which is why many Seattle residents never carry an umbrella.

One of the places I visited in Seattle was the Zig Zag Café. Several folks had recommended I go there, including Jim Meehan from PDT and Eryn Reece formerly with Bar Milano. The Zig Zag Café is located on the hill between the Public Market and Elliott Bay, just next door to a taqueria and downstairs from where the Spanish Table used to be. (Hey, if you know the shops near Pike Place Market, it’s a perfectly good description.) Jim specifically told me to be on the look out for Murray Stenson, an award-winning friendly and talented bartender. He wasn’t there the first evening I visited, so I spent some time chatting with one of the other bartenders who worked there and Kacy Fitch, one of the owners. It’s an elegant dimly lit bar with a tremendous selection of liquors, beers, and cocktails. There are many tables, but it’s a popular spot and fills up quickly. The staff is warm, friendly, and unpretentious.
Zig Zag Café, Seattle Zig Zag Café, Seattle

Of course, I had to visit the Zig Zag Café a second time to see Murray. It was worth the second trip out there. Even though the place was packed, Murray took the time to say hello and recommend some other good restaurants in the area. I was walking around the waterfront area before going to Zig Zag, and I saw one of the most spectacular sunsets I had ever seen in Seattle. Friends of mine who were out agreed that it was a rare sight.
Sunset over Elliott Bay, Seattle Sunset over Elliott Bay, Seattle Sunset over Elliott Bay, Seattle

While I was in the Pike Place Market, I stopped by World Spice Merchants. World Spice Merchants has been featured on television shows like Alton Brown’s Good Eats. They have a very large selection of teas and spices; in addition to their retail and mail-order businesses, they also supply restaurants around the Seattle area. I feel that the folks there are more knowledgeable and passionate than the folks who work at a typical Penzey’s retail outfit. And that’s saying a lot: the folks at Penzey’s are smart and dedicated.
World Spice Market, Seattle

From a food perspective, no trip to Seattle would be complete without a trip to Salumi next to Pioneer Square. Salumi is a salumeria, a place where meats are cured and salamis are made. The store is divided into several parts: in the front of the store is a very small seating area, followed by a sandwich line and cashier, then a small seating area and a small kitchen. Beyond that there is another intimate dining room. Finally, the curing rooms are beyond the final door.
Curing meats at Salumi, Seattle

Salumi was opened by Armandino Batali after retiring from Boeing where he was an engineer. Last year, Armandino turned over the shop to his daughter, Gina Batali, and son-in-law, Brian D’Amato.

One of the best features of visiting Salumi is purchasing sandwiches from the counter. Most of the sandwiches are served on a nice white rich and not-overly tough sandwich roll with a variety of spreads and sauces. The tongue sandwich is one of the best sandwiches there: it’s served with slow-cooked soft onions and two spreads. (I believe one was a garlic spread, and one was a pesto spread.) I also had sliced fresh mozzarella. It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.
Tongue sandwich at Salumi, Seattle

There’s more photos to come from my trip to Seattle.

 Posted by at 1:47 pm
Jan 182009

My friend Phil Jache’s is very close to the Appalachian Trail. I went to his house for Thanksgiving this past November, and we hiked a couple of small segments. Hiking through the forest is relaxing and energizing.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Phil, Anne, Kathy, and myself

Hiking the Appalachian Trail Hiking the Appalachian Trail
The flora and fauna on the trail are amazing. I could probably spend hour just documenting an area of land less than ten square feet.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail
The trail winds up and down mountains of all sizes, from hills to high peaks. It also dips into valleys and wetlands. Across many of the swamps, people have build walkways across the mud and water. Since it was November, this land was semi-firm mud.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Hiking trails are marked with blazes at irregular intervals attached to features like trees and rocks. The Appalachian trail is uses one white paint blaze most of the time. When the trail turns, you will sometimes see two blazes pointing the way.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail Hiking the Appalachian Trail
If you walk the trail quickly, you sometimes miss odd features. I found the skull just to the side of the path.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail Hiking the Appalachian Trail
The views from the peaks can be fairly spectacular, even if they aren’t actually that high. The second photo is a self-portrait. It was back-lit, and it wasn’t possible to get a perfect exposure on my small camera.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Anne, Phil, and I hiked two sections of the trail, while Kathy left after one. The trail goes by a lot of houses; a man was walking dogs along the trail.

A video of one minute of the hike.

If you live on the East coast, it’s definitely worth taking a day trip along the Appalachian Trail. And it’s arguably a good reason to visit the East coast.

 Posted by at 11:04 pm
Nov 242008

You might think it is too late in the Fall to be hearing about the spider in my window; you would be wrong. Just this afternoon, I looked out my window to see the spider creating a giant 2-foot diameter web. After completing the web, it rested in the middle before hiding once again.

This spider has had some interesting behavior. I’ve seen it out at night a few times; as the nights have gotten colder this has stopped.
Cross orb weaver Cross orb weaver Cross orb weaver

I think there may have been two spiders near my apartment at one point. I saw a desiccated spider body caught on a web at the same time as the live spider.
Cross orb weaver

I’ve often wondered where the spider goes when it gets cold and windy. A few weeks ago, I found my answer.
Cross orb weaver
As you can see from this photo, the spider is actually hidden in the sill, specifically between the outer lining and the window.

More interestingly, the spider actually had two legs out hooked to a thread. The thread ran to the center of the still intact orb. In other words, the spider was still hooked into it’s main web and could detect if an insect landed on the web itself.
Cross orb weaver
I’ve never heard this behavior described before.

Here’s a photo that really shows off the web
Cross orb weaver

I’ve taken a couple of videos of the spider. The spider doesn’t move a lot, and when it does, it’s difficult to capture all of it’s movement. (I think this is why you always see spider webs being shown fast-forward.)

I had to swap out the audio of this movie since what I had from the television was even more annoying than the music I swapped in.

 Posted by at 5:24 pm
Nov 182008

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to visit my friends Phil and Karen at their house by the river near the Bear Mountain Bridge. I had already missed the morning train to Manitou, where they live, so I decided to take the train to Garrison and hike back to their house. It’s only four miles, and I was able to make the hike in under 90 minutes.

View Larger Map

It was a beautiful day; the leaves have just started to fall off the trees, and the last of the fall foliage was visible. The hike was very relaxing, even if most of it was along Route 9D. It’s a bit difficult hiking along a highway because the road is sloped and there are no pedestrian trails.

Hike along Route 9D in Garrison Hike along Route 9D in Garrison

After around three miles along Route 9D, I headed down a twisty road towards the Outward Bound headquarters. The headquarters is a large 10 bedroom building on 18 acres; it’s for sale for $9MM. Taxes are around $51K per year.

You cross over a bridge over the MTA tracks to get to Mystery Point.
Bridge over train tracks on Mystery Point

After walking by the Outward Bound headquarters, I walked down Mystery Point Road towards my friends’ house.
View from Mystery Point Road View from Mystery Point Road View from Mystery Point RoadView from Mystery Point Road View from Mystery Point Road
Mystery Point Road

I hung out at Phil and Karen’s house for a few hours before catching the 5 pm train back to New York City.
Hudson River
Hudson River

I also took a stop-motion video of the hike down Mystery Point Road; unfortunately, it didn’t compress well.

 Posted by at 6:25 pm
Oct 242008

I wasn’t sure I would see the spider hanging outside my window this time of year. It’s been around 40 degrees for the past couple of nights; and I’m not sure what spiders do in the winter. I was a bit surprised to see it outside my window when I got home this evening. After taking this photo, it nestled into my window sill.

Sider over Brooklyn

 Posted by at 12:40 am
Oct 142008

Last weekend, I rode on a yacht, had food poisoning, and climbed Anthony’s Nose.

I took Friday, October 3rd off to sail around the New York Classic Week Regatta, a schooner race around New York Harbor. Anne, Ginny, and I met at Chelsea Piers to board the yacht Manhattan. We paced most of the race to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and then made our way up the East River before heading back to the finish line at the Hudson. There was a bit of extra time, so we continued up the Hudson to see the Intrepid before returning to dock.

The day was overcast, but it was still pleasant outside and we all had a great time. We were supplied with a brunch of waffles, quiche, ham, salmon, and bagels; not to mention a fully stocked bar.

New York Classic Week
New York Classic Week
New York Classic Week
The Pride of Baltimore

New York Classic Week
New York harbor is a working harbor, and the sailboats navigated along large container vessels and barges.

New York Classic Week
New York Classic Week
Turning at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Anne and Ginny at New York Classic Week
Anne and Ginny

Anne and Ginny at New York Classic Week
The Manhattan was comfortable, fast, and fun. It’s worth looking into if you want a pleasant cruise around the city.

New York Waterfalls
The New York City Waterfalls. The project just finished this past weekend. We were able to get very close to the falls.

Intrepid Museum
The day before our ride, the Intrepid returned to its permanent berth.

The view of Manhattan from the middle of New York harbor.

Unfortunately, several hours into the ride, I started to become sick. I was still fatigued and weak after the ride, and took a nap when I went home. I woke up shaking several hours later and realized that I had food poisoning. I don’t think it was from the food on the ship since no one was ill; I think it was from my breakfast at a coffee shop or my lunch the day before. The details are a bit gross, but the good news is that my fever broke that night at 3 am, and by the end of Saturday I was in good shape.

So on Sunday, I went up along the Hudson to visit my friend Phil at his house in Garrison. Anne, Mary, Phil, and I started out the day by climbing Anthony’s Nose, a peak overlooking Bear Mountain. We climbed the mountain fairly quickly; it’s a fairly easy, but steep, climb with a beautiful view.

Phil and Mary at the peak of Anthony's Nose.
Phil and Mary at the peak of Anthony’s Nose.

Bear Mountain Bridge from Anthony's Nose
Bear Mountain Bridge

Sam Greenfield overlooking Bear Mountain Bridge from Anthony's Nose
Me (Sam Greenfield) overlooking Bear Mountain Bridge from Anthony’s Nose

Anne, Sam, Mary, and Phil at Anthony's Nose
Anne, me, Mary, and Phil

Climbing down the mountain, I saw many weird looking mushrooms. I would have taken more pictures, but I didn’t want to keep everyone waiting.

Mushroom in Garrison, NY near Anthony's Nose
Mushroom in Garrison, NY near Anthony's Nose
Mushroom in Garrison, NY near Anthony's Nose

I didn’t do as much this past weekend, but I did walk down to Brooklyn Bridge Park with a friend of mine. It was a clear, warm day.
Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge

I finished up the weekend playing with my camera. I want to work with the strobe to see if I can capture better images of water droplets.
Stream of Water
Water drops

 Posted by at 6:47 pm
Sep 082008

I haven’t seen the spider in my window since the rainstorm this past Saturday. However, I did catch it weaving a web the other day. I think I pushed my camera a bit to the limits; macro mode can be a bit difficult to use.
Araneus diadematus or Cross Orbweaver weaving a web
Araneus diadematus or Cross Orbweaver weaving a web
Here is the final image magnified and over-sharpened:
Araneus diadematus or Cross Orbweaver weaving a web

I also captured some images of the Araneus diadematus (Cross Orbweaver) eating a fly. I’ve decided to just link to the images, as some folks might be a bit squeamish:

 Posted by at 11:07 am
Aug 242008

A spider has been hanging outside of my picture window. Spiders eat mosquitos, so I’m glad it is around. Tonight I tried to catch it so that I can release it in the garden. There’s a huge storm coming tomorrow, and I wouldn’t want it to get washed away. It was too fast for me, and scampered up to the top of the window. Does anyone know what kind of spider it is?
Spider over Brooklyn
Spider over Brooklyn
Spider over Brooklyn
Update: After a little bit of searching on the web, I think it is safe to say that this spider is a Araneus diadematus, or Cross Orbweaver. See more photos at BugGuide.net and Wikimedia Commons.

 Posted by at 8:34 pm
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