Saturday, December 31, 2011

Airboat tour

yesterday when driving from fort myers to miami we went on an hourlong airboat tour in the swamps of the everglades! above you see such a boat. it is a flat-bottomed boat propelled in a forward direction by a propeller, using a lot of gasoline... (i think). it was marvelous!! we went through tunnels of trees... saw 2 alligators; one lying somewhere in the mud and one swimming in the water (i found that a bit scary.. but one of the tour guides suddenly just grabbed it and pulled the enormous animal out of the water, yuk). and they were feeding him marshmallows! (writing that down im wondering whether he was real.. ?). sometimes the boat went really fast, and we were just going over branches of trees etc... yup, i was afraid, but still it was fun, and especially just beautiful... i took some pictures but they are not that good... you really have to see and experience that yourselves!! like on tv.. haha...only i didnt know those boats are very noisy because of the propellor.... 
it was very touristy, however. along the highway there were many, many of such airboat tours. perhaps if you look from the air you see a big black cloud coming from the swamps... not very ecofriendly. at the entrance you could also hold a baby alligator. the guy almost forced him into my arms, but he quickly understood i was really not into that. i thought that was a bit sad, everytime that animal was put into another set of hands, everyone wanted to feel it, and the guy was constantly touching its eyes to show how funny it looks when he closes them.. they should leave that part out! aside from all these "complaints" it was really amazing to see a little bit of the everglades like that.... :)

Alligator safety

as you can see, there were some warning notes, but quite ahead of the plastic fence, i was surprised about that too. we actually were just driving, and then we saw many, many people with cameras hanging over some ditch... so we turned the car and then we saw allll those alligators lying around there! it was a little weird. and indeed, i was wondering about the warnings... but they came a little later. here we were actually standing on some bridge, and the alligators were below, as you can see...
we also did a tour (im looking for a pic now, but they are a bit disappointing), and the guide told us that during summer (i think?), anyways, when the waters are high in the everglades (now they are low, brownish and stinky, and then they are clear and you could drink it, he said), the alligators move much more, are much active, and they also cross the highway (the one we drove on!!!), so you see some dead ones along the road, that had been hit by cars... :(
unfortunately, the info center was just closing when we were here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Up close

this is quite a crappy picture, but its to show you how close we were to alligators!! can you believe it? i couldnt.... i only saw those in the zoo!! today we drove from fort myers to miami, through the everglades. the weather was perfect, around 24 degrees celsius, and it was all very impressive. the trees, all the different birds, and then the alligators!! at this point just the plastic was seperating us from 3 alligators that were just lying around. haha, they were actually quite boring, just lying in the sun, not moving an inch...
tomorrow i will post another picture... 
just realized that tomorrow is already the last day of 2011! the past week i kind of lost track of what day of the week and what date it is...

Retirement destination

again did not know what photo to show for today. i was looking for one pic to show it all, but ofcourse that one doesnt exist! we woke up in this fancy hotel in tampa and went straight for the pool again. we were a bit slow this morning (also, we switched back to "our" time again, so we basically lost the hour we gained when arriving in memphis), but we didnt have to drive that far today. we first looked around in tampa a bit. it looked nice! and: it was sooo sunny! no jacket needed, the temperature was perfect. tampa seemed quite a modern city, we went through it quite randomly, without a proper tourist guide or whatever (we did see an ice skating rink! haha... in a city where it last snowed in 1977) then we drove to st. petersburg, a city located on a peninsula between tampa bay and the gulf of mexico. there we went to the dali museum, which was in a very special building (photos later..). i really liked to see so much of his work, and to see that his early work is so different from what (i guess) most people (including me) know. really beautfiful, weird paintings and funny titles. unfortunately it was extremely crowded in the museum... grrr... but we managed to see it all, and from up close (so much detail!). then it was already 4 and we still had to drive to our next stop. i suddenly realized we missed sunsets on the beach for the past 2 days, so today we really had to... the sun was amazingly red while setting and we tried to get to the beach... that turned out to be difficult! right at sunset we drove trough al place where all the beaches were private! we found a house for sale and after all the abandoned places we have seen we assumed it would be empty, but.. while running through their garden... we saw the owners sitting outside... oops. we drove a little further and found a bare piece of land surrounded by "no tresspassing" signs. well, it as our last opportunity to see the sun setting into the sea! so we went.. it was beautiful but the sun had gone down already...  buuuuhh.. :(
ah well... now we are in fort myers. in yet another fancy motel! it has a huge pool, with real lanes for real swimming.... jeejjj! so thats what we did immediately after arrival. 
ah, and now i entirely forgot about the pic i posted; thats right behind the dali museum, in st. petersburg. you can see how sunny it is! i just read on wikipedia that this city is also named "god's waiting room", because so many people go here for their retirement (either american or otherwise). the other nickname is "sunshine city", since it is sunny here for 360 days a year... you choose which one you like best!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Abandoned places

during our holiday we already saw sooo many abandoned places.... unbelievable. entire motels, hotels, houses, cars, trucks, you name it. this morning we drove by the above place, it had 3 of this kind of cars, and 2 relatively new cars, all abandoned. the shops (and houses?) had still a lot of stuff in it, perhaps just everything (by looking through the window), and were abandoned too. just so weird! why? i keep wondering. is it the because this country is so huge, and has so much space, that you can just leave behind what you dont like/want anymore, and start anew somewhere else? is it because of money? someone bought it but then something happened, not being able to use it and its just forgotten? nobody wanted to buy it and over time it became worthless?
this morning we got up early again.. it was very sunny and we had a run in panama city beach! something i surely never imagined i would do... then breakfast at the waffle house (we saw so many along the way yesterday, we were curious). the waitress was so nice and the food was good and cheap, yumyum. such a breakfastplace you defenitely cannot find in the netherlands, where they keep filling up your coffee, and where you can share one plate if you like... then we had a long drive ahead of us again. we drove to tampa! the route was beautiful again. different from yesterday. we drove through many forests... and now we are in a very, very fancy hotel. it was only 90 dollars and when planning this trip i thought it would be nice to have a hotel after the airbnb home and 2 motels (but the motels were not bad at all). we got warm chocolate cookies upon arrival, and there is a gym (we went. sitting in the car is not good for us, we eat too much!!), and a heated outdoor pool (we swam) and a toooo hot outdoor whirlpool (how fancy!! but the champaign we had in the room.. :) ). and now its time for bed. tired again...
here i uploaded some more pics of our trip, from memphis and new orleans..

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Stilt house

this morning we got up early and left new orleans. we drove along the shore of the gulf of mexico through mississippi, alabama, and finally arrived in panama city beach, florida. yet another amazing trip. so many impressions it made our heads spin! the scenery changed enormously along the way and it is so much i am afraid i am already forgetting it. ofcourse we took pictures along the way, but today i am particularly disappointed with mine; they really do not show what i saw!! so... tomorrow i should try harder....
it was a beautiful sunny day, and we decided to ignore the "tomtom" system entirely. we drove through the bayou savage national wildlife refuge, which is where i took above photo. houses were all built on stilts (i didnt know that word), which is done mainly to protect the house against flooding. the one above is still in the very early stages of construction, haha! i especially liked the little plane (i think?) in front of it. then we were back in mississippi, but along the shore, and it looked entirely different from what we saw just 2 days ago! many, many fancy hotels and we saw several casinos. the rich like fancy beaches, i learned from that... then the road led us through some small towns and all the towns were equipped with the same sets of shops that are probably all over the us; a retail chain, a home improvement chain, several fast food chains... (many waffle houses in this part of the country). they depicted this nicely in the movie young adult that came out recently, when charlize theron is driving back to her hometown. that could be anywhere in the us....
then we entered florida and drove through pensacola beach on santa rosa island. it seemed as if we had arrived in paradise! white sandy beaches, no jacket needed, driving right along the shore. everything looked so beautiful there... and the white sand was amazing to see (i had never seen that). no strip malls there... just some houses and beach. after 1.5 hours more we arrived at our sleepng place for the night; panama city beach. we are staying in a motel right on the beach, unfortunately we just missed the sunset.. :( but we have a room with a view on the ocean!! 
buuggh, am i tired... tim is sleeping already since 9. he started to complain a little more that i cannot drive, and i should really get my license finally, as driving is really tiring and now he has to do all the work! but... im tired too! and im reading the map.... ! :) 

NOLA skyline

couldnt choose which picture to post! something from the colorful french quarter? the less touristy and less well off neighborhood around it? the sculpture garden? canal street? (i really liked that street) a cemetery? (they are really different from the ones i know) the mississippi river? with or without a boat? so... i choose the skyline of new orleans (NO) in louisiana (LA) as seen from algiers point. as you can see it was rather misty, and this lasted the entire day, so i dont really know what the skyline of NOLA looks like...
new orleans really feels different from memphis, and i liked it better. it was definitely more lively, and there was more to see. the houses more colorful and cute. and palm trees! those make a difference too, and i really think they can make any place look more friendly... the air felt much warmer here too, it really felt tropical and humid. unfortunately it was not the best day; it was raining on and off, and the entire day there was a dense fog. that made for some nice pictures though. this morning we were about to take the ferry to algiers point by foot, but just before departure they told us it would not be coming back until the fog was less dense... (you could really see nothing ahead of you). we thus went off again and instead drove around new orleans a bit, and finally drove to algiers point ourselves. that was much nicer as we explored the area a little more. then i snapped the above pic and we were just in time to take the ferry back, for 1 dollar (free when by foot). the mist above the mississippi river was so beautiful! and it was interesting that it got really cold when we went through it. a boat next to us completely disappeared and then appeared again... cool!
i think i will post more pictures later, on my flickr account. i guess when we are back, since now there is no time... :) but there is so much i would like to show!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Canton, Mississippi

this morning, christmas day, we left memphis and drove all across the state of mississippi!! it was very grey out and later during the day we had quite some rain, unfortunately... but it was amazing. while we first drove on the highway, we later left it for the smaller roads, leading us trough small villages and with too many new impressions... im just really amazed about how many houses, small (or larger) shops and gas stations are left abandoned... some already half collapsed, burned down, or otherwise damaged. we saw a lot of trailer parks too, and many houses so small, in the middle of nowhere.... some well-maintained, others surrounded in mess and old rusty cars etc. some poshy houses too, but not too many.
above is the city of canton, where we briefly walked around. isnt it cute? and isnt it like in the movies? (it has been the decor for some movies, just check wikipedia... ) we also stopped in jackson, the state capital, but everything was deserted, on this christmas day.... even many fastfood restaurants were closed... 
now i wish i knew more about this all! i wish i knew all the history, and facts. on wikipedia, i just saw for example that there are only 3 cities in mississippi with more than 50,000 residents, and 60% of all mississippi residents lives below the poverty level....
then we arrived in louisiana, and passed by the beautiful lake pontchartrain, eventually arriving in new orleans! you can defenitely feel that the air is different here, and although still chilly, its a bit warmer than memphis. we went to the french quarter for dinner. unfortunately it was dark already, but i think this area must be beautiful by daylight, we will see tomorrow... :) 

Oooh Elvis!

i think its fascinating how everyone in the world, or so it seems, knows elvis. i know who he was, that he was pretty, and the hair, sideburns and the dancing. and his final years in which he almost seemed like a caricature of himself, with even more hair and sideburns, and the weird tight jumpsuits. i knew it all (how? tv?), yet he was dead before i was even born... 
so, yesterday we went to graceland. that wasnt cheap, 60 dollars entrance! (already an 8 dollar coupon subtracted) and 10 dollars for parking... but for that we spent 3 hours marveling at everything elvis. first parts of his house (which was completely over the top!), then more about his rise to fame, his grave, next to his parents behind his swimming pool, his cars (he had multiple, and had 1 painted in pink and 1 in purple!), how he was despised by the press very early on, and how his performances were not decent (how stupid am i, only then i understood why he was called elvis the pelvis!), many many pictures of him (my goodness was he goodlooking!), his planes (golden seatbelt buckles...). i learned so much more about him, and yet still know so little about his life! they focused on his stardom, and emphasized his cuteness, but barely anything was revealed about his private life (other than how generous he was and how he liked to play and had many motorized toys to drive around graceland, while nowadays its strictly forbidden to walk on the grass, haha). so... yesterday night i spent most of the time reading more about him on wikipedia... haha. also, i am curious now how elvis was perceived in europe. when did he become famous, did my parents like him, etc etc.... :)
after that we drove around memphis a little more and went to the motel where martin luther king was assassinated. its now a museum about civil rights, but unfortunately it was closed as it was christmas eve, im still really frustrated about that! (and spent quite some time reading about that event on... yes, wikpedia..) then we had a beer in beale street, accompanied by some life music. that was nice, but the street was still pretty much deserted (perhaps also because of christmas).
it seemed like 50% of the buildings in memphis are abandoned and collapsing or about to do so, that was a bit tragic to see.... also the area around graceland did not seem to be very good. the only amazing thing was that there, in the middle of nowhere, we went to an aldi supermarket and found stroopwafels!!! probably the most dutch cookie there is! that was a pleasant surprise.. :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry christmas!

merry christmas to everyone!
we toured memphis today and i had so many new impressions... amazing. i also took almost 400 photos just today and cannot choose which one to post! i actually wanted to post one from graceland, and write something about elvis, but right now im just too tired. so, instead, this christmas ball. we were close to the mississippi river in some park. we walked up a hill for a better view, and on top there was a sort of bowl (sorry, i really dont know how to descirbe it in english) of grass (so the hill went down again, as well as up, like a teacup on top of the hill), and in the middle of the teacup was one tree. with one christmas ball hanging on one of its branches. and many underneath it. it was as if we found some hidden treasure, really funny! i guess tim was a bit annoyed, but i was fascinated by the ball's reflections and spent some time trying to picture the tree and myself in them, as you can see above... :)
well, really time for bed now, tomorrow will be a long day, and hopefully along the way i will post more about memphis!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hello from....

.... memphis! 
above a picture of the most famous stret in memphis; beale street. this is where many black musicians performed in the 1860s, and where elvis presley later used to spend a lot of his time. today, it was pretty empty, but it showed that it now mostly is a tourist destination. i guess we were a little too early for the music to start and people to come, but we wanted to see it while it was still light out. it was sooo cold! that was a little unexpected but well... 
we arrived in memphis this afternoon (after leaving our home around 4.30 this morning, beehhh! we had an extremely long wait (4 hrs!!)  in atlanta where we had to change flights since lovely priceline decided to change our original booking),  then we had a little debate which rental car to choose (i wanted bright red; better for pictures. tim wanted black. we went for the black as red cars are supposedly stopped more often by the police (source; big bang theory), and the tire profile was better according to tire expert tim, moreover the black car has massachusetts license plates; still i would have preffered red...), found our place for the coming 2 nights easily (here you can see pictures, its quite cool, with little notes everywhere and several music instruments you are allowed to use), and then drove and walked around memphis a little. its like in the movies!! my goodness, i wanted to picture it all! we were both sitting in the car mouths wide open. ooh, look here, look at that! there! but, it was rather grey out, so the pics did not turn out that well... maybe tomorrow! then we will visit the house of elvis, among other things....
now we are both exhausted, tim already fell asleep.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bye boston!

tomorrow morning (painfully early) we leave boston.... and will return after new year!! 
above a picture of the boston skyline. those knowing boston will recognize certain landmarks, like the prudential, and the harvard stadium... this pic was taken after the first snow of the season, on the last day of october (if i remember correctly), from the tower on the mount auburn cemetery in cambridge. everyone visiting boston should visit that cemetery; its really beautiful! and everyone living here should visit it at least once during autumn and during spring.. :) i myself didnt know of its existence, until someone asked me whether i had been there already, and after living here for almost a year i hadnt heard of it.... what a shame!
it was founded in 1831, and supposedly america's first garden cemetery, with "classical monuments set in a rolling landscaped terrain". wikipedia also tells me that cemetery is derived from the greek, meaning "a sleeping place". well, anyways, time for bed now. alarm goes off in 4 hours...
tomorrow i hope to post a pic from our first destination!

Three sisters

posing for their mom, next to the apple store in new york. they were really posing, as you can see. and all so perfectly dressed... too bad i had the wrong lens at my camera when i saw them. it was so awfully crowded also. we went to new york because i wanted to see rockefeller center with the christmas tree and fifth avenue with all the decorations. but it was all so terribly crowded! policemen were guarding the lights and closed off the street with policetape when the lights turned red. complete organized chaos. you could hardly stop to take it all in, or someone would bump into you. ofcourse the real new yorkers also had to show that they were annoyed and clearly sighed and aarghhhed and pushed people aside to show their haste and that they had to go somewhere really important right NOW and all those stupid tourists were very much in their way in their city.... funny... i was glad we had spent the entire morning in the more quiet streets which were in fact more interesting than this area! but! we didnt really see it when it was dark, so perhaps then it would have been more impressing...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

American graffiti

we went to spanish harlem to check out the graffiti hall (why not wall?) of fame... part of it you see above. it was one of the first places where graffiti writers could paint legally in new york, from the early 1980s onwards, organized by the school counselor. there were some pretty nice things, although im really not that interested in the tags, how fancy they may be. whats the use if i cannot make out one letter?! its only cool in the face you see above; its entirely composed of tags!! you can see that here, in a detail shot that i put on flickr. im wondering how often these walls change their content... here for example i found some pictures of the wall looking entirely different! im (still) reading a book about american graffiti, and saw pictures of the new york subway trains, entirely covered in graffiti. what a mess (inside and out)! only when they managed to eradicate that, painting on walls became more popular. nowadays, graffiti is a serious crime here, and you can be send to prison for 3 years...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Also NY

new york is not only the crazy times square, rockefeller center or fifth avenue. for a little more quiet, but perhaps less safe neighbourhood you can goto harlem (although depending where you go it can be crowded too)! which is what we did after washington square park. ofcourse most people know the apollo theater in harlem, where for example ella fitzgerald started her career at amateur night. however, we went to spanish harlem (96th - 120th st & fifth/third avenues), which is less well known, and less taken care of than harlem. the buildings are less fancy and the rents not as high as in downtown manhattan. in fact, it has the highest concentration of low income housing projects in the us. they do like to get their hair cut here. the opposite side of the street was lined with barber shops, i think we passed nearly 10 of them!
ah, i am now reading on wikipedia that al pacino was born on 108th street. perhaps in one of the above houses? (dont remember which street we were here, but somewhere around 110th-106th). i somehow liked this row of houses, but it was difficult to get a nice picture of them. we did not go there to check out houses, however. tomorrow a pic of what we went to see there...
here on flickr i posted another view of this row of houses, then it looks quite different, as you see!

Complicated pose

after sitting in the bus for several hours, we walked from chinatown to washington square park in greenwich village. when getting out of the bus, i realized it was a little colder than i expected and dressed for. brrrr. but still, i was defenitely wearing more clothes than the lady above!! i think they were taking pictures for some yoga-advertisement or so... altough to me it did not look that natural...
i just went to my beloved wikipedia for some more info on this park. its very big, and has quite a history! there used to be a native american village nearby, and they also owned this land. until the dutch (bad dutch!) attacked and drove them out. they did more bad stuff, as you can see here. until 1797 it was farmland, and then it became a burial ground (it was not yet part of new york at that time). in 1826 it became the washington military parade ground; a public space where volunteer militia companies responsible for the nation's defense were training. only in 1849 it became a park.... the remains of around 20,000 bodies still below ground....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

NY loves.....

.... you not! we saw that once on a t-shirt and found that very funny. probably its true, also. but which tourist would buy that instead of the I love NY?
we went to new york yesterday! just for one day.... i was so curious about the christmas decorations there and... since its still not snowing it was a good opportunity to take the fung wah bus... (i wouldnt do that when its snowing). pfff, up we got at 4.30, just missed the first orange line train (like last time), but arrived at the bus terminal in time. hardly had to wait there, got in the bus, and off we went at 6.15, ofcourse again without a word from the driver. before we knew we stood in chinatown, NY, just before 10.... you can do quite a lot in one day, especially if you dont feel the urge to visit all the touristy places. but thats ofcourse exactly what we did, since i was so curious about christmas at 5th avenue. my goodness, it was soooo awfully crowded there!! (luckily we also went to harlem, but about that in another post). above is at columbus circle. i had seen those stars at several NY blogs already, but really wanted to see them for myself. they change color every so often, from a beautiful purple to red, blue, green, yellow... ofcourse i liked the purple best and ofcourse for whatever reason i dont have a picture of that. arrghhh... but it was so crowded also there and everyone wanted to take pics and the best spot to take pictures (in the middle), was blocked by some fancy lounge-area that you could only enter with a certain type of creditcard. why?!! it was such a disappointment... just a few months ago you could just freely walk around there and sit on some couches, and now it had become some exclusive area around which the poor tourists could walk and take their less-than-perfect pictures.. :)
then we went to have dinner at the same restaurant in chinatown as last time, and at 7 we got in the bus and by 11 we were back in boston. perfect! needless to say, more pictures to follow....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Funny, but...

...why? how did that piano get there? were they planning on burning it? why in this open field? somewhere around boston...
we just got back from the new sherlock holmes movie. very funny too. but... sometimes, i wondered, why? i couldnt follow it sometimes... but well, still funny...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Newbury street

on newbury street (if you click on the link you can see its apparently bostons most enchanting street) you can find hotel chocolate. i thought that was just a hotel named chocolat (perhaps after the book or the film?), and i liked the bike with the flag (and the fancy couple, although i was annoyed by the guy behind the flag, haha). the tire does need some air i see now. but... its not a hotel, its a british chocolatier and cocoa grower, with 55 stores in the united kingdom and 5 stores within the us and the middle east. you can go there for "gourmet" chocolate. sometimes we joke we should start our own shop with "good food", and we will use terms like "artisan, old world, european, organic". with those words we can ask a lot of many for our products, and people buying it will think they are very hip, and special.... maybe we need a bike and a flag as well...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In comparison

this is what "cooking" in the lab looks like... :) this is a very old pic, still from the netherlands. (i think taken in 2007!) the purple-capped bottles contain yeast cells, from which we were purifying a protein (actually working with yeast is not that bad, it smells nice.... like bread.. ). the bad thing was that i was doing this in a room in which it was 4 degrees celsius, to protect the protein. sometimes i would sit there for an hour or so, which was not the most pleasant thing... in the right corner you see a door to the -20 room. luckily no experiments there, but sometimes we would need to go in there to search something, the advantage of that was that 4 degrees suddenly felt very pleasant.
at least when baking a cake you only get fat, not cold... ;)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas cookies

currently, im a little into baking. actually, i always like to make stuff from the oven (thats why i bought a fancy oven in the netherlands, thats not here with me, buuuuhh), but recently im trying a lot of new recipes. i dont know whether fellow scientists agree, but i think cooking is like doing an experiment in the lab. differences being that in the lab you usually do not (or should not) want to touch the stuff you are dealing with, defenitely you dont want to taste it, and more often than not it smells bad. i would even go so far that when it smells good in the lab, you most likely did something wrong. for example, you heated that high-sugar solution a little too long, and it turned into caramel. while that may be a good thing in the kitchen, it for sure isnt in the lab... :) (tim experienced that recently, and didnt touch the autoclave ever since...). other than that, its the same. you mix stuff, you wait a little here and there, you heat or cool, and in the end you have a result thats either good or bad (although bad in the lab not necessarily means you failed, it could mean the result is different from what you expected, while in the kitchen...). what i dont like about recipes for cooking is that they always list the amounts of the ingredients at the top, and in the directions they only mention the ingredients, not how much. in a labprotocol (at least in mine), i never list them all on top, but you just take what you need as you go through the experiment. thats just a minor detail (although it really annoys me a lot!! haha).  just as in the kitchen, you have all the ingredients standing around somewhere (but sometimes you have to go to a colleague to borrow that cup of sugar.... )
just by accident i stumbled upon this amazing cooking website a few weeks ago, and since then i made several of the dishes (mostly the cakes and stuff). its interesting, here in the us they cook by measuring out cups and table- and teaspoons, while back home i was used to measure grams with a scale. so for some of the first recipes i followed here, i converted the cups back to grams. but... working with cups is sooo much easier and faster than measuring everything out on a scale! that took me a little while, i have to admit, since i felt that taking cups and tablespoons was not "very precise" (nor scientific... ). moreover, you cannot just convert cups back to grams, as a cup of sugar is heavier than a cup of butter, for example.
so, i also made the abovepictured cookies, which were really easy to make, and they are soooo pretty!! they look quite like the picture on the site (which is not always the case). oh, and tim likes them a lot.... :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Urban outfitters

urban outfitters is a very hip store. or so they pretend to be. the young people working there are also very hip. they are so hip that its almost non-hip.... i never dare looking at them let alone speak, as im not sure what will come out of them. will i even be able to understand their language? surely they are not from the same world as i am. moreover, they never give me the feeling im worthy to speak to in the first place, certainly im not as fashionable as they are...  i think i never bought anything, although we go to this shop every now and then. i guess its these uberstyled employees that put me off. if they look like that in these clothes... or perhaps just the price... they also have a lot of stuff for your home, extremely expensive but oooh sooo cute. stuff you really dont need, but would love to have, as it looks soooo cooolll. luckily, a lot of that stuff is either too cool or too expensive, and thus the price will be significantly reduced after a while... thats when we come in, and buy it all. thats why we now have a door-mat that says "home sweet apartment" (marked down from 30 to 2 dollars), and some journal in which i am supposed to make one sketch a day. not that i ever sketch... (marked down from 16 to 2.5 dollars) just to give you an idea of the kind of stuff they sell (and what i think its worth).
anyways... now i saw the abovepictured signs on their windows. "save $$$$ for booze"???! that really was too "snazzy" (just found that word in the dictionary, not sure its correct...) for me, i just couldnt go inside. or does it mean im getting old?

Looking up

at copley square. you see the hancock tower, as well as the ugly church in front of it. to the left are buildings of which i dont know the name.... and i guess another part of the church?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nice... socks!

today it was pretty chilly! we went to a free photo exhibition and then had quite a walk through boston. along the way we saw some guys in speedos. standing around as if it was the most normal thing to do on a chilly saturday afternoon...
back home i found out it was for the 12th annual santa speedo run where men and women run for charity. in speedos.... and some santa decorations. they raised 250,000 dollars! too bad i missed them running... :( here you can see a video of the event. and here is their website, so that you can join next year, if interested....

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cleaned out

its funny how this morning i read about occupy boston in the dutch news before i saw it on the american... :) they cleaned them out last night more than 24 hours after they were supposed to leave.  in the gym i saw a press conference about it. the square is now really empty... and they are working hard to get it all cleaned up and restored by the end of this week. 47 got arrested. in fact, the police gave them the option to go, if they wanted, without arrest, and so some choose to do so. but 47 remained stubborn and got themselves arrested. how stupid is that? 
anyways.. i also read in the dutch news that occupy boston was one of the biggest movements. dont know whether thats true, but they were one of the few that were allowed to stay longest, and i think where the police really tried to be reasonable with them and gave them more than enough time to leave, so that it wouldnt escalate as happened in some other cities. im curious to see what will happen next. if they really are there to change something, it should not matter that they cannot sleep in a tent in some square anymore, right?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Without title

well, this man was just crossing the street, close to the TD garden. i have no 2-word title for that.. he did have a bag of dunkin donuts with him. some people like that stuff, apparently.. :)
behind him you see those large concrete balls. they surround many government buildings in boston, and were placed there after 9/11. why? so that people cannot drive their truck or whatever into the building.... at least, thats what someone told me. and i did see them in front of several government buildings, but googling around does not give me much, and im too lazy to really search.. ah well..

Thursday, December 8, 2011

By midnight...

... the occupiers are supposed to leave dewey square in boston.... they asked people to come and support them. im curious what will happen, i guess it will be all over the news tomorrow.
above the tents, and behind it you see south station. we dont go there very often, but actually i like this station, its quite big and looks interesting. although it apparently became more dirty since occupy boston (occupiers using the toilets etc, asking for food from vendors, using electricity to charge all their electronic devices). the bus terminal with buses to new york, canada and wherever else leave from south station too, and its also a big train station. but.. although we are here now since more than 1.5 year, we have never taken the train! (not sure if we miss anything, however.. :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Self portrait

although i took quite some photos on sunday, this is yet another older one, since i still did not take them off my camera. and anyways it was time for a self portrait... this was the day after the first snowstorm of the season, when we had a walk on the cemetery. the tree's shadow was so perfect, i took many pics of it! and then a few with our shadows in it as well.
its still pretty mild out, i saw that the skating rink in the boston common yet again had to close early because of the warm weather.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sleeping outside

here some occupiers without a tent, sleeping next to the tent city in boston. today was another big day for them... some donators raised enough money to buy a tent that is more suitable for the coming weather than the normal tents that are there currently. however, the city of boston does not allow any "permanent structures" in the tent city (so also no portable toilets, for example), and if i understood  it correctly, they filed this winterized tent under permanent. now.. the occupiers knew that this tent would not be allowed in advance, yet they did let it come. it cost 1350 dollars. can you believe it?! 1350 dollars! wasted! i would have loved to have 1350 dollars.... many people would, but those occupiers decided to show off the "hyporcrisy of the police", not allowing them their tent. so..., they did not fight (how great of them), and they allowed the police to take the tent away, just 20 minutes after it arrived. this as opposed to a few days earlier, when someone donated a huge sink (to do dishes and stuff), that was taken away by the police as well. the videos of that event are rather sad, as you can see here, and 1 person got arrested. beeghhh. its so stupid!!! as do many people think, even those who did not think so earlier on. here you can read more... (and i guess tim can pick out my comment in the comment section.. ;) )

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Liquor store

now doesnt this look like a very american liquor store?
i still cant get used to the fact that you have to goto a separate store to buy alcohol. its weird and inconvenient... even so we dont drink that much... :) ah, and lets not forget tha you need to show you are above 21! even if you are not buying the alcohol, but just came along.. if not everyone in your party can prove they are above 21, you sometimes wont get it (but i wrote about that once before). but the most frustrating is when you goto a restaurant, and dont get your drink, as has happened to me far too often by now (i dont always take my passport with me, and that always turns out to be the case when i want a drink... )
ah well... at least its cheaper that way... ;)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

But angels....

.....dont smoke. right, mom? but this angel was smoking....
i have no clue why there was an angel, i just saw him, took a pic, and at the same time a little girl came by and asked above question to her mom. 
this was in new bedford, some 51 miles from boston, and its the whaling capital of the world! (or so it used to be). the streets have cobblestones and that makes for an uncomfortable walk. we went to the whaling museum (tim insisted), but i found it rather boring, although they did have one entire room devoted to whaling-memorabilia from the dutch! there was some delfts blauw and some paintings. the only thing i found impressive was the size of many of the whalers boats; some barely bigger than the whale... we also saw how you catch a whale, and all the tools, but i did not like that. beeehhh.
and then the next disappointment came when we got home.... we had this photo contest from our apartment complex; everyone could submit photos and the best would win a prize. and see! there was a little envelope under our door. so i thought; yeeeeyyy! finally! i won something!!! and then i opened it, and yes, it was second prize in the competition!! only, it was not for me, but for tim..... buhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh....
:)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Working out

along the charles river in boston....

me, on the other hand... im still an amateur (still?! lets say i am...). until we moved to the us of a i never owned a pair of "athletic" shoes (at least not that i can remember). and only a few weeks back did i discover that the type of socks do matter, when running. at least for me... those regular black socks that i have since years are not sufficient. how i wish i had known that earlier!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Missing action

december already.... pfff. and that means theme day! this month's theme is "action shot". this is (yet another) old picture of mine that i took in 2009, in berlin. here you see a piece of the berlin wall that is still standing (i forgot where exactly this is). we were with a small group, just released from some scientific conference, free to explore the city. we were walking towards the wall, and i knew what all of them would be doing; looking through the cracks.... although we had just passed the other site by bus, and had more or less seen that there was nothing there, no action at all!! so i quickly got my camera ready for this action shot of no action... and yes indeed, they walked to the wall, to stare through the cracks... :)
i remember that during holidays, we once went to see the berlin wall when it was still functioning to separate east from west germany. i was less than 8 years old, and i still remember very well walking there. seeing those guards in towers, asking my parents if what they had just told me was really, really true; that you could not cross that barrier, because if you did, those guards might shoot you. i could not understand that it was possible to be just walking around, in the sun, while being so close to something so scary. not scary as in books or television, but something that was obviously real.
now that wall is demolished, although you can buy little (original or not..) pieces of it (people make money off anything!), and larger pieces are scattered over the world, here you can see a list of where they are. there is a piece in new york, at 53rd street, between madison and 5th avenue, with a nice little seating area around it (although it was 2004 when i saw it for the first and last time.. :) ), and wikipedia just tells me that there are at least 2 more in new york...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Since 1980

this is a picture of tim taken at my birthday, posted on his birthday. isnt that original? ;)
its taken at the hot dog stand in coney island, new york. the business was started in 1916, when you could buy a hot dog for just 5 cents. the stand next to mr nathan's sold hot dogs for 10, and nathan used to work there. just copied this from wikipedia as it is so funny: "At a time when food regulation was in its infancy and the pedigree of the hot dog particularly suspect, Nathan made sure that men wearing surgeon's smocks were seen eating at his stand to reassure potential customers." my question; why surgeon's??! because they are doctors.. or? anyways, now nathan's famous has many stores spread over the us, and each year at coney island there is a hot dog eating contest on the 4th of july. this year, for the fifth time, it was won by joey chestnut, eating 62 of them in 10 minutes. yegh... if you click on his name, you can read all about his technique, as there apparently is a special technique and training required for eating so many hot dogs in little time.
ah well... we went out to dinner tonight, just not for hot dogs...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Crazy weather

the crazy weather continues! tomorrow is the last day of november, and you can go out with just a cardigan, no real jacket required... its so warm. im not complaining!! i like it! i just remember from last year.. i was wondering when the real cold, and ofcourse snow, would come... the weather remained so mild for so long. especially when compared to the netherlands, where it was much colder. but then the snow came, and it stayed cold for sooo long; i think only by the end of may it was warm again. 
but... this year its more extreme than last; as a result, the skating rink at the boston common had to close early today, and some trees in the public garden started to blossom again, as you can see here.
above was at the cemetery behind our apartment. there is this little pond with a green lawn around, perfect for sunbathing....

Monday, November 28, 2011

Steaming chimney

i have had this pic in my "to-maybe-post-someday" folder for quite a while now, until i saw this beautiful pic today, and a link to more info about the steam you often see in new york streets. now i spent most of this evening reading about steam, haha!
what did i learn today? well, first check this diagram, showing whats all going on underneath your feet in new york, as if whats around you isnt yet enough... steam is generated by heating water up to 1000F, turning it into... steam; every hour, approximately 125,000 gallons of water are turned into more than one million pounds of steam, which is then delivered through the steam pipes underneath the ground to many buildings in the city. its used to heat, cool or supply power. since 1882, steam has been provided to manhattan. sometimes you see steam coming from the manhole covers, which allows for nice pics (as you can see in the first link). interestingly, manholes were renamed "maintenance holes" somewhere in california, out of concern for for gender equality. hahaha! this steam can be dangerous too, as you can read here, steam pipes sometimes explode sending hot steam up in the air; the average steam pipe is 54 years old, but some are as old as a 100 years!
so what are those orange chimneys? they surround a steaming manhole and are there to make sure that nobody gets hurt; that steam vapor is very hot and could burn you!!! also, these  stacks elevate the steam vapor above street level so that drivers can maintain visibility. so... if you see steam vapor coming out of a manhole that is not protected by such a chimney, you have to call the steam company immediately, there could be a leak.... (although usually its caused by water falling on a steam pipe).
hmmm... dont know if i feel safer, knowing all this.. :) certainly i will stay farther away from those pipes, from now on, i was not really aware of how hot that steam could be and saw them as mere photo opportunities...
(the crazy glow behind the steam chimney above comes from times square, which can be seen well ahead..)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Men only

whats there to see? no clue, but it seems to be for men's eyes only...
this was in chinatown, i thought just a few weeks back, but it was in june already. how fast is time running?!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Summer day

a summer day at the end of november.... can you believe it? i didnt.... i hung out of our window for a bit this morning and decided it was quite nice, but then put on a t shirt, vest, scarf and light jacket, as we were going for a walk in the breakheart reservation, a 10 minute ride from our apartment. we hiked up some steep hill and it was hot! off went the jacket, the scarf, and then also the vest. t shirt was enough, and its almost december! just 2 hours up north they have snow and here it felt like an early summer day.... (but with leafless trees).
up at the first hill we found this piece of rust. tim tried it; the front wheels were still perfectly turning!! just googled around a bit, and here i found that it is a car engine that was used to power a rope tow for a ski hill that once operated there! (im just curious when that was) we intended to go for a short walk, but walked around for nearly 4 hours, the weather was just too perfect...

Shopping fever

the day after thanksgiving is called black friday... most stores have lots of discounted goods for the real americans. some stores opened at 4 this morning, others already at midnight... and some fanatics just skipped their thanksgiving to camp out in front of whatever store has whatever discounted product they want to buy. as you can see here; those people planted themselves in front of a store at 1 in the morning of thanksgiving, and spent 24 hours just to be the first allowed inside upon opening. why? because the most heavily discounted things will run out, and what if you miss out on all those amazing deals?! but well, nobody is harmed when you sit outside a mall for 24 hours, while everyone else is enjoying a nice thanksgiving.. :) on the other hand... in los angeles there was a lady who pepper sprayed 20 people as to prevent them from getting stuff she wanted to buy. other than that, there were some shootings and burglaries, as you can read here. we were briefly thinking to go and check out some mall at midnight yesterday, just as observers... but the thought of so many shoppers gone crazy... made me tired and we just went to sleep.. anyways, i found some pis of crazy bargain hunters here..
of course, occupiers around the nation had some opinion about this day too (actually the pic above i took at occupy boston; this is the tent where they make signs, to state the obvious). i just saw on the occupy boston facebook page that some occupiers went to meditate in some mall, apparently around a vending machine (to prevent shoppers from buying something to eat/drink?), and one got arrested.
they are all crazy!!! the best bargain would be when staying at home, buying NOTHING!! but i have to admit, this evening we went for a little shopping ourselves. it was quite crowded, and the discounts not that amazing, so i only bought a pair of shoes... as if i needed those... ;) (but they were only 14 dollars!! from 55 originally...)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey butcher

today all the scientist europeans around boston gathered (or so it seemed), prepared heavenly dishes and an entire turkey (like the real americans!) and enjoyed thanksgiving like the americans do.. :) i just enjoyed and had lots of food... jeejjjj (there was not one american present, that was kind of funny, being in the us of a)
thank you all!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Food mania

tomorrow its thanksgiving here in the us.... the supermarket was overflowing with turkeys again, and this evening the whole foods (also named whole paycheck as it is probably the most expensive supermarket around) was filled with people trying to get their last shoppings done for the big day tomorrow... as tomorrow will be food, food, and food... ah, and of course about being together and thankful.
more about thanksgiving here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

But mom...!

i know... for this its really too cold now (even this past sunday, i guess), but i was going through my pics recently and had forgotten about this one. i actually posted one of the girl before (in june). here she is with her mom... i just love it... :)
few months later i saw them again, this time they were on their way to the fountain at the boston common (this is at the christian science church or center or plaza or whatever). it took me a moment to realize why they looked so familiar, but they were gone when i remembered..
today was pretty chilly.... there will be snow in some places tomorrow, but i guess not here... probably somewhere higher up.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hell no

every now and then there is someone with a large sign telling you about jesus. jeejjj. this was last week in the boston common. jesus or hell. why that? surely i did not go and ask them. its all so negative. no jesus? then hell. what kind of choice is that! i really dont get why those fanatics impose their faith on others. ofcourse, you can just ignore them. but is that what they really believe? jesus means no hell? whats the fun in that? does that mean they only believe in jesus because not doing so means hell? thats quite a bad reason to believe in jesus, if you ask me...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lovely weather

today, november 20 already, it was 17 degrees celsius (63 F)!! it was beautiful out.... so we went running (which was not easy at all. we did this trail, which has quite some uphill parts... and this time i really did not do well and had to stop during, or right after each hill. grrrr... but we did run an extra loop... jeejj!). but each time im running, i wonder why the hell i am doing that.... :) (somehow i find it much easier to run on a treadmill). 
well, anyways.... the weather was so amazing that it was a waste to spend it inside, so.... we took the subway all the way to the other end (haha, that was quite a while), and then we walked there in a park we hadnt been before. too bad its getting dark so early nowadays... around 4.15 it became too dark to take pics, and by 5 it was entirely dark.. :( but my pictures were boring anyways, so above a picture from the cemetery! i was fascinated with this angel and took many pics... (and forgot to even look whose grave it was on. very bad. will look at that next time...). haha, and i now see that there is some snow visible in this pic, it was 2 weeks back, when we had a few days that were sooooo cold, while today felt like a perfect spring day..

Harvard only

since november 9, harvard yard is "occupied" as well. some 30 tents have been placed right in front of the famous statue of harvard (see above). in reaction to this, the harvard administration closed the gates of the yard (they are so lucky to have it totally surrounded by gates!!), allowing entrance to only those with a harvard ID. well, arent we privileged, both me and tim have such an ID, and thus we went to the yard this beautiful saturday afternoon (while we had absolutely no business there other than to feed our curiosity). normally, this place is full with tourists, so in that respect it was really cool to be there... as one of the very few... :) while we were photographing around, we saw the real tourists behind the gates, most likely wondering how the hell we managed to get in.
and yes, there they were. the tents.... looked pretty cute. but i wonder how many "occupiers" were actually present. we saw 2. and 30 tents. the other occupiers were most likely enjoying the harvard-yale game, those 2 told us. well... is that really necessary? arent they there for a cause? is watching sport helping their cause?! i dont think so.... but... usually there are around 12 of them protesters they assured me! (12!!) i also asked them WHY they had put up tents there, as for me it seems like they want to separate themselves from the occupy boston at dewey square. i did not get a satisfying answer, but part of it was.. "some had never been there, and we want to make people aware everywhere, also here.. and its easier because we work around here, and its very dirty at dewey square... so many homeless, but mostly to make people SEE it also here..."
anyways. im wondering how long they will remain there in their little tents. and im wondering how long they will keep the yard locked. all those poor tourists... being denied their picture next to the harvard statue! perhaps the harvard administration did it to isolate those occupiers, being seen by harvard only, whats the use of their protest?
some people say those spoiled harvard students have no right to protest, as they are the 1%.  attenting harvard costs you approximately 56,000 dollars per year (!!!). who can afford that? but.... around 70% of the harvard students receive some form of financial aid (more here). well, the harvard occupiers want a university for the 99% (as you can read here). but.... i found this article in the harvard crimson that articulates very well whats wrong with exactly that: "occupy harvard seeks to trivialize the meaning of a Harvard education. In protesting Harvard as an instrument of elite financial oppression, Harvard students uncouthly slander the source of their financial aid, their educational experiences, and—most importantly—the abundant opportunities this institution provides them. For better or worse, Harvard students did not commit to attending a “university for the 99 percent.” EXACTLY!!! ah, and this article was very interesting too (and funny).
hmm... that was a long post. those occupiers get way too much attention. grrr....

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Occupying anonymously

boston is still occupied, but the owners of the park now want them out.... i guess sooner or later they will have to go, just like in other cities. on their facebookpage they ask for warm coffee and pizza, but then other occupiers complain that they dont want pizza but rather have vegetables... blabla. just go home and cook something yourselves! and if you really want to make that change... take a homeless with you and feed him as well. grrrr... but who would do that?!
anyways... the first time we went there we saw several occupiers with their faces covered, as above. this is because there are so many people with cameras.. and they dont know where all those pictures end up, and some are afraid to loose their job for identifying themselves with the occupiers.... they are afraid to be filmed by policemen who might use that footage against them later on... etc etc.
they should all just go home!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

American flag

the flag of the usa has thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white, and 50 stars. but... the us flag code provides for expansion: "On the admission of a new State into the Union one star shall be added to the union of the flag; and such addition shall take effect on the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission". 
when a patriotic effect (!!!) is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day provided it is properly illuminated when its dark..... the flag should be displayed every day on or near the main administration building of every public institution, in or near every polling place on election days, and during school days in or near every schoolhouse. in other words; there should always be a flag. everywhere. (well, there is...!)
however... the flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise. it should never be used as wearing apparel, or as a covering for a ceiling. besides, no part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. however, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. "The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart." in other words: you cannot put it on your ass!! :DD 
ah well, here you can read more about the flag code, and if you want to see the "wall of shame", i.e. examples of how the flag should NOT be used, go here...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Grey day

while we had very cold weather and snow in october, november has been mostly mild, so far! some people dont even wear a coat..... its been so warm that opening of the skating rink at the boston common will be postponed, until it gets colder.
but today there was a lot of rain, together with very grey skies. it looks something like this, although this is in new york, and not in boston.. :) and i was in boston today and not in new york..

And this...

...is the new state house. or rather, the current state house. that golden dome there... :) its next to the boston common. you can visit it, but i never did (yet). you can see this dome from quite far, if you go to cambridge, at the other side of the charles river, you can see this dome shining..
the old state house (see yesterday's post) is from 1713 and was occupied by the british during the revolution (dont tell occupy boston! they might want to occupy it, but its far too small for all of them!!). on july 18 1776, citizens gathered in the street to hear the declaration of independence read from the building's balcony, the first public reading in massachusetts. the royal (royal?) governor presided here until the new state house (see above) was built on beacon hill in 1798... (i stole this info from here)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Between giants

i have posted a picture of the old state house before, but i guess never in such a way that you can see how cute and tiny it actually is. the afternoon sun was falling through the tall buildings just to illuminate it, and i thought it was so pretty! (in reality it looked better, of course)
i think i wrote it before, but i will write it again: its not the state house anymore, its now the entrance to the subway, orange line! (upstairs there is a museum). it is not really obvious that it is a T stop (at least not to me), so the very first time we went there it was only because i had seen a picture of it in some travel guide, telling me that it was the "state street" stop. and how delighted i was when indeed there were the turnstiles allowing you entrance to the subway downstairs, well underneath the building...
normally there is quite some traffic on this road, but it was temporarily blocked for the veterans day parade... good for me, otherwise the big cars would have blocked the view! :)
 nowadays its dark before the clock hits 5, buuuuuhhh!! :(