12.31.2009

Sunny (!) San Francisco, Snow-Tipped Trees, Blue Bays, and Cotton-Candy Sunsets

Some photos from my recent vacation. Click to make them larger.

First up, sunny skies and warm weather in San Francisco!

Why would anyone go to the North Pole if they could be here?


Then, a rainy trip to the beach. Still beautiful, though, in a breath-taking kind of way.


We tried to get some of the world's best coffee/tea, but it was closed.


The drive up to Lake Tahoe was one of the most beautiful things I've ever experienced. The trees, outlined with crisp, fresh snow just took my breath away. And the sky really turned this color!


Emerald Bay:


View from observation point (got there via gondola):


More pretty Lake Tahoe:


A few days later, sunset at Asilomar:

Asilomar State Beach:

And before I knew it, I was home again!

12.30.2009

Airport mincha, ads in security area trays, and what does TSA do, anyway?

So, I've been traveling again. It makes me happy! I think that's because I like to look at new and interesting things, and there are so many more new and interesting things around when one is in a new environment than when one is stuck in one's routine at home. Lessons learned:
  1. I should make an effort to get out and about in NYC more often, since there is lots to do and see in NYC that I haven't gotten anywhere near seeing yet.
  2. I should get out of NYC more often, even if just for the weekend, by visiting friends who live within cheap-bus-commutable distance of NYC. Even Riverdale and Teaneck.
I saw a guy davening mincha, facing a structural column, at Newark International Airport. Nothing remarkable about that--I had just done a similar thing, myself. But he wasn't wearing a kippa, which struck me as odd from a sociological perspective (not a halachic perspective). I wonder if people think the same thing about me, when they see me davening in jeans? I mean, I don't think twice about it, but, really, a man wearing a kippa isn't so different from a woman wearing a skirt. Both are customs that indicate allegiance to a particular community, although I would say that kippot have more symbolic meaning than skirts (remembering that God is above you), while more people probably justify only wearing skirts on halachic grounds. I would also say that it's more socially acceptable for an Orthodox woman to wear pants than for an Orthodox man to not wear a kippa, but that's a product of my time and social circle, not an absolute statement. All of this is besides the point. I just thought it was interesting that a person would make the personal choice to daven mincha while forgoing the kippa that is normally warn by people who would be committed enough to weekday mincha to say it at the airport. Now I expect to hear from all of you who say: I am a non-regulalary-kippa-wearing male and I daven mincha!

My second travel-related or travel-inspired observation was that someone had the grand idea of putting advertisements in the bottom of those plastic trays that people throw their things into to send them through the x-ray machines at security checkpoints. It's brilliant because it was an otherwise flat, monotone surface that people more or less have to look at regularly. Also, you can target them to travel-related things, since you know that everyone who looks at them is traveling. (This may draw a higher per-viewing price than print advertisements placed in less-targeted locations.) My only complaint is that it makes it harder to see if you've left something in the tray. I wonder if airports that have these ads will see a spike in things forgotten at security?

My third observation, which was made on December 17, eight days before the flight 253 attempted terrorist act, was that I accidentally left five keys, on a key ring, in my pocket. I wanted right through the metal detector, sans belt, sans shoes, with all of my liquids neatly crammed into 3-oz.-or-less containers in a quart-size ziploc bag...and nothing happened. No beep, no buzz, no stopping me. Five metal keys on a key ring is quite a bit of metal for a metal detector to miss! I happen to be a harmless sort, but couldn't I have been carrying that amount of metal in the form of a very sharp knife?

Anyway, the vacation was very good. I saw some spectacularly beautiful things (e.g., Lake Tahoe after a fresh snow and several beaches), breathed in a lot of fresh, clean air, ate a delicious meal (thanks to my uncle--thank you!) at The Kitchen Table, a kosher restaurant in Mountain View, wandered around Old Sacramento alone (verdict: tourist trap; I should have gone to the railway museum instead of the military museum and schoolhouse museum), met some very nice, friendly, interesting new people (particularly at the Mission Minyan in San Francisco), visited one of my grandmother's first cousins and made her day, caught up with friends and relatives (in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Pacific Grove), had a surprising amount of fun watching month-old piglets at Little Farm and then taking a spectacularly slippery, muddy, fall-down-on-my-butt-at-least-four-times hike in Tilden Park in Berkeley, and felt that maybe I should construct a long-term plan to get out of New York City in a more permanent manner.

12.17.2009

Happy Chanukah!

I'm sorry for the long silence. Things have been a bit awry in my life as of late, and this blog has suffered. Sorry, blog (and readers).

I thought that this semi-recent David Brooks op-ed about the Chanukah story was interesting. I always love it when people discredit fairy tales about holidays and talk about the real history behind them.

Parts of this Yoni Brenner Shouts & Murmurs New Yorker piece made me laugh out loud. On the subway. (There were some parts that I liked less.)

Happy Chanukah!