Saturday, December 24, 2011

Rhonda's Gargoyle

In a fit of rebelliousness, I decided to stay put in Austin over Christmas weekend. I'm glad I did - I was able to take some great shots of Rhonda getting inked.

East Austin

I'm back in Austin for a length of time, and I finally went around taking pictures of the graffiti and murals painted on the walls of the East Side. I like the character it gives to this part of town.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Narita Temple

Start of fire ceremony

I didn't pay attention to some of the itinerary changes to my flights, so I ended up with a 7 hour layover in Narita. When I called American Airlines to change it, the agent couldn't change the flights due to capacity. She did recommend a tour of the Narita Temple to pass the time. I sent a few emails to Narita Rainbow Tours and arranged the tour. (If you have a 4-5 hour layover, you can still do the tour.)

The Narita temple is one of the most popular Buddhist temples in Japan, and many Japanese continue to visit the temple today.

Main entrance. Rightmost one is for snakes. Recently constructed, built of a rare wood.

Water dragons protecting temple from lightning

Hot Dog plaque was donated by a Tokyo business a century ago

Previous main temple. Was moved 40 years ago as it did not meet fire code (replaced with concrete temple with ventilation)

Shinto shrine within temple complex. Named after landowner who donated the land.

Do's Wedding in Seoul

With a 10 hour layover in Austin, I went from Dublin to Korea (DUB-LHR-DFW-AUS-DFW-NRT-ICN). I had a bit of time at London Heathrow, so my coworkers came to the airport for breakfast and pod riding.

The crazy flights weren't intentional. When my high school/college friend Do called and asked me to attend his wedding in Seoul, the only possible answer was, "Of course." In the end, it was a small high school and college reunion with folks I haven't seen in a while.

I never adjusted to the Korean time zone, so my trip consisted of going out, crashing during the day, attending the wedding and going out some more. We made it out sightseeing for just one day.

Dusty. I've been to a lot of club nights, but this is the first one sponsored by an automaker.
That's a Lambo to the right of the photobomber.

Regan clubbing the night we landed in Seoul.

Regan waiting for waffles and ice cream.

Avram on the way back from the wedding.
We took the subway as its much faster than a cab.

The crew at JJ's/Grand Hyatt after the wedding. Sharon, Regan, Sarah, Do, Sarah's brother, Dusty.

Avram in a cool neighborhood by the castle.

Same cool neighborhood.

Dusty and Avram in the castle.

Halloween Weekend in Dublin

Dublin tourist center

Samuel Beckett bridge over the River Liffey
Vegas, Roman and I flew to Dublin for Halloween, and I spent most of the time hanging out with my friend Vjera. The locals were all immigrants to Dublin, and it was a good time. Vegas and I ran the full marathon in costume (cowgirls). Every few hundred meters, I heard, "Well done" or "Go cowgirl."

After a summer of traveling and bailing on long runs, I still managed a 16-minute marathon PR at 4:22:58. Now, I'm convinced that I respond to intense workouts better than volume and that races should be done in costume when possible.

Hat swap at club in city center

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Sometimes, it's good to be grounded. I've taken the copy of my passport out of my wallet, and I've put my luggage away. I have no plans on TripIt. It's been a brutal year of traveling, and I think I'm done for a while.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Address Is Approximate

This just puts a smile on my face. I'm amazed by what folks are creating nowadays.

Address Is Approximate from The Theory on Vimeo.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quick Austin List

Headed to Austin? Here are some of my favorite places to eat and to take out of town guests.

1. Franklin's BBQ. Best BBQ in Austin (or US). Get there early - as in 1.5 - 2 hours early or they sell out.
2. Rudy's. My favorites are the moist brisket, chicken, creamed corn and turkey. Fast, especially when you can't be bothered to wait for Franklin's.
3. Uncle Billy's BBQ on Barton Springs Rd. We like the moist brisket and the chicken with the habanero sauce (really hot; you have to ask for it). Macaroni & cheese and okra are great sides, while the buttermilk/pecan pie is a great dessert. Also a microbrewery.   
4. Smitty's in Lockhart. It's about a 40 minute drive from Austin, but was considered some of the best BBQ in Texas. We like the brisket and ribs a lot. If you decide to go here, make sure you check out the hours on the website. It got demoted from #1 when Franklin came into the picture. It's better to spend time waiting for Franklin BBQ than driving down to Lockhart. Kreuz Market is right down the street. Smitty's and Kreuz's have the same origin, but split apart due to a family feud.
5. Salt Lick in Driftwood. BYOB (since Driftwood is a dry county -- doesn't sell alcohol in the county). It's a drive out there -- so if you're going to drive, I think Smitty's is better. Plus, you can pick some up in the airport as you're heading out. It's a pretty cool atmosphere on a warm Texas night.

Sit down food (places I won't go in gym clothes):
- Barley Swine - gastropub - one of the local favorites. Great food as well as independently brewed beer.
- El Naranjo - great interior Mexican on Rainey Street. Well done interior, and I'm a huge fan of the Tres Leches in the jar.
- Uchi - Japanese/sushi.
- Uchiko - Japanese. Uchi's sibling. Best desserts in town and great happy hour specials.
- South Congress Cafe - people like the breakfast there. I haven't made it over there for breakfast yet.

Quick and easy / casual:
- East Side Kings - cart behind the Liberty, Shangri La and Grackle. Tasty Asian fusion. There's also one at Hole in the Wall by campus.
- Torchy's - local favorite (check out infogrpahic at the bottom)
- Curra's on Oltorf - Mexican/Tex Mex. Corn tortillas are made fresh here. A favorite spot of the locals.
- Freebird's Burritos - great thing to grab as you're headed to the airport.
- Magnolia or Kerbey Lane for breakfast food (they're both open 24 hours). It's an ongoing debate on which ones folks prefer (Magnolia is meatier, and Kerbey is fresher). If you end up going to Kerbey, get the Kerbey queso - best queso in town.
- Joe's Bakery - amazing bacon and egg breakfast tacos. They flour coat the bacon, so it's never the same afterwards. Closes at 3pm.
- Lick Ice Cream - frou frou ice cream, but really good. Right by Barley Swine, so if you're in the neighborhood, might as well.

Things to do in Austin:

- Check out the botanical gardens at Zilker Park. Or swim in Barton Springs - it's cool 65 degrees, which is fantastic when it's 100 degrees outside.
- Run on Town Lake / Lady Bird Lake (it's about a mile up Congress from where you're staying, and you can do a 5 mile loop if you go west from the bridge). You can also rent a bike from Bicycle Sport Shop on the corner of Barton Springs and Lamar and ride around the lake if you don't feel like running. This trail also goes by Zilker Park. (BSS rents all sorts of bikes - road, mountain, cruiser and even electric now.)
- Short hike to the top of Mount Bonnell. Great views. Featured at the end of "Slackers"
- See the bats at sunset on the S. Congress bridge. Note that they don't come out every night, so it can be hit or miss.
- Segway tour. Good way to see downtown Austin - there's a coupon on the website and you can negotiate a good rate if you have enough people.

Indoors / Less Active:
- Get coffee and dessert at Mozart's .
- Watch a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. You can eat (and drink a beer) while watching a movie.
- There's usually a bunch of music shows. Austin Chronicle guide to shows or Austinist.
- Check out the Blanton Museum or the LBJ Library on the UT campus.
- Drinking options - over the past few years, tons of new watering holes have popped up:
  • Walk down "dirty" 6th street on Friday/Saturday night after 11 PM as it's neat to see the closed off streets, but drink somewhere else
  • 4th Street or West 6th are for the professional crowd (can be dressy) 
  • Rainey Street is a bit more casual
  • East 6th (East of I35) is hipster central.
  • Draught House or Black Star Co-op are more chill locations North-Central
- Drinks at the San Jose Hotel on Congress. The Michelada is a good drink here.
- Texas History Museum. Cool if you're a Texas or history buff; also good for watching movies in the real IMAX format.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Catalina Channel

From Katy Catalina 2011

From Katy Catalina 2011

Sometimes in life, you're fortunate enough to meet an incredible group of people who believe that all goals, no matter how difficult, are achievable. This past Friday, my friend Katy Dooley met her goal of swimming across the 21-mile Catalina Channel in 9 hours, 49 minutes and 4 seconds.

Here are some photos of Katy and crew on her adventure:

Katy, before her swim.

Vegas, MVP crew member, who stayed up the entire night coordinating Katy's feed and kayakers.

Mel, grease coater and tweeter.

Alisa, a last minute addition. We were so happy the captain let her on the boat.

David. Veteran channel crosser who came with his daughter on the boat. He knew just how and when to motivate Katy to get her in under 10 hours.

Neil. Official observer who devised a great feeding system.

Thomas, kayaker extraordinaire.

Katy with Kevin, another kayaker

Katy's swim started off in rough waters for the first five hours, but the seas calmed down as the light came out. She was swam consistently throughout and picked up her pace towards the end. As she was coming out, the surge picked her up and pushed her onto the rocks nearly 90 feet away. She's a bit battered and scraped, but she finished!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

China - photo album

The complete photos of the China trip are here. I really should go back and reprocess some of the pictures using a bigger monitor. That never happens - I'm not a fan of post-processing so I try to do it during the trip.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Temple of Heaven

From China 2011
Some of the parks around town charge a minimal fee (10-15 RMB, $1.50-2.50 USD) for entry, and we think it's for folks to have a less crowded space to hang out and play cards/dominos/Chinese chess. Everywhere we go, there are huge crowds, so the parks offer some respite.

From China 2011
And then you have the tourists...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Zoo Day

From China 2011
If you want to see pandas, the Beijing Zoo has about 5 pandas. They're absolutely adorable, and the country is stepping up the efforts to save the pandas in the wild. I would skip the rest - somewhat sad to see the other animals.

From China 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Forbidden City

Built in 15 years by 1 million laborers, the Forbidden City has over 900 buildings and covers 7.8 million square feet. It's impressive. You walk through gates and you think that's it - we've reached the end. That's never quite the case; there are always more massive halls, buildings, or gardens.

From China 2011

From China 2011

From China 2011

From China 2011

Mutianyu Great Wall for Beijing isn't that great. I didn't know this when we first got to Beijing. So, I saw the weather forecast and decided that we had to go to the Great Wall the day after we got here. There was a little bit of research and some debate as to which section of the Great Wall we wanted to see (while minimizing car time). We decided on the Mutianyu Great Wall; the option to take a toboggan down made it a no-brainer. 40 seconds in, you'll see the worker try to slow Pete down as we've taken off on a downhill section:

The Great Wall is impressive - built stone by stone centuries ago, high in the mountains, as far as the eye can see. I'm usually not afraid of heights, but I had a bit of vertigo walking up the steep uneven steps. It was one foot in front of the other, hoping I wouldn't misplace a foot and tumble down the steps.

From China 2011

From China 2011

From China 2011

From China 2011