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    Italy!

    Yep, I survived eight days with 29 high school students in Northern Italy (mid-February 2010):  Milan, Venice (during Carnival!), Verona, Florence, and Rome. I have tons of great photos to load on this site (eventually). The last time I was in Venice was 1955.

    Not that much has changed in Venice since 1955.  That's my brother, Allen, and I in the lederhosen with my contemplative father, Owen, pawing the pigeon feed. I'm the one standing, casually scoping out the nearest location of a spumoni stand. I was no fool at 5 years old. I remember we had a pretty good time on that trip in the old 1953 Studebaker that we drove all over Europe . . . except for when I was pronounced 'legally dead' after a small pox vaccine, required at the Italian boarder, went horribly wrong. But that's another story.

    The Pisa Cathedral obscuring the leaning tower.  29 really good young people.

    The beautiful Spanish Steps of Rome.  A clear and very cold night.

    Always lots of fun with 29 teenagers. St. Paul's Cathedral, Rome.

    This is what Venice is all about!

    Venice at night - during Carnival.

    Venice dressed for Carnival.

    The streets below the Spanish Steps in Rome are wonderful to roam at night . . . delicious coffee shops and high end fashion.

    The basilica of St. Paul's cathedral: beautiful, but I always think how much good for people's lives could have resulted from using the Vatican money more wisely, instead of paying the premiums on an afterlife insurance policy.

    A carnival set up in the back yard of Milan Castle . . . forlorn in the snow.

    The streets of Verona are a wonder . . . many medieval period doors, castles, and streets (right and below).

     

     

    1800 Kilometers and 3500 Photographs Across The Small Roads of Northern Thailand in ten days - and then Los Angeles for five days!

    My good friend Jeff Milligan and his wife Sharon joined me for a 1800 kilometres road trip around the small roads of Northern Thailand.  A wonderful experience.  Here are the first photos I have processed.  Many more to come. And captions to come as well.

    Near the Lao boarder.

    Friendly temple monkeys near Loei, Thailand.

    Thailand! A more-or-less abandoned Wat (Buddhist Temple) in the countryside to the east of Khon Khen, in Northeastern Thailand.

    This Wat was begun, the exterior completed, but the interior never begun.

    So many wonderful flowers to photograph in Thailand.

    Sunflower, near the Lao boarder

    It seems like all Thai towns have a "Red Light District" - sad lonely places . . . like this one in Khon Khen city.

    One block away in the same city one finds this beautiful temple/spirit house.

    I am really enjoying my new Sigma 70mm Macro lens.

    I love these small towns in Northern Thailand. This is Loei.

    Loei is a very special little town.  They do not allow any international franchise businesses in the city.  The result is a wonderful old world feeling. You see something gone almost everywhere else: the local department store. The downtown is not dead.

    Those engaged in the commerce of the "Wet Market" gather in downtown Loei around midnight.

     

    Thai market towns at night are a strange delight! This is Sukhothai.

    Oh, to be at home in this place . . . is to be at home in the world!

    I sat here and had a bowl of delicious soup . . . and added my own chili soaked vinegar. Living large indeed!

    So . . . what does it mean to be a Buddhist in Thailand?

    A reclining Buddha in a cave.  There are always things to discover in Thailand.

    The banks of the Mae Kong River, looking across to Laos.

     

    Then Los Angeles:

      The 'boardwalk' in Malibu . . . lots of charm, lot of characters -- "Darkness at Noon".

    This amazing spirit has been riding up and down the boardwalks from Venice to Santa Monica to Malibu beaches on his roller skates playing a battery-powered electric rock guitar since 1968 . . . .  when I saw him last!  He's still there!

    Fun with death! Collect the whole set!  Only in Los Angeles!

    The V-8 Quest Continues

    I woke up at 5:00am to go and meet the wiring  guy, George, and then to tow my race car the 200km to  Pattaya before traffic snarled the streets of Bangkok.  George was almost done when I arrived . . . he finished in an hour and I headed down to Pattaya. It was a good day of planning all the final details of the race car . . . "how it should be done," and "the right way to do it" conversations went on all day.  The drive back was beautiful in the setting sun. I stopped at one of the roadside markets and bought a bag of freshly baked cashews. Nice.  Go to my Racing Projects Blog for more on the day's mechanical progress.

    A nice place to find the perfect snack for a long drive!

    Max Snacks! I opted for a few grams of the cashews from a giant, 100 pound sack. What counts as a snack varies widely across this big wonderful planet of ours.

    Phuket Vegetarian Festival: Been There, Done That.

    I am just back from the Thai Island of Phuket.  It is a beautiful place of mostly sand, palm trees, and crystal clear water.  Once a year they have their Vegetarian Festival which includes a big parade down "Main Street." Lots of fun . . . . if your idea of fun is chasing ghosts off of the corners by stabbing whatever is handy in the kitchen drawers, or around the house or garage,  through your cheeks while under a trance and then parading yourself in front of your friends and neighbors.  Oh, and then having the crowd set off thousands of very large (and illegal everywhere on earth) firecrackers right over your head while you are bearing a litter of your local temple's favorite deities for all to see. It is a very photogenic experience, in a perverse kind of way. By the way, do not even try to order lamb brochettes during this time of year . . . . . I tried and was told, "Sorry, we're out of skewers."  "Why?" I asked.  There are more photos here.   This is what you missed:

    The kids love to try and see how close they can come to blowing their toes off. I didn't stick around.

    There were lots of kids having fun, but somehow they seemed a little consumed with thoughts of their future participation in the parade . . . . .

    Oh, that's where the skewers have gone.

    I guess lamb-ka-bobs are out of the question too.

    Let's see, what else does Mom have in the kitchen drawer . . . . .

    Not Mother's lamp too!  I'm gonna tell . . . . .

    Ouch.

    The end of the parade is where all the fun, and missing fingers and eyes-put-out . . . . yes, you guessed right . . . The Rain Of Firecrackers!

    Phuket Firecrackers Duckers (PFD).

    Loitering on parade while the ambulance tended the newly blind (no kidding).

    O.K., now that the ambulances have gone . . . . . PAR-TAY!

    Back from Philadelphia & Baltimore, USA

    I am just back from a quick trip to The States.  I got to see my wonderful daughter in Philadelphia on my way to attending an international conference in Baltimore.  Unfortunately I got food poisoning at the Airport Hilton Hotel in Newark, New Jersey on the way that put a damper on my time in Philadelphia.  I recovered by the time I got to Baltimore . . . and the National Aquarium.  Here are some photos from the trip.

    Baltimore harbour from the hotel window.

    These things seemed to be left over from the last Ice Age in Baltimore Harbour.

    A view to the US National Aquarium where, interestingly, they have a lot of fish that you can photograph!

    A Box Fish head . . . . .

    A Large Mouth Fish . . . . .

    The underside of a Sting Ray . . .

    They even had some snakes in the habitats at The US National Aquarium.  See more photos from the National Aquarium in my Travel Photo Blog section.