Category "Family"

Category "Texas"

Category "Travel"

December 28, 2008

Holidays - Palling Around with the Grandkids

It's such fun to experience the holidays through the eyes of a 2 and 4 year old - it's really magical. We had lots of quality time together as well as many opportunities to get glimpses into who they are and might become. Take a look.

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Posted by hgroteva at 1:48 PM | Family | Texas | Travel

Category "Texas"

Category "Travel"

December 23, 2008

Me and Teo

During the Austin holidays, I've developed a ritual of working at Teo's coffee shop in the morning before everyone else wakes up. They have free wifi, which my mother-in-law no longer has. It's a good place to work -- just the right amount of activity, music in the background, a Christmas tree, and willingness to let me nurse a large latte for a few hours. I've had fun working on the syllabus for my spring semester seminar, The Psychology of Adoption.

Every year I test my own feelings about Austin as my HOME, and every year the verdict comes back the same: YES. I have lived in the following places, in this order: Utica, NY: Buffalo, NY; Dallas, TX; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Vallejo, CA (near San Francisco); Minneapolis, MN; Austin, TX; St. Paul, MN; Amherst, MA. Of all these places, Austin feels most like home. There's something about being a UT undergraduate in the 1960s that imprinted it in my soul in some compelling way. The other places hold good memories and varying feelings of connection, but Austin stands out.

The grandkids helped us decorate the small Christmas tree yesterday evening. Magic.

Happy holiday wishes to all!
--Inner Geek

Posted by hgroteva at 11:28 AM | Texas | Travel

Category "Travel"

November 22, 2008

Scenes from Lisbon

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The night shot was taken from the Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George's Castle), after the conference dinner. The last two pictures were taken in the beautiful gardens of the Museum of the Gulbenkian Foundation, where the conference was held.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:55 PM | Travel

Category "Travel"

November 18, 2008

Becoming Familiar with "The Other"

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In my brief TV watching here in Portugal, there have been advertisements or features on Bahrain, Qatar, Cypress, Turkey, Dubai, Montenegro, Al Zorah, Poland, India, Greece, and Armenia (at least!). And the TV channels are in Portuguese, German, French, Spanish, and a few languages I couldn't identify with certainty. Some of the English language channels (like MTV) are subtitled in German. I can't help but think that the daily experience of hearing about these countries and hearing other languages spoken would be good for the U.S. and reduce the country's insularity. Obama is the big news here everywhere, and people seem very receptive to what lies ahead. The world is totally interconnected, and the U.S. needs to be more in tune with that.

Posted by hgroteva at 11:36 AM | Travel

Category "Travel"

November 17, 2008

Exploring Lisbon

I took a few hours to explore Lisbon today. I always find that getting oriented in a new city outside the U.S. is an energizing mix of excitement and coping with the unknown - especially when an unfamiliar language is involved. I took the metro (subway) toward the downtown area. The metro was bright and clean, and the trains ran frequently. I went to the Alfama district, which is the old town. Buildings are centuries old, streets are extremely narrow and hilly, and it's easy to get lost in all the twisting and turning.

I started a new novel just before this trip: Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier. It was originally published in German in 2004 and was just translated into English this year. It's about a midlife humanities teacher in Bern who chucks it all and goes to Lisbon in search of something ... he's not sure what ... but obviously in search of himself. I'm about halfway through and enjoying it. It's not a quick/easy read - the text almost demands that you take it slowly in order to absorb its beauty. There are highly contrasting reviews of it on amazon.com. In any case, I've found it engaging to read while I'm traveling here.

Most of the TV stations in my hotel room are in languages other than English, with the exception of CNN Europe. They have been running ads for other places which are trying to encourage investment and/or tourism. Just today, there have been spots for Dubai, Montenegro, Poland, and Al Zorah, that amazing development in the United Arab Emirates, next to Dubai. I wish US TV had more programs in other languages and featuring information about places beyond.

I'll post a few more pictures after I get home - the internet connection here in the hotel is too slow. I hope I can steal away a few hours tomorrow before the conference starts. I'd really like to hear some Fado music, but the Fado bars are in an area that Frommer's clearly says is unsafe after dark. Hmmm


Posted by hgroteva at 11:40 AM | Travel

Category "Travel"

November 16, 2008

Greetings from Lisbon

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I just arrived in Lisbon ... What a pleasure to arrive on a sunny, temperate (60s) day - after dealing with fog and rain in MA, rain and cold at the Detroit airport, and rain and yuck in Amsterdam. Here is a view out the window of my hotel room - I like it just because of the vivid blue sky.

I found a small store to buy some water, and the clerk knew as much English as I knew Portuguese. But we connected immediately. He said, "Americano?" I said yes. He said "Obama" with a huge smile == and I returned his smile and said how happy I was. We communicated perfectly!

Posted by hgroteva at 11:33 AM | Travel

Category "Travel"

September 21, 2008

NY NY

Todo, We're not in Amherst any more.

That was my first reaction when I stepped off the train at Penn Station. I'm here for a conference for a few days and have been looking forward to it. I have not been in NYC for probably 20 years or more.

I decided to walk from Penn Station to the hotel on 49th St -- about 1.5 miles. It has been a warmish, pleasant late summer afternoon, so it wasn't a bad hike, despite dragging suitcase and computer bag behind me. (The key is traveling LIGHT -- even lighter than you think is possible.)

The hotel was not allowing guests into their rooms until 3:00, and I got here around 12:30, so I left my bags and proceeded to explore. What a great day for it! 8th Avenue was closed from 42nd to 57th St. for an open air market and fair. All kinds of foods, music, trinkets, touristy things -- but a LOT of people out just having a good time. Very festive, and unexpected. On my walk, I stumbled into Schubert Alley, where the Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS flea market was underway. There were tables and tables of theater memorabilia -- old (very) Playbills, posters, autographed photos, records (as in vinyl), trinkets, and other souvenirs. I rested a few minutes and watched an auction going on -- all kinds of memorabilia. Some things went in excess of $1000. All for a good cause. Again, a very festive atmosphere with lots of good will.

For me, the most enjoyable aspects of traveling are the serendipitous happenings that you couldn't have planned in a million years. (See some of my older posts in the Travel category.) Two come to mind immediately: running into a live broadcast of Porgy and Bess on the Washington Mall while on the way to experience Carmina Burana ... and hearing a choir rehearse behind a closed door at Kings College Cambridge. Not being able to see the choirsters just reinforced the other-worldliness of it all.

BTW - this is my 250th post to this blog. I don't expect balloons or noisemakers, but it's probably worth marking the event in some understated way.

Posted by hgroteva at 3:58 PM | Travel

Category "Cats"

Category "Life"

Category "Travel"

July 30, 2008

Traveling with the Tribe

Tuesday we began the journey with the Tribe back to Amherst. They have had the incredible good fortune to stay with a very loving and attentive foster family since early April, when the house when on the market. Bibiana, Kai Miok, and Lee have our unending thanks and appreciation!

The trip actually went better than I had feared. I read a lot on the internet and talked to many people about strategies for traveling with multiple cats. My sister lent me a large dog crate that fit 3 of the cats and their oval bed.

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Shadow went in a separate carrying bag - he would have popped out of the crate like a jack-in-the-box and incited a riot, if he could! I got kittie tranquilizers from the vet and gave a 1/4 tablet to Shadow. By 20 minutes, he was staggering like a drunken sailor. It seemed to take the edge off for him, but by the end of the day he was his usual active self.

When we got to the hotel (thanks to LaQuinta for their pet-friendly policy!) in Merrillville (or something like that) Indiana, the Tribe were all thrilled to get out and explore a bit. They were especially fascinated by the mirrors in the bathroom.

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They did a lot of sniffing etc. Sadie jumped in a dresser drawer and then promptly got behind the drawer and at the bottom of the dresser. Fortunately, she popped back up, because the bottom drawer was a false one and did not open.

Once they explored to their hearts' content, they settled in. All four found a space on what was to be my pillow. Hmmm - where will I sleep??

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They pretty much slept together through the night. Pookie found a warm corner on the floor and they all piled on, as they are wont to do. So Day One - so far, so good. We made it past Chicago. YUCK- I hate the traffic there, no matter which route. Several of the major freeways are undergoing major construction, so the remaining lanes are very narrow and the trucks are MANY.

Anyway, off to hit the road again. Round em up, move em out.

DAY TWO:
Made it to Erie PA by 6 pm. The driving was MUCH easier east of Chicago. The tribe seemed to be less anxious today - now they know the drill. Shadow didn't need medication. They love exploring the hotel room. Tomorrow night we will be home. They'll have lots new to explore there.

DAY THREE:
We made it home! The cats spent a lot of time sniffing out the new house. Unlike a one-room hotel room, here they have 2 floors and a whole bunch of rooms. But they are settling in and seem pretty happy. Phew! But the very best news of the day is that we have an offer on the house. Fingers crossed, but the buyer has verbally accepted our counter-offer. It's good we're all comfortable with technology. I was communicating with the realtor from somewhere on the New York State Thruway, and Susan was calling in from West Texas on her way east. We will be signing contracts pdf'd to us and faxing or pdf'ing them back to MN. But her favorite story is the closing she conducted when the seller was on a boat in the Suez Canal.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:10 AM | Cats | Life | Travel

Category "Travel"

July 22, 2008

Views of Würzburg

A few more views of Würzburg before I move on.

Here is a view of the city and the River Main, taken from the Festung Marienberg (Marienberg Fortress).

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Here's the fortress, taken from the old town side of the river. Much of the city was leveled by Allied bombers during WWII, and the fortress was seriously damaged. They have worked hard to restore it.

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The museum in the fortress had artifacts, carvings, and fine art from many centuries back. Here is a carving of the "Death of Mary."

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And at the entrance to our hotel, we kept tabs on the mama and babies in the bird's nest each day. Nice serendipity.

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Posted by hgroteva at 7:45 PM | Travel

Category "Travel"

July 18, 2008

Over the Rainbow

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I have always enjoyed the travel that is part of professional conference-going. I just returned from the ISSBD conference in Würzburg, Germany. We stayed away from the city (a good idea) and took the bus to the main bus station and then walked to the conference each day -- through the Ringpark -- a park that rings the city. Two mornings in a row, I caught this beautiful rainbow on the way to the conference. Who could have a bad day after that??

Posted by hgroteva at 11:50 AM | Travel

Category "Moving"

Category "Travel"

May 28, 2008

Day Four: Burlington to Amherst


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We made it to our destination today - 1650 miles. Today's adventure was Ben and Jerry's.

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The sky was brilliantly blue, and the trees were amazingly green. Northern Vermont is spectacular. My friend Sally spent every summer in Vermont - I can see why. Anyway, we joined the tour and got to see how they make the ice cream. I asked the guide which flavors were gluten free and what precautions they took to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. They seem to be careful about it. They only make 2 flavors a week - one on M-W and the other on Th-F. Between W and Th they completely wash down all the production lines. They also seem quite concerned about peanut cross-contamination. Anyway, New York Super Fudge Chunk was on the GF list, so I happily partook - but I don't think I'd do a large cup again ... too much.

After we checked in, we stopped by the house. I think it will be just what we need. It's got some quirks, but what house doesn't? It has a beautiful patio in the back; I suspect I'll be spending a lot of time there. And the study upstairs has great windows and lots of bookcases. The moving van arrives at 7:30 tomorrow morning, so it will be a very big day. My sister is bopping over from Pepperell to help out; it will be great to be closer to her family.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:09 PM | Moving | Travel

Category "Moving"

Category "Travel"

May 27, 2008

Day 3: Utica NY to Burlington VT via the Adirondack Mountains


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The moving van won't be arriving until Thursday morning at 7:00, so we had an extra day! We spent the morning looking for and finding landmarks from my childhood in Utica. Found the house where I lived from a few months of age until the end of 3rd grade, both my grandparents' houses, the church we attended, and other more-or-less familiar landmarks. I'll post some pictures later - the internet connection at this hotel is very slow.

After tooling around Utica, we headed for the Adirondack Mountains, where we vacationed every summer while I was a young child. We found Kayuta Lake, where my father's parents had a lake house, and then Old Forge, the funky town where we stayed at "Birch Camp." The lake and the Enchanted Forest are still there, but Birch Camp seems to have vanished. We headed further north, and had lunch at Lake Placid. The Adirondacks are really beautiful, and nothing was crowded yet because school is still in session. I'm sure it really hums in July and August. I'd be happy to go back there.

The CR-V is getting over 27 mpg, which is great, given the cost of gas.

Tomorrow we head to Amherst, via Ben and Jerry's. Then the work begins anew.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:32 PM | Moving | Travel

Category "New Mexico"

Category "Travel"

August 5, 2007

New Age Meets Old West

We ate dinner tonight at the Mineshaft Tavern, in Madrid, NM (with the accent on the first syllable of Madrid). The blue corn chicken enchiladas with red chiles were good, but I still like the chicken mole enchiladas at Curra's better. The place had lots of atmosphere - bikers, old hippies, locals, a very interesting mix of folks. Lots of tatoos, big beards, and a good time was being had by all. The band playing was good too - playing some stuff from Woodstock.

On the wall by the saloon-type bar, was the following sign:

Madrid's Nude Geezers
2008 Calendar
Be a Part of It!
Inquire Within


This afternoon, there were some dramatic thunderstorms. Around here, they call this the monsoon season --- but that just means they haven't been to India. Following our picture at the Mineshaft are a few of the more dramatic clouds of the day. Enjoy. I am.

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Posted by hgroteva at 11:25 PM | New Mexico | Travel

Category "Travel"

June 30, 2007

24 Hours in O'Hare

I opened my blog entry for June 20 with “You know I like to travel.? Well, this statement became problematized when I spent 24 hours from hell in Chicago’s O’Hare airport.

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My itinerary didn’t even call for me to go through O’Hare. I was spending a week in New Mexico with Susan. But while there, my father was released from the hospital (in New Hampshire) and my sister had several non-negotiable work commitments, so I changed my travel plans to cut NM short and fly to NH before returning home.

It started out smoothly enough, taking off from El Paso. But just as we were boarding, the agent said we’d be making an unscheduled stop in Omaha for refueling. Refueling? Why?

Well, the story goes like this. (And if a physicist or aeronautical engineer can verify it, I’d appreciate it.) It was very hot in El Paso (typically lower 100s in late June), and the flight was full - in fact, oversold. They reasoned that in that heat with a full load, there would not be enough lift to get the plane off the ground with a full tank of gas as well. So they either had to bump 25 people off or not go with a full tank of gas, refueling along the way. It sounded plausible and not traumatic. We landed in Omaha just fine and started to refuel. Then came the rest of the story. There was very bad weather in Chicago, and planes were not being let in. So it wasn’t clear when we could take off. Mercifully, they let us off the plane, which was getting incredibly hot and close.

They warned us to stay near the gate and be able to leave on a moment’s notice. We all saluted. But some people snuck out for a smoke -- outside, of course. And even though they had their boarding passes, the documents didn’t say anything about Omaha. They were from El Paso to O’Hare. So the attentive TSA agents didn’t let them back through security without a lot of cross checking and some angry words and flared tempers. This delayed our departure, but we finally did leave.

By the time we got to O’Hare, I had missed my connection to Providence. (Yes, the closest I could get to NH on 2 days’ notice was Providence, a 2+ hour rental car drive away.) If we had taken off 10 minutes earlier, I would have made the connection and wouldn’t have this fascinating story to tell.

O’Hare was chaos. They said we should go immediately to the relevant gate (I did, but the plane had left), or call their 800 number on our cell phone, or stand in the re-booking line. Me and about 500 other people. I stood in one line for FOUR SOLID HOURS. They had 5 agents trying to serve about 500 people. I tried to call the 800 number while standing in line, and it first said the estimated wait time was 37 minutes - then it cut me off! Which was good, because my battery would have died. (One by one, cell phones were shutting down as batteries died.)

I really felt sorry for the families with little kids and seniors traveling in wheel chairs. Once I finally got up to the desk (after midnight), the agent booked me on a Continental flight -- but when I came to take the flight the next morning, there was no such flight. No such departure time, no such flight number. Hmmm.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. While I was standing in line, Susan was trying to find me a hotel room (online back in NM). Word was that there were NO rooms available in the city. Amtrack was also completely sold out. After trying almost 100 places, she found a room in Glendale Heights, purportedly not too far from O’Hare. I was very grateful!

So after rebooking my (bogus) flight, I confidently left the airport to get a taxi to Glendale Heights. When the Suburban taxi pulled up, I was a bit suspicious because it was a black limo with no meter. I asked what the approximate fare would be: $75 one way! WHAT!? Even under the best circumstances, I would only be at the hotel 4 or 5 hours, because I had to be back at the crack of dawn. So I told him to forget it. He said he’d take me for $60. I declined.

So I went back into the airport and thought I’d go and claim one of the cots they were setting up, if there were any more left. (I doubted there would be, but thought I’d try.)
Guess what? Security was closed until 3:30 a.m. So I had the pleasure of spending the night in the baggage claim. What happens in baggage claim over night, you might ask? Welding, floor waxing, cleaning, and oh those announcements every 3 minutes. I knew them by heart. The threat condition is orange, don’t pick up unattended luggage, and remove your electronic objects before going through the magnetometer (seriously).

I felt like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal.? (great movie, by the way.)

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Food?? Hmm, dinner never happened. I had a bag of trail mix, but had already ingested a zillion peanuts. The only food open in baggage claim is the 24 hr Starbucks. Coffee was NOT what I needed. Hey, they have great baked goods. But hey, I can’t eat any of them. Fortunately, they had yogurt. It helped make my throbbing headache go away.

Of course, I was still confident that I’d get out in the morning, not knowing that I had a bogus reservation (I’m glad I didn’t know at that point.) After I discovered the non-existent flight, I had to spend an hour on the phone rebooking again. The agent told me he couldn’t get me to the East coast until Sunday. Sunday! It was only Thursday! So I said - go home; this is not working. Can you get me back to MSP? No - but I can get you to La Crosse, Wisconsin. Fine - get me to La Crosse. (and where is that??) And by the way, that plane departs in 12 hours. So another 12 in O’Hare. The seats in the main terminal aren’t much better than in baggage claim -- and oh those announcements and ubiquitous TVs.

Finally got to La Crosse, and Mark drove there to pick me up. We made it home at 1 a.m. Almost 36 hours later, I still don’t have my suitcase.

American lost a customer on this one. As Susan pointed out, the U.S. transportation system works great when there are no problems (strikes, bad weather, terrorists) -- but throw one monkey wrench into the mix and the dominoes start falling - and bring everything to a standstill. That’s what happened Wed / Thursday. There were huge storms in Dallas (the main AA hub) and Chicago - and everything just domino’d one after another.

I’m glad to be home and am looking forward to re-connecting with my luggage. At least I won’t have to go to La Crosse to pick it up. In the meantime, Dad made it home and has no memory of having been in the hospital for two weeks. But that’s a topic for later.

Posted by hgroteva at 12:07 PM | Travel

Category "Life"

Category "Travel"

June 29, 2007

Seduced by Sudoku

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Blame it on American Airlines. (There are several other things to blame on AA, but that will be the subject of a later post.)

On my flight to NM last week, I didn't feel like reading and the music wasn't enough to keep me occupied, so I opened the AA magazine and found the sudoku page. I had seen these puzzles for several years but had never tried one. Well, why not? So I did, and now I'm hooked.

There's a real satisfaction to unlocking the puzzle. Every row and column must be filled by 9 unique numbers (1-9), and the nine 3x3 boxes within the larger grid also have to contain the 9 unique numbers. As in the example above, the puzzle begins with some of the squares filled in, and all you have to do is fill in the rest. Simple, right?

Well, some are indeed simple - labeled such things as "light and easy," etc. But some are incredibly difficult.

I found that even the first few I did took a fair amount of brain power, but once I got the hang of the logic and figured out several strategies, I started flying through them. It was fun (and psychologically interesting) to experience the quick learning curve.

Now - this type of puzzle requires convergent thinking -- trying to determine the unique solution to the puzzle. What is the one and only one set of numbers that will make it work? Of course, most of life's puzzles aren't solved this way. But every once in a while, it's very satisfying to figure out that unique solution that makes it all click in. Kind of like making that big SPSS syntax file run without a hitch, or making that account balance to the penny. Doing sudoku saved my sanity while surviving in Chicago O'Hare airport for 24 hours - but that's another story too. Stay tuned...

Posted by hgroteva at 10:21 PM | Life | Travel

Category "Life"

Category "Travel"

June 20, 2007

Appealing or Appalling?

You know I like to travel.

When I'm grabbing some lunch at home, I often flip to the Travel Channel to see what's new. This afternoon, I was alternatingly excited and appalled by the show about "The World," the world's "first floating gated community." The management company is ResidenSea. The World is a luxury liner where you can "be at home and see the world passing by your window." It is a residence - people live on board full time, but circumnavigate the globe, calling at exotic ports. Units are as large as a reasonable house (c. 2000 sq ft) and are highly personalized with the most opulent furnishings. The emphasis is on PRIVACY. There are no more than 350 persons on board, although there could be 4 times that many in the same space. The spokesman said the ship was designed for penta-millionnaires. Yes, that means you need to have at least $5 million to afford this lifestyle. And you don't even own your unit. You buy the right of use for 50 years.

Click here for the details and a slideshow about the ship.

At first, I couldn't stop gawking and imagining what fun it might be to live there. Then I felt ... well ... it was just way too far over the top. I've lived in Minnesota long enough to know that it would never pass muster here. Remember, everyone's above average but no one is too much above average. It would fit the Texas life-style, but not the Austin life-style.

It made me think about a piece I heard on Morning Edition on the way to work this morning. If I recall correctly, they said that the cost of the political campaigns of the 10 most hotly contested Senate seats exceeded $250 million last election. That's a quarter of a BILLION dollars on 10 political campaigns. When you add the other Senators, all the Representatives, and the Presidential ticket -- it's absolutely staggering. Think about how much good could be done in the world with all that money.

My idea of campaign reform: let everyone have one brochure (multi-colored is OK, but it has to be copied back-to-back), one website, and one TV debate appearance. Take all the other money and end homelessness and provide health care for everyone.

I know -- it's naive and simple-minded. But hey, it's my blog! Have a nice day.

Posted by hgroteva at 3:15 PM | Life | Travel

Category "Travel"

June 12, 2007

Rome Reborn - Virtual Rome

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(Associated Press via Star Tribune.com)

This morning's Star Tribune brought news of the exciting new website, "Rome Reborn 1.0", from the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia.

It's quite a project - "a digital reproduction of ancient Rome as it appeared at the peak of its power in A.D. 320". The website includes still images, video clips, audio clips, and scholarly papers.

If you really get into it, check out another site that I have on the Inner Geek sidebar, Capitolium.org, the official website of the Roman Imperial Forum - they complement each other nicely.

And to go yet a step further, check out the website for the HBO series, "Rome." (and see my blog entry of April 6, 2007) I'm still waiting to see whether they'll do a Season 3. Now that I've got my new elliptical machine, I'm ready.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:51 PM | Travel

Category "Life"

Category "Travel"

February 17, 2007

I Am Ready for Summer!

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WHERE IN THE WORLD WAS THIS PICTURE TAKEN??

Posted by hgroteva at 10:40 PM | Life | Travel

Category "Choral Music"

Category "Travel"

January 15, 2007

More about Waltham Abbey

Despite the snow, the Waltham Abbey Singers audience tonight was robust and appreciative. I really enjoyed the program, which included the Charpentier Messe de Minuit pour Noel (Christmas midnight mass) and 3 lush motets by Bruckner. My last post had a few comments about my trip to Waltham Abbey, the actual place. Here are some entries from my travel journal of October, 2003.

I returned from London yesterday after an exciting and stimulating visit. It was interesting to observe my own reactions to things – that it was often the challenge and excitement of figuring out how to get places or do things that was the satisfying / most noteworthy part. For example, on Wednesday, 10/1, I took the train from Norwich to Liverpool St. (London), left my suitcase at the Left Luggage, took another train to Waltham Cross, then took the bus to Waltham Abbey. Each of these had its own little challenges associated with it – even making sure I got on the bus going in the right direction from Waltham Cross to Waltham Abbey. For example, I had initially thought about taking no luggage on the 3 day trip (thinking that I’d have to be schlepping it with me to Westminster Abbey), but then it occurred to me that there might be a Left Luggage at Liverpool St. – so I called the national rail line and found out there was. I found a hotel (the Hyde Hotel, 51 Westbourne Terrace, 3 star rating) on the internet for just over 50 pounds per night. My colleagues were rather horrified and very skeptical about the quality of the place, but I mainly wanted a place in a safe neighborhood, close to the tube, and clean. Well, the Hyde met those qualifications, but it was by far the smallest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in – and in the basement, to boot. I finally decided I’d pretend it was a stateroom on a luxury liner, where every square inch is at a premium. It did have a window, but the 8? TV had extremely poor reception (rabbit ears in a basement room!) It was adequate, although I doubt I’d stay there again. (It’s very good I brought changes of clothes – all the excitement combined with warmish and humid weather meant I sweated through my clothes several times! Thankfully there was a shower in the hotel room.)

The pilgrimage to Waltham Abbey was a worthwhile venture – since it is the namesake of the early music group I sing in. I didn’t realize until I got there that the Abbey was founded around 1060 by Harold, the Earl of Wessex, later King of England. Harold prayed there for success against the Norman invasion, but he and the Saxons met their fate at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. After the battle, Harold’s love, Edith Swan-Neck, brought him back to the Abbey for burial. No one knows exactly where he is in the church, but he is there somewhere. Here's my namesake.

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The church has a long history and is quite interesting architecturally, although of course it’s not a “grand? church on the scale of the cathedrals. But it was worth the visit. Thomas Tallis was organist there at the time of the Dissolution – 1540 - when Henry VIII dissolved all the abbeys in England. Here's Tallis.

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Posted by hgroteva at 6:25 AM | Choral Music | Travel

Category "Travel"

July 29, 2006

The Beauty of Leiden

I hope you enjoy these scenes from Leiden - it's a charming city with a relaxed atmosphere. Definitely a place that begs return.

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Posted by hgroteva at 11:01 AM | Travel

Category "Adoption"

Category "Social Science"

Category "Travel"

July 28, 2006

Adoption Research in Leiden

ICAR2 in Norwich was a wonderful experience - there's a strong consensus to that effect! It was powerful and energizing to have so many adoption researchers in the same place at the same time. There were 10 keynote addresses that provided a broad view of the field and probably about 100 papers or posters that filled out the most current research details. There were almost 20 people from Minnesota in attendance: 6 graduate students, 3 co-investigators and an affiliated post-doc from our MTARP project + several folks from the International Adoption Clinic, several from Rich Lee's project, and more.

Following a weekend on the north Norfolk coast, we made our way to Leiden University to meet with Femmie Juffer and her colleagues. Femmie holds an endowed chair in Adoption Studies, one of the few in the world. The centre's work is of the highest caliber. Here is a link to the centre. One of the centre's services is an online searchable data base of adoption research. You can access it from the navigation bar on the left side of their home page. It is a wonderful resource, especially since the searchable data base from the Donaldson Institute is no longer being kept up.

This scene awaited us just about a block or two into town from the Leiden rail station.

windmill in Leiden-b.jpg

We had two sessions at the Adoption Centre at Leiden University with Femmie and her colleagues. On the second morning, Wendy Tieman presented her research (based on her dissertation) from Wave 3 of Frank Verhulst's longitudinal study of adoption in Rotterdam. We had a wonderfully spirited discussion, facilitated by our open time schedule and a room full of people already knowledgeable about the relevant work. Here's our happy group after lunch: Gretchen Wrobel, Femmie Juffer, Wendy Tieman, Rich Lee, and me.

Gretchen Femmie Wendy Rich Hal-b.jpg

The adoption centre is located in a new university building that is very nicely appointed. On the occasion of the department's 40th anniversary, 40 faculty were each invited to prepare a quilt square to be included on a wall hanging in the foyer. Here are some of the squares; Femmie's is in the first column, third row from the top. You may not be able to make out the detail, but it depicts international adoption between India and the Netherlands.

Leiden U quilt-b.jpg

And what trip to the Netherlands would be complete without Rembrandt? This daunting face stared down at us during an al fresco dinner at the City Hall cafe on our last night here.

Rembrandt face-b.jpg

And one more beautiful sunset canal scene to close our visit.

Leiden bridge - sunset-b.jpg


Posted by hgroteva at 5:58 AM | Adoption | Social Science | Travel

Category "Art"

Category "Travel"

July 26, 2006

Monet in Leiden - 2006

Claude Monet, French Impressionist and a favorite of mine, painted tulip fields near Leiden. As he got older and his vision deteriorated, his paintings provided evidence of the blurry way in which he must have seen the world at that time. I took this photo last night and immediately thought of Monet when I saw it. Yet another good memory of Leiden.

Leiden at night - Monet effect-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 11:12 AM | Art | Travel

Category "Adoption"

Category "Social Science"

Category "Travel"

July 12, 2006

The Excitement Builds....

icar2small.jpg

The excitement is building ... almost 20 of us from the University of Minnesota are heading to Norwich England this weekend for the Second International Conference on Adoption Research. Personally, I'm very excited, for several reasons.

The adoption research community is small and highly specialized. Adoption researchers are found in psychology, social work, family science, public health, psychiatry, pediatrics, sociology, history, and related fields ... but our total numbers are small, and so our regular disciplinary scientific meetings usually only have a handful of adoption researchers. At ICAR2, we'll all be together for a glorious week of stimulating presentations and discussions.

The first ICAR was here in Minneapolis in 1999. Manfred van Dulmen and I co-organized it, with the very dedicated assistance of students and volunteers from our research project. This year's host is Beth Neil, from the School of Social Work and Psychosocial Studies at the University of East Anglia. Beth has gone out of her way to make sure that the conference is scientifically rich and socially enjoyable. She was able to get presenters to submit their papers far enough ahead in order to burn a CD-Rom of all the conference papers, so that people can study them in advance and make plans for conversations they'd like to engage others in. This was quite a coup!

I'm very proud of the 6 graduate students from my project who will be attending and presenting. They have all worked hard and gotten feedback in advance on their papers. The conference should be a good experience for them. I e-mailed Beth today, noting that there's something special about the folks who conduct research in this field. On the whole, it's a very supportive, collaborative, interesting, engaging group. It will be a great week! New blog posts will likely be sporadic or nonexistent until early August.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:00 PM | Adoption | Social Science | Travel

Category "Travel"

July 6, 2006

Small New England Museums Worth Seeing

Recent travels took us through Massachusetts and New Hampshire; along the way we visited several smaller specialty museums and thoroughly enjoyed each one. Here are a few comments + links to each, in case you have the chance to check one or more of them out

First, I'll mention the Sandwich Glass Museum, in Sandwich, MA, on Cape Cod. Both Susan and I enjoy glass of various kinds, and there was plenty to see at this museum. The pieces are displayed nicely in brightly lit rooms with light in back of the glassware. We saw a zillion different colors; among my favorites were amethyst and emerald -- deep, deep, deep. They had a glassblower giving demonstrations; he was quite good. He served a 5 year apprenticeship before he was able to do the work he demonstrated.

Next is the Whaling Museum on Nantucket, MA. Of course, this was a special trip because it began with a 2 hour cruise from Hyannis to Nantucket - very enjoyable. When we arrived, we were greeted by colorful planters all over the town.

Flowers-Nantucket center-b.jpg

We had seen the Whaling Museum many years before, but it's been totally re-done in the past few years. The displays are great, but the centerpiece of the museum is the skeleton of sperm whale that beached on Nantucket in 1998.

Whaling boat + skeleton-b.jpg

The story is actually rather sad, but they have a tastefully done film that tells the story. When the whale came on shore, it drew quite a lot of attention world-wide. The residents tried to coax it back into the water using various kinds of equipment and the old heave-ho. But apparently the whale was sick and had come to die. After the whale died, the residents got permission from the government to remove its skin and innards so that they could preserve and display the skeleton. They've done a nice job with it. While we were there, they also had a dramatic recounting of a whaling expedition. It was an enjoyable few hours - would have been great for kids as well as adults.

On to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH. This is a smallish, but very accessible museum. One thing I particularly liked was that you could get very close to the paintings and sculptures. (My trifocals present challenges with getting good close-up views of art objects, but at the Currier I was able to get within inches of canvasses.) The museum closed the next day for about 2 years while it remodels. One of their satellite "exhibits" is the Frank Lloyd Wright - Zimmerman House, also in Manchester, NH. We hopped a van with a total of 12 passengers and were taken over to the house for a guided tour. Some of Wright's unique touches were quite innovative for the times (early 1950s). I especially liked the way he tried to make the boundary between the inside and outside vanish in the back of the house. The house was for a couple sans children, but it still felt pretty small to me. Here's the view from the back of the house.

Zimmerman house from back-b.jpg

Next stop: the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA. Fascinating exhibits about the history of textiles and the history of the region. Some of my wife's ancestors came from Ireland into the states via Ellis Island to settle in Lowell, so it had special interest. There was a quilt exhibit there which showed amazing creativity in different approaches to quilting. (I knew next to nothing about this form of craft.)

From there we visited the Boott Cotton Mills Museum - in Lowell, MA. Here's where we saw the extremely difficult and dangerous work that young women did in these mills for many hours straight in deafening noise. Many of the workers were young teenagers. I was particularly drawn to the videotaped oral histories of women and men who had worked in the mills (which are all closed now). The interviews were extremely poignant. One woman who had worked in the mills for over 50 years recounted the story of a co-worker whose hair got caught in one of the machines and she was hoisted up to her death. At one of the points in the exhibit, the signs directed visitors to check the clothing tags of the people they were with. Where are clothes being made now? Well, the 4 of us looked at our tags. NONE of our clothes had been made in the US. Labor is too expensive. So the reality of the mills, the oral histories of the former workers, and the reality of today's economy and political terrain contributed to some powerful reflection. Just as closing time neared, we scooted across the street to tour the quarters where the mill worker girls lived. They slept in very close quarters, 3 or 4 to a bed, in a building with many bedrooms, no toilets, and only one door to the outside. What right do we have to complain about working conditions?

Special thanks to Debbie and Pete for taking us to the Manchester and Lowell museums - we would never have found them on our own, but thoroughly enjoyed the expeditions.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:51 AM | Travel

Category "Travel"

July 4, 2006

America Travels

I've been meaning to write a bit about the trip we took a few weeks ago, and I got the inspiration I needed when I read the review of a new book, Are We There Yet? by Robert Sullivan (2006). (The review was in the New York Times Book Review, July 2, 2006). (The subtitle of the book is worth a mention: "Fifteen Years and Ninety Thousand Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America with Lewis and Clark, a Lot of Bad Motels, a Moving Van, Emily Post, Jack Kerouac, My Wife, My Mother-in-Law, Two Kids, and Enough Coffee to Kill an Elephant" -- sounds like many a trip I've taken!)

The reviewer (Bruce Barcott) commented: "Our south-north crossing bound our family with the emotional ties of shared adversity, and it's Sullivan's contention that road trips bind us together as a nation. America is all impatience and movement and 10 more miles to higher wages and warmer winters. "The America that I see," he writes, "is an America that tells you to keep moving, to move on to something better, to get on the road and keep going, to stop only briefly to refuel your car and yourself but then to keep pushing toward the place that is closer to where you should be or could be, if only you would keep going. America says move, move on, don't sit still.... In other words, America is the road."

On my recent visit to my niece's wedding (in rural Mass.), my sister and I reminisced about some of the trips our family took while we were growing up and shared stories of our own families' trips. Road trips are an important part of my story. On June 6, I blogged about a nifty map-maker I found -- and when I entered the states I had visited, I found that I'd at least set foot in 45 of our 50 states.

Since our family moved to Texas from New York when I was 10 (believe me, it felt like the move to tne end of the earth), we made many road trips back "home" to see family. But we also took major trips through the southwest, far west, deep south, and other parts east. I think the nadir was the trip when my father was suffering from a kidney stone but didn't want to tell any of us because he wanted to keep pushing on to the next destination. He didn't say anything until my mother noticed that he paced all night in the motel room -- fortunately, he made it to the hospital early the next morning for appropriate care. That's driven!

The "move on" factor seems to be peculiarly American. I've had interesting discussions about it with my European friends. It happens in decisions about going away to college, in taking first jobs, in following promotions, and then in finding the perfect place to retire to. The nomadic existence creates complications with family responsibilities, however. In my case, parents, kids, and grandkids have all conveniently migrated back to Texas. Hmmm.

Happy 4th of July - Time for a road trip! Woops - how much does that gas cost??
(By the way, the size rental car we reserved for our trip was not available, so they gave us an "upgrade" to a minivan. Interestingly, the headline in the NYT that same day was "When an upgrade is a downgrade" - because of the price of gas. But we got a Toyota Siena, and it got 25mpg, which isn't bad. It had a nice smooth ride. If I needed a minivan, that's how I'd go - but I don't. I'm thinking Prius.)

In a forthcoming post, I'll talk about 4 specialty museums we saw on our trip - all were memorable and worth a visit.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:03 AM | Travel

Category "Travel"

June 6, 2006

The States I've Visited

I found this nifty map-maker on another UThink blog site and thought I'd try it for myself. It's easy and fun - give it a try! If somone had just asked me what proportion of states I had visited, I doubt I would have said 90% - but here is the evidence. (The red states are ones I've visited.) Much of this travel comes from many cross-country road trips my family made when I was a teenager. Many summers, we embarked on 2-3 week driving trips that took us in all directions. We covered lots of miles and saw some amazing things. It gave both my sister and I a real love of travel. Since those years, I've had more opportunities to travel for business and pleasure, and I've lived in the northeast, upper midwest, west, and southwestern U.S. There's still lots to see. I look forward to Montana and the Canadian Rockies before too long. But not this summer - family events are joyfully taking precedence.



create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:01 AM | Travel

Category "Art"

Category "Texas"

Category "Travel"

June 1, 2006

Meeting the Blanton

We enjoyed the opportunity to visit the new Blanton Museum of Art on the UT Austin campus yesterday. The Museum opened just about a month ago. We had the good fortune to visit on a Thursday, when they're open til 8 and the admission is free all day.

It's a beautiful building, spacious and full of light. Here are views of the skylights and the courtyard.

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Blanton courtyard-b.jpg

The main floor has their special, current exhibits; the second floor has their European galleries, The modern and contemporary galleries, and an e-lounge. The e-lounge is high tech and enticing. It's a round space with a number of computer terminals and electronic resources.

The collection is interesting and nicely curated. The audio guides for the exhibition feature not only the voices of the curators, but also various Austin personalities who might have insightful things to say about specific works - a different touch.

I wouldn't call the collection comprehensive. I suspect that it has grown over the years through the acquisition of private collections. So there's interesting depth in some narrow areas, but not a full range of art.

My favorite space was a room set up with an exhibit called "The Invisible Jump" by Daniel Joglar (2006). It's a room full of items suspended from the ceiling by invisible lines. You can walk among the items, blow on them and see them move, and take different perspectives on the "floating" objects - it's kind of like walking in the solar system.

Invisible Jump 1-b.jpg

It was fun to watch the playful mood that the exhibit put people in - adults at least as much as kids. (me too!)

Invisible Jump w HG 1-b.jpg

We followed our tour with a nostalgic walk across campus. So many memories -- along the main mall, I could recall that I had a calculus class in Benedict Hall, experimental psychology in Mezes, German in Batts, abnormal psychology in Batts Auditorium (with 500 other students), English in Parlin (where we studied "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" as poetry - a great class!, etc. etc. We passed the Academic Center (the "AC"), where we spent much of our courtship - studying together almost every night for 3 years. And of course, we walked across the main mall, which always reminds both of us of the Whitman shootings in August, 1966, just one month before we started college. We each knew people who were shot that day. It always gives me a bit of a shiver to cross that mall. But now that 40 years have passed since that day, this event has taken its place as one of the many, complex stories and locations that makes UT what it is today.

Posted by hgroteva at 11:03 PM | Art | Texas | Travel

Category "Life"

Category "Texas"

Category "Travel"

May 28, 2006

Austindipities

I needed a new word today, so here it is ... short for Austin serendipities. I'll be using it a lot.

As I mentioned back in December when I wrote about the obituary of my esteemed anthropology professor from UT undergraduate days, it seems that return visits to Austin always connect me in some interesting and unexpected ways with my past lives here. I guess that shouldn't be such a surprise. I've been connected with Austin since I was about 14. I attended several years of summer band camp at UT while in high school; did my undergraduate work at UT (1966-1970) during one of the most memorable 4 years of American Cultural History (I know, that's boomer-centric, but hey - it's my blog!); taught there for 13 years; and have visited at least once a year since 1970, since my wife's family and now both of our kids, spouse, and grandkids live here.

So it shouldn't surprise me that my stock of memories attached to any place is deepest and fondest for Austin. But on with the story.

In this morning's American Statesman, I encountered an essay in the Insight section written by Howard Miller, history professor at UT. (Howard and I were fellow tenors in a choir here in the 1980s.) I loved his wit and insight back then, and was pleased to see it continues to be every bit as sharp in today's piece, entitled "The newest, hottest commodity? Jesus." You can read the full piece by clicking here.

He was reflecting on having just taught a spring semester course on Jesus in American culture. I 'm sure it would have been fascinating, thought-provoking, and mind-bending, seasoned with humor and irony. The op-ed piece talks a lot about the strange relation between Jesus and consumption, including, of course, reference to this weekend's film-du-jour, The Da Vinci Code. (No, I haven't seen it yet, but I probably will some hot summer afternoon.)

Miller ends with the following:
"Pity poor Jesus. When he walked the Earth, an affronted Jesus rose in righteous indignation and cleansed the market. In contemporary America, where few of his disciples adopt their master's prophetic stance with respect to the marketplace, Jesus, alas, has become the captive."

I encourage you to read his entire piece. Thanks, Howard!

Posted by hgroteva at 10:08 AM | Life | Texas | Travel

Category "Life"

Category "Music - of all kinds"

Category "Technology"

Category "Travel"

April 11, 2006

In the Blogosphere ...What Goes Around, Comes Around

I was surprised and delighted to receive an e-mail this morning from a completely unexpected source. Sherrie, the owner of Malibu Moo's Frozen Griddle in Fish Creek Wisconsin, had run across my blog entry (08.28.2005) about our trip to Door County last summer and wrote me a note. She was pleased to see how much I enjoyed their ice cream (especially the vanilla with Door County cherries folded in), and said that hearing such wonderful things about her place made those 18 hour summer workdays worthwhile. I'm glad! Turns out we are also both musicians and love to travel, so we have struck up an e-mail correspondence about that too. I don't know if we'll make it to Door County this summer or not, but in fond memory, here's the picture I posted in August. Summer is just around the corner - and not a moment too soon!

Hal at Malibu Moos Fish Creek-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 6:13 PM | Life | Music - of all kinds | Technology | Travel

Category "Travel"

February 6, 2006

On Travel - From Heaven Lake

From Heaven lake cover.jpg

I just finished reading one of the earlier books of a favorite author, Vikram Seth. The book, "From Heaven Lake: Travels through Sinkiang and Tibet" is a travel memoir he wrote in 1983 while journeying from Nanjing (where he was attending university) to Delhi via Tibet and Nepal. It's a fascinating, engaging account ... but the following observation about travel resonated with me, as I find travel to be one of life's real joys and satisfactions and adventures, all rolled into one:

"On a personal level, to learn about another great culture is to enrich one's life, to understand one's own country better, to feel more at home in the world, and indirectly to add to that reservoir of individual goodwill that may, generations from now, temper the cynical use of national power." (p. 178).

I told you I'm an idealist.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:26 PM | Travel

Category "Texas"

Category "Travel"

December 28, 2005

Farewell to Austin

We're returning to the frozen north in a few short hours - Mark and I went to Zilker Park tonight (after taking Drake for a run and swim at Town Lake, playing ball with Reid in the back yard, and eating barbeque at the County Line) to see the famous Zilker Park Christmas tree - it was worth the trip. Enjoy, everyone - and wishes for peace in the new year.

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Posted by hgroteva at 12:23 AM | Texas | Travel

Category "Minnesota"

Category "Texas"

Category "Travel"

December 19, 2005

Landed

At 5:05 pm yesterday, we crossed the border from Oklahoma into Texas. It's so strange how each state on the way down had its own climatological feel:
Minnesota - didn't notice; was too eager to get on the road (sorry, MN)
Iowa - sunny and bright, stingingly cold
Missouri - nasty snow and cold - snow came at us horizontally, lending to feeling of disorientation
Kansas - snow had largely stopped, but car and windshield took on 3 tons of slush - grit, sand, salt - and all the gas stations we stopped at had run out of windshield washer fluid
Oklahoma - still pretty cold, but skies clearing; nice to see the sun again
Texas - warmer (40s), clear big skies

There were plenty of noticeable cultural differences as well. The latest rage -- putting a custom painted mural on the tailgate of your pickup truck - one beauty had a herd of wild mustangs chasing across the tailgate; another featured the Virgin of Guadalupe. People here in Austin are just friendlier. They just are. I notice it every time I come back here, and it always takes me by surprise. At the grocery store, I asked someone in the bakery section where their gluten free breads were, and she personally escorted me over to the place, then we talked about various alternatives, which ones we liked, etc. It was a delightful conversation. Granted it was the Whole Foods world headquarters (a truly amazing store), but everyone, from the people behind the counters to those checking out, had kind words and smiles to offer. It is a noticeable difference. Maybe a little of that personal warmth would help Minnesota winters seem less grim. Garrison, where are you?

It's about 45 degrees at the moment; Christmas should be 65 and sunny. Fine by me.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:49 AM | Minnesota | Texas | Travel

Category "Life"

Category "Texas"

Category "Travel"

December 17, 2005

Road Trip ... or The First Day of the Rest of a Life

I'm writing this from Liberty, Missouri. I'm helping Mark move to Austin, and we made it almost half way before the snow and trucks made us think it was time to turn in for the night. It's been a good day, although getting everything prepared for departure was plenty challenging. The poor cats sensed that something VERY big was afoot. Shadown climbed into the suspended ceiling above Mark's bedroom and broke one of the ceiling tiles. Sadie was staying very close to my shoulder. I purposely didn't pack my suitcase until this morning, because the emergence of suitcases from the closet throws them all into a tizzie. Since Susan has a few days remaining at home, they'll get used to our departure one person at a time. And then Ian will be there to spoil them, so hey, they're doing just fine.

Mark clearly sees this as a transition - the possibilities are very exciting. What kind of job? What to study in school? Where to live? Whom to meet, and where to meet them? There's something very liberating about leaving one's childhood home, high school friends, and customer service job for a new world ahead. What will the long-term future hold? Who knows, but it's wonderful to speculate. Austin will be an exciting, yet vaguely familiar springboard for exploring new opportunities. It's a joy to be along for this part of the ride.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:29 PM | Life | Texas | Travel

Category "Travel"

November 18, 2005

Travels - National Museum of the American Indian

A recent trip took me to Washington, DC, where I had the privilege of visiting the new National Museum of the American Indian, on the National Mall across from the Museum of Fine Arts. It's a spectacular building, filled with interesting exhibits and a mellow ambience.

The entrance to the museum is reminiscent of the Anasazi cliff dwellings - there is a protective outcropping over the entry area.

NMAI exterior2-b.jpg

Going into the building is like entering the sacred kiva, the beehive shaped enclosure in which significant religious ceremonies took place. The center of the atrium is a large space with a skylight above, reminiscent of the hole where the smoke from the fire would escape. The light coming through the windows played on the walls and made beautiful rainbows.

Rainbow in kiva1-b.jpg

The inside of the museum is full of stories - about cultures, peoples, beliefs, practices, losses, pride, sorrow -- the gamut of human experiences and emotions. The diversity of Indian cultures is honored - there are many viewpoints and perspectives expressed. Here's what one person said about stories...

stories-b.jpg

The curved surfaces of the building conveyed a sense of peace and harmony with nature alongside an impression of movement.

NMAI exterior 5-b.jpg

NMAI exterior 6-b.jpg

This photo reminds me of the stylized jaguar symbol used by the Aztecs of central Mexico.

NMAI exterior 7-b.jpg

Then amazing serendipities happened...

We were on our way to hear a concert at the Kennedy Center (more to come about that) when, walking down the Mall, we discovered that a simulcast of Porgy and Bess was beginning! The simulcast was a gift to the City of Washington from the Washington National Opera and Placido Domingo, its director. Even though it was early November, it felt like a late summer day (well, for Minnesota!). The Mall was full of people - one reporter estimated 7,000 - replete with folding chairs, food, drink, blankets, and a relaxed atmosphere. We stayed as long as we dared so that we wouldn't miss our concert -- but it was a great happenstance -- one of those things you could never plan and make work out. We heard a powerful, lyrical rendition of "Summertime."

Porgy Bess on mall-b.jpg

Porgy Bess on mall2-b.jpg

We made it to the Kennedy Center and climbed into our seats with (literally) less than one minute before the performance began. (phew!) We were there to hear Orff's "Carmina Burana," performed by the 200-member Washington Chorus, and its orchestra and children's choir. Although I had heard parts of it before, I had never heard the entire piece, and never live. We were sitting in the 4th row, which was perfect by me - I love to be able to see the musician's faces. We were near the percussion - many fantastic percussion parts in Carmina! The gong players were in heaven - how often do they get to show off the gong, cymbals, tympani, snare drums, etc. in one performance? Ya gotta hand it to Washington - it's quite a special place.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:28 PM | Travel

Category "Travel"

August 28, 2005

Travels in Door County, Wisconsin

Our new academic year begins tomorrow, so what could be more appropriate than a photo essay on What I Did On My Summer Vacation? Actually, summer was hardly a vacation. But Susan and I spent last week in Door County Wisconsin NOT working, and it was just what the doctor ordered. We had never been to Door County before, but were intrigued by the raves of friends and by what we had read. (It was also within driving distance. Despite the high price of gas, it seemed less aversive to pay at the pump than to risk being bumped randomly during the first week of Northwest's mechanics' strike.)

Door County has sometimes been described as the "Cape Cod of the Midwest," which seems a bit oxymoronic -- but there's some truth to it. Like CC, DC is a peninsula. It rises north of Green Bay Wisconsin (the city) and sticks out into Lake Michigan, so that Green Bay (the bay) is to the west and Lake Michigan is to the east.

Door county map.jpg

There are a number of small towns in the county, most specializing in some combination of cherries (more on that later) and tourism. (On the down side, there were too many kitch-y shops which all ended up looking alike after a while.)

We stayed in Sturgeon Bay, which is at the southern end of the county, in a condo called Harbor's Edge - and the water was indeed 5 feet from our front door. It was soothing to hear the waves at night. (What the brochure did not reveal was that our little condo was across Sturgeon Bay from the shipyards, but that wasn't too obnoxious.) The moonlight view was beautiful.

moonlight over Sturgeon Bay-b.jpg

One of my favorite activities was eating vanilla custard into which cherries were folded. The best was from Malibu Moo's Frozen Griddle in Fish Creek - yum! (We went there 3 times in 4 days!) Door County is the 3rd largest cherry producing area in the U.S. (acc to Craig Charles, in Exploring Door County.) We arrived too late for the fresh cherries (which I had gorged on at home throughout July), but Door County seems to specialize in "cherry everything." I can definitely vouch for the cherry fudge. Someone told me about cherries in burgers -- well, I don't know about that but will keep an open mind.

Hal at Malibu Moos Fish Creek-b.jpg

The state parks in D.C. are amazing. The first we visited was Whitefish Dunes, which was indeed reminiscent of the Cape. There were miles of sandy beach and dunes - the largest being dubbed "Old Baldy." In my walk along the beach, I encountered this most impressive sand sculpture.

Sand sculpture at Whitefish Dunes-b.jpg

We hiked on some of the nature trails and generally enjoyed the peaceful day. Definitely worth a return visit. (Next time, we will get the summer pass for the Wisconsin State Parks - only $30 for unlimited visits all summer to all of the parks).

We also visited Peninsula State Park, along the western coast. It's another beautiful park with varied terrain and opportunities for doing different things. A sand beach for the kids, lots of hiking and biking trails (here is the Sentinel Trail)

Sentinel Trail - Peninsula St Pk-b.jpg

... and plenty of places to camp and picnic. We hiked to the top of the Eagle's Tower, which is atop Eagle's Bluff.

Eagle Tower-b.jpg

Here is the view from the top.

View from Eagle Tower-b.jpg

In the midst of the driving, walking, touring, and eating, we were able to catch the finale of Six Feet Under (see my blog post from August 19). The last episode was indeed powerful and thought-provoking. I felt like I lost some good friends. (Seasons 3 and 4 are winging their way to me via amazon.com, and I hope season 5 will be released on DVD soon.) Some of the resolutions seemed too facile, but Alan Ball didn't skimp on the surprises or the complexity. Thanks for the great show, Alan. More anon.

On our last evening, we took a 2 hour sunset sailboat cruise on the Scupper, with Captain Tom Schroeder and 4 other folks. The cruise left from the town of Ephraim and went out into the harbor, sailing by Eagle's Bluff and the islands in the bay. But mainly we were out on the water enjoying its peace. There wasn't much wind, so Tom couldn't do many fancy sailing moves - but that was OK - it was great just as it was. I close with several shots of sunset, culminating with the view of post-sunset tranquility on the bay.

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Tranquil post sunset2-b.jpg


Posted by hgroteva at 7:26 AM | Travel

Category "Choral Music"

Category "Travel"

July 2, 2005

Travels to the UK - Adventures on Trafalgar Square

On the afternoon of my day in London (see my entry about the British Library for the morning's activities), I went to Trafalgar Square, home to the National Gallery and St. Martin in the Fields. My first stop was to the crypt at St. Martins to buy tickets for the evening's performance of the Faure Requiem, which, by coincidence, I heard there during my 2003 visit.

First I stopped for lunch at the Texas Embassy, which I had noticed on my last trip. Its a restaurant / cantina just across the street from the National Gallery. They do a pretty good job of the Texas and Mexico in London theme, considering. I had a fajita salad, which was passable except the fajita meat was cold and a little too charred. Touristy - yeah; but so what? Theres so much I cant eat seems that everything is sandwich-like or includes questionable ingredients that could make me miserable for days.

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The National Gallery, as always, was wonderful. I got the audio guide and it always makes the experience so much more interesting. I trooped around quite a bit, but literally ran out of steam after about 2 hours. Of course, it was good to re-visit old friends, especially the Monets and the Arnolfini wedding (van Eyck) and the Venetian doge with the corned hat and the incredible gold brocade detail on his tunic.

I still had a few hours to go before the concert, which I spent mainly hanging around Trafalgar Square. Great people watching as always. Kids chasing pigeons, families gathering, lovers smooching obliviously, etc.

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There was kind of a rock concert going on to celebrate public architecture week, complete with teenagers in red T-shirts doing acrobatic jumping around.

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And in the middle of it all, in rode about 100 bicycle riders, in the buff! I later learned that they were doing this ride to protest foreign oil dependency in Britain (ride your bike! - naked?) Anyway, that livened things up a bit and certainly got everyone's attention. London is SO multicultural it seems as though I heard every language under the sun and saw people from all over the planet. And folks get along.

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The concert at St. Martin in the Fields was a real pleasure.

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Like last time, I ducked in to St. Martins in the late afternoon and heard part of their rehearsal. They (the Orpheus Singers) are about the size of the Gregorians 19 voices. They are mostly in their 20s - apparently many of them sang together at Oxford or Cambridge and wanted to keep doing so. Like the group I heard last time, they were quite good, but neither snooty nor jaded. They worked hard and were very satisfied with the outcome. The only frustration was that even though I had a fairly pricey seat, my view was partially blocked by the pulpit, which was just a few rows in front of me. But I didnt let that spoil the evening.

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The church was lit by candles. They began with the Allegri Miserere. Im always nervous about whether the soprano will make that high C, but she did and it came off well. Other pieces:
**Albinoni Adagio in G minor (organ) very nicely done. The organist is the head organist at St. Martins, and he looks quite young for his position.
**Vaughn Williams Three Shakespeare Songs interesting; had not heard them before.
**JSBach Adagio in A minor; nicely done by the organist
**Purcell Funeral Sentences for Queen Mary This was really fun to hear, because we (Gregorians) performed this at the Concert Spirituel this spring.
**Faure Requiem VERY nicely done; lots of feeling. There were only 4 tenors, but they blended well with each other and produced a solid but not overbearing sound. I especially enjoyed the Offertorium a piece with a fairly exposed tenor section. Actually, its a beautiful duet between the tenors and the altos both singing in the same voice range, but men and women. When I'm singing, my primary attention is focused on my part - so it was a wonderful experience to be able to focus on the musical exchange, which was easy and quite convincing. I will listen more for this in the recordings I have and very much look forward to the next time I sing it.
**They closed with a barn-burner by Parry that I had not heard before: Blest Pair of Sirens. A good one to end on. Anyway, it was a lovely program; worth spending the day in London for.
Im very impressed by the music program at St. Martins they seem to have something almost every day, and the prices are reasonable. They also have a strong commitment to homeless outreach in central London. Underneath the church is the caf in the crypt and the brass rubbing center.

I made the 10:30 train back to Norwich, but it didnt arrive until 1:45 a.m. (engineering works) and so I was waiting in the taxi queue with a bunch of young folk who had been partying all night! At least they are careful about not driving while drunk I understand that the pressure not to drink while under the influence is very high and people take it very seriously. Fell exhausted into bed around 2:15 am; the next thing I new it was almost 8:00.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:53 PM | Choral Music | Travel

Category "Travel"

June 30, 2005

Travels to the UK - Home base at the University of East Anglia

During my stay at the University of East Anglia (UEA), I was fortunate to live right on campus in guest housing. My flat is in the picture below - it's the third floor up from ground level. The window right in the center of the photo is the kitchen; to its left is the living room, and to its left is the bedroom.

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UEA was built in the 1960s on the site of a golf course. The campus looks out on to a broad grassy expanse and a lake called "The Broads." This area is a wild life refuge - home to many birds (including herons), a zillion rabbits, and all kinds of flora. Students took advantage of warm June afternoons to picnic and sunbathe near the water. Swimming is dangerous and is not allowed, but the lake is a venue for skulling competitions.

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One of those warm afternoons, I took a walk around the Broads and found a family of ducks paddling around. The little ones stayed pretty close to Mom.

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Here is the view of campus from the other side of the Broads. These buildings are student housing and academic buildings - aptly called Ziggurats - after the ancient Mesopotamian structures.

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On my last evening in Norwich (for this time), we walked through the nature preserve to a local pub for a wonderful meal. On the way, we stumbled upon this bucolic scene reminiscent of the paintings of John Constable. We had seen a BBC special about artists in Norfolk just the evening before, and some of Constable's nature scenes were represented. This photo was taken by Richard Davies (thanks, Rich!)

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And just before making it to the restaurant we were almost eaten by these Triffids. (photo courtesy of Richard Davies) But we bravely escaped, made it to dinner, and enjoyed wine outside on the terrace followed by a wonderful dinner of duck inside.

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I look forward to returning to UEA next July 17-21 for the second International Conference on Adoption Research (ICAR).

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Posted by hgroteva at 5:05 PM | Travel

Category "Travel"

June 25, 2005

Travels to the UK - Ely Cathedral

We visited Ely, Cambridgeshire on the weekend of the observance of D-Day. A commemoration was taking place on the grounds of the cathedral.

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The ceremony featured a parade of WWII veterans...

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...followed by members of today's military.

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The ceremony ended with honors for the veterans and their comrades.

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Beautiful windows above the crossing...

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and some very nice stained glass inside.

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Splashes of light from the stained glass windows accentuate the theme of light.

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We attended the service of Choral Evensong, and sat about 5 feet from the choir. Here is a flier advertising openings for choristers.

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The high altar can be seen through the choir screen and choir.

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...and the Lady Chapel was a large space full of light.

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The garden in the Cathedral Close was in bloom.

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And the cathedral cat presided over it all.

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Posted by hgroteva at 2:16 PM | Travel

Category "Travel"

June 24, 2005

Travels to the UK - British Library

I spent June 1 - 15, 2005 working with colleague Beth Neil at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. While there, I did a bit of traveling, and one memorable stop was the British Library in London. Long a part of the British Museum, the Library now has its own new building - less than 10 years old - on Euston Road near Kings Cross / St. Pancras underground stop.

I arrived on a beautifully sunny, warm day. This is the courtyard entrance to the British Library on Euston Road. Even though it's on a very busy street, the courtyard effectively uses walls and shrubs to create a sense of intimacy out of the center of London's hub-bub.

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This is the entry to the Library.

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The information counter....

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The stairway leading to the exhibits literally invites visitors to come on in and see what's inside.

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An interesting image for a library....

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One of the treasures I picked up at the Gift Shop was an interactive CD-ROM featuring 12 teasures from the British Library, including The Leonardo Notebook, The Lindisfarne Gospels, Blackwell's Herbal, The Golden Haggadah, and the Sforza Hours.

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It allows you to turn the pages of the book (which you certainly can't do in the exhibit at the library!), gives written and spoken narration, and - coolest of all - it provides a magnifying glass that you can move around the page in order to see greater detail. Some of this functionality can be experienced by going to the British Library's website: http://www.bl.uk

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In addition to seeing documents such as the Magna Carta, Gutenberg Bible, and Lindisfarne Gospels all in the same room, the Library has original scores of musicians from Handel (see score to "Messiah" below) to John Lennon.

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Posted by hgroteva at 10:47 PM | Travel