Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My hearing's back! Yaaaaaayyyyyyy. Call Roto-router, that's the name, and away go troubles, down the drain....

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So, let me pick up my Volcano Trail vacation narrative where I left it, on Day 9 of 17, entering the well-preserved colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua. My ears are still stopped up, and this might be allergic in nature - my regular and ear doctors referred me to an ear doctor/allergist whom I'm seeing this morning...

Finally Granada

After seven hours traveling by foot, ferry, tax, van, and 'chicken bus,' we arrived late afternoon in Granada, and quickly fell in love with its pastel-colored colonial buildings and cobblestone streets. Here we are unloading the bus:

Granada afternoon, pedestrian street...

Our Granada welcome dinner was at a lively, hip restaurant with an international menu.. Dig the funky decor...

The food wasn't shabby, either... Here, squid and oysters provide suitably maritime nourishment in a region nestled between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean..

Light run amok: artsy photography or just botched? You be the judge..

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Most Exciting Album Of 2008?

This week's Song/Video of the Week is among the year's most exciting, 'Golden Age,' an irresistible, celebratory tsunami of musicianship from New York's very own TV On The Radio. Their just-released 'Dear Science' album is the best-reviewed new album of 2008 to date, and certainly one of my 2-3 favorites...

It's not easy to categorize the restlessly ambitious TVOTR - into their mix they've poured post-punk, jazz, soul, electro, shoegaze, a cappella and even doo-wop..

The quintet is driven by the plaintive, soulful vocals of Nigerian-born actor-director-singer Tunde Adebimpe and the haunting atmospherics of NY-born guitarist-producer-mix David Andrew Sitek. I've loved them since their first song, the Peter-Gabriel-esque 'Young Liars' from 2003. Guest musicians abound, from glam godfather David Bowie to members of critically acclaimed indie bands such as Blonde Redhead, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Antibalas. Check out their website.

Just listen and look... The 'Golden Age' clips underscores that TVOTR's video work is as memorable as their music...

To this day I find TVOTR's 2003 debut, 'Young Liars,' to be compelling, haunting, and cathartic.. Here's lead singer Tunde Adebimpe doing it live, and
nearly unplugged, last year at Glasslands in Brooklyn...

TVOTR's style and composition is very unusual, left-field, but always compelling... Here's 'Dreams' from their first album,,,

Here's a good fan video of another TVOTR classic from 2003, 'Satellite'

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Happy Birthday, Brian!

A happy, happy birthday to Brian! Wow, I feel old, even Brian is 41, now... However, his companion Fidel (who recently changed his official name from Fiedel) is older in canine years than Brian is in human years.
BriFi 1

Brian's humble beginnings. He was born in black & white, like me, but at some point our families were able to acquire color, when the price came down a bit... Brian's mother, of course, is the famed Jean Hall, who invented the computer back in the early 50s (as a young member of a very large team at Rand Corporation)...

Here's Brian getting a new tattoo from his half-brother Sean...


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Saturday, September 27, 2008

I'm headed home tonight. My conference was very successful, and I'm pleased, though I leave here about as ill as I was when I arrived. Back to the doctor Monday, and square one..

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My Aunt Eleanor passed away last night in Israel. I'm sad. We're a small family, and it just got smaller. She was 80 and had been ill for a long time.. I'm glad I saw her one last time, when I visited her in late 2006 with my cousin Rich. Aunt Eleanor married an Israeli when I was 4 years old and moved to Israel, where she lived for 44 years in Bat Yam, a modest beachside suburb of Tel Aviv.  I owe quite a bit to my Aunt: my sister and I spent the summer with her when I was 9, my first real foreign experience, which made a deep impression on me and influenced greatly my career choice and adult life..

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

16 Presentations Down, 12 To Go

My investor conference continues...


I'm feeling plump as well as under the weather. Last night we gorged ourselves on traditional regional cuisine from all over Brazil at Tordesilhas. I'm camera-less on this trip, but here's a Minas Gerais-style buffet from my July trip:


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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sleepy In Sao Paulo

This conference is a marathon.. 27 meetings, a panel, a cocktail party and 3 dinners in 5 days... Still feeling about the same... Here's a picture taken ten weeks ago here when I was happier, healthier, and more relaxed, as I hope to be again sometime really, really, soon....

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

OK, got through Day 1 - tomorrow's the hardest (I'm writing this Monday night and pre-posting). I have to get up at quarter to 5 to catch the 7am flight to Sao Paulo, listen to six presentations, and then entertain investors.   I have a headache and am a bit dizzy.   Off to slumberland...

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Soul Sister

Baby sisters are great, and often surprisingly talented. Just ask Michael Jackson. Or Beyoncé...

Who knew? Who expected a critically acclaimed, classy, adult, musically inventive and catchy album from Solange (pictured left, on the right), baby sister of brash diva Beyoncé (on the left)? I sure didn't.

But what an album it is! The whole album's a delight, and today's melodic Song/Video of the week, 'Sandcastle Disco,' will surely be heard this year...

Take in the lovely, peppy lilt of 'Sandcastle Disco':

or try the stylish Motownesque 'I Decided':

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's the first day of spring here and I do not feel like a flower : - ) I'm still pretty sick. I'm going to try to rest all day and hope I'm in better shape when the conference I'm hosting here begins tomorrow...

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My vacation posts will resume in a week or two, when I'm back from South America, at such point as I'm healthier and rested.. Tomorrow, Song of the Week, and I'll post commentary every day from down under...

Heading for Granada...

No, not that Granada... No, not that one either.. Not in Moorish Spain, not the tiny Caribbean island Reagan invaded, but Nicaragua's best-preserved colonial city, nestled on a double isthmus - between Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua, and between those two volcano-ridge lakes and the Pacific - but not on the Pacific. First, we ferried away from Ometepe Island, glistening in the sun that was so absent during our two-day stay there..

The ferry's outgoing cargo of agro-products, tourist luggage, and cycles.. the locals apparently traded this for toilet paper :-)

Ometepe Island really is two Siamese Twin Volcanos, Concepcion and Madera..

We passed an inbound ferry...

waiting for an odd succession of transportation to Granada...

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mocked By The Sun

As if two rain-drenched days on an island paradise were insufficient injury, nature added the insult of resplendent sunshine as we were leaving... I rose early that day to see the island without precipitation...

The laundry staff was hard at work...

I took a long stroll along the shore...

...engaged in clever photography...

...and found the cutest local 'Poet Café' long before opening hours..

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Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm happy, I'm nervous, I'm hopeful, I'm sick, I'm good, I'm gone...

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Two Rainy Days In Paradise, Pt 2

I'm flying to South America tonight to host a conference in Argentina and Brazil next week. But you've seen that trip seven times since I started this blog in January 2004, so I'll continue with (pre-posted) highlights from my Central American vacation in August. Here's some tropical art at the Ometepe Island hotel, in Lake Nicaragua...

If you must know, this is my 118th foreign trip, my 25th to Brazil, my 20th to Argentinaa, my 40th to South America, my 72nd to Latin America, and my 77th foreign business trip (of which my 29th under the name 'ABN' - they still haven't completed the merger.. Here's a tropical tree in the rain..

Here's some local cuisine served to Matt, a fellow traveller - three very complete fish and 'fries a la french' which are dipped in batter before deep-frying and then in mayonnaise..

Flies are rare in my sanitized urban life, but they abound out in nature. Down in the tropics, it's a rare bowl of sugar without some sort of protective cover, in this case aluminum foil. Dig the groovy pineapple napkin holder...

Much mirth was made of the hotel menu's mangled English, such as 'Wafle con Frutas,' defined as 'Muffles with fruit and local wildbee money'...You couldn't make this stuff up! I thought they were skimpy on the money : -)

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

'Fear itself is the greatest thing to fear' -
I think this is what FDR really meant
He wasn't saying there's nothing to fear, but that giving into fear is the worst option....

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Two Rainy Days In Paradise, Pt 1

So, eight hours in van and on foot brought us to an idyllic siamese twin of an island in Lake Nicaragua so we could enjoy peace, tranquility, and..... rain..... Two days listening to audiobooks on my iPod in a hammock, punctuated by the staccato of rainfall and an occasional piña colada...

On the plus side, we were close to wildlife. This tropical bird eyed my breakfast very closely...

It was a chance to get some laundry done, and to bunk with ants in a cement bungalo..

I liked this map of the area painted on the reception area's outer wall.. Area 276 km2 (106 square miles, the size of Queens), Population 35,000 (like East Meadow, where my I lived from 1969-1977), with two volcanoes..

A hardcover book in Norwegian (title: When I see you) left behind by a tourist is breeding ground for bugs...

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Two-Volcano Island

That would be Ometepe, an hourglass of an island wrapped around two volcanoes in Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America (21st in the world) and hope to the world's only freshwater shark.

In the 19th century, this was seriously considered as an alternative location for a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and this map shows you why...

Despite draining into the Caribbean Sea, 200 miles away, the lake is close enough to the Pacific that you can see the Ocean from the top of the Concepcion and Maderas volcanoes...

After a sweaty public bus ride, and a zip through Rivas in a taxi, we arrived at the landing to take the ferry to Ometepe.. Here's a monkey chained to a tree that I spotted while waiting..

I love this photo of a colorful but empty bus on the lake shore..

We board the ferry...

The ferry also carried vital supplies from the mainland... :-) The crossing took 45 minutes and was sufficient to singe my bare neck. On arriving, we just missed the bus to our resort on the Island's north side... So we rented a van for the 16 of us.. With 15 seats.. Guess who sat on the floor and only saw treetops as scenery...

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

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Exit Costa Rica, Enter Nicaragua

Here's the charming, low-budget inn where we stayed in Monteverde, run by Nora, a great lady who makes terrific empanadas

We rose at dawn's crack for the long trek from Monteverde, Costa Rica to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua...

Northwestern Costa Rica was an early morning blur through our van window.. But a sunny, verdant blur..

We stopped for breakfast at 8am - we'd been on the road over three hours..

The Costa Rica-Nicaragua border crossing is a very 'old school', non-digital, tedious process that dragged on for two hours..

But we did leave Costa Rica...

and enter Nicaragua... Notice it's only 336 kilometers (210 miles) to the Honduras border - that's probably the shortest way to cross the country. With their thin roads, that's at least a seven hour trip...

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