March is here!

March marks the beginning of one of the best times of the year! Sunny, spring days are right around the corner. Although today we are still toughing out the chilly, misty weather. Cabin fever is setting in. Today we headed down to Zilker Park to see the 86th annual Austin Kite Festival. Not your typical turnout, and only the slightest hint of wind – but it was still nice to take in, and all the kids there were having a blast.

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The downtown skyline was shrouded in low clouds.
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Afterwards we headed to the Texas State History Museum – free admission on the first Sunday of the month.   And tomorrow is Texas Independence Day, so it was fitting we popped in.

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Sun sail.

We headed to the lake Saturday for a sail and to anchor out overnight with Camelot. It was a gorgeous day! Winds 10-15. High in the low 70s.

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After a lovely sail past Starnes Island and back, Camelot radioed that their engine would not start. Roh roh. Change of plans. We sailed back to the marina ahead of them. The winds were much lighter now and straight out of the cove, which made it possible for Camelot to sail slowly up to a side tie on the end of the far dock – where they could then just loose the sheets. We met them at the end of the dock to push them off and grab their dock lines. Exciting, but well planned and executed. Camelot will remain there to get worked on next week.
We ended up just spending the night in the slip. But a very lovely night it was.

Speed bump.

Today we had our broadband upgraded. We used to have download speeds around 2 Mbps and upload speeds of about 1/4 of that. Which we perceived to be getting progressively slower. Today my phone logged these speeds:

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Not too shabby. I used ookla’s free speedtest app on my iphone to measure.
To see how much faster I can now upload a photo to my blog, I picked this one from my Paris trip.

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Wow. That upload was very zippy! This is a shot along the Seine.  The Left Bank is, well, on the left.  Île de la Cité is to the right. The bridge in the foreground is Petit Pont, and Pont San Michel beyond it.  It was such a lovely fall day.  See, I’ve almost forgotten about yesterday’s Super Bowl loss……

Capital capitol.

I was clicking through photos I’ve taken over the last few months.  I found a couple from a visit to the Texas State Capitol in December, when we had visitors from out of town.     It’s a beautiful building – inside and out.   If you get an opportunity to visit, you can take a free guided tour, or this self-guided tour might be more your thing.

But first, a relevant grammar factoid for the day:

Capital vs. capitol

As a noun, capital refers to (1) a city that serves as a center of government, (2) wealth in the form of money or property, and (3) a capital letter. As an adjective, it means (1) principal, (2) involving financial assets, and (3) deserving of the death penalty. There are other definitions of capital, but these are the most commonly used ones.

Capitol has two very specific definitions (outside ancient Rome): (1) a U.S. state legislature building, and (2) the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. State capitols are located in the capital cities of U.S. states, and the Capitol is located in the capital city of the U.S. If you’re not talking about any of these capitol buildings, then the word you want is probably capital.

The Capitol building located in Washington, D.C. is spelled with a capital C, but state capitol buildings ordinarily don’t have the capital (which is not to say that some writers don’t capitalize them anyway).

And now, a few of the shots I took.  The nouth entrance:

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The dome, taken from the 4th level:IMG_7297

Several levels of the rotunda under the dome:IMG_7300

Have a great day!

Stained glass trilogy.

I’ve enjoyed playing with the iPhone app called Brushstroke. It’s a pretty versatile app for adding water-color / oil painting effect to photos.

These are three shots I took in different cathedrals on my birthday trip to France, with a little post-processing with Brushstroke.

Notre Dame. Paris:

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Cathedral Notre-Dame de Chartres. Chartres:

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Sainte-Chapelle. Paris:

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A hill (and a thrill) with a view.

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One of many familiar images of Austin is of the Pennybacker Bridge at Loop 360, overlooking a stretch of beautiful Lake Austin.   The 360 Loop drive and its Hill Country views are one of my favorite parts of Austin.  I crossed off one of my must-do’s by hiking up the cliff overlooking the bridge to take in the view for myself.   In the panorama above, you can just see the downtown skyline peeking over the hill on the left of the image.   I’m not afraid of heights, but I have to say my heart skipped a beat or two as I stood on the rock on the edge of the cliff.

For reference (from google streetview):

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I think I like this shot better.  It’s taken from a vantage point slightly farther west, down the trail along the top of the cliff.

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Just another gorgeous day in my little corner of paradise.

Sunpocolypse.

I know that my friends in the Northeast have been hit by a snowstorm today.  But what a BEAUTIFUL day here in Austin!  The Butler hike and bike trail around Town Lake (oops, i mean Ladybird Lake) is always a nice destination, with loops of varying distances depending on which bridges you choose.  Last year the boardwalk on the southeast side of the lake was completed.  I set out today to walk the Mopac / I35 loop.  The Butler Hike and Bike Trail maps say that loop is 6.9 miles, but I must have dilly-dallied, because I logged a bit more.

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It was a simply lovely day.  I leave you with a few pics from my lap:

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Start/finish at Zilker.

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A view from the new Boardwalk.

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Congress Avenue bridge.

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Looking south towards the Zach Theater from the Pfluger bridge.

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A rower making way.

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A peek inside one of the boathouses on the north side of the lake.

I would love to be able to come down here every day.

Land lubbin’.

This weekend has been a glorious January one for the books.   Yesterday we kind of got rat-holed by what should have been a 30 minute project at the house, but it ended up consuming the day.

Today, however, i was determined to get outside.   The level of Lake Travis continues to remain woefully low at 624′ above mean sea level.   Happily, though, the rain from last week raised the level about 9 inches.   We just have another 684 inches to go before the lake is full!

One of the features of the land that surrounded the original river that the drought has uncovered is the piece of land referred to by locals as “Sometimes Islands.”  When the lake basin is flooded, the peaks of this piece of land sometimes stick up; sometimes they are covered by water.  Well, for the last 3 or 4 years, Sometimes Islands has become For-the-Foreseeable-Future Peninsula.

We set out today to walk the length of the peninsula.   So we packed a few snacks for lunch, brought our GPSes, and tossed my Christmas present from Monte – a metal detector – in the trunk for its maiden voyage.

We stopped briefly at the historic site for the original Anderson Mill – the mill that operated near Cypress Creek in the 1800s – a NW Austin neighborhood and road still bear its name.  They have a museum here as well, but it is only open for a few hours on the 4th Sunday of every month between March and October.   We’ll have to come back for the tour.

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Then we headed for Mansfield Dam Park and started our trek.

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This is the old highway that used to cross over the top of the dam.  It is closed to ordinary folks these days, and Highway 620 is the throroughfare now.  I’d love to get a chance to stroll across the old road now, though.

I walked the length of the peninsula – about 2.5 miles out from the park – and found all the geocaches that didn’t require scuba gear.  Monte marked a couple of points on his GPS that will hopefully be boating hazards and/or navigable cuts once again at some time in the future.  This was the view from the park looking out over Sometimes Islands…the structure on the top of the hill in the center of the picture is the Oasis.

IMG_7587We also tried out the metal detector for the first time.  And I have to say:  “Pretty nice!”   We were able to detect and reliably find nearly every piece of metal (aluminum, lead, iron, steel, …) that it sounded on, even if we had to dig 6″ or more to get to it.  I’m looking forward to bringing it along on some of our cove-explorations when the weather gets warmer.  No treasure this time.   But it was fun.

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I go back to work a week from tomorrow.  This weekend was a nice adventure.  I’m hoping to squeeze in few more next week.

Kudos to The North Face.

I recently posted about Kohler being a great company to work with because of their customer service. Today, I’m posting a shout out for The North Face…. Several years ago I bought rain jackets for both monte and myself.  But recently my jacket’s waterproof lining began tearing at the neck, rendering it no longer waterproof.

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I remembered that The North Face has a lifetime warranty for their togs, so about 6 weeks ago I followed their instructions and sent my ruined jacket to their warranty department requesting a replacement.  Well, today with no other communication or notice, I received a brand new jacket from TNF. Its a slightly different color, but still the great North Face product.
THANK YOU North Face for standing behind your warranty. I’ll be back.

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Bull Creek flowing.

I took another trip to St Edwards Park the other day to explore some of the trails I didn’t get to on my last visit.   It was the MLK holiday, and a beautiful January Austin day – and everyone else had the same idea.  The parking lot was PACKED.

It’s nice to see a bit of water in the creek.  It is supposed to rain again tomorrow, thankfully.

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Looking upstream from a point along the red trail north of the park.

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Standing in the middle of the creek bed on dry rocks – not a good place to be after a rain!

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Winter creek-scape looking upstream, taken from the concrete wall/dam on the southside of the park.

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A view of concrete wall/dam taken from the south bank.

I’ll be back.

Simply. Amazing. (you’re welcome)

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Football fans are superstitious.  Especially this Seahawks fan, who has experienced heartwrenching, emotional ups and downs over a lifetime of football seasons:  the emptiness of too many vacuous losing seasons, then the joy of making and winning playoff games, then the devastation of playoff games lost in the final seconds, then a Superbowl disappointment that strikes at the very heart, then FINALLY an intoxicating Superbowl victory.

So it is that over all these years, I have come to believe that something as simple as my decision to either watch or not watch a game can, and has, affected the outcome.  It’s just a superstition that I must live with.  It’s a burden.

I have a friend who sits in the same blue recliner to watch every game, and if he’s not able to do that, he carries a picture of the blue recliner with him… all because once when he didn’t the Seahawks lost.

So, this morning when I found that my mylar Seahawks balloon, which I bought for Superbowl XL and have reinflated since then, had lost its helium and was dragging on the ground, I felt the first twinge of superstition:   if i don’t refill it and we lose, it could be my fault.  Sooo, we refilled it before the game.

Then, after experiencing those 55 tortuous minutes of highs and lows during the NFC championship game and the Hawks down 19-7, my emotions took me back to that helpless, superstitious place….   I couldn’t take it anymore.  They could lose, and it would be my fault! 

So with a little over 3 minutes left in the game, I left.  I went for a walk.  I took my iphone/earbuds and listened to the NFL.com audiocast of the game instead.  And then magic happened.  I was less than a football field’s length away from the house when we scored.   And i kept walking.  Then the beautiful onside kick happened.  And i kept walking.  Then we scored again to take the lead!  ohmigod.  I started running.   Then we made the 2 point conversion to force a tie if we could hold Greenbay to only a fieldgoal – and we did.  I kept running.  Then we won the coin toss in overtime.  Then the TOUCHDOWN for the win!  OHMIGOD!  I ran all the way back to the house and celebrated with Monte.

I’m so happy for my team.  And I can’t help thinking, just a little, that this 12th man in Austin made it all happen :)

GO HAWKS!