So, what seems like a long time ago now, we were in Berlin.  I was invited to speak at a conference there (!) so we made a little vacation out of it.  I really like Berlin-amazing night life, underground art scene, food.  Plus the people are really friendly.  Really friendly.  I think the Berliners are still making amends, you know, for the everything.

Some of my favorite things about Berlin, however, are the museums.  They have over 180 museums, so you can bet that they know what they are doing.  We went to A LOT  of museums during the trip:  The Hamburger Bahnhof (a modern art museum with a funny name!), The Medical History Museum (fetuses in jars-some of us liked it better than others of us), The Neues Museum (with an amazing Egyptian collection, and the famed bust of Nefertiti, although my favorite part of the museum was the way they restored it after it was almost completely destroyed by bombing during WWII), The Computerspiele (a disappointing video game museum where kids hogged all the video games-if you are an adult and you kick kids off of games even though they have been playing that pong machine for well over an hour and really their parents should be encouraging them to share, you are always gonna be the dick.  Always.).  But my favorite museum is the Pergamon Museum.  And why?  Because of this:

The Ishtar Gate! (photo by youngrobv)

I am completely in love with the Ishtar Gate.  I forced Brett to go back to the Pergamon Museum because I wanted to see the gate a second time.  And I marveled at it.  I suspect that every time I am in Berlin, I will want to go and see the Ishtar Gate.  And why not?  It is stunning. Enormous, covered in glittering azure tiles and reliefs of aurochs (bulls) and dragons, this gate takes my breath away.  And this reconstruction is only the smaller, external gate.  There is a second, internal gate that is TOO BIG to dispaly! It is, sadly, in storage (where does one store something that big?).

The gate was built in ancient Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar II (come on-that is cool!) during his reign from 604-562BC.  It was, until it got beat out by the Lighthouse as Alexandria, on of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.  I don’t know who makes that ruling, but I would definitely argue for the Ishtar Gate to be promoted back to a wonder.

And to really give you a sense of the majesty of the gate, they have also reconstructed the processional way, decorated with tile reliefs of striding lions, leading to it.

I took this same photo of the processional way lions last time we were in Berlin.  In fact, I took it about 7 times.  This lion is 2500 years old!

But my favorite part of the Gate?  The dragons!

A study for the dragon, in unglazed tiles.  These dragons really have it all, a horn, the head of a serpent, front feet of a lion, back feet of an eagle, and a plumed tail.  Apparently, the Babylonians believed these animals truly existed, and there is some thought that they may be related to an ancient rhinocerous.

In short, I highly recommend the Ishtar Gate, and the Pergamon Museum in general.  This is only one of a number of amazing reconstructions they have there-the Market Gate from Miletus, the Mshatta Facade, the Aleppo Room, and of course, the Pergamon Altar-all restored and rebuilt.  A.MAZ.ING.


And now its time to take a moment to discuss the latest in my list of activities that will keep me from actually getting any PAYING work done-my new photography class!

That’s right-I am finally taking a photography class.  However, it isn’t what you think.  Los Angeles City College, which is around the corner from my house and  more importantly, is CHEAP, has a photography program.  But, due to budget cuts (oh, how California is bankrupt), they have cut all of their photography classes that do not transfer to university.  For some inexplicable reason, digital photography falls into this category!  So-I am taking a black and white film photography class, and the photo developing lab class that goes along with it.

I enrolled in the class thinking that photography fundamentals will be the same for film as for digital, and since the cost was less than a fifth of what a digital class on the other side of town would cost, I figured it was worth checking out.  Now, I think it may have been just what I needed.

I was becoming overwhelmed by my digital photos-too many photos, none of which I really loved, and too much work to go through them all.  But now the whole process has slowed and become more focused.  Every frame that I take costs me money and time-money to buy the film and the photo paper, time to develop and print it.  So now, each picture I take really matters to me.  I check my light meter, try to set up the best shot I can, really think about what I am shooting.  No more hoping for a good picture-now I am making good pictures.

At least I hope so-we are developing our first roll of film this Saturday, so I will know more then.  The first two weeks we worked with photograms.  Photograms are made when you place objects on light sensitive paper (the same paper one uses to print pictures) and then expose the paper.  You develop it, and voila-photograms.  Here are the photograms I made during the first week:

Brett’s Jim Woodring figures on parade!

Georgia O’Keefe’s dishtowel.

For the second week, we were told we needed to step it up a notch, and to create a photogram that had some sort of point of view and used some of the design elements we had been taught in class.  I went for one concrete image, and one abstract:

Hummingbird flight.  This hummingbird is made from crumpled paper, feathers from a feather duster, and a toothpick!

Unzipped.  Made with two different patterns of fabric and a zipper.

These were so fun to make.  I will likely continue to experiment with these, especially since I have a pack of sunprint paper burning a hole in my craft closet.

I will have to let you know if my roll of film comes out.  I am slightly concerned about the functioning of the million year old camera I am using.

Pics and posts

Hey-look at me!  Catching up!

Since I know that you are all on the edge of your seat regarding the status of my computer network, let me just give you a quick update-a new external hard-drive now lives on my desk, where all of my photos are now kept, safe and sound like they’re wrapped up in a black plastic blanket.  So far, it functions perfectly (thanks Bretty!).  Now, in order to get pics uploaded, there is little more that I need to do than sit down at my desk.

Sounds simple, right?

Except that I have no fewer than 1,127 pictures patiently waiting for me to review, delete, crop, color correct, straighten, choose and then, finally, post!  This is gonna take a little time.

Disneyland-taken back on December 22nd.

Ah-the importance of KEEPING UP.  SO. MANY. UNSORTED. PICTURES. I have realized (maybe you have noticed this phenomenon in yourself?) that the knowledge of this backlog has translated into me taking fewer pictures.  All those pictures, looming.  Taking more pictures means more pictures on the already mountainous pile of unprocessed, unuploaded pictures, so why even take the camera?

Brett and Adam plan to conquer Hollywood, taken December 24th.

This attitude is, of course, unacceptable.  So I am ready to slog through this picture-mire of my own making.  And now that I have gotten all that whining out of my system, I am ready to declare Let the slogging begin!

Swiss friends on the California shore, taken December 31st.

Look at me-catching up!

Coming soon!

I am pretty excited.

After several months almost a year of having a computer with a hard drive too full to download pictures, my dear husband has worked some sort of magic to make space on my laptop.  He got me a special external hard drive and moved stuff from my laptop onto it.  I feel like I have a place of my own.  A virtual place.  Oh my computer runs so much better now.  Before you would hear it processing, processing, processing for what seemed like days. Now it works like a computer should.  Well, a five year old computer that I never update the software on and that I recently dumped a whole glass of water on.

But today is the real excitement-the reason for all of the shifting of files and backing up and downloading and uploading and deleting-today is the day that we will download my photos from my camera onto whatever new system Brett has rigged up for me!  MONTHS of photos!  I am not even sure what will be IN there! Photos from Berlin (from which we just returned 2 weeks ago), photos from the holidays, when people came ALL THE WAY FROM SWITZERLAND TO SEE US, photos of our little house before all of the painting and building and sewing and arguing discussing how high we should hang things on the walls.  Like a little time capsule of our time since moving to sunny Los Angeles a full 6 months ago.

So exciting.

Hell-ooo all!

That’s right! It’s ME! Back for my bimonthly blogpost!

Okay, kidding aside, what is going on here?

Well, blogging, I don’t know, it gets away from me.

But I really like love the idea of it.

Sharing what I am up to with friends and family, ranting about whatever I am upset about (although I typically save most of my ranting for Brett.  He loves it.), posting photos and stories.

And I love reading the blogs of my friends.  It is such a pleasant way to keep up with all that they are doing, and feel connected to them-especially the ones who live too far away.

So now that we have moved, and settled, I’ve been thinking about getting this blog going again.

But it needs some work first.  I mean-a NaNoWriMo 2010 button?  With zero words?  And a map functionality that hasn’t worked in ages?  Come ON!  But any of that kind of updating will have to fall to Brett, because that involves the internet.  And to me, the internet is practically a series of tubes.  But maybe I can talk him into it.  Because a new blog could mean a fresh start.

And who doesn’t like a fresh start?

Can we already sense where this is going?

That’s right-I missed 3 days.

I was pretty shocked when I uploaded several weeks worth of photos and realized that there were days missing.

Well, maybe not that shocked.  I knew that I wasn’t prioritizing my 365-project the way I had been.  I hadn’t been seeking out photos or new skills on a regular basis.  I will even go so far as to admit that snuggling into bed at night, and only then realizing that I hadn’t taken a picture yet, had become a little too common.  And OH MAN is it hard to get back up out of bed and take a picture!  Even harder than that is taking A GOOD PICTURE.  These are the moments when you end up with photos like these:


And it only gets worse from there.  I decided that I didn’t want to take these boring pictures, so I ended up not taking any.  All in all, I have missed a total of  23 DAYS!

I know, shocking.

But now we are moved into our house (stay tuned for house tour pictures soon), I have a new external hard drive so I won’t be faced with a constantly full computer (thanks Brett!), I have 2 new vintage cameras to play around with (thanks John!) and I am ready to be reinspired.  So back up onto the horse I go, and I will just be dismounting a few days later than planned.

Oh HEY-I still have a blog!

Waiting for me, lo these 10 weeks since I have posted anything.  I KNOW that it has been 10 weeks because I am counting every day until our stuff arrives in Los Angeles from Geneva.  And it has been MORE THAN 10 WEEKS.  But they say it will be coming any day now.  Really.  A-N-Y-D-A-Y.

But I think it is worth resurrecting the blog despite the hiatus.  How else will we report on our American misadventures?  What kind of trouble will we get into when we no longer have ‘not speaking the language’  or ‘not understanding how things work’ or ‘I ate my own body weight in cheese and it is affecting my judgement’ as excuses?  Probably we will just blame others.

And I do feel some sense of obligation to at least try to keep our European friends (all 6 of them) and New York friends (a few more there) updated with our activities.  So here I am.  Writing the obligatory ‘I’m back’ post.

So stay tuned for the good stuff.

So, as I finish packing, and arranging and MOVING, I realized that there is a whole list of small realities about living in Switzerland that I had meant to share, but somehow never did.  I’m not talking about the painful, inconvenient, maddening things (finding an apartment, opening a bank account, etc), but the little things that are just done differently here.  They are not necessarily better or worse than what I am accustomed to-they are simply different.  FUN!

1)  Toilets have two different flush ‘settings.’

I found this fascinating when I arrived-you can choose how much flushing you need.  Toilet flushing mechanisms in general are different than what I was accustomed to in the US, where you choices are typically some form of handle that you push, pedal that you stomp, maybe a small button, or, rarely, a string or chain that you pull.  However, in Switzerland, flushing mechanisms are two buttons, one larger than the other.  Without going into the gritty details, push the big button for a longer flush of water, and the small button for a shorter one.  Does this save water?  More effectively clean the bowl?  Maybe.  Confuse new arrivals to the country?  DEFINITELY.

2)  Refrigerator doors are paneled to match the kitchen cabinets.

I still am unsure of the appeal of this.  Essentially, I have never been in a kitchen in Switzerland where the fridge wasn’t covered in the same type of paneling as the cabinets.  And, if there is one, the dishwasher is typically paneled, too.  I imagine that this is some sort of aesthetic choice-sort of ‘dressing’ your appliances.  Although I really don’t care too much what my fridge looks like, there is an important functional ramification-NO MAGNETS!  Where do little Swiss children display their artwork?  How do drunk university students express their incredible cleverness without ‘magnetic poetry?’  I just don’t understand.

3)  Recycling

I know I have mentioned recycling before, and I am ALL for it.  But I think it is worth explaining the elaborate Swiss system-we’ve been here two years and I am STILL not sure that I am actually getting it right.  So here goes:

Paper-picked up on Wednesday morning

Composting-picked up Thursday morning-must use a special biodegradeable bag.

Aluminum cans, PET plastic, white glass and colored glass-these are typically all recycled in street bins.  I have listed them together because these bins, although separate, are typically grouped together.  This is not always the case, however, so you can get caught with a bag full of plastic that you couldn’t recycle that you have to then carry around with you until you find the right bin.  Also, you cannot recycle before 8am, after 8pm, and NEVER on Sunday.

Dairy containers-Wait, you think, aren’t those plastic?!  YES! YES THEY ARE!  And until someone tells you, you will recycle them in the plastic bin mentioned above, with the Genevois tsk-tsking you, but never actually telling you what you are doing wrong.  Because, you see, dairy containers go to the grocery store, where they get recycled in a special ‘dairy’ recycler.  As do batteries and nespresso capsules.  That’s right folks, Nespresso is so popular here that they have special recycling bins for the capsules. Now there’s something the guidebooks won’t tell you!

Stay tuned for more Mysteries of Switzerland…as I remember them, that it!

Ahhh, going away parties.  They have become quite an event in our lives.  And yet, we hadn’t really put much thought into how we wanted to say goodbye to Geneva.

Never fear, though, because dear friends Robin and Bryn HAD.

And the result, was Le Jaquestoque!

An adventure weekend that took going away parties to yet another level!

First, fireworks at the Fetes de Geneve:

Brett and Stuart watch Geneva burn.  Feels a little ‘Fight Club’ to me.

Followed by a short, 20-odd km bike ride through the Swiss countryside:

(photo by Bryn)

(photo by Bryn)

Then a little more bike riding to the real event of the weekend–PARAGLIDING!

Bryn prepares for takeoff!

Brett comes in for a perfect landing.

While I don’t think I could ever go paragliding on a regular basis (nausea mixed with a keen sense of my own mortality is not a sensation I tend to seek out), as an experience, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Especially soaring over the city we have lived in these last 2 years, as we bid it adieu.

Admittedly-not a great picture.  BUT, it was the only one I managed while actually paragliding!  Taking pictures required letting go, something I was NOT very anxious to do!

As excited as we are about this next stage of our lives, I am sad to be leaving.  Well-not sad to be leaving Geneva.  In fact-I am pretty ready to leave Geneva.  But I am sad to be leaving these good friends.  People without whom, I don’t think we would have survived the tough parts of the last two years.  And without whom there would have been many more tough parts.  Even writing this, I’m feeling a little bit teary.  I will miss you.  Terribly.  But it will help to remember you like this:

Kaitlin, Bryn, Robin, Stuart and, of course, Brett.

Or, perhaps more accurately, like this:

Thank you, thank you, thank you-for these 2 days, for the last 2 years, for everything.

Some of you may recall my little photography project. Inspired by fancy new camera, and a group of shutterbugging friends, I pledged to take a photo a day, every day, for a year.  And despite the recent craziness, and my innate laziness, somehow I have managed to keep up with it!

The project has been great to help me recognize my natural talents and propensities, as well as my myriad weaknesses, as a photographer.  And keeps me striving to improve.

I now carry my camera with me everywhere. I am officially more likely to forget my keys or wallet at home in the morning than my camera.

And, I now have this incredible photographic record of my year (so far).  Not only to review my progress as a photographer, but to enjoy and reflect upon when the mood strikes me.  Never having been on to keep a diary, this is really the closest I have ever come to having a journal.

And so, how long has it been?  Well, today is day 110!  What?!

I am thinking of trying to post my pictures here on a more regular basis (maybe weekly?).  For now, the whole set is on my flickr.

Next Page »