June 28, 2008

Enjoy every sandwich

Doreen and I went to the funeral of a young man I knew briefly about 7 years ago. I have become good friends with he father over the years, having lunch with some regularity. He was the CFO for a company that did extremely well in the oil field equipment business. He did extremely well himself.

On of this could have possibly prepared him for the death of his son. He had just graduated from the Colorado University's MBA program, and was about to get married. The young man had two sisters and had traveled extensively all over the world. I remember one time I was talking to him in his father's office (when I met him he was working for his father) and he said that he was moving to Bangladesh. What??? Yes, he was going to do some field work there for one of the big accounting firms. He was really looking forward to it.

That was this kid's life, really. It seemed that he was always looking forward to what he was about to do next, and was enjoying what he was doing at the time. Amazing, really – to have that much self confidence and verve at the age of 30.

He died while kayaking on a river in Colorado. I don't have the details, and they wouldn't really make any difference. He was an excellent sailer, kayaker, and outdoorsman. All I can imagine it was a freak accident.

It is all so very sad.

Life is short. Enjoy every sandwich.

What we eat

Great photo essays here and here.

June 23, 2008

Hats and Tats. Tom Waits in Houston

About two months ago I learned that Tom Waits was coming to Houston. I was excited about this, until I realized that he would be here the day after we get back from Rome. So I didn’t really think about it until the day the tickets went on sale. Then I took a desultory look at what was available (they were sold out in two hours) and sort of gave up.

But my sweet ever loving wife called, and when she looked at the tickets, there were two seats available in row J of the orchestra. Nine rows back! (for some reason there is no row “I”)

In order to buy tickets you HAD to go through Ticketmaster, a company I generally abhor. But they were trying to foil scalpers and I think that they did a pretty good job. You could only buy two tickets at a time, and you received NO paper ticket of any kind. You had to present the credit card you used for the purchase, along with a photo ID.

So Doreen bough the tickets, and we pretty much forgot about the concert until we got home.

I was in Rome for two weeks, and Doreen was there for one. So we had reset our body clocks fully. We got home Saturday evening about 7:00, and the concert started at 8:30 PM on Sunday. I slept well enough Saturday night, getting up at about 5:00. Doreen didn’t sleep as well, but she seemed rested enough throughout the day.

We each had a nap on Sunday afternoon in preparation for the concert. Mine was short, about 20 minutes. Doreen slept longer.

We tried to meet a friend for dinner, but we didn’t hook up due to my not searching the restaurant well enough. No matter. As we were eating, we were speculating who was doing what downtown (there was also a play in town – it was about the making of the musical An American in Paris. It was supposed to be cute). We figured anyone wearing a porkpie hat or sporting tattoos (hence the title of this entry – hats and tats) was heading to Waits. Anyone in a frilly pale skirt was going to The Alley.

As we got closer to the venue, there were more hats and more tats. It was also apparent that the average age of the patrons was probably under 30. (unlike the Springsteen convert we attended, where the average age seemed to be 55) I attribute that to two things – the universal appeal of Tom and the No Scaplers thing. Think about it – how many 28 year olds will be willing to part with $500 to see anyone perform? Oldsters don’t have that problem.

One freaky guy was dressed like, and looked like, Tom Waits 30 years ago. He kept looking at our buddy Patrick and winking. I am not sure what that was all about (except maybe that Patrick had his 17 year old daughter with him, and the wink was mis-aimed). But was sort of freaky to see a Tom Waits look alike at the concert.

The show finally started and it was everything we had hoped it would be (except I would have picked a different playlist). He came out in a black three piece suit and a bowler hat. The suit was soaked through by the end of the night, the hat stayed on almost the whole time. (Though during The Eyeball Kid he replaced it with a bowler decked out like a mirrored disco ball. He spun around like one, too)

He started the performance with his five piece band backing him up. About halfway through he moved to the piano with only a standup bass behind him. Then he went back to front the band for the last few numbers.

For a more complete review of the concert, the Houston Chronicle has a blog about it here.

The show lasted a good 2 ½ hours.

I have wanted to see Tom Waits perform for quite some time. I am glad that Doreen bought the tickets, even though I would have let them go. Having seen him, I would not have even known how much I was missing.


blog.talkingphilosophy.com » All man’s miseries

June 20, 2008

Rome Thursday

On Thursday we had an easy day with no photos.

First we visited the Piazza Doria Pamphilj. That is an old palace with an amazing, though helter skelter, art collection. Pope Innocent X was a Pamphilj. He was Pope between 1644 and 1655. That is when the Pamphiljs made their money. As far as we could tell, it has been downhill ever since. They married into the Doria family in 1760.

For lunch we wandered about looking for a restaurant called the Ditirambo near the Campo di Fiori. We found it just before 1:00, and they don’t open until 1:00. So we wandered a bit more before returning for some great food. The place was full of loud French tourists, but the food was outstanding. Don’t order the gnocchi, though.

For dinner, we ate at Le Mascere, a place we have been before. (The very last photo on this page was taken at Le Maschere in 2000)

It was a nice day.

June 18, 2008

Rome Wednesday

Today we started off with Digestive Biscuits and an unripe peach. Not the best breakfast in the world, but we made it do.

Our first walk was down to the Octavian Gate and across in to Trastevere. We wanted to see St Francis’s stone pillow at the St Francis a Ripa church. But the pillow was upstairs, and upstairs was closed on Wednesdays. So sad to be us.

We walked down to Sta Maria in Trastevere and had an ice cream on the way. I had hazelnut, Doreen had a combination of cappuccino and chocolate. This took the edge off the sorry breakfast we had.

St Maria in Trastevere is a great old church with recycled roman pillars inside. They all have different capitals and bases. It also has some wonderful mosaics – one of which depicts the twelve apostles as sheep, and Jesus not as a shepherd, but as the head sheep. It is very cute.

Rome was very hot today. We would seek out the shady side of the street, but this did not always get us cool enough. We drank a lot of water from the street fountains.

After Sta Maria, we headed to St Peter’s. But Wednesday is when the Pope gives audiences. They must have just finished when we got there, because the big TV screen were still on, and the church was closed. This was about 12:20. We heard a rumor that they would open up again at 1:00, and a line as already forming. We did not want to wait.

We heard about a little church not far away that has a museum of items that have been touched by souls in purgatory. We wanted to see this, and walked over there. But it, too, was closed. But that killed enough time so we could go to The Lilli for lunch.

We first went to The Lilli in 2000 after buying a marble table from Aldo at Marmi Line. He told us about The Lilli and told us what to order. We have been back many times. This time we had Prosciutto and Melon to start, followed by the delicious Cacio e Pepe pasta. Not to be missed.

After lunch we went back to St Peter’s, stood in line for about 20 minutes and got into the splendors of that cathedral.

Rome Tuesday

Tuesday we did plenty of walking. We started with a coffee and some biscuits on the rooftop terrace, and then ambled though the Campo Fiori to the monument to Victorrio Emanual. Alternatively called The Wedding Cake or Mussolini’s Typewriter, it is an incongruous and quite frankly, horrible thing. Even up close it has little to recommend it. But we took a few photos and kept on moving.

We then walked over to the Campidoglio, or the Capitoline Museum. We didn’t go in, though, we just took a few photos. We wanted to get to the St Peter in Chains church before it closed.

So we walked around the forum (They charge to get in now!!!) and headed to the Church.

On the way, we passed four groups of at least 50 people coming FROM the church. They were with a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Lucky for us, the last group was leaving the church as we were going in.

This is the church that has the Michelangelo Moses. It is now held way back from the crowds, but when we were here before in 2000 you could get real close. It is quite a site. Bernini is also buried in this church.

From here we walked over and went INTO the Capitoline Museum. A great place with amazing pieces. Many, many of them. No wait at all to get in, and it wasn’t really all that crowded. Worth seeing at the dying Gaul and a discobulus.

Many hours later we decided to get some lunch. It was sprinkling some, so we went to a place that Doreen had found in one of our books – Taverna degli Amiche. It was in a very attractive little square and the food was great. We started with Prosciutto and Bufala Mozzarella, then Doreen had Fettuccini with Asparagus and Shrimp, and I had Risotto with seafood. We ended with the thousand layer cake, which was more like pastry with cream. It was great.

Then we wandered home to get ready for dinner.

We had dinner at a place recommended to me by a client called Il Convivio. It is a very fancy place, and though I did not need to, I wore my sport coat. Doreen dressed up and looked great (as always) and we walked over.

It is close to where we are staying, on a hidden back street. It is small – though there may have been a back room we did not see, the room we were in could seat no more than about 20 people.

The service was outstanding and each dish was sort of like a little jewel (We had the tasting menu that consisted of six different courses and an amuse bouche.) The presentation and service was as good as any place we have eaten in the world. The food I thought was good, but not truly great. Doreen disagreed – I think that I had extremely high expectations due to how it was built up in conversation. But we both enjoyed it tremendously.

Then we ambled home to a well deserved rest.

June 17, 2008

Rome Monday

Monday was a day for wandering. One reason for this is that most of Rome is closed on Monday. Almost all the museums are, and some of the other venues we wanted to see were as well. It is also important to note that plenty of churches close between 1:00 and 3:00 PM.

We started out from the apartment and headed down Vittorio Emmanuel to take ourselves roughly to the St Mary in Victory church. That is where Bernini’s statue of St Theresa in Ecstasy is located.

But before we got there, we walked by the Largo Argentina, which is famous for its cats. The way I heard the story is that the city was building a metro stop, and came across some Roman Ruins. This is what they got!

We then walked up the Corso, had a coffee, and stopped by the Palazzo Barbieri. It was closed, of course, but we had been in there before. The last of the Barbieris was still living there until the late 1990s.

A quick glance a the four fountains, and we soon found ourselves at the small Santa Maria della Vittoria ((St Mary’s of Victory) church with the statue mentioned above. Nice small church with an incredible statue.

Then we walked over to the Baths of Dioclitian and the Santa Maria della Angeli (St Mary of the Angels) church, whose only redeeming feature is a Meridian Line.

A quick wander around our old neighborhood, and we had lunch at Target Pizza.

We quickly walked down to se St Mary Maggiori, where Bernini is buried, and they have Jesus’ crib.

Leaving SMM, we wanted to go to St Peter in Chains to see the Michelangelo’s Moses (the one with horns) and St Peter’s chains. But it was closed.

We walked down in front of the Coliseum via a back route usually covered with Gypsies. No Gypsies! We didn’t have any intention of going into the Coliseum, but we did want to walk through the Forum. Well, nowadays you have to buy a ticket! It was €9 for the Forum, the Coliseum, and the Palatine Hill. Since all we wanted to do was walk through, instead we walked around.

En route home we stopped at the St Mary Cosmadin church. This is where St Valentine is interned. (it is also where the Boca de Verita – Mouth of Truth – is located. Made famous by the movie Roman Holiday)

We tried to stop at the Campo di Fiori and pick up something for supper, but all the stalls were just shutting down. We got some peaches, though. They are excellent!

June 16, 2008

The Start of our Roman Holiday

We spent our first day of vacation getting settled in Rome and just wandering around. See photos here (and here. I am taking more photos than I am writing.). The weather has been beautiful, and everything worked as easy as pie.

The apartment is close to the Campo de Fiori. We stopped by the market there and bought some cheese and sausage. We also bought some wine to share with friends who are in town for the next couple of days. We will be going out to dinner at Pier Luigi later.

The dinner at Pierlugigi was really good. There were six of us and we started with their special seafood antipasti. We had tiny fried octopus, tuna and cod carpaccio, squid and potato marinade, clams and mussels, shrimp salad, scallops, and the best of all: soppressata di polipo (Like an octopus tentacle terrine). After all that, we still had a main course! Doreen and I split a sea bream. The others had haddock, sea bass, and tiger shrimp. We had some white wine from Friuli that was nice and crisp.

Sunday we took the day to walk around the city. We started by walking to the Piazza Navona where we got a coffee and a coroneto. The barista was extremely odd, so we will not go back there again. Then we walked to the Trevi fountain and the Spanish Steps.

From the Spanish steps we made our way t the Piazza del Popolo, where we stopped at the Borsolino store and Doreen got a new Borsolini for her city walking. Nice, eh?

From there we walked to the Ara Pacis, and ate at the same place that the company had our client appreciation party – Il Gusto. It was great. We had a Banda Rossa prosecco to drink, and I had a tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad to start, risotto with fresh vegetables to finish. Doreen had a robiola cheese salad and eggplant stuff ravioli for her main course.

We then wandered back through town, stopped in the Pantheon, and ambled back home. Enough for one day, I guess.

June 11, 2008

Roman Food

We took some clients out in dinner last night. Usually we like to go to tried and true places where we can show our love for our clients. Last night, however, I want to try and find a real Roman trattoria. I checked my usually foodie websites, and found a place called Da Bucatino in Testaccio. It sounded like just the place.

So we made arrangements to meet three of our clients there and three of us took the courtesy bus from our remotely located hotel into town. We had to walk a bit longer from the bus stop than we had thought, so the clients were there before we were.

It didn’t matter as we sat down and I ordered us a couple of bottles of a nice Barbaresco. The wine was not TOO expensive, especially by Euro standards (€30). They had a nice Antipasto table, and that is what we started with. I had some cheese, some sort of a fish, some beans, and I really don’t know what all. The others selected various bits of roasted, pickled, dried, and raw food. It was a good start.

The specialty of the house is bucatini all'amatriciana and that is what four of us ordered for our “First Plates”. The other two folks ordered a seafood risotto and a more typical spaghetti. Bucatini is a thick spaghetti with a hole down the middle (which makes it hard to suck into your mouth, sometimes) bucatini all'amatriciana is a tomato based sauce with pork belly as the meat. It was quite nice.

For my “Second Plate” I ordered a suckling pig with potatoes. It was roasted and wonderful. Others had the veal chop, the fried shrimp, the roasted lamb, and the chicken. It all looked good – except for the chicken. It didn’t look too good for me.

We had to order a couple more bottles of wine, of course. And when they have me the bill, I said we wanted a glass of grappa. The waiter just put the bottle on table, no charge! Very nice. We finished that bottle, too.

It was a nice meal, and for only €315 for six people, a relative bargain!

June 8, 2008


I am currently close to Rome, at some Golf resort owned by Sheraton. I am here for a convention. It will be work.

I flew here via Chicago. Continental to Chicago, Alitalia to Rome. I took this route because the company does not pay for business class – I pay to upgrade myself and this was by far the cheapest way to do so. We (Doreen will be joining be later this week) bought these tickets months ago. Then I started hearing about how Alitalia was going to go out of business, and how it is the Worst Airline Ever. My experience was quite good. The service in air was good, the lounge was nice, the food was good. The plane ever arrived more or less on time. The worst part was waiting an hour to get my bag (yes, Dick, I know that you would not have had to wait!)

The plane was the Leonardo di Vinci. I took a picture with my phone (below) but I don’t think it turned out too well.

Now I need to either eat or nap. And besides that, I have to work! Yipes!

June 6, 2008

Continental does it right

I have had my problems with Continental Airlines. But they are generally few and far between, and I am happy that Houston is both their headquarters and a hub.

Here is a blog posting about how CO does even layoffs right.

Photographic Height

Photographic Height

June 4, 2008

Backpain Redux

Last night was a great and painless evening. I slept all through the night with no Ibuprofen. I got up and my back was a little twitchy, but not painful.

I went back again today for one more treatment. It is hard to describe it, but my back and hip feel good. Very good.

I was talking to friend about this today. I am an engineer and pride myself on my rational view of life. I cannot explain how this worked, but that does not mean it does not work.

It is OK to be skeptical. It is not OK to be ignorant.

Lawrence J. (Larry) Piette - FSSF - Special Forces - Roll Of Honour

The photo on the right is wrong. And they missed one of his Bronze Stars and all his Purple Hearts:

Lawrence J. (Larry) Piette - FSSF - Special Forces - Roll Of Honour

June 3, 2008

Backpain and Doctors. Western and Traditional

I am 6’6” tall and weigh something between 215 and 220 depending on the time of day and the amount of food I have recently eaten. Now, you may not think of it too much, but being that tall puts tremendous pressure on your bones. You have a large moment of inertia, which stresses all the fulcrum points in your body. (Or something like that). The result is that you tend to get more aches and pains than more normally sized folks.

I have on and off back pains regularly throughout the year. I don’t worry about it too much, as I usually have some time to stretch out the back (thanks Gus!) and slowly remove the pain. This week, though, it has been tough. Flying to and from New York, and then the planned trip to Rome next week means that I don’t have quite enough time to get myself back in a pain free situation.

So I decided to attack this issue two ways – Western and Traditional. So I had an appointment with my regular doctor this afternoon, followed with my first meeting with an acupuncturist. Following is my story.

I had my meeting with the GP at 2:30. I have been to see her once before, (in 2005!) so I did not need to fill out all the necessary forms. I was taken in the back at about 2:40 (not bad) and had my weight and blood pressure taken. I then explained my symptoms to the nurse, and was told to pee in a cup.

Those formalities taken care of, the doc came in to chat. I explained all my symptoms, and we talked about my pain control regime. (three Costco Ibuprofens twice a day) She said that was fine, and if I needed to do so, I could move up to four ibus three times a day. That seemed like a lot, but I was pretty happy about that. Then she suggested that they take my EKG to make sure I was not having any heart attacks. (don’t ask).

So I got the EKG hooked up, (attached to a PC) was measured and told I was in fine shape. Then I was sent downstairs to have my blood work done and I was out the door by 3:40.

The end result? I am getting old. Take more Ibuprofen if I need. Heart’s fine, blood work will be back before I head off to Rome.

Then I headed off to Dr Wu.

He is located in a small house not far from where we live. I got in and filled out their new patient form. Standard stuff, but it also asked what “Herbal Supplements” you are taking. (I am taking Glucosamine and Chondroitin. He said that was probably doing me no good).

The doc finally took me in a back room (that was furnished in 1980s college dorm room) and asked me what was wrong. I gave him the old song and dance about the back, the hip, and the tingling leg. He laughed and said that I was the sixth man today who had the same problem. He made me strip and looked at me front and back. He noticed my hernia scar that I got when I was probably 12 or 13. He then told me that my right side was in bad shape, which was causing my left side some pain.

He then made me lie down on my right side, and he started hammering in the acupuncture pins. Yes, they get hammered in. They are long pins that are very thin, with a thick part on top. He must have jabbed me about 15 times, left the pins in, and pointed a heat lamp at them. He then told me to lie still for 25 minutes, turned off the light and left.

After 25 minutes the light went off, and I was left lying in the dark. It started to get cold (air conditioning, you know) and I was still there in the dark. I was wondering if Dr Wu forgot me.

He came in about 10 minutes later, pulled the pins and told me to get dressed. He said I should return tomorrow, and he will attach electrodes to the pins. Oh joy!

I dressed and felt no different than when I walked in. Now, I must admit, a couple of hours later, my back feels fine. Coincidence? Who knows?

Additionally, they gave me some “herbal” medicine. You have to take LOTS of them – five each of one (fat and brown) three times a day; ten each of the other (small, round, and black) three times a day. Yum! Pills!

So here I am. I am no stranger to Chinese cures, having undergone cupping in Beijing, but in my mind the jury is still out.

June 2, 2008

June 1, 2008

The News: York and Haven

We are back from a short vacation to New York City and New Haven, CT.

In New York, we saw two shows, both shows are nominated for various Tony's – August Osage County and Sunday in the park with George.

The first is from the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago and is a new work. One of Doreen's friend's described as a play that proves that your family is not too bad. The second is a revival of a Stephen Sondheim musical that was originally produced in something like 1980. Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters were in the original.

August ran for 3 hours and 20 minutes. Doreen was afraid to tell me it was so long, as I tend to prefer shorter performances. But even with two intermissions this play simply flew by. It is not a pleasant story, but a great play with outstanding acting.

Sunday is a story about George Seurat's painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” which is currently hanging at the Art Institute in Chicago. It uses very clever (and non-intrusive) computer techniques to make some points about his technique.

For food, we ate at Eleven Madison Park, a Danny Meyer's restaurant. Oh, it was quite good. I won't go into detail here, since I did not take notes. But the food and wine were great, and the service was outstanding.

We also ate at The Spice Market, a Jean-George restaurant. We have eaten there once before, and it was (and is) a very nice Asian Fusion place.

Finally, with Doreen's friend Susan who is a big deal at Chase Back, we ate at Etc, Etc before the one of the shows.

We went to New Haven for Doreen's Yale Reunion. I will let her write about it and post photos if she wants. If she does, I will link to them.