Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

back from the dead

May 4, 2008 Leave a comment

talk about taking a break.  my last post was back in october 07 – let’s see, what was life like back then?  aside from my daughter not having been born yet, not all that much was different – of course, my daughter being born is all the difference it takes to go from day to night, black to white.  two totally different worlds.  life has been good since she was born in november – watching her grow everyday is pretty much all i care about at the moment.

i’ve finally gotten back into the swing of finishing some renovations on the house that i started before she was born – hopefully i’ll get them done in the next month so that i can move on to the next round of fixes: remove the crappy corrugated plastic overhang on the back porch and replace it w/ a trellis.  i’ve also started the design for our landscaping, which won’t exactly be cheap, but is the first thing to do when increasing home value.  major home renovation (aside from painting and installing wood floors) will have to wait.

i’m completing 100% construction documents for my current project this week.  very exciting – i’ve been on the project since design development, though i’ve watched and sat on crits during schematic design.  it’s a really nice and simple, small addition to a university building here in austin.  next week i’ll move onto a new charter elementary school project, which will be really exciting.  it’s set to be LEED silver, which means i finally will have the time to actually get LEED certified (which was on my to-do list since last september).

haven’t done much travel since the munchkin was born, aside from going up to dallas to visit w/ her grandparents.  did go to houston one weekend for a friend’s wedding shower – it was pretty much my first time there, but only had time to visit the contemporary arts museum.  great exhibit on…contemporary design.  mies’ museum of fine arts was across the street, but you need more time to visit that.  i’m excited to go back – some good architecture out there.

also went up to NY for the first part of passover – at 5 months old, it was munchkinface’s first flight.  she did pretty well, but that was thanks to the tubes in her ears installed 2 wks prior – she already had 4 ear infections, so tubes were pretty much the only recourse aside from constant doses of antibiotics, which are not at all cool.  she was a bit fussy in NY – i think the flight, plus change in scenery and new crib were a bit much.  she got to meet some of her cousins and spend precious time w/ my parents and sister, which of course is the most important part of these visits.  2 days after we returned, my sister came to visit for 5 days – it was great.

ok, good update.  back to work, and hopefully some more regular posts again.

Google Transit interview on Fox7 Austin

March 8, 2007 7 comments

seeing as i’ve been such a huge dork about the awesomeness of Google Transit and its newly minted Austin edition, CapMetro sent some Fox7 reporters after me. they interviewed me about what Google Transit is, why i like it and think it is a step up over CapMetro’s Trip Planner, and how i think it will help people (he especially noted the influx of visitors this coming week for SXSW).

so there it is – yet another deciding factor that i am, indeed, a dork. i went on the news to profess love of an online service. if you want visual proof, watch the Fox7 Austin newscast today at 5p. i’ll hopefully grab some online footage and post it here later today or tomorrow.

UPDATE: got the video!

Google Transit finally in Austin!

March 8, 2007 Leave a comment

i’ve blogged about it, emailed CapMetro about it, and emailed Google about it. for months. multiple times. i don’t know how many other people have bugged them to get it sorted out, but Google Transit finally works in Austin as of this morning! i was emailed today by a CapMetro employee w/ whom i’ve been discussing Google Transit. i tried it out, and it works wonderfully. i hope it gets added to the CapMetro homepage soon – i think it would really help people in catching the bus and taking mass transit, b/c CapMetro’s Trip Planner tool is woefully difficult to use (it can’t find major streets, like San Jacinto Blvd. which runs right through UT’s campus).

Google Transit in Austin
Google Transit
Google Blog announces Google Transit for Austin in time for SXSW
Digg Google Transit in Austin!

Categories: Austin, sustainability, travel, web

Skype is wonderful

January 4, 2007 2 comments

just spent about 30 minutes trying to get my wife to fax our passport #s to our hotel in argentina so that they could arrange our travel accomodations to uruguay.  why do they need our passport #s in the first place?  perhaps b/c we’ll be traveling to another country.  either way, i didn’t want to send that type of info in an email since anything commited to digital memory somehow stays there forever.  i’m just being slightly paranoid.  so instead i ask cindy to make a personal fax from her office w/ the info (i’m stuck at home w/o a fax).  after 15 minutes of trying, she says that nobody in the office can get it to work.  who knows why?  the fax # was correct, but it just wasn’t going through.  then she displayed her brilliance – ‘why don’t you just call them?’  ahhh, yes – call them!  i forgot i had put credit on my skype account yesterday to make calls to argentina and uruguay!  so i fired up my good buddy skype, called the hotel, and had the whole thing taken care of w/in a few minutes.  and at $.02 a minute to argentina versus the likely many dollars an international fax would cost, how could you go wrong?!  skype rocks.

Categories: travel, wedding

one step closer to Google Transit in Austin

September 29, 2006 3 comments

i’ve been waiting for Google Transit to include Austin for a year now, but the other day saw only the addition of four other cities. i’ve emailed Google Transit and CapMetro multiple times, but never saw anything happen. well, now that Google Transit has added more cities, they’re providing the ability for transit agencies to get their route info into Google Transit. that’s super exciting, b/c now the possibility exists for CapMetro to become a part of Google Transit, which means that getting route info and times could be a relatively painless issue (if you’ve ever tried to find out the route you need to take using CapMetro’s ‘Trip Planner’, and then checking out what route the recommended bus actually takes, you know what i’m talking about [*see explanation below]).

in an attempt to jumpstart the process, i immediately emailed CapMetro’s customer service, and then called them as well. i then spoke to the first operator, who hadn’t ever heard of Google Maps. i was then transferred to a different operator who had heard of Google Maps, and she then hooked me up w/ the CapMetro IT dept. now we’re getting somewhere. the IT dept doesn’t handle this type of request, though, so i was hooked up w/ the head of customer service next. this guy rocked, he knew of Google Transit, and was eager to learn more about it. i emailed him the link w/ instructions to get Austin involved, and then we chatted up the benefits of getting Austin into Google Transit. he did tip me off that we’re dealing w/ a bit of a bureaucracy, so this wouldn’t be an overnight fix, but he was encouraging and took my contact info. here’s to hoping!

*okay, here’s how i sometimes like to drive myself mad: start out at CapMetro’s home page where i can find the ‘Trip Planner’ in the righthand column. i then insert as starting point: ’50th St. and Duval’ and as ending point: ‘W. 22nd St. and Guadalupe’. CapMetro doesn’t know what 50th St. is, so i need to go back and specify Eas 50th St. it doesn’t recognize that either, so i specify 51st St., and then East 51st Street. no-go. i then finally insert my address as a last ditch attempt, which works. now it doesn’t understand the ending address, so i try West 22nd St. and West 22nd Street, both to no avail. it finally just recognized Guadalupe Street, which in reality is not what it should do (maybe i want to get off at 7th St. instead of 22nd).

ok, we’ve got the route set. now i’m given a list of 3 possible itineraries. i can either take the #7 from 51st and Duval to San Jacinto and 26th – or, get this – 50th and Duval to San Jacinto and 24th. wow, incredible recommendation. i can also take the #5 from Speedway and 45th to Guadalupe and 25th. but where do those routes go? how do i know which one would be a better choice? the only way to see the route is to open the accompanying pdf file containing the route and stop times. what a huge aggravating waste of time. plus, all the time required for me to input the info has probably made me miss the most recent bus. grrrrr.

so this is why it would be great for CapMetro to join Google Transit. 🙂

UPDATE: Google Transit finally in Austin!

CORRECTION: at which hotel to stay?

July 13, 2006 1 comment

alright, we’ve changed our minds about where to stay for our honeymoon while in buenos aires. we’re down to these two boutique hotels – bobo hotel and home hotel. they’ve both been written up in the nytimes, conde nast traveler hot list, and numerous other locations. they’ve consistently gotten rave reviews. david byrne just stayed at bobo last month. we’ve secured reservations at both hotels – a suite at home hotel or the Pop room at bobo.

while bobo is quite a bit cheaper than home, they’re both significantly cheaper than our original reservation at the four seasons. i personally really like home hotel, but bobo has way more reviews on (38 to home’s 11), and the pictures for the hotel are overall more convincing for bobo. both hotels get rave reviews on tripadvisor, so it’s kind of a situation where you just pick the one you hope to be better (there just happen to be more reviews for bobo over home, it’s not a positive/negative thing). one thing i picked up on from tripadvisor’s reviews, though, was that you tend to hear a lot of noise from the street and restaurant while at bobo.

my feelings are this: it’s our honeymoon. even tho they’re both nice, let’s go for the suite at home hotel. we’re still saving a whole lot of $ over our original reservation. at home, we’ll be getting an in-room jacuzzi, a private terrace, a kick-ass modern suite w/o all the trappings of your typical corporate hotel. if we were to go w/ bobo and the pop room (instead of the argentina room [which was booked], their suite as we’d hoped [only $130/night!] ) we’d still be dealing w/ the noise and a lesser room. don’t misunderstand the noise issue, btw – everyone who mentions it still raves about the hotel. my feeling is that i’d deal w/ the noise if we had the suite – but w/o that, it’s just a kind of cool room at a cool hotel. this is our honeymoon – let’s get it all.

home hotel:

bobo hotel:

any comments on where to stay are welcome.

Categories: travel, wedding

back in Austin

July 11, 2006 5 comments

whew – what a ride. got back in austin last wk after having spent 6 months working in NY for Grimshaw Architects.  it was intense at times, with long hours, but overall it was not the grueling experience that so many people associate with architecture.  i learned a lot about the design process in a professional office, and was especially grateful for the opportunity as Grimshaw produces excellent details for highly technicaly and highly detailed buildings.  i also managed to see, hear, and learn a lot about client interaction – quite the mixed bag.  it can be so aggravating to be hired for your expertise, but then told to cut things out of the design b/c of some inane preconception held by a client (i.e. i’d like a fountain at the entry – even though it has absolutely no place in a building of this type, and is an environmentally taxing addition to the building considering the climate).  also enlightening was seeing how budget cutbacks can kill a project and how the design team must deal with it (the ever tightening budget on the Fulton Street Transit Center threatened to completely mangle the design of the building, until the MTA managed to reinstate the funding.  all of this can be found in numerous NY publications).

it was great to be able to spend time w/ my parents, though i have to say that my sanity was saved by the hours i worked.  i pretty much only saw them on the weekends, tho my dad drove me to the train every morning.  it was really nice being able to see them as i never get to spend that amount of time in NY anymore.  before i left, my sister managed to come home to visit for 2 wks (small break between semesters at med school), so i also got to spend some time w/ her as well – i see her even less than my parents. 

i also got to create a dvd of home movies for my dad for father’s day – it was something i had planned on doing for his birthday last year, but didn’t get a chance to do.  it was freakin awesome!  i digitized old movies of us ranging from the time i was 3 (and sis was a few months old) till my 9th birthday party (karate party kicked ass!).  i put it all together in iMovie, added transitions and chapter markers, then sent it to iDvd where i created a nice menu from their templates.  it was a great menu – i scanned old photos of the whole family, and they all showed on the screen, but one photo would be enlarged for about 5-10 seconds before going back down to normal size and another photo would be enlarged.  i put george harrison’s ‘what is life’ running in the background.  the only issue was that the whole thing took about 5 hours to encode and burn – ugg.  not a big deal, really, but i wish i had known that so i could have started burning earlier in the day and not show the movie at 10p.

my last weekend in NY (july4 weekend) was spent at a family friend’s house in the hamptons.  wow.  i’d never been out there before, and i fell in love w/ it.  i’ve ripped on the hamptons for being just a beach where rich people hang out – why anyone would want to go to an extremely overpriced town was beyond me.  but i guess if you can enjoy it from the other side, it is quite worth it.  i spent all weekend w/ my parents and cousins and friends, as well as my cousins adorable daughter (1.5 yrs) with whom i am absolutely in love.  she sat in my lap on the beach during fireworks on saturday night and clapped at every part.  she almost fell asleep, but found that extra bit of energy to send her into overtired territory.

on monday morning, july3, i got up rather early in order to make the train from the hamptons to jfk by way of jamaica (LIRR to airtrain).  of course, i realized at this point that i had left several extremely important things at my parents’ house – my phone and computer chargers.  so instead of going straight to jfk, i waited at jamaica for 40 min before hopping a train to cedarhurst, catching a cab from the train to my house, picking up necessary items, and then jumping back in the cab to jfk.  thankfully jfk is not even 15 min from the house.  thankfully i had several hours to kill before my flight was to take off (the train leaving the hamptons left at about 7:30a – the next train after that would have gotten me into jamaica, let alone jfk, after my flight was schedule to leave).  i got to the jetblue terminal at jfk w/ plenty of time to spare, got some lunch, took a shuttle to the temporary jetblue terminal (they’re in the midst of expansion around the old saarinen twa terminal), and booted up my computer to enjoy jetblue’s free wireless.  i love jetblue.

now i’ve been back in austin for a week, and it’s been great.  we had some friends over for july4 and polluted the sky w/ smoke from sparklers.  we discovered that we have a flock of wild parrots in our backyard (somebody released some parrots into the wild about 20 years, but the story is part of austin’s urban mythology) as well as hummingbirds, cardinals, the standard doves, and one freakin huge egret – this thing eats crawdads that it picks up from creeks and leaves their shells on the roof.  real nice.  it also leaves massive shits in its wake, one of which it was kind enough to share with t he roof of my car.  when i brought the car to gas station yesterday (full service, how crazy is that?), the guy washing the windows insisted on cleaning off the roof (and door and hood).  he asked if i had been targeted by the bird mafia.  i replied that it was the work of just one single bird – he couldn’t believe it.

in the past week i’ve also sat on a review for the UT Summer Academy at the school of architecture.  people interested in architecture attend for 6 wks or so for an intense architecture experience to see if they really like it and want to pursue it.  i did a similar thing at harvard back when i was in college.  there were some nice designs – i especially liked the studio led by my friend brien, who gave his students the program to create a single building to accomodate a rock climbing gym and a violin studio at 8th and congress.

sat nite i caught a showing of superman, which i really liked.  i didn’t think it was the best superman movie, but it was worthy, for sure.  i liked the story for the most part, and definitely liked the fact that there is now a superbaby – nobody in all the years of the superman story has gone that route.  brandon routh was also a pretty good superman, though i think he wasn’t such a great clark kent.  and though i liked the idea of a respectful homage to the original movies and christopher reeve, i thought there was actually too much of it – the opening credits were good (though the font was from star wars which made it a rather strange hybrid), but it kept going and going.  clark kent getting caught in the revolving door w/ lois lane; superman reprimanding lois for smoking; superman explaining that statistically, flying is still the safest way to travel; perry white telling lois lane that there are no ‘f’s in catastrophe.

after superman, we met up w/ some friends at Six, lance armstrong’s bar downtown.  obviously it opened before he won the seventh tour de france.  the place was alright, but it had a manufactured line out front which is always lame.  but they didn’t take cover, which was a big plus.  they also had a kick ass deck on the roof of the building w/ big fans, so you got great views of downtown while drinking outdoors.  quite nice.

on sunday the lady and i rode our new bikes downtown to watch the world cup final at fado’s.  it was packed.  so we walked to ringers.  it was packed.  we almost went to element, which was showing the game in spanish, but thought better of how we might enjoy that experience.  we ended up at saba, which is a kind of nice bar/restaurant.  definitely more upscale than shorts when you go out, and generally a slightly older crowd (read: not really a university spot), but it was sunday afternoon and it was the only place showing the game that wasn’t actually packed.  we managed to get spots at the bar right in front of the tv, but by the time the game was in full swing the place was packed.  the bartenders were great, and the food was good too.  by the end everyone wanted somebody to score, it didn’t matter who, just so that the game would end.  obviously the highlight was zidane head-butting an italian player for no apparent reason.  even if the italian player claimed he had fucked zidane’s mom, wife, and sister in every location possible, he still should have held back.  i mean come on!  what kind of self-control do you need?!  it was his last game ever, in the world cup no less!  talk about going out in a blaze of glory!  just show some control for a few more minutes, then beat the shit out of the guy after the game.  now zidane will be known for all time as the great player who fucked up by getting ejected minutes before the end of the game, quite possibly costing france the world cup.  it was great.

and now i’m spending time cleaning out the front bedroom which will become my office, setting up, food shopping, cleaning house, and hopefully by next week i’ll get started on my first summer furniture project – either building us a new bed, or an overly elaborate hammock stand and trellis.  we’ll see.  i’m also giving thought to trying to get a job for the last 6 wks of summer.  once i get the office set up i’ll have to start working on my portfolio…

ok, that’s enough for one post.  you think?

Categories: architecture, Austin, NY, travel

Ad on the LIRR

June 18, 2006 Leave a comment

i know i’ve been pretty negative about all things transportation in NY lately, even though it’s the best public transporation network in the US, but the things i bitch about are legit.  i love the extent of the subways and buses and trains, but their maintenance really does stink.

sooo, i figured instead of complaining about the train, i’d make a snide comment about this ad i saw on the LIRR the other day.  it’s pretty funny.  sorry, but that ad does not speak to any new generation.  it’s inherently boring and cliched.  apparently, they believe that leather pants, a leather skirt and boots are all that it takes to hook up to the ‘new’ generation.  that and the word podcast.  yup, i’m there.

Categories: haha, NY, travel

More Penn Station Goodness!

June 18, 2006 Leave a comment

Apparently, the most effective way to mask the stale stench of urine and crap is t o hang a mega urinal cake from a mesh bag in the middle of the bathroom.  This is one of only 2 bathrooms (2 men, 2 women) in all of Penn Station – 1 bathroom in the Amtrak Platform, and one in Penn Station proper.  Now that I think about it, there’s probably a bathroom in the NJTransit section as well, but I never go there.  This pic was taken in the Amtrak men’s bathroom.  Here’s another pic of one of the sinks in the same bathroom:

Yup, they really try hard to take care of their facilities there at Penn Station.  Really try to make their riders feel at home, you know?

Categories: architecture, NY, travel

overflowing trash

June 3, 2006 1 comment

this is what i see every morning when awaiting the 2/3 express train at penn station every morning. i watch people play jenga w/ their newspapers, coffee cups, and other assorted trash. i can only imagine that it’s been going on for years – way longer than i’ve been witnessing it, surely. so with that overflowing image in mind, i wonder: why has the thought never crosses the MTA’s mind to add another trash bin? oh, yeah – b/c they’re morons.

Categories: NY, travel