Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Fun Fact

Today I learned that although the British Virgin Islands are still a British Overseas Territory, U.S. dollars are the official currency. Does anyone know why this is the case? I sure don’t.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

One More Fun Fact

There are a few McDonald’s locations in the world that have been certified kosher. All but one are in Israel.

That one other one? It’s in Buenos Aires. Who knew?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fun Facts

Today is Namibia Day.

On this day in history, Krakatoa began to erupt (1883), women got the right to vote (1920), and the first major-league baseball game was telecast (1939).

Today is the birthday of Apollinaire, Geraldine Ferraro, Christopher Isherwood, Macaulay Culkin, crossword-puzzle editor Will Shortz, and Branford Marsalis. Oh, and me. So, short post today.

I’m off to eat ice cream.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Good News, Bad News

Recently I heard about two long-lost pieces on the same day. An editor wrote to me to say that she can’t use a Beijing article I sent her ages ago. I’d pretty much figured that out already, so I didn’t mind.

She also said that she’d like to hold onto another piece of mine for a little bit longer. This is an article about Japan that I first sent her months ago. She said it was long, so I shortened it and sent it back. I didn’t really expect that to do any good, but just now she said she’d like to hang on and see if a space opens up for it. I’m patient.

Friday, August 22, 2008


A few days ago, I didn’t know exactly what a netcast was. Now I’m in one.

I mentioned earlier in the month that someone asked me for permission to use one of my Flickr photos in a webcast. I was happy to let him have it, and the guy did use it, in this webcast he produced about historic preservation. (It’s about 30 minutes long. The segment I’m part of starts at 8:13, and my photo is at 8:33.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Not Strictly Related But…

…Has anyone been watching the Olympics?

Pipi and I have been getting up early to watch U.S. women’s soccer. (On TV, they’re always identified as “Football Women.” I like that).

Some really exciting and surprising things have happened. Germany, the 2007 World Cup champion, fell apart and didn’t make it to the final Olympic match. On the other hand, Japan, usually a bracket-padding team, is doing phenomenally well. They made it to the bronze-medal match. In fact, they played Germany for it early this morning in a match-up of the surging underdogs and the surprised superstars. If you know what happened DON’T TELL ME! I recorded it. I normally like the German team, but today I’d like to see Japan win the bronze for effort.

The biggest surprise of all, though, was the performance of the U.S. team. Just a few weeks before the Olympics, our star player, goal machine Abby Wambach, broke her leg. Most people (including me) thought we were doomed, but amazingly, the team won the gold medal this morning.

It was a very exciting game, won on a goal scored by a player who hardly ever scored during the Wambach era. In addition, Hope Solo performed brilliantly. I’ve always found her a little hard to get behind. (I can forgive the immature outburst at the World Cup, but I have a hard time with the eyeliner she wears on the field.) But I have to grudgingly admit, she came up big in goal.

Everyone came up big, which was a beautiful thing to see. The U.S. women came together and played as a team. A year ago, we might as well have been called “The U.S. Wambach Soccer Team.” If we were a rock group, we’d have been Abby and the Assistants. But today, it was a real team effort. And isn’t that what the Olympics are about?

(Yes, I’m talking to you, Mr. Bolt.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mission Accomplished

The event at Book Passage turned out to be a lot of fun. Simon Winchester is a very engaging speaker—the kind of guy who can turn a simple question about how he got his start in writing into a half-hour yarn about the first time he met the writer Jan Morris. (Without giving away the punch line, I can say that what I learned is that it isn’t always a good idea to drop in on your mentor unexpectedly.) I picked up his newest book, The Man Who Loved China, which I haven’t started but am looking forward to.

The networking went pretty well, too. I reminded a few editors of my existence, and met someone who might need some help writing and editing content for a travel web site, so that was successful. But I am now returning to my regular hermitic life.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Networking Tonight

I’m going to another of those slightly nerve-wracking networking events tonight. The author Simon Winchester is speaking at the Book Passage bookstore in Corte Madera. His talk is part of the annual Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, which I’ve been to twice. His talk is the one conference event that’s open to the public. I’m looking forward to his presentation, because I’ve read several of his books and liked them all.

My ulterior motive, though, is that most of the conference faculty will be around that evening. So there should be some opportunity to corner some editors and chat them up. I’m not so good at that, but I will probably have a glass of courage during the talk, which should make me a little chattier. We’ll see how it goes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Siberia Photos

I recently got one other photo request. This one was from a guy producing an online presentation about Siberian architecture, specifically what he describes as the endangered Siberian “gingerbread” houses. I didn’t realize how endangered they are, because I saw lots in and around Irkutsk. I confess, I don’t fully understand how my Siberia photograph is being used, but I don’t mind. One of these days I’ll Google it and see where it shows up.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Big in Japan

Usually when I get back from a trip, I post photos on the Flickr web site. It’s a fun site that makes it easy to share your photos with other people, as long as they have Internet access. For a long time, I wondered if anyone ever stumbled across my photos without invitation.

Recently I caught on that Flickr will tally statistics for you, if you want them to. So now I know the answer: Yes, strangers do see my photos. Flickr will give you a list of what people are looking at. My most-viewed image (85 visits) is one taken of downtown Shanghai from the top of a TV tower. Second place, with 65 viewings, inexplicably belongs to a sad picture of a makeshift memorial to Anna Nicole Smith.

Just behind that one is a photo that I do like. It’s of a family of Mongolian nomads putting up their tent. It’s not a technically great photo, but I do feel lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to have gotten the shot at all. Sixty-one people (one just yesterday) have viewed it, but even more surprisingly, four people, all strangers to me, have labeled it a favorite. One other person contacted me explaining that he moderates an online group called “Nomadology,” and wondered if he could add it to a group of photos that they like. And just a few weeks ago, someone emailed me from Japan asking permission to include it in a children’s book about nomads he hopes to publish soon. Apparently Flickr is now the poor man’s stock photo agency. I’m flattered. He promised to let me know when the book is published, and I’ll try to get my hands on a copy when (if?) that happens.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I Did It

I dreamed the night before last that I did my reading, and in my dream, it went terribly. (Great—a new anxiety dream scenario. I guess the exam I didn’t study for was getting tired.) My performance wasn’t awful; it was just that everything else in the dream went wrong. I forgot to bring a copy of the story and so I had to go back home for it, which made me late. I had trouble finding the venue, and when I did, it was a tiny classroom hidden upstairs in some dark and depressing school. Only Pipi and a stranger showed up.

I think that in real life, the reading went pretty well. Compared to what I was expecting, it was a smashing success. I got there in plenty of time, with story in hand. The bookstore was well lit, as usual, and lots of people came. In my cheering section I had Pipi, my sister, and several friends. I really appreciate everyone finding a way to rush over there from work. Thank you!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Today’s the Day

I can’t really think about anything else today (which is unfortunate, because I need to write luxury travel descriptions for Fort Meyers and the Maldives), so I will take this opportunity to again mention my reading tonight. Not even to urge you to go—I’ve already made enough of a pest of myself about that. I’m just a little pre-occupied, is all. Real life will resume tomorrow.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Fair Warning

Just to remind everyone, I’m giving a reading at Book Passage in the Ferry Building in San Francisco at 5:30 Monday evening.

I won’t be the only reader, so I don’t know exactly what time I go on. I like to be first, and people are usually happy to let me do that (how they sit through the first couple of readers, sweating bullets the whole time, I’ll never know), but I can’t promise.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


I put captions on the photos. I’m sorry I didn’t do that yesterday. I am working on luxury travel destination descriptions again and don’t have as much time to play with photos (or my blog) as I would like.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Home Again

We’re back from Wisconsin now. Today, however, I’m playing hooky from work because a friend of mine from New Zealand is in town. So I’ll tell you more about America’s Dairyland tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some photos.