The 2015 MS Challenge Walk with my cousins!

Finally I was going to be a part of it – the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Challenge Walk! For ten years now, my cousins Erin and Rainey have been organizing “Team Jenny” on account of their sister who is living with MS.  Every year at Thanksgiving, or any other family gathering like a wedding or when I’m passing through DC where there is a critical mass of my extended family, I have been saying: Yes, I want to be on Team Jenny! And yet, years pass and I haven’t been able to do it. So two years ago I said I would, but then there was a work event that week. So this year I had to bust out all the stops and make it happen.

So, I bought a plane ticket and got my fundraising page organized. I was going to be a part of the Challenge Walk of 2015.

Interesting side note: usually it is in DC, marching past monuments and back and forth across the Potomac. This year, the organizers decided to connect the DC, Maryland, and Philly-area MS Society Chapters and run the event on the Eastern Shore (of Maryland). It was going to be a little different, but I was still game to check it out, as the important thing is to spend time with the cousins.

Thank you to all the generous supporters who enabled me to meet my $1000 fundraising goal!

  • Christopher Avery
  • Margaret Butler
  • Erin Counihan
  • Darien Crimmin
  • John Dimodica
  • Melissa Franks
  • Alex Lee
  • Benny Lee
  • Bruce Lee
  • Doug Levine
  • Errol Mazursky
  • Norie Mozzone
  • Tom Reid
  • Laura Resteghini
  • Charlotte Rohter
  • Elizabeth Saunders
  • Christopher Schaffner
  • Yutaka Tamura
  • Anu Yadav
  • Pramy Yadav
  • Sanjeev Yadav

My team  was delightful. We walked about 12 miles the first day, which was cut short of the original 20mi goal due to torrential rain, and we did about 9 miles the next day. I have to admit, I was a little sore as we wound up really speed-walking on that second day. I’m not used to completely flat courses I guess!

We had a lot of fun; I am looking forward to doing the Challenge Walk again next year!

Thank you to all who helped make it happen, especially Erin and Rainey who organized it all!

This is the vista from the plane of DC proper. I really like DC.


Once in DC, after a quick visit and a couple of work meetings on L street, I got picked up by Erin and her friends who were joining us and we headed out of town, over the Bay Bridge, into the countryside.


Here’s a picture from when I flew out and had a view of the Eastern Shore (looking SE in this pic – where I walked is in the far (top) right of the pic) – this is the piece of land between the Chesapeake and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also known as the DelMarVa Peninsula as it hosts Delaware and chunks of Maryland and Virginia (the southern tip is VA). It’s an interesting place. The bridge is connecting Annapolis to the Eastern Shore and is what all the DC-area people use to get out to the beaches, about 3h w/o traffic from the metro area.


This is what the territory looks like. Lots of soy and cornfields.


Once we got to the hotel later that evening, after dinner in Easton’s cute little village center, we registered and got our kits. It included these lovely purple “Top Crab” shirts for people who had raised over $1000 – so thank you again donors, I am officially indeed a Top Crab!


And we had the official TEAM JENNY shirts as well:


We were all a little giddy about our preparations and all the funny costume pieces. And it was a hoot to be the one dude with all these fabulous ladies!


The next morning, things looked good for a big day out!




Here we are getting ready at the starting line!



It was pretty, there in Cambridge, Maryland, looking into an inlet of the Chesapeake Bay.








It was about 500 walkers from all over the region, organized into various other goofy teams. Not quite Burning Man, but some of the same enthusiasm and friendliness, really!








The path took us through a variety of neighborhoods and at least one upscale golf resort, right along the water. There were a lot of jellyfish in addition to goofballs.


We continued to walk through the winding pathways along water and along highways until…the sky opened up and we had a total washout!


The organizers cancelled the second half of the walk for that first day and we went back to the base – the hotel on the highway. I didn’t have any pictures of this whole episode as I wrapped my camera in a few plastic bags and stopped using it. But it was still pouring when we got back! Below is the hotel’s back parking lot where our revival-style tent was set up for the BBQ.


It was a great meal enjoyed by a bunch of wet walkers, who were still quite cheerful!


After eating, we had a great session hearing testimonials from folks who were also living with MS, who had been recently diagnosed to long-term survivors. We heard stories about what it was like in the 80’s when the only intervention was steroids, to now, where there are a variety of therapies and doctors are much better able to make diagnoses. It was good to hear from survivors, family members, loved ones of departed patients, and other supporters. It was quite moving, really.


The next day was a lot sunnier and things dried out.






The non-walking supporters of Team Jenny had been designated to create a “Rest Stop” for all the walking teams and this was ours in St. Michaels toward the middle of the second day. Jenny and husband Rob were helped by their son Jack, her parents (my aunt & uncle) Maxine & Gene, and various other spouses, offspring and significant others, as you can see below. It was a real peppy rest stop and kept us going through to the end…which was good…because it started raining again!





But we made it to the finish line, got our medallions and get onto the bus. There was actually a local church group singing a variety of songs to welcome us to the final 100 yards.


And we got on the bus and headed back to the hotel, for a final rally and more food, and to dry off again. I can’t wait to get with these folks again for the 2016 Challenge Walk!



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A Special Time in Bugarach, Rousillon, France (Pays de Cathares)

I was lucky to be able to catch up with my old friend from grad school, Ioana Sandi, at her place in the south of France. In the southwest of France. I tend to think of “the South of France” – as in that song by the Grateful Dead, or in a reference in a Bond movie, or in general otherwise, as “somewhere near Nice” or more exotically “somewhere near Frejus” or “St. Tropez…”at any rate not where I’ve actually been recently.

My south of France is the other side of le Midi, the side toward the other erupted mountains of the African/European mash-up, the Pyrenees, the land of d’Oc, or the Languedoc, and this place near Carcassonne…heading up into the foothills…to Aix les Bains…further into the folds…the land of the Cathar Knights…a whole history of separation…but a place of gathering energy…

What I’m getting at is: BUGARACH!


My friend Ioana, originally of Bucharest, bought this place about 5 years ago. I had the privilege of visiting in its first winter when they were just starting to fix it up. Actually it was the second winter, first full winter. And getting from Lisbon to Lyon via Bugarach is another story entirely…for another time.

Now, Ioana, with husband Steven, and little Lydia, have fixed up quite a beautiful spot.


But it was bittersweet to be visiting, because this was now the end of their adventure in France; they were moving back to Britain to find better schooling options for Lydia, and her soon-to-arrive sister. It is wonderful they will be in Stroud, a Berkeley or Portlandia type town between Bristol and Bath, but it is indeed sad to be leaving this spot. I think we’ll all have to rent it from the new owners and visit sometime!

So this weekend I happened to be passing through, I was able to join the neighbors and surrounding friends – locals and expats and travelers like me – for a wonderful fete with plenty of food, songs, and a big fire!


It was wonderful to spend time with them and recall good times in London during our LSE days, and to reconnect about real estate, education, the meaning of life, and all sorts of good things in a short lovely while. Thank you Ioana and Steven! See you soon!


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Iceland [#50] – Always Cold?



I arranged my recent journey with a stopover in Iceland. Just in Reykjavik actually. All I know now is the road to and from the airport and the walk to the furthest peninsula point of the main harbor in the city. That is where you find the Great Grassy Hillock. It was like a dome, a platetarium, had been planted with grass, and then, a corkscrew pathway wound up to the top. There was a surprise at the top. I’ll leave it a surprise in the event you make it there.


On the way, I found this one guy fishing. I said, “Nice work!” He said “Only for fun, this only for fun!” which was a funny inter english-icelandic exchange.


I stayed in the middle of town, on one of the main touristy drags, heading south from the flat center pedestrianized area. The whole place feels somewhat pedestrianized – you don’t seem to need to worry about a lot of traffic. Forgive me but the place seemed about as large as Fredricton, New Bruswick which I had been to earlier this summer. Okay, after driving through the extensive outskirts, Reykjavik is more comparable to Portland, Maine in terms of size. And probably pretty close in terms of density of foodie-ness.


This was the view from my hostel. Notice the nationality of the tourists here? People are seriously from all over! I was surprised. As one of my friends said, they do a great job marketing the destination.

But it was September 1st and freaking COLD!


I took the aforementioned walk and found a little park on a hill. Looking out, well, there’s Reykjavik!

City to the left, harbor to the right. Something fancy looks to be going in that hole in the ground. There seemed to be a fair amount of high end condos coming onto the market. Not sure who’s buying!


Walking into the harbor area, I found all sorts of interesting things. From about the middle of the photo above, at the edge of the water, to the east I could see that grassy hill from above. So I kept going further into the harbor – the shipyards and fish processing plants and so forth. I came across a couple of other intrepid tourists, some dudes fixing a boat with loud power tools (this was a Sunday evening), and this family enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. I assumed they were locals but what do you really know. The main cathedral or at least church spire is in the distance there. That’s the tallest building in the city!



And a trawler. These are bad.

I have a bunch more photos here.

And this (below) is what Iceland looks like mostly. Sorry, this was just from the bus window. I do hope to see more of it in the future – the magazines and promo posters I saw all over town, the airport and on the plane were really compelling. Actually, saw a funny movie in icelandic one the plane on the way back to Boston – “Paris of the North” – with a bunch of great actors, and lovely scenery, and insight into just what it’s like to live in Iceland.



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Summary Pictures in the High Sierra


I will provide more details, but the basics are:

  • Grey, Benny & Teddy took a hike in the Sierra Nevada of California
  • We stayed the first night at Mono Hot Springs – a low-key spot 2h east of Fresno
  • We started from Lake Thomas Edison, Camp Vermillion, 30mins further up the rustic road from Mono Hot Springs
  • The area is part of the John Muir Wilderness, between Yosemite N.P. and Sequoia N.P.
  • The trail was along Lake Edison and then toward Goodale Pass, but up to Graveyard Lakes
  • Then over, off-trail, toward Peter Pande Lake, and onto the PCT / JMT toward Indian Head Lake and Squaw Lake to Warrior Lake and Silver Lake Pass
  • From Silver Lake along PCT, the Vermillion Cliffs and back along the Vermillion Trail to Lake Edison and the namesake trailhead
  • It was great




A beautiful little area to stay overnight above 10,000ft: Silver Pass Lakes


A fabulous siesta near Peter Pande Lake:



Wow – looking out to the south at some major High Sierra Peaks!



And looking north w/ Bridger Peak on the right in the distance. Mammoth Peak is to the rear in the center…this is at Silver Lake Pass.


And these are the dudes who did it. Nice! Mt. Izaak Walton in the rear.


Another selfie w/ me and those high peaks in the background. Sure was nice out there!


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Taking Down Jefferson

The Green Building Mountaineering Club was up to it again: kicking ass!

It was time to hit the big one. Well, not quite Agiocochook (a.k.a. Mt. Washington), but _a_ big one. Mt. Jefferson is 5977 ft high and quite close to the “worst weather in the world” due to its exposure and relatively sharp topography.

So we decided to head up.

It was a gorgeous morning decaying into insane wind-driven ice shard bombardment. But we managed to make our way across the deep powder landscape, scrambling through the strewn chunky field on the west side of Adams to get to Edmunds’ Col for lunch.

The storm was flying over us, as we were on the north, lee, side of Jefferson. It is quite a massif – steep to a more gentle crown. Once we made the transition to the top, the wind picked up like a chord change in an 80’s hit and we had two specific huddles about turning back.

Goggles were losing functionality, both iced over and fogged out. Everything was wet.

But the top was calling to us – a black craggy crown in the distance. In and out of vision, swirling in snow and anticipation. Our legs had been out for 4 hours by now. It was about 8F, windchill somewhere in the -20’s. But no one was ailing really. Only grumpy and skeptical.

So when we got to the last trail crossing, we had final huddle and realized even deliberating for a few moments was foolish. Someone uttered a gutteral howl. A few shoulders were punched. Someone started to run at the top.

Bam, four lads sprinted in heavy snow gear, blasting against a tremendous wind flowing across the peakland, and onto hands and knees as the gravity conflicted with the buffeting. Scramble, scrabble, hook and claw, up the stony blocks to haw!

There we were at the top. “Are you sure this is it” I yelled – “There’s no where else to go, man!” replied the others. I crashed into an 8-inch high miniature ditch, seeking a modicum of protection from the hand of Old Man Winter, swiping at us with his ice blast. I dug out my camera, set it to stun, and started taking shots. The fury of the peak was in full force. I remember getting a few pics, then jumping on the top, screaming back at the Master.

And then we descended before we could be lost in the thrill. A simpler scramble now a wind at our backs.  We regrouped a half-mile down, on the steep ice field as the wind diminished, up against a lost ice-age boulder. It felt good. We were all smiles.

I won’t belabor the return – though that was just as much if not more of an adventure. The trail was lost in the drift, cairns useless. We had a tough time re-snowshoeing, with that full storm now onto that lower west side of Adams, on our way to the hut. It was getting dark. We’d been out for almost 7 hours now. It was tremendously longer than we could remember – making us wonder if we’d taken the wrong line. But we made it back and found Gray Knob and settled in for a good dinner.

It was a great expedition and worthy of the crew.

Here are some pics.


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The Green Building Mountaineering Club: Kinsman Pond in Winter


That’s right: we have a new name in the game. The Green Building Mountaineering Club had its inaugural expedition on January 23rd, 2015, heading to Kinsman Pond Shelter in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. [Above: Lafayette and Lincoln of the Franconia Ridge while heading to the top of North Kinsman]

In the crew were Brig Leland, Greg Bartolini, Ben Myers, Dan Armstrong and myself, Grey Lee. Our fearless leader, Guy Compagnone had to bail at the last minute – literally at 5AM – due to the flu assaulting his family over that preceding night.

He did make it to the muster point in Campton to go over the plan. I can’t believe he took the 4h round-trip drive just to see us off for an hour. Thank you, Guy!



The crew proceeded to the trail head at Lonesome Lake Campground in Franconia Notch.


It was decent weather – about 20F and light breezes. Everyone had good gear, having been instructed by Mr. Compagnone repeatedly on what to get. Especially to not bring ANY cotton. No cotton was on the trail for this trip.



Lonesome Lake is completely frozen. We had fun strolling across. It took us about 1.5h traveling the 1.4mi to get to the hut, though we spent 15 mins horsing around on the lake. The Cannon Balls are to the north (background, above) and the Franconia Ridge to the east. Lonesome Lake Hut is on the west side where we met the caretaker and had a snack.

From there, we continued on the Fishin’ Jimmy trail for just under three hours to get to the Kinsman Pond Shelter. The shelter is a few meters from the pond. We enjoyed the quiet of the frozen pond. No one else came to stay the night. It’s a great shelter.



We took another hour to get up to the top of North Kinsman. Below you can see the trail conditions and the vista to the north – into Vermont and Canada. We all had micro-spikes on – the rubberized plastic band with a chain/spike “basket” under your boot soles. We had not brought snowshoes due to the low snow and high traffic pattern anticipated on this expedition, which was fine.


Here’s Ben Myers and Grey Lee with the Lafayette and Lincoln peaks in the background.



Looking toward North Kinsman on the way up.



Here’s looking from North Kinsman to the South peak, with Loon Ski Resort in the left background.


Me with the Franconia Ridge in the background. It was a gorgeous day.




I had been up here with my brother Benny & our dad some years ago. I knew there was a vista that could see the pond. With a bit of a cavalier attitude and one of the crew asking me not to fall off the mountain, I headed into some of the underbrush on an intuitive trail. Scampering somewhat like a four-legged winter creature through the snow and branches, I managed to find a way to a lower ledge of Kinsman North – to see this:


You can see two small dots on the ice – in the upper left of the pond – two of our crew who stayed down there. The other two with me – Brig & Ben – made it through the brush to the ledge here. It was fun to wave to them and hear them shouting back at us. Not that we could really understand them, though.

We headed back to the main trail toward South Kinsman and found this peek of Mt. Moosilauke to the south and perhaps that’s Kearsarge or Sunapee in the far south – can you just see it?





After the summit, we headed back to the shelter for a good dinner at about 4pm. There was a lot of freeze-dried mush, but Dan had brought a steak and I had my trusty omega-3s (sardines), and we all shared. There was some chocolate. There were some flasks passed around. By 5pm we were bundled up and in for the night. We heard a couple of stories about “Worst First Dates” and wrapped up our conversations about the future of the green building industry. There was some snoring. At 1am I went out to the pond for some stargazing and caught a shooter among the constellations. It was brilliant, but pretty cold. About 10F, but still quiet of wind, so not really damn cold, just cold.

We were up at 7am and on the trail by 9. We returned the same Fishin’ Jimmy trail, as the alternative, Kinsman Ridge trail, had only been trekked by one or two snowshoed parties and as we started we were just post-holing, thus changing the plan. At Lonsesome Lake they offered us their excess chocolate chip pancakes which was a real treat. Brig established the strict pull up  record of (uh-oh – I already forgot) 18 (?) for one of us to beat next year. By 11:30 we were down and on the road to grab the real mission of the trip: Burgers & Beers. This is so no one imagines the peak as the goal – if anyone has trouble, and we have to turn back on these expeditions, that is fine as the real mission is…

Here we are at The Common Man (Plymouth) offering a beer to our dear leader Guy Compagnone for having organized such a great trip!






See you in Feb for the Jefferson Assault! (February 20-22 based two nights at Gray Knob Cabin of the Randolph Mountain Club). Stay tuned for the travelogue of that one!

Here is a Flickr Album of the Kinsman trip.

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Happy New Year!

I’m going to write more this year. Here are some pics I liked from 2014.

IMG_3955Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 11.04.10 PM EscherSteelworkerNewYorkerScreen Shot 2014-12-31 at 1.42.57 PMIMG_2544 Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 9.18.46 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-01 at 7.41.12 PMIMG_8596IMG_6863 IMG_8654IMG_8699 IMG_0417 IMG_8807IMG_8529IMG_9391IMG_2113 IMG_4821Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 6.13.04 AMIMG_7990IMG_0679IMG_0534IMG_8226 IMG_2872IMG_8316 IMG_9415IMG_5832IMG_9174 IMG_8871 IMG_0448IMG_6837


Okay, to explain: White Mountains, Happy New Year, Funny Comic


Over Arizona, My Ride in Detroit, Sustainable Neighborhood Dev in JP


Ric & The New Orleans Devvil Himself, A conference about green buildings & cities, Norie & Grey in Quebec

A conf about healthy building materials, a beautiful farm in VT, the Bostonville at night

Considering farm property, me w/ hero David B of AllEarth Renewables, sunset over Tucson


My colleague Steve & I at a gala, looking down at a farm from the silo, an architect who recently died (I liked the pic)

My favorite Threefoot Building (Meridian MS) (at left), seeing Sting, summiting in -15F (Mt. Crawford I believe)

NY, NY! Me with Kerri, The Carolachusetts vista from my office


Teddy balancing in the desert, Monhegan Island, skiing



A stately tree in Maryland, my revellers for the big 4-0, looking up at Frontenac


Thanks everyone! 2014 was a fabulous year and now we’re on to 2015. Let’s ROCK!



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What is inside?

I had an old magic 8-ball…

The answers weren’t coming to the surface any more.

It had dried out I guess.

I thought I could drill into it, add some fluid, and re-seal a small hole on the docket. I have been thinking this for about ten years. The ball resurfaces from time to time, wanting to provide answers. But when you try to use it…it’s not working so well. It’s kinda sad.

Then I acquired a new magic 8-ball. At some event. Halloween or something? I don’t recall. Maybe a brokers’ open house somewhere.




So the old one…needs to be…dealt with.






This is what the surgery looked like.




This is what gives you all the answers.


“Outlook Good”!


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Showcase Spotlight

I was interviewed related to my upcoming MA LEED Project Showcase on Oct 17th – it’s sold out, but I had buy meratol fun talking about it with the fellas at the New England Real Estate Journal Radio Show…


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Carter Dome to “New” Height (Mt. Height)

Finally got out on the trail for a great overnighter in the White Mountains!

Organized with PZ (who of course is more organized than I am, every time) and decided to drive further but hike shorter. He has some back issues, I’ve got leg issues, but we have to get out there. It had been a while since our last outing – Labor Day last year at Camel’s Hump in VT. Time flies.


In the area to the east of the Carter Huts, there are the Ramparts. These seem to be a major tellus field from falling off the side of the dome sometime in the post-glacial era. Huge boulders piled up all over the place. Lots of nooks and crannies. As I mentioned to Pete – this would be a great place to take your kinds and let them run wild and freak out your wife. He said he’d be freaked out too. I’d let them have fun. I do see the point, there were serious gaps and drops into dark corners and someone could get hurt etc…I’d be happy to go there again to play.


At the top of Wildcat, some interesting rock formations and vegetation. Actually minerally odd- our compasses were totally thrown off. Luckily we did not actually need to use the compasses.


I was totally fascinated by the lichens on the top of Wildcat…Amazing colors!


Not that you can really see it but the community of plants in the crack of the rock was really beautiful, and then, there I am, standing on the edge of this pond (see below).


I really enjoyed meditating at this pond between Carter Notch and the Huts. I’m not sure the name. Very peaceful. Bullfrogs, some fish biting at flies, a few birds but not many. 

Loads of yellow-flowering lillypads. Very cool. The trail goes around to the left, on the way to the huts, so you could hear any traffic. A few parties moving through. Mostly just the mist and increasing precipitation…into the dark of evening…Mystical for real.


This was up at the actual Carter Notch were we camped, just to the south of the 19 Mile Brook Trail as it hits the Wildcat – Carter Dome connecting trail. There’s a little patch of rough ground but open to the sky, and this magnificent frozen druid…or something…We



I Natox was psyched to have both whiskey and a chocolate bar. Note cool wind screen for stove:


Soon it would be night. I had an orange theme to dinner – carrot, cheese, and Annie’s Mac-n-Cheese with a can of tuna. Anatto!



The next morning we woke up but the tent was wet. Waiting a bit, reading more of Dharma Gaia, then up the trail to Carter Dome. This was about 1500 in about 2 miles. Just over an hour. It was a slog but nice to summit. No view. The remains of a lost, perhaps burned out, tower. A pair of mother-daughters that we passed arrive at the top to take pictures – it was one of the old gals’ 46th 4000-footer (there are only 48 in NH) so she was excited. They were very talkative. Pete and I were trying to dry the tent and finishing off the whiskey. In the distance you can actually see the top of Agiocochook.


Then another hour on a ridge, not to far up or down, to Mt. Height. What a gem!



Looking east (below) from the top of Mt. Height. I really liked how removed we were. Total wilderness all around. The only thing you could see of humankind was the auto-road on Washington, but that was behind clouds a lot. Otherwise, really about as far-out as I’ve felt in the Eastern US.


Yep, two dudes hangin’ out on the top of the mountain.




Here we can see the tops of the northern Prezzies – Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison, peaks obscured by clouds, but I like the foreground. It was sunny the whole time we were on Height. Great peak.




I liked the little mountain plants. I don’t know what this cute stuff is…



Well, here’s to a great day out in the mountains! Avocado on bread. With super salt from the PZ pantry. Thanks man!IMG_7868

The most interesting thing we found was this dangling slug in the middle of the trail. I had never seen that before:


Anyone know what these are? I would like to identify.


I also don’t know the name of the bird right in the middle of the photo here:


So we’ll have to come again, to see past the edge, into the unknown…













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