Inspiration in DC – Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial

–> I have to admit: I teared up –> We made our way to the Lincoln Memorial and joined the throng of tourists on the steps, looking out. Then the most amazing thing happened. An asian man bent over the inscription in the stone at our feet, opened a bottle of water, and delicately poured it out over the words. The words were “I have a dream” (see below). He proceeded to explain, in a tongue I could not understand, but which was full of care and passion, the story of the March on Washington and that day of August 28, 1963. A couple recognizable terms like “America” and “King” fluttered amid the staccato words and broad gestures of his arms. What I assumed as his family, right in front of us, nodded and acknowledged. He was intent on sharing his knowledge of this big moment in US history. I had never heard the story in that way, I had never been standing there at that spot. It was the best way I could ever hear it. I had never known how truly transcendent that notion is – that as people put down and release themselves from their _differences_, “…all people will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”











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The Carter Ridge – Wet, Cold and Lovely!

At the end of October, the Green Building Mountaineering Club got going again, heading up to the north country to take another jaunt in the woods.

We left at 5am and raced up I-93 through Franconia Notch, up over the Presidentials along Rt. 2 to Gorham and down 16 toward Pinkham Notch.

The destination was the three 4000’+ Carter peaks, North, Middle and DOME, so we could each add to our bagged-peak list. I’m now at 30 of the 48 in NH. Need to schedule a few more hikes!

The crew this time was split as two members could only make it for the day on Saturday. That was Ben Myers (mech. eng. & prop. development) and Peter Zink (prof. of materials science). The rest made it overnight and all the way down on Sunday. That would be Shawn Hesse (architect), Luka Multnovic (building engineer), Ethan Lay-Sleeper (urban planner) and Vince (architect), and myself (broker & promoter).

Here are a few pictures from the trip (I also put a bunch of photos on flickr so you could enjoy):


We found the very cool soil frost phenomena along the trail. Winter is coming!


PZ and G Lee having a laugh during lunch on the top of North Carter.


Great crew up there! Ethan in red cap, Vince, Peter, Luka, Grey, Ben in the shadow, and Shawn!


Although it looks quite like a dome, this is actually the ridge between North and Middle Carter. We would soon bid farewell to the day-hikers and get on toward Zeta Pass and the long hike up to the real Carter Dome. It was still a fine afternoon at this point, but at 3pm the sun is already quite low. And we had…quite a ways to go!


Fine day, and that is Washington’s peak behind me. Nice!


And there’s Madison, Adams and Jefferson. Just a few months ago I was shirtless looking out across the Great Gulf Wilderness (the stuff under Jefferson) – during our Prezzie Traverse. Nice to see the peaks from this near vista.


There were a lot of neat things growing in the rocks along the trail…


And such fine views! That would be Maine out there.



Soon, we would leave the ridge and get to the next pass. With the night coming on, we skipped Mt. Height (I’ve done it already) and proceeded along to the Dome.

Shawn says Yo!


Near the top of the straight shot from Zeta to the Dome, there is a little lookout. Wow. Nice to see the Prezzies from so high. It would be all downhill, finally, from here. I was pretty happy at this moment!


We descended as the cloud cover descended – into some really dicey stuff!











And made it to the pond at Carter Notch. Really sweet to be in here. I’ve actually only been here in deep cloud. Sort of scary. But a great tent site up above this point and we had a great camp dinner. Mac-n-cheese as I recall. A few flasks passed around. Very cold. We had a fire. It rained.

That was a great 11-mile day.


In the morning, still more clouds and mists. We went over to the Carter Notch Hut and made breakfast in their yard. Then we wandered into the Ramparts – these crazy chunks of rock from some certainly interesting geological story…like a playground really. Strange middle-earth trees coming up out of this old giants’ battlefield…



And then we got going again, up up and away onto Wildcat A – the fourth 4000 footer we’d ascend, and the highest of the ridge for Sunday.



Fine day for a stroll up and about.


It was a long slog going down Wildcat’s west side. It had been 45 minutes to jam up to A from the tent site, then about an hour along the ridge. And two hours to go the just-over-a-mile coming down.



But we found a rainbow in the mists:


And finally, off the mountain, we found SaALT – the best restaurant in Gorham, NH. It opened right at 5pm as we arrived and filled rapidly. Mmmm! Good. We devoured about $250 of beer and fabulously fatty food in an hour and a half. Damn Good.


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A Fantastic Time for a Showcase!

On October 1st, my organization, the USGBC MA Chapter, held a fantastic big fundraising event – the Green Building Showcase!



Take a look at more of the photos here.


I really enjoy being the MC for events like this.


I hope you can come to one of these in the future. It is a great community of green building practitioners, all dedicated to the transition of our built environment toward sustainability and social justice. And we like to have a lot of fun!

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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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I freaking LOVE HAY

There was this one day, in Austria, when I really fell in love. I’m not talking about the Fraulein from the Gasthof Adler – though my heart did go a-flutter…but…love was in the air for another reason.

It was the smell of HAY!

It was the day we went to the wedding reception of Anu & Marc, up in the mountains of Voralberg. From our base in Feldkirch, I hitched a ride with a delightful pair of guests, Marc’s Hong Kong friend Mar (of Barcelona) and her partner Marc (also Barca). We were heading to Schoppernau, a little village in the middle of nowhere, where we would stay the night after the reception at some hunting lodge even further into nowhere.

It was a gorgeous day, and the sun had been good to the fields this summer. And the grass had grown. And now was time for the local farmers to hit the jam and make the hay come in.

[I posted more photos on flickr here – enjoy the whole reel]



Everywhere, usually on the downhill side of the road, the fields were ready for this, my favorite agricultural activity. Look at those neat windrows of dried grass, ready for baling!


It was clear these parts needed to store up hay for long winters. Every little piece of land, and some I would have not tried to clear, had been, over the centuries, turned into nice hayfields.

Not a lot of veggie growing around here. This was dairy country!

[It was also stunningly beautiful…about the best car ride I’ve had in a while.]


Here are my friends Mar & Marc – we stopped at the pub in town, well, at the base of the gondola. The Bergenbahn. Love the german terminology.

The waiter was a gruff looking but friendly fellow who wanted to practice his spanish – from his days skiing in Argentina. The beers were large and just right for a hot day.

But I was missing haying. Carl Dickson would have fit right in here.



Out behind the pub, in an immense field, I started to realize the differences between haying in Voralberg and haying in Middlesex County.

Notice in the distance a lone figure. He is pushing a massive walk-behind mower, which has a sickle bar as the cutter attachment at the front. The dude is going to cut the field walking on his own two feet!


I was trying to get a shot of a family gathering in the parking area behind me. It was definitely a “hay-huddle” among the older folks and the my-age folks. These people are serious about hay. They even hay their front yard!

Notice the windrows of cut hay on the hillside in the background. I like the massive snow-protective overhang of the barn in the center. Notice the solar panels on the roof behind my head. I like this place a lot.


Here’s another interesting thing. No, not the beautiful mountain in the background, but the little hay-wagon-truck picking up the windrow. It was basically a truck that drives along gobbling up the hay and packing it into a massive bale in the payload. This thing was cruising – 30 seconds to clear a 300m row or something like that. Whew!


Here’s another piece of awesome: the tedder (the instrument that fluffs up the hay by sort of twirling it around – to help it dry the day after it’s been cut) has its own machine – the super low-profile mini-tractor-kart below. With glare shield!

What I’m realizing is that in a place where there is no soil cultivation, no ploughing and so forth, the machinery can be different. You don’t need all the horsepower of a tractor, and thus, you use specialized equipment just for haying. I was amazed.


And the wonders would not cease!

Here’s three generations taking the brought-in hay and helping get it into the barn’s loft – with a special hay elevator! No crappy clackety-clack conveyor chains, here is a hydraulic lift to bring the bundles up into the dry storage for winter. Love this!

[It looks like it’s going into an inn or something – this is an optical illusion of the hotel building closer to me, with the barn behind it. Though I wouldn’t put it past them to have hay storage in the tops of hotels in this town!]


One thing I really like about hay is that it’s like taking summer’s solar energy and capturing it for the critters to eat through the winter. Cheese is like concentrated sunlight. Sun to fields to cows to milk to cheese to YUM!

I can’t say it enough. This was the most magical and delightful landscape I’ve ever been in. Look at all that hay!


And everyone was out and about helping out! I was very close to running over to volunteer…



There goes another little hay-kart, with a rack creating windrows from the downed hay. Probably was only cut the day before – it was so hot and dry out, and this being second cutting, very light and thin.

And what an amazing work setting to be in!

Shortly, I had to catch my ride up to the hunting lodge for the main event of the Weddingmoon – but someday, I’ll have to come back  in late August to be sure I can schedule a little agricultural tourism with the hay farmers of Schoppernau!


I just LOVE HAY!


Extra bonus: the great song from the local band HMBC that one of the wedding guests shared with me: “Vo Mello to ge Schoppernou

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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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Lyon at Night: Architects’ Delight

There was so much to see, even at night:


While in Lyon, I found the loneliest apartment in France.


A lot of different kinds of buildings.


Not sure but it is pretty imposing:


This bridge had a lot of dead wood up against the buttress – stuff having come out of the Massif Central I believe, flowing down the Saone.


And I liked being on the bridge, too.


You are looking at the municipal library:


Some was old, like this school:


Which looked over and onto this Metro station which was like a bunker in the middle of this old park. Quite cool.


Some was new, like this civic center


And in the middle of the shopping district, a little water feature:


And in the morning, lots of light:


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Lyon: The Surprise Bonus Round of the Trip






This is fundamentally the impression I had from Lyon: people enjoying the night out, socializing casually along the riverbank, appreciating the real place-ness of the setting. I felt like people here were happy – pleased with their town, the way they could interact with it, the way it presents itself to others. It had poise but didn’t seem to have the strain of being the capital or some kind of hot-shot. Also, it seemed not to have anything to prove and was “open” or smiling somehow. It was massively French, modern, and hip, but full of history and gravitas at the same time. Like a manageable London. Or a manageable Paris but I haven’t been there in years. It came across as a City I’d like to live in. I’m sure there’s more to learn about it, but generally, I was impressed.

Prior to the adventure, I took a screenshot of a map of the town for when I would arrive and be off-line again.



Hotel Athena – kinda modern, pretty French.


I have more of the photos I took on my stroll through the evening of Lyon.

I walked from my hotel at the train station west to the main river. Along below the embankments are countless restaurants and bars…and people picnicking with baguettes & bottles of wine – it looked like a fine way to spend a Friday night. Notice the Moon too! 

Look at this river! The Rhone!


I made my way across town and took a lot of pictures (in another entry), and found a nice HUGE piazza with regular massive statues and the view of the hill on the other side of the Saone – which of course I had to hike up. Which is another story!


But there were nice steep little streets and some staircases in the hillside…




And some nice maps to remind you about the Roman Amphitheaters…oh – which explained why I was listening to opera the whole time – fresh air art, get your fresh air art right here!


I did make it to the top to the Cathedral or whatever it was. And the mini-Eiffel Tower, if you noticed…



Back under the hill again, I found another hip neighborhood with plenty of people out and about.



And here is the coat of arms on the flag of Lyon. I might need to get some apparel or at least a sticker for my car! Love this once-and-future Lyon!


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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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