Globes

GlobesWe are marking the first full day of winter today with a grin.  Yesterday was the kick-off for this year’s Winter Solstice offering over on my photography site and it was a good day (thank you everyone!).

But if you’re following via social media sites, they do a fine job of squashing certain posts that contain certain words, especially words that are a single-word representation of an offering of anything at a reduced level of currency.  Why?  Because they want us to pay them to increase viewership of those specific posts to normal levels.  Or pay even more to increase viewership even higher.

If you are looking for a holiday present, it is too late to get it this week, but if you’re looking for a different look on your wall, now is your chance!  Please click on the picture above and you’ll see the code at the top of my website.

Again, thank you all for your support!!!

Winter Solstice Sale

In a few short hours it will be the official winter solstice for those of us north of the equator.

For some that means it’s now the the beginning of a long, dreary winter.  A season to dread.  But not us.  Winter is another great season to get outside, explore and play.

This past Friday was opening day for our local ski mountain.  Goddess and I were able to get more than a few runs in on uncrowded slopes before school let out for the holidays.  And the rain today.

It’s currently raining up on the mountain, on top of the minimal snow.  Hopefully it doesn’t melt the snow and start another rough winter for the mountain, which never opened last winter for the first time in its 50-year history.

Fingers crossed.


As is tradition here on the solstices and equinoxes, I’m offering a sale on my photography.

All products are 20% off (does not apply to shipping costs).  Just enter Winter14 in the coupon field when you are ready to check out.  Just click on the coupon below to start browsing.

BAP - Winter14Thank you so much for your continued support.  I do appreciate you!

Today

We’ve found that the time difference here in the US is actually harder to work around than when we have lived in other countries overseas.

And since it will be way past bedtime for her when I get home from school tomorrow –

Happy Birthday Mom:D

These wine glasses were used a few years ago to toast my parents on their anniversary, as we floated down the Seine looking at the passing sites of Paris as the sun set.

It was a fantastic experience.

Let’s do it again!

Launch

It has been quiet around these parts for the past week or so.

Usually I apologize for that, but this time I don’t think that I will, even though I do appreciate my loyal readers.

I really do.

So where was the focus?  My new web site, of which this blog is a part.  Some of you might have even noticed some changes here.

It’s all part of taking my photography a bit more seriously, including delving more into portraiture.

Photo Logo

So please click on the image above (which takes you to http://billandersphoto.com), take a look around, kick the tires and leave a comment.  Perhaps buy a print or three.

I even dropped the prices 25% to mark the occasion.

BAP-Launch

Just click on that coupon and a new window will open.  Browse and pick to your heart’s content, then enter that code upon checkout.  And you’ll be in like Flynn.

If you had browsed my galleries before and think you have seen it all, please look again, especially in the Travel section of my Portfolio.  There are new photos in there.  And quite a few images that I have reworked for one reason or another.

So you might find something different.

As always, thank you for taking the time to stop by my littler corner of the sphere.

Samothrace de Como

Inspired after seeing pics from a friend’s visit to the Louvre this past week.

Including a pic of my favorite statue there.

A name, and a story, which fits this image.

Samothrace de Como

I’ve found this to be quite deep, with many different patterns, shapes and thoughts.

Click on the image, let it open full-screen, sit back and ponder.

Last Friday

A bit more reminiscing on 2012 tonight, but in a different vein.

A few comments amongst online friends led me to watch the recap of this year’s edition of the Paris-Roubaix professional bicycle race.

“So what?” you ask?

Read here.

It’s very exciting to watch and see Tom Boonen pull off the victory that he did, even eight months later.  The moment he gradually pulls away from an unbelieving peloton is just a few moments into the video above when he’s still 55km from the finish.

I’ve still got an hour left in the coverage.  I’m keeping an eye out for a glimpse of Goddess, who’s standing on the outer edge of one of the corners immediately after the Le Carrefour de l’Arbre secteur, which won’t be for another 20 minutes or so.

And when he flew past us, his lead was commanding.  Only disaster would have prevented him from winning.

And while it’s a great memory from 2012, I’ll tell you that it was all Goddess pulling off the financing and planning for what ended up being a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I know that every year I can watch the race coverage and remember what each secteur was like and what it felt like.

Just not fast like the pros.

Fleeting Memories

One of my favorite spots in Munich is one that few notice.

But that’s true of many cities.  I do like the out of the way, the off the wall places.

But this one’s neither out of the way, nor is it off the wall.

But still, few notice.

It’s the Viscardigasse, otherwise known as “Shirker’s Alley”.  Or, back in the day, Drueckebergergasse, as a drueckeberger is a hedger or quitter.

There is a lot of history in this alley.

But before I get into the history, I will preface by saying that my focus on German history, as a student of history, has not been the Holocaust.  I do not think it should be, no matter how horrific those events were.  The story of Germany and the worldwide contributions of the Germans is epic.  But like any other society or nation, there are its low points.  The 1930’s and 1940’s were Germany’s.

Spacially, Viscardigasse is a small alley (hence the -gasse suffix) that connects two significant parallel roads, Residenzstrasse and Theatinerstrasse, both of which head northward from Marienplatz.  Viscardigasse stretches east to west, just south of Felderrnhalle, which faces the Odeonsplatz.

The importance of Viscardigasse reaches back to 9 November, 1923.  On that day, an illegal march led by Adolf Hitler, with a goal of revolution, was confronted by Bavarian National Police along Residenzstrasse, next to the Felderrnhalle.  The march became known as the Beer Hall Putsch.

During the confrontation, gunfire erupted, resulting in 16 marchers and 4 police killed.  Hitler was arrested and sentenced to a prison term.

Jump forward several years, after Hitler gained power.  He ordered a plaque to the 16 “martyr’s” be placed on the Feldernhalle.  After that, passers-by were required to render a sieg heil as they passed the plaque.  Compliance was monitored by Nazi supporters.

That’s where the story of Viscardigasse starts.

As Jews or anti-Nazi individuals would approach the Felderrnhalle, they would duck down Viscardigasse to avoid rendering the salute.  Soon the Nazi’s caught on and started stopping individuals walking down Viscardigasse, demanding their reasons for avoiding the Felderrnhalle.  Those that could not provide sufficient reason were often whisked away to camps.

Taking the Viscardigasse was a form of resistance.

And a way to become “disappeared”.

So when we are in Munich, I choose to stop and reflect between these walls, looking at the stones as a whole, but especially the bronzed stones forming a wavering, ever decreasing path, before disappearing midway down the alley.

While the reflection does include the events leading to the placement of the stone, reminiscent of stolperstein (example here), memorial in the alley, the reflection turns more introspective, wondering if that Viscardigasse would be the path that I would take in the face of such an oppressive regime.

Wondering if I could leave Goddess behind like that.

Wondering if Goddess would join me.

But I seriously doubt that I would go out so passively.

That is the result of reflection.

So why the title “Fleeting Memories”?

Because as we sit, observe and reflect, so many tourists pass by the alleyway, walking quickly down Residenzstrasse and Theatinerstrasse, enroute to either the Odeonsplatz or Marienplatz, oblivious to the significance of this small alley.

Or, as in the picture below, we see many tourists and locals walk right down the alley, hurrying to and fro.

And we wonder, how many are even aware of what they are walking over?

Fleeting Memories

Dawg’s Life

Today’s July 4th, so it’s Independence Day for the United States.

Here in Germany, it’s Wednesday.  But we make do.

Here’s our wonderful greyhound, Skinny (his official racing name was SMK Skynyrd, whose siblings were SMK Rush and SMK Zeppelin), enjoying the cool evening air after his dinner.

Plus, he has to recover from his 16 hours of sleeping thus far in the day.

It is a rough life.

But as Skinny is fast approaching his eighth birthday, he deserves it.

Lucky Dawg

Strobist info: Taken at dusk (visible in his eye).  Two bare-bulb remote flashes about 10′ away.  One just off upper left, one lower left.

Pensive

Goddess and I returned from a weekend of being tourists and screaming fans.  Well, I probably did all of the screaming, but that’s OK.  She’s enjoys the show and pageantry.

Sunday started out early as we grabbed some breakfast and then drove the two hours from Trier, Germany to Maastricht, Netherlands.

Why?  Stage 1 of this year’s Tour de France was starting in Liège, Belgium, just south of Maastricht.  But we had to make the side trip to pick up a few people who were going to join us as we criss-crossed eastern Belgium, chasing the peleton as they raced through the Ardennes.

And trust me, trying to keep up with the pro peleton in a car is not an easy task.

Our two fellow cheering fans were Ray Maker and his lovely bride, Bobbie, who had just moved to Paris the previous Tuesday.  They certainly hit the ground running, catching a train from Paris up to Liège on Saturday so they could catch the Prologue, then stayed overnight to catch Stage 1.

I’ve “known” Ray for many years, virtually over the interwebs, mainly through his wildly popular triathlon and gear related website.  Ray introduced us to Bobbie a couple of years ago while they were dating.

And while I’ve met several people in real life that I’ve met through the interwebs, those have all been mostly photography-centric.  Although we certainly had the photography covered.  He was even giving Nikon a test run that day.

Once we picked up Ray and Bobbie, we made our way down to Liège to the start.  Along the way we got caught up in the traffic headed to the race, but so did the team busses.  So we knew we were doing OK.

After a quick walk around the team area, a ring around the block where each team bus was parked and the bikes were set out, ready for their riders, we headed to the start line just a few moments before the start.

The riders queued up and waited.

Which is when I caught a glimpse of George.

Goddess likes George.  And she accuses me of having a man-crush.

I like George.  Always the consummate professional teammate.  A rider who’s been at it for the past 24 years, really mixing it up with the pros since 1994.

This year is his last year in the peleton.  And he’s still schooling the young ‘uns.  During his 17th Tour de France.

I like that.

At 39, George finished the prologue just 20 seconds off the lead, amongst racers a decade or more younger.  On stage 1, he lost two minutes, but that was because he did what he does best, hammering like hell to pull his team captain, this year Cadel Evans, to the front just a few kilometers from the finish.  After which the course got ugly, ramping up with some brutal short, steep climbs, some covered with cobblestones.  He was spent, so he lost a fair chunk of time.

George knew that at the start.

Pensive. George Hincapie, Stage 1, 2012 Tour de France

I do love that Canon EF 200/2.8L.  It can pick through a crowd and focus tightly on the subject.  And provide some creamy out of focus areas.

Chase Group

Paris-Rubaix, 2012

Johan Vansummeren (right), last year’s surprise winner, and Matteo Tosatto lead the chase group, already over a minute down with 14km left to the finish.

Tom Boonen is solo, out ahead, going on to a record-equalling fourth victory at P-R.

They’re just exiting the feed zone in the short transition between the brutal Carrefour de l’Arbre and the (luckily) short Gruson cobblestone sections.  Many of these cobblestone (pavé) sectors have been in existence since Roman times.

And many felt like they hadn’t been maintained since then, although that’s not true.

However, they are very, very rough and can make or break a race in seconds, either through a poorly chosen line, a line chosen by the bike and cobbles (because it’s best to just keep a loose hold of the handlebars and let the bike do most of the movement), or a catastrophic equipment failure, as we saw as the pack (no longer a peloton) race through the Arenberg Trench when a rider’s (very expensive) carbon wheel shattered under the stress right in front of us.

Exciting moments.

There’s a reason that the Dutch call the cobbles kinderkoppen (children’s heads).  The stones are large and rounded on the top.  Luckily (for the competitors) this year, there had been little rain so the dust had settled in and kept the gaps between the stones to a minimum (in most sections).  However, a little bit of rain and the dirt washes out, leaving a muddy mess with large gaps between the stones.  Dry or wet, there’s a reason that this race is called “The Hell of the North“.

And I think the look on the racers faces above captures that.

Just 20 minutes after this picture was taken, the rain started.  That would have changed the face of the race significantly, especially amongst those that were in the lagging groups, as they dealt with the mud-slick cobbles.

Here’s a nice behind the scenes look at how Team Garmin-Barracuda and Tom Boonen took the win that day:

But if you want a longer look at “The Hell of the North”, here’s a documentary from the 1970’s called “A Sunday in Hell”:

Wet or dry, a great race to watch.

Even better in person.

Although, after riding a portion of the course (minus the flat, smooth leading 100km that the pros take), I can now understand why the riders feel like this photo of Greg Lemond: