San Francisco

san-francisco-painted-ladies

Family and I took the opportunity to visit my sister in Mountain View, Calif. as a chance to also visit San Francisco and Monterey.

Photos on Facebook here.

SACM and I rented bicycles for a wonderful tour of SF, including, predictably but wonderfully, over the Golden Gate Bridge to Monterey, and all the way back to the Mission and the StrEAT Market.

We did the cable cars and Uber to a boat out in the Bay (dramamine actually worked for me!). Saw the Condor Club and Chinatown and Ghiradeli Square and all that, after we started down to Monterey for the aquarium and beach-going.

Panama

panama-trip

A week in the dense, central heart of Panama, the small, narrow pathway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans was the memorable international trip I was privileged to get the chance to take on this month.

Panama, a country of less than 4 million people on land less than that of Pennsylvania, is best known for its powerful Panama Canal that was American operated until 1999. Until 1989, it was run by the dangerous despot Manuel Noriega but since then democracy has flourished and, with the New York Times profile in toe, is growing its tourism sector to try to compete with more popular Belize and Costa Rica.

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I’m in a digital divide PSA on SEPTA subway trains

wink-septa-keyspot

The digital divide will continue to grow as job attainment becomes more web-based and those who fail to access the digital revolution. That’s the central message of a public service announcement campaign from the KEYSPOT initiative from the City of Philadelphia, and, as an issue I care deeply about, I accepted the chance to be included in a photo shoot that has resulted in me landing on that advertising campaign on SEPTA subway cars.

First spotted by Gloria Bell.

Handgun firearm practice

shooting

Though I inherited some modest .22 gauge rifles from my grandfather and have used one in shooting ranges a few times, I’ve long wanted to become more familiar with handguns, both for comfort and for perhaps future use.

Today, with a Living Social deal of a one-hour safety training seminar and shooting range practice for three people for $75, I did just that at the Gun Range above Spring Garden Street near 10th Street above the Callowhill neighborhood of Philadelphia.

After a half hour of training, I used a half hour of training time, armed with a small, simple, cheap .22 gauge Ruger handgun, with limited recoil at the request of the person with whom I attended. Good experience, I shot fairly well, am more aware and will want to practice more in the future.

Eagles locker room

As a part of a leadership class, I had the chance to visit the Eagles locker room yesterday.

When you visit the Eagles locker room, everyone stands in line to take pics of the Vick and Desean Jackson lockers. Me? I made a bee line to see the pre game home of 6’10”, 330 lbs offensive lineman King Dunlap

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Running with the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain during San Fermin

Begun centuries ago by children following the bulls that were being brought from encilliro through Pamplona’s old town to its bullring, last week on Thursday, July 12, 2012 I went Running with the Bullls, one of my original life goals (and one hell of a highlight of a great week in Spain).

Bullfights happen throughout Spain and Latin and South America, and I saw some of the gruesome act the ancient San Fermin festival in Pamplona, but only here, because of the distance between its stables and its ring does the most famed Running of the Bulls happen every year.

It was thrilling and nerve-wracking and crazed and really very quick — less than five minutes of real running and less than a minute of the bulls running by before running into the bullring. Check out some pretty fun video below.

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Watch a bullfight in Pamplona, Spain for San Fermin

The gruesome, centuries-old tradition of bullfighting was on display, as it is every year, during the annual San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain. With friends, I managed to snag the fairly expensive tickets the night before I went running with the bulls.

Watch some preview videos below.

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Spain

During my eight days in Spain: three nights in Madrid, one in Burgos and Vivar del Cid, one in Pamplona, one in Sitges and two in Barcelona.

Eight days in the hub of ancient kingdom turned struggling modern Western European stalwart Spain proved to be among the best trips of my life.

I went Running with the Bulls and saw the first bullfight of my life, but I also had suckling pig at the oldest restaurant in the world, saw more Picassas and Dalis than ever before, ordered tapas, sangria and paella in Spanish, swam in the Mediterranean, visited Gaudi and, of course, did so while reading Hemingway’s the Sun Also Rises for the first time.

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Miami Beach for a long weekend

The condos, clubs and art deco architecture of coastal city of Miami Beach, particularly its South Beach neighborhood, was the destination for a weekend jaunt.

Split from Miami city by Biscayne Bay, the city of 80,000 has the reputation for the high-life, but a generous friend let us stay in his condo near the Miami Beach Convention Center for the weekend.

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Birmingham, Alabama for Valentine’s Day

Like cities across the country, 210,000-person Birmingham, Alabama has a growing creative class pocketed among communities of post-industrialization decline (though some of it remains).

Founded in 1870s after the Civil War while much of the leading Southern cities of the era were in shambles, Birmingham grew up as an iron town, as symbolized by the Sloss Furnaces National Park, an elephant-graveyard of production hidden underneath a highway leaving the city center (it had the nickname of Pittsburgh of the South, for its wide-ranging metal production).

But as Birmingham twisted in the wind in the mid-20th century, other took hold of new industries — Atlanta fought to be a air transit hub. Today, that small creative class — aided in part by the University of Alabama at Birmingham — is helping to fuel a few small pockets of the walkable urban ideal.

Yes, what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than a great long weekend in Birmingham, Ala.

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