Author Archive

Lakes & Streets of Dhaka

A quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that: a) Dhaka is the 8th most populous “city proper” in the world – by which I believe they mean not metropolitan area, but defined city boundary even if it’s a city-province, like Chongqing in China; and b) Dhaka is BY FAR the most densely-populated “city proper” in the list: Dhaka, according to Wikipedia, contends with a population density of 42,659 per square kilometer. Next-most-dense is Cairo, with a mere 31,399 per square kilometer – and a mere 9,500,000 total inhabitants to Dhaka’s 14,399,000 – all, of course, always according to Wikipedia. London has to manage only 5,614 per square kilometer.

I’m not a city person. Truly, I’m not. Even when I lived in NYC I spent as much time as possible in the nearest large park I could find. When I visit London, I try to lose myself whenever possible in Hamsptead Heath or at least Hyde Park. So here in Dhaka, I look for zones of some calm. And I do my walking only in the mornings before traffic starts to build, if I’m able to choose. By evening, I’m home trying to shut out the sound of traffic.

And let me say, for such a dense city, this place really does a remarkably good job of creating some sense of spaciousness: in my area, there are lakes everywhere. They provide a sense of space and nice reflections, as you see in many of these photos. There are also walking paths along them, and often benches and even some cute animal sculptures kids can play on. Even the older and more dense parts of Dhaka have a good smattering of parks and old buildings on spacious grounds hidden amongst the busy streets, if you’re up early enough to beat traffic and explore some of the lovely historic buildings tucked into downtown. (That’s on the agenda for a future blog post, fear not.)

For the moment, I’m showing you just some things I’ve seen during my morning strolls or walks to the local grocery or bakery. Especially when I catch it during the quiet hours of the morning, Dhaka can be quite appealing even to those of us who find cities off-putting. Further down, you’ll see flowers in a gallery of circular photos. Jean, these are for you: either because of the season or because, well, all that density – there aren’t a lot of flowers here! Sorry, that mountainside in Port au Prince offered more flowers, and the beach at Cox’s offered more shells. So here, I think I may do a series on the stores and other signs. We’ll see – I’m considering it. 😊 Input welcome. Enjoy.

Another impressive thing I’m trying to show with these photos is how well most land is used: garden plots snugged in between street and lake; nurseries tucked between buildings or at the end of bridges; chickens feeding in a small plot next to the lake. And construction everywhere, piles of bricks and scaffolding omnipresent.

By the Golden Gate

OK this is it, the last post with photos taken in my wanderings on three continents in 2019. If there are to be posts going forward, I’ll actually have to boldly try to get my camera out in this big crowded city I’ve now called home for two months. These are miscellaneous shots taken of or by me during visits down to SF during those lovely summer months I spent at home in Sonoma county: outside a BARS concert in June, of a flowering century plant on Bernal Hill (above & below), or during my last visit to SF when I had to pick up a few supplies at Target in SOMA, prior to flying out here. I shall now focus on sharing views of the streets of Dhaka or the beaches of Cox’s again, until or unless I’m elsewhere on holiday :-).

Have a golden 2020, one and all.

Weekend in London

I managed, in September, to get to London for the first time since 2011 — for a long weekend, after meetings in Amsterdam before flying home to SF. The days were filled with social & cultural events, tennis, and biking around Victoria Park, Hampstead Heath and the Embankment — all with friends from various parts of my life. I didn’t think in terms of photos much, but some of the days were so lovely, or the views so interesting, that I just had to at least use the phone’s camera app briefly. Thus the few shots you see here. The man in orange below is one of those friends (my host; thanks, Stu!) inside an installation in a really cool Olafur Eliasson exhibit at Tate Modern that we managed squeeze in by picking up last-minute early-morning tickets before a pretty darn fine staging of Peer (Peter) Gynt at the National…which we got on the cheap by showing up first thing and seeing what they had.

Scenes of Seasons in Amsterdam

Work takes me to or through Amsterdam once or twice a year, and has for a decade now. This year it was the usual 10 days for annual meetings in early September — when the days were still just a bit longer than the nights — and then again for a few nights just before flying out here to Bangladesh. Here you see photos from both trips. You’ll notice two photos that I’ve named “sudden heron.”  I’ve always loved (and photographed often) the waterbirds that show up on and in Amsterdam’s canals, lakes and parks. This time I was just walking from the meeting-venue back to the hotel along a canal in the heart of the city, quite an urban area really, minding my own business and watching the sunset…when suddenly I found myself next to this great blue heron!When I was growing up, in southern Ohio during the post-DDT days, I dreamed of seeing great blue herons and other big birds. So many had their numbers decimated by the effects of DDT on their eggs that it was really quite rare to see such large high-on-the-food-chain birds. I still am delighted when I get to see one stalking its prey, whatever the continent. Glad I’m not a fish or a frog, about to be skewered by that beak, though!

Just below is the excellent City Museum of Amsterdam, old and new buildings skillfully blended. Further down, the cruise ship at dock was flagged the Bahamas, and I took that photo in September while the Bahamas were being so battered by a hurricane: felt poignant, and I wasn’t sure if the ship was taking refuge or on a pre-planned trip in northern Europe. The beer was photographed while my laundry spun in the washer and drier at the laundromat next door: that September trip came immediately after the family & meditations outings I’ve already shown you in & — so I desperately needed to get some clean clothes before sitting in a week of meetings with peers and colleagues… 🙂

Beachfront Birthday

I know of no better way to celebrate completing a cycle around the sun (aka one’s birthday) than to spend the day(s) surrounded by friends, in places one likes, doing things one likes. Some of my very best friends in the world let me do just exactly that along with their extended family for a full three-generational weekend of awesomeness that included seeing Sea Otters & hearing loud sea lions at Santa Cruz Pier; attending fantastic concerts at the Cabrillo Music Festival; sunrise, sunset, and daytime walks along a beautiful beach on Monterey Bay; exploring a wetland called Elkhorn Slough…oh, and some really good birthday cake and strawberries. True, this all happened in August, but it’s nice to remember it now that I’m about 8,000 miles away and reaching the end of an eventful calendar year. 😊 Here’s to holidays and special times with friends and family. (Just below, one of those sea otters. Further down…is it possible to enjoy – and photograph – a sunset too much?)

Rockets’ Red Glare

Ever since childhood I’ve been a complete sucker for a nice fireworks display. These days I’m not a fan of loud noises, especially explosive loud noises that are unexpected…but if I know fireworks are in the plan, then I’ll settle in and enjoy them for sure. I’d already had my home-base in Santa Rosa several years before I learned how well situated my apartment is to see most of the town’s annual July-4th fireworks display. Being the county seat of Sonoma County, I think Santa Rosa feels an important civic duty to have a great event at the annual celebration of US-nationhood. But the first few years I “lived” there, I didn’t happen to be in town at the right time in July. This year I was; I was free and enjoying some wine and the views on my balcony as the fireworks lit up the sky – along with a nearly full moon which was also lovely that evening. I’m fondly remembering summer in Sonoma County as Bangladesh – where I find myself now – prepares to celebrate its own national holiday on the 16th of December – Victory Day. Enjoy 😊.

From The Air (Yet) Again

Clearly, I fly a great deal. And clearly, I like to look out the window, dream, and see the world from a new vantage point. At left: the salt-evaporating ponds full of bacteria along the shores of San Francisco Bay, shortly before landing in April. Below: Hamburg and its major harbor along the Elbe, shortly after takeoff in September. In the three galleries lower down: more of the lovely colorful salty ponds plus a few shots from a late-May flight into SFO when sky was clear enough to see over the peninsular mountains to the Pacific Ocean;  more of Hamburg as well as clouds above London and easternmost England, later on that flight; and then a trio taken while flying into SFO again from Dallas, in September. And at the very bottom, a large photo showing both some salt ponds near San Jose, as well as the mountains on the peninsula and the sky over the Pacific Ocean at sunset. There are reasons I’m always happy when I fly home to the Bay Area :-).

Hikes in SoCo – Wet & Dry, Pre- and Post-Fire

Followers and friends will know that I spent nine months at home this year, at first mostly near my mother’s (now former) home in New Jersey with some trips to my own home-base in Sonoma County, and then from June mostly in SoCo. The day I left my home to begin the travels which brought me to the desk in Dhaka from which I’m writing this now, I left earlier than planned because the friend whom I’d planned to be my ride to the airport was in an area that had fallen under mandatory evacuation, due to yet another devastating forest fire. That fire ultimately burned parts of Shiloh Ranch Regional Park, which had already been badly burned in the major fires just two years ago. I hiked up there less than two weeks before I flew out, and took the photo just below – where you see the charred part of a trail marker, left over from two years earlier.

You also see how very dry things are by the late dry season, making whatever vegetation there is ready fuel for any fires that do start. The photos I’m showing you here were taken on several hikes with friends (Howard, Nancy, Steve) and bike rides on my own, in many parks, trails and roads spanning a lot of Sonoma County between the end of the wet season / start of dry (the first photo in this post, on a bike ride in mid-April when rain might still fall a bit) to the one below, late October, late in the dry when we haven’t seen rain in more than six months.

I’m thinking of home on what’s still the end of Thanksgiving day, there in California – even if here it’s already Friday morning, that silly consumerist “black Friday” thing that American merchants get all excited about. Enjoy time with your friends and family, my beloved readers. They’re what’s truly priceless.

A Few Days in LA

Back in June, shortly after returning home from the task of clearing my mother’s house and depositing some of her things at my brother Steve’s house, I flew down for a couple days in LA. The main purpose was to visit dear friends and pick up a car from them, with which I then drove back home to the bay area and renewed my acquaintance with that quintessentially American experience, the long road trip in a big car on good roads with music blasting and the miles going by rapidly out the window. It was lovely. Even more lovely were the the (too) few days I enjoyed in LA with a few friends. Several hours one day were spent with a visit to the Getty Center, perched on its hilltop in the Cahuenga pass – the first time I’d been up there since a wonderful trip with Mom in early 2013, during which we watched an outdoor dance performance taking place all across the sprawling grounds and gardens. (See photos of that performance, and of Mom enjoying the grounds with our cousin Pat, here: Since then, they’ve added more outdoor sculpture around the gardens which I (and Mom) always loved…meaning she’d have loved it all even more now, so I made sure to enjoy it extra much in her memory :-). It was also pride month, and Santa Monica marked the occasion with seasonal lighting on the Third Street Promenade. Capitalism at its best, eh?

Road Trips Along Route 80

smw, slt is now back at work in Bangladesh. But I’ve not yet brought out my camera, or figured out what rules of courtesy (or law) apply to taking photos on the crowded streets of Dhaka, which will be my home and place of work for what should be an extended period of time now. It’s been actually quite lovely to reconnect with colleagues I worked with when I was last in Dhaka or in Cox’x Bazar. This past week I actually squeezed in a short visit to Cox’s, from which I so enjoyed posting those daily “longest-beach” updates in January. Didn’t make it to the beach on that 24-hour visit, but hopefully again in future visits. In the meantime, I’ve used some free time this weekend to sort through photos that have sat in folders on my computer during the eventful, and sad, nine months between my last departure from BD and my return here two weeks ago.

In this post, I’m sharing photos of locations reached by car along Interstate-80 from what used to be my mother’s home in NJ — places she, I, and my brothers visited more than once over the years. Above, the Delaware Water Gap seen from a rest stop while I was driving out for a few early-April days visiting my brother in Pittsburgh, and actually giving a talk about our work here in BD at Carnegie Mellon University. (Ah, well-maintained, wide highways with publicly-maintained rest stops featuring picnic tables and usually some form of flushable or water-free toilet, and often even drinkable water coming from publicly maintained drinking fountains! The luxuries Americans don’t even realize they have…) In the gallery and other photos above & below, images from the lovely Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, and from the Cleveland Museum of Art, taken during a visit with cousins and my middle brother, Steve, in early May. (Ah, local cultural institutions open to the public for enjoyment and education…the pleasures and privileges of living in an essentially stable, wealthy society with tax laws that encourage the ultra-rich to set up such institutions to benefit future generations…)

Enjoy 🙂