Tuesday, November 25, 2008

90th, revisited

The snowstorm distracted us from posting this last photo from the 90th Anniversary celebrations. There was a spectacular fireworks extravaganza over the Daugava. It was very nice, and pretty quick, which was merciful given the temperatures at that point. For some reason there was a big open space in the crowd just behind the LNT television news crew Winnebago.

Monday, November 24, 2008


It snowed five inches or so over the last day. This amount of snow would have DC crippled for days on end. And even in Latvia, five inches gets people talking about how much snow there was. It didn't really seem like that much - but apparently it doesn't really snow that much here, it just gets cold. The weather brought out the stories from locals (or quasi-locals) of winters past, in particular one when it was -30F for weeks on end. Please no.

Anyway, the picture above is in the courtyard of our apartment building as the snow was just getting going, looking at the wall separating us from the next building's courtyard. It was shot at night (well, 6:00 PM, which is well into night these days), because the weird snowstorm light seemed cool. But then the long exposure made it seem sort of day-lighty, except for the lights in the windows. It also turned out boring, so the staff photographer had to put someone in the frame to add some contrast. There weren't a lot of volunteers out in the freezing cold.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It gets cold here.

Remember this picture? Well, that was weeks ago. Now it is seriously, miserably cold out. So-called "experts" with high-tech "thermometers" say it's right at 32F, wind chill around 15F. But the staff photographer was out there on assignment for 15 minutes taking pictures and could barely feel his hands. The tropics have apparently made us soft.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reverse Angle

This is the view from the other side of the Freedom Monument (which is actually the front) on the night of the 90th anniversary celebration, where the crowd gathered for a celebratory concert (no celebration happens here without some singing). Then the concert ended and they all raced through the old town to claims spots along the riverside for fireworks. They managed to do it with urgency but without trampling anyone that we heard about.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Happy 90th Birthday, Latvia!

Yesterday was the 90th Anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Latvia. Your correspondent returned home in the nick of time to see some of the light displays they had set up around town (e.g. above detail of a street lined with suspended Latvian flag red-white-red fluorescent lights leading up to the Freedom Monument) and the big fireworks show over the Daugava. It was a fun night. It was also, literally, freezing. Our founding fathers were wise in declaring independence in July, surely foreseeing the pleasures of lazing about the park, waiting for fireworks. But anyway, good job Latvia on being 90!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another November abroad...

...another Marine Corps Ball. And as we have newly declared a tradition, another Holla picture of The Lovely Katherine and some handsome young men in dress uniform. Whether fortunate or unfortunate, this year's entry was composed after several drinks had been consumed and the strict discipline for which the Marines are famed had been dispensed with. Your correspondent was apparently so inebriated that night, he failed to follow through on his long-considered plan to strategically untie his bow-tie with an hour or so left in the festivities so as to look like James Bond or Frank Sinatra or some other cool person who actually ties his own bow-tie. Opportunities were lost.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It got a little dusty at the Residence

The Ambassador's Residence, big party from 0600 to 0900 as the polls closed in California. And when Obama spoke, it became notably dusty and maybe some eyes were watering because of the amount of dust in the air and not at all due to the emotional content of the event.

A black president! The gracious concession! The story of the 100-year-old woman! America, ever moving forward! I don't think you had to be an Obama supporter to feel a little tug at the power of progress and history and reconciliation. But it probably didn't hurt.

We had a crowd of highly mixed party loyalties, despite the commonly known fact that the State Department is an infamous den of liberal America-haters. And we did have a fine time talking with assembled Americans (D) and Americans (R) and Latvians alike. But 0700 on a work day is a little early, and nary a hug nor a high-five was witnessed among the studiously non-partisan foreign-policy professionals. I'll admit that I wished I could have been back at home for some hugs or high-fives or even terrorist fist jabs.

In that spirit, no pictures of Latvia today. Above is one you've surely seen before, taken previously by a million other New York tourists. Below is the photo department's preferred shot from our stop at Liberty and Ellis islands en route to Latvia this summer, but "seagulls standing guard" doesn't really scream "America, ever moving forward," as the day demands.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Happy Election

This is a picture from Guatemala. We were hoping to find a somehow appropriate election day picture, but the pictures we had with the outgoing President in them seemed no longer apropos. So here is your correspondent, gazing off into the Future, seeking the next guy to ride Air Force One.

Your correspondent will be attending an election event at 6:00 tomorrow. That's 0600 AM. In the morning. When polls close on the West Coast, we'll be getting up and hosting a breakfast reception for various interested Latvians. (Interested and apparently early-rising Latvians, not exactly an easy or popular option in Riga in November.)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dusk in the Park

I don't really understand the WiFi phone booth. I guess if you have a laptop and want to sit outside and check your email, you can drop some coins in the booth and surf away. I would assume it is an effort by the phone company to keep phone booths relevant in an era where everyone has mobile phones. I don't think I've ever seen anyone use the WiFi phone booths, but you can't blame the phone company for trying.