Monday, September 26, 2005

Agua Caliente

There is a 101-acre park in eastern Tucson, Arizona called Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park. If you pick up the birder's list brochure, you'll see about 150 species listed. There's a photo of a Vermilion Flycatcher on the cover, and a different pose inside. And of course I mention this because those are my photos.


Click for larger image.

The photos were actually taken in the Galapagos, not in Arizona, but Pima County wanted a Vermilion Flycatcher so I was happy to provide it. (For a nominal fee of course.) I'll try to swing through the park when I'm in Arizona in November. There probably won't be any Vermilion Flycatchers – the list says they are common in summer – but I'll see whatever else they have flitting around.

Thanks to Google, I get such requests every once in a while. I haven't seen the publication yet, but I just received a check for a photo of an eagle fishing in the Mississippi. (A decent photo, but I think I can do a lot better.) The National Academy of Sciences wanted it for a brochure assessing the work of the Army Corps of Engineers on the river.

Another recent request was for a red-shouldered hawk. I don't think they were interested in the hawk per se – the publication is a physics textbook, and I think they wanted a photo of a bird sitting on a power line.

So it's nice to make a couple dollars doing something fun but it also highlights how difficult it would be to make a living at it. But if anyone wants to pay me a massive amount of money to go on a wildlife shoot, I'm all ears.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Home from Ireland

I spent two weeks in Ireland, and a written account and photos are now available.

Glendalough
Click for photo page.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Galway

I've been in Galway a few days now and the city is atwitter over the local hurling team playing in the All-Ireland final this weekend. Hurling is a sport where 15 Irishmen to a side chase a ball around, whacking at it and each other with sticks. Or something to that effect. I've been able to stay on my tourism schedule of Connamera on Monday and Inis Mor yesterday. It's a bit rainy today but I will do the Cliffs of Moher later on. They are 700 feet tall so by "do" I mean look at them.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Arrived Ireland

I flew into Ireland overnight. The bus took me from Shannon Airport to Galway, and I was able to see that Ireland in fact is quite green. I was able to get into my hotel a bit after noon, so the first order of business was a nap to supplement the 2-3 hours of sleep I got on the plane. I couldn't figure out how to turn on the lights in the room, but figured it could wait until after the nap. Eventually I did figure it out and felt as triumphant as a caveman flicking a cigarette lighter. You have to put your room key in a slot on the wall. Perhaps every hotel in the world except the U.S. Super 8's to which I am accustomed have this feature. Explorations start tomorrow.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Ballparks

Last weekend I made it to my fourth and fifth major league baseball stadiums this summer, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore and RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The two home teams did not look good as the Orioles continued their freefall by getting pounded by the A's 12-3, and the punchless Nationals fell to the Cardinals 6-0.

The highlight that made the sports shows from those two games was Albert Pujols getting ejected in the first inning after getting thrown out on a steal attempt. Pujols was not in the umpire's face at the moment; he was warming up in his defensive position at first base. Perhaps Albert said something very nasty to the ump, but the umps need to be reminded that people come to baseball games to see guys like Albert Pujols, not the ump. Lose the rabbit ears.

My tickets to both games were in the upper deck directly behind home plate and cost $27 each including online fees. Oriole Park is supposed to be the model for modern stadiums and RFK is supposed to be a tumbledown stopgap measure, but my experience at RFK was better because my view wasn't obstructed by a constant stream of people going up and down the stairs. It appeared to me that the view from about 10 seats around every upper deck stairwell in Oriole Park is ruined by a design error, which adds up to hundreds of seats. After a few innings of trying to see the batter through the comings and goings of everyone in the section, I moved higher up down the first base line.

RFK
RFK Stadium

I did like the atmosphere around Camden Yards better. Eutaw Street and the big warehouse beyond right field provide a fun atmosphere (and plenty of places to eat) before the game. The atmosphere around RFK is more urban, i.e. plenty of scalpers and hustlers.

Here are the five stadiums I made it to this summer.

  • RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. – Better than I expected. It dates from the early '60's and even though it doesn't have a roof it sort of reminds me of the Astrodome, which was built a few years later. I think they could renovate RFK and make it an OK place for baseball, but of course that's not what they intend to do.
  • Busch Stadium, St. Louis – It probably was the best of the '60's concrete bowls but its remaining lifespan is measured in weeks. The place was full of enthusiastic Midwesterners clad in red, and that will carry over to the new place.
  • Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City – A '70's departure from the ugly bowls, it was a precursor to the baseball-only stadiums of today. Although it is still a fine place to see a baseball game, problems are an awful team and a maintenance controversy with the county, which owns the stadium.
  • Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore – Now more than 10 years old, it helped inspire a flurry of ballpark building in other cities. The carnival beyond right field is fun and different, but the ballpark itself didn't give me a "Wow."
  • Miller Park, Milwaukee – Some of the new parks have retractable roofs, which prevent most weather cancellations but which are gloomy with the roof closed. Unfortunately the two games I saw there, the roof was closed. What I remember most about Miller Park is it had the most tailgating of any baseball park I've seen. It's as if Wisconsin fans use the baseball season as one long practice party before football starts.

Of the new parks, I came away with mixed feelings about Camden Yards and I didn't see Miller Park on its best day. I've been harking back to other ballparks I've seen over the years and they range from utilitarian to special. In addition to the five listed above, they include Baltimore (old), Minnesota (old and new), Houston (old and new), Chicago (both), Anaheim, Atlanta and New York (Yankee Stadium). But only one view in a baseball park gives me a "Wow" time after time – emerging from a tunnel at Fenway Park and having the Green Monster loom into view. Although there are a lot more bad seats than at Camden Yards, every baseball fan should save up their pennies (lots of pennies) and take a trip to Boston and Fenway Park once in their lives.

Although I am planning to take in a few Arizona Fall League games in November, that's the end of my MLB ticket buying for this year. Today I'm off to Ireland for two weeks.