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December 28, 2016

Fights were reported yesterday in malls across our country as people returned what they received the day before. Is the stress worth it, I wonder.

 

December 20, 2016

The winter solstice is imminent. Have you noticed days getting shorter?

 

December 19, 2016

The best advice I read recently was Don't go around looking for insults. We all are bound to feel offended if we search out snubs or slights.

 

December 9, 2016

Post-Truth: This is another popular buzzword. It is a shame that we can't read or listen to the news without researching for ourselves whether or not it's true.

***

If I didn't know from the calendar that it's wintertime, I certainly would know from the traffic. Every car sports a plate from out-of-state. Most of these motorists are more adept than our own home-grown drivers, who seem to have a relaxed approach to rules of the road.

 

December 8, 2016

Post-fact. This is a curious word. I've seen it in headlines describing the world we live in. How sad.

 

December 5, 2016

Happy St. Nicholas Day, ho ho...

     Carpets are shampooed, brass is polished, cut tree ready to trim. I'm ahead of the game.

     I've just returned from sliding in the snow at Willow Springs Lake (see pictures front page). There's nothing like snow to get me in a merry mood. I was the only one around due to the holidays and the weather: crisp. (We Zonies don't blink at 100°, but give us a day of 45 and we're ready for summer to return.)

     Last week I was at Woods Canyon Lake, a pleasant surprise. It has hiking trails, picnic and camping facilities, and a concession stand available during the season.

     I also went to Bartlett Lake one day when I was in Carefree. It's a desert lake, a reservoir.

     The sportsman in my family is thinking of taking up fishing and I wanted to scout the area lakes with him. Arizona Fish and Game keeps the lakes in Gila County stocked with trout; I see people catching them from the shores and piers--fair weather fishermen, mostly, although Woods Canyon had some activity, if you're thinking of joining them..

 

November 27, 2016

Loads of fishermen and their children were scattered along the shores of Woods Canyon Lake this Friday as I took in the splendor of nature in the high country. I had been to the deserted visitor look-out platform at the Mogollon Rim and was awed as usual by the magnitude of the Rim. I continued down the road and came upon road signs that led me to the lake. Serendipity!

     Camping on sidewalks for Black Friday bargains does have its socializing effects, I suppose, but nothing beats the splendor of nature. It has a humbling effect on me.

 

November 24, 2016

We had our first fireplace fires this week, along with driving hail and rain on one day. It reminded me of childhood in Wisconsin. Now we're back to sweater weather.

 

November 21, 2016

Like Nanook of the North is how I'm dressed on this cold and rainy day.

 

November 20, 2016

How we survived at 68° on our thermostat I will never know. As a child in Wisconsin, I thought I would never thaw out, not even in the humid summers. Yesterday, I caught the climate-controller in our family setting the thermostat at 79. (Of course, I turned it down.) It's funny: I look forward to cooler weather all year, escape to the mountains for a reprieve from the relentless desert sun, and after two days of pleasant cold, I'm ready for summer again.

     I'm not one who always wants what she doesn't have, nor do I wish away the days of my life by anticipating circumstances, I just must learn to dress for the season.

 

November 12, 2016

The Marine Corps 241st Anniversary seemed like a good time to hike around the East Verde River and I did just that. I kept seeing Hollywood Indians popping over the ridges. It was a good day to be outside in the sunshine and fresh air.

 

November 8, 2016

...like waiting for the other shoe to drop...

 

November 3, 2016

Reading Nicholas Sparks's Two By Two and Three Weeks With My Brother in reverse order of what he wrote them is revealing, especially his feelings about his wife, whom he divorced before he wrote the second one.

     ***

On the horizon, I see a storm approaching from the valley, so I am gone before the electricity is.

 

October 31, 2016

Boo!

     The pumpkin pictures on home page are from the current pumpkin display in Carefree. The artist carved some unique pumpkins this year and the kids seem to really enjoy it, too, even the big kids. If you locals haven't seen it yet, it's well worth a visit.

***

A bobcat and I saw each other at the same time this morning, about 10 feet apart on my patio. As I edged towards the door, I said very gruffly, "You go! You don't want me to hurt you, do you?" He looked baffled that someone should talk to him, but he turned around and left.

     I was wondering why all the birds had disappeared. There's always a reason.

***

It'll be nice when Hillary Clinton stops emailing me. I'm afraid to open emails from her for fear they're infected, or from Donald Trump.

 

October 27, 2016

Even as we are relieved when the election is over, will we have to prepare for an insurrection? Will Carefree mount a surprise attack on Cave Creek?

 

October 26, 2016

Migrant camps ware-housing about 7000 homeless people in Calais, France are being destroyed today. From an on-line map I see that the camps are near, but not adjacent to, the ferry terminal which I have been through many times on my way to or from the continent. Hoping to reach a haven in England, these folks are being re-housed in projects across France.

     This should not be a problem only for France. Doesn't our country have the means to change the conditions from which they flee?

 

October 25, 2016

Everybody was from somewhere else when I came to Arizona, except for Barry Goldwater. Our state seemed to be populated by retirees who were escaping harsh winters. Now there are several generations of Arizonans who were born here and our state is changing. Arizona has become a "purple" state, which I never thought I'd see happen. The GOP is losing its grip on us. Yea for diversity!

 

October 22, 2016

Released this month, Two by Two, a novel by Nicholas Sparks, was my reading material for the week-end. Recently divorced after a long-term marriage (both the author and the main character), it is full of raw emotions. It seems to accurate depict the characters but it left me feeling unsatisfied at the end. It's an easy read and I recommend it.

 

October 17, 2016

Samsung Galaxy Note 7: I understand you can actually make phone calls on it if it's not burning.

 

October 12, 2016

I never wish away the days of my life but I sure do wish this campaign were over.

 

October 9, 2016

The question I'm asking is how did we let him get so far? His character was self-evident his whole life. Was it because he's a rich old white guy that he can buy rich old white guys for yes men?  Did this delude him into thinking he could replace an honorable man?

     To be continued...

 

October 5, 2016

We all avoid paying income taxes (except Elvis Presley. According to rumor, he used to turn over his financial records to the IRS and tell them to take what they needed).  Years ago, when I figured my own tax returns, I kept every receipt possible and spent two weeks in April figuring out which expense was deductible. When I formed my corporation, I hired an accountant who does my personal return, also. I pay the least amount legally possible and I believe most Americans do, too.

     Tax avoidance is perfectly legal; tax evasion is not, as Al Capone learned.

     With so many places in our country that need tax dollars, we should figure out a different tax code that is morally better.

     This is not to defend either candidate. One of them flaunts what's wrong with the tax system; he's a good example of our poorly-evolved code.

 

October 4, 2016

The holiday we celebrate later this October began as All Hallow's Eve. When I was a kid, we

pronounced it to rhyme with hallow, not with hollow as it is so often pronounced today.

     Pumpkins and sweet potatoes are everywhere, as well as taffy apples, candy corn, and costumes. Isn't it great!

 

October 2, 2016

Now that the monsoon is officially over for 2016, it's raining every day.

     Real weather, not the calendar, used to predict the length of the monsoon. Instead of looking at the date on the calendar, we used to stick our heads out the window and have a look.

     I could, and did, set my watch by the monsoon. My employees left for home at 4:00PM (we closed at 5) so they could avoid flowing washes. For the same reason, I did my banking and post office chores in the early afternoon.

     Out-of-state plates are populating our roads and highways. Many of these drivers don't know how to drive in Arizona in the rain. Please remember that we have a Stupid Motorist Law (actual name) and drive safely.

 

October 1, 2016

I wish Donald Trump would stop calling here.

 

September 27, 2016

The debate last night left me feeling better about one of the candidates. It still baffles me how the other one can have any support, especially from respected sources.

 

September 24, 2016

Road kill and rainbow, cow and heron...I captured it all on "film" in lieu of fall foliage in the Rim Country. I stopped at Indian Ruins first and town lakes last; autumn is finally here in the Rim Country. It's good exploring weather when it's 75°. It was 38° outside when I woke up and I turned the furnace on for the first time this season.

 

September 21, 2016

Autumn is officially here and although we have high daytime temperatures in the desert areas, nights are cooler and in higher elevations it's downright cold. Oven mitts for driving are history for the rest of the year. We're in the sweet spot, where temperatures are good and there are no lines yet in stores nor reservations necessary at restaurants.

 

September 13, 2016

We get what we deserve is what I tend to think when pondering the national elections. Then I consider that we live in a republic (I pledge allegiance to the flag... and to the republic ....) which embraces  principles of democracy.  We elect representatives to take care of things so that we don't have to vote over every pot hole that needs fixing. They are our representatives and they failed to represent us. Or maybe they did represent us and I'm just a curmudgeon, dissatisfied with the national candidates. I can't conjure up a picture of the people these candidates represent.

 

September 12, 2016

A gaggle of geese was crossing the road in front of me. My car was first in a line of traffic stopped in both directions to let the birds safely saunter their way between lakes on either side of the road. Clear air carrying the scent of pine trees, sunshine, fowl playing in the lakes... many of our troubles seem self-inflicted. I need to get out in nature more often; the season is accommodating.

 

September 7, 2016

We are not alone in considering a wall to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing the border. Calais, France has harbored (no pun intended) immigrants from war-torn countries, immigrants who seek a safer life in Britain. They even have a "permanent" camp not far from the English Channel. They create havoc by jumping onto trucks "lorries" that are waiting to board cross-channel ferries; they sneak atop Eurostar; they try to float their way across the Channel on flotsam and jetsam...

     Perhaps with these borders we should alleviate the suffering these desperate people endure at home so that they won't need to escape. It's easier said than done, I suppose.

 

September 5, 2016

Kudos to our Senator Jeff Flake for having some backbone. I realize he is not up for re-election but it takes courage to renounce one's party's candidate for president. Now if our other senator—the one that got captured—would be forthright and that it is okay not to support the nominee... he's running again this season and can't risk being a maverick.

 

August 31, 2016

As you pack for the Labor Day Week-end, please keep safety in mind. Make happy memories, too.

Kathy Noltze

August 30, 2016

In the desert we have plenty of hot days ahead of us but I am already seeing signs of autumn in the Rim Country and we are lighting candles at night. Yea autumn!

 

August 22, 2016

Once again our house eluded the dust storm that rolled into the Valley ahead of the rain. We got wet, though.  I think it's the topography that keeps us free. Please drive safely in these dust stormsavoid driving completely, if you can. Always remember the Stupid Motorist Law (actual name).

 

August 11, 2016

Delta's power outage this week was the sort of event that kept me on my toes when my company was in retail travel. My staff could work their hardest to design the perfect vacation, the customer could do everything right on his end, and then factors which we don't control would interfere with everything. Factors such as planes being diverted in Denver because of bad weather were commonplace, although thinking about weather problems in Arizona was not commonplace to the lay person.

     National disasters, such as a plane crash or the events of 9-11, created long, long days for us.

     Delta's operations are getting back to normal as they handle logistics of staff and passengers and aircraft stranded around the world.    

 

August 8, 2016

Air traffic to Europe from the USA is down 14% according to the latest statistic I read. Instead of squishing into cramped seats and holding our bladders for eleven hours, we are buying refrigerators and cars and cheap fuel. Maybe the airlines will finally catch on that for most of their passengers, air travel is discretionary. We buy other things. Playing around with fares is not the answer: comfort is.

     Make the travel experience enjoyable again; otherwise, it's just transportation.

 

August 3, 2016

There must be an umbrella over my house, because the devastating rains in Cave Creek yesterday skirted my house and we received not a drop. I could see the rain nearby.

***

Rain drenched my world this afternoon. I was able to stay inside, and we had no storm damage. From the news coverage, it looks dreadful.

 

July 28, 2016

Here's a unique idea, Mr. Candidate for President:  Instead of blaming the media for misinterpreting or the public for misunderstanding what you say, say what you mean and say it clearly.

 

July 26, 2016

Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened gave me some insight into people with mental illness and made me more empathetic to their plight. It's hilarious, a good read for a hot afternoon in the desert.

 

July 25, 2016

Spending their vacations in queue: delays at the Port of Dover in Kent continue as arrival crowds clog the halls at Heathrow. Passport checks are being blamed. In typical bureaucratic fashion, authorities move extra manpower to Heathrow from Dover.

     Pundits hope this is not due to Brexit (;).

     If I were planning another British vacation. I'd skip London altogether. Don't count on entering from Ireland, though, as Ryanair is cutting their service.

     Skip England and Europe altogether, is my advice, and consider a staycation.    

 

July 24, 2016

Dover to Calais was my favorite route to get to the Continent from Britain. Taking a Hovercraft, SeaCat, or ferry used less travel time than going to the airport, Heathrow or Gatwick, or going to Ashford to catch Eurostar. Now the Dover-Calais way is not an option because of the backlog; they've run out of fuel and food due to the immense crowds. (I suspect BREXIT is behind this.)

     London itself is a nightmare currently. Negotiating the Underground "tube" is impossible because of larger crowds using it instead of driving the parking-lot streets. If I were there right now, I'd worry about a terrorist attack, which would kill more people than an airport attack. Seeing the sights of London at the moment is not a good plan.

     One should consider broader Britain, get familiar with train travel, and skip London altogether this time. The Hayes and Harlington connection at Heathrow is a secret.     

 

July 17, 2016

Rusty mufflers on second-hand cars were a chunk of my childhood in Wisconsin. Wheel wells, tail pipes, and much of the body were expected to be rusty by the time the car was 6-7 years old. This is the age the cars were when my father purchased them for our daily use.

     My father patched them up as best he could, replacing rusty old mufflers with slightly less rusty newer junkyard mufflers. I had the tedious task of standing by to hand tools to him as he worked under the car.

     Given this history, it is all the more incredible that today I drive a 30-year-old car that doesn't have a speck of rust on it. If one spots a rusty car in Arizona, one knows that it comes with out-of-state plates on it. A few years ago after a snowfall in the mountains, a woman was almost tarred and feathered for suggesting that we salt the roads.

     My car passes Arizona's emissions tests and the mechanic in our family keeps all four cylinders running efficiently, so it has less of an impact on our environment than new SUVs.

     When I'm driving alone, stopped at an intersection, invariably some yahoo comes along and revs his engine at me, suggesting we drag-race. Mentally, I just give him the stink-eye for, which of my  30-year-old cylinders do you want to race?

     Today we were driving a winding mountain road when a car pulled up alongside mine. It was the same make as mine, but thirty years newer and worth about $100,000 more. He was scoping out my car. He was probably envious.

 

July 16, 2016

Found: a set of keys inside a wall being remodeled at my place in the mountains. I wonder what they open.

***

Craters of the moon were especially vivid last night as I star-gazed through a telescope in the high country, where night skies are still dark and stars are bright.

 

July 13, 2016

No matter how cynical I am when reading our news, I am always shocked. Reminder: check with our State Department for travel warnings if you are going overseas. Link is on home page of this website.

 

July 12, 2016

The number one blunder that people should realize they've made after returning home pooped from an international leisure trip is that they've hauled around too much luggage. Even when they pay porters to handle it for them, travelers must take their own luggage through Customs. They will find themselves carrying their luggage many times throughout their journeys abroad.

     Intrepid travelers know that their suitcase won't have the same selection as their closet and they plan their travel wardrobe accordingly. They also leave behind modern conveniences like eyelash curlers. Most hotels have hairdryers. Most foreign countries actually have stores: one can always buy more shampoo if the TSA allotted bottle size is not enough, and shopping is part of the cultural experience. Whatever you think you need to pack can be purchased abroad; you'll be surprised how little you need.

     Don't put constraints on your travel by taking more luggage that you can sensibly handle by yourself, even if you have an obliging spouse to carry it.

     Pack light, then a bonus will be that unpacking will be a breeze. 

 

July 11, 2016

David Cameron is still in office and already they are going to swear in a new person for prime minister in England. Theresa May is expected to become Prime Minister on Wednesday. I seldom envy the British Isles but their short campaign season is nice. It beats getting two years of robo-calls.

 

July 10, 2016

We had my favorite meal tonight: revil. The picky eater in our family doesn't like liver, so we cut it up in little pieces, cook it with onions and mushrooms, pour it over brown rice, and call it revil. He asks for seconds.

***

Sometimes the national news is too appalling to mention.  It seems like shades of the '60s.

 

July 7, 2016

Wisconsin State Fair is on right now. If I were up there, I'd head over for more stuff on a stick.

 

June 28, 2016

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith is well-written and kept me glued to the book. It is for me, though, unsatisfying. Spoiler alert: I like happy endings. Robert Galbraith, we know, is the pseudonym for J. K. Rowling. I hope she does a sequel to this Cormoran Strike trilogy (would that make it a quadrulogy?).

 

June 25, 2016

I have only vague ideas about Brexit issues, but I don't believe one should have an immediate revote simply because one doesn't like the result of the first vote.

 

June 22, 2016

When lukewarm water comes out of the cold water tap no matter how long you run it, you know that it's summer in the desert. You gotta love it.

 

June 20, 2016

Today is the summer solstice, the longest daylight of the year. It is when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, the most northerly point on its journey before it heads south again. What we need here in the desert is more sunlight. We had 118° today; I remember when we reached 122° in 1990 —the first time they ever closed Sky Harbor Airport due to weather; back then, charts only went to l20° and pilots didn't know what to do at 122. (I think I'll have another beverage while I watch the sunset.) When you're hot, you're hot.

 

June 19, 2016

After Maeve Binchy died in 2012, her husband Gordon Snell began publishing collections of short stories she had written. Thus we are able to enjoy her "new" works even today. A Few of the Girls entertains greatly and is an easy read.

 

June 18, 2016

It was 46° in the Rim country when I woke this morning. By noon it was 95. I point this out to you not because I am a better weather predictor than the professionals (sometimes I am) but to say that you should not waste sympathy on my plight. My day encompasses a range of weather and topography, not just desert.

     On the way to Cave Creek today, I saw a Harris Hawk scoop up road kill. Thus continues the cycle of life...poor rabbit.

 

June 15, 2016

I'm told that I talk to myself in my sleep. This is rational: I have an attentive audience and an interesting speaker.

***

My caller ID rejects many robo calls from the campaign. If you need to contact me, leave a message or email me, which is a faster way—the phone is a landline and is good for screening calls when I'm not at my desk.

     Regarding the campaign: It looks like it is coming to picking the lesser of two evils.

 

June 7, 2016

David Baldacci's The Last Mile is well-researched. It is relevant to our lives in view of recent news stories about erroneous criminal convictions and the death penalty. Baldacci's method of spinning a tale keeps me fascinated with his stories.

 

May 30, 2016

Love & Friendship with Kate Beckinsale was a good way to kick off the Memorial Day weekend. It is a period piece that is at times hilarious, real British humor. It is from Jane Austen's book. The sets and costumes are captivating and the acting awesome.

 

May 24, 2016

Articles critical of the TSA were my morning's read and I have to agree with them: TSA is for show. I am not complaining of my recent experience at Sky Harbor or at Heathrow. Both airports had low passenger count or efficient systems or relaxed standards. I've said many times that TSA at the airport is just for show, to make fliers feel better about flying. I am correct, judging from many reports about how many weapons are allowed through Security.

     We have no way of knowing precisely how many tragedies this show has prevented: even one terrorist activity is enough to justify the program. However, we do know that it inconveniences every passenger. Also, looking at photos of recent lines for security checks, I'd say a terrorist would get more bang for his buck if he'd forget about bombing a plane and just bomb the Security line.

 

May 19, 2016

We should not have to pay the government for something for which we already pay, like going through Security checks. That is one of the reasons I did not sign up for PreCheck. It's supposed to get you through faster but in my most recent experience, when the PreCheck line was short, they dipped into regular lines for passengers.

     Here's a suggestion to quicken the lines: For most passengers, there is an advance-purchase time during which the government could snoop around passenger lists as much as it wants. Give thorough security checks to suspicious characters on those lists and to passengers buying a last-minute ticket, especially if it's one-way.

 

May 18, 2016

Roadrunners mate for life. This might be why I haven't seen the female roadrunner since we buried her mate's carcass this week.

 

May 15, 2016

Foreign newspapers have a different viewpoint on US news so I often peruse British newspapers online to see what they think of us. Today's papers surprised me as I found myself reading negative news about Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio to be exact.  Foreigners must think we're a bunch of buffoons here in Arizona.

 

May 14, 2016

We buried the roadrunner today. I discovered his carcass on a footpath. Apparently he was there for quite some time before I discovered him because there were no entrails, only bones and feathers. As I was looking at him, his woman came within ten feet and cooed mournfully. As we buried him, she sat on the chimney and continued to coo. Everyone loves someone.

 

May 13, 2016

In the past, standing in Security lines at Heathrow I was always able to pick out the Americans in the long lines. We were the ones without shoes.

     I'm happy to acknowledge that time spent in line was much shorter as we didn't have to disrobe as much: we could keep our belts, jewelry, scarves, and jackets on as well as our shoes in Heathrow. We still have to go shoeless through Security in Phoenix, though.

 

May 2, 2016

There is a backlash against Smartphone. It seems employers are balking at company-owned time wasted by employees checking their email and text messages. Consumers are balking at cost: $650 vs. $8 for a flip phone and $100+ vs. $30 monthly access/usage fees. I'm proud to say that I've never owned one; I bought my only flip phone when I started commuting across long stretches of the desert driving an older car. It's seldom used but it's there for emergencies. When the rest of the world was abandoning old-fashioned flip phones, I saw a need for one.

     It's not that I don't embrace technologyI travel with a tablet—but that I don't live my life online. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I had children or a job that required constant connection. For now, I'll embrace my landline.    

 

April  26, 2016

Seldom do I vote along party lines in national elections. Candidates promise everything, even if they know they can't deliver. Too much of what they are promising is beyond the candidate's control, like having a do-nothing Congress or a natural disaster. In the end, it's not the platform that matters.

     When I'm trying to decide for whom to vote, I look at the decisions made in the personal life of the person seeking office. I look at the character of the candidate and why he/she wants the job: to improve my life or to attain some personal goal.

     So far, neither of the frontrunners gets my vote. I hope somebody else throws a hat in the ring, somebody who inspires my confidence and who also can realistically get elected.

 

April 20, 2016

There is an article on MSN's front page today that rates the healthiest county in each state. The criteria they use are obesity rates and insurance coverage, smoking, etc. as compared to the rest of the state. In Arizona, Maricopa County is number 1. This is not surprising, as we have so few counties. What did startle me, though, was that in Wisconsin the top county is Ozaukee. They say good education and low smoking and obesity rates as compared to the rest of the Badgers are what pushed it to the top. I have more and more for which to be thankful.

 

April 16, 2016

Toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant...the list of products we put on our bodies goes on and on. It's not as if we meet someone and he thinks, "Hey, she smells like a mint bush." More like it is that we smell like fake lemon or like a pharmacy with competing stenches.

     I read the EWG before trying a new product. This is the government website that rates products according to how dangerous they are to wear. For instance, nail polish remover is amongst the worst in the world as far as cancer-causing agents in it. (They do not rate how effective the product is, just how bad it is for us and the environment.) With countless products, it's the ingredients that cause smell that make the product dangerous. If the manufacturer would take out the fake scent, the product would no longer be hazardous

     We can't get away from using smelly products entirely, but we can stop sniffing them as we apply them. When we do product reviews on line, we can stop encouraging companies by praising the fragrance. 

     If you are in a position to make product changes in a company, please eliminate the fake aroma.

 

April 11, 2016

My world was rinsed off yesterday as it rained a gentle drizzle most of the day. We had gone 66 days without rain, not a record but plenty of time for desert dust to settle, cloaking the landscape. Now we have a million shades of green again.

 

April 8, 2016

The family mechanic had the hood up on our urban warfare vehicle (parking at the airport, hauling brush etc.) this morning, changing the oil. A tow truck stopped in our driveway and began unwinding its winch. Mechanic politely inquired what the driver intended to do and they both had a good laugh when they realized he was at the wrong house.  A few minutes later, the truck was seen departing a house down the road with a vehicle in tow. The vehicle was similar to ours in looks but 18 years newer. There's a lesson to be learned here.

***

Craig Johnson writes another entertaining story with his Dry Bones. He is the master of modern western mysteries. In this book, the characters aren't as vulgar in their speech as in previous novels. A few off-color remarks make a point, but expletives for their own sake is needless.

 

April 4, 2016

The BBC carried a story online today about the five sunniest cities in the world as ranked by a group of professional meteorologists. The #1 sunniest city in the world: Phoenix, Arizona. This comes as no surprise to me but my hunch was verified: we have the sunniest dispositions also. It's hard to be glum when it's sunny outside.

 

March 30, 2016

You're not supposed to know about Heathrow's local trains. You are supposed to travel and pay for the train to Paddington (London) even if your itinerary doesn't include London. Check out National Rail schedules from Heathrow to any point west, south, or northwest. They always route you through Paddington at a much higher fare. Then your ticket might return you through Heathrow en route to your destination.

     Personally, I avoid London, not that I am tired of it but because there are so many more sights to see in Britain, even if it's just lounging on the seashore, watching the Channel traffic.

     Check out schedules on National Rail from Hayes & Harlington. It's a five-minute train ride from Heathrow's Terminal 3 and even at £6.10 for that segment, you'll save on the fare if you are going to points west, like Windsor or Bath. You will not be able to buy a through ticket, as the station in Heathrow can only sell Hayes & Harlington tickets or the Heathrow Express to London. Buy your ticket to Windsor or Bath at the Hayes & Harlington station.   

 

March 29, 2016

If you haven't firmed up your summer travel plans yet, please be aware that our State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert and a Europe travel alert (I guess they're not part of this world). The Europe warning is valid until June 20, 2016. See travel warnings link on front page of this website. Read the warnings, heed them, but don't stop traveling or the terrorists win. Being out of one's normal environment is enriching.

 

March 25, 2016

Dreaming of last night's Scrabble game, I woke up laughing this morning: I finally found a word that I can use both a q and a v in: quiver. It's a handy birthday gift, also, for when he has to carry some arrows around.

 

March 24, 2016

Some horrors are too awful to dwell on, like the ghastliness that is unfolding in Belgium. To think about it is to relive it, even if reliving is by mind's eye.

     Even in my own life, I prefer to relive the good moments and not linger on the bad, other than to learn by them and then try to prevent a recurrence.

 

March 19, 2016

A walk around the lake was on the program for St. Patrick's Day. People were fishing, lovers were holding hands, people wore green because everyone was Irish for the day.

     Arizona Fish and Game must have stocked the lake recently. At one point, I stopped to watch a couple guys and their offspring cast their rods. One little boy followed the boat ramp into the water to see how deep he could go before his boots filled with water. Just before the fatal step, his father turned and yanked him out of the lake.

     The drive to Cave Creek yesterday took me through several gorgeous natural places along the Beeline Highway. Daisies, globemallow and other wildflowers gave a festive air to the drive. I was reminded of many of the wonderful places I've seen in Arizona, like the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. One time, my escort fell down Meteor Crater. He was video-taping the crater and not watching his step. The youngster on the dirt trail behind him, startled that he was there one moment and gone the next, located him on his knees a few feet down the trail and said, "Sir, are you okay?" Nothing was bruised but the knees of his new pants, and his ego for being addressed as sir.

     His pants were turned into cut-offs and referred to ever after as his crater pants.

 

March 16, 2016

Airline fees continue to rise even as profits surge.

 

March 11, 2016

This is to remind our winter visitors that Arizona does not spring ahead when the rest of the country changes to Daylight Saving Time. You might say that time stands still for us.

     As a side note:  Sources that ought to know have said that changes in time zones are not generally good for us. It has something to do with the circadian rhythm. I wonder what to think about the 8+ hours of changed zones going to Europe twice a year. Worse still are those schedules of flight attendants and crew on that 11-hour flight.  British Airways had its crew on an interesting schedule when they flew to San Diego: It was Heathrow to Phoenix, overnight stay, Phoenix-San Diego-Phoenix overnight stay the next day, then Phoenix to Heathrow flying overnight to complete a full week's work. They were never in the same time zone for a full day.   

 

March 10, 2016

Voicemail records missed calls on one phone, answering machine does it on my landline. Maybe now that the Democratic debates are over, Bernie Sanders will stop calling. (This is not an endorsement of Hillary—I'm not enthusiastic about any of the candidates.)

 

March 8, 2016

The Road to Little Dribbling by Iowa's own Bill Bryson is a droll read and as I did with most other Bryson books, I read it slowly, so that I could enjoy the humor and the descriptions of various venues in the UK. It depicts a real trip along an imaginary line, the Bryson Line, although he strays from it considerably. I laughed out loud many times. I learned a lot. I relived British trips and planned future ones. This is a very good read.

 

March 6, 2016

With woe I read this morning that my favorite chain pub in the UK is no longer going to have Sunday roast on its menus. In my early days of travel, Wetherspoon's was a favorite haunt during cold weather when I couldn't eat a ham bun in a park by the Thames. I knew I could always get a hot meal at a reasonable price in that pub. Sunday carvery at Wetherspoon's was a special treat at the end of a trek around Kent or a traipse through the Cotswolds. Like the song says, ♪♫♪all good things must  end sometime♫♪♫. I'll still frequent the pub, though soup and a bap or cream tea will suffice.

***

The dollar is down against the euro and the pound. There are still bargains.

 

February 29, 2016

Happy Leap Day to everyone. I hope you are doing something special with this extra day of the year. At our house, the fun guy has plans for us in the valley.

***

The dollar gets stronger and stronger overseas. Apparently, this is a omen for world economies but it's great for American travelers abroad.

 

February 26, 2016

Maggie Smith was the attraction for me in The Lady in the Van. She did not disappoint. This is a true story about a "bag lady" who takes up residence in a van in writer Alan Bennett's driveway...for fifteen years. Seeing Camden Town invoked memories, as did references to places to which I've been in England. This is not an action-packed blood and guts movie. It's more like a slice of life, and you should see it.

***

The dollar is the strongest today that I've ever seen it against both the euro and the pound. Check rates and go!

 

February 25, 2016

An oxymoron is incongruous words, words that belie other words. This is a case of actions that belie words: I recently saw a photo of a person I hadn't seen in decades. Looking at the photo, I thought she was a clown. I remember long ago discussing with her the sorrows of the youth culture, and here in the photo it was obvious that she had done everything fashionable to appear young: dyed hair, fish lips (also known as ass lips due to whence the pumped fat comes), and cosmetic eye surgery. I deduced from the photo that she'd also done stuff that wasn't immediately apparent in the photo: chemical peel, botox pumping, facelift...  This from a woman who once preached to the choir about family values after she divorced (later regretting the divorce).

     If artificial enhancement makes her feel good about herself, then I'm all for it. Maybe looking like a clown is her goal. Has dyed hair ever deceived you about someone's age? She fools no one: a stranger she might meet doesn't think she's a teen-ager. He thinks she's an old lady with dyed hair.

     Shouldn't we be allowed to look the best, not the youngest, at the age we're at?

***

With airlines making billions (yes, billions) of dollars profit due to low oil prices, Southwest Airlines does the obvious thing: it raises fares.

 

February 16, 2016

Ideally, a Supreme Court justice is unbiased or should be able to put his/her biases aside in order to rule impartially. It should not matter when the justice is appointed. You can't convince me that a new president, upon taking office, will immediately be more informed about applicants than our current president.

 

February 9, 2015

Mea Culpa doesn't cut it. You may be sorry your bias was displayed to the world, but not that you have it.  Like Mel Gibson and Michael Richards, no matter how much you genuflect, we know how you really feel.

 

February 8, 2016

You say we are supposed to vote for politicians based on their genitalia? Give me a break from your rhetoric, Steinem, Albright and Clinton. All of us have had struggles to get to where we are, and we just deal with them as they appear; if someone throws a roadblock in my lane, I walk around it. Issues of this country are what matter to me: immigration, gun control, climate change, poverty, pollution... How will you handle these problems better than the other candidates? Is the answer based on whether you have a penis or not?

     It will be nice to be past the presidential election this year (although I am not wishing away the days of my life). Everyone seems to promise anything.

 

February 5, 2016

The airlines don't seem to understand what a miserable affair it is to travel by air. Flying used to be part of the fun of travel; now it is something we must endure to get to our destination. I'm thinking in particular of long-haul flights, but every passenger must go through that stripping/groping experience of Security (no wonder travelers dress so casually: who'd deliberately dress nicely in order to be stripped in Security). Then, if we've allowed ourselves enough time for long Security lines, we must endure a lengthy wait in the departure lounge. Then we are crammed into small spaces and tolerate the flight. The overseas flights from Sky Harbor are typically 11-12 hours in the air, not counting taxiing time. From the point I leave home through the commute to the airport, the airport experience, flight, and Customs at the other end and commute to my hotel, I have put in a 24-hour day. It's even longer for connecting passengers. (Don't get me going about flight delays and missed connections.)

      The least an airline can do is make the flight more tolerable. Some of us have already opted for a new refrigerator instead of an airline ticket. Leisure travelers can use their discretion on what to purchase and there are a lot of hawkers telling us what to buy. Instead of airline transportation, a perishable commodity, we may all buy consumer goods. 

 

February 4, 2016

Airlines are making more profit than they have for decades; they are now giving us pretzels. How about some leg room instead?

 

February 2, 2016

Frost covered my world when I awoke this morning. That's not news in most of our country, but it is in Arizona. TV weather forecasters actually get excited if they have something to forecast other than more "sunny and warm."

     Iowa is over. I should take more interest in politics but it seems like it's the "same old same old."

 

February 1, 2016

If you've ever wondered how Americans are perceived by folks overseas, here's a point of view of many Brits. This was written in support of an educator who was tired of seeing parents in pajamas drop off their kids at school and she had been criticized for being a snob. The author, Alex Proud, compares these slovenly parents to Americans: If you visit a British shopping centre nowadays, the only real differences between it and a mall in the Midwest are that the Yanks are more likely to be armed and less likely to be drunk.  They laugh at Americans.

     I'm sorry to see  that they have such a low opinion of us. I, too, have noted how the world has become more casual. I've been squeezed between two bare-legged men on airplanes (a germ-ridden conveyance even without shoeless cargo-shorted tee-shirted men). Maybe if the women would cover their tattooed rolls of fat that hang over their jeans, they would feel better about themselves and this would morph over to the men in their lives. The author, writing in today's Telegraph, points out that it costs less to buy a nice shirt and pants than it does to buy a tee shirt with his favorite team's logo.

     I don't think we need to go as far as uniforms for school children, but perhaps we should have a dress code for their parents. How can we possibly expect our teen-age daughters to care about themselves by covering their cleavage if we don't cover our own?

 

January 30, 2016

A Wisconsin car leap-frogged mine as we came down the from the Rim Country on the Beeline Highway yesterday. We had been up there to assess damage from the recent snowstorm (another storm is predicted in a few days). As the other car passed us for the zillionth time, the driver in our family read the logo from whence the car was purchased. We broke out simultaneously into the jingle from Ernie von Schloedorn, Main Street in Menomonee Falls. ♪♫♪♫

     It's funny how a ditty from your childhood can stay with you for decades. I remember a sentence from a Donna Reed Show: character Jeff was trying out names for the band he was forming and suggested Digit Dialing and the Busy Signals. (Cutting edge of technology.)

 

January 27, 2016

I find myself unwittingly changing my style of make-up. It's not a result of the current trend away from the "made-up" look but it coincides with it. (Lucky me: every decade or so I look fashionable.)

 

January 24, 2016

The pie-eater in our family likes for me to accompany him when he goes into town for fresh vegetables and fruit. He always parks near the entrance that takes me first thing past the bakery, where I stop to check the sale price of pie: apple, cherry, blueberry, pumpkin... Sometimes I even buy when there's no sale. Anyway, that door at Sprouts is now affectionately known as The Pie Door.

     No, I do not feel guilty about our Chamber of Commerce weather because I know that summer is coming here eventually. I do feel sorry for the Cardinals playing in Charlotte today.

 

January 23, 2016

The Cardinals are going to have a rare experience on the East Coast this week-end.

 

January 21, 2016

To follow the stock market fluctuations is to cause vertigo.

 

January 12, 2016

Red, white, and blue candles set the mood for tonight's SOTU address.

 

January 6, 2016

It's a matter of perspective: On this rainy, dreary day in the desert, college football fans are pouring into the Valley and thinking that the weather is balmy.

 

January 1, 2016

Munich, New Year's Eve 1991: I heard the trample of a mob thundering up to the top floor of my hotel, so naturally I followed. Nobody understood my command of the German language, but I soon saw what attracted the masses: at midnight, the skyline rippled from fireworks and it seemed as if the whole earth was hopping.

     New Year's Eve, 2015: media reports that two train stations in Munich are closed due to terrorist activity. We hop to terrorists.

 

December 31, 2015

It's like waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the new year to begin. I know it's inevitable. The joy of the coming clean slate is tampered by nostalgia for the old year. It was a good one.

 

December 26, 2015

It's the day after Christmas and I don't have to be good anymore.

 

December 24, 2015

When I was a teen-ager, my boss uttered some words that I still find true and by which I've lived. He said that people fall out of love all the time but they never fall out of hate. Always before dislike can turn into hatred, I remove myself from the situation. It hasn't happened often over the span of my lifetime, but if it seems as if my very existence is a thorn in someone's side, I step away so that I can live as I want and the other person doesn't have the annoyance that can so easily turn into anger and hatred. It's contagious and I won't return the hatred.

     In my career and travels, I've met so many beautiful people who are far different from me and yet they, too, are happy with life and the decisions they've made. I hope you are one of them.

***

Tonight: festivities! Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate and best wishes to all of you.

 

December 21, 2015

This, the shortest day of 2015, carries a long agenda as I finish year-end business and tax items.

     The house is decorated inside and out, the tree is trimmed, packages wrapped, baking in the works...  I am prepared.

***

Eurostar travels are returning to normal after repairs were made on a broken track under the English Channel. If you are traveling this route soon, check their website for updates.

 

December 14, 2015

Last Class is what fliers have dubbed coach class because of the cramped seating and lack of amenities and civility. I believe that we have only ourselves to blame for the shoddy housing and service; many years ago, we voted with our wallets. We always voted for fares and schedules or schedules and fares. We continue to buy the cheapest ticket available, and we accept the fees and service airlines give us.

 

December 13, 2015

Kudos to Jeff Flake for visiting a Muslim mosque here in Scottsdale and assuring the congregation that we are not all Donald Trumps. Even though he's Republican, he gets my vote.

 

December 12, 2015

A banshee is a mythical Irish spirit that appears before death of someone in the family and wails loudly. When I had a toilet that screamed like a banshee (you could hear it in the next county), I jiggled the handle. The plumber in the family saw me do that once too often and he cleaned the intake valves of water crud built up over the decades. Now I flush in silence.

 

December 9, 2015

Who would have thought that the ideal Christmas gift comes from Smith & Wesson? (Not under my tree this year.)

     This is a difficult time for the gourmet in our family as he tries to bounce the bathroom scale down to an acceptable number.

 

December 8, 2015

On Hwy 87 on the way to the Rim Country is a road sign which points the way to Gisela, Arizona. This community is about five miles off the highway near Rye, Arizona. It has 534 inhabitants. Legends about it are interesting. The school teacher was married to the postmaster. When it came time to name the town for U. S. Postal Service delivery, the postmaster stuck his head in the classroom and asked his wife if she had any ideas about it. The kids chorused "Gisela" after the character in a book they were reading. Gisela it became.

     The only problem was that the kids did not know how to pronounce the name. They said "Guy- SEE-la" and so became the pronunciation of the town.

 

December 6, 2015

With my portable reading lamp, three cameras, a tablet computer, and a seldom-used flip phone, I am all charged up.

 

December 2, 2015

E coli outbreak: Food from Walmart, Target, Starbucks, Costco and others was recalled by the FDA in fifteen states. Arizona is one of them. Celery seems to be the culprit. Don't buy chicken salad or macaroni salad at these establishments. See your newspaper for more info.

     I'm sure glad we have people looking after our health.

 

December 1, 2015

In the summertime, an aunt from Tucson used to visit in Wisconsin. She intended to get out of Arizona heat in the summer and into Wisconsin's cool. She was always cold when she was here.

     Now I know how she felt. It was 32° when I awoke this morning in Cave Creek and I feel like I'm in Wisconsin where one never thaws out. Everything in the house is cold to the touch even though we kept the thermostat at 72° (my parents kept theirs at 68°). I've been in the desert too long.

     Today is a day to prepare for festivities of the month.

 

November 23, 2015

The US has issued a worldwide travel alert effective immediately until February. We should avoid public congregations (including events) and be vigilante on public transportation (I use a lot when traveling). See our State Department (link on this homepage) for details.

     Our free society is a little less free.

 

November 21, 2015

72° isn't what it used to be, as I found myself setting the thermostat up a notch in the high country. It was 28 outside when I awoke yesterday morning and we'd had snow, but it melted before I had to shovel it. This is Arizona.

 

November 18, 2015

Seen on a truck's license plate today: Bobstrk. Does that mean Bob's truck or Bob struck?

     Why does Joe Biden keep sending me emails?

 

November 15, 2015

Arizona has an amalgamation of drivers from around the country and around the world. Especially now are the driving habits of out-of-staters evident as our snowbird population increases. By design, the nearest freeway to my house is about 15 miles away. On it, motorists seem to think that speed limit signs are just a suggestion.

     Now comes news that a driverless car was stopped for going too slowly. One of my winter visitors did that once. Now I don't lend my chariot to anybody. I don't want a citation from the Motor Vehicle Department.

 

November 14, 2015

I remembered that I must winterize the cottage. Turning off the water and water heater in case of a power outage and turning the thermostat down was about the extent of it today. However, the auto mechanic in our family grumbled something about thick oil when the jalopy protested the cold.

     With winter comes snowbird season and it was impossible to get a table at our favorite restaurant so we settled for second-best.

***

From the perspective of a European traveler, I suggest avoiding big cities, like London and Paris, and large congregations of people. After seeing the major cities of Europe, I'm drawn to remoter areas anyway because of the ambience; now they appear to have a layer of safety also.

 

November 8, 2015

Nicholas Sparks is the king of romantic mysteries and his latest book See Me lives up to standard. It has more action than some of his previous novels. It's a good read.

 

November 7, 2015

In shades of Wisconsin, I dressed in layers this week-end because of freezing temperatures. It's awkward, not at all like the carefree days of summer one usually associates with Arizona. We even had frost on the patio and snow on the mountaintops. I remembered what it was like to feel as if I'd never thaw out. I view with suspicion the only thing the previous owner left behind: a snow shovel.

 

October 31, 2015

Flagstaff is expecting snow this week-end, which means we may get it in the Rim Country. Meanwhile, the chauffeur in our family is gloating because he purchased gasoline for his chariot with coupons he had collected and paid only $1.47/gallon, an unheard of price this century.

***

Reminder: time stands still in Arizona—no daylight savings time changes.

 

October 27, 2015

Sequels are seldom as good as the story they're based upon, in my experience. In the case of Jojo Moyes with her latest book After You I was pleasantly surprised. She stayed true to the characters she created in Me Before You. I found myself caring again about the people in the story. I'm a fan.

 

October 25 2015

There were an awful lot of tire treads on the road going up the mountains, too many for this time of year. One would think we were in the throes of summer.

     It was in the high thirties when I woke up this morningshades of Wisconsin!and I'm glad we have mild changes in season, unlike our northern climates.

 

October 22, 2015

With last night's rain came cooler temperatures in our desert areas; autumn has finally arrived at my main home. We've got 8 months of good weather ahead before summer comes again and the birds at Green Valley Park pose for my photos.

 

October 20, 2015

We have the illusion of knowledge because of all the information that is available to us on the internet and in books and other sources. That is why we elect such incompetent leaders, especially here in Arizona. (It seems to me that if a candidate makes repeated mistakes in his/her personal life, this is an indicator of how he/she will do in elected office.) We will never have all the information that is available to our heads of state, so we have to do our best at the election booths by choosing someone with a good track record, even if it's only a personal one.

     Which makes me wonder why some of these candidates on the national level think they can fill the shoes of our great presidents.

***

The last time it hailed here in Cave Creek, I was left with several broken windows. Last night's storm left no permanent damage.

***

I'm doing my spring cleaning in the fall. Not just closets, but hidey holes (under the staircase, shelves in the laundry room, corners of wardrobes...) are getting scrutinized. I suppose that most people have a yard sale every ten years or so when they move. Instead, I acquire another house to hold the overflow of 30 years in one location, accumulating office equipment when I phased out retail (remembering how hard I worked to pay for that equipment) and combining furniture when I closed a vacation property. I commented to the stasher in our family that it's amazing what we saved just because we have room to save it. Who types letters anymore? Out with the electric typewriter. Why are we storing this scannerit doesn't work with any of our current computers. Tape deck? 8-track cassettes? Film camera?

     Without moving house I'm gradually getting a roomy house again.

 

October 12, 2015

Are we supposed to celebrate Columbus Day? It seems nefarious in view of what our ancestors did to Native Americans by driving them out of their country. Still, other ethnic groups have been driven out of their countries (look at what's happening right now in Syria) and we haven't called their descendants to task for the deeds of the ancestors.

     Others had discovered this continent before Christopher Columbus but it had always been hushed up. Columbus brought us into the New World or we may have grown up in Europe or Africa.

 

October 6, 2015

Flying bunk beds: It's a proposed new way to get more passengers on a flight. Less leg room but now we are stacked.

     We asked for it ourselves by demanding cheaper air fares above comfort.

     Thus far, it's only in the proposal stage.

     Discretionary travel, in my opinion, should be discreetly canceled. If enough of us decide to spend our money on a staycation or new refrigerator, after it's reflected in their revenue airlines may get our message.

    

October 5, 2015

The BBC carries today a good article about airplane cleanliness. The airlines are under such pressure to keep their planes in the air that they often don't clean them thoroughly. Often trash gets emptied but seats, window shades, seat belts, etc. don't get sanitized, even if a passenger changed baby's diaper on the tray table. Toilet handles are not wiped down; water in the bathrooms is questionable quality, headrests swarm with germs as you balance on them while walking down the aisle.

     Passengers can protect themselves using a lot of common sense and a little hand sanitizer. Use a paper towel to operate the lavatory door and toilet. Wash your hands after using the loo, then again use sanitizer when you've returned to your seat.

     I personally wipe down my seatbelt and tray table on long-haul flights. People across the aisle pour Cheerios on the tray table for their toddler to enjoy, the same tray table which a previous flyer used to change a diaper.

    

October 3, 2015

Terminal change: If you use the nonstop to Heathrow from Phoenix, be aware that arrival terminal is changing to Terminal 3 on October 15. (Yea! Closer to trains...get me out of that airport as quickly as possible.)

 

September 28, 2015

Blood moon: It was good viewing last night around 8:00PM in Arizona. My photos aren't publishable but I did enjoy time on the balcony viewing this phenomenon which, I am told, will next occur in 2033.

 

September24, 2015

Space junk: We now have polluted space near earth with over half a million pieces of space junk which is colliding with one another to make more pieces of junk. Most junk that we send up (satellites, etc.) does not come back to earth and it is hazardous to other junk we send up. We can't just call Waste Management to pick it up.

     Nowhere in the articles I read about the problem is there a mention of the weight lost to earth, so apparently weight of earth minus the junk is not a problem, just the speed at which it circles the earth..

 

September 22, 2015

Happy birthday to everyone celebrating one this month.

***

Diesel engines and Volkswagen are not part of my history, but shame on you, Volkswagen executives, for squandering your good image around the world.

 

September  20, 2015

They caught the Phoenix freeway shooter. Last week, they caught three of the shooter's copycats. Guess what they have in common? Children.

    Those of us who are childless by choice are weary of parents using their children as an excuse. The children are never an excuse when the parent wants to have fun or conduct mischief. Now we're supposed to be lenient with them because they have children.

     If you don't want to work with the neighborhood clean-up crew, just say so. Don't blame it on the child.

 

September 15, 2015

The nearest freeway to my house is 15 miles away, so freeway driving is not part of my daily routine. They caught the copycat shooters (kids thinking to catapult projectiles would be a fun thing to do) but not the main shooter. Still, people have changed their driving routes.

     We lament the loss of freedoms in our country and blame foreigners: let's look at the enemies within.

 

September 12, 2015

Police haven't caught the freeway shooter(s) yet. Thus far, I've decided against a show at a movie theater and am using surface streets when I need to go into the Valley. If their idea is to curtail the activities of a free person in a free country, the terrorists have succeeded.

 

September 9, 2015

From a humanity point of view, the migrant crisis in Europe is pathetic. In all media, we see pictures and stories of surviving conditions of people on the move in order to stay alive. Kudos to Germany for helping so many.

     From a traveler's point of view, now is not the time. Staycations are trendy, or head in the other direction. I will probably forego another international trip this year.

***

I'm so dizzy following the market fluctuations.

 

September 1, 2015

Once again we dodged the bullet as the storm raged south of us. I was expecting wind damage to our patio but not even debris landed.

     I did see a snake skin in my flower bed, so snakes are still out.

     September is a psychological "fall is here" month for me, even though the temperatures can get just as high as in August. I'm doing fun stuff on the week-end; hope you do also. Make Labor Day special.

 

August 26, 2015

Britain is building a fence at Calais to keep out immigrants. Sound familiar?  We Arizonans could have told them it doesn't work. (Does their labor pool to build it consist of illegals too?)

 

August 25, 2015

Dover to Calais is the shortest route across the English Channel. I've used many modes to cross: Sea-cat, Hovercraft, ferry (in a vehicle and by foot), Euro tunnel... I used to recommend the route as a way to avoid Heathrow if you want to get to the continent from the Isles. No longer.

     Desperate migrants have set up a camp on the French side to wait for crossing.. Some have lived for years in this camp near Calais. They break into semi-trailers ("lorries") that are in line to cross by ferry or Euro tunnel, they lay flat on vehicle rooftops, they squeeze into wheel wells. The British newspapers carry stories every day about the situation. French police admit they cannot do anything about it. The migrants, numbering in the thousands. rush security points, hoping a few will get to the promised land. Some die. These are desperate people.

     For now, pass Calais at a safe distance: fly. 

 

August 21, 2015

Send in the Marines: Breaking news is that U.S. Marines who were passengers today on a train from Amsterdam to Paris overcame a gunman who was intent on killing the masses. Several passengers were injured but no one was killed thanks to our Marines. Kudos for saving everybody. Finally a good story about Americans. (A Marine is a major part of this family.)

     Is there any public place where we can gather safely?

***

Apparently, Australia and New Zealand are sending firefighters to help us. Canada is already.

 

August 19, 2015

California burns, and so does much of our west coast. Many years ago, a Wisconsin client of mine who wintered in Arizona called me in the summer because of a fire that was burning near here. When I drove over there, it had burned right up to his lot line (his house was adjacent to forest service land.) That time, I could see fires on the horizon from my balcony. I am thankful for firefighters.

     It's not just during fire season—when dry Santa Anna winds spread lightning-started fires through dry brush—that I think of the people who put out our fires. Spring-time finds me cutting weeds that spring up during moist winters and raking a swath around my house to make a brush-free and snake-free zone.

 

August 11, 2015

There is real excitement in the voices of the weathermen as they report that it is going to rain. I suppose they don't usually have much variation on the sunny and warm report.

     The dust storm that hit downtown Phoenix caught me unawares. Me with a fresh shampoo in a dust storm followed by heavy rain. My head was mud but at least the heavy rain washed the car off before I arrived home.

 

August 10, 2015

I'm a hot spot. When I travel across Arizona for business and fun, I am often in remote areas that have no WiFi. A portable Karma Go, smaller than a deck of cards, was a gift from the technician in our family. As long as I have it and a WiFi device (my tablet), I can check email and send out distress signals. Family geek says I'm a hot spot.

 

August 3, 2015

When I repair something around the house, I jiggle the handle. The builder in our family uses duct tape (it's not just for prom dresses anymore) and caulks, then draws a schematic to plan  a permanent fix.

 

July 27, 2015

It was a mistake to let the builder in our family loose in a building supply store. He came home with all sorts of things that I didn't realize we couldn't live without.

***

It was cold this morning in the Rim Country. This is July in Arizona.

 

July 26, 2015

The Tison gang was on the loose in rural Arizona the day I opened my company way out in the country on Bell Road in rural Arizona. I was by myself that August 1978. The Tison gang left blood and bodies across the state. I figured I could fight them off with my letter-opener and stapler. By December, they had been caught (some died) and I had employees.

     Fast forward to August 2015 and my company is having a good run. Magnum Travel Inc. is no longer in the retail travel business—I wearied of keeping retail hours decades ago—and now I spend my time on travel photography and travel narratives and company investments. This August 1st will mark our 37th anniversary of operations in Arizona.

 

July 25, 2015

Rivoli Theater in Cedarburg, Wisconsin was my first employer back in the day. My high school evenings were spent selling popcorn and candy. I was promoted to cashier, selling tickets, after a year or two. The biggest concern we had was underage children sneaking in to see an X-rated show. There was room to walk behind the screen, which was see-through from the back. We had a good view of the audience and which children were throwing candy at the screen. We certainly did not worry about home-grown terrorists killing off our patrons.

     My college evenings were spent at the 57 Outdoor Theater on Highway 57 in nearby Grafton, Wisconsin. Our biggest trouble was L & L behavior (lewd and lascivious); after the show, I accompanied an usher as he drove around flashing his headlights at cars that lingered after the show. Sometimes the police were summoned over behavior that wouldn't cause one to blink an eye nowadays.

     It's already part of the travel fun being fondled by TSA in Security at the airport. Nothing is private, my suitcase, my purse, my body. To keep us patrons safe, must theaters put such measures in place? Perhaps we should return to the use of outdoor theaters, where we at least have some steel wrapped around us.

 

July 22, 2015

Yet another reason it pays to drive old cars: they can't be hacked. They have no computers (mine were built before computers became mainstream).

     Lucky am I that the mechanic in the house loves to keep the cars in good condition. They pass Arizona's emissions test because he knows how to meld new rules with old technology. I marvel at how those old West Bend High School shop classes—and 4 years in the Marine Corps as a radio repairman—were the foundation of a lifetime of building a house, remodeling others, and maintaining my office building.

 

July 20, 2015

I'm no fan of Arizona's senator; in fact I've written several anti-McCain articles. His past speaks for itself, and he could do more for veterans. However, he does not deserve the thrashing he got yesterday. He earned his record. He suffered greatly for our country.

     That does not mean every former prisoner of war qualifies to be president.

 

July 19, 2015

The floods that devastated parts of Yavapai County, Arizona yesterday were just down the road from me—and I do me down—but my home in Cave Creek was not affected. My house is on high ground, as is my vacation place in the Rim Country. (I take the high ground.) I awoke to 60° weather, which constitutes cause for a sweater in July in Arizona.

 

July 14, 2015

I had my head examined today...at the dentist's office. In addition to the regular oral exam, they do a cancer screening, so in fact I did have my head checked. It's always a relief to leave with the knowledge that everything's OK and I don't have to go back there for another 6 months.

 

July 13, 2015

"When I grow up, I want to have a lurid past." Emily of New Moon, Canadian 19th Century period piece.

I hope she accomplished this, because I doubt if anything carried out today can create lurid activity, if one is to judge by newspapers and popular circulars.

 

July 12, 2015

What Mother Nature giveth, Father Time taketh away. Time heals everything. Time marches on.  The platitudes about Time seem plentiful. I know from first-hand experience that there's never enough of it, especially as I progress through life. (Time stands still for no one.) I've been good at deciding what is important for me to do, and what is important to other people for me to do.

     Now, to finish a hearty stew started by the cook in the family, I am adding thyme.

***

I was perusing the latest copy of  Arizona Highways and it strikes me how small Ozaukee County is compared to Maricopa County, both in population and area. Ozaukee County has 86,395 population, Maricopa County 3,817,117. Areas are: Ozaukee 233 square miles, Maricopa 9,200 square miles. Not only that, but Wisconsin has 72 countries and Arizona, with a bigger geographic area, has 15. All these Wisconsin counties cost taxpayer money.

***

Rite of Spring, an oldie by Andrew M. Greeley, requires the reader to suspend her disbelief. It was published over 32 years ago and has an intriguing plot, taking the reader from Chicago to Ireland. I found myself wondering why the hero didn't just use his cell phone or look up some vital information on the Internet. Historically, one learns a lot about the Ireland Troubles. If you can get past the lack of modern technology, it is a quick read and interesting look at history.

 

July 6, 2015

The desert was bathed in pink this morning as another virga storm drifted across the foothills. Rain evaporated before it hit the earth.

 

July 5, 2015

The cook in our family was using coconut oil yesterday and the smell of it instantly transported me back in time to the Rivoli in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. I popped corn in this movie theater during my high school and college years and we used coconut oil to make it. It's funny how a smell can elicit a vivid memory.

 

July 1, 2015

This outlying area managed to miss the recent dust storms, as did I. I was goofing off in the cool high country. Alas, work brought me back to the desert.

 

June 22, 2015

Even with this excessive heat warning, tourists play golf and sit out at the pool tanning themselves. How do I know they're tourists? Those crispy critters sporting sunburns would not be locals; we stay in during the heat of the day and conduct outside business early mornings and evenings, when it is at least 20° cooler and the sun is not direct.

     Excessive heat is defined as 105° or more for at least 3 hours; 104 is merely adequate.

 

June 21, 2015

It's also the longest day of the year and first day of summer (really?).

 

June 20, 2015

How often can you say that the temperature doubled today? That's just what I experienced as I woke to 55° in the mountains, then came down to the Valley at 110°.  I wish my money doubled like that.

 

June 16, 2015

111° is not hotter than 100° to those of us who lived through 122; it hardly registers. (In the desert, when you're hot, you're hot.) The 122-degree day was the first in history that Sky Harbor was closed due to weather. In those olden days, flying charts went up to only 120°; air traffic control did not know what to do at 122.

     In modern times, dust storms, a recent phenomena, have delayed air traffic occasionally.

 

June 15, 2015

If I don't up my game, we will soon have a new Scrabble champion in the Rim Country (see post of May 31). I'd always prided myself about the amount of reading I do, but apparently that doesn't help.

 

June 10, 2015

Ostensibly, it's to decrease boarding time by making us pack fewer belongings, but I believe the real motive is profit. Carry-on allowance will get so small that we'll have to check luggage for a fee. (There goes the teen-age girl's life-sized teddy bear—there's one on every flight.) It's amazing how much I can live without if I put my mind to it.

 

June 8, 2015

Always glad to help the bottom line of major airlines: Before you head to the airport to board a plane, make sure you comply with the latest carry-on baggage dictates. Even as the airlines are cramming more seats onto each plane to accommodate more passengers and their carry-on bags, they are shrinking the baggage allowance. If we use the little toiletry bottles hotels provide, we can wear all our changes of clothes with a spare pair of undies in the pockets. I don't even care if the guy behind me in the Security line watches while I empty all my pockets; his turn will come.

 

June 2, 2015

Earthing:  There is some science backing this up. It's the practice of walking barefoot outside on lawn or rock or ground. This supposedly is a cure-all for fatigue, chronic pain, and a host of other ailments because the earth's electrical force off-sets the accumulation of gunk in our human force. It sounds hokey to me but Dr. Weil of Tucson hasn't criticized it and I tried to find online some site that debunks this practice but could find none that satisfied me. There is no cost to walking barefoot, so that could be why more is not made of this.  Has anyone tried it?

     Now to find a square foot of earth outside my abode that is not covered with cactus thorns.

 

May 31, 2015

On this last day of May 2015, I have one word for you: digital. I remained the undisputed Scrabble champion of the Rim Country set by opening with all seven of my letters and receiving an additional fifty points.

 

May 27, 2015

In the land of the free, everyone wears the uniform. This was a thought I had as I observed people entering and exiting the post office this morning.  I was waiting in the car while the certified mail fetcher in our family stood in line to collect his package. Most of the men wore cargo shorts (made me wonder how much they haul) and most of the women wore jeans.

     There is no better way to blend into a crowd than to conform to the outfit they wear. Jeans have been the uniform for over 40 years. The condition I fear is that if I blend into the herd, so will my thinking: I will follow them off a cliff. I don't own a pair of jeans although I admit to owning a denim skirt.

     Fashion in itself is not important to me. I dress in what makes me feel and look good, not necessarily trendy. In this fast-paced world, sometimes one's first appearance is the only impression one makes. If that impression is herd mentality, so be it. It's the land of the free.

 

May 26, 2015

The high country in Arizona had snow last week, so outdoor activities there for me are still too cold. I am now on a Jojo Moyes marathon. She's got a wide range and I wish I could write like she does.

 

May 24, 2015

Some people buy new cars regularly, I travel. My car is 29 years old, safe, and fuel efficient. (I have four cylinders and use them all.) Cars are not important to me except as transportation. (I know they're hobbies for some people.) I live beneath my means; I use my means differently from what others do. Life decisions...what's important to me...

     If one eliminates fraud and disregards people who feel entitled to lifetime hand-outs, one might be more inclined to help someone who is temporarily down on his luck.

     I will sign out before I sound like a Republican.    

 

May 20, 2015

As we approach Memorial Day 2015, I realize that I am free to roam the globe as I do because of the sacrifices of those who went before me.

 

May 19, 2015

I use a desktop computer for my work and tried the "hunt and peck" keyboard on it for a long time before I changed back to a qwerty keyboard for typists because it is easier. I lose my typing skills on all the gadgets that require thumb presses and point-and-clicks.

 

A desktop computer is easier for me to use when I crop photos, etc. although I travel overseas with a tablet (soon to be replaced by a smart phone) and have a laptop and other doodads.

 

May 15, 2015

Perhaps if they prop us up so that we are in a semi-standing position, British Airways would be able to cram more passengers on their Heathrow to Phoenix flight.

 

May 4, 2015

If religion is a way we express faith, why are so many wars fought in the name of religion and why do both sides of a controversy call on God to help them win?

 

May  3, 2015

Overheard in a Cave Creek market: It's still dirty water that goes down the drain.

 

April 22, 2015

Nobody is responsible for the actions of his ancestors. Ben Affleck's feelings of guilt are what the misguided reparations are about: feelings of guilt for what our ancestors did. For the record: most of mine came from the Old Country (plenty of guilt there) after the Revolutionary War, but if they'd been here, they would have fought on the side of the North for freedom for people they'd never met. 

 

April 15, 2015

Today, after unloading my bank account to the IRS, I finished reading six gothic tales. As I read them, I kept asking myself why they didn't just use the internet or their cell phones. Oops. Life is certainly easier today with modern communications. The good old days: Chamber pots, outhouses, wood stoves...none of the gothic tales mentioned everyday living. Hot water? Ask a servant. Hitch up the horse and buggy? Ask a servant. Brush your teeth? Didn't do it.

     The good old days never were.

 

April 8, 2015

Fingerless gloves: some people use them for texting; I use them for traveling. On ferries, trains and other modes of public transportation, they keep my hands clean and I can use my camera unhindered by regular gloves.

 

April 7, 2015

My driver's license was renewed today and, as usual, I hate the picture. When I surrendered the old license, I glanced at the 7-year-old picture and thought "Hey, that doesn't look so bad now."

     A relative in Wisconsin got a 10-year renewal when she was 90. (Now I understand their driving habits.) At the present, 5 years later, she's given up her car of her own volition—taxis are cheaper—but she still has her license. She may go joy-riding one of these days.

 

April 5, 2015 

Much luggage that is lost vanishes during connections because passengers move faster than suitcases. After a bag is reported missing, a computer program tracks it to its wayward destination. Seldom is it lost forever as it used to be. Question is:  How long can you live in the clothes on your back?

     I travel lightly, packing not everything in my closet but a selection of coordinated things, outerwear of which is worn more than once on the trip. I carry my case: if I check nothing, then nothing goes missing. (No, I don't ask the flight attendant to handle the case.) I don't use suitcases with spinner wheels; the manufacturers measure the suitcase from top to bottom, the airlines measure from top to floor, including the spinner wheels. A lot can be packed in those two inches; I use a suitcase that incorporates the wheels.

***

Childhood memories come to me at major holidays. Have a great Easter, with new starts.

 

March 26, 2015

When an intentional disasterlike the Germanwings crashoccurs, I am reminded of all the people who do their jobs to keep me safe and I wonder how I've survived to this stage.

 

March 25, 2015

Sanctions we've placed on Russia are causing a shortage of airline spare parts and budget woes for Russian airlines as they cannot afford to maintain their fleets. I've always warned against traveling on Russia-made airplanes, even in the best of times; if somebody needed to fly between points in Russia, I booked them on a non-Russian flight out of the country, then back to the second point on the same foreign carrier.

     A clue as to which carrier to book is a look at the airline's destination map to see if they fly to the United States; if so, they at least meet our standards for maintenance and security.

 

March 18, 2015

The Mesa shooting today was about 60 miles from my home in Cave Creek, too close. It's easier to wring my hands and forget about horror if it happens in Tunisia or some other distant place.

 

March 17, 2015

Those ahead of me on the timeline do not include an Irishman, that I could verify. Several people who studied my family background seized onto sloppy work and included it in their research as gospel; I know for a fact that research is wrong because I knew the subject ancestors personally. When exploring family history, I search official records, such as census data and church rolls.  (Word-of-mouth stories are a starting point, though.) As we know, one false assumption in modern times puts the research of antiquity out of whack.

     Speaking of out of whack, the party guy in our family is glad that everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day.

     Drive safely.

***

In the picture: I'm learning to use a selfie-stick which is a gift from the photo model in our family. No, I don't need any more pictures of myself, but I drag him to some interesting places and it would be nice to have us both in the same shot without the use of creative photoshopping. Even said model is on the learning curve as we both discover which cameras to use, how their timers work, and how not to look like bumpkins in the picture.

 

March 14, 2015

It's a sin to kill a mockingbird according to author Harper Lee, who published To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960. The book was assigned reading in Mr. Vils's novel class in my high school. I reread it recently because of the flap that occurred at the release of her second book. She's now 88 years old and living in an assisted living facility. There was speculation that she was being taken advantage of because of her circumstances: she wrote the 'new' book before she wrote Mockingbird and it was rejected by the publisher. To her relief, the court ruled that she knows what she is doing and publication can proceed. I intend to get one of the first copies.

     It was touching to read her novel again as the events of Ferguson, MO developed. It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

     The Mockingbird book in my home library is a paperback 1962 edition in bad shape; my library inventory notes say that it belongs to RGH, so if you want it back, Rich, say the word and it's in the next mail.

 

March 9,2015

I can't imagine Bill Clinton in the White House with nothing to do.

 

March 8, 2015

Time changes for no man or woman in Arizona, except for parts of the Navajo Nation. This is to remind visitors that in Arizona we never spring forward or fall back.

 

March 7, 2015

Yesterday was the premier of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is a feel-good show with no sex or violence and no big social issues other than, perhaps, old age. There are lots of laughs at the expense of Americans. The theatre audience roared. It was good to see many familiar faces on screen. The film critic in our family has a penchant for Dame Judi Dench ever since we saw her boarding a plane in Heathrow and we've seen most of her films. This one is a good film for date night.

 

March 6, 2015

It's too early to pass judgment on Hillary Clinton's email peccadillo, but I still think she insults every American. There might be a few voters who cast their ballots along gender lines, penis versus breasts, but it is a mistake to campaign as if we all do. Sure, considering two candidates, if all things are equal—which they never are—I will give extra merit to the underdog. However, in the big campaign ahead, her war chest hardly makes her an underdog. She's as bad as our own senator in 2008, who thought that any female would do. Then look who we get afflicted with.

     By the way, we send John McCain to Washington to get him out of our state.

 

March 2, 2015

It's a rainy day here in the desert, which makes for brisk sales of windshield wipers. On the rare occasion that I am caught driving in the rain, I'm reminded to change the wipers. I usually change my dry-rotted wipers after a rain and then it doesn't rain again until the wipers are rotted.

    

February 21, 2015

Surprise of all surprises to me is how Senator John McCain showed uncommon decency recently in his remarks about President Obama and Rudy G. I don't like McCain's personal history or his hawk positions, but I may have to elevate my opinion of him. I still won't vote for him, though; possibly his kind remarks are due to a thought of retirement and his legacy.

 

February 19, 2015

Having traveled extensively on Britain's rail system, I immediately identified with the main character in The Girl on the Train. Author Paula Hawkins brings the experience of traveling by train to life when she describes seeing into people's back yards, trash on the tracks, other passengers... the principal character has flaws, just like us real humans. There is a surprise ending and I found it hard to put the book down until I reached the conclusion, wanting more.

 

February 15, 2015

Candidates for top job in the world have to start campaigning way in advance, but please, can we get through 2015 without being attacked by campaign ads?

     On the topic of candidates, I don't want dynasties. Jeb Bush might be a great administrator, but his relatives leave a legacy that won't go away during a possible administration. As for Hillary Clinton, I think she's lost the plot: her "noncampaign" is all about winning and nothing so far about what she would do for us as top administrator in our country. She might have done a good job if she'd won in 2008, but she's had her chance. We don't need retreads. Don't blow it for somebody else.

     That somebody else has yet to emerge, but surely we have lots of capable people in this country from which to choose a great leader. But, please, no dinner-time phone calls and junk email.

 

February 12, 2015

I put down my book of short stories half read in favor of a book on the Number 1 list, not because the stories are poorly written, they aren't, but because they are depressing. I will return to it.

***

Korean Airlines nut rage woman was sentenced to a year in prison. Praise the powers and pass the nuts, please.

***

The march to London continues as our candidates for president polish their credentials (Christie, Walker...). I avoid London nowadays when I go to England; I favor their seaside towns and historic cities. I compare it to avoiding NYC when visiting the USA: there's so much else to see in our country.

     I have been to #10 Downing Street, but I didn't have an audience with the prime minister; I did get a great shot of a Beefeater, though.

 

February 11, 2015

One needs only to peruse webcams of the midwest to see that residents are still having weather-related trouble.

     I use webcams and GoogleEarth when I'm researching destinations for my next trip (there's always one more). That way, I don't book a fantastic rate at a hotel in a place that's perilous for pedestrians. Sometimes I'm sleep-walking from the train station to the hotel after an overnight flight, so I use Google to become familiar with that route also.

     Planning a trip today is so much easier than before the period of the Internet.

 

February 10, 2015

I remember that October running on ice down the hill at UWWC with my fiancé, from the library to the wintry parking lot. Despite both of us being layered up, we shivered and exclaimed simultaneously: "Arizona, here we come." Before we met, we had each been to Arizona previously, he on his departure from the Marine Corps, me several times on solo driving trips across the US.  We liked the wild west, not only for climate but also for the newness of the state—Arizona was only 60 years old and it showed its youth in many ways.

     Jobs and relatives awaited us in New Jersey but, in that cold moment in Washington County, we decided to build a life some place where we'd like to retire and skip the decades of climate-related hardships in between. We found jobs, continued our education, and life happened. Now 42 years later, we still abide each other. How did I get so lucky?

 

February 5, 2015

Why didn't they think of this before? London is famously fertile in disused underground tunnels, tunnels that were used once upon a time for the Underground. These tunnels were abandoned as routes changed and technology and equipment advanced. Meanwhile up on the surface, a myriad of cyclists have hazardous travel to and from work on London's crowded streets. Voila! Why not have the cyclists use the tunnels?

     Slogging a bike up and down those stairs and escalators would have to change, as well as platform versus track levels, but it seems like a feasible solution to the bicycle overload.

     Here in the desert, our biggest congestion is when there is a golf tournament and the Super Bowl at the same time. Then I stay off the roads.

 

January 31, 2015

After my first out-of-state trip with school mates to Arlington, Virginia, I had a better understanding of myself. I was just 16 when I saved all my baby-sitting money to go with the senior class. When I returned, I knew that I did not have to live the life I had been born into: I didn't have to settle for what I'd been given.

     After high school graduation, I went with a group of students to study in Exeter, England and I gained a broader perspective of the world. I learned that a cat can be skinned different ways; that habits of my tribe are not rules of law.

     A career in the travel industry and frequent international trips have given me enduring memories. To me, the longer I visit a destination, the more poignant the memories. I spent a summer working in England; another summer was in Mexico City and a couple winters were in southern California. These days, I usually base myself at an interesting locality and take day-trips to nearby areas. That way, I get an overview of the area, not just see "New York City is the United States" and I don't hassle with luggage. (I keep to small carry-ons; it's amazing how much I can live without. It can't get lost if it's in my possession plus I don't waste time at the luggage carousel.)

     Some people save for a new car; I save for the next adventure.

 

January 30, 2015

I go to great pains to dodge the Super Bowl traffic this week-end. It's raining, so not only do we have out-of-towners who are not familiar with the driving habits of the locals, but we have flooded streets. We have a double-whammy traffic-wise with the golf tournament. I will watch the Super Bowl from a comfortable seat and overeat on junk food. Former classmates, call me if you're in the Valley for either event.

 

January 28, 2015

Don't be intimidated by fake cowboys who wear ten-gallon hats in Cave Creek. Some of them actually are real cowboys who work on ranches, ride horses, wrangle cattle... Most of them are tourists, though, who pretend to be real cowboys for a day or so. Even locals who dress like cowboys will concede that they made their living in insurance or IT or real estate and they dumped the first occupation when they dumped the first spouse.

     Cowboy hat or golf gear.  It's complicated. 

***

David Baldacci writes a fascinating tale in The Escape. Acronyms usually slow down my reading, but he presents them in an interesting and informative way. The book is well-researched and especially informative to military or government personnel. I found it captivating.

 

January 23,2015

Both the euro and the British pound are at very low exchange rates to our dollar, which means it is a lot cheaper to travel than any time in recent history. I remember when the euro was first issued at $1.25USD; at last look it was $1.12. On the first trip I took to England as a student, the pound was $2.40/dollar; it dipped now to $1.49.

     Don't look for breaks on air fares, though, despite cheap fuel. The planes are filling because of the good exchange rate. Some of the airlines are working off old, expensive fuel contracts, also. (It's apparently an unwritten rule: if ground costs are low, air fares are high; when there are deals galore on air fares, exchange rates are high.)

     Winter is a good time to be here in the desert, but I remember summers and I plan accordingly. It's part of the fun: I no longer have to sprint to see the tourist attractions but can enjoy a destination at my leisure. Those of you who go frequently, especially business people, understand.

 

January 21, 2015

Do you want a frank opinion on travel to Cuba? I can't remember where I put my mental note, but to be Frank, I'd have to change my name.  Magnum Travel ad from 1998  Times they are a changing.

 

January 18, 2015

If you've read this blog for a time, you'll know that I don't do book reviews on herethere are plenty of them in other parts of cyberspacebut that I give my opinions of the books I've recently read. My library includes antique books, classics, historical fiction and any genre that appeals to me at the time I pick up the book, new or used. Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies is a gift I am happy I received.

     Australia is the venue and the characters are school mums with conflicts. Ultimately, it's a story about how little lies become big lies become a way of life. Rage begins at an early age. Despite 450 pages, it's an easy read and I learned a lot from this work of fiction.

 

January 12, 2015

If you think the money meat you eat onboard an aircraft tastes like...well, like what you imagine monkey meat to taste...it's true. We lose about 30% of our salt-tasting ability and sugar-tasting ability due to the conditions of flying: low humidity, high background noise, utensils...  Did you ever notice how you can eat pizza at home using your best china with your best silverware and it will be the best pizza you ever had? Drinking wine out of the plastic glasses the airline gives is not conducive to taste. Who knew the airlines are not allowed to use microwaves on board?

     There's lots to know about dining at 35,000 feet.

***

Check out pictures of No Pants on the Tube Day for a bit of fun on this overcast day in the desert.

 

January 10, 2015

I remember one time facing 45mph winds here in the desert; that was enough to topple cacti and trees. At 101mph, I imagine what Scotland is going through. I was last there in 2014. Now, tens of thousands are without power, train and airplane services are interrupted, schools closed...and they are expecting snow.

     Sometimes I read weather headlines with a sense of pride, like I have something to do with it.

     The number one reason people move to Arizona is weather; the number one reason people move away from Arizona is weather. It takes a hearty soul to survive desert summers. Still, mornings and evenings outside in the Sonoran Desert are lovely even when the daytime temperature reaches 110°.

 

January 9, 2015

UPDATE:  At one location, four of the many hostages were killed.***

Paris hostage crisis yet unfolds but it appears right now that the hostages in both locations have been freed, the bad guys are dead, and one police officer is wounded. The good guys won, without a trial. The evil ones either did it or they didn't do it: plenty of evidence determines a trial is not necessary to ascertain crimes were committed and who committed them. The captives are saved and the bad guys got justice.

 

January 7, 2015

The euro is at a recent-year low against our dollar 1.18  (remember when it was issued at $1.25 per?). At this same time, the British pound is $1.50—the first time I went across it was $2.40—so now would be a good time to go. I'm planning my next trip. Don't expect reduced airfares on most flights to popular destinations (Paris, Rome, Berlin, Vienna...) because the good exchange rate is creating a demand so that the airlines do not have to lower their fares to fill planes.

     There is a link to current currency exchange rates on the home page of this website. Happy travels.

 

January 6, 2015

Gas is now $1.89 per gallon. I always arranged my life so that I wouldn't commute, but the folks that do commute love it. Do you think the price of gas will cause the price of consumer goods to go down? I doubt it. International airline tickets, for instance: the airlines are reaping windfall profits and don't have to lower their fares to attract customers because the cost of travel abroad is so cheap that the planes are always full.

 

January 5, 2015

Always good for a quick read and very entertaining are C. J. Box books. They contain a lot of Wyoming description and are action-packed as his main character, Joe Pickett, catches bad guys. The latest one I read was 2010's Nowhere to Run. The reader learns there is more than one side to every story, despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

 

January 3, 2015

It's difficult to understand what additional sanctions our president is putting on North Korea, but sanctions against Russia are working, so the Sony-inspired extra sanctions against North Korea may inspire change. (I was inspired to watch the movie, ha ha.) Obviously, there is a travel warning. In a lifetime in the retail travel business, I never sent anyone to North Korea. Other areas of the Orient were popular with discretionary travelers.

     There is a link to our state department warnings on the home page of this website.

***

When putting away holiday decor, I was transported in time; it's amazing how the memory retains bits from years ago when we were first starting out in life. Some of my displays are older than the stores from which they were purchased. Longevity is relative.

 

January 1,2015

(It's the first time I wrote today's date and I did the year correctly.)

     Snow is visible in Carefree and Cave Creek, but it didn't reach my elevation as per predictions. Traffic is a nightmare in the northern parts of our state. Motorists don't expect to encounter weather problems and many of them don't know how to drive in snow and sleet. Cars are running out of gas. Some municipalities have to share the plow.

 

December 31, 2014

It is predicted that this old year will be ushered out with snow in Arizona down to 2000' elevation, which includes these immediate regions. The last day of the year started our rainy and overcast, but not snowing. Stay tuned.

 

December 29, 2014

Virgin dumped a full load of its airline fuel over the Exeter-Bristol-Cardiff area today as it was too heavy to land at Gatwick Airport from whence it had just departed. The emergency situation was because the landing gear was not working. The pilots told passengers to expect a "non-standard" landing; according to all, it was textbook perfect. The flight was Gatwick-Las Vegas, too close to home. It's yet another thing for which to be thankful: all the people that keep me safe by knowing their jobs and doing them well.

 

December 28, 2014

Religion and our relationship with the Divine have surely changed since I was a child memorizing Bible verses for Sunday School Christmas pageant. I think churches have done themselves in, displaying all the opulence they do while ordinary people hurt. So many wars are fought in the name of religion, like it matters how we celebrate or what we call our God. There is a difference between religion and faith.

 

December 23, 2014

It's no coincidence that almost simultaneously Ukraine seeks NATO membership, Cuba's relationship with us softens, and Crimea considers independence again: Russia has no money to support or attack these areas. It can't stop its debt payments. Experts predict Russia will have a worse depression than ours of 2008. Isn't it great that sanctions work? Wishful thinking: Putin will realize that his country's wealth was at the grace and favor of the western world and he'll have to join the world community or continue at his country's peril to go it alone.

 

December 22,2014

People have sex with one another on first meeting nowadays, then decide if they're going on a date, if one is to believe media. A Door County Christmas is refreshing in that a person gets to know the other one for several monthspersonality, history, life choicesbefore even kissing. One has control over where one's affections settle, in my experience.  This book is four stories by four Wisconsin women and depicts Door County environs. Plots are inter-linked but can stand alone. They're too religious for my taste: one can have morals and not have allegiance to the Pope, but it is uplifting and a simple fast read.

 

December 20, 2014

The party guy in our family likes the shorter daylight hours that winter brings because as soon as it's dark, he starts partying.

 

December 18, 2014

Our State Department has not updated travel requirements yet for Cuba (link found on this home page) but expect to be able to travel there freely in the new year. At least there will unlikely be sanctions for those who go. It would be nice to see the island as it is now before US tourism arrives, but I'm a creature of comfort and would like a few amenities installed before I travel there.

     How about those squirrels in Gila County chewing through the Internet line. I'm at a loss for words.

***

Shares for companies that conduct cruises of the Caribbean have risen. The easiest way to get consuming American tourists to Cuba is to offer it as a port of call; no one waits for infrastructure improvements. Cuba will accept American credit cards soon, but meanwhile cruise ships, being close to USA ports, don't have to reload and refuel in Cuba.

 

December 17, 2014

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett is a good historical novel that took me back in time to world events I had forgotten. Its realistic depiction of life before the Berlin Wall came down leaves one amazed at how changed our lives are in the last century. It opened my eyes to how America is viewed by citizens of other countries, and is well-researched. At 1100 pages, this not a quick read.

***

Cuba libra!

 

December 16, 2014

News headlines on the BBC is the first thing to which I surf in the morning. I love that our sanctions against Russia are working. With a destitute country, maybe the Russian powers that be will see that they must join the world community, not just reap the benefits it has. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying low consumer prices. Clothing is cheap partly because transportation costs are down. Airlines are working off old, higher priced, gas contracts but are replacing them long-term with cheap contracts. I hope we consumers eventually benefit from this. Gas is $2.49 in the Valley and headed south.

 

December 13, 2014

Nut Rage: The Korean Airlines executive who forced a plane back to the gate in New York last week, Heather Cho, made the head of the cabin crew bow down before her and ask for forgiveness for serving her macadamia nuts incorrectly. It's good for her that the crew wasn't American because we bow and scrape before no one. When the press cools, she'll probably get a job with one of her daddy's other subsidiaries; in the meantime, she is jobless.

***

The fireplace attendant in our house is bemoaning the fact that it is a "no burn" day in Maricopa County. We hang on all summer for this kind of weather, damp and cool, so we can have a cozy evening before the fire. So does everyone else, apparently, because particulates are high. Funny how in the Sonoran Desert no one lights a mood log in August.

 

December 12,2014

They're piling them up over the skies of Britain. Computer glitches like the one they are experiencing have a wide-spread effect, causing havoc down the line. If your flight in Milwaukee is delayedarriving or departingit may be due to computer problems in the UK.

     If transportation systems can be inadvertently in turmoil, it makes me wonder how transportation and other systems (like power and water) can be wittingly played with to cause world-wide mayhem.

 

December 11, 2014

At this time of year, I do not ask what is in the packages he's carrying.

***

When one considers all the wars that are fought in the name of religion, and all the people that call God on their side, one realizes somebody's wrong. Maybe it's me.

     I think the ceremonies demonstrating religion are not important. There is a difference between religion and faith.

 

December 9, 2014

Britain is bracing for a weather bomb. Here, parts of the Valley experienced a haboob. Give me the bomb instead of the haboob any day.

 

December 3, 2014

He climbs a lot of trees this time of year, stringing lights. The beautification guy at our house thought he was getting out of shapedecorating seemed harder.  "It's not you," I advised him. "We've lived here 30 years. The trees are taller."

 

December 2, 2014

Seven pounds is the figure I remember, the average weight gain of the average American between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.  That's why weight-loss programs flourish in January.

 

November 29, 2014

I ran some errands in Cave Creek today and dreaded a stop at the post office. Surprise to me was that there were no lines. When I was in retail travel and a daily trip to the post office was essential, the line was out the door and I allowed extra time to queue up if there was a yellow slip in my business box. Apparently more people are shopping online, are using UPS, and are having gifts delivered directly to the recipient; also, more gift cards are given, which makes sense in view of how low prices seem after the holidays.

     I am happy to say I stayed out of the stores on Black Friday. The news is full of stories about people who camped out for days in order not to miss reduced stuff. It's nice to get a bargain, but stuff isn't that valuable to me. Candles, wine, and a stocking stuffer for the good guy in my house were the extent today of my one-stop shopping.

 

November 25,2014

♪♫♪Stuck in the middle again♫♪♫... Did you ever sit next to a space hog on an airplane?  The guy seated in front of you who reclines his seat into your mystery meat, although receiving much press lately, is not as annoying as a person who takes over the armrest and more, like stretching out his legs into your foot space. When seat assignments are doled out, nobody asks for a good middle seat.

     According to a recent survey, the most irritating passenger is the one who is rude to the crew or security personnel. An undisciplined child ranks next, followed by the afore-mentioned space hog. Fourth ranked irritation is a loud-talker. I remember once I was seated two rows behind one of these guys on a plane that was still boarding. He was on a cell phone, pulled out his credit card, and in his loud voice read off the numbers, expiration date, and his address. In an intentionally loud voice, I asked the guy next to me, "Did you get that?" and a number of passengers chuckled; the loud-talker remained oblivious to the smirks. He could spread a lot of frustration on an overnight flight.

***

Who would have thought that a list of travel alerts and warnings would include Ferguson, MO, USA?

 

November 24, 2014

Death of Back Friday: Partly due to the internet and other modes of instant communication, Black Friday is dead. At last. I'll be glad to no longer see articles about people camping out on sidewalks for days or weeks (here in Arizona!) to get cheap stuff.

 

November 20, 2014

Adz is a word and so is zit. With those corrections, I am the undisputed Scrabble champion of the Rim Country rock-hauling set.

     If fly-jacket publicity is to be believed, there are 5000 new words in my 2014 Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. 250,000 English words have entered our lexicon since my college dictionary was published? I'm at a loss for words.

 

November 19, 2014

Moderation:  Now the experts-that-be tell us that milk is not good for us, at least in the quantities that we consume. It actually causes osteoporosis, does not prevent it. Milk is also high in calories and has a lot of other detrimental qualities. It was hitherto not scrutinized because of the strong milk industry.

     I grew up in a dairy state where we smothered our porridge with milk and also drank a carton of it at school for lunch.

     It's like conventional wisdom of removing an appendix because you're being opened up anyway; they now know than an appendix does have a function and should not be removed routinely.

     Back in the day, doctors prescribed plenty of beef and bedrest to heart attack victims. Now they decide exercise and vegetables are the way to go.

     Need I say anything about Hormone Replacement Therapy? X-rays?

     Moderation in most things...

          

November 18 2014

As I plan Thanksgiving menu, I dust off the yule log and get fresh candles: the first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Has anyone ever done an alternative to turkey at Thanksgiving? We eat a lot of turkey during the fall and thought we'd try something different this year.

     It's hard to fathom the strife some people must endure while we make merry. The party guy at our house likes this season of the year best.

 

November 13, 2014

The rift between the UK and EU is not just rhetoric. The United Kingdom may actually depart the European Union because of immigration problems.

     A fire on one ship and a crash with another, putting two ferries out of service, isn't enough: now high cross-channel winter winds are delaying departures of the remaining ships. Trains to Dover are also delayed because of weather and there is gridlock on the freeway. This is not a time to be there.

 

November 12, 2014

Still no cause has been released of the Dover ferry accident. The ship has been taken out of service for repairs. It joins a sister ship which is being repaired after a fire. Because of the shortage of channel crossings, there is freeway gridlock as far back as seven miles, past Folkestone, my favorite seaside resort. This is another reason to leave the car behind (besides the vast Atlantic). On my many trips to rural England, I find it easier and less expensive to take a train to my destination. Besides, they don't drive on the right side of the road.

 

November 11, 2014

On this Veterans' Day 2014, heads are rolling at the VA.  Who is watching the Big Guys? It should be

us, the American taxpayer. To those who survived the negligence, my sincere apologies. I welcome ideas on how to avoid this shame in the future, other than stopping the outrages after they occur. What can an average taxpayer do?

     We should get rid of the biggest windbag of them all, a veteran who claims not to have known what was happening in his own state. It's his job to know. Yes, voters, dump John McCain. I'm glad to say I never voted for him ever. I remember when he came to Arizona. He had no qualifications for running the country other than he had been a prisoner of war and he had a rich father. Are all our prisoners of war qualified to run the country? Should we vote for only rich people? Talk to me.

     Have a memorable Veterans' Day 2014. We are.

    

November 10, 2014

Happy Marine Corps Birthday to all Corps veterans. (It's a big day at our house.) The Marine Corps is older than the United States, having been formed in 1775 before we revolted. Semper Fi.

    Speaking of revolting, the incident of the Dover-Dunkirk ferry that hit the Dover harbor wall yesterday is disgusting, considering that port authorities won't give a cause of the accident at the moment. Many times I have been on those cross-channel ferries, enjoying both my destination and views of the White Cliffs of Dover and the castle. Safety of the vessel never enters my thoughts.

 

November 6, 2014

It's tempting to repeat a trip as I do because it was so much fun but I'm always open to new ideas to create new memories. I've been watching the air fares to plan next year's adventures but the airlines often don't hold sales until after Thanksgiving, when the holiday crowds have already purchased the left-overs for the season.  Flanders was fun. Germany always is. Hmmm?

 

November 5, 2014

At a loss for words: After an absence of decades, I recently returned to the game of Scrabble. Winning handily should be easy, I thought, because I am such an avid reader. Without intention, I spot mistakes in the morning paper; spelling and grammar mistakes are "stoppers" for me—they spoil the rhythm of the read—and I have to wonder if I've been incorrect all my life since Mrs. Hodan's 6th grade class. Do I really speak in only one-syllable words? Off to the bookstore I went, aiming to buy a Scrabble dictionary. Alas, it seems they're not available anymore; the ones I remember vividly and couldn't afford as a student were published 30 years ago and are no longer in print. Our vocabulary has grown since then with new technology, etc. For the time being, if my 12-year old Merriam Webster's Collegiate doesn't have the word, it doesn't exist. Rats.

     I've been trying to vary the genre and authors on my reading list; the latest tome I finished was first published in 1943: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. At the time it was published, it won awards but it seems tame now viewed through 2lst Century eyes. Still, it's an enjoyable read about a young girl coming of age 100 years ago. I learned a lot about Brooklyn.

      

November 4, 2014

But will the election signs come down?

 

November 2, 2014

Reminder: Arizona does not fall anywhere as we do not use Daylight Savings Time.

 

October 27, 2014

In this era it is hard to imagine that one person, just one person, can impair many lives, like with the air-control stoppage in Chicago. One child enduring a temporary problem finds a permanent solution: shoot 'em up, like in the current Washington school episode. One person returning from work in Africa can blight the lives of his closest friends, by quarantine or worse.

     I often marvel at how many people we rely on to keep our lives running smoothly. I turn on a tap and water runs. Flip a switch and there's light. Drive on the freeway and thousands of motorists are paying courteous attention to their driving. I don't even want to consider how many people are relied upon to keep an airplane in the air.

     Americans take pills for everything. Couldn't we develop a stupid and depressed pill?

 

October 22, 2014

My immediate reaction to the ongoing Ottawa gunfire was a feeling of guilt; I felt responsible for the USA spreading terrorism because of our history. I will always think fondly of Canada and Canadians for the friendship they proffered during the 9-1-1 horrors. Unhappily, I felt guilty relief that this incident and their recent car/terrorist incident are created by home-grown radicals, THEIR radicals, not ours.

 

October 20, 2014

Is treason an out-of-date law? Isis is an enemy of the USA; Americans are joining it. Is that not treachery? Even if we cannot capture the culprits, they should be charged, IMHO. Keep them from returning to the USA; perhaps their sympathetic family members will emigrate, too.

 

October 15, 2014

Sunrise in the desert was stunning today because, although the monsoon is officially ended, the sky was overcast. All earth was pink.

 

October 14, 2014

I've held my tongue long enough, but the mistake keeps on, sort of like a word person somewhere made a mistake and the document was not proof-read but copied in perpetuity: It's not bodily fluids, folks, that transmits Ebola; it's body fluids. It might be all right for us mere mortals to use the wrong word, but not for someone in the word profession, like a journalist. (Don't they employ editors? Edit!)

     You know how shopping carts carry traces of feces and shoppers are provided with a sheet of sanitizer to clean? I wonder if the same method can be employed on airplanes, especially on long-haul flights. At least I'd have peace of mind that my tray table wasn't infectious from the previous person who sneezed his influenza on it.

 

October 12, 2014

A link to the Centers for Disease Control has been added to the home page. You can get updates on the Ebola outbreak on it, if it affects your travel plans.

 

October 10, 2014

A link to the World Health Organization is on the home page. The scariest thing about the Ebola outbreak for me is other passengers, not because they might be infected, but because they might have a crappy sense of humor resulting in quarantining the plane. It's happened already.

 

October 4, 2014

The Paleo diet is trending right now. This is the diet that encourages us to eat like cavemen used to. It disregards the fact that cavemen lived to only 25 years of age, even accounting for infant mortality.

     Better health means availability of more hospital beds, more health care workers, better insurance

...right? Wrong!

     It was called Management by Objectives when I was in college, and it has stood me well through life so far. I look at the end results: do I want lots of hospital beds available, or do I want good health? So, if someone tells me to eat like a caveman, I say that at 25 years for the average lifespan of a cave-man, I'm well past my sell-by date.

 

October 1, 2014

Confession: I agree with the head of the EU who said that celebrities that had nude photos taken of themselves which were later leaked are dumb. When you have the real thing, why photos? If you have a reason to take nude photos, why store them online? This does not diminish the severity of the crimes of hacking and leaking, just points the finger at the stupidity of the victims.

 

September 29, 2014

The largest beer party in the world is playing out right now as Europeans celebrate Oktoberfest which actually is in September and winds down in early October. It was started in 1810 to celebrate the wedding of one of the Germanic kings and now is celebrated everywhere.

     One year, I was Munich in the most famous beerhall of all, the Hofbrauhaus. History soaks the building but its walls never referred to its most famous patron: it is the venue for Hitler when he was starting out. The time I was there, they served beer only by the litre, so I split one with the bier-drinker in our family.

     If you want to go to the actual Oktoberfest 2014, you are too late.

 

September 24, 2014

If one listened only to the news on television, one could get depressed with all the bad news reported. Good stuff is not news. I look for it, though. It's out there, and it's easy to be upbeat in a place where the sun always shines.

 

September 22, 2014

There is a scientific reason that the autumn equinox is not today as it was when I grew up but I suggest that you pursue it on your own. What I do know, however, is that it varies according to your latitude. Here in Arizona, it begins on September 22, but the median start date for the USA is September 23. Go figure.

     It's only from the calendar that we know autumn is here. It's still hot in the desert and, in higher elevations, foliage hasn't begun to change colors yet. Still, I'm winterizing my other place in anticipation of freezing rains and lots of snow.

     Today is the 225th anniversary of Congress establishing the United States Postal Service.

  

September 20, 2014

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is a page-turner, well-researched by the author. She convinced me that she either really knows the plight of quadriplegics or she did her homework. Anyway, she wrote a fascinating tale that had me thinking of many issues I hadn't explored, like the right to life, or settling for what you've been given, or defining yourself by one incident in your life. Good read.

 

September 18, 2014

The Right to Disconnect movement that is sweeping Britain is nothing new at this household. It seems people are finally getting weary of beep-beep noises from incoming texts late at night.

     My employees were entitled to private lives after hours and there was no way I would look up air fares and book Las Vegas trips late at night. In those pre-email days, I invested in an answering machine and a fax machine; non-emergency inquiries were addressed during business hours (often after the caller had sobered up). It got so much easier when email was invented: after hours, I could check them at my leisure and work the email if it were an emergency.

     I understand why parents of school-age children might want to be connected at all times, but being childless by choice, I don't need to be. Also, my job is not affected by life-threatening events, so carrying a cell phone 24/7 is not necessary.

    We all have stories we could tell about overheard telephone conversations; I wonder how many calls and texts are emergencies, and how many reveal the emptiness of people's lives. From the phone calls I've heard in public places, I'd guess 95% or more are not vital.

    How did we survive before mobile phones were invented?

 

September 14, 2014

Apparently it's a form of international diplomacy of which I was heretofore unaware: kidnap and arrest an American, then begin negotiations for release directly with the President's office. By negotiating, we give credibility to their (sometimes illegal) government. By not negotiating, we strand an American. It seems President Clinton obtained the release of one of us in North Korea. Now it's happened again.

     The world is so vast and the people so different and yet so pleasant, in my experience. Business travelers aside,  I wonder why anyone wants to deliberately travel to a war zone or to a country against our government's advice. State Department Warnings are easily accessible online (link on  home page) and your international carrier provides facts. There's also a plethora of travel data about destinations in your library or online.

     Eastern Europe and Europe in general attract me, especially villages, in particular small towns along the Channel, like Oostende and Boulogne sur Mer. We have a nonstop flight to Great Britain which makes connections to the Continent more accessible; I've also crossed the Channel by ferry, Seacat, hovercraft, and channel tunnel. When my company was in retail travel, Europe was the most booked international destination of our business travelers; their itineraries were sometimes tricky, as the boss would send them to a meeting and expect them home the next day, not to take a week off to see the sights or enjoy themselves, and they still wanted the lowest advertised air fare even though they didn't meet minimum stay requirements. (Ah, the good days...)

     Weather does it for me, too. After a couple months of 100+°, coastal fishing villages appeal. This summer was the exception as I am involved in a company project in the mountains  and I have the chance to escape heat any time I want to work in the Rim Country.

     Research your destination. Be safe.  

 

September 11, 2014: We remember.

There were no surprises in the POTUS speech last night because media parsed his words in advance of it. If parts of the speech were meant to leave me feeling good about the USA, it worked.

***

The British empire dwindled over decades; will the same happen to the United Kingdom? We wait.

 

September 10, 2014

Life: Joy in the journey.

***

Tonight: POTUS speech re: ISIS. This is another condition (ISIS, not the President's speech, ha ha) over which I have no control; I vote as knowledgably as I can and then trust my representatives to know more than I do and to make informed decisions. This philosophy works well in private life as well. None of us has control over other people's actions, just control over our own reactions to them.

     None of us has walked in other peoples' shoes.

    

September 9, 2014

Italian authorities suspect they have their first case of Ebola; the victim is a woman who recently returned from a country that has an epidemic of the fatal disease and she is displaying symptoms of it.

     I visited Italy last year; the wonders of the Vatican and backdrop should not be missed for fear of catching this disease. As usually is the case, smaller towns away from the big city interest me more and are more representative of how normal people liveBologna, Ferrara, Ostia Anticabut don't miss seeing the capital, if you can. It's easy to get around and it is intriguing.

     It's possible to track where an airplane has been; it's not as easy to trace every passenger that's ever been on it. Much as I'm tempted to hold my breath from Sky Harbor to Heathrow because of foul airplane air, this disease is spread through body fluids, according to experts. That's why so many health care workers are struck.

    What professionals are advising is what is always good advice: wash your hands (really wash them) and avoid other people's body fluids. To this I add: avoid crowds. This is common sense advice and easily doable.    

 

September 8, 2014

Water, water everywhere. There are flash-flood warnings, school closings, street closings, and a  request that commuters stay off the roads. Done. I've always arranged my life so that I work close to home (very short commute except when flying). The immediate area around my home isn't prone to flooding because of the elevation, but I am not going to venture beyond our neighborhood today because of flash-flood warnings. It seems like autumn but here in the desert we have many weeks of hot weather ahead. It's different at the higher height of the Rim Country, where we have already wrapped pipes and bought pellets for the fireplace.

 

September 7, 2014

Once again yesterday's massive dust storm failed to reach us, although I could see clouds of dust in the atmosphere. They seem to form in the far east valley and gather momentum and dust as they blow west; the foothills must guide them away from us. That's an unscientific guess. Pictures of the dust storm in the valley showed the air dark brown. We got a nice cleansing rain here.

 

September 4, 2014

Scotland is at a defining point in history. The vote to accept or reject independence is a fortnight away; this is the first time a yes for independence vote has been realistic and possible since 1603 when the King of Scotland became also the King of England. We live in interesting times.

***

The USA's illegal immigrants situation pales in comparison to the state of affairs in France. Immigrants are storming the ferry port in Calais, hoping to cross to Britain. I've been on ferries on that route many times as a foot passenger. In normal circumstances, it is a fun thing to do if you're visiting Kent. I sometimes cross to France just to have lunch at a French café. On the return crossing, it's thrilling to see the White Cliffs of Dover and the castle from the channel, much as our troops did during WWII. Currently, I don't suggest the trip, as it is too risky with the desperate immigrants. Watch the news.

 

August 30, 2014

I wouldn't buy stock in them yet, but our domestic airlines are having their best financial quarter ever. Analysts say that is due to mergers creating a smaller supply and to declining oil prices. I doubt if we'll ever see another "sale of the century" but it would be nice to see the airlines pass some of the profit to the public who creates their wealth; pass it down to frequent flyers or across the board to all flyers in the form of lower fares. Throw us a bone and we'll consider another trip.

***

Have a memorable Labor Day.

 

August 27, 2014

It is the epitome of political correctness gone awry, horribly awry, that police did not look for Asian

perpetrators when the victims, 1400 children, described their attackers as Asian; police claim they did not want to appear racist. Huh?!

     Rotherham, England reels.

 

August 26, 2014

Unless you're flying over or to a war zone, flying is safe, safer than driving a car amid all the impaired drivers out there. This is my answer to the people who query about it. At the moment, I have a company project here in Arizona that prevents me from being amongst the flyers, or I would be headed "over the pond" because here in Arizona, we have about two months of summer left, despite what the calendar says.

 

August 24, 2014

I believe the Brits were beginning to think of themselves as European and now they consider leaving the European Union. They used to be just plain English, Welsh, Scottish, or Irish. Introduction of the channel tunnel had a huge impact on their national psyche because when one could drive or take a train to the continent, home no longer seemed like an island. Just as in the USA, immigrants have a huge impact on what is deemed to be really British (or really American).

     What is British is European and what is European is British. The UK has kept its own monetary system all along; there are establishments along the English Channel that will take euros, but inland it's all pounds.

     I believe diversity refreshes the soul, here and abroad. However, I understand some of the EU rules coming down from Brussels are better suited for the continent and that the UK would be better off controlling their own future. We'll see.

 

August 23, 2014

The volcano in Iceland is acting up again, threatening airspace over the north Atlantic. It was in 2010 that the volcano spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that aviation chaos ensued. If you're scheduled for departure to Europe from points here in the USA soon, or returning, watch the news and contact your airline.

     Always something...

 

August 20, 2014

Storms yesterday were severe in the northern part of Maricopa County but did not cause any damage to my home. Other folks weren't quite as lucky: almost 5 inches of rain fell in the New River area, washes were flooded, homes floated.

***

The Gold of San Xavier by Bruce Itule portrays Tucson and desert life accurately, according to my experience. If you've ever been curious about San Xavier Mission, this is the book to read for history. Minority race relations are also explained, minorities being Indian (Tohono O'odham) and Mexican. Unlike what popular media today depicts, where the people have sex on their first meeting and then decide if they want to date, the characters in the love story get to know one another before falling into bed together. The plot is intriguing and keeps the reader guessing.

     The book is fiction, published in 2003, so it may be hard to locate a copy, but it's well worth the search for one.

 

August 19, 2014

In my inbox today is a query about rail passes in Europe. I reply from my own experience.

     Several times I have used a train pass while overseas, but usually not. The way I decide is by my itinerary.

     If I am just taking the train to get between cities, usually the sum total of point-to-point tickets is less than the cost of a pass and so I buy tickets as I go along, a day in advance, if possible, because there are often advance-purchase discounts.

     As you know, Switzerland has many scenic rail routes; I headquartered myself in Geneva one time and used a pass to take a different trip every day. I even crossed Lake Geneva to Evian, France one day for lunch. That time I bought a single-country pass because it facilitated my indeterminate travel program. Even then, I often considered making the most of the pass, rather than considering what I really wanted to do.

     Therein lies the problem with passes. A pass-holder is tempted to make the most of the pass rather than experience the world he wants to experience.

     My suggestion for train passes is this: even if you want to be "footloose and fancy-free" when abroad, while planning your trip, plot a rough itinerary and research the cost of point-to-point tickets for it. After all, you commit to exact dates for airline transportation; a little planning for rail transportation is good and can save money.     

 

August 13. 2014

A little rain lifts the spirits. Dust is washed off and all the cacti radiate their true colors, some releasing energy to bloom. Still some drivers try to cross flooded washes and get trapped by rushing water. They not only endanger their car's occupants but also violate Arizona's Stupid Motorist Law (true name). Some things never change no matter how much you legislate.

     As we enjoy the wet weather, Swiss authorities clean up the aftermath of a landslide which derailed a train, hurtling some cars into a ravine. I was on this scenic train a few years ago, oblivious to danger.

I can't help feeling like I dodged the bullet.

 

August 12, 2014

The walk under the pier in Eastbourne UK is again open to the public. Parts of the pier are expected to be available to the public by Christmastime. It appears the fire was set intentionally.

***

Wet desert has a distinctive scent that I enjoy mornings as I saunter around rain-drenched walks. Like the sound of a rattlesnake, the smell is unique; we're fortunate for diversity.

 

August 6, 2014

Walgreens already owns a chunk of Boots Alliance which was headquartered in Nottingham, UK (a town I visited this year as a day-trip from Lincoln but I didn't see Robin Hood except in statue form, ha ha—I recommend the outing if you're in the area). Headquarters was moved to Switzerland. Then comes the announcement this week that our government will try to prevent US corporations from moving headquarters abroad to escape taxes. Now comes the notice from Walgreens that they will buy the rest of Boots Alliance and consolidate headquarters in Chicago in order to preclude our IRS from looking at their taxes too closely, they say.

     I think this calls for an audit.

     I remember a time decades ago when I earned less than minimum wage and I put every penny of my after-tax wages into my education; this triggered an IRS audit from which I came out clean. Now Walgreens actually announces that we shouldn't look at their taxes too closely. What is wrong with this scenario?

 

August 5, 2014

A piece of history is history as the pier in Eastbourne burned down this week due to an electrical short. This particular pier is the one that introduced me to the British pier experience. It had a pavilion and restaurant on the water end and a camera obscura. Shore side was penny slots (actually pence slots) and other tourist distractions. It was good exercise to walk the distance, meeting neighbors and other pleasant people who might be fishing from the lower deck or sunning themselves. The pier had quite a history during WWII as its midsection was dismantled so the enemy could not use it. I hope they rebuild it.

UPDATE: Authorities have begun an arson investigation. Owners hope to rebuild. Pier was 144 years old.

 

August 4, 2014

Millions of British soldiers marched to certain demise in World War I; on their route, most of them marched to the harbor at Folkestone. I've walked the Road of Remembrance many times, absorbing the channel views, going down to the harbor from the cliff. To commemorate 100 years since the first soldiers walked to their deaths, Folkestone recently constructed an arch, which was the center of activities to honor the dead in the centennial commemoration activities this week.

     In 2008, I wrote a book about Folkestone (Folkestone and Bits of Britain); it involves fun things I did around the area and the great people of Folkestone that I encountered. It is a travel narrative in which I could not write about thousands of years of history, but it is worth a quick read before heading to that fun town.

     My grandfather in Ulao, Wisconsin  registered for the draft for that war; he was exempted due to being in a vital occupation: farming. WWI, by the way, was the war to end all wars. Huh?

 

July 29, 2014

France had the most tourists in the world, according to a report by the BBC, with 83 million visitors last year. 1.4 trillion people traveled to a foreign country in 2013, and the Chinese are the biggest spenders. Europe is the most popular destination, as I can attest by my own travels. It's so easy to get around and there is so much planning information available online. The danger I have in staying in one place too long (says the woman who has lived in the same house for thirty years) is that I can get into a rut and become myopic in thought, forgetting weather problems, for instance, because we have so few

weather-related deviations in Arizona.

     It's an interesting article. New York is not even mentioned, possibly because we make it difficult to obtain a visa.

 

July 24, 2014

Waiting for the other shoe to drop: getting news about the plane missing over Algeria.

 

July 23, 2014

He was in prison for 25 years and in the death chambers for 2 hours. Some will say that Joseph Wood deserved the pain. This is a good example of what I mean by term limits, or rather interim limits. After 25 years, it was no longer about his victims but rather about legal maneuvers. Let us shorten the term between conviction and execution OR impose prison sentences for natural life.

 

July 20, 2014

The threat of capital punishment does not deter crime, here or abroad. Ask the 6-year-old girl who was raped in India. Either, 1) the crime is in the heat of rage and so the criminal isn't thinking of the consequences, or 2) the criminal doesn't think he'll get caught.

     Here in the USA, executing a convict costs more than warehousing him/her for life.

     This isn't a plug for doing away with capital punishment. It's an opinion that if execution is possible, it have term limits, so that we do not subject victims and their families to another form of punishment. Juries are reluctant to impose the death penalty (observed by this former juror on a capital murder case) and a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of release would be effective in keeping the convict off our streets.

 

July 19, 2014

Terrorists win if we stop traveling.

 

July 17, 2014

In France, a restaurant review blogger has lost the court case filed against her by a restaurant because of her negative review. The judge decided the review was too prominent in google search results. It hurt the restaurant's business.

     I support freedom of speech. However, I believe that irresponsible writers have had a cheap and expansive forum on the internet far too long. This is easy for them to do anonymously, and they say anything and escape consequences. Here in the USA, liable laws that apply to newspapers and other forms of written communication should be enforced for internet users.

     For my own part, I try to give fair reviews to only establishments I recommend.

 

July 16, 2014

With the worst drought in history in California and never before seen floods in China, incredibly there are still people who deny climate-change. In their zeal to be politically correct, media is giving too much coverage to naysayers.

 

July14, 2014

Fireworks in Milwaukee and a cleverly disguised gun in Yuma are some of the items TSA confiscated at airports last month. The ingenuity of camouflaging is interesting. What's alarming, though, is the number of people walking our streets, shopping next to me, sitting next to me in a theatre, who are carrying weapons.

        

July 7, 2014

Be charged. Reports have it that TSA now is confiscating dead cell phones and computers that cannot be turned on. This is good to know if, like me, you'd rather not pack the charger and the electricity converter. Perhaps if I lived a different life, I would need to be constantly connected. The cell phone I carry is for true emergencies (not bad hair days) and I charge my tablet right before departing for the airport, using it only for travel basics, like return seat assignments and hotel reservations. Now, it seems, I must take the charger along or risk confiscation. Be forewarned, and be charged.

 

July 6, 2014

The trouble with reading period pieces, be they newspaper articles or novels, is that I'm periodically asking myself Why didn't she use her cell phone? or Why didn't he research that on the Internet? If I had written it, the Bible would have been a whole different book.

 

July 5, 2014

Yet again, Cave Creek missed the haboob excitement of 7/3. The worst-hit area appeared to be Gateway Airport, which is about 50 miles from my home. As chance would have it, I was in the Rim Country, far from the action. We had gentle rains, one of which delayed the fireworks display. There was quite a crowd assembled around the town lakes to picnic, listen to live music, participate in the veterans' ceremony, and do other Independence Day activities. I hope you had fun.

***

Rhys Bowen spins a good tale in her In Dublin's Fair City.  Even if I'd known nothing about Ireland, I would be absorbed in her descriptions. The plot explains to me why some nonpartisan individuals were drawn into Ireland's troubles. It's an oldie but goodie.

 

July 1, 2014

Losing my mind in books from the Grafton Public Library is one of the pleasant memories I have of my junior high years. Before the present space was built, the library was located in a tiny storefront office downtown. Every two weeks come snow or sunshine, our family made the 5-miles round-trip drive, to drop off books before they became overdue and to replenish our supply. That supply often looked suspiciously the same, as one sibling finished her books and another read part-way through them before the library trip: one sister returned her books, the other checked the same ones out.

     A founder of the Grafton Public Library is Susan E. Crysdale. Sadly I read her obituary today.

      

June 30, 2014

How obese we were is something future generations of humans will deplore when looking at history. We look at darker days of generations past and wonder why our ancestors were so barbaric. They performed the bloody crusades in the name of Christianity and the horrors of WWI for the war to end all wars. I think the barbaric things were do today—drop atomic bombs, invade countries, raise food animals in a cruel manner—will have our descendants scratching their heads in bewilderment and shame.

     Throughout history, your birthplace dictated what your future was. I expound on this point from the safe haven of having been born in the USA. We project our experiences onto others, assuming they have the same opportunities we do, like a child born to a poor family in Mexico can aspire to be a homeowner (and not just have a life in a cardboard box). Perhaps we need a little more empathy to make the birth places of the less fortunate less undesirable. Our national borders might be safer.

 

June 22, 2014

In my grade school, "cooties" was a common game that involved staying away from the person who had themrather like "it" in tag. Who knew "cooties" came from slang of WWI and referred to lice. It was just a game to us and WWI didn't exist except in movies. In my childhood, WWI wasn't even taught in history class, possibly because in the Milwaukee area, there were so many newly-minted immigrants and their descendants from Germany.

     Facing history outside the USA enlightens me. Hitler first got his audience in a beer hall, the Hofbräuhäus, in Munich roughly 80 years ago. He made the place quite famous at the time. Tourists still throng to it, but in Bavaria, the beer hall does not mention the connection. The reason for that might seem obvious, but here's another WWII triviality. Allies worked from the secret tunnels at Dover Castle. From reading the signage in the tunnel-museum, a tourist might assume the USA played an insignificant part.

     Like they say, history depends on who is writing it.

 

June 21, 2014

I have been very productive so far today, this longest day of the year. The fresh pine air of the Rim Country drew me into a few days of down time. I hope you have a favorite retreat to refresh, too.

 

June 19, 2014

Written by a dead woman, Chestnut Street is a collection of short stories linked to a street in Dublin. Gordon Snell compiled the stories after the death of his beloved wife Maeve Binchy, who was a favorite author of mine for many decades since I first read Circle of Friends.  It's a good book to read in spurts when you must—like when you're waiting and shuffling at airports and onto planes—and it depicts human frailty and sturdiness pretty accurately, in my experience.

 

June 17, 2014

With the longest day of the year approaching, we are now officially in the monsoon. I say "officially" because it is just a date on the calendar, not a visible change in the weather around here. We used to experience a certain number of rainy days before we declared it certified. Now it seems some of our meteorologists are certified.

 

June 12, 2014

I remember a couple decades back when Los Angeles was cleaning itself up for one event or another (Superbowl? Olympics?). They wanted to clear the streets of homeless people and so they loaded them on buses and shipped them to Phoenix. At that time, air fares were cheaper than bus tickets; Phoenix loaded the homeless on airplanes and sent them back to L. A.

     I recalled this because of the current situation we have of the federal government "dumping" unwanted illegal immigrant children in Arizona. It's tragic.

 

June 7, 2014

Marvin was a veteran of WWII who was struck with cancer in 1958. He spent two months at Wood Hospital before succumbing to the disease at age 35 (leaving a wife and three young children). Compare the attention he received  in 1958 to the indifference we give our vets in 2014, particularly in Arizona where our senator makes the military and all things 'war' his theme, and we should bow our heads in humiliation.

 

June 4, 2014

When you're hot, you're hot:  The Valley reached 110° yesterday, the point we officially consider to be hot. Through happenstance, I was at a higher elevation where it is cooler. I'm back in Cave Creek today; it is only 102°, so no sweat.

***

I am happy to see that John McCain continues to get scorn over the VA scandal in his own state. Just like the immigration scandal and the border scandal, he pretends surprise at hearing about it. Like he's not responsible and this is the first he knows about it.

     He's never been an asset to this state. He's able to buy himself out of legal problems (remember the Keating Affair? Cindy McCain's drug affair?). His service to our country during the Vietnam War is greatly appreciated, but let's not make all prisoners of war into senators. 

 

May 30, 2014

I agree with today's letters-to-the-editor writer to The Arizona Republic: John McCain knew or should have known about the Veterans Administration scandal. Now he's morally outraged. Where's he been? We elected him to do a job, he's failed. On many counts. He's incompetent and he relies on our ignorance to keep him as a fool in the senate. I am happy to say I've never voted for him (and I don't vote along party lines).

 

May 27, 2014

John Muir survived childhood despite having a father who was a tool. He also survived a workplace accident that left him temporarily blinded. The University of Wisconsin at Madison was his alma mater but he took interesting classes, not necessarily courses that lead to a degree. He walked to Cuba.

     John Muir is Dunbar's favorite son and they're proud he made such an impression on the USA. His family immigrated to Wisconsin, the Madison area, when he was a boy. He loved the great outdoors and through his walking/camping trips learned biology, botany, and a host of other subjects that lead him to promote to our president a national parks system. He became a great writer in his later years, referring to his extensive travel/research notes.

     I confess to not knowing much about him other than familiarity with things named after hima forest of redwoods on our West Coast, for instance—but a morning at his birthplace museum in Dunbar, Scotland fixed that. Sandwiched between two groups of school children who were captivated by the interactive displays, I had to keep my mouth shut or a hush would fall over the room if they heard my American accent.

     This museum is free; I bought a book there on John Muir to fill in the gaps in my knowledge.

 

May 25, 2014

Safely home am I and it's nice not to be living out of little bottles for the TSA anymore. Speaking of the TSA, security checks at Sky Harbor were a breeze this time; I didn't have to disrobe or even take off my shoes. Perhaps Phoenix is one of the 65 cities which is checking a new scanning machine for liquids. I realize that no one gets off a plane looking better than he did getting on but whatever TSA at Sky Harbor is doing, it surely made the travel day easier.

 

May 22, 2014

My day was 32 hours long today as I crossed 8 time zones between Edinburgh and Cave Creek. More on my Scotland adventures soon. Kathy Noltze

 

May 10, 2014

The Veterans Administration scandal in Phoenix continues to unfold and it has expanded to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where they are falsifying records also. In private industry, cooking the books leads to dismissal and jail.

     Is the VA understaffed? People died waiting.

     Coming on the heels of the Child Protective Services disgrace, this VA revelation makes me doubt leadership in all government agencies. Lack of oversight appears to be the norm.

     If fraud and incompetence were eliminated from government agencies, I think our representatives could work together. After all, the goals are the same, or should be. The method of achieving them is what is contentious.

     When you want to appear as if you're working on a problem, appoint a committee. If you really want to fix the problem, appoint a person.

     Reorganization shouldn't be as cumbersome as it appears. (Do managers still inflate their staff numbers to shore up their own position?) Eliminate a lot of management positions; hire more frontline peoplein this case, doctors and healthcare personnel. Simplify record-keeping: we live in a computerized world and disabled veterans in Phoenix shouldn't have to traipse those long corridors just to pick up one form or another.

     Like small businesses everywhere in this country, streamline. Eliminate superfluous, keep the goal always in mind.      

 

May 9, 2014

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is a good tale and fun read. It takes readers by foot from a village near the southernmost tip of England to a village near the northern border. Although scenery is aptly depicted, the plot is more a voyage of human nature of the central character and the people he meets along the way and the ones he left at home, who also complete a journey. The word Pilgrimage in the title might detract some potential readers, but the book is neither preachy nor religious in theme. It leaves me feeling uplifted about the fundamental goodness of most people.

 

May 6, 2014

When I'm in Security lines at Sky Harbor, it seems like the guy with a gallon of liquid shoe polish is always in line ahead of me. TSA rules about liquids in your carry-on and other prohibited items are very clearly stated on their website; there is no excuse to delay your fellow travelers, even if you are a neophyte at air transportation. Several airports in Europe are testing scanners that examine liquid contents of any proportion without opening the container. They expect the test time to be about two years; after that, the USA will probably examine further. If they work, they will relieve congestion and the most onerous part of air transportation. Among the test airports are Gatwick and Heathrow.

 

May 5, 2014

The London tube strike has been called off by union leaders. If you were caught up in it, I hope your "Plan B" worked. I have not been to London in a decade but usually get to England at least yearly. My experience says the best way to avoid London is by rail out of Heathrow. Other people have success by bus, cab, or rental car, but the clog-ups during the strike made roads impassable. To fellow travel agents, my ARNK at Heathrow is rail.

 

May 2, 2014

Don't be a veteran in Maricopa County or you will die, literally, waiting to see a doctor. If your name is on the secret list they maintain, you are doomed.

     This on the heels of the CPS shame, making it harsh to be a child from a troubled family in Arizona, makes one wonder why anyone moves here to raise a family and grow old.

     No accountability in these and other disgraces generates these outrageous conditions. I don't advocate top-heavy management, just able administrators.

 

April 29, 2014

The present London tube strike is disrupting travel. Strikers have posted a calendar: May 5 is next. If you're trying to avoid London, think Hayes & Harlington.

 

April 28, 2014

Another senseless phrase: real estate that is priced to sell. Well duh:  we want it priced to stagnate on the market. Note that this phrase is most often used on nestled property.

***

It's a lot easier to see your neighbor's problem than your own.

 

April 23, 2014

The picture develops about the South Korean ferry disaster even as they pull more bodies from the underwater wreckage. Company executives have been arrested and their houses searched and boxes of evidence carted off.

     Usually, I don't think that where there's smoke there's firetoo much false information is forming shoddy opinions—but what kind of seafaring negligence can be found in a file in an executive's home miles away from the disaster? Executives of companies closely associated with the ferry company are forbidden to leave the area.

     The cargo shifted, causing the ship to list and sink. What have the divers found in the cargo?     

 

April 22, 2014

When I'm booking a foreign hotel, I refer to Google Street View and zoom around the neighborhood to see what's within walking distance: castle, palace, cathedral, museum, ferry...

     You never know what Security will confiscate next. One time they took a travel manicure set that was a gift from Aunt Adela; I guess the scissors was a threat to security. With Street View, I buzz around to see where the nearest green grocer is so I can replace confiscated items and stock up on bottled water and apples for the room (my sleep cycle adjusts to an 8-hour time zone change but my stomach stays in Arizona) and I also make a note of tea shops in the vicinity in case I get stuck in the rain one afternoon. I learn a lot about local culture by people-watching.

 

April 18, 2014

I watched an episode of Time Team last night in which they uncovered relics from a 2000-years old civilization in southern Wales. My stuff will be relics some day. 2000 years from now, what will anthropologists uncover about us and will they have a VCR to view it?

 

April 17, 2014

When planning an independent trip to Europe, if you have some discretion about entry and exit spots, read airport reviews before you buy your ticket. I don't want to waste precious vacation time standing in a queue. After an overnight flight, I want to get through the airport quickly and start the fun stuff.

     Real travelers rate Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris very low for transiting. I'll go back to Czech Republic by land but Prague's main airport is one to avoid. To get into the country at the airport, Security cost me over two hours standing in a queue during off-season; too late, I read that this is not an anomaly as the airport is very user-unfriendly.

     If I had my druthers, I'd choose Gatwick before Heathrow, although the new Terminal 5 at LHR is good.  Gatwick's train station facilitates avoiding London if a channel town is my target. (Elsewhere on this blog, I advise how to avoid London when landing in Heathrow.)

     Sometimes when buying a ticket, there is no option; after all, we must land where the airplane sets us. However, Europe is so compact that often it is simpler and more fun to fly to an "easy" airport and then transport myself by surface (train, bus, ferry...) than to spend half a day getting into the country via their main airport. Bratislava is an example. They have excellent train service from Vienna  but no air service from the USA. Rather than a double- or triple-connection by air, I went by surface from an easy airport (Vienna).

     Sometimes a novice will design his vacation piecemeal: first, cheap airline tickets, then cheap accommodations (don't get me started!), then ground transportation (often a mistake to buy a pass), then "What's to see?" This is like buying a new automobile, one spark plug at a time.

     The sum of the parts is pricey.

 

April 11, 2014

No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up. Lily Tomlin     Mysteries (MH370), natural disasters (mudslide), negligence (train derailment), intended catastrophes (school knifing)...  sometimes it's difficult to see the good things in life. Sunrises bestow joyful color, neighbors are friendly, friends are neighborly, cottontails bounce,  coyotes meander, javelina roam... nothing's amiss in my daily life except the headlines. A driver in Florida plows into a day care center, killing one child and injuring many, and I am remorseful, like I could have done something to prevent it.  Shouldn't our day care centers, schools, and military bases be the safest places on the planet?

***

DOW:  How low will it go?

 

April 10, 2014

Often when I am packing for a trip overseas, the temperature at my destination is 40° lower than it is here in the desert. That means I should pack sweaters, a coat, and winter clothing, right? Wrong! How wide of the mark I was when I packed for a cooler climate in Krakow. I forgot the effects of humidity until I left the train station and my hair puffed up like a fuzz-covered balloon and I began shedding layers of clothing.

     Streaming webcams are useful for packing. In the days close to departure, I use them to see what locals are currently wearing: coats? shorts? bare legs and arms? I forget that in parts of the world it rains, so open umbrellas remind me to pack a bumper schute.

     Local newspapers often run pictures with their news articles; these are useful, especially crowded street scenes. I also skim these headlines to understand what the local concerns are.

     Back to Krakow: I got to shop for new attire at the Cloth Hall,  and the fuzz-covered balloon look actually worked for me.     

 

April 7, 2014

There is an interesting article in today's Washington Post about traditional print vs. online reading that indicates we are all becoming Twitter brains. Truly. Our brains are changing to adapt to reading online in short spurts. We scan and skim, click links, search for key words, and click again. College students report that it is difficult or impossible to read a traditional novel. They scan and skim and miss main points in a traditional book.

     Although I don't tweet and I don't use popular social media, I spend a lot of time online, and in my experience, this article is accurate. After a day of researching online, when I pick up a regular book I have the attention span of a gnat. This extends to my writing skills, also. I communicate via email. My handwriting has become chicken-scratching.

     It is interesting to note, however, that the traditional books I've written have sold better than the Nook Book short story. The sales are far from a scientific sampling, but there appears to be a spot in our world for traditional print yet. I prefer reading (and writing) the traditional book. Coincidentally, that's the way to keep up those skills, if that's relevant to you.

    

March 31, 2014

Lufthansa pilots strike this week, affecting 425,000 passengers. Check your itinerary in case you are on a code-share. Contact Lufthansa directly.

 

March 30, 2014

Ozaukee County is the healthiest county in Wisconsin, neighbor Milwaukee County the least healthy. This is according to a report that came out on Wednesday which ranks all counties in our country. It rated longevity, smoking, exercise and other factors. Ozaukee has always been at or near the top in secondary education, but this is the first I recall about health. Yea, Ozaukee!

 

March 28, 2014

Another nice thing about living in a dry climate like Arizona: cars don't rust. I remember how my father, back in the mid-west, replaced a rusty muffler with a less rusty muffler. No matter how often you rinsed salt off your car, come springtime new corrosion enhanced old corrosion.

     It wasn't only for cosmetic reasons that one replaced the car every few years: crucial bits and pieces deteriorated in the ice and salt of a mid-west winter. One might not be able to change a flat on Highway 141 because lug nuts had corroded. Rusty exhaust pipes might leak fumes into the car. Battery cables might oxidize. A car that was ten years old was a rust bucket.

     Here in Arizona, when my car was ten years old, it was just coming to its own. On the road, motorists with similar cars make sure I notice theirs. At stoplights, even drivers of dump trucks rev their engines, challenging me to race. (I never do.)

     The mechanic in our family, who was born with a socket wrench in his fist, says parts for my car are easier to get now that it is 27 years old. (He's got the new car—it's 26.) Apparently because these automobiles are no longer manufactured, owners are parting them out because they can't find a garage to service them.

     You don't want to drive with me when I've got a rental car until I've relearned an automatic. At the first couple stops, I always try to push in the clutch. I look for the lever to crank down the window. New-fangled accessories, like cup-holders, flummox me.

     As long as the mechanic in our family likes to pull out spark plugs with his teeth, I'll keep the car.

 

March 26, 2014

How pathetic one's home life must be that you behave like an uncaged animal when work takes you abroad. I refer to the security agents that were sent home yesterday from our president's detail in Belgium. Who vets these applicants so that people with alcohol problems are in charge of national security? A job with the Secret Service is desirable and lucrative in this period of high unemployment —which calls into question the critical thinking ability of these guys, as well as questioning who should be a step away from the president of the United States.

***

Still Life With Bread Crumbs is a new novel by Anna Quindlen that is a realistic love story taking place mostly in small-town New York state. It's unusual in that the female protagonist is 60 years old. That age is generally overlooked by media, arts, and life in general. I call it realistic because it doesn't contain guns or gore or super-heroism. It's about ordinary families with their cast of characters that have flaws in dysfunctional families. It's a good read.

 

March 21, 2014

His spring break in Siberia is called off, according to Senator John McCain, who scoffed at sanctions Russia placed against him in retaliation for our sanctions against Russia.

     On a serious note, McCain wants us to arm Ukraine. Duh, as if Ukrainians could operate our sophisticated weaponry if we sent a load of it over there. At least John Boehner wants us to try sanctions first before we send troops.

     Senator McCain always wants us to show our might, to start wars. Aren't we glad he lost the election.

 

March 18, 2014

To read a newspaper of the '70s is to take me back to that time and I relive the thoughts and experiences and venue of that period of my life. I've read most of Maeve Binchy's books in which she weaves stories of her childhood into tales that give readers a picture of Ireland. Before she became an award-winning author, she wrote articles for The Irish Times. She died in 2012. In 2013, her husband, Gordon Snell, published a collection of newspaper articles she wrote in the '60s and beyond.

     Before the whole story played out, we were pleased that Prince Charles had found true love at last: Diana. When women began to pick up the tab, we remember the unease when waiters customarily presented the check to the man. We remember the choking smoke of pubs.

     This is a quick read, but don't read it quickly or you'll miss the fun of recollection.

 

March 13, 2014

Sometimes we forget how our comfortable days depend on other people doing their jobs.  I'm thinking of the missing airplane and how all those passengers didn't give a thought to the thousands of people who keep them safe. Rightfully so, the passengers went about their days assuming everybody else was diligent about their jobs.

 

How were all those sophisticated communications systems that are built into the plane disabled?  How is it that not a single passenger, in 7+/- hours duration of skyjacking, was able to make a distress call on a cell phone? There has to be more than one person or a small cluster of terrorists involved because of the body of technical knowledge entailed: it's more immense than a computer geek sitting in a basement.

 

At any rate, the catastrophe has me thinking about people upon whom we depend to keep our lives running smoothly, from water flowing out of the taps to potholes being filled, to trains and planes operating safely. I thank you all sincerely and remain grateful.

 

March 13, 2014

Arizonans breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday upon the announcement that Gov. Brewer will not be running for another term. It is said that she did her best.

 

This is a start.

 

March 11, 2014

The Arizona Republic reports today that Governor Brewer's staff structured the discrimination bill that she recently vetoed. While most governors probably help frame legislation, the fact she let it get to a vote shows how much she supported it. Less hypocritical leaders would have killed the bill before it came to her desk. We all know she vetoed it only because of public outcry. Keep up the good work, fellow Zonies.

 

Haven't we had enough of them?

 

March 10, 2014

There is no excuse for not running passengers' names through Interpol's database. Regardless of whether or not there is a connection between the stolen passports and the vanishing of the Malaysian jet, there is a reason so much intel is required of us fliers. It's deplorable that two passengers used stolen passports for identification, the theft of which had been reported to Interpol and listed on their database. Travelers who book at the last minute should expect extra scrutiny. The rest of us book way in advance to take advantage of low fares, and there is time to vet us. Hello: we have computers nowadays. What is so fascinating about toothpaste carried by us mundane travelers that it deserves more attention than a stolen passport?

 

March 9, 2014

Waiting to confirm your worst fears was the toughest part of retail travel. Natural interruptions to travel, such as storms and erupting volcanoes, created havoc in our work day. There was an added dimension when the interruption was due to an aircraft crash and we were dealing with hysterical relatives who were awaiting news.

     It's too early to offer condolences because there may be survivors over which to rejoice; it's like waiting for the other shoe to fall.

***

A reminder: Arizona does not spring forward or fall back. We are always on Mountain Standard Time. It's often referred to as Arizona Time for purposes of setting computers. (We are in a zone by ourselves, ha ha.)

 

March 4, 2014

Happy Fat Tuesday to you today. A sigh of relief was almost palpable at my house upon reading the morning news that Putin declared he'll comply with international law regarding the Ukraine and Crimea. Stock markets recovered and everyone is relieved except for our own warmonger Senator McCain. Aren't we fortunate that he did not win the presidential election? I do wish our president, though, would stop drawing a line in the sand like a bully. Obviously he has more insight into the situation than we mere lay people who go about our lives peacefully and wish the world could do so, too.

 

March 2, 2014

We survived unscathed the hailstorm that hammered the foothills yesterday. Other parts of the valley suffered flooding and uprooted trees.

***

Only in Arizona: A recent east coast visitor to the Grand Canyon was at first refused boarding at Phoenix/Sky Harbor Airport because the driver's license she tendered as ID was not issued by a state, it was issued by a district, the District of Columbia. I myself have often wondered in what world they live, those folks in Washington, D. C.

 

February 28, 2014

No sooner had the governor vetoed the anti-gay law than the extremists amongst our legislature were drawing up another similar bill. Considering all the problems Arizona has and all the room we have for improvement, this is what concerns our elected officials? I haven't read of one business owner who said serving gays in his/her business was against his religion.

 

February 27, 2014

As expected, Gov. Brewer vetoed the anti-gay law that our legislature passed. What took her so long? Well, she had to have time for the national spotlight to swing our way.

     Yesterday, a pundit writing in our local paper pointed out that the time to rid ourselves of these bigots is in the primary elections which are in August.

 

February 26, 2014

Our governor continues to embarrass us as do our legislators who signed the discrimination bill. Why do we keep electing these bigots? I think the people who pull her strings have told the governor what she should do, she will follow orders, and currently she's exploiting her glare of publicity as long as possible.

 

February 17, 2014

Notwithstanding all that security screening we travelers endure at the airport, it was the pilot who hijacked the plane, and it was Ethiopian Airlines, no less.

***

It's too early for snake season (usually April) but warm nights bring them out of hibernation. I cleared a walkway and driveway of excess creosote bush overgrowth and thus signaled the way for snakes to slither awaythey don't like the dirt disturbed. Alas, more raking to come.

 

February 16, 2014

It seems to me that weather the Midwest USA is getting this winter is more severe than the winters of my youth. Apparently the harsher conditions are due to a change in the jet stream, which is lingering longer, causing cold to last longer. Meteorologists predict this will repeat itself in the winters to come.

 

February 13, 2014

Researchers have traced the genome of a baby buried in Montana 12,600 years ago, the oldest discovered so far in North America. Native Americans are descended from the baby's tribe. The baby was descended from tribes that crossed  to "Alaska" from what we know as the Orient. This verifies that all of us in North America are from somewhere else.

     It is like when I first arrived in Arizona: everyone was from somewhere else. I learned that the habits of my tribe are not rules of nature. It was easy to integrate because each person was exposed to many new customs.

     Nowadays there are a couple of generations that were actually born here.

 

February 7, 2014

Whether you have faith in a higher power or not, Mitch Albom's the first phone call from heaven is a good read. 

 

February 6, 2014

Maybe it's the games in Sochi or possibly it's cabin fever that's inspiring people to inquire about summer travel. I'll point out that I phased my company out of retail travel back when I sold the commercial building, so if you need schedules and fares, contact suppliers. Still, I continue to travel internationally for both business and fun as I did before I started my agency, and I gladly give a few tips to you folks back home in the Midwest. The information might save you money but more importantly, might enhance your travel time.

     I get to the continent about once a year. Last year it was Italy, before that, Poland, Germany, and other countries. I also get to the UK often.  Because the seashore is so attractive when it's 120° here, the British Isles entice me. I've been to Britain many times but I haven't been to London in over a decade.

     We'd think it weird if foreigners stayed in New York for their entire trip, and went home thinking they'd seen the USA.

     If you want to investigate beyond London, with a little planning it's easy to avoid the city. The airports which receive flights from North America have good rail service. Accommodations outside of London cost less. Moving about Britain is easy. The money system has long been decimal so you don't have to contend with shillings and farthings. Natives even speak English, sort of. Being a pedestrian in England is easier these days even though they drive on the left side of the road, because on the pavement at busy intersections they've painted notices to silly Americans exhorting us to look right (which is not a review of our appearance).

     Staying outside of major cities is good advice for the continent also. With the euro, you don't have to change money at every border. Learn a few words of the local language in order to read menus. A smile means the same in every language.

     To avert sleeping under a bridge like a troll, I book my accommodations in advance. Also, I research the area in advance and decide a couple essential activities, but I don't over-schedule my time so that I rush madly between attractions: I allow serendipity to come about.

     Fly into one city, home from another, and enjoy the gap.

     Keep the queries coming.

 

February 5, 3014

Let's hope it's a trend among retailers started by CVS: not selling cigarettes and tobacco products. When curbs are put on their habit, smokers are often quick to point to other people's addictions, but my sympathy lies with parents of teens and also with former smokers: fewer visible temptations.

 

February 3, 2014

Seahawks trounced Denver, but the groundhog saw its shadow.

 

January 31, 2014

On this last day of January, I've finally reached the end of a Donna Tartt novel, The Goldfinch. The writing is good, plot good, characters believable. The subject was well-researched and Tartt  knows her art history, methods, and artists. I say "finally" because she could have cut pages and pages of verbiage, well-written but better suited for a narrative about her views of fatalism. I believe that my decisions matter, that I have some control over my destiny. However, it's not because we have different life views that I formed this opinion but because her verbosity drags the story down. Writing "tight" is more difficult than unbridled expounding.

     This is not a review, it's just an opinion. Now I'm on to Mitch Albom's latest book, which is lighter fodder.

 

January 29, 2014

Recently, the first Porsche ever made by Ferdinand Porsche was rediscovered in storage in Austria. Built in 1898, it had been put away since 1902 and is now on display in a car show in Germany. It used to go 20 mph, beating all the horses and buggies on the dirt autobahns. Back in the day, it was the most energy-efficient vehicle in production because it had a range of 49 miles on a single charge. That's right: it is electric.

     Mine's not electric but it gets good mileage and, at 27 years, I think it's among the oldest on the Arizona autobahns. I still roll my eyes occasionally when I'm at a traffic light and the driver in the car next to mine revs his engine, wanting to race. Puh-leeze: I've got 4 cylinders and I use them all.

 

January 28, 2014

The pigs came again. This time they arrived in the dark hours of the night and left a trail of devastation on my patio. They must have been accompanied by a hawk who shredded his dinner while he watched the javelina dig up cacti and potted plants because I scraped up blood and feathers off the concrete for an hour before work this morning.

     Tonight: State of the Union address. (I know what our state is...I need to know how to get where we want to be. I hope POTUS addresses the issues.)

 

January 23, 2014

We paid millions to USIS, the company we employed to vet applicants for high-security jobs, prospective employees like Edward Snowden. It seems USIS did not perform background checks even on arrest records, which are easily searchable online. The government keeps a record of the phone numbers I dial; large tubes of toothpaste are confiscated from innocuous travelers like myself. Yet we hire treacherous yobs to oversee sensitive data. What's wrong with this situation?

     The hiring of unvetted Snowden is not atypical of USIS, as we have hired 660,000 people since USIS started raking in our money, none of whom were fully investigated, according to the Wall Street Journal.

     Shouldn't the USIS robber/villains be arrested?    

 

January 22,2014

Sochi:  I've received several queries about the winter Olympics which will be in Russia in February and March this year.  If you haven't already read the travel warnings, please do so (link on home page of this site.) If you aren't concerned about sharing your personal information with our State Department, you may want to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program even if Russia is not your next international destination (link also on home page). It's designed to help the government help you when you're traveling abroad.

     In Russia, the American Embassy is in Moscow and we have consulates in other parts of that vast country. If I were going (I'm not), I'd make a note of the nearest consulate; you never know when your passport will be stolen.

 

January 6, 2014

If they can't reach a quorum because of weather in Washington, perhaps there is a blessing after all to the Arctic freeze that grips our nation. Here in the desert southwest, does anyone else feel guilty about chamber of commerce weather?

 

January 3, 2014

The post office seemed like a ghost town today, probably due to weather. Weather problems in Arizona? Au contraire. Weather problems back east and up north, where thousands of flights were cancelled due to blizzards. At this time, packages destined for our sunny state are stockpiled in warehouses back east.

     I recall the recurring plight my clients faced when flying in winter. No matter how painstakingly I'd design a trip for best fares and schedules, I could not anticipate weather in Denver or Chicago, hubs to points east.

 

December 31, 2013

Renewed calls for the demise of TSA/ airport screening are occurring. Homeland Security, in my experience, does a good job in screening carriers and foreign airports that are the last point of departure for the USA. Cockpit doors are more secure and other security measures are in place. However, I've never been fooled by the clown act TSA puts on at the airport. It only helps neophytes feel safer and the rest of us feel maltreated.

     The stuff TSA confiscates, like my manicure scissors and shampoo, are innocuous items in the possession of innocuous people.  Even guns and other weapons are items the passenger forgets he has (check how many gun-carriers are allowed to continue their journey instead of taking a trip to jail. Who forgets he has a gun? Perhaps the very person who shouldn't have one? )

     We strip off our belts, jackets, and shoes, sometimes more (ask me about the time I was told to take off my blouse) and we walk through full-body scanners, endure pat-downs, and luggage inspections.

     After all this invasive showing, the bad guys get tackled by passengers or crew. These TSA measures don't screen for nuts.

     Terrorists use other venues to spread their evil (see Russia news).

     The use of metal-detectors and baggage x-rays is as effective as what we passengers currently endure with TSA. Add to that increased Intelligence. Airlines already have enough information to start security investigations if a red flag alerts them. Do extra security on the red-flagged people.

     Airports would be more efficient, we'd save a pile of money, and I wouldn't have to take off my clothes.

***

A sense of optimism pervades the atmosphere as a fresh year begins. I hope all your good wishes for it are fulfilled.   

 

December 21, 2013

In the northern hemisphere, today is the shortest day of the year, so I'll be brief, too: Have a good first day of winter.

 

December 20, 2013

Bringing down the house:  When you're taking in a play in an historic theatre in London, absorbing the play, the diverse audience, and the ornate surroundings, you don't expect the ceiling to fall in, literally. That's what happened at the famed Apollo yesterday. Other nearby theatres in the district offered their venues as staging areas for victims and first-responders.

 

December 17, 2013

Only the good stuff goes missing. A variation of that refrain is something I heard many times in the decades that I was doing retail travel. The news that baggage handlers were caught on camera stealing from luggage is no surprise; what's surprising is that it took so long to set up surveillance. These guys should get harsh sentences because they were in a position of trust.

     Ever since the time I flew from Arizona (75°) to Wisconsin (-5°)  and USAir sent my winter coat to Ohio, I pack only a carry-on which I handle myself. As far as I know, only TSA has rifled through my stuff. They usually don't fret about my bags because X-rays reveal how  innocuous the contents are. One time, they sliced open the heel of a shoe, rendering the pair useless, and I spent precious travel time shopping to replace the pair.  (I always pack a spare pair ever since the time I was caught knee-deep in flood waters in Camden Townmore travel time slogging through stores on Oxford Street.)

     A word to the wise: pack valuables (tablet, cash, passport, phone, camera...) in your carry-on. When you're packing a case to be checked, put what you want to pack on your bed. Put half of it away. Then start eliminating.

 

December 13, 2013

North Korea executed their leader's uncle, the one who was physically removed from a meeting this week. That's one way of getting rid of the opposition. Even with government shut-downs and tea party fanatics, I prefer our system. Aren't we lucky to be able to gripe?

     I was in the Rim Country yesterday, getting a seasonal dose of cold.

    

December 10, 2013

Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors, definitely my preferred travel writer. In One Summer, he takes us back to the exciting year 1927 and conveys a sense of time and place and history. As I read, I imagined both my sets of grandparents with their young families. My father was a toddler, my mother not born yet, when Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic to cheering crowds. Bryson's depiction creates a feeling of great pride in America.

     Bryson describes many poignant events of that summer. One which has a personal connection is the Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney fight. In one of the greatest matches ever organized, Dempsey's career ends. A decade earlier, the Iowa Cyclone, also known as Carl Noltze, fought the very same Dempsey to a draw, a decent feat for Noltze.

     In 1927, the War to End All Wars was history, the stock market crash and Depression unwittingly in the future. It was an exciting time to live in America. Bill Bryson captures the essence absolutely.    

 

December 9, 2013

Shades of Wisconsin:  A credit card was put to good use this morning, but not in the usual manner. In the desert, frost is not something one  concerns oneself about but today I awoke to 33° and a layer of frost that covered everything, including the windshield of my urban warfare vehicle. It was faster to clear with a credit card than to play hide-and-seek with an ice-scraper, if I even have one.

     Still, this is not as critical as the 60-car pile-up they had on the freeway near my childhood home in Ozaukee County. Be safe up there.

 

December 7, 2013

Check with your airline before heading to the airport today. There are many delays, mostly caused by weather. A very bad situation creates havoc in Europe as UK's air traffic control system is dickey.

 

December 4, 2013

DNA that is 400,000 years old has been discovered in Spain in a thigh bone and tooth. Specialists are excited about sequencing it. My own genealogy research doesn't go back that far.

 

November 29, 2013

Philomena: Judi Dench, one of the all-time greats, gives her usual flawless performance. The movie justifies the hype. Good one to see if you're questioning religion versus faith. Funny and yet tragic.

***

This coming Sunday is the first day of Advent and therefore the first candle on the yule log should be lit. It is a tradition in our house that can be secular and adds to the anticipation of Christmas.

 

November 24, 2013

Alice Munro is the Canadian writer who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature and I have just finished reading her latest and last, she claims, collection of short stories. She surely deserves the prize. In each story, she captures the essence of human nature and draws a good picture of place. Characters are ordinary people in ordinary neighborhoods in Canada.

     Seldom do I enjoy tales of the sordid side of human nature, but Munro's writing is a pleasure to read.

 

November 23, 2013

The Grand Canyon is closed on the north rim due to snow and ice. You can still access it from the south; be prepared for a winter wonderland.

Also, heed weather reports if you're transiting the northern part of our state, as they frequently close the freeway until the plow arrives.

 

November 21, 3012

I remember when Carl Icahn broke up TWA because he could make more money by selling off the pieces than by operating it. This week, he made a stack of money to pile on his other stacks of money by manipulating the market. At our house, we didn't fall for his oratory, but a lot of folks did. Icahn is the icon of vice in the system.

 

November 17, 2013

Russia already had one of the worst aviation safety records in the world before today's plane crash. When I worked retail travel for decades, I always devised ways to keep my international clients off Aeroflot and other Russian carriers, even when they traveled within Russia. That country's safety record was so bad that I'd fly travelers to points outside of Russia and then fly them back in to their next destination in order to keep them off of Russian carriers.

     Condolences to the victims' families.

 

November 14, 2013

Authorities in Britain are going to experiment with fast-tracking travelers through Passport Control at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, for a fee, of course. This involves registering in advance (the registration is valid indefinitely, it seems) so that Immigration can gather intelligence about you and your ilk.

     As I usually travel off-season for economic reasons, the Customs and Immigration lines are typically not long but now they should be even faster since the rich folks will be out of the way, ha ha. (A good method of skipping those lines is to arrive from Calais or Oostende by ferry.)

    

November 8, 2013

They say we are 250,000 times more likely to win the lottery than get hit by the satellite that's crashing to the earth next week. (They are the people paid to know these things.) Well, that's not very reassuring. Somebody wins the lottery. I say "duck".

 

November 6, 2013

Performing my ablutions this morning, I dangled my head out the bathroom window to dry my hair and I calculated: the Marine in our family celebrated the 192nd through 195th birthdays of the Marine Corps while in service.

     It was a 6-year commitment: He was on active duty for four years, including two tours of duty in Southeast Asia, followed by two years of inactive duty.

     The success of our Marines serving today is built on the backs of those Marines who went before them. Every day I am grateful for the good life I have; much of that is due to the people who preceded me in times gone by.

     Sunday is the 238th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Yes, the Corps is older than the United States of America.  This will be the 46th time the veteran in our family marks the day. He still grows taller every time he hears "♫♪ From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli...♪♫."

     To all our active duty military, and to all our veterans, thank you; you are remembered every day. And a special thank you to Marine Corps troops, both active and veteran:  Semper Fidelis.

     

November 2,2013

Reminder: Time does not spring or fall in this state because Arizona is always on Mountain Standard Time (for computer and airline reasons sometimes referred to as Arizona Time). This makes life easy for us Zonies but often confuses the rest of the world.

 

October 25, 2013

My Ulao book is hot in West Bend circles, ha. The supply at the gift shop of the WC Historical Society is being replenished. Please note that all proceeds stay with WCHS.  Port Washington's historical society was a useful resource when I researched for the book. I've donated supplies to both groups, so 100% of the purchase price assists these worthy organizations.

 

October 24, 2013

When did grocery stores stop selling real food? I roamed super market aisles last evening as the hunter/gatherer in our family filled the cart with his captured prey. In the canned goods aisle, I scrutinized labels. I'm appalled at the rubbish pawned off as food. Chemicals saturate food to make it smell good, look good, taste good, and last a millennium.

     The juice section was especially irksome because labels are designed to mislead us. There is no standard for juice: anything that's liquid and ingestible can be called juice. 100% juice can be all fruit or it can be liquid sugar, salt, fat, coloring, and flavoringand it's still 100% juice. It's like 100% ketchup is part tomato and part other compounds.

     The yield of high fructose corn syrup must be abundant this year because it was listed on every label, misleading many of us to believe that we are purchasing a healthier sugar substitute.

     I am not vegetarian or pernickety about my meals, I don't follow a special diet and I eat whatever's being served at dinner when I'm out. At home, alongside lean meat or fish,  fresh fruits and vegetables are served much more frequently than packaged or processed fodder.

     I wonder if Americans wouldn't need to be medicated so much if we got back to eating real food.

     Vitamin supplements: get your vitamins from real food. Ask your doctor.

     Disclaimer:  I am not a nutritionist or other health care professional. Many factors that determine quality of life are within our control, like food, environment, stress. Early in adulthood, I made healthful decisions that shaped my future, decisions like locating home near job to avoid commuter stress. I don't regret any of the major decisions (don't ask me about fashion choices, though).  Food intake is such an easy thing to control.

         ***

I'm still learning this new OS, so if you surfed over to this website and faced an unusual screen recently, the bloopers weren't due to gremlins or a flawed system; they were caused by a defective operator.

 

October 18, 2013

Jack D. McKenzie

1937 - 2013

 

Continued on  Vintage page.