Monday, 30 November 2009

For Relaxing Times...Make It Commercial Time

The idea for my class today was to discuss media, commercials, and advertising techniques. To do so, I downloaded a few videos from YouTube to show in class, hoping to start a discussion. That worked moderately well, and that's not the point of this post.

The point of this post is to talk quickly about celebrities doing commercials in foreign countries. See, I remembered a tea commercial from my time in Germany about 10 years ago. This commercial was weird because it featured nothing but German, and at the end, Sean Connery suddenly appeared and said, "What a tea." Check it out; it's only 10 seconds of strangeness:

"What a tea"? Doesn't he mean "What the hell?" In any case, this is the commercial that led me and my friend Bobby to say "What a tea" for months on end.

That got me thinking, though, about celebrities doing ads in foreign countries, and I remembered the movie "Lost in Translation," where Bill Murray's character goes to Japan to do ads for Suntory Whiskey. Well, it turns out that Suntory Whiskey exists, and "western" celebrities shill for it:

And it's even freaking Sean Connery again! Obviously, this one would have been better if he'd said "Hwhat a whishkey" at the end of it but beggars --especially foreign beggars-- can't be choosers.

While I was out there on the internet, I also came across a few others worth sharing. The next two are for my folks, who I believe could technically fall into the category of "stalkers" when it comes to Harrison Ford fandom:

Sure, a bit weird, but this next one is even stranger:

He seems so happy! And sweaty! I certainly like Happy Harrison Ford, although I certainly realize that Frowny, Stern Harrison Ford is the one who sells movie tickets. Happy Harrison Ford is the one who sells Japanese beer. And I'm cool with that.

Finally, here's one that's just way out there. The guy or girl who posted it on YouTube wrote simply "Words fail to describe this". Truer words have never been spoken (or failed to be spoken, in this case, I suppose). Watch. Learn:


Saturday, 28 November 2009


Switching channels the other night, I came across a show entitled Lobstermen, which appears to be some sort of spinoff by the Discovery Channel of their popular Deadliest Catch series. The show features several Point Judith and New Bedford fishing boats working the waters of Georges Bank. Like many of these programs, it follows a formula that fudges the line between a documentary and a reality show. Drama disguised as insight!

One of the Point Judith boats on the show is the dragger Excalibur. Last March, I caught the Excalibur loading up and leaving the dock in Stonington. Little did I know at the time, I was looking at a celebrity.

SOUNDBOUNDER: Stonington Fishing Fleet

Friday, 27 November 2009

E-Ticket For The Next Flight

In one of my previous posts Is It Posible To Plan A Trip With Iberia? I began to tell you about the vacation my husband planned for next month. I can't know, if they read my post in Iberia but after that torture I described you, suddenly the things changed for the best. They changed the flights 2 times more, yes, but at least they did not obbligued me to call their paid client service. They understood, they can perfectly communicate me the non essential changes via e-mail.

Well, now the day of the departure is for the door. And there are some important things to remember. Passport and travel tax. I forgot them completely.
First of all we have to remember to control if the passport is valid. My god, do you think it's clear as the daylight? Yes, but not when your mind is full of problems: the last gifts, little things to buy, PC that does not work, gas and wood and ... Everything to repair, to control...
And if your flight is on Monday and you remember about passport and travel tax on Friday...

But I wanted to tell you about e-tickets.
It's the greatest invention of the era of internet, believe me. I remember those times, when I had to go in the capital to buy flight tickets for my vacations. There were terrible queues, I had to stay hours and hours, days and days there, to reach booking office.

Now I find the flight in internet, I book it. It's not necessary even to print the mail with the confirmation. I print it, but nobody asks for it in the airport. It's enough to show the passport. Great! The flight ticket is the confirmation of your payment. Nothing more. I really LOVE e-tickets.

The only thing you have to look carefuly is when you book your flight. Some companies do not accept e-tickets. And it's written near the information about the flight. So, if you have to receive your flight ticket by post, you need to book the flight at least a month before the day of departure!

And the last good thing of e-booking is e-checking. :0)))
It's possible to choose your place in the airplane sitting for your PC. It's important if you have preferences or your flight is long and you don't want to disturb the sleeping persons that sit near you, for example.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Thanksgiving is upon us again, or at least it is in the U.S.

Not so much here in Costa Rica, but that's OK. It's still good to be thankful. Because of the holiday, I'm sure that basically every blogger in the U.S. is putting up a post about the things that he or she is thankful for. I am certainly thankful for many, many things like my family, my friends, my health, my life in general, and all the blessings I've been given. But the more I think about it, I'm actually thankful that Thanksgiving even exists.

While living in another country as an ex-pat, you have to sometimes defend your home country, and of course the U.S. is no exception to that rule of thumb. In fact, many people have their well-formed concepts about Americans, and despite the fact that they may never have visited the U.S., they're still happy to tell you what you and your compatriots are really like.

One such concept that you'll come across quite often is that America is a greedy, imperialistic nation that doesn't give a crap about the rest of the world... basically, that it's the enormous gorilla --be it 500 pounds or approximately 250 kilos-- that feels it can sit wherever it wants in the world. Another idea that I've come across, especially in Costa Rica, is that Americans don't care about their families. I would particularly dispute this point anyhow, as I think they're often confusing quality with quantity in terms of family size, but that's a point for another post. Finally, there's the idea that Americans are interested only in crass convenience, fast money, and everything artificial and gaudy.

Thanksgiving blows all these concepts out of the water.

Think about it. For most families, it's either the biggest or second-biggest holiday of the year. Almost everyone celebrates or recognizes it in some way, and unlike some holidays, it's even non-denominational; I've been invited to a Muslim friend's house for Thanksgiving, and they served turkey alongside Pakistani dishes.

It's also non-commercial, generally. I'm sure that some people spend tons of money on food --and I do certainly concede that point-- but the point is not about buying the biggest or newest gifts, or impressing your loved one with the most romantic gesture known to man, or waiting in lines in the snow to be the first to buy a rare shiny new chocolate-covered Tickle Me Grover doll for Junior. Instead, Thanksgiving is simply about getting together with your loved ones, spending time together, eating a delicious meal, and being thankful. Holy mackerel, can you believe we actually pulled this holiday off as a nation?! And it's so awesome!

Unfortunately, this holiday isn't celebrated in Costa Rica. My students who, by nature of being my students, are learning English from an educational center associated with the U.S.A., didn't actually know anything about Thanksgiving. That's too bad, but we're going to try to remedy that. At work tomorrow, we're going to have the students present about different aspects of Thanksgiving (since it's an English-learning school), as well as bring food to share. It may not turn out to be a roast turkey with all the trimmings, but it'll still hopefully reflect what I would consider the best and most traditionally and excellently American holiday.

And to everyone back in the States, I'm thankful that you're reading my blog.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Happy Internet Time

This video below is like it was made for me. It's me and the internet performing a duet to express our love:

It's like I sprouted hair and it flourished into a mullet. And then I got together with my love and we shook out a dusty rug (which is a metaphor for going to crappy, smelly internet cafes filled with stupid kids).
And when the boys are chasing bubbles around 3:40 into the video, that's me chasing email messages and turns on Facebook Scrabble!

I Live In The Future Now

Ever since we got the internet yesterday, I've been feeling like this:

Internet is awesome.

Upstream In Vermont

When I was in college, a friend and I spent a Columbus Day weekend paddling a canoe down a portion of the Connecticut River. My memory is fuzzy on the specifics, but we launched the canoe on a tributary somwhere near Ryegate, Vermont; paddled our way to the Connecticut River; then worked our way south to Bradford. When our arms were tired, we would try to calculate how long it would take to reach the mouth of the river by simply flowing along with the current. We concluded that the numerous dams above Hartford, and the tides below, made it impossible to determine. We then returned to more serious conversations about baseball, girls, and music.

Ninety percent of the freshwater that enters Long Island Sound comes from three sources: The Connecticut, Housatonic, and Thames Rivers. Extending 400 miles from Old Saybrook to Quebec, the Connecticut is by-far the largest in both volume and distance. As the map above illustrates, there are many streams in Massachusetts and Vermont that are part of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound watershed. This year I thought it would be interesting to occasionally post a story about the tributaries that feed into the Sound. Posts labeled UPSTREAM  will look at places within the Long Island Sound watershed.

Despite having attended school in Vermont, I only seem to get back there infrequently these days. My sister Erica however, works for the VT Department Of Tourism and started a blog this year entitled Happy Vermont. The photo above is from her story about Quechee Gorge and the Ottauquechee River that feeds into the Connecticut River. Vermont is a beautiful state! Whether you visit often, or are someone who has never been, be sure to check out her site.

Happy Vermont Travel Blog

Soundkeeper: LIS Watershed

Quechee Gorge: Map

image credit: Happy VT (top); Wikipedia (bottom)

Monday, 23 November 2009


Holy Crap!
We got internet in our house! In Berlin!
Must clean up drool and tears, and change underwear.
More soon!
Very soon!

Meeting Of Those Who Promote Archeological Tourism

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Our Archeological Group participates every autumn on these events. These are meetings of all those who wants to promote archeological tourism. Archeologists and tour operators, archeological groups and governors of the regions where there are many archeological objects -persons from many countries come there.

I had not much time for the photos. From the moment I came there I had to stay near the stand with the books -to sell them. So I have only these photos to give you a little source of this feast.

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It is interesting. You can take many maps, special books for tourists etc. You can look at the dancers and listen to the folk musik, taste regional foods and sample wines from different countries. Hundreds of persons go from one stand to other, speak with specialists, take part on the conferences.

One of the conferences was about Longobards this year. And there I had to present our books. The most known archeologists from all Italy told what they discovered about Longobards in their regions. On my photos you see the images of the women of that period -presented by Chiara Lambert, an archeologist of Salerno.

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This is a Longobard woman

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Friday, 20 November 2009

Mary E

The Mary E is a 75 foot coastal schooner built in Bath, Maine in 1906. She worked as a fishing and cargo schooner off Rhode Island, before being converted to a motored dragger in the 1940's. She sank in Lynn, Massachusetts during a 1963 storm, but fortunately was restored in the following years. Presently, the Mary E offers 90 minute sails from the docks at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex.

After many years in Greenport, a dispute with the village forced her to leave. There were several years where the Mary E seemed to bounce around with no true home port. She spent a portion of one season in City Island, and I have also seen her in New Rochelle (that's her in the background). Hopefully things work out in Essex, and she has a long successful run.

Discovering Sardinia With Sardinia Open Voucher

Sardinia is a very intreresting to visit part of Italy. I have friends there and know they have normally better weather conditions as we in Campania. Now there is a possibility to plan and organize a trip round the island using servises of Portale Sardegna that offers special search engine to customize your itinerary online so as you are communicating with a travel agent.

The service called Sardinia Open Voucher is composed from a hotel and rental car formula. You can choose from 60 three and four stars hotels situating in any part of Sardinia and pick up the car and drop it off at the airport. This will cost you euro 29,99 a day. This price is for the period from October till March. It will change surely according to class and seasonality. In other periods the price is higher but it is very interesting the same. Control the price list on the site when you plan your travel.

Sardinia travel is an unforgettable experience in any season. I told you just about very nice weather conditions all year round. But you will surely enjoy not only beaches, mountains and air. There are many important historical places there. The population often conserves it's ancestral traditions and you can partecipate on the folkloric feasts.
Once visited the island, you will return there.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

National Geographic About Shangri-La Treasures

This day was full of important notices. One of them was about the "Shangri-La" Caves Yield Treasures found in Nepal. Sincerely it's the first time I've seen a video of such explorations and was very impressed.

In the caves were found texts originated from XV century and belong to Buddhist and Bon traditions. Because Buddhism came in Tibet in VIII century, they say, this find demonstrates the 2 religions "lived" together for some time. Some of the texts are completely unknown and this has very great value specially for Bon religion.
The wall paintings are from XIII -XiV centuries. The human bones are about 2700 years old.
National Geographic published photos from the caves too. You can see them in "Shangri-La Cave Pictures"

Longobard's Women

This year I decided to partecipate on the manifestation promoting archeological tourism "Borsa Mediterranea Del Turismo Archeologico". Our Archeological Group partecipates on it every year but it is too far from the place where I live, so it is too complicate for me to go there. This year there are different conferences, and they need more persons, so I said I'll come too.

I (with other women of our group) have to present the typical plates coming from Longobard period. Those have to be cooked by Archeological groups of different regions of Italy. I'll write about it in my later posts. Now I wanted to inform myself about the clothes and hairstyle of the women of that period. That is why I did a great research in internet.

What you see here, on the photo from Wikipedia, is the picture of Theodolinda, a queen with Longobard roots. I found only one other picture of a Longobard queen -with similar hairstyle. So, sunday I'll try to make something like this on my head too. :0)))

What is interesting about the Longobard's women: it seems they had important role in their society. We notice it from the very first legend about the future Longobards. When they have to fight against the Vandals, the 2 brothers leading the group go to their mother, G'ambara, to ask what to do. The mother asks to help them Freja, the wife of Godan (Odin). Freja turns the bed of Godan in the morning (!), so that he sees first Winnilies with their wives under him (Winnilies were not very numerous, so the women were there to show great number of persons to Godan).

I read about different Longobard queens, and all they had very active role near their husbands.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Rainy Season Close-Out Special, Volume 2: "Breaking The Mold"

Ah, mold.

I hate hate hate hate hate mold.

As you may know, I originally come from Colorado, and as you may also know, Colorado is a pretty dry place. There is little or no mold there, at least as far as I have seen. It�s the type of place where you can leave a slice of bread out in the evening and the next morning it�ll be dry and stale, perfect for making French toast.

If you tried that shit here, though, by the time you got to the kitchen in the morning, the bread would likely have developed enough mold to be considered a sentient being with its own volition, and the Bread Beast would be liable to challenge you to a duel to avenge all the French toast you ever made in your life.

Mold sucks.

Thankfully, the mold largely diminishes when the rainy season ends, but here it never seems to go away completely. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we found mold growing on the bottoms of our closet drawers, just a month after we�d had the closet put in. For me, the perfect description of the word, �bummer,� is when you open a drawer in the bedroom or kitchen and get that distinct musty smell, and you know that some shirt collar or oven mitt or wooden spoon must be covered in a thin layer of mold. It�s depressing, frankly.

In any case, for a while now, I�ve been keeping track of which of our objects have gotten mold while living in Costa Rica (and especially Berl�n), so without further ado, I present to you this sad Hit Parade Of Our Household Objects That Have Gotten Mold:

(listed in ascending order based on the frustration and depression discovering them caused)

11th Place (Honorable Mention): Any Document That I�ve Had Here, even if kept in plastic folders or containers. This is a major drag, especially for legal and immigration documents. The ones that haven�t gotten moldy or musty have gotten rust stains from their staples or paperclips.

10th Place: A Sealed Bag of Linguini: I have no idea how this could have possibly gotten mold, as it was still sealed and way before its expiration date when we opened it, but this pasta defied logic and got mold anyhow. I would have put it higher, but with this, I was just able to throw it away and forget about it.

9th Place: My Car: This has happened with both of our cars. Our old car actually had mold in the little spaces between the badge that said �RAV-4.� Our new car just has a generally moldy smell inside, but you can roll down the windows and leave it in the sun for a day, and the smell tends to go away.

8th Place: My Shirt Collars: These pick up mold while sitting in the closet, which has led me to create a �clothes rotation program.� If I�ve not told about this program here, remind me, and I shall do so someday. This mold tends to happen more with woven than knit fabric. All the same, it�s annoying, but nothing washing in hot water can�t temporarily combat.

7th Place: The Plastic Buttons on my XBOX Control: The more I think about it, this should have been higher on the list, since I was storing these controllers in a sealed Ziplock bag. I have no idea how in the world these buttons could have gotten mold.

6th Place: My Electric Razor: In fact, the mold may be the reason it stopped working altogether.

5th Place: The Grain in the Doors of Our House: Even on the inside doors, the grain lines are starting to get a bit of white fuzz, even after they�ve been treated and stained and all that. And it happened even the one that sits in direct sunlight.

4th Place: A Brown Belt I Have: I�ve tried cleaning this with bleach, Lysol, soap, and zinc oxide, but every time I hang the belt on a rack in the garage, it starts to get mold after three or four days.

3rd Place: My Shoes: Shoes smell bad enough without having to additionally smell like mold. Usually it seems to be trapped somewhere within the fabric or soles, but occasionally like on my Doc Martens shoes, the mold will have the audacity to just grow on the outside, the bastard!

2nd Place: A Bookcase I Used to Have: We bought one of those DIY bookcases at a store in Palmares when we were living in our last house. Within a few weeks, there was mold on the outside of the shelves and even the vertical support. This was an exposed, vertical surface that was covered in a vinyl or plastic coating, and it still got mold. I also cleaned it with about 5 different solutions (and even a lot of profanity) but it was all to no avail. The mold came back on the shelves, both on the top, bottom, and sides of the bookcase, and started making the books smell worse. Even tears didn't seem to stop the onslaught of mold, which would reappear about three days after cleaning. Eventually I gave up and we just abandoned it when we moved.

1st Place: Me: This is the weirdest one. About a year and a half ago after a trip to the beach, I noticed that the skin on my chest was kind of spotty. It had some tan areas with little pale, white areas inside. Apparently, they were on my back, too. After consulting with a friend who is a doctor, it turned out that I myself was a host to mold (or possibly it was fungus, but when it gets to 1st Place, I don't much care one way or the other). I�ve been able to take a pill which seems to make it go away for a year or a bit less, but still, this is annoying and freakish, to say the least.

In any case, that�s about it for today. The sun�s coming out, so I�m going outside to enjoy it a bit (by lining up all our shoes in its warming, mold-killing rays).

S. Peter At Court -A Monument To Visit In Salerno

??? ????? -??????? ????? ? ?????? ??????????? One of the most interesting monuments you can find open in Salerno is S. Peter At Court. A must to visit for those who wants to see in one place all the history of Salerno from the time when it was a building of Roman public baths, than Paleochristian church and cemetery, than a private chapel of Longobard Prince Areki II, than oratorium...

You see the entrance on the photo. The building is on the right. We are voluntaries of the Archeological Group of Salerno and come here every morning to open the monument. It is difficult for many of us, for those who studys or works. But it is really very important for the town where only 2 or 3 other monuments are open every day.
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There is other room over the place of archeological excavation where we are but this room is closed for visits.

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When the visitors comne we tell them the story of this building and what the archeologists discovered in the site. Most persons are very impressed not only to have a free guide but to meet so much dedication of the volunteers.

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Here, 7 meters under the actual street level, are the rests of the Roman baths. The ceiling is reconstructed, but it was it's natural hight and form. In the attached S. Anna chapel we expose books, magazines etc.

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Memorable Golf Vacations In Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach Golf is one of the attractions for those, who comes in this splendid location on the ocean, year-round. If you like golf, this is the right place for your vacations. Because there is a really great collection of more than 100 courses there. The professionals will introduce you in different traditions of this game, even in the true Scottish tradition.

The best is that you can book your Myrtle Beach Golf Vacations directly online. There is a very simple form to choose the course, time when you want to come there and number of golfers. Notice that if you are interested in tee times, there are some restrictions to observe.

If you want to choose a Myrtle Beach Golf Package you don't need to book a hotel too. There are golf only packages that offer different course designs and the joy to improve your skills with legendary players.

You can confront Golf Packages Myrtle Beach visiting Ttimes Only, where you will find descriptions of every course, their rates, news and events, and all the other informations you can need to plan and organize your memorable vacation.

Wreck Of The Celtic

Twenty-five years ago this week, the tugboat Celtic sank  about a mile-and-a-half south of Sheffield Island. Towing 1400 tons of scrap metal from Bridgeport to Newark, she sank in 75 feet of water, taking along with her the seven crewmembers. An investigation later revealed that the barge she was towing, the Cape Race, had recently undergone repairs to fix several leaks. They concluded that the repairs failed, the barge filled with water, then sank, pulling the Celtic down on the evening of November 17, 1984.

Built in 1958 at the Jakobson Shipyard in Oyster Bay, the tug was named Russell 10 (above), then the Judith McAllister, and eventually the Celtic.

I have never been scuba-diving, but a few years ago I bought a book at a yard sale entitled Shipwrecks of  Long Island Sound (or something to that effect). There are many more wrecks on the bottom of the Sound than I imagined. This past year I discovered the Wreckhunters website, and Dave Clancy was kind enough to provide me with some background information on the Celtic.

Wreckhunter: Hunting New England Shipwrecks

Jakobson Shipyard: Shipbuilding Registry

CT Harbor Management: Salvage 2008 (page 4)

AquaExplorers: Celtic Shipwreck


photo credit: Tugster

Fab walk

We had a lovely walk yesterday at St Thois in good weather and fine autumnal countryside. Thanks to everyone who came and made it such a nice occasion.
Don't forget - Quimper trip (17 December) booking essential, limited places.

The Bronze Door Of The Cathedral Of Salerno

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What you see on the photo is the yard of the Cathedral of Salerno. And one of the most important manufacts of this Dom and of the Middle Ages generally is it's bronze door (in center).

This door was made in Constantinople at the end of the XI century. There are not many similar doors in Europe and the first of them were made in Constantinople.

The very first was the door of Pantheon in Rome made by Romans in 125. This one inspired merchants resident of Amalfi, Pantaleone and his son, and they donated similar door to the cathedral of Amalfi in 1060. The other they ordined for the abbey of Montecassino in 1066. The cathedral of Salerno was a copy of that of Montecassino. It's clear that it had to have similar door too. So one of the rich donators, Landolfo Butromile, ordined this door in Constantinople . This last is more beautiful as previous. It contains figures of the Saints. Near S. Mattheus you can see the figures of the donators, Landolfo and his wife, Gisana.

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I was very curious why there are so many churches in Salerno and so many donated pieces.
In Middle Ages, the people believed they will go in the paradise if they donatre something important to the God. The cathedral needed this door, and so Landolfo and his wife could live happily insured their places in paradise.

After the death, both were burried in the cathedral, and you can see their gravestones preserved near the door they donated, today.

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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Greenwich Point

This is the epicenter of the coastal access debate. Permission to enter the 147-acre Greenwich Point has been an issue brought to the courts several times these past two decades. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, here is a brief history.

In the 1990's, Stamford resident and law school student  Brenden Leydon was denied entry to Greenwich Point while jogging. The town maintained a policy that restricted entry to residents only. He filed suit in 1995, and the case made it's way to the State Supreme Court in 2001. The court ruled that Greenwich could not deny Mr Leydon access to a public space. Problem solved? Not so fast.

Greenwich opened their beach and park to nonresidents, but made sure to put in place a series of obstacles  for anyone who tried to visit. Fees for nonresidents were extremely high, plus a permit was required for entry. This nonresident permit could only be purchased at the town offices, which were miles away. Sure enough, the office was only open till 3:45 PM on weekdays, and closed on weekends. Take that,.. Supreme Court!

In 2005, 75 year old Paul Kempner rode his bike into Greenwich Point and was fined $92 for trespassing. He filed suit claiming that the fees charged for nonresidents were prohibitive. The town responded by lowering their fees, and allowing free entry for retirees. The permit requirement remains in effect.

Another case in 2005 involved three female residents of Greenwich who were excercising in the park.The black and Hispanic women (wives of former major league baseball players) were told that 3 people constituted a group, which requires a permit, and therefor they had to leave. Some incriminating emails from a town official later surfaced,  confirming the women's suspicions.

Greenwich has tried to portray themselves as a victim in this saga, but they have brought most of this bad publicity upon themselves.

From November 1 through April 30, Greenwich Point (aka Tod's Point) is open to all with no fees or residency permit required. The photos above show the south portion of the park between the lake and Bluff Point. A walkway curves along the shoreline, and is dotted with several wooden bridges that cross the tidal outlets of some nearby salt ponds.


Connecticut Post: Public Access Not Always Easy

New York Times: One Man's Crusade

New York Times: In Greenwich, Group Hugs Are Few

CT Coastal Access Guide: Greenwich Point Park

Sphere: Don't Expect A Warm Welcome

Monday, 16 November 2009

And So It Goes

What goes, you might ask? The days, the weeks, the months....and soon, the first decade of this millennium. Amazing to think that not that long ago, we were contemplating the whole Y2K deal. Crazy! Now we are asking how people will refer to the new year. Will it be "Two-thousand-ten" or "Twenty-ten"? My personal favorite is "twenty-o-ten." However you say it, it seems way to soon to be here already.

I've been saying that a lot this year, it seems. Mostly I have been referring to the fact that soon we will be joining the empty-nester crowd. Both boys left us in the last three years. Addie is now a senior, and may even be starting college in January. It's getting pretty quiet in these parts. I've had some people ask me how we will cope with that empty nest....The way I figure it, by the time we truly would be without kids, where they no longer return for summer vacation, or holiday breaks... about that time, someone will be ready to move back. And that is fine with me, as there is plenty of work to go around.

That said, a quick update for everyone, since I haven't written since last May. As many of you know, it was a different type of summer at Heston�s Lodge, as Greg took a job outside of the resort. From early May until mid-October, he left to go to work installing wildfire sprinkler systems. It was challenging, for the both of us, as we had worked together for the last twenty-three years. Now I understand a bit more what it is like for people when a longtime co-worker leaves and gets a new job. I�d joke about his job, and also about the fact that he now had a boss, and it wasn�t me! I also got back into the routine of making lunches, something I hadn�t done since the kids came home to homeschool. But those were just the small changes.

The bigger change for me was that suddenly I had more hats to wear. Not only was I trying to do my own work, but each day found me at some point trying to do Greg�s job, too. I have to admit that I learned a lot, and most times I enjoyed it. It is good to cross over like that. I can�t say that he is ready to do my job, but that�s a story for a different day.

Some days I would pretend I was Greg, like when neighbors would stop by to borrow a tool or something. I would walk around to the various shop locations, and try to figure out where Greg would choose to store that particular tool. Most times I was successful. That doesn�t mean that I can decipher his system of organization in his shop any better than I could before! Most of the time, it was probably dumb luck that caused me to stumble on what I needed. But now I know where a few more things are kept, and that is useful.

I also learned more about the running of the boats and motors. One would think that after all of these years, I would be fairly proficient at this. Not so. If someone wanted to rent a boat in the past, I would send Greg, or Robert, or Paul to get it ready. Easy as that. Now I had to send me. I�d get down there, and do whatever was needed to minimize embarrassing myself. For example, I find that it is much better if I start a motor while the boat is tied up to the dock. That way, the wind isn�t pushing me into shore while I am struggling to remember all of the steps it takes to simply start a motor. One time I failed to tie up, and though I got the motor started fairly easily and got going, I narrowly missed running into the dock! I don�t think that I ever flooded a motor, but I know that I came close. Each day I would have at least one question for Greg when he got home from work. The question of the day, I called it. One particular question stands out in my mind, and I know that now I will never forget it. Do you pump the gas line first, and then prime the engine? Or do you prime and then pump? Doesn�t matter, he told me. That will be good knowledge to have next summer, when we start things up again.

For now, the motors are all stored away in the boathouse, and the boats and canoes are pulled up on land. The docks have been taken in, and it looks like it is all ready for winter. Whether I am ready for winter has yet to be seen. We�ve seen some early snows, while the leaves were still on the trees. Most of October was a cold, wet month. That is actually a good thing, as it means we have some fine ground moisture as we head into winter. That in turn helps in the spring, when we dearly need it before the leaves come out. But now I am getting way ahead of myself, thinking two seasons down the road. For now, I�ll concentrate on continuing the winter prep work.

And I will do my best to start to catch up with this blog. Lots of fun stories from this summer to share�.Stay tuned.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Farewell To The Knickerbocker

The Knickerbocker Yacht Club is now vacant. The clubhouse with it's hipped roof and second story deck silently looks out over Manhasset Bay. Resembling a foreclosed home, several No Trespassing signs are now taped to the large bay windows. After hearing the news that the 135 year old club had closed, I stopped by this month for one last goodbye. A utility worker making a phone call in the parking lot was all that broke the silence.

Yacht Clubs certainly do not inspire any populist imagery, but stereotypes of Buffy and Thad sailing in white slacks while maintaining a stiff upper lip are not entirely accurate. On Long Island Sound, yacht clubs tend to fall into one of three categories:

There are the exclusive clubs that do their best to hold on to the Guilded Age. These are often easy to spot with their clubhouses resembling some gold coast mansion, and their staff dressed like butlers. At the other extreme would be the working clubs whose membership often includes a high percentage of firemen, teachers, and tradesmen. These are normally do-it-yourself places where members volunteer their time along with paying dues. When the grass needs to be cut, it is a member cutting the grass, not an employee or a landscaping company. The Knickerbocker belonged to a group that is somewhere in between these two extremes. These clubs often navigate a foggy channel between controlling expenses and maintaining a certain aura of exclusiveness. Members may own an expensive boat, but they also have tuition bills and a mortgage.

For years I belonged to a working club that was about a two hour sail from Manhasset Bay. I only sailed to the Knickerbocker a handful of times, but the visits were always special to me. I would motor my old banged-up 1968 Bristol 24 into the mooring field, hail a launch, and be welcomed to the club. It did not matter that my boat cost less than a used car, while the surrounding boats were priced similar to a starter home. I may have not met the financial or social requirements to be a member of the club, but I was accepted as a guest providing I followed their rules (proper attire in the dining room, no tank tops on the premises, no spitting).I could hobnob with the doctors and architects in a mahogany trimmed bar until I turned back into a pumpkin on Monday morning. Reciprocity between clubs was the great leveling field, if only for a weekend.

When the recession hit, it was easy to question my club's chances of survival. The rundown building, the old boats, and even older membership all suggest that the best days were at least 40 years ago. The Knickerbocker did not seem to have these problems. The model ships and half hulls adorning the walls seemed to suggest an immunity to changing times. But beneath the mahogany and cherry wood paneling, the Knickerbocker was struggling with the same difficulties as every other club. Higher expenses coupled with an aging and declining membership were a disturbing trend that every club from Watch Hill to Throgs Neck faced. The prosperity of the last 25 years helped suppress the symptoms, but the current financial crisis brought them to the forefront.

At one time or another, I think we have all secretly admired yet resented people in better places. A neighbor or colleague may be someone we desperately want to be, yet we begrudge their good fortune. When bad times strike, their failure becomes some sort of "moral to the story". But I felt no sense of schadenfreude when I walked along the empty dock at the Knickerbocker this month. The club had survived two world wars, the Great Depression, and September 11, but now it was gone. I thought to myself that if it could happen to the Knickerbocker Yacht Club, then it could happen to any of us. I leaned against the peeling white handrail, looked out over the harbor, and wondered "who's next?"


Saturday, 14 November 2009

Some Lame Cat Pics To Tide Us All Over

It's been a busy week and I'm trying to spend less than a half hour at the internet caf�. Plus, Angela's birthday is tomorrow and I've got to get stuff prepared for that. So, today I've only got time to put up a few pictures of our adorable, loser cats:

Speaking of Angela, she took these two pictures. They're pretty great. It appears that once we cut off Cucho's balls, his mothering instinct kicked in, and now instead of antagonizing the little kitten, he's taken to looking after his new prot�g� Chubby (the name we chose for our new cat... "Puppy Tracks" was a close second, in honor of my brother Paul's proposed name for our childhood dog, Jenny... Paul was about 4 or 5 at the time, probably).

Sometimes the killer instincts kick in, though. This hilarous picture is less painful than it looks. Chubby was just meowing here.

Anyway, have a nice weekend!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Rainy Season Close-Out Special: Krupnik!

Here in Costa Rica the rainy season --or as the marketing geniuses at the Costa Rican Tourism Institute call it, "The Green Season,"-- is winding down, and each day brings progressively more sun and less rain. It hasn't been a very bad rainy season, thank God, at least compared to last year. Last year there was a week where it didn't stop raining, and I even missed my alarm once because it was making such a racket on the tin roof.
In any case, I know that it's getting into winter time in the U.S., and I've been meaning to share a tasty soup recipe that my friend Martha Wawro shared with me. It's called "Krupnik," and although that looks like a Slovak swear word, it's actually a Polish-style barley soup. I first had the honor of enjoying this tasty soup at one of the Wawro's delicious annual Pierogi Sundays in December, and I begged Martha for the recipe.
I'll put up the step-by-step information with some pictures, followed by the actual recipe. It's quite simple and simply delicious, so I recommend you try it at once!

First, you take the barley and rinse it. I don't know if you're like me, but if you are, then you only have a vague concept of what barley actually IS. And even after having prepared this soup a few times, I'm still not entirely sure. I guess it's some tasty type of grain. To the end, though, Angela's family was convinced that it was just some type of smaller, whiter bean.

In any case, after rinsing the barley, put it in the beef stock and bring it to a boil.

Next, wash and chop the vegetables. I think the recipe calls for fewer vegetables, but I played it a bit fast and loose since I like soup veggies. And because I just don't give a damn about your so-called cooking "rules"!

Once the barley has soaked up most of the broth, add the butter and let it cook a bit.

Finally, you add the vegetables and the rest of the broth to the pan, and cook until the vegetables are tender and tasty.

The lovely Angela enjoying the delicious final product.

Thanks, Martha, for the super soup!

Here's the official recipe for those of you at home who want to play along:

Barley Soup � Krupnik

1 c. pearl barley
2 quarts meat stock
� c. butter or margarine, cut into pieces
2 carrots, diced
2 potatoes, diced
4 oz. canned mushrooms, sliced
1 stalk celery
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 and � teaspoons salt
� teaspoon pepper

1) Combine barley with 1 cup of meat stock in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until all stock is absorbed. Add butter piece by piece, stirring.

2) Boil vegetables in remaining stock until crisp-tender. Then add barley, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook until barley is tender.

Martha's Note: Pierogi Sunday requires much more pepper to taste.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Glory Of Palmira

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When I was younger, I heard many times Leningrad (S.Petersburg today) was called Nothern Palmira. Sincerely I've never thought about these words. Yesterday I could listen to it's story, of Palmira, told by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, historian and very successful writer (probably you've read his book "The Last Legion" -my translation of the title- and I know that they told about a movie)
There were reconstruction of the city in the documentary. It was a city of incredible beauty and very very big. Enormous. Manfredi said, there were different millions of residents there! And it was so antient that even the Bible tells about it!
In the times when Roman Empire had great problems, there was a young and beautiful queen Zenobia in Palmyra that was so courageous to rebell against Romans. She was not very happy in her ribellion. One of the Roman Emperors (the name originaly means "head of the military troups"), Aurelian, captured her and brought in Rome...

I thought, he, Aurelian, loved Zenobia, so as Giulius Cesare loved Cleopatra, because Manfredi said, Aurelius had something special in mind for her...
...but the truth is absolutely not romantic. He wanted her to walk in chains (golden chains) through the streets of Rome for his triumphal return home.
The plant on the photo has the name of queen Zenobia. It is Zenobia pulverulenta (Honeycup) and the residents of Carolina and Virginia (US) maybe know it.
So, if you plan to go in Syria, don't forget to visit Palmira and remember this rebelle woman...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Glen Island Bridge

Glen Island was originally a private resort created in the late 19th century, that consisted of several islands linked by causeways and footbridges. To reach the islands, one needed to arrive by excursion boat, or take a small ferry from New Rochelle. When Westchester County purchased the land in the 1920's, the islands were connected with fill to create one large island. The drawbridge shown here, was also constructed to connect the park to the mainland. The stonework and streetlamps make this an attractive bridge. Today, the 105 acre Glen Island is the second most visited county park in Westchester.

* Glen Island Park

Monday, 9 November 2009

Debugging Man and Machine

For a period of about two months, my computer was having trouble with its anti-virus program. Apparently, the utility it used to update virus definitions got --wait for it-- a virus. As you may know, I hardly ever connect my computer to the internet anyhow, but it was still annoying. That dilemma, along with a new hare-brained scheme to charge for parking in Palmares, has resulted in me being a bit M.I.A. on the blogging scene of late. In the end, the virus problem got resolved after a couple weeks of back-and-forth emails to Customer Service. However, another potential problem remained.

When I was driving back from an in-service day in San Jose a few weeks ago, some of my coworkers were talking about traveling sicknesses, and the topic turned to "de-parasiting" pills. Evidently, many people here routinely take a pill every now and then to get rid of parasites. "What," they asked me, "You've never taken one of those pills before?" Well, I'd not. Evidently, my trip to Nicaragua a few years ago may have left me with more souvenirs that I had imagined. Plus, I'd been waking up with teeth and jaw-aches, and apparently grinding and clenching teeth is also a common result of parasites.

So, Angela and I bought some pills at the pharmacy and took them, crossing our fingers and hoping for luck. Next up, we have to take Chubby (our new grey cat) to the vet to get de-wormed also.

Ah, Costa Rica. It'll infect you with love. And other stuff.