Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Crafts

Unique Christmas cards have always been a favorite for me and this one just arrived in the mail. It is hand-stitched by my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter. This is a keeper. The amount of time and effort that an item like this takes makes it very special to the person receiving it. I understand that each card they sent this year has a variation on this motif. The stitching is very meticulous.

The inside of the card is as neat as the outside.  The green backing covers the back of the needlework that is on the face of the card.

It is an honor to receive such a special Christmas card, so it will have a special display spot in my house where we can see it daily throughout the season. It will also become part of my annual Christmas decorations display in my house.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Moving On

Re-inventing ourselves is a life-long process; some times are more dramatic than other times. Ruts have a limited shelf life for me. I like to move on to new things and do a lot of stuff that change places I go and activities that appeal to me. Friends and acquaintances come and go, hobbies come and go, and life is as changing as waves on a shore. I love the ebb and flow of day-to-day events and seeing what is around the next corner.

Retirement is wonderful in the way that it opens so many doors, it is hard to choose the next door. Sometimes I like to sit myself down and have a chat with myself. Where am I going? What do I want to do next? I have a "meditation" chair where I sit and contemplate my future.

Recently I made a major change and we older people don't adjust to changes well as a rule. At least, that is what I heard someone near me say to another silver-haired gent with whom he was having a profound conversation.  I was shamelessly eavesdropping. I have to agree, it takes a bit of assertive, maybe aggressive effort to decide what to do next and where to put my efforts. My major change was to move from one gym to another.

After two weeks of attending the new gym for two hours plus each morning, I find I am more than a little pleased with the decision for many reasons. I can already see the benefits of my efforts and it has almost become like reporting to work every morning. I try to follow a schedule and arrive at around the same time even though I don't pressure myself and I relax with it. It keeps me centered to have a routine to follow on weekdays. Three days a week, I work out on over 20  pieces of Life Fitness equipment, then I walk on a treadmill as fast as I can for three miles. On two days a week, I don't do the equipment, but I walk four miles and try to do that in one hour. It really works up a sweat so I can't forget to take along my towel.

I like the treadmills because they have individual TV screens and cable TV so I can watch CNN, or major networks, or movies, etc. Sometimes I set that on closed caption and watch the news channels in the morning while listening to my music on my own MP3 player. I am so occupied with my music and the headlines, I barely notice that I am exercising. My next change will probably be to expand into some new cardio machines like ellipticals, bikes or rowing machines. I like variety so I will try some new stuff again soon.

I don't know what it means, if anything, but I am seeing a lot of faces at the new gym that I used to see at my previous gym. How interesting.

I am meeting new people and I enjoy the conversations with other people who like to exercise. The early morning crowd includes many other retirees so I can relate to them and we have some things in common. However, it has a big age range which is good too. I don't want to exercise where there are only old people or even where there are only women. I think the decision to try a new location has been an exciting change and it inspires me to look for a lot of other new things to do. 

I don't find it daunting as an older person to "change" things. I find it invigorating.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Holding Back the Sea 

As I watch places like New Jersey, Staten Island, Manhattan, the Northeastern states, as well as New Orleans trying to cope with devastating storms, I think of the old story of the little boy with his finger in the dike.

In the story Hans Brinkeror The Silver Skates written by American author, Mary Maples Dodge in 1865, the boy puts his finger in the dike to avoid a catastrophe. This is an example of band aid surgery that we in the U.S. need to rethink. For the second year in a row, the Northeast is coping with a natural disaster and we need to plan ahead.

If we look to the "low countries" around the North Sea in Western Europe, such as the Netherlands, they have successfully dealt with existing with the sea and coping with regular floods. 

That area of the world has been struggling to hold back the sea for thousands of years. If we look around the world to places such as Venice, they have always struggled to coexist with the surrounding water. 

If we can learn anything from history, we have to assume natural disasters will happen again. We have to prepare for the distant future, not just next year by rebuilding in flood plains with no regard to the probability that it will happen again. Yes, this country is resilient and optimistic. We discuss and argue about everything which sometimes means nothing gets done. We paralyze ourselves with indecision. If we want the best of everything, we have to be willing to pay for it for all the people, not just a select few. The land of opportunity shouldn't mean the opportunity to take advantage of others.

It is a sad, sad situation that we see on news clips and we certainly don't want it to happen again. Hurricanes will continue and floods will continue. We can't stop the weather, so we in the U.S. will have to face reality and decide what is the goal regarding our coastlines and our own "low countries".

We can't go back. What will be will be; we have to get ready. If we want to preserve our beaches and cities, we will have to analyze the situation and either commit to engineering ways to hold back the sea, or stop building on coastal areas. We will have to stop arguing about the cause and deal with our new reality. The U.S. needs to learn from other areas of the world who are experts at holding back the sea.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


This beast is mid-rutting season, haunting my neighborhood looking to get lucky. He chases "anything in skirts" and the ladies can't get away from him fast enough. They run behind fences, tree trunks, across streets and into the creek. She is elusive and he is randy.

I don't understand it. Why aren't the gals eager for a roll in the hay with this magnificent speciman of horniness? Did he not get the memo that dinner and a movie helps to set a mood? Did he send flowers, buy candy? How do they decide to get it on and do the deed? Is it always kind of like rape, or is there a perfect mate out there for everyone?

I actually observed this momentous occasion one afternoon when he found his true love. He must have spent five minutes carefully lapping her bottom. Then he jumps up to the area and bam. Like a one-shot cannon--slam, bam, thank you ma'am. One whack and he's done. Was it good for you too? Must have been, because they went their separate ways, no harm, no foul. He didn't hang around for breakfast.

I thought to myself, why am I being such a voyeur, peeping Tom sort of person, but I lived on a farm in my early life and got used to nature's ways. Never before having observed a white-tailed deer getting it on, I admit that I was spellbound to watch creation in my backyard. Then, I had to laugh when I saw the Lothario settle down for a long nap. Something connected to those testosterone genes that says nap required.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


After a recent trip, we were asked by a U.S. Customs agent, "You didn't buy anything?" The things we had bought were too small and insignificant to even declare upon re-entering the country. My years of collecting are over even though I enjoy and treasure the mementos we already have of our travels. I'm too near the age of downsizing to keep accumulating trinkets even though the grandchildren love to play with my little tchotchkes. I keep some of the less fragile items in a box so they can look at them and they seem to enjoy touching and arranging them.

Each of my knickknacks has a story and amazingly, I remember where and why I bought them. One of the most memorable became a recent replay of an interesting story with my son and his family. This little plastic bird was shown in demonstrations in Paris at the top of the steps leading to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. We had traveled to Paris and London with our son when he was six so naturally the bird was something that appealed to him. They would wind up a rubber band inside the bird and release the bird to the air so that it would flap its wings and fly around. The rubber band has broken with age, and the crank that was attached to wind it has gone missing. However, it is still cute and carries a lot of memories of seeing it carried around Europe by a six-year-old. It has resided in my travel memories boxes for 30 years just waiting to be delightful again to another little four-year-old boy. My house is a treasure chest for the son of my son. My grandson carries around a cardboard box of a few of my indestructible tiny knickknacks. He likes to line them up on a table like little soldiers.

The NYTimes is keeping an account of stories of souvenirs that people have collected on their travels. My souvenirs are the typical tourist trinkets like stacking dolls from Russia or glass items from Venice and Blue Willow pottery from the Netherlands. I don't buy valuable things and we take tons of pictures to remind us of our travels rather than bringing back a houseful of collectibles. We have boxes of t-shirts that we collected from around the world, but we never wear them. I'm not sure why, but it never seems to be an appropriate time to wear them. Coffee mugs, shot glasses, and refrigerator magnets have found their way into our luggage quite often.  I'm afraid the NYTimes wouldn't find my kitsch to be very interesting.

So we told the U.S. Customs agent that we spent all of our money just paying for the trip. It seemed to be more than satisfactory for the Customs agent.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Beach Behavior

I love beaches but I don't visit as often as I would like. When I am on a beach, it becomes an interesting study in human behavior. We picked a week day to go to the Delaware State Park beaches on the Atlantic Ocean side so it wasn't as crowded as the more popular beaches to the north. We found a place to settle on the sand close to the water because watching the water is what I like to do. The beach was a wide white stretch of sand with a kind of platform that has a slope down to the water. We like to sit at the edge of the "stage" to watch the waves crash. I noticed that a lot of people turn their chairs at an angle to the beach rather than facing the beach. It looked like rows of seagulls facing the wind. The sun was everywhere so you didn't need to face the sun for maximum rays. I wondered if it is considered correct beach etiquette not to face the water so that one doesn't appear to be leering at those going into the water. 

People take their beach umbrellas and sit in sand chairs but not many lie on their towels for the sun to toast them. Some read, some appear to be sleeping, but since most people are wearing sunglasses and hats, it is hard to tell where their attention is directed. I don't mind people watching and I do my share of that. I don't consider it staring or leering. It is understandable that parents of little kids would be ever watchful of their little ones and anyone paying them undue attention. I'm a grandmother and little kids are cute and fun, but I am cautious about appearing to be too interested in them because I am also alert to unsavory characters. 


Thankfully, we found that people are considerate enough to leave plenty of space between where their groups settle and they give each other a little space to enjoy the beach in a circle of privacy. It seems to be an unwritten rule that people occupy about a 20 foot diameter circle between themselves and other beach groups. That seemed to be the minimum norm on a weekday. On that particular beach, people entered the beach at the facilities/concession stand/parking lot and kept walking until they found an uncrowded area to settle. Walking in the sand is such good exercise, you can feel the muscles jumping to attention.


I saw no one smoking and it was discouraged even outdoors. No one brought a dog to leave poop underfoot. I didn't notice if they were banned, but they probably were banned on that beach. It was a state park with a gate stand, admission fee, and park rules were posted. We didn't hear any loud music and saw people with their earbuds enjoying their music privately. I enjoy the sound of the waves and leave the music for other places. It is nice to visit an area where people are considerate of other beach visitors.


beach umbrella + surf board = sailboat
I didn't observe anyone feeding the seagulls even though they were scavenging as usual. People kept their food covered until it went into their mouths because a french fry waving in the air would have been snapped up by an opportunistic gull. It was interesting that there were no garbage cans that anyone would have to keep clean or that would attract scavengers. It was understood that you take away everything you bring. It was a clean beach and I saw no garbage--plastic bottles, cigarette butts, glass or anything other than seashells. I was very appreciative of the clean, white sand. We had scouted down the coast for an hour before we decided on a place to settle. It was a good choice and worth a return visit. The whole idea is to have a quiet, relaxing day and it was that. We spent five hours enjoying the sand, surf, and water.


I wish I could live in one of those houses.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Light Display

We found a night with a pleasant temperature and no rain to view the new Bruce Munro Light Display at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. We spent hours roaming through the forests, and looking at the lights sprinkled throughout the forests and inside the conservatory. The nature walk is a long, winding path through the trees where the lights are always changing colors and reminds me of fireflies. The reflections in the ponds of water throughout the gardens make a colorful, pleasing landscape. The night time sounds provided by the loud frogs, crickets and whatever makes noises at night, reminded me of my childhood when we played in the grass at night in our bare feet and sat on the ground looking up at the moon and stars. 

It is such an extensive display, it is hard to do it justice in one or two pictures.  We took many, many pictures, some of which I put together in a photo show.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


35 years ago, I loved bowling. Then I stopped bowling, but I still thought I would enjoy the game. Other activities took time and it was no longer as popular as it was during my college years and my twenties. I was in several leagues and I had a lot of fun. It was a great time to challenge myself, have some physical activity and chat with other people. I think smoking killed bowling, at least for me. 

Things are different now. We have started going bowling with my son's family and the kids love it. There is no smoking allowed now in public places so that is a big bonus. The shoes are a bit klunky still, but I was able to use my old shoes. I like an eight pound ball now, but I own a ten pound ball that is going to take some practice. The holes were drilled for my hand, but I will have to work on swinging a ten pound ball again. I like how the machines now calculate the score. You get to type in your names, but there is no disagreement about the accuracy of the scoring or who gets to calculate the scores. There are no practice balls, but it is all practice for me. I don't know if they have practice balls to warm up in the leagues.

It is much more family friendly today with lighter balls, shoes for little kids and a better sport for little kids. The lanes were filled with families and little kids were bowling and having a good time. They have added gutter guards that can be raised along the lane so little kids can never have a gutter ball. Kids can have a chance for a rewarding experience and a reasonable score. The lanes encourage families to attend by offering sales and package deals so that it is a great summer activity for children. They have available a ramp device where the kids can put the ball on top and aim it at the pins. They push the ball down the ramp and it rolls straight down the lane toward the pins. Even the three year old can manage the operation. They are very eager to go bowling with the family and they can also participate. I think it is a more wholesome environment when the whole family can attend together.

They have a different night time crowd and what they call Extreme Bowling with black lights and music intended to appeal to teens and young adults. I haven't attended at those times, but I suspect it is also popular.

For me, it has been a while and the old muscles are getting a workout. It is taking some practice to get that body memory working to handle the balance and delivery of the ball along with taking an accurate aim. I made enough strikes and spares to convince me that it is something I will want to continue. I'll have to check out those leagues for old ladies.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rewards and Windfalls

About five years ago, we decided to cash in some air miles and take a trip to Las Vegas. We had booked coach and had to check a bag, so we arrived early at the airport to head to the check-in counter for our airline. I gravitated toward a nice looking lady who wasn't busy and presented my ticket. She looked at the ticket, looked at me and said, "I knew someone with this name. Did you teach English in Delaware in 1968?" I knew instantly that she was one of my former students, but I can't begin to remember all of their faces or names. I always put on a big smile and try my darndest to convince them that I remember them while I desperately look for a clue that will trigger a memory. I couldn't be happier to see them, and I'm always surprised that they remember my name even though I know my appearance has changed almost as much as theirs. Of the thousands of students and co-workers I have met, I can't remember all of them, but if they remember me, I want to make sure I make them happy that they did. I like to catch up on their lives, tell them how great they look and how well they have done for themselves.

The lady identified herself by name and the fact that she had worn a body brace for a back condition for the year that she was in my class. I really remembered her with that big clue. I always wanted to make sure she was comfortable and well treated by everyone while in my charge. For me, I felt it was my professional duty and a personal standard I hold for myself.  I knew she didn't choose the situation but tried to make the best of the circumstances. She was very sweet and a hard worker so it was easy to maintain the stiff upper lip kind of getting on with the task at hand. No one was maudlin about it, but it was necessary for everyone to carry on with appropriate politeness. When dealing with special circumstances that students have to cope with, they don't like a lot of fuss, and want to be treated just like everyone else. Staff always has to remember to consider their circumstances and not add to their burden. It is always on your mind that sensitivity to special needs should occur but without a lot of catering that would embarrass them. Kidding around a bit from time to time keeps everyone much happier.

We had a chance to catch up on her life, family and career because the airport wasn't very busy that early in the morning. She told me about enjoying the perks of working for an airline. She shared her experiences with travel and what she liked to do when she traveled to Vegas. Then she upgraded us to first class. Never expecting that, we were appropriately grateful. For me, the reward was that I was remembered in a positive light and that I had done the best I could without ever expecting any rewards. For her to remember my name after 40 years and the year that we spent together as a special one, just made my day, month, the rest of my life. It is one of the best memories of my years in education. I spent five hours sitting in first class while I enjoyed that memory.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Box of Wine, A Loaf of Bread, and Thou--Huh?

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

- Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Edward FitzGerald translation, 1858

Recently,  I saw a story online about the challenges of the restaurant business with losses being posted by various restaurants. I like the idea of eating out in restaurants, but I don't patronize very many or very often. Who doesn't enjoy a relaxing meal when you don't spend hours cooking, and a meal with conversation with dinner companions? Before we retired, we ate out often.  When we used to eat out, we would set aside half of the meal, request a box, and take half of it home. We never ate as much food as restaurants served. So we weren't too offended by sticker shock for a dinner out for two was actually dinner for four.

Nevertheless, I was always offended, as a seasoned cook, to pay gratuities that could run to ten dollars per meal just to have someone walk my food from the kitchen to my table. I can buy two whole chickens for that amount. Generally, I don't like dealing with servers. The only reason I would need their name is in case they disappear for too long and I don't want to wait all night. Generally the problem is that they want to turn over the table several times during the night and they rush you through the meal . Sometimes the person who delivers the food isn't even the person who takes the order. I don't like to spend a lot of time socializing with the servers because I want to socialize with the persons eating dinner with me. Sometimes if you eat at a buffet, servers don't really do anything but expect tips anyway.

I've been cooking for a long time and technique is something I notice. I tend to be demanding about quality of the cooking and I don't like things over-cooked or under-cooked. I like food to be hot enough that I think it has just been cooked. Getting the food to meet my requirements is hard because they are cooking for a lot of people and some cooks have more experience than others. I don't like to send back dishes because that causes a whole bunch of situations. What I get as a result of that practice takes longer, and isn't usually any better than what I sent back. It has to be pretty bad for me to return a dish to the kitchen. I have done so, but it is quite a bother. I wouldn't send back a dish just so they comp the meal, but some places do that. They have to make a living too and I don't like to try to cheat them. If the restaurant is a bad one, I just don't return. Since I tend to avoid fatty foods and things with cheese or bacon, food prep becomes an issue in a restaurant. Olive oil is a favorite of mine and I prefer meats or fish baked or broiled. I like to avoid fried stuff.

My biggest quarrel with restaurants concerns the drinks. I can buy a 5 liter box of red or white wine at a wholesale liquor store for $14. Depending on who is pouring, a box of wine yields what we guesstimate to cost less than fifty cents per glass of wine. In a restaurant, most wine will run $4.50 per glass, which is rock bottom cheapest, and wine can cost up to the sky depending on how picky your palate happens to be. Some restaurants even serve their cheap wines in juice glasses so they can also insult you for buying the cheapest house wine. Those are the restaurants where I order beer. I'm not a wine snob and I have very unschooled taste buds so I'm not impressed by a $500 bottle of wine. I'm not a brew snob, so I don't know the taste of one beer from the other. Any beer that is very, very cold works for me. The price of the wine is put with the total cost of the meal so that there is also a surcharge for tips on the wine. I'm not a gourmet and I hate paying excessive amounts for wine, beer, food, or servers. When you can find a BYOB, they charge a corking fee. I use any coupon I can find and they won't be able to stay in business with many customers like me.

Since I'm not Romney with megabucks hidden in the Cayman Islands, we seldom eat out. Now that I am retired, I prefer to spend my money in other ways.

Friday, July 6, 2012


We watched PBS on July 4th for the evening program A Capitol Fourth with fireworks. It was pretty good because I discovered a star that was new to me. His name is Josh Turner, a very popular country music singer and he is a young man of 34. He is a rising star because he has a fabulous baritone voice. He sang the National Anthem and one of his hits called "Firecracker". It is a lusty little tune about his wife who is a gorgeous blond who plays keyboard in his band. They married in 2003 and have three toddlers. I looked up his videos this morning on YouTube and he has some great songs. I love his deep, deep voice. He is very sexy and a big star in Nashville at the Grand Olde Opry. They travel with the kids and perform all around the country. I can't imagine living like that, but they are young. I liked watching him and his band performing with all those guys in the band in their jeans and musical instruments. They were really confident and good musicians. Real talent is always great to watch. I've never been a big country music fan, but I could get very interested in seeing this guy perform--great stage presence.

We used to watch the Boston Pops on the fourth and they now only have an hour on CBS with mostly fireworks. Years ago, it used to go for hours of patriotic music. I discovered Linda Eder on that show and I love her voice and music. I like seeing real talent performing. We took a quick look at what was running on other channels, but they were showing a bunch of rappers who had no talent and thought grabbing their "junk" would be an adequate substitute for real talent. It is disgusting to see those guys groaning some incomprehensible, crude lyrics that you thankfully, can't quite understand, but they hang on to their privates like they are going to fall off. It is gross. So we didn't look at that channel for more than ten seconds. Anyway, I will have to keep my eyes open for chances to see Josh Turner performing. He's cool, talented and a class act. I saw a few videos of interviews he has done on TV which is interesting just to hear his speaking voice. He is really gifted and I look forward to seeing him on Good Morning America on July 11 as well as with David Letterman on Aug. 23.

Monday, June 18, 2012


As I spend time with my grandchildren, I like to watch their development and skills that they acquire through their play. My grandson says it best when he says, "I do it myself." They like us to watch and encourage and talk to them but they want to be in charge. That important journey toward independence can be observed on the playground. As they fearlessly jump on the equipment and venture forth into a new experience, their fearless, optimistic outlook on the outcome is taken for granted to be one that they will like. 

They like to be cheered for their efforts, but the adults have to take care not to take away their open acceptance of a little daring. If the adults only give precautions when absolutely necessary, their self confidence is reinforced. We try not to interfere unless something is obviously dangerous. They quickly figure out the connection between actions and consequences. 

Problem solving skills are greatly developed as they get to figure out how to get something to function as they desire whether it is getting on a new playground toy, repairing a toy, or reading on a Nook. My grandson is in a jigsaw puzzle phase so he puts together one after another. He likes to show me how they go together, but my help or suggestions are not welcome--"I do it myself," he says. When a toy stops working, he races to the pantry to get the battery box to replace the battery. 

My granddaughter loves her books and the American Girl catalog. With her birthday coming up, she has a shopping list. I don't read books to her because she wants to read to me. I love listening to her reading her books and sounding out the new words. I can't remember a specific phrase that she often uses but I will always remember her brother's "I do it myself." It reminds me of my dad's often used phrase, "You think about it." 

I like seeing how confident they have become through the freedom they have been given to explore their abilities. They exist in a little protective cocoon of which they are very unaware. They are surrounded by watchful adults with structure without excessive supervision. They have been trained to clean up the toys at regular intervals--before a meal, before leaving to go home, before going to bed and they do a really good job of understanding the concept of neat, organized toys on shelves. They thrive on the structure of knowing the reliable expectations. I'm always eager to see their latest achievements each time I visit with them.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

And Justice For All

On Flag Day, I am reminded of the Pledge of Allegiance and the last phrase--"And Justice for All".  We can all argue the validity of that lofty goal and whether we can really claim its achievement. I always hesitate to get involved in political discussions because a good lawyer can argue many shades of gray on any issue and I'm not a lawyer. I received an interesting e-mail and I suspect many others with blogs have also seen this item.

At this location, this organization attempts to address some serious issues of our times. I must say that from what I've seen of their argument regarding incarceration in this country, I tend to agree. We have far too many people being sent off to prison for non-violent crimes mostly related to drug use. Lots of questions and I have to wonder now that prisons are being privatized, where is the motivation to stop so much incarceration when it pays that industry so well.?

I don't use illegal drugs and or legal ones for that matter, but I think it is time for this country to consider that the war on drugs was lost a long time ago. Sending the marijuana user off to prison makes no more sense than incarcerating the person who has a glass of wine. Society isn't well served when more is spent on prisons than on education. It might be worth a try when, like prohibition of alcohol, you take the money out of the drug trade, regulate and tax it, we might all be better off.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


My perception of noise has always been rather simple--sound I don't like. I have to expand my sensory definition of noise to include more than only sounds I hear and dislike. Noise can also be visual as found in playing with the word to include "visual noise".

This picture is a perfect example to me of visual noise: 

This "dithering" effect in digital photography produces an unpleasing "image noise". The photo was taken with a 5 megapixel camera that leaves too much "noise" in brown, blue or green sections of pictures. Digital photography fills in areas but it produces an unpleasing effect.

In contrast, these pictures below were taken with a 16.2 megapixel Nikon D5100 DSLR camera which produces a more pleasing photograph. The brown, blue and green colors look more as the natural eye would see them. The image noise reduction of the camera is outstanding.

I tend to be a purist in photographic effects. Artistic renderings in photographic form that plays with reality can sometimes be pleasing to my eye, but that is distinctly different from "visual noise". Beauty is in the eye of the beholder perhaps, but it seems to me that whatever was intended and fails is what produces "visual noise." You recognize what is visual noise and what is artistic "photoshopping" or enhancement of photos. A deliberate manipulation of digital media can produce some very pleasing effects not unlike impressionistic painting. There are those who claim  impressionists were just near-sighted artists. Even if that were true, I find the effect is a pleasing variation on reality. I wouldn't call it "noise".

According to that great expert in cyberspace, Wikipedia, noise can be expanded from acoustic noise to other applications as well as cellular noise, vibrational noise, electronic noise or thermal noise. The technical details of each makes very interesting reading. I don't need to try to paraphrase their definitions, but the idea of "noisy genes" tickles my fancy. It makes me wonder if there is such a thing as "tasty noise" or "smelly noise"--whatever interferes with the pure reception of a sensory experience.

At the core of all of these "noise" events, is the idea that something is unwanted. So I suppose I would define noise as whatever is unwanted or distracting and produces stress in the receptor. I like the notion of "white noise" which I would define as something so all inclusive that it soothes and ceases to stress or annoy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Light As Art

For many years, we have enjoyed this seasonal treat that we see when visiting Longwood Gardens in the summer. These large water lily pads have always been fascinating. Recently, we visited again, and discovered a display in a pond on an opposite side of the gardens. I assumed they had begun planting the water lilies in the pond near the Italian Gardens. On closer inspection we found an entirely different fascinating display.

Yep, it is a sea of CD-ROM collections somehow attached to round discs. The reflecting side picks up the light with an ever-changing rainbow of colors. Hubby observed that they must be an old collection of AOL discs. We used to have a never-ending stream of mailers with their CD enclosed. I always thought there must be a better way to use a CD as I tossed many into the trash. Bruce Munro gets an A for creativity in my book. He asked people to send him their old CD-ROM collections and he received thousands.

The new exhibit at Longwood Gardens is very clever, inspirational, and creative. It is an installation of different types of plays in light and color by Bruce Munro of UK. The night light exhibit opens in June, but we were able to see the daytime exhibit on the lake near the Italian Gardens. It is best viewed during the day as one roams around the lake with the sun reflecting from different angles. As you walk and the light changes, the CD-ROM collection reflects changing colors. It's really beautiful. 

It is an astounding visual effect and very hard to capture in photography. It is best experienced in person. YouTube has a video of some of his displays. 

Even though it is a really cool concept, and I would like to see it again later in the summer, I still prefer Mother Nature's water lilies on the other side of the gardens.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I'd Rather Be .........

Sunrise Over the Atlantic Ocean
We've seen the slogans here, there and everywhere and everyone would fill in the blank differently, depending on her/his  favorite hobby. I would fill in the blank with my favorite activity: I'd Rather Be Cruising. Someone recently asked me why I like cruises and I tried to explain the charm it holds for me. I can't think of anything I don't like about cruising. I could easily take up residence on a cruise ship if money were no object, but it is, so I have to content myself with the occasional trip.


The thing I notice most about the interesting people I meet on cruise ships is that the ones I talk to at least, really like cruising. I assume people who really don't like cruises don't show up on cruises. Either you love it, or you hate it. I enjoy talking to lots of new people and getting to know them. I think the people are the most interesting part of a cruise. I am an observer of people and try to imagine who they are, what they do, what they like, etc. It always surprises me to find out how wrong I am in my guesses. It is a great lesson to me personally, not to make assumptions about people and never judge a book by its cover. I like to be open to talking to new people and learning what they're all about. People are so friendly and eager to talk to each other.

The National Museum of Bermuda
My latest cruise stopped at Bermuda and several islands in the Caribbean. We like to explore and look for interesting historical spots and take self-guided photographic excursions. We have visited Bermuda before so we tried to see something different on this trip. We explored the National Museum of Bermuda. We learned more about histories of the island slave trade; yacht racing; and the role of Bermuda in WWII because a German submarine was captured and secretly towed to Bermuda for hiding and further study. Bermuda housed POW's from the Boer, First, and Second World Wars.

Prisoners in Paradise

Having recently cruised into Puerto Rico twice, I have a new appreciation of San Juan. We docked within easy walking distance of two beautiful old forts, Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

Between the two fortresses is the Old San Juan with charmingly colorful building fronts down long, narrow, cobblestone streets. We walked for hours and explored shops and parks.

Even if the cruise ship never docked during the trip, for me, it would be great to be on the ship for days and days. I didn't even mind the night we passed through a tropical storm in the Atlantic. I like to explore the ship, take part in the events, or sit on the balcony and look for flying fish and dolphins. We were able to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the bridge and the galley, both of which are enlightening. There is always something interesting to do on a cruise ship. Some people like to be part of a car enthusiasts crowd, or maybe a motorcycle crowd, or fans of Burning Man, or rock concerts or professional sports events, and I like to be part of the cruise crowd. After taking hundreds of photos, I will restrain myself and post only a few. I post a slide show at another site and it is available if anyone wants to request it by e-mail.

Sunset viewed from the Atlantic Ocean

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

All Quiet on the Western Front

That sounds like a good book title. Yes, I know it is and everyone should read it from time to time. This is not a book review, however, it is about travel.  Considering that I live in the East (in the U.S.), when I travel West, I find that it is very different from the East. Travel energizes our spirits as nothing else can match. Maybe that is why we spend more time planning a trip than any other activities that we do during the course of our lives. It is also more tiring than any activity I do during the course of my regular days.

Weeks in Nevada remind me that moisturizer is my best friend and that water costs about as much as liquid gold or at least as much as booze. Altitude doesn't bother me, but dryness is a constant companion in the West of the U.S. 

The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas
Naturally, five hours on a plane must include a trip to Vegas--love that glitz and glamor and gambling.


The glitz can be found in extravagant, crystal dripping opulence at the new Cosmopolitan hotel/casino on the strip. How quickly they put up a new hotel. It wasn't there the last time we visited.

The glamor can be found at the production of Phantom of the Opera at The Venetian. It closes in September so it was a good opportunity to see it again while it is still in Vegas. All of the shows are a big draw at Vegas and the Penn and Teller comedy/magic production at Rio was worth the trip. Most shows begin with people being told to shut off the cell phones, but they take it to a new high. Their first trick ended with the cell phone ringing inside a fish, so a word to the wise was sufficient in that show. We skipped the Cirque shows on this trip since we have seen all of those. We will catch a few next time.


Bellagio display, Las Vegas
More glamor is on tap at the Bellagio with ever changing lobby displays and the outdoor evening music/light fountain shows. The Monet exhibit at their Gallery of Fine Art was visiting from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and well worth the time we spent browsing through it. The art shops of Peter Lik, Vladimir Kush, and Chihuly lure tourists to some unusual displays. A little culture in sin city--imagine that. It's expensive stuff that won't be on my walls, just in my mind.


Real flowers in a frame-Bellagio, Las Vegas
The gambling is ever-present and fun from time to time. I was able to play the slots for three hours one afternoon and only spent $5. The very entertaining Casino Royale is a throw back to Vegas of old and I wouldn't have it any other way. Such nostalgia--low ceilings, low lights, loud music, chiming slots, smoky haze that I could do without, but it feels like 1950.

Half-size Eiffel Tower, Las Vegas

Where else can you have breakfast in the desert, lunch at a deli in New York, and dinner at a sidewalk cafe in Paris? We like to stay at Planet Hollywood which used to be the Aladdin attached to the Desert Passage, which they now call the Miracle Mile. 

I love the restaurants which are unique and feel like the great outdoors, but have clouds painted on the inside of the roof. It seems like an evening in the streets of Paris inside the hotel/casino of the same name. The upside of indulging in all the great restaurants is that there is so much walking, I lost two pounds.

We like to make Vegas a place to meet friends who live in the West and can drive to meet us. It was a busy visit with friends as well as a family reunion in Reno. That's another city with gambling everywhere, but we weren't there to gamble. However, we saw a great local stage production of Anything Goes at the university. 

Wynn Hotel-Casino, Las Vegas

I always find the West to be tiring, but relaxing, and entertaining. I love doing Vegas "My Way."