On a Yearly Transition

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As the waves come ashore to wash away 2018, the year officially moves into our memory bank. A year that marked 10 years in my little corner of the world here on WordPress. A good year of writing, memories, and interactions with many good people.

A year featuring of 158 posts (I think) included 24 more beach walks, a tour to notable US national parks, and an outstanding tour in Eastern Europe. A year when Pronouns awakened the sleeping giant known as blog musicals. Some of my favorite topics to post included religious liberty, common good, buying food in Venezuela, a teacher’s day, a 4-part series about the US as a Christian nation, 1968, containers, my career of 2 halves, lead & follow, ballroom connections, and several attempts at fiction. Remember any of those?

If all goes well, 2019 means more beach walks, more travel, another musical, and the introduction of the aFa Weekend Concert Series (which starting this coming weekend). For the inaugural event, it doesn’t get any bigger than The Beatles.

Sometime in 2019 will deliver the 400th weekly edition of Opinions in the Shorts. New posts in final preparation include Oreos, shopping carts, race music, samba, water, shadows, dark, a look at me during my college days, and a toast to 66. 2019 could deliver visit #400,000.

As we say farewell to 2018 while greeting 2019 with open arms, Happy New Year to you … and may goodness continue to shine! Enjoy The Tenors.

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On Venice 2018

 

After our days in Trieste, we took a train to Venice, actually our departing airport. Because we’ve been to this beautiful city before (but I hadn’t posted about it), our one-night stay would be in Mestre – the mainland side of the city. Besides, the airport is on the mainland and Mestre hotels are much cheaper.

As the train was approaching the train station (Venezia Mestre), I noticed our hotel is directly across the street. Then I learn that a train goes to the islands (Venezia Santa Lucia Station) every 10 minutes for 2 euros. Plus, the airport shuttle is a very short walk from our hotel (Best Western Plus Hotel Bologna). Cheaper, close to rail and the airport bus are all good things!

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With the weather being wonderful, we had to go to Venice to just wander. Part of the fun of this glorious setting is trying to get lost – because you can’t! The historical city is wonderful – after all, Venice is Venice.

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Our trip has ended, and what a trip it was. All the stops in the Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe tour were worthwhile and memorable. Then add-on stops to my birthplace and a touch of Venice was like extra ice cream and toppings on an already magnificent sundae.

 

Picking our favorite stop is not an easy task because the locations were so different. The three major cities were different from each other, then toss in the extremes of a natural wonder of a Plitvice (a Croatian National Park) to the horrors of Auschwitz, and a relaxing seaside locate as Rovinj, it was quite the tour.

Three important references for readers.

  1. I will probably do more posts about this trip with some tidbits. Time will tell.
  2. I didn’t realize that I posted very little about our Italy-Croatia cruise of how knows how many years ago. Maybe I’ll go back in time. Thoughts?
  3. Click here for all the posts about this tour.
  4. Although it’s also in the previous collection, click here for my review of Rick Steves’ Europe tours.

To see more of the island wonderland known as Venice, watch the 2+-minute video below. Thanks for coming along for my journey.

On Trieste (Italy)

Trieste – TREE est in English, TREE ess te in Italian, Trst (Trist) in Croatian and Slovenian.

I was 11 years old for my last trip to Trieste (1964). Because of the relative closeness of Trieste, Italy to where our Rick Steves ended (Lake Bled, Slovenia), we decided to extend our vacation with a side trip to the city of my birth.

Given its location on the Adriatic Sea’s Gulf of Trieste, Trieste has a storied history. Looking at it on a map should be head-scratching to many because it seems Slovenia would be a more natural fit.

 

Trieste’s beginning is rooted to the Romans in the second century BC.

 

After being ruled by Charlemagne then the Venetians – who built local icon sites San Giusto Castle and Cathedral.

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Trieste became part of the Habsburg Monarchy and eventually the main port for Austria-Hungary (1382-1918). Many of the majestic buildings of today were built during this prosperous time.

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With Italy being on the winning side of WW1 and Austria-Hungary being dismantled, Trieste became part of Italy in 1915 – although numerous Slovenes lived there at the time. Italy also annexed part of Slovenia, then lost it in WW2.

TIto’s Yugoslavia wanted Trieste as WW2 was ending. On 5 March 1946, Winston Churchill referenced Trieste in his famous Iron Curtain speech: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.

Because Trieste was pivotal, the UN established it as an independent free territory (1947) that was protected by American and British forces. Enter my dad, a member of the US Army – where he met my mother who went to Trieste from northern Tuscany to work. They married and I was born there. We a few months after I was born, and then a year later (1954), Trieste became part of Italy.

 

With a population today of just over 200,000, Trieste proudly displays its past. Leading back to its Austria-Hungary days, Trieste is Italy’s City of Coffee. There are hundreds of ways to serve coffee in Trieste – and not a Starbuck’s to be found.

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Being on the sea, Triestines love sailing – and a weeklong, large regatta festival (Barcolana) just started. The flute orchestra was part of the festivities.

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I love the way the city is built on the hillside sloping the sea – and then in the city, Piazza Unità d’Italia opens to the sea. (Note: Europe’s largest square facing the sea)

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Even though I recalled some of the sites but not remember where I was born or baptized, it was fun to return to my birthplace. After all, it is part of me. Plus it was a chance to share it with my wife, who didn’t know what to expect.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my trip to Trieste – a special place for me. I invite you to watch the video (with a fitting song) below and visit a post by a reader here, visit Debra @ Bagni di Lucca and Beyond. Also, here’s a past-post of mine about Trieste.

Next Stop: Venice

Click here for past posts of this tour.

On Lake Bled (Slovenia)

About 34 miles (55 km) northwest of Ljubljana, Lake Bled is a lake at the edge of the Julian Alps. Surrounded by mountains and forests with a medieval castle on a rocky face high above the lake and a small island within the lake, this setting is very picturesque. The large lake, 6,980 feet by 4,530 ft (2,120 m by 1,380 m) is without motor boats.

Water from multiple natural springs feed the lake. The bluish-green water is clear, tranquil, and smooth as glass. Lake Bled is large: 6,980 feet by 4,530 ft (2,120 m by 1,380 m), and without motor boats.

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Our morning ride to Bled Island was on a plenta – a flat-bottomed wooden boat seating 20 passengers propelled and navigated by an oarsman. In 1740, Empress Maria Theresa granted 22 families exclusive rights to transport people to the island, and that tradition remains today.

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Bled Island is small, large enough for a church and several buildings. The church is a popular wedding site and has several traditions. It is good luck for the marriage if the groom carries his bride up the 99 steps before ringing the bell inside the church and making a wish. The wish will come to true if the bell rings three times on one pull of the rope.

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After returning from the island, we walked the 3-mile (5 km) paved path circling the lake. The walk provides beautiful views of the island, the castle, the town, hotels, and relaxing views across the calm water. Along the way we passed the Slovenian Olympic Rowing Training Facility. Lake Bled has hosted the World Rowing Championship 4 times.

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High on a cliff above the lake sits Bled Castle – a medieval castle that protected the people since 1004. Today, the castle houses exhibits, a museum, restaurant, wine cellar, chapel, banquet hall, and a printing shop – but it also provides outstanding views of the lake, the island, the town of Bled, and the surrounding countryside.

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Enjoy this very short video (17 seconds) of Bled Castle at night.

 

We were told that Lake Bled is very busy in the summer months. We were fortunate because our visit was in early October – the crowds were down and the weather was excellent. The boat ride, the walk around the lake, the hike to the castle, lunch at the castle, and a group meal was a delightful way to end our Rick Steves’ Europe tour – but, for us, our vacation was not over! Meanwhile, enjoy the 2-minute video about Lake Bled by Rick Steves.

Next Stop: Trieste

Click here for past posts of this tour.

On Christmas 2018

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On these pages I have stressed this point many times: “I believe the majority of the people in the world are good.” Regardless of the bad news we receive on any given day from any given place, I continue to maintain that statement as an important mantra.

Not only to I believe the majority of the people in the world are good, I also see Santa as the Spirit of Goodness because it is that spirit that touches all.

It is the season of Christmas across Christendom – and yes, Christmas is a religious holiday – and yes – I am Christian – and yes, I embrace Christmas a secular holiday for all.

Whereas some Christians (and I believe the minority) complain about the commercialism while proclaiming, Put Christ back in Christmas, I say there is plenty of room for everyone in a secular Christmas because Santa – the Spirit of Goodness – is for everyone. Santa is for Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Naturalists, Christians, and anyone and everyone else.

During our recent trip to the Czech Republic, were told (multiple times) that the vast majority of Czechs today do not identify themselves as religious – let alone associated with a religious community. Yet – they embrace Christmas. I’m confident the Czech example if not unique – but rather very common because they embrace the Spirit of Goodness that the season brings.

Mannheim Steamroller’s version of Silent Night is one of my favorites. Below are different videos to the same song. I hope you pick one (and let me know).

May the Spirit of Goodness be with you not only during this holiday season, but throughout life.

The original

 

Beautiful painting of the season and live wildlife

 

Featuring the Aurora Borealis

 

More religious

Pronouns 2: The Musical – Act 6: Self

The Story

Welcome to Pronouns 2: The Musical.

Some may ask, “Pronouns?”, but we at A Frank Angle say, “Why not pronouns!”

Why a sequel to Pronouns? Again, “Why not!”

Program

Act 1: My
Act 2: Mine
Act 3: Our
Act 4: Their
Act 5: Your

Act 6: Self

The greatest self is a peaceful smile, that always sees the world smiling back. (Bryant H. McGill, author)

Choose to focus your time, energy and conversation around people who inspire you, support you and help you to grow you into your happiest, strongest, wisest self. (Karen Salmansohn, author)

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self. (Aldous Huxley, novelist)

If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die. (Maya Angelou, poet)

Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self. (May Sarton, poet)

This above all; to thine own self be true. (William Shakespeare, dramatist)

Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement. (Golda Meir, leader)

Guidelines

  • Songs must have one of the acceptable words (listed below) in the title
  • Acceptable words will be Self, Itself, Herself, Himself, Myself, Ourselves, Yourselves, and Themselves
  • Special dispensation will be given to Its songs – but The Producer cautions because It’s is unacceptable

Cautions

  • No duplicates songs regardless of artists
  • Foreign language equivalents unacceptable
  • Beware of Its versus It’s

Production Note

  1. To prevent browsers crashing from loading too many videos, please
    Include the song title and artist in your text, and
  2. Paste the URL as part of your last line (not a new line). The latter will provide a link, thus not embed the actual video … but I don’t mind unembedding, so apologies are not necessary.

Announcement

Welcome to the final act of Pronouns 2: The Musical feature Self. Before introducing the opening act, we have a special announcement.

Starting in early January 2019 – probably January 5th – aFa Productions will be providing a new music event: the aFa Weekend Concert Series. This will feature songs from one artist. The Happy New Year post will announce the who will open the series. We can say that the first 5 artists have agreed to the scheduling. However, this does not mean the end of musicals. Actually, we’ve selected the next theme, and see opening in late April or early May.

We had many great songs and artists in our final list to determining the closing act’s opener. Good news that we know the list of available for this act is lengthy. The Act 6 opener will take us back to the early MTV days. Actually, 1984. It’s the title song of a platinum-selling album. Ladies and gentlemen, loud cheers for Laura Branigan with Self Control.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 385

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The final act of Pronouns 2: The Musical is this weekend featuring songs Self in the title. Acceptable words are Self, Itself, Herself, Himself, Myself, Ourselves, Yourselves, Themselves, and the original theme – Its (but not It’s). Curtain time is Saturday, 1 AM (Eastern US).

FYI: There will be a very important music announcement before introducing the opening act!

Given the way the holidays fall and my posting plans, this is the final OITS for 2018. Plans are to return the first Thursday/Friday in January.

Cheers! – Although limited, my wife returned to the dance floor last weekend. Simply some dancers are easier on the feet than others. For the other dances, I search for partners.

Friday is the Winter Solstice for those of us in the northern hemisphere. To those that embrace the day, a beautiful video for you.

As reported here, we cut the television cord this past July. At this point, neither of us regret the decision.

Cheers to Cincinnati for its high rating as a city for beer lovers. Here’s the list: Ranking the best US cities for beer drinkers

I must put in a plug for one of my favorite television special shows of the year is on December 26th – the Kennedy Center Honors. For me, this is a can’t miss event. It’s on CBS, so check your local listings.

Hooray for me! Only one more post to get in the queue, and then the rest of 2018 is ready to go. So yes, I’ll be posting – but nothing heavy. Looking forward to 2019!

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It appears President Trump is not going to sign the spending bill, which will lead to a government shutdown – a shutdown he is willing to own. Then again, saying he is willing to own it, admitting he said it, and taking ownership are similar to being on different planets.

As we know, President Trump loves to take responsibility for something good, but skirts responsibility or blames others for bad news. He used to boast about the rising stock market. For some odd reason, he hasn’t said much this year. Our portfolio is moderately conservative. Since our high in late January 2018, our value is down 7.7%.

I think of four governors: Christie (NJ), Brownback (KS), Walker (WI), and Bevin (KY). All were ushered in with a wave of populous conservatism. All eventually suffered high negative ratings – and only popular with the uber conservatives.

Upon hearing the news about the Texas judge declaring The Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare) unconstitutional, my contrarian ways quickly had two thoughts. 1) This puts giddy Republicans in a bind, and 2) because the Act withstood two constitutional challenges at the Supreme Court level, that means the law passed by Republicans that changed the ACA should be reinstated until Congress enacts a replacement.

I close 2018 with my latest thoughts about 2020.

  • 99.9% chance of Republicans re-nominating President Trump (down from 100%)
  • 65% chance of President Trump being re-elected (down from 80%)
  • 0% chance of President Trump getting my vote
  • 25% chance of Democrats nominating a candidate that gets my attention

In the spirit of Christmas, this is the perfect gift for President Trump because I know he doesn’t have one.

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To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines and 2019, here’s a double feature. The Onion made me laugh with this reminder of anniversary involving President George W. Bush; plus, important information regarding the 8 most notorious criminals in US history

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)

Everything reminds man of her
Petco employee stocks gerbils by register for impulse buyers
Mortician always keeps hammer at tableside just in case one comes back to life
Scientists still decades away from deciphering wireless bill
Optometrist Sets Pressure Of Air Puff Test Way Higher For Asshole Patients
Excited shopper decides to wear new butt plug out of store

Interesting Reads

A brief history of politics and the papacy
Rome’s vestal virgins
Ancestors drilling holes in our heads
(Graphic) 40 years of the music industry
(Photos) Abundance
(Graphic) The global economy in one chart
(Photos) Tis’ the season around the world (this is enjoyable for the holiday spirit)
(Video) Watch the creation of beautiful art at the World Street Painting Festival

To send you into the weekend and toward 2019, enjoy Perfect with an unexpected duet. The looks on the faces are genuine and priceless! In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.