On a Few Bits Upon Return

Greetings readers!

My wife and I returned a week ago from vacation, so I thought it was time to say hello to fellow bloggers. Below are a few tidbits that are on my mind.

I know … some of you are eager to know where we went, so here’s the scoop. We spent 2 ½ weeks in Tuscany on a trip that combined vacation time for the two of us and time with my family (an aunt and 4 first cousins). More on that trip over time.

Life in the rolling hills of Tuscany with the olives and grapes is a difficult task, but we were willing to accept the challenge.

tuscany

On this trip I almost made a connection with Debra, the Australian blogger who vacations in Bagni di Lucca. (One of my favorite places) Maybe next time! … but at least we talked on the phone.

We definitely don’t enjoy journeys involving three flights, but given our destination, we had no choice … Cincinnati to Toronto to Munich to Pisa … .and the reverse on return.

I’m looking forward to returning to my volunteer efforts with English Second Language students (adults). Before leaving I only had one class with them, so I’m anxious to help and get to know more good people from around the world.

I’m still at the golf course, but hours are less (and that’s OK). Because of work, I haven’t been volunteering at ballroom dancing with Down Syndrome adults. Hopefully, that trend won’t continue.

Thanks to DVR, we used last week to get up-to-date with Dancing With the Stars.

The handbell choir played last Sunday. Because my wife and I haven’t practiced in three weeks, we had a chance to listen. Nice piece … hopefully I can find a video in time.

This may have been the case three years ago when I visited, but I didn’t notice – but Italians now have a recycling program. Whew … is it ever different than what we do. At least they are trying something.

Being away from the election madness was more than wonderful. No news – no talking heads – no political gibberish – pure silence. In one location we only had Italian television, so we didn’t watch anything. Two of my cousins had satellite television that offered English stations (and I assuming CNN International) – but we resisted the urge. The day after the debate I looked at the headlines in Politico, but didn’t read any article because the headlines told me everything I wanted to know.

The first Republican debate was many months ago. I didn’t watch any of them … I didn’t watch any of the Democratic debates … and I have continued my pattern during the general election by not viewing any of the 3 to date.

Italians were very interested in our thoughts. I frequently answered this way: Non mi fido di lei, ma lui è un matto pigliacchioI don’t trust her but he is a mad clown. They also seem very confused about how Donald Trump can even have a chance.

Meanwhile, cheers to the Dutch team that came up with this one.

On a Gorilla

Image from the Cincinnati Zoo

Image from the Cincinnati Zoo

The recent incident at the Cincinnati Zoo is known throughout the world. Because I proudly wear my Cincinnati heart on my blogging adventures, I’m sure I popped into the mind of many readers when they heard the news.

What happened here was tragic on many levels. I can’t image the terror in the mother’s mind – let alone what the child was thinking when with a large gorilla so close. Zoo officials hurt – and the members of the zoo’s response team must have extremely heavy hearts.
We hear about the incident everyday on the local news outlets, let alone the information we receive online. There is a lot of finger-pointing, shaming, and general noise by many from all corners of the world – which include death threats to the parents, harassment to a bystander who witnessed the event, countless comments of various degrees in social media, and this editorial by the Toledo Blade shamed its own zoo direction and called for boycotting “all things Cincinnati” as well as firing our zoo director. Bottom line, most of the crap is noise by clueless people.
I’ve never been a parent, but I imagine many parents have had moments when a child gets away – that is, creating a “bad parent” situation – such as the child who almost gets hit by a car or gets into something they shouldn’t be. That has to happen to many – but I acknowledge, maybe not to this extreme.
This is a sad and unfortunate situation – one when zoo officials were placed into a lose-lose situation – and chose to do something they are against doing. Although I admit my first thought was wondering a phrase starting with, “how could the parent” – I continue having a difficult time with the mere thought of charging the mother with a crime – and I still have the deepest thoughts for the zoo employees who absolutely love animals.
The words below are from an editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer written by Opinion Editor Cindi Andrews. They were meaningful to me when I read them on 31 May and they are still meaningful today.
Amid the blame and social noise, let’s pause to be thankful that the child is OK and to truly mourn the loss of another life, not so different from a human one. That doesn’t happen on a smartphone or a computer. It happens quietly, perhaps by remembering a past trip to the zoo or thinking about our relationship with the animal kingdom.
Let us remember in our thoughts and prayers those zoo workers who knew Harambe so much better than us, and had to witness or even have a hand in his death. As a child wrote in a sympathy card left at the zoo: “We are so sad that you had to kill one of your gorillas – we love the gorillas.”
In Harambe’s memory, let’s take a moment to let go of anger and simply be sad.
As the finger pointers, shames, blamers, and cranks concentrate their efforts on the mother, Cincinnati Zoo, the zoo’s director, I find it interesting that these same people are very quiet the bigger issues at hand – the protection of gorillas in the wild, action against poachers and hunters, the protection of their nature habitat from logging, farming, mining, and other forms of human expansion.
To close this post, I’m linking several resources that confront the issues I mentioned above – World Wildlife Fund, Mbeli Bais Study, and the newly formed Harambe Fund – but personally, I’ll still dealing with the impact of the actual situation on me. So, I close with two readings from the Cincinnati Enquirer and one from the Cincinnati Zoo.

On Warnings

As we were walking down from the top of the Rock of Gibraltar this past October, we saw two road signs that I’ve never seen before … but they got me thinking about signs at home … so one day, I took note.

I left the house for a few errands, but didn’t get out of the subdivision before I see my first warning sign.
NoParking

Turning onto the main road, the lines are giving me a message … yes, in this case, a warning.

RoadLines

I stopped at the bank, which greeted me with this warning.
SignBank

I stopped at a novelty store looking for a gift, thus encounter an owner delivering a warning with a sense of humor.
SignStore

It’s lunchtime – I’m hungry. Instead of the No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service sign, I encountered this warning sign.
SignRestaurant

I stopped at the grocery store because tonight we have a homemade pizza – so I’m very glad the pepperoni company told me this. (Look in the label’s lower-left corner)
SignPackage

What are some of the unique warning signs you’ve encountered?

On the Road with Larry

Meet Larry.

Larry

My wife trusts Larry, so he’s is a frequent road-trip companion. Even though he led her down a farmer’s road to a fence protecting a cornfield, then declaring, “You have arrived at your destination” … she trusts Larry.

I know Larry has also successfully guided us to other destinations, but I’m leary of Larry. After all, a few years ago on a trip to Maker’s Mark Distillery, Larry led me down narrowing roads with rough pavement before his arrival proclamation – which was actually a farm-house on a gravel road with no distillery in sight. Fortunately, a resident didn’t come out of the house with a shotgun as I was turning around. Somehow, my gyroscope led me to Maker’s Mark without asking for directions.

Marker's Mark Distillary - Loretto, Kentucky

Marker’s Mark Distillery – Loretto, Kentucky

Because we moved earlier in 2014, we decided to take an 8-day road-trip vacation that fall. Larry was along, and he successfully guided us to our first stop (the Frank Lloyd Wright house known as Kentuck Knob in Pennsylvania), even though I only semi-trusted his judgment.

Kentuck Knob

Kentuck Knob

Upon Kentuck Knob, I knew all I had to do was turn left, travel 3-4 miles, and then turn left onto US Route 40 as we were bound for Cumberland, Maryland.

Oh no – Larry said (in his Aussie English), “Turn right.”

I cringed, but because my wife trusts Larry, I reluctantly turn right. Of course, Larry’s direction got a song going in my head – Over the hill and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go. We got to our destination, but hey Larry – WHY? All I had to do was turn left! Surely it wasn’t shorter or saved time.

Larry had successes on this trip that involved Gettysburg, Cooperstown, the Finger Lakes region, Corning, Falling Waters, and home … but he never regained my full trust. On our next-to-the-last day, he took me on another unexpected journey of zigs and zags. We did it, but I wouldn’t have taken that route.

Knowing we were returning to the Kentuck Knob area because Falling Waters is nearby, I figured Larry would again set us on the way to Grandma’s house – so I to prepare my counter to his wishes by checking multiple sources before leaving the hotel. Sure enough, he directed, “Turn right” – so, I sent him into recalculating mode by going straight.

FallingWaters

FallingWaters – Frank Lloyd Wright Masterpiece

He quickly came around, thus got on the same page as I – and we safely arrived – and yes, Falling Waters is spectacular.

We were now ready to leave for home. Larry and I agreed on the initial part of the journey, but I was confident that he would take us in a direction that I didn’t want to go. Once we got to that point, Larry proclaimed, “Turn left.” … but I countered with an unexpected right.

He quickly recalculated to countered with new directions with a left on the next road.

I pressed on – ignoring his wish – and he recalculated again, then asking me to turn left in order to return to his wishes. Again, I continued straight.

Larry is relentless as he recalculates again, then asking me to turn left again – but I’m in full resistance mode. The previous pattern continued a few more time as the battle of wills was at its peak.

I pressed on with my plan, and eventually yes – the battle was now over. Victory for me – thus Larry succumbed to my easier road by telling me to continue on the road for 30 miles – we were now on the same page …. and my way took us 5 minutes more, but without tolls.

Take that Larry …. and meet your new traveling companion!

LarryPal

On a Bag Sale

Occasionally, stores have a bag sale. A sale where the store gives a bag to each customer, then give a designated percentage off the price of everything fits in the bag. Not a bag as the above, but a large paper bag – one slightly larger than a large brown paper bag from a grocery store.

Besides the discounted percentage in large letters, phrases as “Even sale priced items” qualify” get the buyer’s attention. Although “No early discounts” apply because of the designated dates involved, nothing like a sale when lawyers get involved. After all, the fine print list is probably what has been tried by customers at past sales.

According to the fine print, In order to qualify for the discount,

  • All merchandise must fit inside the bag
  • All merchandise must fit inside the bag all at one time
  • No modifications to the bag
  • Products up to twice the height of the bag qualify as long as it fits inside the bag
  • If purchasing multiples of one item, all must fit inside the bag
  • No stacking beyond the height of the bag
  • All items inside the bag must remain in original packaging
  • Merchandise cannot be disassembled to fit in the bag
  • Not valid on Gift Cards, special orders, picking lists/invoices, rental agreements, self-service items, or the floozies in the backroom
  • No rainchecks
  • No price adjustments from previous sales
  • One bag per guest
  • In the spirit of the sale, please do not ask the cashier to split your purchase up across multiple bags held by family members.

Any morals to this story?

On a Holiday Reprise as Shorts

Hoping everyone had a wonderful Christmas Day. Ours was simple as we hosted one (my father-in-law). After dinner, we played 3-handed euchre for multiple hours. The next day we took a 3-hour drive to visit an aunt, then returned the next day.

For part of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I took time to visit many bloggers, which I greatly enjoyed.

For the rest of this week, I hope to put together a few Explore posts to for light enjoyment

A reminder, Tuesday is the Kennedy Center Honors telecast.

Did all your packages arrive on-time? My wife and I were keeping it very simple this year. I ordered a small gift. (Good luck following this one)

  1. Records showed delivery, but I didn’t have a package.
  2. Knowing the odds of finding it before Christmas Day was slim, I ordered something else and paid more for two-day delivery (which would have been the 24th).
  3. Later the same day, we located the original package at the front door down the street (obviously the wrong address) – and the resident didn’t know it was there because she was out-of-town visiting family.
  4. Meanwhile, the second package has been sitting in Orlando (Florida) for more time than it was supposed to take to get here.

Thank you for the many kind comments regarding my Christmas post linking the goodness of people, Santa Claus, and the spirit of Christmas. To coincide with that post, LB (@Cruise Stories) shared this interesting post for the season, in which Rachel (a Jewish woman) tells about her love of Christmas movies.

On the same theme, the executive director of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier University had a wonderful column in the local paper, which paralleled my Christmas message. Here’s his closing statement, plus the link to the entire column.

During this Christmas season, as we assemble with family and friends, let us pledge to make every encounter life-giving, to commit that all of God’s creations have a place not only in this world but in our heart. If we can be “for other people” we will never be “different to other people.. Nor they to us. Merry Christmas from a rabbi. (Rabbi Abie Ingber)

Calvin (@Beyond Plum Creek) shared this message through a song, which isn’t a Christmas song, but it sure fits my theme of Christmas is for everyone and that Santa is the Spirit of Christmas. Have a good final week of 2015.