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Archive for May, 2011

May Summary

May 31st, 2011 2 comments

It has been a good month.

My Jewel finished her Abitur with more than enough points, capping it yesterday with two oral exams. She packed up her stuff from boarding school this morning and I picked her up. I think everything landed in her room with the help of the bother then she crashed.

My Mole, after doing close to nothing for several days did a brilliant job on the junk closet in the kitchen. It is neat, clean, organized logically. We also made a dent in the third downstairs bedroom. After hauling out three bags of garbage (seems like more than one sib was just using it for a dumping ground) both sides of the clothing cupboard are now completely clean. Ms Soprano’s clothing is neatly in the one side, leaving the other for the Mole. The cupboards under the bed have been completely cleaned which only leaves two bookcases and half the floor.

The Eldest is working hard and Ms Soprano finished her last semester at Montgomery College (waiting for a confirm that she has her AA in Music.)

The studio is not as neat, but I am now making steady progress on the contents of boxes, cupboards, containers and bags rather than just piling them up. The bedroom has once again degenerated into laundry baskets and suitcases. That might just be because I have been on the road.

Heidelberg, New Orleans, Boston, Munich. Oh – and did I mention Germany, US, Honduras, Mexico, Belize, Austria, France and Monaco?

The City Sweater is almost finished. Polo, which I started on the plain has only two small sections to go.

Managed my first Board meeting by conference call, did some quick consulting and am grinding my way through the credentials process at Landstuhl.

Board? I don’t think so!

Categories: home Tags:

Bidets

May 30th, 2011 5 comments

The first time I saw a bidet was in 1972. I had finished college and was traveling in Europe. There I was in France, a rather young 21 from Minnesota and there was this thing in the bathroom of the small hotel at which I was staying.

I didn’t have a clue. When some one told me it was a foot bath, why would I have a reason to think they were teasing the gullible American

Now admit it – unless you grew up with money, staying in fancy hotels and having your home decorated to compete with the rich and famous, you haven’t always known what one was and what to do with it.

Before any of us embarrass ourselves further – go here and take a look at the article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bidet from Wikipedia. Now you know what it is. It certainly is a level better than the ceramic two-footer in the floor with a hose on the wall found in many areas of the world in public facilities.

I always thought they were European, or a sign of wealth. A bit of pretentiousness in a a US household. There has been much engineering work in recent years to combine bidets and toilets including adding drying facilities. At first this did not make much sense to me. But then I needed to consider the implications.

THink for a moment if you are mobility impaired in one way or another. Leaving out the issues of clothing, with one of these new, modern combination fixtures you may be able to toilet independently. Anyone who has every had to ask for help in using a toilet immediately understands the importance of this small bit of control and privacy in one’s life.

There is another market in the US in the massively obese. The ability to be clean can not be underrated.

When you think about it – not an uninteresting invention by 1700s French Cabinet makers from the country which also brought you waxed toilet paper…..

Categories: Travel Tags:

Grand Prix – II

May 29th, 2011 Comments off

Sunday’s started with the second Porsche race followed by the Formula Renault Cup and ending with the Formula 1 Grand Prix. We had seats in K3 on Saturday and K6 on Sunday.

As I mentioned – the photos are spread across several posts so that you can stand loading them

Categories: Travel Tags:

Grand Prix – III

May 29th, 2011 Comments off

And other photos of interest including the course and …. – please be patient!

Categories: Travel Tags:

Grand Prix – I

May 28th, 2011 Comments off

Le Grand Prix de Monaco

The 69th Grand Prix for Formula 1 to be exact. At the same time, there are several other levels of races of which one rarely hears. But first – the basic statistics – the course is 3 km 340 meters long with a record speed of 305 km/h and 78 laps making a total distance of 260.52 Km. The program also mentions the 500 fire extinguishers, 10 cranes, ten fire/rescue vehicles, 13 ambulances and the thousand various assorted response and security people stationed along the track.

If you want the details of how many meters of barriers, kilometres of rail, distance of fencing along with medics, docs, AEDs, and helicopters – I have all that as well.

The course itself has 16 turns including some rather sharp bends, a hairpin roundabout and a downhill coming out of a tunnel that has brought more than one driver to grief.

Sat’s program included the Formula Renault 3.5 qualifying practice sessions, one of the Porsche races and the qualifying heats for the Formula 1.

I am providing you the photos in two sections (as soon as I finish posting them). The first (this entry) is of the track, the surrounds, the safety personnel (pretty obvious in their bright orange jump suits or red helmets) and the spectators. The second is of the actual races. All of the photos will enlarge if you click on them. They were all shot on my Canon EOS 7D at 1/800 – 1/1000 at f 8-11 with my 75-300mm lens. Other than some cropping or shrinking so that the webpages will load in this lifetime – I have not done any altering of the shots. What you see is what I took. As I explained to someone else with extremely high end equipment – I am taking photos and logging sights and memories. I am not doing art or looking for a “money shot.”

Categories: Travel Tags:

Monaco

May 27th, 2011 4 comments

(this comment will disappear as soon as I finish up loading photos. There are a lot, please be patient)

Monaco is set into France, tucked into the mountains on the coast. I will say that the views are exceptional, the city spotless, the architecture a range from Victorian to Jugenstil to Art Deco to Modern.

I think I can safely say that the rich, the extremely wealthy, are not like the rest of us. I am not speaking of the landed British Gentry who are house poor, dressed in old tweeds and sturdy shoes doddering around mouldering old estates.

Rather, of those who have made the money themselves in this generation or live in that style. It might be without flair and paparazzi but still there is a difference. It means that you don’t think anything of having a wonderful flat in Monaco complete with wrap around balcony, marble floors, chrome and glass tables and rich cream padded fabric walls. It is the kind of place featured in Architectural Digest or House Beautiful. You could clean it yourself in no time, but the owners of such a place have a service which does such things. Everything is simple, modern, elegant. Art on the wall, sculpture in the living room.

What is missing is the stuff of average middle class lives. There are no piles of debris, clutter or mounds of crafts or books. The other detritus that says someone lives there on a daily basis which all of us have is conspicuously absent. It is elegant, beautiful, decorated to within inch of its life and in my mind a bit sterile. It is the life style that thinks nothing of a dinner for 2-4 which costs more than my monthly food budget.

But then, I think the main business in Monaco is separating the wealthy from their money. Whether it be clothing shops, florists, restaurants or casinos. Why charge 3-5€ for a pair of socks when 16€ will do? But then I challenge you to find a 3 pack of anything in this Principality much less a common daisy. Name brands adorn all the clothing that is not obviously bespoke. I will admit being less than comfortable in a shopping area whether the average person walking by is sporting more spent on their personal clothing (including shoes and handbags) than I make in a month – prior to retirement.

The wealthy are different. I think I will stay with my Grandmother’s recommendations – Esther’s that the way to have money is not to spend it and Anne’s not to pay retail.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Naschmarkt

May 27th, 2011 2 comments

Located between Kettenbrückengasse and Karlstor, this outdoor Market is a combination of tiny stores, food purveyors, cafes and eateries.

You can find Oriental Teapots, olives, fresh and dried fruit, fish, sausage, vegetables, cheese and hundreds of different spices. The smells are overwhelming and I think you might just eat your fill just sampling from the different shopkeepers who keep offering a bit of this or that.

Beyond I found a small green space with benches in the middle of a traffic circle and free WiFi. Go figure on that.

The area around the Naschmarkt is equally interesting – while home to a number of small second hand shops and antique stores, the majority of the businesses form the heart of the local Chinatown. From bookstores and supermarkets to tourist agencies and beauty salons you don’t need a word of German (or Austrian).

My coffee is wearing off, and there are so many choices. I think I will find a place in a corner, sit outside and watch people. Lunch might just be in order.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Wien

May 26th, 2011 2 comments

The weather here is beautiful, the traffic not nearly so.

yep! (Everyone thinks they are right!)

It waas the usual train to Frankfurt, detour to the Lufthansa Lounge for lunch (it is so nice to have a partner with a Senator pass) and bus ride almost to Darmstadt as the flight was at what they call an “apron position.”

In between –

flying in #1

flying in #2

The reverse procedures at Vienna had us promptly on our way to the city when the taxi came to a complete standstill. Listening to the radio, between construction, accidents and general contrayiness the whole city was one interlocked traffic jam.

cast on for Polo

Not being a complete fool – I pulled out the knitting. Having started a cowl on the flight and managing three pattern repeats telling you that I knit anothe two complete repeats in the Taxi might just give you some idea of the hour jerking here and there through backstreets in an attempt to reach the hotel.

 

Fun? Not!

We are out in the 4th Quarter near the Technical Uni in a hotel built in what were the former Royal Riding Stables. Stately, marble and elegant doesn’t do it justice.

Oh, and for those of you who like excellent food – we had dinner at a lovely outdoor Trattario. George pronounced the fish superb (I shudder when I think of that whole fish on a plate complete with head and bulging eyes but apparently it was broiled and seasoned to perfection). I had a wonderful dish of housemade spinach broad noodles with pear tomatoes, olives, basil and fresh tiny mozzarella cheese balls.

It has gotten late ….

Categories: Travel Tags:

Going through the line

May 25th, 2011 7 comments

There I was, hungry and not sure what I wanted to eat. Left over salad has started to pale after munching on some every day since Saturday. Perhaps some gazpacho? I certainly did not feel like cooking anything after a day ping-ponging between the studio, the bedroom and the office in an effort to bring a bit more order to chaos.

There is progress. Things are being moved from one room to another. Thanks to the good efforts of the Mole, two bookcases came up from the garage and some really ugly cabinets went down. I am steadily working my way through more boxes, emptying six more today locating several items I thought were missing and five very nice (but small) shetland fleeces.

Back to the food. I am grumping around thinking – the DFAC was just so easy. Walk in, scan my card, take a tray and pick up food. No muss, no fuss, no cooking or clean up.

The Mole looked at me. Why would you want to be deployed? You can accomplish the same thing on a cruise ship and have much better food…..

and real silverware and dishes…..

I am back on line looking for my next adventure!

Categories: home Tags:

The answer is not 42

May 24th, 2011 10 comments

You know how you wind up with change in your pocket? If you are organized, it get promptly recycled. If you are like the members of this family it may stray around the house; coming to rest in the washer, dryer, on a shelf, window sill or in a container.

Multiply this by the challenge of having 2-4 operational curriencies at any one point. Not as bad as when each of the European nations had their own, but still. On any day we might have US, EU and Swiss in circulation. I don’t have much excuse for L sterling, but that does not mean that I don’t have a substantial number of coins tucked here and there.

As I have been cleaning up and organizing – I have been dropping all of the change in this jar.

I then sorted the US and EU into these two containers.

Today, the Mole and I stopped by the PX on our round of errands. The nice woman ran our container of coins through her sorting machine. $22.35. Not bad!

The German banks are not so nice. Most do not have machines. they prefer their customers to sort and roll coins. The Eldest brought me back coin papers. Unlike in with the US coins, I have no large coins. It seems that all the Strassenbahn ticket machines will take coins down to the 10cent. My cup was full of 5, 2, and 1 cent coins. With 5×20 and 4×10 that had managed to avoid the avarice – I had, when done sorting and stuffing all these tiny little coins into bundles – 22.35E worth of coins.

I have still to sort out the UK change, but I am starting to be seriously freaked.

-Holly
Heidelberg, Germany

and the answer is …. 22.35. Which means the answer to live, the Universe and everything is NOT 42 …

Categories: home Tags:

The World didn’t end

May 22nd, 2011 9 comments

yesterday. It hadn’t ended by evening today either. I never did figure out how earthquakes were going to shake the four corners of the globe at the same time. Think about it – none of us are “Flat Earthers” and a sphere doesn’t have corners. Looking at your average map – none of the continents come close to having corners. Perhaps he is so old that he believes that the corners on the physical map are real?

If you remember 89 year old Harold Camping (and there is no reason why you should) from 1994 – he was predicted the end of the world before.

1994 was a year of changes – at least for those of us in the US military stationed in Germany. Significant turmoil ensued as the draw down of forces (the Cold War bonus) resulted in the closure of bases Bremerhaven, Nuernburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Augsburg, Muenchen. I was the commander of clinics for Heidelberg Meddac. What this amounted to was increasing the number of clinics for which I was responsible from 4 to 10, and then decreasing by one as we closed out Karlsruhe. Just because I didn’t have enough else to do – there was Frankfurt Hospital (the old 97th General) to close.

The world didn’t end. In fact, I was so busy that I would not have noticed the world ending between work and the kids and DH and dog.

Now – there have been numerous rumors of world ending. What I know is that it didn’t end in 1994, it didn’t end on the 30th of April or 21th of May. Which leads me to believe that the Apocalypse won’t happen on the 21st of October either.

I am just trying to decide if it would be better to be on sea or land when his next prediction doesn’t come true.

Categories: Prose Tags:

gut, und nicht so

May 20th, 2011 Comments off

We did some cleaning today. The Mole spent most of the day out of his bolt hole, helping me pack up books, sort things and generally get the back hall a bit better organized. You can now actually get to the bookcases; the loom, bench and storage chest have been excavated. We will not discuss all the excess spinning wheels.

Ms Maus – my Jewel – had done a fantastic job on the living room and dining room this week, leaving only a small about to be picked up which she was most gracious about.

George’s office continues to be a disaster, but there is nothing new about that.

Taking intermittant knitting breaks – I completed a.lot more than I thought was humanly possible. Considering that we have a number of people coming over tomorrow (to most of whom the concept of RSVP seems to be not understood I am beginning to think it might just be ok,

Categories: Fiber, home Tags:

An EU side effect

May 19th, 2011 2 comments

or – the phenomena of the traveling and relocating scientist.

There was a time when all it took was a quick glance at someones name and it was enough to tell you all you might think you wanted to know about them. First names came from families and not from movie, films or the attempt of parent to be creative or unique (and contained few “y”s). Last names reflected family, occupation, local, regional, geographic or ethnic affiliation. Names, even in border areas could be clearly tied to country/ethnicity. Even in the US – one hears a last name and assumes an ancestral country of origin. Other than during/immediately post military conflicts, most Europeans married within their own country, social and religious class. There were exceptions, especially among the university student population and those proximity to military locations, but most ordinary people grew up, worked, married all within 75 km of their place of birth.

The end of the Cold War brought more than political change. A new wave of migration flowed from East to West for economic reasons. Regional ethnic conflicts further contributed refugees to the redistribution of population.

What triggered off this whole train of thought was the following list of last names associated with an EU funded multidisciplinary team on biodosemetric tools: Wojcik, Banjinski, Romm, Oestreicher, Thierems, Vral, Rothkamm, Ainsbury, Bendertitter, Fattibene, Jaworska, Lindholm, Whitehouse, Barquinero, Sommer, Woda, Scherthan, Vojnovic & Trompier. The countries represented are Sweden, Germany, Beligium, UK, France, Italy, Norway, Finland, Spain and Poland. No – there is not a one to one correspondence since the UK and Germany have more than one institution participating in the team and a couple of locations have more than one scientist participating.

Most of the research being presented relates to DARPA, NIH or Bundeswehr funding with a similar emphasis at the chromosomal, cell and molecular level. In many ways, this is a small and limited community many of whom have known each other for years. I have to admit, given a choice I would rather attend a meeting in Muenchen if I was from Dartmouth, Northwestern or University of Chicago than in DC and this location is certainly more affordable for all of the European based individuals.

It doesn’t mean – even with this free flow of scientists and ideas – that some of their concepts have legs. For example – there was the brilliant thought that glass could be used as a surrogate dosimeter for individuals. Glass – taken from mobil phones was tested. They didn’t look at glasses since those are always exposed to sunlight and as such would have a wide variation in changes already present. In either case there would be a slight problem – the item tested is destroyed in the process. Personally, in the case of a radiation accident or terrorist incident most people would be more willing to give up very expensive glasses than their mobile phones but not thrilled about either. I don’t see this as a viable method.

Leaving aside the discussion of testing finger nails (I don’t think this almost completely male panel has a clue about artificial nails and nail polish) and teeth (no need to pull with the latest and greatest) their other brilliant concept has to do using chips as surrogates. As in sim cards or the chips from various banking cards that reside in inner pockets. Hello? Multi-national and being a scientist obviously has nothing to do with common sense! Exactly who is going to be willing, in the face of a crisis to have their ATM, Debit or health access card destroyed…….

(oh, the beginning answer to the above is Sweden, Sweden, Germany, Germany, Belgium ….

Categories: Prose Tags:

Bystander Effect

May 18th, 2011 3 comments

In radiation health – bystander effects have a very specific meaning. It is a real pheonomena which, in some cases might even be positive.

*For the rest of us – bystander has always been thought to be psychological, imaginary or down right ugly with those who were not initially involved in an event becoming involved (and this also brings motivation into question). A negative “contamination” of people who might have been there – and thus believe they are involved. Usually this is detrimental to themselves, the actual event participants/event and the first responser who are trying to bring order out of chaos/bring the incident under control/clean up the mess/figure out what happened.

If I want to postulate – since the effect is real and chemically mediated at the cell, micro and organism level (ok, rainbow trout do have value other than food) perhaps by “bystander effect”is real in people, biologically mediated and has a positive survival effect – at least from a Darwinian perspective.

*(Please note – I have not gone out and done a literature search in the medical, psychological, sociological, anthropological or other discipline. If it is important – or I am completely off the wall – I am sure that one or more of the librarians reading this will not hesitate to set me straight; clarifying all the ways in which I am twisting reality to suit my current rant).

Back to the fish. Take a pool of water. Toss in some fish. Irradiate the fish. Take the fish out. Toss in the Bystander fish. The new fish will be affected by the radiation, even tho they weren’t in the pool at the time. Or – do it another way – take those fish – the original hapless zapped fish and toss them in with new fish in a nice clean pond. The bystanders in the new pond will also have enzyme changes matching the newly introduced fish. Can’t blame free radicals in the water. Radiation induces changes (i.e. energy transfer induces changes) which then can spread through a non-exposed population creating more change.

One of the things that happens is that a mechanism for increased accumulation of heavy metals in turned on in the fish. Rather than continuing work on increasing triggers, I think the scientists need to spend more time on figuring out how to turn some of these phenomena off.

After all, if bystander effect explains what happens to teenagers perhaps there could be a cure for the contagion that seems to flow from one to another without visible means giving them appalling tastes in music and sagging pants.

Categories: Prose Tags:

SanAk

May 17th, 2011 3 comments

The first time I attended a course/conference at teh SanAk was 1989. It was part of the planning process for Op Lindwürm and Ms Soprano was an infant. I made myself very unpopular by having both her and a sitter in town. I think thez had a better time than I, being able to truck around München while I spent hours shut in the auditorium with drapes pulled and slide after slide flashing on the screen while I valiently tried to keep my eyes at more than half mast.

Fast forward to 1999 (ignoring a few meeting in the interveening years), when I found myself uncerimoniously dumped at the SanAk for two years. Ostensibly serving as a liaison officer; it was not a good time. Looking back at my email list from those years it is pretty obvious that I was not a happy camper. Other than increasing both book and yarn stash, I didn’t see much positive about the experience.

I was working with some great individuals in Occ Med, Microbiology, Rad Health, Public Health and Toxicology. Those relationships have lasted through to the present, so it was not all bad. And no where near as bad at the time as I led myself to believe. In a pattern that was going to become very familiar in upcoming years – support and direction from the US side of the equation was essentially non-existent.

The family loved München while, as I have stated, my attitude was less than positive. Perhaps it was because I did not have the German to do the job properly. OTOH, I made no effort to increase my speaking or writing abilities which, in retrospect was extremely dumb since there were a number of courses in which I could have easily participated.

My connections to the specialty institutes have survived and strengthened over the years. I am still attending the major conferences which have provided reunions, conversations, CME, education and contacts over the years. I have stayed in communication with various of the PM and OM docs which lead to exercise participation and emergency response planning cooperation. It meant knowing people on deployments, at committee meetings and working groups. Hosting folks and dinner invitations have rounded out portions of my life.

So here I am, retired. Sitting in the same lecture hall as 22 years ago listening to opening remarks made by a colleague who retired from the Bundeswehr last year (never mind he is still surving as chair of the German equivalent of AMSUS).

We are all getting older. The former head of the Rad Institute died last month. Two of my other good colleagues from here have retired with in the last year. The presenting researchers are looking younger and younger while the problems we are discussing might have been “reformatted” but are still essentially the same.

Perhaps there is a message in that? Me? I am going to spend the evening knitting. I can see progress after playing with yarn and needles.

München, Germany

Categories: military, Travel Tags:

Hair and military

May 16th, 2011 11 comments

Traveling by train, I once more had my interest snagged by the issues of hair cuts.

Or maybe it was arriving at Ernst-von Bergman Kaserne and seeing the difference between US and Bundeswehr uniform hair regulations. The rules for head hair on male soldiers are esssentially the same. Facial hair does differ (Bundeswehr allows beards where the US obviously does not – except for certain people in the Navy and we simply are not going there.) Women’s hair is where you see country politics at their absolute best. Neat and well kept is the order of the day. The more senior women have either short hair, or when hair is long, it is pinned up neatly. Not so much with the younger women who sport various versions of pony tails; flowing freely even in field uniforms. And that is where I am so startled.

It didn’t take me overly long to learn that wearing my hair loose (or in pig tails that trailed down to my waist) was not going to pass muster in the US military of the 1970s. Especially near the end of the WAC era when many of the NCOs felt that their contribution to the Army was being seriously questioned or downgraded.

As it turned out, the new, all voluntary, US military would not have survived had it not been for the thousands of young women who flocked into its ranks. Finding in the military, like nowhere else in the US at that time, jobs where equal pay for equal work was a reality. Where base pay did not depend on being male or having a family. (leaving aside for the moment the challenges of getting interesting jobs and promotions). A PFC was a PFC. One with 2 years in rank got paid the same regardless of gender.

I got üast my initial embarrassment of not understanding the uniform regulations, learning to pin up my hair in uniform and some how the years have rolled by.

Now it is 2011 and I am just about over the culture shock after being out of theater for a couple of months of seeing men in uniform with a serious amount of hair on their heads. My mind does not automatically think – oh, there goes another 90 day reserve/national guard doc who is blowing off the hair regulations. I am no longer living in an environment where the impetus for close cropped hair or shaved heads has to do with limited water and a dislike for spending time in group showers and not with personal long term preferences.

I am home. I don’t have to put on a uniform any more. No one cares whether my hair is up or down, what color it is or how long. Must be why I still wear it pulled back, altho in a long tail or braid rather than giving me a head ache pinned to my head. It also just might be why I whacked off 40 cm this morning prior to going out the door to München. Not catching my braid all the time is a good thing.

-Holly
München, Germany

Categories: military, Travel Tags:

Taking Care

May 15th, 2011 15 comments

Am I more fragile about this retirement than I thought? He is quietly taking care of me. Bringing me a cup of coffee, letting me sleep till 1100 yesterday and today. Ok, that one might have been related to travel and being obviously time zone whacked.

Last night handing me warm supper because he thought I needed it and bringing me breakfast this morning so that I should not skip the meal. Cleaning up the yarn and letting me nap. It feels like more than simply missing me; perhaps he is worried?

In any case – I really exhausted, barely managing to get some more of the red yarn skeined and washed so that I can get back to knitting the City Jacket/Sweater.

Tomorrow I am off to Munich for a conference and may not be back on line again till Thurs night when I will do a catch-up.

Categories: home Tags:

Old Friends

May 14th, 2011 2 comments

One of the lovely things about getting to the East Coast (as in Boston) was the opportunity to visit with old friends. Visit? Let me be clear – more like inflict ourselves as house guests on longstanding friends who live in Newton. Ann and Ira are kind people, and also those who expected the Mole and I to completely entertain ourselves. Now, if I can just convince them to come to Germany for a visit.

Visiting friends meant that I could not feel completely guilty when Allison fed me lunch at a lovely place on Newbury that was not all that far from the convention center.

Being at the ISTM meeting let me catch up on other what I might call “meeting friends” who I get to see only once every couple of years professionally.

But mostly my brains are scrambled today as it takes me twice as long as normal to write, read or do anything on the computer since my DH picked us up at the airport this morning. I can’t sleep, but am on some strange zone of time where everything is moving slowly and I might just be nodding off and drooling on a regular basis.

So the right term might just be …… old.

Categories: Travel Tags:

No more complaining

May 13th, 2011 Comments off

The Mole and I met a lovely young woman and her mother in the Boston airport while waiting for our flight to Philadelphia with further change on to Frankfurt.

They were on their way home and turned out to be seated directly across the isle from us in that wonderful bulkhead location which provides lots of legroom and a critical lack of access to overhead compartments.

Conversation ranged from finding outlets for computers in airport waiting areas to the most tolerable airlines. None of us are real fans of the US airlines. They had been overseas on Aer Lingus with a great experience. My preference is Lufthansa. After boarding, the plane pulled back from the gate (with me hoping once again that the gate checked skate board was going to show up on the far end).

After surviving the hold on the runway (while I am mentally figuring out if we are going to miss our flight to Frankfurt) and discussing ways of crocheting left handing if you have a right handed teacher, we made it into Philadelphia on time.

I blasted head to the connecting gate which seemed to be located at the far end of the universe. Noah caught up with me after rescuing his board and having to move at shin splint speed in time to walk almost directly on the plane. I really didn’t get a chance to say good bye, but left the young woman information on Ravelry. Since the skate board came off, I am going to assume that, once again, her wheelchair managed to make the flight and was waiting for her on the Philadelphia end so that she can keep on trucking, smile, laptop and full of energy out to her ride and a well earned weekend at home.

Categories: Travel Tags:

While Underway

May 12th, 2011 Comments off

Of the many things one can do while riding public transportation – people watching is both the most interesting and most perilous. It is not considered good manners to make eye contact with others; to watch what they are doing. Perhaps it is a matter of that invisible privacy shield which everyone seems to place around themselves.

Remember the Bugblatter Beast? Puts a towel over his head. He figures if he can’t see you, you can’t see him (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

So whether it be bus, Metro, T, U-Bahn, or Tube, everyone tries to mind their own business while I am busy looking around to see what every one is doing.

That turns out to divide into three categories – reading, iPods and playing with phones. The reading part is obvious. What I found amazing was not that people were reading newspapers or paperbacks – but there were more people reading hardbacks than there were using electronic readers. Maybe it is a better educated population in Boston? Nah, most likely it is a good library system.

Then there are those who are bopping along to their own beat with ear buds and headphones able to pretty much literally tune out those of us around them. That just leaves those playing with their phones. Texting and games seemed to be the two main activities that I could see from my spot hanging on a pole partway down the middle car.

Back in the day, we managed just fine even wihtout electronic aids. Today, it helps promote isolation in the middle of people and provides yet another barrier between ourselves and those around us.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Lectures, meetings and lace

May 11th, 2011 Comments off

Starting with another lecture early in the morning (Traveller’s Diarrhoea). Such a lovely way to start a day (not).

Different story than the “figuring out the history of cholera” story. Anyway – TD as it is known – is all too common. Partly it is just that if there are any microbes in the water, they are unlikely to be familiar to the traveller. Also, there are all the fun pathogens which you normally do not invite into your house (such as Samonella, Rotovirus and the Norovirus cousins plus a good variety of parasites.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Traveling, strange water and most of the world where the water out off the tap is not potable. Usual discussions of whether or not to pre-treat certain vulnerable groups and to offer rescue meds to others.

Mostly the day was a series of good lectures, a mid day detour to Newbury Yarns and the annual membership meeting.

Two nice balls of red shibui fingering weight yarn and an Evelyn Clark pattern and I was all set.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Note Taking

May 10th, 2011 5 comments

Back, decades ago in time when I was an undergrad, grad and then medical student – paper and pencil went with me everywhere. I finally learned that a pen was probably more reliable, but I took notes on just about everything. That was my way of processing information – to hear it, listen to it, and then write it down. It was how I incorporated new information. I didn’t often re-read the notes, except perhaps right before a major exam. It was the taking of the notes, placing the faculty member’s ideas, concepts and words into my own that provided me the learning.

Then came the era (which I missed, thank you very much) of schools having tape recorders and transcribers. Students could get the lessons, information by going to the library and not bothering with other students or an interactive learning environment. Even later came the time of Internet and being able to download just about anything onto your laptop. Why even bother to get out of bed? Certainly you have no chance of discussing the information or ever seeing the inside of a classroom except for examinations.

In the last few years, people have started to bring laptops to major meetings; typing away notes. At least those notes are more legible and it certainly is quieter than a portable typewriter would have been. There are still the issues of annoying key clicks and battery life. Now we are in the era of iPads and iPhones. Fingers busy on silent screens, the % of Mac users has increased. I used to see the occasional Macbook. In this group? More than 50%.

All this left aside the issue of slides. I figured out the camera trick a number of years ago. With smaller and lighter (and digital cameras) you can listen to the lecture and take pictures of the more important slides. Obviously (well not to some of the people around me) you need a camera that functions in low light so that you don’t require flash. Imagine how annoying it might be to present a lecture with the constant bright flashes here and there. Not pointed at you, the lecturer. No, just at your slides. You stand there and thing about all those participants who can now reproduce the information and present your lecture – sounding brilliant at home. (I am not even going to go down the copyright issues).

Here I am today sitting in an absolutely terrific lecture on “Sex, Drugs, and Tattoos.” I have my iPad and free WiFi. I have my knitting but that doesn’t help with this particular issue. No camera because I thought it might be too heavy.

Dumb.

-Holly
Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Mass.

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CISTM

May 9th, 2011 7 comments

The 12th Congress of the International Society of Travel Medicine meeting is obviously here in Boston. I say obviously because I came here for the meeting and it would not make any sense to be here if it was somewhere else. George came along to two of the previous meetings (Vancouver in 2007 and Lisbon in 2005) and didn’t join me in Budapest in 2009. I think he will probably skip 2013 in Maastricht, but that is just a guess (along with being an inexpensive train ride from home).

So as I sit here, getting updated about this, that and the other thing – I can also look at future meetings and dream about places I have not yet been. There are meetings in South Africa, Bangkok. Excuses to travel? Or am I just dreaming about places that I would not otherwise have to courage to see? Now, if I was really smart – I would put the time and effort into preparing presentations and so increase the justification factor …

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Luggage

May 8th, 2011 6 comments

The economics of luggage cartage is relatively clear and simple.

For a cruise line, every passenger (which NCL allows) who takes their luggage with them down the gangway and through customs is fewer cabin attendants diverted to luggage handling from turning over rooms. This, in turn, means an earlier access to cabins for boarding passengers. It also means less area required for luggage delivery, warehouse and handling prior to customs at the Port. Cruise line passengers expect to tip should they have someone assist them with baggage on the Port.

Now, let us look at the same issue related to airlines.

Traditionally people have purchased airline tickets, flying from Point A to Point B. Often it is now the case that the traveller involved has plane changes at airport C, D and occasionally E prior to gratefully crawling out of the flying sardine can at their final destination. People are actually easier to manage than luggage. They can be counted, move themselves from here to there and let you know normally when things are not going in the correct direction. It is not common to find someone on the wrong aircraft.

As passengers we all have this selfish desire to have stuff with us. Things that we just can’t manage without. It normally is not a lot on a day trip or a simple overnight business trip. But be headed out (or home) after a year at college, a prolonged backpacking expedition or a ski vacation and the stuff starts to mount up. Even going somewhere for a week normally involves a bit more than a few changes of underwear.

The challenge comes in balancing the wants/desires of the raveller against the costs of the airline.

For years, cartage was included in the price of the ticket (did I say that already?). Then, the low cost airlines got in the game and started charging for every last little item that people were willing to tolerate. In turn, this had a tendency to drive down the cost of tickets (comparison – in 1972 I paid ~$400 for a round trip ticket from Minnesota to Europe. That is comparative more expensive than today’s prices even with the sharply increased fuel costs.) No matter how cheaply the seats are priced today – sold is better than empty since the flight and cabin crew numbers are fixed and sunk costs.

In contrast – baggage is a money loser for the airline. Just as British Airlines after their Heathrow Terminal 5 opening fiasco with a pile up of over 65,000 pieces of luggage. (yes, sixty-five thousand pieces of luggage which did not make their owner’s flight and most of which were never reunited with their loved one.) It costs the airline for each and every piece which must be handled. The more the luggage, the more employees required since the movement time is fixed. Then there are the additional expenses of maintaining a tagging, tracking and lost luggage service for those pieces which inevitably are going to stray.

Charging for luggage can potentially turn baggage into at worst case a money neutral cost center. At best, it can make money, either with the luggage covering costs or the decreased luggage meaning that the airline can move high value paying freight.

All of this leads me to the problem of cabin space. When you have to pay for luggage, why not carry everything on? After all – if you get on first you can fill up all the overhead compartments and still keep your feet free of having to share with your bags. Never mind that everyone else seems to have the same attitude.

Our flight out of New Orleans was so full – packed even – that the gate personnel were offering free plane side checking of bags. No fools, we happily handed over one of the bags for free. Then they decided that the long board was too long so they offered to swap it out jetway to jetway.

Such a deal – no charge for luggage and we actually had some leg room. I won’t tell you this is a good idea for any carry one that is full of computers or cameras. But for that bad that you really are just hauling to avoid the charges, your life could just be a bit easier if you have the opportunity for plane side free check-in.

-Holly
Charlotte Airport waiting on her next flight!

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Bingo?

May 7th, 2011 1 comment

A long time ago when I was a child and still had Grandmothers alive, I might have met Bingo. It was played in a hall/room with tables, chairs and a lot of little old people. Each sat with a number of cards in front of them, a pile of chips and intense concentration.

I am sure that there was a charge for participating for the session, but as a child you don’t often pay attention to such things. I remember the caller standing at the front of the room rapidly calling out letter/number combinations and every one concentrating fiercely on each succeeding call. If you didn’t keep up with your 3/6/9 card layout in front of you – it was your issue. I don’t even remember prizes. Probably were, but small little trinkets. The important thing seemed to be participating and probably beating out your friends and neighbors for the privilege of yelling BINGO!

Fast Forward to Cruise Bingo. I remember seeing it on RCL and either Costa or MSC in addition to the last NCL Cruise I was on.

Sitting in the Galaxy lounge today, it was invaded by the “Big Stakes Bingo.” Now, I am not a mathematician, but I certainly can do the arithmetic. Bingo is like the lottery or any other gambling – the house always wins. But there they are, row after row of participants, each shelling out significant amounts of money to play. Obviously things have progressed – there are now printed sheets which are punched out rather than cards and chips which might just slide onto the floor.

But this is not the Bingo that I remember – “Four Corners” “Some other variations” and asking people to stand up when they are one number away then screaming, yelling and dancing around if they manage a Bingo?

Ok. This is a cruise ship and all of those intense people seemed to be happy with the play, the charges, and all of the music and noise. It still is a lot of money to play a game in which the house takes in more than is given back while winning is binary – you either win or you don’t. Even at the lowest charges – the ship should have taken in 3x what was offered in prizes. Go figure.

I had a productive and relaxing day and it didn’t cost me anything extra.

Other stuff

I have toys that change color in the sun. Handed out at the Gift Shop. I finished the “Blues” Hanne Falkenberg that I started on the Windstar Cruise last summer. And the Mole in a normal activity for him.

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Tulum (Cozumel)

May 6th, 2011 3 comments

The ruins are old – and the only Mayan city along the sea. Today I will just bring you pictures and you can enjoy – google a bit or otherwise relax. Yes, there was a bus ride after a ferry ride since Cozumel is on an island and the Mayan were on land side.

Blue jays scolded us and the lizards – well they just tried to blend in.

and yes, that is the Mole – out in the sunshine and enjoying himself.

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Belize – caves and water

May 5th, 2011 2 comments

The tour guide as well as all the information on the ship recommended not risking good cameras on this tour. I was loath to bring my Canon along only to trust it to the bus while we were on the river. Having had the experience of disposable camera before, I decided not to bother. You are stuck today with just the words.

Gazing out the window, bus bumping clumsily along the broken pavement on the way back from our tour today I realised what was bothering me about the foliage. Lush green on both sides of the road in spite of this being the dry season. (Please not that 200″ of rain is not uncommon in a year here, nor is that a small amount of water) There are varieties of palms, orange groves, cashew orchards, the occasion cactus and small tree of slender birch appearing wood. Lush leaves all the way around. There are aloe plants and philodendron cousins. On the return trip we passed the Hattieville police station all gleaming with fresh yellow and green paint while the football (soccer) field next door was dusty and empty in the late afternoon sun. The extensive bus system has shelters along the main road. Open to the elements, many had passengers just waiting, talking, relaxing. House fragments – trailers, shacks and empty cement shells show the wake of previous years’ hurricanes. Trees growing in the middle of many testify to the fact that the damage is not all that recent.

What is missing is anything with needles. I am not sure why it should surprise me that there are no spruce, pine, or fir here. This is not exactly the same type of climate where I grew up. It is not like they are going to do well in the heat and high humidity that is year round here. But some how it just does not seem right to my eyes. Instead, mahogany holds sway between fields of sugar cane and blacked streaks from slash and burn agriculture.

Most of the land between Belize City and here seems open and uninhabited. Belize, we were informed is a country of 300,000 with 80,000 living in the main city. Formerly British Honduras, the country may still have QE2 on their currency but has recovered to American standard of driving on the right side of the road. Tourism is just behind sugar cane as a major contributor to the economy along with oranges and cashews. The official language is English, the patois an English based Creole. Some Spanish is spoken as well (take a look at the neighbouring countries). School children are all in uniforms – maroon, red, quiet brown, elegant navy jumpers, skirts or trousers with the occasional young girl in lavender or light blue. White gleaming shirts and blouses complete the look. Since each school has a unique uniform, returning straying students to the correct location is apparently accomplished with ease.

The day was clear and hot; the water deliciously cool as we climbed into our tubes after a short trek under the rain forest canopy looking at plants, trees and not seeing snakes. We pushed off in groups of eight with miners helmets, head lamps and life jackets. The river bottom was smooth stones mostly hand size with the occasional larger spike just to give you a jab should you not be paying attention. Entering the mouth of the first caves, I spun in silence just looking at the overhead rock, dangling moss and obvious evidence of bats (fruit and insect bats in this region). At its lowest due to lack of rain.

Floating along, we were lazy – enjoying the quiet – vent holes and rock cracks above. With the water at low ebb none of us could reach the cave overhead but managed to bump into the sides and push off more than once. Light reflecting off the limestone in glittering streaks. Except for me – my lamp died not 20 meters into the caves. My Timex turned out to be water proof, at least in shallow cool water. Paddling along, I decided that the rowing machine was not on my exercise agenda this evening.

The tourist industry has adapted to the idea of some tourists wanting “adventure” or at least out of hot, crowded cities. Some even able to walk away from the buses and food. This trip had a minimum age limit of 10, a height requirement, a maximum weight. Tubing is not as taxing as zip-lining (another new favourite for those who really want to play Tarzan and Jane well above the jungle floor).

Oh, and I take it back about my watch. Cool splashing water is apparently not an issue – but the hot tub is a no go….

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Roatan, Honduras

May 4th, 2011 2 comments

It is an early arrival – or at least an hour’s worth of time change plus an 0800 pull in made it feel quite early. After having a cup of coffee with a music professor from the east coast and a science teacher from Arizona, I headed off to find the boy.

After leaving the ship, we hike a couple of miles along the main road in the direction of the airport without seeing much more than typical one story buildings, most on pilings oceanside. Stray dogs and flies are common as are bars, barefoot chidden and dark interiors to stores this early in the morning.

We skipped tours, travels and beaches in favour of wandering around on our own on this overcast day. We are about to head back out, away from the town to see what else we might be able to find.

(Oh, I think I forgot to tell you that this is an island off the coast – so 45 minutes ferry to anywhere!)

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Kohunlich Mayan Ruins

May 3rd, 2011 2 comments

The place less travelled to. It would not be sensible at all to travel to this area of the world without seeing Mayan Ruins. There are all of the famous and known archeological places, all the smaller locals and a fair number which have not yet been completely excavated.

But first – a quick mention of Costa Maya. No fools, the local area made a decision a number of years ago that the way to improve the economy was to bring in tourists. Given their location on the Yucatan Peninsula, motor coach and planned vacations homes were not going to cut it. The cruise industry was taking off. Throwing in their lot – they built a pier and set up to take tours out to the ruins, off to clean beaches and whatever else it seemed like those needing a day on land would be interested in providing money to do.

It worked – even in spite of major hurricane damage in the 1980s that took them out of the business for almost 18 months – the tourists now provide the money for maize and pineapples in this area of Mexico.

If you are familiar with the history of Mexico in general (or have read Jared Diamond’s Collapse – which uses the Mayan’s as one example of non-sustainable civilisations) you may know that the Mayan’s were already well into decline before the arrival of the Conquistadors. That is not to say that their effect, along with the addition of slaves for plantations, did not permanently change the face of this area of Mexico. Simply it points out that all societies are complex and the factors have different weights of influence in different geographical locations.

Following you will see picture of the ruins – the 9 Ft Jade head has been removed. I will label photos when I have better computer access.

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Norwegian Spirit

May 2nd, 2011 6 comments

This is the oldest of the Norwegian Cruise Line Ships. Trying to maintain her proud heritage with scrupulous cleanliness and crews with shining smiles, there is still no covering up her age. Perhaps it is the fact that there are carpets that smell of cigarette smoke when it is damp? Ot that much of the decorations seem dated? I have been on older ships – Artemis and Voyager come to mind, but they seems aged, not worn out or fatigued.

In any case, it also might relate to the people who take this particular cruise. Unlike many ships which have a long or slightly varied route (one direction one week, reversal the next or two routes which alternate – this ship does the same route from New Orleans along the Yucatan coast and back. Week after week after week. Most of the crew seems to be on their first contract,

The guests, most of whom seem to be on a cruise for the first time, seem to be mostly interested in the “all you can eat” buffets. I still was not prepared for both the level of obesity that I knew existed in the US. Intellectually knowing about it is one thing and being confronted at every turn by individuals of half my age incapable of climbing stairs due to their weight is quite another.

I look at my plate in the morning – fresh fruit, bagel and cream cheese. I look at theirs heaped so high that I am afraid the grease is going to drive it over the edge before they manage to get to a table. It is why you will see I have made every possible effort to avoid having people in these photos.

This is also a low end cruise, which also might explain the number of people just thrilled with Bingo and the lack of quizzes and competitions related to any intellectual pursuits. And, if you are about to write me off as a snob – your choice. I don’t care what someone does for a living – what I do care about is people who can’t seem to take care of themselves, dress themselves in clothing that doesn’t leave large expanses of skin exposed to the elements (and my vision) and ride a scooter due to weight (not disability).

And it is not just me – the US Coast Guard has just changed their “average weight standards” to decrease the number of people allowed on boats, ferries and other water born transportation in order to accommodate the increasing size of the US population. I worry about having to use life boats. There might be the right number of seats for the number of passengers, but no way is everyone going to fit. That does make it my concern.

Categories: Travel Tags:

posting early

May 1st, 2011 14 comments

It is not all that early in the morning -not for someone who got the wakies at 0030 and finally caved at the magic 0200 in the morning. The good and the bad is that there is almost no one on the Internet at that time of the morning. There is decaf and there are some totally insane televisions shows watched by the front desk clerk about contests where individuals and teams humilate themselves and perform various disgusting tasks in order to win money.

I am very grateful that I don’t get US TV, this is pretty pathetic.

any way, just in case I can’t get back on the computer later today (and probably not tomorrow at all – I thought I would provide you with a list of this week’s entertainment.

May 1 New Orleans, LA
Mon May 2 At Sea
Tue May 3 Costa Maya, Mexico
Wed May 4 Roatan, Honduras
Thu May 5 Belize City, Belize
Fri May 6 Cozumel, Mexico
Sat May 7 At Sea
Sun May 8 New Orleans, LA
-Holly
(later today of Cabin 5610 on the Norwegian Spirit)

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