Saturday, February 24, 2024

Beginning in media res

Saturday - It's been a while.  I've been meaning to get caught up, but I have a problem getting pictures from my phone organized onto the computer.  So there won't be many pictures until I figure that out better.

Still I like that this blog is a sort of record of my travels, so now that I'm on travels, here goes.

Today is my first full day of about a month in Berlin.  I came in by train from Frankfurt yesterday, a train right that was more bust than not.  Even though I supposedly had a window seat, there wasn't much window, so I didn't get to see much.  

I'd flown from Barcelona to Berlin the day before, and thought I'd manage to walk around a bit in Frankfurt, but it turned out not so much, because I was lugging stuff.  I''m travelling with my old backpack, a carryon size hard luggage, and a small day pack.  It's not bad for two months in different climates, but still a lot to lug around.

So, today, day one in Berlin.  I got up after a good sleep in my little apartment, and found my way to the underground train station close to me (about a block).  And I bought a month ticket.  At least, I hope it's that.  And then I took the train to the only station name I recognized, the Alexanderplatz.  I walked around there.  I lost my reading glasses (I think I left them on the plane to Frankfurt), so asked in an apothecary, and the woman there suggested another store, and voila, reading glasses!  I also managed to find an ATM and get more cash.  (Berlin seems much more cash-favoring than Barcelona.) 

I walked around near the Alexanderplatz, and went into the St. Nicholaskirche museum, which was interesting.  I have a feeling Berlin is going to be very different to Barcelona in many ways, but a big one is that everything was bombed during the war.  Other differences:  Barcelona is way more full of tourists, and the metro system is way easier to understand from the point of view of someone who doesn't know their way around.  Also, I'm at that point of German where everything I try to say comes out in Spanish.  Very frustrating!

I'm going on a tour of a concentration camp tomorrow.  I think it will be hard, but it's important not to forget such things.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Total Trivia: the 2 r rule

 Bev of Excelsior has a post recently on trivial knowledge.  What's the most trivial thing you know?

Here's mine:  in black letter printing, there are two forms of the letter "r" (miniscule).

It's easier to show than to describe, so here goes:

Here's what it says:  Institutions or princypal grounds of the lawes and statues of Englande, newly and very truelye corrected and amended, with many new and goodly additions, very profytable for all sorts of people to know, lately augmented and imprinted.

Compare the word "princypal" and "groundes" (second and third lines).  See how the "r" in princypal looks like a "2," but the "r" in groundes looks like a more usual r?  

How look at "corrected" in the fifth line.  See how the first "r" looks like a 2 and the second one looks like a more usual "r"?  

The "rule" for when one used a "2 r" was whenever it followed one of the letters in "whipboys."  That's it.  Some trivia I learned in a grad class or something, that has stuck with me for years because it's mildly suggestive.  Or something.

What's your most trivial piece of knowledge?

ps.  I've been sorting through photos and am almost ready to start posting catch up posts about my recent travels!  If anyone has good ways to organize and work with photos on an iphone, please tell me!

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Not Flying

In Life, the Universe, and Everything, Douglas Adams writes

There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. … Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties. 

It's that simple, yes, of course. Today, I didn't miss. OOPS!

I was at my group tennis lesson, for beginners, though it's sort of semi-advanced beginners, the same lesson I started taking last fall, and then let lapse at some point.  We were rallying doubles, three students and the instructor, and the instructor hit a ball to my backhand, and I hustled after it, hit it (supposedly good, they told me after), and then my second foot didn't keep up and I fell in the way that sometimes happens.

I wasn't hurt and got up pretty quickly, and we went back to it.

And I've been thinking about that.

First, it's good to fall sometimes (until, I suppose, it isn't).  It reminds me that falling is okay when it happens for a reason, like running after a tennis ball.

Second, and more important:  I've been working semi-hard since I retired to get in better shape.  I've been slowly (emphasis on slowly) doing the couch to 5k program, riding my bike some, and walking some.  But it's been slow, because I'm rather lazy, and if I can think of an excuse, I use it, and don't go.  And I basically took off an entire week to go camping last week, and then my run on Sunday was miserable and slow.

But today, I hustled.  I wouldn't have made that shot, or gotten anywhere close to hitting it last fall.  I'm getting just a little better at moving.  (Between Covid and being chair, I really didn't get much exercise for the past three years, and it really tells at my age.)

Before the camping trip (more on that in the next post), I'd walked 10k one afternoon, and I've run/walked 2 miles.  

(NOTE: the couch to 5k program assumes people run about a 10-12 minute mile when they run, I think.  So that by the time you're done, and able to run a half an hour, you do, indeed, cover 3.1 miles, or 5k.  I do not run a 10-12 minute mile these days.  My best is closer to 18 minutes.  Yes, normal, non-racewalking people walk faster than I run.  I've always been a slow runner.  When I was in first grade, I was so slow at the 50 yard "dash" that the teacher thought her stop watch had a problem and made me and my friend S run it again.  We were both just that slow.)

Yesterday I walked 3.6 miles, so we'll see about tomorrow.

 I think I am slowly getting in better shape, and hopefully by the time I go to Barcelona, I'll be able to walk 10 or so miles a day or whatever.

Friday, September 22, 2023


I'm getting ready to head north to International Falls tomorrow.  So I should be packed.  I'm not.  Most of my camping stuff is on the floor of the living room, but I really have to dig in and get packing.

This is not unusual for me.  When I was getting ready to leave home for the Peace Corps, my Mom was super frustrated at my not packing weeks ahead.  So I let her pack my stuff, and she packed, unpacked, repacked, and by the time she was done, my stuff was beautifully packed, and she was far less frustrated.  And I didn't have to pack.

But today I have to pack.  Really.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Practice Run

I don't camp nearly often enough.  Or something.

When I talked to the guide about camping at Voyageurs, I asked about temperatures, and he said I could expect 40 F or so at night, and 60s during the day.  60s during the day is nice enough.  But 40 at night can be a bit chilly.

So I started trying out my sleeping bag, well, one of my sleeping bags, which is down and rated to 45.  It's super cozy and comfortable, and was quite nice down to 60 as it was in my room with the window open and fan on.  But the other night, it was supposed to get down to 40, so I decided to practice.

I went to dinner with friends, so it was a bit dark as I started to put up the tent, which was fine, since I'd put it up once before.  (This is a newish backpacking tent.)

Degression: whoever is designing tents these days deserves kudus.  They're so much easier than before.  This tent is even easier than my car camping tent, which has cloth tube-like things to put the aluminum "poles" through (the "poles" break down into foot or 18 inch pieces that fit together like magic).  This tent has hooks that fit over the "poles" so they're even easier.  And the poles fit into the tent bottom so that it's not a struggle to get them bent up at all.  (My old one is a bit more of a struggle, though I've gotten pretty good at it with practice.)  And the rain fly fits more closely to the tent than with the old one, which could be good or bad: less air flow which can be good or bad, depending.)

End digression:  I put up the tent, and took extra clothes for over my base-layer, and an extra blanket.  And in the night, I woke up cold enough to pull over the extra blanket, but not cold enough to want more clothes.  So I think I'll be okay down to below 40, if I take the extra clothes just in case.

I feel better having checked it out, and slept outside again the next night, which was a bit warmer, and things in the tent were great.

A few years ago, I bought an earlier version of this little solar lantern, two of them, and they're just so helpful in all sorts of ways!  Worth the weight!

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Next Adventure

 For a few years now, I've been looking at Voyageurs National Park and thinking I'd like to visit.  But Voyageurs is sort of unique, different from most National Parks.  Most parks, at least the ones I know more, you can drive in and there are camping spots, maybe a lodge, so you can car camp or even, if you're a backpacker, park at a trailhead and hike into the backcountry to camp and hike more.

But Voyageurs is pretty much set around a couple of lakes and mostly, you need a boat to get to the "frontcountry" spots (the sort of spots one might normally drive to and car camp), or a boat to get to a trailhead to hike to backcountry spots.  There are a couple backountry spots that you can park at a trailhead and hike to, and I considered those.

Digression:  I remember being in the backseat when my family was on a trip, I think along Highway 1 in California, probably south of San Francisco, and seeing a biker with a backpack and panniers, and thinking what a cool, amazing person that biker must be, and wishing I could do that sort of thing.  But my family didn't do much like that.  I biked in the way kids bike, all over my neighborhood for hours on end.  We car camped but only as a way of going waterskiing at Berryessa or Trinity.  

I remember us once, probably when we rented a houseboat on Shasta, taking a short ranger hike.  But that's the only hike I remember taking with my family.  

In fact, when I went with my Mom on a trip to The Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion (part 1, part 2, part 3) and my Mom mentioning that she didn't realize people actually wanted to hike.  She was 81 at the time, and we went on short walks in the flatest areas we could.  (I really like that I can look back at trips with blogger!)

End Digression

The point of that was that as an adult, and especially now as a retired adult, I can be my version of that biker if I want to.

So, anyway, I've been really hesistant to make plans to go to Voyageurs.  I don't think my kayak can fit my camping stuff and don't feel confident that I could paddle however far I'd need to to get to a camping spot.  I kept telling myself that I should make some calls to the guide companies the park lists, and to the park, and figure out how things work.  On Friday, I finally did it!  And the upshot is that I've made arrangements with a guide's taxi service to get a ride to and from a campsite and a tour of Rainy Lake, and have reserved a recommended camp site (the guide was super helpful: this site looks North across the lake, and should have a great view IF the Northern Lights are visible, and great views of dawn and dusk.)

I'm a little anxious because I'll really be alone out there, but I'm also excited for a totally new challenge.

Friday, September 01, 2023


 Last night, I had my third academic anxiety dream in recent weeks.  They've all been basically the same: I'm trying to figure out my schedule or where my class meets, or something similar, and I can't get the scheduling records system that shows such things to work.  So in a way, it's a technology/computer anxiety dream, more than an academic one, but it doesn't feel that way.

Today, I tried and was able to get the scheduling/records system to work, so maybe that will solve that dream?

Monday, August 28, 2023

Tagging Monarchs

 Last weekend, I went to a state conservation education program on Monarch butterflies.  We learned about butterfly biology and migration, and learned about the current generation of "super generation" monarchs, the butterflies that will make the massive migration south to Mexico (from the upper midwest).

We also learned about infections with something called "OE" (read more at Monarch Watch).

I had thought that Monarchs eat exclusively milkweed, but that's wrong.  They only lay eggs and have larva succeed on milkweed, but once they're adults, they eat all sorts of flower nectar.

Finally, we got to participate in a monarch tagging project.  Here I am, squeezing a tag gently into place on a monarch wing before turning it loose again.

The tags are marked pieces of plastic (I think) with specific numbers and adhesive on one side.  You record the number, then press them into place.  (Check Monarch Watch for more info, linked above.)

Anyway, it was a superb program, very interesting and a lot of fun.  The other people involved were mostly seniors, like me, with a few teens. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023


 I finished painting the bench (see this one and also this other one for previous bench adventures), and with help from a visiting grad school friend, reconstructed it and moved it back to my little porch:

It's bright and cheerful there.


In bigger news, I've made reservations for my next couple of big adventures.

First, I've bought tickets and made arrangements (except for the rental car) to go to my Peace Corps group reunion and also to visit a friend and a second cousin and her Mom (my first cousin once removed) on the way back.  So that's pretty exciting.

Second, and this is so big it's almost scary:  I've made reservations for a trip to Europe and bought tickets.

The plan:  fly to Amsterdam and stay there a few days, then go to Barcelona and stay at an air bnb.  Then go to Berlin and stay at an air bnb.  Then back to Amsterdam for a few days, and fly out.

Exciting and terrifying.


I've also been working on getting into better shape.  My garmin tells me I have the fitness level of a 79 year old, and that's bad.  So I'm trying to run a bit (couch to five K), bike a bit, and walk a bit.

I have until mid October to be in shape for, say, a 5 mile hike with my RPCV friends.  And then until early next year to be able to wander all day in Amsterdam or wherever.

I rode 18 miles on my bike on a very easy trail at 13.5 mph average yesterday.  And the day before I walked in a local park (so paved, but up and down) for 4 miles.

More to come...

Monday, July 24, 2023

On Watching Yellowstone

I'm late to the game, of course, but when I subscribed to the streaming service to watch the Tour de France, I also gained access to Yellowstone streaming.  So I watched.

Most things have been said: it's a beautifully filmed show with good acting, good writing, and a very western soap opera take on the world.  It's also super violent.

I vaguely remember hearing at some point that there were more people "killed" in Hollywood westerns than lived in the "old west."  I don't know if that's right.  But a lot of characters were killed in Hollywood westerns, for sure.

Or, to make another comparison, I've read that, according to Wikipedia, " if Cabot Cove existed in real life, it would top the FBI's national crime statistics in numerous categories, with some analysis suggesting that the homicide rate in Cabot Cove exceeds even that of the real-life murder capital of the world.[13]"   (Source)

According to Wikipedia's page on firearm deaths (source), in 2018, there were 209 firearm deaths in Montana, and 27 of those were murders.  The others?  either suicides, or deaths that weren't considered murders (police shootings, justified shootings?).

According to the CDC, in 2018, there were 265 suicides in Montana. 

I'm suggesting that Yellowstone probably makes some people believe there's a lot more gun violence and murders in Montana than there really is.

The show really normalizes violence, with the bunkhouse men regularly killing other workers by taking them to the "train station," a remote gully off the side of some road, where they shoot the individual men and then push the bodies and gear into the ravine, with John Dutton's character explaining at one point that the area is basically extra-judicial because it's in a county with no human population and no one will ever find the bodies.

Some important real estate mogul is killed, and the murder seems to go unnoticed by the world.

That doesn't generally happen, of course.  Moguls who die get noticed.

The show does make a quick nod toward the real violence towards Native American women (see Wikipedia page on the REDress Project), violence that gets a lot less attention than murdered real estate moguls.  But that nod passes pretty quickly, and we're back to white men (mostly) shooting each other up.

It frustrates me when violence on TV is so normalized, and police are shown as always right, etc, but the violence of Yellowstone is even worse, somehow, because it makes it seem like of course, everyone who gets pissed off at someone just hauls off and punches them, or shoots them.  

(Don't get me started on the laughable fisticuffs: I gather most real life fistfights end fast with broken hand bones or a broken jaw.)  

Added later:  The most creative death is Rip's murder of a neighboring angler (who is trying to get hold of some of the Duttons' land, as is just about everyone in the show).  The angler is fly fishing, and Rip walks up to him holding a mid-sized cooler with a handle on top (a sort of extra big lunch box cooler), asking the angler if it's his, and when he gets close, Rip quickly opens it, and throws a rattlesnake at the guy's face.  It bites him, and the guy staggers out of the water, finally falling on his back.  Rip steps his boot on his chest, says something about dying soon, and the snake glides off.

But even here:  humans don't tend to lead with our faces.  We're more likely to get snake bites on feet/lower leg or hands.  So any coroner worth their salt would be suspicious.  Plus, you can't step on someone's chest out in the country, having gotten your feet wet in a little river, without leaving a footprint of dirt/mud etc.  And pretty much anyone seeing a footprint on a dead person's chest would think that it's not there by accident.  (Maybe it's supposed to take a couple of days to find the body and rain would wash it off?)