Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mystery Photo 3: Not Uluru but Kata Tjuta

     I received a couple of guesses on this place, on my Facebook account. As I warned you, you all might think it is a different place. You might think it is Uluru in the outback of Australia. Well, you are very close. It is in the outback of Australia about 16 miles east of Uluru. It is Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas. It is a group of large domed rock formations called bornhardts, like Uluru/Ayer's Rock). They are made of the same rock called a conglomerate which includes granite and basalt cobbles embedded in sandstone. All these cobbles are cemented together by this dramatic red sandstone. There are 36 separate domes in this formation unlike Uluru which is one megalith. The highest dome of the Olgas is 3,497 feet (1066 meters) above sea level, and about 1791 feet (546 m) above the surrounding plain. That height is 650 ft (198 m) higher than the neighboring Uluru. The tallest dome is called Mount Olga, name in 1872 by Ernest Giles in honor of Queen Olga of Wurttemberg. In 1993, a policy was adopted that allows both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name to be used.

     Above are several views of the Olgas. There are several trails that intertwine among them. I wished we had had more time to hike among them. Below is a satellite photo of Kata Tjuta/ the Olgas showing how extensive these 36 domes are.

     Now of course I have a lot of photos of Uluru, 16 miles distant showing the effects of the various lighting on the monolith. Hit Read More below to see photos and read about Uluru, the better known of these sandstone monuments in the Australian outback near Alyce Springs.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mystery Photo 3

     Here is Mystery Photo 3. I have decided to offer two photos of this place to try to help you out. Also I will tell you that it is not in the United States. But be careful. It may not be what you think it is.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jobs -- A personal history.

     All of the talk recently is about jobs -- that is the lack of them, and the political pressures to produce more jobs to turn our economy around. Unfortunately a lot of people have probably recently received the infamous "pink" slip lately. Social Science research has shown that "'Tis Worse to Give Than to Receive." Emplyers have a 100 percent increased risk of heart attack in the week after firing an employee. I am not sure if that applies when 10 or 20% of a workforce is let go. Still it has to hurt the administrators somewhat because it means there is no money coming in and no economic growth, if for no other reson. And yet 20% of Americans would like to fire their boss. Only 20%, sounds very low, doesn't it?
      Now that I am in retirement, I began thinking about my past jobs over the years. I read somewhere that the average American holds 9 different jobs by the time he/she is 32 years old. This of course reflects all those summer jobs as a teenager and college student. I began to review my past jobs. I decided to list my previous jobs just to demonstrate to myself and perhaps future descendents how a life can evolve through work. Read on about my work history and its implications. Hit Read More.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mystery Photo 2: Talinn, Estonia. More photos and information.

     MYSTERY PHOTO: Talinn, Estonia, the capital. Several years ago after a tour to Moscow, Russia; a river cruise up the Volga, through various lakes etc, to St Petersburg, Russia, we then took a bus trip to Talinn, Estonia. I loved Talinn. It is a walled medieval city that is well preserved, having been spared much of the damage to Western Europe during World War II. It has become a tourist destination and therefore has many businesses, restaurants and pubs that cater to tourists. Particularly people from Helsinki, Finland take the 3 hour ferry over to spend a weekend in Talinn. We learned much of the history while we were there and viewed several of the historic churches. I have posted several photos of the city and its charm.

      This is the Town Hall, the only surviving Gothic Town Hall in Europe. The present structure was completed in 1402. Talinn was  a member of the Hanseatic League. This was an alliance of cities and their guilds along the Baltic Sea and North Sea that cooperated economically in the 13th-17th centuries, also called the Hansa. The Hansa merchants from each city elected the governing council and it met in this building. This Town Hall was used until the 1970s for city meetings. It is now only used for special events. Below is a map showing the extent of the Hanseatic League.

     Below are two photos of the largest town square in the Old City, although there are several smaller squares.

    Below are two pictures which show some of the architecture of the Old City; first just an interesting building, and then an interesting door. 

The city streets are very narrow and winding and demonstrate very nicely what life was like in this city in medieval times. 

      There is a restaurant in the Old Town that we went to twice. This is where we found many of those Finns visiting for a day or the weekend to be eating, imbibing and having a general good time. The food was very hearty and served  in old looking pottery by waiters and waitresses in medieval dress. The restaurant was busy both on the street and inside the old building. You could definitely imagine yourself backwards in time here at this establishment.

      Below is a photo of the Old City to refresh your memory, taken from the waterfront of the Baltic Sea.  In the middle picture below, you can see the beautiful church in the center which stands higher than the rest of the buildings. That is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church, which is located in what is called the Upper Town. The rest of the Old City photoed sites here are located in the Lower Old Town. The photo below that shows that there is a modern city of Talinn which is where our hotel was located. This area is within walking distance of the Old City Wall.

     Below is a photo of the radio/tv tower which is located outside the main city, across a bay from the Old City. We went up into this radio tower to see the view. Apparently it is now obsolete and regarded as becoming unsafe, so it would be closing after the summer season that we were there. Also nearby is a botanical garden which is quite pretty. It was worth driving out to this place, but it may not be open any more.

         Below are photos of the Old City Wall, some portions dating to the 17th century. There are 26 cone roofed towers guarding the corners of the City Wall. They are in quite good repair. It was important to make these towers round, because cannon balls were deflected by the round shape if the city should come under attack, especially from the sea.  

     Mostly this city was very well maintained and was very clean and fresh looking even though many of the structures are very old. But here was some evidence of the age of the infrastructure here. We were walking from our hotel to the Old City and were just about to pass through a pedestrian gate in the wall. We were passing a very large flower market when we heard a pop and then a hiss and then some sound of tumbling bricks just 10 feet behind us. We turned around and the brick sidewalk that we had just walked over, had exploded as shown here. We concluded that there must have been a gas leak that got ignited and basicly blew up the sidewalk. Scary! If we had been on top of this spot, we would have been knocked down I am sure; not killed, but certainly injured in some way. We went on and saw the Old City. When we returned this was a hole filled up to street level with sand. The city works had been active. We regarded ourselves as very lucky and just went on with our travel.

          All in all, with the exception of the exploding sidewalk, our visit to Talinn was very much enjoyed. Do try to include it in any plans you have for a Baltic Sea cruise, or Eastern European tour.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another football story!

     Both my sons are Green Bay Packer fans. My younger son went to college in California and still lives and works there. He continues to maintain strong ties to the Green Bay Packer games. He tries to find the bars in his area where they will put the Green Bay games up on the TV screens. And if the Packers are playing out in California he will try to attend the game there. One time soon after he graduated from college, he attended a Green Bay game versus the San Diego chargers with several of his friends. They were using their binoculars to look around the crowd. Soon one of my son's friends spotted a group of Green Bay fans in the crowd and a few of them were wearing cheesehead hats. Now for my readers outside of the United States, an explanation is in order here. First of all, Wisconsin has long carried the title of "The Dairy State" only recently having been overtaken by the state of California as having more dairy cows. But even so, dairy is still a very prominent occupation in our fine state. There are many creameries and cheesemakers. Hence people from Wisconsin have come to be known as "cheeseheads," because we love to eat cheese. Some one got the brilliant idea to make a triangular yellow foam hat like a large wedge of cheese and since the colors of the Green Bay Packers are yellow and green, fans began wearing these yellow cheesehead hats to the football games. If you look closely at the picture of the fans above, you will see a small scattering of cheesehead hats like the one below.

Back to my story: At the San Diego game, my son's friends started to make a big fuss about those Green Bay fans and their cheesehead hats.
"What is that thing they are wearing on their head? Crazy! It looks like a big piece of cheese. Are they nuts or what?" And laughing and more comments like that. My son just told them that is what is the going craze now for Green Bay fans. I had sent my son one of these as a gift and he proudly displayed it in his room. A few years passed and the Green Bay Packer football team became much better and in Super Bowl XXXI, in New Orleans, the Green Bay Packers won, beating the New England Patriots. Now all things Green Bay were suddenly verypopular.
"Hey, dude," my sons friend called to my son. "Can you get me one of those cheesehead hats to wear?" Even  those friends who had belittled and mocked this particular item of Green Bay Packers regalia wanted one of these hats. Someone soon made a similar cheese wedge shaped hat but painted it silver and Detroit Lion fans began wearing them. They had copied the idea from the Packers though a silver wedge didn't make as much sense as a yellow one for cheddar cheese. But in general, suddenly those nutty hats that the Green Bay fans wore were the height of fashion.

The following photo, stolen from the advertisement for Original Cheesehead hats, tells the whole Wisconsin story.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Hint on the Mystery Photo 2.

     Here is another photo of the Mystery European city pictured in an earlier post. This photo has a very large hint. See if you can name this city now. Email me at; email your answers, or your comments. Watch for a longer post in the near future with more photos of this charming city.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wisconsin is on a Packer High!

     How can I update a blog, centered in Wisconsin without discussing the current euphoria that infects everyone here since the six-seeded Green Bay Packers beat the number one seeded Atlanta Falcons this last Saturday night. For any of my readers from outside the United States, I should explain that we are now passing through the so-called playoffs in American style football. The Green Bay Packers are a privately owned football team, owned by stockholders in Green Bay, Wisconsin, located on Lake Michigan about 2 hours north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My husband and I have had Season Tickets to the Packer games in Green Bay for about 15 years. These tickets are very much in demand; someone has to die so that packets of Season Tickets become available. They can't be sold, but can only be passed on to family in a will. Some members of the family attend at least a couple of these games each year up in Green Bay at the famous Lambeau Field. Well, anyway that is all anyone can talk about. The Packers played beautifully, both the offense and defense clicking precisely together. The opposing team was unable to mount much of an offense at all. It was one of the few games this year that was not a nailbiter. We viewers actually could relax knowing that the Packers had it in the bag.
     Here are my three men, all hard core Packer fans, no matter where they live. In the background is the very famous Lambeau Field. My family is tailgating -- grilled tenderloin sandwichs which is the only way we ever go. (To explain to the out-of-country readers, everyone tailgates. That is we take various picnic fare and grill out, and eat and drink in the parking lot of Lambeau field and in multiple parking lots, and home yards that border the stadium.) For me this time of anticipation and socialization before the game is the most fun of the whole "football game" event.

Inside the famous Lambeau Field stuffed to the foundation with screaming Packer fans.

Next are scenes from inside Lambeau during a game with the Dallas Cowboys. We have seats on the 30 yard line, behind the opposing teams bench. Our seats are very good "heckle" seats. Our youngest son likes to heckle the opposing team members, but he is never mean about it, and often one of the team members will turn around and laugh at what my son says to them.

     Well, now comes this exciting week. Our next opponent is the Chicago Bears, a team that being so close geographically to Green Bay has always been a strong rival to the Packers. These two teams have met 182 times over the years in regular season play. Many of the years one team is much better than the other and the games have not been so well played. Thus, over the last 10 years or so, that rivalry had become somewhat subdued. Then when our old quarterback, Brett Favre, ended up playing for the Minnesota Vikings, that team had become more of a rival. But now with the Bears seeded number one in our division and the Packers playing at their peak, the Bears/Packers rivalry is again in full swing. The two teams have only faced each other once before in post season play. That took place in 1941, just 2 weeks after Pearl Harbor. The Bears won. But that was 70 years ago and football was an entirely different game back then So I don't think there is any feeling of getting revenge for that game in the sports enthusiast's mind this time round. It is just our proximity and the fact that both teams are good that has everyone on both sides fired up. We are hearing today that the Las Vegas line has the Packers a 3 point favorite. I don't know why, but we'll take it. Today a radio talk show was playing on my car radio and a Chicago fan called in and wanted to know why "Da' Bears" were favored like that. The local talk host said, "Aw, here that. Those Bear fans are already whining." I say the guy had a lot of guts to call into a Packer backer radio station.
     Well, everyone is clearing their schedules for next Sunday for the game. Grocery stores stock up on party fare, and liquor stores stock up on all the necessary beverages and ice. Restaurants and bars are setting up parties and organizing reservations. Other stores probably might as well shut down. (In fact I heard on the news today that Colders' Furniture Stores will all be closed next Sunday; the staff asked if they could be off for the game.  I'll bet most stores cut their staff down during the hours of the game. A lot of people hold parties in their home; others just want to be at home in their own living room where they can watch the game with total attention and not be disturbed by others comments. Every one has his own preferences for enjoying the football games. The winner of this Green Bay/Chicago Bears rivalry will go on to the SuperBowl against the winner between the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Super Bowl will be played on February 5, 2011. Wow, it doesn't seem possible that our Green Bay Packers have a good chance of being in Dallas for the Super Bowl in Feb. Go Pack!

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Wonderful Gift for a Birdwatcher!

     I often feel sort of guilty at Christmas time. I know that both my husband and I have just about everything that we could possibly want. How can a family member or friend who wants to give a very nice gift know what to get for either of us? Sometimes I think I should tell my family: "Don't get us anything. We would just like to buy a few presents for the grandkids, and that's all." I said something to that affect to my younger son, and his response was "You don't know what to get for me? Just anything sports related would do just fine." I do know that he doesn't have any other Christmas because he is a single dude. So in answer to all these ruminations, our family continues to get each other gifts -- sometimes very nice gifts. Well, this year my older son and his wife got me a very nice gift and it couldn't have been more appreciated. When I opened the package, I knew from the box that it was a piece of Swarovski crystal (I have a small collection and for a while I purchased the yearly piece). When I opened the box, low and behold here was a pair of hoopoes. I didn't even know that Swarovski had designed such a piece. (Since then I have learned that they have quite a nice collection of crystal feathered friends available.) I immediately recognized the bird and told my son and daughter in law that indeed this bird is my favorite international bird. And I wasn't kidding. Below are two photos of this crystal piece, by Swarovski, the Austrian crystal producer.

     This bird is fairly common in Israel and I have seen it in Israel and in Asia. It is quite widely spread in the Eastern Hemisphere. Right away you know it is going to be a cool bird -- just look at its Latin species name: Upupa epops. Yup! Yoo Poo Pa Eee pops! That's how you pronounce it.  Duchifat in Hebrew. It is the only species in the Upupidae family but there are 5 subspecies that are sometimes considered separate species. The bird I have seen many times, the one in Israel is the Eurasian hoopoe. There is a Madagascar hoopoe that is found in Madagascar and in northwestern Africa that is called the African hoopoe. These two supspecies look very much alike. Hit the Read More button below to learn about the bird and its place in the literature of humanity.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mystery Photo 2

Here's the second mystery photo: What city do you think this is. Can you guess? I would love to see some ideas. In a couple days I will post another picture of this same city that will give a big hint.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Grandmotherhood! Wow!

     I have never written on this blog about the state of Grandmotherhood. And yet that state is responsible for huge positives in many women's lives.
     I make tear sheets from newspapers and magazines of various articles or photos that interest me. As an aside, of course, these tear sheets are not organized in any meaningful way so they are not very useful to me because I forget what I have torn out and could never find any individual tear sheet even if I remembered I had saved it. Recently I have been trying to remedy that situation, going through the stacks and organizing. I found this story about a grandmother who through misunderstaanding, divorce and remarriage of her son had lost track of  her 9 year old grandson. She had kept a room for him in her apartment; she set a place setting for him at her supper table on each major holiday and his birthday, dates when he might have been present. She bought and wrapped Christmas presents for him each year and after a few years culled these gifts and gave them to charity. She wrote him letters and saved them. Now some of you readers might think that this woman is not quite right in the head. Yet she was a productive member of society and being retired volunteered at a local nursing home. She set up a system at this nursing home that she and the residents would receive bags of the local letters to Santa Claus, go through them and answer them. They were instructed to make the answers personal but to not promise any specific gift, just that Santa would visit Christmas Eve. Sitting around the table in the home, one woman read a letter that touched her: "What I really want for Christmas is a Grandmother," wrote the 9 year old Matthew. When the volunteer lady heard that name and then asked for the last name, she realized this was her grandson. She volunteered to answer the letter, and got a letter back from the little boy. To make a short story shorter, through a sequence of letters back and forth, and finally a box of memorabilia dropped off at the grandson's home, past misunderstandings were forgotten. The son and the grandson appeared unexpectedly at her door on Christmas Eve where indeed she had place settings set for them.
     A heartwarming tale! But I can totally identify with this woman. I can't imagine being cut off from my two little guys. Since I was sick the weekend before Christmas, we had rescheduled our exchange of gifts and Christmas visit to New Years weekend. We had not seen our grandsons for 2 1/2 months. Now that is a long time to not see a 1 year old. He had changed so much. Yes, he is walking and he has a words like Hi and Mama which seem to appear appropriately. But the most remarkable to me was the change in interpersonal skills. The little guy engages you with a beautific smile even while shakily toddling across the space between two pieces of furniture. Then he turns his head away shyly only to reengage again with this flirty little shy smile. I remember when his older brother at about this age or perhaps slightly older could work a room. Well, this little guy is already "working the room" at just a year old. Then there is the older one's attempt to parent. He cares deeply about his little brother and knows his abilities and his inabilities. He then pontificates to Will on the reasons for little Will's various mishaps. These interactions are just precious. I am trying to store these away in my memory and in my writings so that I will always be able to view them.
     Of course, there are some tiny negatives to a visit with the grandchildren. Both had colds and so did my daughter in law, so of course, Grandma came home and immediately got a sore throat and cough. This happens almost every time I visit even though I use the antibacterial stuff on my hands and wash my hands repeatedly. I think my immune system is such that I have no resistance, and I know that those little ones concentrate the germs and really give you a very large inoculum when you interact with them. Oh well, I already feel better this morning, and this too shall pass. It is worth it to see those precious little grandsons.
     Now that the Holidays have passed, and we are settled into the normalcy of winter in the Midwest, I can get back to writing these posts more regularly. I plan soon a series of posts on the Southeast Asian trip, since I have only wet your appetite so far, and have not posted any photos from that November trip. That will be next.