Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Winter Wonders - Lunar Eclipse

By the time you read this post, the best time for viewing a rare combination eclipse - a supermoon, a lunar eclipse and a "blue moon" (which will really turn blood red) will probably have passed where I live in upstate New York.

Alas.  This morning at peak viewing time (6:48 am) it will be around 11 degrees above zero F (-11.7 C).  I'd better bundle up well when I start my commute to work.  At least, I can see stars from my porch.

If I do get any pictures of the partial eclipse (doubtful, with my iPhone) I will post them on Thursday.

When I went back in the archives, I found this post from February 2017, for another rare combination.  Enjoy!

(If you get to see this eclipse,  I'd love you to mention it in the comments.)

From February 2017

Today features a rare combination - a lunar eclipse, a snow moon, and a comet.

Here's more on this rare combination.
On what I could call "Snow Moon Eve" (last night) I took this picture of the moon rising over my snow covered small upstate New York community. 

Here is another view of yesterday's snow. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Should You Friend Co Workers on Facebook?

Why am I feeling so out-of-the-loop lately?

It's a strange thing.  I have always been introverted, although I do enjoy the company of a select few people.  I've been happy with that.  And, I enjoy interacting with people on social media.  A lot of my introvert nature melts away online.  But just try to call me (one reader did, many years ago) and you will see a woman in her 60's in panic mode. (No, she wasn't stalking me - rather, I had posed a health question, and she was just trying to be helpful.   But I wasn't ready for it.  Fortunately, I wasn't home, my answering machine picked it up, and I never did call her back).

I don't feel lonely that much.  In fact, I crave, and need, time to myself.  Fortunately, I have an understanding spouse.  But about that out of the loop feeling:

A photo is what started it off.

People at work were talking about a photo a co worker had taken.  It was quite a photo (dare I say "epic"?), and he had posted it on Facebook.  That's where my co workers saw it.  Lots of co workers saw it.  Turns out that there is a whole world of my co workers interacting on Facebook with each other in their personal time.  I'll mention here that we are not permitted access to Facebook (or any social media other than LinkedIn) on our work computers, so this is all on our own time.

I've maintained a policy of not friending co workers on Facebook.  OK, I have one co worker friend on Facebook, but we've been friends outside of work for years.  I've heard of bad stuff happening when you friend co-workers on social media.  It happened at my spouse's job (not him personally, because he isn't even active on Facebook) where some co workers/Facebook friends ended up in a fight about something work related that got back to management, and someone ended up getting fired. 

But back to that photo.  For the first time in a long time, I felt out of the loop, like I was missing out on something. I actually felt lonely, especially after someone took pity on me, whipped out their phone, opened Facebook and showed me the photo.

So that's how I found out just how many people at work were interacting with each other.  And I was totally out of that loop.

I'm not native to this area, and it could be these people went to high school with each other, or had each other as neighbors, or are even related to each other (and we do have siblings and in laws working there).  But maybe there is no outside work connection outside of Facebook.  I have no idea.

For the first time, I'm questioning my policy.  Mind you, no co worker has invited me to be their friend, which is just as well, because then I would have to face this question head on.  Also I interact with some of them on LinkedIn, but that is something totally different.

So I am going to ask my readers this question today.  Have you friended co workers on Facebook?  If so, has it been a good experience or not so good?

I'm just curious. 

My gut still says "don't do it" but if I do get an invite, I don't know what I would do.  And perhaps that is my real, unspoken, question.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Birthday Songs and My 3000th Blog Post - #MusicMovesMe

Today, before we get to the music: today, I am posting the 3000th post of my blog.

3000 posts!

It isn't a blog birthday (that will come in April - its ninth birthday) but today, on Music Moves Me, we celebrate "birthdays or songs about kids growing up and being beautiful".  Why?  Because the daughter of one of the participants of this blog hop is turning 25.  And, hey, if you also can't celebrate a 3000th blog post, what can you celebrate!

Before we get to the music, a little about Music Moves Me (aka "4M").

The Head 4M'er is XmasDolly.  Her co-4Mers are:  Callie of JAmerican Spice, and ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥   And last but certainly not least, Cathy from Curious as a Cathy.


Only a couple of songs today because today is going to be a busy day for me, but I wanted to feature a song that, when I was turning 16, was played at just about every Sweet 16 party.

Birthday, by the Beatles.

And, for the modern young ladies, a video I love by a talented singer - Katy Perry, Birthday.  I hope you will get the humor, too (and it's worth, I think, the entire eight minutes of watching. It starts a little weird, but stay with it.)

No birthdays today, but a wonderful person I know turned 86 yesterday and, earlier last week, my husband's aunt turned 106.  Young ladies, you have so much to look forward to.

Wishing you many wonderful years ahead.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Revisiting the Ordinary Nature of Evil

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Survivors of the World War II Holocaust gathered to commemorate. Each year their numbers grow smaller.

It is no secret that supporters of neo Nazi groups increase in number each year.  In December of 2016, I wrote the following post (reblogging below with minor changes).  Since then, we have had many incidents of hate in our nation, including (but not limited to) the events of last year in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Friday before last, I had dinner with a man who I went to high school with.  His parents were partisan fighters during World War II, and there is a picture from that era that includes his father in the Florida Holocaust museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

After our dinner, I asked myself, could I have done that?  Could I have battled evil if I had been called?

That's the thing about evil.  It can show up

The Ordinary Nature of Evil

Today is not a day like all other days.

I do my best to keep my blog lighthearted, to gladden the hearts of my readers with pictures of flowers, trees, and the sky.

I could wish that our world held only beauty.

But our world has two faces - the face of beauty and the face of evil.  If you wish, you can stop reading now, and come back tomorrow.  I rarely get political.  The next few Sundays will be an exception.

But I hope you'll stay with this post, because the future of our country depends on YOU. 

There is another group of people whose population is shrinking daily.  In the next few years,  the remaining survivors of what we call the Holocaust (or the Shoah) will also be gone.

It doesn't take long for history to be forgotten or even denied.  It doesn't take long, when times seem favorable, for the purveyors of hate to come out and spread their vile messages.  It doesn't take long for attacks to take place, for people who dress differently than most of us to be targeted and beaten, or for people who have names identified with certain religions to be targeted on social media.

It has already happened in upstate New York.  It may have happened where you live, even if you don't live in the United States.

It is true that there have been other genocides both before and after the Holocaust.  But the Holocaust is personal to me because members of my family that did not immigrate to the United States may have died in the liquidation (what a word!) of a couple of cities in Europe.  It is personal to me because my childhood best friend's mother was a concentration camp survivor.

And now, before our eyes, here in our beautiful United States, it has happened again.

We the people have the power to make it stop.  We must use that power.  NOW.  This hate can not be permitted to grow any more.  Why?  Because history teaches us what happens when it does grow, when good people do not speak out, when good people turn a blind eye because "it's not about us".

The objects of evil can be quite ordinary.  Let me show you one.

Picture taken Hanukah House, Binghamton, New York, December 2012

Take this star, for example.  Pretty harmless looking, isn't it?

Have you ever heard of the Nuremberg Race Laws?  If you haven't, this link will teach you about them.

In the Germany of the late 1930's, Jews were forced to register with the government.  They were required to carry identity cards marked with a large "J".  They were banned from certain occupations.  Their businesses were taken from them.  They were targeted at school, at work, at home. 

This doesn't happen to sound similar to various recommendations floating around our country about what should happen to Muslim residents, does it?  The calls for hate start small.  Let's have a registry (see the George Takei link below).  Let's make them carry identification cards.

So, what happened in Europe in the late 30's and early to mid 40's?

Among other things, Jews were forced to wear badges. As the Nazis conquered country after country, the Jewish residents of this country had to wear badges, too.

Not wearing one of these badges could be punished by death.

Such a simple thing.  Again, the hate started small.  And then it got really, really big.  It eventually led to the deaths and torture of millions and millions of people, all over the world, not just in Europe, both military and civilian.  The numbers are staggering. 

Don't make the mistake of thinking it couldn't happen here, or think that I am exaggerating and should just "chill out".  Many good people of the 1930's thought that way, too.  Few could imagine what did end up happening.

The people of today have one big advantage over the people then.  We have the lesson of what happened in the 1930's and 1940's.  We even have the lesson of what happened in our country.

Our country, you ask?  George Takei, an actor from the original Star Trek TV series and an activist, was a childhood survivor of internment camps, right in the heartland of our country.

We ignore that lesson at our peril.  Not just if you are Jewish.  Not just if you are Muslim.  Most of my readers are neither Jewish nor Muslim.  It doesn't matter.  It is time to say no.  It is time to think of other solutions.  Are we a people of little imagination?

There's one more thing the purveyors of hate are prepared for - the next terrorist attack in our country, because it will come. It may well be another "lone wolf" attack - a person turned by propaganda and hate into a killer.  When it does, it may well become the excuse for "measures" to "protect our citizenry" to be put into place.  History has taught us all about those measures, time and again.

Freedom?  Or Security?  This is our hour of decision.

We must stand together and speak out against all occurrences of evil in our country.  Otherwise, to paraphrase a famous poem, there may be no one left to defend us when "they" finally come for us.

History will be our judge.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Sustainable Saturday - Good Old Days That Never Were

A rerun - a post from November 8, 2009, slightly edited.

If you are the typical 50-something, you pass various joke emails back and forth....about aging, weight gain, and "how good it was in the 1950's". (Or, maybe in 2018, you use Facebook.)

There are the pictures taken from old black and white TV programming.

There are the quizzes you pass only if you know about Black Jack gum, wringer washing machines, and The Lone Ranger.

There are the "we got raised fine despite (name hygienic measure of your choice that didn't exist in our childhood)" stories.

Ah, those good old days.

Like memory, nostalgia is selective.

And the 1950's weren't just Howdy Doody, skate keys and green Coke bottles.  There's the stuff we forget.  And the stuff we don't really want to think about.

I sure remember the always present sores on my nose from those heavy glass framed glasses.  How thankful I am for modern technology. And for the blood pressure pills that save me from the fate of my grandmother.

My spouse remembers the boy next door, the one close to his age, the one who had a heart defect and never made it to adulthood.  As an adult I found out how his mother carried him to school because he was too big for a stroller, she didn't have a car and the school refused to provide transportation for him.  You see, there was no law protecting his rights to a free and appropriate public education.  That's just the way things were.

I remember when I was young, my parents (and me, indirectly) being discriminated against in housing because of our religion.  And how, as an adult, I got to read the papers of a house I was purchasing in Wichita, Kansas, and seeing how there was a pre-civil rights act "restrictive covenant" that would have prohibited a person of color, certain ethnic origins, or a Jewish person from purchasing it.

I remember how my female friends interested in playing school sports were just plain out of luck.

I remember employment ads in the paper separated into "Help Wanted Male" and "Help Wanted Female".

I remember my father telling me about being stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi during World War II and seeing the colored drinking fountain signs and worse.

I grew up knowing that my father, who suffered from epilepsy due to a head injury suffered in service to his country, found himself time and time again discriminated against when trying to look for work.  (Of course, this continues today, but at least there are laws that intend to protect against this.)  You see, in the early 60's his job was moved 700 miles away and he didn't want to uproot his family.  Yes, that stuff happened even then.

I know now that, in certain states, he could have been sterilized (although perhaps not by the 1950's), and you would not be reading this blog today if this had happened to him.

I remember that a former co-worker lost her mother in childbirth due to a health condition I was successfully treated for in my pregnancy, and my son and I are both alive today.  But her mother isn't.

I remember the man I met in 2009, alive because of a heart transplant.

I won't even get into some of the "adventures" of my brother in law growing up, because people then just didn't understand (or care) about autism.  Nope, that wouldn't have made it to Leave it to Beaver.

Yup, those good old days of black and white.

Do I sound bitter?  If I do, I don't mean it.  I will be the first to admit there are things about the 50's that we would do well to still practice.  Like common courtesy to our fellow man.  Like patience, like not expecting things "instantly."  Like respect.  Like children being able to explore on their own, being able to spend time just daydreaming, not having every minute of their day planned and regimented by adults. 

But, we should not live in a past that never existed.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Florida Sunrise - #SkywatchFriday

The Auto Train (a train that goes nonstop from Northern Virginia to Central Florida) provide the opportunity to see scenery you just don't see from the Interstate.

As the sun rises over Florida, we are past Jacksonville and riding through rural land.
We are passing through nursery farms growing ferns.  What you are seeing is the top of shade houses shielding the ferns from the Florida sun.

Below, what you are seeing is frost on the ground on that January morning.  Yes, even in Florida, you can get frost.

Sunrise over Seville, Florida.

Join Yogi and other bloggers for #SkywatchFriday, where bloggers watch the sky and photograph it from all over the world.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Palms at Night - #ThursdayTreeLove

I love palm trees.

Back in my 20's, I lived in Florida for two years.  I fell in love with palms, and I still love them, over 40 years later.
Palms withstand the hurricane winds Florida sometimes experiences, bending and yielding so they will live another day.  But, in doing so, they do not give up their essence.  They remain who they are.

I have much to learn from them.

I saw these lit up palm trees in Madeira Beach, Florida.  It's not your normal view, and I had to take a picture.

Join Parul and other bloggers who love trees for twice a month #ThursdayTreeLove.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Winter Wonders - Manatees

 The manatee is a slow moving mammal found, in the United States, in Florida.  It is also known as the "sea cow" although it is more closely related to the elephant.

Living in water, they can hold their breaths for up to 20 minutes.

They are plant eaters, and can eat up to 10% of their body weight in plant matter each day.

The West Indian manatee, along with two other manatee species, are endangered.  Here are some fun facts about manatees.  Sadly, their only real enemy in the wild is man.

They can be run over by boats - manatees are no match for boaters.

Humans in Florida have finally woken up to the importance of saving the manatee.

In winter, manatees gather in several spots in Florida, where the water is warm, to winter.  In turn, people come from all over the world to see them.
Today, I would like to give you, my dear readers, a couple of glimpses into the world of the manatee.  It is fortunate that the water at this spring is so clear that you can see the manatees without much trouble.
These pictures were taken earlier this month at Blue Springs State Park in Florida.  Because the weather was cooler than usual, over 250 manatees were sighted the day we were there.

Here's Blue Springs itself.  At one time, before the state took the land, this was a swimming hole.  Now, no swimming is permitted during manatee season (from November into early March).  In spring, the manatees disperse and that's it for mass viewings until late fall.

And a sign educating the public about manatees and how to help protect these treasures of Florida.

Have you ever seen a manatee?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Coming Attractions

Once upon a time, our entire lives were ahead of us.

Now, increasingly, they are in our rear view mirrors.

Many of us of a "certain age" are caregivers for elderly parents, or former caregivers (because they have passed on).

My situation isn't typical.

My parents passed away when I was relatively young (I was 12 for my Mom, and 33 for my Dad). I never knew my Mom as an adult, but, on the other hand, I never had to see her age.

But, I am one of several caregivers for my mother in law, who is a nonagenarian, and for my autistic brother in law, who is close to the beginning of his senior years.  So I am getting to see our system from two different angles - the angles of the treatment of old age, and the treatment of those with developmental disabilities who are aging.

And I am getting to see my mother in law age. I’ve known her for 47 years.

I see the coming attractions and I want to yell out "no thank you, I don't want to be part of this movie!  Get me out of the theater!"  But then I consider the alternative.

I am also seeing a part of the health care system that I haven't before.

So, as a blogger, what do I do?

Perhaps I just roll along, trying to find the beauty in life, and make the best of it.

Just like many of us are.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Colorful Songs - Music Moves Me

Today, on the blog hop Music Moves me, I'm caching up with last week's theme of Songs with Colors in the Title, suggested by our "spotlight dancer" Mary Burris of the blog Jingle Jangle Jungle.  I've read Mary's blog for years (I "met" her years ago in a blogging challenge) and I guarantee that the 4Mers may well outdo themselves today.

A brief intro to Music Moves Me:

The Head 4M'er is XmasDolly.  Her co-4Mers are:  Callie of JAmerican Spice, and ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥   The Rockin' elf Cathy from Curious as a Cathy .

And now for some colorful music!

A Whiter Shade of Pale, which has been covered by many artists since its May 1967 release by the British band Procul Harum.  I love the intricacy of the music and the lyrics just as much now as I did back when I first heard it in 1967.

Behind Blue Eyes by the Who.

Paint It Black (also known as Paint It, Black), by the Rolling Stones, released in 1966.  It has become associated with various Vietnam themed movies and TV shows.  This is another song that has been covered over and over again.
 Yellow Ledbetter, by Pearl Jam.   This song has a fascinating backstory and the band will change the lyrics from time to time when performing it live.   But, in general, it is said to be a story about a young man who died in the Gulf War.  His brother receives the news of the death and takes a walk - and what happens during that walk.

And finally, Greensleeves, performed here by the King's Singers.  Yes, this isn't rock.  But the human voice, after all, is the ultimate musical instrument, and this song, hundred of years old, is a song I have loved since I was a child. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Back Still Again to Remembering the USSR

I thought, on the first anniversary of a huge political protest in the United States, I would repeat this post.

One of my favorite pastimes is finding magazines from the World War II and Cold War era (especially World War II). This was a nice find at the Ithaca, NY library book sale in 2009, my first year of blogging.

The Ithaca, New York book sale, held twice a year, is one of the largest in the country.  They usually have some boxes of old Life, Look and other older magazines.  Sometimes they are musty, but they are always a treat for people like me to read.  The next sale is in May, and I hope I can make it up there.

The original post can be found here.  Here is the post, slightly reworked:

Twice a year, I make my pilgrimage to the Ithaca Friends of the Library Book Sale.

If you aren't of a "certain age" you will not remember Life magazine (except maybe in the name "Time-Life" ). If you are of a certain age thinking of this magazine will bring back memories.

In a corner of the sale, I followed the musty smell and found a stack of old Life magazines. Many were heavily damaged but several were still in pretty decent condition. The subscribers (the mailing labels were still on the magazine, and they didn't belong to the same person) seemed to have a common interest in the space program - and in the Soviet Union.

Remember the Soviet Union?  The monolith that was the scariest part of my childhood - and crumbled in time for my son to be born?

The magazines were $1.00 each.  Pretty cheap history.

After some digging I found my little treasure - the March 29, 1943 "Special Issue USSR" with a picture of Joseph Stalin on the cover. Now keep in mind that I grew up during the Cold War, and did my share of Duck and Cover.  To this day, hearing the sirens calling out the volunteer fire department make me cold and scared for a quick second before I reassure myself that they aren't air raid sirens announcing the atomic end of the world as we know it.

Well, my inner historian reminded me that at this point in time the U.S.S.R was our ally (against Hitler). And sure enough I paged through the magazine and saw this article "Red Leaders. They are Tough, Loyal, Capable Administrators". Not exactly the, er, party line I would hear in my growing up. Other articles praised the accomplishments of the Soviet Union, and even the accomplishments of the Russia of the past 1,000. years.

Remember the U.S.S.R? Remember the Reds? Remember Communism? My son wasn't even two years old when the Soviet Union fell on Christmas Day, 1991. As for my generation, the Red Menace dominated our childhoods. What a difference a few years makes.

To my Cold War amazement, there was even an article "The Soviets and the Post-War" subtitled "A Former Ambassador to Moscow Answers Some Perplexing Problems". The author is one Joseph E. Davies, who famously supported the Soviet government even back in the 1930's, before we became allies.

One question asked of Mr. Davies was "Is Russian determined to pursue the cause of world revolution?" His answer began "In my opinion, no."

Seven years later, in the Joseph McCarthy era, this article may have been unprintable. The story of Joseph Davies is quite interesting, if this article is accurate.

For anyone interested in history, this was a great find.

Do you remember the Soviet Union?  Duck and Cover?  The Cold War?  Do you like old magazines for their glimpses of a world now gone?

Could any of have imagined the links that are being discovered now between Russia and...

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Sustainable Saturday - Is Sustainable Living Too Grim?

 Heard a good environmental joke lately?

Me, neither.

We all need a good laugh.  Especially after the past year.  The government shutdown that started at midnight tonight.

And so much has happened in the past year, both in the lives of people I know, and in the world in general. 

I have to remind myself that laughing is one of the things that makes life worthwhile, even in the midst of stressful times.

But, there really is such a thing as "sustainable humor".  I don't mean recycling old/tired jokes, I don't mean the "you're so hot, you started global warming" type of non-humor. No, rather, what we might call green humor.  I guess those of us who like to try to live on the Earth as lightly as possible (at least, in theory) are sometimes just a bit too grim.

Need a good laugh today?  Here are some links to "green humor", or at least, humor involving nature, and a little laughing at ourselves.

First, the famous "Mountain Three Wolves" T Shirt reviews.

Tuscan Whole Milk poem (based on Poe's "The Raven") well, if it had been ORGANIC whole milk maybe it would not have spilled.

Recycle your broken dreams (an Onion classic).

Got any good green jokes?

I'm almost afraid to ask but - heard a good joke lately?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Florida Sunset - Skywatch Friday

From the archives.
Sanibel Island, Florida, sunset March 4 2013.
So many memories.

Join bloggers from all over the world for #SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Just Another Word?

I come from a generation where uttering a certain four letter word beginning with "f" and ending with "k" would earn you instant punishment from your parents, if you were a youngster.

This scene from one of my favorite Christmas movies, A Christmas Story, had a lot of truth in it.

If you were older, you knew better than to say that word in front of your parents, although you might use it a lot among your friends.

Now, it's everywhere  Is it just me, or do you feel sad to see the word formerly known as the "F" word demoted to just ordinary usage?

Recently, I was in a gift shop, and saw a display of socks.  I like unusual socks, but these were too unusual for me.  Each had a quote using the "F" word. 

Not only that, but that word is the newest word in the cookbook vocabulary.

Take, for example, the best seller "Thug Kitchen".  "Eat like you give a "f----!" the cover boasts.

Or, better yet, "What the F---Should I Make for Dinner?"  (I kid you not).

We need words for occasions like that, I believe - forbidden words that help us deal with pain or frustration.

It makes me wonder what word future generations will use when they hit their finger with a hammer.  Or get a flat tire (see video above)?  The "F" word is less and less taboo each day.  One day, it will totally lose its power.

Perhaps, as part of a sustainable lifestyle, we should be thinking more about gratitude, especially on a day like today.  Protests are occuring all over the country, and our minds turn to the future.

So maybe we need a light topic on today, which is turning out for many to be anything but light.

Any idea what word will take the place of the "F" word on the day it becomes just another word?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Winter Wonders - Escaping Winter

Two weeks ago I had blogged about our first vacation with our now grown son since 2006.  Today, I'd like to share part of that trip with you.

In 2006, it had been 30 years since I last set foot in Florida.

Now it was time to go back.

How much had things changed since I lived in Tampa, Florida between 1974 and 1976?

I remember a lot about what is now called "old Florida" from living there, and from visits in 1966, 1969 and 1972 as a teenager. I remember Busch Gardens in Tampa when it was a free brewery tour followed by a free trained parrot show. I remember Disney World when it first opened (my first visit was 10 months, I believe, after its opening) before you needed a bank loan to visit.

So how did I prepare for this nostalgic visit? By researching it to death. I discovered various Tampa landmarks of my years there were gone-Mirabella's, Maas Brothers - and others had been bought up or had name changes. The Tampa skyline definitely was not what it was (or, more like it, what it was not) back in 1976. But absolutely nothing prepared me for what was to come.

And to get to Florida?  I am scared of flying (a long story).

I remembered seeing ads for the Auto Train in the early 1970's when I still lived in New York City.  It still existed.  So we booked it, myself, my spouse and my 16 year old son, and our 1999 Altima.
Lorton Auto Train terminal, March 2013

Once the train pulled out of the station in Lorton, Virginia, there was the amazing sense of getting ready to complete a journey that had started in 1966. Forty years earlier, an Atlantic Coast Line train had brought me home from Tampa, Florida during an airplane strike. Now, in a way, I was taking the return train.

In Fredericksburg, Virginia, we passed near Civil War battlefields we had visited years ago. At Quantico, we went right through the marine base and watched helicopters in flight. We passed over a beautiful lake and had close up views of the countryside. In Richmond, Virginia, we passed so close to a highway we could see the faces of drivers heading in the opposite direction. It was so tempting to wave!
A train (not the Auto Train) traveling through Ashland, VA, April 2017

We passed people going home for their supper hour. In one town (Ashland, Virginia) we passed right down the middle of their main street, with driveways backing right into the path of the train.

Even after darkness fell,  I peered out the window every time lights and the start of whistle blowing announced a town. We passed through southern North Carolina as I fell into a fitful sleep. The train seemed to speed up. When a train passed in another direction it felt as if the train would rock right off its tracks.

Finally, we pulled into a well lit station - our one stop, to change crews and do maintenance only: Florence, South Carolina. We stayed there a while, and then traveled on.

At some point I woke up in time to see a huge, well lit billboard for a Crab Shack on Tybee Island and didn't know if it was part of a dream or not. (See blog post from yesterday-it was not a dream).

The next thing I knew, it was 6am and time for breakfast. We were traveling through southern Georgia.

As darkness made way to light, my son and I gazed upon a southern green scape. What a feeling it was to share this with my son, pointing out the southern vegetation and  landmarks as we came across them. How awesome is it to share a piece of your life with your teenage son?

The sun was already high in the sky as we crossed over the St. Mary's River into Florida. It glared down with the promise of a broiling August Florida day. After breakfast, we slowly wound through Jacksonville, Florida.  Jacksonville is the largest city (in area) in the United States and the Auto Train gives a very good view, taking a good 20 minutes to pass through.
Frost on grass near Jacksonville, Florida, March 2013
To my delight I saw names I had not seen in 30 years...Kash and Karry, Winn-Dixie. They had survived the 31 years since I had been last in Jacksonville.

South of Jacksonville, we saw many shade houses, and the conductor announced these were fern growing areas. Certainly nothing you would have seen from the Interstate.

Finally we got to Sanford, and the circle started in 1966 was complete.

Fast forward to August 2017, when we traveled together (perhaps for the last time), and I asked my son if he remembered the trip to Florida.  He did, and said he wouldn't mind traveling on the Auto Train again. 

I hope he does!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Alligators and Crab Shacks - FlavoursomeTuesdays

In 2006, my spouse and I rode the Auto Train for the first time. (The Auto Train is a train that runs from Northern Virginia to Central Florida, and vice-versa, not making any passenger stops.  To ride it, you must have a car, which travels on the same train.  It's the only such train in the United States).

I've never slept well on the Auto Train, and something happened on that first trip that has become a tradition.

I woke up from a fitful sleep to realize we were traveling through a city.  We were passing under an Interstate, and some large billboards were visible.  One billboard, lit up, advertised "The Crab Shack. Tybee Island."

I didn't have Internet access on that trip and had never heard of Tybee Island. But I researched it as soon as I could and found it was an island close to Savannah, Georgia.

In March of 2009 spouse and I traveled on the Auto Train again.  I woke up from a fitful sleep, and as my spouse softly snored next to me, I peeked out of the window and saw the very same sign.

It was a sign, that sign!  I was being told to eat at the Crab Shack.

We were supposed to drive through Savannah on the way home but had car trouble, and had to take the Auto Train home.  We swore we would visit Savannah and we subsequently did, but didn't eat at the Crab Shack.

In March of 2013 we rode the Auto Train still again.  This time, we both woke up as we were traveling through Savannah, and my spouse spotted the sign even before I did.  Marveling at this huge (to our sleep-bleary eyes) sign, we decided that yes, we would go to the Crab Shack.  We would fill in this hole in our travels.

And so we did.
From the outside, it looks like a "tourist trap".  But the food (noting I do not get compensated for this or any other review) was good.  My spouse still remembers their soup.
Inside, I noticed the restaurant had open walls to the outside - with only a screen between diners and the great outdoors.  If only I could live in a place like that, said my winter-starved inner voice.
Not so fast, said reality, as I saw movement outside the screened in wall.  Can you see what I saw?

After lunch we went outside, to see some of the 78 alligators the Crab Shack owned. These are all domestic, as in "born in captivity".  The Shack does not tolerate any abuse of the gators by customers, but they were easily accessible (if someone dared) and I hope they have good lives.
Up close, they almost look fake - but they certainly were not fake.

Here's their menu.

So, guess what.  This month we are hopefully riding the Auto Train for the first time since 2013.

 I wonder if we will see the sign again?

Join Bellybytes at Mumbai on a High and Shilpa Gupte at Metanoia for #FlavoursomeTuesdays. If you want to share a food related memory, why not join us?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day January 2018

What a January it has been, in my zone 5b garden and home in upstate New York, near Binghamton.

Some of the plants I brought in when frost beckoned are still going, such as this pink begonia.

Or this Calibrachoa.

As far as houseplants, about all I have are my Thanksgiving cacti, still going strong.

For a few days, we had been fooled by Mother Nature.  But the ice and snow and soon to be below zero temperatures are back.

Would you like to see my front yard?

And here's my back yard.

My garden sleeps on.

If you are looking for Music Moves Me, I will be participating next Monday.   But in the meantime, if you are looking for a song mentioning colors and flowers, how about this - Roses are Red, as sung by Bobby Vinton.

Ah, summer........

Thank you again for Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this monthly meme.  Come join us every 15th of the month to show what is blooming in our yards and homes.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Return of Winter

Winter is back, after a short break, in upstate New York. 

We were lulled into thinking it was springtime for about three days.  For a brief moment, we were happy.

Friday, it got to 66 F (18.8 C) around lunchtime. 

Then, reality intruded.  Rudely.

This is what resulted.  We are fortunate in comparison with other parts of upstate New York, cut it is a bit slippery out there and I never left my house yesterday.

More pictures tomorrow, when I participate in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

This will probably be my last post for the Ultimate Blog Challenge, January edition.  I am leaving the Challenge early as I have not had the time to properly read/comment on new blogs and old favorites.  I will still be posting daily, at least for the next week, but many of these posts are either "reruns" or prewritten posts.

I hope you have enjoyed what you have seen, and if I have not been able to respond to your visit or comment, I apologize.

While I am here I want to thank Paul Taubman for all he does to keep the UBC a well run challenge.

I hope to "see" some of you in April, and some even sooner.  If I am able to rejoin before the end of the Challenge on January 31, I will.

Day 14 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Sustainable Saturday - The Dutch Falling Cure

Do the Dutch have the cure for elders falling and hurting themselves?

A fellow blogger, Roy, has become a blogging "friend" of mine. (I hope he doesn't mind me calling him a blogging "friend").  Some of his posts are a bit over my head (sorry, Roy!) especially the tax posts (he is an experienced Enrolled Agent) and some of the scientific ones.  But recently, he sent me a Facebook message about a New York Times article.

This article is about how the Dutch are facing a rising population of those over 65, many of whom find themselves living alone in their golden years.  Many, in general, are at risk of falling.  Reasons vary from age to inactivity to the use of certain medications (I, for one, suspect a medication I take, and it is one I need, also is leading to balance problems).

My spouse fell in October (and is still undergoing physical therapy).  My mother in law has endured many falls.  Falls kill.  Falls injure and lead to decline.  If someone could find a cure for falling, that person would win the Nobel Prize in a heartbeat.

But what do we do until then?

The Dutch may have the answer.  And it's an intriguing one.

Falling classes.

Not falls prevention classes (I've taken one, by the way, and it was excellent.  I still do the exercises).  No, these are actual "How to fall" classes.  The class typically meets twice a week.  In one session, the seniors walk an obstacle course.  In the other session, they fall, in supervised ways, onto mats (not at first.  They work their way up to falling.  It would terrify me, for one, having survived several falls already at age 65).

They learn exercises to strengthen themselves, and simple home modifications, which my falls prevention class also touched on. 

Wouldn't it be wonderful to lose the fear of falling?

Some of the falling posts on my blog - you are welcome to check them out.  Here is one:
Did my Falls Prevention class work?

Day 13 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost.

Friday, January 12, 2018

January Sunrise - Skywatch Friday

Taken at sunrise, January 11.

The snow is melting.  Right now it is 58 degrees F (14.4 C) with heavy rain and we are under a flood watch.

The sunrise progresses.

Beautiful purples.

At this point, regretfully, I could no longer take pictures.  So this last picture is from about 15 minutes later, in downtown Binghamton, New York.

Join the bloggers of #SkywatchFriday as we take pictures of the sky from all over the world and share them.

Day 12 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Snowy Tree - Thursday Tree Love

When it is a cold day in upstate New York, the sky is so blue.

The ground is usually white.  Observe this photo, which was take on New Years Day.  The temperature that morning had hit zero F (-16.6C) but it was warmer by then.

The tree is in its winter sleep, unaware (or is it?) of the cold and snow around it. 

At the right time, it will awaken and put forth flowers and then leaf buds.  In the fall, the leaves will turn yellow and drop.

And the yearly cycle will begin today.

But for now - snow and cold and the long winter's sleep.

Join Parul and other bloggers who love trees for twice a month #ThursdayTreeLove. 

Day 11 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Winter Wonders - Closed

A sign of the times in upstate New York.

Closed due to weather.

We've been fortunate.  Yes, it's been cold.  But we are below normal (so far) in snowfall.  And, we missed the coastal snowstorm that created such destruction in New England, New York City and the South.   We've missed the fires.  We've missed the terrible mudslides.

Call it climate change.  Call it global warming.  Call it a "normal" fluctuation in climate.  Some minds are as closed as the above store was.   But just look at the world as a whole. 

We can't say we weren't warned.

Day 10 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Me in Food from A to Z - Flavoursome Tuesdays

Back in 2011, I blogged a A to Z of my food likes and dislikes.  Now that I am participating in a meme called Flavoursome Tuesday, I thought updating this would be a lot of fun.

I thanked a blogger called Christine at Inspired-to-Create back in 2011, and will do so again.

Yes, food is so basic, and, as they say, we are what we eat.   Why not get to know me through food?

I had a lot of fun with this one.  I wonder where it first started (Christine got it from another blog, so I hope I am giving credit properly), and I want that very first person in the chain to know it was a lot of fun doing this.  I did it in 2011 during a thunderstorm, for what that is worth.  Maybe it means I am crazy.

So here is my January, 2018 update.

A is for Apple: What’s your favorite variety?
My favorite is the Honeycrisp apples.  I live in a part of NYS famous for its apples so there is no lack of local apples.  If there are no Honeycrisps (their local season is short) I also like Fuji and Gala.

B is for Bread: Regardless of nutrition, what is your favorite type?
I prefer whole grain breads.  I love breads baked by Wegmans, a local grocery chain.

C is for Cereal: What is your favorite kind currently? (just one!)
Trader Joes O's, which are like Cheereos (a cold oat cereal shaped like O's).  The nearest Trader Joes is about an hour and a half drive from here, which tells you something.  Please, Trader Joes, put a store in or near Binghamton.  Do you take bribes?)

D is for Donuts: You might not currently eat them, but what kind do you fancy?
No to donuts.  When I was in my 20's I worked for several months in a donut store.  That cured me forever.

E is for Eggs: How would you like yours prepared?
In an omelet.  With cheese, please.

F is for Fat Free: What is your favorite fat free product?

G is for Groceries: Where do you purchase yours?
Wegmans.  This chain started in upstate New York as a dairy store, and is now spreading into North Carolina and Massachusetts, among other places.

H: is for Hot Beverages: What is your favorite hot drink?
In the winter hot chocolate, or a really good cup of tea.  In the summer, I do not drink much that is hot, except for coffee.

I is for Ice Cream: Pick a favorite flavor and add a fun topping.
Before Weight Watchers (2012) Perry's Chocolate Panda Paws with whipped cream.  Today:  Turkey Hill Frozen vanilla yogurt.  I so wish I could eat Halo Top or other of the high protein low cal ice cream like desserts, but for me they are intestional disaster.

J is for Jams or Jellies: Do you eat them? If so, what kind and flavor?
Not really.  But if I do buy a jam or jelly I get a homemade type at a farmers market or stand.  Grape or sand plum are faves.  Strawberry.  I used to make my own, but haven't in about 30 years.

K is for Kashi: Name your favorite Kashi product?
Their crackers are good.  Don't like their cereals.

L is for Lunch: What was yours today?
Trader Joes pastrami on a slice of Wegman's (is there a pattern here?) organic 27 grain and seed bread.

M is for microwave: What is your favorite microwave meal/snack?
I use the microwave mainly for reheating.  Or for popcorn.

N is for nutrients: Do you likes carbs, fats, or proteins best?
Proteins. They keep you full the longest.

O is for oil: What kind do you like to use?
Ask my spouse-he's the cook.  But, I love baking with coconut oil.

P is for protein: How do you get yours?
Many ways.  Cheese, lean meat, poultry fish such as salmon, meatless combos using the protein complementation principle popularized by Francis Moore Lappe.  I must admit, my healthiest time was when I followed that diet and was a vegetarian.  But I fell off that wagon years ago.

Q is for Quaker: How do you like your oats?
Instant, on really cold days in winter.  But the instant oats are too sweet.   Could you cut your sugar in half, please? (without putting artificial sweetener in).

R is for roasting: What is your favorite thing to roast?
Ask the spouse.

S is for sandwich: What’s your favorite kind?
Tuna and fresh garden tomato, mayo, lettuce, on whole wheat bread.

T is for travel: How do you handle eating while traveling?
Sometimes we get a kitchenette and spouse cooks.  Sometimes we eat out and try to find local foods.  Like, in Charleston, SC we tried crispy flounder and shrimp and grits.

U is for unique: What is one of your weirdest food combos?
Macaroni and ketchup.  It almost led to divorce.  Now I only indulge if my spouse isn't around.

V is for vitamins: What kind do you take?
B Complex, D3 and Calcium.

W is for wasabi: Yay or nay?
Yay, if it's real.  Notice how much "wasabi" really is some other horseradish with food coloring?

X is XRAY: If we x-rayed your belly right now, what food would we see?
The mixture would astound you.  Grapes.  Coconut yogurt.  Chocolate. 

Y is for youth: What food reminds you of your childhood?
Schav.  Sweet cucumber salad with thinly sliced onion.  Kasha vaniskas.  My father's side came to this country from Belarus in the early 20th century.  Oh, for a cold bowl of schav with sour cream....

Z is for zucchini: How do you prepare it?
My cookin' spouse makes a zucchini Parmesan.  It's awesome!

 Join Bellybytes at Mumbai on a High and Shilpa Gupte at Metanoia for #FlavoursomeTuesdays. If you want to share a food related memory, why not join us?

Day 9 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost

Monday, January 8, 2018

Weird Al- Music Moves Me

 Whoever thought that a self-titled teenaged nerd who played the accordion and thought it made him cool would, one day, become a renowned singer, songwriter, satirist, and even more?

Today, on Music Moves Me,we can blog about whatever musical theme we want to, and I've been saving this one up.

But first, a little commercial.  Do you blog about music?  If so, why not join us?

Mondays I rock with the 4Mers, a group of music lovers who participate in a blog hop called Music Moves Me.

The Head 4M'er is XmasDolly.  Her co-4Mers are:  Callie of JAmerican Spice, and ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥   And, last but not least, Cathy from Curious as a Cathy .

"Weird Al" Yankovic is one of my guilty pleasures.  He is best known for his musical satires (always done with the musician's permission) but has also done a number of original songs.

And, the best part for a blogger is that his videos can be even better than his songs.

For example, almost anyone who has earned his or her living in the corporate world will immediately identify with the original song (and music video) called "Mission Statement", from the album Mandatory Fun.

What writer could not identify with this parody of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" (also from the album Mandatory Fun)?

We can go into the first decade of this century to listen to one of my personal favorites (also a parody), "White and Nerdy".

One more, which is (to me) the most hilarious send up ever of grunge rock and songs you can't understand the lyrics to.

We need some laughter (and perhaps some mosh-pit diving) to warm up here in the frozen United States.  Will you join us in the laughter?

Day 8 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost

Sunday, January 7, 2018

It Was Not Supposed to End Like This

Another astronaut gone.

John Young, who flew in space six times, walked on the moon, and commanded the first space shuttle, is dead at the age of 87.  He had a 42 year career with NASA.

The original space explorers are almost gone.  It's time for me to write another tribute.

Young originally flew in the third Gemini flight, and smuggled a corned beef sandwich onboard. (NASA was not amused.)

He helped with the rescue of Apollo 13, the disabled spacecraft that was able to return to earth 

He almost became the first man to walk on the moon twice.

Here was a tribute I wrote in December, 2016 when famed astronaut John Glenn died.

We study the first words spoken on the moon, by astronaut Neil Armstrong.  But how many of us remember the last words spoken on the moon?  Quoting:

"...America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow," astronaut Gene Cernan said. "And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus- Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."

Except that we never did return.  And, of the twelve men who walked on the moon, only five are left now.  Cernan died in January 2017.  Now, Young has joined him.

Thinking of Cernan's quote, peace and hope seem to be in short supply nowadays.

Few of us could have dreamed of what happened to the space program.  Americans can't even get into space on their own anymore.  We have to pay the Russians, although that may not be true for much longer.

It wasn't supposed to end like this.

The last of the original seven astronauts gone.  Last year, the last man to walk on the moon.  Now, still another pioneer.   Five left to go.  The youngest of them is 82.


Day 7 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. #blogboost

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Local Saturday - Infiniti Greens

This is not a good day in the Binghamton, New York area to go outside.  Right now, at my house, it is 3 degrees F (-16C) with winds gusting to 40 mph (64 kmh).

So today, I am going to take you inside, to a business incubator in downtown Binghamton, New York.  In October it had an open house. 

This past summer, in the small farmers market downtown, a couple of college students were selling microgreens.   These are not sprouts, but rather actual baby plants, with one or two sets of true leaves.

At the market, the business, Infiniti Greens, snips your plants to order with some scissors and places in a clamshell for transport.  You can't get any fresher than that.

Depending on the day, the plants include sunflower (my personal favorite), radish, mustard greens, red cabbage, pea shoots  (spouse's favorite) and more.  As you can see, the trays are colorful. 

Prices are reasonable.  This business is run by two Binghamton University seniors, Joe Rigoroso and Ray Gochuico.  Joe is a business administration major and Ray a biology major.

This past summer, the business moved into the incubator, and their founders have great hopes for the future of the business.   The greens can be used as a salad, salad toppings, as a garnish, or many other uses.  Note, these are not sprouts.  The seed and root are not eaten.  You can run into bacteria problems with sprouts.  I'm told this method avoids that problem.

Here's a view showing some of the equipment.

I wasn't able to have a long talk with Joe during the open house, as he was preparing plants for the next day's farmers market in another part of Binghamton.   The business also sells microgreens to several downtown Binghamton restaurants and a food co op.

Microgreens can be grown at home, too.  We've just never tried it.

The incubator building itself is less than a year old and looks futuristic inside.

What a wonderful place for a small urban farm.  The unsuspecting pedestrian would never guess what is growing inside this building.

Day 6 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Coming and Going - Skywatch Friday

Earlier this week I took a walk.

I looked to the East, to a beautiful sunrise.

I looked to the West, and saw a super moon setting.

Welcome to 2018, the sky seemed to say.

Day 5 of The Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost

Join bloggers from all over the world for #SkywatchFriday - where bloggers from all over the world take pictures of the sky, the sun and the moon.

The weather has been terrible in so much of our United States.  Stay safe, my readers!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Charleston White

The world has turned upside down.

At this moment, there is more snow on the ground in Charleston, South Carolina (about 830 miles south of me) than where I live in upstate New York. 

And that just ain't natural.  For either city.

Charleston usually doesn't get snow, although it has from time to time. 

We got 132 inches of snow last year, as a reference.

I love Charleston.  I've visited it several times, the latest in 2015.  As a matter of fact, I was thinking of visitng it again later this month, but I've had second thoughts and made other plans.  If I had been there yesterday, though, I would have slid all over the place, taking hundreds of pictures. What an opportunity (not that I would have been that happy).

But, I can show you some pictures of the College of Charleston taken in March of 2015, complete with white.

White flowers, that is.

Yesterday, I showed you local snow.  Today, I show you Charleston flowers.  These flowers are called Carolina Silver Bells.
Beautiful blue skies with a white flowering bush and a white flowering tree.
And white azaleas.

This is the "normal" Charleston. It sure does beat snow and ice.

Our strange winter continues, as we are plunged back into the deep freeze.

Day 4 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost