Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Cellophane Controversy

Okay, I've refrained from collecting these but have now decided to mention a few.  A few of what?  Of the things I think something says but doesn't.  When reading, am I simply so jaded, shall we say, about what's in front of me that I am no longer all that mindful of what the words actually say?  Or (and this is sometimes true) are my eyes not quite as good as they once were?  Anyway, I can come up with some doozies.  Take the cellophane controversy.  I saw that as the title of an article on a progressive web-site written by an American woman (doctor) who, disgruntled, left her home here and skedaddled off to live in New Zealand.  Hmm, I thought, I haven't heard about the cellophane controversy.  But then I realized it wasn't cellophane at all, it was cellphones--a piece about whether cellphones and Wi-Fi are linked to brain tumors and the die-off of honeybees.

Then I was watching a movie with James Garner and Joan Hackett that was briefly described as being about a gambler who became the sheriff of a small town and used his wife rather than his gun to enforce law and order.  I wondered just how he did that.  What did his wife have to do ... and then he and his co-star hadn't even started courting yet.  Oh ... I re-read it and it wasn't his wife, it was his wits.  Well, still four letters.

Or, there's the one when I was presented with an update here on my computer.  It described "new features which help content developers deliver rich and engaging experiences."*  In my loose fashion, I came away with an image of conTENT developers--sitting back in easy chairs sipping tea--only to realize they were, of course, CONtent developers.

Then, at my computer, I clicked onto an arrow to see what it did and got "Display the progress of going backwards."  I didn't think much about it and went on to something else but then started to wonder.  What did that mean--the progress of going backwards?!  It sounded rather Zen-like.  Checking it out, I saw the actual description read, "Display the progress of ongoing downloads."  Ouch.  

I sometimes feel as if I'm skating on ice.  Just sort of glazing (or glossing) over the tops of things, not really taking them in.  As if I've been at this--life?--so long, I have the knack and don't have to pay all that much attention anymore.  Mostly, that works.

Something else Zen-like.

*(Credit is given:  quotation is by Adobe [registered trademark] Flash [registered trademark] Player.  Please note: I tried using my software to incorporate the Registered Trademark symbol--a capital R with a circle around it--but kept getting this symbol,  Ò ... which seemed fairly worthless so I gave up.  I might have tried another technique but when I did try that once a few years ago, instead of what it was supposed to do, it put a period between every word in every document in every file in my computer!  Of course, I freaked out and never did that again.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Only One Thing to Be Said: It's Summertime!

Love those boots!

A 4th of July special
Made from welded shovel heads by Floyd Elzinga

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Ships I Have Known

The Mikhail Lermontov docked at Le Havre, France

After reminiscing recently with a family member about the ocean liners we'd taken across the Atlantic, I decided to do a posting about them, including what became of them.

Of all the ships on which I crossed the Atlantic, the Danish was the most friendly, the French had the best food, the Soviet was the most/least organized, the Polish was the poorest (in terms of $$), and the English was more like a cruise ship which was not a plus.

1.  In fact, the Danish M/V Uruguay was not a liner but a twelve-passenger freighter making the ten-day trip from Hoboken to the west coast of Denmark.  It was my first trip to Europe (and a solo one at that) and cost me $187.  A gorgeous crew, delicious food, liberal drink = a fabulous time.  Since that was 1963, the ship has surely long since been retired.

2.  The spiffiest was the French Line's SS France, then the longest passenger ship in the world. Lucky enough to be working in a building that overlooked the Hudson River, I witnessed its maiden voyage entry into New York's harbor "with 5 fireboats, 20 tugs, helicopters, flags flying, and much celebration," as I wrote that day, February 8, 1962.  Eight years later (when the fare was $313 each) we took it from New York to Le Havre and dined on foie gras with truffles.  Cold lobster in mayonnaise.  Dover sole.  Rack of lamb.  Camembert and chèvre.  Show-offy crêpes suzettes with flaming caramelized sugar and Grand Marnier.  The waiters served with a flick of the wrist ... they pulled corks, sniffed them, then gave a nod.  Spurred on by the increase in both air travel and the price of crude oil, the ship was sold to the Norwegians and turned into a cruise ship, the SS Norway, at which Howard Johnson's took over the kitchen, or so we heard.  Sold again, it became the SS Blue Lady and was scrapped in Gujarat, India, in 2008.  Alas. 

3.  In 1976, we took the MS Mikhail Lermontov, a Soviet ship, from New York to Le Havre on which you could take a balalaika class, get a massage for $3, and eat chicken schnitzel with slices of orange and pineapple on top.  It was a handsome ship but only fourteen years old when it ran aground in 1986 just off the coast of New Zealand after it, too, had been turned into a cruise ship.  The local pilot (who was also the harbormaster) wanted to offer the passengers a good view of the coast, so crept in too close, hitting rocks.  The ship sank only some twenty minutes after the last passenger was rescued though one crew member died.  It's still there in shallow enough water to make an easy dive for ship-wreck enthusiasts.

Gangplanks at Le Havre

4.  Another spiffy ship was Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 which we took in May 1980 from New York to Southampton.  Here the dessert apricots were canned, the wine cost extra, the duck was tough, and the hot chocolate was made with water.  We won the ship's quiz twice, our prize being a paperweight--not a practical addition for those-who-travel-light.  The QE2 was operated as both a transatlantic liner and a cruise ship from 1969 to 2008.  It's now apparently in drydock in Dubai until a decision can be made whether to send it back to London or on to Asia to serve as a floating luxury hotel.

5.  Originally a Dutch ship built in 1952, the (renamed) M/V Stefan Batory became the flagship of the Polish Ocean Lines from 1969 to 1988.  It was a plucky little ship, not in the luxury class by any means, but trustworthy.  We sailed on her in 1984 from London to Montreal.  I'll never forget dessert one evening, called a "compote," was reconstituted raisins floating in a glass of some sort of sweetened water.  The Batory was apparently "the World's last regularly operated transatlantic liner," according to Wikipedia.  (I guess the Cunard line's ships didn't count because they also offered cruises.)  She was finally scrapped in Turkey in the early 2000s.

6.  Finally, one last ship entered our family history because it turned out to eventually sink as well, and that was the Canadian ship, the M/V William Carson, a passenger/vehicle icebreaker ferry that we took in 1975 not across the Atlantic but between North Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland.  It sank two years later after it struck an iceberg on a run out of Labrador.  All crew and passengers survived but sat watching in their lifeboats in the ice-field as the ship went down.  One man, in the process of relocating, lost everything--car, moving van, belongings.

I miss those liners, that comfortable, meditative, highly enjoyable, slow, elegant way to travel.  I'd return to them any day, easily eschewing air travel.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

It's Garden Tour Time Again

I love garden tours.  I love seeing the vision that someone has translated onto the land, turning something tangled or simply ordinary into something totally lovely.  I also enjoy being given a little map and then exploring the back hill roads and small-village streets to find these treasured spots.

The winter's wood has been turned into sculpture

So, this past weekend, as I did just a year ago, I visited The Gardens of Westminster.  I was particularly struck this time by the diversity that made up one especially outstanding garden--such components as texture, height, color, range of vision.  Paths were brick, gravel, grass.  There were annuals, perennials, flowering bushes, trees both gnarled and straight.  Sculptures in terracotta, wood, stone.  Garden ornaments.  Intimate views as well as long distance ones.  Sunny spots as well as shady.  Gates, arbors, benches, stone walls, water features.  And, with each, there were hidden nooks as well as wide expansive plantings, herbs, and areas for outdoor dining.

Brick path ... plus a sculpture on a pedestal
acting as a center piece in a four-quadrant garden.

Grassy path between perennial borders

Gravel path
Here, there is visual texture from the combined filtered sunlight and dappled shade.

This view from the garden looking out to the neighboring landscape becomes part of the garden scene.

Here, the gentle trickling of water adds to the sensual delight.

(With thanks to the Matteau, Adair, and Hayward Gardens and to those who gave me permission to take photos.)