Why do I write this blog?

•November 19, 2014 • 1 Comment

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This sounds sort of like a stupid question,  but in all seriousness, it is a question I repeatedly ask myself.  Why do I spend hours of my valuable time, with my pathetic grammar skills trying to write a blog?  Why do I bother my good friend Rich, an ex-English teacher, to help make my writing more readable? These are all good questions to which I have several inadequate responses.  But before I go down that road, I want to discuss the many benefits of writing a blog.  First, there are all the positive responses one gets, like: “Hey, aren’t you the one who writes that blog for the Hampshire Review?”  Or I hear, “I like your writing,” but there is no extended discussion about the issue I was writing about, just simply put, I like your writing!  I particularly enjoy the constant praise and rewards I get from the paper I write for….which amounts to nothing. And as an added benefit, most of my Republican friends no longer talk to me.  And, there are the regular checks in the mail rewarding me for my hard work. HA! HA! HA!

Well, the reason I write these blogs is purely selfish in nature, ie that is I enjoy writing and experimenting with the English language with all its complexities and nuances needed to express my point of view.  I relish the idea that I might make someone think a little harder after reading one of my blogs or even consider what I have written as a useful addition to their thinking process.  Additionally, I have always been told that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ but I believe that to have been the case before the creation of the Fox News Channel.  The other nice thing about writing a blog is that one is free to write whatever or whenever one pleases, which gives a person a freedom that paid writers do not have.

Lastly, many believe that present day media are bought and sold by corporate powers who determine the content of the news and the nature of the reporting.  If this is true, and it appears more so every day, the blog-a-sphere may be the only place to actually read totally unbiased news and ideas.  I have nothing to sell, no material gain, and although I am sensitive to what my readers think, I am for the most part indifferent.  For those reasons I write and will continue to write until I no longer want to, then I will stop.

A penny for your vote

•November 11, 2014 • 2 Comments

images I would like to thank the Supreme Court for their wisdom in deciding that corporations are people, thus enabling them to donate as many zillions of dollars to the political process as they wish.  Because of that decision, our current voting climate reminds me of the vote for class king and queen back in junior high.  Everyone could vote by adding a penny to the jar of the contestant who they wanted to win.  That seems all fine and cheery, but the ugly truth is there was much ‘jar action’ from voters who had more financial clout than the rest of us.  Sometimes the parents, relatives or teachers would get involved by stashing large bills in their favorite contestant’s jar.  Somehow this never did seem quite fair to me as the one who was donating pennies. It appears that our elected officials are caught up in the same game.  The corporations in this country have decided that they know better than we do, what is best for all of us.  In order to achieve their objective, they must support and eventually elect persons who best represent their philosophy and interest.  So, just like the king and queen contest back in junior high, the election is won by the man or women with the most money in the jar! This is not necessarily a partisan point of view but a plea to the supreme court to fix their blunder and restore some meaningfulness to the voting process. Politicians will be the first to tell you that the current political system is broken and in need of serious repair.  Today’s politician spends ridiculous amounts of time and energy simply raising money and kowtowing to whoever has the most money, when in fact, he/she should be serving the people they represent.  To compound the problem, should a politician try to change the rules for donating to a campaign, he would lose the support of the big corporate contributors.  For this reason alone, it may be impossible for congress to change the rules. One of my favorite movies is Roller Ball, (the original edition), because it portrays convincingly  a society that is completely controlled by international corporations.  According to this world view the corporation is the government and everything they do, maintains or increase their profit.  People are simply devices they use in their industrial machine.  Yes, that is very close to where we are currently going and yes, I fear what I see in our future! So, one has to ask who won this last mid-term election?  Did the people win or did the corporations take one more step towards their goal of  government through corporation. although I am unable to find the verbatim quote, several years ago I read a quote by John D. Rockefeller that roughly says, Give me a world currency and there is no need for countries.   karlrovequote What else can I say?

Looking for magic in the sand.

•November 2, 2014 • 1 Comment

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Most anyone who has been to the ocean has wandered along the sand looking for that perfect shell.  Sue and I are no different from any of those folks.  We are at the Saint Augustine Beach in Florida wandering along the shore line gazing down at the sand in search of the perfect shell. Although I thoroughly enjoy searching for treasure, Sue is the true eyes in our relationship.  It seems as if she has the ability to see things that few others are capable of seeing.  It never fails that after a short time of meandering along she has found a perfectly beautiful conch shell with exquisite colors.  I, on the other hand, will look for hours and find nothing.  Because of my poor shell finding ability I become impatient and less likely to spend large amount of time searching for shells, so I return to our beach towels and soak up some more sun while Sue combs the beach.

I still wonder why so many folks spend so much time looking for things along the shore.  Maybe it is the notion that people have found valuable coins or the  fact that almost anything could potentially show up on a shore line.  Or maybe it is the notion of the stories the shells could tell, the places they have been or the things they have seen. I know, that sounds a little crazy, shells seeing and telling stories, but it sounds really cool and intellectual so I am going to stick with it.

Yesterday, Sue met her match in the shell spotting business. While talking to a young, fellow shell searcher, she mentioned that she found hands full of sharks teeth on this very beach.  Sue, excited with the prospect of finding sharks teeth began searching, and searching, and searching to no avail.  A short time later the young lady approached Sue to show off her big, beautiful, inch long sharks tooth that he just found.  I think Sue was a little perturbed that she was able to find a tooth so quickly.  So today we are returning to the beach, and I think Sue is on a quest to find at least one tooth before we leave.  Lets all wish her luck!

There is no mirror clear enough that I can truly see myself.

•October 22, 2014 • 1 Comment

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I often wonder what kind of person people see when they look at me. Many of my friends who read this blog will probably call me to make some cute remark about my looks, but all kidding aside, who am I really? Of course, like most of us, I have a conception of what I believe others see and hope it is close to reality. I think I once heard a person say that the closer to reality one’s perception of ones selve, the more sane that person is. Well, this creates a dilemma: how do I know how sane I am;  this in turn begs the question, how clear is my mirror?  Wow, this becomes a vicious cycle the mind can journey into.
So here I sit with computer at 2:19 in the morning trying to clear my mind of this crazy mind-game. If I lay in bed trying not to travel around this circle, I may lay there for hours, but if I get up and empty my soul onto my computer, I will go soundly back to sleep. In other words, if I want to get off the “Great Mandella,” I have to somehow change this half dream/half thought into something tangible for others to read.
I wonder how many other people wake up in the middle of the night with such bazaar questions rolling around in their head. This is an important question because, if I am one of a few, that makes me farther from the mean, which by definition, makes me a little crazier than most. So, I am going to ask my faithful readers if this happens to them, and if so, do they wake up with wild, off-the-grid-that seem unsolvable. These aberrations always wake me from my usual restful sleep… OK, that’s it. I am going back to sleep-enough crazy thoughts for one night!

 

Pink up the pace

•October 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Today, my daughter Betsy, her husband Thomas,  my wife Sue and I ran in the PINK UP THE PACE 5k run for breast cancer research in St. Augustine, Florida. In attendance were over 3000 runners, walkers and people dressed up in a multitude of strange pink costume. Thomas and I finished together with a respectable time of 29:45 minutes, which is OK for two guys who do not run very often. The girls walked the course, very much enjoying the wild costumes, the camaraderie and the scenery of the city.  It was a great event for a great cause, and I think we will be back next year to do it again-just a little faster.

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Flying to St. Augustine to see Betsy

•October 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Went on line to buy our tickets for this trip to St Augustine, Florida for the low price of $80 a person round trip. Wow, that is a great price! Turns out that they were running a special for $7.50 per, plus tax which came to about $65 total.
Check it out if you are going to St. Augustine, Florida or several other places in the south.
So remember Frontier Air.

Traveling to Alaska and through the Yukon. Travel log with Charlie and Sue

•September 25, 2014 • 3 Comments
Ready to head to the north

Ready to head to the north

 

Travel logs are always somewhat boring and lengthy, and so I included lots of pictures below.  Sorry this took so long to post but the first attempt went into cyberspace.
Day 1: We left home in Hampshire County, WV on Thursday and traveled to Arlington Virginia to stay with Sue’s cousin and husband.
Day 2: Ed drove us to Dullas International Airport at 5:30 am. We boarded our plane before 8:00 am and soon were in the air on our way on a five-hour flight to Seattle, Washington, arriving at about 10:00 am after traveling through three time zones. I had arranged for a rental car in Seattle so we gathered our luggage and ventured down to the rental area. In Seattle the car rentals are off the airport grounds so we boarded a bus and were shuttled to it. We picked up our little tiny, low-cost rental car which we found on HOTWIRE and ventured off  to see Seattle. then we loaded up the Garmin with some Seattle points of interest and took off. Our first visit was Pikes Place Market, an incredible flea market/farmers market/noveltie stores area of town. While drifting around, we found a nice place to eat overlooking the crowds at the market. After eating, we got back in our car and headed in the direction of the Space Needle. Finding a parking place was very interesting. Then we found out that the elevator ride up the Needle was $23 per person for a 15 story elevator ride! We decided that it was a little expensive for our blood so we walked around that area which is rich in culture with lots of interesting places to see. Overall, it was a great evening. With the sun beginning to settle, we set our sites on our hotel, the Quality Inn and Suite in Tacoma to get a good night’s sleep.

Day 3, 4, 5 & 6: We boarded the airport shuttle and ended up back at the airport to meet our charter bus and begin our journey to Vancouver. After a fun time at the Canadian border, (a bit of sarcasm) our driver took us to through Vancouver (there is no way around Vancouver) on our way to the boarding dock where we checked in with Holland Tours and boarded our ship, the Zuiderdam.

This is the sister ship to ours

This is the sister ship to ours

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That evening we explored our boat searching out all the many areas including food areas, entertainment and a good place to watch the ocean and hopefully glaciers and whales. Well, after the first day, the fog and general yucky weather kept us from seeing glaciers or anything else while on the boat. After traveling two days through some rough water our large boat slowly settled into Juneau, the capital of Alaska. We had scheduled a tour to the Mendenhall Glacier, along with a whale-watching boat trip. The first leg of our trip took us to the foot of this immense amazing glacier, after which we headed over to the dock to board our charter boat to go whale watching.

The Mendenhall Glacier

The Mendenhall Glacier

Lets go see some whales!

Lets go see some whales!

We saw a number of whales but nothing like ones you see on the nature channel. When we returned from the whale watch, we were dropped off in the middle of town. I think Juneau has more jewelry stores than street corners. Sue and I walked the streets, checking out the expensive diamonds and gold and then returned to the ship for a trip to the bistro. Later that night our boat continued north to Skagway. The Eskimos have an alternate spelling, Skaguay, which I think means stupid white people.

The little town of Skagway

The little town of Skagway

Arriving in Skagway, we disembarked to find our way to the White Pass and Yukon Railroad which would then take us part way to Whitehorse, Canada. After a two-hour trip through incredibly beautiful mountains, we left to train and boarded a Holland Line coach for the remainder of our trip to Whitehorse.

Getting ready to head inland

Getting ready to head inland

Did not feel good about this....

Did not feel good about this….

We settled into the Whitehorse Westmark Hotel to prepared to explore the town. That evening we attended a local production called the FRANTIC FOLLIES which was extremely humorous! Whitehorse is a beautiful town but still a little tarnished by the influx of tourists and jewelry stores. That’s where we had our first run-in with Alaskan daylight hours. While walking around we decided to check out a book store. Whoa! How could it be closed? We checked the posted hours and it didn’t close until 9:00pm. Were we surprised to check the bank clock to find out that it was after 10:00 and still light!!
Day 7: We boarded our coach to begin our 8 hour journey on the Klondike Highway to Dawson, a major city in the gold rush. The ride was tolerable with frequent stops and plenty of scenery. Making friends as we go too.

A Lupine along the road

A Lupine along the road

We actually saw a Lynx, which is apparently very rare. Seems they are shy.

What are you guys looking at?

What are you guys looking at?

That evening we explored the little town of Dawson with its dirt streets, board walks and beautiful river frontage with an authentic river boat. We decided Dawson was our favorite town in Alaska. Due to the early construction and disregard for the permafrost, some of the early buildings were actually sinking into the ground. We would have spent more time in Dawson if we could have.

The incredible sinking town!

The incredible sinking town!

Day 8: We took a bus for a short trip to the airport, a gravel runway between two mountains, and boarded a 737 for very quick flight to Fairbanks. Just to make sure you did not miss that: a 737 on a gravel runway in the middle of mountains!  This jet jet is capable of carrying 120 people, but in our case, it was only allowed to carry 60 due to the short gravel runway and mountains! As we made our way into the plane, everyone sat on the right side to have a better view of Mt. Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley). Well, the stewardess decided that it was not a good idea to have everyone on the same side of the plane so some of us were asked to move to the left side to balance the weight. I thought this was a great idea! By the way, we are in the 30% of lucky people to see Mt McKinley while in Alaska!

I think I can....I think I can....

I think I can….I think I can….

Despite my concerns with the short gravel runway, surrounding mountains and light load, everything went fine. After landing in Fairbanks, we  soon settled into our hotel and took off to explore the town. That evening we traveled by coach for a short time to see the Alaskan pipe line, an old gold dredging site where we actually panned for gold!

Alaska's economic life-line

Alaska’s economic life-line

This guy could put a mark on the earth!

This guy could put a mark on the earth!

This is one tooth out of one of these monster dredgers!

This is one tooth out of one of these monster dredgers!

Sue panned out almost $27 in gold but I found a mere $14 worth which fell from my pocket on the bus back to the hotel.

What do you mean we have to leave?

What do you mean we have to leave?

I always knew she was a gold digger.

I always knew she was a gold digger.

For lunch we visited the nostalgic Soapy Smith’s restaurant for a great lunch and then journeyed onto the streets to visit the many gift shops. That evening we boarded a bus for a salmon bake-which is a local attraction where you pay a price to get in and then eat as much salmon and steak as you can before your stomach says UNCLE!  We met our new friends Gerry and Lynn from Australia. The four of us had a great time! They have invited us to come and visit them in Australia! ( I told Gerry to look for us January of 2016!).  We email each other so it looks very promising at this point! After the dinner we attended another humorous rendition of times in the goldrush era, very funny and entertaining!
Day 9: We boarded another bus to began the long ride through Denali National Park. During the 8 hour bus ride, we saw a grizzly bear, lots of caribou, mountain goats (actually called Dall sheep), a couple cow (female) moose and the Alaskan state bird, a willow ptarmigan, which I thought was sort of dorky looking. We were told it was a successful trip by out tour guide, but my butt was aching from sitting so long. That night we settled in early to prepare for our 8 hour scenic train trip to Anchorage, Al.  Here are some pics of the wild life we  saw in the park.

Wow, its a caribou!

Wow, its a caribou!

And a mountain goat...

And a Dall sheep…

Day 10: We boarded the McKinley Explorer and began our long scenic train ride to Anchorage.

On our way to Anchorage

On our way to Anchorage

This train is designed for passengers to see the terrain, with its big windows and elevated seating. On the other hand it is not very fast and barely gets over 30 miles an hour. It has to share the tracks with other trains too. When we arrived in Anchorage, we met up with Sue’s cousin and her husband who live in Alaska to joined them for a wonderful dinner.
Day 11: We were shuttled to the Anchorage airport and flew back to Seattle. That evening we boarded the local transit train to returned to Seattle to see some sights. We found a tour of the Underground City which was incredibly funny and educational.  About a hundred ago Seattle was a very dirty town. Following a big fire that destroyed most of the town, the town fathers decided to fill in the underground and start again on the upper level of buildings that survived.

Part of the underground city in Seattle.  I guess you had to be there....

Part of the underground city in Seattle. I guess you had to be there….

After the tour we returned to our hotel and relaxed for the evening.
Day 12: A quick trip to the airport, and we were on our way back to the east coast. We were ready to be home. Ed picked us up at the airport and took us to his home where we settled into a comfortable bed and quickly fell asleep.
Day 13: After a relaxing morning we loaded up the Honda to begin the last leg of our journey to our home in wild, wonderful West Virginia.
The Canadian Yukon and Alaska are incredibly beautiful areas, but Sue and I visited them in the warmth of an almost continual summer sun. I dare say, we have not seen its true colors when winter shows its mighty force. The few true Alaskans we met were genuine, sincere people who loved the area for its independence and natural grace. Although I thoroughly enjoyed this majestic wonder of nature, I think we will continue to head south when it is cold to leave the epic winters to the rugged folks of Alaska.

 
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