Friday, December 30, 2011

Back in London and relaxing... some last pictures of Barcelona

You can select any to make the picture bigger.

So this is just an example of the amazing, colorful tile work they do in Barcelona.

This was the view from our hotel room.  Most of this part of the city was built at the turn of the century.  Look at the curvy chimneys in the building in the center.

This is Gaudi's La Familia Segria (sp?).  It is the church which he started and they are still working on.  This is the story of Christ's journey and crucifixion. There will ultimately be 18 steeples one for each Apostle, one for Mary, four for the Evangelists and the largest (not yet done) for Jesus.  It is still a work in progress, but pretty dang impressive!

This is a close up of the new Passion facade.  It's figures with straight harsh lines are completely different from the flowing Nativity facade.  But it is a more difficult time.  There are people at the bottom of the picture for scale.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A day at the fun fair at Tibidabo

Today was goofy fun. . We took the hop on hop off bus up to a funicular. Then took that to a mountain top park. The park was called tibidabo. . Now Tipidabo- as a name confused the hell out of me... Where had I heard it? Then I remembered. I'll tell you later. . The park and hill were very cool. The church is old and built on an even older fortification. The upper park (including the plane) was built for the 1929 International expo. The lower amusement park more recently. The funicular, over 100 years ago. All in all, goofy fun. . They back to seeing the sites. Yes, the Gaudi church is even more amazing in person. . As for Tipidabo... Friends. It is THE story that gets Ken Stephens (and Ross) laid. Never mind, just my brain.
Well, it is day two in Barcelona. It is a beautiful city. We got the hop on hop off bus tour to see it. The weather is okay - sunny and a little cool, but nothing as cold as New York or London. I think the normal weather must be Avery LA, since everyone is in giant coats at 60.

Mix of architecture. Little Franco Fachista for you

Most of the city is full of Modern / Gaudi buildings, and Gothic architecture. But ther is also a splash of Facist Architecture, which is softened by the city and very cool (in small batches).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Beautiful day in Barcelona

This is from the Spanish Village built for the 1929 International Exposition. It is made up of multiple types of Spanish Architecture from throughout the country. It is an odd, fun little space. Part of our bus tour of a beautiful city.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Then back to Dan & Pippa's

The house up behind Pippa and Daniel is their house. We spent the last few days there and had a great time. . Today we had a nice tramp with the family through the fields and a great pub lunch.

Boxing day walk to the pub

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cookham and Stanley Spencer

Men at the Steel Mill
So today we took a drive up to Cookham, for a walk about and a view of the Stanley Spencer Museum. There was a display of his World War II mural series all about building ships.  It was a great set of paintings, in a restored chapel that was very nice.
Happened to get wonderful weather today.  After the gallery, we walked around the town a little (he lived and painted there) and then had a nice pub lunch.  Off tonight to a panto with friends.
The church along the Thames.  Stanley Spencer has a head stone here.

Ed and Jane as we park in Cookham.  Jane's new car.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lunch in old town Shepperton. Nice

We had a lovely lunch just in Old Shepperton, which I don't ever remember going to before. It was quite nice.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Arrived in Shepperton

Arrived here in Shepperton. We're having dinner with Laura and Dan tonight. Weather is a little cool (30 or so). Nice to be here and relaxing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Trip Desired #3 : Western Australia

 I would love to see Western Australia someday.  I have heard Perth is kind of the red-headed stepchild of Sydney and Melbourne, but the Western facing beaches and wide open spaces remind me of my (faux-remembered) youth in Southern California.

Tide Pooling in Palos Verdes and Beaching in Redondo probably wasn't anything like I remember, but Western Australia looks like it in my mind. 
I am linking to the Top 10 wonders in Western Australia - and it all looks faboo.  So that is my #3.

Welcome to the Police State MoFo's

So President Obama signed a defense authorization bill that included brand new abridgments for the First, Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments (invalidating 40% of the Bill of rights at once! - impressive).  The new LAW requires that anyone accused of terrorism be held at a military base without access to public counsel, without access to a legal or civil court and with all investigations to be done exclusively by the military.
This LAW was opposed by the Judicial Department, the CIA, the FBI and the Military.  It was threatened to be veto'ed by President Obama - who (of course) did no such thing.
President Obama threatening to Veto a bill is like me threatening to have sex with Jeremy Renner - a fine idea until you think about it - then absurd in the abstract and impossible in reality.
This bill was the brain child of John McCain (who never misses an opportunity to turn the United States into a branch of the military) and some idiot Democrat from Michigan.  The New York Times, in an otherwise spot-on editorial, blames this on Republicans - but it took both idiot parties to pass this travesty of our Constitution.
Oh this law will expired when the War on Terror is over.  I am guessing that will happen right after the War on Drugs and the War on Common Sense (we have apparently capitulated on the War on Poverty).
PS - Why a picture of Jeremy Renner you ask?  Because otherwise the bleakness of this post might collapse it into a black hole.  I didn't blog about this yesterday because I didn't want to screw up my mood.  I am trying to get it out of the way right now.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Of Tebow

I can't decide if this is sacrilegious, funny, touching or just plain weird.  But I liked it.  From Foreign Policy of all things.

A lesson for American politics from the Book of Tebow

And so it came to pass that the Lord God looked down upon the people of the world in the early years of the 21st century (frankly, it had nothing to do with His position: you would look down on them too) and saw they were dissatisfied and unrest filled the parks of their financial districts and their tea parties were no longer festive occasions featuring scones and clotted cream.
And He thought, "I have given them food and they grew fat. I have given them Eden and they paved it over. I have given them the air they breathe and they pumped it full of greenhouse gasses. I gave them life and they turned it into a reality television show. And they're frustrated! If I weren't immortal I'd be on the ledge myself right now."
Now it was Christmastime in America (or, as it was known to God in Heaven, holiday season) and as the Lord was finishing a big plate of latkes he pondered what He might do. "I have even given the Christians my only son," He muttered to Himself, sounding uncannily like Morgan Freeman. "How do you top that?"
And so it was that the Lord created Tim Tebow. And Tebow was a man who had the faith of the prophets, the virtue of the saints, the body of a linebacker, and the ability to run the option. He also was possessed of charm, good looks, and an underrated throwing arm (face it, three or four really good passes were dropped last weekend).
Now for those among the disbelievers who might ask, "How does the deity look down upon the earth, see a problem, and create a full-grown guy to solve it when that really would require some advance planning?" The answer is He's the deity for Christ's sake. Omniscient. All powerful. And for those of you who are non-believers or who believe in science (Democrats), see the recent special issue of Scientific American on the mysteries of time. It has a great explanation of how many physicists believe all instants in time co-exist simultaneously and I'm sure you can work it out from there.

Prophetic Words

I am reminded of Charles Laughton's comments in Witness for the Prosecution.  When Marlene Dietrich is speaking, Tyrone Power goes a little hysterical in the accused box.  The Judge asks Charles Laughton's character (Sir Wilfred Robards) if his client needs a few minutes to compose himself.
Now Sir Wilfered knows that the quicker she gets off the scene, the better for his client.  And so he says..
Thank you, your honor.  But no.  I know we are all enthralled to hear this tale of  Horror Fiction.  To have to hear it installments might prove unendurable! 
I am remind of this comment during these Republican Debates, the last major one before Iowa tonight happens tonight at 9PM.  To hear this nincompoopery in installments has, it turns out, proven to be unendurable!

I Have Figured Out How To Fix "How I Meet Your Mother"

You may or may not know that I once loved "How I Meet Your Mother".  Once, many moons ago.  But the poor show has jumped the shark so much, Steven Spielberg is thinking of making a mini-series about it.
Last week's with Robin's talk to her "kids" decided for me it was time to move on.  But how to you end a great show like that?  It came to me last night in a dream.
Show Opens on another Zany Christmas Episode.  Barney, Robin and Ted are trying to get a Tree at the last minute (snow storm), but can only find a Christmas Pig Pinata - so they hang decorations on this while thinking about / flash backing to the Pig -party story (which comes out of the blue and we never heard of before.
Meanwhile, Lilly and Marshall are braving the storm to get to the Christmas party in the city, realizing that the burbs suck at Christmas.  Hilarity ensues as the LIRR gets stuck on the tracks and they have to drudge up Broadway to Greenwich Village.
Christmas looks to be failure, until the gang looks out the window - and sees Lilly and Marshall outside, heading to the apartment.  They yell, and while a pregnant Lilly keeps plooding through the snow, Marshall looks up smiles and waves.  A Bus zooms by, hits him and kills him.
Bob Saget talks to the kids on the couch and says.  "With your Uncle Marshal dead, I married Lilly.  and that kids, is How I Meet Your Mother."
(PS - Christmas brings out my black humor)

The Gift of the Elvi

Last night Eddie went down to play with our doormen, both named Elvis.  He gave them our Rudolph noses and they wore them occasionally.
And for the picture.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Where I Would Like to Go Next #2: 2011 Sveti Stefan

Today's #2 for where I would like to go next is right down the coast from Dubrovnik (albeit 2 countries away :-).
Sveti Stefan in Montenegro.  Apparently this was quite the resort under Tito - but fell into disrepair in the 1980s.  It has been all fixed up now and looks wonderful.
Montenegro, in case you don't think you know it, is the attractive little Mediterranean Country where the Daniel Craig James Bond was betting in Casino Royale.  Anyway, Sveti Stefan (Saint Stephen in English) is a little Island / Isthmus just down the road from the resort / old town of Budva in Montenegro.
If I ever went to Dubrovnik, I would try to drive down here as well - it is closer than LA to San Diego but you have to go Croatia -> Bosnia Herzegovina -> Montenegro.

From on high

Man I Feel Stupid

So I was reading a letter to the editor in the NY Times today, and a light bulb went off.  Now I feel dumb.  Really dumb.
Basically the letter said Marijuana is bad and has no valid medical uses.  I will quote some of his remarks (full letter / story).

All medications, particularly those containing controlled substances, should be required to meet the rigorous criteria of the Food and Drug Administration approval process. That process has been carefully constructed over the last century to protect patient health and safety.
There are compelling reasons to hold “medical” marijuana to the same standard. The 16 states that passed laws approving marijuana as a medicine did so through a political process, not a scientific one. This alone sets a dangerous precedent.
Marijuana is an addictive, physically toxic drug. It is currently the No. 2 cause of admission to treatment programs, after alcohol. The legalization of medical marijuana would bring a number of unintended consequences, including additional drugged drivers on our roadways, industrial accidents and higher rates of addiction.
Advocates of medical marijuana promote its use as a treatment for the nausea associated with chemotherapy and for glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and other ailments. But numerous safe and effective F.D.A.-approved medications are available for these conditions.

It was an invitation to response for the NY Times.  I responded with this letter.  I can't believe it took me this long to mentally "follow the money".  Do'h!

Mr. Evans raises a point that is often raised, to paraphase - there is no scientific evidence that Marijuana provides benefits that we cannot get from the Medical Industry.  (actual quote is  "Advocates of medical marijuana promote its use as a treatment for the nausea associated with chemotherapy and for glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and other ailments. But numerous safe and effective F.D.A.-approved medications are available for these conditions.")

I don't provide the following as an emotional appeal - but as a fact; I watched my lover disintegrate and die from AIDS.  His body was ravaged and he was unable to eat.  The FDA approved medication for nausea was Marinol - touted to provide the same benefits, but without the side effects, of Marijuana.  But Marinol is a pill.  A pill that goes into a digestive system that is not functioning and to a nausea patient who throws up constantly.  It was less than useless.  Marijuana, on the other hand, delivered more quickly via the lungs and avoiding the stomach, helped.  Helped greatly.   The "problem" with Marijuana and the FDA approval system,  is that money doesn't go to a drug industry that finances FDA - approved medication.  So a valid solution is disparaged.  And well meaning people like Mr. Evans carry the propaganda for the drug companies.

Do not get me wrong, I don't dislike drug companies, or the drug industry - they have saved millions of lives and  made every day life better for hundreds of millions of others. I admire the fantastic work they do, and the drive most researchers have to better people's lives. However, the truth is that drug companies have no incentive to prove that Marijuana is useful.  In fact, it is actively in their interest to espouse the opposite.

Marijuana can be abused, but that is a reason to regulate it and manage it's use - not to throw it away.  If you have watched someone die fro the inside, or suffer from radiation therapy, you know that you will do anything to help them.  Marijuana can be a valuable asset in helping them.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Where I would like to go next: # 1 (2011)

So, I love to travel, and  this was a big big year.  Trips to Iceland and South Africa were the headlines - and we are on our way to England and Barcelona this month.
And I love that.  I can't wait to see friends and spend time in Barcelona - a new adventure!
And yet, my wandering eye always casts about for the next trip.  Not because I am unappreciative of what I have, but because day-dreaming is fun.  So here is kind of my "next list" top five (not in any order).
#1 Dubrovnik Croatia.
Why and where?  Well Wikipedia has details, but for me some of the most amazing things are an ancient walled city ruled for hundreds of years by a Venice-like Republic.  It was also home to Jews fleeing Spain and Portugal from the Inquisition. it seems to have survived the Napoleonic Wars and the World Wars relatively unscathed.
It looks beautiful and full of history.

You know the Writing is bad on Glee When....

You know the writing is getting horrible on Glee, when the bitchy review is far far funnier than the show....
(From Television without  Pity).

With Rachel still under suspension for pulling a Putin during last week's student council elections, and in light of the still-stinging defections of Mercedes, Santana, and Brit-Brit to the warm embrace of Idina Menzel's nurturing lady-choir, the children of New Directions face Sectionals well short of the full complement of choristers required for competition. A couple of the dangerously shaggy-haired boys from The Ever-Mute McKinley High Jazz Ensemble get corralled to fill out the group's thin ranks -- which is fine because, hey, they're always in that goddamned music room, anyway -- but Frankenteen's certain only one person can propel the Glee Club past The Troubletones to secure a victory: Lady Lips Von Bieberhausen. Because he's been following Trouty Mouth on Facebook, Finn knows the kid's now living in the Kentucky-side suburbs of Cincinnati, so he and Rachel embark upon a road trip to convince Lady Lips to return to Lima. And even though Lady Lips is currently making bank performing as "White Chocolate" in Newport's finest ladies-only supper club, Stallionz, he of course quickly gains permission from his father, Bo Duke, to transfer back to McKinley in time for the big performance. No, really -- they actually got Bo Duke to play Trouty Mouth's dad.

Where Assholes Go, Idiots Follow

So, this is a chart of cloture requirements.  For those of you in a democracy that works, perhaps a few words need to be said about what "cloture" is.
In the Senate you can keep talking as long as you want, this is called a "Filibuster".  I f you ever saw Jimmy Stewart sweat it out in Mr. Smith goes to Washington you have the general Hollywood idea.  Cloture is a vote that ends the filibuster.  So, if you get 60 votes, you can stop the filibuster and move on.
But today's Senators are no Jimmy Stewart (hell today's Senators aren't even Adam Sandler, maybe not even CarrotTop) so they don't really filibuster.  What they say is - we are going to filibuster - and everyone pretends to believe it.  So they act as if someone is really filibusting (and speaking), and they can't move forward without 60 votes.  This was designed to allow a minority of Senators to stop work, but allow the Senate to move on with other things - without being shut down.  A noble idea, now corrupted.
As an aside for Americans - in most Parliamentary systems - something like this would cause the government to collapse and a new vote.  Because the Head of the Government (usually a Prime Minister) is elected from the Majority Group of Representatives / Senators (most countries only have 1 legislative body of importance).  If he or she can't control the majority, the government falls and new elections happen.
Mr. Smith - Filibusting
Even so, the need for Cloture has been relatively rare until recent times, because people don't usually filibuster for no reason.  But the Republicans (the Assholes in this discussion) have increased it use when they are in the minority.  They use it right now for spite.  The Head of the Minority has stated publicly that his primary goal is to make President Obama a one term President.  Not to fix America, not to represent his state, but to deny President Obama a second term.  The easiest way to do this is to screw the economy.  So they filibuster anything that might help the country.
The Idiots in this discussion are the Democrats.  Who, like lemmings of old, follow the mold of the Republicans and are just as stubborn after the Republicans pave the way.
It is a system designed for corruption now as big money (make that MASSIVE money) and PR make their way into the system.
Yay for Democracy, huh?

Oklahoma Sky

So I was listening to Miranda Lambert's "Oklahoma Sky" this morning and I thought about skys.

The West has this love affair with big skies - I think it has to do with land that is kind of uninteresting vs. a sky that is massively interesting.  In the mid-west you have these flowing fields of crops ("amber waves of grain") and in the West Coast you have the ocean.  Even the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas break up the vastness of the sky.
But in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and the Great Basin you have a relatively bleak landscape, deathly quiet and this HUGE sky.  It is quite romantic.
And I wonder if it is romantic for a reason - or simply because - well, the human mind craves a little beauty and romance - and there isn't much else in these areas?  Either way it's beautiful.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How Awful Do I Look?

Wow.  There are times when one's self-image runs smack into reality. This week-end was one such time.
I get to live in a delusional world where I am still funny, and charming and not hideous - at least I get to live there most of the time.  Now, when I was a youth I was occasionally (okay - more than occasionally) reminded that what I thought was funny and charming was quite often witty and borderline rude.  But I normally had the smile and graciousness to get out of it, or at least I was cute enough to where people pretended to forgive me.
Then this week-end I went to Aldona's for a Christmas Party / Birthday Party for her mom (turning 93).  Here is a picture of us all on the couch.  I look vile.  Disgusting. Like Homer Simpson.
PS - I tried throwing up after dinner since then.  Turns out no gag reflex does have its drawbacks.

This is why they aren't serious

There are a ton of things you can correctly chastise President Obama about.  Mid East  isn't one of them unless you just hate him for no reason.
Osama Bin laden is dead.
We are out of Iraq on President Bush's timeline.
Muammar Gaddafi is out as head of Libya.  A personal goal of Ronald Reagan.  (As for the asinine argument that what comes after might be worst, that was never a question when Reagan bombed his compounds).
Hosni Mubarak is out in Egypt - a triumph of George Bushs' (plural on purpose) democracy in the mid-east dreams.
So Republicans just look like assholes, unwilling to give an inch by not saying anything nice at all about President Obama.

We're Number 1!! (Link)

Laura sent me a beautiful site that has a wonderful map with what the country is number 1 at on it.  The link is here, and it is totally interesting.  Of course, I know that the United States isw number 1 at more than just serial killers - but it isn't a US map :-).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lisa and Eddie Times Square

So Lisa is here riding heard on a bunch of British School Children (although at 17, "children" might be the wrong noun).  But she got an hour off today as they shopped in Times Square and we had a coffee.
She looks happy and loverly.

Brooklyn flea in old bank. Nice

Friday, December 09, 2011

Liberals & Tea Party: Alternate Realities

I think it is interesting that Liberals and the Tea Party see President Obama so differently.  The Tea Party sees him as some sort of Svengali corrupting the government single handedly to evil.
Liberals see him as some weak-kneed Clinton-Lite that doesn't have the gumption to stand up to a pushy, crass, over-represented mob that wants to return us to the stone age.
When you read this list of terrible things President Obama has done single handedly - and the threat he will do more with executive orders, it makes a liberal wonder what they are smoking - and where can I get some.
The Tea Party rails against the Stimulus, ObamaCare, the Auto Bailout and Environmental rules.  Liberals see the Stimulus and National Health Care watered down to the point of near insignificance.  Liberals WISH the Stimulus was larger and "ObamaCare" offered a public option.  As for Environmental Regulations, Liberals would laugh - ha ha - that Obama has done much.  Carbon Cap and Trade, pushed by Republicans only 4 years ago - is now see as a communist plot.  The keystone pipeline wasn't killed (I don't think it should be, but don't tell "liberals" that).
I get that a lot of this is straw-man arguments - that is building up an artificial argument to knock it down.  but I have to think that enough people believe the Tea Party "hype" to fund them.  It's like we are all living in 2 or 3 different worlds.