fitz roy and laguna de los tres

Friday Thoughts

mount fitz roy in patagonia
Mount FitzRoy (Photo by Gaspar Massidda on Pexels.com)

Climate and the Land

Yvon Chouinard, rock climber and founder of the brand Patagonia, announced he has given away his company, worth about $3 billion. He gave it to a non-profit called Holdfast Collective that will ensure all profits (about $100 million per year) are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land. Patagonia will continue to exist but Chouinard will no longer own it. Patagonia has given $50 million to Holdfast Collective and plans to give $100 million more this year.

Chouinard’s best friend was Doug Tompkins. They used to go rock climbing and adventuring together and in 1968, they drove from Southern California to Patagonia together to climb Mt FitzRoy on the Chile/Argentina border. They made a film about it called Mountain of Storms.

A later film (2010) recreates their journey and highlights some of the conservation work Tompkins was doing — 180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless.

Tompkins died in 2015. He was the founder of the North Face and then of Esprit. He sold them both and in 1991, he established the Foundation for Deep Ecology. He had always loved spending time in Chile and he eventually moved there and bought a rundown farm. He spent his time climbing and kayaking and considering how he might preserve the area. Over time he bought up land in Patagonia that was still wild and undeveloped. When he died he left over a million acres of land to the Chilean government to create a national park. In 2017, the president of Chile accepted the one million acres and added another 10 million to create the largest protected area in South America.

After watching these documentaries, I became enthralled with Chile. It is definitely on my list and I hope to be able to spend some time there exploring its many diverse landscapes.

By the way, Mount FitzRoy was named after the Captain Robert FitzRoy of the Beagle, Charles Darwin’s ship.

The Queen’s Queue

Not only is Queen Elizabeth II lying in state for close to a week, but there is a “queue tracker” where you can keep tabs on the long line winding its way across London. Last time I checked the wait was 9 hours but this changes constantly. People seem happy to do it. I might even do it if I was in London. After all, it’s a one-time thing (click on image it see it live).

A few parting shots

Happy Friday.

Thoughts Random Friday – Queens and Tatas

Balmoral Castle (Stuart Yeates from Oxford, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Well, the world is ending. It is starting. The beginning of the end. Europe is in an energy and economic crisis. Queen Elizabeth died. China is still in lockdown. California is burning up. Canadians are stabbing each other. And they still haven’t arrested the Big D (Delusional) trump (I live in hope). More random crazy shootings. I had a brief happy moment when I saw that Bannon was indicted (apparently he raised money to build a wall?…. and there was no wall?….  seems like a such a small thing…  smile). And that was just Thursday… 

Queen Elizabeth. End of an era. Seventy years on the throne. It is going to be quite a transition. Is King Charles up to the job? I guess we will see. (As you will remember Charles I was beheaded and Charles II lived in exile for a while so not great precidents.) Elizabeth II has been there my whole life. I went to British school when I was little and met Prince Phillip on the polo field when I was a giggly second grader. He was very gracious and shook my hand while I tried to curtsey in my blue jeans. In 1993, I went to work for the British Embassy in Moscow. Soon after I started, I attended a reception and met Princess Anne and her husband Commander Lawrence. She was surprised to come across an American and even laughed at my jokes. In 1994, Queen Elizabeth was the first ruling Monarch to ever set foot in Russia. She and Boris Yeltsin attended a performance of Giselle at the Bolshoi. I was also in the audience. She wore a green flowered outfit and a tiara. It was quite a night. Pro or anti monarchy, you have to admit she was a force.

Michelle Obama (GALLERY HENOCH)

On a lighter note… I thought the painting of Michelle Obama unveiled at the White House this week was exceptional. Very well done. Artist: Sharon Sprung.

So, last week I went in for my annual mammogram. All very routine. A few days later I got a call to make an appointment for additional screening. This morning I went into a breast cancer center for my appointment. That was scary enough but the waiting room was a stark sterile large room that made me want to bolt for the hills.

I then went in for another mammogram. From there I sat in a smaller version of the bleak waiting room. And then it was on to the ultrasound machine where I spent about an hour being probed by several people and waiting by my myself in a very uncomfortable position. The doctor came and went twice. He sent me back for another mammogram. By the time I saw the doctor for the final time I had been probed for about two hours. He told me he just wanted to be sure. He certainly was thorough, I’ll give him that. The verdict? Come back in six months. Haha… Good thing I’m not the worrying kind… Actually it is fine.

And now the weekend beings. I might have a glass or two of wine!

Cheers!

Friday Random Thoughts

Twenty five years ago this week I woke up in my apartment in Moscow, Russia to the BBC announcing a car crash in Paris. Princess Diana was rushed to hospital. I ran to the living room and turned on CNN or BBC or whatever. She was soon declared dead. It was sad and shocking.

Another death this week made me sad. It was only after Mikhail Gorbachev instigated Perestroika and the Soviet Union started to fall apart did we realize we would be able to move to Russia. It had always been my husband’s dream to go live there and Gorbie made that possible. He was the hero of the day. In 1990 I was living on Capitol Hill in D.C. and I had an image of Gorbie in my car window. The hand was on a spring so it actually waved. It was awesome. Three years later I was living in Moscow.

You get the idea…. (these are available on Amazon)

Gorbie did a lot to change the world. I don’t think it turned out the way he had hoped it would but he did make a positive difference. Now, of course, Mr Putin is trying to undo it all. There was an excellent obit in the New York Times this week.

I was reading this weird book that just seemed to be going on and on. It takes place in an airport lounge. One guy is telling a story to another guy. They went to college together but didn’t really know each other well. It feels like Mr. A just wanted to unload on somebody and Mr. B just happened to be there. So the story went on an on about how Mr. A saved a guy from drowning and then he became obsessed with the guy only to find out he probably should not have bothered. Anyway, the book is Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson. The Washington Post compares the author to Tom Ripley – “spinning a mesmerizing yarn”. To be honest I wasn’t mesmerized. I suppose if I was feeling more philosophical I could analyze my way through it and read all kinds of existential stuff into it but frankly I didn’t care enough. I skipped to the end. 

I guess I have not been paying too much attention lately but heard recently that there is another NASA space ship scheduled for the Moon. The plan is to establish a presence on the Moon in preparation of sending astronauts to Mars. It will be called Artemis Base Camp. In Greek mythology, Artemis was a lunar deity and goddess of the hunt. I found another book on my shelf “Russians in Space” that tells about the first manned space trip. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin was sitting in a rocket ship getting ready for this historic journey.

“Before the actual liftoff, Korolev, Kamanin and the first future cosmonauts gathered around the communications station to talk with Gagarin. One used call-sign Zarya.

Zarya: Well everything is normal It’s all going according to schedule. On the machine, everything is going fine.
Gagarin: How about the medical data? Is my heart beating?
Zarya. Your pulse rate is 64, and your respiration is 24. Everything is normal.
Gagarin: Roger. So my heart is beating.
Korolev: How are you feeling?
Gagarin: I’m not worried. I feel fine. How are you feeling? Tell the doctors that my pulse is normal.

At 9:07 am they had lift-off. He spent 108 minutes in space. He commented on how dark the night was and how bright the stars. How blue the earth was.

“At 9:51 when the spacecraft emerged from the earth’s shadow the automatic orientation system went into action. It sought out the sun and ‘locked on’ it to orient the ship. As the sun’s rays came through the earth’s atmosphere, the horizon turns bright orange, then gradually shaded through all the hues of the rainbow, to light blue, dark blue, violet, and even black. Gagarin asked himself: ‘Where have I seen such a combination of colors?’ And then he remembered: on the canvases of Nicholas Roerich and Rockwell Kent.”

At 10:55 the space ship plowed into a field and Gagarin landed by parachute near by. The farm workers gathered around in amazement. Gagarin was in very good spirits.

I received my Snow Emergency pamphlet from the St Paul Public Works today. Apparently St Paul plows more than 1,800 lane miles during the first 24 hours of a snow emergency. They compare it to a trip from St Paul to Anaheim, CA. I have to admit they do a pretty good job. I have lived in places where they do a terrible job (Washington DC).

Looks like a touch of orange is already here.

Exploring Scotland

Edinburgh 1980

I am currently planning a trip to Eastern Scotland. It reminds me of the time I went backpacking in Scotland 40 years ago. I’m sure much has changed and my experience will be different. Here is a look back.

My cousin was studying in London that summer and I managed to talk her brother into going to Scotland with me. I flew in and spent a couple of days with her before her brother arrived. We didn’t really have a plan but just jumped on the next train to Edinburgh. Across from us was a family from Santa Barbara, California. The wife was British but hadn’t been back to the U.K. in 17 years. The man seemed bored to death and kept wanting to talk but didn’t have much to say. He was a carpenter. The guy sitting next to me was from the San Fernando Valley and very serious, no personality or sense of humor. Toward the end of the trip we got lucky and a Scotsman sat down across from me. When he found that we really didn’t know where we were going he started hauling out maps and planned an entire trip for us in the western islands. He told us about good places to go and it was great!  He was a really nice guy. Half the fun of travel is the people you meet.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

From Edinburgh we took the train to Inverness. We couldn’t get into the youth hostel so we ended up in a bed and breakfast. The owner served us tea between 9:30 and 10 pm so we met the other person who was staying there, too. He was a teacher from Hong Kong. He spent his days taking organized tours. The following day we took the bus to Drumnadrochit and walked from there to Urquhart Castle right on the Loch Ness. There wasn’t much left of the castle because it was blown up to keep the Jacobites from staying there (long story). I did not see the Loch Ness monster. Big disappointment (haha).

Back in Inverness, we went to the Old Market Inn Pub and had a few beers. One drunk Scotsman sort of latched on to us. He mainly just wanted to talk – anybody would have done but we were willing to listen. He was interesting for a while giving us some Scottish history and his very strong opinions. After a while somebody got up with a guitar and started singing folk music, which we quite enjoyed.

From Inverness, we took the bus through the mountains past glass still lakes and beautiful forests to Fort William. The youth hostel was at the foot of the highest mountain in the U.K., Ben Nevis (4,400 ft.). A New Zealander latched onto us at the youth hostel, which was a good thing because he had dishes and silverware. We were totally unprepared. I think he was homesick. We ended up taking him into town and waving goodbye at the bus station like he was our son going off to war. Poor guy. We spent a couple of days relaxing and soaking up the beautiful countryside before heading out to the west coast.

Iona Abbey

We were lucky, it rained very little that summer. The only problem we had was on the Isle of Skye. The public transport was rather meager so we were trying to hitchhike but got nowhere and, of course, it started to rain and we got soaked. Back on the mainland, we worked our way down the west coast. We spent several days in Oban and took ferries to Mull and Iona. And finally found our way to Glasgow. I fell in love with Scotland and decided I wanted to go back and tour the upper peninsula on a motorcycle …actually on the back of a motorcycle.

Downtown Chester

On the way back to London, we stopped in the old Roman town of Chester on the Welsh border, and at Stonehenge and Salisbury. It was market day in Salisbury and there were people everywhere, crowding the streets, too many people. I was tired by then. Youth hostels are cheap but you don’t get much sleep. The woman above me had snored all night. Still, I was able to enjoy Salisbury Cathedral, finished in 1258 and an impressive Gothic building. We listened to the music at evensong. By that time, I was exhausted.

We took the boat from Great Yarmouth to the Hook of Holland and a train on to The Hague, the Netherlands. We got off at the wrong station and had to walk forever but finally managed to hook up with my parents and ended up staying in their new, empty apartment.

(excerpt from Expat Alien my global adventures)

This time the plan is to go to Dundee and Aberdeen. Any tips?

Random Friday Thoughts

Above are three vintage postcards from Watkins Glen, NY that appeared on my Postcardbuzz blog this week. I am quite fond of them. You can read a bit more about them on the blog.

The State Fair started yesterday. I love going to see the animals and the seed art. And of course a big attraction is all the weird food. A couple of new ones this year are Soulsicle: Fried chicken on-a-stick topped with candied yam sauce, cornbread crumble, mac-and-cheese seasoned cheddar cheese, hot sauce and green onions. This year’s twist on the pronto pup or corn dog: Tot Dog: all-beef hot dog dipped in corn dog batter, rolled in a mixture of minced tater tots, cheddar cheese and onions, then deep-fried. Plus there is deep fried ice cream on a stick, and pickle pizza. My go-tos at the fair are cheese curds, Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar, Tom Thumb mini donuts, and a chocolate malt from the Dairy Barn. Although those Tot Dogs sound pretty good….

Haha, Japan again…There was an article in the New York Times this week about the efforts of Japan to market and implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as laid out by the United Nations in 2015, to “provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”.

The logo is a colorful rainbow wheel with 17 colors to represent the 17 goals. The logo and theme have been used in Japan on lapel pins, board games and comic books, playgrounds, and a music video with over 940,000 views on YouTube. The pins cost $7.99 and can be found here.  They also have lanyards, postcards, and other things.

Japan made the goals part of National Policy and have set up an aggressive marketing campaign to raise awareness. Where three years ago nobody knew what it was, today it has become common knowledge. In 2015, Japan ranked number 13, on the annual Sustainable Development Solutions Network report, a nonprofit under the United Nations. It then dropped to 19th. One area it needs to work on is gender equality. Even though they aren’t achieving all the goals, the first step is awareness and they are doing a pretty good job of that.

On the other hand, the USA placed 41st in 2022. And most people are not aware of it. Finland came in at number one. South Sudan comes in at number 163. There are 30 countries not accounted for (most of them very small).

The 17 goals are:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land       
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

The goal is to achieve this dream by 2030. Sounds like a pipe dream, doesn’t it? Even though Finland comes in at number one, it’s score is not 100%. It has a score of 86.51%. The USA comes in at 74.55%. The disturbing thing is that there are no achievements for the USA, only yellow and red with some positive achievement in Clean Water and Sanitation and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Anyway, not good. You can take a look for yourself.

To more cheerful moments… My bathroom re-do is done, except I’m still waiting for the rug but never mind. Have a look.

Before:

After:

Have a great weekend!