Random Thoughts

Friday Reflections

calm body of lake between mountains
Photo by Bri Schneiter on Pexels.com

Pretty cool photo, huh? Too bad I didn’t take it…

This week has been kind of up and down. The war in Europe is messing everything up. I know a guy who is actually Russian. He is related through marriage. I met him when we were living in Moscow and he was like 14 years old. His mother had just died. He had no father. His grandmother or a great aunt or somebody was looking after him. He was very sweet and eager to learn new things. I spent many days helping him with his English and with his Spanish and feeding him. He was probably one of about 5 people I missed when I left Russia. 

I got an email from him the other day. He is now a father of 3, with one who is 16 years old. He is very scared they will haul him away to war. They are all scared they will be pressed into service. He has good friends in Ukraine. He was checking to make sure they were safe and chatting with them often. What a shit show. On top of that his wife is a journalist and scared she will write the wrong thing. They are all trying to get out. One word I learned in Russian that stays with me is Kashmar — Nightmare.

Conde Nast Traveler published the “Best Travel Books of All Time, According to Authors”.   They list 89 books that were nominated by travel writers. The list is varied and interesting. I’ve only read about ten of them. One is about Isabelle Eberhardt who moved from Geneva to Algeria, converted to Islam, lived life as a man, and died at age 27. Now that has to be pretty interesting. I was glad to see a Redmond O’Hanlon book on the list. One of the funniest books I have read was his Into the Heart of Borneo

Ah, yes, hurricanes. That Ian was something else. Hurricanes and earthquakes. And floods. They happen every year but people just build back, go back, stay. I guess many don’t have a choice. 

I watched the movie Elvis last night. It was kind of a weird move. What a sad story. To be honest, I didn’t really like it that much. But I learned a couple of things about the guy that I didn’t know. I really ended up feeling sorry for him. Two songs I discovered are very relevant today. This one was written in 1968: If I can Dream. It was actually the highlight of the film. You can watch it on Youtube.

And this one was recorded by Elvis in 1969, but written by Mac Davis. Many many people have covered it since.

“In The Ghetto”

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto

And his mama cries
‘Cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need
It’s another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto

People, don’t you understand
The child needs a helping hand
Or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day
Take a look at you and me,
Are we too blind to see?
Do we simply turn our heads and look the other way?

Well, the world turns
And a hungry little boy with a runny nose
Plays in the street as the cold wind blows
In the ghetto

And his hunger burns
So he starts to roam the streets at night
And he learns how to steal, and he learns how to fight
In the ghetto

Then one night in desperation
The young man breaks away
He buys a gun,
Steals a car,
Tries to run,
But he don’t get far
And his mama cries

As a crowd gathers ’round an angry young man
Face down on the street with a gun in his hand
In the ghetto

And as her young man dies,
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’,
Another little baby child is born
In the ghetto

And his mama cries 

Try to have a super weekend!

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.

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!