Saturday, July 30, 2011

Back to Slovenia




No,  we’re not going to Bled this time.  So,  we won’t be going through the “Karawanken Tunnel”.   Travelling Companion figures I like going through Karawanken Tunnel,  just because I like to say Karawanken.









There,  got that out of my system.


Actually,  considering that you have to pony up some dough when you go through,  there’s really no great thrill any more in going through the tunnel.   Besides,  we’re heading for Sava,  which is a completely different way, and I might just try and take the short cut,  if I can possible spy the exit on the way down.   If I miss it,  then we’ll go on to Ljubljana and take the usual road out by way of Litija. 


Vienna to Sava


I’ve done this trip a few times (d’ya think?)  and just the same,  I’ll put on our GPS Lady,  just to keep me from doing something completely boneheaded like missing an exit ramp or something.   The only thing is,  as was the case in Italy (where I didn’t take along any kind of a paper map, you may recall) there are snippets of road that are too new to be in the data base. So I have to shut her off when we approach Maribor,  since the new by-pass doesn’t exist.  I can ignore the prodding,  but listening to “if possible,  make a legal U-turn”  gets a little bothersome after about a dozen times.


That’s about it. 


Off we go.




Friday, July 29, 2011

A Tinnitus free morning!

I’d like to say “day”,  but it’s not over yet.  Plus,  I sure hope I’m not jinxing it by even saying anything.

It’s one of those rules,  like realising the sailboat you’re on might come in first place in the race,  and then having the absentminded temerity to say something about it?  Bad Karma.  Bad.   Need to touch teak immediately, or something might break.

Hopefully the crap we have here from IKEA counts.   Looks like wood,  but who can really say?


I don’t think I’ve ever even mentioned the fact that,  for a few years now,  I’ve had something called “Tinnitus”,  and I don’t think I even realised what it was until maybe a few years back.  Just happened to be reading something “on the line”,  and then realised,  “Hey,  that’s what that annoying buzzing is!  Huh.” 


Of course,  if you start reading about some of the causes of Tinnitus,  it gets even more confusing, and I’ve read just about everything,  and I still haven’t figured it out.  Used to get sinus infections many,  many years ago when I worked in a particularly dusty school,  so maybe that ultimately lead to this condition?   Hard to say.

If I knew exactly what it was I had to do to make it suddenly stop like that,  I’d be all over that like a dog on a bone.


Don’t care,  ‘cause today it’s decided not to show up!




Fine.  Enough of that.


I’d like to now present to you,  a combination of things that you’d be hard pressed to see most anywhere else.





Yes,  that’s a case of Austrian beer in a Canadian shopping bag.   Note the logos.   Daughter Unit Number One brought that one over for me when she was here a couple months ago,  along with a couple packs of socks from Costco I might add.  

Not the beer.  Just the bag.  I got the beer this morning.


I had put in these requests,  since the socks are the thicker kind that I used to wear back in my caretaking days and seem to keep my knee and hip bones from clunking about in their usually painful fashion.   The shopping bag is just the right size for lugging home a case of beer,  and I had already had an unfortunate incident earlier on with another one of these properly sized shopping bags,  when I misjudged the placement of the aforementioned beer,  and ended up busting a seam.  Drat!

Beer is a tad heavy it seems.


Hm,  maybe that’s why my middle keeps getting heavier,  the more of it I drink?





I see people with these little two wheeled shopping carts. 

Like this one.  Some times fancier.

shopping cart

I’ve even seen them at ridiculously low prices. 

Doesn’t matter. 


I absolutely refuse to have one.  I’d sooner lose the tips of my fingers to gangrene from lack of circulation,  than be caught dead yanking one of these things around. 



It’s right up there with idiot mitts, 


idiot mitts


and the rope around your neck to keep from losing your glasses thing.   I’d sooner just get bifocals if it gets to be that much of an issue.

Unless MAYBE it’s on a pair of reasonably good looking sunglasses,  but even then it would probably have to have something to do with being on a boat or on some other type of vessel where dropping them would be catastrophic. 


Just the same, I think I’d still only be willing to clip my hat to my collar.



Now I realise I’ve wandered around here from time to time wondering just where I’ve left my specs,  but QUITE OFTEN,  that is the result of someone ELSE having moved them.   Or someone ELSE wearing them.  

Here’s a typical and brief conversation:

“Ah,  can you have a look at this?”

“Well yes,  just as soon as you give me back MY GLASSES….”





Since they are only “cheaters”,  I probably have a dozen pair,  and simply keep a pair in every location where I might need to actually see something.   The rest of the time,  a little fuzziness on things doesn’t bother me.


Simple really.



Yesterday I was going on a little bit (too much, probably)  about how you know it’s time to go home.


But here’s the thing.  One of the things I know I’m going to truly miss when we do finally say our final farewell to Europe is,  well…CHEAP BOOZE.

For us it’s only beer and wine,  but I’ve looked at the other “hard” stuff,  and becoming an alcoholic here could be done in a very economical fashion.

And we all know that I’m cheap.




So let’s do a little math on the beer,  shall we?

Normally a case of 24 “Ottakringer” beer sells for €17,04.

That’s €,71 a can.  That’s already not too darned shabby. 

Just a note on the currency.  You’ll notice the use of a comma,  not a period.  Plus,  the first one you would say as,  “Seventeen Euros, four”  (Siebzehn Euro Vier, auf Deutsch)  The other amount would be, “Seventy-one Euro cents”,  or just “seventy-one cents”.

Just thought I’d point that out.


Also note,  these cans are a half litre each.    Oh ya!

Pretty good value.   But then,  IT GETS BETTER!   Today,  beer is on sale.   When the cashier swiped my “Vorteils” card,  I got €5,28 off,  bringing a case of beer down to €11.76,  or €,49 a can*!  


I like that math.



The slight annoyance is that,  you do need to sign up for one of  those stupid member cards.  I’ve got one from BillaMerkurWein & Co.,  and just last week I signed up for one from Leiner.  Usually it’s the only way to get an advertised discount once you get to the cash/check-out.  It’s a form of target marketing that they do here.   In the past,  I’ve had a Tops card,  as well as a key fob thingy from Pueblo Xtra.   Thankfully with these types of cards,  membership is free.   They just want to be able to send you crap,  along with really important emails.  It’s pretty much the only mail we get,  so I don’t really care too much.   In the email department,  I just give one of my many web based rarely used email accounts,  and then go in a couple times a month and clean house.


I should also mention,  since you’re probably thinking,  “Gee Bob,  aren’t you giving out way too much information there?”

Well,  not really.  They have your name and your address,  and that’s about it.   Which brings me to one of the very annoying things they like to do in both Canada and the U.S.   They like to ask for either your Social Insurance Number in Canada,  or your Social Security Number in the States if you want these types of things.  


I don’t like that.  


That number is between me and the gubbermint,   and it’s bad enough that they have it already and could some how get it misplaced.  I don’t want to give it out to some retailer,  no matter how easy it is for them to use it to keep tabs on me.   Here they just give you whatever customer number happens to be on the next form in the pile.   Seems to work for them.


Now,  if it’s on some form at the bank,  or an investment firm,  where they may have to either remit some sort of tax or some such thing?   Well,  as painful as it may be,  that’s what it’s for.  Not to be sitting at the top of some form or other in a filing cabinet at the head office of someone selling garden mulch.

So,  even though I have to fill out a bloody form,  and get a bit of junk mail from time to time,  if it gets me cheap beer or wine,   I’m in!







*At “Press Time”,  the Euro is about $1.35733 CDN or $1.42788 US.  (Yikes, that Yankee Buck is a tad weak,  but let’s not go there!) 

So that’s $.66 cents CDN or $.69 cents US. per can.



I’ll try and control myself.






Thursday, July 28, 2011

When you know it’s time to leave.


*When you start counting down the days.


Today’s count is 22 sleeps and a “wakie”.

(It’s an Air Force term,  don’t ask)



*When the humidity goes up a little,  and you start to get homesick.  Possibly a little more emphasis on the “sick” part in that case.


*When you walk in the front door and it kind of smells like our dearly departed motor home.    It was a “good” smell,  really!   Hard to explain.

Never mind.


*When the neighbour’s cat on the roof seems amusing enough to warrant a photo.  I’d be worried the cat would take a tumble.  We’re up seven flights,  so I don’t think that would go well.


cat_0002 cat_0001


Silly bugger.


Oh,  and remember how I said “there’s green all around us”?   Well,  the folks two buildings over actually have a garden shed on the roof.  See it?  Can’t make that kind of stuff up.



*When you really and truly don’t want to buy any more “stuff”,   since you know you probably could find something similar tucked away in a cupboard back home.





If my wife sees this,  hopefully I got the kind she wants.  Since we are definitely heading for Slovenia first thing Saturday morning,  and want to take along all the fixing's for a meal,  I needed a couple containers of a certain dimension to fit into the little cooler we have. 

Yes dear,  I’ve run them through the dishwasher.


It pains me to point out that I have a host of coolers back home,  but had to buy yet another one a while back, since I failed to ship any of them.   *sigh*

This comes from not moving “lock,  stock and barrel”,  and having to some how figure out just exactly what it is you’ll really need in order to live in Europe for three years.  Ended up being four.  So far anyway.


Mind you,  moving “lock stock and barrel”  would have been a huge nightmare, even though I went through everything and carted off truckloads of excess “stuff” in the weeks before we came over here,  I can’t even conceive of where we’d end up putting everything if we cleaned out the house, garage and shed. 

Plus,  having a certain amount of “stuff” back home can be liberating on the luggage front.  I don’t take anything home with me.  Most times I have a carry on,  which consists of my computer and camera.    This time around we’ll need to take a checked bag,  since Nephew Boy,  being the sharp one that he is,  bought too much junk,  and didn’t have room for it in his luggage.   Such a clever lad. 


Not much else going on.



It’s another cool cloudy day.  The Austrians are fretting over their lost summer.  They can cry me a river.

We roasted last summer.

I’m comfortable. 


It’s all good.



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

When the weather changes.

I’m pretty sure I’ve touched on this subject on at least one occasion in the last 440 some odd posts,  so if I’m repeating myself,  well that’s just too bad.
Nothing to see here.   Move along.

Once upon a time,  I used to marvel at how my dear old Mom would make comments about the weather,  barometric pressure or what have you,  based on the “pain of day”.   Not to be in any way confused with “cease the day”  or anything like that.   I’m just talking about whatever it is that hurts on that particular day is all.  Every so often she would say, “Oh,  it must be going to rain.”  or some such thing,  since some part of her anatomical structure would be giving her some grief on that particular day,  and sure enough,  not too long after making that pronouncement,  it would rain.
As a young fellow,  being even stupider than I am now,  if that’s remotely possible,  I used to think she was a little bit loopy.  That’s a bit of a high falutin’ term by the way, which means I thought my Mom was a little bit of a nutter.


I began to understand that particular skill/affliction after hitting the half century mark myself.  I’m actually scarily close to the half way mark into the first decade past the half century mark,  (got that?)  but I don’t want to get all maudlin or anything.
Our weather here in Wienerland has been somewhat cool over the last few days,  although we heard that it was bloody hot here on the Sunday when we were in Verona.  Personally,  I don’t mind the cool weather,  although I do know I’ve had some slight issues with a prolonged lack of sunshine,  but that usually happens in the dead of winter. 
Spending that year in Puerto Rico helped immensely.

Well,  something has changed.  I don’t have a barometer,  but I do know that the weather today is hugely different than it has been over the last week or so, and I know this because my hip tells me so.
Nothing else is different.  I didn’t fall down a flight of stairs.   I haven’t been crawling around under a bus.  I took my usual morning hike.  That is all.  I even wore proper shoes.   Some times I wear sandals,  and even then everything is still hunky dory.   Not today.  I’m pretty sure though that my poor ole Mom didn’t have the really nifty painkillers that we now have lying in wait in our pantry.  Sorry,  the pain may be the same,  but the times have changed.  I’m just not willing to go along for any sentimental reasons.

In spite of this minor annoyance,  I thought I’d better get out and work in the garden. 

Wait!  What?  You have a garden,  you say?   Well no,  but for some completely  unnatural reason,  we do have weeds that have decided to grow up between the flag stones on the Terrace.   Of course,   the presence of weeds,  is one of the reasons I’ve never had the desire to have a garden since about,  oh I don’t know,  1975?  See,  part of my summer job up until I got my driver’s licence was working with my dear ole Dad,  tending to his some five acres of gardens.  Gah!  Man did I do a lot of weeding!  And swat mosquitoes!   He grew way too much stuff for the people he worked for because well,  he could.  But that meant that muggins here had to tag along with him and help. 
Fun times!

In a way it’s kind of too bad I had to pull these guys out,  since it’s really and truly the only plant life we have going on up there.  We have a couple very nice orchids in our living room that we’ll have to give away when we move,  but other than that,  I’d just like to repeat the whole “not wanting a garden” thing.

You can also see by what’s going on over at the neighbours,  that they have a slightly different take on that whole “rooftop garden”  scene?  Actually,  there’s greenery every which way I turn.  Then there’s our patch of bare flag stones. 
Meh.  Whatever.
I suppose if this were going to be our final destination,  I’d be a little bit more enthusiastic and maybe have a potted shrub or something.   Not going to happen.

Speaking of the cool temps,  I can’t help but comment on something I saw in one of the local rags today.
First,  let me put this into context.  See,  when we were living in Puerto Rico,  for the most part it was HOT.  By that I mean,  “comfy hot”,  not “get a nosebleed hot”,  like it gets in Texas.   I didn’t realise just how friggin’ hot it gets in Texas,  until this one time I was sitting on a flight from Houston to San Juan,  and ended up sitting next to a guy from Puerto Rico,  who naively thought that had been living in a hot country.  That was,  as he said,  until he went to Texas,  where he did in fact get a nosebleed because it was so f**king hot!    So when a Puerto Rican tells you it’s hot in Texas.  You want to believe it!

We were lucky enough to have a pool.   It was fabulous.  Of course,  from time to time,  and sometimes most of the time,  I would tend to cool off in the pool.   You didn’t stay cool for long,  and for the most part,  there was really no need to suffer the inconvenience of any foolish articles of clothing such as a bathing suit.   Travelling Companion started to simply call me,  “Naked Man”.   It was a different story when we had guests of course,  but since she had pointed out that she could see through my trunks when they got wet anyway,  I figured there was no point in getting them wet.   (Before the first guests arrived,  I did have to go out and buy a version that was considerably less revealing.  Harrumph!)

So,  to me that is simply a way of getting acclimatised to one’s surroundings.  I’d certainly not peel off my clothes and wander headlong into a snow bank.  I might be a bit of a nutter,  but I’m not that loopy.
Cold:  Put clothes on.  
Hot:  Take ‘em off.

Following that logic,  it stands to reason that I’m not about to dress up like a Ninja and then live in a hot country.  How does that make any sense?

Which brings us to this:

What the snippet of an article is telling us is,  these people come from the Middle East to Austria to enjoy the cool weather.  And here the Austrians have been whining that their summer was over!  Glad to see someone is happy I suppose.  But if you’re hot,  why put that burlap sack over your head? 
Don’t shoot the messenger here,  I’m just asking.

I see them out and about on Mariahilfer Straße from time to time, and I break out in a sweat just looking at them. 
I’d almost like to walk up to one of them, and in my best south Tennessee drawl ask,  “But darlin’, ain’t y’all mighty warm under thar?”
And yes,  I can do a convincing South Tennessee drawl.  If I could imitate the Germans well enough in 1979 for them to think I was from Alsace then yes,  I can certainly imitate just about any US accent,   and most of them south of the Mason-Dixon line are frightfully easy.

Where was I?


Having posed this conundrum about the burlap sack,  I’m not saying that I’m in any way in disagreement with the whole arrangement.  There’s a fellow who wears a turban selling newspapers and stuff a few blocks from here,  and I’ve seen his wife.  Oh my.
Their religion tells them that he cannot cut his hair.  It’s just too bad that it doesn’t also say that she should be wearing that sack on her head.   Who dropped the ball on that one??

I mean hey,  the sack over the head thing would go a long way in beautifying our streets.  That’s all I’m saying.

You want to do something for the environment? 

Here’s your sack.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chef Bob.

You can insert the “sarcasm font” here at your leisure.


Another not so much happening day,  so the deal is,  upload this picture and try and write a blog before the timer goes off.





Travelling Companion had a doctor’s appointment this morning at 10:30,  so there was little point in her driving all the way out to Strebersdorf to get to her office,  either before or after.   Naturally one of my jobs is to chauffeur to just about any destination in the city if it involves any kind of parking issues,  new addresses or well,  any of the other occasions.   Then I took the car and got it fuelled up again,  since she has to venture into the Czech Republic tomorrow for a couple days. 


She had already decided to work from home,  which is considerably more productive than spending the total evaporated hour and a half getting to her office and then back again.  Thankfully for me there were no conference calls,  since we don’t have a separate office in these parts,  which means I have to listen to every gritty detail.   I had secretly planned to go down stairs to the cafe,  have a coffee and read the paper if that had been the case. 


And,  as for the pizza’s?  They’re actually pretty good,  and serve as a back-up plan when I have absolutely no idea what we’re going to eat,  or if I do,  have no ambition to prepare it.   Today,  if you bought two,  they were on for €1,79.    That’s mighty cheap.

Cheap is good sometimes.


I have three minutes left on the timer,  and I have yet to set the table.


Keep those sticks on the ice.




Monday, July 25, 2011

It’s Monday.



Let’s see now.  

Laundry,  check.

Bakery, check. 

Grocery store,  check.




Oh,  maybe I’ll wash some of the living room floor.   There we go. 

Big job.  Check.


Is it too early to start the count down?



Don’t care.

25 more sleeps.






Sunday, July 24, 2011

Let’s just stay home.


Here’s a brief snippet of a conversation from Friday afternoon:

“I guess we’re not going to Slovenia tomorrow”.

Me: “Whu??  I thought that was next weekend?”

“No,  that was this weekend. We’ll go next weekend instead.”





See,  I just figured it COULDN’T be this weekend,  since we’ve only been back here for four days.  As you may recall,  we ran down to Slovenia two weekends ago for a funeral,  then last weekend we were in Italy.  From Thursday until Monday.   So,  why would we want to run the roads again after four days? 

Of course, if we hang around here,  there’s bound to be some sort other excursion,  which usually involves shopping. 

Now here’s the thing,  when it comes to shopping for bedding,  it’s not just a matter of vocabulary,  but as I explained to one of the very helpful ladies at "Leiner”,

“Daß (as I waved my hand in a sweeping fashion to take in all the pillows,  sheets and comforters) für mich ist ein Fremdes Land”


That is to say,  I’m on foreign soil,  and I’m not just talking about which country we’re in. 

It wasn’t until many years into our relationship that I finally figured out the significance of “thread count”.   That’s just one tiny example.  Really behind the curve here.


In hindsight it would have been more cost effective to go to Slovenia for the weekend.  Beyond that I have no comment.  There were several bags.  Big.  Heavy bags.




Today,  (Sunday)  an idea was floated to just go down to the First District and meander around.  In the past we’ve only ever ventured down there to go to one of the churches. 

Thankfully there’s not much open on a Sunday,  so I didn’t have to lug any bags home again.  It just so happened that there was a flea market type of thing going on just off Kärtner Straße,  so that was a bit of a diversion.


I guess for those who like to “collect” things,  there was bound to be something of interest.  I have enough “stuff” in my life,  and usually only if there are old tools I might show the slightest interest.  Usually though it’s just pitiful junk.


Need a boar’s head??


I’ve seen this sort of thing in Belgium,  Paris….Florida.

(Huge Flea Markets in Florida!)

I don’t mean the boar’s head necessarily,  but the rest of it.

The languages spoken are different,  but the junk is the same.




Part of the “display”  was inside a shopping mall,  and the floor of one of the elevators caught my eye.



We’ve never been here when the mall is open either,  but it’s a lot of somewhat high end shops with a prices to match.    I’m pretty sure you could by the sewing machine,  serger,  material and pay for enough lessons to make some of the clothes,  and still come out ahead.    Who pays €2250 for a skirt??  I didn’t take a picture,  although I guess I should have. 


Before we were about to head out the door,   there was briefly the thought of taking the subway,  but I opted for the car.  There’s a very nice parking garage right next to the Opera,  which also happens to be considerably better lit and cleaner than the one we use around the corner from our front door.




And one would think that for the privilege of parking there,  one would have to pay a tidy sum.   Well no,  we were pleasantly surprised that by using our second parking access card (don’t know what else to call it)  our total cost was less than two Euros.  I actually forget,  but I think it was something like €1,60.     One trip on the subway to get there would have been €1,80.  

Works for me.


This “second parking access card” is one that gets us into a whole network of parking garages,  where we not only get a slight discount (I think it’s 15%,  but I don’t remember)  but there’s no need to go to the “Kassa”  to validate a card for egress. (um…to get out).  We simply use the card in the little machine,  it get’s read and then read again when we leave.   The amount shows up on an invoice at some point later in a monthly cycle.   It just gets added to the amount that is already automatically taken from our bank account.  

We’ve touched on that.  It’s scary I know,  but convenient.


Neither one of us wanted to hang around too much longer after our bit of a walk about,  and it turns out that we got home none too soon,  since Mariahilfer Straße was closed off for some sort of protest/demonstration/whatever…












I’ve done a bit of searching on the net to try and figure out what these chimps were on about,  and your guess is as good as mine.  It’s obvious that it’s some sort of Austrian/Turkish association,  but beyond that,  I haven’t a clue.   If your going to bellow into a bullhorn,  probably not the best idea to do it in Turkish,  in a German speaking country??   Even if it had been in German I might not have filled in the blanks.  Just too hard to figure out. 



Plus,  I’d have to actually give a rat’s tiny behind. 





Friday, July 22, 2011

That whole "Aida" thing.

And no,  I’m not talking about my Aunt Ada.  She passed away a few years ago.

OK,  that will be my only attempt at levity.  I promise.

Although,  I have to say,  my Aunt Ada was quite the going concern,  but that might be a topic for another day.

(and this post is about three times longer than my usual snippets,  so just be warned)

So what is it about this “thing” that would entice me to not only drive 700 kilometres,  but to then also sit huddled in the rain,  in order to have this experience?  More on the rain aspect later.  I also promise.

I guess it’s a hard thing to explain.  Have you ever had one of those moments in your life that has left an indelible impression on your memory?   Jean-Paul Sartre was of the opinion that we are a collection of our experiences.   That’s arguably a very simplistic view of something referred to as “existentialism”,  and would be shot down in a heartbeat if I were to ever dare say such a thing in the presence of anyone well versed in the subject.  But it is true,  we are essentially a collection of memories.

You can probably come up with your own examples,   but I’ll just briefly give you a couple of mine.

1) Seeing a drummer like Buddy Rich perform live,  and having the pictures to prove it. 
(on a personal level,  he was apparently a real jerk, but I wasn’t interested in a “meet and greet”)
That guy was awesome!

2) Standing at the end of the runway in Baden-Söllingen,  Germany in the spring of 1979 with my brother Angus,  who was stationed there with the Canadian Air Force, watching CF-104 Starfighters come in….with our fingers firmly planted in our ears.
You’d think that 100 feet is a quite the height,  but it’s really close when it comes to fighter planes overhead.  Trust me.
Won’t forget that ‘till the day I die!

I’m sure I could go on.  Those are a couple examples of events that remain vividly etched into my memory to this day.

Going to the “Arena di Verona” to see a performance of Aida is right up there.

Besides,  it was Travelling Companion’s birthday present!

Of course,  the major difference is,  I’m now a lot older,  and I do tend to forget stuff,  but I’m pretty sure this one is going to stick with me.
I have to say,  and I don’t know exactly why this is,  but I’m not easily impressed.  I might respect someone for working hard and being able to execute the results of their years of study and hard work,  such as the astronauts I mentioned yesterday.  But I don’t really go all “ape shit”  over well,  anything.   I’m not a “fan” of anybody,  even though there have been those people along the way who have impressed me.  Mostly musicians I find.  (it's all that hard work)

We’ve been to a few operas here in Vienna,  and we’ve even had occasion to check out the Canadian Opera Company going back as far as 1992.   But having said that,  I’m really not a huge fan.   I’m a simple enough guy,  that I do need to be “entertained”,  which is why the only operas we’ve seen so far usually have at least a few good “tunes” in them.   With the Canadian Opera Company,  it was Carmen.  If you ever get a chance,  go see it.  The music is wonderful.  Here in Vienna,  if you don’t go to at least one opera,  or even an operetta,  you’re just a fool.  Sorry.  That’s like driving to Kingman, Arizona and then not wanting to take a detour to see the Grand Canyon.   Are you kidding me?

So even if you’re not an Opera fan,  and thankfully not everyone is,  or we’d never get decent seats, if you’ve EVER been to a high school or University/College graduation,  you have quite likely heard parts of this opera!   I’m not kidding.  (whether you knew it or not!!)

Just as a side note,  back in May of ‘03,  we were lucky enough to get invited to the graduation of one of the brothers of a friend,  and during the ceremony,  the band played the processional 17 times!   After the third time,  I decided to start counting,  since this was the graduating class from Annapolis,  (otherwise known as the US Naval Academy) and there were some 950 graduates!  They started out with 1000,  but a few of them fell by the wayside.  It happens.

So I’ve included a link to something on YouTube,  where this “Triumphant March” is being played.  The sound quality is kind of sketchy,  but I’m sure you’ll recognise this tune.
The link also opens in a new window,  so you can bail out if you so choose.

The performance at the arena doesn’t start until some time after nine p.m.,  since it really needs to be dark outside for the proper effect.
We already had our tickets,  and had found a suitable place to have dinner,  and still had a bit of time to kill waiting to get in.

Took them a little while to find someone with a key to open our gate.  Honestly,  this was the same deal as in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.  They’ve been doing this for decades,  and they’re still disorganised! 
Even though I didn’t get to choose the exact seats when I purchased them on line,  we had pretty damned good seats,  being as we were in row five.   That was the other reason that our gate wasn’t open just yet,  and that is that the advise is,  if you’re to be up on the slabs,  you need to get there early to get a good seat,  since it’s a free for all.   This was a “once in a life time”, so that whole scene didn’t interest us in the least.

A couple shots taken from our seats:

This is what I mean by “slabs”.
Some of the lower ones that were "assigned seating"  had seat inserts.

It just so happened that I was on the aisle,  and had a decent view of the brass section as well,  and couldn’t help but get a shot of the second trumpet player’s hair style. 

I took this before the performance so no,  I would never stand there like a dope and take photos when they’re working.

I’m not even going to comment on the mullet.

One of the other cool things about Aida,  is that Guiseppi Verdi  didn’t mind using brass instruments at all.  Actually,  he uses brass instruments a lot in his music,  and I recall vividly the Contrabass Trombone in Tosca that was mind blowing.
It’s very hard to capture the entire aura of the experience,  but I’m pretty sure at one point I recall sitting there muttering,  “Holy Cr*p”,  because there was stuff happening everywhere you looked!

I get Goosebumps just looking back through the photos.

Note:  Guys on horseback??

In the third act,  not only does the brass section really shine,  but there’s also an entirely additional brass section (about a 20 piece band by the looks of it)  up in the corner of the stage,  along with 12 additional trumpet players stationed six to a side.

Just awesome.

So what about the weather forecast?
Well,  they were calling for a 30% chance of rain.  Pretty damned accurate if you ask me,  since it seemed that it rained just about 30% of the time.  Neither of us were wearing watches,  so I’m only guessing here.
We got sort of started into the second act,  and I was pretty sure I felt something on my nearly bald head,  and just as you would look up into the lights at a ball game,  I could see that,  yup it’s raining.   Cr*p!

No sooner had I looked back to the performers,  and there goes I think it was one of the viola players out of the pit and straight for the door!   The conductor was still conducting away,  every thing was going along tickety-boo,  and then everyone else realised,  “Oh Crap!  It’s raining"!

Um ya,  they don't play in the rain.  Them fiddles in particular don't like the rain all that much.

Now I swear to you here and now,  the orchestra pit and stage was completely empty within 30 seconds!   It was amazing.   We had our umbrellas,  so we camped out for a good half hour there,  waiting for a weather update.

All part of the experience!

They hadn’t brought out the two harps yet that are needed a little later on,  so that was a good thing.

Kind of glad I didn’t wear a suit.

There were a couple additional false starts a little later on,  and finally it cleared up nicely for the third and fourth acts.  Because of the delay,  we did unfortunately miss the rest of the second act altogether,  but these things happen,  and there’s not too much you can do about it.

I think it was after the second rain delay,  that the people behind us actually LEFT!  Silly buggers.  I just figured,  I drove all the way from Vienna,  and there’s no damned way I’m leaving until they kick me out.

Good thing too,  since the moon came out at one point,  which just added to the whole experience.

So I mentioned that we didn’t have any time pieces?  It didn’t really matter,  since I didn’t want to be fussing over the time anyway,  and we had rested most of the day in anticipation of having a “late night”.  What we didn’t realise was that it would be after THREE in the morning by the time we got back to the hotel!

I know!  Since when do we ever stay up that late??  I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Once again I’ve stuck a few more pictures on Picasa.  I do have to say however,  that taking pictures in such low light is EXTREMELY difficult,  but I’ve even included the ones that were less than ideal.   You can take a gander here.

Hope everyone has a fine weekend.

…and that the power stays on to keep those air conditioners running!

 OK...having some trouble uploading directly from Live Writer,  so I've done the copy and paste thing.


The other night,  Travelling Companion was surfing here and there,  and stumbled across this one,  and at first she said,  "Oh,  that guy looks familiar",  and she was referring to some guy sitting in front of us,  and sure enough,  at the 11 second mark,  you can see another guy who looks kind of familiar.

Also,  I did find another cute little video taken on the way to and inside the arena.   These folks were up on the slabs.   linky    Those last two should also open in a new window.  Just so you know.

The internet still freaks me out sometimes.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

What’s up in Titusville?

I know I was going to touch on our experience taking in the performance of Aida in Verona,  but this has taken my attention away from that.


If you care to have a gander at just where Titusville happens to be,  you’ll see right across the water,  due east,  that a rather poignant event took place there this morning about 40 minutes before the sun came up.


There’s not much to say really.   It’s been an interesting and fun thirty years.  That is of course,  with the exception of a couple tragic events.  Nobody claimed it was easy.

Amazingly,  we can now watch a lot of the goings on with live internet feeds.

You’ll no doubt be able to see lots of stuff on the news and on the web,  but I’ve put a few pics up here as well.

Well,  quite a few actually.


I should mention as a cautionary note that I won’t keep those pictures up for ever and ever.  I see that I’m eventually going to run out of space on my free Picasa account,  so I’ll be punting them out at some point to make room for more stuff.


Here’s a smattering in the mean while.






Truth be told,  most of these people will have worked their last shift….


That was also what I meant by “poignant”.







There are a couple additional things to consider.   Throughout the “walk about” that the astronauts do after getting out of the orbiter,  half of the folks wandering around down below that they greet are former astronauts,  who have now moved on to perform other functions within NASA.    Just imagine all the hours of studying,  training and hard work each one of them has had to do to get there.  Also,  I couldn’t get over the quality of the HD video feed. 


Truly amazing.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why not Venice?

First of all,  in the “dumb as a post”  category,  I have a bit of a confession.
In spite of having numerous maps of pretty much all of Europe,  and this was due to the less than stellar performance of the navigation system in the Audi that we had in the Netherlands,  we managed to drive to Italy and back without taking along any hint of a map. 
Kind of dumb I suppose,  but if it came right down to it,  we did have a meagre map of Verona,  and I could have pointed the car east and made my way back to Austria.  
But we KNEW that Venice wasn’t all that far away in the grand scheme of things,  and maybe it’s a Canadian thing,  but we think nothing of driving far and wide at the drop of a hat.  It’s not as easy when one gets a little “on in years” and I would no longer consider working all day and then heading off to some distant city three hours away to hang out with friends.  
Did that kind of thing when I was 24….not 54.  But roughly an hour’s drive to go to Venice for the day?   Why not?
So that’s what we did on Saturday.

Once again,  you can read all about Venice to your hearts content on the internet,  but I’ll try and sum up Venice in one word. 



See,  if you take any Old World city and replace all the streets with waterways,  that would be part of the equation.   The thing is,  in recent years,  to keep the amount of particulate down to a manageable level,  car and truck engine manufacturers have had to jump through hoops to meet certain pollution control standards.   If you drove a diesel thirty years ago,  there was a very good chance that that sucker STUNK.   Diesel engines still tend to be a tad stinky,  but you can actually walk around the hind end of the BMW (it’s a diesel btw)  and you’re not going to gag in the slightest. 
I vividly recall the first time I came to Europe and was studying at the British Institute in Paris,  just how bad the fumes could be.  (That would be 1978 by the way, for those of you with score cards)  There were a couple mornings during the week when my classes started at 8:00 a.m.,  which meant having to brave not only the smelly subway,  but also a mix of diesel fumes and French cigarette smoke.  Man,  I want to tell ya,  I’m a little “gaggy” in the morning as it is,  and there were a couple times there when I just about tossed my cookies.
Oh,  and I was a smoker at the time!!

So here’s the thing:  While the gondolas are human powered,  all the other boats are driven by engines.   Most of them are diesels,  and none of them seem to be required to adhere to the same pollution control standards of land based vehicles.

So no matter in which direction you looked….stinky diesels.
I did see a couple Honda four strokes,  but we know how pricey those things are,  so they were as rare as hen’s teeth.

Um…so…ya,  SMELLY.

The other thing too about Venice is that well,  “you can’t there from here”,  which was an expression that we were fond of using when we lived in Puerto Rico.  Remember what I said about waterways?   Well,  we had the car.

See that line of vehicles?  We inched along in that line for a good half hour waiting to get into a parking lot.   Sure glad the car is air conditioned.
Unless you’re actually sitting on the toilet at this moment,  I don’t want to tell you what we paid for parking,  the water “bus” and so on,  since you’ll crap your drawers. 
There’s  a certain frame of mind you have to put yourself in,  and it’s sort of like the semi-comatose state that I try to put myself in for air travel.   You just suck it up,  and do what you have to,  or pay what you have to pay.

At first we wanted to get into the Garage San Marco,  which is about the farthest you can get by car,  but as we were coming over the causeway,  the signs indicated that that parking garage was full,  so we opted instead to park at the Isola del Tronchetto,  and take the “People Mover” over to the island.

That one, I must say,  was the cheapest ride that we had,  since it was only €1,00 per person each way.   Of course, it only had two stops,  so it’s not like we’ll need to alert the media or anything.

In spite of some slight motion sickness issues (which I didn’t experience in Venice for some reason)  I love hanging around boats of all kinds,  so just the whole idea of having to board public transit that’s on the water somehow makes taking public transit (read: being squished in with many,  many people)  just that much more palatable.   Or maybe, “less onerous”?  Anyone who has been following along has a pretty good idea of my views on public transit.  
Not my first choice.
There’s something unique though in chugging along on a water “bus”,   hearing an ambulance,  and then seeing the boat fly by at about 40 knots!    Not sure where else you get to see that.  Not any place I’ve been so far,  that’s for sure.

Without getting into all the silly little details,  we basically wandered around,  took a few pics,  had a nice meal,  then meandered down to the canal to sit for a while with a couple libations, watch the boats,  the people and so on.    Then there’s that moment when we look at each other and we know that,  “that’s enough”,  and we made our way back to the car,  and back to Verona.  It was getting past six p.m. by then anyway.

Now,  having said these things,  you might think that I didn’t enjoy going to Venice,  or wonder whether Venice is worth seeing at least once in your life?  Hell yes!  Venice is cool.    I knew it would be crowded.  I already knew the weather would be hot.  So? Who cares? 

We were an hour away by car.  To not make the effort to go there would have been just pitiful,  and something we’d regret for an awfully long time.

Will we go back?
Well…   We pretty much figure we’re “done” with Italy,  as far as we can tell, but like I said,  we were in Verona with time on our hands anyway,  and there was no way we were NOT going to visit Venice.    I’ve shoved a bunch more pictures of scenes from Venice here..

But hey,  there might be another opera that we feel that we’ll just have to go see,  so who knows?  Never say never.

Speaking of which,  I’ll leave all about Aida until tomorrow.


Just a little test.

Being exceedingly cautious and not wanting to totally mess up what little bit of simplicity I already have going for me here in Blogger Land,  I had some trepidation about making too many changes.   Well no,  I have trepidation about making ANY changes….

Thanks to Rick,  from WAY OVER on the other side of the world,  who just happened to stop by,  I think I have it sorted out. Thanks Rick.

(and by the way,  I still get a little bit ga-ga over the idea that some guy way over in B.C., Canada was able to give me some advise.  Who woulda thunk??)

I mean,  I guess I would have sorted it out eventually,  but I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

I’m pretty much a “default”  kind of guy,  so making changes pretty much scares the bejeebers out of me.   Turns out it was easy after all,  once I realised what I was doing.   I also discovered this little thing where you can back up and then save your template.  This I also did.

There was a “widget” that I found,  but that one looked a little too involved for me.  It was some sort of deal where the reader could adjust the text size,  but involved adding heaps of code to the existing template.  Wasn’t all that sure I wanted to do that.



So,  we’re going to try on this text size for a while.  I’m OK with it.  This is as big as I’m willing to go,  only because it’s the way I like it. 


I’ll get back to our regularly scheduled programming in a bit. 

Thanks for stopping by.




Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Apologies.

Took a little blogging vacation there it seems.   Turns out travelling and blogging is a bit of a challenge for me?
Doesn’t seem like it should be hard,  but we were either out and about or flaked out in our hotel room. 
I also got a suggestion that the print size I’m using is a tad small,  so the hope is that whatever print size I’ve just picked gets “saved” somehow,  and I don’t have to go through the process every single time I open Live Writer.  That would be annoying.
We’ll see what happens.  I’m not usually open to anyone making suggestions as to what I should do in this little corner of my internet universe,  but it was a valid point,  so I don’t mind. 
Too much.

(so we’ve seen Swiss Alps,  Austrian Alps,  Slovenian Alps…..these would be Italian Alps.  I’m sure you can tell the difference.)

So,  what about this whole Verona thing?   Well,  I’ll tell you this much,  it was just a couple kilometres over 700 from our front door to our run of the mill hotel,  just outside Verona.  I just got a note this morning from for my review.  I’m sort of putting that off,  since I’m not quite sure how just what I want to say.  When it comes to average three star hotels,  I’m usually pretty generous,  if they’re trying hard.  They don’t need a pool,  or fitness room,  or whatever else it is that people expect of a four or five star place,  but they do actually have to have fresh food for breakfast and well, I really shouldn’t get started on that topic.   That’s a really slippery slope. 
You’re probably a little more interested in just what the heck we did for four days.  Yes?
Thursday night.  Not too danged much.  After the drive,  we both flaked out for a couple hours,  and came down to eat in the “restaurant”.  Again,  I’ve put restaurant in quotation marks,  since that was the only night that we ate there.  Zombie girl completely forgot that I had ordered a steak,  which turned out to be a pretty good thing,  since I saw someone else struggling with a chunk of meat on their plate a little later on.   And I mean,  a person shouldn’t eat that much later in the evening anyway.  So she was really just looking out for me.
However,  if you bring a glass of wine to a table where two people are sitting,  and the guy is looking at you and wondering if you have his beer hidden behind your back,  wouldn’t that be a clue that something is missing?  Of course,  that also means sitting there looking at that one drink,  waiting for Zombie girl to come back with it's mate,  so as to perhaps do a little glass clinking in celebration of the occasion.
It was after all,  Travelling Companion’s birthday,  which was the reason for the entire outing to start with.

Friday we did the touristy thing in Verona which,  apart from the Arena,  is a fairly typical Old World city,  with moats and walls and various forms of fortifications.  Since I have the attention span of a gnat,  I’ll only give you a link to a rather elaborate write up I found here,  and you can read as much or as little as you’d like.  We were there mostly to see the Arena,  and more or less get our bearings.   I wanted to make sure I had our tickets in my possession,  so as to avoid any sort of last minute issues. 


Here you can see part of the Arena,  which used to have another layer around the outside,  but since the place is going on what?  1980 years old?  there are some parts missing.  It’s not so much as a relic,  as a functioning theatre.  Crazy.

Here’s one part of the outer wall that remains. 


You can see it here from the inside…


I’ve noticed that each and every time I upload a picture,  I have to go back and change the font to the larger size.  Not sure I’m happy with that.  I’m not really one for taking notes and then uploading a whack of pictures all at once so as not to have to fool with the font,  so the jury is out on the font size.  I’m just saying.

I see by my trusty word count thingy,  that’s I’m getting into snooze land as far as attention spans might be concerned,  so that’s going to be it for today. 

Since there’s not nearly enough junk already on the net,  I’ve uploaded a whack of random photos I took in Verona,  here.

Tomorrow.  Venice.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

More on Absurdistan.

I was going to include this with the thing on the parking garage,  but I was starting to really go on and on.  Plus,  one of the rather neat things about live writer is, I can whip up something and hang onto it for a while,  and then pop it off onto the net at some later time.  Like now.

Oh,  and I also noticed if I hit the wrong keys on this computer’s keyboard,  I’m suddenly using symbols that I don’t quite know what to do with.  Sure wish I knew how to shut that one off.



Although one could argue that I’m a little off topic here,  since it probably has more to do with bureaucracy or other related examples of ineptness.

However, I give you,  exhibit “A”. 

(There’s not going to be a “B”, but I just like using that phrase.)


postal idiots

Now,  I’ve blocked out some information there,  since I don’t want my enemies to come and kill me in my bed.  Well,  you know,  it’s the internet and everything,  and I might like to make fun of some officials or something,  and we don’t need no Polizei knocking on our door.


If you examine those two very similar letters,  you’ll notice that the one on the top has a “return to sender” type of sticker on it?   Both of these were received in the mail a couple days ago.  The smaller one was INSIDE the bigger one.  There were birthday cards for Travelling Companion in each.  One from last year,  and one from this year.   Seems that the card that was send last year from Guelph,  (Ontario,  Canada)  was sent back and my sister-in-law decided to put it in the envelope of the second one. 

Now that’s worthy of a comment right there,  since there’s now way I’d ever be able to hang onto and then find again something that came back to me in the mail some time last year AND manage to remember to find a card whose envelope is big enough to put it in.

Pretty freakin’ organised if you ask me. 

So now,  since I’ve blanked out a couple things,  to keep from getting taken away in hand cuffs or bumped off by some undesirables,  you have to take my word for it,  that the addresses and names are IDENTICAL.  Yet the letter from last year was sent back,  since we and our address are somehow “Unbekant”.   That is,  “unknown”.


So for kicks and giggles,  I took yon envelope over to the post office to ask a couple questions.   I was going to do that earlier in the day,  but there were line ups like you wouldn’t believe.  So I had to leave it until it was stinkin’ hot out,  but no biggie.

Again,  they didn’t have an answer.  Remember the parking garage dough head?   I mean,  I was kind and everything,  even though slightly sarcastic,  since I did ask,  “Soll ich vorbeikommen jeder so oft um zu sehen ob es hier ein paar Briefe für uns gibt?”

Oh wait.  Sorry.  No need to go to google translate.  I just asked if I should come by ever so often to see if there was any letters for us? 

The young lad chuckled.  The old girl who came over to see what was up wasn’t as amused.  I did say,  “Well,  thankfully we have email,  so we don’t have to actually rely on the mail or anything.” 

Was that bad?


Turns out,  they don’t handle that sort of thing anyway,  and the old girl gave me some customer service number.


Like I want to call some stinkin’ bureaucrat.  Not in the mood for it today,  I’ll tell you that much.


Maybe next week some time.


I’ll try and update from Verona.


Why does that always make me think of that tune by The Knack??





Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Life in Absurdistan

Most days I haven’t a clue what I’d like to share.
Not a problem today.
So here’s the routine:  Since I need to get the blood flowing in the morning anyway, and it gives me a chance to pick up one of the free newspapers at the corner, (and worth every penny,  I might add)  Travelling Companion and I both go down to the parking garage around the corner from our front door,  I go with her down to the car and off she goes.  Some times I drive her,  but most of the time she’s on her own.
But every so often,  there’s a minor issue with the whole procedure.   As a “Dauerparker”,  that is to say,  long term parking customer (doesn’t translate easily)  we have what looks like a credit card,  with a chip in it that gets us in and out of the garage. 
That’s the theory anyway.

So, when coming in with the car,  you wave this thing in front of the sensor,  the bar goes up,  you drive in.

Turns out I managed to NOT get a shot of the device where you either get your ticket or wave your card. 
Just pretend you can see it off to the left there.

And you can see that it’s two flights down.


Now I’ll admit that once in a while,  and it seems to be about three times a year,  one of us manages to leave the stupid card in the car and come out without it.   We don’t discover this until we need to get the car out of course,  which means having to push the call button,  take some abuse from some guy making minimum wage somewhere in some “control room” and hope he’ll open the door for us.  It would be oh so nice to have some sort of back up system like a key pad with a pin code,  but these chimps haven’t considered this.
So this morning,  even though we HAD our card,  it didn’t matter. The only message I got when I tried to get in was, “Bitte zur Kasse”,  which means “please go to the cash” or maybe we’d say, "please see the cashier”.   Well,  I’m not sure how that’s supposed to happen,  since we can’t get in,  and the Dude in the control room can’t seem to open the door either.   
So much for his big power trip.


You can see the camera up there to the left,  and a yellow spot on that control panel to the right,  in front of which you wave your long term parking card.  I don’t know how many times I’ve come along there to go in, and some poor sod is trying to get their paper card to work.  I have no clue how that’s supposed to happen.  I just wave our card,  and we all go in.


So you’re probably wondering,  “Well Bob,  why on earth should this door be locked??” 
Well let me tell ya. 


If you happen to notice the address there,  you’ll see that the entrance to this parking garage is on a pretty busy street.  Can’t just have any Tom, Dick or Smelly Man wandering in there to spend the night.   That’s a whole other story,  and was happening just after we had moved here and started using the garage.    The door wasn’t getting locked,  and there was a nightly visitor.  Now,  I spent the first few years of my life on a farm,  and I swear I’ve never smelled anything as bad as this guy.  I’ll let you use your imagination.   The heat is on in the building.  You don’t even have the stomach for any breakfast…and THAT is the first strong smell you get in the morning.   Wuf.
Both of us holding our breath waiting for the elevator got tired in a real hurry.
So ever since then,  that door has been locked.
I’m OK with that.

Now on with our little saga.
So fine,  since it’s after 7:00 a.m.,  and we know that the big door where the cars go in and out is up,  we decide to hoof it around the corner. 


I leave Travelling Companion at the street level and slink down the ramp (it’s two flights,  remember),  get the car,  but then the card won’t let me out at the gate either.
It just so happened that one of the cleaning Dude’s was hanging about,  and so he very graciously tried to help,  although it was mostly a matter of something or other being reset or God knows what,  and we finally got the car extricated from the garage. 
The advice was,  you need to phone “Mr. Maurer”.
So that’s what I did.  Dug through our tiny little jam packed,  never can find a damned thing filing system,  found some information from these people,  and got on the phone.
I do realise that once in a while I get the idea that I’m completely lost when it comes to expressing myself in another language.  It turns out though,  all you have to do is piss me off a little,  and I’ll rip your face off. 
See,  Mr. Maurer didn’t have an answer for me,  and tried to tell me that my wife had done something wrong when she came home last night.  What?  Just hang on there Tonto.  Yet another guy smoking some of that good B.C. Bud.
How can you do something “wrong”,  when you do the same routine every flippin’ night?   You wave your card in front of the little sensor.  The gate goes up.  You drive in.  Is there some other way??
Oh,  he had all kinds of excuses.  Could be the computer.  Could be the internet. 
Don’t care. 
And you know,  if he had offered just a hint of an apology,  I might not have been quite so terse with him.  Some times machines screw up.  But I still wanted my answer. 
I also made a point in mentioning that their company has no difficulty taking their fee out of our bank account every month,  so then why the hell can’t I get my car out??  
He didn’t have an answer.
I honestly hope I never meet “Mr. Maurer”. 
I have no desire to be blogging from some fine Austrian jail cell.

Not long after getting off the phone with the idiot,  I got a call from Travelling Companion,  wondering if her card is going to work tonight.  We guess so. 
Who knows, really? 

Other than that,  she did have some good news to share,  and that was that her pow-wow in Switzerland for next Tuesday had been called off.   This is a good thing,  since we’re leaving for Verona tomorrow,  and won’t be getting back here until some time Monday afternoon.  As it was,  she was going to have a bag all packed ahead of time,  we’d zip in here,  grab it and dash off to the airport Monday night.   Thankfully we no longer have to do that.

Which reminds me, now I’ll need to have something in the freezer for us to chew on when we get home Monday afternoon.  Ruh-roh.

I’d better go sort that out.