Saturday, March 28, 2009
Cassie has thirteen years of French language classes, but I think she's a little nervous being the only French speaker in the family.
Mike is a carpenter, electrician, plumber...a jack of all the building trades. Cassie runs the local health food store. They're really nice folks. If you happen to run across them in the village, be sure to say "Bonjour" or "Howdy". In case of an emergency, or just some puzzling French bureaucratic boondoggle, we've given them the phone numbers of a few English speaking folks in the village, so if you're in Leran, and get a call from someone with an American accent, it may be them.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Ever since that business trip, I have been thinking about that observation of Chuck’s. I have listened in and participated in numberless conversations about people, things and ideas. However, I don’t know too many brilliant, world class thinkers so I can’t confirm the truth of the matter. I will say that if you examine your own conversation on a daily basis with your friends and co-workers, it’s generally about things. Places, cars, tasks undone, sports and so on, perhaps with a few ideas thrown in and a few snide remarks about people. Talking about ideas is a good way to begin an argument. Talking about people is a good way to hurt their feelings.
At times I have listened in to conversations and have been astonished how much people care about the lives of others. And I don’t mean that in a good way. They were not discussing the welfare of poor Africans, suffering Iraqis, or Palestinians and Israelis. They were chatting incessantly about the lives of their co-workers, mutual friends, relatives and celebrities. How do they know so much about the minutiae of other people’s lives?
And I have noticed when I am with certain people, we tend to elevate the quality of our conversation. I don’t mean I elevate the quality of their conversation, or they elevate the quality of my conversation, I mean we elevate the quality of each other’s conversation.
But after all these years, I never knew if that was an original observation by my highly intelligent co-worker, Chuck, or some great thought from some deep thinker like Sophocles or Shakespeare. So, I Googled the general theme and this is what I came up with:
Brilliant people talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people.—Anonymous
Great people talk about ideas. Small people talk about other people.---Tobias S. Gibson
So I guess it was neither an original thought by Chuck, nor an old piece of wisdom from Shakespeare, but an anonymous thought from long ago. And then Tobias S. Gibson had to go and misquote Anonymous. And then there is this:
Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine.----Fran Lebowitz
Wouldn’t you like to sit down and have a glass of wine and a conversation with Fran Lebowitz?
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
MOSCOW -- For a decade, Russian academic Igor Panarin has been predicting the U.S. will fall apart in 2010. For most of that time, he admits, few took his argument -- that an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S. -- very seriously. Now he's found an eager audience: Russian state media.
California will form the nucleus of what he calls "The Californian Republic," and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of "The Texas Republic," a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an "Atlantic America" that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls "The Central North American Republic." Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.
"It would be reasonable for Russia to lay claim to Alaska; it was part of the Russian Empire for a long time." A framed satellite image of the Bering Strait that separates Alaska from Russia like a thread hangs from his office wall. "It's not there for no reason," he says with a sly grin.
Yeah, right. I guess I just have to laugh. I know I can't predict the future so I don't try very often. However, I simply can't imagine the governors of Texas and the other southern states, after some event that leaves the US government powerless, sitting down and deciding to ask Mexico to intervene on their behalf. Would Mexico invade Texas and Florida and Georgia? Would Arnold Schwarzenegger sit down with the governors of the other western states and say "Let's call China and see if they will act as our benevolent dictator."? Would China invade from across the Pacific? We may be in economic dire straits, but I don't see Professor Panarin's prediction coming true. What do you think?
Monday, March 16, 2009
We would frequently happen upon visitors who were testing the limits of the very tolerant animals in the park. People would wander too close to bears, bison, moose, elk and even deer, in the hopes of getting a really good photograph. Very seldom was it the professional photographer, or knowledgeable amateur. They had good lenses. It was always the goober with the Kodak Instamatic.
The standard rule we adhered to was, "If the animal notices you or your movements, then you are too close." A number of times I had to approach an animal that was near the trail or boardwalk because of some requirement of the job. I was armed with bear spray, and even more important, armed with respect and fear. If a bison or bear raised it’s head and looked in my direction, it was time to stop and back off. Each species, each individual animal has a different tolerance level. As you might imagine, any animal with offspring has a tolerance level that is much different than that same animal at another time.
A lot of Yellowstone Park critters are much different than similar animals elsewhere in the Park or in the National Forest. Many animals, such as elk, are habituated to the presence of humans and tolerate large numbers of them standing around them, taking pictures while the critter grazes or naps. An elk whose habitat is a few hundred miles away outside the park, where hunting is legal, or in the interior of the park, far away from roads has absolutely no tolerance for the presence of humans and you would rarely see them unless you were separated by hundreds of yards.
Some of you have no doubt seen the video that is on display at the Canyon Visitors’s Center in Yellowstone. It shows a man getting too close to a bison. He is taking a picture and uses a small lodgepole pine to shield him from the animal. The bison takes no notice of him and the man gets a little closer, snapping away. In no more than two seconds the bison looks up, charges and impales the man on it’s horns, throws him into the lodgepole, and goes back to grazing. It is a very powerful video. And it was always amazing to those of us who worked in the park, how stupidly close visitors would get to animals and in most cases, how amazingly tolerant the animals were.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Day 58, Wednesday, August 19, 1987 (entered Thursday)
I sit at the desk (yes, the word is correct) of our hotel room at the Auberge d’ Alencon on the "Avenue St. Germain in Maison Lafitte. We moved over here Wednesday afternoon so Doug could be more comfortable during his hoped recuperation. Tuesday night was pretty rough for him after he ate some cheese and bread and some of the canned tabbouleh from the camp store. He began to get the shivers, then got hot spells, then shivers again, nausea, so headed for the bathroom. After taking diarrhea medicine, the only way out was up. From about 2:00 till 5:00 am he was up and down, finally he just stayed at the toilets and layed down there in one of the toilet stalls. When nothing else would come up he came back to bed. He slept till about 11:00 am. Meanwhile I found out there was a hospital in town so we bicycled over there about noon. The doctor was Mediterranean looking, spoke little English, but eventually we were able to inform him of our suspicion so Lambia Giardia dating back to the Bozeman trailer. At any rate he tended to agree, but without stool inspection could not be positive. Since it had happened before (two months ago, two weeks ago, and now) he felt that it wasn’t food poisoning. Issued prescription for Flaggyl, an anti-parasitic. Drug to be take two times daily with meals. I guess it didn’t matter that no pharmacies were open at that time, because he would wait till dinner to take, In all, about 10 pharmacies in town, all but 2 closed for annual vacation! The hospital bill for emergency services was 80 F for BP, pulse and consultation. Still cheap by American standards I guess. Doug went back to camp and I searched town for open hotel. There appear to be only 3, and two were closed for annual vacation! Packed up and moved from camp to hotel at 2:00. Luckily only charged for 3 nites at camp (138 F). Hotel is 170 F per night, but we have our own bain/douche, WC and lavabo. Right on the main street near station, so traffic ( both motor and foot) is incessant. But what we do have as opposed to the concentration camps is PRIVACY. That seems to be becoming a treasured sentiment for us these days, after living at such close quarters at these campgrounds. We now understand why these Europeans have these gargantuan tents—so that they can at least separate themselves from the masses. Doug rested for the afternoon on yet another uncomfortable bed. I went to the pharmacy to get medicine (24.70 F) and to the store for mineral water. The doc says the water in France is okay, but how’s come we see everybody drinking mineral water. After a leisurely afternoon, took baths, washed out a few things and walked up the street for dinner. A very ordinary pre-fixe meal @ 55 F. Doug was feeling better - no cramps or nausea yet but this was the first he had to eat all day. Time would tell. At least he wouldn’t have to go traipsing all around camp tonight. Back to the hotel, in bed fairly early, but I had to use the old foam pad on the floor again or my back would have regretted it in the morning. Fortunately Doug slept all night with no nausea or cramps or shivers, just a headache, so maybe the cure is at hand.
Friday, March 13, 2009
The Lewis Lake campground where we were working has several water hydrants where the campers get their water. That year had been an exceptionally wet one and for part of the spring the campground had been partially underwater. The water supply was suspect and it was not safe to drink without boiling until such time as that it could be tested. Giardia lamblia was known to be present in surface water elsewhere in the region. There were signs posted throughout the campground informing the campers of the danger. Because Annie and I were wandering around the campground in our uniforms, we got asked about the subject frequently. We answered the questions to the best of our ability. Giardia is a rough affliction. It causes intense intestinal pain and diarrhea. I know because I’ve had it.
Annie, at one point, got a little too enthusiastic when she saw a gentleman filling his water bottles from the hydrant. She walked up to the visitor and told him, "Be sure to boil that water before you use it. Water in this campground is known to cause gonorrhea."
As you can imagine, the three of us gave each other funny looks for a few brief moments, all of us totally puzzled. Annie didn’t realize what she had said and was clueless, but the visitor was horrified. He must have already had some of the water. When I explained to the visitor that Annie probably meant giardia, not gonorrhea, we all had a good laugh.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
nous fêtons un an d'ouverture le 28 mars et serons très heureux si vous pourriez venir le fêter avec
We are celebrating our first full year on Saturday 28th March and would be very pleased if you could join us that evening to celebrate with us!
Marek & Shirley Woznica
We received the above email from Marek the other day, announcing the festivities to celebrate the one-year anniversary since he and Shirley took over ownership of the Leran Bar. We sure wish that we could be there to help pass along our congratulations, but I guess we'll have to do it this way. It sure brought back memories of many a good evening spent sitting out front of Le Rendez-Vous, sipping cocktails, feasting on one of Shirley's many superb dinners, or just relaxing after a day of tiling. There was always someone else there to chat with, and it easily earned a reputation as the hub of social activity in Leran.
Three orthopedic surgeons and many thousand dollars later, I was still hurting, confused, and ready to resign myself to senior citizenry. My faithful wilderness companion, O’Malley, was falling victim to more ailments than me and had slowed down to a vegetable pace. As his demands declined, I took advantage of self-indulging. My back condition worsened. In the mornings I was so stiff that I had to go down the stairs one at a time. It never occurred to me that, since I was exercising less and less, that I was losing strength and tone in my trunk muscles. My upper body was like a sack of potatoes sitting on my hips. Ouch!
After 15 months of experiencing a canine separation complex after O'Malley's demise, I succumbed. Fergus joined our household late October 2008. I hoped he wouldn’t be as incorrigible as O’Malley during his formative (eight long) years. Fergus has a sweet, eager-to-please disposition; but I’m also sometimes relieved that he does have a sneaky side. Whatever is left on the coffee table disappears; he carts shoes out through his doggie door; he attacks the drip emitters on the irrigation system; he barks at passersby; he prunes the vegetation; and he digs. Well, OK, we’re working on paring these down to just a few.
We weren’t always so religious about taking our dogs out for walks. Life got in the way. But we don’t look for excuses anymore, we just do it. Whoever goes to work later is on walking duty. Fergus knows the morning routine, and most mornings he doesn’t crawl out of bed until it’s light. But, once it is light, he starts lobbying for activity by following us around….everywhere….until we get the hint.
Thankfully, spring has finally arrived in Moab. Even though it is still cold, you know it will warm up once the sun hits you. With the time change to daylight savings, my work schedule starts later and Fergus has me believing that we should be ‘hiking’ instead of ‘walking’. I’m not in total agreement as the stream crossings are rude awakenings if you don’t get your foot placements just right. I must use my trekking pole for balance now, whereas before it was an annoying accessory. Just one more thing to carry. I plod along, sometimes remembering that 10 years ago I was running this very same trail. But when I catch a glimpse of the ‘black flash’ shooting by with legs reddened by Moab dirt, chasing some unknown imaginary critter, I can’t help but smile. Hell, I am still out here, one way or the other!
So, on those mornings when it’s my turn this spring, I pop a few extra Ibuprofens and off we go. The euphoric high lasts through the morning and helps me forget the pain for awhile. Demi Moore, Madonna and Gwennie Paltrow can pay thousands to their personal trainers; but when you really think about it---are they really any better than a canine companion? Fergus is my personal trainer, and he's got a few slots left open.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
We both kept journals that summer. Nancy’s effort is by far the more interesting. Mine is mostly filled with complaints about the direction of the wind, the lack of coffee, beer or showers, the rudeness of anyone we encountered and the general crappiness of the weather. I must say in my defense, that when you are traveling by bicycle, that small irritations become very important. Bicycling is an interesting way to travel and if you have never spent 90 consecutive days on the road, on a bicycle, in a foreign country you probably wouldn’t understand why the lack of an open grocery store at noon, or the lack of cold beer in a grocery store at 5:00 in the evening is irritating. It is.....just take my word for it. You can’t carry everything with you, and you can’t just effortlessly drive across town to an open market. You’re on a bicycle, and the markets are closed anyway.
Compared to me, Nancy, however took time to stop and smell the roses. Then she wrote about it. Each evening, or a day or two later, we spent a few moments to enter the important events in our journals. I plan to enter a few of her entries her on North of Andorra. There is no point in trying to be religious about the passages. I’ll do them in no particular order and with little in the way of notation or explanation. So here is the first from our second day in France just south of Cherbourg.
Day 41 Sunday August 2 (entered Monday)
Thus comes the end of our beautiful weather. Rain and lots of wind during the night. Arose later than usual I suppose because we are further south and it doesn’t get lite here. It was misting / on the verge of rain. Broke camp and headed out towards Mont St. Michelle. Stopped for coffee and croissants outside of town, 30 FF. People here are very congenial and smile a lot, as do we, since neither can understand one another. I guess they call what we had a ‘petite journeles’ or some such thing. I think about how much language clarifies and how much is actually essential for communication. This was soon to prove itself as we left Carteret and into Barneville. Saw a little bike shop that was open, so Doug decided to have his bottom bracket problem looked into. The store employee (or owner) spoke only a few words of English to coincide with Doug’s meager French. But somehow the problem was conveyed. However, Sunday was not his mechanic’s day. As we were standing outside the shop trying to decide whether to stick around or chance going on, Doug asked the owner to borrow/buy a crank puller. He offered to let him bring it into the shop. The then proceeded to, in between customers, to disassemble the bottom bracket only to discover that it was ‘kaput". He did not have the replacements but with a grinder and a drill bit wrapped with sand paper, he was more or less able to reconstruct the arrangement. It was not perfect but it might hold out for awhile. At least we would be back on the road. Cost of 190 FF (about $30) Seemed expensive but we were back in action. We had figured out some rudimentary budgeting expenses for our last 6 weeks, and this could unbalance it, but necessarily so. Finally left Barneville at 11:30 and followed the highway. Scenery was not exciting, weather was worse. The combination of wind (headwind) and rain was beginning to grate on our nerves. Decided to stop for a bite of lunch at Creances, but discovered that Sunday is not the day for shopping in France. All was closed except for a fair that was going on in town. Creances is famous (as the roadside signs say) for it’s carrots. The fair had beer and roasted meat, bread and desserts, and pommes frites. Doug got a beer and we got a half loaf of bread for 2FF and 15 FF for pommes frites. We took a couple of chairs down from the grandstand and with the idea in mind to make some sandwiches when a toothless drunk came over trying to inform us of something or other and kept grabbing at everything. Another guy came over and said something about the chairs. I get frustrated at these moment since I cannot comprehend what is going on. So we went on, down the road outside a shopping center and ate lunch. Back on road eventually to just outside Brehal, in town of Briqueville (-sur-Mer). Camped at ‘Camping al a Ferme’ for 24 FF. Doug took a shower, but no hot water for me, so I waited and waited. An hour later still no hot water. Rode into Brehal a few miles away for dinner at the Hotel de la Gare, wonderful. What a pleasant change from Brit menus. Fixed price at 63 FF each and got a bottle of wine. Hard to communicate with waiter, even to ask if wine is sweet or dry. So what we wound up with was sweet, but good. Bean soup, bread, omelettes, roast pork, frommage. Pleasant dreams tonight that’s for sure. I even had hot water when we got back, so showered.
As you can see "stopping to smell the roses" is relative. It’s hard not to complain when you travel by bicycle.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
It sems to be the beginning of Spring here - trees are budding, crocuses are out, tulips are pushing up longer leaves every day, blackbirds are competing over their new territories and everyone is feeling a little brighter.
Today, 3rd March, we had another wonderful walk. Peter Matthews from Canada led us on a good hike starting at Caudeval to the north east of Léran. Under thin cloud he took us on a long slog uphill to the top of a ridge that overlooked Trésiers and Lagarde (At Lagarde there is a derelict chateau where the aristocratic Levis family lived before they were thrown out during the French Revolution, after which they built their new chateau here in Léran). The sky began to clear and we had great views in all directions. We found a 'bus stop' in the middle of nowhere (see photos), a shed put up by someone who evidently comes here often to enjoy the fantastic views.
After the walk we went back to the Bar in Léran for lunch kindly provided by Marek and Shirley.
In our group, as you can see, there are now plenty of dogs providing potential playful company for Fergus when he returns.
By the way, the walking group now has a name - roll together the three words Les Léran Randonneurs (the Léran hikers) and you get 'Lérandonneurs'. Or as someone said today when we were slightly lost 'Lérandonerreurs'.
We look forward to your return here in the summer.
Julian and Gwenda
PS I don't know why the 'attaching process' muddles up the order of the slides - they should be in order 1 to 9.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Nonetheless, it's a beautiful place and I think I took some nice pictures there. Here they are. The above photo was in the village of Beynac.
This is the beautiful Chateau Beynac perched on the top of the cliff.