April 12, 2013
It must be me, but I think it is strange that Monsanto should own a patent on 25 different tomatoes? I had no clue that if they get a patent in the Netherlands, because of international trade agreements, they own that tomato everywhere. Does that seem wrong to you, too?
I have a piece of property with water on it and I can grow my own tomatoes but I don’t want to. I want to hop down to my local grocery store or farmers market and buy tomatoes when I want them. Pretty soon they’ll own the rights to all seeds, or some such. That isn’t as bizarre as it sounds, not in this heavily weighted corporatacracy that we live in.
I hope you visit this site, read how it works and sign up against this practice.
Besides, they’ve hybridized all the flavor out of an honest tomato. Tasteless. It is an outrage.
I’m planning to travel to Greece or Turkey next year, and I hope to taste honest tomatoes while I’m there. I’ll bring back the flavors in words for you.
April 3, 2013
Picasa claims it solved its picture loading problem on March 26th. It isn’t fixed. No auto load. After considerable effort, I was able to load my Easter Photos. Or, at least that is what I entitled the folder. I took pictures the day before Easter and the day after. I was elated when I saw them loading. I erased them from the camera, and then? Only the first days pictures loaded into the folder. So, my Easter Sunday pictures are gone forever. Bummer.
Kind of past the point, but I got pictures of the kids coloring eggs.
And son-in-law Cedric making the beautiful Easter Bread he baked on Sunday.
Ken and Virginia discussing the bike route they planned for Easter morning.
The bouquet of lilacs that hid a purple egg.
I dug up an older photo of an Elks dinner I attended.
The Chaplain was fascinated by my Faberge Egg Purse.
And I made a sandwich that tasted so good, I made another and took a picture. I sautéed a Portobello mushroom in a scant touch of oil. Both sides, flattened it with a spatula til it was good and hot and juicy all the way through. I put a half slice of good sour dough french bread on top of the mushroom covered it for a minute to warm it. Then I put a 1/4 inch thick slice of mozzarella cheese on top, covered it again until it was soft and melty. Scooped it out of the pan intact and covered it with a handful of water cress, the hydroponically grown kind from the store. It would be better with the spicier type you can pick yourself in the creek. Yum. I liked it so much I tried it again with sesame seeds in the cheese and added mustard. It tasted like a hot dog, the mustard overpowers the subtle flavors.
Got my taxes delivered to the tax man, yesterday. Brian, my computer guru has been sick all week, so I’m hoping within the next few days he can help me repair this indispensable torment of a computer and figure out how to get Picasa working again.
March 25, 2013
This comes from my Smithsonian Magazine. They chose towns with less than 15,000 population that are big on culture as the 20 best small towns in America for 2013.
If the air is a little fresher, the grass greener, the pace gentler than in metropolitan America? All the better. Generally, they’re devoted to preserving their historic centers, encouraging talent and supporting careful economic growth. There’s usually an institution of higher learning, too.
Most important are the people, unpretentious people with small-town values and high cultural expectations—not a bad recipe for society at large. As a sign on a chalkboard in Cleveland, Mississippi (our No. 2 pick) puts it, “Be nice. The world is a small town.”
Here is the List:
1. Gettysburg, PA., 11. Galena, IL
Cleveland, MS., Sausalito, CA
St. Augustine, FL., Hanover, NH.
Baraboo, WI, Oberlie, OH.
Astoria, OR, Jackson, WY.
Petoskey, MI, Lexington, KY.
Fairfield, IA., Abilene, KS.
Los Alamos, NM., Lihue, HI
Sitka, AK, Fredricksburg, TX.
Provincetown, MA., Glenwood Springs, CO.
I’m pleased to note I’ve visited Gettysburg, Baraboo, Astoria, Sitka ,Provincetown, Sausalito, and Fredricksburg. And in all cases, I found them delightful. So, traveler, fit one of these in your plans and you won’t regret it.
Read more about the towns they’ve chosen at their link.
March 15, 2013
Note: Mary flew from Baton Rouge Airport, Louisiana on March 12 to her home in California. I’m hoping to get her back with me by mid-April. My current plans are to stay here for a few days and then start SLOWLY drifting north along the Mississippi River to Memphis, Tennessee where I’ll then turn northeast heading for New England. Can’t go north too fast because it’s still cold up there!
The motorhome is currently parked at VFW Post #4224 in Baker, a few miles north of Baton Rouge.
Yesterday I drove the Bronco the about 10 miles to Baton Rouge and the Louisiana State Museum which you can read about by clicking their official website link…
As always you may left click upon an image to see an enlarged view and then click once again to see an even larger view…
It’s only a block away from the state capital building which at 450 feet and 34 stories makes it the tallest capital building in the United States…
It is a huge museum situated on two floors which I hurriedly covered in four hours when eight would have been more appropriate…and it’s free admission! It does a great job of detailing the history and cultures of this remarkable state…
This final photo tells what current Louisiana is all about…
And the good times do roll here! Nowhere in the United States will you find friendlier people than Louisiana. I’m going to hate leaving this wonderful place!!!
To see the other 86 photos that I took, you just have to click this link…
In 1952, Hank Williams, Sr. wrote and sang Jambalaya (on the bayou) on the Louisiana Hayride program broadcast from Shreveport, Louisiana. By clicking the following link you’ll get to see Hank Williams, Jr. with an up and coming 4-year-old following in old Hank’s footsteps and keeping alive Louisiana’s traditions…
4 Year Old
Enjoying interesting state museums is another joy in the life of a full-time RVer!
The red dot on the below map shows our approximate location in the State of Louisiana. You may double left-click the map to make it larger…
Enjoying 65-75 degree temperatures most of the year is a primary joy in the RVing lifestyle!
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”…Albert Einstein
If you have not checked out my Ramblin Man’s Photos Blog, you can do so by clicking this link…
All original material Copyright – Jim Jaillet 2013
For more information about my three books, click this link:
August 15, 2012
It is our last morning in China. We are up early. Business people all over town line up in their suits and ties at street steamers to buy buns and dumplings for breakfast. (Picture by Nicolas Delerue) China is vast but it’s cities are huge and crowded. The Chinese seek peace in their gardens.
In the center of this snarling city is the UR Garden. The designers took great pains and cost to turn this former government employees home into a centerpiece of Chinese garden architecture. A walled garden shuts out the troubles of life and brings peace and quiet to the soul. It allows you to contemplate a higher plane and renew the spirit.
The Chinese people strive for perfection in everything they do. A perfect garden must have a hill, water, rock, plants, bamboo, a building and trees. The plants placement and position in the garden, and shapes of everything have special meanings. A rock must not overshadow water. All gates, walkways, windows and doors must suggest nurture, peace and serenity to soothe the soul. A tea house provides refreshment and joy.
A beautifully designed window does the same.
Each rock, each plant is chosen for its sense of balance and rest. Lotus for purity. Bamboo for strength and resilience. Flowering plum represents rebirth. If you plant a pine tree, you must have both a male and female tree. If one dies, the partner tree is removed.
Proper dragons guard the roof and walls.
The roof is enhanced with bamboo at the top to make music as the wind passes over the hollow tubes. The poetic aspects of a garden are taken very seriously.
When a contingent of Chinese Garden Architects from Vancouver came to see the garden, they politely said it was beautiful. Not perfect? They judged it imperfect because modern condominium visible in a little corner of the garden. Tsk, tsk!
We leave the garden to visit Shanghai Cultural Museum. On the freeway we see a huge cement column about 12 feet in diameter supporting an over crossing. It was beautifully decorated with writhing dragons. I asked why the need for such a heavy support column? Our city guide explained that it allows the dragons to get out. When they were building, the workmen had trouble in that spot. They insisted there was a dragon there and it would be bad luck to cover it up. The government architects came up with a solution. It is partially hollow and has an exit window. Now knowing what we do of Chinese culture and centuries of superstition embedded in their character, we understand.
The museum too, is a quiet place that gives a sense of peace…
Late in the afternoon we have free time and several of us take tea at a lovely tea house and then off to the Hip Hop Market to pick up any last minute souvenirs. This is not a souvenir market. We gawk at ultra modern merchandise. Shoes like I’ve never seen in my life with price tags to match. Baby items and clothing for the children or grandchildren of the very wealthy. Teens swarm the place with their phones and wrist band radios. They buy see-through blouses, painted skirts and bathing suits that would fit in a cigarette box. We are running from store to store like unruly kids were we see every kind of goods, rich leathers, golden threaded bags and scarves; canes, sunglasses, jewelry to dazzle an empress, plastic neon bracelets, fancy suits and ballgowns, jeans and top branded merchandise from all over the world. A city of such contrasts is Shanghai.
We enjoy a fabulous farewell dinner with a flaming dish of some sort. We fondly embrace our new friends and trade addresses and know we’ll probably never see them again. Unforgettable China.
August 13, 2012
Shangai is an impressive city for its ultra-modern skyscrapers, shopping, culture, night life. You can easily think you are in a Western city with a grand Chinatown. With camera/disk problems I have few pictures to show you. The night scene photo above has no attribution but it came from a tourism website. Our first night in Shangai, after our daytime city tour, we have dinner at the gorgeous Hilton Hotel and ate bland food. It was decent, but by comparison with the rest of China, we decided it was our worst meal so far. On balance, we had our first real alcoholic drink. Good scotch.
It has been a long day but that night, we are taken to visit the tallest building in the world with 88 floors. (Since eclipsed by the 105 story Japanese building with-in sight of it.) We don’t go up an elevator, we ascend, seamlessly, all 88 floors in 45 seconds, with no sensation of being on an elevator whatever. An endless line of tourists paid $7 for the ride. It goes without saying the views are spectacular. It is a Saturday, and the waterfront is alight with skyscrapers projecting ads 20 stories tall on the sides of their buildings. We see a video of men who illegally parachuted from the building. We drink it in, reluctant to leave. The waterfront buildings are alight on Saturdays and Sundays. During the week, the lights are turned off as a cost saving measure. Smart!
The next morning, we visit the Children’s Palace, very aptly named since Mau took over mansions from the decadent rich ministers and government employees and devoted them to boarding schools for gifted students. The education is free and only those identified by their teachers with special talent may attend. Children move to cities all over China where other “palaces” are located. Some concentrate on art, or music, science, dance, sports, martial arts, gymnastics, etc. We were impressed with the pictures these young kids drew and painted. The walls going into the school are filled with exceptional artwork.
Another room held a music class with students age four to sixteen learning the violin. First they tap out the music, then hum the notes, then strum the notes. The teacher strikes her stick loudly when a mistake is made and scolds. We cannot understand her words, but we understand her tone.
Next we watch as five girls play for us on a zither-like ancient instrument, similar to a harp in sound. It may be admirable to help children achieve their special potential, but we found the fierce discipline offensive. Not a smile from any student and we can’t help but wonder where goes their childhood? Talented and unhappy is not a good goal. The parents are honored that their child is chosen and wouldn’t think of turning down this opportunity.
After lunch, we visit a silk factory. Employees stand. Again, we see poor working conditions. The cocoons are drowned and the larvae removed. The fine fibers are twisted into a fine yarn size, then dyed in special batches of color to be woven into shirts, scarves, ties and rugs. Hard work. Bats of coarser silk, are used to make comforters with a reputation for being very warm compared to their light weight.
The process of making a comforter was fascinating. Each bat of silk is stretched and stretched and fit on a form like a fitted sheet fits a mattress. After several bats are stretched, it becomes a comforter and is fitted into a case for size, queen, king or double. I bought two, at $10 each. Of course, a fancy cover to make them beautiful, costs twice as much. One woman from our group opted to make her own cover. A machine squeezes them so tightly, they fit into a small purse sized case with a handle. Cool!
After dinner we attend a show that is the highpoint of Shanghai and all tickets have been sold out for months. Chinese acrobats are famous for their extraordinary muscle control and balance as they do difficult feats in slow motion. A girl balances a tray of glasses in her mouth while doing carefully modulated trapeze acts. Another balances on one hand while doing contortions with her body, forming a butterfly, frog, cricket, then she jumps to the opposite hand and becomes her own twin. Breathtaking twists, falls, jumps from unbelievable positions. High jumping, hoops, tumbling comic acts…we hold our breath and gaze entranced at such talent. On the way back to our hotel, we catch our last look at the fabulous lighted Yangtze River boats and skyscrapers and know we are looking at a burgeoning new capitalistic economy that is rocketing skyward to awe the world.
August 9, 2012
We’ve left the Urumichi area, which means oasis. It is part of the Gobi desert and we saw oil refineries that the government controls. We are headed for Guilin, pronounced guay-leen and the roadsides are lush with terraced gardens. In 1998, this area flooded and 1500 people died. The government let the area return to farmland and forest. Makes me think of New Orleans, where the best solution is to let the river have its way, but we don’t have an autocratic government, we have property rights and developers rights and political sensitivity. The horrifically expensive taxpayer fix will result in more flooding, reduced wetlands necessary to buffer severe storms, more loss of property and life, and eventually the City of New Orleans will sink anyway. The Army Corps of Engineers keeps building levees and moving sand from one beach to another ignoring science and heeding the popular political fix.
Clustered housing here is practical and uses less land than individual farms. A collective. It is a method that can stifle innovation and experimentation. But, Vicki says, it is tried and true. After all, people have occupied the area along the Li River since 214 B.C. Why not high rises? Because no one can build higher than 20 floors so not to obscure the view of the beautiful mountains. Oh, my. A sentiment to admire.
Guilin was destroyed by Japanese bombs, but has been rebuilt. We are aghast when Vicki calls Guilin a small city of only 640,000 people covering 67 kilometers. We stop at a tea factory for a formal tea tasting. As in days of old, tea is packed into bales, bricks, wheels and multiple sized rounds. We find the same shapes we saw in Jiliang that we didn’t recognize as tea. Not a tea bag in sight.
Everything here is loose leaf and smells divine. The city is famous for its osthumansis (acacia) trees that are in bloom. Intensely fragrant, like orange blossoms, they are used to make wine, tea and perfume. Guilin has 13 nationalities. The Yau and Dow are predominant. There are 3,000 caves in the mountains here, many of them open to tourists.
This magnificently carved wooden Buddha tray is outfitted with a gas burner and we are about to taste ten different kinds of tea. The rules are thus: First, you smell the cup. Then you sniff the tea and chew the leaves a bit to make sure it is good and strong. Then hot water is poured in the cup to warm it while the tea is brewing in hot (not boiling) water. You surround the cup with your hands to warm them. You can drink the water or pour it out before the tea is poured. Then you slurp noisily. That is considered the best way. It was fun. Then there was theatrics of tea. A dragon tea pot that turns from green to red when the hot water is poured into it. And a baby boy tea pot that pisses into your cup when the water heats it. There was a lot of slurping and laughing and talking and comparing. They sell aged, 28 year old Puer tea, said to reduce blood pressure, cure diabetes and clean your liver. You can use the leaves nine times before the flavor and benefits disappear. Hmmm! I bought some. It stayed flavorful for about four cups made with the same leaves. Their cups are smaller than mine, though.
We get to our beautiful hotel and Michal is taken by a carved jade dragon boat. Priceless. It is a free day for us and we can wander the town and eat anywhere we want though Vicki warns us to beware of pick pockets and even some merchants are rip-off artists. Our stop here is to boat up the Li River and see a part of old China and some famous, mystical rock formations.
Guilin is quite modern and university students go to coffee shops like Western students do. The whole city smells like orange blossoms though we don’t see the trees. The Dau people hold a folk song festival in Guilin in the spring. The Dau people have a beautiful courtship ritual. A woman throws her bouquet at the man she wants. If he catches it, that is his acceptance and they are one.
As we gaze around we run into Vicki and she points out a modern Chinese pharmacy.
Kind of reminds us of a fish and herb market. But, there are lizards and insects and worms and animal parts, very clean and dried.
The Chinese have centuries of medicinal experimentation with herbs and such and it seems prudent to respect it, even while we know many remedies don’t work, such as rhinoceros horn and other animal parts. Our own drug companies have learned much from the Chinese. They are healthy people.
After dinner we load into a boat near these Twin Pagodas for a ride on the Li and Peach Blossum Rivers as they merge together and form four city lakes. These pagodas are joined underwater and one can swim into and out of them. At night they are lit up beautifully.
Pictures are impossible, but you get the idea, anyway. The lake shores on all sides are lit up like Christmas trees. Entertainers sing from various famous boat replicas, like the Marble boat from the Summer Palace, and a dragon boat. Bands play modern and traditional music every section of the way. You see people dining on shore or in pretty boats as you continually pass under bridges, all replicas of famous bridges. Twelve of them. Each has frescoes of great beauty and interest. We point and guess, the Brooklyn Bridge, Golden Gate, Glass Bridge, Cambridge Math Class Bridge. We didn’t recognize them all. It was another dreamland journey as we stayed mesmerized by the passing scenes. Near the turning point we saw fishermen night fishing with their cormorants. The boatman smacks them with his cane if they try to steal a fish out of the basket and pretend they caught it. He calls to them, “Ai, ai, ai!” The birds continually fly out and back. We see live fish, flopping in the baskets that will soon be delivered to a local restaurant. Another magical experience that clings forever in memory.
August 7, 2012
When I’m home, I always have projects to do that take gobs of time. Or, I’m having gobs of fun. The next three weeks, I’ll be having therapy for my hip three mornings a week plus other doctor’s appointments, and my blog may be quite sporadic. I wonder at times like this how our travel companions who were severely injured in the May 27th accident are faring? I’m back revisiting my 2006 trip to China, and, suffering embarrassment as I was reminded that I had blogged my China trip last year. I totally forgot. Maybe it was the bap in the head during the accident that made me forget. In any case, UNESCO made this cemetery a place of interest because China has not allowed burials for over 200 years. All bodies by law must be cremated. This rare cemetery belongs to the minority Yi people, and we visit their nearby village.
The minority Yi living here are poor. The place is littered with garbage.
Raw sewage runs through the town in these runnels. They have electricity now, fairly new for them.
The streets are narrow; the buildings show their layers of history from old to ancient.
The major crop for them is corn. They raise pigs and we see dogs and wonder if they are raised for meat rather than pets.
The people mostly ignore us or hide their curiosity. Like most minority villages, they work together and share the work and the harvest.
And, like old China, women go to work in the fields with their babies on their backs.
We saw women and children and our group engaged them. The child with the mother in the blue sweater was scared of we big noses and ran away from us.
She managed to bring him close to us. Vicki told us, do not give these people money and turn them into beggars. But, here we see that a member of our group did it anyway, and the little boy in red has his hand outstretched for more. The Cemetery is a new UNESCO site and soon, these people will have a steady parade of tourists with money in hand. Handouts warp their way of life, rather than enhance it.
The children seem quite happy and well fed.
Who are we to decide their lifestyle needs improving? The minority people are allowed two babies per family. The government handed out condoms and demonstrated them by slipping them on their fingers. On the next visit, they found condoms on fence posts, hanging in the windows and on bushes. The people thought they were magically going to work by having them around.
Superstition is handed down from generation to generation. Some of the practices of the minority people in the region are pretty strange. These Suni-Yi believe spider webs are good luck and will not break up a web. The Wah minority favor rat meat. In older times they lent their wives to friends, or two sisters were allowed to share one husband. Some Wah are still nomadic. Girls live in white tents. Any man can fornicate with her because she has to have a baby to prove that she is fertile before she can marry. But, the tent is guarded by a dog and the man must fight off the dog with stones and fists. The government discourages these old rituals and practices with some success.
We leave the area thinking of the vast differences in culture there is in the same country without the influence of immigration as in our own melting pot of diverse cultures. We are truly stepping back in time, here.
August 2, 2012
To resume my visit to China in 2006, we are in Kunming, The City Of Eternal Spring. It is a very temperate area known for its plant diversity. Most of China’s flower species come from Kunming with its pleasant, temperate climate. We see commercial flower gardens and orchards around Kunming, but our tour will take us to Shilin, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, a surrealistic “orchard” of stone.
The drive to this unique landscape through a three-mile long tunnel, and we worry about it caving in, probably unreasonably so. But, safety isn’t foremost in Chinese projects, we think. The tunnel replaced a twisty, tortuous road, we are told. Then we take a shuttle to the base of the 200 acres of what are called karst towers, formed 270 million years ago as the Himalayas were forming.
It’s a lovely spot by a lake, but the sign that greets us with tortured interpretations was a hoot though well intentioned. We were relieved to know what we buy here will be genuine.
Yunnan Province has many minority people. And we see them come to Shilin to get married, or celebrate special events in their lives. The most prominent minority in this region is the Yi people. The Suni Muslims are a branch of the Yi people. There are black Yis and white Yis. The black Yis enslaved the white Yis because they admired the rare black tigers of Asia over the white tigers. The Yi were great hunters and wrestlers, strong and muscular. They walk in fire and have fire torch festivals unique to the area. Mau banished slavery among the Yis. Another nearby minority is the Hui people, called barbarians. They arrived here with Kublai Khan. A very informative website can be found at the following link.
The area does resemble a stone forest, which is the common name for Shilin.
The karst formations are limestone and were shaped by a receding inland sea and harsh winds.
It was an easy, pleasant hike through the “forest” and one could imagine what it must have been like for ancient children to climb and play on the formations.
We hiked around the lake and took pictures. There are caves and waterfalls deeper inside the forest, but we were given a limited time here. Without a guide it would be easy to become disoriented and lost if we wandered too far off the path.
The people in their special native dress were fascinating, anyway.
The costumes are somewhat different, but always the main color of red and yellow.
The Yi men show their single status by the way they wear their feathers. A girl shows interest in a man by touching her horn.
Vicki speculated this was some type of local holiday celebration. It seemed very romantic to us with couples and singlels having their picture taken by the lake.
Near the gift shop, this gent was fiddling with a musical instrument. We figured there would be a musical event later in the day.
By lunchtime, the place was mobbed. I saw that under the costume the girls wear street clothes, kind of like we do for high school graduation.
This woman may have been a different minority with similar costume. I enjoyed people watching as much as the stone formations.
The Stone Forest is seventy-five miles from Kunming and actually makes its own weather. At certain times of years, storms roar out of the caves and water cascades from the high formations. We will move on to Urumichi and visit a Yi village.