Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Maine Beach vs. Florida Beach

Maine Beach
February 2013

Leave the beach towel at home
and bring the cross-country skis. 
It's the same ocean, the same continent, and the same time of year; but, these two beaches are vastly different.
Florida Beach
February 2013

Welcome to Paradise. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fort Lauderdale Street Scene

Ft. Lauderdale Sunrise:
Feb. 26, 2013. The photo was taken at the
corner of A1A and Granada Street. 
One of two large fish constructed using recycled plastic bottles.
Located at the corner of A1A and Las Olas Blvd., the
art work sends a powerful message about recycling.
Ft. Lauderdale's Walk of Fame:
Connie Francis put Ft. Lauderdale on the
map as a Spring Break destination spot with

 the hit song and film, Where The Boys Are. 
The City has never been the same since. 
Tennis Champion Chris Evert started her
career on the Ft. Lauderdale
Tennis Courts. 

Sex, Turtle Style

Amazing what you will find in Ft. Lauderdale. Here are two Desert Tortoises that I came across. The female Tortoise will lay eggs after being impregnated, but the humid Florida climate will prevent the eggs from hatching. Florida is home to many non-indigenous species, which have arrived by human activity, either deliberately or accidentally. Some introduced species are damaging the ecosystem such as the Boa Constrictor and Python, others have no negative effect such as these Tortoises. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

French Cafe in Fort Lauderdale

A few days ago, I mentioned that Fort Lauderdale reminded me of Nice France without the cafes. Well, yesterday, I discovered the Euro Bread Cafe, a "French style cafe" not far from the beach. Unfortunately, the cafe is merely mediocre. The croissants and coffee are okay. The sandwiches, entrees, and desserts are overly priced, and the service substandard. There is Wi-Fi and outdoor seating, but the restaurant's overall low quality doesn't make it a recommendation. If you want an authentic croissant, you better head to France. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Escape From Maine

Florida's Endless Sand Beaches

Maine's Winter Wonderland
New England is experiencing its third consecutive weekend with snow, and I've escaped to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the week. It feels like paradise: sunny skies, light winds and temperatures in the low 80s! It sounds weird, but it reminds me of Nice, France with a touch of Orange County, California. There are plenty of scantly clad people walking the streets, but darn if I can find a French cafe.
Intercoastal Waterway
Ft. Lauderdale

Reptile Sunning Along
The Intercoastal Waterway

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hotel Shampoo: Increase the Size of the Printing!

I stay at a lot of hotels, and my biggest complaint is not the cleanliness, the comfort of the beds, or size of the room. That's generally not a problem. Most moderately priced hotels provide adequate if not good service. 

My biggest complaint is the printing (labeling) on the complimentary shampoo, hair conditioner, and body lotion provided by the hotels. It's too small to read. Even with glasses, it's sometimes difficult to read. I don't know how many times, I've mistaken the hair conditioner for the shampoo or the body lotion for the conditioner.

Hotels spend millions of dollars on amenities to make their guests feel at home. Why not spend a little of that money on product identification? The name and logo of the hotel always seems to be legible. As I've said many a time, it's the little things in life that differentiate the good from the merely adequate. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Asteroid Mining: Fantasy or Reality?

When I was a kid in the 1970's, I read that asteroid mining was in the near future. It turns out, it still is.

All the news about the meteorite that struck Russia last week (and the close passage of an asteroid) got me wondering what ever came of those grandiose plans to harvest asteroids and comets for the benefit of mankind. 

Actually, there is a lot going on. Planetary Resources, for example, is new company that aims to sell resources extracted from asteroids. Asteroids contain precious metals like platinum and iron, and comets have minerals that produce jet fuel. These objects could provide Earth with an abundant supply of raw materials for the foreseeable future. And with private ownership rights in outer spaces still undefined, private companies like Planetary Resources could make a killing. Is this an investment opportunity or just science fiction hyperbole?

Critics of the asteroid mining business have questioned the ability of companies like Planetary Resources to make a profit; even though, studies have found that around 7 500 asteroids exist, with a value of between $1 billion and $25 billion each.

The logistics of mining asteroids are daunting. Nevertheless, I will be paying close attention to this issue for the next few years. It may be a long shot, but it would be wonderful if space mining actually took off. 

The Microsoft Store: Look Familiar?

Here is a photo of the Microsoft Store at the Houston Galleria.

A few yards away is the Apple Store.

They say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Looks like there's a lot of sincerity here. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Are Solar Cars the Future?

Solar Car
From Honda
Durham University
Solar Car

Here's a little excitement in the field of solar power. These cars look so cool, who cares if they don't run at night. Solar cars are probably not ready for the mass market (they may never be), but they're improving every year as technology finds better ways to harness the power from the sun. Each year the World Solar Challenge holds a solar car race. The competition features a field of competitors from around the world who race across the Australian Outback from Darwin to Adelaide, a distance of 3 021 km (1 877 mi). Last year's winner averaged approximately 91 km/h (56 mp/h). There are other races too, including the American Solar Challenge, the South African Solar Challenge, and the Dell-Winston School Solar Challenge.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Blizzard

Photographing a blizzard is difficult. Whether it's a picture or a video, I never seem to get it right. The power and ferocity of the storm seems to be diminished when reduced to a photographic imagine. Today's storm is relatively mild compared to the last few. Even so, here's my latest attempt at capturing a Maine blizzard. 

Capturing the Storm in Bathrobe

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Petula Clark's "Lost In You": Simply Amazing

At 80 years old, Petula Clark (Downtown, Don't Sleep in the Subway, and A Sign of the Times) has reinvented herself and is still surprising us. Her new album, Lost In You, will be released on February 25th. Her opening track, Cut Copy Me, is a hypnotic number that is sleek and contemporary. In addition, the album contains cover versions of Elvis Presley's Love Me Tender, John Lennon's Imagine, and Gnarls Barkley's Crazy

Petula is better than ever. Her voice is clear, warm, and even soulful. She's an inspiration. Genius doesn't stop when you become older.

Friday, February 15, 2013

16-Year-Old Actress as a Successful Day Trader

What were you doing at 16? I bet it wasn't playing the stock market. Here's Rachel Fox, a woman after my heart! Not only is she a talented and beautiful actress, but she's a successful day trader. Who says beauty and brains don't mix. 

Happy Ending for a Shelter Dog

Dogs in shelters seldom have a happy end. The shelter is usually the last stop in a dog's life. However, some stories do have happy endings! Angels do walk the earth.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day: "Paperman" (A Little Bit of Romance)

Here's a short animated film from the folks at Disney. It's whimsical, romantic, and just the right thing to share with that special someone on Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Read All The Agatha Christie Mysteries

When Agatha Christie died in January 1976, she was arguably the most famous detective story writer in the world. Her books continue to sell, and if anything, Ms. Christie is more popular today than when she died. New productions of her novels and stories continue to be filmed; and her play, The Mousetrap, has been running continuously since it opened in 1952 (over 25,000 performances). Reading Agatha Christie's books is a pleasure, and the only effort needed is finding the time.

This year, I decided to set a goal and read all of Agatha Christie's mysteries in publication order. As I complete each book, I will write a review. First on the agenda is The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), the book that introduced Hercule Poirot, Inspector Japp, and Arthur Hastings. I read the book as a child/teenager and vaguely remember it as being old-fashioned. I wonder how I will find it now, 40 years later. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Agatha Christie Still Worth Reading

Agatha Christie
On a cold dark night, I enjoy reading an Agatha Christie novel with a warm cup of cocoa. You rarely find someone who confesses an admiration for Christie, but I find her books entertaining and even soothing. I just finished So Many Steps to Death (1955) (UK version, Destination Unknown), a novel set during the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s. 

Agatha Christie is often dismissed by literary critics as a prolific writer without merit. Yet, according to a number of sources, her books have sold more than two billion copies, making her the most widely read novelist in history. How does she do it, and why are her books so widely read? 

Christie's plots seem mechanical and un-literary. Yet, there is a clarity in her work, and a shrewd understanding of the vagaries of human nature that make her books timeless. Christie is a sort of Jane Austen of the detective novel genre. 

An Agatha Christie book conjures up quaint village life and a host of middle- and upper class characters. This idyllic world is disturbed by murder with a host of suspects. The reader is then invited to pit his or her wits against those of the detective, who eventually brings the case to a dramatic and unexpected denouement.

Christie's uses everyday language with accessible characters. The sheer "simplicity" of her work belies the careful pacing and structure of the narrative. Her books are also a history lesson. The novels set between the wars are particularly interesting since they offer a glimpse of a rapidly changing Britain. 

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), for example, if you don't know the twist, still takes your breath away. Murder at the Vicarage (1930) is a sort of comedy of manners, and Crooked House (1949) (Christie's favorite book) breaks an unspoken taboo of the whodunit genre that many readers still find shocking.

Of course, not every Christie novel is a classic. Passenger to Frankfurt (1970) and Elephants Can Remember (1972) are unworthy of the author's genius. But for those of us who want a good read, then by all means, pick up a Christie. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Germany Welcomes the Return of the Wolf?

What with the three little pigs and Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf has had a lot of bad press over the years. But according to biologists, the wolf (Canis Lupis) is a shy creature, who's first reaction when faced with a human is to run away rather than attack. Like so many wild animals, wolves have struggles to shed a reputation forged by centuries of folklore and stories that casts them as sinister and ruthless killers. This has made them the target for hunters.

Wolves were hunted to extinction in Germany in the 20th century. However, studies suggest that wolves are moving from the forests along the Polish border into Germany. Environmental groups are excited, but the return of the wolf has led to tensions between conservationists and farmers and hunters. 

Recently, hikers discovered the cadaver of a wolf that was ruthlessly killed. Killing wolves is illegal in Germany because it's a protected species. Nevertheless, wolf killing is not uncommon since farmers are worried that wolves will eat their livestock, and parents concerned that wolves will attack their children.

Studies have found that wolves largely feed on animals they find in the wild, and not on livestock such as sheep. As for wolves killing children, it's a myth perpetuated by fairy tales. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Clever Resumes

Philippe Dubost is one clever cookie when it comes to resume writing. Mr. Dubost is a Web Product Manager, and his resume, which resembles an product page, has gone viral on the web. With jobs difficult to find, Mr. Dubost has certainly set himself apart. I hope it works for him. However, he's not the only job seeker to have an unusual resume. Here are some others. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Now, This is a Business Class Lounge!

Billiard Area in the Turkish Airlines
Business Class Lounge
No one disputes that air travel isn't what it used to be. It seems there's been a race to the bottom among the US airlines in providing comfort and service to its customers. In the past, when I had the opportunity to visit a Business Class Lounge, it was a real treat; but these days, the Business Class Lounge offers little more than coffee and a few mediocre snacks, at best. Sure there's Wi-Fi (if it's up and running), and it's sometimes a quiet refuge from the chaos of the airport, but it sure isn't plush. 

On the other hand, if I ever have the opportunity to visit Istanbul, I intend to fly on Turkish Airlines and splurge for Business Class-just to visit the lounge. According to many frequent flyers, the Istanbul Business Class lounge is the best in the world. With phenomenal food, open bar, first class business center, kids play area, quiet room, and even billiard tables, Turkish Airlines knows how to make travel enjoyable.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The German Possessive

Here is a very interesting and entertaining video about the history of the English possessive. As I was watching the video, I was struck by the close relationship between German and English. Both languages use the possessive, but English did away with complex possessive endings during the late middle ages, along with most other "case" forms, and replaced those cumbersome endings with the apostrophe-'s. Unfortunately, German retained its complex grammar, including the possessive endings, which are part of the Genitive case. 

As I have said many a time, learning German is no easy task, and "cases" are a prime example. German has four cases: Nominative, Accusative, Dative, and Genitive. Cases are an important part of German grammar since they dictate the endings of adjectives, indefinite articles, and pronouns. 

Look how the word "nett" (which means "nice") has to be contorted depending on the other words in the sentence: 

He is a nice person. Er ist ein netter Mensch. (Nominative case with masculine noun)

She is a nice woman. Sie ist eine nette Frau. (Nominative case with feminine noun)

The man gave the dog to the nice young girl.
Der Mann gab den Hund zum netten jungen M├Ądchen. (Dative case with neuter noun)

Those 12th century English speakers were on to something when they did way those possessive endings!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Melanie Griffith's Face

Actress Melanie Griffith (Working Girl) may have a smokin' body at 55, but she's had way too much "work" on her face.