Dec 23, 2010

The washed-up scriptwriter and more: novel novel material (Jacki)

Jacki (Jacki and Jacky are not the same person, don't get confused) sends this fragment. Enjoy:

He Grasped me firmly but gently just above my elbow and guided me into a room, his room. Then he quietly shut the door and we were alone.

He approached me soundlessly, from behind, and spoke in a low, reassuring voice close to my ear. "Just relax."

Without warning, he reached down and I felt his strong, calloused hands start at my ankles, gently probing, and moving upward along my calves slowly but steadily. My breath caught in my throat. I knew I should be afraid, but somehow I didn't care. His touch was so experienced, so sure.

When his hands moved up onto my thighs, I gave a slight shudder, and partly closed my eyes. My pulse was pounding. I felt his knowing fingers caress my abdomen, my ribcage.. And then, as he cupped my firm, full breasts in his hands, I inhaled sharply. Probing, searching, knowing what he wanted, he brought his hands to my shoulders, slid them down my tingling spine and into my panties.

Although I knew nothing about this man, I felt oddly trusting and expectant. This is a man, I thought. A man used to taking charge. A man not used to taking "No" for an answer. A man who would tell me what he wanted. A man who would look into my soul and say ... "Okay Mam," said a voice, "All done."

My eyes snapped open and he was standing in front of me, smiling, holding out my purse. "You can board your flight now."

Dec 21, 2010

Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year

Richard Cohen has a nice piece in the International Herald Tribune about today, the shortest day of the year on the northern hemisphere.

Winter solstice at Stonehenge
Winter solstice at Stonehenge

Here are a few highlights:

WHAT is the winter solstice, and why bother to celebrate it? The word “solstice” derives from the Latin sol (meaning sun) and statum (stand still), and reflects what we see on the first days of summer and winter when, at dawn for two or three days, the sun seems to linger for several minutes in its passage across the sky, before beginning to double back.
Virtually all cultures have their own way of acknowledging this moment. The Welsh word for solstice translates as “the point of roughness,” while the Talmud calls it “Tekufat Tevet,” first day of “the stripping time.” For the Chinese, winter’s beginning is “dongzhi,” when one tradition is making balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize family gathering. In Korea, these balls are mingled with a sweet red bean called pat jook. According to local lore, each winter solstice a ghost comes to haunt villagers. The red bean in the rice balls repels him.
In parts of Scandinavia, the locals smear their front doors with butter so that Beiwe, sun goddess of fertility, can lap it up before she continues on her journey. (One wonders who does all the mopping up afterward.) Later, young women don candle-embedded helmets, while families go to bed having placed their shoes all in a row, to ensure peace over the coming year.

Pagan elements in Swedish Christmas celebrations

The transition from Roman paganism to Christianity, with its similar rites, took several centuries. With the Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the fourth century, customs were quickly appropriated and refashioned, as the sun and God’s son became inextricably entwined. Thus, although the New Testament gives no indication of Christ’s actual birthday (early writers preferring a spring date), in 354 Pope Liberius declared it to have befallen on Dec. 25.
The advantages of Christmas Day being celebrated then were obvious. As the Christian commentator Syrus wrote: “It was a custom of the pagans to celebrate on the same Dec. 25 the birthday of the sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity .... Accordingly, when the church authorities perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day.” In Christendom, the Nativity gradually absorbed all other winter solstice rites, and the co-opting of solar imagery was part of the same process. Thus the solar discs that had once been depicted behind the heads of Asian rulers became the halos of Christian luminaries. Despite the new religion’s apparent supremacy, many of the old customs survived — so much so that church elders worried that the veneration of Christ was being lost. In the fifth century, St. Augustine of Hippo and Pope Leo the Great felt compelled to remind their flocks that Christ, not the sun, was their proper object of their worship.

Dec 6, 2010

What happened before the Big Bang?

The big bang mystery (what happened before the big bang?)
may have been solved by Roger Penrose (an old friend of FF) and his coworkers at Oxford University. Penrose starts with established notions about an ever-expanding universe subject to the laws of thermodynamics, i.e. entropy.

"At first the universe becomes less uniform as it evolves and objects form within it. Once enough time has passed, however, all of the matter around will end up being sucked into black holes. As Stephen Hawking has demonstrated, black holes eventually evaporate in a burst of radiation. That process increases uniformity, eventually to the level the universe began with."

Now---this is Penrose's creative assumption---past a certain level of uniformity, the Higgs field may disappear. The Higgs field imbues particles with mass; without it, all particles would be massless and, by Einstein's relativity theory, forced to travel at the speed of light (as behooves photons, for example).

"That (as Einstein showed) means that from the particle’s point of view time stands still and space contracts to nothingness. If all particles in the universe were massless, then, the universe would look to them to be infinitely small. And an infinitely small universe is one that would undergo a Big Bang."


Even better, Penrose's new theory comes with testable predictions. Black holes would occasionally collide during the later stages of the universe's evolution, and gravitational waves would result. These waves would survive the big bang à la Penrose; they would be witnesses of the bing bang's prehistory.



Corresponding gravitational waves have now been found (pictured above).

"KASSA! KASSA!" would Samuel Fisher say.

-"This is such a good idea, it must be true."

Nov 23, 2010

«Amis pédophiles, à demain!» (French for beginners)

The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to journalists, in response to questions about his role in the Karachi affair (one of countless French scandals involving money being redirected into the coffers of the governing party):

Nicolas Sarkosy
«Et vous, j’ai rien du tout contre vous. Il semblerait que vous soyez pédophile… Qui me l’a dit? J’en ai l’intime conviction (…) Pouvez-vous vous justifier?».

(Translation: And you? I've nothing against you. It looks like you are pedophile. How do I know? I'm thoroughly convinced. Could you please justify yourself.)

Then he waved goodbye to the journalists with the words:"«Amis pédophiles, à demain!»

(Translation: exercise)

Liliane Bettencourt
Liliane Bettencourt
And while we are at it: In a mysterious series of burglaries, numerous journalists investigat-ing the Bettencourt affair (one of countless French scandals involving money being redirected into the coffers of the governing party, this time with the added titillation that Sarkozy, being Mayor of Madame Bettencourt's town at the time (Neuilly, a suburb of Paris), may have received well-padded envelopes from the L'Oréal heiress himself)...let's start this again, numerous journalists were burgled last week, and the perps stole (1) two computers with Bettencourt material from the offices of Le Point, the magazine, (2) a laptop of an editor of Le Monde, the daily, with Bettencourt material (3) two computers, an external disc drive, and sound tapes, all with Bettencourt material, from the office of the on line-magazine Mediapart. ("We do believe in coincidences, doon't we," Fisher's inhouse whizz-kid, Alberrt, will say in installment 13 of our feuilleton).

«Amis pédophiles, à demain!»

Nov 2, 2010

John Grisham: Why is the Tea Party racist?

From an interview in Der Spiegel

SPIEGEL: What do you dislike most about the Tea Party?
Grisham: I don't understand where these people have been two years ago. These are the same people that voted for Bush twice, and now the say they are dyed-in-the-wool conservatives that hate the budget deficit. But when Bush created the deficit (there was a surplus under Clinton), these people kept quiet.
SPIEGEL: Bush was president.
Grisham: Yes.
SPIEGEL: Now it's Obama.
Grisham: Exactly. That's how a right-wing conservative movement with racial overtones came about.

Sep 30, 2010

The Rolling Stones in the Waldbühne in Berlin

Rohleder's new home in Berlin
Die Neue Zürcher Zeitung has a feature about Alexandra Rohleder. You've heard of her? You didn't? But it's the usual story. She can't trust here eyes. My God, the place is cheap. Isn't a digit missing? And it's in Berlin, Germany. Near the Olympic Stadium, where Hitler opened the Olympic Games of 1936 (we mention this, because it plays an important role in Carl Sagan's novel Contact---the opening is the first TV broadcast in the planet's history, aliens pick up on it, and contact is made).

The usual story. You can get the property for a song. But...if you want to rebuild, there should be grass on the roof, and timber on the walls, since it's also close to one of Le Corbusier's signature buildings. And the existing structure, sorry, we'll have to destroy it. But we can get this young architect. It's the habitual interplay between "we have no money" and "no money spared," that we know so well from our own attempts at home improvement.

Olympic stadium in Berlin

Now, located next to these structures (Olympic Stadium, Corbusier building, Rohleder's dwelling), we have the Berliner Waldbühne, also built by Hitler. It was a wooden structure, an amphitheater built into the woods. Very pretty, with room for an audience of 25,000 people. Good acoustics.

Come 1965. Come the Rolling Stones, and their first concert in Berlin. They are scheduled for the Waldbühne, the largest venue short of the Olympia Stadium itself, where the acoustics would be impossible. 

Now, you need to understand Berlin during the age of The Wall. Berlin was split into an western section (a geographical western island in a communist sea), and the eastern section (separated from us by the wall, but united with the rest of communist Eastern Germany). The wall had been built 4 years before, and there were still all sorts of communal arrangements for the city, including the fast transit system, possibly the first fast transit system in the world, built during the late 19th century. It's called S-Bahn ("S" for "schnell" = fast), and in those days, it was owned and operated by the East (the communists).

Berlin's S-Bahn
Now, you also need to understand that in 1965, 20 years after the war, Germany was still relatively poor, and adolescents typically would not own cars, perhaps not even scooters. Also, Berlin is one of the largest cities in the world geographically, and your scooter would simply not get you to the Waldbühne in time. So you use the S-Bahn.

It's 1965, the concert will start in 2 hours, and you climb onto the communist S-Bahn. And you are not the only one. In fact, there are 25,000 more of you.

So, we get on the S-Bahn, and we are in a good mood. Very good mood. Somehow, people have already started to probe the sturdiness of the S-Bahn accommodations. The seats are wooden, and very solid. And yet, it's amazing what 25,000 adolescents can do when the animal spirits rise.

The planks on the seats come loose. More planks come loose (we're on the way to the Waldbühne now). Other items that had defined the interior of the S-Bahn for 70 years also come loose, all this while we are practicing our understanding of Rolling Stones' songs ("I can't get no satisfaction"---notice the double negation). Upon arrival at the station (the Waldbühne has its own S-Bahn station), not much is left of the interior of our car, or any other car in service.

We enter the Waldbühne, and Mick Jagger comes on the stage. He is in a good mood, his band is in a good mood, and we are in a good mood. The Waldbühne, remember, was a wooden structure, and we had just practiced on such structures. The spirits rise, and while the Stones get going, we get going as well. 

The Rolling Stones at the Waldbühne

Two hours later, nothing is left of the Waldbühne. Nothing. It was rebuilt 30 years later, after the re-unification, in concrete.

I am not making this up.

The Waldbühne rebuilt after reunification

PS: here's a brief period clip from the local TV news:

Sep 27, 2010

The Obama identity

Vanity Fair has a preview of a new satirical novel with political content by Edward Klein and John LeBoutillier involving, among other things, Obama's birth certificate.

And while we are at it, here's an excerpt from one of the hopeless scripts of the washed-up scriptwriter who disappeared in the Bay of Cannes together with the Giant Wave:


Lab environment, gear, computers, desks, etc.
ALBERRT behind his desk, in front of a computer screen.

A toy helicopter crosses the room, remotely controlled by SKINHEAD JOE. The copter buzzes around Alberrt’s head, then lands on his desk. Alberrt ignores it.

Alberrt, you busy?

I’m into the computer of the State of Hawaii Department of Health. With System’s Administrator privileges.

Skinheads POV.

On Alberrt’s screen we perceive Obama’s birth certificate; a popup window asks “Delete Permanently” with alternatives YES, NO, CANCEL, the cursor hovering over the YES.

ALBERRT (CONT’D) (speaking in cadences, when possible)
In 2001, the State of Hawaii Health Department went paperless. Paper documents were discarded. The official record of Obama’s birth is now an offical electronic record, as Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the Health Department, informs us via the Honolulu Star Bulletin, the leading newspaper of the archipelago. I am holding this document---the only official proof of Obama’s American citizenship---in my hands … under my mouse, actually, the able mouse of a fringe hacker imposing as system’s administrator, and if its cursor clicks YES, the document is gone, and Obama has lost his citizenship.

He can’t stay president without it. Go for it man. Just do it, do it, do it (to the gestures of a winning tennis champion)

Alberrt does not react. An angel walks through the room; the moment passes.

What holds you back?

Alberrt clicks NO.

I think I need a raise. And there is too much corroborative evidence. A copy of the birth certificate resides in the vault of Obama’s Chicago office.

Alberrt’s screen changes to the image of an Obama official displaying the certificate.

The copy has no legal value independent of the health records, but provides a straw to which Obama could cling. Next …

Alberrts’s screen image changes to a clip from the Honolulu Advertizer.

..the birth was announced on Sunday, August 13, 1961, in the Honolulu Advertizer.
Skinheads face, Skinhead clearly clueless

Sunday, August 13, 1961, was, as you may recall, the birthday of the Berlin Wall---and we don’t believe in coincidence, or do we…

Now the Skinhead understands.

Alberrts’s screen image changes to a clip from the Honolulu Birth Star Bulletin.

And finally there is the entry in the Honolulu Birth Start Bulletin. Through…(points to his head)…through my brain, I have acquired system administrator privileges to all these sites, but there are backups, there is physical stuff, tapes, disks, in vaults, which I cannot access myself. And the Honolulu advertizer still keeps a physical record. Now, this …

Alberrts’s screen image changes to a mugshot of some guy.

… is the system administrator of the Honolulu Advertizer. He got recently divorced, and has several violations for drunk-and-driving.

Alberrts’s screen image changes to a mugshot of KHALID SHAIKH MOHAMMED

And this (beat) is the system administrator of the Hawaii Health Department. He never got married, for obvious reasons, but is behind on his mortgage payments, apparently spending too much time in the Waikiki Bananas…

Alberrts’s screen image changes to a picture of the WAIKIKI BANANAS

… an infamous beach venue for exotic surfers…

Sep 26, 2010

Sunday sex alert

According to Peter Doig, the British painter, the angels in Caravaggio's Seven acts of mercy of 1606 are having sex, and enjoying it.

Seven acts of mercyWhite canoe, detail (P. Doig)

Sep 20, 2010

Destination: Kazakhstan

We've posted his censorship alert 6 hours ago, but nobody cares. Visits from Le Monde or any other of the elite French newspapers...forget it. Nobody is interested. Nothing but the usual, lechery visits of our site for our naked girls from...(don't ask).

I informed Sacha about this unfortunate turn of events (is it a "turn," actually?), and he decided to let it go, and leave the country, leave France, leave the old, tired continent, and look for uncensored pastures elsewhere. And there he is, on his way to Kazakhstan---the only transcontinental destination available at this late hour by train (8:36pm, the train is late, of course), pictured above. Fortunately, it's a non-stop ride that will take only 6 days and 6 minutes.

Bye bye, Sacha, we will miss you!

Keep your powder dry, especially in Kazakhstan! And send us a picture of the rotating golden statue of President Breftzerk. And quit smoking at an appropriate moment in the future---especially cigarettes that look suspiciously like something more.

-"Uncensored pastures, that sounds like a flip from the washed-up scriptwriter."
-"Come to think of it, we haven't heard from him in a long time."
-"Well, he was supposed to have disappeared in the Mediterranean, off Cannes."
-"Perhaps he is in Kazakhstan now, and works as a poet for President Breftzerk."

Sep 14, 2010

Communist swimwear

communist swim wear from Eastern GermanyIt was 1985, before the Berlin Wall had come down, and I was visiting at the Rockefeller College of the State University of New York at Albany. They had arranged for an apartment for me, owned by a physics professor from Union College, Schenectady, who would go to CERN for a sabbatical (yes, click it, and click here, as well). What I did in Schenectady? I learned how to pronounce "Schenectady!"

There was a TV in my apartment, and on the TV, one fine evening, a commercial appears. It's a fashion show with a female man-eater (are all man-eaters female?) who pronounces the words "day wear" with a heavy Russian accent, while a mousy model comes on stage in a shapeless gray garment, and disappears again. The light dims, the man-eater flashes a torch-light, pronounces "night wear," and the mousy model re-appears in the very same outfit. The light comes up again, the man eater pronounces "swim wear," and the mousy model makes her last appearance, this time with a swim belt wrapped around her hopeless dress. CUT. A male person, with an unaccented voice, proclaims:"Wendy is better; Wendy offers choice."

Two days later, Wendy, a fast food chain, pulled the commercial, "because it had raised controversy." I never understood. I thought it was very funny, and very true. Especially the accent was very funny, Zwim-Weaarh,  Zwim-Weaarh. By the way, I forgot to tell, with each appearance of the model, the Stalinist man eater (obviously a member of the Tea Party) would raise her hands and clap enthusiastically while gazing triumphantly at the audience, that would then chime in, reluctantly.

But now I do understand why Wendy pulled the commercial. Because, you know, the swim wear under communism was much better that I (we?) thought---as the newly discovered picture from the former, communist Eastern Germany, published in Der Spiegel, exemplifies.

-"If only the Tea Party would know, it would change their outlook completely."
-"It could mean the end of the culture wars."
-"Communism is OK, really."
-"Moderates, independents, centrists, whoever is out there, draw your Tea Party friends to this post and see the world change."

Sep 2, 2010

William Hague "not gay"

Earlier today we thought about putting up a post about William Hague (ex-leader of the British Conservative Party, now foreign secretary), who has officially declared this morning that he is not gay.

Now, it's a beginner's thing in epistemology (or whatever) that negative statements cannot be disproved conclusively in infinite referent frames (no observer has infinite observational prowess, unobserved cases might always provide the elusive counterexample).

William Hague and Christopher Myers

So, William Hague did not have sex with his advisor Christopher Myers, because, because you were there, right? But you weren't; only Hague and Myers were, since they were traveling together, sharing a hotel room, campaigning, whatever, while the bright young thing is only 25 years old (Hague looks much older than he is).

And then we decided that we should not put up a post about Hague, because it would be politically correct in a sense.

And then the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced his "100% support of William Hague in this matter."

And then we decided to get (back) into the game.

100% support. For what? For not being gay? For denying being gay? For not coming out of the closet? For coming out of the non-closet? For not coming out of the non-closet? How does he know?

-"And, by the way, David, I'm not gay!"
-"Absolutely, William, done deal, politicians never lie, especially about their sexuality. Gay sex, bah!"

And so on and so forth. Thank You.

Jul 25, 2010

The MoosAlpFest 2010

Today, at the Moosalp, up 400 meters from Bürchen (us), located at a saddle point between two local mountains, with views of the Matt-tal (Zermatt). In the background, the Dom, 4,500 meters high.

And here a life clip taken by our visting friend Maarten Marx, the famous nonstandard logician:

Jul 23, 2010

Plus ça change: "Call this a govment"

Huckleberry Finn's father, in chapter VI of Mark Twain's novel (written in 1876, situated around 1845)

"Call this a govment! why, just look at it and see what it's like. Here's the law a-standing ready to take a man's son away from him -- a man's own son, which he has had all the trouble and all the anxiety and all the expense of raising. Yes, just as that man has got that son raised at last, and ready to go to work and begin to do suthin' for him and give him a rest, the law up and goes for him. And they call that govment! That ain't all, nuther. The law backs that old Judge Thatcher up and helps him to keep me out o' my property. Here's what the law does: The law takes a man worth six thousand dollars and up'ards, and jams him into an old trap of a cabin like this, and lets him go round in clothes that ain't fitten for a hog. They call that govment! A man can't get his rights in a govment like this. Sometimes I've a mighty notion to just leave the country for good and all. Yes, and I told 'em so; I told old Thatcher so to his face. Lots of 'em heard me, and can tell what I said. Says I, for two cents I'd leave the blamed country and never come a-near it agin. Them's the very words. I says look at my hat -- if you call it a hat -- but the lid raises up and the rest of it goes down till it's below my chin, and then it ain't rightly a hat at all, but more like my head was shoved up through a jint o' stove-pipe. Look at it, says I -- such a hat for me to wear -- one of the wealthiest men in this town if I could git my rights.

"Oh, yes, this is a wonderful govment, wonderful. Why, looky here. There was a free nigger there from Ohio -- a mulatter, most as white as a white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the shiniest hat; and there ain't a man in that town that's got as fine clothes as what he had; and he had a gold watch and chain, and a silver-headed cane -- the awfulest old gray-headed nabob in the State. And what do you think? They said he was a p'fessor in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowed everything. And that ain't the wust. They said he could vote when he was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was 'lection day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn't too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they'd let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I'll never vote agin. Them's the very words I said; they all heard me; and the country may rot for all me -- I'll never vote agin as long as I live. And to see the cool way of that nigger -- why, he wouldn't a give me the road if I hadn't shoved him out o' the way. I says to the people, why ain't this nigger put up at auction and sold? -- that's what I want to know. And what do you reckon they said? Why, they said he couldn't be sold till he'd been in the State six months, and he hadn't been there that long yet. There, now -- that's a specimen. They call that a govment that can't sell a free nigger till he's been in the State six months. Here's a govment that calls itself a govment, and lets on to be a govment, and thinks it is a govment, and yet's got to set stock-still for six whole months before it can take a hold of a prowling, thieving, infernal, white-shirted free nigger, and -- "

Jul 4, 2010


From the English 1986 movie Blunt (Blunt was a notorious British double spy)

The British is so posh, it's hard to understand. The crucial lines are:

“Don’t worry, poppet, it’s just the missus,” (Burgess to the lad)
“If he needs bum, he’s welcome to him.” (MacLean to the butler)

Jul 3, 2010

Sex on the beach

Well, not quite, but you can call it formal foreplay (perhaps better: formalized foreplay?)

There they come.

When we showed these pictures to Lesley (yes, it's on the beach of Hilton Head), she shared some thoughts with us, and we, bitchy gay Europeans, couldn't agree more.

Will she say yes?

Will he say yes?

We'll never know.

Jun 27, 2010

Rüdesheim am Rhein

We are invited by a friend to spend a few days at his place in Altheim, near Frankfurt, Germany. Where to go, what to visit? We suggest Rüdesheim, because it's not far, it's famous for its Reingau (Rhine) wines, and we've never been there before.

We arrive by ferry from the other bank, and it rains. A tourist trap under a cloud? 

The lunch, schnitzels, is excellent, even though German schnitzels, as a rule, are not thin enough. It is served with a local sauce, Rüdesheimer Sauce, with a hint of the local brandy, Asbach-Uralt. I also order a glass of the local whine, which is, as expected, disappointing (Rüdesheim is simply located too far up north; there is not enough sun for a decent wine).

Rüdesheim, under the rain

What to do next? We take the cable car up the hill, and discover the official monument of the War 70/71.

Jun 26, 2010

New Bern, North Carolina

What was this?

Yes, it was a bear, or at least a representation of one.

The "logo," of New Bern is the bear, Ann explains at the reception of the local Hampton Inn, and since the town is celebrating its 300's birthday, bears are all over the place.

The local tourist board (Ann is a member) asked businesses to commission a bear of their liking (inside fairly strict rules). America at its best.

New Bern's claim to fame? It's the birthplace of Pepsi Cola.

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

What was this?

Yes, it was the first aeroplane, the first vessel that would lift off, fly, and land entirely on its own power. The Wright Brothers developed it and it flew on Dec. 17, 1903, in the dunes of Kitty Hawk.

The place sits on the OBX, the outer banks of North Carolina, a chain of sand banks, not unlike the Frisian Islands of the North Sea.

Jun 21, 2010

Jun 19, 2010

Rehoboth Beach (postcript)

It's a pity that our host had already left when the Republican Club of Rehoboth started to erect an enormous statue right between Rehoboth Av. and the beach.

The statue is dedicated to Peggy Noonan's famous 2004 column in the Wall Street Journal about George W. Bush, and when it is finished, an inbuilt recorder will speak her unforgettable words in an infinite loop:
"Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man. He’s normal. He thinks in a sort of common-sense way. He speaks the language of business and sports and politics. You know him. He’s not exotic. But if there’s a fire on the block, he’ll run out and help. He’ll help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, “Where’s Sally?” He’s responsible. He’s not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world."

Jun 16, 2010

Burlington, Vermont

We had barely arrived in the North-East Kingdom, or Perry would haul us off to visit an old friend, Big Al, in Burlington. Burlington is in the Guinness league, twice, for being the largest city of Vermont (more than 10k inhabs), and for being the cloudiest city of the continental US. It borders on the Lake Champlain (pictured), which is widely held responsible for the microclimate.

I had never seen the sun in Burlington before, but it did shine upon our arrival for dinner with Big Al and Helen, his lovely wife, whom we had last seen in December of 1988, when we had been invited to her perfect Christmas Dinner. Nothing had changed, of course.

Al is an emeritus of the University of Vermont, and we could not resist the invitation to his alma mater.

The University is home to the Dudley H. Davis Center, where the university's coop is located (T-shirts, Maple syrup), and where the Value Hall enshrines the values of the university. Respect, Openness, Integrity, Innovation, Responsibility. "Why not Justice," a Senior Vice President of Academic Communication must have asked during interminable Power Point Presentations. Was she fired? No, justice was duly added to the value spectrum,  and is missing only from the picture because our Samsung travel camera does not do wide angles.

We however, are in a spiky mode. Why Justice, we ask Big Alk, even though we know the answer already. Stay tuned.

Jun 12, 2010

Hilton Head

We had been invited by Lesley and Cory---not for the first time, we should add, they had invited us to a place in the Alpilles in the Provence region in 2005 (after a week that they had rented out house), and to their condo in Chicago in 2007. This time, it's Hilton Head, South Carolina. Another condo of theirs.

We have barely arrived or are hauled off to a dinner at a delicious restaurant (pictured above, under Live Oak trees covered with Spanish moss).


Hilton Head has a rich history. It was a major outpost of the Union Army in the Civil War, and became a settlement area after the war for emancipated African Americans, the Gullahs, who developed their own language, still spoken locally.

Its main attraction is the beach, possibly the best beach I've ever seen, warm, luscious, breezy, sexy, with long stretches for solitary encounters, and wild life to match. The finest sand in the world.

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