Sunday, September 29, 2013

Trying to Find Time to Watch a Season Pass

I have been waiting for down time to write in depth on at least one or two of the many thoughts that flit through my head just before I drift off to sleep.  I think of some 'great concept' or some 'interesting idea' that I could elaborate upon in my 'unread' blog, but by morning the idea has melted away like the mist in the valleys of West Virginia this time of year.  My mind is freshly empty as usual, or the idea looks like stale popcorn in the cold light of day.

We both felt a call of the mountains this week, and while there was much to do here to get ready for winter, we took off on a last minute trip to one of the state parks.  We lucked out on getting the last room because they were renovating (which we had not known) and everything was being torn up.  Noise and sawdust and hearty laughs of construction workers mingled with autumn colors, morning mist, evening shadows, fearless deer and wet mossy trails to hike.

It is illegal to feed the deer, this tourist is just rattling some paper!
The pool was empty of summer visitors.

The tour bus and the convention started the following day, thus we had the old fashioned bar to ourselves.  It was slated for paint and new furniture that week!

Even the sign above did not discourage us in our pursuit of peace.

This trail was marked as "more difficult."

Finding a few last cranberries.

These prior weeks before and after the cruise were busy:  we had been briefly honored by the County Commissioners (yes including the one I wrote that nasty email to a year ago about the trees) for our volunteer work, visited by my daughter's family with her three children and her two friends and their twins to feed and entertain, worked at the art museum for their Art Fest and filled other weekends by working/packing/painting at my son's house which has now SOLD!!

Today we head up to son to help him move furniture into the new house.  I have made green chile.  But the craziness is not quite read to end.  This coming week it looks like we may have visitors from Florida for a few days!

Then maybe a break in busy activities?  Really!!  We needed that mountain respite.  I might have missed fall altogether.

Monday, September 23, 2013

My New Header

This wall sun clock in my header was taken while I traveled in Germany.  I saw a number of these, some simple in design and structure and others much more elaborate with a lovely painting as a background.  If the angles are even slightly off you will never get the correct time.  The clock has to be aligned parallel to the axis of the earth's rotation.  I am not sure how this works with the changing of the seasons and dropping angle of the sun.  That is way too much math for me!  i.e. "Since the gnomon's style must be parallel to the Earth's axis, it always "points" true North and its angle with the horizontal will equal the sundial's geographical latitude; on a direct south dial, its angle with the vertical face of the dial will equal the co-latitude, or 90° minus the latitude."

Just ONE image in this formula from wikipedia.

\tan \theta = \frac{\cos \lambda}{\sin \eta \sin \lambda + \cos \eta \cot(15^{\circ} \times t)}

 I, of course, was more fascinated that it seemed to be an incorrect time when compared with my watch and I was enjoying the beauty of the swatches and swishes.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

You Know When It Is Time to Move On.

I do not know if you have ever experienced working with a group and noticed something has changed or shifted in its personality.  You cannot put your finger on it, and you ignore it or forget about it because there is so much to do and accomplish.

I have been coordinating a volunteer garden group of gardeners for almost two years.  I had been cautioned when I took over leadership that the last leader did not communicate well enough with everyone.  Thus, I focused on maintaining an accurate email and tree phone list, wrote a weekly update along with plans for the coming week, made sure that people were thanked and praised for whatever project they finished or started.  I asked for ideas, suggestions, etc. on the work ahead.  I wrote a monthly report for the museum, which the prior person had not done.  But since all the other volunteer groups write monthly reports I thought we should do so as well.

I even took over the work of purchasing plants and equipment through the museum's various accounts (which is a nightmare!), because my "co-leader" had been doing it and felt she could no longer.  I had asked this woman to be a co-leader since both she and her husband were much more involved in the museum than I and I wanted an insider to make sure we were connected to the museum and its various activities and that we had a reliable contact and I had a back-up when I was on trips and such.

This woman that I asked was a very hard worker but she was also a hard critic of others.  I ignored her criticism of others and tried to focus on what was working rather than what was not.

The group's size has grown and shrunk and grown over the months as most of these folks are elderly and find the physical work challenging and new members to the area decide to join and give it a go for a while.  We can have as many as 10 volunteers but mostly we are down to a small core of permanent loyalists. 

I have noticed in the last few weeks that some of the group are more reticent in talk and tend to work in a smaller group in areas of the grounds.  I try to ask questions of each person for input on how we were doing and for ideas on challenges.  One of the more communicative members suggested that we needed to get a fall schedule of projects formalized and she compiled a nice draft suggestion list.  I pulled this together and organized it for weekly tasks and added a few things that went with the plants and their growth habits as the cool weather began.

Then I took off on my two week trip leaving all else up to the co-leader.  When I returned I sent out an email for input on what was happening and did not get any response.  When I showed up on the day of our volunteer work , the few that were there had already started earlier.  I assisted where I could although no one explained what they had been done and what they were planting.  At the end of the work session I asked how things had gone for the past two weeks and where we were on the fall schedule and what had been completed.

My co-leader, without stopping in her walk back to the shed, said over her shoulder,  "A lot.  Just open your eyes.  Look around!"

I was a little dumbstruck as she sounded impatient or at the very least short, but I smiled and said, "Great!" but also realized that I was not going to be able to write an update for the week or the monthly report with this much 'detailed' information as she walked away. 

I also decided at that moment in time and with surprising relief, this group was ready for new leadership.  I was ready to move on to something else, many other projects, garden and non-garden, that are waiting for me and that are more in the gardening education mode rather than maintenance.  On Monday I am stopping by the volunteer coordinator's office and letting her and the Admin. Assistant of the museum know I am quitting.  I will not be able to meet with the group on our regular session as I have a bank meeting that morning, but on Monday afternoon I will email all the volunteers and let them know.  I will finish a plant inventory that needs to be done in the coming weeks.  Our group usually disbands at the end of October until spring, so this gives them plenty of time to re-group and me time to mellow out and quite second-guessing myself!

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Since today is international pirate day is seems appropriate to post about the boat/ship part of the cruise on the Danube.

In one of the earlier posts on this series of posts about my river cruise I included a photo that showed how many times this Danube river floods and how high those floods go.  Actually, when booking the cruise, we had heard that sometimes you spend more time being shuttled by bus from town to town because the river is too dry or too high for using the long boats.  It cannot be helped.  We had read that the spring floods were more of an issue, so we booked in the fall and lucked out with gorgeous weather except for the colder rain on our last day in Nuremberg.

These ships are high tech including 110 and 220 outlets, wi-fi for passengers, and a flat screen TV in every room!

Since the Danube has numerous bridges across it, ten built in the last decade, the ship has a wheel house that lowers to go under the older bridges and sometimes the top deck will be closed to passengers if the bridge is deemed too low for safety.  

Everything in the photo above, including that wheel house, collapses or lowers down to the level of the railing on the right side of the photo when going under a low bridge.

This cruise also goes several hundred miles through three countries and I am guessing over 40 locks...but I did not count.  Most of them are entered during the evening when we were sleeping.  It took less than 30 minutes to go through most.  Some of the locks rise or lower the ship 100 feet and there is a high wall on each side of the ship during that time.  Lock time must be reserved ahead with the lock master since dozens of passenger and cargo ships go up and down the Danube each day.  Sometimes we had to wait for a ship to go through the lock before us and sometimes it was wide enough for two ships to go through at the same time.

During our cruise there was a strike in Germany by the lock masters.  Technology has made these jobs more obsolete with the trend to have many locks being managed by one lock master via computer.  Therefore, our schedule was bumped up just a little so that we got through the regular locks before the strike.  We were bused back to one of the cities for our day tour as a result of that.

These locks can be a tight fit and yet were rarely felt a bump!  But the piloting did require miniscule movements. 

In the photo below is a boat transferring cargo.  The interesting thing about these is that they are called "family ships" because a family lives on them in the back cabin.  They eat, sleep and work there.  Usually these ships are operated 24 hours for economic reasons.  We were told that the husband does an 8-hour shift, the wife an 8-hour shift and then there is a mate that is hired who lives in the front area of the ship and he/she pulls the third shift. Children are raised on the ship until they are of school age and they are sent to a special school with the children of other families that work on cargo ships.  There is even a 'town' of 'family ships' somewhere on the river which includes a hospital ship and repair ship. etc.  It is like a little water world community.  The children usually follow in their parents footsteps when they become adults starting out as mates.

Well, that is the end of my journey and I have enjoyed reliving it through my blog posts.  Yes, I did enjoy every bit of it and had not a single complaint for the whole time!  Thanks for enduring this memory and am so happy that some of you enjoyed this series.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Danube Dump

I was perusing my (many) photos and found that there were so many interesting things that I did not discuss here and I can briefly address in the post below.  This post is what I call a photo-dump.  (Plus...just for Mage and other boat/ship fans I have ONE MORE post after this with an interesting history on shipping in the Danube and a few bits and bytes about that.)

Hungary and Budapest itself are primary places for making movies.  I could not get closer to this very interesting architectural building (multiple styles were combined) because they were making an Italian movie.  When the wardrobe lady passed with her plastic bag of Italian shoes, I did have to stare a little.

This driver lost control of these beautiful animals just as I was about to cross in front of him.  The reins had come loose and the animals were not being told where to go.  The jangle of a harness being flung around and hooves being clomped down can be quite breathtaking and attention getting!  

Above is a picture of my shipmates taking photos of the vast vineyards in Germany.  Such wonderful wines they do have!

As most of us know, Germany is taking the lead in renewable energy.  These were HUGE!

The tiny town of Passau, maybe 50,000 people, seemed to have an unusual number of doctors!!

This was the only shop where I was yelled at for taking  a photo...ooops...too late!  Clearly the doctor above is not helping with the stress of some of the folks here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Food, Glorious Food!

 Only one more post after this on the cruise to make sure I covered a bunch of odds and ends as I promised some readers I would do and then back to my mundane thoughts about life!  I know that my blog readers cannot wait!

Oddly enough I never took photos of the meals while I was eating on this trip.  I totally forget about my camera when food is put in front of me! Those people who take pictures of their breakfast, lunch and dinner need therapy.  Also much of our food was eaten on the boat ship so I usually did not have a camera with me, although it might have been useful in remembering the many names of my mates.  Anyway, just scroll and drool at all the other places and things to eat:

German beer garden.  FRESH PRETZELS!

Really good beer...not too heavy.

Yellow beans that look like Italian flat green beans.

Love the low calorie foods that were found everywhere!

Exotic mushrooms.

Holy paprika and I did bring some home along with Gingerbread!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Setting Sail

I went on a large Disney cruise years ago and the person who coordinated it said it would be wonderful because I would never have to worry about seeing my grandchildren.  She was absolutely correct in that I never saw the kids except at dinner and that made me rather sad.  There was manufactured fun on the ship or lots of sitting around on the ship or exercising on the ship and nothing to see but the ocean for hours.  I disliked the whole experience.  Our stateroom was small with no windows and very crowded since we also had the 'pac and play' for our youngest and tucked her in each evening.  Therefore, I will never go on a cruise with over a thousand people like that again.  Whenever we came into a port we disgorged lots of people and swarmed over stores and restaurants like nasty bees.  We got only one beach day after all the confinement!  There were lots of sticky sweet tropical alcoholic drinks, if that is your cup of tea!

This Viking river cruise was so different in that there were no waves, no manufactured fun (well a little) and the room was just a little more spacious and the groups for tours were much smaller-one bus load.  The views were always interesting as you could see the shore each and every day and most of this part of Europe is not ugly industrial.  The cruise director and all of our guides had a wealth of knowledge about the area and its history and answered our various questions completely when we saw something curious or wonderful.

One of the responders to a prior post voiced concern about how the lower level staff could be treated (mistreated) on a cruise ship.  It is my understanding from the upper level staff that Viking works very hard at keeping good working relations and decent living conditions among all staff.  I do know that the ship interrupted their schedule to stop at a small town to let off one of the lower level staff who had a family emergency, and they provided him with a train ticket to Vienna and a plane ticket home.  Yet, I am sure their living quarters were tight on board ship and I do know they worked very long hours.

We did learn that the Danube can be a ruthless river and the flood this last May left devastation to these lovely old medieval cities all along its coast.  Where our guide is holding his hand is the level of the flood waters of that most recent flood in May of this year in the city of Regensburg, Germany.  All the other dates and marks written on the wall are other floods in this town dating back to the 1500's.  The people do not have flood insurance to cover losses and the government no longer allows them to live on the ground floor.  They may use it only for business.

Perhaps that is why this tattoo parlor on the ground floor is so sparsely furnished?

Most of the architecture away from the river is not as old as it looks.  Many parts of the various cities were rebuilt or restored after fires and wars and are not original...but you would be hard pressed to recognize that restoration except for their clean condition.  They paid great attention to detail creating buildings that looked like the original.  They are proud of their heritage and proud of their link to the past and their part in the history of the world.  But I did get the impression that the Germans were most happy to pause only shortly at WWII sites for tours and quickly move on to the wonderful medieval history that reflects their history so much more fully.  They know that those of us from the new world are most fascinated by this much older history and most depressed by the most recent World War.

There was a small mix-up in the call for the tour guide and this lovely woman in black had left mass (it was Sunday) to come guide us through her hometown of Regensburg.  She appeared to be late until her son, the young man in the photo below this, appeared and said that he had been scheduled for the tour which resulted in the mix up in names.  Honestly ladies, which guide would you rather have??

Just as an aside, our guide's lederhosen belonged to his grandfather and he had just inherited them from him as a gift and was most happy as they were far more comfortable than his newer ones.  He explained that it might take years to break in lederhosen to a comfortable wearing level. His shoes are a traditional Bavarian half shoe.  Isn't he scrumptious even right down to his shoes?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Three Cities

Our first two days after arrival at our hotel and before boarding our ship we relaxed in Budapest, Hungary.  This city a combination of the cities of Buda and Pest and the older community of Obuda.  Much of the city is a World Heritage Site and really, really lovely.  I think it was my favorite city, but we spent most of our time walking and walking and walking there over two days and that might be why.  We felt very safe and did not encounter any situation that made us uncomfortable.

The city is full of professional people:

Poor people who live on recycling:

Striking laborers:

Government employees:

and tourists:

This is not my husband. He would not be caught dead in those jeans or those shoes!.

If we had more time in the remnants of our lives and more money in our bank account and fewer places in the world to still visit we would go back to Budapest for a week and just see it all more closely and eat more of the fabulous food and watch people more.  The strength and patriotism of these people is reflected so well in what they have accomplished after the devastation of recent wars and the evolution following past ancient wars.  First there were the Celts, followed by the Romans, then the Hungarians which were pillaged by the Mongols, followed by 150 years of Ottoman rule eventually to become a capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire (which was no small empire) which then dissolved after WWI and attack by Germany and then Russian rule.  Heroes' Square in Budapest gives just a small clue with statues of various Hungarian leaders across this history.

So much city and so little time!