Saturday, March 31, 2007


Have meant for some time to post some charming photos of a recent daytrip to Monschau. A quaint German city historically known for its glass making, today Monschau is a picturesque little town filled with winding streets, half-timber houses, a “river running through it”, and lots of charming shops, restaurants, and B&Bs. It is even open on Sundays!!!!!!

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Knut Fever

Knut the polar bear cub is the darling of Germany, really the world. True, he has that un-"bear"-able cuteness (get it?) and a heart-warming story of survival. Justly deserved. What does his super-stardom and the world's fascination with him say about us?


For me, I suppose the world can take a break from global warming, nuclear proliferation, and Iranian hostages if only for a short while and enjoy the antics of this little German bear.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Springtime in Poland

It's spring. The daffodils are blooming, the trees have buds, and the stores are showing the latest in spring fashions. So, as I arise this fine spring morning in May, what gives with the snow in Warsaw?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Date and time

Two years in, and I still struggle with Europe's view of the proper recording of date and time.

As for the date format, the MM/DD/YY format we are so accustomed to in the US is second nature to me and is firmly ingrained into my brain. In Europe more times than not, the format is DD/MM/YY. To make matters worse, I still trying to purge the Asian date format out of my brain which is usually YY/MM/DD but not always. The Chinese further complicate things by showing dates based on a lunar calendar....which may not mean anything to you until you see dates with a year that is not '07. I'll leave it at that.

As for the time format, everything seems to be military timing in Europe. Generally, I panic at least once a week that I have calculated the start time of a meeting, or worse yet, a departure time for a flight incorrectly....

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mothering Sunday

Never really thought about it, but I just assumed all countries pretty much observed a day called Mother's Day. And in fact, most countries do. It is just that I had my brain trained that Mother's Day was always in May, which is when it usually is observed in the U.S., and never really stopping to think that "it just ain't so" elsewhere.

As it happens, yesterday was Mother's Day in the UK, or also known as "Mothering Sunday". While most countries do celebrate the day as one for honoring mothers, the origins of the day do in fact differ.

In the UK, Mothering Sunday has no direct connection to the American practice. Falling on the fourth Sunday of Lent (exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday), it is believed to have originated from the 16th century Christian practice of visiting one's mother church annually, which meant that most mothers would be reunited with their children on this day. Most historians believe that young apprentices and young women in servitude were released by their masters that weekend in order to visit their families. As a result of secularization, it is now principally used to celebrate and give thanks for mothers, although it is still recognized in church, with attention paid to Mary the mother of Jesus as well as the traditional concept 'mother church'.

Around the world, different countries celebrate Mother's Day on various days of the year because the day has a number of different origins. One school of thought claims this day emerged from a custom of mother worship in ancient Greece. Mother worship, which kept a festival to Cybele, a great mother of the gods, was held around the Verna; Equinox around Asia Minor. Eventually, Rome adopted the practice itself and celebrated the day during the Ides of March (March 15 to March 18). The Romans also had another holiday, Matronalia, that was dedicated to Juno, though mothers were usually given gifts on this day.

In Ireland and the British Isles, the day now simply celebrates motherhood and seeks to thank mothers. In most countries, Mother's Day is a new concept copied from western civilization. In many African countries, Mother's Day has its origins in copying the British concept. In most of Asia, Mother's Day is a heavily marketed and commercialized concept copied straight from the US Mother's Day. Of course, in the US, Mother's Day was originally conceived by social activist Julia Ward Howe during the American Civil War with a call to unite women against war.

Given what mothers do, I suppose any day is a perfect day is for honoring them, whether it is the "official" day in your country or not.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

In the spirit of all things green

One day I'll actually be in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day - it's just something that seems kinda fun. For now, a little "luck of the Irish" to you all and these warm Irish wishes to you!

Warm be the love that surrounds you,
Good be your friends, and true,
Constant be hope and promise,
Useful the work that you do -
Close be your family around you,
Good health be yours day by day,
Long be the life you're living
And full of much joy along the way....

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 12, 2007


For those of you who like to know the time of any point in time...say in...London, or anywhere else for that matter, you must check out this website. In a matter of sections you can download this freeware in a total of 1-2 minutes, save it to you your PC desktop, and customize whatever time zones you want.

And the best thing is that this software is sync with the new US DST times, now that it starts 3 weeks earlier.

Check out QClock ...a little tip from me to you.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Favorite souvenir

I was doing a little vacation planning today when I looked down and noticed the bracelet I was wearing... one of my favorites...nothing fancy and really cheap. It's this bracelet made of mah jong tiles that I picked up in a flea market on Hollywood Road in Hong Kong. It brings back great memories of many trips to Hong Kong, and one special trip with friends from Texas. My main regret is "Why didn't I buy more of them?"

Which got me to thinking...what are some of my favorite souvenirs from our travels? Are there things I wished I purchased that I did not or simply wished I'd purchased more of? The answer is yes...and in no particular order...

* Those buffet plates (service for 12) I saw in Sorrento...if I'd had a way to get them home, they'd be mine today.

* While we are talking plates, those dessert plates in Budapest - ditto the earlier remark about transporting them to Germany. Shipping them to D'Dorf cost 3 times as much as the plates themselves.

* More of those cute Murano-like little necklaces in Venice....

* The handpainted clock in Normandy...I still think about that one.

* Again, with the mah jong tile bracelets from Hong Kong.

Lest you be too worried, there are all those wonderful trinkets found at the countless visits to the Taipei Jewelry Market (pearls in every color), antique shopping in Macau (Round 1 and 2 - and this time we shipped it ALL!), and well, the Korean Mecca of shopping, Itaewon. In 2 words - leather goods.

Gone are the days of buying the kitschy souvenirs for me, although there is nothing wrong with those at all if that is someone else's cup of tea. I guess we've just sorta gravitated to the things that really embody a and wine from France, linens from Belgium (notice I did not even mention chocolates for my Swiss friends), the artwork from Asia, etc.

The one true thing learned...I regret more the "not" buying more than I ever regret the buying. Bring an extra suitcase, or better yet, buy one while in your destination city if necessity requires it. The best thing about the treats you buy for yourself when travelling is the enjoyment you receive from their continual use...looking down at the bracelet on your wrist that evokes a smile of a past memory.

So I am curious, what has been YOUR favorite travel purchase? Calling all blog comments now....

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I feel better

Update: A local consulting firm in the UK (with the initials D and T - who could that be????) has been called in to do an independent audit of the phone company providing the interactive phone services to ITV TV shows utilizing theses services. Still, it is not looking good for those dancers on ice this coming Saturday.....

Hmmm...just when I get sucked into a favorite show, it gets pulled out from under me.

A crack in the ice?

Very troubling news indeed! Due to a controversy (pronounced cahn-TRUH-vehr-see in the UK, not CAHN-troh-vehr-see as in the US) with the process for viewer call-in voting for ITV reality shows in the UK, it is VERY possible that my newest favorite show, Dancing on Ice, will be cancelled.

And for those of you "in the know", the issue is around overcharging of people who are voting for contestants who calling in or use the interactive feature on their TV remote to register their votes. Apparently, it is affecting several of the reality shows, not just my new fav.

And I thought the bruhaha was due to a possible voting conspiracy that had allowed the dancing team of Emily and Daniel to remain in the contest....

Monday, March 05, 2007

Safety, safety, safety

Safety is certainly the "watch word" when flying these days. From airport security, immigration controls, baggage inspections to onboard safety demonstrations (which I never watch anymore, by the way). Today though, enroute to Bristol, UK, I encountered not one, not two, but three instances of airline safety that made me...well quite frankly... wish I had not "seen" these safety issues in the first place.

More times than not, I cannot get a direct flight to Bristol, but rather usually have to make a connection through Amsterdam. Today was no different, however, the plane that I usually fly is a twin propeller job. Yea, you get the picture. I often try not to think about the fact that I am actually riding on this "flying brick" by entertaining myself with my iPod or a book. Today, though, the winds were whipping about so much that the plan was actually floating from left to right and back again throughout this first flight leg. Then, there were the inevitable pockets of air that the plane would hit which would cause the plane to drop a bit, thus eliciting verbal outbursts from passengers (i.e. screams and a few choice words I shan't repeat here). Terre firme never looked or felt so good.

The other lovely thing about this journey, and something I always look forward to (not), are the buses that take us to and from the terminal to the plane on the tarmac. One roundtrip to Bristol: 8 bus trips. On bus trip number 3 (coming from the Amsterdam terminal back out to the tarmac), our bus hit and ran over a suitcase just laying in the roadway, causing a flat tire. The bad news is that apparently no one missed the fact that this bag had fallen off a luggage cart nor did the bus driver see it before plowing into the bag and causing an explosion sound of sorts (a few more screams and choice words). When we actually verified that we were all okay, we then received the pleasure of walking the albeit short remaining distance to our plane from the decommissioned bus. Lovely! The good news: it was not my bag.

Finally, just few moments prior to departure, the flight attendant requested all passengers to unfasten their seatbelts, stay seated, and not touch anything electrical in the overhead bins such as lighting, A/C, or call buttons. Sitting towards the front of the plane, I naively asked, "Why?". Well, the plane had not been refueled yet, and the petrol was being loaded as we all waited in our seats. Apparently there was some concern that static electricity would cause an explosion. Ah, well....fabulous. So glad I asked.

By the time I landed in Bristol amidst a thunderstorm, fog, and high winds, I was utterly unfazed. I had already experienced the safety trivecta for the day.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Charlie's chair

Although we'd been to Aachen several times before, we had never caught the English tour of the church in Aachen just at the right time so we could see "the man's" chair, otherwise known as Charlemagne's throne. Located on the upper level of Charlemagne's Palatine Chapel, this modest throne, fashioned from marbled tiles, served as the coronation throne for successive German leaders for centuries.

Pictured here, this throne is over 1100 years old....

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A view of the masses, or at least that is what Charlie would've seen from his vantage point, his throne.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Snail slime

Yes...while surfing the NL TV stations this week while on business, I actually saw a late-night infomercial on a product called "Snail Slime". The TV spokesman was actually extolling the virtues of snail slime as a skin moisturizer, treatment for acne, and healing balm for scars and burns as his in-studio models had snails crawling around on their hands, arms, and faces.

This definitely falls into the "truth is stranger than fiction" category.