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Just a short post. Our fabulous kids, namely our niece Alex and son Jesse went together and purchased an iPad for Jim.

I am sitting in the comfort of our living room typing away at the virtual keyboard with WordPress on the screen.

As I began this little exercise, my poor husband said, “I’ve lost it…”

All he did was show me how to put a direct link on the screen, and I asked whether I could put my bog on there ….. And the rest is history.

I guess I’d better give it back now. It really is his new toy….

It really is a very cool thing though.

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Sayonara

Long night last night, not much sleep.  The computer is an addiction that sucks me in.  And what is accomplished?

Seems like I have rediscovered the people of my childhood, who feel free to call me names; another place to be the odd man out.

I’m tired of it.

My garden does not call me names.

I’m going now.

You all take care, now.

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Life is always an adventure.  I went on an entire odyssey just to mail a few packages, and came back moved to rant just a small rant.

It isn’t very far across our little town, a matter of 3 or 4  miles.  If I lived in Amsterdam I would take my stuff to the post office on my bike, but if I lived there my bike would probably be equipped with a basket and there would probably be bike lanes.   So I took the truck, which is what I get to use for errands while Jim uses the Prius to commute the 35 miles to his job.

I was nearly rear-ended at a stop light by a little blonde in an SUV who was involved in looking at her email on her phone.   In the next half kilometer I was also almost sideswiped by a gentleman in a very old boat car who was sailing it out of a parking lot while engaged in a lively discussion with his BluTooth.   At the stop light I watched the lady next to me unconsciously creep forward as her foot left the brake pedal while she was laughing and gesturing with her cigarette while talking on her cell phone, which she had cradled in her ear.   She regained consciousness of her surroundings about a second before her bumper kissed the rear end of the truck in front of her at the red light, and was able to arrest her progress.   Good thing the light changed before her foot lifted again.

This cell phone stuff is getting ridiculous.

I know it is terribly convenient to be able to do absolutely everything on one small piece of electronics.   And I have to admit that I am enjoying the photos my niece is posting of Europe while she is still there via the beauty of the internet.   But what I am witnessing as a cell phone non-user is that suddenly I have become an inhabitant of a world where people voluntarily isolate themselves.   They may be sitting at the same table with the ostensible purpose of eating breakfast together, but they might as well be in separate houses for the amount of communicating they are doing with each other and any other person in the room.

I see people who have absolutely no qualms about driving around while they are talking on their telephones.   Some people have learned that holding a phone to your ear is dangerous, in fact even illegal in many places.  “I have a hands free device,” they cheerfully inform me, as if this makes up for the inherent snag in telephonic communication.   It doesn’t matter whether your phone is wired to the wall or imbedded in your cerebral cortex (which seems to be the next logical step in the miniaturization of telephones), if you are talking on the phone to another person, you project your “self” to where they are.   That self is no longer present in the place where your body is, your mind is taking you to the other person’s room and presence.   It is probably even envisioning them, the room they are in.   It takes a huge act of will to take your consciousness from that conversation and focus it on the traffic around you if you happen to be driving.   I’m sorry to tell you that the hands free device does not cure this ill.  Your mind still wanders.

Lets not even talk about how rude it is to be having a lunch date with someone and have them answer their phone.   I almost walked out of lunch with my girlfriend when she did that to me.   I could not believe it, I thought we were trying to get caught up with our lives.   And what was I supposed to do while she chatted with the other party?   Oh, I suppose I could have posted a status on Facebook or tweeted —  if I had had my cell phone with me, which I did not.  Besides, adding my own rudeness to the situation was going to make it any less rude, was it?

Your mind wanders if you are talking to a person in the car with you too.  That is the genesis of the laws forbidding young teenage drivers to have more than one passenger in the car with them.   I’ll just add that if you are looking at the radio trying to pick a station, you are not looking at the road, nor are you if you are applying makeup or reading the newspaper.   Sorry, peripheral vision doesn’t cut it.

The post office was an adventure too.   I was mailing a foreign package and I didn’t know which customs declarations form I was going to need for the item I was sending, so I filled them both out.   The Post Office employee found that amusing.   I had lots of time in line to fill them both out.   I am not the only person who missed the Christmas rush to mail packages by waiting until after the New Year.   Apparently there are quite a number of us.

While I was doing that I started thinking about how amazing it is that I can go to one building and give the guy my package with an address from the other side of an ocean on it and some money, and it will be there sometime next week.   Probably it will reach its destination before the other packages that I sent parcel post because they were so darned heavy, which are not leaving the continental United States.

I mean, just a few generations ago you would have had to contract with a private party travelling across the country to get your package to the coast, and then trust that person to make arrangements with a ship that was travelling across the ocean where perhaps another person might deign to take your package to the person you addressed it to.   I mean, Post Office, UPS, FedEX — all those guys.   It is totally amazing.

And cell phones are amazing too.   I just think maybe people should hang them up once in a while and look around at the world and see what has happened while you were gazing into your little box, flicking icons by, reading emails and newsfeeds, typg cht msgs tu ur bffs, and talking to them too, of course.

It might surprise you.

 

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I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the information age.

I decided to join up this afternoon.  I utilized the Website software provided by my professional association (Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals) to advertise my massage business.  Actually, the process was much easier than I expected and I had a blast trying to follow their instructions.     Check it out.

What do you think?   Am I getting the point across?  Would you call me?   Should I link to my blog or is that idiocy?

Now we’ll see if it is true that I need a website.

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The Havens has been hopping, but in amidst the craziness I’ve been able to look in on people a modicum, pay a few short on-line visits.  All the while I would mention to myself that I really needed to find a moment to make a blog post.    Well, this is the moment.

I did make the trek to Texas for the memorial service, which was quite lovely and meaningful.   I was very glad that I was able to be there for my sister, who definitely needs support during this early period of bereavement.   Along the way I made a few decisions that turned out to be not so wise, so I thought I would share a few of those events with you.

One of my first rather poor decisions was to decide to believe that the five minute tutorial I received on the new iPod was sufficient.   I will put here in my own defense that the person who gave it to me had gone to considerable effort to convince me it was “simple, easy, etc.”   Perhaps.   But I will say this:  it was not the best decision to do the first “solo” operations with it while trying to drive on the interstate highway.   In the first twenty minutes of my travels I wound up pulling off the highway at least four times as I attempted to make the device do what I wished it to do.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am NOT the most “techie” of people, and my husband is quite cognizant of the way electronic devices can be impaired by proximity to my person.  Why this is the case is a mystery, but the fact is true that a remote control for the TV that refuses to do anything even remotely related to its true function when held in my hand will immediately, and without complaint, function perfectly when handed to him.  Needless to say, this can raise my frustration level quite high in a nanosecond.

However, I decided not to throw the expensive little toy out of the window of the car at that time.  Ultimately, when I reached my hotel the first night and described what was going on to my husband, he got on the computer at home and visited the iPod site and learned a few more things about the device.  Later he imparted that wisdom to me.

One of the things that really twisted my panties up was that when I FINALLY got the thing to actually play music for me, it only deigned to do that for three hours, which barely got me to the state of Oklahoma on my travels.   This was particularly disturbing since it was “supposed” to be able to perform for 24 hours on a charge, and so we had decided not to purchase the in-car 12 volt charger, as our finances are still in recovery and we really didn’t need to plunk down a goodly sized chunk of change right at that time.

So, imagine our surprise when we learned that even when you have the iPod nano turned off, it still uses battery power.   If you want it to stay fully charged, it must be plugged in, you can not leave it sitting by your purse waiting transport to the car for your trip.   Frankly, I find this decision on Apple computer’s part to be disturbing to the max.   We already have enough energy vampires in our home, we don’t need another one to add to the line of suckers of the life’s blood of the planet.

Call me old fashioned, but when I turn something OFF I  really expect it to be “off”, not gently sucking battery power from its own innards for whatever arcane purpose.  I mean, when I turn my flashlight off, it doesn’t discharge the batteries, why should the iPod nano be any different?

Okay.   Enough about the iPod.   I may eventually discover when it is that I love having the little device to provide me with entertainment.   Most of the time I don’t feel the need to be entertained, so this may take a while.   I am perfectly content with my own thoughts and the music of the birds and the wind in the leaves of the trees most of the time I am out working in the garden or walking the dog.

Anyway, another decision I made was to purchase ripe peaches in Texas for the purpose of stocking my freezer for the winter.   When I arrived home after driving from the hill country of Texas, staying overnight in Dallas, and then trekking through Texas, Arkansas, and half of Missouri, after 12 hours on the road following 4 hours of sleep, we HAD to do something with those peaches as soon as I arrived home.   They were not going to wait until the following morning, having already begun their process of transforming themselves into peach wine when I arrived home.   So this was possibly not the best decision I have ever made either.   Although I will say that these peaches are wonderfully ripe and sweet and red and delicious.

I made the decision to eat greasy road food on my way to and from Texas.   I also ate several desserts and consumed a rather larger amount of alcohol than I usually do.   I also decided (through neglect) to not walk my customary 3 miles.   Mostly I made that decision because I did not have my beautiful dog gazing meaningfully into my eyes to encourage me to get off my duff and go for that walk.   However, the upshot of all those decisions compounded by the hours I spent driving the car resulted in a gain of a whole pound of flesh upon my person.   Egads!   That is on its way out as we speak, I can tell you!

Another not so great decision I made was to eliminate the need to pay $12 in tolls for the privilege of driving through Oklahoma on my way home, and chose a route home that probably added around 3 hours to my travel time due to the fact that the route wended its way through the hills and small towns of Arkansas.   Very picturesque, but quite time consuming due to my anally retentive need to actually obey the speed limits on my way through towns.   I was not eager to save $12 on tolls only to get several hundred of those items extracted from me by an importunate official in some small town in the form of a fine for speeding.    On the other hand, I got 55 miles per gallon on my trip home because of the very sedate rate of speed I was being held to.   So it wasn’t all bad.

I saw some amazing weather in Texas on my way through.   This was a storm behind a storm I saw south of Dallas on my way to San Antonio.

A couple of days later the same weather system provided this rather amazing sunset for Jim’s delectation.

I got home to find the gardens enjoying the heat of summer, bursting with beautiful day lilies.   There are plenty of other things going on too.

This bouquet had an occupant that rode in from outside.

Can’t quite see that tiny yellow crab spider?   Here’s a closer close up.

While I was gone Jim harvested 15 pounds of potatoes and a whole bunch of garlic.  The garlic is hanging in the woodshed to dry, the potatoes are in the cooler in his shop.  Now I have empty spots in the vegetable garden that are going to receive a dose of black beans and pinto beans to grow for us.  Meanwhile the green beans are producing well, the carrots are also.   The broccoli patch has produced its first flush of heads and I am waiting to see about the side shoots.   I removed all the salad greens patch as it had bolted.   Soon there will be cucumbers, and we have been enjoying grilled zucchini and pattypan squashes for a couple of weeks.  The swiss chard is burgeoning.

And Jesse is still here visiting.   I could not be prouder of the way he is developing.  I can no longer really call him “My Boy,” as he is most definitely a man now.   And one who has maturity and a certain amount of sensitivity and wisdom, and who is very good at communicating too.    We are SO enjoying this visit as he is VERY MUCH enjoying his leave from the war-torn part of the world where he is soon to return.   Too soon — his leave is over on the 6th.

So I will probably disappear back into the Real World after this post and make little forays into the Internet World, as I have been in the last week.

So now I have decided that I must get out there and move the hoses to the next beds in the vegetable garden, and find my bean seeds.  Ta ta for now.

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Oh, we love our computers but sometimes they do things that are absolutely frustrating, annoying and extremely puzzling.

We have a Macintosh.  Yesterday the computer was fine.   This evening it is fine except for one thing.

It has decided that it can no longer recognize photo files.   It can recognize photos that it already has on iPhoto.   But it can’t import them from anywhere any more.   It cannot read a file off a CD even though the CD was made on the computer using photos that were on iPhoto.   It cannot download pictures from my cameras even though we have reloaded the software for the cameras.   You can look at pictures from your cd on preview, and you can move them to the desktop.  But you can’t take them into iPhoto.  We haven’t tried the scanner yet, but I suspect that the answer would be the same.

We have not actually contacted Apple tech support yet, because just to talk to an actual person of that description would cost us $49.95.  I think you should support your products when there are problems, especially when they are so dear to acquire in the first place, and it shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg either.

Jim suspects that this may be Apple’s way to force us to purchase iLife 09, which is the updated version of  the software bundle we already have.  Personally, I don’t see why we should have to buy new software when the old stuff works just fine, especially since our budget is really tight right now.

Anybody have any ideas about what may be going on??

We had quite a line of storms race through here last night.   They spawned a couple of smallish tornadoes, none in our immediate area.  But we had some amazing straight line winds, with gusts in excess of 30 knots (60 kph).   For a while the rain was coming down sideways.  Literally.    We got 2 inches of rain in about an hour.   The front that went through left us with a grand cool day today, and tonight we are enjoying a cool, calm. very starry night.

The dog walk was extremely pleasant.   Ruby found a turkey wing feather and brought it to me proudly, presenting it to me as the prize it was.   I figure that during the storm last night, the turkeys were disturbed by the severe weather and perhaps somebody whacked their wing against a branch.   It is also molting season.

Last night when we came home from our walk we saw the great horned owl make a hunting pass over the back yard.   We have a very fat and sassy looking wood chuck investigating the place.   I think he may be considering moving into the den I created a couple of summers ago when I found an amazing hollow piece of driftwood on the river.   I hauled it home and laid it next to a big pile of dirt we had already put out on the back line.  Then I piled a whole bunch of rocks over and around the log, and covered the whole mess with about a foot of dirt.   Last winter we had a skunk living there, and I think Sir Woodchuck is thinking about moving into that little piece of habitat.

The grapes we picked are busy becoming wine.   The yeast really kicked in this morning, and all day the vapor lock on the primary fermenter has been ticking away like a cartoon bomb ready to go off.   When you walk into the house, you get a whiff of yeasty wine, which becomes almost overwhelmingly strong when you walk into the dining/family room.    I keep looking for the dripping faucet because of the ticking noise.    This level of fermentation activity should slow down in a few days.   It is so cool to know that wine is making right here in front of our very eyes and ears and noses.   Meanwhile, I’m sipping on some pretty nice Chardonnay that Jim made from a kit earlier this summer.  I like drinking wine and beer of which I know the exact ingredients.   Haven’t had a sulfite headache in months.

I spent over an hour yesterday morning doing something I have never done before in my life.   We are going out to dinner at a fancy restaurant tomorrow night while we are in St. Louis, and I awoke musing on the large changes that have been going on weight-wise.  The thought “I should see how that dress I’m thinking of wearing hangs.   I might need to do something about the waist,”  crossing my consciousness.  I arose from my bed and immediately tried on the dress.   It looked fantastic, better than it did when I made it or any time since.   This was so nifty that I was moved to try on a skirt that has been hanging in the back of the closet for a while, and it fit like a dream.   Somehow, I spent over an hour trying on dress after formal dress after skirt, swanning about in front of the full length mirrors.   Jim found this rather diverting as I was not particularly careful about completing each ensemble, quite often modeling only a skirt sans any other garment.   Suddenly it was 15 minutes before my first client was supposed to arrive and I hadn’t even finished my first cup of coffee much less had breakfast.   I never do this sort of thing, must be getting light headed or something.

This is the dress.  In this photo I was wearing it at the Sail Away party when we were on our way to Lisbon and Sevilla, March 2008:

Sail-away party

Well.  I am going to wear that dress tomorrow for sure, and it doesn’t need anything done to it at all.   It looks fabulous, quite different from the photo above.    It is becoming obvious that I need to invest in some smaller slacks.   I just bought some smaller slacks a month ago, and they are already hanging on my hips; if I put keys in the pockets I’m in danger of them falling off.  I think I’m going to install a smaller piece of elastic or a drawstring in those, and just wait to buy any more clothing until I am done with this process.      Meanwhile, I need to take in the elastic on the skirts I made for the cruise, but I’ll wait for that too.   I have plenty of others with drawstrings so I don’t really need them for now.

I went to my hairdresser/friend Anita today and had my hair cut off.   I think it looks pretty darn cute, and it feels all light and cool and airy. We did manage to figure out a way to get pictures to a place where I can put them on the blog, without iPhoto.  It’s cumbersome, but at least I can share my new do.

DSCF4219

Well, I’ll catch up with you later.   Jim wants to check the Mac forum to see if somebody has a clue what the heck is going on with our machine.

Ta ta for now.

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Right before the computer died I was working on a blog post about our vacation last April when we visited Sevilla after our cruise to Lisbon by way of Funchal, Madeira.  One of the things that caused Jim to buy the new Mac so precipitously was the fact that the computer ate the post I was writing about our visit to the Alcázar during the middle of our week in Seville

Since then we have gotten a new computer and Jim has laboriously transferred files over to the new computer, so I actually have the pictures of the Alcázar that I edited in preparation for that post. Unfortunately, the photo files that I had not edited were corrupted during the big meltdown.   Fortunately, not all the pictures of our vacation were corrupted, and most of the corrupted files I had gone through and edited for blog posts already.  It remains to be seen whether or not we will be able to recover the corrupted files at a later date.   Meanwhile, I am busy taking pictures of other stuff and life is moving on.

I could tell you all about what I have been doing, but that would be getting in the way of the pictures I selected from our visit to the amazing Alcázar Palace.  I can assure you that while I have not been doing a whole lot of housekeeping, I have not been neglecting my garden, my massage clients or my own entertainment.  

By the time we visited the Alcázar, I confess that I was starting to suffer from sensory overload.  We had already walked around the old town of Sevilla, learned where the local supermarket was and visited it, toured the Cathedral, driven to Ronda (one of the famous “White Cities” of Andalucia), and walked through the Gardens of Marie Louise.  

We were lucky to arrive at the gate of the Alcázar fairly early in the day and we did not have to wait to get in.  It was moderately crowded, but not distractingly so.   I suppose I should go into some historical perspective here, if only to prove that I was more or less paying attention to the history of this quite amazing palace while we were visiting it.   The site has been in more or less continuous occupation since the Roman times.   The Romans had a military outpost on the banks of the River Guadalquivir, and the garrison barracks was the original settlement at the site of what is now the Alcázar.  When the Moors invaded Spain, they kicked the Romans out of this rather excellent site and a wealthy Moorish prince built his palace there.   He established huge market gardens, which eventually became the site of the gardens of the Spanish Royal family once the Spaniards kicked the Moors out.   If you want clearer information and actual dates, I’d suggest Google .

Now, the Alcázar.  Once you are inside, you start to feel like you have entered another world that is entirely separate from the rest of the world, a little oasis in the center of the metropolis that is Sevilla.   This is no doubt due to the very tall solid stone wall that surrounds the palace and gardens.   You walk around, you feel like it is so private, then you catch a glimpse over the wall and realize there is a world outside.

After you walk through the courtyard, you have a choice.  You can enter the Moorish part of the palace or you can go off and visit the addition that the Spanish royals made when they took the place over.  We first walked around the older part of the place, found a lovely garden with fountains off to the side.  

From there we entered the main part of the Moorish wing of the palace.   I was stunned by the incredible detail in this place.  There was no spot that was not encrusted with carvings.  The following pictures were taken in the entry area where apparently you could cool your heels before being allowed access to the audience chambers.  As I wandered around, I began to wonder what it would be like to have an acid flashback while touring it.   It seemed there was no surface that was not covered with carvings.

Even at the ends of walls there were decorated panels.

If there weren’t carvings, there was tile.   Amazing tile, with patterns within patterns. There are people who have devoted years to studying the tile of the Alcázar and the Alhambra and other places in Spain.  M. C. Escher visited both places named above and the tiles he found there inspired some of his mosaic tiling etchings in later years.  You can see some of the patterns that inspired him in the following picture.

The next view was taken across a courtyard of a tiled wall.   The small patterns that you notice when you are close up meld together to make a larger pattern that only jump out at you from a distance.

Once we had seen about as much gingerbread encrusted walls as we could take in, we moved on to the wing of the palace that the Spanish royal family built after they took over the place.   Again, there was tile, but this time instead of mosaic patterns, we were greeted by fantasmagoric images painted on tile rather than the patterns the Moors favored.   Once again, as I gazed at the mythologically inspired tiles, I began to wonder how it would be to experience an acid flashback.   This painted image, among others, was one that made me ponder that question.

Very soon we moved on and left the buildings to enjoy the wonderful gardens.   There the Spanish penchant for decorating everything struck us once again, as we looked at the tiles that surfaced the patios.  We had already seen tilings like this one in the gardens of Marie Louise.   All the tiny little painted tiles amazed me, there were few duplicates.  

Notice the small lion rampant on the right.   That is found on the Spanish royal crest, and believe me that image was found all over the palace; in tiles, in stained glass, carved into wood etc.   Either they needed reminding of who they were or they wanted everyone else to be reminded frequently of who owned the place they were visiting.  

The gardens were beautiful and extensive.   We were visiting in the early spring, and everywhere we went we were surrounded by the breathtaking scent of the orange blossoms that were blooming everywhere in Sevilla at that time.   In the gardens of the Alcázar, this intoxicating scent mingled with roses and verbena.   At the edge of the gardens we came across the boundary wall, every bit of 20 feet tall and who knows how thick at the bottom.  

Jim opined that he wanted to go home and enclose our two acres in a wall like that. Guess we’d need a zoning variance, a lot more money and some minions to accomplish that!  

Anyway, there was a topiary garden which included a maze, which had people trying to find their way through it.  We decided to forego that pleasure, not wanting to become lost in it when we had an appointment for tapas with azahar later in the day.

I noticed a small maze worked into the floor of a garden house nearby.  I’m not sure whether this was the plan of the large maze or not, but it intrigued me.

Everywhere there were rhythms repeated in the images and forms, both in the gardens and in the buildings.   I can see why Ravel and Debussy were inspired by visiting these gardens.

My favorite place in the whole palace was actually the most utilitarian part.   We went into the basements, which you entered from the gardens.  There we discovered the cisterns, which were designed as both a water storage system and as a primitive air conditioner.   The palace, built over the cisterns, has very intricate air channels designed to pull air in over the stored water.  As the heated air from outside passes over the pools and rises into the palace, the evaporation from the pools cools it.   

I’m sure that these cisterns are possibly the most photographed spot in the whole place.   I know the way the light shines in and illuminates the pools and the reflections of the domed ceilings of the basements makes the place absolutely magical.   Along the side of the pools is a gallery which is almost as amazing even though it does not have the reflections.   And there were side passages, blocked off from visitors, that you could look down and see storage and work rooms in serried, rhythmic lines.   

Hope you enjoyed this short visit to one of the jewels of Sevilla, the Alcázar Palace and gardens.

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