Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sign of the Times

Last Thursday, as I was driving on the interstate on my way home from the botanical gardens, I saw a billboard which caught my eye.  Obviously, I couldn't stop to take a picture of it.  It was an advertisement for a real estate agency, and it said basically, "When Hillary or Trump wins, are you leaving the country? We can sell your house fast!"

I have read that in a survey 25% of those opposed to Trump responded that they would consider leaving the country if Trump wins.  But I started to think, in the opposite situation where would disgruntled Trump supporters go?   They certainly wouldn't like Canada which is governed by a newly elected, liberal prime minister.  And besides, they have high taxes and socialized medicine and have had marriage equality longer than the United States.  They definitely would not want to go to Mexico.  Trump has them believing that it is a country full of criminals and rapists.  The Western European nations are viewed as a hotbed of socialism with high taxes and universal healthcare... not to mention all those Muslim immigrants.  None of those countries have a favorable view of Trump, and I doubt that Trump refugees would be welcomed with open arms.

There is one government which is supportive of them.  They could always move to Russia!

(Again, I apologize for inserting politics into my blog.  Next week I leave for Switzerland, and I shall return to its intended topic... travel.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Cleveland Botanical Gardens - Part Two

After visiting the Glass House, we went out to wander through the ten acres of gardens.
Here are some photos...

Just outside is a pool filled with water lilies.

I did not know that Cana lilies can be grown as an aquatic plant.

A mass planting of cheerful zinnias

Passing through this gate, you begin your journey through a series of different gardens.




Purple coneflowers...

The Japanese garden...

The Waterfall Garden...

One section is referred to as the Inspiration Gardens.  They provide ideas for outdoor landscaping.

Black-eyes Susans...

the Rose Garden...

We finished our tour in the Herb Garden.

There I ran into one of my former colleagues, a retired science teacher from the school where I taught.  She is a member of the Western Reserve Herb Society, and she volunteers one day each week to work in the herb garden.  It was good to see her and to have a chance to chat.

A visit to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens is a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Cleveland Botanical Gardens - Part One - The Glass House

Today I went with some friends to visit the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.  The gardens are located in Cleveland's University Circle neighborhood.  This neighborhood boasts one of the highest concentrations of cultural and educational institutions of any city in the country.  All within walking distance are Case-Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Natural History Museum, the Western Reserve Historical Society and Severance Hall (the home of the Cleveland Orchestra).

We began our tour of the Botanical Gardens with the Glass House, which was built in 2003 and has recreations of two very different environments.

The spiny desert of Madagascar exhibit contains a wide variety of bizarre plants from the island off the coast of Africa.

My friends Cliff, Jeramie and Frank pose in front of a baobab tree.

I overheard some children wondering if the tree were real.   The trunk looks as if it were cast from concrete, but it is indeed a real, living tree.

This thorny tree was blossoming with beautiful flowers.

The garden is home to three radiated tortoises from Madagascar.

From there we continued to the recreation of Costa Rica's cloud forest.

A large variety of tropical butterflies are fluttering everywhere.  Unfortunately the most beautiful, large, blue butterflies seemed to be in constant flight, and never paused for a photo.  However, I did get a couple good pictures of these two which posed for my camera.

You can watch butterflies emerge from their chrysalis in this glass case.

Perhaps it was the lotion on my head, but these two butterflies were attracted to my bald pate.

(photo taken by Jeramie)

These beautiful birds gathered at the feeder.  The birds nest, lay eggs, and raise their young here in the Glass House.

This dead tree trunk was covered with leaf-cutter ants.

It wasn't until later, when I looked at my pictures, that I realized that I had also captured a butterfly (or is it a moth?) at rest on the trunk.

Some close-ups of the tropical blossoms and foliage...



I believe that this is a Bird of Paradise flower.

From the Glass House, we continued to the outdoor gardens, but that will be the topic of another post.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Suspicious Visitors

If you look to the side, you will notice the counter that records the total number of page views of my blog.  It now stands at over 89,000.  That might sound impressive for a blog that has only been around for less than three years.  However, as I have written before, a sizeable portion of that number is from spammer robots rather than legitimate visitors.  A couple months after I started my blog there was a huge spike in the number of visitors.  Over 3,000 of those supposed page views were from a spammer site called "Vampirestat".  

Also at the side, you will see a traffic feed that shows the location of my visitors.   For quite a while I have been receiving a "visitor" from Mountain View, California almost every day.  I started getting suspicious when I saw three or four visits from Mountain View all within a couple minutes.  I searched for Mountain View on Google Maps and found that it is to the south of San Francisco. 

A few days ago, I found out that there is a website with my address, except that instead of "blogspot.com" it ends in "blogspot.fr".  (The "fr" would indicate France, would it not?)  I went to a site called "Scamadviser" where you can type in a web address and read information about that website.  So I typed in my address, but with the "blogspot.fr" ending.  There was a map showing the location of the website... and guess what?  The arrow pointed to a location just to the south of San Francisco.  It also said that the owner of the website was Google Ireland Holding in Dublin, Ireland.  I did some research, and discovered that Google's U.S. headquarters are in Mountain View, California, and that Google Ireland Holding is a company that Google uses to avoid European taxes.  (I also read that as of 2020, that tax loophole will be eliminated by the Irish government.)  So I guess that I can rest assured that there is nothing malicious about those visits from Mountain View.

However, in the past week I have seen a spike again in page views.  I have been getting up to 50 page views all at the same time.  The "visitor" is from Russia.  In the past week I have received 1146 views from there.  I am not by any means a crazy "conspiracy theorist", but I can't help but imagine some wild scenarios.  We have read about the Russians hacking the emails of the Democratic Party, and in the past week I have written two posts critical of Putin's boy, Donald Trump.  Could it be that the Kremlin is keeping tabs on my blog?  It is most likely just a coincidence, but I can't help but chuckle at the thought of my little old blog being viewed as a threat to Putin!

I would be interested in hearing from other bloggers as to whether they are receiving traffic from Russia.

And if you Russians are actually reading my posts...

Monday, July 25, 2016


I should be as happy as a lark.  Next week I leave on a three week trip to Europe.  I have made reservations for my annual trip to Mexico City in November.  My cousin and her husband say that they want to go with me to Mérida in January, and there is a trip to Portugal in the works for next June.  I have a busy schedule of doing what this retired teacher loves the most... traveling.

And yet, I feel as if a cloud is hanging over my head.   I fear for my country.

(Image from the web)

Never in my 64 years have I ever seen a Presidential candidate who is as hateful, incompetent, egotistical, and dangerous as Trump.  He is a demagogue who plays on the fears and basest emotions of certain segments of our population.

Even before he entered into politics, I did not care for Trump.  I never bought any of his clothes, or stayed at any of his hotels, and I certainly never watched his lame "reality show" on TV.  Five years ago when he made the ridiculous accusation that President Obama was not born in the United States, I lost any vestige of respect that I might have had for him.  Then he announced that he was running for President, and one of his first statements was that Mexican migrants are a bunch of criminals and rapists... maybe there are a few decent people among them.  That was just the beginning of the vitriol spewing from his mouth.

So now he is the Republican candidate, and his running mate is an anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay fundamentalist.  I find it unbelievable that at this moment Trump is leading in some of the polls.  

This is a man who admires "strong leaders" like Vladimir Putin.  That should tell you what sort of President he would like to be.  Trump has stated that he would not necessarily come to the aid of our NATO allies.  Why doesn't he just send a written invitation to his buddy Putin to invade Russia's former satellites in Eastern Europe?  I would also bet that ISIS would love to see Trump win the election.  It would make their recruitment of new members so much easier with him in the White House. 

Yes, I am very afraid.  I don't want to live in a country that would choose this man as President.  I don't relish the thought of pulling up stakes; I have lived in the same house since my childhood.  But I have been seriously considering the logistics of moving to Mexico. 

I will be in Mexico on election day, but in October I will go to the county board of elections to cast my ballot early.  On election night you can be sure that I will be glued to Mexican television, watching the results and keeping my fingers crossed.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Swiss Trivia

In ten days I will leave for Switzerland.  Here are some interesting facts about the country which you may not know.

1. Switzerland has four official languages.

You may be aware that German, French and Italian are spoken in Switzerland.  About 65% of the population speak German as their native language, 22% speak French and 8% speak Italian.  The fourth language is Romansh, an obscure language which is derived from Vulgar Latin.  Romansh is spoken by only 35,000 people in one region of the country.  Nevertheless, it is an official language.

2.  Most people from Germany cannot understand the German that is spoken in Switzerland.

The German-speaking population of the country speaks a number of dialects which are referred to as Swiss German.  These dialects are very different from the German spoken in Germany and Austria.  Most people also know Swiss Standard German which is much closer to the textbook version of the language.  It is used in schools, newspapers, books, advertising and government publications.  However, in their everyday conversations, most people, regardless of social class, use their local dialect.

3.  Switzerland was a part of the Roman Empire.

For nearly three centuries Switzerland was under Roman rule.  Scattered throughout the country there are Roman archaeological sites, and many of the Swiss cities were once Roman settlements. 

4.  The Matterhorn is not Switzerland's tallest mountain.

Although the Matterhorn is the most famous and most recognizable peak of the Swiss Alps, it is only the seventh highest mountain in the country.  Furthermore, it is not entirely within Switzerland.  It straddles the border with Italy.  The Italians call it "Monte Cervino".

5.  There are palm trees in Switzerland.

When we think of Switzerland we picture Alpine meadows and snow-covered peaks... not palm trees!  However there are valleys in the south near the Italian border which have a nearly Mediterranean climate.  Cold-hardy palms are able to grow there. 

6. The Swiss are the world's largest consumers of chocolate.

Not surprising!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Lunch in Little Italy

Yesterday I wrote about our visit to Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.

After the cemetery's establishment in 1869, large numbers of Italian stone masons and sculptors arrived to work on the elaborate mausoleums and monuments.  They settled just down the hill from the cemetery, and created what was to become the Cleveland neighborhood of Little Italy.

Today, Little Italy is a popular destination for locals who come to dine in its many Italian restaurants and to shop in its bakeries, gift shops and art galleries.

After our excursion to the cemetery, Gayle, Duffy and I were ready for lunch.  We went to a restaurant called "Trattoria on the Hill".  The food was good.  Gayle ordered a small pizza, Duffy had linguine with meatballs, and I had gnocchi.


After lunch we walked a few doors down the street to an Italian bakery.  The cases were full of all sorts of yummy items.

We could not resist temptation.  Each of us bought some goodies to take home.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Cemetery Visit

In various cities around the world, there are a number of cemeteries which have become tourist attractions.  Visitors to Washington, D.C., cross the river to Arlington National Cemetery.  In Paris there is the Pere Lachaise Cemetery where many famous people are buried, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, has the Recoleta Cemetery where you can see the burial place of Evita.

Cleveland, Ohio, may not be a major tourist destination, but we have a cemetery which is definitely worth a visit... Lake View Cemetery.

My high school friend, Duffy, is up here for a visit.  Today he and I, along with another high school friend, Gayle, got together.  Although they were born and raised here, they had never been to Lake View Cemetery.  I drove them there and showed them the sights.

Lakeview Cemetery was established on 285 acres on the heights to the east of Cleveland in 1869.  The first president of the cemetery association was Jeptha Wade, the founder of Western Union.  In his honor, the beautiful Wade Chapel was constructed in 1901.

Duffy and Gayle in front of the chapel

(photo taken by Gayle)
Duffy and I

The chapel's interior is one of the very few interior spaces in the world to have been completely designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his studios.

The mosaic on the left wall represents the Old Testament...

and the mosaic on the opposite wall represents the New Testament.

In the center is a stained glass window designed by Tiffany himself.  It is entitled "The Flight of Souls".  It is considered one of his finest works, and displays the deep, rich colors characteristic of his work.  Before being installed in the chapel, the window was displayed at the 1900 Paris World's Fair where it won a gold medal.

After our visit to the chapel, we did some more exploration of the cemetery.

Here is the pond behind the chapel...

The cemetery is filled with elaborate mausoleums, monuments and statuary.  One of the most photographed statues is this angel which stands over the gravesites of the Haserot family.  They made their fortune in the canned food industry.

The bronze has become discolored over the years, and it appears that the angel is weeping.

The grave of Jeptha Wade is marked by a tall column topped with an angel.

The cemetery is a "Who's Who" of famous people from Cleveland's history.  Here is the headstone of Eliot Ness, the leader of "the Untouchables", the Federal Treasury Agents who brought Al Capone to justice.  He later served as the Safety Director of the city of Cleveland from 1935 until 1942.

Notice the bottle of beer that someone placed by the stone.  Great Lakes Brewery, one of our local breweries, makes a beer called Eliot Ness.

Dominating the cemetery is the monument to our 20th President, James Garfield.  Garfield was born near Cleveland.  He served only a few months as President; in 1881 he was assassinated.  In 1890, this monument which serves as his mausoleum was completed.

A statue of the President stands in the rotunda of the monument.

The interior of the monument is quite beautiful.

The bodies of Garfield and his wife are in the crypt beneath the monument.

A terrace atop the entrance to the monument provides a view of downtown Cleveland.

(photo taken by Gayle)

Both Gayle and Duffy were glad to have had the chance to visit this Cleveland gem.