Thursday, March 31, 2022

Doubly Boosted

(image taken from the web)


Yesterday, I wrote that I was unable to get my second COVID booster shot at the nearby Giant Eagle Pharmacy.  This afternoon I decided to call CVS pharmacy to see if they were giving the second booster.  It was one of those automated calls that are so annoying.  I was finally able to talk to someone, but someone who was answering from a call center rather than the local pharmacy that I had called.  Yes, they were taking appointments, she said and asked if I would like her to make one for me.  I said that I was able to make an appointment myself online.  I simply wanted to know whether or not they are currently giving the second booster.  Yes, she said.

So I went online to make an appointment.  And surprise, surprise there was a slot at 6:00 this very evening at a CVS location just four miles away from me.  The pharmacist was a young fellow with only one assistant.  He seemed rather frazzled, and it was a while before he could wait on me.  I had arrived early, so by the time he had time to give me the shot, it was only a short while after my appointment time.  He said that he had already had a lot of people come in for their second booster.

It has been less than an hour, but so far there has been no reaction.  I really don't expect one since with the three previous shots I have experienced nothing more than a slight soreness at the injection site.  

I am now doubly boosted before my trip to Mexico!  Hurray!

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Ready for a Fourth Jab

(image taken from the web)

Yesterday the CDC approved the administration of a second COVID booster shot for those who are over fifty and who received their first booster at least four months ago.  Well, I am way over fifty, and I got my first booster on November 26th of last year, just over four months ago.  I wondered if I would be able get the shot before I leave on my trip back to Mexico next week.  I looked at the website for the pharmacy of Giant Eagle supermarket chain, which is where I received all my previous shots.  It said that walk-ins were welcome for COVID vaccinations at all Giant Eagle pharmacies.  I wondered if I might be able to simply go to my nearby store and get a shot today.  

I went to the nearest store and asked the clerk if I could get the booster.  She said that the website had not been updated since yesterday's CDC announcement.  The pharmacists are meeting to come up with a plan for the administration of the latest round of shots.  She said that I should call on Monday, and perhaps I would be able to get my fourth shot of Moderna before I leave.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Beyond the Solar System

You might remember a post I wrote last year about one of my walks in the Cleveland Metroparks.  There is one section along the paved pedestrian and bike trail in the Rocky River Reservation where there are plaques picturing the planets of the solar system.  They are spaced apart proportionately to their actual distance from each other in space.  On that walk, I passed the plaques of the outer planets as I walked northward.  I stopped at the planet Jupiter before heading back.

The Sunday before last was a beautifully sunny day, so I decided to take another long walk in the park.  I drove along the Valley Parkway to the South Mastick Picnic Area and parked my car there.  Nearby is the plaque of Jupiter where I had left off last year.  It is also near the 6.5- mile marker along the trail

The outer planets are a considerable distance from each other, but, as I continued my walk, I saw that the remaining planets and the sun were all grouped close to each other.

Well, that wasn't much of a walk.  I hadn't even passed the parking lot of the picnic area.  So, I continued my walk northward along the path, following the course of the Rocky River as it flows toward Lake Erie.

The river curves away from the path, and I passed the Big Met Golf Course, one of several public golf courses in the park system.  The course was open and there were golfers out.

Beyond the golf course there is an area of wetlands.

A Canadian goose gliding along the water

A couple of turtles sunning themselves on a log

The path returned to the course of the Rocky River.  On the cliff overlooking the valley is Fairview Hospital.

The Lorain Road Bridge, a steel girder bridge built in 1935, passes over the park high above the valley.

In a number of places the parkway crossed the river as fords where the road was built just above the water level.  In times of high water the parkway would be impassable, so many of the fords have been replaced by bridges.  Here you can see one of the abandoned fords with the swollen river flowing over it.  It is a popular spot for fishermen.

Not far from here I reached the 3.5-mile marker.  I had walked three miles.  I turned around, and retraced my steps for a round-trip walk of six miles.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Next on the Reading List

 A couple days ago I wrote about the books that I read on my last trip and what I am reading now.  I was in need of some books, so a couple weeks ago I went to a nearby bookstore.  I came home with a pile of reading material that should last me for a while.  The books are all works of historical fiction, my favorite type of novel.

Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors, and I found a book of hers which I had not read.  "A Long Petal of the Sea" deals with two refugees from the Spanish Civil War who sail to a new life in Chile.

"The Rising Sun" by Douglas Galbraith is based on a little-known episode from history.  In 1698 Scotland, seeking to compete with England as a colonial power, sent an expedition to establish a settlement on the Darien Gap in what is now Panama.

"The Power and the Glory", written in 1940 by Graham Greene, is considered a classic of 20th century British literature.  It is set against the backdrop of the Cristero Wars of the late 1920s when the Mexican government sought to suppress the Catholic Church.

On my last trip I read Kristen Hannah's "The Four Winds", a novel dealing with the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  I found another book that she wrote.  This one, "The Nightengale", takes place during the Nazi occupation of France during World War II.

"Portrait of an Unknown Woman" by Vanora Bennett takes place during the religious upheaval of the reign of King Henry VIII.

"The Fool's Tale" by Nicole Galland is set in medieval Wales.

So which book will I be reading on my flight to Mexico next week?

 I selected "The Princes of Ireland" by Edward Rutherford.  Rutherford writes historical novels which span centuries of history in one particular place.  His works are similar in that respect to the books of James Michener.  I have read several of his novels... "Sarum", set in the author's hometown of Salisbury, England; "Paris"; "The Forest", set in the New Forest of southern England; and "Russka", set in Russia.  "The Princes of Ireland" begins in the year A.D. 430 and concludes in 1533.  This big, thick novel of over 700 pages should keep me occupied while waiting in airports and on my flights.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Winter Returns

 A couple weeks ago I wrote that I hoped that I had seen the last of the snow for this season.  Well, no such luck.  Yesterday morning, when I looked out the front window I saw that it was snowing.  It wasn't sticking to the ground, and the rooftops were barely dusted with the white stuff.  Since the temperature was above freezing I figured that it would not amount to anything.

However, it continued snowing into the afternoon.  Even though the temperature continued to hover above freezing, it started to lightly dust the ground.

Once the snow stopped it quickly disappeared.  During the night the temperature dipped down into the 20s F., and this is what I saw when I woke up this morning...

The temperatures will remain cold today and tomorrow, so the snow is not going away for a while.

In typical fashion of fickle Ohio weather, by Wednesday the high is supposed to go up to 69 F.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Reading List


I always take a book or two with me when I travel.  I pass the time while waiting at the airports and on the plane by reading.  I also read a few pages each night before I turn off the light.  On my recent seven-week trip to Mexico I went through two books.

The first book, "American Dirt" by Jeanine Cummins, was the center of controversy when it was published in 2020.  The protagonist of the novel is Lydia, the wife of journalist in Acapulco.  She leads a comfortable life until her husband publishes an expose on the leader of a local drug cartel.  The family is gunned down by the cartel.  Lydia and her eight-year-old son are the only survivors.  She knows that their lives are in danger, and the two make the harrowing journey as undocumented immigrants north to the U.S. border.

Although it was praised by HIspanic writers such as Sandra Cisneros and Julia Alvarez, other Latinos were angered that a "gringa" received a million-dollar contract to write about the immigrant experience when so many Hispanic writers are ignored by the publishing houses.  One criticism that I think is valid is the author's choice of an educated, middle-class woman as the protagonist.  That choice makes the issue of undocumented immigrants more palatable to U.S. readers... as if her flight to the north is more deserving of sympathy than the countless others who have to leave their homes.  

However, the danger faced by Mexican journalists, whether they are writing about the cartels or exposing government corruption, is very real.  In 2021 seven journalist were murdered, and five more have died in the first months of 2022.  The President has largely ignored the issue.

Is "American Dirt" an important book?  Well, it is certainly a page-turner, but I think it may be more melodrama than great literature.  One critic praised it as "'The Grapes of Wrath' for our times", but I consider that hyperbole.

The second novel that I read, "The Four Winds" by Kristin Hannah, is also about a perilous journey and might rightfully be compared to "The Grapes of Wrath".  Like the great Steinbeck novel, this book also takes place during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  Elsa, a Texas farmwife, who has been abandoned by her husband, decides that she must pack up the truck, take her two children, and head to the "promised land" of California.  There they are met by the harsh reality that the migrants are all viewed as filthy "Okies".  They live in deplorable conditions in roadside camps and are exploited by the landowners.  It's been a long time since I read "The Grapes of Wrath" or even watched the movie, but I can say that I was very moved by this novel.

Right now, I am reading the 1998 Pulitizer-prize winning, non-fiction book, "Guns, Germs and Steel" by geography professor Jared Diamond.  In this book the author tries to explain why some human societies, most notably in Europe and Asia, have advanced while others have not.  The author rejects any suggestion of racial superiority.  The typical inhabitant of the New Guinea highlands is no less intelligent than someone from Europe, Japan or the U.S.  That New Guinean has a vast store of knowledge that enables him to live in his remote homeland... while the Westerner would struggle to survive there.  Instead, the author looks at the geographic and environmental reasons why some peoples made technological progress while others remained hunter-gatherers.  It is interesting, but not easy reading.  I should be finished with it before I leave again for Mexico next month.  

A trip to the bookstore was necessary, and I now have a selection of more books from which to choose for my next journey.  

Friday, March 25, 2022

Springtime Cantata

While taking a short walk through the Cleveland Metroparks, I passed a couple of marshy areas.  At each one there was a chorus of frogs, not visible, but certainly audible as they sang their springtime mating songs.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

A Bunch of Retired Teachers

Every month there is a luncheon get-together at an area restaurant for retired teachers from the school district where I taught.  For many years I never attended because I thought it was just for the ladies, but I was told that men are welcome... and a guy or two will occasionally attend.  I have been to a couple of these luncheons, but, of course, with my travel schedule, I am often not in town.  The monthly get-togethers were suspended for quite a while due to the pandemic, but they have resumed.  

The March luncheon was last Tuesday, and I attended.  I have to admit that I was a bit nervous.  This was the first time that I had been inside a public space without a face mask for quite a while.  I still wear my mask, even if I am in the minority.  I am so used to it that I feel naked without it.  In Mexico masks are required for entering any public building, most people even wear them outside, and down there I was able to dine "al fresco" at restaurants.  

Attendance was rather low at this month's gathering.  There were only seven of us, and, yes, I was the lone male. 

There were a couple of former teachers whom I had not seen in years, probably not since before I retired.  Two are close friends of mine.  Third from the left is Carol who was 
chairperson of the foreign language department.  Second from the left is Nancy who taught math.  She has made frequent appearances on this blog because she and her husband Fred traveled with me to Mérida, Yucatán and to Mexico City. 

It was nice to see everyone.  I won't be able to attend next month's luncheon because I will be in Mexico again... but maybe in May.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Falling Water

I took advantage of some of the nice days that we have had in March by taking some walks.  At first, I was not taking the long hikes in the park that I have described on numerous occasions here on the blog.  I was walking, instead of taking the car, to run errands to the post office or the pharmacy.  On some of those shorter walks however I did cut through a nearby portion of the Metroparks.  Here is a small waterfall not far from downtown Berea in the Mill Stream Run Reservation of the park.  

I have passed by here countless times in my life, but, until I looked at Google Maps, I did not even know that it is called Horseshoe Falls.  In fact, it is not a natural waterwall, but is created by a dam built across the east branch of the Rocky River.  Behind it is Baldwin Lake.

A few days later I took a short walk in another part of the park in the Rocky River Reservation just a mile or so downstream along the river.

Here there is an overlook with a view of Berea Falls.  This is a natural waterfall where the river cascades over ledges of sandstone.  I have read that there is a short trail that goes down to the falls, although I have never noticed the trailhead.  Perhaps this summer I will look for it and walk down to the river.

Last Sunday I returned to the Metroparks and took a walk of over two hours, but that will be the topic of another entry later.  


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Pet Project of "Señor Presidente"

Yesterday Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador inaugurated Mexico City's second airport, the Felipe Angeles International Airport.

(image taken from the web)

In an earlier post, I discussed how López Obrador had halted construction of the new airport begun by his predecessor. It was going to be the biggest in Latin America and would have replaced the current airport which is operating at capacity.   The abandoned project was one third completed and cancellation cost over $5 billion (that's U.S dollars, not pesos).  López Obrador cited corruption, cost overruns and environmental concerns... all valid points.  However his alternate plan is also highly flawed.

The President decided to relieve the pressure at the existing airport, by building a second one at a military airbase located 27 miles north of the city.  The location has been criticized as being too far away.  No highway or rail connections have been built to easily connect it with the city center.  The government says that it takes 1 1/2 hours to reach the new airport from the southernmost part of the city.  That could be if there is no traffic... but when is there no traffic in Mexico City?  Critics say that the travel time is more likely to be 2 1/2 hours.  It could very well take you longer to get to the airport than to fly to your domestic destination!  Can you imagine what a nightmare it would be if you arrived at Mexico City International Airport and had a connection at the Felipe Angeles Airport?

Other than one Venezuelan airline, there are no international carriers that have signed onto the new airport.  At this point three Mexican airlines will operate a limited number of domestic flights from there.

In typical fashion López Obrador has viewed all criticism of his new airport as attempts by his opponents to besmirch his presidency.  But the airport is the butt of many jokes, such as the picture below which was posted on Twitter...

There's a new "airbus" line... Morenaérea.
("Morena" is the name of López Obrador's political party.)

Critics are also concerned about the safety of the airport.  The President wanted his pet project to be completed before the end of his term, and some say that the construction was rushed.  When López Obrador was mayor of Mexico City, the construction of Line 12 of the Metro system was rushed to completion before the end of his term.  One year ago shoddy construction resulted in the collapse of an overpass on that line.  Twenty six people died and seventy nine people were injured in that tragedy. 

Monday, March 21, 2022

Blooming Indoors

Last fall I brought a hibiscus plant that I had outdoors on the patio into the house.  Years ago, I had not had any luck trying to overwinter a hibiscus indoors, but I decided to try again.  This one bloomed for a while after bringing it in.  As we entered winter it didn't have any more flowers, but the plant still seemed healthy.  When I returned from my last trip to Mexico in March I saw that the hibiscus had a lot of buds.  Two days ago, one of those buds opened, and yesterday two more opened.

Shortly before Thanksgiving of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, I received a package from my sister-in-law in Columbus.  She had sent me a planter of amaryllis bulbs.  For a couple of months the bulbs did not sprout.  I thought that they must have frozen during delivery.  I was ready to throw them out when suddenly foliage appeared and later flower stalks.  It bloomed much later than it was supposed to, but the flowers were beautiful.  

In the summer I transplanted the amaryllis to a larger pot, and let it sit outside.  As fall approached I cut off the leaves, and brought the pot into the garage.  The directions said to let the bulbs rest in a cool, dark place.  I didn't know if the garage had been dark enough, and I didn't know if I had let the bulbs rest long enough when I brought the pot into the house in mid-October before I left for Mexico.  When I returned for the holidays there was still no sign of life.  While I was in Mexico again for my January / February trip, my friend Frank who house-sits for me wrote that it was sprouting leaves.  Shortly after returning I noticed that it had developed two flower stalks.  The same time that the hibiscus flowered, the buds of the amaryllis opened.


Sunday, March 20, 2022

Spring Is Here

The vernal equinox, marking the first day of spring, occurs today at 11:33 A.M. Eastern Time.  (Conversely, in the southern hemisphere, today is the autumnal equinox, the first day of fall.)  At that moment the sun's direct rays hit the equator, and on this day the entire earth will have daylight and darkness of approximately equal duration.  As we progress toward summer, because of the tilt of the planet's axis, the sun's direct rays will move northward.  In the northern hemisphere our days will grow longer until we reach the summer solstice in June, when the sun's direct rays hit the Tropic of Cancer, about 23 degrees north of the equator.  While we enjoy longer days, in the southern hemisphere the days grow shorter.  

While doing a bit of research on the equinoxes and solstices, I learned that the exact location of the Tropic of Cancer varies a bit from year to year due to the earth's wobble.  On Wikipedia I found this photograph of a highway in Mexico where road signs were placed showing the shifting location of the Tropic of Cancer between 2005 and 2010.

Ages ago, back when I was in school, we learned that the equinoxes and solstices always occurred on the 21st of the month.  I don't know if they were just teaching us an approximation, or if astronomical calculations have improved since then, but the first day of our seasons vary between the 20th and the 23th of the month.

In Mexico City the arrival of spring is being celebrated with a Spring Festival this weekend.  More than fifty free cultural and sports events are being held in twenty locations in the Historic Center of the city.  This image of the Zócalo, the central plaza, which I captured yesterday from the "Webcams de México" website, shows the large concert stage which has been set up on the plaza in front of the Cathedral.

Happy Spring to everyone!

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Living Up to Its Name

As I was cleaning out my flower beds, I came upon a small perennial under my black walnut tree which had not only sprouted but which was in bloom.  We are in the middle of Lent, and my Lenten rose was flowering.  With its dark leaves and its dusky rose-colored petals (plus the fact that I am mildly color blind), it is not a showy, obvious flower.  But this year, for the first time since I planted it, the little plant has a number of blossoms and buds.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Flying the Flag

The fact that I have not written anything about the invasion of Ukraine does not mean that I am oblivious to the horrific events that are occurring there.  But what can I say that has not been written by others?  I feel as if I am reliving the events that my parents experienced in the 1930s, watching from afar as Hitler began his aggressions against neighboring countries.  However, this time the invader has met fierce and unexpected resistance, and the outside world, while carefully avoiding the start of World War III, has not allowed the aggressor to go unpunished.  I can only hope that Zelensky proves to be David against Putin's Goliath, and that, in the end, the invasion is the undoing of that monstrous, Russian dictator.  

As I was walking through the neighborhood, I noticed a number of homes which were flying the Ukrainian flag in solidarity with those brave people.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Speaking of Volcanoes

Yesterday I showed you some webcam photos of Mexico's highest mountain, the volcanic Pico de Orizaba.

Alejandro told me that in Mexico City they have recently had some heavy rains at night... something that is unusual for this time of year.

I went to the "Webcams de México" website to see if Popocatépetl, the country's second highest peak, had any snow on its summit.  Indeed, it had more snow than I have seen on it in a long time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Star Mountain

 At an elevation of 18,491 feet, Mexico's highest mountain is "Pico de Orizaba" in the state of Veracruz.  The volcanic peak is also known as Citlaltépetl which in the in the Aztec language of Nahuatl means "star mountain".  It is the third highest peak in North America, and the highest volcano on the continent.  Its last eruption was in 1687, so it is classified as dormant but not extinct.  In spite of climate change, the mountain is still snow-covered all year long and has several glaciers.

A webcam was placed on a neighboring peak, and sometime last year it was added to the site "Webcams de México".  However, the camera was not working for quite a while.  Last week, while visiting that site, I discovered that the webcam was operational again.  Here are a few images of Pico de Orizaba, as night falls upon the peak.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

A Tiny Blossom of Spring

 I used to have a large number of crocuses in my garden, and in March they would be the harbinger of spring.  However, over the years critters must have eaten the bulbs.  Yesterday I was taking advantage of the sunny, mild weather to do some cleaning up in my flower beds. There was a solitary little crocus, its delicate white and yellow flower poking up above the leaves. 


Monday, March 14, 2022

Easter's On Its Way


My April trip to Mexico almost always coincides with Easter.  In the past, we have had an Easter egg hunt for Alejandro's nephew Ezra.  That is something quite alien to Mexico where Easter is first and foremost a religious observance.  

Ezra is now eleven years old, so I wasn't sure if he would consider an Easter egg hunt too childish.  In February, I asked him if he wanted to have another one this year.  Without hesitation he answered, "Sí!"

When I returned home at the beginning of March, the stores already had their Easter merchandise on the shelves.  I immediately snatched up a bag of plastic eggs and a basket in the form of a bunny's head.  (It even lights up!)  I'll wait to buy the candy for the eggs until closer to my departure date.

So, once again Peter Cottontail will be hopping down to Mexico!  

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Spring Forward

 Up and out of bed at 6:30 A.M., but it's really 7:30!

It's that time of year when we lose an hour and set our clocks ahead for Daylight Saving Time... also known as Summer Time in some countries.  Well, it's not summer... it's not even officially spring!  There's still snow on the ground!

The time change does not really bother me physically as it does some people.  I guess with all the trips I take to and from Mexico, I am used to losing or gaining an hour.  But I do hate changing all the clocks.  Last autumn I never bothered to change the clock in the car.  Now it will be the correct time again.

Another annoyance is that the whole world does not change their clocks on the same date.  Mexico will not spring forward until the first weekend in April, so for three weeks there will be a two-hour time difference between Cleveland, Ohio, and Mexico City.  That means Alejandro will probably be calling me on Skype an hour later.  Most of Europe changes to Summer Time two weeks from now on March 27th.  I am supposed to Skype with my cousin in England next week, so the time difference will be only four hours instead the usual five.

Well, excuse me.  It's time for me to have breakfast and then go change the clocks.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Could This Be the Last I See?

The Weather Channel is talking about a winter storm that will dump snow on parts of the South and Midwest and then become a "bomb cyclone" in the Northeast.  Here in the Cleveland area, we were just on the fringes of that "bomb".  Late yesterday afternoon and early evening the light drizzle turned to snow.  There was barely enough to cover the ground.

It might have snowed a little bit more through the night, but we have less than an inch on the ground.  For us, the "bomb" was little more than a fizzled firecracker.  

I am hoping that maybe, perhaps, fingers crossed, that this will be the last snow that I see for this season.  It is not unusual for us to have a freak snowstorm in April, occasionally even in May.  However, I leave for Mexico again in early April.  The long-range forecast, if it can be trusted, is not predicting any snow through March 26th.  In fact, after today, the temperatures will not even dip below freezing.  On St. Patrick's Day, which usually has lousy weather, the temperature will rise to 65 F with only a 10% chance of precipitation.  I may even be able to get some yard work done before I leave.

Could it be that for me today's snow is a farewell to Old Man Winter?  Or did I just jinx it?