Sunday, September 30, 2007

Last stop at Bath

The last stop on the tour was the ancient roman baths at Bath. Again we felt like we had to run through in order to get back to the bus to get our suitcases. We are in a nice bed and breakfast in Bath tonight.
Me at the baths.

On to Salisbury

We were able to take pictures inside this cathedral. There are grave stones on the floor and crypts along the sides. It would be like having church in a graveyard. Chairs are often on the stones.

William outside the cathedral built in 1220 and site of the finest of four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta.
See the old graffiti on the figure's ankle? WB swears it was not him.
One of many gravestones on the floor of the cathedral.
A tomb of a knight.

London to Bath

We took a tour from London to Bath with Golden Tours. So we were up early, breakfasted at the hotel and headed off to the 8:05 pickup at the Hotel Elizabeth around the corner. The first stop was at Stonehenge.We soon discovered why we do not usually take tours. Tours are organized by taking the shortest time people could tour a spot and the longest time and giving you a time about in the middle to do the tour. We discovered that we are outliers on the long side. We felt we had to rush through the tour, not listen to all the audio options and still be about last to the bus. We both learned about the way the stones were put together with a peg like feature on the top fitting into a hole on the top stone. See the peg on top of the stone right above William. It was misty raining most of the time we were at Stonehenge.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

London day 4

William with Egyptian Statues
William with Statues from Parthenon
William on the Whispering Walk at St Paul's (you can't see him)
Me in front of St Paul's

We set the alarm and actually got off at a reasonable hour. First we went to the National Museum. I was most impressed with the Egyptian statues and the parts of the Parthenon. We walked until we got tired and decided to save the Chinese terra cotta warriors for when we are in China.

Next we went to St Paul’s Cathedral. Mostly military heroes buried here. Not so much art as the Cathedrals we saw in Europe in ’99. We did see the memorial to Winston Churchill and the burial spots of John Donne and Florence Nightingale. William walked up to the top of the dome. I watched a wedding. Most of the guests and the bridesmaids had feathery hats. I think Camilla has been seen in feathery hats.

We bussed to Trafalgar Square, walked to Piccadilly Circus and dined in a pub to round out the evening.

Friday, September 28, 2007

London day 3

William and me in the observation car at the London Eye
Misty Big Ben
Me and Florence
Me at Westminster Abbey

We got up at our usual bright and early time. NOT. And headed out to the Big Eye, which is the largest observation wheel in the world. We grabbed a London equivalent of an Egg McMuffin to go for the second day in a row. They remembered our order at Mimo’s cafĂ©. Then we did not eat them until we were waiting for our scheduled time at the Eye at 1230. It was raining and misty so we could not see as far as you usually can.
After the Eye we walked over to the Florence Nightingale Museum. She is very revered in the UK. A group of school children were in the museum learning about her through an interactive plan. I had purchased her book “Notes on Nursing”, published 1860, during some time in nursing school.
We then walked over to Westminster Abbey. The Abbey is a fabulous place. The usual huge pillars, high lattice work and gilt ceilings, tons of statues and quite a few side chapels dedicated to the long dead. Over three thousand people are buried and commemorated there. Some still famous and others faded into the mists of time. All of the Kings, Henrys, Richards, and Georges fade together for me. But I was thrilled to see Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Geoffrey Chaucer 1400, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Oliver Cromwell were important names I found plus many, many others.
They were having a church service at 5 so we stayed for Sung Eucharist for Eve of St. Michael and All Angels. We heard lovely choir and huge organ music and a short sermon about angels. We rode the bus to Victoria Station area and after discarding two pubs, too noisy, too crowded, too dirty, no service. We found a very nice Italian Restaurant.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More Day 2 Pictures

William at Princess Diana Memorial FountainPeter Pan
A mother swan and 2 babies at the Long Water in Kensington Gardens

London Day 2

William at Exit of Buckingham PalaceWilliam at back lawn of Buckingham Palace
Me in the Rose Garden in Hyde Park

Top of the Wellington Arch

William in the Rose Garden at Hyde Park


Today we rode the Big Bus again to get the rest of our 24 hours. We arrived for a tour at Buckingham Palace. The Queen has house tours of a bit of the downstairs when she is off for summer vacation in Scotland. She decided to stay a few days longer this year so we had an opportunity to take the tour. Buckingham Palace is quite amazing. It has over 500 rooms and 79 bathrooms. It is said that the Queen has not been in all the rooms and she has lived here as Queen since 1952. This is an old house that has been remodeled and enlarged over the years. The style and grandeur of the public rooms we toured reminded me of the mansions we toured in Newport, RI. Tons of gild and curved ceiling decorations, gilded chairs and couches upholstered in bright satins, statues and paintings and everything done and overdone. The Queen has a secret door from her quarters that she can use to make an entrance for state functions. There was a special display of her wedding 60 years ago this November. Her wedding dress has held up better than mine. We didn’t get to see one of the Queen’s loos.

We walked to Hyde Park and through the park and Kensington Gardens back to the hotel and then out to dinner at a slightly more upscale place, The Spice of India.

London day one

The Tower Bridge from the Tower of London
Gilded Weathervane on the White Tower
William and the Bear Guard at the Tower of London
Old walls at the Tower of London with New London Buildings in the background.
Off with their heads

9/25/07 We arrived in Heathrow and had a latte while we waited for the 930 train. Most of the people in suits in a hurry wanted the Heathrow Express. We waited for the Heathrow Connect. It was a slower more interesting train with many stops to view people and surroundings. We arrived in Paddington Station and walked to the Rhodes Hotel. The hotel is small and part of a block of tall row houses that seem to be mostly converted to private homes or apartments. We have a small high-ceilinged room that has had a bathroom and closet added on. We got settled and on the road at noon. After buying a sandwich at Spencer and Marks we headed out for the Big Bus tour. The Big Bus tour is very entertaining, with live commentary as you fly around London on a double-decker bus. We mostly sat upstairs and I marveled at how fast the driver would whip around within inches of other vehicles. The tour is hop on hop off for 24 hours so we exited at the Tower of London and took the tour there. Lots of very interesting people were imprisoned in the Towers such as Sir Walter Raleigh (who had his head chopped off), the two boy Princes (who were murdered there) and any number of Henry the 8th’s wives. The armory was very interesting with all the suits of armor, including armor for tiny princes and one set for Henry the 8th after he got a bit chunky.
From the Tower of London Pier we took a river cruise, included in the bus price to the Westminster Pier, also very entertaining with lots of fun poked at the incongruity of some of the new architecture next to the old.
I thought of the USA. Even though we have a prehistory, the native Americans are not part of the dominant culture, whereas in Europe the people who are here are part of all the history from prehistory to modern times. They are part of the people who hanged 24 people at a time from the Hanging Tree on Picadilly. They are part of the people who were here when the Romans arrived and named London (Londinien).
We went out to dinner at a neighborhood Greek restaurant as we were suffering from a bit of sticker shock at the small amount of pounds a dollar buys and less every day.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Laptop hitch

Looks like we are going to bring two laptops to Belgium. The Apple did not really get touched until yesterday. Dad tried to put some things on it and it did not happen too well for him. I set up myself as another user and was then going to do the parallel desktop. But being me, I read the whole box exterior first. I found the fine print that said you needed a copy of Windows. We should have thought of that. So we have baulked at the expense. Dad will do as he can with the Apple and I will take the Gigantisaurus Dell. I was hoping to put the Dell in my checked bag, but TSA says no. Practical Goggle answers says, if you do the screen may get broken, it is not insured, but that x-rays do not damage it. Who to believe?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Phil's Party

We did have a lot of fun at Phil's retirement party. The food was good. Tarps kept most of the rain off and the crowd was quite good for a wet party. Forest Service people are tough. Phil had picked the date. He and Linda's first big retirement trip is backpacking in Nepal. They are really adventurers. The "roast" was great fun with many jokes on Phil.
It was quite cool and I had to borrow a vest from Wm as my stuff is already all packed. I repacked some yesterday. Wm has not packed at all. He will throw everything together tomorrow and it will be OK. I might throw in a long sleeved knit shirt or 2 as I wore one today and remembered that they are quite comfortable.

Winter Sun

As I read him my last blog entry William was reminded of sunbathing in Moscow, from his trip to Russia.

Leaning against the walls of Peter and Paul fortress, sunbathing in Russian is apparently best done standing up (and in the freezing cold).


Not surprised that it will be raining in London when we get there and raining in Brugge when we get there. I have my umbrella packed in my carry on and 2 light rain coats. I am taking my waterproof shoes. This whole trip is going to be a challenge for a spouse who claims, as we usually leave for sunny climes in the winter, to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But I have read that light rain is the normal weather in Belgium any time of the year. The rain is just colder in the winter.
Today we are going to yet another Forest Service retirement party. The old rats are leaving the sinking government ship. Soon there will be no institutional memory left. There might be rain here today. I hope it holds off until after the party, as it is to be in the picnic grounds at Pioneer park and there is apparently no back up plan.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Getting Ready to Go

William has enclosed the back porch for the animals for the winter. Cats hate change, so the cats will not come in. Teddy likes it as a new warm place for her dog bed. I gave her a bath this afternoon. We had Linda our pet sitter over this afternoon to check everything out.
We are taking a rental car to SF on Monday after we get all of the banking settled. The vehicles have all been put on DMV inactive and taken off as much insurance as we can. Cable is off and DSL is off as of Tuesday. We have made numerous lists and are checking them thrice.
Monday is the first day of the takeover of Placer Sierra by Wells Fargo. So we have a 9AM appointment to see if it will all work for us. I think by next summer we will spend time finding another bank. We were patrons of Wells Fargo when we moved here in 1979. We left them not long after the move. It was partly to have a more convenient bank, but also because we had some issues with them, now buried in the mists of time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Searching for a Word

Recession plus inflation equals stagflation.
Stagflation is a problem because the two principal tools for directing the economy, fiscal policy and monetary policy, offer only trade offs between growth and inflation. A central bank can either slow growth to reduce inflationary pressures, or it can allow general increases in price to occur in order to stimulate growth. Stagflation creates a dilemma in that efforts to correct stagnation only worsen inflation, and vice versa. The dilemma in monetary policy is instructive. The central bank can make one of two choices, each with negative outcomes. First, the bank can choose to stimulate the economy and create jobs by increasing the money supply (by purchasing government debt), but this risks boosting the pace of inflation. The other choice is to pursue a tight monetary policy (reducing government debt purchases in order to raise interest rates) to reduce inflation, at the risk of higher unemployment and slower output growth.

I remember how much we were hurt during the last period of stagflation 1979-80. William says we are more immune this time.

Grapes are Ripe

The green concord grapes on the fence are ripe. I am eating them and thinking of Jasmine who liked them so much as a baby.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why new acting AG?

I couldn't figure why Bush appointed Peter Keisler, as acting Attorney General yesterday. What was wrong with continuing with Clement? Oh, you didn't know we have an new acting AG. That's because it was not reported in any MSM story I read and I read 2 print newspapers and news on the web daily. The reason that is being speculated for the change is that we are in the middle of a crisis for telecom giants re their illegal participation in NSA surveillance post 9/11. They have potential liability from every single American. Rather a big class action suit. Keisler is a former attorney for ATT who is famous in other work for the Justice Dept for insisting on weakening the case against big tobacco. Remember that? Get the picture now?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Money Plans for Travel

What we have learned:
1. If you are staying long enough to start a foreign bank account, buy euros to fund it. One place is with HiFx.
2. We have found ING Belgium to be the bank to use in Belgium.
3. The best deal for credit cards and cash advances is from Capital One. No ATM fee, no transaction fee, and no conversion fee or percentage.
4. Also Capital One direct banking offers Money Market funds that can be funded with your money earning interest with unlimited use of ATM for cash withdrawals with the same no fees and no conversion percentage as the credit cards.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cal vs La Tech

Yesterday we went to the UCB vs Louisiana Tech game at Berkeley with the Gardners. The Bears were favored by 33 points. With the final score 42-12 they almost made it. Lots of action and lots of fun.
We met the Gardners, Bob, Martha, Kevin and Jeffery at La Val's on Northside. Dad and I used to go there for pizza and beer and loud music downstairs, think endless riffs on Louie, Louie. We also used to go to Art/foreign movies at two small rooms with chairs dubbed Studio A and B in the same courtyard. The price was right on a student budget, 50 cents a person. Bob worked there as a combo ticket seller and usher. He said he would try to get the patrons to line up and go in orderly, but they would just mob him. A and B are now gone.
Of the twins, age 14, Kevin has grown taller and looks older and very lanky. Jeffery looks more like I remember him from last year.
See Jeffery getting eaten by a Saber Tooth Tiger.

The statue of the tiger was in front of a hall on our way. But because of the need for space, a temporary had been erected right in front of the statue. Much building is going on at the campus, as there was building going on last year and I guess every year since we left, leaving little familiar to us not obscured by the new.
The Campanile is still there and the bells still chime.

William taking a break.

The Cal Marching Band on the field of Memorial Stadium at half time includes the alumni band.

The seats are still splintered wood in the stadium. Memorial Stadium was to get a make over, but some trees needed to be removed before a new club house? could be build. So a number of protesters have stopped the whole project by camping in and next to the trees. As a result we continue to sit on bad seats.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Home Again

Uneventful trip home. I thought that I was going to have row 6 to myself out of Dallas, but at the last minute a couple dashed in. They said they were held up 55 minutes in security. She was a hostess for US Air on vacation with her spouse. He was mad and I sympathized. She wanted to just let it go. Though she did complain of having to run for the plane in high heels and with her belt not back on. Such craziness that passes for security. Maybe TSA did not like their his and hers Harley Davidson shirts.
I knew the vegetables that I had left here were at risk. So last night for dinner we had what's wilted in the produce drawer stir-fry with rice. Wm did eat the fruit I had left.
I feel a bit of panic mode as our departure date creeps toward single digits. I am going to hit Penney's perpetual sale today as I want two other shirts to take.
I am still on Texas time as I have been up for two hours. The better to get all my chores done, though I feel that I have too much still to do.
Nice for us as the Euro climbs precipitously against the dollar. It has already reached our futures contract and no where to go but up. Wm wishes he had known about this way to purchase Euros in January. He got the idea out of "The Hints Book, living and working in Belgium" published by a ladies club in Belgium. He requested the book in January, but edition 18 was out of print, so he had to wait until September for edition 19.
Chit, Chat.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Out With Ben

After our buggy ride this morning and after he had a snack, Ben and I went to Celebration Park. He played on the slides and swings and talked to the other two year olds (he is only 21 months) who did not talk back to him. People commented on how fast he ran and how well he talked. I told them he started walking at 8 months and that you just have to talk to children a lot. I tricked him into the car when it started to get too hot just before one. I let him follow another family toward the parking lot. He recognized the car and was in the car seat before he realized we were leaving the park. There were a few "no goes" until I convinced him that he wanted to go to the grocery store. He liked the grocery store as usual.

Ben at Krogers

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ben does His Own Stunts

Val and I took Ben to a playground at Hart Elementary this afternoon. It is the playground for the daycare provided for the teachers children.
Ben is quite the little gymnast and fearless on the equipment. We also went over to the bigger kids playground. He was quite in awe of the slightly larger boys swarming all over. Though he did order one "out, out" of the tunnel he was crawling through.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Carrot cake party

Jasmine blew out the candles

and Ben loved the cake also.
I'm glad I just had a small piece as the cake was like lead. Besides the shuffle, Jasmine got some earrings and a necklace, a gift card for iTunes, a pair of flats and a pair of sandals. Grandpa sent his love over the phone and hugs and kisses all around.

Today is Jasmine's 12th Birthday

We picked out a Leah dinner. Roast Chicken, Penne pasta with red sauce, broccoli and carrot cake. I have a sore throat and cold. I feel better when I take Val's theraflu. I got Jasmine what she picked out, a turquoise blue shuffle with her name engraved on it. She is going to have some friends over on the weekend. They want to just go to the big Plano Mall for entertainment. Val had to make a lot of work calls today and the baby was too loud. So I took him for a ride to the grocery store. We spent an hour getting 5 items. Most of the time was spent making it a baby field trip, talking to him about every thing in the store. He really liked it. He is napping now, but I have spent most of the day playing with him, blocks, peekaboo with a sheet, and books. He is just running over to his potty to go now, he is so good.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Church in Lucas

Jasmine and I went to church this AM and then to an ice cream social and silent auction this PM.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Cicadas

The cicadas are out. It is not a 17 year hatch but there are enough loud ones in the trees to about deafen you as you walk under them in the evening. As a kid in Illinois I used to pick the exoskeletons off of tree trunks and stick them on my clothes as ornaments. Mom did not like that at all as she was bug-phobic. I picked a few off the tree trunks here and grossed all out.
Two of the cicadas I found.
See the cicada on my shirt.

This morning we went to Weight Watchers, Val, Jasmine and me. Then to Jasmine's soccer game.
This is not a phone picture. It was taken with Richard's camera.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Texas Football with the Lovejoy Leopards

The Leopard was a friend of Jasmine's, so after the memory card in her YEARBOOK STAFF! camera was full she spent time helping her friend. The Leopard always has to have a spotter as the head has an under chin strap that can choke the Leopard if a child jumps on her.
Ben loved the Leopard and in between climbing up and down the stadium stairs and running as fast as he could all over, he played with the Leopard.
Robert was playing the Tuba in the band. He was in the back on the left in the photo, totally blocked by the enormous Tuba. They put on a long half time show. They marched and played by themselves, then at the side they played for the flag girls and the pom pom girls.
After the game they marched off. Robert was the last Tuba in the line. He looked very tired and sweaty.

The game was a long evening. First I had to take Robert to the band room at 515. Jasmine had soccer practice from 6-7 at celebration park so we missed the 9th grade game. Then we went home and picked up Val and Ben to make the JV game. The game started later than planned at 8PM. The 9th grade had beaten the MacKinney Broncos 36-9 and the JV team also won 40-20. At 930 after the 1/2 time show Ben started yawning so Val took him home. She came back to pick up me, Jaz and Robert after Robert had changed after the game. It was about 11PM when we got home, exhausted. Today both kids took a skip on arriving at school at 7AM and arrived at 8AM after a nice breakfast.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ben today

Ben Breakfasting
Ben at Lunch
Ben Dressed up Cute
Ben on the Potty
Ben is almost potty trained. He likes to go bit at a time and help flush the big potty. He may do this 5+ times in a row. He is a good eater but has a cold and an itchy allergic rash, so he is a bit fussy today. But he is cute as always.