Category Archives: Travel

The March of the Policy Makers

I am attending a conference in my role as a member of a regulatory board.  The focus of the conference is professional competency, mobility in employment, and international standards in ethics and professional conduct. These are quite important topics when you have to consider how to evaluate foreign trained professionals for licensure in your jurisdiction,  but my is it boring to listen to for 4 days.  When it gets too tedious I surreptitiously check my email or the Trail,  imagine everyone in weird hats, or else marching around to this Elgar Pomp and Circumstance March I Heard on MPR before I Ieft home.  I see others seated around me doing similar things, so I don’t think I am the only one who needs some stimulation.

Tell about how you handle boredom.  What is the most boring, tedious thing you ever had to do? What is your favorite march?

Regionality

While on our recent road trip to visit relatives in central Georgia, I was able to take a side trip to Greenville, SC, for a reunion with nine friends from college. We do this every couple of years now, and one of our rituals is a Saturday night book swap. The book I offered this time was Gardenias, by one of my favorite “regional” authors, Faith Sullivan of Minnesota. I’ve loved her books since one of her earlier publications, The Cape Ann; in fact, I included a used copy of that book for background, since it has some of the same characters.

Wiki has this to say about American literary regionalism, or local color: “In this style of writing, which includes both poetry and prose, the setting is particularly important and writers often emphasize specific features such as dialect, customs, history, and landscape, of a particular region.”

I was delighted to find that the book I drew, One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash, was also by a regional author – Carolinian Appalachia – and now that I’ve finished the book, I’ve learned some background history of the area I just visited. I also got to hear some local dialects; got to know some characters whom I would probably not have found in, say, Minnesota; and read descriptions of places I’ve seen only from a distance. And although the ending to this tale was sad, I would probably read another book by Ron Rash.

I have found (and loved) over the years several authors I whom I consider to be regional writers, but will wait to see if other Baboons name them before I do. To that end:

Do you have a favorite regional author? Is there a region of the USA that you would like to learn about through reading?

VS Travelogue – Mount Etna

I know that Mount Etna on Sicily is one of the earth’s most active volcanos because it comes up in crossword puzzles all the time.  So it was with a bit of trepidation that I traveled to Sicily with a client two weeks back.  I stayed in Taormina which means you drive past Etna and then sleep in the shadow of the volcano.

The Sicilians do not refer to Etna as “volcano”; they prefer to call it “la montagna” since mountain is a feminine noun in Italian and they definitely believe Etna to be a mother figure.  More than one of the Sicilians I met said that they look to “la montagna” every morning to see the constant steam that rises from the top.

One person told me that they think of Etna as a properly functioning pressure cooker.  As long as she is emitting steam, she is not in any danger of exploding.  Of course when there is an eruption, the lava flow is very slow; a study of deaths in historical time reveals that only 77 folks have lost their lives due to Etna.

So feeling a little more secure we headed up Etna one morning on our trip.  First you take your car (or bus) up to the Lodge which is at 1910 meters.  Then you take a cable car up to 2500 meters.  THEN you get on a big 4-wheel bus (looks a little like the polar bear vehicles you take in Churchill) that climbs over lava up to 2900 meters.  Then you climb that last bits on the inactive crater just to the east of the main (active) caldera, up to 3150 meters.

It’s an eerie feeling, since everything you travel over once you get on the cable car is like a moonscape; totally black and crunchy; in 2001-2002, an eruption destroyed all the tourist infrastructure down to the Lodge.  And even though it was plenty warm at the bottom, it was windy and fiercely cold at the top.

Of course all this lava means that the regions around Etna are extremely fertile and the wonderful Etna wines can only be bottled with grapes grown on the mountain (kinda like you can only call it champagne if it comes from the champagne region of France).  We had a wonderful lunch at an Etna winery before heading back to the hotel that made me glad that I had visited one of the most active volcanos on the planet!

Have you ever visited a place you were a little afraid of?

Son of Sherpa Intimida

Our former fearless leader was almost a prophet. Missed it by that much.

 

That one little a.

I sent this to Dale. He answered “I take no pride in being able to predict the Sherpa. All it took was cynicism + imagination. I’d feel better if I had prophesied something hopeful.
Unfortunately those who expect the worst are frequently right!”

We will keep mum about Dale’s own little Russian influences.

Heard a prophesy lately? Have one to make?

 

Pick Your Mural

ND Highway 22 runs through our town north and south. In the middle of town there is a very old, ugly, railroad bridge which allows trains to travel above the highway so emergency vehicles can go under the bridge from the south side of town to the north side of town when there is a train.  It is a very low underpass that invariably floods and is impassable during rain storms.

One of our friends who is a community organizer sort of person got funding for a mural to be painted on the railroad bridge. It took all sorts of Federal and State hoops to be jumped through to get the approval, and this week the mural painter arrived from California.  He has done several murals in our town and our State.  The local paper described the project thus:

The four underpass wall panels will comprise one large mural, more than 400 feet in length, celebrating North Dakota.The walls north of the underpass will depict the landscape of the Badlands.The east wall will show immigrating Ukrainians and the west wall will show cowboys, Native Americans and buffalo. South of the underpass, the west wall will depict Dickinson State University’s May Hall and the east wall will show historic downtown Dickinson and a modern pump-jack. (Dickinson Press, October 2, 2018).

The mural artist is enlisting local students and adults to assist with the painting. I think it is a wonderful project.  How often do we get to legally spray paint on bridges?!! I just hope the Czechs and Germans from Russian don’t feel slighted that he chose Ukrainians instead of them.

Where in your community would you like to see an outdoor mural, and what would you like depicted on it?

Fly Away

I don’t fly as much as I used to, so it’s interesting to see what has changed and what hasn’t at the Minneapolis Airport every time I travel.

Construction. I moved here in 1980 and I believe that some portion of the airport and/or the parking structures have been under construction every single minute.  Currently it’s the entrance to the parking shuttle area (and probably more, but that’s what I saw).

Check-in. If you’ve flown in the last few years you’ve experienced the little kiosks that guide you “gently” through the check-in process on your own.  Now you even get to put on your own bag tags.  A little embarrassing how long it took me to figure this out after watching ticket agents do this for 40 years.  And you get to put your own suitcase on the conveyor belt, unless you run into an agent who is chatty and willing to do it for you.

Security. This has changed and not for the better.  Long long lines (which I don’t understand – the only people going through security are ticketed passengers.  Certainly the airlines know how many bodies they are expecting on any given morning, afternoon or evening?  Why isn’t the security area ever properly staffed up?)   By the time they finally diverted some of us to the other security area, which had been closed earlier, the line went the entire length of the airport.

More Security. No more plastic bins to put your stuff in.  And no more taking your laptop, tablet, kindle, etc. out of your bag. But you still have to take off your shoes if you wear Birkenstocks that always make the security scanner go off.

Shopping & Eating/Drinking. OMG!  Considering that the only things I ever buy in an airport are bottles of water and the occasional refrigerator magnet, it is mind-blowing how many shops (and expensive shops at that) and restaurant/bars there are in the airport.  With the possible exception of rolls of toilet paper, I think you can get just about anything at the airport these days.

Connectedness (if this a word).  Well, there are a lot more places to plug in and get online at the airport, especially in the international gate areas, but considering that every single person that I can see from where I am sitting is online somehow, it’s still not enough.

The changes seem to happening faster and faster so I suppose in a couple of years, this blog will be completely obsolete.

What changes would you like in future airports?