Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ho-hum, just spectacular scenic photography

Every now and then the Daily Mail has an article about amazing photography, in between its coverage of gruesome murders, royal families, celebrities in swimwear, red carpet fashions, and soccer.   (They know I'm just joking.)

Well, in this case, the photography featured in the article was truly amazing.  It comes from a Web site --   It has photographs of the outdoors in Canada (predominantly western Canada), New Zealand, Iceland, Australia, and the Italian Dolomites.

Nice places to visit, if you've got the time and the energy and the money.

Not having any of those, I'll just have to look at the pictures.  Below is one of them, of a place I would like to see in Canada, Mount Assiniboine.  But I'd like to go to New Zealand and Iceland before I went there, if I had the chance to choose.

Happy travels!

Checking in on the Aussie Open

Apparently we've had a couple of nail-biters already.

Grigor Dimitrov, who hasn't won a Slam yet but who did when the ATP Champions trophy at the end of 2017, went five sets against American Mackenzie McDonald, who has no pedigree at all. But he thrashed Dimitrov 0-6 in the fourth set and pushed him to 8-6 in the fifth.

Lovely Caroline Wozniacki had to win two match points to finally prevail against Jana Fett (Boba's sister*) after being down 5-1 in the third set. Way to close of a call there.

Wunderkind Jelena Ostapenko had to go three sets.

Many matches are in progress as I write this. I'll report back soon.

* not really

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Big and clear

Just saw this news about a really big diamond found in Lesotho.  Fifth-largest ever, according to the news article.  And this stone is really clear, looks like ice.  They might be able to make a fabulous gemstone out of it.

World's fifth largest diamond, worth as much as £30 MILLION, is discovered in the southern African country Lesotho

It was found in the Letseng mine by mining company Gem Diamonds.  It is 910 carats.

Another article, with more info on big diamonds:  One of the biggest diamonds in history found in Southern Africa

Lighthouse of the Week, January 14-20, 2018: Beachy Head, England

There are picturesque lighthouses around the world, but there are also outstanding ones that show up not just in a few pictures, but in lots of pictures, on postcards, in calendars, in fine art books, in collections of pictures of lighthouses...

Beachy Head Lighthouse is one of those. Situated directly below some of England's white cliffs on the English Channel (in fact the highest white cliff in all England), built such that it is normally surrounded by water except during the lowest of tides, Beachy Head offers the lighthouse photographer a huge variety of options.  The cliffs are impressive, the ocean is wide, and the lighthouse is classically red-and-white striped.

Here's the basics, from the Lighthouse Directory:

"1902. Active; focal plane 31 m (102 ft); two white flashes, separated by 4 s, every 20 s. 43 m (141 ft) tapered round granite tower with lantern and gallery, mounted on a square concrete pier. Lighthouse painted white with a broad red horizontal band; lantern is also red. Fog horn (blast every 30 s)."

"Rarely is such a large lighthouse so dwarfed by its surroundings. In January 2010 Trinity House proposed to deactivate this light, but following opposition from local boaters it agreed in May to continue the light at reduced power (the new range is listed as 15 km (9 mi))."

So why was it built there? For that, we turn to Wikipedia, the entry for Beachy Head.
"The headland was a danger to shipping. In 1831, construction began on the Belle Tout lighthouse on the next headland west from Beachy Head. Because mist and low clouds could hide the light of Belle Tout, Beachy Head Lighthouse was built in the sea below Beachy Head."
There's a separate Beachy Head Lighthouse entry on Wikipedia, too.

If you're wondering where it is, it's just slightly east of due south of London.  The nearest town is Eastbourne, and Brighton is just up the coast to the west.   Calais, in France, is just a bit north of due west on the French coast.

And now for a few pictures.  As noted before, these are only a few of many.

Great view of Beachy Head

by Steve Ashman 

Is this the World's Greatest Shower?

Let's face it - showers are everywhere.  In fact, if you're reading this, you probably have one or more in your house!  Almost every hotel or motel room has one, too.  And there are many different kinds of showers -- some have transparent walls, some are outside with jets of water coming out of stone walls, some have fantastic views of nature from the privacy of your own room, some are between the bedroom and the bathroom, some are beige and dull and made of one piece of molded fiberglass and there are thousands of variations. There are showers like rain or mist, showers that massage, water-conserving showers, and showers so forceful they'll pin you against the back wall of the bathroom if you aren't careful.

Plus, there are all kinds of designs -- modern, rustic, classical, gaudy, efficient, simple, you name it.  If you Google Image search on "bathroom showers" or "hotel showers" or "fancy showers", you'll see an almost endless variety.  We make take them for granted, but showers are a ubiquitous part of our First World lives.

(I had to point that out -- sadly, in the Third World, water resources are scarce, and people need water for cooking and drinking, and even clean water is hard to find.  Using water to shower is a luxury they can't afford. So showers are not part of the lives of millions of people on Earth, and we all, collectively, need to work harder to fix the water resource problems of humanity.  As I write this, Cape Town, South Africa, is facing a water crisis that could come to a head in 90 days or less.)

Returning to the subject -- what I am going to do here is to nominate the World's Greatest Shower.

I'll tell you how this started.  I follow a lovely young lady, Alyssa Arce, on Instagram.  Alyssa is a Playboy Playmate, a Wilhelmina model, a ring girl, and has a slender but curvy body.  A very fine looking woman. In many of her pictures, she is artfully nude.  (And damn those Instagram restrictions about showing nipples.)

In one of her Instagram pictures, and in an accompanying video, Alyssa was in a round, very large, open shower.  (Truly nude, but not Instagram-censorable.) I wondered where that was, and it took me a little while to investigate the location in the picture.  I didn't immediately find it, because the label had "Villa Tre Ville", and turned out to be easier to find when I discovered that it is more commonly known as "Villa TreVille".  (That link goes to the property's Web site.)

It's in the stunning Italian side-of-a-cliff postcard city of Positano, on the Amalfi Coast.  It used to be the home of iconic Italian movie director Franco Zeffirelli.  Now the property has been divided into several highly luxurious villas.  This is a place that the really, really rich come for a vacation.

It turns out that when Zeffirelli was still there, one of the frequent guests was renowned composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein.

The greatest shower in the world is located inside the Bernstein suite, in the Villa Rosa.  The other suite is named after Nijinsky, the famous Russian ballet dancer.  The shower used to be (as Alyssa noted in the caption to her picture) a bread-baking oven.

One of the things shower offers is the opportunity for showering as a spectator sport.  That is, while your paramour is bathing, you can easily watch, and vice versa.  In fact, there could be a bunch of guests in there all communally showering.

But I digress.  Below are pictures of the Bernstein suite, first the rooms, and then the shower.  And I finish with the picture of Alyssa that so intrigued me.  (I kept it small, so if you want larger, just click it.)  If you want to see the video, find it on her Instagram.

Now, I am open to rivals to the title of World's Greatest Shower.  I'm sure there are other great ones.  But until they are formally presented as rivals, this one's my winner.

View with entrance to the bath

And here's Alyssa Arce in the shower.  Avert your eyes if the unclothed body of a lovely young woman offends you.  Otherwise, go forth and conquer.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Pointed quotes, part 2

From Jennifer Rubin, in:

Two senators do backflips to protect a racist president
"First, many GOP lawmakers now consider lying in defense of the president to be routine, part of their normal duties as card-carrying Republicans. They don’t care that it makes them look foolish to those with eyes to see and ears to hear. They, like Trump, now operate in the populist bubble that depends on protecting Trump and reaffirming their bond with the base on behalf of white grievance. For Perdue and Cotton, defending the preference for immigrants from richer countries — i.e. whiter countries — requires they not concede that this, at bottom, is about race."
Like I said in the last post about pointed quotes, it's the Republicans' fault.

In this case, it's obvious.

Pointed quotes, part 1

From Amber Phillips, in:

President Trump made Congress’s life impossible this week (again)

"The government needs to be funded by next week or it could shut down. Tens of thousands of young immigrants in the country illegally could lose their protections. A children's health-insurance program that millions rely on is going bankrupt. The CIA says it desperately needs Congress to reauthorize a foreign surveillance tool to fight terrorism. And disaster ravaged communities need billions of federal dollars to get back on their feet."

And let's say it all together now:  it's all the Republicans' fault.  Repeat as much as necessary.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Never before erupted

A volcano in Papua New Guinea named Kadovar erupted last week, and this was news because in recorded history, this volcano had not erupted before.  Surprise!   (The article at that link has a few more pictures, and a map.  If you keep clicking on the "-" sign, eventually it'll be possible to figure out where Kadovar is.)

And the pictures are impressive.  Here's an impressive example of impressiveness, not to mention a lot of volcanic ash.

The salinity of Apalachicola Bay

The Apalachicola River flows into Apalachicola Bay in Florida, located on the Gulf of Mexico coast somewhat near Tallahasee -- about 80 miles southwest, in fact.

Apalachicola Bay is famed for its oyster crop, and those oysters depend on the right salinity balance (set by the tidal flow of the ocean into the bay on one side and the flow of the Apalachicola River's fresh water on the other).

The problem is, Florida doesn't have first claim on the river or its water.  Georgia does, because the two tributaries that merge to form the Apalachicola at about the Florida state line are the Chattahoochee and the Flint, and they flow mostly in Georgia.   And Florida is upset because it thinks Georgia is using too much water from these rivers before they become the Apalachicola and their water gets down to the bay.

So now Florida is suing Georgia for more water to flow into the bay, to help out the oysters.  It's a landmark case. There's a whole lot of considerations, from drinking water in Atlanta to irrigation water for Georgia farms

Florida and Georgia taking water fight to Supreme Court

"Florida's legal fight hasn't been cheap. Since Gov. Rick Scott gave the green light in 2013 to take the case to the Supreme Court, the state has spent nearly $60 million on legal fees."

That's a lot of clams -- I mean, oysters. But oysters are not all this is about -- it's also about wetlands and mangroves and forests, including where tupelo honey comes from. 

Being who I am, I want the bay to get the water, and not only because I like tupelo honey.  But both the natural resources and the agricultural/aquacultural products of the bay deserve to get enough water to be healthy and productive.

Why Republicans are a pain in the ass (as of January 2018)

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post wrote an article entitled "Trump's accidental moment of truth".  It started out talking about the ridiculous "negotiation" on immigration that was open to the press, which showed Donald Trump bouncing like a ping-pong ball between dichotomously opposed policy alternatives.  Great.

But what Dionne got into next was why the Republicans have abrogated any claim to sane, sensible legislating.   Especially the far-right nutters who have been given way too much control over what the House of Representatives does.
"The cost of extremism is obvious on other matters as well. The Children’s Health Insurance Program is a genuinely bipartisan achievement that, at low cost, gets health care to 9 million young Americans. But the renewal is hung up because House Republicans are demanding that it be paid for by cutting Obamacare spending on various preventive-care measures. Really? Since when is prevention a partisan issue?"

In case you don't believe that could possibly be true, read "Congress let CHIP’s funding expire 102 days ago, and it’s a national disgrace" from Vox

Supposedly there's a potential CHIP funding deal that would be attached to a short-term funding bill.  I'll believe it when I see it -- the deal, and the funding bill.

This is pretty recent:  To Shut Down or Not to Shut Down

It's going to be an interesting week.

Scenes from Port Charlotte on Highway 41

Now that we've crossed the Peace River, Highway 41 goes through Charlotte Harbor and into Port Charlotte -- and there isn't much there.   Here's a highlight, the "X" intersection of Highway 41 and Highway 776.

Since there isn't much to see, we might consider visiting the Emerald City.  Bring your dollar bills.  The building is a bank, you'd have to drive a little further to get to paradise.  Just follow the yellow brick road.


Getting back on the road, the Deer Creek Prairie Preserve (forested area) is just before the Myakka River crossing.  I think the Streetview camera had a smudge.

And we'll finish here with a crossing of the Myakka River, one of Florida's semi-wild rivers.  Closeer to Sarasota is the Myakka River State Park. 

Down the road is Venice, and we may take a side trip to the beach.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

First sonnet of the new year

when normal words cannot suffice

To call her shape 'spectacular' is like
asserting Everest is 'merely high';
or that to climb that peak is just a hike
of 'modest challenge' -- one will vainly try
to underplay her overarch, for she
could be the archetype of feminine
confection, pure as honey from the bee
and beck'ning sweetly in our eyes, akin
to serpentine temptation's curse. We must
surpass one simple word to capture how
she is; a phrase or two might do her just-
ice, even more a book would serve to show,
with pages of exceptionality,
how she befits uncommonality.

(Inspired by Nikki Cormier)

Back to Highway 41

We have to make progress up Highway 41.  I took time off from the trip for the holidays, but it's a new year, a new January, and we have to get back on the northward trek.

North of Fort Myers, by the Prairie Pines Preserve:

By Tropical Gulf Acres (I-75 is just on the other side of the trees)

Bridge into Charlotte Harbor, over the Peace River

Next stops: Port Charlotte and the Myakka River.

Lighthouse of the Week, January 7-13, 2018: Kiama Light, New South Wales, Australia

Finding this lighthouse happened because I saw a picture of the coast, and I didn't know where it was, so I did some searching and found out where it was, and it turned out this stretch of coastline in New South Wales, Australia, also had a lighthouse.

And a blowhole.

The lighthouse is the Kiama Light, and here is an entire Web page about it from the Lighthouses of Australia Web site.  It has a map, in case you don't know where halfway between Wollongong and Jervis Bay is.

The Kiama Lighthouse

The basics: 
The light was established in 1887, 10 years after the creation of the Robertson Basin, a manmade harbour to service Kiama's supply of crushed blue metal and paving blocks for the streets of Sydney.

The tower, built on Blowhole Point, is constructed of brick and rendered outside with concrete.

The foundation is concrete, 14 feet in depth and 12 feet in diameter; from the bottom of the foundation to the top of the entrance is 16 feet. The height of the building from the floor to the coping is 36 feet, to the light is 40 feet, and to the top of the weather vane is 50 feet.
The Web site has interior pictures;  below are exterior pictures, including the blowhole.

by Darren Stones

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Whatever happened to the baby olms?

You might possibly remember, if you read this blog assiduously (nobody does) that I had an article or two about the rare hatching of olms in Slovenia -  olms being pink blind cave salamanders that are called "baby dragons" and which are quite rare, and therefore quite endangered, in this world of human dominance over nature.

Fully grown olm

Here are my two articles:

The world needs more olms (pre-hatching)

First new olm

Inspired by something that I now have forgotten -- it happens -- I suddenly found myself wondering what had happened to the baby olms, considering that the articles stated and repeated that baby olms are vulnerable.  So I searched, found a couple of update articles a few months after the hatching, but finally found this:

How Slovenia is helping its ‘baby dragons’  (dated August 2017)

So this is how they were doing back in August:
“We now have 21 baby olms flourishing in our trays,” said Primoz Gnezda, a biologist working in Postojna Cave. “For the first time we have witnessed the hatching of proteus larvae – and, after one year, they are all healthy. And that gives us hope we can save our olms for the future.”

The article goes into more detail, so I will leave it for you, dear reader, to find out more if you wish to do so.  But it's good to know that the olms are doing well.

OK, now let's get married

The Daily Mail (of course) had an article about a remarkable wedding dress that took 244 hours to make and which required more than 200 Swarovski crystals.

After all that effort, you'd think it would like something like a dress.

Actually, it looks like a bunch of white flowers glued to the body of the bride-to-be.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Bridal designer shares snap of VERY revealing wedding JUMPSUIT that took 244 hours to make and is embellished with more than 200 Swarovski crystals (so would YOU get married in it?)

Now here's the strange part (as if the dress itself isn't strange enough).  The model wearing it had it custom-made for herself -- but not to get married.  She already is.  She had it made to wear on New Year's Eve.  She's pretty lucky she's Spanish and didn't wear it for a NYE wedding in NY, NY this year (like Maria Menounos did).

Certainly you want to know more about the model.  Her name is Cristina Pedroche (Wikipedia), she got married in 2015, and apparently this is not the first time she's worn something like this on New Year's Eve.  She's a TV presenter and model and does comedy, gleaned from a quick reading of her Wikipedia entry.

Now if you want to see more of the "dress", go the article.  If you want to see more of Cristina, go below.

Quite marriageable - no matter what she wears. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Nature and fashion and glamour

Khloë Terae (@khloe), a glamour model who's been in or on Playboy, Maxim, sixty6, and likely many other places;  she was also Playboy's Cybergirl of the Year a couple of years back -- recently posed for a series of pictures in fancy dresses using Icelandic scenery as the backdrop.

My favorite of them is below, by the columnar basalt-flanked waterfall Svartifoss.

Keegan-Wright sighting

I am so happy that the Daily Mail provided an update on the reunion, however brief, of stunning fantastically gorgeous British actress Michelle Keegan, and her unfortunately remarkably good-looking husband Mark Wright, who has been doing a stint in the States on the reporting-on-entertainment show Extra!

Why did I say "unfortunately remarkably good-looking" husband?  Because it shows that mere mortals can rarely aspire to participating in mating rituals with a goddess-level woman like Michelle.  That appears to be reserved for rock stars, mega-athletes, and genetically blessed males like Mark.

Getting back to the story, basically, they partied on New Year's Eve, went to the gym the next day, and Michelle's butt still looks divine.

And they cuddled.

All of which is great news.

The morning after! Michelle Keegan displays her physique in form-fitting workout gear as she and husband Mark Wright go to LA gym... after enjoying a VERY boozy night at wild NYE party

Hatch is out

Just a few posts ago, I noted Dana Milbank's Washington Post column in which he indicated it would be a good thing if Mitt Romney ran for the Senate in Utah, provided Orrin Hatch decided not to see another term.

Hatch decided not to seek another term.

For which all of us on the progressive liberal Democratic side of the political spectrum -- the sane, rational, public-serving side of the political spectrum -- give thanks.

And Senator Hatch, I would like to thank you for your 40 years of public service in the Senate, despite the wide gulf between our political positions.

Having said that, the sooner you're the f*ck out of the Senate, the better off the country will be.  As some pundits have noted, you actually were a decent public servant, until Donald Trump got elected.  Then you've been ridiculous and pathetic stooge.

Good-bye, bon voyage, and the best view of you is your skinny backside headed back to Utah,

Hatch announces retirement, Romney likely to run

Lighthouse of the Week, Dec. 31, 2017 - Jan. 6, 2018: Vinga, Sweden

I was very surprised to find out, when I reviewed my lighthouse postings, that I had only featured two lighthouses from Sweden.  Sweden has a lot of coastline, and thus it also has a lot of lighthouses.  After taking a look at samples, I settled on Vinga -- which like the Donkin Reserve lighthouse in South Africa has a pyramidal structure next to it, and which like both the Robben Island and Galloo Island lighthouses, is on an island.  (Those were the last three Lighthouses of the Week.)

What's that pyramidal structure?  More on that later.

Vinga happens to be one of Sweden's more ancient and venerable lighthouses, as the excerpts below will attest.  It's near Gothenburg (which the Swedes call Göteborg, but they prefer that English-speakers use the English name for the city).

From the Lighthouse Directory:
"1890 (station established 1841). Active; focal plane 46 m (151 ft); two white flashes, separated by 7.5 s, every 30 s. 29 m (95 ft) square granite tower with lantern and gallery; original drum-style Fresnel lens in use. The lighthouse is unpainted stone; lantern dome is gray metallic."
And, importantly:
"Vinga is the traditional landfall light, not just for Gothenburg but for all of Sweden. Along with Skagen Fyr on the Danish side it marks the entrance to the Kattegat and the Baltic for ships arriving from the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean."
It also happens that the 95-foot stone tower is the third lighthouse on the island; the second one is a circular structure that is still there, with a radar antenna on top, but the lighthouse is inoperative. The first one is no longer there, but its foundations are.

This still does not explain the red pyramid with the sphere on top, I know. Well, it's simple, really; the pyramid with the sphere on top is a day beacon -- which is basically something you can see from the water during the day.

Because Vinga is special, below I have four pictures and a video with musical accompaniment. I accidentally organized the pictures with increasingly distant views.

And the video: