Friday, December 19, 2014

Beach Frolic

Here's what I now call frolicking at the beach. In the interest of public happiness and tranquility, there's no exposure of any of the rough spots (ladies - you inow what I mean). Safely submerged, all is calm.

Green School

We visited the unique and interesting Green School today. 310 students from 44 countries attend. They learn by by doing to put it in simplest possible terms. Each child is allowed to learn according to his interests and inclinations. The place is wonderful.

Riding along the streets we both noted how much cleaner Bali is compared to our last visit 4 years ago. Awareness is growing. Two of the green school students, tiny activists, managed to get the governor to sign a temporary order banning plastic bags. Their goal is to have bags banned by  2015.
They have a website at

At the school they are generating electrical power with a kind of vortex run from the river; they grow much of their own food; they are learning about conservation by aiding in the protection of threatened bird species. The kids work on all of these projects. They dance, play music, sing, put on plays. A school of your dreams. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sunrise House Bali

On the CBS Sunday morning show, Sunrise House looked fabulous. But the program didn't do it justice. To say this structure is breathtaking is indeed an understatement. Made entirely of bamboo. by hand, it overlooks the Ayung river which can be heard rushing by all day and all night. The house has no windows and all four levels open out to the jungle. Birds and butterflies fly in and out as we sit drinking our coffee. The buzz of insects and croaking of frogs provide a constant chorus. 

Ladies come and go: they clean, they bring fruit, they brought breakfast. We move from level to level

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Off to Flores


Back onto Garuda Air today to fly from Bali to Flores.
Sights out the window were amazing.
The Indonesian archipelago just goes on and on. 13500 islands is the number you read, but they've never all been officially counted. 

Fun ride - hated to get off because the window viewing is so great. It's incredibly hot here in LBJ. instant sweat from head to toe. There isn't a bit of breeze; they're in the doldrums. Personally never experienced this kind of heat/still air combination before. No wonder everyone's out in boats or diving which are the two principal things you do here. 

A new airport has just opened and there's construction all over the town - restaurants, hotels, shops. No recession woes here. 

We noted that once again, we're the oldest people walking around or rather stumbling around. The sidewalks are autrocious - just as bad as in Bali. They start for a few feet and then abruptly end and drop off. You have to watch every step. In the dark, after dinner, we walked back to the villa, lighting our way with little flash lights. Quite a change from the Intercontinental in Bali. 

View deck of the villa where we have a room for the night. 

A great place to sit and enjoy the view.
A gorgeous sunset. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Elevator Encounter Dubai

The elevator doors opened and a young girl started to come out. She bit her lip, looking past us to the concierge desk. After a second she sighed and with a shrug, stepped back in; we got on and punched M for main floor. 

The curvy young girl was dressed in a satin strapless dress and extremely high heels. She had long thick black hair, beautifully shiny. Her artificial eye lashes, about 1/4 inch thick, enhanced her huge brown eyes. On her arms, constellations of stars started at her wrists and exploded up her arms. Little individual stars, small and mostly blue appeared on one shoulder, sprinkled across her chest and continued down her back. They were quite beautiful.  Her little bag was beaded and as she opened and closed it I could see her Marlborough cigarettes. The whole package - girl, make-up, last night's dress, circumstances - spelled Hooker, loud and clear.

On floor 4 an older couple stepped in, about our age. They glanced at her and looked at the floor. So did she.

Third floor. The doors opened and three Japanese piled in, chattering away about cell phone cost, laughing and wholly engaged in each other. They barely noticed the rest of us. The girl had to step back to make room for them.  About an inch away from me now, I could further examine and appreciate the artful spray of stars scattered across her shoulder bones and the back of her shoulders. Her tattoos were unlike the schlocky stuff you see around Fallbrook. These were artistry and so striking I'll remember them long after my impression of the girl herself willl have vanished. 

Second floor. An Asian man dressed in a suit and pulling his suitcase, stepped in, glancing around at us before he assumed elevator position - facing the doors and looking up at the floor numbers flashing by.

Main floor. The hooker girl looked up and chewing her lip, walked out, oozing confusion. We exited behind her and watched her walk away teetering on the spike heels, hair swaying, stars twinkling - out the front door and into the bright sunlight. 

And as we watched her, why wouldn't this song brain-worm me leaving a slimy trail of
irony in it's wake. 

I enjoy being a Girl

I'm a girl, and by me that's only great!
I am proud that my silhouette is curvy,
That I walk with a sweet and girlish gait
With my hips kind of swivelly and swervy.

I adore being dressed in something frilly
When my date comes to get me at my place.
Out I go with my Joe or John or Billy,
Like a filly who is ready for the race!

When I have a brand new hairdo
With my eyelashes all in curl,
I float as the clouds on air do,
I enjoy being a girl!

When men say I'm cute and funny
And my teeth aren't teeth, but pearl,
I just lap it up like honey
I enjoy being a girl!

I flip when a fellow sends me flowers,
I drool over dresses made of lace,
I talk on the telephone for hours
With a pound and a half of cream upon my face!

I'm strictly a female female
And my future I hope will be
In the home of a brave and free male
Who'll enjoy being a guy having a girl... like... me.

When men say I'm sweet as candy
As around in a dance we whirl,
It goes to my head like brandy,
I enjoy being a girl!

When someone with eyes that smoulder
Says he loves ev'ry silken curl
That falls on my iv'ry shoulder,
I enjoy being a girl!

When I hear the compliment'ry whistle
That greets my bikini by the sea,
I turn and I glower and I bristle,
But I happy to know the whistle's meant for me!

I'm strictly a female female
And my future I hope will be
In the home of a brave and free male
Who'll enjoy being a guy having a girl... like... me.


In Dubai, everything's new! Except for a few things. Yesterday at the mall, we were surprised to stumble onto DubaiDino, a long-necked whip-tailed sauropod, 155 million years old. In a dramatic display under the souk dome, Ampicolelias brontodiplodocus holds it's tiny head 80 feet in the air balanced by the huge 25 foot long tail at it's back, slightly curled and looking as dangerous and ominous as it was in real life. Discovered at the Dana Quarry in Wyoming in 2008, it's 90% real; no comparable exhibit exists with as many complete bones. 

I couldn't get a decent photo of the huge creature; this one I lifted from the web site. 

Two dinosaur "experts" are on hand at the exhibit to answer questions. They explained that the dinosaur exhibit was air-freighted from the US to the Souk in The Dubai Mall. I read on-line that the mall developers paid several million dollars for the skeleton. We learned the creature was as heavy as five elephants and was a vegetarian using it's long neck to reach tree tops for food. It gulped down whole branches and leaves without chewing. The head is really small and I find some of the info a bit hard to swallow. Whole branches? Even with an unhinged jaw - how did it work? And what kind of muscular spasms could it muster up to get all that vegetation down to the gut? I'm betting there were days when the Ampicolelias could've used tums and an alka seltzer or two. The exhibit states that the tiny brain didn't require much blood; the heart pumped blood up there once every ten minutes. No wonder they're extinct. 

Just behind the dinosaur is the Level Shoe district of the mall. Thousands, no kidding, thousands of shoes are displayed. Every notable shoe designer you can think of has a store or kiosk. You can read about it here.

Glittery boots rotate on display pads. It boggles the mind to pass from a 155 million year old skeleton display into all the amazingly expensive footwear. The Level district includes a personal consultant who will help you select just the right shoes for an occasion; a concierge who'll help you "seamlessly combine shopping and life style"; a foot care specialist, world reknowned for fancy pedicures using emu oil products; a cobbler who'll repair anything and make custom slippers; and something described as culinary "relief" in the Vogue cafe. Conde Nast has a line of restaurants. Who knew? This one offers breakfast through dinner surrounded by iconic photography from the magazine. If you're into "shoe frenzies" or "shoe fantasies", both terms used in the marketing material, then the Level Shoe district is for you. Did some genius marketing person figure out that the ladies in abaya shuffling by in Adidas are more inclined to buy shoes or have a pedicure after viewing dinosaurs???

The whole shoe thing was beyond us. And apparently beyond others as well. While the dinosaur exhibit was full of people, the dinosaur viewers appeared to be able to restrain themselves from the shoes. We saw one or two women rushing past the stores and a couple of rubber-neckers just like us. No sound of cash registers ringing. It was downright funereal in there. 

Turning back to the Dino, we wondered who the heck owns dinosaur bones dug up in the U.S.  Turns out they belong to the owner of the land where they're found and can be disposed of as the owner wishes. Sort of. It's complicated and most finds are donated to museums or to universities for further study. On line I found a couple of fairly complete dinosaur skeletons for .5 - 1 million dollars. If you've got money and are so inclined, you can find them for sale. The idea of the dinosaur in the mall bothered me at first, but in the final analysis, it's properly preserved and I guess available for scholarly research. At the very least, it's thought provoking and might pique the curiosity of the countless thousands of people who visit the mall but might never visit a natural history museum where you'd expect to find this display. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A day at the mall

Dopey from a combination of sleep deprivation and jet lag, we staggered around the Dubai Mall admiriing the window decorations and struggling to keep from dropping in our tracks.
Souvenir shop...oh the keychains and postcards and stuffed animals and Tshirts. I think R did fall asleep leaning up against this mountain of stuffed camels. 

Divers plunging down fountain wall. 

Nifty coffee press.

Cheese in Eataly.

Gear head in Bloomingdale's window. Flat tattoos are out. Three dimensional stick on stuff is in. 
Versace tableware.
Shoe tree.Reflects in the ceiling mirror.

Bloomingdales looking festive...too bad about the "m". Bloon Ingdales - could be a new store altogether. 
Don't know what happened here...triple exposure jangle. Like our heads.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Emirates First Class to Dubai

16 hours is a long time in a tube, even in first class, even Emirates first class which was a splendid experience. The lounge at the new Terminal in LA looks out over all the snazzy expensive branded merchandise. A column almost in the middle is covered with ever changing video images. Very interesting to watch. The same images show up on columns, panels and towers all over the terminal as you walk to your gate. 

We could never afford these plane tickets...we got them with frequent flyer mileage on Alaska Airlines. It was our once in a lifetime splurge.

They showed us to our suites after boarding and ran through operation of all the bells and whistles. Each suite has a wide screen TV and a Ipad thingie to control everything with. There is a vast, vast choice of entertainment. They load you up with goodies. First, the soft pyjamas. All 8 first class passengers went into the bathrooms and changed into these things. You have a little closet adjacent to your suite for your clothing. For the rest of our flight, we looked like inmates from some luxury recovery hospital. We were given the usual amenities bags filled with Bulgari products; the men's bag is leather and considerably more substantial than the ladies fabric bag. Just saying. Each suite has a mini bar and a little desk/make-up area. There's no particular meal service. You can have anything you want anytime.

Video tower from the first class lounge.
Settling into the suite.
Selecting from the date box.
Video tower, changes constantly.
My wide screen TV
In my pyjamas in the shower/bathroom. There are two of these in first class. 
Bathrooms loaded with amenites.
You can have a five minute shower. 
Richard across from me. There's a divider you can pull up if the person across is a stranger and not a tall, dark, handsome stranger. You pull the doors shut for privacy while you sleep. 

I watched two movies and slept 6 hours. Richard slept 8 hours. There's a bar at the back of the business section where you can hang out and drink and visit. The first class section has a tiny bar area squeezed between the showers. Nobody used it even though it was beautifully fitted out with champagne, little snack plates etc. Maybe once you're half drunk it would be more attractive although there's a flight of stairs dangerously close you could fall down.

All in all, an excellent experience. 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sepia Saturday 257: "We aim to stay number 1 in a number 2 business!" - Ed Lowe

The prompt this week...includes sitting on stairs, pets, kids, lassoes. 
1916, Alberta, Canada

I have a few photos of family members sitting on the stairs. 

1946. Letellier, Manitoba, Canada. My dad, grandfather, me, cousin Maurice

1947. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Me and my cat.

As I looked at this picture of Sandy and me, I realized that 1947 was a huge year for cat owners everywhere. Little did we know what was to come........

Bloomberg released a list this past week of disruptive inventions which have changed our lives. Included on the list side by side with cell phone technology and the internet, was Kitty Litter. Sandy, my cat, looks pretty content in this photo but as I recall she had to go outside in the snow and cold to pee. We had a stinky sand box in the basement Sandy would use in a pinch and which everyone hated scooping out and changing. 1947, the year of this photo, everything changed - for cats and for cat owners. With an odor-free litter box in the house, cats (sadly Sandy didn't live long enough to enjoy the new technology) could stay indoors and live compatibly with their owners. The biggest barrier to cat ownership was broken down for good. 

 Here's the story from Bloomberg Business Week, Dec. 4th, 2014. 

1954 Tidy Cat, the first mass-produced brand of kitty litter, arrives in supermarkets.
Ed Lowe was working at his father’s delivery business in southern Michigan when he had a brilliant idea: take some fuller’s earth (a type of clay) and sell it to local farmers for chickens to nest. He called it Chicken Litter.
It was 1947. The farmers weren’t interested—which is why Lowe had a big pile of it when a local woman came by. She’d brought her cat in from the January cold and needed some sand for her cat box. On an impulse, Lowe offered her some fuller’s earth instead.
The stuff turned out to absorb the ammonia smell of cat pee. The woman soon came back for more. So did her friends. After enough requests, Lowe put some fuller’s earth in bags, wrote KITTY LITTER on them, and dropped them off at a hardware store. The product sold, and it sold in supermarkets and pet stores. The market grew ever outward, from southern Michigan to the world.
The introduction of Kitty Litter meant that after millennia of scratching at the door cats could come indoors and stay there. They had long been visitors in American homes; now they were residents. In some ways it has been a hostile takeover: There are millions more cats than dogs in the U.S. This also means that Lowe is the indirect father of countless Internet cat memes. Anyone who sells recreational laser pointers, fuzzy mice, scratching posts, cat furniture, or electric-fountain cat water dishes should thank him, too.
Competitors appeared—after all, it was dirt in a bag—but Lowe kept expanding the business, struggling at first to break out of his Michigan market, ultimately building a vertically integrated mining, distribution, and marketing concern. The 1954 launch of Tidy Cat, specifically for supermarkets, meant the cat waste category belonged to him. “We aim to stay No. 1,” he said, “in a No. 2 business.”
A research facility was built in Michigan. Dozens of cats were housed there. They scampered, played, and—given their ultimate responsibilities—probably ate rather well. Lab-coated materials scientists watched them. Absorbency and granularity had to be understood. Alternate materials such as paper were considered. A cadre of sniff-testers periodically came to the facility to test the product’s quality and report on its effectiveness. Probably not the greatest job.
The beating heart of it all was Lowe. He looked like Kenny Rogers (they were friends) and had a manic entrepreneurial energy. He remembered your name if you worked for him and walked the floors of his factories and mines. “He called me one time,” says Michael McCuistion, who worked with Lowe and now works at Lowe’s foundation. “It was in the middle of the night. He found a ranch in Florida that he wanted to buy.” Lowe sent a Learjet for McCuistion so he could look at the property and weigh in.
Real estate was a special interest, and Lowe amassed about 3,000 acres in Michigan. But he never really made it past the cat business. An old-timey town with amusements failed, as did a line of pet stores and an experiment selling packaged firewood. He knew his own tendencies toward short attention and incredible enthusiasm and told his employees to keep him in line. They did, striking a deal: He could plow a steady percentage of revenue into new business as long as the bulk went back into the litter box. He agreed.
He left behind 93 short stories and 10 times as many poems, along with a play. In 1990, after more than 40 years in litter, Lowe sold the company to a group of investors for $200 million plus stock. According to McCuistion, it was an anguished decision. Lowe had been estranged from his family, distanced from the product he invented and the company he created, now called Golden Cat. In his last years he put his energy into a foundation dedicated to supporting “second-stage” entrepreneurs—chief executive officers who have found initial success with a handful of employees but face the challenges of large-scale growth. He felt that his greatest struggle was taking Kitty Litter and Tidy Cat national.
Lowe died in 1995. His family put aside differences and gathered around him as he passed. Golden Cat was absorbed by Ralston Purina in 1995. Today the Edward Lowe Foundation sprawls across thousands of acres of southern Michigan. On the grounds are many endangered species of plants and animals: The cerulean warbler sings there, the eastern box turtle swims, and the cut-leaved water parsnip grows. But there are no cats.

Do more than scratch the surface - climb the stairs over to Sepia Saturday and read other stories
about pets, sitting on the stoop and lassoes to name a few.