It's your world. I just live in it.

Oct 17, 2016

Taipei, a once over

Taipei City

Taipei was a pleasant surprise. If anything, I was expecting the usual color and chaos of other S.E. Asian cities, but Taipei was mellow nearly to the point of hypnotic. 

Taipei morning with steam buns
Breakfast in Taipei

People were friendly and helpful even when they didn't speak English and the city was clean, prosperous and quiet. Even the motorbikes, so much a part of life in Asian cities, were quiet. And Taipei was safe. The Westerners we met, many of them long time residents in Taipei, were quick to mention it. Still, we were shocked to see that most of the bicycles downtown were left on the rack unlocked. Where else does that happen anymore?

Taipei bike rack - few bother to lock their bikes.
Few bother to lock their bikes.

And we loved the vegetarian and vegan restaurant options. We especially liked the buffet at Minder Vegetarian. In fact we ate there every day, sometimes twice a day. But, there was one quirky thing about Taipei, the umbrellas. Umbrellas are popular among Asians as protection from the sun, it's practically a cliche, but in Taipei it was something more.

Daoist Baoan Temple priest - Taipei, Taiwan
The only "litter bug" we saw was a Daost priest
ritualistically throwing leaves onto the sidewalk.
Ba'oan Daost Temple

A light rain fell intermittently throughout our entire stay andevery time it beganumbrellas instantly popped open creating a nearly unbroken canopy over the entire sidewalk thenwhen the rain stopped a few minutes laterthe canopy disappeared. This happened repeatedly throughout the day—every day. Add music and you'd think it was a flash mob ballet.

Nightly trash pick-up - Taipei, Taiwan
People carrying their trash to the garbage truck
during the nightly trash pick-up - Taipei, Taiwan

But perhaps the most amazing thing of all to me was that people in Taipei don't litter and there was hardly a trashcan to be found, not on the street, not outside stores or cafes, not anywhere. In Taipei people just don't drop trash on the street. It's mind blowing. The streets and parks of Taipei are almost completely litter free. But, when the nightly garbage truck announced itself in the neighborhood with a tinkley blend of ice cream truck jingle and Twin Peaks soundtrack, people came out in spite of the rain and tossed their would-be-litter into the truck.

Reflexology path - Tai  Taiwan
Reflexology path

I didn't intend for this to be just a laundry list of Taipei's glories. Laundry lists are boring. Certainly, like everywhere, Taiwan must have a dark side. Such widespread conformity can be a red flag but, otherwise, we just didn't see it. As it stands, we were intrigued and hope to return.

Oct 12, 2016

Trump, Taiwan and dinner

Red eye to Taiwan

We landed in Taipei yesterday and will be here for a week. After that we head to Thailand for the next five months. Unfortunately, even though it's all so far away at the moment, the first thing I did this morning was read the latest US election news.

Trump is so bizarre he's like a very real, truly diabolical version of a creepy clown. And, when you think about it, there really are definite, disturbing similarities between him and the worst of them. To name a few, they both threaten people with violence. They both scare people outside the US and then there is the matter of the hair. We know that people like Trump feed on the darkness in the hive mind  but is it also true that Trump's rise, as some speculate, is fed by a collaboration between Russia and Wikileaks? There is evidence to suggest this is so.

A real life creepy clown

But there is one big difference between Trump and other the other creepy clowns stalking people these days. As the Washington Post wrote, Trump could "reshape America and the world". This would be a disaster of inestimable proportions. So, before we left, I did my part to avert this disaster. I voted for Hillary. I hope you do the same.

Please note . . . if you are still thinking of voting for Trump anyway because "you doubt he could do much harm" — this Washington Post editorial is for you.

Morning in another land
Inflight monitor

As for Taipei, it's an amazingly mellow, friendly place. We are both blown away by it. Also, Taipei is very vegetarian friendly. Happy Cow lists 177 vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants here. So far, we've eaten at two, both very excellent Minder Vegetarian buffets. One is walking distance from where we're staying. It was one of the big reasons M. Lee picked the apartment we're staying in. So today it rained all day, just right for getting over jet lag.

Oct 10, 2016

Clinton - Trump Town Hall debate

This extract from a Metafilter discussion of tonight's town hall debate between Clinton and Trump is of another failed attempt by predator Trump to be "presidential". Cooper is one of the debate moderators.
COOPER: you grab women's genitals, that's sexual assault, do you understand that?

TRUMP: I never said that, I don't think you understand this is locker room talk. So many terrorist organizations around the world cutting off heads it's crazy around the world, Yes it's locker room talk and I hate it but I will knock the hell out of ISIS and. . .

COOPER: You're saying you didn't kiss women or grope women without their consent?

TRUMP" I have great respect for women. We're going to make America safe again

COOPER: Have you ever done that?

TRUMP: No I haven't.
posted by petebest at 6:12 PM on October 9 [31 favorites +] [!]

Source: "Don't modulate the key then not debate with me via Metafilter
As for me, I voted for Hillary before leaving on this trip. At the moment we're sitting at Los Angeles International Airport. Our flight to Thailand via Taiwan leaves at midnight.

Aug 24, 2016

Moby & The Void Pacific Choir

Don't Leave Me

"Along with the video, Moby has announced the inaugural Circle V Festival which will take place at LA’s Fonda Theatre on 10/23. He will be headlining the festival and it will be his only live show of 2016. The video is to help build awareness for mercy for animals and the 100% vegan festival will donate all proceeds to animal rights causes. Presale tickets are available at 10AM local times on 08/25 here."

Source: Stereogum on Yahoo

Aug 20, 2016


Beautiful sunset tonight. The cicada are singing. August is their time. A frog joins them; another welcome voice as summer draws to a close.

At the moment, I'm resisting photographing the clouds. I've been photographing everything around me for so long . . . colorful scenes, unusual moments, perspectives, common wonders . . . whatever catches my eye. I need to sit this one out just to prove to myself I can.

The cloud colors run from grays, light pinks and lavenders to shades of purple the color of new bruises.

Now the glow has faded. The pinks and lavenders are gone but the cicada sing on under the darkish clouds, mixing their voices with low rumbling thunder from somewhere beyond Alligator Creek.

And now it's night. The cicada are silent again. So is the frog. Lightning from a far distant storm occasionally flashes the dark.

Monkey business

We've been back from Costa Rica since about the 13th. One of the most memorable moments was walking in Cahuita National Park and getting shook down by some monkeys. They are extremely quick and very clever and we were rubes. First they managed to grab a snack bar from the table. We were just glad he didn't grab the iPhone. After that one approached me as I was finishing the last few bites of my bar. No words were necessary. His body language was impeccable . . . we could "do this the hard way or we could do this the easy way". I tossed it to him. Bad manners, yes, but we were delighted.

Aug 3, 2016

Monkey highway

We're staying in Cahuita, a small town on
Costa Rica's Caribbean side. Lots of monkeys here.
The ones in these photos are Howler monkeys.

Three monkeys looking at me

They are very shy and generally stay high in canape.
We just happened to be on the road as a band of them
were crossing it . . .

Monkey taking a piss

though several paused
for a bathroom break before taking the leap.

Monkey highway

They swung over the road
via a very spindly branch but . . .

Monkey highway detail

. . . after some wrangling, they all made it

Jul 29, 2016

Notes on the fly

Currently I'm sitting in the Fort Lauderdale airport waiting for our flight to Costa Rica. We'll be there for two weeks. We've been in Florida a month now. Not much to report about it. Thea really loves going to the beach. We have to pry her out of the water when it's time to go but that's about it. It's been basically uneventful and very low key.

I take that back. Kristy and I attended a meeting of the Sarasota Writers Group, The usual format is an open mic with the option for feedback, if so desired, but this night there was a guest speaker. At first I was disappointed because I wanted to read but the speaker, Ryan G. Van Cleave, turned out to be really interesting. He's a writer, poet, professor at Ringling College of Art + Design and, as I understand it, he is the first person to offer a writing program there. Even cooler, he has integrated it with the visual arts and created an à la carte style program students can sculpt to fit their own interests and talents. He is also a one man writing scene that is more lively and interesting than any I have been in for a long time.

Writing scenes can be so weird. People get paranoid that their ideas are being stolen, there are ego games and toxic alliances but, at least at first glance, this guy seems immune to that bullshit. He's high energy, super enthusiastic about all aspects of writing and publishing and, best of all, independent. M. Lee has been talking about moving to Florida for some time now, a proposal I have been resisting, but after meeting Ryan, I'm am seriously interested in the idea. We shall see.


'Art is the elimination of the unnecessary."
- Pablo Picasso

Jul 16, 2016

Change, the only constant

Wrong again. Why did I think life on Alligator Creek would always be the same? Nothing is ever the same. I'm not saying things always get worse, or that they are, but they do always change.

For one thing, Thea Bella and her mom are here with us this summer. Thea is now seven and is, as always, a delight though she manages to kick my ass nearly every time we play Sleeping Queens.

Great Blue Heron
& the old man by the sea.
On the other hand, Sonny has been gone since the 4th of July. That changes things. He was Alligator Creek's version of middle-aged Florida Man; a 50 something guy who, after countless misadventures, had been basically living on his parent's screen porch . . . for years. When he got going with his wild stories of the past or absurd plans for the future, whether on the phone or to his mom, the whole neighborhood could hear him. It didn't seem to bother him so what the hell? It was fun listening. Is he gone for good? Who's to say?

On the other hand, I happy to note that the great blue heron and the old man are both still around (see photo from a couple of years ago).  I saw the old fellow on the ferry to the beach. He still goes early and leaves by noon. The great blue heron is a little harder to catch up with but the other morning I saw him fishing along his usual lonely stretch of beach.

As for the squirrel scene, since a hawk got Frida a few years ago, I keep that on the down low, no more all day peanuts. It's safer that way. I put some nuts and seeds out in the morning and that's it. It took awhile but eventually one squirrel discovered them and was my only guest for nearly a week, then it was two, now sometimes four or five come by briefly in the morning.

Jul 9, 2016


Evening on the Gulf
Reflections on Alligator Creek

Jul 8, 2016

Somewhere in Texas

One more from the road.

Molly on the road

Jul 4, 2016

Uncommon ground

Can you transcend the uncommon ground?

Can I jump?

Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar is one of the Culturunners, a group of 10 Middle Eastern artists exploring the ideological boundaries between the US and the Middle East. More here.

Jul 3, 2016

Trump jacked on "cheap speed"?

Rumors abound. Makes sense to me. No matter what, the guy is whacked.


Jul 1, 2016

Alligator Creek

Frieda Kahlo's palm tree is taller now. That's good news. Last time we were here it had been so neglected, I feared it would be dead by now. And being taller, most of the fronds are above the roof line. They're out of view but rustle more in the wind. It's a nice sound.

Molly & Swami on screen porch
Molly and Swami on the screen porch.

And pops isn't dead either. We saw him this morning. He's looking skinny and spry as ever. And, again today, Sonny and his mom are back screaming at each other. He's big with the, "OH MY GOD! OH MY GAAAAWD! SHUT UP . . . knock this shit off!" He's got a cast on his arm. A drunken brawl or slip? Maybe Mom whacked him with a broom.

God, I'm awful.

Life on Alligator Creek 1
Life on Alligator Creek 1

So, life at least on this little spot on Alligator Creek is same as ever. Comforting. Swami, Molly and I are in the screen porch. Is it "in" or "on"? 

The cause of why

Day five - Tallahassee to Alligator Creek - 340 mi.

Swami watching the Ibis

Good to be back on Alligator Creek. Sonny and his mom are still living across the street though we suspect Pops may have died and, when we pulled up, there was a huge flock of young Ibis grazing between their yard and ours. We stocked the house with food and saw some friends and now we're tucked in for the night. Funny, but sitting for five days in a car watching the miles flash by was exhausting. Tomorrow Kristiana and Thea arrive.Woohoo!

Day four

Day four - Shreveport to Tallahassee  - 649 mi.

Roadside pancakes for dinner

Flat, flat Florida.

Jun 29, 2016

Roadside oil rigs

Day Three - Amarillo to Shreveport - 551 mi.

Roadside oil rigs
metal dinosaurs in the
hot Texas morning.

Jun 28, 2016

Amarillo by nightfall

Day Two - Flagstaff to Amarillo - 608 mi 

 Flagstaff was fine, another Sweet Tomatoes for dinner. 

Land of the free
Land of the free

Don't mind us, wild things. Just passing through.

Texas afternoon
Texas afternoon

I feel sorry for the residents of Amarillo. In spite of the beautiful sky and having a gigantic wind farm nearby, Amarillo Texas sucked. Perhaps we put too much emphasis on dinner but, after another long day on the road, it's very important. So here's the deal. Don't eat at the The 806, a cafe, lounge, and bar with music at night unless you feel like lounging because, above all, The 806 is a 20-something lounge.

Amarillo's 806 Lounge
we lounged an hour in the far right corner of the big couch

We waited an hour for what turned out to be little more than, as M. Lee put it, a bread sandwich. He  reviewed it on Happy Cow with a titled, "Unspeakably bad and lame". My cheese sandwich wasn't so bad but the diet coke was flat and warm. On the other hand, his "bread sandwich" which was thin bread smeared with a thin veneer of hummus—super lamebut the guy working his ass off behind the counter, probably his first job, was a nice kid. And we did manage to escape before the music started.

Jun 27, 2016

Roadtrip - Nevada to Florida - Day One

Day One - G'ville to Flagstaff - 664 mi

Are you ready?

There are two types of travelers in the world; which one are you?

     Source: Cooper Canyon Review by Sarah Cooper.

As one mefi commentator put it:

"For our honeymoon, Mr. Machine made a three ring binder with a detailed itinerary for each day, including not just attractions to visit and where we were staying each night, but also the mileage we would need to drive each day, alternate routes, alternate attractions in case of bad weather, options for eating, and places en route to buy souvenirs and snacks. It was more than 50 pages long for our two week trip, and was organized in a three ring binder and tabbed with section dividers.

"He sent the word document to his parents, so that they could admire it, and their first (loving) comment was that he had a typo on the first page."
-- joyceanmachine -- courtesy of M. Lee

Day One
Day One
- shortcut, outback Nevada -

The road is always a risk, best laid plans and all that but actually the grueling shortcut turned out to be one of the best parts of the day.  We saw wild horses and donkeys grazing in the desert hills plus several coyotes andlaterone jackrabbit scampering through the sagebrush.

Wild horses in Nevada desert
Wild horses in Nevada desert

The temperature was 108° by the time we got to Vegas and lunch at Sweet Tomatoes buffet. It was freaky sitting a table away from a couple of macho idiots exercising Open Carry. By the time we crossed over into Arizona, the temperature had climbed to a sizzling 116°.

Jun 24, 2016

Here and gone

We returned from London on the 14th, spent a week in Portland and now we're back in Nevada for a couple of days. Sunday we leave for Florida. As usual, we're driving. And, as usual, M. Lee has already booked the motels and loaded the GPS with the addresses of the restaurants where we'll have dinner each night. You don't want to hit town after 12, 13 maybe 15 hours on the road and still have to find a place to eat, especially if you're vegetarian. We're not fussy though. A salad and baked potato will do just fine.

So, here's to the "heartland".....

Hicktown from Aldean Army on Vimeo.

But just for today, good to be home. Home—a strange and special place.

Jun 21, 2016

Happy strawberry solstice

source: National Geographic

I was delighted to hear, via my son and daughter-in-law, that tonight is the summer solstice and full moon and that this conjunction hasn't happened since 1948. Wow!

I have a tradition of noting the solstice and equinoxes but I thought it was yesterday and didn't even know about the moon. We've been back in America for about a week but I must still be a bit jet lagged. This is a happy reprieve.

Jun 5, 2016

Quick catch up

We've been in London now for three weeks and I've barely made a note. The emphasis of this visit has been the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. We went eight times, about four hours a visit, and saw everything. We've seen most of it before but after all the art in Italy, where the Renaissance began, we needed to take a another look at the Renaissance art there. So, done. And yes, it was different, more in context for one thing plus I had a better idea of who and what to look for.
Anyway, no time to go into details right now. I need to save my battery for Hampton Court. At the moment we're on the Overground headed there for a second look at well. For one thing, I want to get better photos of Henry's kitchen. Its fireplace alone is big enough to live in.