Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

My Travel Must-Have

I don’t like large handbags. I am small; a large bag is disproportionate. At the same time, I wanted a bag big enough to stick my computer in without looking like a briefcase. I wanted to be able to take my computer to Alaska with me.

I looked and looked, searching for the right bag. I looked in Pensacola, I looked online, I looked in Seattle. It had to be the right size, a nice heavy leather, a sturdy leather carry strap, and a neutral color as I was only taking one bag. Finally, at the very last minute I found this wonderful bag, and the computer fit beautifully, leaving room for my camera and wallet – what more do I need, right?


Then, me being me, the night before leaving for Alaska I decided I really did not need to carry a full sized computer, that the iPad had enough capacity and besides, it had books and Sudoku on it. But I still liked the purse; I stuck a nightshirt inside in case my luggage got lost, it has a side zip pocket for tickets, car rental brochures and car keys, and with everything inside, it was still roomy and not too heavy. It is wonderful boarding airplanes with just a purse!

By the end of the trip, I was in love. It is a great bag, goes everywhere, can be filled or used with little, it is versatile. I love this bag!

September 17, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Shopping, Survival, Technical Issue, Tools, Travel | 2 Comments

Wikipedia Campaign


So many times when I go to look for information (much of which I share with you on this blog) the first and most comprehensive place to pop up with the information I need is Wikipedia. Today, when I was gathering information on school shootings, I saw, for the second time (the first time was a couple years ago) a banner asking me to donate to keep Wikipedia going.

I did. And I hope you will, too, if you use Wikipedia.

If you donate, you will get one of the nicest thank-you letters you will ever receive. I used to write these letters. I know how hard it is to strike just the right tone. I applaud the people at Wikipedia who wrote this one. (What is the goal of a fund-raiser’s thank you? To be sure you donate again the next time 🙂 )

Dear Donor,

Thank you for donating to the Wikimedia Foundation. You are wonderful!

It’s easy to ignore our fundraising banners, and I’m really glad you didn’t. This is how Wikipedia pays its bills — people like you giving us money, so we can keep the site freely available for everyone around the world.

People tell me they donate to Wikipedia because they find it useful, and they trust it because even though it’s not perfect, they know it’s written for them. Wikipedia isn’t meant to advance somebody’s PR agenda or push a particular ideology, or to persuade you to believe something that’s not true. We aim to tell the truth, and we can do that because of you. The fact that you fund the site keeps us independent and able to deliver what you need and want from Wikipedia. Exactly as it should be.

You should know: your donation isn’t just covering your own costs. The average donor is paying for his or her own use of Wikipedia, plus the costs of hundreds of other people. Your donation keeps Wikipedia available for an ambitious kid in Bangalore who’s teaching herself computer programming. A middle-aged homemaker in Vienna who’s just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A novelist researching 1850s Britain. A 10-year-old in San Salvador who’s just discovered Carl Sagan.

On behalf of those people, and the half-billion other readers of Wikipedia and its sister sites and projects, I thank you for joining us in our effort to make the sum of all human knowledge available for everyone. Your donation makes the world a better place. Thank you.

Most people don’t know Wikipedia’s run by a non-profit. Please consider sharing this e-mail with a few of your friends to encourage them to donate too. And if you’re interested, you should try adding some new information to Wikipedia. If you see a typo or other small mistake, please fix it, and if you find something missing, please add it. There are resources that can help you get started. Don’t worry about making a mistake: that’s normal when people first start editing and if it happens, other Wikipedians will be happy to fix it for you.

I appreciate your trust in us, and I promise you we’ll use your money well.


December 15, 2012 Posted by | Charity, Communication, Community, Cultural, Education, Technical Issue, Tools, Values, Work Related Issues | 2 Comments

Big Brother Exploring Crowd Control

I find this terrifying, on the lines of those loud, destructive aliens in that Tom Cruise movie about an invasion from outer space. Have you ever heard a noise so loud you couldn’t think? Couldn’t hear? Now imagine that noise in your mind! The potential applications for this technology whether for crowd control or warfare are appalling.

From Mandatory, via AOL News

Microwave Ray Gun

Under a research contract from the U.S. Navy, microwave ray guns are being developed by Sierra Nevada Corp. that are designed to beam sounds directly into people’s heads at a distance of up to several hundred yards away. The device—dubbed MEDUSA (Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio)—exploits the microwave audio effect, in which short microwave pulses rapidly heat tissue causing a sound effect “loud” enough to cause discomfort or even incapacitation. While
supposedly intended for non-lethal use in crowd control, future military uses for this type of technology are sure to arouse the imagination.

September 28, 2012 Posted by | Experiment, Health Issues, Law and Order, Political Issues, Social Issues, Technical Issue, Tools | 4 Comments

Hotel Stay? Where to Use Your Sanitizing Wipes

Found this morning in the Bottom Line Newsletter:

As a person who stays in hotels, it never occurred to me to wipe down the main light switch (DUH!) or the bedside light, or that the most bacteria filled objects of all would be the sponges and rags used to clean them. Oh UGH! I think carrying sanitizing wipes sounds like a really good idea!

The Four Dirtiest Surfaces in a Hotel Room

When you enter a hotel room, you already know that it’s probably teeming with germs from the many strangers who stayed there before you.

But, realistically, what are you going to do about it? Spend hours cleaning every corner? Cover yourself in plastic wrap? Not travel?

Well, there’s a new (and much more realistic) strategy that you can try, because a recent study has identified the areas in hotel rooms that have the most bacteria.
And they’re not all spots that you would commonly think to avoid or to wipe clean.
So instead of worrying or just feeling uncomfortable, I’m going to focus on sanitizing these few hot spots—and you can, too. It doesn’t take long (there are only four!).

Researchers collected samples from various surfaces in three freshly cleaned hotel rooms in three different states (a total of nine rooms), and then, back at the lab, detected how many bacteria were on each surface by conducting something called aerobic plate counts. The higher the surface’s “count,” the more bacteria it contained. The top four dirtiest surfaces (outside of housekeepers’ cleaning equipment, the toilet, and the bathroom sink and floor—all of which scored over 117 “counts”) turned out to be:

Main light switch: 113
TV remote control: 68
Bedside lamp switch: 22
Telephone keypad: 20

Most items (including the toilet paper holder, mug, bathroom faucet, room door handle, shower floor and bathroom door handle) had relatively moderate amounts of bacteria, with scores between 4 and 11. The two cleanest surfaces, both of which scored only 0.5, were the bed headboard and the curtain rod.

Yuck! Some of these top hot spots, such as the remote control, don’t surprise me, but I never would have thought about the bedside lamp! This news is definitely going to make me rethink the way I always turn on the bedside lamp (without disinfecting it first) while reading before bed. I’m also stunned that the bathroom faucet, the shower floor and the two doorknobs weren’t higher on the list!

You might be wondering which types of bacteria were identified. Unfortunately, the aerobic plate counts measured only how many bacteria there were on the surfaces, not which kinds.

When I called study coauthor Jay Neal, PhD, a food microbiologist and assistant professor at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management within the University of Houston, he wasn’t overly concerned by the findings, because not all germs will make you sick. But exposure to any pathogens (germs that carry diseases) raises your risk for getting sick, especially if you are immunocompromised. For example, if you’re undergoing chemo…if you’re pregnant…or if you have HIV, you’re more susceptible to infection.

Of course, there’s no way to completely avoid germs, but, in my opinion, it doesn’t hurt to take the following basic precautions—whether you’re immunocompromised or not—to help reduce your risk of getting sick.


While Dr. Neal does not believe that sanitizing wipes are necessary, I pack them whenever I travel. You, too, can slip a container of them into your suitcase to disinfect the bacteria-laden surfaces mentioned above the moment that you walk into your hotel room.

Don’t assume that a housekeeper cleaned those areas. Even if a housekeeper did, he or she likely wiped it down with a sponge or mop that was filled with bacteria. Of all the different surfaces that the researchers examined, sponges and mops were the most contaminated items of all!

And, of course, wash your hands when you’re in a hotel room as often as possible with soap and hot water (or use hand sanitizer)—especially before eating or touching your face.

Source(s): Jay Neal, PhD, assistant professor, Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston. Researchers reported these findings at the June 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. Until the results are published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be viewed as preliminary.

August 16, 2012 Posted by | Health Issues, Hygiene, Statistics, Tools, Travel | Leave a comment

Rules for Thank You Notes

My son’s sweet wife challenged me to do a blog entry on Thank You notes, so I think I will do it today, when everyone is out playing in the sun, BBQ’ing with family and friends, and not indoors reading blogs. 🙂

Thank you notes are a specialty of mine. Mom taught us the necessity of thank you notes when we were little; I think I remember we couldn’t play with something at Christmas or Birthday until we had written our thank you notes. We didn’t like it, but we got used to it.

As I grew older, I realized how much I liked getting thank you notes. I noticed that I liked them best when they were personal. When I worked for charitable organizations, I discovered that writing a good thank you note could 1) make a person happy they had given a good donation 2) increase the probability that they would donate again and 3) increase the likelihood that they would increase the size of their donation, as well as continuing to donate. All those are good things when you are raising money for a good cause.

I also discovered that I was likelier to be considered for a highly-sought-after position by writing a good thank you note. Every edge counts in a competitive job market. Thank you notes give you a big edge – out of 100 applicants, very few will take the time to write that note.

Many believe that hand-written notes have gone the way of the dodo, but they still exist, and they still are welcome.

I noticed that both of my parents became less likely to use their computers as they aged; one day computers will have greater voice recognition capabilities, but until then, the keyboards are difficult for older fingers, and the screens are difficult for aging eyes. The elderly love a hand written note, something they can hold in their hand, something they can pull out and read again and again, something they can share with a visitor.

So: Rules for thank you notes

1. A late thank you note is better than no thank you note. It doesn’t matter how late.

2. An earlier thank you note is better than a later thank you note.

3. You can write thank you notes more than once for the same item. For example, if ten years later, you pull out that Waterford bowl you got for your wedding, and have used for special occasions ever since, you can take a minute to write a note telling the giver how much your enjoyment of that bowl has been over the years, and he or she will be delighted to hear it again!

4. A handwritten note is better than an e-mail thanks, and an e-mail thanks is better than no thanks at all. Many people do e-mail thanks these days, like “thanks for dinner last night, we had a great time” etc. If you are REALLY thankful, hand write that note.

Here is a template for a sweet but short Thank You note:

Dear (name),

(Thank you so much) for the (wonderful) (fascinating) (beautiful)(lovely) (ITEM). We are (blown away) (delighted) (honored) (so grateful) (amazed) that you would think of us at this time.

(One personal line like:

“John says he can imagine us using this (X) for years to come!”
“We can see the sweet thoughtfulness you put into choosing something so right for us.”
“So-and-So says she is wearing it to school tomorrow!”
“You must have spent hours making that! We are amazed at the time and effort you must have put into it/them”)

Again, many thanks for thinking of us and sending such a nice gift.


(Under NO circumstances can you say:

“Why on earth did you think we would like that??”
“That doesn’t look like me at all!”
“It’s horrible! Unspeakably horrible!”

And then you sign. It helps to have little sets of notecards, not too large, so you don’t feel like you have to fill the whole thing. If you have kids, have them draw or paint a picture to enclose. Or send a photo. Put a stamp on and post it. Yes, the old fashioned way. If you don’t have the address, get it. Sometimes you can even find addresses online. You know, Google it. 🙂

So I challenge YOU. Try it. When you receive a gift, write a quick thank you and mail it off. If you think about someone with gratitude, write them a short note to tell them. You can even e-mail a thankful thought, it’s better than not sending anything, even if it is not a handwritten note.

July 4, 2012 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Character, Civility, Cultural, Experiment, Marketing, Tools, Values, Work Related Issues | 2 Comments

Pretty Face a Passport

This is from today’s A-Word-A-Day (the word for today is ‘machinate’) and you can subscribe by clicking on the blue type, above, which will take you to the website.

It has been said that a pretty face is a passport. But it’s not, it’s a visa, and it runs out fast. -Julie Burchill, writer and journalist (b. 1959)

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Tools, Values, Words | 5 Comments

The Best Gingersnaps Ever

I knew what I was going for. Not the pallid ‘snaps’ that pass in the stores, no, the real gingery cookies, with real snap.

I went to my old faithful, a book I got back many a year ago when I was a new bride, the Joy of Cooking. It is a great edition, and you can see, it is falling apart. I can’t part with it:

Here is the Gingersnap recipe, altered slightly because I wanted guaranteed ‘snap.’


(Makes about 10 dozen 2 inch cookies)

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Cream 3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar

Stir in:

2 well beaten eggs
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vinegar

Sift and add:

3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 – 4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cloves

Mix ingredients until blended. Form dough into 3/4 inch balls. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 12 minutes. As the ball melts down during cooking, the cookie develops the characteristic crinkled surface. At 12 minutes, take the cookies out, sprinkle top with the decorator sugar (bigger chunky sugar that won’t melt down into the cookie) and return to the oven for 5 or 6 minutes.

Remove from oven, cool.

Mine are not the prettiest – next year I will know to leave more room between the cookies – but they are the BEST gingersnaps I have ever made. They have a little soft chewiness, and a little crispiness, around the edges. They are SPICY!

The original recipe, in the Joy of Cooking, uses a little less spice and a marshmallow topping. The Joy of Cooking is a wise investment, and if you can find one of the older ones in a used book store, you will have a treasure house of old, tried and true recipes. The authors are Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, and my edition is a Signet Special, first edition, printed in 1973.

December 19, 2011 Posted by | Books, Christmas, Cooking, Holiday, NonFiction, Tools | Leave a comment

Hardware for Women in Pensacola

Sign along Palafox, a main shopping street in Pensacola:

A little closer:

Yes. It’s a jewelry store. I LOVE their creativity – great advertising 🙂

December 16, 2011 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Communication, Cultural, Humor, Marketing, Pensacola, Shopping, Tools | Leave a comment

Your Smart Phone Monitoring Your Every Move?

A new video out by Trevor Eckhardt documents how Carrier IQ transmits your activities to your mobile phone carrier:

You can read the entire (fascinating) article on this Huffington Post article.

December 1, 2011 Posted by | Communication, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Technical Issue, Tools | Leave a comment

Easter Dinner

I can’t remember when I was last in the United States for Easter, but it was probably back when our son married . . . I remember a church service held at the hotel where we were staying, just down below our room, and I remember Easter Brunch, but barely – the wedding had been held the day before, and everything is a little blurry in my memory, it all happened so fast!

So this year was a lot of fun. We had a small family dinner, with all the traditional foods.

My son’s wife loves sweet potatoes; these are baked in balsamic vinegar and olive oil with a topping of pineapple:

We all love a green salad with roasted walnuts:

Cole slaw, oil, vinegar, poppy seed, no mayonnaise:

Yummy green beans (my favorite):

And after dinner, we had the traditional clogged sink, and spent hours running to the only store open (Easter Sunday in the South, remember?), first for plungers, then later for a plumber’s snake. We tried Liquid Plumber – nothing worked. So I am waiting this morning for the plumber to come and do his magic so our water will run out of the sink again. 😦

If you think you hate cole slaw because of all that mayonnaise, try this dressing – we love it!

Poppy Seed Cole Slaw

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil
1 Tablespoon poppy seed
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon onion juice

Bring all to a boil. Cool before using. Enough for one medium large head of cabbage, shredded thinly.

April 5, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Easter, Family Issues, Florida, Food, Humor, Living Conditions, Moving, Technical Issue, Tools | 7 Comments