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These Cookies, I Hate

April 17th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

To be clear: I do not hate cookies in the sense of “culinary delight”. In fact, a soft choco-chip “big” cookie is one of my favorite things. So much so that I avoid them, fearing I might regain the habit of decades past.

No, the cookies I hate leave a bad taste in the mouth, the cookies that your favorite website leave behind so that advertisers may monitor your electronic comings and goings. Spying on you.

Apparently, sites have to ask permission of the user to install cookies, and the European Union, which is where I live, currently, is one of those tech killjoy organizations that demand users be informed of sites that feature cookies.

Like ESPN.com, which is trying to get me to sign off, again, on Bad Cookie tracking, and using some of the most annoying means possible to get it done.

Check, for example, this loathsome, weasel-worded screen that has been flopped onto ESPN’s site:

What I hate about this is the suggestion that the site and the trackers are doing me some sort of favor.

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Notre Dame in Flames

April 16th, 2019 · No Comments · France, Paris

Because of a little park named after Pope John XXIII, I came to think of Notre Dame from the “wrong” end of Paris’s famed cathedral.

In a silly, selfish way, I thought of Notre Dame as “belonging to me” more than the average tourist way because I was on its grounds for jogging/walking nearly every time I visited the place, maybe 30 times, mostly in this century.

I was just on the back (southeast side) of the building, behind the altar and the curved wall that encloses the church, circling a tree-lined little park offering shade during the heat of the summer and some low-hanging sun in the dark and cold of the winter.

I can identify the 850-year-old building from the “front” but I might be better/quicker at naming it from the back.

That was one of the random thoughts that went through my head as we sat for two hours last night and watched the beloved old church burn.

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Good News! A Hefty, First-Tier Newspaper!

April 14th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Egypt, France, Journalism, London, Newspapers, soccer, Sports Journalism, Travel

Readers of a certain age — say, 30 years or more — will remember when major newspapers were big, colorful, information-packed marvels of news gathering.

Before the Age of Great Newspapers ended, around the turn of the century, it had been observed by many subscribers that Sunday editions, in particular, with all their special sections and advertising inserts, were often heavier than many breeds of dogs.

The eager pooches were overmatched by all those words and photos and ads, and were physically unable to drag the paper from the porch to their masters, waiting indoors.

Alas, the internet came along, and smart phones, and newspapers have been shrinking apace, sometimes disappearing altogether. Those great beasts of a generation earlier … seemingly on the verge of extinction.

And then I saw a stack of The Times of London, available free to any interested passenger, ahead of a five-plus-hour flight to Egypt.

I immediately picked up a copy … and was astonished to feel the heft of it. For a moment I thought I must have picked up two or three copies, it was that heavy.

But no. Those 116 pages were all part of the edition of April 6, 2019. A fat, sprawling monster of a newspaper that brought back memories of the industry’s good old days.

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Miro Painting: On the Dot

April 12th, 2019 · No Comments · Barcelona, Spain, tourism, Travel

Yes, I am one of those guys who looks at some abstract art and says, “a chimp could do that.”

Talking about paint thrown at a canvas … a couple of random shapes swimming in space … a bucket, a hammer and a broom entitled “Young Man”, or something like that.

I readily concede my ignorance may be the primary factor in the “any chimp” assessment. “If only you could understand the brilliant statement being made!” Alas, I am too simple.

But when a major work of art is, in total, a large white canvas and a small blue dot … shouldn’t a professional be able to do a bit more than that?

And there it is, above.

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Egypt, Tourism and All Those Police

April 7th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Egypt, tourism, Travel

“Police state” is a strong term. It can have multiple meanings, and shades of threat/protections. It may not always be easy to identify a police state, but perhaps one simple iteration goes like this:

A state where armed governmental authorities seem … everywhere.

One such state is the one we spent two weeks in, recently, Egypt.

We dutifully sailed up the Nile River from Luxor to Aswan, disembarking day after day to revel in all things “ancient Egypt”, but we also spent two weekends in a beach hotel in Hurghada.

Those events were linked by a pair of six-hour bus rides from the Red Sea to the Nile and back, through the vaguely threatening emptiness of desert mountains.

 

Almost as unforgettable as the Karnak temples and the Valley of the Kings was the visibility of the police, or army, or whatever organizations all those guys with guns belong to.

We passed through dozens and dozens of checkpoints, in cities and in the desert, where uniformed men sat with body armor and sometimes manned armored vehicles — with heavy machine guns on the roof and the young men assigned to fire them. And with firing positions inside elevated cement block houses reached by ladder.

We also routinely went through metal detectors when arriving at the boat and whenever reaching a tourism venue.

After a time, we wondered who needed all that protection. The tourists? The locals? The government? All of the above? Whatever the threat, it clearly has led to a muscular response.

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Yanks in Upper Egypt: Thin on the Ground

April 4th, 2019 · No Comments · Egypt, tourism, Travel

Around the world, it seems to be assumed that hardly a jet can touch down — anywhere, at any time of year — and not have some Americans on board. With more of them already ensconced in a nearby hotel or tourist club.

Americans like to get out and around.

But not necessarily in this part of Egypt.

Eleven days in the country, and we have yet to bump into any other Americans. Zero. None.

People in Egypt’s tourist industry have remarked on how few Yanks are in the areas we have visited — Hurghada, a beach city on the Red Sea, and on the Upper Nile, a long stretch from Luxor south to Aswan.

The guy leading the six-hour bus ride from the Red Sea coach to Luxor said, when he found out we are Yanks, “I haven’t seen an American in weeks.”

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Prankster ‘Artists’ Make Egypt Tourists Feel Like Fools

April 1st, 2019 · No Comments · Egypt, tourism, Travel

It happened on April 1 — April Fools’ Day.

It is a quasi-notable pranking date on the Western calendar but it seems unlikely it meant anything to the Egyptian guys in the housekeeping department of the Nile Commodore.

They like to create works of art out of items they find in each stateroom. And it could be any day of the year.

At any rate, they did warn us, as we left our rooms earlier in the day. “You will find a big surprise!”

Which led to the cleverly crafted “person” sitting on the bed in nearly every berth on the ship, which scared to death more than a few tourists who entered darkened rooms, with shades drawn, and found a life-size figure waiting for them a few feet away.

(See photo, above.)

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Watching Liverpool while ‘Aboard the Nile Commodore’

March 31st, 2019 · No Comments · Egypt, Football, soccer, tourism, Travel

I have always liked that journalistic convention … on how to handle a “dateline” when traveling via water.

You write “aboard” and continue with the name of the ship. Such as “the USS Enterprise” or “HMS Victory” or “RMS Titanic”.

A few decades ago, the dateline also would have included the day a story was filed. (Hence, the expression “dateline”.) This was back when international news moved via ships. S-l-o-w-l-y.

(Talk about snail-sail-mail! The British Empire needed more than a month to get a document from London to Australia, in the early 19th century.)

So, the waterborne story would start like this: “Aboard the USS Missouri, September 2, 1945″.

It made clear a reporter was on a watery surface when he or she filed. It was to give context to a piece. But it also was showing off a bit. “I’m on the (perhaps) high seas going somewhere interesting, and don’t you wish it were you?” OK, aside from the seasickness issues …

For a week, here, we are living on the Nile River, on a boat named the Nile Commodore.

Sounds fancy, but the Nile Commodore ain’t the brightest or biggest or handsomest ship on the river.

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The Nile: Egypt Can’t Live Without It

March 30th, 2019 · No Comments · Egypt, tourism, Travel

Intellectually, we know how important the Nile River is to Egypt. It can be seen on a map; the blue line that waters a country.

But the Nile’s importance is really hammered home when you leave your mooring place on the river and travel a few miles east or west.

What appears to be a fertile, well-watered country, when in sight of the Nile, quickly turns to inhospitable desert. Egypt would be as dry as the Arabian Peninsula without the Nile. It would be as parched as Libya or the Sinai, without the Nile.

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King Tut: Tomb Remains in Valley of Kings but He Has Gone on to Bigger Things

March 29th, 2019 · No Comments · Egypt, tourism, Travel

He gave his life for tourism.

— comedian Steve Martin

The Valley of the Kings is cleft in craggy limestone a few miles from the Nile river valley, and each year thousands of international visitors flock to the site just outside the Egyptian city of Luxor to have a look at it.

They come to see the 60-some burial sites of some of ancient Egypt’s most important pharaohs, including Thutmose III and IV, Amenhotep III. Some believe the tomb of Egypt’s greatest pharaoh, Rameses II, might also be there.

Even more, they come to see the original resting place of a mummified young man who did not live long enough to leave much of an impression on his contemporaries … but, in death, has become an international star, 3,500 years later:

King Tutankhamun or, more familiarly, King Tut.

Tut has risen to pop stardom because his elaborate and glittering tomb in the Valley of the Kings is one of the few from the long pharaonic period to have gone untouched by grave robbers, and the treasures within, along with Tut’s undamaged mummy, have fascinated millions.

In a sense, we went to see Tut today, on the fourth day of our Nile River cruise, but Tut was not at home. Like many rock stars, he was out making millions by touring.

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