The wandering interests of JamaOwl

Italy – Day 7

Today was Cinque Terre.  We didn’t go to all 5 towns, thank goodness.  There is a lot of walking down, down, down, then up, up, up. The 5 towns are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.  We started by taking the train from Levanto where our hotel was to Riomaggiore.  For this first place we arrived near the city center and didn’t have to walk down (just up and up later).  These towns are each set in their own little valley with their own little river that runs to the sea.  For hundreds of years they were cut off from most everything because of their isolation.  They how have train access and, when the weather is good, boat connections.  Our weather was great  – for people out for a walk, not for boats.  It was much too rough.  We took minibuses between the places we saw.  

After walking up out of the valley we were taken to Vernazza.  This time we walked down into the town and back up to get out.  It was spectacular to see the sea through the narrow lanes between colorful houses.  All of the towns had beaches, most were pebble but Monterosso’s was sand.  The beaches got Evan’s vote for best thing of the day.

Our last stop was in Monterosso. Monterosso is the northernmost and largest of the 5 towns, but don’t let that fool you.  There are approximately 1500 people in the town.

While it was not hot, all the kids wanted to get into the pool.  We came back and gave them some time to swim.

Our final dinner in Levanto will be at a local family-owned seafood restaurant here.

Italy – Day 6

Climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa – I didn’t, Evan did – The best thing of the day was being at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, going up it, and looking out from the top – per Evan.  I needed to find shoes since mine bit the dust yesterday.  We had a guided tour of the area around the Tower, the Square of Miracles, a complex of four buildings that includes the cathedral and its leaning bell tower.  Actually all the buildings lean, but the tower leans the most and because of its shape it is the most noticeable.  The tower is 17 feet off the vertical.  There are 297 steps up the spiral staircase to the top and a view of the old city walls and the town.  We had lunch at a delightful restaurant with an outdoor seating area under a cover.  Wonderful.

After leaving the Tower, we went to Lucca a town that is a short drive away.  I finally found shoes there.  I thought it was a “close the shoe shop” day because the shoe shops I was finding were closed.  It was the lunch hour (or two).  I was successful in finding shoes in spite of the bad timing.

From Lucca we traveled to Levanto for dinner and our hotel.  Our hotel with a pool.  After the past few very hot days, we were looking forward to the pool.  This day was not nearly as hot, but was windy.  We got into the pool anyway.  The Park Hotel Argento is near the Ligurian Sea and we could see the sea as we came in.  When we first saw it from the hills it was breathtaking, closer up it was really breathtaking,  The wind had blown the sea up and there will be no swimming in the sea.  It is far too rough.


Italy – Day 5

A late start today. We didn’t meet to leave until 9:15.  We thought we would be walking all the way (more on that later).  First off is the Accademia Gallery where we see Michelangelo’s David.  The best part of the day for Evan.  We took lots and lots of pictures.  The David was originally suppose to be on the top of a cathedral but it was so liked that it was decided it should be in a plaza where it could be seen. Later it was moved to a museum.  

Evan had gelato.

From there we went to the Duomo – beautiful.  The dome was designed by Brunelleschi.  It is a 15th century church.

Lunch was on our own and we found some pizza.

Evan had gelato.

We then met the de Medici family. The Palazzo Vecchio was the seat of the de Medici family before it became the center of local government.  The de Medici family ruled the Republic of Florence.  We were taken on a tour and went through a secret passage where the children on the tour got to try on some of the costumes that are used for presentations given at the Palazzo Vecchio.

Along the way my shoe fell apart so by the time we got to the Boboli Gardens I only had half a sole.  I went halfway up the stairs – far enough to get a good, if not perfect, view of the city.  The shoes are trash now.

Dinner was not too far away and I’m afraid I have forgotten the name of the restaurant. I had the best orecchiette ever.  During dinner, IT RAINED.

And Evan had gelato. We took taxis back to the hotel.

A partial travel day.  We left Rome in the morning. Drove through some beautiful country.  We stopped around 11 AM in Siena where we visited it’s medieval center.  Siena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We went through a Gothic 13 century Duomo and its museum.  We walked down to the Il Campo, a sprawling, fan-shaped piazza which is famed for its annual Palio horse race.  The preparations are well on their way for the horse race which takes place in July.

We ate a quick 1 hour lunch at the GalloNero trattoria.

Back on the bus we drove to a nearby hill town called Chiusdino and explored the Cistercian Abbey of San Galano.  This is suppose to be the original story of the sword in the stone legend.  Galano who was a Knight Templar decided to lay down his arms and thrust his sword into the stone.  We also visited the church without a roof.  Our guide came robed as Dante for his talk at both places.

After a short break we continued on to our hotel in Florence.  On our own for dinner, we went to a trattoria and got something to eat.

No matter how much we try, it is always late by the time we get in bed.  Must have something to do with not starting dinner until after 9:00 PM.


Italy – day 3

Day 3 was totally packed, possibly one of the most packed we’ve had.  We started at the Vatican Museums with lots of sculpture and other art.  There were discussions of how the Church reconciled its self to the religious beliefs of the pagans over the years.  Some of that resolution was shown in the arts.  We finished this part of the tour at the Sistine Chapel.  The brightness of the paintings and their techniques and the obstacles Michelangelo faced were very interesting.

We next went to Saint Peter’s Basilica which is right next door.  It is the largest church in the world and the holy center of Christianity.  The apostle Peter was buried in a shrine built in 64 AD.  Bramante and Michelangelo were the chief architects of the Basilica.  There was a range of examples of different architecture styles.

We went to lunch at a restaurant in the area.  Lunch was only 2 hours – starting with an eggplant and pasta, then pork with vegetables and finishing with a chocolate mousse.  Much simpler than before.

After lunch we went to the Trevi Fountain – yes Brianna the only place you knew about before we took you to Europe.  What a beautiful fountain.  The white marble and the blue water will make you immediately feel much cooler, just don’t stand in the heat too long or the cool goes away.

We went to past the Spanish Embassy and the Spanish Stairs – on to the Spanish steps which aren’t really Spanish, but are in front of the French church and were paid for by the French.  Who knew?

After returning to our hotel and cooling down some, we went souvenir shopping.

We had a free evening.  We found a pizza shop (the best part according to Evan) and ate a simple pizza.  It certainly didn’t take 3 hours.


Italy – Day 2

What a day!  Started with a stroll through the Roman Forum.  We had a local guide who was great.  So many things to see (old stuff according to Evan).  There were a lot of ups and down, climbing some then going back down some.  The ground was originally level, but Rome had a lot of fires and things were built on top of the rubble.  Even since Rome fell, the piling continued.  We saw a church from the 1500’s whose door was about 15 ft off the ground.  The rubble had piled up that high and they didn’t really know what was under it.

After the Roman Forum we went to the Colosseum.  We had seen a lot of pictures of the Colosseum, but the real thing is so much better.  The guide had a book that showed the Colosseum as it is now, and then had overlays that showed what is originally looked like.  (He used the same book for various parts of the Roman Forum.)  It really gave you a taste of what the area was like for the Romans.

Both sites had a lot of people, the Colosseum more than the Forum which we went to earlier before the crowds got as bad.  They are right next to each other so we walked from the Forum to the Colosseum.

After this we took the bus to the Underground Stadium of Domitian.  Underground now, but it wasn’t when it was built.  There was a 3-D movie running that showed the Stadium and many of the other places as they are and as they were.  I was so impressed, I bought the DVD.  I had no idea that Rome was so crowded.  So many things so close together.  When I thought about how many hundreds of years they had to collect buildings, I realized that we are doing the same crowding in Washington D.C.  The Washington Mall is a perfect example with the additions of the Vietnam Memorial and the WWII memorial between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.  We’ll get as crowded.

For lunch, which was around 2, we went to a trattoria and had Noodles with Pecorino cheese, then meatballs and potatoes, then a salad, then tiramisu for dessert  Less than 3 hours, but this was lunch.

We went on a scavenger hunt while most of the people went back to the hotel to rest.  We were looking for things to put on a pizza.  This being Sunday and this being a great vacation, we didn’t go to a shopping center.  We went to an area knowing for it’s little shops and cafes.  We found our mushrooms, anchovies, water buffalo mozzarella, red pepper, a number of sausages and some ham.   At 6:00 everyone left for the restaurant to make pizza.  The restaurant was all set up for it with spots for everyone, floured boards, rolling pins, aprons – the whole works.  We made our pizzas and they were cooked in a wood burning pizza oven.  After the pizzas we had gelato and fruit.  One of our guides made a nutella and banana dessert pizza.  It was pretty good.  Not nearly as much food, but plenty since everyone had made their own pizza.

Back to the hotel at 9:00 and it was still quite light, but by the time we were ready for bed it was also quite late.

Italy – first day

We’re in Italy.  Evan’s trip.  First day.  Arrived at 8 in the morning after an 8 hour flight.  Not bad.

Rome.  We’ll be here until Tuesday.  Lots to see. We walked around a little bit after dropping our bags at the hotel, but it was hot and humid, just like DC.  Returned to the air conditioning of the hotel.  We’ll be meeting the rest of the group in a couple hours.

Our first trip was to Capolitine Hill for a meranda – a bit to eat, an afternoon snack, with the whole group.

After a short break at the hotel, we are going off to dinner.

And now after a 3 hour dinner we are back at the hotel.  Tomorrow I hope to give a better report.  We have a full day.



Alien ban

Trump’s ban on people traveling to the U.S. shows a lack of knowledge about the different categories of travelers. The initial ban affected immigrants, refugees, green card holders, resident aliens and travelers with visas. The refugee hold affects not only the processing and arrival of people from Trump’s 7 Muslim-majority nations, but all refugees. The process people go through getting to the United States is difficult and time consuming. They are scrutinized by several agencies both in the US and outside of it. It is a difficult process to complete. Once the refugee arrives in the US they are met and settled by groups in the US. Trump would have you believe that the process is not thorough, but it is the most rigorous of all the refugee processing done. If you want to view the refugee processing you can see a chart at

Any changes he might make to the refugee processing would not have prevented the 9/11 attacks nor the other attacks that have occurred in the US. Those attacks were not committed by refugees. See information from CNN:

Understand that there is a large difference between immigrants and refugees. The number of immigrants to the US far exceeds the number of refugees each year. The number of refugees is capped by Congress and those numbers are made of people from around the globe. See “Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2017”, Proposed Ceilings, Table I

Heads of the agencies that were impacted by the order appeared to not have had time to review it or to determine how their agencies needed to react. Since some agencies (Border Control) need to act immediately. This lack of preparation caused confusion. If this was according to plan, the plan by Trump and his staff was not very well developed.

People in transit were stopped at various points on their journey. What plans were made for them? Nothing. They are just stuck. Trump indicates that they are fine since they haven’t entered or attempted to enter the US. Fine, stuck in some airport they can’t leave.

Since Trump stopped all refugee processing I wonder what would have happened to someone coming from Cuba? Before they leave Cuba they relinquish all documents related to their being from Cuba and essentially become stateless. They can NOT return to Cuba.

Some Trial and Error

I want to embed a tweet I saw.  Not how to do it yet.


 This worked! Hope it works for you. Just had to use HTML.

Climate and Weather part 5

More from “The Weather of the Future”, By Heidi Cullen, Harper, 2011

Chapter 7: Central Valley, California

“Sacramento, which is among the fastest-growing cities in the United States, is the major metropolitan area at the highest risk of flooding.  The Problem is that Sacramento’s infrastructure is inadequate.”  (p. 122) (California with Sacramento marked)


(CC BY-SA 1.0,

I was a little confused about this at first, but then I realized that rivers flood also and Sacramento is located where the Sacramento River and the American River join.  Groundwater is only 30 feet down.  The area has historically dealt with flooding.  What surprised me was the fact that Sacramento has a deep-water port which connects it to the San Francisco Bay.  The channel is 30 feet (9m) deep, 200 feet (61m) wide and 43 miles (69 km) long.

“During the past century, the sea level along California’s coast has risen about 7 inches.”  (p. 129)

Chapter 8: The Arctic, Part One: Inuit Nunaat, Canada

“(M)any scientists believe that cultural preservation, along with housing and infrastructure improvements, is an important way to help the Inuit simultaneously tackle the issues of climate change and cultural erosion.” (p. 163)

“Average temperature has risen almost twice as fast across the Arctic as in the rest of the world during the past few decades. And it’s not just the temperature that is moving fast.  There is also a widespread melting of glaciers – and a thawing of permafrost, ground that was until now permanently frozen. Permafrost has warmed almost 3.5°F in recent decades.” (p. 166)

“Winter temperature in Alaska and western Canada has increased about 5°F to 7°F during the past fifty years.” (p. 167)

Chapter 9: The Arctic, Part Two: Greenland

“Only 500 miles from the shores of Iceland…” (p. 173)

You can see in this picture how close Greenland and Iceland are.


(Public Domain,

Quote by J.P. Steffensen, a scientist at the Center for Ice and Climate at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute. “We have to get used to the word change.  That’s why we have a past, why we have a future – time is flowing forward. We should never strive to re-create the past.”

Chapter 11: New York, New York

“(A)s with Y2K, fixing the climate bug is an opportunity to be seized sooner rather than later.” (p.230)

“(W)e were missing what climate change would do to us.  (W)e had better find out how climate change is going to affect cities, because that’s where the people are.  (Cynthis Rosesnzweig) “… Rosenzweig’s research began to shift from studying the impact of climate change on nature to the impact of climate change on human nature.” (p.231)

“Cities cover less than 1 percent of the Earth’s surface, but they hold half the population and produce about 70 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions.” (p. 231)

View this link to Climate Central and play with a view of sea level rise.

“For New York, climate change means blackouts.” (p. 232)

“Energy systems are generally rated for a certain temperature and power load.  If you keep running your power plant full blast for ten days during a heat wave, that’s when things begin to break down.” (p. 233)

“And as the number of hot days begins to increase, materials begin to break down: concrete, bridges, rail lines.”  “For example, the capacity to transmit electricity over power lines drops with higher temperatures due to increased resistance.”  (p. 234)

My question here is: What is different for the South?