Saturday Surprise — A Little Jaunt

Last night when I was contemplating how we should spend our time together this morning, I thought that it’s been several weeks since we’ve travelled together and maybe now, before the snows come, would be a good time for it.  So, I checked into some things and I think you’ll enjoy the places we’re going to visit today!  So, hop aboard the Filomobile and let’s go to …

Krong Ban Lung, Cambodia!  There is a simply gorgeous lake here, but also a couple of interesting tidbits.Yeak Laom-1It’s believed that 4,000 years ago, a volcanic eruption created a crater that, over time, filled with water. The lake was once surrounded by thick forest on all sides, but today only a thin layer remains, with most of the land having been farmed.

The waters of Yeak Laom are crystal clear, and they stand in stark contrast with the bright green in the background—if you visit during or shortly after the rainy season. Exotic birds and butterflies are common sights, and wild pigs may also come around.

Although the lake is considered sacred by the local people, swimming or playing in the water is common for both locals and tourists. Wooden docks with steps have been built to facilitate access. In 2018, bureaucratic procedures were started to register Yeak Laom and the land around it as state land to better protect the environment. Other measures to protect the lake forbid people from using detergents, gambling, or having arguments while in the lake.  Okay, now the detergents I get, but gambling or arguing???princess-thaiIn February 2016, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand was planning to pay a visit to Yeak Laom, and in preparation for her visit, as toilets are not common in the area, a special toilet was constructed for the princess to use during her visit.  An air-conditioned toilet.  At a cost of $40,000.  That she never used.  That was thrown away after her two-hour visit, during which the urge never took 10 labourers 19 days to build the eight-metre square toilet.  It has silver railings up its white-washed steps and an all-white tiled roof.  This area of Cambodia being a particularly poor region, I’m sure this toilet is far more luxurious than most of the homes in the five villages that surround the lake.  The building was allowed to remain after the princess’ visit, but the toilet was disassembled and thrown out.  Why?

“If you have a king—well, just, normal people can’t use the king’s toilet.”

Ah, arrogance is world-wide, isn’t it?  But isn’t this lake just beautiful?Yeak Laom-2

Next I thought we’d travel over to France … Équihen-Plage, France, to be precise, for I am told there are some interesting holiday homes made of boats.  Upside down boats, that is.  You’ve heard of houseboats, yes?  Well these are upside-down boat houses!  Ah … we have arrived … let’s take a look …boat houses-1Équihen-Plage is a fishing port and farming village some 3 miles south of Boulogne on the English Channel coast with a population just under 3,000.  The tradition of the boat houses began after World War I when old boats unworthy for the sea were dragged up to high ground and turned upside down. The hull, which now became the roof, was covered in tar to ensure that it was watertight. A door cut out on the sides provided entry, while windows let in air and light. Even then, the interior was dark and stuffy. The entire length of the boat served as a single room. Space for cooking and sleeping were shared.

During the Second World War, nearly all the boathouses got destroyed, but their legacy lingered on. In the 1990s, about sixty years after their disappearance, the village decided to revive the ancient heritage and erected a couple of upturned boat houses and fitted them with modern facilities to entice tourists. They can be rented now with prices starting from about three hundred Euros, or $340 USD.boat houses-2

boat houses-3

All this traveling is making me a bit hungry … what about you?  Ready for a little bite before we head to our last stop?  Let’s just pop over to Nottingham … yes, the place of Robin Hood and the evil sheriff, but that isn’t the theme of the restaurant we’re going to.  Remember the Edgar Allen Poe story, The Pit and the Pendulum?  My dad read that one to me when I was … oh, probably 7 or 8 … and I had nightmares for days … er, nights.  Anyway, in the town of Nottingham is a restaurant named The Pit and the Pendulum that sounds intriguing.

Wow … this place is creepy, isn’t it?  But it’ll be fun.  Let’s take a peek at the drink menu …drink-menu-e1543644452708.png

Y’know … on second thought … I’m not all that hungry after all … perhaps we can grab a pack of crackers on our way to …

The former mining town of St. Blazey in Cornwall, England, home of the world’s largest greenhouse. For fifty years, a clay mine on the edge of the English town had slowly been abandoned, until in the late 1990s when a new concept was proposed for the area called Project Eden. Eden-1A near polar opposite to the crater left by the old mine, the Eden Project was designed as a massive greenhouse complex, consisting of two biomes bubbling off of the ground and reflecting both a tropical and Mediterranean climate.  After the deep depression left from the mine was filled in with thousands of tons of soil, construction began and the two largest greenhouses in the world were created over two and a half years. Inside the hexagonally-patterned biomes are over one million different plant species, each one reflecting the climates of their respective biomes.Eden-2The Tropical Biome features rubber plants, bananas, and bamboo stalks towering above visitors in the nearly four-acre dome. The Mediterranean Biome is only 1.6 acres, but is similarly filled to capacity with olive plants and grape vines.Eden-3Along with stunning flora, cascading waterfalls and footpaths wind past massive boulders and ponds and even a few statues can be found carefully placed around the Mediterranean biome. Although the greenhouses are the central attraction of the complex, the grounds of the Eden Project are also covered in temperate plants that can grow in an uncovered atmosphere. Eden-night

And now, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m tired and ready to go home, perhaps for a 10-minute nap, a hot cup of coffee, and a bit of time spent with a good book.  I hope you’ve enjoyed our little jaunt today … we’ll do it again soon!  Have a great weekend … don’t forget, just 24 days ‘til Christmas … better get shopping!  I have mine mostly finished … no muss, no fuss … all done online! Amazon-Xmas-gifts

Saturday Surprise — A Nice Story And A Cute Video

Every now and then it happens that Saturday Surprise collides with Wednesday’s Good People and the result is … awesome, heartwarming and fun!  Today is one of those times!

The story begins at Thanksgiving 2016, when Wanda Dench made a text-a-boo-boo … or an erroneous text sent to the wrong person.  The story is told in the following text messages … the recipients of the original text inadvertently included Jamal Hinton, a complete stranger …



Wanda DenchJamal HintonAnd so it happened that 17-year-old Jamal went over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house for dinner! Wanda-JamalSince the heartwarming story first broke Dench has named Hinton as her ‘honorary grandson,’ which is quite fitting.  The two stayed in touch, and last year, he was invited back for Thanksgiving 2017.   In an interview with the Arizona Republic last year Dench said, “It was really nice having everybody here, we got to laugh about last year and reminisce about how it all blew up on our phone and how I had to change my number. We had a laugh and a good time.”

The two have stayed in touch, and ‘Grandma’ Wanda even sent Jamal a couple of gift cards at Christmas last year.  And this year … well of course Jamal was invited back and his girlfriend too!


text-6Hinton finds the dinners and his newfound family meaningful. “The world is becoming a better place than it used to be. With all the Donald Trump going on and all the racial comments going on, it’s kind of good to see there’s still good people out there.” Dench gave her new ‘grandson’ an open invitation for all future Thanksgivings at her house, so this is a tradition likely to live on for a lifetime.

A small thing?  Perhaps, but … seems to me that a whole lot of these “small things” add up to a whole lot of good in the world, a whole lot of heart, a whole lot of love.

Okay, so that was nice and heartwarming, but the holiday season has now officially kicked off and I think we need to start the weekend with something funny, don’t you?  So, you know what that means … a funny animal video!!!

Have a great weekend, folks, and don’t let the crowds crush you if you go shopping!  I went shopping from the comfort of my own chair, in my jammies, while sipping coffee last night!  Keep warm & safe!

Saturday Surprise — Going Places!

Okay, friends … twice this week I have robbed you of the fun stuff, Jolly Monday and Good People Wednesday, so I am determined to provide a bit of fun today in hopes of making up for it.  We haven’t done any traveling for a while, so I went in search of really odd things we could go visit.  Are you up for a bit of an excursion?  Be sure to bring your coats, hats ‘n mittens, for at this time of year you never know what sort of weather we might run up against.  So, hop aboard the Filomobile and let’s head for our first destination …

First stop … the Netherlands!  Maybe we can pop in and visit my friend Choosing while we’re here!  But first, a housing community comprised completely of ball-shaped houses. ball-houses-1Bolwoningen (“ball homes” or “bulb homes”) is but one of the country’s housing experiments. The giant orbs stand in stark contrast to the conventional abodes located right across the street.

Artist Dries Kreijkamp was the mastermind behind the project, which was completed in 1984. Kreijkamp, who died in 2014, said he drew inspiration from clay huts in Africa and Inuit igloos. His logic behind the design is that round shapes are the most seminal and natural forms for living.ball-houses-3But to humans accustomed to living within more standard houses, dwelling within a concrete globe can feel unnatural. The buildings are best suited for single people or childless couples, as space inside is tight (592 square feet/55 square meters). The lowest level includes storage and central heating installations. A spiral staircase leads to a bedroom. Keep climbing the stairs, and you’ll then arrive at the level housing the toilet and shower. The highest part features a tiny living room and kitchen area.ball-houses-2Though interest in and funding for additional ball houses dwindled, this settlement is still going strong. People still live in Bolwoningen, and tourists have been known to wander by to gawk and gape at their unusual homes.

I’m thinking … no corners to clean!!!  Then again … the square/rectangular furniture might not fit so well, either.

Since we’re so close, let’s travel over to Derbyshire, England, where there is a giant snail sculpture I was hoping to check out …snail-1This magnificent example of public art is based at a location which was, from the 1990s until the early 21 century, a derelict industrial factory site between the Chesterfield railway station and the River Rother.  The derelict factory was demolished and replaced with a housing development. This spiral sculpture is a result of the Chesterfield Borough Council’s planning policy, which encourages all large developments to include up to one percent of the total investment for public art.snail-2Liz Lemon, the sculptor behind the artwork, used the land as inspiration, as the area is known for both Goniatite and gastropod fossils. She also paid homage to the land’s industrial past. Because the factory that formerly stood at the site built turbines for many of the world’s large hydroelectric dams, Lemon designed the sculpture in metal with a high precision finish to reflect the former factory’s dedication to high-quality engineering. Manthorpe Engineering completed the construction.snail-3The resulting sculpture is about 25 feet high. The spiral form was created from many sections of stainless steel sheets that vary in thickness, and the way it fits together is evocative of the types of pipework construction used in the hydropower plants that the former factory worked on. The artwork has five rows of “portholes” of reducing size all the way around the spiral. The internal cavity houses blue and green fiber optic lights that are switched on at night.

Pretty cool, yes?

You guys know I love Japan, right?  You didn’t know?  Well, you’re right … I’ve never been there except on virtual tours like this one, but from what I have seen, I think I love Japan.  And so, when we were invited to stop by Tokyo for a visit to a little bar in Kichijoji that boasts an elaborately decorated interior made up of skulls, skeletons, and even agony-filled faces of the damned adorning the walls, well, how could I resist?Tokyo-bar-4The name of the bar is Yurei Izakaya, named for ghosts known as yurei, and its decor, menu, and staff blend Japanese folklore with plenty of haunted house kitsch. The food and drinks are made to look like bloody eyeballs, impaled bodies, and various yokai (mythological monsters). Most reviewers rate their meals—which are standard izakaya fare—as average, so don’t be expecting 5-star dining – it’s all about the atmosphere!

The highlight of visiting Yurei is the “wasabi roulette” in which the guests eat an order of dumplings or kushikatsu and whoever gets the one filled with wasabi “dies.” The unlucky soul is then dressed in a white kimono and laid in a coffin in the middle of the bar. The waiter then chants a traditional Buddhist prayer, thus completing the mock funeral.  Isn’t this fun???

Back across the pond we go and let’s travel south to Argentina!Sarmiento-houseThis house was the former home of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Argentina’s seventh president. He was also the author of one of the country’s most important pieces of literature, Facundo, which is not only a testament to his political views, but also a reflection of Argentina’s history.Sarmiento-house-2Sarmiento also carried out some ambitious policies regarding education and had a tremendous influence on Argentina’s school systems. He trained new teachers and built new buildings for public schools. He successfully passed a sanction that guaranteed schools would be free and separate from religious teachings and opened various free libraries.Sarmiento-house-3Sarmiento lived with his family in this house after his tenure as president (1868-1874),  until he died in 1888. He chose a quiet abode in Tigre, a city within the delta around the La Plata River. Trees he planted still stand around the property, and the house still holds some of its original furniture. The building, which became a National Historic Monument in 1966 is encased in glass to protect it from the elements and now functions as a museum.

And now, folks, it’s time for us to head back home, for it is Saturday morning and I know we all have plenty to do, what with less than two weeks ‘til Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and just over six weeks ‘til Christmas.  I have mentioned postponing Christmas to my girls, but they weren’t amenable to the idea, especially when I said I wanted to postpone it until next December – 2019.  Sigh.  I’m lacking spirit this year.  Anyway, have a wonderful weekend, whatever you do!weekend

Saturday Surprise — This ‘n That

Good Saturday morning, friends, and welcome to yet another weekend.   Lest you think you can have a nice peaceful, relaxing weekend, maybe watch a bit of football on television, a nap sounds nice, or just hang out with a good book all weekend … please allow me to remind you that Christmas is precisely 52 days from today!  😱😱😱

I have two, maybe three Christmas presents bought.  Good enough for the moment.  I’m not yet in the mood for Christmas, and I’ve informed the girls that if my dishwasher is not fixed before Thanksgiving, there will be no turkey/stuffing/trimmings this year, but only sandwiches and chips.  Yes, I’ve been a bit peevish of late.  I’ve no idea why.

I was at a bit of a loss for what to do for this week’s Saturday Surprise, so I started trolling around my usual haunts, National Geographic, Bored Panda and Atlas Obscura.  Nothing really excited me, but I came up with a bit of this and a bit of that, so I hope you find something to start your weekend off with a smile.

Let’s start with a few sort of off-the-wall cartoons …




Now, with Hallowe’en just a few days past, I realize this may be a bit late, but there were some really cool Hallowe’en things still about, and I couldn’t resist.  First, how about a NASA pumpkin carving contest?

Yes, for the past seven years during the Halloween season these brainiacs have competed in an ‘unofficial’ pumpkin carving contest, which NASA mechanical engineer Mike Meacham said gives them a chance to let out some creativity and bond.


There are plenty more where those came from!

Reddit held a contest for short (500 words or less) stories appropriate for the scaring season.  Most were a bit too chilling or bizarre, but I thought this one was rather cool …

“Please, I am literally begging you,” I say, but the executioner only sighs and gives me a truly sorrowful look as he slides the IV into my arm.

The chaplain sits beside me. “Once he pushes the button, the drugs will be administered in quick succession. Unconsciousness will occur in roughly thirty seconds, and death soon after that,” he explains, even though I have heard it so many times before already. “Any final words?”

“Just, again, I beg you not to do this,” I say.

The chaplain nods sadly, sorrowful that I do not face my executioner with a clean conscience.

That’s the thing, though. I haven’t murdered anyone. It’s been this way my entire life. I don’t know why, but whenever I would accidentally hurt myself, others near me would receive the wound. I once got a paper cut in class that caused the three people around me to bleed from their fingers. In high school, I was in a car accident, and even though my side of the car was hit, my girlfriend developed a broken leg.

I’m always very careful. I take care of myself, trying to stay in the very best of health. But when I was mugged by that trio and he shot me in the face, their faces exploded, not mine. And when the cops came, they found me kneeling beside their bodies, trying to figure out what to do and stupidly holding their gun.

Around thirty seconds after the execution started, I see both the executioner and chaplain fall to the floor with a hard thump. “I begged you,” I repeat sadly.

And lastly, an abandoned water tower that tells a whimsical tale.

The vibrant visuals tell the story of Uppspretta, who was clearly the Curious George of puffins.

puffin-tower-1As the tale goes, Uppspretta studied everything he could about his native Iceland and discovered that his homeland was actually colonized by the Norsemen. Which meant he had to journey to Norway to find a wife, of course! As puffins are not really meant for lengthy flight it’s not surprising he didn’t reach his destination, but instead landed in the middle of the Netherlands. Highjinx ensued and, finally, upon returning to Iceland, he did eventually marry a Norwegian puffin and became Leader of the Puffins of Iceland.

puffinUppspretta’s tale is captured visually n vibrant, vivid color on a disused water tower hiding in plain sight in Keflavík, Iceland. How on Earth did it get there? Two words: The Toyists.

Birthed in the early ‘90s in Emmen, a northeastern berg of The Netherlands, The Toyists are an international collective of artists who espouse a clear-cut manifesto for the physical appearance of the artwork. This manifesto is secret (only Toyists can access it) but one thing is for sure: color and a sense of the playful appear to be important. Anonymity is also key: each artist on the Toyist team adopts a pseudonym and the works, which are mostly site specific, are done as a collective. The result is not only eye-catching street art but a refreshingly ego-free expression of creativity in the often narcissistic business of art.

puffin-tower-2Uppspretta’s legend was authored and painted by 11 Toyists from five different countries during the summer of 2013. It took seven weeks to complete due to foul weather. Uppspretta is The Toyists’ first piece of art outside of The Netherlands. Other works include The Dot (a giant painted spherical gas container) and Dreams for Breakfast (on the Hotel Ten Cate), both in Emmen.

And on that note, my friends, go forth and have a nice, relaxing weekend start that Christmas shopping!!!

Saturday Surprise — Sphen & Magic!

Hey friends!  Here it is the weekend again … the last one in October!  Sigh.  You know what this means, right?  Sigh.  Anyway, in the words of the late Scarlett O’Hara … “I’ll think about that tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.” 

I have long said that we could learn a lot from other species, those we refer to as ‘animals’, when I often think it is we who are the animals.  Animals don’t kill because they don’t like the colour of another’s fur.  Their hierarchy isn’t based on religion, ethnicity, fur colour or gender … it is merely survival of the fittest.  They may not have these opposable thumbs, but what they do have is acceptance … acceptance of ‘other’, of those who are different in some way or another.  Which brings me to today’s Surprise!

Sphen and Magic are Gentoo Penguins

Magic and Sphen

Sphen & Magic

Gentoo penguins are characterized by bright orange-red bills and unusual white patches above the eyes that make them stand out in a crowd. Gentoo penguins are most closely related to Adélie and chinstrap penguins, all of which live on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Gentoo penguins typically live in ice-free areas like flat, rocky beaches and low-lying cliffs where large colonies of individuals can gather. Like other penguin species, gentoo penguins rely on the ocean for food and are never far from the water.

When it comes to breeding and nesting, gentoo penguins have been dubbed one of the more romantic seabirds in the animal kingdom. Gentoo penguin pairs start by building intricate nests of rocks and pebbles together, and individual pebbles may be shared between potential mates beforehand as a sign that they are interested in becoming a breeding pair. The nests are then used for laying the egg in during incubation, which lasts for close to 40 days. Males and females work together closely during the process, taking turns incubating the egg and forming long-lasting bonds with each other that continue after the chick has hatched.

Sphen and Magic, who are both male penguins, live at Sea Life Sydney, a large aquarium in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and they have just become the proud parents of a 91-gram chick!  According to the Sea Life website:

Sphen and Magic began developing a strong bond and became inseparable before breeding season, and are constantly seen waddling around and going for swims together in the Penguin Expedition.

As breeding season fast approached, the couple started collecting ‘pebbles’ to create a nest in their spot, and now have more pebbles than any other couple! Gentoo parents keep their eggs warm on pebble nesting rings scattered throughout the Macquarie Island exhibit. Swapping duties daily, while one of the parents are doing their best to incubate the egg, the other is patrolling the perimeters of the nest, warding off any potential pebble thieves or over-inquisitive neighbours.

To ensure the couple were not excluded from the season, Magic and Sphen were given a dummy egg to allow them to practice incubating and develop their skills. They were absolute naturals and displayed great care for their egg, so much so, the team at Sea Life Sydney fostered a real egg to them from another couple who had two.

Whilst Sphen is older and is excellent at incubating, Magic is younger and still mastering his skill. The pair make a great team, and there are often days where the egg cannot be seen (which is really good for penguin breeding!).

And then, just last week, on October 19thpenguin chickIsn’t he just adorable?  It is too early to tell the sex of the chick just yet, but a blood test to determine gender will be done when the chick is a bit older.  Personally, I think it’s probably a girl.  And as for Sphen and Magic, according to Tish Hannan, the supervisor of the aquarium’s Penguin Department …

“The first day, the younger of the two males was an absolute star, he fed the chick a lot. The older male looked a bit disinterested at first, but as soon as he got on the chick he did an amazing job as well, so we are really, really proud of them both. Both males and females have a strong urge to be parents and they share that parental responsibility 100 per cent between the two — it doesn’t matter if they have a male-male or female-female pair.”

penguin chick 1 week old

Under daddy’s watchful eye — 1 week old, 10/26/2018

Awww … now tell me that doesn’t just warm your heart?  I was chuffed for a minute when I found that tickets to spend an entire day at the aquarium and 75 minutes on the ice with the penguins were only $119!  But then … I remembered … somehow I would have to get to Australia, and I think that is probably a bit out of my price range.  Perhaps my friend Andrea will go and take pictures to send me?

There have been several other famous same-sex penguin couples. Silo and Roy, two male chinstrap penguins, had a happy relationship for six years at the Central Park Zoo in New York. Harry and Pepper, two male Magellanic penguins, also lived together as a couple for six years at the San Francisco Zoo.  And none of the other penguins threw stones or tried to kill them.  Yep, humans should spend more time observing nature.

Have a wonderful weekend, folks!  Put last week’s detritus out of your minds for a day or two if you can and just enjoy living.


Saturday Surprise — Wildlife

Hey friends!  The weekend has arrived … finally.  It has been a sad and dramatic week in terms of the news, and I am feeling truly washed out and in need of something to make me smile … how about you?  The Guardian publishes a weekly series on wildlife called, surprisingly, The Week in Wildlife.  A post of animal pictures seemed just about right for today’s Saturday Surprise post.  You know how I adore critters, and at the end of a week like this one, I’m ready for some cute (or maybe not so cute) animals to ‘awwww’ over.

Last month when I had Jolly take over the Saturday Surprise one week, he picked pictures from the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards … he did a pretty good job, by the way, for an amateur!  This first set of pictures today are winners of the 2018 Wildlife of the Year Awards.

lounging leopardOld Mathoja was dozing when they finally found her, lying along a low branch of a nyala tree in Botswana’s Mashatu Game Reserve. Mathoja means ‘the one that walks with a limp’ injured when she was a cub, but otherwise she is a healthy, calm eight-year-old. The morning light was poor, leaves kept blowing across her face, and her eyes were only ever open briefly, making it hard for Skye to compose the shot he was after. Finally, a shaft of light gave a glint to her eyes, helping him to create his memorable portrait.

hellbentIt was not looking good for the northern water snake, clamped tightly in the jaws of a hungry hellbender, but it was a remarkable find for David. Drifting downstream in Tennessee’s Tellico River, in search of freshwater life (as he had done for countless hours over the past seven years), he was thrilled to spot the mighty amphibian with its struggling prey. The hellbender has declined significantly because of habitat loss and degradation and its presence indicates a healthy freshwater ecosystem.

Mud-dauberIt was a hot summer day, and the waterhole at Walyormouring Nature Reserve, Western Australia, was buzzing. Georgina had got there early to photograph birds, but her attention was stolen by the industrious mud-dauber wasps. They were females, digging in the soft mud at the water’s edge, then rolling the mud into balls to create egg chambers for their nearby nests. A female builds her external nest completely out of mud, cylindrical chamber by chamber, which cement together as the mud hardens.

night flightOn a night dive over deep water in the Atlantic, far off Florida’s Palm Beach, Michael achieved a long-held goal, to photograph a flying fish so as to convey the speed, motion and beauty of this ‘fantastic creature’. By day, these fish are almost impossible to approach. Living at the surface, they are potential prey for a great many animals, including tuna, marlin and mackerel. At night, they are more approachable, moving slowly as they feed on planktonic animals close to the surface.

jaguarA male jaguar sharpens his claws and scratches his signature into a tree on the edge of his mountain territory in the Sierra de Vallejo in Mexico’s western state of Nayarit. The boundary-post has been chosen with care – the tree has soft bark, allowing for deep scratch marks that are a clear warning, backed by pungent scent, not to trespass. Alejandro set up his custom-built camera trap six metres away and after eight months the jaguar eventually returned to refresh his mark.

treehopperA large Alchisme treehopper guards her family as the nymphs feed on the stem of a nightshade plant in El Jardín de los Sueños reserve in Ecuador. Unlike many treehoppers, which enlist the help of other insects (mostly ants), this species is guarded by the mother alone. She lays her eggs on the underside of a nightshade leaf, covers them with a thin secretion and then shields the clutch with her tiny frame.

I left a few out because they were either sad or disturbing, but you can visit the page if you like.  Now for a few from The Guardian’s regular Week in Wildlife …

indriThe secretive indri ( Indri indri) of Madagascar, the largest living lemur. It is also critically endangered and highly evolutionarily distinct with no close relatives, which makes its branch one of most precarious on the mammal evolutionary tree. In the likely event that the indri goes extinct, we will lose 19m years of unique evolutionary history from the mammal tree of life.
Photograph: Pierre-Yves Babelon/Aarhus University

chinstrap penguinA chinstrap penguin nesting at Spigot Peak with mountains and glaciers of Orne harbour in the background, at Gerlache Strait in the Antarctic. Greenpeace is conducting scientific research and documenting the Antarctic’s unique wildlife to strengthen the proposal to create the largest protected area on the planet, an Antarctic ocean sanctuary.
Photograph: Christian Åslund/Greenpeace

cute batResearchers examine a bat for body size and fat. Scientists are working across the western US and Canada, capturing and studying thousands of bats to better understand their hibernation habits and which are best suited to survive a deadly plague now decimating bat populations.
Photograph: Wildlife Conservation Society

walrusPacific walruses rest on an ice flow in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska. A lawsuit making its way through federal court in Alaska will decide whether Pacific walruses should be listed as a threatened species, giving them additional protections.
Photograph: SA Sonsthagen/AP

This last one isn’t an animal, but is still considered ‘wildlife’ and I found it a fascinating tree!Nellies treeNellie’s Tree in Aberford, Leeds, which has been voted England’s tree of the year. The beech tree was grafted into an N-shape to woo a woman called Nellie almost 100 years ago, the Woodland Trust said.
Photograph: Rob Grange/WTML/PA

I hope you enjoyed the photos and that you have a fun and/or relaxing weekend!

Saturday Surprise — Beards, Beards, Beards!!!

Hey folks!  Here it is, the weekend once again.  I have something fun in store for us today!  We are going to the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship that took place on September 29th in Richmond, Virginia.  Yes, yes, I know that was two weeks ago, but that’s the cool thing about the Filomobile … we can go backward, forward, or whichever ‘-ward’ you wish!  Personally, I like beards on guys and there was a time I wished I had been a guy for that sole purpose – so I could grow a beard.  But some of these beards … well, I have trouble imagining cuddling with some of them. The event is sponsored by the RVA Beard League, of which I’ve never heard, and all proceeds are donated to the Humane Society of the U.S.  Hop aboard and let’s go take a look …











Aarne Bielefeldt

Aarne Bielefeldt took 1st Place in the Freestyle Category.  Last October, Mr. Bielefeldt’s home burned to the ground in the Redwood Complex wildfire that swept through Northern California.  Gone was the barn, the workshop, the garage, the biodiesel generator, the old trucks, the vegetable garden. Gone were the little cabins he’d built himself the old-fashioned way — with hand tools and 27 years of sweat equity.Aarne burnt homeWorse yet: He had no insurance.  He was devastated … but before he knew it, along came his bearded buddies to help, and this humorous piece turns now into part ‘good people doing good things’!

The RVA Beard League in Virginia set up a PayPal donation site. Wisconsin’s Brew City Beard Alliance held a beard contest in Bielefeldt’s honor and gave him the proceeds. In England, the Wessex Beardsmen sold T-shirts with a drawing of Bielefeldt’s face on them. Bartender Mark Beneda, of the Omaha Facial Hair Society, donated a night’s worth of tips.  Billy Braker, of Michigan’s Bearded Sinners club, organized a raffle and sent catnip for Bielefeldt’s cats (I just loved this one!).  Most of Bielefeldt’s tools perished in the fire. So tools the beardsmen sent.  Bryan Nelson, president of the Austin Facial Hair Club, set up a GoFundMe page.

For months, guys from various beard clubs across the country have been driving up to help Bielefeldt rebuild. They fix broken waterlines, repair solar panels, clear debris. They assist Bielefeldt with the gnarliest of the backbreaking tasks.

“Every two weeks, I have two beards show up here with a camper or a trailer. They don’t ask for anything. They drive a distance. They say: ‘We don’t need a guest room. We have our own bathroom.’ They spend some days here and help me.  They helped me with shoveling here, shoveling there. They have taken down endless burned trees.”

Awesome camaraderie and a great bunch of people, even if their beards are rather strange.  Just goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover or a man by his beard.  I must say, though, that I don’t think I would risk cuddling with some of those beards … a few looked positively lethal!

Well, folks, I hope you enjoyed our trip the the Great American Beard and Moustache Championship and seeing the fun facial fur!  And now, get out there and enjoy the weekend!  Weekend




Saturday Surprise — Weighing In

emocleW ot eht DNEKEEW  …

Let me try that again …

Welcome to the WEEKEND!  I seem to be a bit dysfunctional this morning … a bit backward.  But anyway, finally we have survived the muck of the past week and can now take a few deep breaths and try to find some fun in our lives, yes?  You guys have big plans?  No?  Me either … going to try to get some spring cleaning done on Saturday while daughter Chris has a band commitment out of town.  I’m in the mood to minimize, so I may need to call for a Goodwill truck to come pick up what I pitch!

A few nights ago, I came across a series of fun pictures titled How to Weigh Baby Animals, and I saved it for today, because a) you know how I adore critters, and b) it is the perfect way to put a smile on your faces to begin the weekend!

There are a couple of ways to weight a baby cheetah …


It takes a special kind of person to weigh a baby giraffe … one that doesn’t mind getting on the scale himself!giraffe

This little guy doesn’t need any help …


Here’s how the baby jaguar and koala get weighed …


The koala is heavier than he looks!  And how about weighing a baby lemur … isn’t he too adorable?


And how about weighing a baby meerkat and orangutan?


That orangutan looks about like I feel this morning!  Are you smiling yet?  You know I just had to include a baby panda, didn’t you?


He’s just a-chillin’ … not worried ’bout nuthin.  This baby penguin looks a mite confused, but I am glad I’m not the one to have to lift that baby porcupine in and out …


This red panda doesn’t seem to mind too much …

red panda

And the river otter seems to think the whole thing is pretty funny …

river otter

The man weighing this baby zebra looks like under the smile he is in some pain … I think I may see why …


And last, but not least … how does one weigh a baby aardvark???  Watch …

I really, really hope I’ve helped bring a smile to your face this morning.  Now go out there and have a wonderful weekend, okay?weekend

💥 Saturday And Wednesday Collided 💥

Is it Saturday?  Or is it Wednesday?  There seems to have been a collision on this blog of Saturday and Wednesday … what shall we call it?  Satnesday?  Wedurday?  Friday evening, I was pondering whether to even do a Saturday Surprise post, as my heart truly wasn’t into it.  The blue light began flashing on my phone, indicating a private message from a Facebook friend who sent me a link that he ‘thought I might find interesting’.  I did, and my initial reaction was to flag it for Wednesday’s ‘Good People’ post, but as I was trolling news and pondering deep things like whether to have another cup of coffee or not, the article kept popping back into my head.  And then a thought hit me … this is such a heartwarming story about such a beautiful person … and we are all in need of something happy after this past week … so … who says I can’t feature a ‘good person’ for Saturday Surprise?  After all, it’s my blog and I can do what I want with it, yes?  The only rule about Saturday Surprise is no politics!  And so … without rambling any longer, please allow me to introduce you to a great man, Mr. Todd Kirnan!

Todd was born in 1972, and shortly thereafter was diagnosed with autism.  His mother was abusive, frequently tying him to his crib for hours at a time. Eventually the law intervened and Todd spent time in foster care before his father, then separated from his mother, assumed custody.  Now Todd lives in the town of Gresham, Oregon, population 111,523, where he is known to all as Mr. Gresham.  For twenty-plus years, Todd has dedicated his life to doing little things in the town to help out small business owners and others.  He delivers coffee and food, makes trips to the post office, empties trash cans, and other odd jobs, but most of all what he gives is smiles and hugs.  He spends some twelve hours a day meandering the downtown streets of Gresham, seeing if there is anything he can do to help merchants.

Todd now lives with his younger sister, Suzette Rackley, who says of her brother, “Todd is really miraculous. He is the love of everyone’s life.”todd-with-sister-e1538196166915.pngTodd attended special education classes at Gresham High School, where he became best friends with Shane Bemis, who was serving as a student-aide to the special ed classes. Bemis became a mentor for Todd, who says, “Shane would always stick up for me against bullies.” Today, Shane Bemis is the mayor of Gresham and he and Todd remain friends.todd-with-mayor.pngThe reason this story is in the news today is that last week, the town of Gresham threw a parade in Todd’s honour, culminating in the unveiling of a Todd Kirnan statue!  Right on main street!  Hundreds of people turned out …


Just look at the crowd that turned out to honour Todd!!!

Well, y’know what?  I am going to let you see for yourself … this is a short clip, and it is so very heartwarming … Gronda, get your tissues!

I think that Todd Kirnan is the antidote to the week we’ve just had, and I also think the townspeople of Gresham deserve a round of applause, for they are some pretty special people. This, my friends, is what ‘community’ is all about.  I hope you all enjoyed meeting Todd and the good people of Gresham, Oregon!  Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Saturday Surprise — Italy!!!

Well, folks, we’ve survived yet another week and starting a brand new weekend! And … today is the first day of FALL!  🍂 It’s been a week, alright, and I’m half tempted to bury my laptop and phone in the backyard for a few days, just to have some peace, but we all know that won’t happen.  But for this morning, we will step back from all the angst … in fact, let’s just leave the country for a bit and head somewhere different.  How does Italy 🇮🇹 sound to you?

Hop aboard the Filo-mobile, for we are heading to Montecatini Terme in the province of Pistoia, Tuscany, in central Italy.  The town is best known for its spa, but that is not where we are going today … for we have but a short time, and who wants to waste it sitting in smelly ol’ water twiddling their thumbs?  Instead, we are going to ride the funicular railway to the medieval village of Montecatini Alto. funicular-1The funicular was inaugurated on June 4 1898. Celebrities, including famed opera star Giuseppe Verdi, attended the grand opening. The celebrated attraction ran safely up until September 2, 1944, when retreating soldiers set off explosives that damaged parts of the tracks. Service didn’t resume until 1949.

The funicular closed again in the 1970s. It reopened again in 1982 and has been continually charming passengers ever since. Take a ride in one of the classic red cars, and you can sit upon rustic wooden benches or stand on the balcony to take in amazing views of Tuscany’s countryside.funicular-2.pngWave!  Just a short ten-minute trip … look at that view! Breathtaking, isn’t it?breathtakingAnd here we are … the village of Montecatini Alto!  Let’s take a stroll down the streets of this ancient village, shall we?  At one time there were gates all along these walls, with a “porta” or door corresponding to each one of roads that entered into the castle. Today many of these roads bear the name of the door or gate. Some of the 25 towers have remained, built into more modern structures such as the main square, S. Maria a Ripa’s convent or the bell tower of the church and the fortress.village wallsSee that clock tower in the back?  That’s the De’ Lemmi Tower, one of the more interesting towers with a 19th century clock in the style of “Roman Clock” with only 6 numbers on the face. Here you will see displayed 12, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10.De' LemmiAnd lets pop into this café for a cup of coffee before we head to our next destination, shall we?  Now wasn’t that a peaceful place to be … I already feel better.villageWell, there are still several things I want to see here in Italy before we head back, so let’s go to Cappanori, for there is a tree I want to show you.  Yes, Joe, I said a tree.  Yes, I know you have trees in your backyard, but not like this tree!


Oak of the Witches

According to one local legend, witches once gathered at the 600-year-old oak. They danced wildly atop its gnarled branches, transforming the plant into a stage for their chants and ceremonies. Supposedly, their rituals stunted the tree’s growth and warped its shape, causing it to reach outward rather than upward.witches-oakThe old oak inspired another story, too, this one more familiar to children around the world. Carlo Collodi once sat beneath its behemoth branches while penning several chapters of The Adventures of Pinocchio. It inspired the scenes where the famous puppet meets the Cat and the Fox and where he is later rescued by the Blue Fairy after being hung. As such, one of the tree’s other names is Quercia di Pinocchio (Pinocchio’s Oak). Now, it just so happens that within this area there are other sites related to the story of Pinocchio.  And since, for some strange reason I seem to have a fixation with Pinocchio these days, let’s go visit them!pinocchio-park-1Welcome to Collodi, home of Pinocchio Park!   Although Disney’s version from 1940 featured the same basic premise as the original, Collodi’s Pinocchio was a dark fantasy tale that presented an entirely different world than the story that was embraced by families and children throughout the 20th century.

In 1951, the concept of creating a monument to Pinocchio was presented, and 84 artists from around Italy submitted works for approval. Although only a few were chosen, the Pinocchio Park was born. In 1956, the park opened its doors, featuring a wide range of artistic expressions of the classic story. As the park evolved, artists added a number of mediums, working with mosaics, statuary and even fountains.

The most popular work in the park is the fountain of the Terrible Dogfish, a creature envisioned by Collodi and portrayed as a whale in the Disney film.pinocchio-whaleAnd last, but not least, I want to show you one more thing before we begin our journey home.  Here in Collodi, stands the tallest wooden Pinocchio in the world! tallest-pinocchio-1He stands 63-feet-tall, and this statue is very special.  Constructed in 2008, it is dedicated to the UN convention on the rights of a child, an international human rights treaty that protects, among other things, the cultural rights of children. The occasion was marked with a written call for the European Constitution to include the principles from UN Declaration of Children’s Rights, particularly its concerns about education and culture.tallest-pinocchio-2Well, folks, it is time to say ‘good-bye’, or more appropriately addio, to Italy, for it is Saturday morning and I know you all have plans.  But we will be back!  I love Italy, don’t you?  I hope you all had fun today … I certainly did!  And to keep you occupied on the journey home, here’s a bit of fun …

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends!