Sunday, December 31, 2017

Binghampton, New York, USA

Even the red footed tortoise is going to make it across the finish line this year. He may have gotten a little off track, but he never took his eyes off the goal. Looks like he might even have a friend to party with tonight: New Year's Eve. Be safe! [2017]

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Colon, Panama

In 2017, I got shod in Colon, Pensacola, and Havana; in Oranjestad, Aruba, and Enterprise, Alabama; in Warsaw (the one in Virginia), Bernalillo (outskirts of Albuquerque), and La Laguna (on the island of Tenerife); in Virginia Beach (by the youngest barber ever) and Spencer, Indiana. There's no better souvenir than a haircut! [2017]

Friday, December 29, 2017

Zanesville, Ohio, USA

What would you expect from the Clay Capital of the World? Outsized vases that recall Zanesville's golden age, of course. The clay canvasses are all the same, but the decorations are different. Which one do you like best? The covered bridge, of course. [2013]

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Seymour, Indiana, USA

There's that new wood that had to be ordered because the original shipment was too green, badly cracked, and bowed. And there's that master carpenter who came out of retirement and down from Michigan to give the Shieldstown Bridge a new lease on life. There really ought to be a monument to all the skilled laborers who did the restoration work. [2017]

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Seymour, Indiana, USA

Once that roof is replaced, the Shieldstown Covered Bridge should be good for the next century and a half. It was built in 1876. Wouldn't it be amazing if it were still here in 2176? Thanks to the crew, I now have a handful of nails that were used to put on the original roof. 😄 [2017]

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Seymour, Indiana, USA

Work started on the Shieldstown Covered Bridge four years ago and then stalled. But now, it's back on track and expected to be finished by fall 2018. For some of us who have been following the disappearance of covered bridges over the past half century, it's hard to believe that over a million dollars could be found for a restoration project like this. [2017]

Monday, December 25, 2017

Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Merry Christmas! According to the Book of Common Prayer: "It's the birthday of Christ, commonly called Christmas Day." The oldest name for the holiday, though, is The Festival of Lights, in commemoration of the angels who lit up the night sky. See one here? [2017]

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Callao, Virginia, USA

The real Santa Claus was a flesh-and-blood human being with human needs. He was born in the village of Petara on the southern coast of Asia Minor, which is now Turkey.  He became known for his generosity to those in need and for his love of children. On this fourth Sunday of Advent, let's remember St. Nicholas as a role model for Christians everywhere. [2016]

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Winterset, Iowa, and New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Old ideas never die. They just get re-purposed. Fifty years ago, the outhouse had already been relegated to memories of growing up in the old days. Now, almost everyone has used a cleverly-named Johnny Pot or one of his cousins. If you have memories of an outhouse you used at home, church or school, add them to the comment section below! [2004, 2011]

Friday, December 22, 2017

Toledo, Illinois, USA

The low-sun season is here. For humans, it's SAD because it brings on seasonal affective disorder. But for snowmen (and, presumably, ersatz snowmen), the lower the sun on the horizon and the shorter the days, the more they smile. How many different uses can you think of for old tires? [2017]

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Lisbon, Portugal

At 4:28 pm GMT today, just as the sun is setting over Lisbon, the winter train will pull into the Gare do Oriente, Portugal's busiest (and prettiest) station. It's the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. [2009]

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

It's official. The President of the United States has signed the new tax law. Who benefits? The richest 1% of the population will get 83% of the tax tax breaks, with a few crumbs (in the form of temporary tax cuts) thrown to the remaining 99%. The Occupy Movement saw it all coming. [2011]

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Take a seat under the grass. Here in Glasgow, where green is becoming the color of urban life, it's possible. Maybe not a new idea, though: Just think of those ivy-covered walls that used to proliferate in center cities (and university campuses). What's the purpose of the solar panel? [2017]

Monday, December 18, 2017

Singapore, Republic of Singapore

Yeasty shell and porky fill.
Steam them till they fit the bill.
Feeling ill? They're like a pill.
Eat them till their number's nil.
From the dumplings: Much good will.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Victoria, Gozo, Malta

Roman Catholic churches all over Malta are hearing these words (in Maltese) on this third Sunday of Advent: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things by prayer and supplication, with Thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God." [2009]

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Der Ezor, Syria

When Raqqa (made ISIS capital in 2014) fell in October, Islamic State's locus of power shifted to Der Ezor, another city on the Euphrates. In early November, however, ISIS forces were routed from Der Ezor. Lest you think Syria is returning to normal, remember that Der Ezor is back in the hands of the government, but Raqqa is now under Kurdish control. [1993]

Friday, December 15, 2017

Riga, Latvia

Every year, about this time, the Library of Congress adds another 25 films to the National Film Registry. It includes the most culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant films of all time. Guess what 1997 film, popular all over the world, was just added to the list. [2003]

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Marrakech, Morocco

Think ancient history is irrelevant? Tell that to these girls on Jma El Fina in Marrakech. They just got their hands adorned with henna, continuing an artform that goes back to the Bronze Age. Henna is a dye made from the leaves of the henna shrub. [2017]

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Why do we turn fountains off in the winter? They should use sleet as their inspiration. Keep the water above freezing while in the ducts, spray it high into the air, and let the droplets freeze on the way down. The sound effects might be just as cool as the visuals. [2011]

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Battambang, Cambodia

It seems like cockles are for sale in every Cambodian market. They may be turned into street food (sometimes raw) or a meal. Can you see why these bivalves, found and farmed throughout coastal Asia, are called blood cockles? In fact, they do contain a hemoglobin liquid. But, alas, they are not true cockles (like they have in Europe). [2016]

Monday, December 11, 2017

Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

A yarn bomb (and many more like it) has been dropped on Edinburgh: "Leith says No to Trams". An Edinburgh tram line extension to Leith has long been on the agenda, but apparently some in Leith oppose the idea. Do you think opponents are the come-here gentry or the born-here locals? [2017]

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ironton, Ohio, USA

In Methodist Churches all across the land, advent wreaths will be a central part of worship today as thousands of congregants utter these words: "On this second Sunday of Advent, we light this candle to remind us that the God of Creation calls us home to love all that we meet." [2017]

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Guilford, Connecticut, USA

"Tis the season for the Town Forester to inspect all the trees on the village green. It's easier in the winter when you don't have all that foliage blocking your view. A light trim, if not a full pruning, is likely to be in order. [2008]

Friday, December 8, 2017

Wallingford, Kentucky, USA

Pluto abducted Proserpine and carried her off to the underworld. Her mother, Ceres, demanded her return. Because Proserpine had eaten from Pluto's larder, however, she could not return permanently. During those months when she is with Pluto, her mother protests by bringing on the winter. Ceres is, after all, the goddess of agriculture. [2017]

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hutto, Texas, USA

The town is named Hutto. The town's mascot is the hippo. Whatever story you believe about how the Hutto Hippo came to perform in the center ring of this small Texas whistle stop, you can be sure alliteration and rhyming had something to do with it. Stop by to see the famed fiberglass river horse before he meanders off to Cottonwood Creek. [2015]

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Manitowoc, Wisconsin, USA

Cedar Crest is both a dairy and a cow, and it's just one more example of what roadside America has to offer motorists who get off the Interstates and start meandering around the country's "blue highways." [1995]

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Flanders, New York, USA

The Big Duck on Long Island epitomizes what we mean by "roadside America."  It survives as one of the many supersized buildings, signs, and statues designed to do nothing but attract attention in the first half of the 20th century. Built in the 1930s, the Big Duck was an effort to make motorists take a roadside gander at the owner's duck farm. [1984]

Monday, December 4, 2017

Jefferson, West Virginia, USA

Here's just one of the vessels in the Great Kanawaha Navy. She's preparing to be locked down for the winter, but the speed-by boaters are pretending its spring. On the placid water downstream from Charleston is one of the largest collections of sternwheelers in the nation. The Juanita goes back to 1954. [2017]

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Singapore, Republic of Singapore

For Western Christians, Advent (and the liturgical year) begins today, the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It's time to "Go. Spend time on what is truly rewarding. God's Word. Don't live life without it." As for "treasures in heaven": Our debts will be forgiven. So unlike those earthly credit cards! [2011]

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Bandung, Java, indonesia

The puppets here, called wayang golek by the islanders, are elements of West Javanese folk culture. Get the kids hooked on puppet theater early and hope that their devotion to the art sticks with them through adulthood. That is the role of the arts in nation-building. Can you think of any other cultures that have inherited a strong tradition of puppetry? [2016]

Friday, December 1, 2017

Oranjestad, Aruba

Probably more people in Aruba than in the United States know that today is World AIDS Day. Little countries know their well-being is determined by international forces. Americans seem to think they alone are in control. In fact, AIDS has practically slipped off the radar screen in the U.S. Perhaps the American landscape needs some red ribbons. [2017]