Monthly Archives: April 2011

What will you be watching?

What are you going to be watching on Friday? There are two, big, televised events that may say a lot about who you are.

The Royal Wedding?

Day 2 of the NFL Draft?

What do you think?

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I had a nice thing happen to me this morning. I had just completed printing annual membership renewal letters, labels and insert tabs for a bunch of our foundation members. (Since I’m a one-man shop, my job runs the range from cool stuff like trips to barrier islands and research cruises to the absolutely mundane, like stuffing envelopes.) I was about to start the tedious process of stuffing the envelopes, attaching labels, etc., when one of our faculty scientists walked into my office.

“Hey, Poolman, my daughters (teenagers) need some more community service hours. Do you have anything you need done, like stuffing envelopes or something?”

“Funny you should ask…”

Talk about perfect timing. I don’t get lucky very often. I’ll enjoy this one for a while.

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We should be swimming within the next week. Our water temperature is up to around 82 degrees, if you trust my thermometer, which I do not. And Mrs. Poolman likes WARM water. I think it has something to do with growing up in Florida. In any case, I ordered a new solar blanket and it arrived today. These blankets have worked very well in the past. It is basically a blue plastic bubble-wrap that floats on top of the pool. It magnifies the sunlight a little during the day, but most importantly, I think, it insulates the pool from heat loss at night. If we keep having sunny weather, I should get a boost over the next few days and be ready to start the five month swimming season.

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Getting the family organized, or…

I sent an email to my brother and sisters (3) today to start the process of getting organized for a family wedding in September.

My nephew (brother’s son) is getting married in the small town of Lewes, Delaware. No one in our family lives close to there so it will be a “destination wedding” for all of us. The problem is there are really no affordable hotels or motels in or around Lewes. The alternative is to rent one or more houses for the weekend and, fortunately, there are a number of those available. The trick is to get everyone organized to answer key questions like:

Who is going to be there?

Who wants in on any group rental arrangements?

How many beds do we need?

And so on. I’ve checked into a couple of possible rentals and am ready to lay down a deposit, but I don’t want to bump up against any of the others plans or anticipations.

Usually, my siblings are a fairly business-like group, so hopefully this won’t be a difficult process. Otherwise, we may have to go out and get a professional “catherd” (That’s like a shepherd, except for cats.). I checked the Yellow Pages. I don’t see any advertised.

Back to normal

I haven’t posted in a week, but I really haven’t had much to write about. After spending two weeks gallivanting around Europe, everyday life seems very pale by comparison.

Actually, I am really very glad to be back to normal life. I am a home-body at heart. I missed Mrs. Poolman. I even missed our pets.

It seems I spent the first week home just recovering from two weeks of travel and catching up. I really didn’t have any jet lag to speak of. I got a good night’s sleep my first night at home, and that was all it took.

Savannah was at “high spring” when I returned. That means lovely weather and tons of biomass in my yard. This week it was oak seed pods, or “fuzzy-wuzzies” as we call them. Apparently their assigned role in the great scheme of the universe is to clog up the skimmer basket in our pool. They do their job well.

Fuzzy Wuzzies in the skimmer basket.

Mrs. P and I spent both weekend days working around the yard, cleaning the pool, etc. Much of that biomass is now in bags at the curb. There is also some fresh topsoil over one of the sandy patches in the front yard.Saturday evening, we grilled some steaks and rented a movie – “Love and Other Drugs,” with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal. It was a pretty good movie, with a slightly different slant on the boy-meets-girl. romantic comedy formula. Plus, Anne Hathaway spends about half the movie in the buff, which was just an added benefit from my standpoint. On Sunday, I went to return the DVD to Blockbuster Express, only to find that all THREE of the kiosks closest to our house were out of order. What’s that all about? I sent the company an email, so they wouldn’t charge me for an extra day. Not that $1 is going to break the bank, but it’s the principal of the thing. I should not have to pay a fine for their broken machine. I don’t anticipate a problem. (Late note: All is cool. No late fine.)

We had our last CCD class of the year last Wednesday. In some past years, I really regretted the end of the year, but not this year. We had some really great kids in the class, but the hyper-active attention seekers made it a difficult group as a whole.

A regular work-week is ahead this week. Mrs. P is working next weekend (Easter), so I’ll have the holiday duty. For the foreseeable future, there will be a lot more of that kind of weekend. The hospital where Mrs. P works has eliminated its “weekend program” and has placed all the nurses on an “every third weekend” rotation. Mrs. P isn’t happy about it, and neither am I, but there isn’t much we can do about it.

Dachau, Berchtesgaden and headed home

After Friday night’s , Dan and I went light on breakfast Saturday morning. Besides, speaking for myself, I don’t think I could handle another sausage this soon.

Our first stop was the Dachau concentration camp.

"Work makes you free.:

I think we came out of it with mixed feelings. On one hand, it was a moving experience to walk on the actual site where so much evil was perpetrated. But on the other hand, the actual camp/memorial is fairly sterile. Much is simply a large open area of graveled ground. The museum is sparse.

The former administrative building, now a museum

The ovens inside the crematorium

The execution and crematorium area is landscaped and well groomed.

The crematorium

It is actually like a park. Maybe that is the idea. However, the sensory impact of Dachau contrasts sharply with some of the military museums, especially those with audio-video experiences, we visited last week.

By 11 am, we were on the road again, heading to the Bavarian Alps.

The trip was very scenic.

Along the road to Berchtesgaden

Most of our trip was through a country of rolling hills and small villages. We drove through Berchtesgaden and then up the mountain to Oversalzburg, which is actually the village where all the Nazi bigwigs had homes. Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest was not accessible.

Eagle's Nest is that little knob on the left of the photo.

Apparently the special shuttle buses don’t run for another few weeks. The restaurant was closed at the visitor’s center, but there was an interesting interpretive center, complete with Hitler’s underground bunker.

Dan (right) in the interpretive center

A tunnel in the underground bunker

The four of us at Obersalzburg (l-r) Poolman, Dan, Birdie and Ron

After a couple of hours at Obersalzburg, we stopped in Berchtesgaden. This is a pretty little resort town, but a bit on the touristy side.

Dan in Berchtesgaden

Birdie and Ron had a Berchtesgaden hot dog.

A Berchtesgaden scene. Note the Alps in the background.

It has a bunch of cafés, boutique stores and gift shops.

We headed back to Munich for our “farewell dinner” at the Hofbrau House, a famous, 400 year old beer hall. It was a fun time.

I think the band conductor has had plastic surgery to permantly put a smile on his face.

We were entertained by a Bavarian band, dancers (who looked very bored) and some guys with whips who came out and snapped them in time with music. The hall was filled with hundreds of people at long tables. The beer came by the liter. We all had wienerschnitzel  warn potato salad.

Dan and Poolman. Note the liter size beers..

On Sunday morning, we were out of the hotel by 8 am. bound for Munich airport.  That’s 2 am Savannah time. We didn’t land in Savannah, after three airline segments, until 9:30 pm. It was a long day. On the trans-Atlantic leg, I watched an episode of “The Big Bang Theory” and three movies.

The Tourist — Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie (Cute)

Morning Glory — Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton (Pretty stupid, but I enjoyed it because of my TV news background. dAt one point or another, I “knew” everyone of the characters in the film. They just had different names.)

Red — Bruce Willis, John Malkovitch, Richard Dreyfuss, Morgan Freeman, Mary Louise Parker (Pretty good. I love Mary Louise!)

I got a good night sleep Sunday night and was back at work by late morning on Monday.

It was a fun and interesting trip, but I’m glad to be home. Two weeks is a long time to be gone for me.

Luxembourg to Munich

(It’s Monday, and we are back in Savannah. For the first time in several days, I have a reliable internet link. Here is a posting from Friday. I’ll try to post the trip’s final days later this evening.)

For Friday, April 8

In my entire life, I probably haven’t spent five minutes thinking about Luxembourg. Now I’ve spent the night there.

If I had thought about it, I probably would have envisioned Luxembourg as a set of bucolic, rural villages with lots of haystacks, ox-driven carts and buxom milkmaids in apron dresses. Not the case.

Luxembourg, at least Luxemborg City, is a bustling urban-commercial center, with serious central city traffic issues.

The view from our hotel window in Luxembourg City

Our hotel was right across the street from the train station.

Luxembourg City train station from our hotel window

Just getting the bus loaded with luggage and people was a challenge this morning.

Our only history-related stop today was at the Luxembourg American Cemetery.   It’s most famous resident is General George Patton.

George Patton's grave

Then we got back on the bus for the long haul to Munich.

We arrived in Munich in the early evening. We got settled into our rooms and Dan, Birdie, Ron and I took off to the central part of the city. Our hotel is nice enough, but it looks like the neighborhood around it has gone downhill in recent years.

The Drei Lowen (Two Lions) Hotel in on Schillerstrasse in Munich

We are only a block or two from the main train station, but our hotel is surrounded by strip clubs and mid-eastern gold buyers/sellers. Not the kind of place you go walking alone at night.

Somewhat surprisingly, within a couple of blocks, we were out of the rough section and into a wide pedestrian mall leading to the Marienplatz at the center of town.

Part of Munich's central city area.

Munich's City Hall with a Glockenspiel. We did not see it perform.

We were all impressed with central Munich. The pedestrian malls, surrounded by historic buildings were great. Even after dinner, at around 1030 pm, it was hopping.

A string quartet (plus flute) playing late at night on the Munich pedestrian mall

We did some final souvenir/gift shopping and headed to a beer hall recommended by the hotel desk clerk.

We had a good dinner. We all had the same thing – a sausage sampler with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes…and of course, beer.

Birdie, Dan, Ron and Poolman

Bavarian sausage, etc.

We did have a little trouble with Birdie, who insisted in playing with his food and making “food sculptures.” It was sausage; use your imagination.

Tomorrow, we are off to Dachau and Berchtesgaden.

Guten tag, from München!

I am checking in from Munich on the world’s slowest computer, in our hotel’s one-computer telephone booth… er business center.  All is well, but I don’t have Wi_Fi access. This may last post unless I can locate some other internet  access. 

Tomorrow is Dachau and, hopefully, Berchtesgaden and Eagles Nest. Depends on weather. 

We fly home on Sunday. If I don’t get another chance, I’ll post a final account and photos from home early next week.

Walking in the foxholes

We got into the Novotel Hotel in Maastricht late last night — around 9:30 pm. Some of us scrambled for a bite to eat at the hotel bar. A mini-pizza was about the only choice, if you could get the attention of the frazzled and not-particularly eager barmaid. We had big lunch, so Dan and I said “screw it” and went to bed.

Today is another beautiful, sunny day in the Benelux countries, and by the time we are finished, we will see all three of them today. We started in the Netherlands; spent most of the day in Belgium; and will sleep tonight in Luxembourg.

One thing about this part of Europe is we can never be quite certain what language is being spoken. We started the day in Dutch, while in Bastogne, we encountered both French and German. None of us speak any of them worth a darn, so I guess it doesn’t really matter. Birdie has become an expert at dealing with waiters and shopkeepers by pointing and nodding.

This morning our first stop was the American Military Cemetary at Margraten, Netherlands.

The American Cemetery

We spent around an hour there and then headed to Bastogne. Dan commented how impressed he has been with the darn-near-perfect condition of the cemeteries we visited. There isn’t a stray piece of grass to be seen.

Our first stop in the Bastogne area was the village of Foy. (That was the village Easy Company of The Band of Brothers attacked in the episode “The Breaking Point.”)

Foy is not very large.

"The Gang" in Foy

Then we rode back towards Bastogne about a half mile to Bois Jacques (John’s Woods). This was the actual location of Easy Company during the Battle of the Bulge. We walked through the woods a few hundred yards to the exact position Easy Company occupied.

Treking through Fois Jacques

The foxholes are still evident. Very  cool.

Note the foxholes.

Dan in a foxhole.

We had one more sip of Birdie’s calavados brandy to commemorate the occasion.

(l-r) Ron, Birdie, Dan and Poolman

Our final historical stop of the day was at the American monument to the Battle of the Bulge, at Mardasson, near Bastogne.

From there it was back to Bastogne’s central square (McAuliffe Place) for lunch.

McAuliffe Place, Bastogne, Belgium

Dan, Birdie, Ron and I ate at Le Nuts Café. The restaurant is named for the reply the 101st AB Div acting commander, General Anthony McAuliffe gave to the German’s demand for surrender – not for the specialty of the house.

Some of our gang eating outside "Le Nuts Cafe."

(l-r) Poolman, Birdie, Ron and Dan

I had a Belgian version of a ham and cheese sandwich, but the other three guys all ordered a “croque a bleu,” which was essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with additional cheese melted on top. I had some of Dan’s and it was outstanding.

As I write this, we are on our way to Luxembourg City for dinner and the evening.

Tomorrow, we hit one more American cemetery and then a long (600 km, 360 mi) drive to Munich.