Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Spain Trip #4: Several In-Flight Movie Recommendations

In blog #4 about our Spain trip, we're still talking about the travel to and from vacation, but this one focuses on the movies we watched.  Tom watched several of them that I can't recall. I watched 2 that he didn't watch.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME - This is an award-winning gay, coming of age film and it was well-done.
OUR RANKING: 4 out of 5 Stars
PLOT: Elio, a 17-year-old Jewish-American-Italian youth, lives with his parents in rural Northern Italy. His father, a professor of archaeology, invites a 24-year-old Jewish-American graduate student, Oliver, to live with him and his family over the summer and help with his academic paperwork. Elio, an introspective bibliophile and musical prodigy, initially finds little in common with Oliver, who has a contrastingly carefree and exuberant personality. Elio resents having to give up his bedroom for Oliver for the duration of his stay. He spends much of the summer reading, playing piano, and hanging out with his girlfriend, Marzia. Oliver is meanwhile attracted to one of the local girls, much to Elio's annoyance.
Elio and Oliver begin a seductive courtship: they swim together, go for long walks into town, and accompany Elio's father on an archaeological trip. Elio begins a sexual relationship with Marzia and brags about it in front of Oliver to gauge his reaction, but nonetheless finds himself increasingly attracted to Oliver.

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN - This is a 2017 British biographical drama film about the lives of Winnie-the-Pooh creator A. A. Milne and his family, especially his son Christopher Robin.
TOM'S RANKING 4 out of 5 Stars (Rob didn't watch it)
PLOT: Alan Alexander (A.A.) Milne – nicknamed "Blue" by his friends and family – and his wife Daphne had a son they named Christopher Robin Milne. A.A. suffered from PTSD from being in WW2. Reluctantly at first, A.A. takes his son along on walks in the woods and begins making up stories about the boy's adventures with the stuffed animals the parents have bought for him. Blue invites his illustrator friend Ernest to join them at the house, and together they begin to develop the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI - Episode VIII is a 2017 film written and directed by Rian Johnson. It is the second installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy and the eighth main installment of the Star Wars franchise, following Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).
ROB'S RANKING: 2 out of 5 Stars (Tom didn't watch it). WHY? The plot seemed really, really thin. There was a rebel group of space ships that were attacked by the evil empire and all but 1 was destroyed.
PLOT: It's all about getting that 1 ship to safety while a young woman wants to train to be a Jedi under an aged Luke Skywalker (who moved to a deserted island - which is actually on the coast of Ireland's Dingle Peninsula. we know that because we were vacationing in Ireland just after it was filmed there).
NOTE: It was Carrie Fisher's final film before she passed.

Justice League 
JUSTICE LEAGUE - A superhero film from 2017, featuring Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Superman, Aquaman and Cyborg.
ROB'S RANKING 5 out of 5 Stars. (100 times better than those Avengers movies) Of course, I'm totally biased, as these are ALL of my favorite heroes. Every one of the actors did an Amazing job portraying the characters as they are from the comics.
PLOT: In Justice League, the superhero team, consisting of Batman (Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gadot), Flash (Miller), Aquaman (Momoa), and Cyborg (Fisher) forms to honor the memory of Superman (Cavill) and to save Earth from the catastrophic threat of Steppenwolf (CiarĂ¡n Hinds) and his army of Parademons.

NEXT: Arrival in Barcelona

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Spain Trip #3: Our Adventures in Traveling to and from Barcelona

Tom and Rob's Adventures in Travel
It's no secret that the worst part of a vacation is traveling there. The anticipation to get where you're supposed to be is always high. The travel we endured to get to Barcelona, Spain, was time consuming and exhausting. In this blog we'll tell you about it, and other things we had to think about! 
TAKING CARE OF OUR DOGS - First, a huge thanks to our friend Jeff, who stayed at our house for our 12 day Spain vacation, and took excellent care of our dogs, Dolly, Franklin and Tyler. If you can get a live in house sitter (who bakes dessert for your return as Jeff did for ours), do it. It's better for the dogs. (Since 2 of our dogs are elderly and on several medications, this was important). 

We also hired a local pet sitter business called "Quality Time Pet Sitters" in Maryland to come in during the middle of the day when Jeff was at work. They let our kids, and Jeff's dog Myrtle out in the fenced in yard. They cleaned up after the dogs and gave them fresh water and treats. They also left daily notes. 
L to R: Franklin, Tyler, Dolly and Myrtle (Jeff's dog)

WE'RE "LYFT" OFF - We hired a LYFT driver to take us to the airport instead of parking. It's a good thing we did because when we returned, we had been wide awake for 24 hours and were really way too tired to drive... so we had LYFT pick us up, too. Highly recommend it.

DELTA and AIR FRANCE - Our tickets were out of BWI  (Baltimore/Washington Airport) and through Delta, who is the only one that works with Air France. Although the crews on ALL of our flights were great, the seats on a couple of the Delta flights and the Air France flight flying to Europe, were uncomfortable because they had been tamped down by heavy passengers. In fact, some felt like sitting on cardboard on a concrete floor. Not good for the tailbone!

3 FLIGHTS EACH WAY - Why Delta decided to fly us to Atlanta, then Paris, then Barcelona, we don't know. Regardless, both going and coming it took 23 and 24 hours respectively. And because the seats in "Premium Economy" were not comfortable enough to sleep, we didn't for an entire DAY each way. *The airline told us that if we flew out of Dulles we could fly direct to Paris and change. However, if you live in Maryland, it's closer to drive to Philadelphia than to Dulles, Virginia because of the intense traffic on the Washington, DC Beltway (so we hate Dulles). 

On the ground in Barcelona
BAG CHECK NOTE: Going from the Baltimore to Atlanta to Paris to Barcelona, our luggage went all the way through. Of course we had to go through customs and back through security. Coming back, however, we had to get our luggage in Atlanta, go through customs and security and re-check the bags. 

GATES ALWAYS THE FARTHEST- It's always the way. The connecting gate is always the farthest it can be from where you land. That's how it was in Atlanta. We arrived from Baltimore at the "A" gate and flew out of the "F" gate, so we had to ride the airport subway.  Coming back, same thing. Arrived at the "F" gate, had to go through customs, and dash all the way to the "A" gate, AND the gate we needed was down at the VERY END of the terminals. 

NEXT: Catching up on Flight Movies

Monday, May 21, 2018

Spain Trip #2: Amazing Labor-Intensive Architectural Detail!

note the curved brick
Today's blog about our trip to Spain focuses on Tom's forte: Architecture and the detail that went into some of the structures on Spain. 

Tom said: "This all-brick building anchors the Triana (city) side of the Puente Isabella Bridge. The other side of the bridge connects to the city of Sevilla, Spain. This structure was built in 1927. It is apparent that the cost of labor was not a factor in its construction.

TOM'S OBSERVATIONS - The facade is comprised of dozens of special shaped bricks. Each one requiring a wood mold. The wood would have to be carved in reverse of what is needed. They were carved with exacting precision to produce the desired outcome. Think of the knowledge, patience, measurements and talent it takes to carve out wooden blocks to make a mold to make each brick!
Amazing brick work

NEXT: Our Adventures in Traveling

The tower all made from handmade bricks

handmade bricks on the tower

Sunday, May 20, 2018

2 Idiots of the Week: Missouri Governor, and Rep. Farenthold

It's a 2 for 1 Special on "Idiot of the Week" because there are always more than one!

Here's the scoop on this week's "Winners"

By ABC news: ALEX PEREZ ANDY FIES May 18, 2018
The scandal-plagued saga that has surrounded Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ tenure is about to enter a new chapter. On Friday, May 18,  legislators at the state capitol in Jefferson City called to order a special 30-day session to begin impeachment proceedings against the embattled head of the Show-Me State. But expect the impeachment process to be slow.
  A special investigative committee in the house has already released two ruinous reports against Greitens. The first details accusations made by a woman with whom he was having an affair. She said he threatened and mistreated her. The second report focuses on allegations that Greitens wrongfully obtained a charity donor list to fundraise for political purposes.

2) WHY REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R-TEXAS) SO ABRUPTLY RESIGNED "The House Ethics Committee was about to rule against Farenthold in its investigation into whether he sexually harassed members of his staff, used official money for campaign purposes and lied in previous testimony to the committee, according to the office of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).  He used $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle a previous sexual harassment lawsuit.  The Texas Republican promised in December that he would pay back that money immediately, but he never did.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Great Mystery! Murder She Wrote: Hook, Line and Murder

During our vacation to Spain last week, we got to do a lot of reading because of 3 connecting flights
to get there, and get home. One of the books I thoroughly enjoyed was the latest paperback mystery in the "Murder She Wrote" series (based on the tv show):  "Hook Line and Murder," by Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain and Renee Paley-Bain.  
  The book was fast moving like the other 30 or so in the series, and a great read. There turned out to be 2 murders in the story, one old and one new. The characters were vivid and easy to picture in your mind, and of course, the main cast from the 1980s-1990s TV show were all in the book, too. The mystery will keep you guessing and there's a mystery in a mystery!  Another 5 star Murder She Wrote mystery!  - Rob

ABOUT THE BOOK:  The USA Today bestselling Murder, She Wrote mystery series continues as Jessica Fletcher takes a relaxing getaway that turns into a reel deadly situation...

Jessica enters a fly-fishing competition at a nearby lake. Joining her is the sheriff’s wife, Maureen Metzger, who surprises Jess with her enthusiasm for the sport. Their guide, however, is a surprise to both...

Brian Kinney is an ex-con. Jailed as an accomplice to Darryl Jepson, a convicted killer, Brian was later exonerated, but not before spending seven years behind bars. He seems like a decent enough fellow. Just a man trying to rebuild his life as a family man and fishing guide. 

Yet when Jepson breaks out of prison vowing revenge, and the lawyer for both men is found murdered, Cabot Cove becomes the focus of the nation as local, state, and federal authorities descend on Jessica’s hometown. And to add to the tension, Maureen has gone missing. Is she lost or is she a hostage? Jess soon finds herself caught in a netful of lies, deceit and ulterior motives. In order to save her friend, she’ll need to find some answers by hook or by crook..

Friday, May 18, 2018

Spain Trip#1: Dogs in Spain: Pampered or Homeless

This is first of what will be many blogs
Dog walk in a Seville square
 about our 4 major city tour of Spain. Since we are dog dads and dog rescuers I thought I would bring attention to the treatment of dogs throughout the areas we visited.
A pampered dog

PAMPERED - Spain is definitely a dog loving country. So many people walk their dogs and so many shops allow dogs inside. There are a number of dog shops and people have nice collars, leashes and harnesses for their dogs. Most are responsible and pick up after their dogs.

We did see one Weimaraner and 2 Dachshunds which is coincidental as that's the same as our kids.
Dachshund in Seville hotel

HOMELESS - there are also a number of homeless men and women who have dogs. We don't understand that and find it extremely disconcerting. We assume the people can go to a shelter to get care for themselves but wonder about the dogs. We gave several money or food but of course that doesn't solve the problem.

LOCAL INTERVIEW - I stopped a resident of Granada, Spain and asked why homeless people have dogs and she said she didn't know and it is common. She said perhaps people will give money if someone has a dog. It's a sad situation for the dogs and the people.

Spain Trip Blog #2 continues on Monday (and will run weekdays)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Must Read: A Higher Loyalty by James Comey

I just finished reading the book called a
higher loyalty by former FBI director James Comey. As it turns out it was well worth the read.

  DEBATED BUYING IT - I must say that I had mixed feelings about buying the book because I honestly feel like his revelation about the extra Hillary Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner's laptop, cost her the election and left us with the disaster that we now have. However I wanted to get his side of the story and I am glad I bought the book and read it.
   Comey has worked for several presidents, and explained the struggle he went through about revealing the email situation. He also explained that they did not have enough on the Trump - Russia collusion to talk about it, and that the Obama Administration was hesitant to put out any notice about the Russian interference because it may influence the election. Either way, it did and we wound up with Trump. The book also explores some of the big cases in his history including Martha Stewart, and his prosecution of mob cases. The last chapter is about his dealings with Donald Trump, and they are the most scathing assessment of This president's character. Well worth the read.
  Following is the book summary from that will give you more detail.

Product description

In his book, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.
Mr. Comey served as director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama. He previously served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration's policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

News You Don't Hear: 3 Kansas Right-Wing Extremists Guilty In Terror Plot Against Muslim Refugees

Here's some news you may not have heard:  Three right-wing militiamen from rural Kansas were found guilty on April 18 in a 2016 plot to slaughter Muslim refugees. Attorneys argued the Trump-backing trio were radicalized by “chaos news,” and wrongfully targeted by the feds for “locker room talk.” Story below from the NY Times:

From left, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, who are charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. CreditSedgwick County Sherriff's Office, via Associated Press

 3 Kansas Right-Wing Extremists Guilty In Terror Plot Against Muslim Refugees

NY TIMES  April 18, 2018 
WICHITA, Kan. — Federal jurors convicted three men on Wednesday of plotting to blow up an apartment complex where Somali refugees live and pray in Garden City, Kan. The domestic terrorism verdict came at a time when threats against religious and racial minorities are rising nationally, and the case drew interest from the highest levels of the Justice Department.

“The defendants in this case acted with clear premeditation in an attempt to kill people on the basis of their religion and national origin,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “That’s not just illegal — it’s immoral and unacceptable, and we’re not going to stand for it.”
The men, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, all of whom are white, appeared stoic as the verdicts were read at the federal courthouse in Wichita. Defense lawyers had tried to convince jurors that their clients were manipulated by the F.B.I., and had been unfairly targeted for exercising their rights to own guns and speak freely.
“He was a member of a militia. He loved his guns. This was a lifestyle,” Melody Brannon, a lawyer for Mr. Allen, told the mostly white jury. “The government tried to criminalize that lifestyle.”
The trial, which played out over about a month, focused on a period before the 2016 presidential election when a paid F.B.I. informant infiltrated a militia group that included the three men and secretly recorded hours of their conversations.
The 3 men were motivated by Trump's anti-muslim talk

Politics were front and center throughout the trial, with defense lawyers portraying the F.B.I. as a bullying-government force that used its informant to steer their clients from hateful speech to violent plotting. The courtroom critiques of the F.B.I. came after a series of condemnations of the bureau by President Trump, who overwhelmingly carried Kansas in 2016.
Prosecutors, who built much of their case around the informant’s secret recordings, said that the men planned to carry out the bombing on Nov. 9, 2016, a day after voters selected a president.
“They wanted to send a message to the people living there that they’re not welcome in Garden City, they’re not welcome in southwest Kansas, they’re not welcome in the United States,” Tony Mattivi, a federal prosecutor, said during closing arguments.
The men, who called themselves “the Crusaders,” were arrested about four weeks before Election Day and charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against rights, which the Justice Department considers a hate crime. Mr. Wright was also charged with lying to the F.B.I. The three men were found guilty on all counts and face up to life in prison when they are sentenced in June.
The trial came amid a national escalation in threats against religious and racial minorities, especially Muslims, according to the F.B.I. and organizations that monitor hate crimes.
“It is now approaching the level of hate violence against the same communities that we saw in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks,” said Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT: South Asian Americans Leading Together, a national advocacy organization.
Ifrah Ahmed, a Somali resident of Garden City, said she found out about the verdicts when the police chief sent her a text message. Ms. Ahmed said she relayed the news to elders in the Somali community.
“I had faith that they were going to do what was right,” Ms. Ahmed said of the jurors. “Now we can all actually move on from it and bury it and know that justice is served.”
Prosecutors portrayed the Kansas defendants as aspiring domestic terrorists who planned to bomb the Somali apartments only after considering other attacks — on elected officials, churches that helped refugees and landlords who rented to immigrants.

Defense lawyers suggested that their clients had merely engaged in idle talk inspired partly by the 2016 election.
Stephen R. McAllister, the top federal prosecutor in Kansas, said the verdict showed the jury approved of the bureau’s tactics despite defense lawyers mounting what he described as “an attack on the F.B.I. itself.”
“The jury’s verdicts in this case are a vindication of outstanding investigative work and prosecution,” said Mr. McAllister, who was named to his post by Mr. Trump. “Terrorists, whether foreign or domestic, must be stopped and punished.”
The jury of six men and six women deliberated for about seven hours over two days.
The case forced jurors to decide when hateful rhetoric escalated from legal speech to evidence of a violent plot. Expletive-filled recordings of the men played before the jury contained repugnant, bigoted language, the defense lawyers said, but not a federal crime.
“It is not morally right to hold such hate, but it is not legally wrong,” said James Pratt, a lawyer for Mr. Stein, who acknowledged that his client referred to Muslims as “cockroaches.” Mr. Stein referred to himself, the recordings showed, as an “Orkin man,” referencing the pest extermination company.
“We all have the right to hate,” Mr. Pratt added.
Mr. McAllister rejected the suggestions of a First Amendment infringement.
“I don’t view this as a prosecution of speech at all,” Mr. McAllister said. “This was a prosecution of speech coupled with actions.”
Still, defense lawyers emphasized that no bombing took place, and no one was physically injured. They said the men lacked the ability or commitment to carry out such an attack. Mr. Pratt said his client was “all hat, no cattle,” meaning he was a big talker and little more.
“Unfortunately for Patrick,” Mr. Pratt said, “the government was willing to provide the cattle.”
Garden City is a racially diverse place about 200 miles west of Wichita with around 27,000 residents. Many Somalis and other immigrants have moved to the area to work at a nearby meatpacking plant.
The apartment complex that prosecutors say was targeted is a center of Somali life in Garden City. Many refugee families live in units of the complex; others come to pray in a makeshift mosque inside one unit.
Moussa Elbayoumy, who chairs the board of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the verdict affirmed his faith in the justice system.
“The instance was troubling, was concerning. People were afraid,” Mr. Elbayoumy said in a phone interview. “But after that, they put this behind them and moved on with their lives.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What is the "The Silurian Hypothesis"

Ancient Indus Valley Civilization settlement
Tom recently read a fascinating white paper on "The Silurian Hypothesis" - a paper authored by a scientist in the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and we thought we'd share it with you! 

WHAT IS THE SILURIAN HYPOTHESIS?  - Using observation, what we know based on the observation of our own planet/sun/solar system, there's this paradox that the window of time where an advanced civilization exists is minutely small when compared to the lifespan of a star or planet.  The paradox being that the longer a civilization lasts the more opportunity that they will have a record of their existence.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN? It stands to reason that an advanced civilization will become more sustainable over time in order to prolong its existence, meaning that it will actually reduce its footprint on a planet's surface, and reduce bad behaviors that are damaging to its environment.  
Earth from NASA's EPIC Camera on DSCOVR spacecraft. Cr: NASA

ENTER THE "DRAKE EQUATION" -The paper explains the Drake Equation, which was developed in the 1960s, but has been modified recently to include the "pessimism line" - using the earth and humans, and how long it has taken for homo sapiens to evolve, that the number of intelligent species will most likely be limited to 1 per planet/star.  

SO, WHAT DOES THE DRAKE EQUATION DO? The Drake Equation is a formula, a scientifically accepted framework, that calculates how many such civilizations can exist in a given galaxy.  

Monday, May 14, 2018

Idiot of the Week: Texas Board of Education member George Clayton

"Idiot of the Week" seems to be a blog reader favorite, and there's truly no shortage of idiots. In this case its George Clayton, a Republican from a Texas school board. Clayton asked in tweet to Drake Johnson, a (super-intelligent) African American man who got accepted to Harvard, if the young man was “ admitted on merit or quota?”
 And congratulations to Drake Johnson.

Here's the story from the
Former Texas education official apologizes for questioning student’s Harvard acceptance
BY MORGAN GSTALTER - 04/24/18 10:10 AM EDT

A former Texas state education official apologized on Monday for questioning if a biracial California high school student’s acceptance to Harvard University was earned through “merit” or to fulfill a “quota.”

George Clayton, a former member of the Texas State Board of Education, apologized for his remarks, saying it was “totally out of character” for him to make such a comment.

“What I said in my remarks was totally wrong and hugely insensitive,” Clayton said in a tweet. “My shame hangs heavy in my heart. It was totally out of character for me to make such a hurtful comment. I am, of course, humbled by my words and sincerely sorry for them.”
What I said in my remarks was totally wrong and hugely insensitive. My shame hangs heavy in my heart. It was totally out of character for me to make such a hateful comment. I am, of course humbled by my words and sincerely sorry for them. George Clayton

— George Clayton (@SBOEDist12) April 23, 2018
Clayton had questioned Drake Johnson's acceptance to Harvard.

The California senior tweeted a photo of himself on Wednesday holding his Harvard acceptance letter and sporting the Ivy League university’s sweatshirt, adding: “It’s official, I’m Harvard bound.”

“Congrats,” Clayton responded. “Were you admitted on merit or quota?”

Congrats. Were you admitted on merit or quota?

— George Clayton (@SBOEDist12) April 20, 2018
The exchange, originally reported by The Dallas Morning News, caused severe backlash online.

Clayton says in his Twitter bio that he is again a candidate for the state school board, but there is reportedly no record of his filing.

Clayton originally declined to comment to the publication, saying that he has retired from public life.

Johnson thanked Clayton before listing off his accomplishments at Marina High School that gained him a spot at the university.

“Valedictorian, ASB President, World Champion, good SAT, and a couple handfuls of other involvements, so I would think merit?” Johnson wrote.

Johnson was accepted to 10 schools, including Dartmouth College and Brown University, according to the Monterey County Herald. He told the Morning News that he wanted to craft a response to Clayton that would “civilly defuse” the situation.

"I wanted some subtle way to prove him wrong, but not be aggressive," he said. "I thought that was the best way to civilly defuse the situation and clearly show I was accepted on merit."

Jeanie Johnson, Drake’s mother, told the Mornings News she found Clayton’s tweet racist.

"Why do you care, and why are you asking that particular question to a kid who is clearly of some type of mixed race?" she asked. "That is just so frustrating."

People from all over the world, however, took to Twitter to offer Johnson their congratulations.

Donna Bahorich, the current chair of the Texas State Board of Education, congratulated Johnson, writing he is a "young man who is going places and deserves ONLY accolades and a big high five."

Gift/Memorial Suggestions

Several of our friends have lost loved ones (human and pets) and we found that one of the best ways to honor their memory is to give to an animal charity.
What better way to recognize a life of love, than by giving another life a chance for love?
We donate to many animal rescues, but because we volunteer with
DC Weimaraner Rescue and Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue, those are our 2 favorites.
Consider giving the chance of life to a dog or cat.

About us

We're two married guys who enjoy the simple things in life, especially our dogs. We volunteer for dog rescues, enjoy splitting dinners, exercising, blogging, helping friends and neighbors, ghost investigations, coffee and tea, Tudor history, weather, superheroes, comic books, mystery novels, traveling, 70s and 80s music, classic country, piano, gardening, writing books on ghosts and spirits, architecture, keeping a clean house, cooking simply, and keeping in shape. You'll find tidbits of all of these things on this blog and more.

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!
Wondering what home project to do next