Atlantis Alumni

Monday, May 31, 2010

New Homecoming Queen Beach DeBree

Our friend and neighbor Troy Files blew the competition away last night to become Cherry Grove's new Homecoming Queen. Here she is moments after she won the crown.

Happy Anniversary To Us!

Memorial Day we celebrate our anniversary...we met 27 years ago at a holiday gathering.

Friday, May 28, 2010

No Conscience Obama

George Lakoff over at Huffington on Obama's lack of moral compass:

Crises are opportunities. He has consistently missed them. This was a grand opportunity to pull together the threads -- BP and the spill, Massey and the mine disaster, Wall Street and the economic disaster, Anthem BlueCross and health care, the Arizona Immigration Law, Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- even Afghanistan. The press threw him fastballs straight down the middle, and he hit dribblers every time.

St. Michael's Cathedral In Kiev

Here is a photo I took of the beautiful domes of St. Michaels in Kiev.

From Wiki:

St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery (Ukrainian: Михайлівський золотоверхий монастир; translit.: Mykhaylivs’kyi zolotoverkhyi monastyr; Russian: Михайловский златоверхий монастырь; translit.: Mikhaylovsky zlatoverkhy monastyr) is a functioning monastery in Kiev, Ukraine. The monastery is located on the Western side of the Dnieper River on the edge of a bluff northeast of the St. Sophia Cathedral. The site is located in the historic and administrative Uppertown and overlooks the city's historical commercial and merchant quarter, the Podil neighbourhood.

Originally built in the Middle Ages by Sviatopolk II Iziaslavych,[1][2] the monastery comprises the Cathedral itself (Mykhaylivs’kyi zolotoverkhyi sobor), the refectory of St. John the Divine, built in 1713, the Economic Gates (Ekonomichna vrata), constructed in 1760 and the monastery's bell tower, which was added circa 1716–1719. The exterior of the structure was rebuilt in the Ukrainian Baroque style in the 18th century while the interior remained in its original Byzantine style.[3] The cathedral was demolished by the Soviet authorities in the 1930s, but was recently reconstructed after Ukraine gained its independence.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Land Of The Cossacks

One of the most enjoyable experiences we had in Ukraine was the Cossack horsemanship show we saw in a small town along the Dnieper River. The Cossacks were eliminated from Ukraine but a small colony has returned. Here is an example of a Cossack costume worn by one of the performers we saw.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Beauty On Stage In Kiev

The Kiev Opera is very busy even at this time of the year. Even though we were only in town for one brief half day, we did take in a ballet performance. THe ballet we saw was Spartacus, by Katchaturian. It is a three hour, three act spectacle that featured lots of bravura dancing and many attractive dancers!

Monday, May 24, 2010

To Sum Up Our Trip To Ukraine

Overall I would rate the trip as good. The Black Sea portion...Odessa, Sevastopol and Yalta was the best part. We took most of the optional excursions which were worthwhile. Kiev was also good although we didn't have enough time there, as sailed South to North. We had a very rough night sailing on the Black Sea with high seas and a rolling ship. The small towns along the Dnieper River are not very interesting, with the exception of the Cossack Show we saw, which was excellent. Food on board was good if a bit bland, rooms are clean if a bit small and spartan. A big problem was unreliable internet service.

It was rewarding to see this most interesting part of the world.

Kiev And The Return Home

This is a city view of Kiev, a vibrant big modern city that is a world apart for the sleepy countryside and the dull grey appearing towns with their block architecture along the Dnieper river to the South.

We packed a lot into our short stay tour and a visit to the Minastery of the Caves, capping the day off with a ballet performance at the opera house.

The trip home went smoothly. It just took a long time and was exhausting.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Final Days On The Dnieper River

Today we toured another industrial town on the Dnieper...there was not too much to see, just a small city museum. However, we have now seen what life is like for the majority of Ukrainians...not very good. The recession has hit this country hard. There is a tiny rich elite, and a very small middle class, but the overwhelming majority here are living, as one of our guides put it, from day to day. Most live in Stalin inpired apartment complexes that look like blocks of concrete. The average salary is perhaps 300 dollars a month. Pensioners get 100 a month. Very few have medical insurance and must rely on state owned hospitals for basic care. In many ways, even though the contry is now supposedly a democracy, it still has the feel of an old Soviet style satellite republic. Part of the reason is that the people who are the leaders are the same ones who were in power before the breakup of the Soviet Union. Corruption is rampant. More than half of the economy is underground. In spite of their living conditions, the people here are honest and sweet, and they are hopeful for a better future. I am hopeful for them as well.

Tomorrow we arive at our final destination on this trip, the city of Kiev...prounced here KEEV. We will have a full afternoon touring, then dinnier and to bed. Our flight back to the States begin at 5 AM Sunday morning. It has been a most interesting trip and experience. We have much to tell.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ukrainian Tea Time

We just had tea at 5 PM and a wonderful assortment of cakes, pastries and Ukrianian goodies like pancakes with honey and sour cream. After this cruise we will have to get serious once again about eating properly. And dinner is in only about another hour and a half.

I can rent a laptop on board to use in lieu of my sick machine, so at least I will be able to keep up with all of the reaally wonderful news like reports on the oil still gushing into the Gulf, N ans S Korea going at each other, and the stock market tanking again. Sheesh. Can not do email though, but Troy if you see our ad in the APCG program.


Today we're docked in this large industrial city on the Dnieper River. We did a city tour and viewed the city which has been largely reconstructed post WW II. There was a lot of destruction during the Nazi occupation here.

My laptop computer died, so I'm at an internet cafe at the moment.

One of the most fun things we did during the last few days on the river was the Cossack horsemanship demonstration we saw yesterday in Zaporozhye. It really was quite entertaining. Not only do the Cossacks ride well, they also can use a whip with precision and with great comic touches, as some of our shipmates discovered a little too close for comfort!

So without a working computer anymore, I will have to resort to the comfort of the tasty Ukrainian Vodka that is in abundance here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cruising The Dnieper River

We have made our way into the heart of the Southern Ukraine. Our boat is now slowly making its way up river. Yesterday (Tuesday) we made a stop at a small island near the city of Kherson where linens and the usual Ukrainian souvenirs were available. This morning its overcast with light rain. We'll be cruising until sometime this afternoon when we will have to the opportunity to tour another of the cities along this very large river, one of the largest in Europe.

This part of our vacation is anticlimatic after visiting Odessa, Sevastopol, and Yalta on the Black Sea. We're looking forward to our visit to Kiev on Saturday. In the meantime for the next three days we'll relax and see what the interior of the Ukraine is like.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wonderful Yalta...but a rough Black Sea Crossing!

What a pleasure it was to spend two days in Yalta, the “Riviera of the Ukraine.” Yalta is another of those special cities in the world, such as Rio De Janeiro, that enjoys a beautiful natural setting. In Yalta in the background there are high mountain peaks, at lower elevations lush greenery, and finally the sea coast. Development all along the coast is in evidence with large apartment/condo complexes built or being built everywhere.

On day two we started with a tour of the beautiful Vorontsov Palace, located in Aloupka about a half hour east of the center of Yalta. The palace was built in the mid nineteenth century by Count Vorontsov, who among other things, served as ambassador to the UK. The Count engaged the architect Edward Blore, who worked, with others, on Buckingham Palace. The palace is situated near the water in an area that has striking sharp mountain peaks as a backdrop. There are extensive gardens surrounding the palace. The complex is one of the most beautiful seaside estates one could imagine.

At midday on Monday we set sail for the Dnieper River. This trip entails a crossing of the Black Sea. One of the big surprises of this “River Boat’ trip is that about half of the trip is actually a sea cruise. Before long we encountered rough seas. For the next 24 hours the boat sailed across the Black Sea with high waves pounding the bow as the boat pitched up and down. Waves and spray splashed against the cabin windows and walking on deck became perilous. The captain was forced to cancel shipboard events and our arrival at our next port was delayed by several hours. This was the roughest sea voyage that I can remember taking!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sunday In Yalta

Sunday was a beautiful day here in Yalta on the Black Sea. This is a busy resort town with a seaside promenade and lots of vacationers from the North (Russians, etc. not other Western Europeans) enjoying themselves. The water is warm and clear if a bit rough at times. There are beaches for people to sun themselves and go swimming.

We started Sunday with a trip to Libadia Palace (The White Palace), the site of the famous Yalta conference that took place in February of 1945. Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin came together to discuss the course of the war and make plans for the postwar era at that conference. The palace is a beautiful, sparkling edifice made out of while limestone. The first floor is dedicated to the conference with many photographs in each room showing participants in the various meeting rooms. The palaces was built by the last Tzar Nicholas The Second in the early 1900s. The second floor of the palace contains photos of the Russian royal family in the various rooms.

Later in the afternoon we visited the summer home of the writer Anton Checkov, who came here to Yalta briefly around 1900 for his health. He stayed only a short time in Yalta before returning to Moscow. The home features a lovely garden and contains many of Checkov’s family possessions including a piano on which Rachmaninoff played accompanying the great singer Chaliapin.

We will take another excursion this morning before setting sail once again. Our course will take us across the Black Sea to the Dneiper River, where we will begin out trip Nort to Kiev.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Blather Factor

Are you familiar with the "Blather Factor"? The blather factor is all of the bloviating nonsense I have to listen to from the right. Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush and Bill O'Reilly are top of the list. Oh yes, and please spare me the bullshit comparison that the "left" does the same thing. The two can rarely be equated.

Palin is the next up and coming right wing pundit. Her sentences are usually barely coherent thus even the retards that hold her dear have to do a double take when she manages to puke out an entire thought. Ann Coulter seems to have decided to remove herself from the land of the outrageous for the time being, not coincidentally when the mentally impaired Sarah Palin stumbled in. I guess Ann, like the people of Dune, saw some "wormsign" and decided to run for solid ground.

Arianna Huffington, Greg Palast, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow aren't even close. please don't lump them in with the Fox owned, right wing political mouth machine. They actually use facts to back up their arguements and journalism to prove a point. And the above right wing jerk offs twist the story so much and so hard that any resemblance to jounalism is purely coincidental.

So now you know my thoughts on Rush, Hannity and crew. I do things in my country for other people. I volunteer. Free of charge. I give my time to those as fortunate as me and less fortunate. I give money and stuff to people in need. I've given my expertise to people that need help. I've helped other Americans and hopefully I make some small impact. I'm not Mother Theresa but I try. I also have a degree from a good school that I earned. Matter of fact, I can say that every academic achievement I have was earned with blood. Wasn't easy, but I did it. I've worked hard pretty much since I was 13. No way around working, I just did it and continue to do so.

So I am curious, what have the pundits done? What achievements do they have? I'm curious, because they aren't public servants, they make huge amounts of cash and they aren't really experts on anything, at least as far as I can tell. I find vastly more valor and honor in any kind of labor, starting with the guy that cleans the toilets at a rest stop all the way up to your most sophisticated doctor or attorney. Both sets of people work their asses off, even if the pay is sometimes lopsided or out of whack.

So again, I post the question as I watch blathering heads on Sunday morning that claim to have knowledge but are really only spewing gobbly gook that nobody cares about except other pundits: what have they done to earn their position? And can't somebody make them shut the fuck up?


Sevastopol - Yalta

Saturday was a busy day for us here in the Ukraine. It was our second day in Sevastopol. We began with a tour of the city. The highlight was a visit to the hilltop fortifications overlooking the city. This was the site of two major defense of the city battles, one during the Crimean War in the 1850s and one during the Second World War. The land was so poisoned with metal from shells that new top soil had to be imported to allow for the restoration of greenery.

In the afternoon we visited the Panorama Museum, which features a 360 degree painting of one day in the Crimean War defense of Sevastopol. The painting depicts the battle scene at the fortification we visited earlier in the day. Afterwards we drove to the town on Balaclava where we visited the Cold War Museum, a nuclear hardened tunnel complex deep within a mountainside built to shelter submarines. Stalin ordered it built shortly before he died in the early 50s. It was completed around 1968 but was closed before long as it could not accommodate large nuclear powered subs. It was eerie to be there, as Dan said.

In the evening we were treated to a lovely band concert performed by the Ukrainian Black Sea Fleet band, singers and dancers. The typically Russian-sounding music was well performed.

Overnight we sailed for Yalta. We arrived at this beautiful resort town during the night. This morning we will take a city tour which includes a visit to the famous White Palace, the site of the famous meeting of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin late in 1945.

I still can’t access my Yahoo email or post pictures here on my blog, but I hope those who are following our trip here will at least enjoy these written recaps of our adventures.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

More From The Ukraine

Dan and I are enjoying a riverboat cruise in the Ukraine. For the first few days we're actually sailing on the Black Sea. We started our trip in Odessa and now we're in Sevastopol. Sevastopol until recently was a closed Russian military base. With Ukrainian independence the city has been opened even though it still serves as a naval base now for both the Russian and Ukrainian navys. The photo at the URL below shows some of the warships docked near ours.

The weather is pretty nice here, like back home in Philly...springtime. The food on board our ship is excellent. We've already attended a ballet performance at the beautiful Odessa opera house, and done quite a bit of touring of the Ukrainian countryside both in Odessa and Sevastopol. Sevastopol is located on the Crimean penninsula. There is much history here dating back to the Crimean War of the mid 19th century. Yesterday we saw the valley that was the site of the famous charge of the Light Brigade.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sevastopol - Where to begin?

It’s 9:30 PM Friday and I’m in the lobby of the Hotel Sebastopol in Sevastopol, Ukraine. This is a city that until very recently was closed to the outside world, even the people of the Ukraine, because it was a secret naval base of the USSR navy. Today it still hosts the navy of the USSR and the navy of the Ukraine Republic. This is the only place in town that I can get internet access. In a lot of ways this country has not as yet caught up to modernity. But it is unique and wonderful in its own way.

To back up a bit, yesterday we finished a great day in Odessa with a ballet performance at the lovely Odessa Opera house. The show was most enjoyable. The program was a tribute to Rudolph Nureyev with live orchestra. The final pax de duex with two male dancers made the program and I’m sure Nureyev would have approved.

Overnight we sailed to Sevastopol. We arrived in the early afternoon and went on a tour or an unusual TarTar palace about an hour outside of town. Then Dan and I walked into town in search of an internet access point. We stopped at the reconstructed cathedral. The candles, incense, and live chant were entrancing. I hope the photograph cponveys a liottle of the unique and beautiful setting.

Tomorrow we have a full day of touring nearby. Internet access continues to be challenging but I hope to be able to sty in touch as we make our way North to Kiev during the next 10 days.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blocked In The Ukraine?

It seems like Yahoo and AOL are blocked here...I can get the New York Times and EBAY but not Yahoo. This means we can't read our email so if you have sent us a message we can't read it or acknowledge it. Today we are taking a city tour of Odessa. Then we will hopefully see histroric Jewish Odessa in the afternoon. This evening we are going to a ballet performance at the Odessa opera house. The weather is warm and sunny. So far the food on board is pretty good. We're experimenting by ordering lots of different dishes. Last night we had fish and a delicious mushroom quiche, among other dishes.

The End OF the Earth

We’re not in Kansas anymore, if we ever were. We’re on board the Viking Lomonosov in Odessa, Ukraine, on the Black Sea. Internet service? You have to be kidding. I can’t post pics, only some text, and no service the next few days while we’re at sea. But we’ll see a lot of interesting sites. But in the meantime I can't even access my Yahoo web based email...holy crap!

Arrived Safely In Odessa, Ukraine

We made it, and so did our bags. We actually had to fly a huge circle North of the Volcano in Iceland to get here. It's 4 PM here on Wednesday (9 AM EDT) and we're getting acclimated. Internet access is spotty but stay tuned!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Elena Kagan And Gay Marriage

“there is no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage.” - Elena Kagan

Question: Is there a federal constitutional right to opposite-sex marriage?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fire Island Flora And Fauna

At the feeder this morning: a House Finch and an Eastern Towhee:

The Beach Plum blossoms in the early Spring turning the dunes white with floral snow that lasts for about a week:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gay Bishop Robinson Scolds Pope Ratzinger

Openly gay Episcopal Bishop V. Eugene Robinson writes to paparatzi:

You will not rid your church of sexual abuse by throwing homosexuals out of your seminaries or out of the priesthood. Homosexual priests have faithfully and responsibly served God throughout Catholic history. To scapegoat them and deprive them of their pulpits is a tragedy for the people they serve and for the church. Yours is a problem of abuse, not sexual orientation.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Yet Another Catastrosphe

Arianna Huffington...
What was just a troubling oil spill a week ago is now, according to Interior Secretary Salazar, "potentially...very catastrophic." In other words, it's much worse than we thought. Has there ever been a crisis in the last decade that turned out to be better than we thought it was going to be? Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, the housing bubble, the foreclosure and unemployment crises -- all much worse than we thought they would be.