The amazing garbage vacuums of Germany – IN ACTION!

I’ve recently blogged about the garbage vacuums in Germany. So you can imagine my thrill and pleasure when I got the privilege to photograph one in action!

As you can see, even the small children took a small break from their very busy day to watch the two men.

And you can be sure to expect no less than ultra-cleanliness from the South Germans, so after sucking out the garbage, the big orange van is equipped with a high temperature steam sprayer, and the whole area is steam cleaned.

My guess is that the entire process, from driving up to the garbage area, sucking out the garbage, and steam cleaning it – the entire process took no more than 7 or 8 minutes.

Unbelievable!

The Euro Cruiser

The latest addition to my personal fleet is a 150 PS, 2.0L 2017 Peugeot Business Traveller van that comfortably seats 9 people:

The main way to interact with this vehicle seems to be the voice system, so I am in the process of learning dozens of voice activated commands.

By the way, it all began with the Urbana Cruiser, 20-year-old 1978 Oldsmobile that I bought for $200 from a good friend of mine, Andrei Botchkarev, one of the world’s most well-known semiconductor physicists.  It was too cool to resist giving it a name.

The tradition continued with the Zürich Cruiser.

The amazing parking lot geese of Chicago Heights

Europeans often don’t believe me when I tell them about the American phenomena known as parking lot geese, so I was pleased and privileged to be able to make this snap on a recent visit to Chicago:

Although these are wild birds, they have absolutely no fear of humans.  In fact, while visiting Champaign, Illinois on the same trip, I came across another parking lot gaggle, and I was surprised to see one of the geese wearing a tag:

In fact, here you can read about an interesting encounter I had with parking lot geese many years ago.

The amazing Italian beef sandwiches of Chicago Heights

This looks like my Italian Beef sandwich, but it was not my Italian Beef sandwich:

On a recent trip to Chicago, I was pleased and privileged to order an Italian Beef sandwich at my favorite restaurant for this specialty, the Perros Brothers in Chicago Heights. I haven’t been here in nearly 20 years, and I was pleased it was still standing:

I always thought this was a great place for Italian Beef sandwiches, but by surfing to their website I only just now learned they are a top rated diner in Chicago!

Sadly, not a lot of people know about Italian Beef sandwiches, even people who travel to Chicago. It’s a sandwich of extremely thin slices of beef that are cooked in a spicy broth. Generally, it helps to eat it with a fork: usually either the broth is poured over the sandwich, or else (and this seems to be the most common approach, to order “an Italian beef sandwich with a dip“) the entire sandwich is dipped into the broth, totally soaking the bread.

Perpetual pursuit of the perfect purse

A guest blog, by Arlene Ritley

Hello, my name is Arlene.  And yes I am addicted to buying new purses and handbags.

I currently have, at last count, at least fifteen handbags.  Some are very expensive and come with their own dust bag.  Others are fine leather ones I purchased at discount, paying very little considering the quality of the leather and trim.  Some are made of fabric not to be used when we have inclement weather.

Some people make fun of me – “What! Another purse?”  I simply laugh it off and say I really needed a new one.  I often give them as gifts for birthdays or Christmas.  I fool myself into thinking all my women friends are just waiting for a new handbag.

I have given much thought as to when this obsession had started.  I have come to the conclusion that it started when I was about seven or eight years old making my First Holy Communion.  My mom and I went shopping to buy a communion dress and veil.  But along with the ensemble there was a very small white purse with a gold religious emblem sewn on the front with a prayer book inside.  How could you not feel special carrying this purse?

But like all items people obsess over, the euphoric feeling doesn’t last long.  And before you know it you will find me in the handbag section of the department store.

BUT – this all changed.  Finally, finally I found the one purse that fulfills my every requirement.  It is large but not too large.  It has an opening on the outside for a cell phone plus a charger.  Once I open the zipper of the main compartment I find six compartments to hold everything I need.  I’ll never have to buy another purse again!

(Who am I kidding?  Just thinking about not purchasing another purse makes my hands shake; I feel dizzy, nauseated and agitated.  Am I addicted – you bet your bottom dollar I am.)


 

This guest blog was submitted by Arlene Ritley, an editor with the Island Moon Newspaper – one of South Texas’s largest community newspapers.

 

The amazing crawling crawfish of Chicago Heights

On a recent trip to Chicago, while cruising down a side street parallel to the world-famous Cicero boulevard in Chicago Heights, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a giant crawfish walking down the street:

On both sides of the street there were nothing but cornfields, but the previous night there was a torrential thunderstorm. I can only assume that the rain washed this big fellow out of whatever pond he was living in.

Blodelsheim Sprinkler

I’ve always wanted to try photographing these things, but until now I never have. This is my first photograph of one. I felt I could have got some spectacular shots, even in the dark and overcast weather, but I did not feel like crushing the hardworking Alsacian farmer’s corn.

The great swallow plague of Rumersheim le Haut

Well, there was probably never a plague of swallows at the tiny hamlet in Alsace called Rumersheim le Haut. In fact, while there have been plagues of locusts and plagues of disease, there was probably never a plague of swallows, anywhere.

But nevertheless I could not believe my eyes when I came across this bird house, right smack dab in the middle of the village:

If you look closely, you’ll see not only that it was designed to withstand a F5 tornado (which has never happened in Alsace, either) and that it sports tiny gray swallow enclosures on the underside of the platform.

There must have been swallow babies in there, because I could hear them squeaking.

Räterschen Rätsel

Or in English, the Riddle of Räterschen.

First things first, this is NOT the Räterschen Rätsel. This is just a nice little spider snacking on a bug she caught:

But I took the snap in the tiny village of Räterschen, just outside of Elsau in North Central Switzerland – and that is the mystery!

For you see, in the North of Germany, the diminutive form of nouns in German is “-chen” appended to the end of the noun.  (Example: Mädchen = little Hamburg girl.) As you head south, the “-chen” is replaced with “-le.” (Example: Mädle = little Schwabian girl.)  As you head even more south, the “-le” is replaced with “-li.” (Example: Mädli = little Swiss girl.)  If you keep heading south, nobody really knows what happens, because you run into the area called Wallis – and there they speak a form of German that is so hugely different than anything else, even to this date linguists have never really figured it out; some linguists even believe that due to the majestic, magnificent Swiss Alps in this area, the locals have no words for the concept of “small.”

And so the mystery is: why does a tiny village nestled deep within North Switzerland have a North Germanic name?

 

Dirty Harry on the Sihl

There is a small river called the Sihl, and it runs parallel to a shopping center in Zürich known as Sihlcity. And on a concrete pillar is a rather nice depiction of Dirty Harry.

I’m not sure why it’s there, but it is located only about 200 m from one of the largest movie theaters in Zürich – so maybe that is somehow related?

Urban Mysteries – 1

There are a number of urban mysteries for me.

One mystery is why they paint tall structures with red and white.

This is a snap I took of a transmission tower in Alsace in France:

And this is a snap I took of a nuclear cooling tower in New York:

The mystery is why different countries use exactly the same approach?  Is this an international ISO standard?

(By the way, that big dome in the photo above is the enclosure to the nuclear reactor. I was only around 20 years old at the time, but I had a security clearance to work on the so-called operations deck from which they directly controlled the reactor.  I was quite probably the youngest person in America to have this clearance. It was quite cool because there was a retina scanner to get in, and once you entered you walked into a metal cage. Once in the cage, one guard pointed a gun at you while the other checked your badge.  This was the 1980’s, the Cold War was in full swing, and they didn’t take any chances.)

Dangerous cajuns in the Atchafalaya

One of my passions are the swamps of the southern United States.  Here’s a nice shot of some mangrove trees taken from my canoe in the Atchafalaya swamp in Louisiana:

Interesting story: a good friend of mine, Seargent Major Bill Thrasher of the United States Marine Corps was quite concerned I was planning to vacation in this area.  This was the early 1990’s, and he told me he would go on training missions deep in the these swamps. “Ken,” he said, “there’s some awful people living back there. You’re likely to just disappear. Whole families live deep in the swamps and most of their kids don’t even have names.

Well, I didn’t disappear – but I did see quite a few wooden shacks where people were living, as well as a few people on boats with guns and fishing poles. They didn’t seem too inclined to stop and talk with me.