Sunday, March 6, 2022

Visa has picked the wrong way to "support" Ukraine

Visa (and Mastercard) are suspending operations in Russia. Specifically, as regards Visa, cards issued inside Russia will not work outside of Russia, and cards issued outside Russia will not work inside Russia. Who does this hurt? Not the Russian government, which is responsible for the invasion into Ukraine. It hurts Russian citizens traveling outside Russia and non-Russian citizens traveling inside Russia (generalizing here to citizens having his Visa cards issued from their country of citizenship). Say you're doing business, vacation, mission work, or other general travel, and suddenly you are unable to pay for your hotel, buy food, or pay for travel, you're stuck in a foreign land with your payment means unavailable (assuming you didn't convert a bunch of cash to local currency upon arrival). Not sure that move by Visa (and Mastercard) is in the best interest of their customers, or that it will have much impact on pressuring the Russian government to end its invasion. (Not saying we shouldn't be doing things, just that we shouldn't be doing the wrong things and instead we should be doing the right things. Maybe Visa and Mastercard could, instead of stranding their customers, donate the profits from the fees on the use of their cards, Russian outside Russia and non-Russian inside Russia, to defense or humanitarian relief in Ukraine.)

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Welcome to 2022!

Happy new year! I left off my blog posts mid-May of 21, and there's no guarantee that 22 will be any more regular than 21, but we'll see. At least 21 ended much less eventfully (and less expensively) than 2020. Since the last post in May, my wife has taken the position of preschool director at our church's preschool, and what a first half year it's been for her! She's often at work well before 7 am and not home till after 6 pm, and I've taken up a lot of cooking (I do like to eat, so it was of necessity, at least at first). I've found I actually enjoy it much of the time, and many (but not all) of the meals have been pretty good. Maybe I'll share some recipes with you sometime (the oddest things I've cooked so far: squid bodies in a Brazilian black rice recipe and Szechuan peppercorns in Mapo Tofu). And maybe I'll get back to blogging. And maybe the next post will be more entertaining. Until then, though, happy new year, and a topato! Oh, and here's a picture of some turkeys: 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

30 years and Anakeesta

30 years. Not a short time. But that's how long I've been married to the girl who colors my world!

There she is.

To celebrate 30 years together, we decided to go on a trip. We ended up in Sevierville, TN, in Pigeon Forge and near Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. Part of that trip included visiting Anakeesta, a theme park built after the great Gatlinburg fire of 2016, which burned much of Gatlinburg and Sevier county (claiming 14 lives and over 2,500 homes and businesses). 

To get to Anakeesta takes a chair lift ride up a mountain:

But she wouldn't watch, eyes closed just about the whole way up:

Granted, we were sitting in a chair with a non-locking, single bar across our laps (that we pulled down ourselves), quite a ways off the ground (several stories, although I'm not good at estimating height, so I won't try to give you a definitive number).

But once we got to the top, it was very nice (note: the price of admission is probably a bit higher than it should be, but it's got a lot of "adventure" things that kids would enjoy, as well as great views, neat sights, and, of course, that long open chair ride up and down the mountain). But someone spilled some paint:

Oh, she did it:

Should have known. Anyway, they have a large tower for lovely views of the mountains, Gatlinburg, and surrounding areas:

The bike is for "display only" and asks "do not ride"... but we did walk up to the tower.

It was a lot of steps, but we made it! And what a view:

They even have "glass" floors you can walk on to look down:

Some people wouldn't walk on them, though. But we did get some other nice photo opportunities:

And took a walk on the treeline swinging bridge:

And took a walk through the "Bear Adventure":

A lot of fun was had by all. We also got to see an American Flag made from flowers:

And a particularly noteworthy visitor:

And I'm not talking about the guy in the foreground of the above picture; instead, look pretty much center of the picture and find a large, black, four-legged creature that decided to come for a visit. Before too long, as he got too close to the park areas, he was shooed back into the forest by the park staff.

But we had plenty of opportunities to relax and just enjoy the views:

And then there was this glorious photo set, closing in the whole way:

Then we had the oddly less-harrowing chair ride back down the mountain:

It was a fun day. And before we spent the day at Anakeesta, we shot a round of "Hillbilly Golf" - which we highly recommend if you visit Gatlinburg. After taking a tram ride up the side of a hill (or mountainside), you get to play 18 holes of putt-putt back down the hill (not all the way down; there's still another tram ride back to the bottom). There are two courses, and if you go back within a few days, you'll get to play again for under half the price (just have to bring your scorecard back), so you can play both sides of the mountain. As it turns out, we tied:

I guess we're just perfectly matched! Then again, we have made it 30 years in marriage, so I guess we'd better be!

We ended the day (well, the "out" part of the day) at the Gaucho Urbano Brazilian Steakhouse - our first experience at a Brazilian steakhouse - and it was delicious. We both left completely stuffed, and went back to the condo to just sit on the couch and watch some TV and do nothing while our digestive tracts got to work. We may have dozed off a few times while watching TV.

And that's just one day of our adventure celebrating 30 years of marriage. Yesterday we hiked through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (saw a small waterfall, an old cabin, lots of woods, and hiked a half mile up one of the highest points of the Smokies and then up Clingmans Dome for amazing views. The park was extremely busy, and we hadn't planned to go to Clingmans Dome, but the parking area for the trailhead we planned to take was completely full. And a word of warning: although that half mile hike to Clingmans Dome is paved, I think it's also about a full mile in vertical ascent (not really, but it felt like it!), and the temps up there - both on the trail and at the Dome - are quite chilly, and windy, even when it's fine elsewhere in the Smokies. We had planned for hiking, but not for cold, windy, somewhat damp hiking-in-clouds, and we were very glad to get back to the car where it wasn't quite so frigid! The car's external thermometer showed 49 degrees as we drove away, and I think it may have been close to that (even though it was at or near 70 at lower elevations in the park).

What will tomorrow hold? Not sure yet; we're taking this adventure one day at a time!