SYW: Psychic Octopus, Famous People and Peanut Butter Jokes

Melanie has come up with a new set of questions this week for Share Your World.

QUESTIONS: 

Do you think psychic abilities exist? Yes, and I even know of a psychic octopus. I think some people have a high degree of sensitivity and connectivity to others. There are people who know when something has happened to one of their children, for example. I also believe some people can communicate with spirits. I don’t think that, in general, people can predict the future. But the psychic octopus did!

In the summer of 2010, we were in Spain during the World Cup, which was taking place in South Africa. The Spanish team was doing very well and everyone was super excited. During the semi-finals and finals, there was an octopus named Paul – he lived in Germany, I believe. On the evening before each of the semi-final matches, two little flags would be affixed to the side of two containers in which there was the favorite octopus food, mussels. Each contained a few mussels and both were placed in Paul’s tank. Every game – and this is really true – Paul would eat the mussels from the container of the winning team, that is, the team whose flag was attached. Unfailingly, he predicted every game. Sometimes he might take a mussel or two from both containers, but always selected the majority from the winning team’s container. And, the night before the final, his food selection predicted that Spain would win. By now, nearly everyone believed in the octopus. And, in fact, Spain DID win the World Cup final – it was the first (and so far the only) time they won this coveted award.

After the game, people poured into the streets from the bars where they’d been watching, and there was an all-night party in the streets of central Madrid. A few days later, the team members arrived home from South Africa, and all along the Gran Via (a wide thoroughfare in central Madrid) people gathered, wearing red and yellow – the colors of the Spanish team (and flag) – to wait for the bus that would bring the victorious players down the avenue for the benefit of everyone’s adulation. One of the things people wore were yellow octopus hats! Because Paul had predicted their victory, he was inextricably linked to the 2010 World Cup.

How would you describe peanut butter to someone who didn’t know what it was? A very sticky substance combining pureed peanuts and butter, that you use to spread on bread or to add flavor to a stalk of celery. (My dad had a hilarious joke about peanut butter – well, it was hilarious to watch him tell it, as it required some “acting.” But his description while telling this joke would give the person a pretty good idea of what peanut butter is like!)

Why does an octopus squirt ink? To protect itself from predators – the ink hides it from view and may be an irritant to predators.

Who are two of today’s greatest entertainers in your opinion?  (can be actors, musicians, singers etc)
I always am reluctant to answer this type of question, because my tastes are out of the mainstream for the most part, and I don’t even recognize the names of the current mainstream of entertainers! However, Stephen Colbert of A Late Show is one we watch regularly, and he got us through 4 years of Trump! In a similar vein, I also like John Oliver, who takes on serious subjects but he always gets a few laughs out of me and I love his accent!

GRATITUDE SECTION (always optional)

Please feel free to share a moment of gratitude in your life! 
The unseasonably warm, beautiful weather we have been given the last few days – flowers are blooming and I’m wearing sandals and short pants!

Kinda Square: Markets

I’m back after a bit of a hiatus from blogging and participating in this challenge, so this time I’m including multiple photos for Becky’s October KindaSquare challenge, because there are many different KINDs of markets around the world!

WPC: Ornate

The word for the Weekly Photo Challenge this week is ornate.

The first thing that immediately comes to my mind when I think of the word “ornate” is Catherine’s Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. Like many royal palaces, this is a showcase of luxury, with room after room of walls decorated with gold. This style was particularly fashionable during the Baroque period, during which the majority of Catherine’s Palace was constructed.

This large hall was used for receptions or balls.

This large hall was used for receptions or balls.

KODAK Digital Still CameraThese pictures are just representative of the many ornate Baroque decorations found in this palace. The outside of the palace was also done in ornate Baroque style.

KODAK Digital Still CameraWith this display of luxury, I could see why the Russians had a revolution!

One of the rooms of Catherine’s Palace is “The Amber Room”, where photography was not allowed. This room is decorated from floor to ceiling using pieces of amber in various colors. This is a beautiful example of ornate at Catherine’s Palace. (Note: I downloaded these pictures from Google, since we were not allowed to take pictures in the Amber Room.)amber room wall

Amber tabletop

Amber tabletop

On the other hand, ornate does not have to mean “ostentatious”. When I was in Spain in 2010, our group of students visited Granada in the south, particularly the Moorish palace La Alhambra. This palace has been preserved for centuries due to European cultural sensibility, recognizing that such beauty should be preserved for future generations. The Muslims believe that nothing endures forever, except Allah. For this reason, their palaces were not made to be preserved for posterity. Furthermore, they did not “show off” their wealth like the European royals, such as the Russian czars. The outside of the palace of La Alhambra was not ornately decorated – it was stately and formidable, but the walls were plain, completely free of decoration. It was only when you were invited in that you would see the beauty of design.

Below are some pictures I took inside La Alhambra, exquisite examples of ornate.

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A sentence in Arabic "There is no victor but Allah" is repeated hundreds of times along with other repeated designs on ceramic tiles in The Throne Room of La Alhambra.

A sentence in Arabic “There is no victor but Allah” is repeated hundreds of times along with other repeated designs on ceramic tiles in The Throne Hall of La Alhambra.

The Throne Hall was the most important part of the palace, in which important meetings were held and important visitors were received. On the lower part of the walls are beautiful ceramic mosaics. Each mosaic is made up of smaller cut pieces, each one a solid color. In the middle of the wall are messages in Arabic, from the Koran. One of them says ¨”There is no other victor than Allah” which is repeated over 5000 times in the Alhambra. The Throne Hall is the most original part of the palace, that is, it contains more of the original designs and architecture than anywhere else at the Alhambra.

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Detail of ceiling. The ceiling of the Throne Hall is totally original, and it dates from the latter part of the 14th century. It is all made of wood, with cut pieces in mosaics to resemble a heaven full of stars. This represents the Islamic concept of "seventh heaven" (from which the saying is derived). In Islam, when you die you go to first heaven, then to 2nd, then to 3rd, etc., until you get to 6th heaven. To get to seventh heaven, which is Paradise, you must break through the stars and enter Paradise.

Detail of ceiling. The ceiling of the Throne Hall is totally original, and it dates from the latter part of the 14th century. It is all made of wood, with cut pieces in mosaics to resemble a heaven full of stars. This represents the Islamic concept of “seventh heaven” (from which the saying is derived). In Islam, when you die you go to first heaven, then to 2nd, then to 3rd, etc., until you get to 6th heaven. To get to seventh heaven, which is Paradise, you must break through the stars and enter Paradise. Allah dwells in Paradise.

Ornate is a totally human concept, I think. In nature you do not find examples of ornate. Nature’s beauty is in its majesty, color and simplicity. In fact, it is in nature that I find the the most wondrous beauty of all.

Walking: journey with the senses

I love to walk – it is my favorite form of exercise and of exploring. I consider every walk a journey, a mini-trip. There is always something to discover.

Walking is good for my health, both physical and mental. Physically, because it is an aerobic exercise, so it exercises the heart and muscles of the lower body. Breathing the (relatively) fresh air brings oxygen to the brain. Filling the sun on my face and the wind in my hair invigorates me. Studies show that the capacity for memory improves with walking.

Enjoying the sun and breeze on a walk near the beach.

Enjoying the sun and breeze on a walk near the beach.

Psychologically, walking is a way to “clear my head” – I can ponder a problem or issue and develop fresh insight. I feel refreshed after a walk due to having taken the time to be alone, to observe nature, and delight in small discoveries: the contrast of bright yellow flowers against a 20150722_133837dark-colored bush, a leaf with a drop of rain in the middle, or weirdly shaped mushrooms that pop up in people’s yards at random.

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20150721_193138When I travel, I much prefer walking. I walked all the time in Spain and covered a lot of ground – only took the Metro once the whole time I was in Madrid! Walking, rather than taking a bus or taxi, allows me to figure out where places are in relation to each other.

Strolling through Segovia, Spain, I noticed this man making music with cups filled with different amounts of water.

Strolling through Segovia, Spain, I noticed this man making music with cups filled with different amounts of water.

In Granada, we walked past this display of teas for sale; I stopped to take a picture.

In Granada, we walked past this display of teas for sale; I stopped to take a picture.

I don’t understand people who walk around with headphones on – they seem so unaware of their surroundings. When I walk, I like to take my time, listen to the sounds around me, and always have a camera handy! My husband wants to bike more, but I prefer walking because at a slower pace I notice a lot of details. During a winter thaw, I notice the ice melting into puddles

A March thaw - the ice breaking up resembles a river delta.

A March thaw – the ice breaking up resembles a river delta.

on the sidewalk and the mirror images of trees and other objects in the puddles. In the summer, I see children playing on a playground in the park and I hear their shouts of joy. I stop to take a drink of water at a cool water fountain and relish the cold water on my lips and in my throat. In my neighborhood, one of the most common smells is a rather bad one – we have a lot of skunks! However, there are good smells too, such as lilacs blooming in the springtime.

Walking allows me to explore with all my senses.

Sometimes I discover something unusual - like this abandoned Barbie in newly-mowed grass.

Sometimes I discover something unusual – like this abandoned Barbie in newly-mowed grass.

Blue heron on a pond near our local fitness center. There's a great walking path behind the building.

Blue heron on a pond near our local fitness center. There’s a great walking path behind the building.

A walking buddy and I decided to explore this trail along the Des Plaines River.

A walking buddy and I decided to explore this trail along the Des Plaines River.

My nephew, Mike taking a walk with his daughter, Sylvia in tow.

My nephew, Mike taking a walk with his daughter, Sylvia in tow.

ABC COUNTDOWN TO RETIREMENT: V is for Vacation

June 8, 2015

V is for Vacation, a teacher’s favorite word! I admit that having summers off was an closedforsummer_colorincentive for me to go into teaching. However, teaching is way too challenging and exhausting for that to be the appeal for long!

Teachers look forward to their vacations as much as their students do. Most schools in the U.S. have three vacation periods a year:  2 weeks for the holidays, 1 week in early spring, and 2 months in summer. Each one of these vacations is a chance to relax and rejuvenate, but summer represents the transition from the old to the new. By this time each year, everyone at school is anticipating the start of vacation. Kids are antsier than normal and teachers tend to have a more relaxed attitude too.

What exactly do we spend our summer vacations doing? Often students are asked to write “What I did on my summer vacation” paragraphs when they first go back to school in the fall. If I as a teacher were writing that, what would I say?

I'm on vacationIn the early years of teaching, we often spend our summers taking classes, perhaps working toward a graduate degree. In my case, I took classes required for ESL and bilingual teaching certification. The first one I took was a survey course, and it was held in Oaxaca, Mexico – a nice way to combine work and pleasure!

Some teachers will teach summer school or tutor students for part of the summer. Some get other part-time jobs to supplement their income. When my husband was teaching at a Chicago high school, these jobs helped boost his “strike fund” – extra money put aside in case there was a strike and thus a period of not being paid.

Some teachers will just stay home and relax, catch up on sleep and do home-based projects that they never could get to during the school year. Maybe do some gardening, painting, cleaning out closets, whatever.

Of course, the vacations I most look forward to were those during which I got to travel!

Here are the trips I took during my vacation periods:
March 2001 (spring break) – Cuba with my mother
DSCN7981Every summer – our cottage in Northern Wisconsin
July 2003 – Oaxaca, Mexico with others taking a graduate course required for ESL/bilingual education
July-Aug. 2004 – 5 weeks study abroad & homestay in Costa Rica, with my son (took Spanish and a Costa Rican culture course).
June, 2005 (5 days) – Arizona for high school reunion, (where my husband met my two Cathedralbest friends from high school), and visit to my aunt & uncle in Mansurs' house in Prescott - 2005 scrapbookPrescott
June 2006 (2 weeks) – another high school reunion and sightseeing in Arizona, followed by a week in Seattle, WA where we had a family reunion of sorts with my husband’s family
Aug. 2007 (5 days) – San Francisco, with my husband, sister & brother-in-law, for an aunt’s memorial
July 2008 – (12 days) Peru – (with a tour company) see elsewhere in this blog for my 978complete journal of that trip.
July 2009 – (10 days) Hawaii, to visit my husband’s sister & Raw00107tour Oahu with a short hop to Maui
July 2010 (4 1/2 weeks) Spain – (study abroad) see elsewhere in this blog for my complete journal of that trip.
DSCN4007June-July 2012 – (road trip) ancestors tour to Ohio and Indiana, visit

Katy standing behind one of the guitars

Springfield, IL
June-July 2013 – road trip to Texas to visit 506a high school  friend, also visited Memphis, TN.
Late March 2014 (1 week) – road trip to South Carolina, Hilton Head, and Savannah, GA. DSCN8635Thus I’ve managed to take some kind of trip almost every year during my teaching career! I plan to continue traveling as often as possible during retirement, but it could be at any time of year – stay tuned!

rainbow & airplaneThis summer will seem like any other summer, except that we have sold our cottage, so next weekend is our last trip up there.  I don’t think I’ll feel “retired” until school starts again in August and I won’t be going back!

For me, the summer of 2015 marks the end of an era.

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A Word a Week Photograph Challenge – Arch

When I think of arches, I think of Spain: its architecture, with its strong Arabic influence, contains many arches, not to mention arched bridges and viaducts…

 

Archways at La Alhambra

Arched doorways at La Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Beautiful arched windows, La Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Beautiful arched windows, La Alhambra, Granada, Spain

School children on their way home, in El Escorial, Spain

School children on their way home pass under an arched bridge, in El Escorial, Spain

The arched viaduct of Segovia was a functioning method of transporting water into the town, until modern water systems began providing water to the town in the 20th century.

The arched viaduct of Segovia was a functioning method of transporting water into the town, until modern water systems began providing water to the town in the 20th century. These arches dominate the landscape of Segovia, and vehicles zoom under them every day.

  http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/a-word-a-week-photograph-challenge-arch/

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

Grand – what does it mean? In Spanish, the cognate is “grande”, which means big. However, “Grand” means more than just big: to me, it means majestic, awesome, breath-taking. In my travels, I have seen many places, both man-made and natural, that I would consider “Grand.”  Here are just a few of them:

By far the grandest place I have ever been, in which nature and man have come together, is the incomparable Machu Picchu in Peru. To this day, when I look at the pictures I took there, I can scarcely believe that I was actually there.

Machu Picchu at dawn, taken from the Inca Trail.

Machu Picchu at dawn, taken from the Inca Trail.

 

High above Machu Picchu, on the Inca Trail en route to the Sun Gate.

High above Machu Picchu, on the Inca Trail en route to the Sun Gate.

Hawaii, too, has grand scenery – mostly nature, but man-made too. Here are three examples:

Fiery sunset over Maui, seen above the clouds on Haleakala.

Fiery sunset over Maui, seen above the clouds on Haleakala.

 

Late afternoon on Kailua Beach, Oahu

Late afternoon on Kailua Beach, Oahu

 

Byodo-In Buddhist Temple, Oahu

Byodo-In Buddhist Temple, Oahu

One of the grandest places I visited in Spain was the still unfinished Sagrada Familia Church in Barcelona, conceived by the brilliant architect Antonio Gaudi, and constructed based on his design (he died before he could see it built). The spires of this church are so high that they rise above the entire skyline of Barcelona. This was Gaudi’s monument to God. Here are two views:

Looking up toward the tall spires that rise above any other structure in Barcelona.

Looking up toward the tall spires that rise above any other structure in Barcelona.

This beautiful facade was the first one built, and I first saw it on my first trip to Spain in 1974! It reminds me of a sand castle constructed with dripping wet sand.

This beautiful facade was the first one built, and I first saw it on my first trip to Spain in 1974! It reminds me of a sand castle constructed with dripping wet sand.

I hope to collect many more photographs of all things “grand” as I continue the grand journey of life.