20 January 2020
I’m back from Texas and I’m going to share with you: TEXAS BILLBOARDS. Boring as they may seem, they really do stand out when I think about the time I spent out there in the “lone star state.”
Why? Probably because we spent quite a bit of time on the road. I love road trips, I love looking out the window and letting my thoughts just flow from one to another. Very relaxing…
Well, in Texas, there are so many billboards, my thoughts only flowed from one advertising message to another. I didn’t mind at first, but after a few days I found myself always asking, “why?” and then getting annoyed. Not very relaxing…
Did some research to answer my “why” question, and found that President Lyndon Johnson, did his very best, through the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, to put some limits on the ever-growing billboards along the roadsides, to protect the natural landscape. However, even Johnson’s vaunted powers of persuasion could not overcome the lobbying efforts of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. They essentially won: the Highway Beautification Act ironically ended up protecting these billboards from being removed by a city—unless the city pays cash compensation. And these costs can really add up.
For over 50 years activists and billboard companies have been at war over the views along American highways. Four states—Vermont, Hawaii, Alaska and Maine—have banned them outright. Rhode Island and Oregon have said no new billboards. But in Texas, the Texas Transportation Commission voted unanimously to eliminate the existing 42½-foot height restriction beginning September 2019, allowing the size limit to double.
There’s the answer!
Posted in: travel
18 October 2019
Hi MLE,When I was in Israel last week, I noticed that each hotel room door had a little box outside on the doorframe. I learned that it is called a "mezuzah."They must always be on the door frame, not the door. Also they must also always be outside the door, not inside.They must be situated at about shoulder level, so that they may be kissed or touched upon entry.They are often leaning in towards the door, to signal that this is the direction in which God should pass.Inside the Mezuzah case is a Kosher parchment, with two handwritten paragraphs of the Torra. The writing must be done by a licensed Sofer Stam, a scribe who can transcribe the Torah. There must be intension in the writing of it.The verses say such things as there is only one God, you must teach your children about the God, you must love your children, and so on.The effect is that when you go into a Jewish home, you are made aware of the laws written on the scroll.Many people think that it is a good luck charm or a home protector. Some people even have special ones for their cars, etc. thinking it is an amulet against evil. It is none of these things - it is a reminder that helps one make conscious of their responsibilities to God.I bought the Mezuzah pictured above. When I looked at my credit card statement, it was about four times more than I thought it was. I'm terrible with currency conversions. And I didn't know it was ceramic and also 24K gold. It is not just a tourist souvenir, but rather a special item one may give someone on a special occasion, and now I appreciate that.I will fix mine in the right way on the outside my front door, and knowing me, I will probably also touch it each time I enter the house and it will make me happy.However, I have decided not to get a scroll to go inside. People have a lot of different opinions about this, but to me, as I am not Jewish, it just doesn't feel right to have the scroll. The case is enough to give a nod to this interesting Jewish custom.Suzan
18 April 2019
Those vast complexes built under Stalin and subsequent leaders... I've had my eye on these for a few years, ever since various photographers have been using them as subject matter for books and galleries.In Russia, Ukraine, and other former Soviet Union republics, the term 'sanatorium' is generally used for a combination resort/recreational facility and a medical facility to provide short-term complex rest and medical services. Unlike western holidays, which the Soviets perceived as lavish and idle, holidays in the USSR were entirely purposeful: their function was to provide rest and recuperation so that workers could remain efficient and productive.Eligible individuals received vouchers to stay at particular sanatoriums for a specified period of time, either at subsidised rates or for free. In principle, industrial workers and those with medical conditions were to be given priority, but in practice those with money and connections were prioritised instead. Today, guests consist of a large number of second world war veterans and pensioners who are treated free of charge for stays of up to a number of weeks.In the early days, every aspect of sanatorium life was controlled and monitored by staff in accordance with a strict schedule. Guests would start with a visit to the resident doctor, who would draw up a tailor-made programme of mandatory callisthenics, dietary recommendations and treatments. Gradually, a more relaxed sanatorium culture developed over the course of a century, and today guests can even undertake whatever treatment they like and come and go as they please.What I find really amazing is the treatments, that are still available today. Please see the images above, from top to bottom (yes these photos were taken just a couple years ago):Crude oil bath for 10 minutesMagnetic therapyMineral water bathOxygen bathParafin wax treatmentSalt air treatmentUltraviolet light nose and throat disinfectantThere were 1,829 new sanatoriums built across the USSR by 1939, and they continued to be built right up to the 80s. In their peak, these sanatoriums were visited by millions of citizens across the USSR each year. Dozens are still open for business.But those open for business are hard to find... However, after a search I have discovered Hotel Aurora Issyk-Kul, in Kyrgyzstan. This might be an option. It was built in 1979, not as old as I would like, but it does offer most of the therapies above. I would love to go:Suzan