BISHKEK ANYONE? – RICH PASCHALL

 Where in the world is … ?  by Rich Paschall

One of many things that surprises me about “modern” education is the absence of geography as part of the school curriculums. When I’ve asked any young person during the last two decades if they’ve taken geography in school, the answer is usually the same.  “Geography?  What’s that?”

When I was in school, we studied geography.  We had geography books.  The classroom had maps so we could understand where in the world we were and where the rest of the world was.  These were huge maps that rolled up like a window shade.  There were pictures pinned to a bulletin board of various places we could study.

Geography courses were our window to the rest of the world, our introduction to other people and cultures. I always found it interesting, although I did not know at the time just how useful it would become.

Earth

There were many things about geography that I did not find so interesting.  The topography was lost on someone who lived in an area that is completely flat.  Information about crops and commerce held no delight at the grade school level.  The local currency meant nothing to a boy with a tiny allowance.

Climate was interesting, however, to someone who had experienced the severity of all four seasons.  I could not imagine living somewhere that had a colder climate then we have in winter.  I did imagine that places with warmer weather throughout the year would be great to visit, especially in winter.  Pictures of green mountains or long, sandy beaches fueled my imagination.  I did not think I would ever get to travel much, but the views of great scenery and different types of structures were the joys of my young fantasy vacations.

Lost Dutchman now found

With the news of the world more available than ever, you would think that geography would be an important field of study to more than the CIA.  Perhaps those in charge of various school boards around the country do not think so.  Can you match these cities recently in the news with their countries?


Match the city with the country to which it belongs:

City                              Country
Mogadishu                United States
Castañer                    Israel
Bishkek                      Turkey
Ankara                       Kyrgyzstan
Tiberias                     Somalia


When I was first working in freight forwarding, a young person was trying to pronounce the name written on one of the folders. She may have been filing items by destination. To just look at it, you would not think it a mystery, but this uneducated person was lost.

“Tell a, Tayla, tellavi…”

At that, a very annoyed supervisor in another group yelled over to our area, “Tel Aviv! Tel Aviv! It’s in the news sometimes.”

It was the capital of Israel at the time, and it is the only international airport in the country. I guess we are always stunned by people who do not know the capital cities or the largest airports of any country.

Do they know their own state’s capital?

By the way, the supervisor shouting the name of the city across the office remains one of our favorite air freight stories. It also points to the deficiency in our education on geography.

Another part of Earth

When I got a job in air freight, I think I already had a good idea of the capitals and major cities of most countries, and now I have come to learn their airport codes as well. The locations of major hubs of commerce and the airlines that fly there are key to our success.

You could put Asian freight on Lufthansa, who makes its first stop in Frankfurt, but it may make more sense to put it on a carrier going west to Asia.  It really depends where you are. If you are on the east coast, for example, it might be better to send it east.  Lufthansa does go to most places in the world.  If you are in Chicago, west is usually better.

Oh, come on … take a wild guess!

We can send your Shanghai freight from Chicago on a European carrier, but the distance will be greater to fly east, the cost will likely be more and the time of travel will be greater. No plane would have the range to go nonstop.  However, there are Chinese carriers, as well as American Airlines, who fly nonstop from ORD (Chicago, O’Hare) to PVG (Shanghai, China).

Because of competition, you are likely to get a good rate for the faster transit.  In freight forwarding, it is important to have an idea where everything is located in order to make the best routing decisions.

This is true for your vacation trip as well.  When I tell people I have gone to Alsace, France, they usually conclude I must have flown to Paris.  The truth is, I usually fly to Frankfurt, Germany which is about the same distance from Strasbourg and is usually cheaper.  I have also considered the Euro-Airport at Mulhouse, France which is closer, and the airport at Zürich, Switzerland.

Strasbourg, France

Grab a map and discover the world.

Here are the answers, although I am tempted to tell you to grab a Geography book or just Google it.

1 – Mogadishu is the capital of war-torn Somalia.
2 – Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
3 – Ankara is the capital of the Republic of Turkey.  You probably thought it was Istanbul.
4 – You can swim in the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias, a favorite city of the Roman Emporer who originally built the city.
5 – Castaner is a mountain community in Puerto Rico that was devastated by the hurricane.  Yes, it is part of the US.  But there is a city (town) of the same name in the United Kingdom.
6 – Can you find Ouagadougou on a map?
7 – Do you own a map?

A VISIT TO COLOMBIA – Rich Paschall

I have seen a few articles that claim Medellin is one of the best international cities for retirement. The US dollar goes far and the climate is pleasant.Forbes rates Colombia the number 6 country in 2019 for International Living. I have made two trips to Colombia. Here are my thoughts after the first visit.

Medellin, RICH PASCHALL

A mile high in the Andes mountains of Colombia, located in the Aburrá Valley, lies the city of Medellin. It is somewhere between the size of Los Angeles and Chicago. Some of its neighborhoods are built up the sides of the mountain, but the city center is mostly flat.

Nevertheless, bring a good pair of walking shoes to make you tour around town.  Traffic in downtown Medellin can be something close to gridlock in midday.  A large number of buses and taxis will not help you get around quickly.

Medellin downtown

Medellin downtown

My trip was somewhat of a lark. A longtime internet friend encouraged me to come visit. Although we talked often on Google Hangout and Skype and chatted on Facebook Messenger, we had never actually met.  After seeing all the Facebook pictures of friends and relatives, it was as if we were old friends.

The weather there was just about perfect, so I decided to use my few remaining vacation days and hop a plane south.

I was not eager to transit another country, I decided to take American Airlines from Chicago to Miami and then fly directly to Medellin. It would have been cheaper to connect in Panama City, but lacking Spanish, it seemed a better choice to connect in an American city. Besides, the Miami connecting times were shorter.

Columbia’s international airport is in Rionegro, 45 minutes from Medellin. It’s at a higher altitude than Medellin and offers amazing views of the tropical region. Although the airport is the second largest in Colombia, it was closer in size to Sarasota, Florida, though much busier. The airport is modern and efficient. Much easier to get through customs than Miami — a story for another time.

My friend was waiting for me as I came out of customs.  From this point on in the trip, it’s a good idea to have someone local with you, even if you speak Spanish, which I don’t.  Most signs are entirely in Spanish … which by itself can be a problem for tourists.

I had exchanged currency at the airport in Miami — never a good thing. Rates of exchanges at airports are the worst. Even ATM rates would have been better, but then you have fees, so I suppose it’s a toss-up.  I did not see currency exchanges in the city, but there were some large banks in downtown Medellin that might have been able to make the exchange at a better rate.

You definitely need cash. Most stores and restaurants take only cash, even when you see a MasterCard sticker on the door. The only place you’ll likely use plastic is at an ATM.

There are plenty of taxis and buses at the airport, so transportation to the city should be no problem. My friend took us to the taxi line. The first one was for a shared cab to a designated spot in the city. He chose this for economy

We shared the ride with a couple and a single person. A three-way split is very economical.  In fact, it was cheaper than from O’Hare airport to downtown Chicago — and O’Hare is actually in Chicago proper.

Road to the airport

Road to the airport

The ride down the mountain in the dark was an adventure. The road into the airport is wide and well-lit, but shortly you are on a winding two-lane highway. In the mountains. At night.

The driver knows the road well, but racing down was quite a thrill.  We would get tossed from side to side like a roller coaster ride.  When we arrived in town and dropped off the others, my friend negotiated a rate to his apartment.

At night we visited a neighborhood filled with outdoor cafes and sports bars. A large central square was crowded. You could buy beverages at nearby stores. The square and two streets along it formed an “L” and were like Bourbon Street in New Orleans — one big open-air party.

The downtown shopping area the next day was crowded.  We went by Metro and returned by taxi. The wide walkways on many streets could accommodate outdoors stands and carts where a variety of goods were available. Tropical fruit drinks (nonalcoholic) were everywhere  — a good thing when you’re doing serious shopping.

Downtown shopping

Downtown shopping

Many stores featured products from the US. We saw one store supposedly selling “USA brand” clothes.  My friend said to me, “all originals,” with a wink and a laugh. I decided after a while that I could figure out which places sold authentic goods and high-end merchandise because they had armed security guards at the door. It did not appear the police walking the streets were armed, although I didn’t study them.

Medellin is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” because of its temperate climate.  The average annual temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit.  Most days are in the 80s all year long, but since they are in the mountains, it cools off to low 60s at night.

Upper 50’s would be a cold night.  Few places had air conditioning. Restaurants and bars are open-air and the climate is perfect for living outdoors. Cool enough for comfortable nighttime sleeping, too. For my visit, the days were in the upper 80s, and the cooler nights did not require jackets.

If your knowledge of Medellin comes from news stories from 1993 or earlier, forget it.  They have worked hard to live down the past and transform the city into a welcoming place.

If he comes up in conversation, locals will tell you that Pablo Escobar does not live there anymore (died in 1993), just as Chicagoans sometimes have to say that Al Capone does not live here anymore (he died in 1947).

The people are friendly, food is good, the climate is great, and the scenery is beautiful. The trip was too short and I wouldn’t mind another visit. Especially in the winter.

Visit the Medellin photo gallery at Sunday Night Blog here.

Also see: “The Top 10 Places In The World To Retire: 2 New Lists,” Forbes.com, January 4, 2019.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF STORMS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The news has been inundated recently with reports of Hurricane Florence, which is bashing North and South Carolina. I’ve always wondered why so many people refuse to evacuate when the government tells them to. And why people don’t adequately prepare even when they’re told exactly what to expect.

Hurricane Florence

I read an interesting article on this subject by Robert J. Meyer in the Washington Post on September 12, 2018. He addressed the psychological issues at play when people face an impending natural disaster. The article is called “Why do people stay put during hurricanes? Here’s what psychology says.”

Despite endless warnings and specific information and suggestions about what to do to stay safe, lack of preparedness is responsible for most of the property damage and loss of life in major storms. “…lack of preparedness…is caused by cognitive biases that lead people to underplay warnings and make poor decisions, even when they have the information they need.”

people shopping to prepare for hurricane

Failure to evacuate resulted in 40 drowning deaths in Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Surveys showed that only 20% of residents had a preparedness plan. And that storm was hyped up the wazoo! It hit my area so I know! We even took our boat out of the water and planted it in the parking lot of the marina to minimize the likelihood of costly damage.

What goes wrong in these situations? Here are some of the cognitive biases that lead us astray in natural disasters.

Excessive optimism is the first cognitive bias that kicks in. People understand that many residents of their area will be affected. They just don’t believe that THEY will be negatively affected. Others rationalize that they survived other storms without preparation so why not this one?

Hurricane Florence in North Carolina

Herd thinking also comes into play. If neighbors aren’t preparing then there’s no social pressure to do more than the basics.

Myopia is another key psychological factor in lack of adequate preparedness. People are short-sighted when it comes to spending money or expending energy on preëmptive actions. They focus on the immediate cost and discomfort, not the more abstract future benefit. So they cheap out on preparedness measures and take the easy way out.

Amnesia also colors people’s anticipation of a natural disaster. People tend to remember the facts of a past storm, but forget how awful it felt to live through it. Memories of emotions fade faster than memories of facts. So reminding people how bad it was the last time seems to have limited effect.

Sound decision-making is impaired by inertia and simplification. People who are unsure what to do, often do nothing. That’s the principle of “inertia at work.” Simplification results in people doing just a few of the many things necessary to be adequately prepared. The thinking goes, “I’ve done three out of twelve things to be safe so I should be okay.” In Hurricane Sandy, 90% of residents bought supplies – but only enough for ONE DAY without power. Woefully inadequate and unrealistic! We were without power for six days, and we were lucky!

The article concludes that the key to better preparedness in the future is accepting the reality of these destructive cognitive biases. We can’t change them so we have to work around them. We have to design preparedness plans that accept them and anticipate them. For example, give people ORDERED lists that say “If you’re only going to do three things, these are the three things you should do.”

Science has increased our ability to predict hurricanes and other natural disasters. But science can’t reduce the human and property damage done by these weather events.

Psychology is the key to helping people make better decisions when they are faced with nature’s destructiveness.

ODE TO FOUR SEASONS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Winter generally sucks in New England. But for me, there is also a bright side.

I love wearing my favorite winter sweaters. I love boots and I feel very fashionable when I can wear high boots over my jeans. Another thing I look forward to in winter is coats and scarves. I have a terrific wardrobe of colorful, textured scarves, many purchased at craft shows over the years.

So I’ve established that I like the variety of clothes that seasons provide. I would get sick of wearing the same clothes all year. If I lived in Florida or California, in order to get variety, I’d probably spend a fortune each year buying clothes. Now I spend very little on clothes because the four seasons (really three – winter summer and in between) give me ample variety in my wardrobe.

Another reason I don’t mind winter – once I’ve put on my beautiful outerwear,it’s not all that cold outside. People talk about the horrors of winter as if you had to go outside everyday wearing nothing more than your pajamas!

Snow is wonderful if you’re dressed to play in it and enjoy its beauty.

I have to confess that I’m not a heat lover or a sun worshipper. In fact, I get physically ill in severe heat. For me, it’s worse when it’s very hot than when it’s very cold. I can’t protect myself from the heat outside by taking off more clothes. I can only go down to tee-shirt and shorts or a bathing suit without getting arrested for indecent exposure. If I’m still roasting in those outfits, I’m screwed. But in winter, you can always put on more sophisticated winter wear. For example, you can put on ski clothes and go out and ski down a mountain in the freezing cold.

So I hate heat and can dress appropriately to stay warm in cold weather. What else do I like about having seasons? The variety itself enhances my life. I appreciate spring and summer because I live through fall and winter. I don’t take green trees and flowers for granted because I live through colored leaves, bare trees and the winter wonderland of snow-covered landscapes. I wouldn’t want to live in winter 12 months of the year any more than I want to live in summer all year round.

But for the three months winter lasts, I can appreciate what it has to offer. For example, we often have a fire going on winter nights. I love that. My husband and I enjoy our Jacuzzi more in winter. Friends seem to have more time to come over and hang out with us in the winter. I think it’s because they’re not outside doing whatever they do in summer (play golf, swim, take long walks, go on hikes, work in their gardens, etc.)

I’m lucky that I really love where I live and don’t dream of moving elsewhere. If I did move, it would probably be to another place that has seasons. I just can’t imagine a life without watching the leaves turn red, yellow and orange.

I can’t imagine a life without getting to watch grass grow, flowers bloom and leaves suddenly come out on trees, every single year. I can’t imagine everything in my environment staying the same, stagnant, year in and year out. Maybe it’s a lack of imagination on my part, but I’m happy dealing with a world that changes four times a year.

THE STRANGEST WEATHER OF ANY APRIL – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Traveling from Massachusetts to Connecticut and Back Again –
Cee’s Which Way Photography Challenge

It really has been a totally wacko week for weather here in the upper northeastern quadrant of this continent.

On the road again …

Snowing!

We drove down to Connecticut on Friday. When we left the house, it was snowing lightly. By the time we got to the Mass Pike, it was snowing a lot more than that and a few miles down the road, it was close to a whiteout.

Route 320

Icy windshield

As we crossed the border into Connecticut, it changed to heavy rain … and as the miles past, it became cloudy and the rain went away.

Remi, Garry, Tom and sunshine

By the time we got to Tom and Ellin’s house, the sun was out.

Coming home at sunset

We drove home today in relatively mild weather with a bright blue sky.

NOT ONLY CLIMATE CHANGE

Sometimes, being human depresses me. There’s so much that needs fixing. Not just climate change. Not just animal extinction. No single thing. It’s many things and mainly …

It’s us. People. 

Small canal along a mill on the Mumford.

Mumford River

We’ve poisoned the oceans and many of our rivers. Here in New England, the very first massively polluted river was our own Blackstone. From Worcester to Slatersville, Rhode Island, we built mills. Cotton and wool. Dye and weaving. Tanneries. We built dams and behind those dams were — and still are — tons and tons of hazardous waste. If you think pollution is a 20th century problem, it isn’t.

Dust bowl storm

The huge Black Sunday storm – the worst storm of the decade-long Dust Bowl in the southern Plains – as it approaches Ulysses, Kansas, April 14, 1935. Daylight turned to total blackness in mid-afternoon.

We’ve been poisoning our planet for hundreds of years and we aren’t done yet. It’s the reason we can’t remove many of the dams on the Blackstone. Removing dams would release massive amounts of poisoned earth into the rivers, effectively undoing decades of effort put into cleaning the river.

Egret and garbage in waterCalifornia has mudslides and perhaps has always had them … but I’m pretty sure all the building on the cliffs has weakened many areas. Trees and grass hold the earth and when you remove the trees and the grasses, the earth falls apart. There’s nothing to hold it.

We have built houses practically in the water. Destroyed the dunes where the birds nested. We drive dune buggies through fragile shoreline. It kills the birds, their nests, and adds more pollution.

Water trash MexicoThe ocean is full of floating plastic garbage and worse.

If climate change were our only problem, that would probably be an improvement. But we are still drilling and creating trash as if there’s a giant hole where we can put all of our garbage. With President Shithead in power, there will be more drilling, more exploding oil rigs. More tons of oil pouring into what were healthy waters full of fish and plants. Not all that long ago, George’s Banks was the breeding ground for north Atlantic fish … and now, it has been fished out. It will be years — if left in peace — before the fish begin breeding again.

Roaring Dam

Fishermen were warned repeatedly. You can’t fish forever and without giving the fish a chance to breed and grow to full size. But they all said they couldn’t afford to not fish there … and now, no one can fish there. Smart, right?

The Sahara is a manmade desert. We managed to do this in prehistoric times , long years before modern times.

Not every change in the earth is the result of climate change. A lot of what is wrong with the world is us. Humans. Digging and drilling and killing. Plowing grassland until it becomes a dust-bowl.

mudslide California January 2018

So don’t fear that climate change is the only terrible thing occurring in our world. We are capable of far more destruction than that. We’ve got lots more garbage and filth to spread around.

Before we’re done, we can totally trash the planet. I have faith in us.

10 Cool Inventions That Are Saving The Earth

These are great little inventions. I don’t know how many of them we’d need to fix our world, but it’s at least a little bit of a start.

ScienceSwitch

The damage mankind has done to the earth’s ecosystem by dumping plastic wastes alone is beyond horrible. But thanks to scientists who stood up to fight it alongside their inventions. These are 10 inventions that are saving the Earth.

Video via – Tech Insider

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