Wednesday, May 27, 2015
     

After spending 12 extraordinary days in Italy with my tour group, the time came all too soon when we had to go to the airport to fly home.

As we patiently worked our way through airport security lines, two of my fellow travelers said: "Well, after being immersed in all that beauty now we have to return home to ordinary days."

I just smiled, thinking that there is no such thing as "an ordinary day."

Yes, Italy had so much beauty in every city and every town. Everywhere we turned there was something special to see, with one delight after another.

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Claire:

Once upon a time, watching television was for Philistines. The uncultured masses would tune in to watch the latest sitcom every night, blissfully ignorant, while the intellectuals would sit in their ivory towers reading books, or at the very least saving their money for a subscription to a network like HBO or Showtime, where all the "artsy" television supposedly dwelled.

That's how the joke goes, anyway. These days, though, a few shows have me questioning the old adage that television is just for dummies and couch potatoes.

Jim:

Our most faithful fan does not live in Lehighton or Jim Thorpe or Tamaqua, or anywhere in the hard coal region.

No, he lives on the other side of the world. Dan Bloom is a freelance writer and ex-patriot, who resides in Taiwan where, he says, he is "buffeted around by Pacific typhoons every summer." Maybe that's why he worries a lot about climate change.

Jim:

There's an old saying: "They treat me like a mushroom. They keep me in the dark and feed me B.S." I know I'm a mushroom and hope that, at least, I may be a Portobello.

First off, there's the cosmic mystery. Where did the universe come from? If it's expanding, what is it expanding into? These questions give me butterflies in my stomach. I try hard never to think about them. I have butterflies right now. Let's change the subject.

Claire:

Writing down one's dirty secrets and posting them all over the web is de rigueur these days. It's hardly edgy or shocking to read the intimate details of a person's sex life, mental issues, or weight problems.

Heck, not too long ago a woman live-tweeted her miscarriage yup, that means she was writing about it on the Internet literally while it was happening.

JIM:

So Bradley Manning wants to be called Chelsea. I wonder how Chelsea Clinton feels about that.

Fort Leavenworth prison officials say he'll get no hormones and no surgery. Manning's lawyer calls this cruel and unusual punishment and vows to sue.

Advocates of transgender convicts claim (per recent news reports), "Self-castration, suicide and waves of desperation are byproducts of the denial of sex hormones to inmates yearning to switch genders." Sounds pretty grim, doesn't it?

I was sitting outside on my porch trying to decompress after a very long and stressful day when I noticed a bird land on one of the telephone wires in front of my house.

It was a very drab brown and black and looked kind of dirty to me.

Its feathers were a little ruffled and I thought to myself, "that is one ugly bird."

As if that bird read my mind, it scooted itself about a foot and a half further across the line and promptly pooped on my car window.

Ugly, telepathic AND mean-spirited.

I had to do a bit of a double take when I first read the headline. Surely this had to be some satirical piece disguised as actual news.

Nope. It's real.

"Pentagon deploys 'May I kiss you?' training."

I read it again and shook my head in disbelief.

It would seem that last week, the United States Air Force awarded a $10,000 contract to a company known as The Date Safe Project to provide three training sessions to servicemen and women to instruct them on consent and the prevention of sexual assault including bystander intervention. Each session lasts 60-90 minutes.

I love to be able to get away every now and again, even if only for a couple of days.

I enjoy the change of scenery and waking up someplace different, whether at the home of a friend or family member or even on an air mattress in my tent.

I am, however, really leery about staying in hotels and motels.

Over the years I have had some rather unpleasant experiences that make me cringe to even think about.

As a kid, my mom and I always spent a week "down the shore."

I remember the first time I used a computer.

I was quite intimidated by the thing and thought for sure I would break it.

The woman who was instructing me on its use assured me that there was no way, aside from hitting it with a hammer, that I could break this wonderful and mysterious piece of office equipment.

I don't remember much of what I was taught that first day, except for one thing she said decades ago: "Garbage in, garbage out" or GIGO.

GIGO is an acronym used in computer science that means that bad input will result in bad output.

I have noticed that there are certain things that people just don't talk about; things that are perfectly natural and perfectly human; and perfectly taboo for some reason.

One of those topics is, umm, bathroom habits.

Now, I know this subject may be a little uncomfortable for some of you, so I will try to ease you into it by addressing some non-taboo but relevant bathroom dilemmas.

First, there is the ongoing debate over the toilet paper roll being hung in either an over or under fashion.

Some people can become quite distressed if it is not hung correctly.