The French are Back!

Fernandina Beach, April 27-29, 2012 - Visit of French Navy Schooners

The French are back 450 years after Jean Ribault’s two vessels, known as carracks, arrived on Napoyca.  This was the name given to Amelia Island by the Timucuan Indians.  Once Ribault claimed the island for France he called this refuge “Isle de Mai”. The French Flag was the first one of a total of eight throughout its history.

Eight Flags you ask?  Well let me see, the first one was obviously France (1562-1565 and 1795); number two was Spain (first Spanish period 1565-1763, second Spanish period 1784-1821); then came England (1763-1783); number four  was Patriots’ Rebellion (1812); the fifth, Green Cross of Florida (1817); then the Mexican Republic (1817); the seventh, US Territorial Period (1821-1845) and finally the eighth through statehood, the United States of America.  So as you can see there is quite a vivid history here and that probably explains why we still have very active Pirates here.  (Don’t worry they carry plastic swords.)

This is "Etoile" a 123-feet long schooner built in Fécamp, France in 1932. Pretty cool isn't it?

Always good to have connections. Thanks to Mary Anne I did not have to stand in line to board.

But coming back to the subject , only 450 years later…  give  or take a day our friend Philippe Boets convinced the French Navy to dock the two sister ships “l’Etoile (the Star) and “la Belle Poule” (the Pretty Hen) at the Harbor Front on Amelia Island.  The schooners came to Florida in honor of the anniversary of Jean Ribault’s arrival to the new world.  The idea was to reward the 54 sailors to a well deserved weekend of R & R after their 7 week voyage across the Atlantic.  I think, given the history it really made sense that they arrived on the island first.  They’ll have a chance to relax at the oldest operating Saloon in

Florida, the Palace Saloon complete with ghost, plus some other great historical hangouts.  I am sure they’ll have the time of their life, after all, this is a very friendly island.

Of course unlike back then, taking over the island and flying a new flag is out of the question but they’ll have a chance to take on the locals at the Petanque tournament on Sunday.  Watch out, the local teams from Amelia Island, Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Tallahasse are quite good and know how to play this French bowling game well.

... on a boat again. I must have been a sailor in my previous life. Wow ... one needs to be pretty tall to steer this one.

Most likely the crew that stepped off their vessels in 1562 and was welcomed by Timucuan Indians had it a little tougher than this one.  Their  journey will continue after celebrations in Jacksonville on May 1st. Then they will be heading to Savannah, Annapolis, Philadelphia and New York.

Amelia Island is a great place!  There is always something fun going on and people here enjoy living on island time. I already look forward to seeing some of you next week at the Shrimp Festival. I sure am glad Caroline found this Paradise.

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From Board Games to Angry Birds…

Love Chess.... but, it looks like the queen did not get up from her beauty sleep. So I guess, since I am white I'll stand in for her this time.

Is it just me or does it seem that computer games tend to be more violent than traditional board games? I tried to find out about the top board games and there are many different opinions out there in the cyber world. Several sources seem to agree and mention these in the top 10 list; Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Clue and Scrabble.  Of course when it gets to computer games there seem to be lots of guns and knives involved. Life is good in the world of computer games. You may get shot, kicked, fall off a cliff and other obstacles and if you lose your life, oh well, you probably have another 3 or 4 to go.  All of that with lots of violent graphics and some wild sound in the background. I wonder if the players understand that the concept of killing. In reality it is a pretty permanent thing, plus it comes with live long consequences.  Hey not that I care, my plastic body can handle more than humans.  You could kick me, shove me around, drop me; I don’t think you’d get far using a knife or gun, etc.  BUT don’t get any ideas here, I definitely will not appreciate it nor would I be your friend.  Even if I am cold I still am a very peaceful and passionate being.  This is just to set the record straight.

Well, back to the games. There are actually some pretty cool computer games or I guess these are now called game apps many for your mobile devices.  They seem to be challenging and encourage problem solving.  We ran into a report not too long ago that claimed that computer games can make you smarter or as some like to say keep your gray cells going.  Not only that, the military, for example, encourages gamers since they already come with a pretty good training on how to use a joy stick and gaming applications.  Think about it instead of make-believe guns the kids get to shoot real ones and be extremely good at it since they practiced since they were 5.  It is their second nature…

Not a board or computer game but a people's game; Petanque. At least this pig is not getting killed just severely bumped. More power to plastic...

Caroline, for example, likes to play “Angry Birds” after a long day.  She says this is so stupid that it is fun. However, I can see that she often has to stop because, well, she seems to take the word “angry” to heart.  Yes, it can make you angry when you cannot “kill” all the pigs and lose your birds in the process.  For the ones that don’t know what this game is all about the story goes that once upon a time the birds were happy bunches and worked on their families.  They laid lots of eggs.  Unfortunately, the pigs stole them and ate them.  Now the birds are angry and feel they need to attack and kill the pigs. Ironically, I think, there are more birds getting killed in the process. These birds don’t seem to be that smart but very revengeful.

Nope, I am not playing that game because I don’t believe in revenge I believe in getting even.

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Is it the car that has an attitude or is it the reflection of the owner?

As we were recently cruising down the highway toward Miami, Caroline and I started to wonder.  It used to be that we were passed by cars that were going fast but this time many did not only go fast but also tried to dominate the road simply by their looks. Did you notice that the newer generations of cars actually gives you the impression that they are better than the rest?  Well, check your rear mirror.  First of all it seems that newer cars always have their lights on.  Some are actually pretty interesting to look at.  Check out the day-lights from the new Lexus and Audi for example.  It almost appears these cars wear a white eye liner under their front light bulbs. Their message to other drivers seems to be simple, don’t fool with me I am the king of the road… 

Car owners more than ever seem to want to show attitude on the road, which is not possible through tinted windows, therefore it needs to be done via the looks of the vehicle.  A while back Caroline was fascinated by the studies of the psychologist, Clotaire Rapaille.  He has some interesting marketing ideas which he categorizes as “Reptilian Marketing”.  Manufacturers of the Fortune 500 pay him mega Dollars so he can advise them on how to improve to sell their goods. For example, it is our understanding that a few years ago the Jeep Wrangler went through a major redesign.  Apparently sales dropped when this model introduced rectangular front lights.  Monsieur Repaille concluded that the front lights of the vehicle represent the eyes and people tend to relate to that.  He advised Jeep to go back to the previous look of the round lights. Guess what… Monsieur Repaille was correct because sales of the Jeep Wrangler increased that year.  Still today that model sports round lights /eyes. <learn more about Clotaire Rapaille>  

Our car has attitude as well.

This is Chico our car. Since we drive this one nobody has honked at us. Yeah, I trust Chico, no one wants to fool with him.

It is actually quite fascinating how humans are manipulated by today’s market research.  Let’s face it, whether you like it or not, you guys are pack animals that follow a leader and have very similar behaviors (remember I am just a plastic body that very heavily depends on my human).  Thanks to the scientists and mathematicians Target, for example, figured out a way to know when someone is pregnant, even before the family.  All this and more just by the individual’s purchasing patterns … and you thought you were special. 

Well, as far as I am concerned I think I will have to go to these outfits to find out what makes me tick.  It is always good when you can relay on your neighbors, your friends, your stores to find out what you are up to next. What more can I say, Life is great!

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Is it Spring yet?

Officially spring starts March 20th… or at least that’s what the calendar says.  However, for the 126th year Punxsutawney Phil predicted how the rest of this winter will be. On February 2nd he came out of his burrow on Gobbler’s Knob and revealed what to expect from the next six weeks. Well, of course, first he had to confer in “Groundhogese”, the language only understood by the president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.  After all Phil needs someone to translate his message into English so everyone understands his verdict.

So here is the official announcement of 2012…
“Hear Ye Hear Ye Hear Ye  — On Gobbler’s Knob on this magnificent Groundhog Day, February 2nd 2012 Punxsutawney Phil, the Seer of Seers, the Prognosticator of all Prognosticators was summoned from his burrow in the old oak stump by the tap of President Bill Deeley.  He greeted his handlers, John Griffiths and Ron Ploucha.
After casting an appreciative glance towards thousands of his faithful followers, Phil proclaimed,
“As I look at the crowd on Gobbler’s Knob many shadows do I see so six more weeks of winter it must be!””

I see my shadow

Yes, I agree with Phil. I can see my shadow too. Hey Phil if you ever need assistance let me know. I can help!!

I say this is some smart animal this groundhog….  Imagine his first prediction was February 2nd 1886, and it is said that he was 100% right since then. He still wakes up every year, think about it, many people could definitely learn from that.  But then I understand he has some mystical help too. His handlers are feeding him some magic elixir every summer. Surprisingly they never capitalized on this drink. I see a potential of tons of money to be made, but this is another story.

Wow… all the history Phil has seen (and slept through) from the reveiling of the Statue of Liberty (10/28/1886) through WWI and WWII, not to mention the evolution of technology and so much more…  If I were as old as Punxsutawney Phil I would be glad to see the shadow, this way I could return to my hole and sleep some more…

Yup… this must be it!  We have not really seen any winter this year… and then again I live in Florida.

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A Day on St John’s River with “Cat Inn Around”

January 2012, what a month!  I am glad I finally was able to convince Caroline to continue my adventure tails.  Believe me, I am having a lot of fun and this year is starting out great with this wonderful boat trip on “Cat Inn Around”.

Good thing I can see through the stearing wheel. So all I have to figure out is how to reach it.

The trip was a quick but a very neat decision. It turns out that the boat had to go from Oyster Bay to Green Cove Springs, FL for maintenance.  The group decided to meet early in the morning since there was some concern about fog and we had to pass the railroad bridge in Jacksonville before 12pm.  That bridge is in the process of being renovated and has only two very narrow opening windows per day.  Luckily there was no fog to deal with. However, it was a bit on the cool side (68° F /20°C)… well, at least for us Floridians.  Yes, I am a Floridian and believe me; my little plastic body gets cold too.  I bet you guys from up north call this the perfect weather to go boating.  What can I say we are spoiled around here during this season.

Caroline is busy following her passion. She captured beautiful images.

It was a quiet day on the river, a little overcast and the water was slick as oil.  Caroline enjoys that kind of light since she believes that the most beautiful images are made under these conditions.  Needless to say while I enjoyed the ride, mostly in the bag, since it was rather windy, she captured some very spectacular photos of the marsh, bridges, downtown Jacksonville and later, back at Oyster Bay, the Yacht Club in the sweet light as the sun started to set. What can I say, Life is great!

The dock at Oyster Bay Yacht Club around 7pm. Sweet!

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It’s hot now… It was cold then…

It has been a while but I did mention to continue my vacation adventure in the Southern part of Switzerland.  What a great time I had.  Check out the YouTube clip.  Needless to say Switzerland, even in January, is very special and beautiful.  Of course for someone from Florida the cold may be a bit of an issue but not impossible to handle.  Yup, my plastic body got cold and next time I’ll make sure I’ll have other protection than just the coat pocket where I liked to hide most of the time, even thought this way I got to see a lot.

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Art… What exactly is Art?

One the many highlights in Switzerland of course was attending the Picasso exhibit in the Kunsthaus  Zürich.  This collection was originally shown in 1932 at a unique and crucial moment in the history of modern art.  Pablo Picasso himself selected the pieces at the time and this made this particular show even more special.  There were canvases from his blue and pink period, cubist pieces, works from his “urban” classical period, encounters with surrealism and a series of portraits.  These pieces came together once again after being all over the world for over 70 years.  It was quite amazing to see the original pieces hanging there and we quickly realized that reproduced art is just not the same.  A printing press never can duplicate what a paint brush, lead by a human hand can do.


After we admired this once in a lifetime exhibit we decided to go to the modern art wing of the Kunsthaus.  That is where I started to ask what exactly is art?  Patiently Caroline tried to explain to me that art is differently perceived by everyone.  It is in the eyes of the beholder. Some like classical art, others like to push the envelope and some  just want to say that they own a very expensive piece that currently is exhibited at a museum. Many people that deal and are into the arts scene apear to be from a different planet with a higher understanding than the average folks, especially the ones made of plastic, like me.  They definitely see something I don’t.  Sure, I can find some bird sh… droppings (I know some trees under which you can find tons of it), collect them, call it art and sell it for a horrendous amount of money.  The strange thing is that there may be someone that would actually purchase it and display it.  Now…. that is a piece of art …. conceived of by an artist made of plastic.  “?????????????”

In the modern art exhibit we looked at a piece where a single female breast pops out of a canvas (I actually think it resembles more my tail); an arrangement of life size gypsum people, one that looked at another one that appeared to be dead; a skeleton that seemed to do stretching excercises; paint splashes on a wall with a TV showing the “artist” creating them over and over again; paintings that are upside down; etc.  Did we get it? Most of it not. I guess I really felt behind the moon. What exactly does all this have to do with capability not to mention beauty, arrangement of colors, forms, and materials?  I was always under the impression that one had to be able to create a piece that also appealed to the eye.  A unique piece, one that deserves to be called art.  Guess no longer…. We probably could go on and on trying to understand and analyze, but I think we prefer to admit that we just don’t get the “bird dropping” kind of art. Looking at all this we feel a little bit like that TV at the elevator in one of the exhibits that continuously mumbled “HILFE” (help)” over and over again… oh by the way that was called Video-Art.

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Switzerland…. here we come!

Finally we arrived very early in the morning at Airport Kloten in Zurich, Switzerland… our final destination.  Arriving there feels a little like being part of a science fiction movie.  Imagine, a huge hall with two three  story high escalators, one on one side of the room and another one on the other side.  It seems that all the U.S. flights land at about the same time so there are masses of people traveling down these escalators to get to the transfer rail that will bring you to the baggage and customs areas. Once you are eased into the compartment of the rail you are welcomed by a male voice informing you that you should hold on to the poles followed by the sound of cows and an ‘Alphorn’ playing.  The ride and this entertainment only last about 2 minutes which also includes some Swiss Yodeling.  I guess this is the first impression for many travelers of Switzerland or maybe this is designed to calm down the passengers before they are eased in a very orderly Swiss fashion to the next step… the baggage pick up.


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Hello World… Jacksonville, FL needs direct flights to Europe!

Hurray.. Caroline got a destination assignment and she decided to take me along to this adventure.  On this 7 day adventure we traveled very much and I even got to play in fresh snow and saw real mountains….  I bet you were wondering where we were since you had not heard from us in a while.

Should have brought my ball. I could have played some basketball while we are waiting...

 Let’s start at the beginning….

 We started out very early in the morning to get to the airport in Jacksonville, Florida to travel to Zurich, Switzerland.  We had a stopover in Atlanta which was a little long but ok.  We always know how to amuse ourselves and there is always something fascinating about airports. 

In comparison, Jacksonville is just a little airport. There were only a few people, mostly business travelers when we arrived around 8 am.  The airport which saw major renovations and additions in the last few years sports grand transfer rooms with large surround windows. Unfortunately it was dark and it rained. Caroline feels that this airport is nice and very easy to navigate.  After checking our bag in we directly steered toward the gate.  We really had no idea how security will work out and had some concerns since we were carrying a lot of photo equipment.   We read lots of horror stories about airport security but we soon found out that this was really not a great deal. We knew that this airport sported the latest in scanners which is always an interesting adventure.  Well, as you know my little plastic body never has any problems going through metal detectors and Caroline came well prepared.  She removed anything metal, even her watch, but then forgot to take off her eye glasses.  The scanner did not seem to have a problem with this and before we knew all our hand luggage, photo equipment and computer made it efford less through the check point. 

So why is this computer not showing our flight??? Is there anyone who could help???

We were very relieved that this process was that easy but now we had a lot of time to kill.  Our flight to Atlanta was scheduled for 10.36 am. This was my first time on a plane and this is pretty exciting… I could not wait to get on board. Unfortunately the flight was very full and I had to stay the entire flight to Atlanta in the bag.  Bummer… luckily we arrived on time. Not long ago Caroline was mentioning that she really would enjoy flying directly from Jacksonville to Europe.  A direct flight to Zurich would only take 8-9 hours compared to our travel time through Atlanta which was around 15 hours and 9 minutes.  We hope that the campaign of the Jacksonville airport to attract some international airlines turns out to be successful.  Lufthansa, British Air, Air France, Swiss, KLM…  Jacksonville is a great place to embark from and we know a lot of people who would be very interested, so please come here soon.

Oh well, so we had to wait 5 hours in Atlanta for the connecting flight to Europe which actually turned out not to be the worst thing. 

(to be continued…)

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An Evening with John Delaney

Shukie goes to a meeting

These guys do an outstanding job.

Last Wednesday Caroline and I were invited by the Nassau County Economic Development Board to a presentation given by John Delaney, president of UNF. I did not really know who John Delaney was but Caroline knew all sorts of things about him.  Look… I am still young and I am just starting out.  At any rate, I was looking forward to going and was very happy we got an invitation.  Hey… I always am looking forward to go on an adventure especially since this presentation was given at the Oyster Bay Yacht Club. That is a very nice spot that has lots to offer.  I was a little surprised that many of the attendees never were at this beautiful yet hidden place.  Granted, it is a bit challenging to get through the gate and then to navigate the curvy road that ends up being a 2 way street but looks like one of these narrow mountain roads in Europe.  Did I say mountain… hmm yes, we are in Florida and there are no mountains.  Well a few, but this is another story.

Noelle from the Nassau County Economic Develpment Board is so nice... I think I am in love.

Back to the “Evening with John Delaney”, we arrived there without getting lost and as usual entered the backdoor. Seems to be a habit, but people generally don’t seem to mind.  After some mingling with some very important locals we all were treated to meet the speaker.  He made a lot of sense and reminded us that there are two top drivers to the economy; Agriculture and Tourism.  He continued to explain his utopia exercises which made lots of sense.  Some people call this type of exercise “best case/worst case scenarios” but the main idea is to aim high which is a good idea in any area.  We also were reminded that we should not wait with plans but make things happen. Very good advice.  He went on talking about UNF and its local impact and seemed to be proud that since the University of North Florida opened in the fall of 1972 that students have benefited from individualized attention and small class sizes. This allows closer interaction between students and professors. This seems to result in high-achieving students that are sought for by all sorts of national and international organizations.  Of course we cannot forget to mention that UNF is nationally known for their outstanding Jazz program.  But then we knew that since we have the annual Amelia Island Jazz Festival and instructors of the UNF Jazz program are part of the advisory board.

I enjoyed listening to John Delaney and found him a very wise well-spoken person.  Of course later on I also had fun since Caroline, as well as many others, got lost getting out of the labyrinth; Oyster Bay.  But then this is not really the worst place to get lost in.

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