Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Air Scotty

One of Auntie's greatest pleasures in life is to meet gifted people.

Tinker, tailor, soldier or sailor,  they all have one thing in common:  a natural passion for what they do.

Today, we pose some penetrating questions to my friend Scotty,  a pilot with Delta Air Lines and at the top of Auntie's list of gifted and passionate people. 

Last March, Auntie and Puddy flew from Nice to New York on Air Scotty and I can assure you that it was a very smooth ride.....

Hi Scotty!  We know you're a busy man so thanks for putting down the controls today to answer a few of Auntie's questions.   And thanks for the great photos.  Wheels up!

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town called Holland, in Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a lovely, bucolic suburb of Philadelphia. Mostly farms and woodlands back then, with beautiful homes on large, hilly lots. Now, it's overbuilt with expensive real estate developments and lots of traffic. 

The day I was born, my dad kept the hospital receipt for a prank he would pull on me 30 years later. On my 30th birthday, which was my father's age when I was born, he sent me a birthday card with the original hospital bill in it, demanding repayment. So I wrote him a cheque. He cashed it, writing on the back under his endorsement: "This doesn't even come close to making us even."
Scotty Reveals the Real Cause of Turbulence

How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a pilot?

When I was little, my dad used to take us into the city to a place called The Franklin Institute, an amazing science museum. Inside, there was a 1948 T-33 jet trainer, where visitors could climb into the cockpit and handle real jet controls, while other interactive displays introduced principles of flight, and how they impact aircraft design. 

On display at The Franklin Institute since 1935, there was also a Wright Model B Flyer—number 39—with its muslin-covered wings and workable engine. It was one of the first mass-produced aircraft ever built and was the first plane to fly non-stop from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. Before the Institute acquired the Flyer in 1933, it was owned by Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, grandson of a wealthy Philadelphia beer baron. The plane was in such good shape because Bergdoll never crashed and flew for only two years. Bergdoll flew 748 flights without a mishap and logged 312 hours and 34 minutes total air time. His last flight was in 1914.

It was here at the Franklin Institute that my interest in becoming a pilot was nurtured and developed. It was also here where I first threw up in public, carsick from my dad's driving during the ride into the city. It happened right in front of throngs of people, in a stairwell between exhibits. I was 5 years old. I have no idea why I remember this.

When did you become a pilot?

I became a certificated pilot while attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which is the most prestigious aeronautical University in the world. I earned my Commercial Pilot Certificate with Single and Multi-Engine Land, Instrument-Airplane Ratings, and a Certified Flight Instructor Certificate with the same ratings. This was part of the curriculum for the B.S. in Aeronautical Science Program, which prepares graduates for a career as a professional airline pilot and in Flight Operations engineering and management. 

One out of every 4 commercial airline pilots in the United States is a graduate of Embry-Riddle. It's often referred to as "The Harvard of the Skies.”
Scotty's B767-300ER in Nice, France

What type of aircraft do you fly?

I'm currently flying the Boeing B767-300ER for Delta Air Lines on international routes to Europe and Asia, based in New York at JFK. I have flown many other aircraft in my career:  The Beechcraft King Air B100, Learjet 25, Saab SF340 Regional Turboprop, Boeing B727-200 and the McDonnell Douglas MD88. 

Actually, wherever you happen to be right now, take a look around and pick any object you see. Now put wings on it and I will fly it!

So, what's it really like to fly a big plane?

Other than having more advanced systems and having to work in a "crew" environment, it's not much different than flying smaller planes. Except it pays a lot better. And the lovely Flight Attendants, of course.

Ever get lost?  I know navigating through all those clouds is hard.

Hahahaha! No.

What's your favourite airport?

Madrid has a gorgeous new terminal, and some of the airports in the Far East are astounding. There's nothing comparable in the United States. Of course, Nice, France is probably my favourite, very well-run, and when I arrive I know I will see people whom I love.

Any Hobbies?  What takes up your spare time?

I like to eat!  Luxury, gourmet food. Haute Cuisine. I love to visit the finest restaurants, especially in France. I  love movies, especially independent and foreign films. 
I also spend time designing and building high-performance computer systems, creating all kinds of digital content, photography and post production. 

I spend time collecting Impressionist art:  Pissarro, Cézanne, Cassatt, Armand Robert,  Élie Anatole Pavil; Contemporary Impressionist Figurative/Landscape artists Royo, Joseph Latinsky, Bruno Zupan; and Contemporary Realism, Figurative artist Pino. I also spend a lot of time in my post-production studio I built in my home, creating all kinds of digital
content, photography and motion graphics.

Oh, and laundry. And unpacking and repacking my suitcase. That takes up most of my spare time, actually.

If you had to do something else besides flying what would it be?

Any of my hobbies would be great.  I’m only 45, so there's still time!

Pick One - The Rapid Round:

Captain Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard?

Tough one.
Captain Kirk had a tendency to ignore orders and subvert authority. He loved women of all colours, shapes, sizes, (even species) and he had a full, luxuriant head of hair, like me. I'm going with Kirk on this one

Rembrandt or Picasso?

That's easy...Rembrandt van Rijn! In Rembrandt’s painting The Good Samaritan, the beaten traveller is seen being lifted into the inn from a horse. So I can relate to this, the beaten traveller.  In this same painting, you can see a grotesque dog squatting down to relieve himself. Rembrandt put this in to make the point that, “A man must have reverence for all life, even if aspects of it occasionally disgust him.” And this was Rembrandt’s understanding of Scripture...if the Creator chose to give life to ugly dogs, man should not quarrel with it. This is exactly my philosophy when dealing with some of the people I have to work with.

Coke or Pepsi?

Pepsi for the Win, by a huge margin.

(Addendum: It appears that my airline has a "proud" Corporate partnership with Coca-Cola. Never mind what I just said. Enjoy Coke!)

Mr Ed or Secretariat?

Goin' with Ed. And I'll tell you why: By the 1960's, people were already lamenting the sad state of television programming. In 1961, FCC Chairman Newt Minow made his famous "vast wasteland" speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, who were struck to the core by his remarks. They felt compelled to respond, as America had responded to the Sputnik  challenge a few years earlier. It was T.V.'s "Sputnik" moment. After assembling the finest of their finest, the television industry marshaled their prodigious resources, and you know what they came up with? That's right, Mr Ed, the talking horse. 

Secretariat may have been the best race horse ever, but Mr. Ed represented a triumph of the American television industry's ingenuity and spirit.

Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook - love it. It's how I keep in touch with friends I've made throughout my travels all over the world.

Betty or Wilma?

I fell in love with a lovely redheaded girl from Austin, Texas once. Oh, how beautiful you were, Wilma...I mean, Lea.

Cat or dog?

Doggy...like my beautiful Cocker Spaniel, Callie. I love her more than words can express.

Any final words of wisdom for our Auntie Times Readers?

Never ask a question when you know the answer is going to be a lie.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Humpty Dumpty had a Great ... Code??

Auntie Cracks the Code
Last night while dining out, the subject of eggs came up and my Japanese friend told me that in Japan there are vending machines that dispense eggs and that eggs older than a day or two are considered too stale to eat.  She went on to say that in this region it's hard to find eggs fresh enough to eat raw, her proof of the desirable freshness being the white of the egg standing proud and firm and high. 

Pretty Eggs in the Menton Market

Well, eggs are sold differently in France, not from vending machines but at the village market and in these charming surroundings you can always find eggs, either from a specialist like Gilbert in the Monaco market (The Auntie Times April 2004) or from a fruit and vegetable vendor who may sell a surplus egg or two from her own hens.

I remember the first time I went to a grocery store in France and being shocked to see all the eggs stored on a shelf, not in a refrigerator.  I've since learned that in France, after the freshly layed eggs are collected they are not washed with soaps or other chemicals as they are in Canada, the theory being that this protects the insides of the egg from spoiling or being contaminated with salmonella or other dangerous microbes.  Old habits die hard, mine I mean:  I always buy my eggs from an egg specialist in the market unless it's an egg emergency.

Eggs are often the subject of conversation with my foodie friends.  Whether or not to buy from this vendor or that one, where to find white eggs for colouring at Easter, white eggs being a rarity here.  My good friend Meghan travels all the way to a different village to buy her eggs, faithful to her own cherished "egg lady" and her always excellent eggs.   Last year I had a mini scandal because my egg vendor in Menton was selling eggs with a sign that said, "plein air" but the code stamped on the egg said otherwise.  Feeling betrayed, I stopped buying his eggs immediately.  
Happy Hens or not?

I'm not sure which came first, consumer demand for all of this detailed information stamped on eggs or consumers using the information on the stamps to make a choice about which eggs to buy. 

French hens or not?  Hens kept in cages or not?  Hens kept indoors or outdoors?  How many hens to the square metre?  Phew! The information contained in French egg codes is voluminous but decipherable.  If you are ever in France and want to know which eggs to buy, I found the key to the French Egg Codes on the Committee for the Promotion of Egg Consumption Website.
So, what did I learn about the eggs on the top of the page?  ...  the eggs are free of imperfections (A), were layed in France (FR), by a hen (O), who ate 90% organic feed (0), and each hen lives in 4 square metres of grassy open air space (1) in which to peck happily.  Omelet here we come!

As for my black-listed egg vendor in Menton, he has a new egg on offer (the one in the photo on the top of the page) and he's now off the boycott list -  I'm now buying his new and excellent eggs for a lofty sum of3.90 for 6.  Are his eggs worth the price?  I'd have to say, "yes!"  They taste fresh, fruity, buttery, and the egg white is proud and firm.  I think  my Japanese friend would like them. 

OK, he's forgiven.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

There's no Place Like Gnome

Derby Lady

Last week, the planets aligned, Saturn was in Venus, the sun was shining and for the first time in many moons Auntie, Puddy and Uncle Jim all had a few days with nothing to do.  So we did what we usually do when we have nothing to do - we had a sleepover in Menton.  Yay!

Because Puddy is a most excellent and thoughtful friend, she brought Auntie some birthday loot:  a lovely little silver bird to decorate my dining table and a funny little book called, "Garden Gnome Attack." That funny little book jiggled a fond memory about gnomes.....

Last winter Uncle Jim took Auntie to the annual Fair in the port of Monaco.  Auntie won two little gnomes at the Derby game.  You know the Derby game don't you?  You sit down in front of a narrow alley.  You have a small ball and you roll it up the narrow alley in front of you and the ball falls through holes at the end of the alley.  Each of the holes has a different value and depending on how good your aim is and how fast you grab the ball and shoot it back down the alley determines how fast your horse gallops down the racetrack at the back of the game.  Auntie is quite good at Derby as it turns out so she won 2 little gnomes. 

Auntie named one "Mo" and kept it and she gave the other one to Puddy who put it on the desk in her office.  Well, Auntie's other girlfriends in Monaco, Christine and Diana found out about the gnomes and then they wanted one too!  Off to the fair we all went, husbands in tow to play Derby and to win more gnomes.  Lucky for us the lady who runs the Derby game had more gnomes.

We arrived at the game.  The tension was thick.  Tokens were bought and popped into the machine.  Fingers were crossed.  Lights flashed.  Sweat broke out on Auntie's brow.  Derby lady cracked her riding crop on top of the alleys. Loud bells rang and then, BAM! - off go the little horses heading toward the finish line. Uncle Jim was standing behind Auntie coaching her along.  "You're first!"  yelled Uncle Jim.  "Second!", "First!",  and then finally - clang clang clang!!  Derby Lady cracks her riding crop and yells, "nous avons une gagnante!"   Hey, that's me!!  Auntie won!!  Phew....  The competition was fierce but Auntie was determined - her friends needed gnomes.

Christiine and Diana have gnomes in their homes now.  Diana sent me a nice picture of her gnome and it's proudly displayed on our fridge in Monaco.  Christine's gnome is safely kept in her china cabinet and I gave the fourth gnome to my friend Suzanne in Ottawa.  And my gnome?  Well, seems Mo is a bit of a wanderer as the photos prove!

Having a Ball in Nice

Chillin'at the
Café de Paris

Al mercato di Milano

Kisses from Petticoat Junction

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Not Your Average 10 Year Old.

Who would have guessed that the most exciting find from a recent trip to Hong Kong was a TV show??  We've come a long way since Green Tea Häagan Dazs.......

There we were in Hong Kong celebrating the Year of the Rabbit.  After an exciting but tiring day I was listlessly clicking around the Chinese TV channels and stumbled upon Junior MasterChef Australia.  I sat bolt upright.  What a find!

Twelve children from 8-12 years old cook their hearts out for the top prize of Junior MasterChef Australia and a $15,000 trust fund.  But this is not just kids making jello or Popin" Fresh cookies.  

Here are just some of the dishes they prepared from their own recipes:

Roasted Lamb Rack with Mint Salsa and Sweet Potato
Spiced Lamb Cutlets with Eggplant and Currant Couscous
Blackened Tuna Steaks on Celeriac Mash with Broadbeans

Yipes!  I don't know about you but when I was 10 years old I was still using an Easy Bake Oven.

I have no idea why everyone isn't glued to the TV watching this.

Now put away your homework and check it out.  Be prepared to be inspired and amazed at the passion and skill these kids have.  

And PS, bring kleenex when you watch the last episode.

WARNING:  If you plan to watch the show on YouTube, don't visit the Junior MasterChef Australia website - the site reveals the winner. 

Don't worry, I still love Green Tea Häagan Dazs

Still Worth a Trip to the Other Side of the Planet

Monday, February 14, 2011

Used Stuff in France - Three ways

French KnickKnacks!

Menton's Friday Brocante

Some things in this world are common to all cultures.  One of these is bargain hunting!  How can I describe the thrill of finding a beautiful cake stand for 5€ or the fun of haggling for 1€ off of a divine doodad, a fabulous find or a "must have" thingamajig.  The mind boggles and the heart races.

There are three ways to satisfy your craving for second-hand bargains in France  The Brocante, the Vide Grenier and last but not least, the Kermesse.  First, I'll tell you about the Brocante…..

French Silverware.  How much for everything?
The Brocante is a lovely age-old tradition in France and Brocantes can be found in almost every village or town.  A Brocante is essentially a roving antiques market where vendors arrive in the early morning, set up a table with their wares and sell away for the entire day. The Brocante is usually managed by the "Mairie" which is the local municipal government. The current fee for the Brocante in Menton is 13 or about $15.  Typically the vendors are professional antique dealers since you need to show your business licence before the Mairie will let you set up. 

The Brocante appears in each town or village regularly on the same day of the week.  In Menton the Brocante is always on a Friday in the square near the century old food market by the sea.  The Brocante adds some extra interest to going to the food market because after buying all those delicious things to cook with you can search for something to serve them with!  

The prices at the Menton Brocante are always a bit high but with a little, "je ne sais pas" and some chin rubbing (your chin) you can usually get the price down by at least a few euro or on a good day, maybe more!
I MUST have that!!

The "Vide Grenier"

What to do if you live in France and have some junk to sell?  Well, the Vide Grenier is for you!

The Vide Grenier
The Vide Grenier is quite a different thing from the Brocante as Auntie learned when she participated in one.  Vide Grenier or "Vide" as it is referred to affectionately, is more of a flea market or "boot sale" as the British call it.  It means literally, "empty the grainery or attic".  In typical French style, it is interdit in France to toss out a table on a Saturday morning, call it a garage sale and sell some junk.  Nope.  The Mairie of the city you're living must approve the show. 

Four or five times a year, typically in the spring and fall, many of the cities and villages in France promote their upcoming Vide with posters throughout town.  If you want to participate you need to contact the organization listed on the poster, often the Lions Club who will have had prior approval of the Mairie.  They will send you many forms to fill in.  Along with the forms you need the following:  
1.  Documentation proving that you live in the town where the Vide is taking place.  
2.  An insurance certificate to prove you have insurance in case someone comes to your table, is clumsy and stumbles on a flower pot and  
3.  A fee of about 25 plus a refundable clean up fee of 25 that they keep in case you're a slob and leave a lot of junk and ciggy butts in your booth after you leave.  

Meghan with our Junk at the Vide in Menton
Thank goodness Celine took care of all of that paperwork for us!

Vide Grenier are typically set up in a wide open space such as a park, field or parking lot since they tend to attract many buyers and sellers.  Early in the morning when you arrive with your junk in tow, you are given a number and assigned a space and then you greet your neighbouring sellers and start setting up.  There were about 150 vendors in the sale that I was in.  Not many vendors when compared to the Great Glebe Garage Sale but the space was packed!
A Great Find at the Vide in Beaulieu

People come the Vide looking for bargains and it's fun to haggle with everyone.  Auntie's good friend Meghan came to help Auntie, sell some of her junk and to have a few laughs on a sunny Sunday.   The day was long but it was a lot of fun and we made about 300 some of which went towards a little Italian extravaganza at the Conad food market in Latte and the remainder went to buy baking ingredients for the Great Glebe Garage Sale.  The junk that didn't sell was donated to the annual Kermesse.........

The Kermesse

Every year for the past 35 years on the first Saturday of December, the British Association of Monaco (Auntie and Uncle Jim are members) sponsors the giant Kermesse Oecuménique in a big circus tent in the Monaco neighbourhood called Fontvielle.  The Kermesse is a gigantic version of what we would call a rummage sale.  It's a great place to buy English books, electrical doodads and knickknacks.  In 2009 the Kermesse collected 76,000!!  Can you believe it? 

Auntie and her best friend, Auntie Heather have bought many fun things at the Kermesse.  Our friend Christine even found a lovely black velvet dress that you would never guess came from the Kermesse.  One memorable acquisition was the "cock clock", an old flat plastic rooster with a clock and an alarm built in that crows very loudly on the hour when the sun hits it.  Unfortunately, the cock clock is now silent:  Uncle Jim ripped out its batteries one summer day when it woke him up at 6 in the morning.  Oops.....

As you know, Auntie is a big fan of a good rummage sale so for the past 5 years Auntie has volunteered her time to help set up the electrical stand but this year she was promoted to be in charge of the English Book stand.  Hooray for the Kermesse!

One thing is for certain, French junk is really different from Canadian junk.  When I'm in Tokyo in a few weeks I'm going to visit a Japanese flea market - now that should be very interesting... 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ooh la la Your Bingo!

As you may know, Auntie is a big fan of Bingo and when Auntie visits Canada in the summer, she enjoys going to Bingo with her good friend Sean.  So imagine Auntie's excitement when she learned that the Monaco Lions Club was hosting a Bingo in Monaco!  Well, as Auntie and a few brave friends who tagged along quickly learned, Bingo in Monaco is very different from Bingo in Canada.......

There we were, puzzled looks on our faces, with Bingo cards that looked really strange and a paddle that said "Quine".  Well, as with anything in life, sit back, keep alert and do what everyone else is doing.  Oh yes, and in Monaco, order cocktails!  All for a good cause....

As the evening unfolded we learned the new Monaco Bingo rules.  To win at Bingo in Canada you need to blot the numbers that the caller calls and for the simple games, if you have five numbers in a row or 4 corners, you're a winner.  Not in Monaco!  First, you have to know your numbers in French and you have to listen carefully because they don't repeat them so don't snooze or you'll lose!

In Monaco, you need to have all the numbers that are called covered on your card.  Then you hold up your paddle and yell, "QUINE" at the top of your lungs.  Whew.  

If the stress of all that doesn't get you the headache from the cheap wine will!

Here is what I learned from playing Bingo in Monaco:

1.  Always get a book of Bingo cards, it's cheaper.

2.  Never drink wine or have cocktails while learning something new, especially when the something new is in a foreign language.

3.  Bring friends for help and support and you can share a good laugh for years to come.

4.  Stompin' Tom Connors wrote the song, "Sudbury Saturday Night" and it's a good song to hum while you're waiting for the next game to start because in the song there's a line about "the girls are out to bingo".  Your friends will love you for it.

5.  Never be afraid of trying something new.  Never.

Bingo in the Old Country

Cat Still Missing!

I'm sure you remember the saga of "Cat", the furry feline drifter that arrived one day, cost us hundreds of euro for surgery to remove a tumor, ate like a pig and then ran off when we put him on a diet.  Well, he's still missing.