"To infinity and beyond!" -- Buzz Lightyear
Do you think Buzz ever wondered what he might find beyond infinity? Is that even possible?
Before he sets off on that journey, he might want to watch "A Trip to Infinity," a new documentary available on Netflix. It's trippy in every sense of the word.
In a nutshell, it gathers some of the top names in the fields of physics, philosophy and math to ponder "the problem of infinity." To try and make sense of something that has no beginning and no end. And is such a thing actually possible in the real world?
If you decide to take this mind-blowing, or mind-numbing, trip down the rabbit hole, you'll definitely want to fasten your mental seat belt.
Full disclosure: Math has never been my strong suit. I got by algebra, did OK with elementary analysis and even become pretty proficient with a slide rule. But the math world these brainiacs inhabit is one place I'll never visit. Still, the subject is presented in layman-friendly language, and makes liberal use of cartoons and graphics to drive their points home.
We learn infinity is unimaginably big, and likewise, unimaginably small, as you would expect in something that goes on forever. And is there a "forever"? Scientists tell us our universe has a beginning -- almost 14 billion years ago -- and at some point, will end, billions of years in the future. But does "space" go on without an end? Or is there a wall where it all stops? And if there is, what's beyond the wall?
Sadly, the documentary provides no answers -- because there aren't any. At least, not for our puny human brains. The experts conclude the questions that infinity raises have unknowable answers. Sort of like another Netflix series, "Unsolved Mysteries."
I think I'll let the child version of Woody Allen have the last word, from "Annie Hall":
Related: 'Gigi in the 561" Podcast
We like to try new restaurants. You never know when you might find another "go-to" place when you want to let someone else do the cooking.
Recently, Pam and I heard about a new place, at least new to us, in West Palm Beach on South Dixie -- Pig Beach BBQ. While we shun red meat, we do enjoy chicken and pork, and since we were in the neighborhood, we dropped by. By the way, we found out Pig Beach BBQ has two locations in New York, and this is their first here.
It was a Wednesday, and the parking lot was full, always a good sign. The friendly hostess saw us coming, opened the door and greeted us warmly. Another good sign. We said we were first-timers and she showed us to a table.
Then our waitperson appeared, greeted us, and promptly asked for my credit card so she could run a tab. It was a little jarring since we hadn't even seen a menu. Hmmm.
That was another thing. There was one menu on the table, but the preferred method of ordering was using your smartphone to scan their app. As I tried to maneuver my phone to capture the QR code, she took it from me and gave an assist. She explained after we place the order, it should arrive in minutes at our table.
Okay, I know it's the new, techie-way to do business, and yes, contact-less ordering is another result of the pandemic, but there are limits to how much self-serve I want to do when it comes to enjoying dining out. While Pam hates self-serve pretty much everywhere ("'I'm not getting paid to do their job"), I don't mind it at gas stations, fast food or stores -- it's my hurry-up nature. But at a sit-down dinner? Not so much.
As for the food, everything is a la carte. We both got the chicken sandwich ($11) and added a small order of fries, which at $7 seemed pretty steep. And while it appeared I had placed the order, our waitperson came back to check and no, it didn't go in. So more time on the iPhone trying to get that right.
I should add that after we were seated, another person brought a pitcher of water, sat it down and left. It was not until later we saw two upturned plastic cups by the condiments, which we assumed were for water. More self-service.
Our food arrived, both meals on one tray that was placed in the middle of the table. The sandwiches were too big for the baskets they were in, so it was a little awkward to share the tray while we both tried to figure out the best way to eat them. And while this is by no means any kind of food review, we did find our the chicken overdone and way too crunchy for our taste.
Needless to say, we left disappointed, and still hungry. And while many may like taking charge of their dining experience, it just isn't our cup of tea. It also begs the question, with so much self-serve involved, you do you tip? Yourself?
Raise your hand if you enjoy taking a COVID test.
While I can't see what's beyond my computer screen, I seriously doubt many hands went up. But if you want to travel, or have to travel, taking a COVID test has been the price of admission, especially for taking a cruise.
We know first hand about the latter. In the last year alone, Pam and I have had to take almost a dozen tests before boarding ships or staying on a ship longer than a week. While not particularly painful, having a piece of cotton on a stick pushed into your nostrils isn't anybody's idea of fun. Not to mention the anxiety of "what if it's positive?" The fear you may have it is almost as bad as having it.
But that's changing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now leaving it up to the cruise lines to implement their own health policies and procedures. Last week, Virgin Voyages announced it was dropping pre-cruise testing, and allowing some unvaccinated guests onboard as well. Small cruise lines Azamara and Palm Beach based-Margaritaville have done the same, as well as Norwegian for some of its sailings.
In the months ahead, it's expected many if not most of the major cruise lines will follow suit. And while we certainly won't miss getting tested, COVID is still with us and not going away any time soon, if ever.
Reactions, as you might expect, have been varied. Many are happy and relieved; others are more fearful that suddenly what seemed to be the safest way to travel isn't anymore.
While you can make the case either way, here are a few points to ponder:
-- A negative test result reflects just a moment in time. Once onboard, you are mixing and mingling with hundreds of strangers, not to mention all the interactions when you leave the ship at a port of call. And just how reliable are test results, anyway?
-- Cruise lines have done a yeoman job of dealing the pandemic, providing extra sanitation procedures, mask mandates, 100 percent crew vaccinations, eliminating self-serve buffets and other measures. When's the last time you read about a norovirus outbreak on a ship? The extra precautions have seemed to stem that tide as well.
-- Testing aside, the best thing any of us can do is get vaccinated and boosted as necessary. I would be a thousand percent okay if that remained a requirement.
Health professionals say everyone at one time or another will have COVID. Like the common cold, it's here to stay. But unlike a cold, getting it on a cruise means your vacation is effectively over, as you are forced into quarantine. That's the new reality travelers have to deal with, and the thought of being stranded in a foreign country or anywhere for an extended period is unsettling to say the least.
What's a person to do? Pretty much what we've been doing for the past two years: Avoid crowds when you can, sanitize and wash your hands often, mask up if the situation calls for it and keep your vaccination current. In short, be accountable for your own health regimens.
Yet even as we try to get comfortable living with COVID, the new virus making headlines is Monkeypox. When does it end?
PALM BEACH_The last time Pam and I were at Lola 41 in Palm Beach, we weren't able to take advantage of the restaurant's inviting outdoor patio, which was closed as workers completed the adjacent White Elephant Hotel (you can read about it HERE) .
On a return trip this week, it was available, and the ideal place to enjoy the end of another perfect Florida day amid lush landscaping and striped umbrellas. Since that first visit, Lola 41 has established itself as the place to go for globally-inspired cuisine, sushi and friendly service in a setting that is both glamorous and casual.
As the summer "off season" settles in, Lola 41 has brought back "Sushi Sundays," where from 5-10 pm diners can get "buy-one-get-one free" sushi rolls (equal or lesser value), including classic, traditional and specialty rolls.
Also new, they have added a daily Happy Hour, and who doesn't like that? It's from 4-6 pm, and features 50 per cent off house liquor, beer, wines by the glass and signature cocktails, along with $10 sushi rolls and small plate selections -- such as Spicy Edamame, Skirt Steak Tacos, Duck Buns and Cantonese Style Pork Pot Sticks.
'This could be the meteor shower of the century!"
"Don't miss tonight's once-in-a-lifetime Chartreuse Moon."
"Look to the east to see the ultra-rare, Six Planet Alignment around the crescent moon -- it only happens every 100,000 years!"
Really -- is anything more hyped than astronomical events? And talk about over-promise and under-deliver. Just speaking for myself, they never seem to pan out, for a variety of reasons.
More often than not, it's cloud cover. If could be clear as a bell for weeks, but the mere mention of a spectacular sky event will generate a thick wave of clouds that usually dissipate after said event concludes.
Such was the case this week for the tau Herculids meteor shower, featuring the shattered remains of Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (doesn't roll off the tongue, does it?), which some pundits predicted could generate as many as 1,000 fireballs an hour.
While it didn't deliver to nearly that scale, it didn't matter. As Judy Collins sang in "Both Sides Now": 'Clouds got in my way."
While we're picking nits, what's the deal with when these things occur? "Optimal viewing will be from 2-3 a.m."
Let's see. Set an alarm and hope not only the skies will be clear but also the promised spectacle actually happens.
It's particularly painful for me since I have been a wanna-be astronomer since I coerced my parents into buying me a telescope at age nine. Many nights were spent in my backyard trying to zero in on the rings of Saturn and examining craters on the moon.
But aside from moving to the deserts of Chile or a hut atop a Hawaii volcanic peak, I'll have to be content with enjoying the images from Hubble or the new James Webb observatory.
Of course, Halley's Comet is set to make a return in 2061. Is it too early to check the long-range forecast?
I'm sure you're all been on tenterhooks, pins and needles or just plain curious about how the Barbecue Spaghetti came out (see previous post). Based on my own expert opinion (Pam still hasn't tried it), I would give it a solid 8 on a scale of 1-10. Honestly, the pulled pork blendly nicely with the angel hair pasta and spicy marinara sauce. It was very tasty indeed.
Would I make it again? Absolutely. If you decide to give it a try, send me a nolte. If I ever appear on "Beat Bobby Flay," this just may be my signature dish!
Well kids, this is it. The big kahuna of football games, the Super Bowl.
Over the past two weeks, the National Football League, TV and cable shows and Madison Avenue have squeezed every last drop of promotional hype they possibly can from the game, analyzing and dissecting every player, coach and official, down to their shirt size.
Me? I'm borderline ho-hum. My team didn't make it, so per tradition, I'll probably root for the underdog. In this case, the Bengals.
But football aside, a major part of the hoopla are the parties and get-togethers, where food takes centerstage. With the pandemic still in effect, that's not happening here. But it doesn't stop me from whipping up something special for the Big Game.
This year I'm going full-on gonzo. No wings, no dips, no chips, no pigs snuggled in blankets. Nope --I'm going for the full monty (foodwise) and making... are you ready? ... Barbecue Spaghetti.
Maybe it does border on oxymoronic, but hey, it combines two of my favorite things: BBQ and pasta.
The idea stems from a recipe I ran across on the web headlined, "BBQ Spaghetti: A True Memphis Original." According to the author, Robert Moss, it was invented by a former railroad cook named Brady Vincent, and remains a Memphis favorite.
Preparation couldn't be easier. You simply combine pasta sauce, barbeque sauce and pulled pork. Let that cook and add the spaghetti. Voila!
Despite my enthusiasm, Pam is skeptical. So are our friends. But ye of little faith, I think you'll change your minds once you give it a taste.
So stick around. I'll post an update and reveal the results. It just could be more interesting than the game.
In these trying times, our elected leaders have plenty to concern themselves with. And among those weighty issues -- at least in Florida -- is what will be named the official state dessert. No, really.
Since 2006, the official State Dessert of Florida is Key Lime Pie. Now Senator Danny Burgess, who represents the heart of the strawberry growing region, has introduced a bill to recognize Strawberry Shortcake as the new official dessert of the Sunshine State.
As you might expect, the folks in Key West haven't taken this affront kindly, and a group known as the Conch Republic Key Lime Council has created a Change.org petition to keep key lime pie as the official state dessert.
Quoting from the petition:
"WHEREAS: Key Lime Pie is a native Floridian dessert that originated in the Florida Keys, and Strawberry Shortcake is a non-native dessert that originated in Europe.
"WHEREAS: Key Lime Pie was designated the Official State Pie of Florida in 2006 and has served proudly as the de facto State Dessert for 16 years, and Strawberry Shortcake has never received a state designation."
For me, it's a no-brainer. While I enjoy them both, Key Lime Pie is way more Florida than Strawberry Shortcake. In Pam's "Gigi in the 561" podcast, she entertains a possible solution: Instead of designating one dessert, have an official pie as well as an official cake.
Whatever, can we just get on with the really important stuff, like whether Tampa should rename their football stadium after Tom Brady? I can already see the petitions that would bring out.
Florida has to be one of the few places in the world where, when temps fall into the 40s and below, the National Weather Service issues an advisory to "look out for falling iguanas." It's true. Those tree-hugging, tropical lizards that grow up to six feet in length hate the cold as much as we do.
When it gets as cold as we just experienced in the last few days, they literally "freeze" and go into a coma-like state. If they happen to be in a tree at the time, plop!
The good news, at least for them, is that they return to their normal, plant-munching selves when it warms back up. In the meantime, experts say don't wrap them in swaddling clothes or bring them inside. They could wake up suddenly and bite you. We also hear it's against the law.
While the video brlow has nothing to do with iguanas, it does feature a lizard, and is pretty funny. I take every opportunity I get to post it. It's from a live TV newscast from Fort Worth, Texas-based KXAS. Pam and i were actually working for one of their competitors when this happened. Enjoy!
Pam -- aka "Gigi in the 561" -- did a podcast today about languishing, and how that describes the current state of the world in 2022.
It made me stop and think. What exactly does "languish" mean? According to Webster, to languish is to become "dispirited" or "suffer neglect;" to "live in a state of depression or decreasing vitality;" to become "feeble, weak or enervated (lacking vigor)."
Two years into a worldwide pandemic, "languishing" seems to fit the situation to a "T."
Health impact aside -- and we all know that's taken a terrible toll -- just about everyone has felt the mental impact. Namely:
Of course, the pandemic's impact to the world's economies is immeasurable. As travel writers, we felt it right away when cruises were stopped in their tracks and flying for fun turned into a nightmare of unruly passengers duking it out at 30,000 feet. We have ventured out during the last two years, but our trips have been few and far between.
So here we are, languishing in 2022. Not depressed -- that's not our style. Dispirited? Sometimes. Downhearted? Desperate? All those emotions come and go from time to time. But still, above all, very grateful to be vertical and given another day to fight.
The one thing we do know for sure: Whatever the state of the world, this too shall pass.
Yes, I know it's spelled like "Jerry." No, I don't know why it's pronounced "Gary."