Greetings From Lisboa

  

Greetings From Lisboa

If you ‘ve been in Portugal, you probably noticed that locals call their capital Lisboa. On our recent trip there, we met quite a few people who also speak Russian. Our first taxi driver, who drove us from the airport to our hotel, was from Ukraine, barely spoke Portuguese, and managed by speaking English. Since Portugal is part of the EU (European Union), it became the place that attracts people from many parts of the world, including Africa, which Portugal colonized in 1418. Portugal’s colonial history is fascinating and lasted from 1415 till 1999, when Macau was returned to China. Portuguese are very proud of their sea explorer Vasco de Gama, who reached India in 1495. They even named a new bridge in his honor. As an historical irony, in our times, Portugal is considered one of the poorest (but economically fast improving) countries in the Western Europe, which is impossible to guess after spending seven days here.

I started writing this story on the first day after our arrival. However it took me a few days to finish, since every day we returned to our hotel room exhausted after hours of walking. My day usually started at about seven. Our hotel was located in the center (an area called Baixa, which means downtown), a five-minute walk from the river Tagus in the foothill of the old town, which was built on seven hills. Walking up the cobbled stone covered roads for two hours every morning, I explored different neighborhoods, getting lost, and then after returning to our hotel, I showed off my knowledge to Elfa. I used the map only to show locals where my hotel was, since the streets are very confusing.

We started our acquaintance with this city with a population of about three million (including the surrounding areas), by exploring with the hop-on-hop off Yellow Bus. It has an open area on the top and since the weather was very pleasant, we enjoyed our sightseeing. There are four bus routes plus the Yellow Boat. Over three days we saw the majority of what there was there to see. We also visited an incredible art collection in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, and did some shopping in the Porte Englese, a shopping mall owned by a Spanish company. Around the corner from our hotel was an area with many restaurants with outdoor seating. Some of them served very good food. We also ate at the Time Out Market, where locals bring fish, which were swimming just a few hours ago. We had delicious ice cream almost every day (walking helped to burn the calories). We listened to local Fado music, performed in many venues. We relaxed in many parks; I bought five books about Lisbon, since I am considering writing my own photo-book about the experience; but for that I have to return. It was tiring to walk for many hours, but we had a very good time. Some compare Lisbon with San Francisco, but I will write about that next time.

P.S. It was difficult for me to decide which one out of over 1200 images to share with you.

What you see: a concert in a private home, protesters blocking the tram by laying on the rails, one on the squares with a beautiful paved road, and my appearance next to the statue of Fernando Pessoa – a famous writer and poet (I bought three of his books in English). My wife Elfa took this image.

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What Is Lawn Bowling?

  

What Is Lawn Bowling?

Three times a week, I take our labradoodle, Max to his dog-sitter. It is about a twenty-minute drive from our house to the Richmond District, and my route takes me through Golden Gate Park. On the way, I see a green field, which looks like bowling courts to me. For a while, there was construction going on, but on Wednesday, September 25th, I saw a crowd of people, some of them dressed in white clothing. After dropping Max off, I decided to return, since I needed a story to share with you, and I suspected that not many of you are familiar with Lawn Bowling. I had a conversation with one of the spectators, who has been playing this game since 1992, and claimed that though he is part of the team; he is not good enough to go on the court during the competition.

Turns out that it takes very specific skills to be able to throw eight specially designed balls to roll to the mark close to a smaller ball called a “jack” or “kitty”. You need good coordination, balance, strength and endurance (each game takes about three hours) and even talent to be good at this game. He directed me across the road to the clubhouse. There and online I learned some fascinating history. The Lawn Bowling Club in San Francisco was formed in 1901 by the Scottish fraternal organization of St. Andrew Society, and at the beginning was known as the Scottish Bowling Club. In 1912, there was another organization established – the Women’s Golden Gate Lawn Bowling Club. Both organizations united later on, and today the Club is recognized as the oldest public club in the country.

According to the timetable I found on the wall in the club-house, the history of lawn bowling started in 5200 B.C. In 1588, one of the famous bowlers was Sir Francis Drake, who claimed what was now California for the English. Lawn Bowling appears to have been introduced into American Colonies in the 1600s, though archeologists have uncovered that North American Indians played similar game centuries before. What I witnessed in the park was part of the Bowls USA 2019 Championship. In the club I found that the participants, men and women, are from eight divisions from different parts of the United States.

If you are looking for a way to relax and spend time outdoors with pleasant people, you might be interested in free lessons on most of Wednesday and weekends. The address is 320 Bowling Green Drive, Golden Gate Park, (415) 297-5042.

P.S. You can find many images of the Lawn Bowling online. My task was to show you four images, which look a bit different. You be the judge.

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Special Friends

  

Special Friends

If you read my photo-story book “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers” (if you didn’t, you can buy your book on amazon.com), you know that our labradoodle Max was born in Monterey, CA, where his breeder Melinda Leahy lives. Therefore, when we recently visited Carmel with Max, I wanted to meet his Mom. Unfortunately, she was not available, because she was staying with Melinda’s friend who was sick and had seizures. Right before a seizure, the dog would lay next to the woman’s head, informing relatives about a forthcoming problem. A similar dog’s behavior was reported in a The Wall Street Journal article, which appeared on Monday, September 6, 2019 titled, “Dogs That Can Read Warning Signs”. This dog’s behavior is not unique. According to some research, people and dogs have a special connection. There was another article in the San Francisco Chronicle, on Friday, June 7, 2019 titled, “Stressed? Your Dog May Feel It Too, Study Suggests.” Swedish researchers found out that owners are influencing their dogs, rather than the other way around. “New evidence continually emerging, showing that people and their dogs have incredibly close bonds that resemble the ones that parents share with their children.” But this does not explain dogs behavior when humans are in trouble. I was surprised to find “A Pet’s Heart” in “Costco Connection.” Just in case you missed it, I will share some of the stories with you. Diane Hoodhad recently adopted her dog, Teva. The dog started to pay extra attention to Hood’s left leg – even through her blue jeans. She thought it was just a freckle. Nevertheless, she went to a doctor to have it checked out. Teva’s sensitive nose had smelt squamous cell carcinoma, which was then safely removed. Dogs also help other dogs. Just like people, dogs need blood during surgery and other medical procedures. Veterinary Hospital in Raleigh, NC uses pit bull Einstein who, before retiring at the age of 12 saved 100 lives.

There is another service that connects people with dogs – military working dogs, or K-9. Developed during World War II, the program currently includes more than 2500 dogs serving in the military, and about 700 deployed overseas. I found a fascinating story in the Smithsonian Magazine in its January/February 2019 edition, “War Dog”. It was about the author Rebecca Frankel’s experience of bringing home retired seasoned veteran of combat in Afghanistan, a 10-year old Belgian Malinois named Dingo. “He was trained to propel his 87 pound body weight toward insurgents, locking his jaws around them. He’d served three tours in Afghanistan where he’d weathered grenade blasts and firefights. In 2011, he’d performed bomb-sniffing heroics that earned one of his handlers a Bronze Star. This dog saved thousands of lives”. The article not only talks about how this tough soldier was adopted to become Rebecca’s best friend, but you can also see his photos during his army service.

In the “Costco Connection” I also read a story about a cat named George. He protected two little girls from a rattlesnake, positioning himself in front of the snake until the girls’ grandmother was able to roll their stroller away.

I am sure you might have heard or experienced stories about our special four-legged friends. I would like to hear them and to share them with my readers.

P.S. The three dogs (including our Max) and a cat might not look as special, but for their owners they are. As far as our family is concerned, we have a special companion – Max. He became famous after appearing on the cover of my photo-story book “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers” which you can buy on Amazon.com.

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Whom to Give and Not to Give Your Money

  

Whom to Give and
Not to Give Your Money

Recently my client who is 80, and whom I am helping to get a reverse mortgage, called me distressed. He was scammed for $900 after receiving a call that if he will not pay, his PG & E service is going to be disconnected. And he had to pay in cash. So he did. Only after that he realized that he was taken to the cleaners. Turns out that he was not the first or the last to get scammed. In the AARP Magazine,which caters to those who are 50+, there was an article in the April/May 2018 issue titled, “The Voices of Deception”. Doug Shadel wrote about how to outsmart fraud (find more information at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork). And then in the latest August/September 2019 issue, he wrote “Out-Tech the Scammers”. You can also call AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Helpline – 877-908-3360. In the same publication, Frank Abagnale, who years ago was a scammer himself and turned into a celebrated fraud expert, shared his advice. You may be familiar with his book “Catch Me If You Can” which was also a film that came out in 2002. His new book, “Scam Me If You Can” just came out on Amazon.com. Many scam artists are focusing on swindling elderly folks. But recently I realized that being gullible, i.e. easily persuaded to believe something, could happen at any age. On an online dictionary I read an example, “an attempt to persuade a gullible public to spend their money”.

But some took scamming to a completely different level, as they appear in front of us on television, in print and social media. Some of them run to be the President of the most powerful country in the world with fantastic promises. One of them was mentioned in Willie Brown’s Column in the SF Chronicle on Sunday, September 15, 2019, titled “Pledge of $1,000 a Month Pays Dividends for Yang”. He writes, “I keep running into regular people who ask how to contact Yang” (to give him money) for his winning campaign. Online, I learned that for Yang’s campaign, an average donation was $17.92 and 99% of donations were less than $200. In the second quarter, Yang raised $2.8 million. WOW! Just for empty promises. You can look up how much money other contenders received for their empty promises. Some information appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 2, 2019 – “Sanders raises $25 million; Buttigeg $19 million.” All scammers, regardless if they are crooks or politicians, use the same tactic. Scare, promise, ask for money, do not deliver.

But there are other ways how to spend your extra money. After you pay your monthly obligations, put money aside for your retirement and for vacations, and if you still have extra money, please support animal shelters like your local SPCA. They recently had to cut off some popular programs because of lack of funding. The first SPCA was funded in England in 1824, and caters not only to dogs but to cats as well. Help those who are close to your heart.

P.S. I find it much easier to photograph dogs than cats. Nevertheless, I was lucky and these four images of cats with incredible eyes can attest to that.

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Can We Change?

  

Can We Change?

According to the Jewish calendar, last Wednesday was Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. Those Jews who follow the prescribed tradition, spend the whole day in the synagogue, praying, asking for forgiveness, while abstaining from eating and drinking. This is the day (year after year) when our future is sealed for at least one year (that is, if you believe there is a higher power, whom we call God, who knows what each of us is doing and how we spend our day to day lives). In the prayers on Yom Kippur, we acknowledge that we missed the mark and promise to change our behavior, or even who we are. Is it possible? In the Torah one of the first stories is about the first children, Cain and Abel. When both of them brought an offering to God, He chose Abel’s and not Cain’s. “This annoyed Cain exceedingly, and his continence fell. And Hashem (God) said to Cain, “Why are you annoyed, and why has your continence fallen? Surely, if you improve yourself, you will be forgiven. But if you do not improve yourself, sin rests at the door. Its desire is toward you, yet you can conquer it” (Genesis 4:5-7). It is easy to say this, even for the God, but how can we change?

I found a possible answer in the book written by Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., “What You Can Change… And What You Can’t. Learning to Accept Who You Are”. The subtitle promises, “The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement.” In the book, I learned that among things we can change are moods, sexual “dysfunctions” and even depression. Turns out, optimism is a learned skill (Mr. Seligman’s previous book was titled “Learned Optimism”). At the same time, among other things: ”Dieting, in the long run, almost never works and no treatment is known to improve on the natural course of recovery from alcoholism.”

We all would like to improve our lives, and change our future. If you do not know how, perhaps reading the book could be beneficial.

P.S. There is however, another way for a change – adopt a dog. Since our labradoodle puppy Max became member of our family two years ago, many things have changed in our lives. Most important, we experience more love. Max wakes me up with a kiss at 6:15 in the morning, and gives me a kiss after 10 in the evening, signaling that I have to stop writing and it is time for both of us to go to bed. And with love, you can change anything. While I am finishing working on my next photo-story book “42 Encounters with Love”, you can buy “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers” on Amazon.com. I guarantee a positive change. Meanwhile, please enjoy these four images of Max.

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