We had very little time in Venezia as we were to board ship in the afternoon.  To make the most of things we took the water-bus along the Grand Canal to St. Mark’s and then walked back to the station, took the train back to Mestre to retrieve our luggage, and finally boarded our cruise ship.

Immediately outside the train station a broad plaza, the Fondamenta Santa Lucia, leads to water-buses, and beyond them, the sweep of the Grand Canal.

 Outside the train station the plaza was a bustle of people, tourists like ourselves stopping to gawp at the canal while the blasé local population went about their business. While there were always replacements, turnover seemed quite brisk, with canal boats whisking people away while others maneuvered into position to drop other passengers off to continue their own journeys. In the early hours of the day it seemed the traditional gondolas were simply cruising for business, with few takers.


No view of the Grand Canal is complete without a gondola, though in this case the gondolier remained silent, having no-one to serenade.

View of the train plaza and water-bus termini from the Ponte Scalzi. The water-buses – that is their function, if not their title – follow numbered routes, like any other municipal bus, and we took one which would eventually take us to Saint Mark’s.

The view above was taken as we were returning to the station in order to dash back to the hotel, but the crowds we encountered at night time were not in evidence in the early afternoon.

With little time for us to explore, the views from the canal boat gave us tantalizing views of the city which had to be abandoned immediately. Eventually we arrived at the San Zaccaria dock and made our way past the Bridge of Sighs to the Piazza San Marco.

Ponte Longo


Ponte Picolo


Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore


Ponte della Croce, crossing the Rio della Croce which leads away from the Inner Lagoon.


Chiesa Santa Maria delle Zitelle

  The San Zaccaria area was crowded, and most of the time we had to negotiate our way through the throngs to get to advantageous points where we could grab an image or two before scurrying off to the next location. I would have enjoyed coming in the early morning to see the area with fewer people, but I suppose even then that would have been impossible as so many would have shared the notion.

Ponte del Sospiri – the Bridge of Sighs – from la Riva degli Schiavonni


Looking back from the Riva degli Schiavoni toward San Zaccaria


Campanile di San Marco – the Bell Tower of St Mark – is topped by the Angel Gabriel. On this face of the tower the Lion of St. Mark may be seen. The figure of Justice appears on another face. The tower was completed in 1514, but collapsed in 1902. This is actually a reconstruction completed in 1912.



Part of the Piazza di San Marco, with the Basilica visible at the right. The square is flooded at high tide, and some water remains. Most of the water comes and goes through drains – see below.


As the tide rises, water is forced up through the drains — the bright spots mark the upwelling plumes of water


Ponte Rialto, crossing the Grand Canal. Aside from tourists, the bridge is home to a number of somewhat tacky shops. as is much of the rest of Venice’s commercial districts.


View from the Rialto


Just outside La Pesceria – the Fish Market


Daniella investigates the Fish Market, though no actual shopping ensued.


Another view outside the market.

We encountered several quiet little canali as we made our way back to the train station, but by this point we were rushing to get back to the hotel in Mestre, and I’m not sure where these were (working on it!).

With decent cropping and good printing, I’d hang this at home…

If you look carefully at the doorway on the right you can see it is bricked up because it otherwise gives entry to a flooded floor.

Essentially a little wet alley…

We never did take a gondola. Just as well, I suppose, since we were therefore not tempted to trail a hand languidly in the turgid canal waters as we travelled.


Finally at the Ponte Scalzi, a couple of shots along the Grand Canal once more, this time looking away from the train station. This is the northern bank of the Grand Canal.


Looking east from the Ponte Scalzi at the southern bank of the Grand Canal


Med man

“Call me Fishmeal. Some months ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my wallet, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to sign up for a cruise as soon as I can.”

And so it was on a bleak and dreary day before the winter’s blast had yet chilled my blood or cracked the trees in their loamy beds that I joined a dissolute and depraved crew in planning for a swing around the ports of the Mediterranean – to make no further bones about it – in planning a cruise of Princesses to ten tourist ravaged cities before finally coming to rest on the docks at Barcelona. This is my story, my way of reliving a time of adventure and mystery.

I acknowledge a blatant adaptive borrowing from Mr Melville’s little musing on how to hunt white whales. If Mr. Melville objects he should let me know forthwith. No others need apply.

Up the hills and down again!

I’m a long way from my scopes right now, and missing them dreadfully. Meanwhile, I’ve run into another aspect of travel, namely totally new experiences.

I’m a flatlander. A hill to me is a couple of hundred metres high, and while it may be a pain to climb, it doesn’t pose any problem for your vehicle. Traveling through mountains was thus a trip into another world.

I had had a taste of mountain driving while traveling from the LA area to the RTMC site at Big Bear, CA. The route passed through Onyx Summit, which is the highest point on the the California Highway system, and there were a number of sharp turns, steep ascents, and scary (to me) descents. I can’t say I enjoyed it, and I found some of the loops around the mountains rather nerve-racking – I suppose I have a touch of acrophobia. On the whole, though, I figured mountain driving was a matter of watching for hairpin turns on narrow roads. I was wrong.

Driving from Toronto to LA meant I had to travel through the Rockies, and I followed my GPS’ recommendation and travelled along the I-70 through Denver and on to Las Vegas and ultimately California via the I-15. That route took me through the Vail Pass, and I found it a very scary drive indeed. There’s a long climb out of Denver followed by steep descents which stretch for miles and often incorporate sharp curves and narrowed sections where the engineers ran out of mountainside. From the summit at 10,660 feet there’s a long drop down to the valleys below, and those are followed by further climbs and descents. It was the length of the descents which I found verve-racking, particularly as some of those descents incorporated breath-taking views into the valleys far below.

Eventually you make your way through the pass, and you’re on to sections which continue to resemble a roller-coaster, but don’t generally present you with a thousand foot drop when you look over the side of the road. The views are still stunning, and you’re still climbing up and braking your way down some pretty steep roads, often in very hot weather, despite it being the end of summer. Nevertheless, you breathe a little easier (though signs advising “no service for 100 miles” are a little daunting).

Las Vegas comes as something of a relief, but once again to get to the next point do interest you have to climb a mountain range. This one presents no scary curves, but there is a long climb with many sections where slow vehicles have a dedicated lane, and eventually there is a long slow descent, where once again there are dedicated lanes for slower vehicles. And it’s hot – you’re heading towards Death Valley.

Regular travelers through the region generally know what to expect, and the majority of traffic throughout these mountain areas will push the speed envelope a little. So did I, at least when the curves were easy. It was a mistake.

Sometime traveling down the 18-mile 6% – 7% grade leading toward Baker CA my much abused fan belt (did I mention it was hot?) let go, and when I stopped for gas in Baker, it was dangling close to the ground. Fortunately there was a truck repair station open on a Sunday, and I was able to limp into the yard, which was littered with cars of various makes and ages, all in obvious I’ll-health. The mechanic on duty felt around a little and pronounced the fan belt dead, and the fan clutch and associated parts were not in good shape either. He’d have to order parts, but it’s a Dodge, right? Well, actually, no, it’s a Mercedes Benz diesel, badged as a Dodge from the era when Dodge and MB were allies. Hmm. Oh, and it’s Sunday.

He phoned around, and couldn’t get parts. He let me park on his lot and spend the night there (no hardship as the van has been converted to an RV), and next morning began phoning around again. No parts, and the nearest Dodge dealer was in Barstow, about 60 miles away. A tow was needed (the value of pre-planning – I had joined an auto club just in case of such a need). In Barstow the Dodge dealership was a little dubious. The Sprinter has a high roof, and they had no hoists able to handle it. The nearest Dodge van dealership was at least 40 miles further down the road. They had a mechanic who thought he could deal with the problem though, but I would have to leave the van for a couple of days. No, you can’t park in the lot and spend the night. We’ll call when your van is ready… Bring your checkbook!

I took a rental car to my destination, and picked up the van a few days later. Lighter of pocket, I’m planning a less arduous route back to Toronto, and will travel more carefully through the high desert sections. I’m looking forward to getting back to the flatlands again!


Travel is said to be broadening, but that’s unfortunately less true now than it used to be.

At one time, traveling was an arduous task, an experience which underlined the distance between your familiar environment and whatever new environment into which you were plunging. Depending on the mode of transport, this feature of travel has become much less prominent. Air travel in particular whisks us almost painlessly (save perhaps at the airport itself) from one place to another. We enter a box, sit for a few hours, and are in another place. When that other place is integrated into the Western monoculture there is little to distinguish it from any other place in the monoculture. A few differences in vegetation, perhaps, or possibly a local preference for a particular housing style. The stores are the same, or virtually so, and even the museums and art galleries share exhibits, so one may see the same displays in many cities around the monoculture.

It is in the interstitial places that travel’s broadening occurs, in the small towns and villages between the airports and the mono cultural centers. If we do not pass through these interstitial places, how well can we appreciate the differences between locations? We live in City, and each individual city becomes a mere neighborhood.

The point was underlined to me recently after driving from my home in Toronto to visit my daughter in California. All previous visits were by air, so the intervening spaces were never encountered save as scenery seen from 30,000 feet. Traveling by car placed us in the America of small towns and bustling metropoli, of mountains and deserts, of vast plains and deep valleys, of poverty and wealth. These were intellectually known and appreciated, but never before felt in the gut, the heart. A photograph reveals much, but is not the experience of standing in the midst.

And it is that experience, that “standing in the midst” which makes travel broadening, so that even the act of passing through in a car fails to provide the true broadening effect of travel. One must walk through, hear the sounds, smell the odors, taste the foods, and feel the grit and grime under one’s feet in order to fully appreciate the broadening that is travel. And for that reason, on my return journey I shall try to take things more slowly, to stop and experience the differences between places. The monoculture is slowly engulfing many of those differences, but cannot destroy all. I hope to appreciate what remains, what lasts.

Revolution? Well, it certainly makes me want to hurl something!

I watched the first episode of this clunker, but couldn’t stomach any more. I keep seeing ads for it, though, claiming it as the hot new show of the season. Ugh.

Electricity is somehow suppressed. OK, doable with a great deal of effort over a limited area for a limited time. Let’s suppose that some additional tech has been created to extend the effect in both time and space with minimal energy. Electricity is the basis for much of current civilization, so civilization falls, millions die, and now it’s fifteen or so years later (so skipping all the tough bits during the Fall) and we’re in the rebuild phase.

Guns work, but they’re forbidden to the general populace. Yeah, I can see how that would have been trivial to impose on the US population. Nobody made guns before electricity… Oh, wait…

Guns work, but as far as I could determine, not steam engines, and not Diesel engines (currently most diesel uses electric glow plug ignition, but it’s not a requirement, just easier. For some reason a cool new bow type is needed – standard cross-bows, self-bows, reflex bows, and compound bows need not apply. Everyone seems to have become expert in the use of the sword – uh, hello, didn’t anyone watch Indy before the Fall? Guns beat swords just as Rock beats Scissors. Use swords if you have to, but if you have guns, shoot the swordsman before he gets close.

And about the trick device on which much of the story depends – a mcguffin which somehow makes it possible to use electricity. The device itself uses electricity, as best I can see, and so do the peripheral devices it enables. Somehow it shuts down completely, but then powers up again even tough electricity is being suppressed – i guess it works even before it is turned on. a working power supply after fifteen years of limited (probably No) recharges and replacements? Oh, just give up. The show is too stupid to watch further. At least Dies the Fire and the rest of the books in the Emberverse storyline call for a single point of suspension for your disbelief.

Oh yeah, that’s right…. The claim is that this turkey is original in concept. S. M. Stirling got there earlier, and did it better, and before him there were other yarns with the same concept (I remember one in which an alien culture imposes the effect in order to give Man more time to develop effective social sciences, only to have it backfire when Man does that better than they do….).

Somebody, please. Pull the plug on this show!

Data recovery – when should I give up? A learning experience in progress

My daughter’s laptop decided a week or two ago that it was a good day to die, and so its hard drive refused to mount. The symptoms were basically those of a startup file problem, so I hoped to be able to refresh the system and move on, but unfortunately it soon became apparent that the hardware itself was at fault – and there was no backup available.

In the past I’ve run a disk utility against errant drives and salvaged what I could, but my usual utilities were unable to get the drive to mount, so that approach was a no-go. I decided instead to try a program new to me which has received good reviews, Data Rescue 3. I ran a demo version briefly to see if it could recover anything, and managed to pull a small file out of the drive. On the strength of that I purchased the full package and aimed it at the failed drive, trying to get a clone of the entire disk, warts and all.

The software immediately reported it had found a problem – slow reads – which suggested the drive was about to fail. OK, I knew that, but at least the software knew something was wrong, and I told it to keep going. About 24 hours later it had processed slightly over 75% of the drive, but somehow, magically, the disk appeared to have mounted – though a system message told me that the system software – not Data Rescue – couldn’t repair the disk, and that I should immediately try to recover as many files as possible. So I did.

The disk directory opened up, and I tried to copy a folder. The system tried to copy, but couldn’t get a handle on the files to be copied – the disk was just in too bad a condition. Oh well, I’d just have to work through Data Rescue. Which was no longer reporting any progress.

Perhaps it was in the middle of a very slow read.

I waited, but the block count which is the underlying progress indication remained unchanged. I waited some more, but there was still no progress. I cancelled the program, but it refused to quit, kept going even though no progress was being reported, and the lights on the recovery drive continued to flash – which should have been a clue. Figuring Data Rescue had simply crashed, I forced the program to quit and tried to restart it. It refused to start, telling me that background activities were still going, and I should try to log out and log back in. Instead, I restarted the system – my second mistake – and fired up Data Rescue again. Wait – where was the 75% of the disk I had already recovered? Evidently in abandoning the process I had left the disk image incomplete, and my system had deleted it, recovering the space on the recovery drive. And so, I made my third mistake, and told Data Rescue to begin again. What I should have done was undeleted the previous disk image first, and tried to recover files from that, but by starting over I over-wrote the previous disk image, making recovery from that image impossible. And the new image is being created from a disk which has had more time to go bad – dying even as Data Rescue was working on it – and no longer contained as much good data as before.

So far, after three days of work, Data Rescue has been able to recover only 30 Gb of “good” disk space – which does not mean good files! – and has slowed down dramatically after getting only 28% through the recovery process. It now projects that it will be weeks, if not months, before the disk is fully processed, and I am considering stopping the cloning and working on what currently survives to recover what I can.

Lessons learned: don’t mess with a disk while recovery is underway; try to recover from partial copies if that’s all that remains; and – for my daughter – back up regularly. In which regard, I will say that I myself do backups, but if the backup and original drives fail together, I’m still dead in the water – so I should review my processes.