I’ve never been much of a smoker or a drinker, but after a good friend gifted me with a $200 bottle of 18-year-old — The Macallan — scotch whisky, I began to rethink my posture in life when it came to becoming fine associates with some of the best single malt scotch whisky alive today. There’s a history and a culture in sharing a dram — you touch the ancient world with each swallow back in time and here’s my yeoman’s review of six single malt scotches — and please realize I have no established palate or trained knowing about anything whisky. Enjoy my amateur responses and then, ever-so-gently, correct me — and set me right in the comments stream below — if you so feel the need.

It has always been a fascination when I read about pensions — especially forced pension payments from those who are made to pay as a requirement of their continued employment, with some paying over $800 a month into State “pension” coffers — and how those workers are demonized by the Far Right who believe public servants and private pensioners are somehow taking advantage of those who do not pay into a pension program. Pensions are not payoffs or welfare. Pensions are earned investment money entrusted to public or private equity.

These are little treasures as opposed to the wonderful wooden artifacts and furniture I was gifted, they are personal gifts to me from Mr P’s mother that she squirreled away for me as a thank you for my help.

She knows of my love of glass, especially as she heard all about our adventures in Murano several times over!  In light of this, and Mr P’s love of wine, we were gifted a beautiful set of cut crystal wine glasses that have been in the family for many years.

They have followed her on her travels from France to Morocco to Portugal and then back to France again.  I am so glad that after all that traveling I managed to get them back to Portugal all in one piece. They are quite exquisite and have a gorgeous feel to them and an incredible tone when “pinged”

2013 is finally winding down and, I hope, away from our convenient memories forever.  When I think of unlucky 2013 — as I write this article on a blackened Friday, December 13, 2013 — I can’t get images of Miley Cyrus off my mind as I try to reflect on the year that was.

It felt like Miley ruled us all year long with that obnoxious coated tongue — you couldn’t turn around without getting licked! — and I think we’d all prefer to see her wind the white back into her mouth.

Our politics didn’t fare much better than Ms. Cyrus.  The obstructionist Republicans in congress were happily biased against our first Black President — and so we all had to watch the GOP try to bring down the man because of his skin color and not his deeds.

In many ways, Barack Obama is what a true Republican used to be — and watching radical liberals forced into supporting his policies because they loathe the Racist attacks on his character — is something the history books will reek of when cracked opened in a century.

by Nancy McDaniel

Many people who go to Africa for the first time refer to it as a life-changing experience. I know that I felt and said that when I first went to Kenya on safari in 1987. I suppose it is hyperbole to say that each time I go back to the continent, it changes my life. It’s actually more of a re-affirmation. As I once said, when I am in Africa, whether on safari or in a rural area with local people, I am “the best me I can be.” I don’t know why; it just always happens. It is where I am the kindest, most interested, most engaged…  and happiest.

And it just happened again. I returned from two weeks in Zambia the end of July. I still think about this trip every day. I saw a water bottle attached to a bicycle yesterday and I got tears in my eyes (more on that later).

The Reason For The Trip
I have recently become aware of and involved with a wonderful Chicago-based not-for- profit organization called World Bicycle Relief. Their mission is brilliantly simple and simply brilliant: “World Bicycle Relief is a nonprofit organization transforming individuals and their communities through The Power of Bicycles.” I was planning to go to southern Africa anyway last summer and when I saw they were offering a trip called “Africa Rides” to visit their projects in Zambia, I decided to sign up.

Before I went, I started a Grassroots Fundraising Effort for WBR. My initial goal was to raise enough money to donate 10 bikes (at $134 each) which I would match, for a goal of 20 bikes ($2680).

I promised to send photos of kids and bikes when I got back; this appeal certainly worked! Due to the generosity of friends and the powerful appeal of this organization, my total was over $10,000 (that’s 75 bright new shiny Buffalo Bikes, especially designed and built for the uncompromising rough terrain of the rural areas where they would be living)

You may have noticed that I have been absent a while — there are two reasons for this. The first was losing my internet lifeline — the first storm of the season rendered our already stressed internet connection null and void. 13 kilometers of line had to be replaced along with some of the electricity lines.

There is no rush here in Portugal to undertake such work — SAPO who own all the lines and infrastructure are next on the privatization list and do not want to invest in capital at present — the internet providers who have to use the infrastructure, and pay to do so, quite understandably have no desire to fix a problem that is not theirs.