The Exceptional World of U.S. Prisons

Guest Contributor, Dr. Marshall Carter-Tripp provides some interesting perspective and important information considering our current prison system as it compares to such countries as Russia and Iran.  You may be surprised.

 America4796934n “Exceptionalism” is being celebrated by American politicians, who express amazement that the rest of the world doesn’t understand how exceptional we are.  Sadly, the rest of the world may well understand this, but from a different perspective than the one adopted by our politicians, and most of the news media. Continue reading

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The Secrets of Florence—Or Following in the Steps of Dan Brown’s “Inferno”

I apologize in advance to my good friends and scholars of Florence for any mistakes I have inadvertently made in describing their wonderful city and history—PM

 

9780385537858_p0_v11_s260x420I am just wrapping up nine weeks in Florence, Italy where I tried to see if my grey cells could accept the idea of learning a new language (Italian) and maybe unleash some long dormant art skills.  In the process of wandering the streets and checking out the sights of the city while not otherwise occupied conjugating verbs like “essere” (to be) or splashing paint on canvas (and my clothes—I finally got smart and bought one of those tourist aprons) I learned a bit about Florence and it’s “secrets.”  For those of you who are aficionados of Dan Brown you know his latest book “Inferno” mostly takes place in Florence where his main character, Dr. Robert Langdon, races through various secret passages among some of the more famous landmarks of the city.  The Italian tourist industry being very astute has developed an entire new series of tours which retrace Langdon’s fictional steps through the city.  I managed to get on some of those tours as well as a few private ones that I describe here and where I also try to add a little “fact” to the “fiction” of “Inferno.” Continue reading

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By the Numbers–Off the Beaten Track in Europe

Since arriving in Europe in mid-May, I have traveled just over 16,000 kms, visited ten countries and stayed in some thirty-odd cities, some more than once.  The following gives not only some of the costs broken out in terms of travel, lodging, food and “other” (the odd piece of clothing or added unexpected expense) but some of the other “issues” to be considered by anyone who might consider a similar journey. The overall goal was to keep the costs at roughly 150 Euros or $200 per day to try to maintain a reasonable budget for such a trip. In the end it is more than just costs that determine what is or is not a successful venture in traveling to Europe or elsewhere for that matter. Continue reading

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Running with the Bulls—Trying to Understand the Culture

A poster from Pamplona, Spain

A poster from Pamplona, Spain

The small town of Pamplona, Spain is famous for its annual Fiesta de San Fermin, better known as the “Running with the Bulls” festival. Ernest Hemingway first brought international attention to Pamplona and the running of the bulls festival in his book “The Sun Also Rises.”   The plot of the book is not about the festival itself but he does describe it in great detail. Since I was in the neighborhood (nearby France) during the week long festival I decided to take time and spend a few days observing it and see if fiction fit with fact.  I stayed in the nearby town of Puente la Reina, close enough to check out the action but far enough away to have some peace and quiet. The following describes my own experience at the festival—what I saw, what I felt and, maybe, what can be concluded in a broader cultural sense or not. Continue reading

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Life in the Not So Fast Lane—The French Have a Different Approach

The French have a different take on road travel from the Germans and most of the rest of Europe for that matter.  For one they have speed limits no matter where you are the max being 130 kph (or 78 mph)—not intolerable even if you are in a hurry but not the daredevil approach of the Germans either.  The dominance of Mercedes and BMW is replaced by Peugeot and Renault so my little red Peugeot 208 stood a good chance in the “speed” lanes with the rest of France.  Road etiquette remains somewhat the same when it comes to passing—in general no one passes in the right lane and the slower cars and trucks always occupy the right.  So far so good.  There are, however two very big differences in traveling the roads of France versus Germany.  One, is the “invisible lane” and, two, is the “tolls-from-hell” that exist in much of France—make sure you bring a lot of cash and don’t assume that American Express (or Visa or Mastercard) will suffice. Continue reading

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Good Fences Make for Good Neighbors–Cultural Challenges in a Microcosm

 

 

Newly finished homes and back yards in housing development outside of Frankfurt, Germany

Newly finished homes and back yards in housing development outside of Frankfurt, Germany

In Frankfort I spent time with a young friend and his wife.  They had recently bought a brand new home in a new development just northeast of the city center.  Only a year ago the area had been made up of rolling hills, farm houses and luscious crops. The development is so new that many of the small yards associated with the new homes are still unplanted and construction of new homes is ongoing all around their home. In my friends’ house they are part of a eight unit row of attached homes (similar to our row or town houses) with shared walls and contiguous yards.  To date no fences have been built between the back yards still in the process of development.  Therein lies the rub. Continue reading

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