A Guide to Cute vs. Ugly

My daughter Grace and I have been discussing this concept for many years and this seemed like a good way to catalog some of the amazing things I saw during a recent trip to South Africa with friends.

From the very beginning, the the upper two quadrants have always contained animals, typically baby animals, while the bottom two quandrants have contained people. So it should come as no suprise that the only thing I encountered (including four snakes) that qualified for the Ugly quadrant was an all-around unpleasant American woman who happened to ride in our Rover one day. After several failed attempts to introduce ourselves, we gave up. We never did learn anything about her, except that her husband’s name was Bob.

In hindsight, and after going through my 2,200 photos, I do believe that baboons might also qualify to be put in this most unfortunate quadrant, but it’s too late now.

Spring Break

This is a preliminary sketch of the route Ben and I will take this week to visit colleges. Everything is subject to change, of course, especially because the weather forecast for each of these cities calls for T-Storms.

Spring Break College Visits compressed

Whatever goes wrong, and something will go wrong, it will be better than spending one second in that Cancun airport.


Warthog Palm Island

Not to be confused with “Giraffe Meringue Island” (an imaginary island created by my daughter Grace shortly after our return from Africa), warthogs living in the Okavango Delta make their homes in the dense clusters of small palms that sprout up here and there on the savannah, or as we called them, “Warthog Palm Islands.” We spotted our first warthog during “sundowners” (cocktails) on our first game drive at Duba Plains and it was love at first sight.




It might seem that the lowly, homely warthog, who kneels while eating and rolls around in the mud, lives a sad, pointless life. But after returning home to Connecticut and my full time job, and after examining that the items that accumulated on our kitchen island as a matter of daily routine had nothing to do with food, I began to realize that it would be better to live like a warthog.

Carbon Footprint

I neglected to include a drawing of the elephant ride we reluctantly took in Zimbabwe, but otherwise this is a fairly accurate compilation of the various modes of transportation we experienced during our travels. It turns out we spent almost as much time on airplanes as we did in the Rovers (about 50 hours each) and somewhere along the line it occurred to me that we were leaving a rather large carbon footprint in Africa.


Unfortunately, studying this footprint drawing creates the same sensation of nausea one gets after breathing in diesel fumes for too long.



With this much flying around, something was bound to go wrong.

My sister Leslie is nervous about routine flights between Chicago and New York. When we pulled up to the big white Fokker plane with no logo or branding, she was certain there was something wrong. I should have known there was something wrong when both her daughter and her husband chose seats as far away from her as they could find. But it turns out Leslie was right this time. The Fokker plane wouldn’t turn to the right, so we spiraled back to Jo-Berg in a series of jerking counterclockwise motions to the sound of Leslie’s loud proclamations that we were all going to die. We learned later that we were probably in far greater mortal danger riding in the metal motor boat when passing through the hippo pools!




Travels in Africa

My family and I traveled to Africa with my highly cartoonable sister Leslie and her family in 2009. I began a travel journal early into the trip, but quickly found I couldn’t keep up with everything going on in writing. Plus, most of the details that I found interesting were far too boring to actually write about.






For example, all the things we either dropped or left behind…









When my niece Chloe dropped the SD card from her camera in the long grass about 3 yards from a group of 5 napping lions, our guide Richard said, “We’ll have to look for that later.” Within minutes, a lone zebra wandered past spurring a chase at breakneck speed. It’s a surprise nothing else went over the side of the rover as we careened through the bush trying to keep up with the lions, who were ultimately unsuccessful in nabbing the zebra. We were headed back to fetch the SD card when Richard heard a jackal’s warning call, which means “leopard” and sent us lurching off again at high speed in search of the elusive cat. When we got back to the spot where the SD card had been dropped, we found that in our absence, the lions had killed a springbok and were fighting over who got what in the very place we wanted to search. So we went back the next day and there was the little blue card, resting in the grass.