Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Merchants of Venice

Unlike nations where the warriors get to be on top, the elites in Italy were members of the merchant class. Which would not surprise anyone who spends anytime in Venice, where there are more stores than you can shake a stick at.

I’m sure that fashionistas don’t make Venice a destination – not when they’ve got Rome and Milan – but there seemed to be a goodly number of high end shops (Ermenegildo Zegna, Prada, Gucci, Pierre Cardin – which seems like such a throw-back brand), which we didn’t even bother to window shop at. Then there were the lovely but pricey boutiques that weren’t necessarily name brand, but were quite nice. Even though neither of us was in the market for a $600 sweater, $400 scarf, or $1,000 pocket book, these we window shopped. As we did the upholstery fabric (pillow?) stores. Mostly not the style for either or us, but some gorgeous fabrics to ogle nonetheless.

Inevitably, there were the see-‘em-everywhere stores: Disney, Footlocker – which we just groaned about as we passed.

We did, of course, do some real shopping.

Venice has a number of very nice paper and print shops. Trish was thus able to get herself a very nice print of the Lion of Venice, and I cheaped out and got a card of a corny canal/gondola scene which I’ll have framed and add to my gallery of places I’ve been. Venice

Then there were the ubiquitous – and I do not use that word lightly – pocketbook stores, curiously manned by Chinese folks, even though all the wares were stamped “made in Italy.” All of these stores appeared to carry the exact same line: Zagara, with all bags stamped Made in Italy. Which would be easy enough for a factory in China to stamp on, I suppose. But the Italians are pretty careful about lying about something being fatto in Italia, so I’m going with Made in Italy. The bags for sale were definitely not high end, but they were stylish, came in fun colors, seemed to be decently-enough made, and smelled like real leather. I bought a small, teal bag for about $15, and Trish also got a few things for herself and my niece Molly. Definitely tourist trade, but fun.

There are any number of candy, gelato, and pastry shops, the best of which was Nino & Friends, a sweet shop that I cannot begin to describe, other than to say that they can do far more than you can imagine with lemon. We grabbed a few things to nosh on when we first tripped upon it, and vowed to get back before we left. Alas, on our last day, we were in the area, but didn’t have the address. Neither of us was able to get connected to look it up, and our wanderings didn’t take us past it again. (Venice is exceedingly confusing to find your way around in…) So we came home without a box of lemon covered almonds and chocolate-covered lemon jellies, which we had sampled on our one and only visit. The shop is part of a small chain, and had only been open in Venice a couple of months, so they were especially generous with pressing us with samples. One especially charming clerk urged us to try a hard candy, holding the tray out to us and saying “boom boom.” I’ll say: think frozen lemon drop full of booze. Boom boom! I eagerly await the opening of a Nino’s in Boston. (Hurry, please.)

Venice is known, of course, for its glass, and for every ubiquitous pocketbook store there were three or four ubiquitous stores selling the same “authentic” Murano glass jewelry and other glassware. We held out for a trip to Murano and got to shop for what every store in Murano claims to be authentic, vs. the fraudulent merchandise to be had in Venice proper.

Our trip to Murano – a group of small islands connected by bridges in the Venice lagoon, about a mile out of town - was by water taxi, and included a tour of a glass factory. The one we went on was in a factory that specialized in ornate and absolutely hideous (to my eye) chandeliers, which may not be so hideous if you’re a Russian oligarch or Donald Trump, I guess.

Anyway, it was fascinating to watch the glass makers at work – including the fellow who was smoking. As if glassmaking weren’t hazardous enough…

The shops in Murano – no surprise here – pretty much just sell glassware. Everything from mirrors and art glass that fetch thousands of Euros, down to the sorts of Murano glass jewelry that looks like what comes to the mind of anyone who’s heard of Murano glass when Murano glass is mentioned.  Which would be this:Murano glass

We ended up finding a wonderful shop that suited our sensibilities and made a few purchases for ourselves and for gifts. So we will be wearing Murano glass jewelry that doesn’t look like Murano glass jewelry but is.

We had originally planned on a trip to Burano, which specializes in lacemaking. Even if we have swanked our way into Lace Curtain Irish-dom, neither Trish nor I is really all that into lace, so we took a pass on that jaunt. (No doubt disappointing our sister Kath, who had so wanted us to get her a lace mantilla…)

Venice was thronged with tourists when we were there. The true high season must be a real horror show. But most of the shops we went into didn’t seem to be doing any type of especially brisk business. We did our small part to boost the economy. But all those merchants of Venice. How do they survive?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sure, there’s a sinking feeling, but Venice really is great

Not that it’s going to turn into Atlantis tomorrow, but Venice (where I vacationed last week with my sister Trish) is heading in that direction. A number of the grand buildings on the Grand Canal are abandoned – at least on the lower floors – and in Piazza di San Marco (St. Marks Plaza) and its surrounds, they put out portable walkways (passerelle) on scaffolding so that you can keep your feet dry when the water’s on the rise. And that’s not just when it’s been raining. We were in the Piazza on a perfectly sunny day, but it was high tide, and water was burbling up through the drains. So we had to walk around on those narrow walkways. (Crowded narrow walkways. Even though we were not there in ultra-high season, St. Mark’s was jammed each time we walked through. It must be a complete nightmare in the spring and summer.)

When we were in St. Mark’s Cathedral, the brilliant mosaic tile floors seemed a bit, if not squishy, then undulating.

Throughout the city, buildings have steel barriers across their front doors to keep the flood waters out when “acqua alta” (or high water) occurs, which is typically a few times a year, generally during the winter.

Acqua alta is pretty much unavoidable, given the peculiar geography of Venice: it’s on a lagoon in the Adriatic, and the town is criss-crossed by all sorts of canals. But these days, it’s occurring more frequently than it used to, thanks in part to global warming, as well as industrialization in the surrounds. The town is sinking – more rapidly than it has in the past – and it’s also listing, meaning that Italy may end up with more leaning towers than the one in Pisa.

Because of the sinking and listing, as well as the desire of people to live in a more modern, more easily-accessibly and lest costly community, the population of the central, historic district has sunk in half since 1980. Folks are also being driven out by the tens of millions of tourists who stream through the narrow pathways of the city each year. Tourism-related jobs have driven out “normal” jobs – and they don’t pay all that well. Some doomers are predicting that there’ll be no one actually living in old Venice in a couple of decades. Workers will come in to staff the hotels, restaurants, shops and tourist sites, but there won’t actually be any residents.In this sense, I’ve seen it likened to Disneyland.

Anyway, with or without a town full of real Venetians, it’s just a matter of time before Venice goes way down, below the ocean…

Glad we got there in time.

Because it really is unique, and probably the most fascinating place I’ve ever visited.

As tourists, we did the usual tourist things.

No, we didn’t take a gondola ride. Not exactly romantic, if you’re with your sister. Plus those tiny canals are pretty filthy. We didn’t need to see that tee-shirt that said “Venice by Night” on it – right above a picture of a rat – to tell us that Venice is rat-ridden. Fortunately, no rats crossed our paths. But we did notice that a number of the residents in the area around our hotel put their garbage out by hanging it on a line out there window so that it didn’t hit ground level where rats could get at it.

While there were no handsome gondoliers along our way, we did truck around Saint Mark’s, poke around the Museo Correr, and tour the Doge’s Palace, crossing the Bridge of Sighs to check out the prison. (Believe me, you did not want to get on the doge’s bad side.) Thanks to a tip from brother-in-law Rick, we also hit Il Frari, another church full of art, and colossally interesting.

But neither Trish nor I are all that big on Renaissance Madonnas, so we were delighted to take a look-see at the Peggy Guggenheim modern art collection.

Guggenheim – yes, she was one of those Guggenheims – went through an exceedingly successful period in the 1930’s-1940’s when she scooped up works by just about every modern artist you can think of. It probably helped that she was married to Max Ernst for a while in there, but wow, just wow. The collection is housed in Guggenheim’s home, where she (and her dogs) are buried in the courtyard, and where you can just see the speedboats pulling up to her place, dropping off her spectacular friends, for some sort of spectacular gathering ca’ Peggy. Peggy Guggenheim is someone I want to read some more about.

Speaking of Peggy Guggenheim, in one of the other museums we tromped through, a young guard waved us over. He spoke pretty good English, and he wanted to practice on us – and ask us about the US election. (He was a Bernie fan, by the way.) He also asked us about other museums we’d gone to. When we mentioned the Guggenheim, he said “Ah, the Jewess.”

When he saw the looks on our faces, he told us he had nothing against Jews. It’s just that Peggy Guggenheim was, after all, a Jewess.

We walked away from this encounter scratching our heads.


Wasn’t that a word last used in 1938?

Just plain weird.

Anyway, when we weren’t seeing the tourist sites, we just did what we love to do: walked around and looked at stuff. Eat wonderful food. (Those tiny little clams in the spaghetti with clam sauce. Yummy, yum, yum.) Stop for a gelato break.

And if you like walking around and looking at stuff,eating wonderful food and indulging in a daily gelato, Venice will be your kind of town.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Venice, anyone? Arriving in style. Sort of.

I spent last week in Venice with my sister Trish, a bucket list trip for us both. I’ve been to Italy several times – a few trips to Rome, most recently in 2012. To Florence in the way back. Trish has also been to Italy. But Venice was something altogether different.

Hard to know where to begin….

We arrived mid-morning on a Saturday, after one of those exhausting all-nighters, and a somewhat chaotic lay-over in Paris that allowed just barely enough time to clear passport control and make our way to the right terminal. But made it we did, and landed an hour-and-a-half later into the mayhem that is, apparently, Aeroporto Venezia on a weekend.



We had pre-arranged for a water taxi to take us directly to our hotel, which was on the Grand Canal. It took a while, but we found the taxi company desk, where we were relieved to see our name in print, even if that print read Mr. and Mrs. Rogers.

There was an elderly couple ahead of us, both in wheelchairs powered by helpful airport employees, the wife tethered to an oxygen tank, and the pair trailed by a porter pushing a luggage cart with at least eight suitcases piled onto it. This was in addition to the large roller-bags the couple had by their ironsides.

The husband and wife team was told that the water taxi would not be able to get them to the door of their hotel, but would let them off nearby, from whence they could find there way to their hotel. The taxi person suggested that, once the water taxi dropped them off, they might want to call their hotel and have someone come fetch them and their bags. The reason that the taxi couldn’t make it to their door? High tide. The couple was told that they did have the option of waiting for the tide to go down, but it might be two hours, it might be six.

Our hearts dropped. We had done enough reading up to realize that, when in Venice, you really do want to be let off at the door of your hotel, not sort of nearby.

Venice is not an easy town to navigate. There are no cars, and it’s not exactly designed with pedestrian ease in mind. The main island, where we stayed, is a warren of little “streets” and passageways, some only an arm’s breadth wide. There’s not much of a grid structure, at least as far as we could tell. Wend your way around, take a couple of lefts, take a couple of rights, cross a couple of bridges that span the many little canals that run through town, and you’ll end up in a “campo”, a square with a no-longer-in-use, capped well, a church (generally) and a bit of commerce (a couple of stores, a restaurant, a gelato vendor…).

Not all of the streets aren’t marked, by the way, and some of your navigation is of the follow your nose, and the occasional sign reading “Per Rialto” or “Per San Marco”,  and you’ll eventually find your way somewhere. Try to follow the same path you took the day before, try to retrace your steps. Good luck to you!

Given what we knew about the confusion of the city’s layout, and with a warning from Rick Steve’s about not wanting to lug your roller bags up and over those little arched bridges, we were not looking forward to being dropped any place other than at the door of our hotel.

Meanwhile, Mary and her husband  (the old folks) – we never caught his name – decided to take their chances and head into the wild Venetian yonder. Mary negotiated twenty Euro off of the fee, which didn’t seem quite fair off a door to door fare of 130 Euro.

We had visions of running into Mary and the Mister, sitting amidst their many bags, in the middle of a square somewhere, but, as it turns out, there are porters with dollies at many of the drop off points. So I’m sure the vecchios were able to get to their hotel, which, Mary explained to us, they’d chosen because they actually wanted to experience more of the “real” Venice by not being on the Grand Canal, even though, when it’s high tide, the bridges are too low for the water taxis to get under.

Then it was our turn to secure our water taxi.

Fortunately, if you’re on the Grand Canal, high tide isn’t a problem.


A van transported us to the taxi dock – all of a couple of hundred yards from the terminal, but part of the service we’d paid big enough bucks for.

There, we were helped onto a speed boat, bobbing in the choppy water. The fellows manning the dock and the boat made sure our bags got in, then reached out and helped us on. Mind the gap, all right. I had visions of falling into the drink, shattering my shin on the way down and watching in pain as my passport floated away. Arrivaderci, passport.

Fortunately, Trish and I took the leap of faith, and made it on in one piece, but, of course, I proceeded to bonk my head on the cabin.

The ride into Venice was fun, although a bit choppy at points. I think our taxi driver was showing off a couple of times, revving his jets to give the American touristas a thrill.

It is really amazing to approach Venice, and see it rise up out of the water. But the thrill of the ride was tempered by worrying about how difficult it was going to be to disembark once we got to the hotel. Visions of falling in the drink, shattered shin bone, etc. etc.

Blessedly, between the boatman and the hotel bellman, we made it onto dry land – if there is any such thing in Venice.


We’d made it, and, after a brief nap, began our exploration.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Baby you can drive my car, autonomously. But who pays the insurance?

Of all the necessary evils we have to go out of pocket for, is there one that’s more universally despised than car insurance?

But, baby, if you want to drive your car, you don’t really have much choice.

So we take the big deductible because, hey, we never have accidents. And then we right the big check because, hey, even with the big deductible, it still costs a ton. And maybe you have to make a claim someday, in which case it feels like a good thing to have insurance. Or maybe you never make a claim, in which case it feels like they – State Farm, Liberty, Allstate – should be writing you a big check. But of course that’s not the way insurance works. It’s just that, if you’re lucky, you won’t have anything to show for your insurance. And if you’re unlucky, then even if you get the big payoff, you’ll still have gone through a pain-in-the-butt (perhaps literally as well as figuratively) experience. (As my husband use to say about life insurance, ‘What a racket. They’re betting you’re going to live and you’re betting you’re going to die.’)

Anyway, one of the byproducts of self-driving cars will likely be the disruption of the auto insurance industry, which last year raked in nearly $200B in premiums in the US.

The big promise of self-driving cars is two-fold. One is that you’ll be able to kick back while on the road and put your makeup on, update your Instagram, and watch a video. Which is what many drivers are doing anyway, only in a self-driving car, you’ll be safe doing it. Which takes us to the next benefit of the self-driving car, which is that they’ll get in fewer accidents, most of which are caused by humans making mistakes, including but not limited to putting on makeup, updating Instagram or watching a video while driving.

With fewer accidents, insurers will have to charge less for their coverage, and premiums could fall by more than 40 percent, dragging down company profits, according to recent estimates. (Source: Boston Globe)

The reduction in accidents will reduce the payouts, so the profit drag down won’t be total. But people will, quite reasonably, expect to pay a lot less if the risk of having an accident decreases. And decrease they will. They’re already finding that automatic braking and front collision warning systems are reducing crashes by 40 and 23 percent respectively.

Fully self-driving cars won’t be barreling around the highways and byways tomorrow, but it will probably happen a lot faster than most of us expect.

For insurers, it’s going to be a big disrupter, and there are a lot of questions that will need to be answered.

You won’t be driving, so why will it be you’re responsibility if your car gets in an accident? Won’t it be the car’s fault? So why shouldn’t the car maker, or the hardware company that makes the embedded sensors that make self-driving possible, or the software companies that code up the self-driving devices, pay for the insurance?

It will take a while to get used to self-driving cars. A lot of people will still want to see the USA in a Chevrolet that they’re driving. So what happens if someone gets the urge to grab the wheel and just go? And won’t there have to be overrides for when the autonomous technology fails. Which it will. What if the “driver” was napping in the backseat and something happens? What about terrible drivers? Are they now off the hook – as long as they don’t do any actual driving?

What if you don’t keep up with the updates? What it your car is an old beater, bought second hand at one of those crummy used car lots with the plastic pennants?

The insurance companies are all over it, of course. Let’s face it, if anyone’s going to be good at risk analysis it’ll be an insurance company.

Liberty Mutual is studying autonomous vehicles and driver behavior with MIT’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Consortium and at its own lab in Hopkinton. The company has already started offering drivers discounts if cars have certain semiautonomous safety features that slow down the vehicle to avoid tailgating, trigger alarms if the driver swerves into another lane, and warn about potential blind spots.

Boston is going to be a testing ground for self-driving cars, possibly starting later this year. I know I’ll be weirded out when I see one zipping by. And I know I’ll be even more weirded out when I’m in one zipping around. Still, I’d like to see it happen in my lifetime. I won’t be an early adopter.But I do like to get in a car and go driving somewhere.

I also like to ride, so once the early adopters prove it out, I’m sure I’ll get someth8ing of a kick – in a weirded out kind of way – of being chauffered around by a car driving on its own.

As for paying insurance premiums, I haven’t owned a car in years.  When I need a car, I drive Zipcars (insurance included) and Avis rentals (I usually take an insurance option). Never say never, but I have neither the intention nor the desire to own a care ever again. Thus I may not ever have to have car insurance, ever again. But if I do, I’ll be delighted if the premiums are less than I was paying back in my car-owning days. In the meantime, I won’t be losing much sleep over whether the insurance industry is being disrupted.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Not my cup of IoT

The iKettle bills itself as “the world’s first Wi-Fi kettle,” which lets you “boil your kettle with your smart phone, anywhere in your home.” (Okay: you’re really not boiling your kettle with your smart phone, unless it’s one of the Samsung exploding Galaxies. You’re setting the kettle to boil, thank you.)

A Wi-Fi tea kettle. Because, you know, it’s just such a strain to have to walk into the kitchen and either put the kettle on the burner or turn on your electric tea kettle. After I burnt out the aluminum bottom of my whistling stovetop tea kettle, covering the burner with big drips of molten aluminum, I started using the electric tea kettle. And it’s great.

But an electronic tea-kettle? Really?

I’m not jumping up and down in anticipation of the Internet of Things (IoT). Sure, controlling your HVAC or security system: righteous applications! But do we really need a fridge that sends us a smartphone alert when there’s only a gulp of milk left in the bottom of the bottle? Do we really need a tea kettle with embedded sensors that we can control from afar? Maybe everything that can be embedded will be embedded. Maybe everything that can be connected will be connected. Strike those maybes. Everything that can be embedded and connected will be. In fact, a new term for the IoT is starting to come into use. In some circles, it’s now the Internet of Everything.

But when it gets down to the tea kettle level, it sure sounds like technology in search of an use, not the other way around.

Meanwhile, British techie Mark Rittman decided to buy a Wi-Fi tea kettle. And then proceeded to try out his Wi-Fi tea kettle.  

It sounded simple enough, but — as Rittman had to integrate the iKettle into his already very well-connected home — it didn't quite go according to plan. (Source: Mashable)

So he live-tweeted throughout the 11 hours it took him to make himself a cuppa. (It’s definitely worth giving the Mashable article a glance. Perhaps while your watched pot is coming to a boil.)

IoT devices will get easier to use over time. But unless and until IoT-ing becomes as easy as using a phone, all these nifty, why-not IoT devices won’t reach anywhere near mass adoption. No one other than a die-hard techie would have the fortitude to devote 11 hours to setting up a tea kettle. But for the time being, this is what you may encounter if you really don’t want to get up from the couch and make yourself a cup of tea.

Let me know when there’s an app that will fill the kettle with fresh water, turn it on, pour it over a tea bag in the mug I want to use now – maybe the Moody’s Diner one, for a change - let it steep, add milk and sugar, and bring it to me. Oh, and how about getting me a biscotti to wash down while you’re at it.

That does it. I’m now in search of a cup of Irish Breakfast and a cookie. But I’m doing it the old fashioned way – electric, not electronic.

And I raise my cup to my brother-in-law, Rick, for sending this article my way.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Duck, duck, duck, goose

Two of the places where I walk most frequently, the Boston Public Garden and the Esplanade (along the Charles River) are overrun with Canada geese. Now I have nothing against Canada geese in the abstract. They look nice on Christmas cards with a wreathe around their necks and all that. But up-close and personal,canadagoose_tcm9-18252 these are some nasty little ol’ critters.

They saunter around like they own the place, right in my path. And while I don’t exactly own the place, I am a taxpayer. So I more or less help pay for the place. Which Canada geese most decidedly do not.

We didn’t use to have these POS-creators. Then all of a sudden, maybe 10 or 15 years ago, they were everywhere.

And the problem is, they are scat artists par excellence, leaving their greenish white cigar shaped turds wherever the decide to saunter. Which is always right in my path.

We used to just have mallards on the Esplanade and in the Public Garden. Think Make Way for Ducklings, which is set in both of these spots. The ducks are still there, and one of my late-spring highlights is seeing one of the mallard moms paddling around the Public Garden lagoon or in the Charles River, trailed by a flotilla of ducklings.

I don’t know where mallards crap, but it’s not on the walkways of the Public Garden or the Esplanade.(Are there tiny little mallard toilets that I’ve missed seeing over the years?) Unlike their goosey, less fastidious cousins, who seem to crap willy-nilly.

And it’s not just the parks that I frequent. These SOG’s are everywhere.

A week or so back, I read that Boston’s City Council has held a hearing to try to figure out what the city can do about it. According to experts, there are a number of options:

Border collies can drive geese from certain public areas. Special fencing can cordon off geese to a limited range. Goose eggs can be addled to hinder gosling births. Residents can stop feeding them. (Source: Boston Globe)

I’ve got another one: My cousin MB, who lives on a pond on Cape Cod, is sometimes plagued by Canada geese. When they were having company, her late husband used to go out in the backyard and crack a bull whip. He didn’t go after the geese. Just making the whip-cracking noise was enough to keep them at bay for a bit.


…individually, each method might not be enough to combat the waterfowl’s perceived influx to the city.

Perceived influx into the city? Where has this writer been? Clearly not walking in our fair city’s parks.

“We need a massive amount of resources to get to every nook and cranny” where geese are, said Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo. “This is a public health concern ... a quality-of-life issue.”

I’m with Mark Ciommo. It’s definitely a quality-of-life-issue. And it’s costing a lot of the parks’ budget to clean up after these no-good-niks.

The City Council also explored fining people who feed the geese. Bring it on. (Maybe go after the pigeon feeders while we’re at it. I haven’t seen the feral-cat feeding ladies, who used to leave tins of cat food in doorways all over the Hill, in years, but they’d be on the fine list, too. I will confess that I have been known to break bread for the mallards.) And bring on the border collies, the special fencing, the egg addling.

What’s addling, you may ask? (I did.)

Addling is somehow getting the egg away from the goose, doing something to destroy the embryo, and somehow getting the egg back under the unsuspecting goose, so they think that they’ve got something going. So that they don’t lay another, more viable egg. One way to addle is to coat the egg with corn oil. But not just anyone can do that.

For starters, you need an egg addling permit from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

And you can only addle eggs on your own property. And, as the FAQ on egg addling permits notes:

It's important to understand that the presence of Canada geese is not a sufficient reason to acquire a permit to addle eggs; there must be a reasonable basis for addling eggs, such as property damage.

State and municipal entities must also get permits, and they’re only allowed to addle on state and municipal property. They can’t go addling on private properties.

So I guess I can only get a permit if one of those Canada geese makes it into the fenced off frontage of our building, which is unlikely. And I’d have to demonstrate property damage. Is a shoe sole covered with goose crap enough?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

This is the dawning of the Age of Ophiuchus?

I don’t spend much time thinking about my zodiac sign.

Sure, when the astrology column is right in front of my face, I’ll give it a glance. But other than knowing that I’m a Sagittarius, I really never gave any thought to what it all means. Is your zodiac sign supposed to be in some way determinant? Was I supposed to marry an Aquarius, or was that bad juju?

Although I don’t spend much time thinking about, I was a bit taken aback to learn that NASA has added a new sign into the mix – something called Ophiuchus – to better align things, astronomy-wise.

For most folks, having a new sign shoe-horned in there is likely to have pushed them into a new sign. Thus, my Aquarian husband would now be a Capricorn. (Or is it the other way around?) That’s disconcerting enough, I suppose. But to have your perfectly good sign replaced by a heretofore unknown clunker, well, that takes you well beyond disconcerting.

As it turns out, I’m one of the true victims of the New Zodiac World Order. I’m now an Ophiuchus.

The source of my new knowledge was some of my (male, surprisingly – who knew that men followed the zodiac news?) gym buddies, who brought it up in conversation the other day. When I said that I was December 1, they told me that the new sign for my birthday was “something that began with an O.”



Not that I know how to pronounce, but it sure sounds ugly. Like a . medical condition. Nothing too serious. Fungal toenails. Projectile vomit. Something like that.

And the symbol is pretty creepy.

Sagittarius was odd enough: a centaur with a bow and arrow.

But Ophiuchus? Ophi-yuck-us!


A guy who looks like Father Time (or a less-fun Mister Natural) handling a snake that’s threaded through his legs. (Did the illustrator back in the day really have to go there?)

And I feel about snakes about the same way I feel about rats. And clowns. Creepy. Nasty. Must-avoid.

So little comfort derived from learning that the alternative name for Ophiuchus is Serpentarius.

Snake Bearer vs. my old friend, Sagittarius the Archer.

People born under the sign are thought to be seekers of knowledge and also have a flamboyant style of dress. (Source: Inverse)

Well, I’ve always been a seeker of knowledge (or info, or maybe just interesting stuff). But as I sit here in my jeans, fleece, and LL Bean moccasin slippers, I think I’m failing that flamboyant style of dress thing. I do have a number of fairly interesting sweaters, but I wouldn’t exactly characterize them as flamboyant.

Here’s the real kicker: Ophiuchus doesn’t have an opposite sign, meaning you can no longer justify your dating life with “opposites attract.”

Well, I don’t exactly have a dating life to justify, but, if I do take up geriatric dating, or astrology, at least I won’t have to bother worrying about whether I’ve got an opposite number out there, under my new found stars.