Friday, August 31, 2007
A UN conference, held at the European Parliament in Brussels, heard an array of speakers call for a boycott against Israel and strategize on ways to achieve its international isolation, during the first day of an event billed by organizers as a gathering to promote "Middle East peace".
The 'International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace' has been organized by the UN's Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and attracted political figures and pro-Palestinian members of non governmental organizations (NGOs).
The UN always seems so concerned for the rights of the Palestinians, but they never seem to care about the right of Israelis not to be blown up by Palestinians. I guess I don't understand "inalienable rights" properly.
According to the Bnei Brith organization, which sent delegates to attend the conference from its European Affairs Office, British Member of Parliament Clare Short said during her speech that Israel was not interested in a two-state solution, and blasted the EU for "allowing" Israel to build "an apartheid wall".
"The boycott worked for South Africa, it is time to do it again," Short was quoted as saying.
The security fence was also attacked by the European Parliament's vice president, Edward McMillan-Scott, who maintained that it would not bring peace to Israel. McMillan-Scott added that the European Parliament was committed to "a two state solution with safe borders," according to the Bnei Brith report of the conference.
McMillan-Scott is an idiot. The fence is indeed bringing peace to Israel. Attacks on Israelis by the Palestinians are down about 90% from before the fence was built. That makes life much more peaceful for Israel.
Pierre Galand, European coordinator of the Committees and Associations for Palestine, claimed that the conference was taking place despite pressures to cancel it, and blamed the Fatah-Hamas conflict on "Israeli policy".
You gotta love Pierre (the name looks French, quelle choque!). No matter what bad thing happens in the Middle East, it's Israel's fault. When Fatah and Hamas fight for power over Gaza, that's because Israel made them do it--I presume because Israel had the gall to withdraw and put the PA completely in charge. Of course, the attacks on Israel from Gaza before the withdrawal were probably Israel's fault too. Guys like this sure are consistent.
The one bright spot for Israel in this was... Poland.
Ynet News reported August 16, 2007, that Poland was planning to boycott the conference.
"I will not take part in this conference. I saw the materials prepared by the organizers," Bronisław Geremek, a Polish MEP, was quoted by Polish website, Europa21 as saying.
"Although there is no official statement that Israel must be pushed down to the sea there, the choice of subjects and the attitude towards the problems shows that it will be a biased, conflict generating conference. Actually we can call it anti-Israeli," he said.
"There is not the first such initiative. (The) Pro-Palestinian lobby is very active here. If in fact, the conference will become propagandist, Israelis can count on Poles," Boguslaw Sonik, another Polish MEP, said.
And, so far, Israel can count on America. That's two countries still on her side.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
My mom called her ophthalmologist to schedule the surgery, but he can't even examine her until September 13th, at which time he'd set a date for the surgery, after which she would need to recover for three weeks. And that would put a serious dent in our ability to see autumn or to get through the Northeast before snow socks the place in. So she decided to wait until later for the surgery.
So that means we should be able to leave for the Northeast in September, which also means that I won't be going back to California until after our Northeast loop, probably December sometime.
We only stayed at my house for one night, because (unlike people who work for a living and know these things instinctively) we found out yesterday this is Labor Day weekend coming up, and we certainly didn't want to be on the main highway out of Southern California with all the long-weekend vacationers.
During our brief stay at my house, I managed to pick up all my mail, get into trouble with the association management over where I parked the RV (I can't wait for my house to sell so I don't have to deal with them anymore!), clean up trash (somebody parked in my driveway and applied window tinting to their car while I was gone and left their trash there), pull some weeds, dust, and play Dominoes with the kids. Then we left this morning after rush hour and had minimal traffic.
Our second stop was El Centro (the first was outside Alpine, where the temperature was still cool). When I took Scooter outside at the rest area, it was as though I had walked into an oven. The thermometer in the motorhome window (granted, it was on the sunny side) said 120 degrees.
We're staying tonight at an RV Park in Dateland, Arizona ("Home of the World Famous Date Shakes"--I took my kids there one year when they were younger, but none of us was brave enough to try the date shakes), and even after dark, it's still a blast furnace out here. At sunset, we watched thunderstorms in the distance that filled about a third of the horizon. But the rain hasn't made it here. The owner's wife said her thermometer this afternoon read 116 in the shade. It was down to 100 by sunset.
People talk about it being a dry heat, and that does make a difference. But it's still heat. More than plenty of it and no end in sight. I thank God often that I live after air conditioning became commonplace.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
But looking at the map to start figuring out what route to take has pointed out something that I kind of knew already but didn't want to face: My sense of geography for the eastern half of the country isn't the best. In fact, I've been fooled by terminology the same way early explorers must have gone to Greenland, thinking it was green. The Midwest isn't in the middle of the country. It's in the East. When did that happen?
When we leave Texas for the world's longest covered bridge in Hartland, New Brunswick, we'll be crossing states I thought we wouldn't see until the spring. By going to see Niagra Falls (both my mom and I want to see it, neither of us having been there before), we'll probably go through St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio (see green line). Beyond Niagra Falls, I have no idea what route to take to get to Hartland (see green dot on the far right).
I'm not sure what I thought was between Texas and Pennsylvania, but it wasn't that many states. I guess, having lived in the West since I was 5 years old, I forgot that the rest of the country is different, especially if you're driving.
Oh well, this isn't the first time I've been taken by surprise, and I'm sure it won't be the last.
Anyway, if you're a Midwesterner somewhere remotely near our tentative route, we may be able to meet you this fall, instead of having to wait until spring. Leave a comment, or email me at skyepuppy77-at-yahoo-dot-com, if you'd like to get together when we're near you.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Last night I was going to make chili for dinner, because it was still cold enough outside that chili sounded like a good dinner and I knew we'd be coming into the heat any day. But we didn't have all the ingredients we needed, so we had to go with Plan B, which is really wonderful (you need access to Costco):
Costco's frozen skinless boneless Atlantic Salmon (you get 7 filets, individually wrapped)
Costco's Herbed Seafood Rub, from the herb aisle in a round container, about 5" in diameter
Thaw 1 or 2 wrapped pieces by running cold water over it in a bowl for 20 minutes (my mom & I split one piece)
Heat George Foreman grill
Remove salmon from wrapper(s)
Get 1 tsp of the seafood rub for each salmon piece and sprinkle half on each side and rub in
Place on George Foreman and grill 4 minutes
Eat, while saying, "Oh! This is SO GOOD!!!'
(Serve with veggies, etc)
But that was last night. Today we left the coast for the boring inland route (I-5), which avoids the San Francisco Bay area. When we got to Williams, at the I-5, we stopped for gas and tried to find the rest of our chili ingredients (ignoring the fact that we were no longer in coastal weather for chili to sound good). A liquor store promised the sale of "Food" along with the liquor, so I ran in, didn't see what we needed, got back in the motorhome, and made my way out the parking lot and to the stop sign. That's when I heard a bad kind of thud behind the motorhome, followed by unusual bumping.
I asked my mom if we still had the car behind us, so she got out to check and saw that the car was still on the dolly. But then she saw that the dolly wasn't on the tow bar anymore. Further inspection revealed that the nut holding the tow ball on the trailer hitch had worked itself off and was gone, so when we went down the liquor store's driveway, the ball bounced itself right off the hitch, still attached to the tow dolly. Then somehow the dolly kept moving under the bumper, so the car hit the back of the motorhome and messed it up a bit.
And it broke the car's front bumper on the left side.
Williams is a pretty small town, and it's a friendly one. A man with a pickup asked if we needed help. After we all looked at the situation, he offered to hook up the dolly to his truck and pull it over to the gas station, and while he and I were trying to hook it up to his truck, several other men called out to us to see if we needed more help. We did. It took three of us to get the dolly (with the car still on it) onto the man's hitch. Then my mom drove the motorhome and parked it near the car.
We ended up getting a nut, locking washer, and a crescent wrench big enough for the nut, so we could put the ball back on the hitch. But the safety chains had broken at the hook on one side and the carabineer we had as an extension on the other side. So we got some more carabineers and got the chains hooked back up again, tested the trailer lights, and then hit the road again. Carefully.
I kept checking the side mirrors to be sure I could still see the tow dolly's fenders (we can't see the car itself in the mirrors, unless we're turning). And after several miles of seeing the fenders, we started to relax.
I think, if my house sells for a good price anytime soon, I might just buy a vehicle I can tow on all fours...
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Near Tillamook, at Cape Meares, is the first of the lighthouses that are open for visitors. It has a short, stubby tower, and we got to it after visiting hours, so we didn't get to go inside.
After Cape Meares is the lighthouse at Yaquina Head, which has the tallest tower along Oregon's coast.
They had a bit of excitement while we were there. Some woman had ignored the signs that said don't climb around on the rocks, and while she was climbing around on the rock face, she fell off and was injured. The paramedics and a Coast Guard helicopter got her airlifted. The guide used that as a lesson for the kids (and adults) waiting in line to climb up the tower NOT to disobey the signs.
At Yaquina Bay, not too far from Yaquina Head, is the old lighthouse, which was only in operation for three years. Its time ended when the bigger, better lighthouse at Yaquina Head was built.
I had trouble getting a picture of theYaquina Bay lighthouse that wasn't obscured by trees, and we were running short on time for me to wander around to find a good photo. But they had this really cool mulch under the trees by the parking lot: Acorn husks. No doubt provided by trained squirrels.
At Heceta Head (which we first found out about when we were looking at a photographer's booth at the Craft Festival in Port Townsend), there were more stairs to climb and more waiting to do first.
Our tour guide told us about the Fresnel lens (Cape Meares has one too) and its maker, a French physicist and mathematician named Augustin-Jean Fresnel (pronounced "freh-NELL"). Fresnel developed the lens in the 1820s using prisms to reflect and focus the light into a narrow beam, though his fellow physicists at the time thought he was crazy. He took his first lens, with 20 candles, to the coast of France along the English Channel to test it out. The results were so spectacular that the sailors clamored for more, and soon the European coast was dotted with lighthouses using Fresnel's lens. And the lens was eventually imported to America.
The original light at Heceta Head used kerosene, burning half a gallon every hour, so they built two buildings just for storing the kerosene (seen here from a window at the top of the tower).
Every morning at sunrise, the keepers shut down the light, then had to clean all the soot from the lens and tower and refill the kerosene tank in preparation for the next night. When they converted the light to use electricity, the two assistant keepers were no longer needed.
Today, the assistant keepers' duplex (it became the keeper's house when they went electric) is a Bed & Breakfast, which our tour guide says is excellent.
At the Umpqua River lighthouse, I misjudged our turning radius in one of the parking lots. We had to pull the car off the tow-dolly and park the car out of the way, detach the dolly from the motorhome and roll it out of the way, get the motorhome turned around and pointing in the right direction, then roll the dolly over and hook it back up, drive the car up on the dolly and strap it back down, and then go park somewhere that gave us an exit strategy. On top of all that, the lighthouse was behind an ugly chain-link fence that made for unsatisfactory pictures. I don't offer any here.
The Coquille River lighthouse (aka, Bandon lighthouse) is getting a facelift. The friends we were visiting in Bandon didn't even know about her surgery. I'm sure she'll look much better when the bandages come off.
Finally, a couple shots of the Oregon coastline itself. The first is at Seal Rock.
And this one is at Cape Meares.
Friday, August 24, 2007
In the years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, leaders in [the Arab and Muslim] community say incidents of profiling and harassment have ebbed and flowed — increasing when Muslims are linked to news of the day.
Now the FBI's release of photographs of two men of unknown origin, who the agency says were observed acting suspiciously aboard as many as six different Washington ferry routes in recent weeks, is creating new worries in the community.
Muslim- and Arab-American leaders are upset that the FBI didn't consult them — as it has done in other instances — before releasing the photos on the Internet and to news organizations. They worry that the action may fracture the relationship the agency and the community have carefully built.
Dozens of Muslims and Arabs have complained to community leaders about the photographs. The fallout has led to a meeting planned today between Muslim- and Arab-American community leaders and law-enforcement officials.
Is the relationship so fragile that the release of one set of photos can fracture it? And what will the meeting be about?
"We need to get some type of apology from them and figure out how to get back to where we were," said Rita Zawaideh, head of the Arab-American Community Coalition.
Right. The FBI must apologize for doing its job to protect all Americans, even the Arab-Americans. I'm sorry, but the FBI should tell them to forget about it.
When security threats come from the African-American community, does the FBI show the photos to their leaders first? When the threats are Jewish, does the FBI go to the Jewish leaders to keep their feathers from getting ruffled? And when the threats are from white people, does the FBI worry about hurting their lily-white feelings? Come on!
I get really tired of hearing from crybaby "civil-rights" leaders complaining about somebody looking at them funny or singling them out for special (unpleasant) treatment, all the while demanding special (pleasant) treatment.
David Gomez, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Seattle office said it best:
Gomez said the agency needs to address certain sensitive issues, but "people in those communities have to get over this sensitivity toward feeling victimized."
Ynet News reported yesterday that Iran has been selected to be on theplanning committee.
Despite its numerous calls for Israel's destruction, and repeated denials of the Holocaust, Iran has been selected by the United Nations for a leading position in a committee that will plan the 2009 UN World Conference against Racism.
The planning committee, which will meet for the first time in Geneva on August 27, will be made up of an inner circle of 20 UN member-states, to be headed by Libya.
The decision to include Iran in the committee has been slammed by UN watchdogs. "As a UN spokesperson against racism, Iran will invert totally the message and mission of the United Nations," Anne Bayefsky, senior editor of the New York-based Eye on the UN, said in a press release.
"Iran is now poised to wrap itself in a UN flag as a lead agent of the next global conference against racism, Durban II," she added, referring to the 2001 UN conference on racism held in Durban, South Africa, which saw unprecedented levels of anti-Zionist rhetoric and calls for Israel's destruction.
Eye on the UN has found that in 2006 the UN system as a whole directed the most condemnations for human rights abuses against specific states - first towards Israel and fourth towards the United States. Iran was lower down on the list of UN human rights concerns," Bayefsky said, adding: "And yet the US taxpayer continues to pay a quarter of the bill for activities which demonize Americans and Israelis on a global scale."
What I want to know from the US presidential candidates is where they stand on the UN and our funding of it. I want a president who isn't going to kiss up to the UN and keep funding them while they try to destroy the US, Israel, and liberty around the world. It doesn't seem like too much to ask.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Some of the trees in Washington have already started changing colors, and I'm concerned that autumn might come early this year, with our luck while we're stopping at home for a few weeks in early September.
When we leave for our Northeastern loop, we'll probably hurry to New Brunswick, Canada, for the world's longest covered bridge (hopefully before snowfall), and then make our way leisurely southward. If we're lucky, we should see autumn leaves somewhere along the way. But that's later. We're still in the West.
Near Mt. St. Helens there are three visitor centers, the first run by the state of Washington, and the other two run by the US Forest Service. We got to the first one late Tuesday afternoon in time to watch the movie about the 1980 eruption. I learned a lot that I hadn't known.
Beginning March 20, 1980, when the mountain "woke up," it built a bulge on the northern face, accompanied by hundreds of earthquakes. On May 18, 1980--a Sunday--at 8:32am, a 5.1 earthquake sent the bulging northern face tumbling down in a landslide. Without its support, more of the northern slope followed. The landslide, with the snow that had rested on that land, followed the course of the North Fork of the Toutle River, sending rock and mud through the valleys.
The loss of the mountainside gave the underlying magma an enormous weak spot, and it exploded laterally, sending rock and ash and gases over 270 square miles and as far as 17 miles away, and a cloud of ash 80,000 feet in the air. Pyroclastic flows contined throughout the day as the cloud of ash made its way eastward, reaching Spokane around 2:00 in the afternoon.
When the day was over, the blast had left debris from the top of Mt. St. Helens 230 feet deep where the landslide and the blast had settled. The debris formed dams that created two new lakes, Castle Lake and Coldwater Lake, both now 27 years old. Here is a picture of the mountain (hidden inside an unseasonal cloud, center) and the remains of the 1980 eruption (beyond the near ridge).
Wednesday we went to the Coldwater and Johnston visitor centers. At Coldwater we attended a ranger talk about the regrowth of the area.
In the picture just above, you can barely see the stumps of trees on the left side of the near (green) ridge. Those stumps were already there when the mountain blew. The area around Mt. St. Helens was Forest Service land, managed in a checkerboard pattern, with one square having been logged in a clearcut and the square next to it unlogged. Because the eruption happened in May, when there was still some snow on the ground under the unlogged trees, the recovery has progressed differently for the two types of land.
The explosion's force, debris, and incredibly hot gases flowed over the ridges the way water flows over rocks and sandbars in a river bottom. In the clearcut areas, the blast destroyed everything. In the unlogged areas, where there was still snow under the trees, the blast burned and knocked over the standing trees, but the snow protected the shade-tolerant undergrowth. The trees of the protected undergrowth, now exposed to the sunlight, have thrived in a way they couldn't before the blast. Biologists have been surprised by the speed of their recovery.
In the clearcut areas, primary regrowth is happening. Grasses and wildflowers took root first, and insects came in, inviting rodents, inviting birds of prey. The meadows have also brought elk, and recently, larger predators--bears and lions--have returned.
At the same time, all the new water--not just the two new lakes, but the new ponds formed in the depressions left by the blasts of rocks from the mountain--invited grasses and cattails, inviting amphibians that multiplied without predators for a time. The ranger said that the biodiversity around the mountain is greater now than it was before the eruption.
He also said the recovery started in the water and has been gradually moving out from there. In the photo above, the top of the near ridge is the only part that still doesn't have trees, but they should come soon.
A better example is the delta of Coldwater Lake. In the drawing on this sign, the delta was mostly barren (see green arrow).
But now, the delta is completely tree-covered. I believe he said the sign was made six years ago.
Mt. St. Helens is busy rebuilding itself again, as it does each time it erupts. The previous eruption was in the 1800s, so all the "Before" pictures are really the rebuilt mountain after the last time. The rebuilding and regrowth by nature may be new to modern observers, but it's as old as nature itself.
My mom and I drove beyond Coldwater to the Johnston visitor center, hoping the cloud would lift and give us a good view. But the cloud settled down even more, so I went with the flow and photographed the rolling mists. Here is a downed tree by the walkway.
And a trail that may be tough to follow.
Baggy pants that show boxer shorts or thongs would be illegal under a proposed amendment to Atlanta's indecency laws.
The amendment, sponsored by city councilman C.T. Martin, states that sagging pants are an "epidemic" that is becoming a "major concern" around the country.
"Little children see it and want to adopt it, thinking it's the in thing," Martin said Wednesday. "I don't want young people thinking that half-dressing is the way to go. I want them to think about their future."
The proposed ordinance would also bar women from showing the strap of a thong beneath their pants. They would also be prohibited from wearing jogging bras in public or show a bra strap, said Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
When I was in grade school the doctor thought briefly that I might have scoliosis, because my left shoulder blade stuck out more than the right one. But then he checked my spine, and it was straight, so he said I just had muscles that weren't even on both sides.
But that unevenness makes things slide down my left shoulder. Bra straps, slip straps, the necklines of uncollared tops. They all start heading left sooner or later. And that means sometimes my bra strap shows, if it's the shirt I'm wearing that starts to slide. And if that happens when we're in Atlanta, I'll be on the wrong side of the law.
What if I try to apply for a job, and the application asks, "Have you ever been arrested?" and then tells me to explain? I'd have to say, "I was arrested for indecency, because my bra strap showed." Would they even read past the word, "indecency?" What hospital would hire an indecent woman? This law could ruin my future career.
Atlanta would not be the first city to take on sagging pants.
Let's hope they don't become the first city to take on bra straps.
Monday, August 20, 2007
And the hills the greenest green
Like a beautiful child growing up free and wild
Full of laughter, full of tears,
Full of hopes and full of fears,
Full of dreams to last the years
In Seattle... in Seattle...
Ever since we got to Montana, every time I noticed that the sky was blue or that the hills were greeen, this song started running through my head. And when we got into Washington and I thought about going to Seattle, this song started running through my head. It's the theme song to Here Come the Brides, which first aired almost 40 years ago, and I still remember all the words (I think).
We watched the show every week, and I was in love with (of course) Bobby Sherman. Everybody I knew watched the show, and it's my theory that the rash of little boys born to my generation who were named Jason, Joshua, or Jeremy, were the product of having the Bolt brothers become a subliminal part of our psyches. As we racked our brains for a name for our sons, we wanted a name that was strong, noble, decent, and manly. And the Bolt brothers were there for us. Logging men. Real men. The kind of men you'd want your son to be named after.
My mom and I went to Seattle today, but we didn't find any Bolt brothers.
It was raining as we rode the ferry from Bainbridge Island.
In Seattle, we started at Pioneer Square, where they have the tours of Underground Seattle, but neither of us was up for a 90-minute walk, when we had other places to go as well, so we caught the free bus over to Pike Place Market, where this man was playing the piano near the entrance. I didn't notice what he was singing, and I didn't give him any money.
The market has a mix of things for sale. Fresh fish, jewelry, candles, tie-dyed fabrics, photography, paintings, produce, and flowers. Lots of flowers.
We had lunch at the market, in a restaurant that overlooked Puget Sound and which had a couple pictures from Sleepless in Seattle, with the announcement that a scene from that movie had been filmed in that very restaurant. But I've never seen the movie, so I wouldn't know.
We saw protesters in several places, starting with Piano Man. One group of about a dozen had signs, but the only one I read as we walked by said, "Impeach Bush, Cheney, Gonzalez." Then the group started singing. I didn't catch the song, just that one of the women had a really nice voice. A non-protesting woman, whose age was somewhere between mine and my mom's, rolled her eyes with a look of disgust as she opened the door to a store near the singers. I told her, "At least they're not naked."
Another group was more confusing. They had signs that were incoherent, beyond supporting Lyndon LaRouche. At least I think that's what they said. Really, when you protest something, your readers or listeners should be able to figure out what what the problem is. If they can't, how will you spread your message? The LaRouche guys have a long way to go.
After lunch, we took the free bus to the mall and caught the monorail over to Seattle Center, where the Space Needle is. They have carnival rides at the base of the Space Needle, but we didn't ride any of them. Going up 520 feet was excitement enough.
After the Space Needle, we went back to the ferry terminal for our ride back to Bainbridge Island. The ferry was late, though, because one of them on that route lost its steering in the morning (slightly important), and they couldn't keep the normal schedule all day. But we finally boarded and left Seattle, an incoming ferry passing us on our way.
Tomorrow we head south.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Port Townsend is known for its Victorian homes. It's also where my dad was born, but most people don't know that, and they come here anyway.
As we got into town, we saw this lighthouse up on a hill. It's not a real lighthouse, or an old building. It was built in 1990, based on the lighthouse at Mukilteo near Seattle.
Port Townsend has an uptown and a downtown. They're self-explanatory, with uptown being up the hill. We started downtown, near the waterfront, and wandered along the shops, and Scooter kept himself entertained. He either sniffed the sidewalk for food, or he barked at the other dogs.
There were a few places in town, and also along the coast of the Olympic Penninsula, where these signs were posted. Basically, the answer is, "Head for the hills!"
And of course, what would a port be without a harbor?
We happened to be in town for the Arts and Crafts Festival, which was held uptown. They had booths of stuff for sale, and I got scolded by a 20-year-old hat seller when I took a picture of her wares. I offered to delete the picture, but she wasn't concerned about that. She told me I should always ask permission before photographing an artist's work. And she's right. I usually do, but I hadn't thought of her floppy-brimmed cloth hats as artistry, and I didn't like the picture when I looked at it later.
The Festival had a band playing a broad mix of Cajun, blues, bluegrass and other danceable music. This guy really knew his way around a dance floor. Not all of the dancers did.
There were a lot of people dressed in an eclectic manner. I don't know if this woman dressed up special for the Festival, or if she always dresses like this. That's a set of wings under the yellow feather boa.
And this dog, Lily, was in a booth at the Festival as well. The lady with her said Lily is a therapy dog. She visits hospitals and nursing homes, and she goes to the library and maybe schools (my memory is failing already). Lily likes to have little kids read to her, and they like to do it. She's a good listener, never scolding or judging or correcting their pronunciation. Sometimes Lily's owner will tell the kids, "Lily doesn't know that word. Can you tell her what it means?" And they'll look right at Lily and tell her what the word means. I like Lily. She's a real sweetie.
Our visit to Port Townsend finished at the Rothschild House, where we took the self-guided tour. Mr. Rothschild made his fortune as a mercantile store owner. The docent said 90% of the house's furnishings are original to the family, and this is the parlor. I noticed that most of the chairs were rocking chairs, and that sure would have made for a nice visit.
And this is part of the view from the balcony, looking out toward the harbor.
The Rothschild House was nice, but our visit to the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell, Montana, was so much better (I didn't blog about that).
Saturday, August 18, 2007
When we got there, they put us on standby, number 17, because we hadn't had time to make reservations (they have to be made at least 24 hours ahead). Not too long after we paid, they took away our number 17, gave us 16, and gave our 17 to the car behind us. Hope surged.
We went across the street and got some tea, came back to the car to eat the breakfast we brought, and I got out and took some pictures. Then the ferry came.
It disgorged its cargo of cars and trucks, then started getting the reservation-holders on board. Then the standby vehicles. We moved closer, and they had the vehicle in front of us, a skinny little car towing a skinny little boat, pull ahead of the Suburban and get on the ferry.
I hoped for another skinny little spot just big enough for a Toyota, but the Suburban pulled ahead. And then the guy by the ship waved his arms and started shutting the stern doors.
It was a sad day in Port Angeles. The ferry schedule didn't have enough sailings to make waiting for the next one worthwhile. We would have had to come back home almost as soon as we got there, so we opted for Plan B.
There will be no foreign travel for us on our loop through the West. Sigh.
My ring is fixed. It's my Isaiah 54 ring.
Originally it was my dad's mom's engagement ring. She was "Little Grandma," at 4' 11", so I had to get the ring re-sized. It fit on my pinkie OK, but it kept wanting to fall off, so the ring finger is safer.
The red stone is synthetic, and the small white stones on either side are white sapphires. It was the best my Grandpa could afford in 1924 on an Army enlisted man's pay. I asked one time, about eight years ago, how much it would cost to replace the red stone with a real ruby, and the guy said it would be $8,000 to $10,000. Same for an emerald, which is my birthstone. Never mind...
A couple years ago, my ring started pinching me on the underside of my finger. Not some little St. Patrick's Day pinch, but a sharp, stabbing pinch. The ring had snapped apart where it had been resized, and I couldn't trust it after that, so I stopped wearing it.
I brought it along on the trip, hoping we'd find a place to get it fixed, and finally remembered it when we were in Yakima visiting a dear family friend. We stopped at a jewelry store (where they serve chocolates and wine while you shop), and the lady said they could fix it up, no problem. But then she said I'd get it back in five days, and that just wouldn't have worked for us at all. So I took the ring back from her, unfixed.
We stopped at the mall to go to Radio Shack, because I had a misunderstanding with the new DVD player I had just picked up at Costco, and I thought I needed an adapter for the setup we have in the motorhome. But then our friend remembered seeing the right attachments on the TV, so we didn't need to go to Radio Shack after all. But on the way out of the mall, we passed a little stand where the guy was from India and looked like Jeff Goldblum (when he was younger) and did jewelry repair "while you wait." Perfect. He said it should take 15 minutes, so I went back out to the motorhome, fetched the ring, and he fixed it and cleaned it up, and now I can wear it again.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Scientific American reported Tuesday that squirrels even attack rattlesnakes.
Seemingly skittish, adult squirrels are fearsome defenders. Aided by a natural blood protein that counteracts snake venom, they may approach within inches of a threatening snake, throwing dirt with their front paws and even biting or swiping at the snake's tail, which can leave a nasty infection. "Sometimes you feel a little bad for these rattlesnakes," says [behavioral biologist Aaron Rundus of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln School of Biological Sciences], who conducted the experiments while working toward his PhD at the University of California, Davis, with adviser Donald Owings.
But that's not the interesting part. The squirrels have super-powered tails.
Squirrels are not as helpless as they may seem when confronted by rattlesnakes eager to make dinner of their pups. A new study reveals one of their most powerful tactics: the rodents heat their bushy tails and wave them back and forth to warn infrared-sensitive snakes they will not get fast food.
Infrared video showed that California ground squirrels' tails warmed by several degrees, up to 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), when threatened by northern Pacific rattlesnakes, which detect the infrared glow from small mammals using so-called pit organs in their noses. But no heating occurred while the rodents defended against gopher snakes, which lack such heat seekers, according to a report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
Squirrels and snakes have coexisted for more than a million years in California, matching one another step for step in their evolutionary struggle for survival, he adds. When snakes developed venomous bites, squirrels evolved antivenom. The researchers say squirrels may distinguish infrared-sensitive rattlesnakes from gopher snakes and other predators based on rattlers' distinct odor and sound.
Sadly for squirrel lovers (but comforting to viper devotees), Rundus notes that these weapons are not perfectly effective: Earlier studies have found that a rattlesnake's diet is 70 percent squirrel pup.
Such a shame...
The Denver Post reported yesterday about a Russian area that has decided to tackle the problem with prizes.
A Russian region of Ulyanovsk has found a novel way to fight the nation's birth-rate crisis: It has declared Sept. 12 the Day of Conception and for the third year running is giving couples time off from work to procreate.
The hope is for a brood of babies exactly nine months later on Russia's national day. Couples who "give birth to a patriot" during the June 12 festivities win money, cars, refrigerators and other prizes.
Ulyanovsk, about 550 miles east of Moscow, has held similar contests since 2005. Since then, the number of competitors, and the number of babies born to them, has been on the rise.
The 2007 grand prize went to Irina and Andrei Kartuzov, who received a UAZ-Patriot, a sport utility vehicle. Other contestants won video cameras, TVs, refrigerators and washing machines.
Let's hear it for Irina and Andrei, who have done their patriotic duty and reaped the rewards for it.
And let's hear it for the commenters at the end of the article, the first of whom (doktorbombay)displayed the typical lefty lack of a sense of humor about it:
Population growth worldwide is a major cause of global warming. Current population levels are not sustainable, how are we going to sustain even more of us? How about Russia opening it's doors to more immigration rather than encouraging residents to procreate?
How tediously predictable of him.
Personally, I think the contest is a great idea. It sure beats the alternative, which is ethnic extinction.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I picked up a couple of those Homes for Sale booklets, which I also did in Missoula and Kalispell. I wanted to get a feel for overall prices for someday when I leave California. Western Montana is a lot more affordable than California (which isn't saying much), with a decent house in a nice neighborhood averaging around $290,000, near as I can tell. Spokane was the surprise, because the houses cost less than Montana, around $200,000 for the same kind of house. I would have thought Spokane had more demand than Montana, but it looks like I was wrong. Either way, I can't afford a decent house in a nice neighborhood (assuming I had a medical job).
In Spokane, our sightseeing took us downtown. We walked through the Davenport Hotel, armed with a camera. The Davenport had been closed and in a state of disrepair for 15 years, and then "in March of 2000[,] local entrepreneurs Walt & Karen Worthy purchased the entire city block for $6.5 million, then spent the next two years of their lives--and $38 million of their own money--to make The Davenport Hotel grand again." (quote from the Davenport's history page). Here is the lobby:
I don't know how well you can see the detail in the ceiling crossbeams, in the balcony railings, and everywhere else. The Worthys' millions were well-spent.
The Spokane River runs through town, and Riverfront Park highlights the south bank and the falls, with the north bank finally getting more development than it had when I lived there.
This is where did most of my running, in a running clinic sponsored by the YMCA (the building on the right).
The clinic's main purpose was to prepare people for the Bloomsday race (7.6 miles at the time), held every year the first weekend in May. I ran it in '79, '80, and '81. And my average per-mile pace improved from 14 minutes the first year (we did a lot of walking) to 10 minutes the last. I'm not built for speed, just endurance.
The finish line was placed in a difficult spot for the runners, in front of Riverfront Park. The hard part was having to come up the long, steep hill that peaked at the corner of the park. The race organizers knew the challenge of that hill, and each year I ran it, they had the theme song from "Rocky" blaring at us, encouraging us to keep going just a little longer. And our reward was turning the corner and seeing the finish line just a short distance ahead.
Years after I left Spokane, an artist was commissioned to honor the runners of Bloomsday, so these statue/cutouts grace the corner at the top of the Rocky hill. I see myself in them.
Now, I'm of the firm belief that the eggplant is a fake. Sure, I believe the seeds are shaped the way they look in the picture, but egglants are disgusting. Therefore, God would not endorse them by spelling His name in one. Besides, if you look closely, the "o" looks a little more like an "8" than an 'o," so really...
As for the Jesus faces, how do they know? The garage might be John the Baptist, and the cabinet door might be Peter. Who can really say? I used to see all kinds of things in the shapes of the texturing of the ceiling over my bed in my last house.
There was one face I could see over my bed, and it could have been Jesus, because the Bible says Jesus wasn't very attractive. Nobody followed Him because He was a hottie. And the face on my ceiling was unattractive, with big, bulging eyes that always made me think of the space aliens from Area 51 or Roswell or wherever the big, bulging-eyed aliens are from.
It could have been Jesus. It had as much chance of being Jesus as the driveway smudge or the cabinet. Way better chance than the eggplant.
I should have cut out that section of my ceiling and sold it on Ebay.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
A U.S. judge appealed his $54 million (27 million pounds) lawsuit on Tuesday against the dry-cleaning shop that misplaced his trousers, shrugging off legal setbacks and international ridicule.
Judge Roy Pearson filed a notice of appeal with the District of Columbia Superior Court, indicating that he won't abandon the crusade that has turned him into a symbol of America's lawsuit-happy legal culture.
Judge Pearson deserves worse than international ridicule, because it's as plain as the nose on an elephant's face that ridicule has no effect on the judge. Here's the background on the case:
Pearson asked his neighbourhood dry cleaners to pay him $1,150 when they misplaced a pair of trousers he brought in for a $10.50 alteration in May 2005. The owners of Custom Cleaners said they located the garment a few days later, but Pearson said the pair they offered him was not his.
Claiming that the shop's "satisfaction guaranteed" sign misled customers who, like him, were dissatisfied with their experience, Pearson sought $1,500 for every day that Custom Cleaners displayed the sign over a four-year period, multiplied by the three members of the Chung family, who owned the business.
He also sought $15,000 to rent a car to take his clothes to another cleaner for 10 years.
What a jerk! What a major jerk. Suing a mom and pop business $54 million over a lost pair of pants. The guy has no shame, that much is clear. It looks like the only thing that will stop him is for him to have his appeal thrown out and be instructed to reimburse the owners of the dry cleaners for every penny of their expenses and then some extra for the pain and suffering he caused them.
There is one possible silver lining in this case:
Pearson, meanwhile, could lose his job as an administrative judge for the District of Columbia, where he hears disputes involving the decisions of city government agencies.
The city has warned Pearson it might not reappoint him when his job comes up for review next month, according to The Washington Post.
Let's hope the DC government officials throw the guy out on his contemptuous, narcissistic ear.
Monday, August 13, 2007
I was once a believer in socialized medicine. I don’t want to overstate my case: growing up in Canada, I didn’t spend much time contemplating the nuances of health economics. I wanted to get into medical school—my mind brimmed with statistics on MCAT scores and admissions rates, not health spending. But as a Canadian, I had soaked up three things from my environment: a love of ice hockey; an ability to convert Celsius into Fahrenheit in my head; and the belief that government-run health care was truly compassionate. What I knew about American health care was unappealing: high expenses and lots of uninsured people. When HillaryCare shook Washington, I remember thinking that the Clintonistas were right.
My health-care prejudices crumbled not in the classroom but on the way to one. On a subzero Winnipeg morning in 1997, I cut across the hospital emergency room to shave a few minutes off my frigid commute. Swinging open the door, I stepped into a nightmare: the ER overflowed with elderly people on stretchers, waiting for admission. Some, it turned out, had waited five days. The air stank with sweat and urine. Right then, I began to reconsider everything that I thought I knew about Canadian health care. I soon discovered that the problems went well beyond overcrowded ERs. Patients had to wait for practically any diagnostic test or procedure, such as the man with persistent pain from a hernia operation whom we referred to a pain clinic—with a three-year wait list; or the woman needing a sleep study to diagnose what seemed like sleep apnea, who faced a two-year delay; or the woman with breast cancer who needed to wait four months for radiation therapy, when the standard of care was four weeks.
Nor were the problems I identified unique to Canada—they characterized all government-run health-care systems. Consider the recent British controversy over a cancer patient who tried to get an appointment with a specialist, only to have it canceled—48 times. More than 1 million Britons must wait for some type of care, with 200,000 in line for longer than six months. A while back, I toured a public hospital in Washington, D.C., with Tim Evans, a senior fellow at the Centre for the New Europe. The hospital was dark and dingy, but Evans observed that it was cleaner than anything in his native England. In France, the supply of doctors is so limited that during an August 2003 heat wave—when many doctors were on vacation and hospitals were stretched beyond capacity—15,000 elderly citizens died. Across Europe, state-of-the-art drugs aren’t available. And so on.
It's sobering, this picture of the mess the Democrats--especially Hillary--are itching to get us into. They ignore the many Canadians who cross the border to get timely medical care in the US. And they come up with misleading statistics as support for their proposals. But Gratzer debunks the usual "damn lies" provided by the medical socializers.
One often hears variations on [a particular] argument—that America lags behind other countries in crude health outcomes. But such outcomes reflect a mosaic of factors, such as diet, lifestyle, drug use, and cultural values. It pains me as a doctor to say this, but health care is just one factor in health. Americans live 75.3 years on average, fewer than Canadians (77.3) or the French (76.6) or the citizens of any Western European nation save Portugal. Health care influences life expectancy, of course. But a life can end because of a murder, a fall, or a car accident. Such factors aren’t academic—homicide rates in the United States are much higher than in other countries (eight times higher than in France, for instance). In The Business of Health, Robert Ohsfeldt and John Schneider factor out intentional and unintentional injuries from life-expectancy statistics and find that Americans who don’t die in car crashes or homicides outlive people in any other Western country.
And if we measure a health-care system by how well it serves its sick citizens, American medicine excels. Five-year cancer survival rates bear this out. For leukemia, the American survival rate is almost 50 percent; the European rate is just 35 percent. Esophageal carcinoma: 12 percent in the United States, 6 percent in Europe. The survival rate for prostate cancer is 81.2 percent here, yet 61.7 percent in France and down to 44.3 percent in England—a striking variation.
Don't let the Democrats turn our medical system into Canada's. If they do, who will be there to save the sick Canadians?
My calves started itching, which can happen sometimes when the air gets really dry and sucks all the moisture from the skin on my shins. But it wasn't my shins that itched. When I checked, I had two mosquito bites on my left leg, two bites on my right leg (one of them the size of a dime), and one on the top of my right foot (which I keep inside sneakers almost all the time, so that was how I knew when the bites happened).
Bugs have always liked to bite me. And all my life I've been told not to scratch the bug bites, because it only makes it worse. And I would scratch them anyway, because, who can help it?
But the last time I got bad-bug-bit, I decided to follow the advice and not touch it. The bite remained red and raw, with the like-new, crazy-making itch for three days, when I finally gave in and scratched. After that, the bite didn't bother me as much.
So this time, with both legs involved, I tried an experiment. Last night, as the sheets brushed against the bites, making them exuded their cry for scratching, I only gave in on the right leg. I kept the left leg untouched by me (the sheets kept touching).
This morning, I find that the right (scratched) leg is much less insistent when it itches. That dime-sized bite and its behind-the-knee buddy on the left leg keep screaming at me. Which leads me to the conclusion that scratching (not excessively, of course) will lessen the suffering of the unfortunates souls who have fallen prey to the blood-sucking hordes.
Just thought you should know.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Tonight was my mom's high school reunion, and I was her date. There was one other daughter-date, so I wasn't alone.
I got all dressed up in my dancing dress and shoes, because the program said there'd be dancing, and I wanted to be ready. But nobody danced. Mostly they talked, and the organizers tried to get some fresh blood to organize the next one.
One couple, who lives in Baltimore, invited my mom and me to visit them when we're out that way. It should be late fall, as near as I can tell. The other daughter-date, who lives near her dad in Seattle, gave us tips on what to see in the Seattle and Vancouver (Canada) areas, information we're going to need pretty quickly.
We had a good time chatting with everyone. My mom recognized some of the people right away. Others had changed enough that she had to read their nametags to know who they were. That's to be expected, I suppose.
As we were leaving, we started talking to the caterer about bees (one of them kept trying to eat the candy corn that was part of the table's centerpiece). She said that every year she gets three beehive boxes to pollinate her cherry trees (the Flathead Valley is famous for its cherries). Several years ago, the bees just disappeared, and she had a poor crop of cherries.
But she said Montana's agricultural bee people figured out what was making them disappear (she didn't know what it was), and they made some changes, and now the bees are making a comeback. Last year's crop was good, because the bees stayed. But this year, the heat and high winds drove the bees away, so her cherries are lousy again.
As a caterer/restaurateur, however, her concern was less about the honeybees and more about the yellow jackets, who are the scourge of outdoor eating events, which is what my mom's reunion was. And indeed it was a yellow jacket going for the candy corn. But she has (through much trial and error) discovered a highly effective way of keeping the yellow jackets away from the party:
Before she unwraps the food, she takes a piece of meat and hangs it from a tree away from the party but close enough to attract the yellow jackets. When she sees that the pesky creatures have congregated on the meat, she knows they'll leave the party alone, and she unveils the food. One or two strays may hang out at the party, but the rest stay occupied for the night. She said the yellow jackets devour the piece of meat by the end of the evening (like flying piranahs), but by then, she's cleared all the dirty dishes and cups, so they won't attract the bugs back to the party.
It's a slick trick, and I offer it to you as a public service announcement. A bowl of apple juice will also attract them, where they'll drown (or at least not be able to get back out). And fishermen can toss a small fish--one not worth bothering to clean and eat--to the side to keep the yellow jackets away from the keepers.
So there you have it. Outdoor parties have just become bearable again.
Friday, August 10, 2007
We went there today.
We're staying at an RV Park in Kalispell, not too far from where my Grandma and Grandpa used to live. On the way to the Park, we drove out the highway where they used to live (it's the road to Glacier), and it has changed. A lot.
My mom spotted Aunt Agnes's house (my mom's mother's aunt), about a quarter mile south of my grandparents' house, but I didn't see it until after we turned around to go back there. The house was lost among all the businesses that have spread north of town and taken over that rural stretch of road. And they're not nice-looking businesses, either. Most of them are in steel buildings and they provide services like sheet-metal work, backhoes, manufactured homes, and other unsightly products.
And Grandma and Grandpa's house didn't fare much better. The house and garage need paint, and the pig farm next door is gone now, replaced by more ugly businesses. The old rural look that I remember started up about a mile or two past the pig farm. It was disheartening to see the way my childhood memories had become blighted.
But I took heart again, once we got past that stretch of road. Glacier doesn't change--not that way, anyway.
I took about a million pictures (421, to be exact), and I'll spare you from the vast majority of them and only show a bunch.
But first, to clear up a couple misconceptions. Glacier National Park is not called "Glacier" because of the glaciers that top some of the mountains. It's called "Glacier" because it was carved by the massive glaciers of the last ice age.
Second, most of the rivers and lakes in the Park are spring-fed, not glacial runoff. Bodies of water whose source is a glacier are milky-colored. Bodies of water that begin with a spring are crystal-clear. I've see glacial creeks before, but we didn't see any this time.
Glacier has one main road, called the Going-to-the-Sun Road after the Native American name for that route. It climbs up to Logan Pass, on the Continental Divide, and then drops down the east side to Saint Mary. We usually stay on the west side, and that's what we did today. It's strange how much time it takes to get anywhere when you're stopping all the time to take pictures.
The first main point of interest is Lake McDonald, whose bottom was scooped out by a glacier 2,000 feet thick. Lake McDonald is the introduction to what is to come. The mountains that surround it are the mountains into which we drive.
After the lake, the road follows McDonald Creek upstream. Turnouts give access for viewing the waterfalls.
Water levels are low this year, after a winter with unusually small amounts of snow. Normally this second waterfall would be so full, the lower rocks wouldn't show.
As far as scenery, I don't even know where to begin. As the road climbs, the mountains tower above it. You can see the cut of the road on the upper portion of the two slopes on the left side of the picture.
This was disappointing. The Weeping Wall was hardly shedding a tear.
Normally it looks like this.
Photo credit: Webshots.com
Hiking trails are all over the Park. At Logan Pass, the shortest hike is the 1-1/2 mile trail to the overlook of Hidden Lake, and that's the one I took, while my mom and Scooter waited patiently for me around the Visitor Center.
Although the drive up the mountains shows tree-covered hillsides or rocky cliffs, the hike to Hidden Lake is a picture of what the area would be like if the glaciers hadn't carved it. Wildflowers sprinkled the meadows...
...beneath mountain peaks...
...and small springs trickled their way toward the cliff's edge.
Of course, we saw critters.
Columbian Ground Squirrel:
I never seem to get enough of Glacier. If I lived in Kalispell or one of the towns nearby, my camera and I would buy an annual pass.