"Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man."

Train

12:53 Monday, 22 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 90.14°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 73% Wind: 10.36mph
Words: 266

Selfie of me in front of the Auto Train

We're all checked in. Boarding isn't until 3:30, but figured I'd kill some time here in the marmot.

I'm kind of impressed by the number of people here, and we got here right when they started admitting cars. It's a Monday, not near a federal holiday, mid-summer and still a lot of people, and their cars, take this expensive trip down to Florida.

Not a lot of kids and families. Probably skewed toward the older age demographic, as one might expect.

As an aside, my Quartiles streak continues, I think it's up to 72 days making Expert. I've never gotten all the words, but I usually get it down to something between two and six. It's the first thing I do in the morning, when I wake up and don't necessarily want to get right out of bed. I stay with it until I finish it, which doesn't take very long. It's not a hard game, but it does reward persistence.

I've got a bunch of pictures I still need to upload. Not exactly looking forward to that. Plus culling the hundreds I've already added to Photos. I could work on that today. We'll see.

Anyway, last time I did this was in 2019 and I didn't bring a laptop. I was using my new to me 10.5" iPad Pro with the attached keyboard cover, which doesn't run Tinderbox. I've got the iPad mini with me on this trip for Kindle and Books.

Anyway, that's it for now.

"All aboard!"

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Headed South

06:54 Monday, 22 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 75.2°F Pressure: 1017hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 0mph
Words: 259

Our vacation is nearly over. This afternoon we'll board the Auto Train for the ride down to Florida, avoiding a drive through most of Virginia, all of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Apart from saving mileage on the car, it'll preserve my sanity. I hate driving through South Carolina.

This is also the part of the trip that is utterly devoid of scenery. Driving through New York and Pennsylvania was beautiful. Traffic wasn't bad either. It was also relatively cool.

Having been away from the Finger Lakes for two years, the feeling of enchantment was very strong. Toward the end of our visit, I could somewhat place myself in my adolescent mind that lived in Upstate New York and took the landscape largely for granted.

But I could also recall my Dad, who never seemed to tire of the views of the hills and the fields and the trees. I don't think I will ever tire of them again, or take them for granted. It is a stunningly beautiful landscape.

To be sure, the region suffers economically and there are stark reminders of that everywhere. But there are also signs of renewal.

Apart from the landscape, there is so much history there. Not all of it is great, General Sullivan driving the indigenous people from the Finger Lakes under orders from George Washington in 1789 is a shameful legacy. But abolition and women's rights are two progressive movements that owe much to the region.

We'll be going back. Mitzi is as enthralled as I am.

I ❤️ NY.

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Service Before Self

06:39 Monday, 22 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 75.24°F Pressure: 1017hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 0mph
Words: 169

We were in the car, in Pennsylvania, when Mitzi's sister-in-law texted us, "Biden is out." We turned on the radio and listened to coverage from NPR.

Since we arrived at the hotel yesterday evening, I've read much of the coverage. Right now, it looks like the Democratic Party isn't going to form a circular firing squad, and is closing ranks behind Harris. That's the best news.

There have been many tributes to Joe Biden, and they are all well earned and richly deserved. For too many Americans, the contrast between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is a perverse one. Joe Biden is a decent man, a statesman, a compassionate human being, a competent leader. Donald Trump is none of these things, yet the Republican Party elevates him as their candidate. It's a bizarre trait in human nature. Some sort of self-loathing, self-destructive desire born out of fear and anger, and bad leadership.

For the first time since the debate, I feel more confident, more hopeful.

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Seneca Army Depot

07:31 Saturday, 20 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 74.14°F Pressure: 1019hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 0mph
Words: 480

Photo of two white tail deer, one all white, the other brown. Both bucks. The white one isn't an albino. It doesn't carry the gene for brown hair.

The antiquing was limited to one enormous location that was a bit overwhelming. There are few bargains to be had these days, when anyone can do a quick search on eBay or elsewhere to see if something has some value to someone. There were a couple of old AM radios that were in very good shape that probably were good deals, but I didn't want to carry them home.

The highlight yesterday was the tour of the former Seneca Army Depot. As often as we've been here, I'd never really looked into it, other than hearing about "white deer tours." We signed up for the bus tour and it turned out we were the only ones. Good for us, but kind of a shame because it's a fascinating tour.

Mitzi came for the deer, I came for the history.

We saw a lot of deer, most of them brown. They're accustomed to the bus and not super shy. I should have mounted the 40-150mm/f2.8, instead of the 12-100mm/f4. I needed more reach and more aperture. But, again, I wasn't really that interested in the deer.

Briefly, the decommissioned facility consists of 10,000 acres of fenced property. The white deer aren't albinos, they just carry a recessive gene that doesn't produce brown hair, so they're ordinary white tailed deer and the other deer don't know the difference. Since they're fenced in, hunted in limited numbers and well fed, they pretty much thrive in there.

The depot itself was constructed in preparation for WW II. The federal government essentially kicked around 150 families off their land, with only a few weeks' notice to clear out. Five hundred concrete ammunition "igloos" were constructed in a relatively short time. The manpower necessary to complete the project created problems of its own with inadequate housing and sanitation.

The bus tour was scheduled for 90 minutes, but our guide took us around for over two hours. We were able to get out and enter one of the igloos, which was fun just for the acoustics. There's also a beaver dam on the property, and an eagles' nest that seems to have recently been abandoned after being occupied/used for almost two decades.

There is a lot of history in this region, and I've enjoyed getting to learn about some of it. If you're ever in the Finger Lakes, this is a worthwhile tour.

Don't quite know what we're up to today. Packing at some point, but we'll probably get out and see something. I know Mitzi wants to buy some wine.

After some clouds and rain earlier in the week, the last two days have been wonderful. Sunny, relatively cool with low humidity. I'm going to miss this place next week when we're back in the swamp.

Literally.

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Seneca Falls

12:18 Friday, 19 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 89.78°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 66% Wind: 8.05mph
Words: 449

Spent some time in Seneca Falls yesterday. Lovely little village. The National Women's Hall Of Fame is located there, and we toured that facility. It's located in an old woolen mill, the Seneca Knitting Mills, which was in operation for over 100 years, closing its doors in 1999.

Seneca Falls is also the location of the First Convention for Woman's Rights (July 19-20, 1848), and the church where it was held is a national park with a separate building housing a number of exhibits about women's rights. The church had been significantly altered throughout its history, it's been restored to the closes approximation of what it is believed to have looked like. There are portions of the original brick remaining, and the roof beams and decking are supposedly original.

The village is also supposed to be part of the inspiration for Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, where, in 1917, a young man drowned saving the life of a woman who had jumped into the canal. The village leans into the movie with George Bailey Lane and Clarence Street.

We stopped by the post office so Mitzi could put a couple of postcards in the mail. It was quite an imposing edifice for such a small town.

Then it was back to Geneva to catch the 2:00 PM boat for the lake tour. We've been on Cayuga Lake every time we've been up here. This is the first time we've been on Seneca. Since we're at the north end of the lake, the geography is much different, without the high cliffs adjacent to the shore. The air was actually quite cool and I spent some time trying to memorize the feeling before heading back to Florida.

Stopped at a craft brewery on the way back to the cottage and enjoyed a couple of beers and a view of the lake while sitting outside on the deck.

Mitzi had a zoom meeting today, so we're just heading out now to a couple of antique stores, before we do the bus tour this evening.

Only a couple of days left before we head back. While I'll welcome being in my own bed, I will really miss the scenery and the weather here.

Speaking of weather, I learned yesterday that a tornado touched down in my hometown, Canastota, as part of that severe weather system that went through on Tuesday. One man was killed in the village. Pretty rare for a tornado up here. My brother said that historically, there are an average of 13 tornado warnings per year, seldom an actual tornado. This year, there have been 62 tornado warnings and 12 confirmed tornados.

"We're not in Kansas anymore."

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Just Passing the Time

08:21 Thursday, 18 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 77.29°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 1.99mph
Words: 399

Still have some time before we have to head out. Figured I'd noodle around here a bit.

Houston is struggling with the aftermath of a Category 1 Hurricane Beryl. Thousands of people still without power, more than a week after the hurricane in the middle of a heatwave. People are threatening line crews with AK-47s.

Awesome.

But it does make me feel better about having the rooftop solar array and battery storage. We wouldn't be able to necessarily run 100% of the normal household loads, but I'm fairly confident we'd be able to keep the house comfortable and refrigerator running.

That said, I do think FPL, as shitty a corporate citizen as it may be, has done a better job with its grid infrastructure, burying much of it underground. I don't know how JEA would fare, as much of their system remains above ground, and older neighborhoods have a lot of old trees.

I think I've written before that, "We're all preppers now." If you haven't made a sincere effort to evaluate your readiness for an extreme weather event or some other unexpected disruption, you should probably do so. I haven't gone so far as to stockpile food, but I'm thinking about it. I'll probably get some pushback on that, but I'll figure something out.

Frankly, the thing that troubles me the most is sanitation, specifically human waste. If the power is on, and fuel is flowing, I'm not too worried. But if the disruption is significant enough with regard to fuel deliveries, the emergency generators that keep the sewage lift stations running are going to be useless. Florida is flat, there is not "downhill" for shit to flow.

Apparently, one of the home solutions is a 5-gallon bucket with a lid and sawdust. How to ultimately dispose of that is another question.

I guess some Republican senators harassed and bullied the director of the Secret Service at the Republican Convention. That's awesome. I thought that was what the House of Representatives was for. But the Republican Party is little more than a mob these days, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Sad and frightening at the same time. To me, anyway. I suppose the MAGA crowd love that.

Well, time to get ready to go I guess. It is a lovely day out there. I'd have taken a walk if this place made that worthwhile.

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Sunset 7-17-24

06:26 Thursday, 18 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 74.39°F Pressure: 1017hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 0mph
Words: 539

Clouds above a lake illuminated from below by the sunset

Decent sunset last night. Supposed to be sunny all day today. We toured the Smith Opera House in Geneva yesterday morning. The guide was a drama professor from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and she was very good. The exterior facade is as the theater was constructed in 1894, the interior is as it was remodeled in the 1920s. It's a treasure, and we really enjoyed the tour.

Been watching a juvenile bald eagle fly by several times this morning. I should be out there with a camera.

Today we're going to spend some time this morning over at Seneca Falls, then we have an afternoon boat tour, just as an excuse to get some time on the water. Tomorrow we're doing an evening tour of a former ammunition facility, which has some interesting history and wildlife.

We've had some good luck with rentals up here in the past. I can't say I've been as pleased on this trip. The previous house was comfortable, although it offered little in the way of a view. This cottage has a decent, not spectacular, view of the lake, which is its most appealing feature.

I pulled the filters out of the mini-split and they hadn't been cleaned in some time, so I washed those and reinstalled them. Place smells a little less funky. It does have a bigger TV than the previous place, and we've been able to watch Netflix before going to bed, which isn't very comfortable either. Both have had better internet service than previous places we've stayed at here that had better amenities and spectacular views.

These places all have a little guest book where people write about their experiences, and they're all laudatory to an almost absurd degree. Likewise, the online reviews omit all the annoyances, like a tiny bathroom, funky smells and a three-quarter mile dirt road to get there. I guess they want to get good reviews as renters.

Places have gotten more expensive each year, and the experience hasn't been as good. We looked at the place we rented a few years ago and it's way out of our price range now.

It's a shame, because I really love it up here. I can't imagine how I'd be feeling if I'd have been in Florida during this summer of insanity. I've been making more of an effort to be less online. I've been reading books when we're in the house. The Operation Paperclip book is fascinating, and it prompted me to read portions of another ebook I have on the Nuremberg interviews.

In any event, although I do love the region, I'll be happy to be in our own space once again next week. Get back into a regular exercise routine and a more sensible diet.

We're still committed to coming up here each summer, but we're starting to explore other options for accommodations. We may have ten years of relatively decent mobility left, if we're careful and lucky. The Finger Lakes affords a wide range of attractions, history, wildlife, local food, water, beautiful scenery. It's no mystery why it's getting more expensive.

Perhaps a different approach is appropriate.

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Things I Didn't Know

07:50 Wednesday, 17 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 77°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 89% Wind: 6.91mph
Words: 250

Mitzi and I switch using our iPhones on CarPlay in the RAV4. For much of this trip, Siri has been silent when it comes to navigation directions on Mitzi's phone. Somehow, magically I guess, it started working again at some point. But it was incredibly loud.

While silence was puzzling and annoying to me, the loud volume was intolerable enough to prompt me to do a search. It turns out that Siri's volume for navigation is in the Map app settings, and there are three choices, "Softer," "Normal," and "Louder." Oddly, there's no choice for "Silence."

So why we couldn't get spoken directions for so long remains a mystery. Why they returned at "Louder," is likewise inscrutable.

And, is it just me? Why in the world does spoken directions have a separate volume control? What kind of sense does that make? I'm sure there's some "reason," but it isn't obvious to me. Possibly because I'm not a "user experience" expert. I'm just a user with a shitty experience.

At one point, I used Siri to ask her to lower the volume. She told me to use the car's volume controls! Which we'd tried so many times already, to no avail.

Stuff like this just drives me nuts. It makes me feel foolish and stupid. It never occurred to me to check the Map app's Settings, because volume control has two dedicated buttons on the device and another control on the steering wheel!

"Minds greater than our own," and all that.

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Weather

06:37 Wednesday, 17 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 75.38°F Pressure: 1017hPa Humidity: 90% Wind: 4.61mph
Words: 218

Those thunderstorms on Monday did a number on power lines south of here. Trees and limbs took down power lines. We stopped at a winery that was open, most of the places we'd stopped at were closed, even though they were advertised to be open. This one had a generator.

That prompted us to check the news, and we learned about the outages. It hadn't affected us up here near Geneva.

Had some more rain yesterday, and some really high winds late in the afternoon, but it calmed and cleared around sunset, which didn't turn out to be anything spectacular. Supposed to be cloudy today with a chance of rain this afternoon, sunny tomorrow. But the temps have all been mild. People get kind of cranky at 85°F here, with a breeze. I'm enjoying it!

We're going to tour an old theater/opera house in Geneva this morning, then head over to Seneca Falls and check out some history.

Mitzi watched part of the RNC convention yesterday. I shut the door to the bedroom and read a book. For all the talk about "listening to one another," I can't stand to listen to Republican politicians.

Kottke linked to a nice sentiment yesterday. I don't have a clock to wind, but I did post something to the marmot.

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Bee

06:30 Tuesday, 16 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 75.81°F Pressure: 1017hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 0mph
Words: 281

Bumble bee working on a globular blossom of some kind

Did a little sight-seeing and grocery shopping yesterday morning. Came back to the cottage and put everything up and had lunch.

Went out to visit the Finger Lakes Visitor Center in Geneva, which we'd never been to before. Pretty nice facility, I think it's new since we were last in Geneva, which may have been three years ago, or four.

They have a lot of regional products, a snack bar, the usual tourist literature, a wine tasting bar that may sell beer. (I saw folks sitting outside on the patio with what I assume were beers.) We walked along the pedestrian path along the shoreline, found a bench and sat and looked at the lake for a while. Saw an osprey dive and catch a large fish. I had the Stylus 1s with me, 300mm effective focal length. I saw the osprey get set for its dive, but wasn't quick enough to get the camera turned on and lens extended. 300mm wasn't long enough anyway, but got some distant shots of an osprey with a large fish in its talons.

Shot this on the way back to the car when the severe weather warnings started going off. We made our way back to the car and headed home. When we got back into the house, the heavens opened up. Pretty intense downpour for a while. The car certainly needed it, it's covered with dust and dirt.

Spent the rest of the afternoon reading the book about Operation Paperclip. Judge Cannon and J.D. Vance intruded. Watched Netflix and went to bed.

The summer of madness continues.

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Lakeside

07:23 Monday, 15 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 76.95°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 88% Wind: 8.05mph
Words: 279

Setting sun beneat a cloudy sky with a sunline reflected in the lake water leading to a small boat dock.

Left Trumansburg yesterday for our last week in the Finger Lakes. We're near Geneva, NY at the north end of Seneca Lake. To get to the cottage, we had to drive down a long dirt road (with speed bumps).

In what I take as a good sign, a woodchuck just showed up in the backyard. Didn't really expect to see one here. Mitzi says an eagle just flew by. I saw a large shape but didn't see it long enough to identify it.

This place doesn't have fiber, but it does have decent internet. About the same as back home, though upload speeds are a bit lower.

We drove up 96 yesterday, and it was part of the route of a half(?) Ironman competition. A lot of folks in Geneva for that event, but most of them were in a park down by the lake. We didn't have any problem finding parking and getting lunch.

The cottage is large and fairly comfortable, but it's got its quirks. One small bathroom. There's a small dock, but the stairs seem rickety and the handrails are painted black, so I couldn't use them to go down the steps last night, too hot to touch. May try it again this morning.

Trying, but mostly failing, to keep the world from intruding. Seems to be hanging over our heads like the clouds in the photo. Just have to keep breathing, I guess. Anyway, six more days here then back on the road. Heading back to Florida where the insanity "goes to eleven."

So I've got that to look forward to.

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Not Shocked

05:58 Sunday, 14 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 79.74°F Pressure: 1020hPa Humidity: 88% Wind: 9.22mph
Words: 248

The capacity for violence is an inherently human trait, and therefore not unique to any particular political affiliation. In a curious irony, early reports say the shooter was a registered Republican.

This act, apart from the pain of loss and suffering inflicted on the murdered and wounded and their families, only serves to further roil what was already an extremely contentious, indeed dangerous, race.

I don't expect either candidate or party to tone down their rhetoric. I regret that this incident occurred at all, but I reject the claim by some that Democratic campaign rhetoric incited it. It seems to me that Republican insistence that the 2nd Amendment is the last defense against tyranny, and its steadfast resistance to efforts to regulate the ownership of semi-automatic rifles, are more proximately responsible for political violence than anything uttered by the Biden campaign.

A party already prone to conspiracy theories is likely to make this event into something not remotely what it likely really was, an all too familiar story of a young man with a gun, a grievance and insufficient maturity and intellect to responsibly own a weapon, with the violent and tragic consequences that too often ensue.

If anything, I expect Republican rhetoric to grow more extreme. How that resonates with voters not already in Trump's camp, I don't know. I hope it doesn't.

How it resonates with young men armed with semi-automatic rifles and nurturing their own grievances is a different, and more troubling question.

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Blueberry Picking

08:09 Saturday, 13 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 80.37°F Pressure: 1020hPa Humidity: 85% Wind: 3mph
Words: 589

Selfie of Mitzi and I in blueberry field

Picked a couple of pounds of blueberries yesterday. It was a pleasant experience. There was only one other family in the field with us, no bugs to speak of, plenty of berries and it wasn't hot. The sun was kind of intense, but there was a breeze.

The farm store offered a range of baked goods, jams and jellies. I had a cookie concoction consisting of an oatmeal cookie with white chocolate chips (Yes, I know. It's not "chocolate."), and a lemon glaze. I'm counting on the fiber and protein content of the oatmeal making it "healthy," though I know that's just wishful thinking.

We stopped by a former firehouse in Burdett, NY that has been converted to kind of an indoor farmer's market. All local or regional products. Very pricey, but it supports local agriculture. Bought some mushrooms, a steak and an onion. Dinner tonight.

ars technica has a piece on sea level rise in the southeast. The St Johns Riverkeeper, Lisa Rinamen is quoted in it. I know Lisa and I support the St Johns and Matanzas riverkeepers. None of this is really a surprise, apart perhaps from the increasing rate, though even that was anticipated by some. Historically, sea level rise occurs in pulses, periods of rapid rise.

But we keep shoveling taxpayer money into the sea. At best, it might buy time, but we waste that time and that money by doing nothing meaningful to address the risk. But Florida faces so many risks that it's doing nothing about that it's hard to single out sea level rise.

What's going to happen to the housing market when you can't get insurance, and therefore can't get a mortgage? We're one major hurricane away from an insurance industry collapse. We will learn just how "effective" those "reforms" the legislature enacted will be. They chiefly make it easier for insurance companies to deny claims, or under-compensate claims, and make it harder to sue insurance companies.

Then there's the heat, which I guess we're just going to ignore.

And the generation of Republican environmental stewardship that led to things like the Piney Point environmental disaster. There's more where that came from, as the saying goes.

They tell us they don't get much snow around here anymore. My kids and grandkids are all in Florida, or I'd seriously consider, I mean seriously consider pulling up stakes and moving up here. Taxes are higher. Prices are higher. Much of rural upstate New York can be Trump country, but it feels less rabid than Florida. The state has the opposite problem from Florida with a seemingly permanent Democratic majority in the legislature because of NYC, but the governor's office flips back and forth from time to time. This state isn't laser-focused on culture war issues and the governor's political ambitions.

And the views. I asked the guy at the blueberry farm if he kind of takes the scenery for granted. He's lived here all his life, so he allowed that he probably does. I don't know how long it'd take before I stopped being moved by it. Florida is claustrophobic, which may go some way toward explaining why it's so insane. Even in "rural" Florida, it's mostly just flat. There are no expansive vistas that can open your mind and your heart. Just the heat, the humidity, the mosquitoes, the gators and all the invasive exotic pets, and the selfish cruelty of its Republican ruling class.

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Platycryptus Undatus

08:19 Friday, 12 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 78.78°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 79% Wind: 4.61mph
Words: 550

Closeup photo of a common jumping spider

Mitzi spotted this on the wall this morning. I took the opportunity to play with the TG-6. I haven't practiced very much using the macro feature. This is a single frame using the flash. I took some stacked images using the LED lamp, but I thought this one showed the eyes a bit better.

Anyway, not a great photo, but something I don't see very often at home.

Rained quite a bit yesterday, but we got our little hike in early. I guess we're picking blueberries today. Maybe. Well, Mitzi is anyway.

We watched the utterly forgettable Family Plan on Apple TV+ last night. They have some kind of Samsung TV streaming service on the smart TV here, and we've watched some of its programming. It's pretty generic, decade or more older reality TV stuff, a couple of movie channels that seem to play the same old movies over and over. So I've been streaming movies from my iPhone via AirPlay.

We watched The Good German the night before, before I knew George Clooney was adding his voice to the cacophony of chaos.

The Good German deals with, as a plot element, Operation Paper Clip. In the movie, a file Clooney is looking for mentions that the contents were moved to Operation Overcast. I hadn't heard of that before, so I wondered if it was a fictional creation, or something real. Turns out, was the official name of Operation Paperclip, which was something that emerged because of all the paperclips holding all the dossiers together.

Anyway, looking into that led me to Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America, by Annie Jacobsen. That's available on Kindle Unlimited, so I've started that book. I was somewhat aware of the effort to enlist former Nazi scientists in American research efforts after the war, but I wasn't aware of the extent of it, mostly Von Braun and the rocket people. It was far more extensive than that, and involved some pretty unsavory people.

(Anecdotally, one of the gunners mate (missiles) techs aboard BAINBRIDGE (CGN-25, not the DDG) told me that the launcher logic sequencer for the Mk 10 launcher was designed by a former German scientist or engineer. He supposedly had a breakdown or went nuts after designing it, because it was so complex. No idea if there's anything to that story, but it stayed with me.)

Before getting into the Paperclip book, I went looking for something in my Apple Books collection, and started reading The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany 1944-45, by Ian Kershaw.

So I have three books going right now, Heather Cox Richardson's, Jacobsen's and Kershaw's.

They are all kind of related in the sense that I'm trying to understand how supposedly good people can be persuaded to do horrible things, go on to do them with great efficiency, and how, after a conflict, we can look the other way and do business with people who did horrible things. Also, how people who did horrible things are sometimes remediated into being somehow "respectable" people. This also speaks to the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee, "heritage not hate," and so on.

Everything is contingent, I guess.

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Cascadilla Gorge

14:25 Thursday, 11 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 91.6°F Pressure: 1013hPa Humidity: 54% Wind: 9.22mph
Words: 216

Simulated long exposure photograph of water flowing down a waterfall, with shiny wet rocks surrounded by green vegetation

It was a short hike, but it was lovely. Since the gorge is right in the middle of town, it gets a lot of traffic. A lot of steps, but otherwise easy.

We stuck around and had lunch at the Moosewood vegetarian/vegan restaurant. I had a nice black bean burger.

We stopped by the Ithaca town hall to see if the clerk that issued us our marriage license still worked there. She does not, she retired about five years ago. The woman we spoke to sees her often and will let her know we stopped by. When we received our marriage certificate, the clerk had enclosed a very nice note and invited us to stop by anytime we were in town. We've been to Ithaca many times since then, but never really made the time to drop by. Today we did.

It's been cloudy and overcast most of the day. On the ride home we could see rain off in the distance. Even cloudy, it's beautiful.

I suppose I could come to take these vistas for granted again eventually, but for now they continue to enthrall. There's so much ugliness in the world, I'm grateful for the beauty that nature offers.

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Out and About

08:25 Thursday, 11 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 78.4°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 89% Wind: 8.05mph
Words: 314

Went to Corning, New York yesterday, about fifty minutes from here. We visited the Corning Glass Museum, our first visit since 2017 when we stopped in on our wedding road trip. Mitzi still had the paper map and program from that visit, much to the delight of the young lady at the admission desk. She asked if she could keep them.

We toured the museum, focusing on the things we hadn't seen the first time. It's a large museum and full of fascinating artifacts, art and exhibits. Unique, perhaps, in that respect.

It also has a very large gift shop. Mitzi managed to escape unscathed, while I bought a "crystal ball" and a glass globe.

From there, we went into Corning proper and had a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant. I had an Italian sausage sub, while Mitzi had a small pizza. It's an authentic Italian restaurant, family owned and operated. Dessert was a delicious cannoli, that I probably should have skipped.

Mitzi saw a doe with two fawns in the yard yesterday morning. We saw them later in the evening down by the creek. We also saw a rabbit when we got back from the museum. So we've seen a fairly representative sample of common rural New York fauna, a woodchuck, skunk, rabbit and deer. There's a nesting pair of robins outside as well, who keep a wary eye on me when I'm in the hammock.

We're going to hike Cascadilla gorge this morning, also called Giant's Staircase because it's mostly steps. Looks like three quarters of a mile each way, so we'll go up first, then turn around and come back down and go look for lunch in Ithaca.

We're having dinner in a microbrewery tonight, which is supposed to feature live entertainment.

Only a couple more days here, then we'll head up to Geneva for our last week of vacation.

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All the News That Suits the NY Times

06:57 Wednesday, 10 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 78.1°F Pressure: 1015hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 1.01mph
Words: 443

I was a longtime subscriber of The NY Times in the digital era. I was not a paper (dead-tree) subscriber at any time. I had high respect for the reporting of the Times, notwithstanding the Judith Miller episode, which, in hindsight, should have been a clue.

I unsubscribed in April, 2022 and wrote about it in September. Lately, I've been reading about other folks unsubscribing.

I don't miss the reporting, I play Quartiles on Apple News+ rather than Wordle. (Current streak: 60 days. Longest streak: 60 days. Expert rate: 100%) There are other sources of good journalism, though I do recognize that there are infinitely many more sources of bad journalism.

I've managed to mostly stuff the Biden candidacy into some locked compartment in my mind. I have no say in the decision or outcome, and I will vote against Donald Trump in November regardless of who the candidate is. Any candidate the Democrats would run would be flawed and problematic in some way, and the mainstream press would make that somehow equivalent to the horror that is Donald J. Trump.

So I just don't think about it.

I'm still struggling with the Supreme Court decisions. In many ways, that's a far worse development than turmoil within the Democratic Party, yet it gets very little oxygen. That's the problem with a journalism industry built on capitalism, competing in an attention economy. We are fucked six ways from Sunday, but there's nothing to do about it now, structurally.

We must defeat Donald J. Trump, and we must place a potential Trump presidency within the context of the entirely new constitutional regime invented out of whole cloth by those six "originalist" liars on the court.

Most of the mainstream press will continue to focus on Democratic dysfunction. It will be up to citizens to write letters to the editor of local papers, using social media, speaking out in public forums, and talking to friends, neighbors and acquaintances, as civility may allow.

Heather Cox Richardson is a good source of information and historical context in this matter. Today's post is a good example. If you're not subscribed to her RSS feed, please add it. (I do get an empty entry every day, along with the day's post. She generally posts every day, if only to report that she has nothing to post that day.)

I don't know what's going to happen in the fall. I know I can make myself genuinely sick with worry. I'm trying not to. I'll do my best to "keep the faith," and do my best to help democracy and the rule of law to prevail.

I hope you will too.

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Equal Protection Under the Law

06:35 Tuesday, 9 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 74.86°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 4.61mph
Words: 140

Heather Cox Richardson writes about the 14th Amendment and the claims Republicans are making about "fetal personhood."

But it was her mention of the "equal protection" clause that caught my eye.

It seems to me, and perhaps this has already been mentioned elsewhere, that any notion of presidential immunity conflicts with the 14th Amendment and the equal protection clause.

Are we not, as citizens, entitled to the protection of the law when it is violated by the president?

I have the decision open in Preview, but I haven't read it because I get sick just thinking about it.

There are so many crises happening all at once, it's hard to figure out which is the wolf nearest the sled. I guess it's ensuring Donald Trump is defeated in November. But there are so many fires to fight besides that one.

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Buttermilk Falls

13:01 Monday, 8 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 92.8°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 68% Wind: 11.5mph
Words: 136

Simulated long exposure of a waterfall in a deep gorge with a stair-stepped trail on the right side of the frame

We hiked Buttermilk Falls this morning. Got there before 9:00 am, which meant we encountered fewer people on the trail.

It's only about three quarters of a mile each way, but about 463 feet of elevation gain. This was much easier than Treman, but still challenging. I'm getting better with the trekking poles, and I'm certain it would have been far harder without them.

After the hike we had a picnic lunch at the lower falls in the shade, enjoying the breeze. At home it was 93°F with a heat index over 100°F. I thought about that as I lay on the bench of the picnic table, staring up at the branches over my head.

I love New York.

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Thank God for France

18:35 Sunday, 7 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 86.54°F Pressure: 1013hPa Humidity: 75% Wind: 8.05mph
Words: 18

A glimmer of hope.

Here's hoping we can come together and do the same.

Merci, mes amis.

Merci.

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Marmot

07:52 Saturday, 6 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 77.9°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 89% Wind: 4.61mph
Words: 367

We have a woodchuck for a neighbor. He showed up yesterday afternoon. I watched him (her?) with binoculars for a few minutes, but when I went to get a camera it ran back into the woods.

Watched some YouTube videos about trekking poles and found out all the things I was doing wrong. It was interesting, and I may incorporate them into my morning walks at home. I do need to make an effort to get down to the bridge on CR 210 to get some elevation change in my walks. We don't even have stairs in our house! Maybe the treadmill at the gym will do as well.

We're going to attempt Buttermilk Falls next week. I say "attempt," but I should say "do," because once you start, you have to either finish or turn back right away. Buttermilk was the park where we had Mitzi's son-in-law go get the car, because we weren't going to attempt to hike back up.

We'll do the same thing we did for Treman, hike up the gorge trail first, while we're "fresh," and down the rim trail. Get the hard part done first. We'll bring some snacks along too.

Sixty-seven and obese isn't exactly a recipe for success, but if we could do Treman, we can probably do Buttermilk.

Mom's in the hospital in up in Albany or Troy. Not sure where Ellis Hospital is. My sister the nurse works there, so that's good. Her new Apple Watch detected two episodes of her heart rate being only 30 bpm. My youngest sister took her to urgent care and they did some tests and decided she should be observed overnight and referred to a cardiologist. Apparently there's a slightly elevated tropin level, and some indication of bigeminy, a kind of arrhythmia.

We're heading to the Farmers' Market in Ithaca in a little while, and a little boat excursion on the lake. Weather seems to be improved, as the sun is shining this morning for the first time in a couple of days.

Well, that's probably more than enough blogging for one day. Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend and not dwelling on the unfolding terror around us.

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Japanese Beetles

07:04 Saturday, 6 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 76.3°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 3.44mph
Words: 56

Two Japanese beetles in a flower

Japanese beetles are an invasive species that I often see when we're here in New York. They are photogenic, with their color and metallic sheen; but they're pests. This was on the Cornell campus. I brought along the little Panasonic Lumix LX7.

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Out and About

06:53 Saturday, 6 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 76.33°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 3.44mph
Words: 127

Photo of some children, a dog, a wagon and two adults in the shade beside a road.

The other morning, Mitzi and I went and wandered through the Henry A. Smith Woods. The kids and the younger woman were just coming out of the woods as we arrived. The older woman and the dog were walking along the road, and I gather the kids wanted to pet the dog. Perhaps the two women know each other, I don't know.

I seldom take pictures of people intentionally. I had the Stylus 1s with me, so this is at a comfortable distance with the 300mm effective focal length. I just found it charming and colorful, and it's one of the nice things about visiting here.

The woods were very nice as well.

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Things You'll Never See In Florida

06:27 Saturday, 6 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 76.42°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 3.44mph
Words: 330

Sign on the Cornell University Campus for the Student Equity, Empowerment and Belonging Center

We took a walk on the campus of Cornell University yesterday, and this photo caught my eye. In Florida, Gov DeSantis and his white supremacist lackeys have banned such efforts at diversity, equity and inclusion. They don't want anything to interfere with their efforts to uphold and maintain white christian supremacy in Florida. The people reflected in this sign are "others" in Florida. "Special interests," because we're all supposedly "already equal."

Florida used to be two states, one for the privileged and the other, simply ignored. Now the other is attacked, demonized, and targeted. This is the result of the steady rightward drift of the Republican Party of Florida. A dynamic that was set in motion by gerrymandering, where the politically ambitious must run as a Republican to attain elected office; and in a state of closed primaries, the election is decided in the primary where the most motivated voters are the most extreme ones.

In a primary, the way to win is to be more "Republican" or "conservative" than your opponent. This drives the entire party further and further to the right. It becomes more and more extreme. Issues are reduced to culture war matters. Genuine problems and challenges are ignored, or placed in a culture war context, which is why Florida's statutes now omit any reference to the words "climate change."

All people possess the potential for cruelty, violence and hatred. It has generally been the role of good leadership to move people away from those tendencies. In Florida, Republicans lead citizens toward them. Lead them astray.

Anyway, the sign leapt out at me because it was refreshing. A center that offers resources for students who aren't members of the white, christian majority, or plurality. I'm not certain of the demographic makeup of Cornell. I don't know how well the university performs this function. I just know it wouldn't even be permitted in Florida.

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Further to the Foregoing

09:34 Friday, 5 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 85.37°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 80% Wind: 4.61mph
Words: 166

I wrote the title to the previous piece after watching Heather Cox Richardson, who, as I wrote before, is my new North Star. And then I forgot to write about it. A "Biden moment," perhaps.

She said that people had been writing to her, asking what they can do. She tells them to, "Do what you do best." She's doing media hits.

I don't know what I do best. Anybody driving ships in this campaign? It's difficult for me to even know what my "best" is. Should I send all my available money to campaigns and PACs? The stakes are that high. I'm not there yet, but I'm struggling with it.

Some say that one of the ways to help with the climate crisis is to talk about it. I certainly do that enough here.

I don't know.

But I do know it's a question we all need to be asking ourselves. How can I help? What is "my best." And how do I do it?

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Do What You Do Best

08:58 Friday, 5 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 83.32°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 84% Wind: 5.75mph
Words: 692

I don't watch live cable news, but I've been browsing many of the YouTube channels. I watched Biden's address at his 4th of July barbecue. I think I understand what's going on when he speaks. It's somewhat like when I try to write in handwriting. My brain gets ahead of my hand and I start writing a word that's five words ahead of where the last word ended.

Now, he did forget Belleau Wood. Maybe I would too. He knows he's in the spotlight, so there's the pressure not to fuck up, which doesn't help in his circumstance. He reaches for a word, can't find it and realizes he has to move on and not be seen struggling to find it. It's hard.

I also watched the Hawaiian governor, whose name I can't recall, talk about meeting with Biden and I liked what he had to say. But I also watched a CNN panel on growing interest or movement toward Harris. That Biden is almost certainly "fine," right now, but he's not going to get "better." That we're going to experience more slips, more awkward moments.

This is unprecedented in our history. If we go by precedent, incumbents who don't run again, their replacements lose. Humphrey in '68. Not a large data set.

There's the campaign infrastructure. If the party changes candidates, all that has to get rebooted. Harris is the logical choice because she's largely been vetted before, but it'll all be rehashed again. She will at least have had the experience of enduring it once before, and it's less likely to throw her off her game. She knows how to respond already, it's in muscle memory. There's less media frenzy.

Likewise, I think the campaign infrastructure should be able to pivot to Harris relatively smoothly, though I'm certain she'd bring in her own senior staff and advisors, and how they get along with the remaining Biden people is a question. I think the stakes we're facing would make most of them fall in line pretty quickly.

I don't see Joe presenting well. I think he's fine cognitively, but the duties of the office are demanding enough, add to that the pressure of a campaign and the fact of his age and I just don't think he will be able to assuage people's fears that he's too old.

A Harris candidacy does flip the script on the age issue. We're still saddled with the border and the perception of the economy, but now Trump is the "too old" candidate.

I don't know if Harris can pull together the same coalition that Biden drew. It may depend on her choice of running mate. It's a question. I think she'd mobilize women perhaps more, or with greater enthusiasm than Biden, but I think most of them would be voting for Biden anyway, so it's marginal. But these races seem to be decided on narrow margins. Though we can't forget the absurdity of the Electoral College.

I don't think Joe should resign and give Harris an incumbency. If he steps aside as a candidate, I think he should continue to run the country and address the nation as the president about the stakes of this election. I think, without the pressure of campaign scrutiny, he could be an effective communicator regarding the danger represented by Trump.

We are in uncharted waters. I still believe that many people calling for Biden to step aside are doing so for self-serving reasons. I think if he does decide to withdraw his candidacy, that Harris is the only logical candidate to replace him. I'll support whoever the nominee is, but the sooner we get this resolved, the better.

Whatever chance we have to navigate the turbulent waters facing this civilization and our children and grandchildren, it is with leadership that at least tries to embrace humane values, that exhibits empathy, that is inclusive and not divisive.

This will be one of the most consequential elections in the history of the United States, certainly since Lincoln; maybe Roosevelt given that Lincoln saved the union while Roosevelt perhaps saved the world.

Who knew we'd live to see such times?

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Red Admiral

07:28 Friday, 5 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 77.79°F Pressure: 1013hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 3.44mph
Words: 310

Closeup, not macro, photo of a medium sized butterfly perched on a flower

And I'm not talking about an officer in the PRC navy.

Anyway, took that the day before yesterday. We spent most of yesterday hanging around the house. We visited a local apiary with a unique retail store in the middle of a field. Mitzi browsed the merchandise while I chatted with one of the owners about beekeeping, something my Uncle John did and I helped on occasion.

This is not a pleasant vacation. When we often read of feelings of "existential dread," it's almost a cliché. It feels all too real now, underscored by an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness.

It's like we can all see what's coming, it's horrible, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. Because, well, life goes on. That is, until it doesn't anymore.

There are genuinely horrible people who are looking forward to taking power in January, and who are telling us all the things they're going to do, which are frightening. What is absolutely terrifying, though, are all the things they're going to do that they're saying nothing about now.

What I find perversely encouraging is that the larger planetary crisis will swallow the political one. In some ways, it'll be a pleasure watching these selfish, mean and bitter people grapple with something they don't understand as it robs them of all the wealth and power they will briefly control.

The suffering inflicted by nature will be on a far greater scale, if nearly as inequitable.

We can be certain that there will be large-scale geo-engineering efforts undertaken, confidently sold to us by tech bros, which will fail spectacularly and yet offer some perverse satisfaction in watching them do so, assuming I live that long.

Anyway, enjoy your summer. Probably the last one you'll be able to.

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Independence Day

09:34 Thursday, 4 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 86.81°F Pressure: 1017hPa Humidity: 78% Wind: 1.99mph
Words: 38

I can think of no better day to decide. I just donated $1000 to Joe Biden. Can I afford it?

Can I afford not to?

Do what you can. Do your best.

The rest isn't up to you.

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Voice of Reason

09:09 Thursday, 4 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 85.12°F Pressure: 1017hPa Humidity: 82% Wind: 1.99mph
Words: 46

The stakes are incalculably high.

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Superiority

07:04 Thursday, 4 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 78.1°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 1.23mph
Words: 624

I had never heard of James Henry Hammond until I read Erik Larson's The Demon of Unrest. Then he turned up in Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, by Colin Woodard.

Most recently, he was mentioned by Heather Cox Richardson in her June 30 Letters From an American blog post.

Hammond is an especially despicable figure in the dark history of the Confederacy. Apart from being an enslaver, he sexually abused his nieces. We know this because he wrote about it extensively in his diaries.

It's just interesting to me that such a figure would come to my attention with such frequency in a short period of time. Perhaps not so interesting considering that both Unrest and Union deal with the Civil War.

But Hammond's views represent a strain of American thought that has existed since the founding, and which continues today. Hammond was a member of the planter class, the wealthy elite of the South. Like many successful men, he married into it.

Hammond and others openly rejected Jefferson's claim that "all men are created equal." That view lives today.

Equality and democracy threaten the status and the privilege of the elite. FDR's New Deal created a new role for the federal government, to guard the equality and dignity of all Americans, against the predations of the elite, the monied class. Ever since it was created, the wealthy and the elite have been trying to roll it back and tear it down.

Gerrymandering is a cancer on democracy, where politicians choose their voters instead of the reverse. Gerrymandered states turn into political monocultures, where the policy views drift further to the extremes because elections are decided in primaries where only the most motivated voters turn out and reward the candidate who embraces the "purest" views of the radical fringe that turns out in proportionally greater numbers in primaries.

Demagogues thrive at both extremes of our political parties. The kinds of people contemplated by Thomas Paine when he wrote:

“A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will become convinced, that it is infinitely wiser and safer, to form a constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have it in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance. If we omit it now, some [dictator] may hereafter arise, who laying hold of popular disquietudes, may collect together the desperate and the discontented, and by assuming to themselves the powers of government, may sweep away the liberties of the continent like a deluge.”

Democracy is messy. It can be slow to arrive at consensus. It involves compromise and concession. It confounds the impatience and ideological certainty of the extremes. At that makes it a liability they would happily do away with if they could.

If our democracy is to survive, and that is very much an open question as I write this, we must end the plague of gerrymandering. Monocultures make environments vulnerable to disease and parasites, in ecology and politics.

I just bought Heather Cox Richardson's Democracy Awakening. I'll read it on Kindle while I'm on vacation. I hope it will offer some comfort. Seems appropriate on Independence Day.

Last night I tried to stream Netflix's new Eddie Murphy Beverly Hills Cop movie. For whatever reason, which I don't know or understand, I was unable to send it to the tiny TV here via AirPlay.

So I chose a movie from my own library. I was looking for something light, but selected Darkest Hour, without giving it much thought. Perhaps I knew subconsciously it was what I needed to see. More so even than a comedy.

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Lives, Fortunes and Sacred Honor

06:57 Thursday, 4 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 78.08°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 0mph
Words: 40

Heather Cox Richardson:

But just as in the 1850s, we are now, once again, facing a rebellion against our founding principle, as a few people seek to reshape America into a nation in which certain people are better than others.
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It's Not Just Me

06:36 Thursday, 4 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 78.04°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 0mph
Words: 76

Skip the MSNBC part if you wish and go to the two veteran officers, now lawyers, as they discuss the grotesque obscenity perpetrated by the Supreme Court. We are in for a world of trouble.

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Ordnance Downrange

13:47 Wednesday, 3 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 91.81°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 68% Wind: 8.05mph
Words: 148

I wasn't planning on giving money to political campaigns this year. But I've been slowly leaning toward changing that position. I'd hoped to begin putting aside money for my kids.

But I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

The conservative majority of the Supreme Court is corrupt and has violated its oath. It has displayed gross contempt for the honorable service and sacrifice of America's veterans. It has elevated the office of president, without constitutional basis, to an imperial one, unaccountable before the law.

It's up to us, through what remains of our democratic process, to rescue our republic.

And until such time as the shooting starts, ordnance means money.

I just donated $500 to VoteVets.org. I will donate more as the means and opportunity presents itself.

I'm asking you to consider doing likewise.

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Some Encouragement

07:25 Wednesday, 3 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 78.39°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 0mph
Words: 217

I don't read many pieces in the news that seem to begin with criticizing Biden and demanding he drop out of the race. I find all that rhetoric self-serving. People posing as sage political savants. It's too late for all that and the Democratic Party will destroy itself trying to identify a new ticket.

There are some things I read that I find, if not reassuring, at least make me feel less alone.

David Frum in The Atlantic seems like a voice of reason. Stuart Stevens, whose book, It Was All a Lie, I read and kind of enjoyed, channels some of my frustration with the Democratic Party.

And I find Heather Cox Richardson has become my North Star.

I hope that this grotesque obscenity redounds on both the Supreme Court and Donald J. Trump. I hope that veterans' organizations around the country recognize the open and brazen contempt the court has shown to veterans and service members by making their oath meaningless. I hope that announcing this gross obscenity during the Fourth of July holiday renders its faithlessness and contempt in bold relief to every person who has raised their right hand and taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution that Clarence Thomas and Samual Alito have chosen to wipe their asses with.

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Rage

07:03 Wednesday, 3 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 77.97°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 0mph
Words: 400

The emotion I'm struggling with the most is the title of this post. Mitzi and I were talking this morning and she speculated that this Supreme Court and its "decisions" will spark more "self-sorting" in America, with red states getting redder and blue states, well, less red.

The problem with self-sorting is one that I criticized Michael Binder, a professor at the University of North Florida who runs a political poll, for when he made a generalization that people tend to move to states that more reflect their values.

Florida is two states, one for the privileged and the other is ignored. Professor Binder was speaking of the former and committing the sin of the privileged regarding the latter. Poverty in Florida is a life sentence. Poor people can't afford to move. The kind of people moving to red states aren't exactly known for their generosity. Florida is defined by its policy of malignant indifference to the suffering of others.

Although that indifference has turned to open hostility toward those living on the margins of society.

Mitzi and I have spoken before of buying property in New York. More accurately, Mitzi buying property in New York. Although my navy pension and Social Security make me firmly among the privileged, I don't have the means to own property in two states.

I've been trying to save a little money this year. I hadn't planned on making any sizable donations to political campaigns. I thought I might try to amass a small sum to pass on to my children when I'm gone, though I think the opportunity for that has likely passed. I think now I'll look around and see where my money might best serve what remains of our democracy.

We have a narrow window to save the republic. If we can soundly defeat Trump and repudiate Trumpism and neo-fascism in November, install unambiguous if not commanding Democratic majorities in both houses of congress, we can reform the Supreme Court, and reduce the corrupting influence of The Federalist Society.

But it's a narrow window, and I'm not optimistic. I think America is on the verge of becoming a fascist autocracy like Hungary. I have to recall that I must "do my best, and the rest isn't up to me." And perhaps among my best actions is sending resources to those people still fighting for democracy in our nation.

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It's All Uphill From Here

06:33 Wednesday, 3 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 78.1°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 0mph
Words: 755

iPhone Screenshot of the Activity app showing the elevation change on a hike

I recalled that Treman was challenging, but we hadn't done the whole thing in years. I told Mitzi that when we got back to the car I was going to write a note about our experience so we wouldn't forget the next time, if there ever is one.

When we discussed making the hike, I suggested that we do the gorge trail first, as the rim trail was likely to be "easier." Three years ago, at a different gorge, Mitzi's daughter and son-in-law were with us. After hiking down the gorge we had the two young people hike back up the rim trail to collect the car and come down and get us. We had looked at the rim trail and it began with a long series of steps and said, "Nope!"

This was my first hike with trekking poles. I wore the Cotton Carrier G3 on my chest with the E-M1X on it. It's a large body for micro four-thirds, and it does obscure your view at your feet. If I hadn't had the trekking poles I doubt I could have completed the hike, and I'm certain I'd have fallen on more than one occasion.

The hike was glorious going down into the gorge. New York has had a decent amount of rainfall, I haven't checked, perhaps more than "normal" due to our new climate, so all the falls were running with impressive torrents for early summer. The temperature was low to moderate, I think the most I saw on the hike was 78°F and the humidity was relatively low, so sweating actually worked to cool our bodies. I could feel the salt on my face at the end of the hike though.

I took a bunch if pics, too many probably. I'll post some on Flickr, though perhaps not this morning. "Seen one waterfall, seen 'em all."

We rested awhile at the upper falls and then started back down the rim trail. I'd forgotten that it begins with a steep descent on a seemingly endless set of stairs.

I found that in descending, I had to extend the poles a bit. Figuring out what length to set them at was a bit of trial and error. Ascending or walking on more or less level terrain, 49 inches was about right. I could essentially keep my hands low at my waist and just use my wrists to swing the poles forward. Going up, I could put a pole higher on a step or steep part of the trail with my arm remaining low enough to actually give me some assistance.

The trails are studded with roots and rocks and I almost turned an ankle a couple of times. I worried about Mitzi, but she's been using poles far longer than I have.

The image above shows the elevation profile for the gorge trail, hiking up to the upper falls. The rim trail isn't identical, but it is easier. Before we set out on the rim trail, I asked ChatGPT if it was easier than the gorge trail. Here's what it offered:

In Robert H. Treman State Park, the Gorge Trail is generally considered more challenging than the Rim Trail. The Gorge Trail runs closer to the creek and features a series of steps, bridges, and steep inclines, providing closer views of waterfalls and rock formations. The Rim Trail, while still moderately challenging, tends to have fewer steep sections and more gradual inclines, making it a bit easier for hikers compared to the Gorge Trail.

I used the Activity app to record both hikes. The gorge trail took one hour and forty-nine minutes, and expended 635 "active calories." Average heart rate was 136 bpm. The rim trail took one hour and 27 minutes and expended 545 calories, with an average heart rate of 138 bpm. The difference in time is confounded by the amount of time I spent taking pictures on the gorge trail. The increase in average heart rate may be due to fatigue.

While the grotesque obscenity was much on my mind yesterday, prompted often by seeing people in the water and thinking that rules are for chumps in America, I did enjoy the beauty of my surroundings and the pleasant sounds of birdsong and rushing water.

I think the effort I expended hiking the trail would have otherwise been spent in anger and anxiety, and the hike was a far better experience.

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Grotesque Obscenity

01:25 Wednesday, 3 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 81.55°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 85% Wind: 4mph
Words: 629

We hiked the gorge trail and the rim trail at Robert Treman state park today. It is described as being a "moderate," hike. I found it to be very challenging. I was exhausted when I went to bed before nine this evening, but now I find I can't sleep.

While we were hiking at both Treman and Taughannock, we saw people in the stream beds, or in the water, though the rules of the park specifically say to remain on the trail. But in America today, rules are for chumps.

I saw Heather Cox Richardson on the NewsHour yesterday evening. This ruling by the Supreme Court has been foremost in my consciousness ever since I learned of it. Again, I am dumbfounded that we seem to be so accepting of the overturning of one of the foundational principles of our country, our republic, which "Republicans" are always so eager to constantly point out, is not a "democracy," a "democratic republic."

This grotesque obscenity of a ruling has simultaneously reconciled two pernicious claims of the Republican Party.

The first is that, by making the office of president above the law, we may now have only the 2nd Amendment as a guarantor of our liberty.

I have never accepted that argument. It was the rule of law, that guaranteed our liberty, as imperfectly as that has been realized in our more than two centuries of existence. Imperfect, because it often failed many of our citizens, but perfectible, as we have striven to make real the vision proclaimed in the Declaration Of Independence, that "all men are created equal."

Now, that vision is rendered meaningless. The Supreme Court, an unelected, unaccountable body, some members of which have now been unequivocally shown to be corrupt to their core, has pissed all over Thomas Jefferson's words.

One man is above the law! One man is unaccountable to the law. And they willfully committed this obscenity with the knowledge and example of Donald J. Trump and January 6th, and had the incomprehensible temerity to suggest that the dissenting justices were relying on "extreme hypotheticals," to characterize the nature of this decision.

January 6th was no hypothetical.

The second isn't specifically a Republican claim, though they are now all irrevocably stained by Donald J. Trump and this court's faithless decision. It is Donald J. Trump's disgusting and pernicious belief that America's service members and veterans are "losers" and "suckers," as has been documented repeatedly by men of greater honor and integrity than Donald J. Trump and his "MAGA army" of bootlickers and sycophants.

The Supreme Court has not only pissed on the words of Thomas Jefferson, they have pissed on the graves of every American who made the supreme sacrifice, laid down his or her life, gave "the last full measure of devotion," in service to our nation to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

Apparently, none of us who swore that oath really understood what we were getting ourselves into. Only those solons in fancy robes and free RVs, who have never worn the uniform of our nation's armed forces, knew the real truth.

This "decision," this grotesque obscenity perpetrated on the American people and a government that has been an imperfect beacon of liberty for more than two centuries, by unelected and unaccountable, corrupt ideologues, demagoguing from the bench, has made every sacrifice empty. Meaningless.

Every scarred body, every mangled limb, every damaged psyche borne by America's veterans is now a joke. Donald J. Trump was right, we were suckers. There was nothing in it for us. The Supreme Court has made everything we believed in empty. Meaningless.

May God damn these faithless sycophants, and may their immortal souls burn in Hell for all eternity.

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Mental Health Break

08:58 Tuesday, 2 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 81.81°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 88% Wind: 1.01mph
Words: 271

We've seen a bit of wildlife here at the VRBO. Two fawns wandered into the yard yesterday evening. One seemed a little concerned or curious about the hammock I put up between two trees. (Always look up before hanging a hammock.) This morning, a skunk wandered into the yard, and may be under the deck outside the kitchen door. I hope not though.

Hiked Taughannock yesterday. Easy two-mile hike to the falls and back. Spent a little time at the overlook before heading down. Weather was beautiful yesterday.

I mentioned I'd lost my St Johns Riverkeeper hat, so we stopped into the Cornell shop at the Ithaca Commons. I mentioned to the woman checking me out that my mother's brother, Henry, was enrolled at Cornell, but left school early during WW II to join the Army Air Corps and died in a training accident. (Part of his plane fell off.) She gave me a 20% discount, which was unexpected and very kind.

I really don't understand what's going on in our country. I think I get the dynamics, but it still feels unreal to me. It's bad enough with the climate crisis and all the other environmental and resource challenges we're facing, but this just seems like the worst. But, just gotta keep breathing. "Tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide will bring?"

Anyway, nice marmot...

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Heather Cox Richardson

07:21 Tuesday, 2 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 77.25°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 0mph
Words: 186

She's not talking me off the ledge this morning.

Ironic that we've lost the Republic during the same week that we declared our independence from kings.

Like climate change, the fire that has engulfed spaceship earth and now threatens the life support system, I fail to understand why we are just taking this lying down.

Ron DeSantis routinely fired democratically elected state attorneys when he's unhappy with them. Florida's Supreme Court has said he has the authority to do so.

The only way I see out of this is for Trump to be defeated in November, and a Democratic majority elected to both houses of congress.

The Supreme Court must be reformed. Term limits. Add two or more additional seats. Rules for how vacancies are filled.

Of course, that would be litigated before the Supreme Court, so who knows what they'd do. Probably find it unconstitutional.

America has fundamentally, and possibly irrevocably, changed.

Not just because of Donald J. Trump, he was the ideal instrument, but because of a sustained effort by a fascistic element of America that loathes democracy.

They've succeeded in overturning the Constitution.

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Further to the Foregoing

07:12 Tuesday, 2 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 76.15°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 96% Wind: 0mph
Words: 54

"Everyone involved in that crime could be prosecuted."

Could be prosecuted.

Who does the Justice Department work for? Whose "official" acts are unreviewable by the Justice Department? Any prosecution could be delayed, forestalled, ended, just not brought, by a "loyal" Attorney General.

And if he was insufficiently loyal?

"You're fired."

We've lost the republic.

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The Falls

06:38 Tuesday, 2 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 76.21°F Pressure: 1015hPa Humidity: 96% Wind: 0mph
Words: 319

Simulated long exposure shot of Taughannock falls in the Finger Lakes

With regard to the "Seal Team Six scenario"...

“If the secretary of defense does it, and whether it’s successful or not, everyone involved in that crime could be prosecuted save for one person — the person who ordered it,” Becker said.

That is his opinion. It won't be resolved until a court weighs the facts of the case. The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of the United States military. The armed forces of the United States are a part of the executive branch of government. The members of the military are sworn to obey the "lawful orders" of the president and the officers appointed over them.

The Supreme Court has said that the law does not apply to the president in the conduct of his official duties, and that is supposedly somehow enshrined in the Constitution, which the members of the military swear an oath to uphold.

The president himself cannot perform the missions and tasks of the military, that's why he has a military. He orders them to carry out those missions and tasks. Posse Commitatus Act? Literally no longer applies to the only person with the power to violate it.

Add to this that this president, or any future president, can fire defense secretaries and combatant commanders until he finds one who will obey his orders. And he won't have to go far to do so

Add to this the legal jeopardy officers and enlisted members of the military place themselves in when refusing to obey an order, the "lawfulness" of which is now utterly in question.

This is a disastrous decision in every dimension. Utterly incomprehensible. A power manufactured out of whole cloth to facilitate creating an autocracy in the United States of America, by unelected, unaccountable demagogues.

This should keep everyone up at night.

It did me.

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Not Enough Wine

18:13 Monday, 1 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 88.63°F Pressure: 1013hPa Humidity: 75% Wind: 7mph
Words: 135

Photo of a glass of white wine on the arm of an adirondack chair in the late afternoon

I don't recognize my country anymore. It has let me down before, but I believed in the institutions. I never thought the Supreme Court would weasel its way to making a president into a king. There is no way this decision does anything but promote more turmoil and bad faith.

Perhaps Biden should exercise his newly granted authority in creative, albeit "official," ways.

I never liked the "Seal Team Six" scenario. Service members are only bound by oath to obey "lawful orders." This raises the very serious, very legitimate question of just exactly what a "lawful order" is today.

I never imagined the Supreme Court as chaos agents. But if your agenda is to overthrow democracy, I guess it makes sense.

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Trumansburg

07:55 Monday, 1 July 2024
Current Wx: Temp: 91°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 70% Wind: 11.5mph
Words: 635

We arrived at our VRBO rental yesterday afternoon. We took a little detour out of our way to Binghamton to tour the Phelps Mansion Museum. It was well worth the extra effort. There used to be a row of mansions on that street, but Binghamton never had the kind of economy that supported the degree of wealth that could support the maintenance and upkeep of large, elaborate homes.

This one survived because a women's group bought it as a clubhouse, and largely maintained it as constructed for a century. They did install some modern plumbing and a "modern" kitchen, and added an addition with a ballroom, but the interior details remain as the house was constructed in 1870.

They did make one sad mistake. In 1940, they discovered the rooftop cistern was leaking into the third floor, and they had the entire third floor removed. Since then, the museum has added a facade that recreates the exterior appearance of the third floor.

It's a tragic story, Mr. Phelps had a run of bad luck with regard to spouses and children dying. It's possible that the house may have contributed in some fashion with toxic materials. Asbestos, for instance, was used to add a sheen to wallpaper at the time.

I didn't bring a camera in with me, and made do with my phone. My cameras were all packed up in the car. I'm not thrilled with what I got, but I'll post the least bad ones on Flickr.

Mitzi loves the rental. I'm ambivalent. We can't park immediately adjacent to the house, so unloading the car involved carrying a couple of large, somewhat heavy plastic boxes down a stone paver path with steps. I discovered that it was easier to walk on the gently sloping grass instead of the pavers.

We are surrounded by trees. There is a fairly open area of sky, so I may get some star trails. But no shots of the Milky Way arcing above the horizon. There's a fairly wide stream flowing next to the property, and there are a couple of Adirondack chairs down there, overlooking it.

A lesson we have repeatedly failed to learn is that we should bring some of our own cookware, knives for instance. We're going to create a small box of essentials. I lack an 8" skillet here, so I can't make my usual breakfast, which I was looking forward to after a week of eating breakfast at restaurants and hotels.

The house is comfortable with large windows overlooking the yard and the trees. There is some view of the stream, though nothing that would make a photo.

I'm trying to decompress after more than a week of driving, visiting, sleeping and not-sleeping in hotels. Mitzi is planning, planning, planning and asking for my input when I just want to be still. At home, I'm usually up for more than an hour before she is, and I have that time to kind of get my day oriented. Here I'm trying to remain polite and composed.

The idea is to relax, but I'm just experiencing more stress. She's excited, I'm a little disappointed.

One good thing is that this is the first place we've stayed at in the region that has genuinely high-speed internet. I'm surprised, but they actually have fiber up here. Perhaps it's the proximity to Cornell, we're just up the road from Ithaca.

The weather has kind of turned on us. It's supposed to clear up in a couple of hours, and it is looking brighter out there, but it's been pretty cloudy since we arrived. Can't shoot stars through clouds.

We'll head out later and do the Taughannock Falls trail. It's an easy hike with a nice view of the falls. That should help clear my head a bit.

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