The Big Lie

Of all the idiotic lies the Current Occupant Embarrassment has told, the most dangerous is one of his first and biggest: that “3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast” in the election, costing him the popular vote.

Only one of the amygdala-based lifeforms, whose very life depends on having enough fear to drive their ecological and biological systems, could believe that fraud of such incredible scope could go unnoticed.  Only someone who must believe that the Truth IS Somewhere Out There could hear quotes like these:

“Throughout the campaign and even after it,” Trump said, “people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities, which they saw. In some cases, having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states.”

Kris Kobach, who never met a Democratic vote he didn’t want to suppress, “We will probably never know the answer to that question.”

Anthony Scaramucci: “My guess is that there’s probably some level of truth to that. I think what we have found sometimes is that the president says stuff, some of you guys in the media think it’s not true. It turns out it’s closer to the truth than people think.”

…and think, “Wow, look at that overwhelming evidence!”[1]

So why should all of us care about this?  The man is gripped by his own egomania and will continue to burrow into his own delusion, which is eyebrow-raising enough when it’s your crazy friend—but this is a person who lives in the White House and can drag the rest of us into his fantasies if we don’t keep our wits about us.

For an excellent take on this, see E. J. Dionne’s editorial at the Washington Post.

Bottom line: the current administration wants to make it harder for you to vote, especially if you are apt to vote against them.  It is easier for them to do this than you think, and even you—yes you—can be caught up in their machinations.

It has already begun.

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[1] There is no evidence. See here.

What are we to do?

So, at 4:44 a.m. this morning,[1] here’s what the President of the United States tweeted:

Besides the Captain Queeg obsession with Clinton’s emails, the thorniest issue here for me is that he misspelled Counsel.  I am reminded of John Stewart’s comment about people wanting to vote for Bush43 because he seemed like a “regular guy,” i.e., not a pointy-headed intellectual: “Not only do I want an elite president, I want someone who’s embarrassingly superior to me.”

We have a long way to go.

(Open note to the White House: I know you don’t do “history,” but get someone to read you the results of all previous investigations into those emails.)

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[1] I don’t know why this embedded tweet says 7:44 a.m.  The original said 4:44; if you click through, it still does.

Through the Looking-glass

My internet server has a spam filter on it and catches about 100 spam emails a day.  It’s very good—I’m actually quite surprised when I get a spam message in my inbox these days.

However, it will also occasionally snag emails from people or companies that I want to hear from, and so when I get the email saying that it has messages for me to review, I click and go look.  Mostly I just scan the subject lines; it takes less than a minute to do, and then I click Reject All As Spam and I’m done.

Every now and then, though, my curiosity gets the better of me: what are all these emails that warn me of Hillary Clinton’s devastating plans to oust our current embarrassment and take over the White House?  Since I can check the contents of the email without actually leaving the spam filter, I opened one up the other day and found this:

This was followed by blocks of text that were literally jumbled together by a bot from online sources.

I did not explore past this content; in my experience, these things are setups for sites trying to sell you miracle cures or prepper supplies.

As always, my fascination is with the target audience, the 27% who are going to be clueless rage-bunnies no matter what.  I found it fascinating that in our new reality it’s taken as a statement of fact even by the rage-bunnies that Russia intervened directly in our election—but the rage-bunnies direct their anger at the woman who lost the election eight months ago.

And I love the links to “unsubscribe.”  This is where the cluelessness of the rage-bunnies is delicious: how many of them click on those links and give the spammers their information?

Bless they hearts.

A useless post

This post contains useless information unless you need it and then omg it will change your life.

First, as all right-thinking people know, the Blackwing 602 pencil is the nonpareil of writing instruments.  All the best people use them.  When they went out of production in 1998, a nation grieved, but a couple of years ago Palomino revived them and we can all once again write with the same pencil as Stephen Sondheim.

One of the nifty design elements of the pencil is its eraser.

It is held in the ferrule by a little aluminum clip, and the idea is that as you wear the eraser down you can pull it out, move the eraser up, and pop it back in. The clip will hold the extended eraser in its new position.

You can see the theory here:

However, the two little indentations in the clip do not actually hold the eraser in place.  Any attempt to erase your mistakes pushes the eraser back down into the ferrule.

So here’s your life-changing tip of the day: take a small nail and dunch those indentations in a wee bit.

Now your clip has actual teeth and will hold the eraser in place as you write the lyrics for the next Follies.

You’re welcome.

More thoughts on the 25th

I don’t know why this keeps bubbling up in my head—wish fulfillment, perhaps.  But whatever the authors of the 25th Amendment thought they were doing, they weren’t solving our problem.

To be honest, there is no way they could have anticipated this problem: an unstable, childish, corrupt, vindictive know-nothing in the White House.  They wrote the Amendment in case the President had a stroke (Wilson) or was shot (Reagan) or was otherwise incapacitated.  They assumed the President to be an honorable man who, after a period of recuperation, would be welcomed back to his office by a sympathetic nation.

As if.

Instead, we have a reality TV star, and the 25th Amendment gives us no guidance on What Happens Next.  I mean, think about it: Pence and the Cabinet write their letter to both houses of Congress and Pence assumes the title of Acting President.  But do we really think the current embarrassment is going to vacate the White House?  We do not.

Again, the authors of the 25th weren’t thinking about actually removing the President.  We have the impeachment process for that.  They were just codifying what everyone assumed to be an orderly transition of power in case of incapacitation.  So if we go the 25th route, we can expect to be treated—if that’s the word I’m looking for—to another three years of reality TV.  Do we perp march the embarrassment out of the Oval Office?  Do we pay to set up a parallel White House (and no, not at a Trump hotel)?  We’ll have competing press conferences.  Torrents of tweets.  Republican congresscritters would never come out of the elevators.

And what, oh what will Fox News do?

All in all, a complete circus.

And yet we’ll be rid of him.

Gaming the 25th Amendment

There has been much talk of the 25th Amendment recently: short of actual impeachment, it seems to many to be the easiest way to rid ourselves of the national embarrassment.  I myself think it’s a solution that the national embarrassment will embrace, and here’s why.

First, the pertinent document, Section 4 of Amendment 25:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

tl;dr: Mike Pence pulls together a majority vote in the Cabinet that the current occupant is unfit, and they write a letter to both houses of Congress saying so.  Poof! Mike Pence is Acting President.

Here’s the interesting part: Pence does not become actual President.  The actual President is merely sidelined, where he can tweet that uhuh he is too fit for the rest of his days.  Technically he can write a letter to both houses of Congress that he’s feeling much better, and then they vote on it.  I figure the Senate’s good for two-thirds of those votes; the House is where the balance lies, and I don’t trust them not to reinstall the man.

But let’s assume that they see their duty to this nation clear and vote that he’s still nutso.  This should make him very happy, because now he’s got tons of enemies to insult and bluster and blame.  He can keep writing those letters for the next 42 months, and Congress can keep voting him out, and he makes the cable shows explode and he’s good.

And we’re rid of him.

ERIE, Day 8

Last leg![1]

Cincinnati back to Newnan was completely uneventful if you don’t count the deluge we drove through nearly the whole way.

We stopped at the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea, which is very nice.

Kentucky is celebrating its 225th birthday, and right in front of us when we parked was a pretty impressive sand sculpture.

Side A:

Side B:

 

I bought a neat deerstalker cap:

Also pictured, my remaining earring from the Art Gallery of Ontario: small round of black concrete with a smidgen of gold leaf.

The annual crafts festival was going on in Berea itself, but we resisted the urge to get home after midnight and hit the road, after stopping for lunch at Brooklyn Brothers Pizzeria in Corbin, KY.  Highly recommended!  (We stopped in Corbin to buy some bourbon to go with the bourbon pecan pie kit we got as a thank you gift for the nice neighbor who kept Kitten C for us while we were gone.)

And then we drove home the end.

Cute ending: when Kitten C was delivered back to us, we squee’d to find that in the week we’d been gone, he had turned into a honest-to-goodness kitten: weaned and ready to rumble.

His favorite toy at the moment is my bare foot.  This may be a long summer.

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[1] Or last nerve.  Your mileage may vary.  MILEAGE, GET IT??  DO YOU GET IT?

Erie, Day 7

Time to DRIVE 974 MILES HOME, KENNETH!

We arrived to pick up our intrepid traveling companions and were greeted by…

He had been standing like that for ten minutes waiting for us to arrive.

Yes, that’s yard art where they were staying.  No, it’s not as weird as this:

I was just going to snap a quick one as we slowed down driving past, but there was a truck behind us so my lovely first wife pulled over—just as the lady of the house emerged to get into her truck.  She grinned and waved, and we told her how awesome it was.  “My husband is very creative,” she said with cheerful resignation.

Have a closer look.

And did you see…

I did not get a photo of the sign at St. Mary’s Cemetery, which I kid you not had some kind of jaunty 70s font.  This and other cemeteries have been decorated with solar lights in various fun colors.  It’s an odd effect.

As my phone threaded us through Medina on our way to I-90, we encountered this monument:

Perhaps Sue will tell us in comments why she hid the region’s largest concrete apple from us.

Anyway, we soon zoomed west and the end.

Not really.  We zoomed west and stopped in Cleveland to hit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Those of my legions of readers who know me will be astonished that I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they should not be because I didn’t.  My companions all did, but I stayed in the lobby and wrote yesterday’s blog post.  Yes, I know, I’m a unregenerate dork, but rock music has never been part of my life.  I hear it like others hear opera: while I recognize the top 40 tunes, I don’t understand the words and I don’t know the players.  I was told I would have enjoyed the costumes, but a context-free experience with loudspeakers was certainly not going to entertain me at this point in the journey.  Maybe in my next life I’ll have a normal adolescence.

However, it was refreshing to be in an environment where I was not the only adult male over a certain age with pierced ears.

Then we got in the car and drove to Cincinnati the end.

ERIE, Day 6

Back to the Falls!

Today we do the American side, which is smaller and in some ways better organized and enjoyable than the vast Canadian north.

You can compare the views from the two countries, and clearly Canada wins on scale and scope.  But there is much to admire from this side as well.

We arrived early and went straight to the Maid of the Mist ticket line and almost literally walked straight onto the boat.

On the Canadian site, all misters wear red ponchos.  I have a video from up on the cliff of tourists entering a tent and emerging as blue Minions; it’s very amusing.

What can I say about the Maid of the Mist experience?  It’s just overpowering.  You are taken past American Falls…

…past the yellow Minions doing the Cave of the Winds thing at Bridal Veil Falls on Goat Island…

…over to Horseshoe Falls in Canada.

You get up to the middle of the arc of the horseshoe…

…where you of course get fairly wet.  I chose not to wear my hood because my poncho experience on the other side was not positive.  I was fine.  Keeping your cell phone dry can be a challenge, but I have more than a few photos of the ride (and a couple of my pocket) and I’ve experienced no ill effects.

You are mesmerized.  There’s no other word to describe it.  Technically the Niagara River is a strait, a narrow body of water connecting two larger ones, Lakes Ontario and Erie in this case, and what we’re seeing here is a fifth of the world’s supply of fresh water falling over a cliff—and you can’t stop looking at it.  It won’t let you look away.  It never stops, it’s always the same, it’s ever changing.

After the ride, you can go back up top or you can “visit the Dalai Lama” as we termed it: climb a wooden staircase up to the edge of American Falls with all the other blue Minions:

It’s slow going: everyone wants to stop and take photos, and the stairs are wide enough only for one lane going up and one coming down.  Totally worth it:

Pro tip: if you do the American side before noon and the Canadian side afternoon you will always see rainbows.

Finally we took the elevator back up to the observation deck.

See the blue Minions?  We were there.  (You can recycle your poncho or keep it as a souvenir.)

We got tickets to see the iMax movie about the Falls after I double-checked with the info station that it was in fact an informative and well-made film about the falls and not a lame animated juvenile beaver.  With water spraying on me.

It was in fact an informative and well-made movie, although it focused more on the daredevils who braved the Falls more than the geological history.  It is nonetheless worth seeing.

From there we drove over to Goat Island, the island that divides the Falls.  I cannot explain it, but I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that this island just sits there between two huge cataracts ever since National Geographic used to run regular articles about the Falls.  So over we went.  (There are no goats, which I found both inexplicable and deplorable.)

We grabbed lunch at the Top of the Falls restaurant, which I mention for two reasons…

…the Old Fort Niagara (vodka, cognac, cranberry juice, grenadine), and…

…”Beef on Weck,” a western NY specialty.  It is thinly sliced roast beef on a kaiser bun sprinkled with caraway seeds and sea salt, with horseradish and au jus.  It is very very good, and I don’t particularly care for caraway.

Goat Island is undergoing a bit of renovation, and one thing they’re doing is native plant landscaping.

Scotch thistles, my favorite.

Over on the American Falls side of the island, I shot this video at Bridal Veil Falls:

Below you can see the yellow Minions who have gone down to the Cave of the Winds experience.  We had that on our list to do, but by the time we finished lunch there were three long lines to stand in under the blazing sun.  We had to walk away with much regret.

We began the trek back to Medina, stopping at the Whirlpool State Park.  All that water that comes over the Falls?  After it turns the corner from Niagara, it all enters a very narrow gorge, and the rapids there are Class VI, unnavigable.  About 4200 years ago, as the Falls eroded their way upstream and chewed their way through the escarpment, the river intersected with a loose sedimentary layer and catastrophically washed it all away.  (Truly, they think it may have happened in a couple of hours.)  It left a large, circular pool that the rapids empty into with some violence.

Here are the rapids:

And the whirlpool:

The Canadians run a cable car over the thing and have since the early part of last century.  Oy.

The park itself is your basic overlook, part of the Niagara Gorge Hiking Trail.  Again, native landscaping:

Once we made it back home and freshened up—including a groundhog sighting in the back 40—we set out to explore the nightlife of Medina. You might very well snicker, but we had a great evening.

First up, 810 Meadworks, a small meadery that’s fairly new.  The owner/brewer, Brian, welcomed us and talked us through our sampling.  My lovely first wife does not care for mead, but the rest of us did, and we ended up with three meads each to sample and share for a total of nine meads.  And Brian’s wife makes craft chocolates to pair with them, and I strongly advise you to go for that option.

Behind us is the complete brewing equipment.  In fact, we entered through that room.

Here’s my tasting flight:

l to r: Raspberry Mead (wildflower honey w/ raspberry); Jewel of the Newell (wildflower honey w/ pomegranates & oak); 21-Bean Salute (clover & buckwheat honey w/ vanilla beans & coffee beans)

I failed to record the chocolates, but they were delicious on their own and perfect complements to the mead.

Since some may not be very sure what mead is exactly: it is fermented honey.  You would be forgiven for thinking that such a think would be unpalatably sweet, and some meads are, but these were not.  Brian had dry, semi-sweet, and sweet meads.  These three were all semi-sweet.

Yes, we ended up with a bottle each of Jewel of the Newell and 21-Bean Salute, which oddly the LFW liked.

So if you’re keeping track, that’s a bottle of vodka, a bottle of gin, three bottles of NY wine, and two bottles of mead.  But who’s counting?

We asked Brian for a restaurant recommendation; without hesitation he recommended Zambistro over on Main St, which would have been our first choice via Yelp anyway.

There the food was amazing.  No photos, alas, but it was the equal of anything we’ve had in Atlanta or on the Danube, for that matter.

After dinner, we crossed the street to Fitzgibbons, an Irish pub that opened in January.

The decor is amazing—I wish I had gotten a photo of the wall to the right, all carved wood.  More Bree than Dublin, it was a fun place.  We had a quick whiskey before heading home.

On Main St, Medina, NY:

Well all right then.

ERIE, Day 5

See this map?

The red star is where Sue’s cabin is.  Sue grew up in Middleport, and so we got in the car and DROVE ALL OVER WESTERN NEW YORK, KENNETH!  We had to go pick up our intrepid co-travelers in Oak Orchard, and then we were off.

We went to the cabin that Sue’s parents had when she was a small child, now renovated by a nice lady (Priscilla) whom we met after trespassing into her back yard.  (We had thought no one was home.)

The view from one’s seaside yard is simply incredible…

…BUT it’s treacherous.  When Sue was a child, there was a road in front of the house.  The lake has taken about 30 feet of shore since then, the road with it.

Which makes people like this…

…extremely hard to understand.  Sue said, though, that those cabins had been there since she was a child.

Sue insisted that we see the Shoe Tree—entertainment possibilities being limited in western NY—which is out in the middle of nowhere at the intersection of three roads.  As it turns out, it’s perfectly charming.

The story is that a while back some teenagers were out one night—entertainment possibilities being limited in western NY—and decided to toss their shoes into the tree.  Knowing that the townsfolk would be double-plus unpleased, they convinced all their friends to do the same, there being safety in dilution of culpability.  Then they invented the excuse that if you did this, you could make a wish.

Extremely limited.

Western NY is almost entirely agricultural, mostly subsidized corn for ethanol and cattle these days.  The large manufacturing plants—GM, Heinz, etc.—are long gone, and with them the comfortable union jobs.

In Middleport, we saw Sue’s childhood home and some other lovely homes, and the Universalist Church, built in 1841:

The church is closed, with no one particularly interested in buying it.  Here’s the interesting feature:

These are stones brought by the townsfolk from the lake by cart.  This surface treatment is in line with my hypothesis that given sufficient materials and time, humans will prefer the ornate.

On to Lockport, which got its name because it sprang up at that point on the Erie Canal with the biggest drop in elevation, requiring five locks in a row (the Flight of Five). We were there to take the Lockport Cave tour.

Right across from the tour center…

Yes, we are organized.  Resistance is futile.[1]

Before the tour, we grabbed lunch at Lock 34, a really nice restaurant.  Lockport is a sizable little town with arts and stuff going on.  We saw a ballet studio, a community theatre in an old movie palace, a general arts place, and there’s a concert on the lock on Friday.

At lunch, I thought it was important that I have a Mule.

Canal and all that.

The Canal is still there, of course, and modernized.  You will remember that we became intimately familiar with lock technology from the Danube, and so we were nodding sagely—if not smugly—as our tour guide explained it all to the rest of the group.

This is the new lock.  There’s only the one, and it takes about 20 minutes for a boat to get through these days.

Unlike the old locks, when there were five, each taking about an hour plus a three–four day backup of canal traffic each way.  Look at these doors (which have been reconstructed):

It took four men on each gate to open and close them, so eight guys per lock.  Here’s the other end of the gate:

Mmmm, wood.

A replica of a boat of the period:

Quick view of the Flight of Five:

The tour group walked on down the Canal to the upside-down bridge:

This is the oldest remaining example of this engineering compromise.  The story is that during the Civil War, the supply of iron was being fought over by the munitions manufacturers and the railroads, and one of the areas of compromise (presided over by Lincoln) was that all bridges had to be built like this, with the supporting superstructure underneath the railroad instead of above: it took a third less iron to build it this way.

All along the path, our guide pointed out the locations of several factories which had been built on the canal above us: a fire hydrant factory (invented in Lockport by Birdsill Holly), a ceramics factory, and then this:

This is a pulp factory  You floated your logs in the channel in the foreground, then fed them into the holes in the wall, where millstones would grind them to pulp.  The pulp was pressed into cups and plates and bowls, but those things were not disposables in the 19th century.  Families often used them for as long as five years.  (Eventually they decided that stainless steel made for more durable and more sanitary tableware.)

The hole on the right was the exit flume for the “cave,” actually a large tunnel carved through the limestone rock to channel water to power the factories above.  This was the design and work of B. Holly, who it must be noted had only a third-grade education.  Engineering was different in those days.

And here we are entering the cave:

Cast iron tube, still sturdy after 200 years.  Steep climb, leveling off to:

This channel was dug by Irish immigrants for about 2¢ a day, plus whiskey.  Teams of two would drill a hole in the limestone by hand, pack in a little explosive, light the fuse, then run away.  After the explosion, they would carry the debris out the only entrance, way back where we started the tour over the Flight of Five.  They did this one basketball-sized amount of limestone at a time.  (This is the same limestone used to build buildings in Lockport and Washington, DC.)

When the channel was in operation, the water would have filled the space to within three feet of the ceiling.

One fun fact, which may or may not be true: embedded in the limestone was gypsum, which was worthless to people who wanted the limestone debris for other purposes.  The wives of the Irishmen would take it, polish up little bits of it, then schlep it up to Niagara, where they would sell it to tourists as “solidified mist from the Falls, sure,” made by a technique known only to the little Irish ladies of the world.  For a dollar—more than their husbands made in two months.

After the cave tour, which included a boat ride, we went to the Flight of Five Winery and we had a tasting.

All very tasty.  We bought one or two.  Or three.

Our final stop for the day: The Culvert.

And what is this, I hear you ask?  It is the only place where a road goes under the Erie Canal.  The Canal goes through a valley here and is actually contained in berms.  It made more sense to take the road under it than to build a bridge over it.  The road was actually closed to traffic because they’re making repairs right on the other side, but we scoffed at their attempts to keep us safe.

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[1] Oh, all right, here.