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Representatives from scientific organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, said during a press conference Wednesday that decades of federal funding cuts for research, scientific misinformation, and world-wide attacks on the free exchange of ideas were drivers for the movement.

— Wall Street Journal

As demonstrators in over 500 locations around the world marched in support of science yesterday, I am again reminded how our current government is working really hard at making America dumb again. It’s almost like they don’t realize that without science, there would be no drugs, no medical care, no cars, airplanes, computers, cellphones, videos, Google, YouTube, iPhones, Netflix, and most of the stuff we buy at Costco.

There seems to be a strong anti-science message, covered by deliberate misinformation and obfuscation, distributed by our government, including DeVos, Pruitt and, of course, triggered by Trump, and supported by some of our Congressmen and Senators.

We forget that this is not happening in China, and Germany, and Japan, and many other countries. So while we’re caught up in whining about experimenting with embryonic tissue in this country, China is advancing with human cloning experiments. We’re cutting the funding of NASA to the point where we do not have any ability to put humans into and out of orbit, Russia has had the monopoly on that, and China is the only other nation that has the ability to launch humans into space. While we’re spreading misinformation about vaccines, Chinese scientists are making advances. While we’re promoting and pushing coal, “clean coal” to quote the president, European nations are rapidly converting their entire electricity grids to renewable sources, and Asian nations are at the lead of research in this field. China is on pace to become the global leader in implementation of renewable energy.

If we want to make America great, we need to drive education in science and all the related areas. Within just a few years of such an effort, we’d see a renaissance of scientific activity in this country.

Yet, we shut down initiative and funding for organizations that work on cloning, we pretend that global warming is a hoax, and by doing so, we’re pushing the edge of scientific research and activity to other countries. Our current administration is actively squelching research and gagging scientists whose findings it does not politically agree with. That’s how you drive scientists to work in other countries.

In our schools, we’re more concerned with reintroduction of prayer than we are of science. We’re obfuscating science with religious drivel and pseudoscience. This is diverting the attention of our children from what really matters to what religion and government wants them to be concerned with. Religion has always been on the side of stalling scientific advance. Galileo is an example. Darwin is an example. Most climate scientists today are examples.

It will not be long before we have to buy all our renewable energy technology from China, and our ability to grow replacement organs, and get vaccines, and drugs, and reproductive controls, all need to be purchased from foreign sources.

It does not sound to me like we’re making America great. It sounds to me like we’re making it dumb.

[click to enlarge]

For decades, when you drove north on I-5 from San Diego in the spring, you could see the colorful bands of the Carlsbad Flower Fields on the right as you passed Palomar Airport Road. I remember pulling off at that exit, parking by the side of the road, and walking in awe among the endless rows of flowers.

After not stopping for many years, I did last week, and learned that the entire area is now fenced in, and very difficult to see from the road. The picture above I snuck from a parking lot nearby, zooming between two trees and over the fence. Also, the condos in the back weren’t there in the olden days.

What’s worse, to get in, you now have to pay a $14 entry fee at a ticket booth. It’s like at the zoo. There are discounts for seniors and children. Then there are turnstiles to get in, and really, there is no good way to see what’s in there without buying that ticket.

I didn’t buy one.

But I thought I should show you a glimpse of the famous Carlsbad Flower Fields.

Folks, this is what our government is all about. How to make more money for the American cleptocracy that has taken over our government, and the Russian opposition killer king.

The only way to stop them is to stop using oil. We have a ways to go.

Ohio State House

…with a drug prevention rally taking place in front of it.

In eight years under Obama, I never went to bed worrying about some unexpected military escalation. Now I worry every day. Why is that?

It isn’t because Kim Jong Un is all of a sudden crazier than he always was. Trump has just given him more fodder to look more important in the world than he is.

It isn’t because Iran has just gone off the rails. Iran went off the rails in 1979, and many previous presidents, since Reagan, have contained Iran. I believe the “Iran deal” was one of the more stabilizing events in the world and one of the more valuable contributions of Obama. But that’s my subjective opinion. Yet, Tillerson talks about Iran being a new danger.

North Korea is what it’s been since the 1950s. Iran is what it’s been since the 1970s. What changed? The U.S. changed in 2017.

Now Trump is telling us that the world is so dangerous, and we need to spend another $50 billion on weapons, while we cut everything else, including diplomacy. A society’s values are defined by what it spends its money on. Trump has hijacked our country, is telling us that suddenly the world is dangerous, and we need more guns.

I say that the biggest threat to the planet, our way of life, our society, and humanity in general, is the petulant, ignorant, self-absorbed dilettante we have elected into the White House.

We are the problem, not Korea or Iran or ISIS for that matter.

 

This morning I did a quick hike of Iron Mountain in San Diego County. The trailhead is on the intersection of Highway 67 and Poway Road, just east of Poway. There a well-built-out parking lot with bathrooms. On weekends, overflow parking occurs along the highway, and you can find a hundred cars there.

Here is the mountain from the trailhead. As always, you can click on my pictures and zoom.

Iron Mountain from the Trailhead

Where we stand, we are at 1,608 feet of elevation, actually quite high already. The mountain peak is at 2,665 feet. The hike there is about 2.9 miles, so the round-trip is about a 6 mile hike with an elevation change of about 1,000 feet.  I did the full round-trip in about two and a half hours, plus 15 minutes of hanging out on the peak.

The hike gets very busy on weekends. I am sure I passed several hundred people going up and down, so on a good day this mountain sees a lot of traffic. Dogs are allowed, and many people bring their dogs. But worry not, it’s a long trail, and the crowds separate as you get hiking and there are many stretches when you’re completely alone.

It is a good workout, both up and down. Bring about a quart of water per person. It gets hot and dry. Definitely wear sun protection. It is exposed every step of the way.

When you get to the top, you’re rewarded with 360 degree views of San Diego County in all directions.

Here’s looking north. The ridge on the left with the antennas on it is Woodson Mountain, with the famous potato chip rock on it. See my post on it here. The ridge in the back is Palomar Mountain, home of the famed Palomar Observatory. Palomar is 6,138 feet high.

Looking North from the Peak of Iron Mountain

 

Now facing east, we can see the litte nubby of Cuyamaca Peak, at 6,512 feet one of the highest peaks in San Diego County.

Looking East from the Peak of Iron Mountain

 

Looking south, due to the haze we cannot see it in this picture, but downtown San Diego would be on the horizon slightly right of the center of this photograph.

Looking South from the Peak of Iron Mountain

 

And finally, looking west, the haze in the distance is just over the Pacific Ocean. I have been on this mountain around the time of sunset, and depending on the weather, the view is spectacular, and the ocean reflects the sun like a mirror.

Looking West from the Peak of Iron Mountain

 

Here’s looking down to the trailhead and the parking lot. The arrow points to the parking lot and the white stuff are the cars. That is exactly the point from where I took the first picture, showing the entire mountain. You see a good part of the boring section of the trail from the trailhead toward the right, before it starts ascending sharply out of the picture to the right.

Looking to the Trailhead from the Peak of Iron Mountain

 

Here is a picture of the peak at the peak. On a weekend, you’ll find a good two or three dozen people there at any time, having a snack, chatting, taking selfies and of course panoramic photographs like I just did.

On the Peak of Iron Mountain

 

Iron Mountain is a great hike year round and one of the most popular hikes in San Diego. And – it will get you huffing and puffing.

[click for picture credit: Reddit]

I have recommended that people stop flying United. It’s not good for the morale. There are plenty of other airlines that beat their prices, not their customers.

But if you bought your tickets months or even weeks ago, and you can’t get a refund, I recommend that you bring a boxing helmet on board with you. Here is what it looks like on United flights these days.

The CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz, now blames the customer. He said he was belligerent and raised his voice.

No shit!

If the airline had not bumped a paying customer off a flight, I can guarantee you the customer would not have been belligerent.

So, folks, be aware, you can book a flight with United Airlines, and if for any reason they don’t want you on the plane, you’re on your own. If you insist, they have you beaten bloody by airport security. Then it’s your fault. They make you the “bad guy.”

Go ahead, book your travels on United!

Makes for exciting travels!

Watch this video and instantly see why immigration does not change world poverty:

United Airlines overbooked a flight from Chicago to Louisville by four seats. When nobody volunteered to vacate the seats, they announced they needed them for four airline employees for a flight in the morning and they would randomly select four passengers to leave the flight.

Three left. One remaining, a doctor, needed to be in Louisville and refused. They beat him up and dragged him off the plane. Eventually, they let him back on. The flight ended up two hours late.

I might remind you, this is not a criminal or a terrorist. This is a passenger like you and I who paid for a ticket on an airline and just didn’t have the flexibility to arrive at his destination any later than booked.

This is a person like I am every time I fly. It’s not my problem that the airline can’t figure out how to get its employees to their destination. I paid for a ticket. It’s also not my problem that the airline overbooks its flights. I don’t mind paying enough for my ticket to cover the airline’s costs. I never bought into its games. I just bought my tickets.

Watch this video and you’ll see what United Airlines thinks of you as a passenger. I hardly ever fly on United, and now I am reminded why that is.

You have a choice in air travel.

Choose wisely!

I always considered myself a seasoned traveler, one who is not fazed by minor mishaps.

Today I traveled to Montréal from Albany, New York. My flight, get this, went from Albany to Philadelphia, like several hundred miles south, just so I could catch another flight north again, fly right over Albany on my way to Montréal. After waiting around at the airport for a few hours, my first flight was canceled. I was stranded in Albany at 6:00pm, with no way to get there. Since I know it’s “only” 220 miles north, I went over to Avis and rented a car, one way, at a cost similar to what the airline ticket was.

Rather than dozing in cozy airline seats, I found myself on I-87 North driving through the dark Adirondacks in heavy rain. It was not a scenic or relaxing trip.

Americans crossing into Quebec, with limited French skills, are at a disadvantage, and in the age of Trump, I felt that I was interrogated much more vehemently than I remember it being when crossing into Canada in the past. But my story held, and I made it through.

When you drive over that border, there is some level of culture shock. All the signs look strange, and the street names and road numbers are unrecognizable. Distances are now in kilometers. In the dark, in heavy rain, with street markings being alien and the roads pretty crappy, it is outright scary driving into Montréal.

After about 20 kilometers I thought I’d better start figuring out where I needed to go, so I popped out my iPhone and went to Google Maps, as I always do. I asked for the Dorval Airport and it found it. Meanwhile, my phone was texting me like crazy that now I was roaming and it would charge me $2.05 per megabyte unless I answered “Yes” to some text and then it would just be $2 a day. I managed to pull over and do that.

As I got back on the road, I think I waited too long for the proper turnoff, because as I looked down, my map showed this, which had me freeze in panic:

Check this out! There is obviously no left ramp from route 132 onto route 10 outside of Montréal. I got lost, as I progressed following the Google Map directions, pronouncing all the French names, and not finding the turnoffs. It took me some time to figure out what Canadian exit markers looked like, because I kept missing them, making my plight even worse.

Eventually, getting lost at least five times, and getting close to death that many more times, I found the Hilton Garden Inn at the airport. The rain came down in sheets. I found a parking spot. I pulled in. I let out a huge sigh of relief. I stepped out of the car and realized too late that I had parked the car in 6 inches of standing rainwater.

By the time I got to the door of the hotel, my jeans were wet up to the knees and my sneakers were squish-soaked in 38 degree water.

They are now drying on the heater in my room.

Oh, Montréal!

When Joan Baez makes a song about you, you’ve got it made.

Or do you?

You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you…..

— Carly Simon

Ok, here is a poem trending on Reddit this morning. One user recommended to read it while listening to the piece below. Enjoy life!

 

Desiderata – by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

 

We already know how this week’s Neil Gorsuch saga will end: Democrats will filibuster, McConnell and Republicans will change the Senate rules so Gorsuch can be confirmed with 51 votes, and then in late April Gorsuch will take his place on the Supreme Court as one of the most right-wing justices in American history – right up there with Clarence Thomas.

In the meantime, I hope Democrats point out the utter hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell not allowing a vote for 8 months on Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland – a moderate, not an extremist on the Left – on the bizarre theory that a president has no legitimate role nominating a Supreme Court justice during his last year in office.

After that, allowing a vote on the pick of someone whose very legitimacy as president is now being investigated by the FBI is the height of hubris.

All the more reason for us to fight like hell to get the Senate back in 2018, and for Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Steven Breyer to stay healthy.

What do you think?

— Robert Reich

We didn’t allow Garland to be voted on because somehow a president, any president, in his last year in office is not legitimate in appointing a Supreme Court justice?

It’s a no-brainer to me: Trump is now in his last year in office. Why should we allow him to appoint a Supreme Court Justice?

 

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