Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

I noticed that my license plate on my Missouri rental car had a bird on it. That reminded me of Bernie Sanders.

Then, as I sat in my car, I looked outside, and there it was, looking right at me:

As I researched, I found out it’s the Missouri State Bird, the Eastern Blue Bird.

Nature gave me a coincidental treat. It made my day. There is a bird on it!

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Missouri State Capitol

I always enjoy visiting State Capitols as part of my job. Here is Missouri’s Capitol building in Jefferson City.

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Norbert at Sunset on Maui — Picture Credit: Trisha

One of the best things about Hawai’i is that it puts me in my place. I love the islands, and I love even more marveling about them.

The islands are one of the most remote places on earth. It takes six hours by plane from the nearest mainland, California, to get here. There is no land in between. And once here, there is no other land in any direction closer than that. We’re in the middle of the Pacific, as far away from any land as you can get.

As the islands formed, only one new species of animal was added every 10,000 years, since it was so difficult for life to get here. Driftwood carried insects and seeds, and occasional storms carried birds. Of course, that all changed when humans started coming here a thousand years ago.

Whenever I am here, I am struck by how young these islands are compared to geological ages. I can see the youngness in the land, and still, compared to human history, it is ancient.

The Hawaiian islands were formed by a single hot spot under the Pacific that has been spewing lava for tens of millions of years, while the Pacific plate is moving from east to west. The oldest of the islands are toward the east, the biggest one remaining is Kauai. There are older islands west of Kauai, or remainders of islands, all washed back to the sea. Kauai is 5.1 million years old. That’s all. Oahu is 3 million years old. Maui is 1.32 million years old. The Big Island is only 400,000 years old. Proto humans already walked the earth and came out into the savannahs in Africa when the Big Island was formed.

And now, Lo’ihi is an active submarine volcano located about 22 miles off the southeast coast of the Big Island. Its top is now about 3,000 feet below sea level. When it finally reaches the surface, it will be the next Hawaiian island as the other ones slide northeast.  

Maui is called the Valley Isle. There are really two major volcanoes on Maui,  the western side is 5,700 feet high, and Haleakala is 10,000 feet high. The valley between the two mountains is pronounced and very obvious when looking down from either mountain. Driving from ocean to ocean from the north end of the valley to the south end takes only about 20 minutes. Looking at the water lapping at the edge makes me think how the ocean is biting into the land, foot by foot. Every time I drive that stretch I am aware that this land will be under water in the not too distant future. It won’t take many feet of sea level rise before this valley ocean, and Maui becomes two islands. Our descendants will see two islands where I only see one. The only question is, will it be my grandchildren, or will it be another 50,000 years?

To think that all of Haleakala will be washed into the sea, completely gone, in another 10 million years boggles my mind. Ten million years is nothing in geological terms. To wash a 10,000 foot mountain completely into the sea in 10 million years, the rain and wind only has to erode it by 1 foot every 1,000 years. Quite possible.

In my entire lifetime I just got to catch a small glimpse of land being formed in Hawaii, and being washed away. A blink of an eye only. This puts my human lifespan into perspective and lets me understand how long a span of 10 million  years actually is.

Watching time shape Hawaii reminds me of a quote in a John Denver song:  I have to say it now, it’s been good life all in all, it’s really fine to have a chance to hang around.

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On Thursday, I woke up in Syracuse, New York, and traveled back to San Diego (6 hours of flying).

On Saturday, we flew from San Diego to Kahului, Hawai’i (6 hours of flying).

I checked the weather in Syracuse and Maui as we arrived:




I am glad I am not in Syracuse anymore.


Breakfast at the world-famous Kihei Caffe, a real dive by the road, only takes cash, but there is always a line out the door.

All is good. Trisha is scoping out the beach:


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Trump delivered a rambling, boring address to the association of major county sheriffs and major city police chiefs. He spoke like he was addressing a classroom of fifth-graders. Just start at 1:45 and listen to 5:45, where he reads one sentence for a full four minutes.

Unfortunately, there are no views of the audience, but I expect there was much internal eye-rolling and disbelief about who stood in front of them and what he was talking about. I certainly would have felt awkward sitting in a room of sheriffs listening to this rambling buffoon.

But then, scroll down the YouTube comments and find statements like this:

Trump will be the greatest President of our time…he is so clear and concise, this make big difference between him and all those liar politician, who never kept a single promise..woooo, what a beginning of great days in America…i start to feel safe already…shake them…all the rats will come out of their hole..😂😂😂😂😂😂

— Golden eagle

Or here is another one:

The vermin are united in their hatred of the White man. The mask had been slipping for a long time. With Donald Trump it’s come off completely.

— HerzWatIThink

What is this man even talking about?

I am baffled by this. Listen to Trump’s speech above, if you can without falling asleep about half-way through, and then tell me he is clear and concise!

Our president is an embarrassment.

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Our so-called president uses bully tactics and fear-mongering to get his way.

Here he talks about how many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country.

In a country, where more people were killed in 2016 by toddlers with guns than by terrorists, I have to say that the danger of being killed by a terrorist in my mind is about the same as the danger of being hit by lightning or, in deference to Betsy DeVos, the same as the danger of being mauled by a grizzly bear.

Checking monthly tourism statistics, I found a chart that shows the number of non-residents entering the United States in the first 7 months of 2016 (through July):

non-residents-enteringThis shows  there were over 21 million people who “poured into our country” and I am sure a few of them were “bad hombres.”

770,388 came from the Middle East, and another 308,658 from Africa during that period.

The only United States terrorist attack during that period that I remember was the San Bernardino bombing, and that was perpetrated by a couple that lived and worked in the United States.

No travel ban would have stopped them.

What Trump is doing here is fear-mongering for the ultimate end of grabbing political power for himself. It’s right out of the playbook for dictators. Keep the people in a fear frenzy.

How do they expect us to treat them with any respect?

Don’t we ever learn?

And that’s my rant today about our so-called president.

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I am here with a co-worker in front of the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.


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Chicago O’Hare Fire

12:00 noon today: I got on my American Airlines plane at Chicago O’Hare to San Diego.

02:30 pm today: American Airlines flight taking off from O’Hare to Miami catches on fire halfway down the runway.

I always sit in the exit row. It gives new meaning to paying attention when the flight attendants show you how to operate the doors.

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No Shoes and No Fire


We were looking for a fun place to rent a house up north for Thanksgiving. We found a candidate on Airbnb in Sonoma. It had huge trees outside. It looked great from a distance.

Then we saw the rules:

— No shoes in the house

— No fires in the fireplace

Who wants a cabin in the woods with no shoes and no fire?

Continue looking.

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San Diego – All Of It


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Visit to the Queen Mary

Last weekend, Trisha treated me to a night on the Queen Mary. The great ship served from 1936 to 1939 as a luxury liner, then from 1939 to 1945 as a troop carrier, at one time setting an all-time record of ferrying more than 16,000 soldiers across the Atlantic in one voyage. Then from 1946 to the early 1960s, she served again as a cruise ship. However, by then the jet age had taken away the market, and oceanliners were no longer profitable. She was sold to the City of Long Beach in 1967 for scrap value. For the past 49 years, the longest segment of its life, she has served as a hotel, museum, and event venue.

We had a marvelous time and I learned a lot about the history of the ship. Now I want to go on a cruise on the Queen Mary 2, which is still roaming the world’s oceans as a cruise ship.


She sits majestically in the harbor of Long Beach, California.


Here we are at the very stern of the ship. Ten more steps and we’d fall off the back end, sort of like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic just before it disappeared.


And finally, the view out of the open window of our stateroom.

I read up on the ship, and particularly its endless history of success and failure in Long Beach in this Wikipedia Article.

I highly recommend a visit and a night on the Queen Mary. It’s an adventure into history.

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The distance between the two “great” cities of Russia, Moscow and St. Petersburg is over 700 kilometers, which is about the distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco. In a modern car, the trip takes about 9 hours. In an express train, just under 6. It’s an hour’s flight, not counting going to and coming from the airport.

During the time Tolstoy’s War and Peace takes place, the Napoleonic Wars, in 1812, there were no planes, trains or automobiles. The majority of people had to walk. At a pace of 5 km per hour, the trip would take 140 hours. If you could walk 10 hours every day, it would take two weeks one way. Obviously, only the rich were able to do it.

In the winter, they traveled by horse-drawn sleigh. In the summer, by carriage. If you owned your own carriage, and the four or six horses it needed, you could possibly travel perhaps 10 km per hour, for maybe eight hours a day. That means the trip took about nine days, each way. If you used a stage-coach, where horses are changed out periodically, you could do it a bit faster.

Regardless of the cost and the incredible discomforts of going over rugged roads in a carriage, all day, every day, you needed to find lodging every night and places to eat along the way every day. You also could not travel alone. You needed footmen to help with the carriage and drive the horses. You needed servants to make the arrangements. They all had to travel with you. They all had to eat and sleep every day. The cost of travel must have been enormous.

In War and Peace, the gentry does a lot of traveling between the “two capitals” St. Petersburg and Moscow. Tolstoy just casually mentions that so-and-so “went to St. Petersburg” for a few weeks. He takes it for granted that we know all this.

And today, sometimes I travel from California to New York for a meeting and spend one night there. And this is the difference 200 years of modern advances makes.


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Trisha decided she is going to go on a five-day dog sledding trip in Northern Minnesota in February. This is the same badass woman who went for a cattle drive some years ago: description here. I have opted out of both adventures. Exposure to large domestic animals being controlled by the minds of humans in wilderness situations are not on my list of things I need to do before I die. The inverse is more true. So she is going with another female badass friend. I am proud of them both.

But I insisted that she read The Call of the Wild first. There is no way I will let her go on a dog sledding adventure without having read that book first. I threatened to chain her to the steel railing in our house until the read the book.

Heeding my threat, she just downloaded it onto her Kindle.

There is a Call of the Wild in our house.

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On Friday I was in downtown New York and had a couple of extra hours available. I visited the World Trade Center and went to the Observatory on the 100th to the 102nd floor. You can enlarge all the photographs below by clicking on them.

Tickets to the top for adults are $32. Lines can form very quickly. It’s best to come early. Even when it’s not busy, plan on spending an hour from lining up to getting to the observation platform. But the visit is well worth it.

One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the United States with 1,776 feet, including the antenna on top. It is the 4th tallest building in the world.

Below is the view due north toward the Empire State Building and all of uptown.

To the right behind the Empire State Building you can see a thin white “stick.” This is the recently completed building at 432 Park Avenue, which at a height of 1,396 feet is the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere and the second tallest building in New York City, behind One World Trade Center, and ahead of the Empire State Building. When measured by roof height, however, 432 Park Avenue is the tallest building in New York City, surpassing One World Trade Center by 28 feet.

View Uptown
Here is what it looks like inside on the 100th floor.

100th Floor

Here is a view of the Woolworth Building (green roof in center) which was the highest building in New York in 1913 at 792 feet. The top 30 floors are now luxury condominiums going for $3000 a square foot. Behind you can see the Brooklyn Bridge.

Woolworth Bldg and Booklyn Bridge

Here is the view toward the financial district, with Wall Street being right in the middle of the picture. The black slab in the front left is the Millenium Hilton which was right next to the twin towers when they fell.

Wall Street

This photo is straight down looking east. The ribbed structure on the bottom is part of the 9/11 Memorial. It’s huge looking up at it from the street level. Here it is hardly visible. The blue structure on the right with the cranes is one of the new World Trade Center buildings still under construction. You can also see the park and the roof of St. Paul’s chapel in the center of the picture, to the left of the black slab of the Millenium Hilton.

9-11 Memorial

Below another view of the Memorial with the two new towers till under construction. The quality of this photograph is poor, since the morning sun reflected brightly on the glass pane in this view. But when you look carefully you can see the rectangular reflection pool which is exactly where the south tower stood. The other pool is closer to the building and therefore is not visible from the top.

Looking down on Reflection Pool

Looking south, there is the Statue of Liberty in the center, and Ellis Island slightly closer on the right.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

After I came down from the top, I went to the reflection pool that I just pointed out in one of the above pictures and stood for a while and “reflected.” On the left side of the picture in the back you can see the massive base of One World Trade Center where I just was.

Reflection Pool

One last look up. I was just on the very top of that building, looking down and taking all these pictures.

Looking Up

I can definitely recommend a visit to the World Trade Center. If you want to visit the museum, the observatory and spend some time reflecting, you had better plan on spending an entire day there. Or break it up into several different visits.




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A Parting View: Good Bye Montana

A Parting View

Yesterday morning I took a parting view picture from the backyard of the house where we stayed. Good bye, Montana!

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