Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cultural Finds

South Burlington, VT

I imagine a future archeologist discovering this packet that I found today at the airport.  It is very revealing about the differences between American and India culturally.

The packet appears to be from an Indian Student from Indian Institute of Technology Guahati.  There is a note pad form Stowflake Resort and Conference Center in Stowe VT, so the student probably went to a conference there.

In addition to the pad are:

  • A pouch saying "My Clear Bag"
  • A pen
  • A stapler
  • A box of staples
  • A package of paper clips
  • Two large sheets of tracing paper (I haven't seen tracing paper since my own time in school.)
  • A tube of mosquito repellent
  • A package of mosquito repellent incense.
  • A bar of soap that says "germ protection + Insta Deo"
  • Copies of a form saying "Supplementary Answer Sheet"
I'll turn it in to lost and found, but I thought you might be as interested as I what an Indian student carries as he travels internationally.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Revolution Fizzled Out Already

South Burlington, VT

In June I posted Election or Revolution? making the argument that Trump's supporters were actually attempting to make a non-violent non-organized revolution against the US Federal Government.  I said that the revolution was likely to fail.

Now, with the Republican Convention over, I say that the revolution has already failed.  One of its prime goals was to split and destroy the Republican Party.  That didn't happen this week.

But I can't help to prognosticate some more.  (Why not?  Bloggers don't have to ask anyone for permission to say what they think.)  I don't know who will win Trump or Clinton.  I don't know how I or Libby will vote.  However:

  1. If Trump wins, the immediate reaction will be regret and a feeling by Trump's supporters that they reached too far.  I compare it to the Brexit vote in that way.  Longer term, everyone will try to limit what Trump does.   But four years from now, a liberal democrat will be virtually guaranteed to win a presidential race.  The country will swing left for generations.  It will be historic.
  2. If Clinton wins, the angry people will become angrier.  The next time a surge in anti-government anger coincides with a national election, the angry people could say, "We tried working within the system with Trump.  That didn't work.  Violence is the way."   The word civil war sounds extreme, but something coming close to that could happen.
In last night's acceptance speech, Trump did say one thing that could greatly mitigate the anti-Trump emotions should he win.  He talked about government screwing the people.   Suppose that as President, he used the power of executive orders to squash the worst behavior of federal employees?  That would be wildly popular.    For just one example, think of the IRS.   The President could say to IRS, "Any rule that you can not explain properly over the public telephone hot line, you may not enforce.  You shall not collect any taxes based on rules that the man in the street can not understand."  Actions like that would be wildly popular, and it could change many people's opinions of Trump.

If the Supreme Court upholds Obama's executive orders on immigration, it would pave the way for hundreds of executive orders by the next President circumventing Congress.  

"We live in interesting times."  Unfortunately (fortunately?) for me, most of the consequences of 2016 will occur after I'm gone.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Never Thought About That

Middlebury, Vermont

On the way to Woodstock, we stopped at an overlook site to take a picture.  Overlooks on Vermont highways are rare.

Reading the sign, we learned that the cliff you see in the picture on Mount Horrid, is very special.  It is nearly the only south facing rock cliff in the state.

First of all, it is true that Vermont's mountains have fewer bare rock cliffs than New York's Adirondacks or New Hampshires White Mountains.  But I never stopped to think about how many of those face which direction.   Vermont's mountains are dominated by nouth-south ridges, so their slopes face mostly east-west.

Second, what difference does the direction make?  A big difference it turns out, but it was not obvious to me.  South facing cliffs are warmed by the sun.  That makes them perfect temperature for brooding eggs, as well as offering protection from predators who can't reach the nests.

This particular cliff features perigrine falcons.  Aha!  Now I understand.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hidden Right Under Our Nose

Woodstock, VT

Do you know about, Marsh - Billings - RockefellerNational Historical Park in Woodstock, Vermont?   We didn't either.  When we got there, the ranger said that most people from Vermont and New Hampshire also didn't know about it.  Even the neighbors from Woodstock didn't know it was there.  Now that's a good open secret.

Anyhow, the buildings, the grounds and the gardens are jewels.  They rival Shelburne Farms (which was a contemporary development with this one.)  Admission is free.  So if you're ever near this place, allow a few hours for a visit.  You'll enjoy it.

Below is a little photo animation from our tours today of the mansion and the gardens.

By the way, I think Google Photos sucks.  There are many things the old Picassa did well, that Google Photos does poorly or not at all.  This photo animation whose speed I can't control is an example.   

To see a much better slideshow of these pictures, click here.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

What is the Message?

South Burlington, VT

I previously posted this picture from BTV.  They changed the sign from "Family Restroom" to "Gender Neutral".  It is a third choice after Men and Women.  It also seems to retract the multiple occupancy implied by the former FAMILY sign.

Now, here is a second and worse example from Perkins Pier in Burlington.  They added this decal sign below the MENs room sign.  But the second photo shows that the WOMENs room is still reserved for women only.   How is that different from North Carolina?  Will Burlington have an ID officer with rubber gloves ready to certify the gender of people wanting to use the women's room?

Ridiculous.  Worse, by making transgenders choose a third kind of room, that singles them out.  It is like wearing a scarlet letter. The only truly neutral choice for labeling all restrooms is the simple sign RESTROOM.

Also ridiculous is the almost total absence in the press accounts about the more difficult part of that infamous North Carolina law; locker rooms and showers.   Why?  Because I believe that almost all of us can agree that there is nothing wrong with unisex rest rooms, but when it comes to changing rooms and showers, the majority holds the opposite view.   When will we allow high school boys to shower with the girls if they want to do so?  Answer: not in my lifetime.

So where do transgenders change and shower?  That question has no simple answer, no discrimination intended.  If we push that question to the limit, the only possible universal solution is to remodel our buildings to make private single occupant unisex changing/shower rooms.  Then the signs on the door can say simply SHOWER.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Peril of Cyber Security

South Burlington, VT

I started this morning reading in the news about some man, a frequent blogger like me, whose Google account vanished overnight.  He lost his whole blog archive as well as his email archive and gmail archive.  HORRORS!  What a terrible thought.

I've worried about this possibility from the start.  I'm more careful with backups, and I've thought trough (and rejected) a DIY solution with my own domain and software.

I use Google's facilities to export my blog archive every 2-3 months.  That's my blog backup.

I use a third party app to backup my gmail.  I use Verizon to back up my address book.

But reading that article reminded me that it has been a while since running my gmail backup.  So I fired it up.   Well, it didn't work.  It said that it couldn't log in.  Soon after, I got this email from Google.

Hi Dick,
Someone just tried to sign in to your Google Account from an app that doesn't meet modern security standards.

We strongly recommend that you use a secure app, like Gmail, to access your account. All apps made by Google meet these security standards. Using a less secure app, on the other hand, could leave your account vulnerable. Learn more.

Google stopped this sign-in attempt, but you should review your recently used devices:

Now for the scary part.  I found that Google logged me out from all my devices.  That raises the possibility that attempting to back up my data could result in Google thinking that I'm a hacker and deleting my accounts.  An attempt to be careful might backfire and produce the disaster I'm trying to avoid.  Oh my aching head.

Surviving in this modern world with cyber security is not easy.

p.s. After posting this blog, I'm going to search for a new method of backing up my gmail.   Google lets me export my blog and my contacts.  I need something for the mail.

p.p.s.  Google Takeout may be my answer.  I'll let you know.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Grandparent's Side Trip

Old Forge, NY

We took a side trip to see our Grandson Nick.  Nick is on leave from the Army, and recently returned from an overseas deployment.  

We found a camp site at Nick's Lake (LOL the name is a coincidence).   Nick and I, then Libby and Nick paddled around the lake.  It was a beautiful day, and the lake is beautiful.   We watched and listened as massive thunderstorms built in the sky.  But thanks to technology, I could see that the two storms would not pass our way.  Sure enough neither storm came within 30 miles of us.

Bonus, our meeting point with Nick was the Subway in Old Forge.  Guess what?  Our granddaughter Katelyn got her first summer job there, so we got to get a hug from her also.

In the evening, Libby and I sat by the camp fire and listened to the thunder from storms down near Oneida, NY about 50 miles away.  It is remarkable how calmly we react to storms while on land, as comparted to at sea.  When you see a thunderstorm at sea, it wakens feelings of dread.   Even though we've weathered many such storms on Tarwathie, and we are confident in her and us, we still feel apprehension and dread as one approaches.

I have no trouble finding our car in parking lots after the canoe's new paint job.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Our Friend Charlie R.I.P.

South Burlington, VT

We have met some great people while waiting out storms at the NC Welcome Center on the Dismal Swamp Canal.  Two such great people were Charlie and Mary, from Amelia Island Florida.   The four of us hit it off right away.  Charlie was an avid sailor, Mary was a bit reluctant about cruising, but she did it anyhow.

Ever since then, we always visited with Charlie and Mary when we passed through Fernandina Beach once or twice per year.  It was one of the high points   I especially like talking with Charlie because, like me, he was a thinker.

I got a very sad call from Mary this morning.  Charlie passed away last month.

Youi know, we all pass through phases in a lifetime.  Many of us share pretty common experiences with the phases.  Childhood, puberty, HS, college, marriage, children, career, home ownership, middle age, grandchildren, senior status, retirement.  I'm not sure hew to feel about the phase staring us in the face.

On one hand, we are both fortunate to enjoy better than average health, and our delightful life style as cruisers.   On the other hand, the effects of age grow ever stronger, and we face the prospect of receiving news of the death of many of our contemporary friends.

Here's one way to look at it.  107 billion people in the history of the world have grown old and died ahead of us.  We are not likely to invent a novel approach.

I think we'll just count our blessings, and enjoy life as much as possible while we can.  :-)

Friday, July 08, 2016

Hello Burlington. Anybody Down There?

South Burlington, VT

The roof garden of the parking garage at Burlington Airport (BTV) gives an excellent view of almost the whole field, and of the control tower and of the air traffic control building. Soon after 8 AM on July 8, I was up there to witness some F16s about to take off.


Then, something unusual happened. Three fire trucks with lights and sirens came from the airports fire station. They crossed the field, and then to my surprise they drove out to the street and stopped directly in front of the FAA building housing air traffic control and the control tower. Firemen wearing air masks rushed in the front door. Then I looked up. Horrors, there was nobody in the control tower. Then I realized that the whole building must have been evacuated. What would happen with all those airplanes?


I turned on my phone app that lets me listen to the airport radio traffic. I could hear lots of pilots confused because they were getting no response to their radio calls. The tower, ground control, the automated weather data, Burlington departure, Burlington approach, and Burlington Radio (which talks to pilots between cities). None of them were answering. It must have been spooky for those pilots in the sky.


After 10 minutes, I did hear someone on 118.3 (the common traffic advisory frequency) who was answering the planes and telling them that BTV tower and ATC were not operational, and that they should contact Boston Center (the nearest duplicate of Burlington's ATC services). That someone must have been on a backup radio located in another building. His transmissions were scratchy, but they got through.


Meanwhile, there were eight F16s running their engines waiting at the far end of runway 33 for clearance to take off. I thought that F16s waited for no man; wrong. A few other brave (foolish?) planes taxied to the runway without permission.


Wow I thought, this must be a contingency that the FAA people plan for and practise via drills. It is certainly complicated to leave a whole sector of America's airspace suddenly deprived of air traffic control. I thought that it was going pretty well. Sure there was confusion, but there was no chaos. The planes waiting for takeoff just waited. The planes looking for clearances looked up the phone number of Boston Center and started calling them directly.


But the system did have one flaw that should have been caught in practice drills. I heard the tower backup radio man say that Boston Center was uneasy giving out clearances by phone, so they refused.


After a while, all the pilots on the ground and in the air understood what was happening. An approaching United Airlines Airbus 320 announced to any one listening that he was coming in to land without permission from ATC. That makes sense, planes in the air have priority over planes on the ground. The pilots just reverted to the procedures applicable to tiny uncontrolled airports with no ATC and no tower.


The airbus landed, and soon after another United DC9 landed. I noted with surprise that both landings were poor. Both touched down a half mile further down the runway than planes normally do. The airbus deployed his thrust reversers even before the nose wheel touched the ground. That is certainly not normal. The DC9 flared so drastically just before touchdown that I feared that his tail would strike the tarmac. I wondered why lack of ATC would make landings poorer. Then I realized that these pilots would not have up to date information about barometric pressure needed to determine altitude. Information is important and lack of information has consequences.


Around 9:15, people reappeared in the control tower, and the firemen packed up. In another five minutes the tower was back in operation, and in another 12 minutes the full Burlington ATC was back in operation. I tried to imagine the complexity of restoring control after an outage.


By 9:30 the F16s were in the air and the incident was over. Kudos to the FAA people at Burlington. I think they handled it smoothly. The benefits of their training and practice were evident. I wonder if pilots practice loss of ATC and tower control when landing their simulators at major airports.

My view of the tower. Fire trucks in front.
F16s lined up and waiting.



Thursday, July 07, 2016

Superfly Exists?

Middlebury, VT

The black flies in NY's Adirondack Mountains are legendary.   They drive away all but the most determined outdoors men in late spring and early summer.   I must say that I know them only by reputation, because I avoided those places in black fly season specifically because of those stories.

p.s. One great sounding tip I heard was to wrap fly paper around your neck and your hat when trekking in The Adirondacks in fly season.  Those nasties always buzz your head and neck first before biting, and they get trapped.

Their cousin black flies in VT's Green Mountains are also very pesky, but they aren't so aggressive.  We had plenty of them in our Moosalamoo camp site the past two nights.  But non-aggressive does not apply not tough.

One such fly made the mistake of landing on the arm of my canvas chair.  WHAM I smashed him full force with my hat.  He fell over dead into the cup holder.   But after a minute he revived and flew away.  Very impressive. I imagined him lying there saying "Oh my freaking head." just like Superfly in this old-time video by Joe Cartoon (very funny)

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

False Modesty

Middlebury, VT
Nancy and Karl threw a small BBQ backyard party while we were there last Saturday. When Nan's friends asked where we were from, I said, "We are Nan's disreputable relatives who live on a boat. We are homeless nomads."
But of course that modesty was false. We are proud of our crusing life. Besides, at a party that makes us interesting and exotic people. That's a positive. If you are considering cruising, count that as a plus.
It is certainly better than my answer when asked what my profession is. I say, "power engineer." That is usually a conversation stopper. I almost never get follow-up questions on power. Frankly, that is a bit insulting.
Our recent itinerary has been pretty busy. Thursday in Portsmouth, NH. Friday-Saturday in Melrose. MA just outside of Boston and near my birthplace. Sunday, back at Jens. Monday, lots of projects. Today we were just about to depart for Valcour Island once again, when I rechecked the weather. The weather report changed a lot since yesterday's forecast, and we could have stayed only one day on the island.
So as plan B, we are camped in Moosalamoo, part of Green Mountain National Forest. It's nice, but nothing is as nice as Valcour.