Aug 12

Commentation

Posted by Simon

Commentation

We were in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for a few days on our road trip.  (See the daily photos on my facebook page.)  We took a hike one day in one of the city parks that borders the lake and we overheard a young lady say: “So I posted it and right away there was a lot of commentation.”  I knew immediately that I had heard a new word and that it is useful new word.

Since then I have had to defend the word against the word conservatives who say that “commentary” means the same thing.  But it doesn’t.  Commentary is organized and on topic.  “Commentation” is free form and disorganized.  Commentary is marching.  Commentation is rambling. Commentary is letters to the editor.  Commentation is social media.

Embrace this word:

Commentation

Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Your commentation is welcome.

 

Dec 30

Better Buffets

Posted by Simon

On the breakfast tables in the hotels we stayed at in Italy they had very small trash cans.  These turned out to be very useful.  Breakfast was served buffet style and we invariably ended up with trash.  Yogurt containers, butter wrappers, banana peels, the piece of toast you dropped and much more.  It was very convenient to have a place on the table to put all of it.

We don’t do that in the USA. Yet.  But it is an opportunity for someone.  They were about the size of a kids beach pail and varied in design.  The perfect one would have the the establishments name on it.

I failed to get a picture of this innovation transfer idea but I have sprinkled this post with pictures of restaurants in Italy to whet your appetite if not your interest.

Aug 12

June Lake

Posted by Simon

Last week we spent four days at June Lake with the Rotters, Carltons and others.

Flickr Album Here

June Mountain from the cabin at dawn

It was a beautiful stay.  We managed to get in three hikes.

Lundy Canyon

At Whitney Portal with Nurit we hiked a few mile miles up the famous Mt Whitney Trail.

Nurit at the first stream crossing.

Carmela and Ben Rotter hiked with me to the top of Mono Pass (started near Tom’s Place) and beyond.  About 11 miles and 3600 ft of elevation gain.

Does Mono Pass look lunar?

And finally Howard R, Nurit and I hiked 4 miles in Lundy Canyon (just north of Lee Vining).  It is a beautiful valley with beaver dams, waterfalls everywhere, old log cabin and the ruins of mines.  A great hike.

One of the falls in Lundy Canyon

Bonus Photo Simon at a Beaver dam

Jan 28

Carnegie Libraries

Posted by Simon

On our drive from Santa Fe to visit the Pecos Pueblo we visited the Carnegie Library in Las Vegas, New Mexico.  It was Sunday so the library was closed but as we drove up the sky cleared and I got this great photo.

Yes it was designed as a copy of Monticello.  The building of the Carnegie Libraries was an amazing thing.  It seems that someone like Stephen Fried who wrote Appetite for America about Fred Harvey and the Harvey Houses could do a great job telling the Carnegie Library story and sell a lot of books.

From the Wikipedia article: ” 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929″

When in Las Vegas NM eat at Charlies Spic & Span.  They have excellent Sopapillas and even better freshly made flour tortillas.

Aug 13

Top Ten Tourist Icons

Posted by Simon

This is a little diversion to list what you think are the top ten tourist icons in the world.  in other words what are the most recognizable places in the world.  The Statue of Liberty is an example.

Criteria:

  • One minute time limit (don’t over think)
  • Unquestionable location recognizable by a large numbers of people
  • Human-made
  • Make your own list first and them insert it in the comments below and read the other list there.

It all started when I saw a claim at the Brandenburg Gate that it was “one of the top ten tourist icons” and I wrote the claim on a postcard.  People answered.  Now I want to see your list.

No In-N-Out Burger is not one of them.

Nor are icons like McDonalds and Nike. (they are not location specific)

Machu Pichu?

Give it a minute and compare your answers below.

Aug 3

Time as a Monopoly

Posted by Simon

Every medieval town we saw on our European trip had a cathedral and a clock tower.  In one of the towns, probably Bern, I realized that time used to be a monopoly of the church.  They had the bell in the church steeple and since nobody had a clock when the priest pulled the bell to signal that it was noon, it was noon.  It was until the late medieval era when civic governments got clocks and towers to put them in that the church lost its monopoly.  Interesting.  What monopolies exist today in the background that we don’t see because they are part of the fabric of our society?

If your interested in the beginning of the Renaissance read The Swerve  by Steven Greenblatt a nonfiction account of the rediscovery of Lucretius that reads like fiction.

One more time question if you have time: Why does an hour have sixty minutes around the world?  We use different languages distance and weight measures but time measurements seem to be universal.  Why?

Aug 1

Early Government

Posted by Simon

In Rothenburg, Bavaria we were surrounded by evidence of the beginnings of the city state.  I wrote the other day about the consequences of compulsory taxes for defense.  Another early function of government was to try and make the marketplace fair.  In Rothenburg we saw two evidences of attempts to have a fair market.  The first was that they had standard measuring rods on the outside wall of the City Hall.

The second was a dunking cage for bakers and millers who didn’t give fair weight.

 

Seeing these artifacts raised two questions.  What was the states interest in having standard weighs and measures? Where has this nascent regulation led us?

The answer to the first is that if the marketplace is fair, more people will participate and prosperity will increase.  A common and an individual good comes from a government intervention.

The answer to the second is that we are now surrounded by regulation.  Most of which are not about fairness in the marketplace but about the governments idea of what is the common good.  I would offer as exhibits of this behavior: plastic bag bans and minimum wage laws.  But where do we draw the line.  That is what politics is about.

A teaser for Friday: Time is on my mind.  Did you know it used to be a monopoly.

In Rothenburg we had a great English guided tour run by Claudia Koller-Lindner.  Go to the tourist information for the daily group tour at 2 pm or email her at claulinni@gmx.de to arrange a private tour.

Claudia our terrific guide is the one on the right.

She’s in the stocks for undercharging for tours

 

Jul 28

Yosemite is Beautiful

The Jungfrau is Beautiful

Yosemite is a National Park owned by the all of the citizens of the USA.

The Jungfrau* area is mostly privately owned land apparently with relatively good zoning.

The Jungfrau is a high alpine region sculpted by ancient glaciers.

Yosemite is a high alpine region sculpted by ancient glaciers.

Most of Yosemite is accessible only to those hardy enough to be able to pack their supplies with them.

The Jungfrau is perforated with small railways and ski lifts.  Every few hours walk along most trails there are inns, restaurants and bars.  It is accessible to many more people.

In the USA we act as if the only way to preserve natural environments is through common (government) ownership and control.

In Switzerland they don’t trust their government and its officials enough to even consider that an option.

Yosemite has beautiful waterfalls.

The Jungfrau region has beautiful waterfalls.

Want to think more about this alternative way of preserving nature?

Read The Rambunctious Garden by Emma Marris or Swiss Watching by Diccon Bewes

* The Jungfrau is the area of the Swiss Alps accessible through Interlaken.  The three main peaks are the Jungfrau, The Monch and the Eiger.  The three main towns are Lauterbrunnen, which is about where Yosemite Valley is, Wengen which is about where Toulome Meadows is and Murren where we stayed which is about where Glacier Point is.  I suggest that a small town at Glacier Point would be a positive thing.

See more pictures from our hiking in Switzerland.

Jul 27

Hiking in Switzerland

Posted by Simon

Nurit and I did go hiking in Switzerland for my 65th birthday and we did have two days of perfect weather.  On the rest of the days the weather was not so perfect but we still had fun and learned a lot.

On the good days we walked on beautiful trails surrounded by wild flowers with the high Alps in the background.

It was really amazing, like walking in post cards. 

Thanks to Alpine Adventures for their organizing ability and to all of the other hikers who shared the trip with us.  Special thanks to the guides Ron, Janet and Jim.  Tomorrow a comparison of Yosemite National Park and the Jungfrau region.

Fifty Photos on Flickr

Alliteration is always free

 

Jul 25

While traveling on the lifts and trains in Switzerland we met some young men who were base jumpers.  It is a sport in which you jump off a cliff and free fall for a few seconds then release a parachute. For those of you not familiar with this seemingly irrational behavior there is more on Wikipedia.  The few base jumpers we met were handsome, virile young men from middle class backgrounds.  The question raised in our minds was: “Why do they do it?  They have about a one in fifty chance of dying!”

Base jumping is regulated behavior in Switzerland

The only answer I could think of was that they are base jumping for the same reason that other young men join gangs, deal drugs or drive cars too fast.  They have a genetic urge to be virile, to tempt fate.  They want risk.  It seems to me that a successful society should allow young people space for this risky behavior.  The ideal space will be one in which they risk their lives without putting anyone else in danger.  So, by my criteria base jumping is a good sport. Drug dealing is not so good because it risks the lives of others.  Street racing is bad but NHRA racing is a good.

A perfect base jumping cliff

 

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