Panama Canal and Climate Change

I returned to the Panama Canal last month after a 20-year absence (my previous trip inspired by reading Path Between the Seas). The Panamanians voted in 2006 to take on $billions in debt to expand the canal (nobody explained to them that proper governance means that $trillions can be borrowed without a vote) and the new locks were finished in 2016. Agua Clara:

The Panamanians like to highlight their environmentalist credentials, noting that using the canal saves our planet by making transportation less energy-intensive (compared to going around Cape Horn). Here are the Italian-made gates (up to 4,200 tons):

The canal, whose operation can yield more than $1 million per ship for the largest container ships, has made Panamanians the world’s only sincere environmentalists. They preserve the rainforest because they believe that cutting down all of the trees will result in reduced rainfall and, therefore, reduced opportunity to operate the canal (each operation of the locks costs fresh water, a limited resource).

I wonder if there is another climate change angle to the Panama Canal. If indeed our beloved Earth is going “full Venus” in 50-100 years due to CO2 we will need geoengineering to reverse the process, perhaps some combination of reducing new CO2 emissions, capturing existing CO2 in the atmosphere, and shading our home from the sun. The climate change alarmists say that the time to act is right now using the money and technology that we have in 2023. The French took this approach in 1881. Ferdinand de Lesseps, the hero of the Suez Canal and the husband of Louise-Hélène Autard de Bragard (43 years his junior), raised money and started digging. They wasted $287 million and 22,000 lives over 8 years before giving up in 1889. The Americans started around 1906 and finished ahead of schedule in 1914. Path Between the Seas attributes most of the Americans’ success to improvements in mining machinery during the intervening 20 years.

Maybe advanced humans will look back from the 2060s and laugh at the puny humans of the 2020s attempting to do geoengineering.

Separately, if we do master geoengineering will we keep cooling the earth until sea level is 10′ below its current level? The most valuable land is in coastal cities. Lowering sea level just a bit would add a tremendous amount of wealth to the world’s richest and most influential people. It would be like Battery Park City in every coastal city all around the world (on the ship that brought us to Panama we met a gal who is fully trained as an attorney, but hasn’t yoked herself to a law firm yet because she is the indirect beneficiary of a 30-year affordable housing contract in which a two-bedroom apartment in Battery Park City with a market value of $5,000/month is leased out for $1,000/month).

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Book review: Walking the Americas

To prepare for our own adventurous journey to Colombia, a friend and I listened to Walking the Americas, by Levison Wood, a British Army veteran. Mr. Wood starts farther south than we did, but is handicapped by not having any assistance from Royal Caribbean. Without a boat, Mr. Wood will have to push through the notoriously challenging Darien Gap. Today we tend to think that this term refers to a “gap” in the highway that would otherwise connect Alaska to Argentina. One of the locals interviewed in the book says that the name refers to a gap in the mountains that made it easier to travel through from Atlantic to Pacific than through other parts of Panama.

Mr. Wood’s companion is Alberto, a 42-year-old Mexican fashion photographer who often says “chinga”. Alberto was ready for a distraction in 2016 because he’d recently been targeted in Mexican family court by his wife of one year, availing herself of the then-new no-fault divorce law to obtain a free house after a one-year marriage. From “Do changes in divorce legislation have an impact on divorce rates? The case of unilateral divorce in Mexico” (Aguirre 2019; Latin American Economic Review):

In 2008, Mexico City was the first entity to approve unilateral divorce in Mexico. Since then, 17 states out of 31 have also moved to eliminate fault-based divorce. … The results indicate that divorce on no grounds accounts for a 26.4% increase in the total number of divorces in the adopting states during the period 2009–2015. … Unilateral legislation has proved to be an effective tool in modifying family structures in Mexico…

Alberto’s achievement in walking from Merida, Yucatan to Colombia is more impressive than the author’s. Alberto was not writing a book and was not a former paratrooper.

The Darien Gap turns out not to be all that challenging for our heroes. They have enough connections to get the Panamanian authorities to bless the expedition. They hire Emberá and Kuna Indians as porters and guides (I visited these folks about 20 years ago via Robinson R22 helicopter from the local flight school). But the rest of the book features plenty of challenges, e.g., hiking to 12,536′ to the top of Cerro Chirripó, Costa Rica’s highest peak and walking through gang-held areas of San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

The author points out that Central America’s population is 4X what it was a few decades ago and, in his opinion, this is the principal explanation for the region’s poverty.

The migrants whom the walkers encounter are from Africa, Haiti, Nepal, and Pakistan and have typically entered the Americas by flying to Brazil. The Panamanian authorities explain that, after arresting migrants, they will typically assist them in reaching the United States by transporting them to the border with Costa Rica. This gets the migrants out of Panama, which does not want them, and is cheaper than deportation (Panama pays for some bus rides instead of paying for plane tickets back across the Atlantic).

Here are some of the animals that we saw while walking through the Colombian jungle (at the cruise port in Cartagena). Warning: the toucans are friendly, but one of them likes to bite sneakers and it hurts!

The book lends itself well to the audio format and the narrator is convincingly British. I recommend Walking the Americas to anyone planning a journey to or through Central America. Separately, if you want to see a restored Spanish colonial town and a lot of beautiful nature, I recommend the UNESCO World Heritage site of the old city within Panama City and then do your nature excursions in Panama, which is much wealthier and better developed than other nations in the region. They don’t promote tourism as much as the Costa Ricans do because any time they need $1 million they can let a big container ship through the new locks. Cartagena is jammed with tourists, locals trying to sell things to the tourists, car traffic, massive holes in the sidewalks, etc.

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Winter in Death Valley (versus heat tourism)

One thing that we learned during our December trip to Death Valley was that nobody else comes to Death Valley in December. “I would have thought that this would be the most popular time of year,” I said to a National Park Service manager, “given that one can hike around in comfortable temperatures and barely have to carry water.” He responded that summer was actually the busiest: “We get a lot of Americans driving through and checking us off their bucket list, but also Europeans who come here for heat tourism.” Heat tourism? “They don’t have deserts or extreme heat in Europe so they come here to experience 120 or 130 degrees.”

We did the Artists Drive loop, Natural Bridge trail, and Badwater lowest point from about 9:30 am to 12:30 pm.

After lunch, it was time for Golden Canyon Trail.

The next day we drove to Stovepipe Wells, a desolate and crummy place to stay compared to Furnace Creek, stopping first at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes:

After breakfast (masked restaurant staff and unmasked customers), we hit Mosaic Canyon.

We had lunch at the Ranch at Death Valley steak house. Once again, the servers were masked while customers were not. Also, curiously for California, the establishment seemed to be celebrating gun violence.

I’m not surprised by the passion for masks given that we were in California, but I am surprised that people who are sufficiently concerned about Covid to wear a mask didn’t take the opportunity, at some point during the past three years, to change careers into a job that doesn’t involve contact with hundreds of infested-by-viruses humans every day.

The Inn at Death Valley has nicer public areas, but the Ranch at Death Valley has some brand new standalone cottages.

After some time at the pool we went to Zabriskie Point for sunset, along with every other tourist.

Some fun with Apple’s panorama software:

We ate most of our meals at the Inn at Death Valley, just up the hill from the golf course/Ranch. Food and service seemed to be better.

After two days and three nights, it was time to head back through Pahrump to Las Vegas. We did not stop at Sheri’s Ranch for lunch with Hunter Biden, however, because we wanted to visit the Mob Museum before checking into the Cosmopolitan and walking to Din Tai Fung for dinner before Cirque du Soleil’s Mad Apple. The show was funny in addition to being awe-inspiring. Din Tai Fung made me weep for the paucity of good Chinese food in South Florida. What must we promise to the Taiwanese to get a branch here in Jupiter?

Before we left Death Valley, though, we stopped at Zabriskie Point for some pictures in the morning light.

One more panorama:

It was a great trip and one of the few times in recent memory that I was in a U.S. National Park and not jammed into a Manhattan-style crowd.

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Liberty of the Seas 3-night weekend Bahamas cruise review

Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas does a Friday-Monday cruise from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas, which is a good introduction to the cruise lifestyle for kids who are in school in South Florida. The ship leaves at 4:30 pm on Friday, so they might have to leave school early on Friday.

Liberty of the Seas was the world’s largest passenger ship when completed in Finland in 2007, but of course it has been dramatically surpassed since then. Still, it is big enough to make staying on board interesting for first-time cruisers.

The itinerary is weak, stopping at Nassau and then Royal Caribbean’s private Coco Cay island (one day each). The price is essentially free if you don’t need a pimped-out room, about $100 per day per adult including 3-6 meals, entertainment, and urgent medical care at a reasonable price (maybe Americans who don’t want to wait 3 months for an appointment with a primary care doc should jump on a last-minute cruise?). Kids were free. Because of the reasonable price and weekend schedule, there is a truly diverse mix of passengers. A suburban Boston laptop class member would interact with more Black people on this one cruise, for example, than in five years of living, dining out, and going to events in Boston.

We were directed to park at the Heron Garage, not the Palm Garage right next to where the boat was docked. Shuttle buses were required to get between the parking lot and the ship. Next time: Palm Garage! It took about 15 minutes to get through security and check in (photos taken of each passenger). There is theoretically a “wellness check” required to get on, but apparently being able to stand and breathe was sufficient because we were not asked any questions.

The scale of the ship is epic:

We paid extra for a “key” that would entitle us to Internet connectivity for one device, a steak lunch on board before sailing, priority seating at the shows, and priority departure at tender ports (of which there are hardly any for Royal Caribbean!). We bought it because we thought it would help us escape early on Monday morning and get the kids to school, but it turned out to be unnecessary. Anyone who doesn’t need help with luggage can walk off as soon as the boat is fully parked/cleared. Also, it was never difficult to get a good seat at any of the shows. There are, apparently, so many other activities on the ship that people aren’t desperate to sit in a theater.

One of the big attractions for Royal Caribbean ships is a $1 million Flowrider surfing machine on the deck at the stern. People were using it even before we had cast off:

Go to Deck 4 and then up to the stairs at the bow to enjoy sailing away from Port Everglades (FLL):

The crew puts on a fun parade for the kids in the huge main shopping mall:

They’ve upgraded their coffee, but still can’t make donuts competently. The staff everywhere, including at the buffet restaurant, is very friendly. The dedicated avocado toast chef:

Or would you prefer Indian food for breakfast?

From the mini golf course on the top deck we were able to watch Brilliance of the Seas come into Nassau. She holds 2,500 passengers and is twice the gross tonnage of Titanic. She looks like a tender for the Liberty of the Seas.

Downtown Nassau is mostly disorganized and, considering that more than 20,000+ cruise ship passengers had arrived in port that day, not much had been built for them. The Pirate Museum is fun for kids and reasonably interesting for adults. The Bahamas scores pretty high in the PPP per capita GDP Olympics and yet there are dilapidated parts of downtown right next to the most important government buildings. Here are some examples:

I don’t think any of these were part of Sam Bankman-Fried’s parents’ real estate portfolio. Coronapanic was very much alive and well in January 2023, at least as far as signage was concerned:

Given that Bahamas has ocean borders, the idea of holding back the SARS-CoV-2 was not entirely quixotic. Nonetheless, most people seem to have given up and mask-wearing was uncommon among the locals. The downtown art museum was closed for the installation of a new show:

Local friends took me to Baha Mar (featured in this pre-coronapanic post: Baha Mar hotels in Nassau) where the attached convention center has a comprehensive collection of contemporary Bahamian art.

Back on board, it was time for a comedy juggling show by Wilde and James (delighted our 7-year-old) and then a group of Russian (I think) ice skaters/dancers who ended with a tribute to Elvis in Las Vegas (cue the exceptionally fit Russian ice skater in a fat suit):

(passengers can skate on the rink at various times as well)

The ship is so huge that it is difficult to make friends on board. We were seated at a table just for our family at dinner, so didn’t meet anyone there other than the waiters (first name “Rommel”, after the German general!). We had pleasant chats a few times with other guests, but never saw them again simply due to the ship’s size. There are a handful of specific meet-ups, but we didn’t attend these because of the imperative to hover over our children (intelligent parents dropped them at the kids’ club in the morning and said hello again at 9 or 10 pm; we noticed the 12-17 group enjoying basketball on the top deck sports court at 9 pm one evening).

Worried about getting COVID-19 at a 2SLGBTQQIA+ gathering? Apparently, hardly anyone else is because N95 masks aren’t available on board and the cloth masks in the shopping mall were marked down:

Speaking of COVID-19, what if you want to check in with to see how Year 4 of the state of emergency is going (first declared January 31, 2020, 7 days after the opioid public health emergency was renewed) or with to see what how Science has changed compared to the beginning of your cruise? Onboard Internet is about $15 per day and is supplied by Elon Musk’s Starlink (previously Viasat). You’ll be able to Follow the Science at roughly 4 Mbits down and 2 Mbits up. I was able to do an extended Zoom call from the ship, but the handoffs among the local WiFi access points were not seamless and Zoom was required to reconnect periodically as I walked around. Maybe Royal Caribbean needs TP-Link Omada?

The next day it was time for Perfect Day at Coco Cay. Royal Caribbean says that they want to keep the island “green and pristine”:

A “pristine” version of a Bahamas Out Island turns out to be one crammed with water slides, burger shacks, and zip lines. There is a free water park for little kids that our 7- and 9-year-olds rejected due to tameness and frigid water:

There is a huge unheated pool whose frigid temperature wasn’t an obstacle for those sufficiently lubricated via the unlimited drinks package:

If you get too cold… there is no hot tub. The ocean water is also cold in January:

We decided that it was better to go back on board.

Some folks who got married 20 years before the advent of no-fault divorce:

It was then time to watch the Eagles beat the 49ers in the ship’s movie theater (good sound, but a dim and miscalibrated projector that was mostly yellow). It was fun to hear a big crowd of Americans burst out laughing when the announcer mentioned “Doctor Jill Biden” watching the game. Finally, there was a 1.5-hour Broadway show (Saturday Night Fever) with great music, singing, and dancing.

Speaking of dancing, here’s a photo taken at 10:26 pm on the last night of the voyage. The dance floor next to the Latin band is busy (I refused to dance, however, because I was waiting for a Latinx band).

We woke up at 6:15 am to find the ship already tied up at Port Everglades. We went downstairs at 7:15 am, about 10 minutes after the possibility of exit was announced. A lady in front of us said that she’d tried this at 9:00 am on a previous voyage and waited 45 minutes to get past La Migra. On returning from a Cuba cruise in 2018 (now once again illegal) we just waved our (closed) passports at a friendly officer and strolled out. Robot La Migra is on the job in 2023, however. Every passenger has to show his/her/zir/their face to a robot, whose screen will turn green if he/she/ze/they is approved. It is unclear to me where Robot La Migra gets sufficient facial dimensions to identify one person out of the tens of millions who sent in small passport photos. Perhaps the problem has been hugely simplified by Royal Caribbean sharing the passenger list in advance (airlines do this with APIS) and, therefore, Robot La Migra just has to verify that a person matches one of the 5,000-ish records in the reduced database.

We were docked, I suspect, right next to the Palm Garage, but a shuttle was waiting and ready to go the Heron Garage so we lost only about 5 minutes in getting to the car and, because we escaped the ship early, there was no queue to exit the garage (see below). Despite traveling about 60 miles through the Miami-FLL-West Palm megalopolis at rush hour, we lost almost no time due to traffic and got the kids to school about one hour late.

Would I recommend this cruise? Yes, to people who live in South Florida or are visiting for an extended period and don’t have to take a plane ride specifically for this cruise. (That said, the first people we met on board were from the D.C. suburbs. It was this second on this exact cruise with their kindergartner and they had flown down specifically for the cruise, getting up at 0430 Friday morning to fly to FLL and planning to return to D.C. on Monday evening. The kindergartner loved the kids’ club, which our children refused to try.) No to anyone else because there isn’t much to do in the Bahamas, especially during the winter when people think that they want to go there. It is actually warmer, both air and water temp, at our own beach in Jupiter, than in the core islands of the Bahamas! The passengers seemed quite happy with their choice. I didn’t hear anyone complaining. Nobody was obviously drunk (that’s for Carnival?) even at karaoke night (our 7-year-old was a big fan, though he did not sing!). Speaking of Carnival, here’s their new spokesperson:

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Who wants to join me on a cruise to the Southern Caribbean? (about $1000 per person)

I’m going with a work colleague on a Royal Caribbean trip (on-board Internet is pretty good) departing February 6 from Fort Lauderdale. Who wants to join us?

You’ll get to visit a lot of interesting places, albeit briefly, and a basic room with all food included will cost less than if you ate three restaurant meals per day for the period covered (more like $1,500 per person for a room with a window). We can hang out at meals and talk about how to solve all of the world’s problems (like Davos, but with higher humidity). We’ll see the latest Panama Canal locks (read Path Between the Seas first!). Maybe in Colombia we’ll meet Hunter Biden. Like progressive Californians, we’ll demonstrate our commitment to bodily autonomy and human rights by boycotting Texas and visiting a country where abortion care for pregnant people is almost completely illegal.

(The rooms are usually shown with the two twin-ish beds pushed together to form a queen-ish-sized bed, but if you’re traveling with a friend and refusing to adhere to the 2SLGBTQQIA+ religion the cabin stewards will rearrange the room to separate the beds with a night table.)

Send me a private email if you’re interested in joining and we can coordinate!


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A Faucist Christmas in Las Vegas

Here are some photos from a recent trip to Las Vegas.

For maximum understatement, a chrome Ferrari…

We brought our masks and vaccine papers when visiting a friend on this street…

At Red Rock Canyon:

The “I Love Butts” car nearby:

And the souvenirs at Cottonwood Station, a great café on the way to Pahrump from Red Rock:

At the Mob Museum, we learned that the original plan for Las Vegas was that debauchery would be confined to 1/40th of the town:

Today, by contrast, gambling, alcohol, and marijuana are available seemingly everywhere. The museum reminds us that Nevada was once notable for its divorce industry. Note that this was prior to the no-fault (“unilateral”) divorce revolution. These were divorces in which the husband and wife (only two gender IDs back then!) had agreed to the procedure.

In adjacent panels, the curators remind us that precious Black Americans are more likely to be killed by police than expandable white Americans and that this disparity is due to bias (not, for example, that one racial group is more likely to be involved in activities that interest the police).

The museum reminds us that Walter White in Breaking Bad was a pioneer in protection against SARS-CoV-2. Here’s the public school teacher’s mask solution:

ARIA does some great things with 2000 lbs. of sugar:

Four of us went to (and loved) the latest Cirque du Soleil show: Mad Apple at New York New York.

The on-stage comedians were Harrison Greenbaum and Orny Adams. Greenbaum ridiculed the folks in the theater who had chosen to enter this crowded venue while wearing masks. “You think Covid is going to come in here, see that you’re masked, and go back to its home at Circus Circus?” He then pointed out that there were quite a few diseases worse than Covid that one might contract at Circus Circus. The audience members who were wearing with non-professionally fit masks of various types could be said to be Faucists. Instead of staying home, their Covid-avoidance strategy was to enter a crowded casino and then sit in a sold-out theater… while wearing a cloth mask. This is a principle of Faucism from spring 2020.

Over at the Bellagio, the conservatory features a “Bears on Coke” theme and the Faucism Believers had voluntarily entered the casino with masks that had 1/2-1″ air gaps visible at the sides and bottom, even when a beard was not worn.

Caesar’s Palace goes big on the poinsettias:

Venice is famous for masks.

The Wynn lobby has a beautiful garden:

Let’s not forget these heroes:

And, at the airport, a nation that dares is given an important rabbit safety reminder:

Also at the airport, kid art represented as a mosaic of smaller kid art (database by the kids; photomosaic by Rob Silvers):

Also at the airport, Cheetos and popcorn marketed as “fresh”:

Certainly there is no way that a virus that attacks the obese can touch us!

That’s the story from Vegas. Some creative decorations. Lots of folks who are trying to avoid COVID-19 by following Dr. Fauci’s advice (perfectly safe to leave the house so long as you’ve got your cloth or surgical mask).

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Corvette driving school report (Ron Fellows near Las Vegas)

This is a report of a minivan driver’s experience at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School in Pahrump, Nevada. A friend and I took the two-day intro class for complete novices. The school operates a fleet of nearly 200 C8 Corvettes, a fleet of 670 hp Cadillac Blackwing sedans, and a fleet of open-cockpit Radical pure race cars. We were in the Corvette.

Everyone asks “Was it fun?” The answer is that it is like flight training. You’re learning a lot and it is interesting, but you’re always frustrated because you aren’t doing as well as you want to.

The location is the nation’s most extensive race track, Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club in Pahrump, Nevada, about one hour from Las Vegas. There are currently 360 members who bought in at prices ranging from $4,000 (originally) to $75,000 (today) and then pay $7,500 per year for the right to use the track for up to 16 days per month. The members will typically rent some garage space at the track or build a house somewhere on the 1,000 acres. Plans are in the works for a 7,000′ straight section of track on which a jet can be landed, which will be helpful because most of the members are coming from other parts of the U.S., e.g., Florida(!).

The structure of the school was to alternate between 30-60 minutes of classroom and 30 minutes in the car. The in-car session might be on the track, skidpad, dragstrip, or autocross course. Each day starts promptly at 8 am and concludes at 4 pm with a one-hour lunch break. We were exhausted at the end of each day from the mental and, to some extent, the physical effort. Here’s your fearful author in the morning intro (no helmet) and the afternoon track session (helmet):

The instructors, all of whom are former and/or current racers, are usually in front of you in their own car or somewhere on the sidelines. Either way, they’re communicating with you via CB radio that has been piped into the car’s AUX input.

Who takes this class? Primarily new owners of the C8 Corvette because Chevrolet pays for most of the class, resulting in a price of just over $1,000, which includes a night of lodging at the track. A Ferrari-owning friend was recently invited to a similar class in the Ferrari 296… for $18,000.

What did we learn that can be translated to street driving? First, that the C8 Corvette does not have a tendency to oversteer and, therefore, if you’re in a corner that feels too tight it never helps to add power. You’re always better off braking lightly, which will transfer weight onto the front wheels and help them steer. Also, with the stability control computers and anti-lock brakes, it is nearly always better to slow down with brakes before departing the paved surface. Accelerating transfers weight to the rear tires and makes the car understeer (move out toward the outside of the turn).

After spinning out on the skidpad a bunch of times, with the fancy computer systems disabled (press and hold the stability control switch for about 8 seconds), we learned about the magic of the Weather mode, in which the computer systems become hyper-vigilant. “It doesn’t limit the car as much as teen driver mode,” an instructor explained, “but it can be very useless even on dry pavement for novice drivers.” See the follow video starting at 5:00.

The class may not be for those who think that Twitter is now unsafe. During the explanation of the glow-in-the-dark emergency release lever inside the frunk, it was pointed out that “You can’t kidnap hookers anymore.” For everyone else, the instructors point out that this is the safest driving any of us will ever do. “There are no other cars nearby, no pedestrians, and no concrete walls near the road.” The realistic hazard is motion sickness, which snares several students in every class. Even a pilot with aerobatic experience in our class reported feeling “dizzy”. The school keeps a package of Dramamine up front. If you thought that you couldn’t make yourself sick when at the wheel of a car, you haven’t subjected yourself to constant 0.5-1g corners and speed changes.

The organization, pace, and instructor enthusiasm and skill was superior to the $50,000+ jet type rating classes offered at Flight Safety.

Speaking of aviation, you couldn’t spit in this class without hitting a fellow pilot. A handful of the attendees were airline pilots and one was an airline-track hours-building pilot. about half of the rest of the folks seemed to have at least a Private certificate and current airplane ownership was common. Here’s our merry and diverse band of brothers, sisters, and binary-resisters in Corvette appreciation:

Breakfast and lunch are included both days and there is a social evening after the first day. The clubhouse includes a Connelly pool table!

The night before class we dined at Symphony’s, a restaurant run by a local winery. They had a literal white privilege license:

If you want to meet up with Hunter Biden, note that Pahrump is the first county over from Las Vegas in which prostitution is legal. Sheri’s Ranch has its own restaurant and the $14 cheesesteak was excellent (plainly freshly grilled from sliced-up steak):

Does this mean Pahrump is not a family-friendly town? By no means, according to a bumper sticker parked in the local gourmet supermarket (Walmart) where we stopped for 70 cent/lb. bananas (I noted that these used to be 30 cents/lb. and an older lady mournfully agreed with me):

Speaking of family, quite a few students brought wives along and they seemed to have a good time in the lounge outside the classroom, in an observation tower 4 stories above the track, and at meals.

Aside from the regular street cars, the track is home to a Radical race car showroom and we also saw some fun ATVs:

Once you’re in Pahrump, Death Valley is only one more hour away. So it makes sense to combine the class with hiking in Death Valley (and/or family members can explore Death Valley National Park while a car nut is at the school).

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Among the Covidians in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

A Los Angeles-to-Washington, D.C. helicopter trip started at PBI on a Sunday in November. Here are the Righteous preparing for a return flight to Boston after their optional vacation trip to South Florida.

When I arrived at LAX, I discovered that they’ve set up a Fall of Saigon-style area for everyone who wants to get out via taxi or Uber/Lyft. At 9:30 pm on a Sunday, the traffic was so heavy that it took my Uber about 25 minutes to go what Uber said would be a 5-minute 1-mile journey.

I was welcomed to the Redondo Beach Hotel in the distinct California style:

Even more upsetting, in a back corner of the hotel parking lot:

If you thought that people who were constantly surrounded by poisonous chemicals wouldn’t have time for coronapanic, you’d be mistaken. At the helicopter safety course, which includes an hour of simulated failures, each of which can easily turn into a real emergency:

The attendees, mostly beginner flight instructors, are typically men in their 20s and 30s (one pilot identifying as a “woman” was in our class of 30). Apparently they are at greater risk of being felled by COVID-19 (after failing to stand 6′ apart) than they are of being killed in a helicopter crash.

California taxpayers spent money on a Facebook ad encouraging me to get a COVID test:

At the Rite Aid, a reminder to keep injecting the 5-year-olds and also, some gluten-free rainbow wine.

They lock up stuff that wouldn’t be considered precious in most of the U.S.:

With no hurricanes, California’s beach towns have a lot more funky old stuff than do Florida beach towns, in which only the hardened and concrete survive:

Some more snapshots in our Redondo Beach neighborhood:

Conclusion: Los Angeles in the winter is awesome for people who don’t have to work (see Table 4 for how welfare spending power in CA compares to median-wage work). The mid-day weather is mild and sunny, which is of no value to those who are stuck in offices. It is dark and cold by the time the slaves are paroled from their plantations.

Let’s go to Reagan National Airport now. Here are some folks preparing for an optional vacation trip to Florida (PBI) over an extended Thanksgiving weekend. Counting airport transportation and TSA screening, it will take them half a day in crowded indoor public environments to get there. If they’d wanted to ensure a COVID-free experience, yet were unwilling to give up their vacation trip, they could have driven in one full day (14 hours door-to-door says The Google).

This is my favorite image. Eight people sitting in a row, all of them wearing various kinds of masks that have been proven ineffective against an aerosol virus.

Some apparently young/healthy people masked in the terminal:

A detail from the 8-in-a-row photo above:

Always a conundrum… our brothers, sisters, and binary-resisters who choose to wear masks, but refuse to shave their beards. COVID-19 is a deadly threat, but not so deadly that anyone should pick up the Razor of Righteousness. Walking onto the crammed-to-capacity Airbus A320:

I didn’t get a video, unfortunately, but the two guys at the breakfast table next to me (they seemed to be traveling together and only one was wearing a mask prior to food arrival) insisted that the waitress remove the offensive items that she had delivered to their table: “We don’t use straws.”


  • “You May Be Early, but You’re Not Wrong: A Covid Reading List” (Nov 15): “Over the last few months, there’s been an avalanche of studies telling us that Covid poses a major threat to our health, our lives, and our sanity. The biggest risk now comes in the weeks and months after we recover. … There’s no permanent immunity from this virus. Each time we catch it, this virus attacks our hearts and minds. It weakens us. It tries to kill us. It imprints on us, so a future variant has a better shot next time.” (About half of Americans think as this author does, yet they won’t stay home. They’re voluntarily in crowded airports, airliners, theme parks, resort hotels, etc. SARS-CoV-2 has not changed substantially. The vaccines have a mediocre and temporary effect. Why are those who supported lockdowns in 2020 behaving differently than they did in 2020?)
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Meet in Las Vegas this week?

I am headed to Las Vegas today. Would anyone like to meet there or in Pahrump/Death Valley over the next 7 days? No plans currently other than meeting Hunter Biden at Sheri’s Ranch.

The couple next to me on this luxurious private United jet has voluntarily elected to come from San Antonio to Palm Beach for a destination wedding, changing planes in Houston. They have decided to expose themselves, in other words, to every respiratory virus that exists anywhere in half of the U.S. (other guests also traveled in). They’re protecting themselves from exposure on four crammed flights, three airports, one hotel, and multiple restaurants with comfortable non-professionally fit masks.

A 0.5x perspective


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The only defense against mass tourism is to become a mass tourist?

In observance of Veterans Day, let’s look at the territory that the Greatest Generation fought for in the 1940s…

In the old days there was a tradeoff between being an independent tourist and joining an organized tour. As an independent tourist perhaps you wouldn’t see as many things per day, but you could wander around a city and enter museums and other attractions as the whim struck you. Today, however, due to mass tourism combined with a touch of coronapanic, the headline tourist sites of Europe require booking advance reservations and organizing transportation to arrive on time for those reservations. In other words, the independent tourist now needs to do all of the stuff that a tour company ordinarily does. Three weeks in advance, for example, we tried booking a ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Everything was sold out (we eventually got onto a guided tour for 3X the price, but let’s not call it scalping!). The Louvre was sold out a week in advance. Some of this can be navigated around via memberships (Amis du Louvre) or a Paris Museum Pass. But I’m wondering if the best defense against mass tourism is to become a mass tourist (if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em). An organized tour of Paris could hit all of the major sites in a three days and the participants wouldn’t have to spend evenings pre-booking on the Web and then fretting about how to get from one reservation to another. If desired, spend a couple of extra days as independent tourists seeing the second- and third-tier sites.

Here’s our Eiffel Tower experience. Because we had to book it weeks in advance, it fell on the only rainy day of our trip:

I guess we shouldn’t complain about the lines. If not for the combat veterans of World War II and the desk veterans who kept them supplied, we might have needed to learn German to visit the Eiffel Tower.


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