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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Meet in London next week or Paris the week after?

Beloved European and stubbornly non-European readers: I arrive in London (staying near St. James Park underground and Westminster Abbey) on Tuesday, October 4 (Airbus A380 from MIA!). On October 8, it will be time to move to Paris via the tunnel train. I will be there in the 7th arrondissement through the morning of October 15. I would love to meet up! Please email me (philg@mit.edu) with a plan.

Thanks!

Readers: How is Europe so crowded with tourists? It is tough to get reservations for anything. The Chinese aren’t traveling, I don’t think, because they would have to spend two weeks in quarantine on returning. The Russians aren’t traveling. Who is filling up Europe’s hotels, restaurants, and museums/monuments in October 2022?

Here’s a photo from my most recent trip to Paris, in 2016:

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Amana, Iowa: 75 years of communal living

On the way back from Oshkosh, I stopped (early August) at the idiot-proof Cedar Rapids, Iowa airport (KCID) and spent 20 minutes driving through beautiful rolling hills covered in corn to the Amana Colonies, home to German-Americans who lived communally here from 1856 through 1932. (If you feel lucky, there is a 2600′ “fair condition” grass runway in Amana, C11.) They purchased the world’s most productive agricultural land for $1.25 per acre.

At the museum, I learned that, although the members of the colony were immigrants to the U.S., they were quite selective about who could immigrate into the commune, which would then be responsible for housing, clothing, feeding, and caring for the immigrant. One reason that the museum provides for the break-up of the communal lifestyle is that “some pretended to be sick or refused to work because they knew they would still receive room and board, resulting in the society hiring more outside laborers.”

The communalists followed Christianity, attending 9 church services per week. Once Americans lose their faith in Jesus, what religion do they follow?

Families shared a house, as in Soviet Russia or present-day New York City. However, there was no kitchen in the house. Everyone ate together in a communal kitchen, which typically fed 30-40 people at each meal. They loved coffee (served to children as well) and horseradish:

Today:

For those who buy dollhouses at Amazon or Costco:

The success of the Amana Colonies was used as an argument by those who thought that a Communist form of government might work for the United States:

(Let me stress that the current American system, sometimes described by critics as “Communist” or “Socialist”, is the opposite of how things worked in the Amana Colonies and Soviet Russia. In Amana and Russia, every able-bodied adult was required to work.)

In church (9 times per week!), men and women were segregated into left and right sides of the room.

(I did not find out the seating location for people who identified as any of the other 72 gender IDs recognized by physicians.)

Equal in death, members of the Amana Colony are buried with same-size headstones in chronological order. There are no family plots nor any sculpture.

Don’t miss the Barn Museum in South Amana, in which Henry L. Moore’s replicas of rural American are displayed. See if you can spot Elizabeth Warren’s hometown…

I’m not sure that the proprietor, the craftsman’s son, will be voting for Elizabeth Warren:

Where to eat? There are three restaurants in town and you have your choice of German, German, and German.

Where to stay? An old mill has been turned into a boutique hotel:

The Amana Radarange, the first home-use microwave oven, may not be your preferred souvenir. But you can buy blankets and beautiful furniture. Here’s the pavement-melting SUV that a wag at Hertz decided to drop at the FBO for me after I reserved a “car”:

Ready for departure at KCID:

As noted in The flying-to-Oshkosh part of flying to Oshkosh, the fuel/breakfast stop on the way to Chattanooga was KMWA in Illinois, which features an on-field recreational marijuana store, open every day that the public schools in Chicago were closed.

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Prairie du Chien side trip from Oshkosh

If you’re looking for something to do southwest of Oshkosh… Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin (KPDC). This is a quick crew car ride away from Effigy Mounds National Monument, a collection of massive earthen sculptures made by Elizabeth Warren’s ancestors during Joe Biden’s youth. Read up on the approaches and departure procedures due to the challenging terrain surrounding the airport. Terrain? On the Wisconsin/Iowa border? This is the Driftless Area that was not scraped flat by the most recent glaciers. Note that the airport is at 660′ above sea level and towers near the airport are on ground that is as high as 1150′ above sea level (1449-299).

Here’s an explanation for the evolution of these sculptures in the Effigy Mounds visitor’s center:

You’re on the banks of the Mississippi River when at the visitor’s center and must ascend 350′ to the top of the bluffs before reaching the mounds.

Consider packing some bug spray because this is the not the artificially-bug-free paradise that Florida somehow manages to achieve for most natural areas. The mounds themselves are tough to photograph, but if you love history you’ll enjoy them. The views over the river:

Once you’re down from the walk, you can celebrate all things 2SLGBTQQIA+ and BLM in Marquette, Iowa:

Back on the Wisconsin side, you can enjoy some food from Pete’s, started in 1909. Two choices: with onions; without onions.

The flight out is beautiful, but note the bluffs rising steeply from the river banks.

I met some city-dwellers who have vacation cabins in this area so there is apparently a fair amount of exploring that could be done with an overnight stay.

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Abortion care perceptions and law in Norway

Norwegians follow the American news at a high level. When I was there, for example, several mentioned the current administration’s raid of the former President’s home and asked me what I thought of the current U.S. leader seeking to imprison the former U.S. leader. They also had heard about the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which a Mississippi law limiting on-demand abortion care to 15 weeks was found not to be in conflict with any Federal law or the U.S. Constitution.

What was interesting is how they perceived the ruling. All of the Norwegians who asked about this topic were under the impression that the Supreme Court had outlawed abortion care throughout the United States. I explained that the the law in Democrat-ruled states provided on-demand abortion at 24 weeks or beyond (e.g., Colorado).”You mean that there is all of this fuss when someone can just drive or fly to another state?” they asked, incredulously.

From reading CNN and other American media, they were under the impression that abortion care in the U.S. was less available than in Norway when, in fact, there are far more reproductive health care options for pregnant people in the U.S. than in Norway. Wikipedia:

Current Norwegian legislation and public health policy provides for abortion on request in the first 12 weeks of gestation, by application up to the 18th week, and thereafter only under special circumstances until the fetus is viable, which is usually presumed at 21 weeks and 6 days.

Abortions after the end of the 12th week up to 18 weeks of pregnancy may be granted, by application, under special circumstances, such as the mother’s health or her social situation; if the fetus is in great danger of severe medical complications; or if the woman has become pregnant while under-age, or after sexual abuse. After the 18th week, the reasons for terminating a pregnancy must be extremely weighty. An abortion will not be granted after viability. Minor girls under 16 years of age need parental consent, although in some circumstances, this may be overridden.

In other words, the Mississippi law (15 weeks) that was recently considered by the Supreme Court was actually less restrictive than Norwegian law (12 weeks), but those who had learned about the events from the media were under the impression that abortion care had been outlawed throughout the U.S.

Since we are informed that abortion care is health care, let’s look at the public health situation in Norway, a Science-following Land of Shutdown to some extent (they didn’t do the 1.5-year school closure that Science imposed on NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles). Here’s the hand-drying technology at the gleaming modern airport terminal in Oslo:

Should this machine be called “the Coronaspreader” or the “Monkeypoxer”?

How can Norway get away with this kind of public health hazard? If we consider “population-weighted density” (i.e., how dense is the average person’s neighborhood), the lived experience of Norwegians is almost the least crowded in Europe (source):

(And they want to keep it uncrowded. I didn’t find anyone who supported increased low-skill immigration. Norwegians said specifically that they valued open space and freedom to move around without bumping into hundreds of other humans. Even if someone could prove to them that they could get somewhat wealthier by growing the population they would reject the option.)

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Rainbow Flagism in Norway

This was supposed to be the big year for Rainbow Flagism in Norway. Tourists are promised Queer Culture Year 2022:

My 2SLGBTQQIA+ celebration experience got off to a reasonable start. Although I did not notice any rainbow flags in the airport, the underground train station carried an “Oslo PRIDE” backlit billboard:

Once above ground, however, I discovered that the entire city has fewer rainbow flags than a typical white heterosexual suburban town in the Northeast USA. Private initiative in the direction of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community is apparently rare. In fact, I never saw a single private home or automobile displaying the rainbow flag. Here are the only businesses that I observed conforming to the U.S. norm (a restaurant, a bar, and a bookstore with a balloon and umbrella):

As in the U.S., the progression from Christianity to Rainbow Flagism is a short and easy journey. At the downtown cathedral:

The city government itself has painted some benches in a rainbow pattern. King Christian IV of Denmark, the founder of modern Oslo, loved music and dance. Here he is with a bench commemorating his love of Broadway shows:

The Munch museum did not have any rainbow flags, but the bookstore featured the standard Holy Trinity of Victimhood:

I’m not sure if this is desecration of the sacred symbol or not:

If the neighbors aren’t displaying the proper flag, one can wear it:

The Oslo City Museum has an exhibit devoted to Queer Culture Year 2022. A school class for 9th and 10th graders was required to create artistic “queer products”:

A “Gay Kid” is defined as “a boy or a girl who will fall in love with a person of the same sex later on in life.” This statement contains quite a bit of heresy against 2SLGBTQQIA+ dogma. There are only two genders for children? Gender ID and sexual orientation are not fluid?

For completeness, from the adult-oriented content of the exhibit:

The Scandinavian Leather Men sign fails to note the CDC’s Scientific monkeypox-at-the-bathhouse advice: “Leather or latex gear also provides a barrier to skin-to-skin contact; just be sure to change or clean clothes/gear between partners and after use.”

Compared to the Scandinavian Leather Men, how much fun can a heterosexual cisgender man have? Here’s Gustav Vigeland’s example of inner peace achieved via fatherhood:

The Nobel Peace Center bookshop offers some Pride-themed material:

The history museum had an outdoor PRIDE exhibit, but it had been taken down and the only remnants were posters and some books:

(I am confused as to why Frida Kahlo, who became famous after marrying an old guy who was already super famous in her chosen field, is a “hero”. Is her method of getting to the top of the art world something that we think the typical young artist can replicate?)

Where Norway seems most deficient is in restroom labeling. The implication, even in buildings that were completed in 2022, the country’s Queer Culture Year, is that there are only two genders. From the Munch museum (opened 2021):

From the National Museum (opened 2022):

I never saw an “all-gender” or “gender-neutral” restroom.

That’s the report from the world of jet lag. I feel that I am almost accustomed to the time zone here and, naturally, it will be time to get on the Norse Atlantic 787 back to FLL tomorrow.

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Building self-esteem in Oslo

Oslo might not be the best place for building tourist self-esteem. After two days in the city, here are a couple of signs:

Here’s something else bizarre… an important symbol for this city is the tiger:

I also learned that when a counter-serve restaurant offers you “potato with shrimp” that’s exactly what they deliver (for about $20):

I also learned about life in Sweden from the 40ish lady sitting next to me at the opera house (one act of Parsifal, which is more than enough for anyone). She was working as a “priest” (what we would call a “minister”) at a church outside of Stockholm during coronapanic. Her life and church continued without interruption. What about the Swedish limit of 50 for indoor gatherings that was imposed? “It did not apply to churches,” she responded. How many times had she put on a mask during two years of coronapanic in Sweden? “Zero.” Had she purchased a mask? “No.” What about on the Stockholm metro? Wasn’t it suggested? “You could wear a mask if you wanted to,” she replied, “and some people did, but I never did.”

One thing that I hadn’t appreciated about Europe is that China’s continued lockdown has substantially decluttered the demi-continent. 1.4 billion people have been removed from the international tourism pool because a resident of China who comes to Europe to look around would have to endure an onerous 14-day quarantine on returning (not a Massachusetts-style quarantine with daily trips to the “essential” marijuana store!).

Speaking of the opera house, here it is:

Note the ramp for walking up to the roof.

My first impression of Norway is that it is a great argument for the European welfare state form of government… so long as a country has a gushing fountain of oil cash and only a small number of low-skill immigrants so that the per-capita oil money remains significant. It seems as though there are dozens of neighborhoods that are great for hanging out with friends and family. Norwegians are out in pairs and larger groups enjoying the summer weather. Norway is not part of the EU and the country has retained a distinctive culture more so than France, Germany, or the UK. Despite the distinctively Norwegian-ness of everything, a higher percentage of people here speak good English than in a lot of U.S. cities. That means it is perfect for an American tourist wanting to see a European nation.

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Meet in Oslo next week?

Oslo, Norway is the only nonstop European destination reachable from FLL (not too far from Jupiter, Florida where we moved). I’ll be on the ground Monday through Thursday next week (August 29-Sept 1) and would be delighted to meet any readers (just email philg@mit.edu).

Our 7-year-old suggested to a COVID-concerned friend that he “dress up like Dr. Fauci” and hand out N95 masks to fellow passengers on commercial airline flights. I may try this if it seems that there are diseased deplorables on the Norse Atlantic 787.

Once on the ground, I will be joining the “national celebration” of all things 2SLGBTQQIA+:

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The museums of Indianapolis

After Great Smoky Mountain National Park, our family’s next stop on the way to Oshkosh was Indianapolis. We parked at Signature IND and Ubered into town for lunch in a sacred space:

Despite the sanctified-by-2SLGBTQQIA+ nature of the restaurant, it was tough not to notice that workers were unenthusiastic about being there, a sharp contrast to Gatlinburg in which genuine warmth is the usual attitude of a server.

First sightseeing stop, July 22, 2022, the children’s museum:

After handing over more than $100 for tickets (family of 4; would have been $8 for a family on what used to be called “welfare”), I made a beeline for the café in an attempt to score a Juneteenth Watermelon Salad. Instead of a history lesson, however, I got only a lesson in inflation:

The museum has an epic dinosaur section with real fossils that visitors can touch. Real paleontology is going on in this museum and visitors can arrange to take part.

The museum reminds children that they can make a difference, but only if they can first be classified as victims (of the Nazis (including Donald Trump), of prejudice against Blacks, of prejudice against those with AIDS, or of the Taliban).

Comic books are available to flip through via touch screen, but only those featuring female superheroes.

Barbie is not featured as a family court entrepreneur (“Divorced Barbie comes with: Ken’s Truck, Ken’s House, Ken’s Fishing Boat, Ken’s Furniture, Ken’s Dog, Ken’s Computer, one of Ken’s Friends…”), but rather as a physician or “computer engineer”:

Speaking of Barbie, the museum offered an opportunity to compare her 1959 physique with that of a modern parent:

(the guy’s wife was almost equally ample)

The next day, we went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, inside the famous track that was built by the creator of Miami Beach. Fred Flintstone’s Indy car is parked in front:

Note the two guys wearing surgical masks in their lonely fight against an aerosol virus:

They’re concerned enough about COVID-19 to wear masks, but not concerned enough to refrain from sharing the museum’s indoor air with 100+ other folks nor to refrain from taking a bus ride around the track (I can’t remember if they actually kissed the bricks or not, a seemingly less-than-ideal way to #StopTheSpread).

Next stop was the Eiteljorg Museum, which specializes in Native American and Western art. The museum acknowledges that it is on land that rightfully belongs to others, but it refuses to give the land back:

And then there is the posted DEI “commitment”:

Just a few steps beyond the righteous floor sign, we get the Native American perspective on white say-gooders and their land acknowledgments:

A couple of cloth-masked visitors again raise the question for me… why are they in an indoor public place?

Native-created masks for horses and humans:

Prevent COVID-19 from spreading by shutting down the water fountains:

Will Florida ultimately be the only state left with working water fountains?

If you’ve got kids, don’t miss the basement of this museum, which has a lot of hands-on activities. Back on the main floor, the scale of the Western paintings is literally awesome:

Another museum (Newfields), another pair of masked visitors:

They’re enjoying “THE LUME”, an animated version of the Impressionists set to music. But if they’re worried enough about COVID-19 to wear a mask, why aren’t they worried enough to stay home?

Our kids loved this production (see below; #LoveIsLove) and were reluctant to leave even after two hours. “This is the best place ever,” was the explanation. There is a bar/coffee shop within the exhibit and also bathrooms, so it would actually be possible to stay the whole day.

One idea had been to leave for Oshkosh on Saturday night. The “shelter in place & stay safe” text message was not promising, especially given that it was being sent to people whose shelter options were a 10 lb. tent and a 1500 lb. (empty) airplane.

The next morning was not a lot better for getting to our actual destination of Appleton, Wisconsin:

Southwest Airlines was delayed 3.5 hours getting into Chicago, according to a friend coming into Oshkosh the easy/smart way, so we didn’t feel bad trying to wait out the weather at the Indiana State Museum.

What’s interesting about the U.S.S. Indianapolis? Not that the U.S. Navy failed to heed a distress call from the torpedoed cruiser. Not that the U.S. Navy failed to notice when the massive ship did not show up in port as scheduled. Not that nearly 900 men died, 600 of them unnecessarily (left to float in the water and be attacked by sharks until a PBY crew accidentally discovered them). Not that the tragedy figured prominently in the movie Jaws. See the sign below for what visitors can learn next to the model.

Suppose that a visitor wonders about the merits of low-skill immigration. He/she/ze/they will learn that “Securing the rights of all Hoosiers has been fought by many. Individuals and communities rally together to fight against hate and social injustices.” A migrant who shows up on a Monday morning is a “Hoosier” by lunchtime and, certainly, it would be “hate” and “injustice” if anyone were to regard the migrant as illegal somehow.

There’s a hands-on cardboard engineering lab on the top floor. Here a 2-year-old learns to build a park that is welcoming to the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community:

Is there room in Indianapolis for every American who identifies as 2SLGBTQQIA+ and for the entire populations of Haiti (11 million) and Honduras (10 million) to become Hoosiers? It sure feels as though there is! Downtown, at least on the weekend, feels empty.

Summary: This is a great 2- or 3-night stop.

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