Helicopter from Los Angeles to Maskachusetts, Part 1

Nutrition is critical for any coast-to-coast helicopter flight. I loaded up on dim sum at Din Tai Fung in a Costa Mesa mall, then paid only $13 for a few strawberries at Hannam Chain in our inflation-free economy. The folks who run the supermarket are Korean and had neglected to boycott the Zionist entity:

I decided to skip the rainbow flag worship at the liquor store next door to the supermarket:

Our machine was waiting for us on the Robinson ramp in Torrance (KTOA), but the marine layer prevented departure prior to 11:30 am. Note the new horizontal stabilizer, not in any way resembling a Bell 206…

That gave us time to stock up on snacks at the nearby Whole Foods. The scene out front showed California at its best: outdoor maskers and a planet-saving Tesla.

In the rare moments when they de-mask, the Followers of Science detoxify their body with alkaline water in front of this Whole Foods:

We fly out of LA by following CA-91 and I-10, a route prescribed by Robinson that is the lowest path out of the mountains (the Banning Pass is at 2,200′ above sea level). I keep a cheat sheet of radio frequencies for the control towers and/or common traffic advisory frequencies (CTAF) of the 7 airports we will fly by. In the middle of the day (not rush hour) it’s up to a 4-hour trip by car, according to the Google, but we’re there after 30 minutes:

If one were tempted to complain about the R44’s 110-knot cruising speed, this sight in Carson, California (near Long Beach) is a good reminder to count one’s blessings:

As soon as we get to Banning the skies turn blue. We transition through Palm Springs and land at the Bermuda Dunes airport. After consuming all of the FBO’s Cheez-Its, it was time to continue climbing into the hills via I-10.

Blythe, California is a generally terrible airport where you need to park at the fuel pumps and where the “courtesy car” comes with precious little courtesy. We skipped it and continued across the Colorado River into Arizona.

Some more mountains before arriving in Metro Phoenix to land at the Goodyear, AZ airport:

One way to look slim:

More coffee and snacks at GYR before proceeding on toward Tucson. The Pinal, AZ airport is notable for Army helicopters and washed-up airliners:

Maybe a sharp-eyed reader can figure out what the coal-fueled facility below is. I don’t see huge powerlines coming out of it so my guess is “not electricity generation”. Also, a nice quarry:

We arrived in Tucson about 1.5 hours before sunset. If we couldn’t make it all the way to El Paso it probably made sense to shut down because southern New Mexico does not have a lot of services.

Then it was time to shop for microfiber cloths (clean the bugs off the bubble) and eat Sonoran hot dogs at El Guero Canelo (“EGC” to the locals):

(I cheat and order mine without mayonnaise)

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The Houlton, Maine eclipse experience

As noted in How’s your eclipse viewing?, I wussed out on the Fredericksburg, Texas eclipse plan in favor of hitting the shorter-totality Northeast where the forecast was for clear skies. As with nearly all of my decisions, this one turned out to be bad because the friend I had planned to visit/join in Austin ended up having a perfect view of totality (the clouds disappeared due to the cooling effect of the eclipse somehow).

The day started with pocketing snacks at Jet Aviation in Bedford, Maskachusetts (Hanscom Field):

We loaded up the plane with three generations of my friend’s family and had an uneventful VFR flight at 17,500′ to KHUL (Houlton, Maine). The FAA had issued a cautionary NOTAM:

To assist FBOs with staging aircraft and to ease ramp congestion, aircraft departing airports along the eclipse path are strongly encouraged to coordinate their departure times as early as possible. There may be a higher traffic volume than normal anticipated at airports along the path of the eclipse. Traffic should anticipate delays during peak traffic periods. Aircraft parking may be limited, particularly at the smaller, uncontrolled airports.

And, indeed, many airports in Vermont had instituted a prior permission required (PPR) policy. Watching the eclipse while celebrating social justice and Bernie Sanders in Burlington, VT, for example, wasn’t possible last-minute. Despite this somewhat dire forecast from the FAA, we had no trouble getting VFR advisories from Air Traffic Control all the way into KHUL and there was no shortage of parking.

The town-run airport had plowed out its crosswind runway and had that available for parking, but used it for only about four larger planes.

2700′ of parking is a lot of parking!

They were short on fuel, but we managed to 50 gallons of Jet A in order to keep Greta Thunberg happy. Speaking of Greta T, here’s a Citation Sovereign that came in from Minneapolis. The forecast for much of the Midwest was clear, but apparently not clear enough for these (12?) Heroes of Climate Change (1,700 gallons and over 30,000 lbs. max takeoff weight!):

Some images need to be repeated from the earlier post. A partial eclipse of the sun by the moon(-ey):

The town set up a “star park” adjacent to the airport and organized a two-schoolbus shuttle between downtown and the airport:

As noted previously, downtown was hosting a lively party with music and dressed-up characters and a commitment to social justice (“All Labs Matter”):

The George Washington statue was augmented, Elizabeth Warren’s cousins danced, and costumes were worn:

All of the parks in the downtown area were filled with viewers, but never unpleasantly crowded. Note the logging truck crossing the Meduxnekeag River:

Quite a few NASA and NOAA employees seemed to be enjoying a taxpayer-funded vacation trip to see the eclipse and some of them gave talks or organized events:

I thought that these folks with a Pennsylvania plate won the award for longest drive to Houlton, but apparently someone drove more than 1,400 miles to Houlton from north of Chicago.

There were lines for most of the restaurants in town, but food trucks had come in both on Main St. and at the airport. More important, the local Amish were selling donuts for $2 each:

The Amish grow potatoes, of course, but also have quite a few greenhouses. Speaking of religion, the official established U.S. religion is observed in Houlton:

At 1:45 pm we caught the shuttle back to the airport in prep for totality at 3:32 pm.

The ramp was lively, but nowhere near as crammed as a typical South Florida airport in the winter:

Of course, we did see the eclipse! Canon RF800/11 lens for eclipse totality:

Edward Tufte tells speakers to arrive early because people wander in gradually and then leave suddenly. Thus, it is better to be available for questions before a talk! It wasn’t a mad rush for the exit, but the airport and airspace was at least 5X busier for departure compared to arrival. It didn’t seem practical to get advisories from Boston Center until we were well southwest of Bangor and on a different frequency from the airspace over Houlton. The NetJets crew couldn’t depart for quite some time because they had trouble getting ATC’s attention for an IFR clearance and their ops specs prevent them from doing the obvious and departing VFR.

The Science education didn’t stop in Houlton. When returning to the Land of Science-denial via Logan Airport, I learned that an N95 mask works great when loosely arranged over a full beard. Also that healthy young females face maximum risk from SARS-CoV-2:

Some nice views of the city courtesy of Delta Airlines:

Maybe they should paint the roof of every building that houses migrants red so that air travelers can see how much Boston is doing to enrich the lives of native-born Americans. (See “Migrant shelter plan for one of Boston’s most expensive neighborhoods making some furious” (CBS) and also “Wu [the mayor of Boston] seeks commercial property tax rate increase to prevent a spike in residential taxes” (state-sponsored NPR): “A recent report by the Boston Policy Institute found the city may lose $1.4 billion in tax revenue over the next five years due to empty office spaces. Boston could also face a recurring shortfall of about $500 million each year after that first half-decade, the report found.”)

Conclusion: We should pray to the omnipotent God of the Sacred Trans-Enhanced Rainbow Flag to arrange all future eclipses so that they pass over Houlton.

Let’s close this out with some porn for aircraft owners:

(Big city airports are now at $1,000/month for a long-term lease on a hangar for a little Cessna or Cirrus. In post-Cuomo South Florida, now home to half of what used to be New York’s planes, you might pay $1,200-1,500/month to store a plane that, pre-Biden, was worth $80,000.)

Related:

  • “Massachusetts family among Tesla owners who waited hours to charge car after total solar eclipse” (WCVB): When the Livesey family found a charging station in St. Johnsbury, there were lines of electric vehicles dozens deep. “I got there with one mile only to find out there were about 60 cars waiting to be charged,” Livesey said. … The Livesey family waited more than four hours to charge their Tesla and the last ticket they handed out before leaving was No. 189, and they saw more vehicles pulling up to the stations. [A friend missed totality due to EV charging delays. He tried to get his kids up to northern Vermont from Boston and a combination of traffic and the time required for a mid-trip charge of his electric Ford pickup meant that they couldn’t get far enough north in time.]
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How’s your eclipse viewing?

I had some worked planned in Austin, Texas over the weekend, which dovetailed nicely with the predicted eclipse and the generally clear skies in this dry part of the country.

(Another way to get into prime eclipse-viewing position is to be convicted of a crime and sent to prison. “New York inmates who claimed lockdown was religious violation will be able to see eclipse” (USA Today):

Inmates at a New York prison who sued the state corrections department over a planned lockdown during the Monday total solar eclipse will be able to see the celestial event after all.

The lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in upstate New York claimed that the lockdown, which would have prevented many statewide inmates from witnessing Monday’s solar eclipse, constituted a violation of religious rights.

“For many, this eclipse is a moment of monumental religious significance that cannot be overlooked or dismissed out of hand,” according to the lawsuit, which listed six plaintiffs of various religious faiths.

Corrections officials agreed Thursday to permit the plaintiffs – a Baptist, a Muslim, a Seventh-Day Adventist, two practitioners of Santeria and an atheist – to view the eclipse in exchange for the lawsuit’s dismissal, department spokesman Thomas Mailey told USA TODAY.

Practitioners of Santeria also trace historical ties to chanting rituals performed during a solar eclipse. For atheists, an eclipse may not be a time for worship, but it’s still a time to marvel about the natural wonders of the universe, the lawsuit contended.

)

Nervous nail-biting began on Wednesday, April 3 based on the cloud forecast at https://eclipseweather.info/eclipse/. It appears that God loves Bernie Sanders and fellow progressives in and around Burlington, Vermont. God also loves folks in Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. Why does God hate Texans?

I’m testifying as a software expert witness in Federal District Court in Newark, New Jersey on Wednesday. Getting to EWR from Austin on Tuesday was $2,000 in economy. Flights to JFK were about $1200, with no difference in cost between economy and first class. But it would have been well worth it (to the client!) if the weather had been clear.

https://www.pivotalweather.com/eclipse2024/ is also an interesting site. The “NWS Blend” cloud cover forecast as of the evening of April 4 wasn’t promising for just west of Austin:

Pivotal displayed a tempting map of Vermont and Maine:

Based on these forecasts, I canceled the Austin flights and booked a trip into Boston. From there we departed to Houlton, Maine on the Canadian border (passport and blackface kit packed just in case). The terminal forecast from 8 pm Sunday:

KHUL 072340Z 0800/0824 35008KT P6SM SKC
FM081100 VRB03KT P6SM FEW150
FM081500 30007KT P6SM FEW250

The relevant part is that from 15Z (GMT; subtract 4 hours to get 11:00 am EDT) on the 8th the wind would be from magnetic 300 (NW) at 7 knots, better than 6 statute miles of visibility, and a few clouds at 25,000′ above the airport.

Who has plans for North Dakota or Greenland in 2044? Don’t want to wait that long? Looks like Spain is the smartest place to be (the weather in western Iceland is not reliable!) on August 12, 2026. Has inflation gotten so severe that hotels won’t let people book more than a few months in advance?

Readers: let’s hear your heroic eclipse-viewing tales!

Post-trip update: The weather was just as forecast. We had severe clear weather and a great view of totality as well as all phases of partial. The town organized a warm welcome for thousands of visitors.

All Labs Matter:

And a partial eclipse of the sun by the moon(ey):

Related:

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Montreal, Marijuana, and Masks

This is a report on a Thanksgiving Week trip to Montreal. I arrived on a nonstop flight on Lynx after Nine minutes of Formula 1 glory at the Las Vegas Grand Prix. Being a flight attendant on Lynx is a relaxing job because they don’t serve anything other than water. Seats don’t recline, so there are no passenger fights over space for the FAs to break up. I texted the sign to a friend and he responded “If Joe Biden had ridden Lynx he would say ‘I know how people in Gaza feel about food and water shortages because I spent a few hours on Lynx.'” (“Almost lost my Corvette”)

Once we arrived at CYUL, however, nobody was available to drive the “mobile lounge” out to where we were parked. The excuse was that it was raining. About 45 minutes after landing, we finally entered the terminal. Clearing immigration was quick, but it took another 30 minutes to get my suitcase (I had some actual suits as part of my software expert witness slavery so couldn’t do carry-on). After that, it was a 21-minute C$52 Uber ride to the downtown DoubleTree Hilton (there is a bus, but no train).

Considering that recreational marijuana has been legal in Canada since October 2018, a shocking difference between the Montreal highway and a Boston-area highway is the lack of marijuana billboards. This continued once on the city streets; there were no street-corner advertisements for weed delivery. I asked Professor ChatGPT about this:

In Canada, advertising marijuana is subject to strict regulations under the Cannabis Act, which came into effect on October 17, 2018. These regulations are designed to protect public health and safety, particularly to prevent young people and others who are vulnerable to cannabis-related harms from being encouraged to use cannabis. … The promotion of cannabis, cannabis accessories, or services related to cannabis is generally prohibited unless it is presented in a manner that cannot be seen by a young person. This means that many traditional forms of advertising, such as billboards or television commercials, are often not permissible.

The view from the 37th floor of the downtown tower where I was kept:

I escaped Dame Gothel for a Sunday morning walk around the city. Here’s La Joute, in front of the convention center:

A closer look:

I eventually made my way down to the science museum, where they also have a section on religion:

I’ll save the obligatory Notre-Dame pictures for later in this post.

Montreal is great for outdoor light displays and indoor shopping malls.

The Time Out Market has great food, a lively atmosphere, and four great-condition new Stern pinball machines. What’s not to love?

What about those who don’t have C$25 to spend on dinner at the market? It’s not San Francisco, but there are definitely encampments and homeless people in the city.

Although notable for churches, the city’s religious future seems Islamic. You might see a covered woman every minute or two when walking downtown. Arabic was a commonly overheard language. I wonder how long French can survive in Montreal. Spanish, Haitian Creole, Bangla, and Arabic were all languages that I heard. People with whom I spoke who’d immigrated 10 or more years ago said that they hadn’t learned to speak French and were not interested in learning.

Intersection of Islamic and Western culture: the Uber AI geniuses assign the pronoun “they” to a person named Mohammad:

It is unclear for how long the Rainbow Flag religion and Islam can coexist, but for now they seem to both be popular:

What about Christianity? I went into a few churches and saw only a handful of people doing anything related to this religion. Here’s Notre-Dame:

What about the temples of commerce? Montreal retail seems to have suffered much less from online competition than U.S. urban retail. Much to my delight, there were quite a few old-school camera shops and photo labs!

In addition to my brief stop at the contemporary art museum’s temporary space (see Pussy Riot in Montreal), I stopped into the main art museum. As in a US art museum, Kehinde Wiley is the first and most prominently displayed artist:

Another painting on the important subject of BLM (Beavers’ Lives Matter):

The old building from the new building…

Here’s the Jared Bowman Memorial Door:

Speaking of Capitol Hill, a Mountie meets Elizabeth Warren’s cousin (by David Garneau):

Visitors carefully study how to paint like a 3-year-old who got into all the Halloween candy:

No Greenspun trip report post-2020 is complete without masketology, right? When downtown, I saw someone in a mask roughly every two minutes (including outdoors; #BecauseScience). The people most likely to wear masks were young women, i.e., those whose risk of being injured or killed by COVID-19 is the lowest. Here’s one at CYUL:

After landing at PBI, a family on their way back to New York sports the “adults masked and kid unmasked so that the kid can get infected and then transmit it to the adults a few days later” technique.

That’s the news from Montreal!

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Pussy Riot in Montreal

The Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art was ordered shut by Covidcrats in 2020 and allowed to reopen in February 2021. Just a couple of months later, the museum closed for a renovation that was supposed to be complete in 2024 but, according to the lady who sold me a ticket to the temporary exhibit space in a nearby underground mall, is now on track to be finished in 2028.

What’s in the temporary space? “Velvet Terrorism,” an exhibit on the decade-long protest by Pussy Riot against Vladimir Putin and Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.

From the brochure:

The first couple of rooms:

What was one of the punishments that a Pussy Riot member suffered? She was unbanked, exactly as the Canadian truckers who protested forced Covid-19 vaccination were unbanked by Justin Trudeau using “emergency powers” (NYT). (Separately, I met a Canadian who had gingerly approached some of the truckers at the time. “They were the nicest and most peaceful people you ever met,” he said. “I was afraid to stay too long, though, because I didn’t want to become a target myself.”)

Pussy Riot’s war under the sacred Rainbow Flag was covered:

(It is unclear to me how Putin can be considered responsible for “killings and kidnappings of gay, lesbian, transgender and queer people in Chechnya“. Russia has had tremendous difficulty in its attempts to control what happens in Chechnya, resulting in at least two full-scale wars.)

The public were invited to write down and post their thoughts in response to the exhibition. Most seemed to have been written by Anglophones. Almost nobody seemed to be thinking about Vladimir Putin, Ukraine, the lives of 2SLGBTQQIA+ Russians, or any of the other issues raised by Pussy Riot. Here are some of the notes that were off the main topic:

What were a plurality of the signs about? Here’s a sampling:

Although the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”), which is the elected and overwhelmingly popular government of the Palestinians, is not famous for celebrating Rainbow Flagism, there was the inevitable…

If Al-Shifa Hospital gets fixed up, the Montreal museum visitors are imagining gender affirming surgeries happening there:

Those who identify as feminists also want to see a corner of the world ruled by the guys who raped, maimed, and murdered women on October 7 (nearly all women who were born long after the events of 1948 that is the root of Arab grievance, so it is unclear how they can be blamed for the Nakba):

Ironically, after viewing an art show about criticism of Vladimir Putin, patrons were motivated to trumpet their alignment with Vladimir Putin’s position regarding Hamas (it is unclear that Putin supports “river to the sea liberation” (i.e., the elimination of Israel) but he is more supportive of Hamas than the typical national leader in Europe or North America).

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Nine minutes of Formula 1 glory at the Las Vegas Grand Prix

This is a report on the spectator experience at the Thursday evening Formula 1 practice session in Las Vegas 2023.

My friends had $1,500 three-day tickets in the West Harmon bleachers (the cheapest seats; the average price paid was, supposedly, $7,000). One week prior, I bought a Thursday night resale ticket for $180 plus $35 in Ticketmaster fees, managing to get into the same row as my friends.

The obvious hotels were Planet Hollywood, Paris, and Horseshoe, which are walking distance from the West Harmon entrance. These were available in the $100/night range (plus fees!). However, I was concerned that my flight from Burbank, California might be late and didn’t think that it would be possible to get from the airport to a hotel inside the track after 7 pm. (In fact, we saw cars and taxis going in and out continuously. There is at least one temporary bridge that was built over the track to allow access to hotel-casinos inside the track.) I booked a Hilton near the convention center for a slightly higher price and took the monorail with my friends.

How could hotel rooms during this event have become so cheap? Las Vegas has roughly 150,000 hotel rooms. “F1 claims a healthy 315,000 fans attended the grand prix over four days” (ESPN). That’s only about 100,000 people on any given day. If the predicted traffic and hassles scared off non-F1 tourists, the inevitable result was a lot of empty rooms.

The F1 hype began at the airport:

Our ticket enabled us to go in at 6 pm and begin eating the included Wolfgang Puck food and drinking the included non-alcoholic beverages. We arrived just after 7 pm to poke around the fan environment. A big screen displayed a pre-race TV show. There were a few fun activities for fans, but most had long lines. The food options included a weak hot dog, too-far-from-the-grill grilled cheese, a strange dry ramen box, chicken and waffles (cultural appropriation? they were good in any case), a purportedly Chinese-style chicken salad (more cultural appropriation), cider donuts (terrible), and churros (did not try). Lines for food were reasonable to non-existent. There were huge lines at the store until quite late:

Our bleacher seats had a good view, but the legroom was tight for anyone over 5’6″. The temperature was about 55 degrees. Here is what it looks like (1) walking up the stairs (note portapotties in the background; they really needed people to perform hourly cleanings on what became disgusting environments), (2) the (distant) environment for the rich and famous, and (3) the view of the track from near the top of our bleachers (we were actually sitting quite a bit closer).

When the cars began zooming by at 8:30 pm, it was impressive to see the showers of sparks from cars scraping minor bumps in the road in front of us. At around 8:39, however, the race was halted because, we were told, a manhole cover’s concrete frame had failed. I was deeply confused by this because the course is on a public street. If trucks drive over the manhole daily and don’t break it, how could an 1,800 lb. F1 car, even with a downforce multiplier, break it? I haven’t figured out the full story. The F1 folks say that a concrete frame failed, but not whether it was a new concrete frame installed for the race or the standard frame put in some years ago by the city. I think that the answer to the “why didn’t it fail when a truck drove over it a week ago?” question might be that the F1 car broke the cover/frame with force in the opposite direction. I.e., the cover was sucked up rather than pushed down. This is a force direction for which manhole covers aren’t normally engineered.

The second practice was scheduled for midnight. Quite a few people stayed to drink $12 beers and $39 LED-lit trophy-style glasses of booze:

We walked out to the nearby Horseshoe casino (formerly Bally’s) and relaxed. Even with the track being hot, people were getting in/out via taxi:

My friends went back to their apartment around 11 pm. They were unconvinced that the midnight practice would happen on schedule and were planning to return for Friday and Saturday. I decided to reenter the fan zone. The monitors displayed messages saying that there would be an update soon. There was no longer a line for podium photos, so I got a picture to take credit for winning the race on the damaged track via rugged Honda Odyssey:

At 12:30 am, the monitors promised that the next practice session would start at 2:00 am. I bailed out because I needed to get on an 11:20 am flight from LAS. What happened to the diehard fans who stayed? The organizers kicked them out of their seats at 1:30 am, then ran the practice beginning at 2:30 am with no spectators. It was like a CIA torture scheme in which the enemy is kept awake for hours and then denied what was promised.

I’m glad that I didn’t buy anything at the store because everyone received a follow-up apology email from the F1 folks with a $200 coupon for merchandise as compensation for the missed hours of racing action. Which two hats will I be able to get with this $200 coupon plus $50 for tax and shipping?

The next day I went past the Greenspun College for Urban Affairs and very nearly found the DEI gates:

Inside the terminal, I found Sainz’s car after the manhole cover encounter:

Would I go back? Even with the monitors provided, it was much more confusing to try to follow the race live compared to watching on TV and having things explained. For Jho Low types who don’t mind spending $10,000+ on a three-day ticket, I’m sure that the luxury zone with pit tours is fun and comfortable. It’s a permanent building so probably they have some decent bathrooms at least. I guess it would be worth it if you’re plugged into the international set of other people to whom $10,000 is pocket change and the event would be a chance to see a lot of your friends.

For everyone else, perhaps a last-minute ticket to the Friday evening event would make sense followed by watching the main race on TV in order to (a) save money, and (b) learn what was happening. It is straightforward to go in and out by monorail. If there is a long gap between races, it is easy to go out of the event, find a relaxing place to sit at a restaurant or in a casino bar, and then return.

Readers: Who understands the mechanism via which the manhole cover failed? Also, who enjoyed watching the race on TV?

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Burning Man 2023 Debrief

A friend washed off all of the Playa mud and shared his experience of Burning Man 2023, Rain Edition.

What was great? He arrived on Thursday before the official event began and enjoyed a week of “Unnaturally perfect weather; no dust.”

His favorite art was a gigantic cube made from intermediate bulk carriers (IBCs). An IBC out of IBCs. Each cube had a light and became a pixel. “People could climb it. A few broke ankles,” he said. “The perfect example of ingenious art that is awe-inspiring by its simplicity and beauty out of materials that can be reused after it is taken apart.”

Overall, though, he felt that the art was not as awe-inspiring as in previous years. “There was a proliferation of laser-cut sh*t all over the Playa, including the otherwise-magnificent Temple. That’s a lazy way to build something intricate.” Perhaps this is because some of the A-listers didn’t show up this year. Unlikely in a typical year, tickets were easy to come by. What else wasn’t so great? “There are still too many plug-and-plays. The ebikes. They move too fast and the riders are like Tesla drivers: annoying people in a hard-to-explain way. Burning Man bikes are supposed to be crummy and hard to pedal. It shouldn’t be effort-free to move around.”

How about the art cars, now that Mayan Warrior has been destroyed by fire? (“They spent at least $8 million on Mayan Warrior”) “Titantic’s End is an art car iceberg is supposed to raise awareness about climate change. It has an interior room chilled to 32 degrees, lasers, massive sound, and everything else than can be done with an unlimited CO2 budget,” my friend noted. “We were not impressed.”

After a week of good luck, the rain began on Friday morning. With only shreds of mobile phone service, which immediately collapsed as soon as the event began in earnest, attendees had limited access to weather forecasts. “Rich people had Starlink, but everything went down after it started raining. The rangers told us no more rain coming and it f**king poured for days,” he said. What would he have done if he’d been better informed? “We would have partied way harder at the beginning and then left Thursday night.” Was it that bad? “It was a crisis made for social media and schadenfreude, but really not that different from going on a ski vacation and getting injured after a day or two. Some people kept partying, but we were discouraged so we stayed in our tents. Nobody could drive an art car, bike, or even walk in shoes. You could walk barefoot, but it was nasty.”

Dare we touch on the bathroom situation? “Porta-potties never became completely full, but were really gnarly, even for hardened ravers. We ended up finding a plug and play with $10K composting toilets on the last day. They had graciously opened their toilets to everyone. People had been prepared to pee in bottles and poop in trash bags, but it didn’t quite come to that.” Was the situation inevitable? “Toilet pumping and camp water deliveries stopped Friday morning. The cops had heavy equipment and super off-road dune buggies, but they just disappeared. Maybe they could have parked a pump truck at each station and kept pumping, for example.”

Was he sorry that there wasn’t a muscular response from President Joe Biden? “All the camps were sharing. Nobody went hungry or thirsty. The vibe was a little like Central American post-earthquake.”

What about the escape? “We tore down and mooped over a couple of days and I made a run for it but the rented car got stuck. I managed to walk back and pull myself out with my team and our biggest truck and return to our now-empty campsite for a cold and wet night. The next morning, Monday I guess, I mapped out the best route by foot, around bad streets and stuck vehicles. I deflated the rental car tires and went for it, but still got stuck. Some a**holes aggressively yelled obscenities at us for trying to escape, other people came out and pushed us. Once I got to K street, I cut out on playa and just plowed thru the swampy parts and banged my way out onto the gate road and out.”

What about the fact that the gate was closed for both in and out? “I heard that people were being stopped and could not get out, but when i decided to blast my way out early Monday morning there were no cops in sight. The gates were open, but not advertised as open. A campmate who arrived in a Toyota Land Cruiser managed to get out on Sunday night. He has a lot of experience off road and had traction pads with him.”

Who cleaned up the mountain of muddy trash that he left behind? “We did a full pack and moop before we left. We left a guy behind with the 4×4 truck and 8000 lb. trailer and supplies. He stayed till Temple burn left the morning after. So we cleaned up; not like the f**kers who ‘walked it out’ leaving all their sh*t behind.”

Summary? “We were well prepared so mostly it was the loss of part of the event and being stuck at camp a few days, but I got out right before Exodus so other than the nail-biting stress of getting to pavement, it was totally easy drive.”

What about the folks who waited for the official opening of the gate? He sent me this photo of Exodus:

Will we get a more thorough dissection of what could have been done better from the burners who know the event best? My friend says “No. People aren’t comfortable complaining about the Burning Man organization. They get over it or stop going.” Does it matter that failings won’t be examined? “In the end, Burning Man is like California. It’s so resource-rich that no amount of mismanagement can ruin it.”

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Coronapanic in Panama

This is a report on the coronapanic level in Panama observed during a February 2023 visit.

One of the first sights stepping off our Royal Caribbean ship was a mask directive in the duty free shop:

Walking outdoors in the sunshine near the canal:

Two years after coronapanic began, compliance with these indoor and outdoor directives was spotty. Note the chin diapers on the supermarket employees below, for example, and on a gal in an ice cream shop.

How devoted to Faucism was Panama? See “Panama’s Gender-Based Lockdown and the Resilience of Transgender Activism” (hrw.org):

On April 1, 2020, the government of Panama introduced a gender-based lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This meant that women and men were only allowed to do essential shopping on alternate days. … An unintended consequence of this measure was that police and private security guards began to single out transgender people for profiling for being out “on the wrong day.” In some cases, they arrested and fined trans people, or prevented them from buying essential items like food and medication. These cases of discrimination occurred when security agents’ visually identified trans people, or after they checked the sex marker on their national identification cards.

Panama was celebrated by the United Nations for its California levels of school closure (more than one year). What were the results achieved by locking up the trans shoppers, kicking kids out of school for 1.5 years, forced masking, and coerced vaccination? Panama ended up with a slightly higher COVID-tagged death rate than no-lockdown, no-mask, no-school-closure Sweden (statista).

What if a Panamanian emerged from his/her/zir/their bunker having survived COVID? Our guide explained that Panamanians pay roughly 20 percent of income in tax. “That covers retirement and health care,” she said. “There is no property tax and you don’t have to pay anything when you go see the doctor.” A tourist from Canada asked if there were long waits to see doctors. “Oh yes,” the guide responded. “Sometimes you have to wait for two weeks.” Women retire at 57, men at 62, and police after 25 years of work (age 43 if they start at 18). Life expectancy is almost the same as in the U.S. (ranking), about 82 for women and 76 for men. Thus, women enjoy 11 additional years of retirement compared to men (5 years from the younger retirement age and 6 years from the longer life expectancy).

One mystery is how the life expectancy in Panama can be comparable to what we have here in the U.S. We are informed that abortion care for pregnant people is life-saving health care. The U.S. is the world’s abortion care capital. By contrast, “Abortion in Panama is illegal except in instances that the pregnancy is life-threatening or the health of the woman is at risk, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. … The punishment for a woman who has an illegal abortion is one to three years in prison. The punishment for a doctor or other person who provides the procedure with the woman’s consent is 3 to 6 years in prison.” (Wikipedia) If abortion care is rare in Panama, how are Panamanians able to live just as long as Americans?

(Also, if Californians boycott U.S. states where abortion care is not available through 37 weeks, as pregnant people will find in Maskachusetts, why aren’t Californians boycotting Panama, including tourism and the purchase of products that have made the expensive trip through the Canal?)

Panama is an underrated tourist destination. The wildlife is as interesting as in Costa Rica. The historic old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a lot more pleasant than Cartagena. Everything is easier for the traveler because the country is so much richer than these neighbors. Let’s have a look at the old:

Some fancy church interiors:

The “latino style” shop:

(I stopped in to ask directions to the Latinx style shop.)

What pays for it all? Global commerce! Ships going through and also 500,000 containers per year being transferred to another ocean via the Panama Canal Railway.

Related:

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Cartagena, Colombia, UNESCO World Heritage Site

Now that the 125-degree heat is winding down in the U.S. and readers in the soon-to-be-frigid north are planning their winter escapes, some thoughts on a popular warm destination…

The culture nerds in Paris designated Cartagena, Colombia a World Heritage Site back in 1984:

Situated on the northern coast of Colombia on a sheltered bay facing the Caribbean Sea, the city of Cartagena de Indias boasts the most extensive and one of the most complete systems of military fortifications in South America. Due to the city’s strategic location, this eminent example of the military architecture of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries was also one of the most important ports of the Caribbean. The port of Cartagena – together with Havana and San Juan, Puerto Rico – was an essential link in the route of the West Indies and thus an important chapter in the history of world exploration and the great commercial maritime routes. On the narrow streets of the colonial walled city can be found civil, religious and residential monuments of beauty and consequence.

… The components that make up the Port, Fortifications and Group of Monuments, Cartagena, are authentic in terms of location and setting, forms and designs, and materials and substance. The property constitutes an exceptional example of Spanish military architecture of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and the existing fortification works remain authentic examples of some of the most important military engineers of this period, including Juan Bautista (Giovanni Battista) Antonelli, Juan de Herrera y Sotomayor, Antonio de Arévalo, Ignacio Sala and Juan Bautista MacEvan.

The city was in the news more recently for a different kind of cultural treasure… “US Secret Service Cartagena scandal ‘involved 20 women'” (BBC):

The US Secret Service prostitution scandal involved as many as 20 women, 11 American agents and some military personnel, senior US officials say.

Senator Susan Collins, briefed by the Secret Service director, said 20 women were found at the US hotel.

The incidents took place in Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of last weekend’s Summit of the Americas.

The BBC article includes a subhead “Dog-handlers investigated” with no explanation or elaboration.

Hoping to catch up with Hunter Biden, I visited in February 2023 via Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas (onboard Internet made it a work trip with a colleague in which we stopped to stretch our legs periodically).

Coming into the historic city and docks as viewed from the deck:

Let’s check out the iPhone 14 panoramic capability:

Here are the smart folks walking 50 steps and getting on a tour bus:

Our decision to walk took us through a fun welcome center:

As soon as we got out of the port, we were besieged by taxi drivers who told us that it wouldn’t be safe to walk into the historic center. We ignored them because we wanted to get a feel for the town and they were partly right. The first 15 minutes of the walk is on narrow sidewalks that are in poor condition. The streets are jammed with traffic and it was already uncomfortably hot by late morning.

Nonetheless, it was interesting to see a few views that the tourist who zips straight to the historic center might miss.

The tourist center is jammed with… tourists:

The cathedral offers some escape from the sun and heat:

The local museum features some good views of the plaza below and also some practical ideas for Covidians:

The Ring doorbell people could take some ideas away from here:

The town was previously fortified by a wall and now is protected against invasion by a ring highway as well as the wall.

This is unfortunate because the town can’t truly meet the water. We walked to the 16th-century Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, watching our step carefully:

Then it was an Uber (less than $3 for the luxury option) back to the port.

Note the young slender local wearing a mask (voluntarily, I think, because some other employees did not have them). Colombia had a “mandatory nationwide lockdown” for approximately six months. Children lost more than a year of education as “most of the schools remained closed during most of 2021”. Borders were closed until May 2021 with testing and vaccine papers demands after that. The population was ordered to wear masks outdoors through at least February 2022 (Reuters) while indoor masking was required in 2023. (What was the short-term effect of these efforts? Colombia has suffered from a 23 percent excess death rate (versus 5 percent for no-lockdown no-mask Sweden) since January 1, 2020.)

Were we sad to sail away? Did we wish we’d booked a hotel and stayed three or four days? No and no. The old city of Panama is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Panamanians are much wealthier than the Colombians, which means they can afford to restore everything, including the sidewalks, and they don’t need to be aggressive in trying to sell stuff to tourists. Also, there is much less car and truck traffic. If we wanted to vacation in the midst of an old Spanish colonial city in the region we would choose Casco Viejo.

If you’re planning to visit, maybe stay in the richest part of the modern city and hit the historic stuff for one or two days. Or check it off your bucket list by visiting via cruise ship! December through April are the agreed-on best months to visit and this is also when cruise ships sailing from Florida are unlikely to encounter any hurricanes (end of November is the end of the season for nautical and property insurance woe).

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Among the Covidians in Burlington, Vermont

Some photos from a recent trip to downtown Burlington, Vermont…

The front door of a state government building:

Inside a bookstore, a follower of CNN:

COVID-19 is dangerous enough that one should wear a mask, but not so dangerous that one should shop for books on Amazon?

We are informed that marijuana can cure almost any illness, yet below is a marijuana shopper who feels the need to protect him/her/zir/theirself via a mask (Fauci-approved cloth version). If he/she/ze/they is about to inhale healing cannabis, why does he/she/ze/they need to worry about a minor bug such as SARS-CoV-2? Note also the trans-enhanced rainbow flag on the front door.

Speaking of rainbow flags, nearly every merchant had one, but only some featured Black Lives Matters or Trans People Belong signs.

Note the tattoos behind the Sign of Justice:

The University of Vermont featured both indoor and outdoor maskers of the young/healthy/slender variety, but unfortunately I was too slow to get good photos. Even more upsetting: the “intentional intersectional space” was closed.

Shout-out to Heritage Aviation at KBTV for the usual awesome service. Also to U.S. Customs at Burlington for hassle-free clearance inbound from the Land of Blackface and Political Unity.

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