Sunday, August 31, 2014

Florida! – the whole state

While I was dealing with no power last week I missed this bit of news. A federal district judge has ruled Florida's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Previously, four state courts overturned the ban, some of them in such a way that the ruling applied to only a county or two. This ruling applies to the whole state. Along with the ruling the judge issued a stay, so don't dash to the county clerk's office just yet.

Commemters to the story speculate about whether the Supremes will take up the first available case or wait until there is a conflict at the Circuit Court level. More speculation about how they would rule. One notes that Justice Kennedy's ruling a year ago striking down the Defense of Marriage Act brought on this flurry of rulings in our favor. How likely would it be for Kennedy to now douse the flame when he rules on actual same-sex marriage?

Another notes that when the Virginia case was stayed by the Supremes, the stay was written in such a way that if the Supremes don't take the case the stay expires. Is that a hint the Supremes don't want to deal with same-sex marriage?

Friday, August 29, 2014

A zillionaire for raising the minimum wage

The radio program On Point, hosted by Tom Ashbrook discussed income inequality with Nick Hanauer. I heard a bit of the program Tuesday evening before arriving home to a house without power. Hanauer was an initial investor of Amazon, has founded or funded over 30 companies, and now is one of the super-rich. He has the plane, yacht, and multiple fancy homes. His message is that if the 1% don't work to re-balance the wealth in the economy the whole thing will come crashing down. Alas, there is no transcript of the show, so I summarized while listening on the web. The audio is 47 minutes.

Capitalism is the greatest engine for creating wealth, but it can benefit everyone or it can benefit the few. It is the role of democracy to make sure it benefits everyone. The problem isn't inequality. The problem is high levels of inequality. And we're at record high levels now and the spread is widening. Such levels lead to pitchforks in the streets and damage to democracy.

The upheavals in Ferguson, MO over the shooting death of Michael Brown are an example of the disenfranchised beginning to fight back.

It doesn't make sense for the rich to push for policies that extend and accentuate the inequality gap. First reason: Throughout human history when the inequality got this severe, the pitchforks have always come out – unless there is a police state in place. But a lot of Americans think we're a peaceful society. We don't do that stuff here. True statement?

A correction to what capitalism is: It isn't an efficient allocation of resources. It is creating new solutions to human problems.

Of course, fellow super-rich consider Hanauer to be bonkers. They buy into the "trickle-down" idea that the more money the job creators have, the more jobs they create and the better off everyone is. But it isn't true. Jobs are part of a feedback loop between customers and businesses. When workers have more money, businesses have more customers and need more workers.

Those at the top would rather believe the efficient market hypothesis because if markets are efficient then those at the top deserve to be rich and others deserve to be poor. But markets aren't efficient, they're effective – if well managed.

Hanauer notes that five years ago income inequality was a taboo subject in polite society. But now many of the rich agree that inequality is an issue that needs discussion. But what to do is still an open debate with many of the rich hesitant about the tradeoffs they would need to make. Even so, they recognize the central point (and the second reason to close the inequality gap): When their customers have no money the businesses owned by the rich have no customers.

Reason three: High levels of inequality stretch the society apart. The rich become disconnected from the rest, which reduces empathy and increases contempt (by the rich for the poor and by the poor for the rich), a dangerous and corrosive mix. The poor no longer have a stake in the society. The situation can get wildly out of control very quickly (a tipping point). Alas, if the rich feel aggrieved one thing they are very good at is contacting their senator.

Complaining about the rich and ranting about what the bankers are doing is not a theory of growth. This is: The more people, entrepreneurs and customers, who are included in prosperity the more innovative the economy becomes and the more it grows. The more participants in the economy the more it grows. This is reason four.

Thirty years ago the American middle class was the largest and richest in the world. That's no longer true. Canada is no longer the poor cousin. Their cities are much more vibrant than American cities. A measure of an economy should be how much better the middle class is doing than in other countries.

Today's politicians don't make decisions based on sound economic policy, they make decisions based on rules-of-thumb, which were taught as good economics maybe 50 years ago but are now being shown to be false. One of those is tax cuts to the rich benefit the entire economy. Another is the rich are job creators, the more money they have the more jobs they create. The people at the top matter, the people at the bottom do not. Trickle-down economics works. The bigger the big get the better off everyone is. When you raise the price of employment, you get less of it. The GOP budget encapsulates those rules. Some of these rules are used because of confusion, some because rich people know who will be advantaged by using them.

Seattle raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour. It raised the wages of tipped workers to somewhere around $9 an hour – the federal minimum for tipped workers is around $2. So why is the restaurant scene in Seattle booming? Because even tipped workers can now afford to eat in restaurants. The poor getting richer is not bad for the economy.

We as a country can choose policies that spread prosperity. Raising minimum wage, especially of tipped workers, is one such policy. Another is to help the small business compete against the big. Also, balance the power between owners and workers.

Our policies used to help people become rich. They now reward people for being rich.

We've already outsourced all the jobs that can be. The job of hotel maid can't be outsourced. But why should that job be a low-paying job? Walmart made $27 billion in profit last year. Why can't it use $10 billion of that to pay each of its million workers another $10,000 a year, which would get them off food stamps – and give them enough money to buy more products from Walmart? Why shouldn't the service job of today match the manufacturing job of 50 years ago that provided a middle-class income? The big reason why it doesn't is power. Manufacturing workers had unions.

Will the rich see this understanding and change their ways? Maybe not. But another goal of Hanauer's message is to wake up the other 99.8% of us, remind us we're the source of growth and prosperity, and get us to demand policies that spread prosperity.

Hanauer was invited to be on the show because he had written an article for Politico making the same points he made on the air. It is easier and more complete to read that rather than listen to the show.

A quote from the article:
In any large group, some people absolutely will not do the right thing. That’s why our economy can only be safe and effective if it is governed by the same kinds of rules as, say, the transportation system, with its speed limits and stop signs.
And some more ideas:

Want to reduce the size of government? Reduce the need for government. Pay workers well and they don't need food stamps or rent assistance or medical care.

Democrats say raising the minimum wage is a justice issue, all about fairness. And that's why they lose the argument. Republicans campaign on growth, but they provide the wrong solution. Minimum wage is a growth issue.

There can never be enough super-rich Americans to power the economy. Paying a CEO 1000 times more than the average worker does not benefit the economy. That CEO does not buy 1000 shirts for every shirt the average worker buys. Instead, that CEO puts the cost of 998 shirts into savings.

A problem with the Occupy movement is their message that capitalism is bad. What is bad is mismanaged capitalism, which concentrates wealth. Smart capitalists will make sure capitalism is sustainable, and that means spreading prosperity.

Tim Worstall is a contributor to Forbes and thinks Hanauer's ideas are insane. Some of his rebuttals:

A central story by Hanauer is that when Henry Ford raised wages to $5 a day he boosted sales of his cars. But Ford had 14,000 employees, which wouldn't put a big change in annual sales of 200,000. The raise cost Ford $9 million a year. If all employees bought a car that would increase sales by $7.75 million. That doesn't increase profits. The reason why Ford went to $5 a day was to reduce turnover so he didn't have to hire 50,000 a year to fill 14,000 jobs.

Worstall considers the price of labor and says, "People who employ more expensive labor use it more sparingly." Raising the minimum wage changes the way companies use their workers – though it seems Worstall doesn't factor in the number of workers may need to stay the same or grow to handle increased customers.

Worstall says Hanauer dismisses the effect of savings – it was savings that allowed Hanauer to invest in Amazon. So Hanauer should use his money to fund more companies rather than tell companies to raise wages. Even I see a disconnect here, and my last economics class was a long time ago. Hanauer won't invest in a company (which would create jobs) unless he knows that company is likely to make money. And for that it needs customers, which would come from a healthy middle class.

I note that Worstall doesn't refute one of Hanauer's central themes – when their customers have no money the businesses owned by the rich have no customers.

Happy Labor Day!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Let there be light

I came home this evening to lights in houses down the street. I opened the door and could hear the radio playing – if it loses power while on there is no way to turn it off. So, yes, I have power. According to the bedroom clock it came on about 2:45 this afternoon. That's more than a day earlier than the electric company originally estimated. Yes, power was back before my cooking session with my friend and debate partner and before my evening in the library.

Alas, the outage trashed my saved browser tabs. So all those wonderful things I was going to tell you about before my travels have been lost. Well, there was one I remembered and found again.

Gary Glenn has been the head of the American Family Association in Michigan, meaning he is the state's top homophobe. He was instrumental in getting the 2004 marriage protection passed here and has been making life as nasty for us as he possibly can. There have been many times in the last dozen years that when Glenn spoke the GOP legislators here jumped to do his bidding. Thankfully, his influence is waning.

But back in the beginning of this month in the Michigan primary, Glenn won the GOP nomination for the state House for the 98th district. That includes Midland and small communities nearby.

I recently received an email (asking for a donation) that said there are several homophobes that won their primary in GOP safe districts. In Glenn's district, however, there is a belief that he can be defeated.

You don't know the answer

The Indiana and Wisconsin same-sex marriage cases went before the 7th Circuit Court yesterday. The attorneys for the state went before the 3-judge panel – and were grilled so thoroughly there were scorch marks. Yeah, they were made to look like incompetent idiots. Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin provides transcript excerpts from the courtroom audio.

These attorneys seem to believe that because straight people have such a problem with unintended children they need marriage to protect the kids. But same-sex couples don't have that problem, so don't need marriage. That argument is well toasted. So were the arguments about tradition, supremacy of voter wishes, and that society is helped when same-sex couples can't marry. These judges were brutal in the face of such non-logic. Quite a fun read. Want to guess how these judges rule?

Still in the dark

As of 12:30 today, when I was last home, the electric power was still out at the house. I spent some time with  my friend and debate partner to cook up some meals before the ingredients spoil. I may eat them cold until the microwave works. Thanks, friend, for the use of your kitchen.

I think there are at least 20 houses on my street with no power. Several of them are now running generators -- which are noisy!

I'm currently sitting in the library near my friend's house. I'm in this one because he could assure me wi-fi is available and it is open until 9:00. Tomorrow I might try the library closer to my house.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Travelogue – home

Yesterday, the dash across Ontario from St. Catherines to Windsor was straightforward. Since I was aiming for the Whole Foods store in Detroit I decided to take the tunnel this time. A very short wait at the border once I was above ground again.

Some stats from the trip:

* Total driving miles: 2475. A couple hundred of those were around the White Mountains. Many more miles on foot.

* Total number of photos taken: 593. No, I won't inflict them all on you. I plan to print the best 100.

* I was on US routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 9. I crossed over US 5.

* I spent almost $13 in tolls driving across New York.

* Every state and province on this trip – Ontario, Quebec, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York – has marriage equality. Alas, Michigan isn't there yet.

* Out of all those places, only my home state of Michigan has a higher price at the gas station for using a credit card instead of cash. The difference is usually a dime a gallon. When I asked to confirm this at my first fuel stop (in Ontario) the attendant was puzzled that other places would have a price difference.

I arrived home at about 3:30. At 4:45 a thunderstorm went through the area. At 5:00 my power went out. So after almost three weeks of eating in restaurants I went out to eat. I then attended a meeting I wasn't sure I'd be able to attend. No need to sit at home in the dark. I used candles at home once the meeting was over, and went to bed on the early side.

When the power was still out this morning I registered the outage with the electric company. Naturally, they said it would be a long wait to talk to a real person. The automatic system registered the outage, then told me power might be out until late Friday night. So much for the food I had just bought. Then again, I saw their trucks on the street this afternoon.

No power didn't affect my morning shower, but it was to a restaurant again for breakfast. That omelet was huge! I did a bit of clothes shopping (classes resume next week), then met my friend and debate partner for lunch.

I'm now sitting in my classroom at the college. The full-time faculty are in workshops all day, so the department is rather quiet. I might have time to adapt last year's class syllabi for this year, getting it done this afternoon. I'm glad the storm cooled off the temps – the college doesn't have air conditioning.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Travelogue – the mad dash

I saw this t-shirt this morning: “Vermont – what happens here stays here … but nothing happens here.”

My first event of the day was a drive up Mt. Equinox. The 3.5 mile drive was steep – I was in second gear much of the way up and first gear much of the way down. The signs at the top said on a clear day (and this was close to it) one could see into New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. Here is a sample, though it might not look all that much different from the top of Mt. Cannon.

The mountain and its scenic drive is owned by an organization associated with the Catholic Church. The drive and the viewing building at the top is in honor of St. Bruno. I'm sure this as a way for them to raise money. Because of that I felt a bit ambivalent about the entrance fee. I debated skipping it and rather hoped the early morning fog would solve the issue for me. But I went.

Then it was the mad dash for home, or at least the dash across New York. I took two-lane roads north of Albany before joining up with the New York Thruway. Google Maps said this would be only six minutes longer and several miles shorter than picking up the highway at Albany. I'm not sure their numbers are correct.

There was one big problem with this route – not a lot of restaurants, especially if one refuses places like Dunkin Donuts. This route joined the highway in the town of Amsterdam and the route into town had no restaurants. There was one right at the interchange – that had been closed long enough for weeds to surround it. Though I was hungry, I got on the highway.

A couple miles later I saw a sign for a “Text Stop” with a reminder that texting must wait until the car is not in motion. Perhaps food there? An exit came first. New York must have a billboard ban, as they have signs saying what attractions are at an exit. They also have signs listing the hotels and sometimes there is also a list of gas stations. Oh, by the way, there's also food. But we won't tell you which restaurants.

I got off at the exit. Just on the other side of the toll booth was … a Dunkin Donuts. Not far away was a McDonalds (also not known for the healthiness of their food). The third choice was a truck stop with a 24 hour restaurant. I went for that. Inside I saw the restaurant had been cordoned off, apparently not used for a good long time. Instead, there was a deli counter. The attendant made up a ham & cheese sandwich for me and I took it out to my car to eat. It was actually decent food, but not enough.

Back on the highway I found the “Text Stop” was not a service plaza. I don't think there were bathrooms. I'm glad I hadn't waited.

The next several service areas were dominated by McDonald's. I stopped at one for the rest room, but forged on. Near Rochester at 4:00 the service area featured Tim Horton's, which had chili, so I got some.

I got off the highway in Batavia for gas. Around that time the traffic info signs listed wait times at the three bridges into Canada. The one at Niagara Falls listed a wait time of 30-60 minutes. I had seen the Falls before and wasn't in the mood to sit for more than a half hour. Reluctantly, I took the northern crossing, right next to the Niagara Escarpment. There I waited only 10 minutes.

I'm now in a little motel in St. Catherines, Ontario. Through TripAdvisor I knew it would be good quality, reasonably priced, and had a room available.

I left the base of Mt. Equinox at 10:30 this morning. I got to the hotel about 6:45. Pretty good for about 370 miles.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Travelogue – mixed legacy

When I was researching this trip my Triple-A guidebook listed “gems” of Vermont. One of them was Wilson Castle, near the town of Rutland. It sounded pretty good. Also nearby was the Vermont Marble Museum. It didn't get a top rating by Triple-A, but the description sounded intriguing. Yesterday, I began to think today would be too crowded, so decided to see what TripAdvisor said about the Marble Museum. The reviews were quite favorable. I then looked at the reviews for Wilson Castle. Um, not so good. Reviewers talked about decayed splendor. It was obviously a fine place at one time, but clearly falling apart now with skimpy resources for restoration. Those that rated it well saw the splendor, those that gave it low marks saw the decay. So I decided to skip the Castle.

The Vermont Marble Museum was, indeed, pretty good. It showed how marble was mined and cut. Displays showed some of its uses – church interior, statuary, public monuments, big buildings, bathrooms. There was a hall with reliefs of all the presidents (up to Bush I). Another display showed what processes in the earth created marble. There was a display showing how a sculptor worked from a plaster model to the actual marble. There was also a downside – the little town of Proctor was a company town. Everything was owned by the guy who owned the marble company. By the time payday arrived a worker's deducted rent and his bill at the grocery store meant he didn't actually receive any cash.

I still had morning left, so headed south of Rutland on a minor road, Vermont Route 133. It was a beautiful drive down a wide valley with lots of farms. It was an enjoyable trip. Taking a photo was a challenge because of so few places to pull over. Even so, I got this one:

I had lunch in the little town of Manchester, then drove to Hildene, the estate of Robert Todd Lincoln. He's the elder and surviving son of the Prez. Hildene is the summer home, completed in 1905. The main house is of good size. It has a small pipe organ that had used the old paper rolls similar to a player piano. The rolls are getting fragile and their music has been computerized. Here is the back of the house, showing a bit of the garden.

Robert worked in the gov't under a couple presidents, then in 1897 became the head of the Pullman Railroad Company when George Pullman retired (or maybe died). He led the company in one form or another for over 20 years. The estate, run by a foundation since about 1978, was able to get a Pullman train car, restore it, and have it on display on the grounds. Here is a bit of the interior of the car.

The displays around the car discussed the mixed legacy of the Pullman cars. All the porters were black men. The job paid better than most others available to blacks, allowing some to approach a middle-class life, but it was still difficult, exhausting, and demeaning work. The question is raised whether Robert continued the oppression of the people his father freed. There are many aspects of the question, so there isn't a simple answer. Even so, Robert was asked if he banned the tipping of the porters, would that require him to raise their wages? He allowed that it would. Which meant the real people benefiting from the tip were the shareholders (pay attention, restaurant owners!). Here is a cartoon showing that.

I'm puzzled by one detail – the place is described as Robert's ancestral home. Huh? If his father and mother never lived there, how could it be? It is true that Robert's granddaughter inherited the place and lived there until she died in 1978. But that wouldn't make it Robert's ancestral home.

In front of the house is a square of bricks set into the lawn outlining the size of cabin Abraham grew up in. If I'm generous, that square is maybe 20 feet on a side. That's about the same size as the portico of his son's summer house.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Travelogue – conservation

I left the White Mountains this morning. Most of today's trip was on two lane roads, some faster than others. I made a stop in Meredith alongside Lake Winnipesaukee. Then on through Lebanon (on a bit of Interstate!).

My picnic lunch stop, not far into Vermont, was at the Quechee Gorge. There is a pleasant trail along the gorge, but with one problem – a chainlink fence between the path and the edge of the drop. No place to get a good view until one hiked a half mile. Then that view wasn't all the way back to the bridge. I finally found the best view of the gorge was from the bridge itself.

I drove down the road just a bit to the town of Woodstock (VT, not NY) for a 2:00 tour at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion. But I couldn't find the turnoff! I finally stopped at the Visitor Info in the Village Green. It was closed, but offered a map. I got to the mansion's visitor center after 2:00. I found out a few things. Today was Community Day so tours were free. The 2:00 tour wasn't a full tour, but a short one for the community. The desk person was puzzled why a reservation had been accepted for that time (though my name did come up on the computer). And, yes, there was space on the 3:00 tour.

Alas, that mixup with reservations and my difficulty in finding the place meant I didn't have time for the next-door Billings Farm Museum.

I asked about the signs to the place. Vermont has banned billboards and has a system of signs for attractions. Turn this way for the mansion. But does it mean turn now and drive 0.3 miles or does it mean drive for 0.3 miles and then turn? If the turn is more than a mile away why tell me about it now? If the turn is now where is the street?

The mansion is the main feature of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. The primary purpose of the park is the teaching of environmentalism, conservation, and sustainability. And we get to tour a cool mansion along with the lessons.

The house (part of the current mansion) was built by the parents of George Marsh. His fame (though not widespread) is his book Man and Nature, published in 1864. This is perhaps the earliest book that spelled out that man's actions affect nature and not always for the better. Cut down the trees on a hill and erosion will increase, muddying up streams, and reducing the number of fish. The great naturalist John Muir had a copy of Marsh's book with lots of notations in the margins.

The house and grounds were bought by Frederick Billings. He incorporated Marsh's ideas into research on how to farm sustainably. His farm was intended to serve as a model on best farming practices, and still serves that goal today. Billings also served as the head of the Northern Pacific Railway and there is a town in Montana named for him.

Billings' granddaughter Mary married Laurance Rockefeller, grandson of John D. Rockefeller of the Standard Oil fortune. Laurance followed his father (John D. Jr.) into conservation. JD Jr. used his money to expand the national park system (Acadia, Great Smokies, Grand Tetons, and lots more). Laurance did a few donations of his own. He was a consultant to lots of environmental bills and a guide to Lady Bird Johnson and her efforts to beautify America. He is the only conservationist to earn a Congressional Medal of Honor. He donated this estate to the National Park System with its mandate of environmentalism. The mansion is maintained the way the couple left it when they turned over the keys in the 1990s. It amused me to see the TV with VCR in the family room.

I'm currently in a small motel in the tiny town of Mendon, Vermont. It gets a motel because this is a ski area. Directions for restaurants were in terms of “uphill” and “downhill.” In my room I could connect to wi-fi but it didn't connect to the wider internet. To do that I have to sit in the motel lobby.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Travelogue – losing a river

How does a river get lost? Since I went to Lost River Gorge, the question is appropriate. In this case send the river down a gorge (steep walled narrow canyon, similar to yesterday's flume) and drop some huge boulders into the gorge. In contrast to yesterday, the water flows under the boulders instead of over. So, lost river. In addition, those crazily piled boulders make a series of “boulder caves” – little rooms and passages under the boulders. Some of them are accommodating, others – such as the “lemon squeezer” – are not. Those I passed by, especially when my knees told me they weren't so pleased about that hands-and-knees thing. My slacks aren't either. Of course, all the kids around me thought these little caves were pretty cool, especially since their parents couldn't follow them. That made me wonder about the signs that said children under 12 should be accompanied by their parents at all times. Who thought up these rules?

Here's a view to a cave opening, which is why I didn't venture into many of them.

This time I had my jacket with me. I also carried my umbrella through the gorge, though I didn't need to open it.

To get to the gorge I drove the Kancamagus Highway again. I was glad I had stopped at the scenic overlooks yesterday because the clouds were so low today they covered the pass.

After lunch (again, one I brought with me) I headed down the K-Hwy one more time. This time I stopped to hike to Franconia Falls. This time the trail was straight with a gentle grade – it had been the route of a lumber train. In many places the railroad ties still lay in the path.

Alas, this trail was much longer than I had thought and the falls weren't spectacular. A steady light rain had started when I got out of the car, so I had my umbrella with me – and I used it. The whole hike was over 3 hours.

Since this was in a national forest I had to get a day-pass for my car. That's when I hit an issue that seems to be more prevalent lately. The stand to buy the pass was self-serve – stick your money in an envelope, then tear off the window hanger and display that in your car. The issue – nobody around to offer change. Don't have the right number of singles? You could go back into town (about 10 miles) for change or you could slip a $5 in the envelope when the fee is only $3.

I'm not going to complain too loudly about the National Forest Service getting a couple extra bucks out of me. But I had a similar experience at the laundromat a couple days ago. The machines didn't take coins, they took an “easy card” – one put bills (not coins – and again I didn't have singles) into the machine and out popped a card. Each washer and dryer deducted from the card. Put too much on the card? Use it when you come again. Not coming again? Sorry, we don't make change. I gave the card to my B&B hosts.

I encountered a parking structure in the Detroit area that didn't give change. When I didn't have the exact coins I went into the adjacent movie theater and asked for the difference. They gave it to me though I had to wait for a manager. But that is an incentive to never park in that structure again.

I hope I don't see this trend expand.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Travelogue – circling Franconia

Thursday, August 21

I have no idea why I thought leaving my jacket behind today was a good idea. The sky was cloudy and the temp a bit lower than yesterday. Yet, I specifically excluded the jacket when packing for the day.

That exclusion was felt when I took the aerial tram to the top of Mt. Cannon. At the top the temp was in the low 60s F and the breeze was definitely there. Even though it was a bit chilly the views were pretty good.

I had a bit of lunch at the top (inside, where it was warm) and more lunch in my car, which I had brought.

The next stop was the Flume Gorge. The trail is two miles, part of it through a narrow gorge with a cascading small river. I took lots of pictures so my hike took two hours rather than the suggested 1:15. The gorge was formed first from a bubble of magma that formed hard granite. That cracked and was filled with a magma of a softer basalt. Once the whole thing was exposed in one of the ice ages the basalt eroded much faster than the granite.

I did not need my jacket while hiking the gorge, though I did carry my umbrella (which I didn't have to open).

It was about 4:00 when I left the gorge. I headed back to the B&B on the Kancamagus (Kan-ca-ma-gus) Highway (a 2-lane road) through the White Mountain National Forest. I stopped at a few scenic overlooks.

Today I made a big loop encircling the Franconia Range. I drove over 100 miles.

Though I finished writing yesterday's adventures while in the laundromat, I didn't have time to sort through photos to be able to post. I've taken about 125 photos in 2 days.

Travelogue – weather 99% perfect

Wednesday, August 20

No way to know when I bought my ticket for the Mt. Washington Cog Railway what the weather would be like two weeks later. But the guidebook said reservations are recommended, so I bought online. The railway's website said there is no refund due to weather. So if it is so foggy at the top you can't see beyond your hand, well, too bad.

But it wasn't foggy, or cloudy, or rainy, or cold (though I put my jacket on), or snowy (yes, I'm told that happens year round), or windy, or otherwise stormy. And visibility was quite good! The train staff complemented us on bringing such great weather with us. So why isn't my weather rating 100%? Well... it was a teensy bit hazy. And we can probably blame that on pollution from Buffalo – or maybe Detroit. Yes, I'm aware how lucky I was.

I got to the Cog Railway base station at 10:15, later than the website suggested, but in plenty of time to change my reservation for a ticket and be on board for the 10:30 departure. Two trains spaced about a minute apart, each with about 100 passengers, went up the mountain at 5 miles per hour, covering the 3.5 miles in 40 minutes. We then had an hour at the top to gaze at the scenery and eat lunch (I brought mine, a snack bar was open). The ticket also came with a pass to the extreme weather museum at the top. I thought why would I want to spend time there with so much fantastic scenery to see? So I didn't bother. Then again, if the weather was extreme during my visit (and it is known for its extremes) it might have been better to see extreme weather in a museum than be out in it.

A view of a train. They still run a steam engine once a day. But the one I rode is less than 10 years old and runs on biodiesel, including used oil from area restaurants (though not enough to smell like French fries).

On the way down the brakeman explained that the engine and passenger coach are not coupled together. There are two reasons. First, the grade is so extreme the pieces of the traditional coupling would come undone. Second, if the engine become a runaway no one would want the coach to follow. So if the engine lets go, the brakeman can stop the coach.

A view from the top.

As the track was being laid the workers built sleds that fit over the cog-path. At the end of the day they would sit on the sled and swoop to the bottom. Most of them would do the 3.5 miles in 4-5 minutes. The record was 2 minutes 45 seconds, or 60-80 miles per hour. Better than a roller coaster because it was all downhill.

When I was in college there was an art sale – students were able to purchase posters of famous paintings. I think I spent $25 (big money on a student budget at the time) for six posters. I had them mounted on stiff backing and hung them in my room. I still have some (maybe all?) of them and at least one is on display in my house. One of those is a 19th Century painting of Crawford Notch.

I passed through Crawford Notch today. This is what I saw from a scenic overlook.

I also saw Flume Cascade and Silver Cascade, both conveniently viewable from the road and less than 0.2 miles apart. I did get out of the car to see them. This is the Silver Cascade.

Then I went on to Arethusa Falls. This wasn't so convenient. The falls were almost 2 miles from the road and the trail was steep. I certainly got my exercise. The whole hike was 2.5 hours. And at the top I saw this:

I had supper at a nice, yet funky, place. I'm currently sitting in a laundromat – 2 weeks done, one to go.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Travelogue – shipbuilding

Some things can't be explained. After putting up with the racket the CD player was making every time I turned on the car, I very much noticed this evening when it didn't. The next time I turned on the car it made its clicking noise on only two of the four attempts to reset itself. And the time after that... The player took a much longer time to attempt a cycle. Then I realized it wasn't attempting, it was actually doing – the row of circles for the six CDs it holds blinked one at a time. Once it settled down I turned it on – It worked! I could hear my CDs again! I think I'll let the current set play through (though they had been in the player for a couple months before the trip) before attempting to swap in new ones. Why it stopped working and why it started again on day 13 of the trip will remain a mystery.

My main reason for choosing a B&B in Wincasset last night was to see the Music Wonder House this morning. It is a mansion in town filled with all manner of mechanical music boxes. Or was. It closed last May. The website didn't mention the closure. I went back to the B&B to get my car and the closure was a surprise to the owners.

Oh well. Onward. I went to Bath to see the Maine Maritime Museum. To get to the museum one drives past the Bath Iron Works, who currently make big toys for the Navy. The museum is on the site of a shipbuilding company, active 1894-1920. They closed that year because they made wood sail boats and iron steam boats finally became more profitable. Switching from one to the other wasn't possible because two completely different sets of workers were needed.

I got there in time for a tour, then wandered through the existing buildings – blacksmith shop, mill and wood shop, pattern shop, paint shop, and a Victorian home (owner of the shipyard next door). The whole thing showed how many different kinds of workers were needed and how coordinated their efforts needed to be.

When a designer finished the design, he painted the floor of the pattern shop, then drew the ribs of the ship on the floor. Others would use those marks to make full size patterns of the ribs. Those patterns would be put on ships to find trees of a close enough shape. The trees would be brought back and milled and cut to the pattern. The mill had openings on both ends of the building to give workers room to maneuver the wood.

This company contracted out the sail work and the rigging – the ropes that held it all together. Rope was made in a long narrow building and the ropemaker walked from one end to the other and back as he worked. A sign said a prominent ropemaker in town walked well over 100,000 miles during his career.

As I looked through the displays I kept thinking my dad would be fascinated by it all.

This strange piece of art represents the Wyoming, the largest ship made in this yard. The U shaped piece at the far end is the actual size of the prow of the ship. The flagpoles represent the six masts (though they would have been taller). Behind me is another strange sculpture showing the stern. All of this is on the spot where that ship had been assembled.

There has been shipbuilding in Bath for more than two centuries. At one time a seaman would see Bath-built ships in every port around the world. It is an ideal place due to the depth and width of the Kennebec River (one didn't want to launch a ship and have it run aground or crash into the opposite shore). One more feature in its favor is the gentle slope leading to the river to allow for easy launching.

I went for a late lunch in Bath, then headed out of town. The drive to North Conway, New Hampshire was a bit over 2.5 hours. I'm now in the White Mountains area. This photo is just a few miles before the NH border. It is in the city of Naples, ME looking down the length of Long Lake towards the mountains.

I'm a bit surprised (yet pleased!) by the level of trust around here. I got to my B&B, the Spruce Moose, and found the owners were out. There was a sign by the desk explaining why they weren't there and listing my room number and where the stairway was. Beside that was a phone and a number to call. Alas, I had to leave a message, so simply said I had arrived. I took my bags up to the room. The key was in the door. I left for supper. On my return I met the owners and she showed me around and told me all that I needed to know.

There was also a lot of trust last night. I asked the owner for a key to the room. He said, “I can give you one but you won't need it.” I stuck the key in my pocket and decided not to lock the room.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Travelogue – Along the coast

A shirt I saw in Bar Harbor shops: A flock of sheep and the words “Baa-Haa-Baa.”

I left Acadia and Bar Harbor behind this morning. I drove up to Ellsworth and turned west on US-1 (though the sign said “south” – I could take this road all the way to Key West).

When I read guidebooks in preparation for this trip one book commented on a cool new bridge over the Penobscot River that had an observation area in one of the towers. One little detail – it didn't say where on the river the bridge was. In Bangor? Somewhere else?

As I drove out of the little town of Bucksport I saw a cool new bridge had some glass at the top of one of the towers. I found the bridge with the observation area! So I stopped, bought a ticket (though skipped the included tour of Fort Knox) and went up.

Here's a picture of the bridge:

And one of the view towards the ocean:

There were signs pointing out landscape features that could be seen. I couldn't make out the mountains that were 75 miles away. I could see Cadillac Mountain in Acadia, on which I had been a few days ago.

This new bridge replaces one that had been built in the 1930s. But about 10 years ago the cables inside a casing were found to be corroded too thoroughly to be repaired. The new one was designed and built in a record 3.5 years.

I had lunch in the little town of Lincolnville with a view of the water. Alas, the service was slow and the chili was more beans than beef, rather than the reverse.

I passed through Boothbay and to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens at 3:00. The guidebook suggested I would need 2 hours and I had exactly that. Some of the areas were quite lovely:

Most of the rest of the grounds were for preservation of local species in a natural environment and seemed like more of what I had just seen in Acadia. I finished my wanderings in about 90 minutes.

From there it was less than 15 miles to Wiscasset and my B&B for the night. Strangely, the traffic into town was backed up quite a ways. When I arrived the owner said I was the only guest for the night.

I walked the few blocks into town and decided to try the highly rated restaurant (with mostly high prices too). The grilled pork on a bed of cheesy grits with salsa was tasty, but I was still hungry when I left. That's another complaint I have with pricy restaurants, one I didn't mention yesterday. A salad or veggies would have added another $6.

When I returned to the B&B my host said the pressure on me as guest was off – a second of the three rooms had been rented.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Travelogue -- Eat ME

Bumper sticker of the day: “Enjoy local food. Eat ME.” If that leaves you puzzled, remember the abbreviation for Maine is ME.

Back when I was planning this trip I discussed various parts of it with my friend and debate partner. One of the things he talked about (other than his experience at the Quebec-Maine border) was the great food of Quebec. You may have noted the biggest thing I said about Quebec food was the high prices.

That got me thinking about our differing views of food and what is behind my side of the story.

There are a lot of foods I simply don't like. Blueberries are one of them. I mention them because in Maine there is a strong push to enjoy the local crop. Blueberries are featured in many dishes. At a recent family gathering my sister began teasing our father because there are so many more foods she likes than I do. Perhaps we don't have the same parents? So I don't bother with a lot of high-priced exotic foods simply because they contain ingredients I don't like.

Thirty years ago, due to recurring headaches, I eliminated sugar and caffeine from my diet. Sweet desserts don't taste so good when I get a headache the next day.

With my recent attempts to eat healthy (almost a year now) there are a lot more foods I've eliminated from my diet. That includes breads and pasta. And that meant no Quebec meat pies.

I long ago concluded that a $30 steak didn't taste all that much different from a $20 steak. Why waste the $10? Then again I don't get steak very often.

I have added new flavors over the years. Many years ago I switched from white bread to whole-grain. It has so much more flavor. Yeah, I'm not even eating whole-grain bread these days. Recently I've added sweet-potato fries and sauteed butternut squash to my list of likes.

Here in Bar Harbor it seems every restaurant serves lobster. Well, the Chinese and Mexican places might not. So I decided if I'm ever going to try lobster, now is the time to do it. A couple nights ago I enjoyed a cup of lobster bisque, though there wasn't a whole lot of lobster meat in it. Today I ordered a “picked” lobster – the chef takes it out of the shell rather than tying the bib around my neck and giving me the tools to do the messy job myself.

My reaction: lobster meat is not yucky to my taste buds (which puts it way above onions), but not so wonderful that I think it is worth the price. That's the same opinion I have of shrimp. In this case the price was only $21 (tax and tip added later), but there isn't much meat in a lobster. The meal included a cup of chowder and chips. On leaving the restaurant I walked down to the grocery store and bought some peanut butter to fill me up. So, lobster: done. I can ignore that part of the menu for the rest of the trip.

Another bumper sticker: “If the environment were a bank, we'd have bailed it out by now.”

Back to today's events. After breakfast I paged through the inn's guide to Acadia's hiking trails. I found a couple that looked interesting. The one that sounded best, however, didn't sound like it was well marked and would not be easy to find. So I went with a second choice. A stop at the grocery store for lunch and I was ready.

Instead of taking the car I took the free shuttle service from the Village Green to Jordan Pond House. Along the way we made a stop at the park's visitor center where a flashing road sign suggested this option because parking lots elsewhere in the park would be full.

The Asticou Trail was easy to find. I took it from JPH southwest to Asticou, a section of the village of Northeast Harbor. I was amused by the route and distance signs along the way. Near the ends of the trail add the distance from the current location to JPH and to Asticou and the sum is 2.0. In the middle of the trail the sum is 2.7. I would guess the 2.0 is closer to correct because it took me just over an hour to walk the length.

Along the way I saw lots of equipment being used for improving the trail. New surfaces being laid, new drainage, new bridges over creeks, those kinds of things. At the far end there was a Map House, a shelter containing two copies of a map of the park. One was hung on the wall, the other enclosed on the table surface. This is where I had lunch.

In Asticou I spent a bit of time in the Azalea garden. Though the flowers were not in bloom, the place was beautiful and peaceful.

Back at Jordan Pond House I rested a bit and ate the rest of the food I brought for lunch. I then walked a bit of the Jordan Pond Trail, but decided I'd had enough. I took the shuttle back to Bar Harbor, getting there at about 5:00.

I wasn't quite ready for supper, so walked along the city's Shore Trail. This allows one to see the backs of some of the hotels and cottages – or their big hedges if they wanted privacy. Then I went to supper.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

So don't listen

When I last posted I reported on a new, defective, study by Mark Regnerus, “proving” that those who believe same-sex marriage is permissible come to believe other Very Bad Things are also permissible. I had commented that my friend and debate partner would notice the confusion between correlation and causation. My friend replied:
I agree with Burroway that Regnerus' busybody concerns with things not his business, such as other people's sexual and reproductive behavior, discredit him anew. More proof that we need not listen to him.
While a great many people don't listen to Regnerus, especially after his debacle in the Michigan case, some people still do listen – those whose beliefs match those of Regnerus.

As long as those people continue to listen to Regnerus, the rest of us need to continue to heap scorn and derision on the man and his ideas.

Travelogue – on the bike

Saturday, August 16

A good day! I rented a bike, had it taken to the carriage roads in Acadia Park, and rode for much of the day. I did about 18 miles. That's a normal run when I'm at home something I can do in under two hours. But Acadia Park is nowhere near as flat as the area around my house. In the perhaps nine years since I took up the bicycle as my primary form of exercise I've used first gear twice, maybe a bit more. My bike has 21 gear settings, 7 for the back wheel 3 for the front. I rarely change gears for the front, so first gear for me isn't the easiest gear, just the easiest on the back wheel.

But I used first gear a lot today. Some of those uphill grades were long (the downhill ones too) and even in first gear I usually stopped once or twice to catch my breath. I could have kept riding until 5:00, but quit at 4:00 – I was quite worn out.

The carriage roads were built in the 1920s & '30s. They are separate from the roads from cars. They're not paved, though the gravel is pretty well worn in so not treacherous for bikes. The nominal gravel surface meant when I went downhill I didn't want to go too fast, which drained off energy to get up the next hill. Their original purpose was for horse-drawn carriage rides through the park. Those are still done (I saw one carriage today) though it means I had to guide my bike around road apples.

It was a lot easier to stop at the Jordan Pond House while on bicycle than it was by car yesterday. Before I left Bar Harbor I stopped at a grocery store deli counter for lunch supplies. I didn't have to wait in line for the House's restaurant. I did take advantage of the rest area, the water fountain, and a seat and table in the observation deck.

The weather was ideal for a long ride. The morning was sunny, though the afternoon was cloudy. The high was about 65F. The area with the carriage roads has a few lakes and is well forested, but the scenery isn't all that dramatic. So I didn't take many photos. Here's one:

There wasn't time to post Thursday evening. I had time to write yesterday, but was too tired to stay up to scan through all the photos (128 in 3 days). That's why you get three travel posts today.

Travelogue – crashing waves

Friday, August 15

After breakfast I stopped at a deli to buy lunch. That saved me the hassle of trying to get lunch in Acadia Park.

I took the Park Loop Road. There were several beautiful overlooks, such as this one showing the rocky shore. There is lots of rocky shore here.

The first big site on the route is Sand Beach. This is the only bit where land meets sea with an actual sandy beach. The rest of the coast is rock. So here is a view of people at the beach. There are so many that one lane of the road has parked cars for more than a quarter mile in both directions in addition to the regular lot that was full. Out of all these people at the beach, how many were actually swimming? Very few. The air temperature was about 65F. Even when the air temp is high the water is still around 50F.

The next site (and the next glut of cars) was Thunder Hole. Severe rock structures make for waves with lots of spray. One tight channel sometimes even makes a booming noise when a wave hits it.

On to Otter Point where I watched waves slam against rocks and tried to take a picture of the spray.

Then I drove up through the middle of the island to Jordan Pond House, the only place to buy food in the park. Alas, both parking lots were packed, so I didn't stop in for a supplement to my lunch (which, by this time, needed supplementing).

I then drove up Cadillac Mountain, which at 1530 feet is the tallest point on the American Atlantic Coast. Great views all around.

A lot of today was drive for a short distance, stop for the view, and move on. Every time I restarted the car (every time over the last week) the CD player would attempt to sort things out, and fail. Each time it would make four attempts and do it whether the sound system was actually on or off. Today it started adding a few extra noises and at the top of Cadillac Mountain it added 4 seconds of loud clicking to each attempt. I began to wonder if it was chewing on whatever CD had been caught in the jam. It was 3:45 on a Friday afternoon, perhaps I had time to try to do something.

I went back to the hotel and the woman at the desk helped me out. She called the closest thing to a Ford dealership (it actually sells GM products though services both) in Ellsworth, the first town north of the park. He couldn't fix the unit, though could ask the Ford distribution center in Bangor to send a new one. How soon? He transferred the call to Bangor and the woman at this end handed the phone to me. The earliest he could get a new unit to Ellsworth would be Wednesday. I'll be in New Hampshire by Tuesday. In the meantime I have two choices. Put up with the clicking or disconnect the fuse and lose the radio too.

There was still some time before I wanted supper, so I hiked the Great Head Trail. It is near Sand Beach but I could take back roads to get to it. The trail was very rocky and after a while it was marked only by a blue rectangle on a rock or tree about every 10 feet. There were a few times, especially towards the end, when I had the feeling: you intend for me to go there? How am I supposed to do that? I eventually found my way down the rocks. And the view of the surging waves from up there were pretty cool. Here is a photo of the trail:

Travelogue – waterfalls

Thursday, August 14

It was a long day, as I knew it would be. I left the Quebec hotel about 10:00 after retrieving my car from the parking structure. On entering the structure one feeds in a credit card. To re-enter on foot one must use the same card. Also the same card when departing with the car. Four days of letting the car sit there came to $88 CDN. There was a less expensive structure, but it was farther away. I was real hungry when I put the car in and didn't want the hassle of moving it.

There was some light rain heading south of Quebec. I decided on lunch in Ste. Georges because there didn't look to be much prospect of it once across the border. By this time the rain had stopped.

When planning this trip my friend and debate partner told me he had done the road south from Quebec many years ago. The sole border guard in his single shack seemed to be a lonely guy who needed someone to talk to. My suspicion is that trip was before NAFTA. Now the large building has three lanes for southbound traffic, two of which were in use. Both had two cars. I chose one. Alas, both cars ahead of me were delayed and four cars went through the other lane while I waited. When I pulled up to the agent he even commented on it. He did chat for a bit, asking me what I taught and then asking what music theory is.

About 8 miles south of the border I stopped at “The Falls Rest Area,” named because there is indeed a waterfall visible from the north end of the parking area. I came just a bit closer for this photo.

In the town of West Fork I took a side trip east a couple miles. Then I parked my car to hike to Moxie Falls. It took a lot longer than I thought my sources had implied, the whole adventure taking an hour. I needed to stretch my legs. This is what I saw at the end – the cascade:

And then the falls:

In the way back to the car I encountered lots of 5th graders. One of the adults said they were from Portland and at a summer camp. I said I had counted 25. He replied, “I hope so.” He said at that age if he had seen a waterfall he would have said, “Wow!” These kids say, “Whatever.” Many carried beach towels and had apparently done some swimming in the pools below the falls.

The third break was a bit longer drive from the main road, but less of a hike. This was Houston Brook Falls. I had to photograph with a wide angle setting because the falls are rather large but one must be close to see them. I left these falls at 4:30.

I learned pretty quickly that when the sign says “scenic overlook” it is worth a stop:

Traffic came to a halt on US-2 east of Showhegan for road rebuilding. I was able to listen to a bit of radio. Alas, the NPR station was doing a one-day pledge drive. A majority of the other stations appeared to be Christian music, something I didn't expect in Maine. Other than this bit of NPR news the trip had been quiet. One scan across the spectrum produced only 2 stations.

I hit a downpour around the time I was getting onto I-95. Around this time the radio announcer was commenting about the record-setting downpour Portland got the night before. Perhaps that filled out the waterfalls I saw.

I decided to push on through to Bar Harbor rather than stopping somewhere for supper. I got here after 7:30 at about sunset. The total trip was 9.5 hours. Google Maps said there was 6 hours of driving. Two hours were spent at lunch and viewing falls. That meant slow and halted traffic, customs wait, potty break (there weren't many of those on the road south), and stops at scenic overlooks took another 1.5 hours.

Alas, I didn't go straight to supper. Laundry came first. I put the load in at 8:15, though the sign said to not start the washer after 8:00. The clothes were dry enough at 9:10 though nobody started closing up the place. I finished supper at 10:00. I had raided the peanut butter back during the traffic halt, so that wouldn't work for my supper.

My car has traveled 1055 miles so far on this trip (my feet added several more). When I planned this trip I found out the fastest route from my home to Bar Harbor was about 1000 miles. That route went through Buffalo, Albany, and the Boston bypass. I had gone by way of Montreal and Quebec and it was only 45 miles longer (not counting 10 miles to visit waterfalls).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Travelogue – big bang

About 10:00 this evening I heard a few explosions. Then a few more. Hey, that sounds like fireworks! So I looked out my window. I could see some of them. Others were hidden by the corner of the building next door. I think they were shot off from the river. I didn't go outside for a better view because it was still raining – yeah, fireworks in the rain. After about 20 minutes I went down to the desk to find out what was being celebrated. She didn't know for sure but thought it was some company doing it for company reasons. The two of us, plus a guy from Oklahoma who was sitting nearby, got into a discussion about who has the worse winters – Detroit or Quebec. According to her stats, Quebec wins. The whole fireworks show was about 30 minutes. Time for bed.

Red flags abound

I do scan some of my regular gay news sources each evening, along with checking my email. So I know the Ugandan Parliament is in a tizzy trying to pass a new version of the Anti-Homosexual Act that their Constitution Court recently nullified. More here.

And I also learned Mark Regnerus has a new study out. He was the researcher who created a study to “prove” gays are unfit parents and who was thoroughly discredited in Michigan's same-sex marriage case earlier this year. This new study isn't in any peer-reviewed journal and doesn't contain any of the methodology details such a journal would require. So red flags abound. The study does include some words of caution on how to interpret the results. But the handy-dandy chart that the Fundies are going to pass around doesn't include those cautions.

Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin decided to take the basic data seriously – for a moment – and see what kind of craziness the conclusion claims. Regnerus reports on attitudes of various groups of people on topics, such as cohabitation before marriage, contraception, abortion rights, easy divorce, and pornography, also known by Fundies as Very Bad Things (note how many of them relate to sex). Then he matches those opinions up against opinions on same-sex marriage and … Gosh! Allow people to think same-sex marriage is OK and they'll go on to believe all sorts of things are permissible!

I can hear my friend and debate partner muttering, yup, he's confused correlation with causation. As in some people may have concluded contraception is just fine long before they reached the same conclusion on same-sex marriage.

Burroway's conclusion: Those who oppose marriage equality are likely to be busybodies who know how other people are supposed to live their lives.

Travelogue – staying inside

Rain today, though it held off long enough for me to get my umbrella out of my car and allow me to get to my first event. Today was mostly indoor stuff. I'm glad I had enough indoor stuff to do.

That first event was a visit to the Quebec provincial Parliament Building. I was pleased to see an active community garden out front. The visit included a tour of the two chambers. A couple things I learned: (1) The Quebec Senate had been made up of appointees by the Crown (Queen or Governor General) similar to the British House of Lords. Back in the 1960s they – politicians and voters – noticed all the Senate did was approve what the House had done, so they abolished the Senate. The chamber is now used for committee hearings. (2) By British tradition (started in London and copied across the Commonwealth) the Lower House of Parliament was painted green and the Upper House was painted in a dark red. Back sometime around 1970 the rooms were painted dusty blue and rose. The reason is simple – television. Human faces don't look so good in front of a green wall or a dark red wall. Here is the back of the Lower House chamber. I didn't get a photo of the front because renovation work is being done.

I've now seen more of the capitol building in Quebec than I have in my home state of Michigan. I may have to do something about that soon.

By the end of the visit the rain was coming down steadily, though not strongly. It is one of those rains that settle in for the day (or, given tomorrow's forecast, two days).

After lunch I went to the Chateau Frontenac Hotel. I thought my guidebook implied they gave tours, but they don't. The concierge I spoke to said I would be welcome to look around the public spaces. Which I did. Here is the Front Desk with its backlit marble.

The hotel was built in 1892 and added onto three times so that it now has 600 rooms. A check of Orbitz shows I could get a room there next week for $420 a night.

I went into lower town for the Museum of Civilization. A couple of the rooms didn't interest me (Detroit had recently done an exhibit on film animation and I thought did it better than this place did). An exhibit that did catch my attention was about Quebec history (though I read lots of signs and watched videos and ignored the old artifacts).

In American History classes we learn about the British defeating the French on the Plains of Abraham (now a big city park). That was discussed in the museum in Montreal and at the Citadel. In Quebec history that is known as The Conquest. Various signs and videos (and 250 years to think about it) question whether this was only A Bad Thing. The British helped get the economy going. The British legal maxim of innocent until proven guilty was better than the French maxim of guilty until proven innocent. And being under British rule protected Quebec from the turmoil of the French Revolution that came about 25 years after The Conquest. Other reasons were given. But the cost was the locals felt they were under an occupying force and were a permanent minority.

There was an uprising in 1837-38 that pushed for Canada to move away from a monarchy and to become an independent country. It was crushed. It wasn't until after WWII that a push for Quebeckers to take charge of their own destiny and demand equal rights for French speakers got underway.

Other exhibits included a display of statues from the Greco-Roman collection from the Berlin State Museum. This was mostly figures of Greek and Roman gods.

Another display was about the native people of Quebec. The final display was about popular art – art made by people because they want to, even if they aren't trained in art.