I’ve been dealing with a cold now since Wednesday. Wednesday wasn’t too bad, mainly a scratchiness at the back of my throat that’s always an omen of bad things to come, and a feeling of deep weariness, enough to cancel out of a planned MeetUp. Thursday was a little worse, and Friday it really began to hit – I had real trouble focusing, my sinuses were not liking me, I had a headache, and it was clear I was running a fever. I managed to get my work done for the day, and went to bed directly after supper.
For some reason, I have weird work dreams when I’m sick and Friday night was no exception. I spent most of yesterday in bed, and today I’m in full drippy mode, too foggy to read, eyes watering so much that all I want to do is close them, but too rested to sleep,
Today I’m closing out the last day of a Christmas vacation. It frankly hasn’t been a great vacation — I came down with a GI bug just before Christmas Day dinner at my brother’s house. I’d been fine when I left here, but an hour or so after we got there, things went south; I lost my appetite, was unable to eat my sister-in-law’s wonderful roast beef dinner, and when the chills started up, I knew I needed to get home, the sooner the better. I had my mother do the driving, and we nearly made it home before the puking started. Fortunately, I had a pan with me.
That night is a blur of fever and gastric upset. I distinctly remember thinking some code I’d written the week before must have had a bug in it that made me sick; I was dreaming of editing the code to fix the bug. I haven’t been that messily sick since I was a kid.
I first became acquainted with Rockport, a small town at the tip of Cape Ann, as a diver. I was certified at Old Garden Beach, and spent nearly every Sunday for the first couple years of diving in either Rockport or Gloucester, and gradually became familiar with the area, but I never spent much time in the town center.
Eventually, after a few years, I decided it would be fun to visit the town at Christmastime, and ever since then, I’ve gone back nearly every year. They put a big tree in the center of town, and the are a lot of small crafts-y type shops in the town center.
We paid our annual visit today, this time with my mother, sister, and sister-in-law. Before heading into town, we stopped at Halibut State park, where we took a hike down around an old quarry, and ended up at the overlook over the ocean. We wandered around for a while, then headed into town.
The there was a “Maker’s Fair” today; we had to park about four blocks up, by the train station. We poked into a couple of stores, and I picked up some stocking stuffers at Tuck’s Candy store, then stopped into one of the restaurants for lunch. We probably should have moved on when they told us they couldn’t sit us by the harbor as they had a large party coming in; as it was, the service was slow, and by the time we were done it was getting dark.
When we got out, I got a couple of pictures of the Christmas tree. The iPhone XS automatically shoots in high dynamic range, which helps even out the exposure for both the lights on the tree and the tree itself. Then we did a quick tour of the shops on Bearskin Neck, and then called it an evening, taking the long way back in order to see the Christmas lights along the way. It was a good day.
Shortly after the 2016 election, I wrote “So, Trump.” In it, I expressed the cautious hope that Trump would “pivot away from his more extreme positions, and perform reasonably,” and ended up concluding “it will come down to his willingness to be bound by the rule of law. If he recognizes that, while it won’t be great, we’ll be OK”.
Since then, I’ve been heartsick about what he has done to this country.
The American Constitution has been rightly celebrated for creating a government of checks and balances, and the way it balances the rights of individuals with the needs of the community to have law and order. It is set up to prevent too much power from accumulating in any one institution, and allows one branch of government to check another.
But just as important as the letter of the law in the Constitution, is the culture of respect for the law that has grown up around it. America was incredibly lucky in the Founding Fathers we had; they believed in the rule of law, and were respectful of it. Washington stepped down voluntarily after two terms; when John Adams was defeated, he made as many lame duck appointments as he could, but he also accepted the verdict of the election, and came home to Braintree. And when Jefferson became President, there were no purges of Federalists; the streets did not run with blood.
Over time time, this respect for the law became institutional and cultural. Sure, there have always been fights and arguments and disagreements, but they have been, for the most part, within the rule of law, because we’ve all internalized those values.
Character matters. It matters especially with public servants. We expect them to have internalized the values our legal system was designed to promote. It is very hard to write rules to cover every contingency; oftentimes, it’s not hard to find a way to follow the letter of the law while flouting its spirit. Character matters with public servants because we have to be able to trust them to do what’s right, to respect our principles, and to put our interests ahead of their own, and we have to be able to trust them to do it, because it’s right, not because they’re afraid of getting caught.
About 10 – 15 years ago, a large company wanted to put a large complex in our neighborhood. The neighborhood organized, and it ended up in front of the local Zoning Board. I was so impressed by the Board. They were fair to both sides, they listened, they asked intelligent questions. It was clear that they were after what was best for the Town. They were what I expect from every public servant.
Trump is morally bankrupt. It’s rich that he and his mouthpieces bray about “Fake News” when he has no respect for the truth. I don’t think he would know what the truth is if it came up and bit him. He even lies stupidly, about silly things that don’t matter and are easily checked. He can’t help himself. He has – needlessly – squandered the trust in the office that the office requires.
He doesn’t think, he just reacts. He is constantly undermining subordinates, and tossing bombs foolishly on Twitter. He constantly needs to have his ego stroked.
He has made it very clearly that he regards racism and misogyny to be acceptable behavior, which has emboldened the racists and misogynists to come scuttling out of the woodwork.
Even before the 2016 election, it was clear that, at the very best, he had little respect for women, and at worse, was an abuser.
He has filled the government with the corrupt or the incompetent, or the corrupt and incompetent in the case of the EPA head.
Frankly, I believe he has sold us out to the Russians for the sake of his own business interests, and is following Putin’s instructions that will (and I don’t know if he is bright enough to realize it) wind up damaging our government, our nation, and our allies. I don’t know it, but I believe it. I am hoping the FBI can either prove or disprove it.
But whether he is Putin’s Little Puppet or not, the damage he has done to our political culture is incalculable. He is dissipating the culture of respect for the law that has kept this nation going since its founding, and that’s the damage I worry about the most. He is constantly demonstrating that you can get away with flouting our values, that you can get away with disregarding inconvenient laws. You can get away with demonizing the free press, despite the fact that a free press is one of our core values. We cannot afford this erosion of respect for the law, because when the law is not respected, it cannot protect us any longer.
So far, he has kept — or been kept — within at least the letter of the law (mostly), but he has brought us a lot closer to the point where we are vulnerable to the kind of government takeovers we used to think could only happen in undeveloped countries. It doesn’t take much. Just a leader who feels above the law, and a force that will follow. It’s clear that Trump leans toward totalitarianism; whether he feels he could follow through, I don’t know, but whether he knows it or not, he is paving the way for some even more unscrupulous person.
I started this essay a few months ago; I set it aside because I couldn’t express what I was feeling. The mid term elections give me a little hope; it’s clear that respect for the law and our values is alive within many citizens, and they have made their disapproval known.
I picked up the new iPhone XS a couple of weeks ago, the day it first became available. I was replacing the iPhone 6s that replaced my iPhone 5s that shattered when some thoughtless fool knocked it out of my hands at the train station. I’ve had the 6s for about two and a half years; it still works, but the battery runs down quickly, and having skipped a couple of years of iPhones, I’d already decided that this would be my upgrade year, even before this year’s models were announced.
I went diving with my friends Jack and Jane this Sunday. Between trying to do painting prep work, and other interests taking priority, I’ve been diving very little this summer. Bonaire aside, this was only the third time I’ve been diving this year, and the first time I took the camera with me; I seldom take the camera with me on the first dive after a layoff, and the lanyard I use to attach the camera to me broke right before the second dive — fortunately, before I took it into the water.
Sunday’d dives were off of Cathedral Rocks; it’s certainly easier to enter from a boat than it is from the shore there. The first dive was with Jack and his friend Rich, the second with Jack and Jane. The visibility was OK on the first dive, and less so the second dive.
One of the things you see a lot of here in New England is cunner; small brown fish flitting around the rocks, but they’re very hard to photograph — they’re skittish, and don’t tend to stick around much. I’ve been trying with less than great results for years to get pictures of them; I finally got a couple on Sunday.
We saw a couple of very large lobsters both dives; Rich found one, Jack, the other, neither one would have been legal to take, so they didn’t even try. Jack also spotted a large red anemone.
The weather was great Sunday — clear and calm and warm, and the water was relatively comfortable too. Thanks again to Jack and Jane for having me along.
We got off to a leisurely start back on Wednesday morning. After posting the previous day’s travels, we headed out to breakfast at the Cracker Barrel near the hotel, then headed back to Matt’s apartment to pick him up so I could get the nickel tour of the Florida State campus, and Brian could hit the bookstore to pick up some FSU merchandise. The campus is impressively big, but modern. It felt like it was bigger than the Boston College campus, but then, BC’s campus is tri-level, and I spent most of my time in middle campus.
And then we brought Matt back to his apartment, and it was time to hit the road. Brian had plotted a route that was mostly back roads to take us into western North Carolina.
We started on Route 27 out of Florida, and into Georgia. Nice road; for the most part we were able to maintain a reasonable speed, but it still had tons of farms and scenery. At one point we saw a sign for a general store; we stopped, and it was like something out of the thirties.
Eventually, we skirted Atlanta on the interstate, passing by Marietta, where my Aunt Dot used to live. If she were still around, we definitely would have stopped.
During the afternoon, we passed through a corner of Tennessee, ending in Asheville, North Carolina.
The only hitch was that the whole day, I was burping up breakfast. Damn you, Cracker Barrel. By the time we got to the motel, I was tired and slightly achy all over, and uninterested in dinner. I sent Brian off to get something to eat, and fell into bed.
Fortunately, the hotel had a free breakfast, and was able to to have avoid fried food for breakfast the next morning. Feeling somewhat better, we set off for Virginia via the Blue RidgeParkway, after making an abortive attempt to see the Biltmore Estate, and discovering that it was massively overpriced.
The scenery was gorgeous. There are overlooks all along, and we stopped at several. At one overlook, we took a short hike up to a mountaintop overlook. We drove up to the top of Mount Mitchell. the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, even though from it, you can see another mountain that looks taller.
I also discovered that drones are not tolerated in parks. I hadn’t realized it was a “park”; I thought it was just a road. So we pulled over, and I flew the drone out over the valley, and the next thing I knew, a ranger was telling me to bring it back in. We then had to wait for another ranger to come, check my id, and issue a warning. I didn’t get much video — I need to figure out what’s going on there — but I did get some photos:
After the rangers departed, we took a look at the time, and decided it was time to make up some time. We got off the parkway, and headed up to Waynesboro for the night.
Friday was the last day on the road. We skipped breakfast, as my stomach was not in a stable state, and headed onto the Skyline Drive, bound for Gettysburg.
We spent an hour or so on the Skyline Drive. It’s gorgeous. At one point, we saw a deer, and another, a bear cub.
We would have liked to have spent longer on Skyline Drive, but we needed to get to Gettysburg reasonably early. We spent some time on local Virginia roads, where we saw the Shenandoah River, and then switched to the Interstate to get to Gettysburg.
We got there around noontime, and stopped at the visitor center, where we saw a movie about the battle, and saw a huge cyclorama of the battle. Then we did an abbreviated version of the self-driving tour.
Gettysburg surprised me. First off, Gettysburg was and is an actual town, with an existence apart from the battle. The battle happened because the town roads were there. So when you do the self-driven tour, you drive out of the visitor center, past a huge cemetery (the townspeople were the ones who got stuck dealing with all the dead and wounded), into the downtown, past McDonalds and insurance offices, and then you pass some older houses, take a left and you’re on Confederate Road, where the Confederate troops were massed.
I was surprised by how big the battlefield was. The field the Confederates had to cross was huge, and the rock formations the Union troops were defending from were tall, and afforded a good view of the approaching troops. I don’t understand how Lee possibly thought he had a chance.
Gettysburg is a place where you could spend a lot of time if you wanted to, but we were just about out of time. We drove around the battlefield for an hour or so, sometimes getting out, but for the most part just looking, without stopping to read the markers. We were done for the day by 3, when we started the eight hour trip back home.
Overall, I really enjoyed the trip, gastric issues aside. For me, it was kind of a reconnaissance trip — I bought the bike to do some touring, and I was taking mental notes along the way. Hopefully, I’ll pass by these ways again.
We made the second half of the trip into Florida yesterday, traversing North and South Carolina, and Georgia on I95 before crossing into Florida and heading west along he panhandle into Tallahassee.
I was struck by how many tall straight evergreens there were growing along the highway. I knew lumber had to come from somewhere, but it clearly didn’t come from the maples and oaks I’m accustomed to in New England. These grew straight and tall, and while they had branches growing off the sides, they didn’t really have crotches where the tree splits in two and then splits again.
As we were going through Georgia, we ran into thunderstorms. At one point, as we were approaching the storms, I could see an industrial complex way off in the distance under heavy dark clouds and shrouded in mists. Then, further along, we got into the storms themselves and saw lightning pounding the ground off to our sides.
We got to Matt’s apartment around 5:45. We met his roommate and girlfriend, then checked in before taking them all out to dinner. They seemed very nice, and we hung out with them for a while afterwards before heading back to the motel.
We’re running a little early this morning; as someone forgot to turn off his alarm. After breakfast, we’ll head back over to get the nickel tour of the campus before starting to head back north.