East Entrance, Yellowstone National Park

A few weeks ago — naw, it’s a couple of months now — the Girl and I were headed east from Nevada on our way to Pennsylvania to see Daughter and her family. Yellowstone was on my list to visit for a very long time. I didn’t want to take the Interstate Highway System, although it’s faster. I wanted to travel at a slower pace so I could see the countryside I passed through.

So, I elected to stay on the U.S. Highway system, or the state highways, as much as possible. I also knew I’d be close enough to Yellowstone to at least drive through it.

So, I did. I have a few more captures from my passage that need to be sorted, culled, and processed. Then I can post a few of my grab shots here.

One thing I learned — I need to go back. That needs to be not during vacation season so that the wonders I want to see are available. Did I say I need to go back?

The White House

No, this isn’t a political discussion. The White House serves as the home and working space for the President of the United States of America. Regardless of what I think of any sitting president, I will respect both the office and the residence.

While in DC a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to walk the National Mall. Both of us enjoyed that walk. We saw (and/or smelled) many things, interacted with interesting people, and I made a few images.

On the way back to the hotel, we passed the White House. It being an iconic representation of my beloved country, I paused to reflect a few minutes and to make this image. After I made this image, we approached the south gate to the area around the White House. A number of Secret Service agents were working there. It’s routine guard duty, except it seems nothing is routine any more. I sat on a bench next to the fountain and watched traffic come and go for a few minutes. The Girl found a grassy spot within a few feet of the bench and stretched out to cool herself in the cool, green grass.

After a few minutes, we got up and headed north along the internal circle around the White House lawn. I noticed some activity on the lawn and there was a soccer game forming up (I think). These two “older” guys were warming up, shirtless of course. Thinking of my friend in Washington (state), I made this image and laughed about old guys not always looking so bad.

As we walked along the path, one of them started stunting a bit. He was kicking the ball (pretty well, it seemed to me), then did a header, then this back kick. My timing was just a bit off on the latter, but the blue ball is still in the frame.

I have no idea where the other ball came from. It appeared in my frame.

Washington Monument

While walking the National Mall, the Girl and I passed the Washington Monument on our way to the war memorials. I really liked the sun in the background, so I paused my people-watching to find just the right spot to make the capture.

The image made, the Girl and I turned west and walked on toward the WWII Memorial. It was a good day.

Commonwealth Pen Show

Sometime about the middle of last week, YouTube flashed a notification on my smartphone (sometimes my smartphone is too smart for me!) that InkNeedLastForever has posted a new video. Since I am a Noodler’s fan, I elected to watch the video and learned that Noodler’s (Nathan Tardif) created three new inks for the Commonwealth Pen Show. Boston is only about 400 miles from where I’m staying and the show was 20 September 2015.

I could make the show. I have never been to a pen show. The big shows in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the like are so big and so intimidating that I have not attended one. It wasn’t that I could not physically get to one of the shows. But the huge amount of energy, the noise, and the city were too intimidating.

The Commonwealth Pen Show is a small show and just getting started. This was the second year. My work was caught up and so I asked myself, “Why not?”

So, I elected to make a quick trip to Boston for the show. The hunt for affordable lodging turned up nothing, so I elected to stay at the Holiday Inn, where the show was hosted.

The Girl and I loaded up Saturday, about noon, and headed out. I should have left sooner. But, I’m still learning how things work here in the east and highway travel is just different than it is in the west, where I spend most of my time. I hit a major detour near Harrisburg — I-81 was closed for construction. In trying to find a detour, I wandered about in a small town (that happened to have some kind of event blocking all the main streets) until I found (or my GPS found) a way around the clog and was able to get back on track.

There was traffic, but it wasn’t awful. It was enough, though, that passing a slower moving vehicle required a merge into significant traffic.

I stopped in New Jersey to find a geocache (and collect another state), plus the Girl needed some outside time to stretch and relieve herself. We had fun.

It was not long before I crossed into New York and almost immediately New York City. The afternoon light was gorgeous, I-95 was very slow, and the skyline was fascinating. I grabbed a few shots with my Panasonic compact camera when traffic paused and thought “I’d like to visit here. This could be interesting.” Yeah, I’d like to visit NYC and see some of the history there.

The farther along I-95 we moved, the better traffic moved and soon we were moving along again. We crossed into Connecticut, then Rhode Island, and then into Massachusetts. But, with the light failing, I decided against stopping for a geocache and hoped I’d be able to find a few on my way home. We arrived at the Holiday Inn in Boston late (for me) and tired (from all the traffic).

The clerk challenged me on the Girl as soon as we arrived at the desk. “There is no formal requirement for certification under federal law,” I reminded her.

But, because I paid the fee to obtain a “certificate” that is displayed as an ID card on her vest, I bent over to retrieve it. “I’ll get my manager,” the clerk told me. She arrived back in a couple of minutes and I presented Ki’s ID card.

“Will this do?”

“Yes.”

I should not have been cranky with the clerk (and wasn’t rude), but it appalls me that people don’t know the rules and that others take advantage of the rules to subvert the system. We were checked in by that time the manager showed. I could have taken the time to explain, but I was just too tired and stressed to bother.

We woke early Sunday morning and went for a walk. Boston was cool and overcast Sunday morning. It rained during the night — not a lot, but enough to dampen things. I showered, dressed, and we went down to the dining room for breakfast. It was decent enough; certainly nothing to complain about.

We were at the door by 0900 hours. There was a short line. The Girl and I interacted with an older man, who told stories about his love of dogs and his encounters with them. I really enjoyed the stories. Then he did a magic trick with a pen and a 20-dollar bill. The pen appeared to have penetrated the bill, but there as no hole. Fun!!!!!

Perhaps I should have taken my beanbags and juggled while waiting in line?

We paid our fee and got in line at the Noodler’s table to collect the special inks. There was a line when I got there and there was a line when I left. I’m not a big fan of Noodler’s fountain pens, but he sure is an expert marketer. He’s also an interesting man and someone I think would be a hoot to know better. I got my inks and stowed them in my messenger bag. I elected to not look at the pens, thinking the line would reduce and I’d be able to look at his pens later. I was dead wrong. Oh well…

The Girl and I walked the floor, browsing at the offerings there and visiting with the vendors. I nearly bought a vintage Sheaffer Pen for Men at one table. The nib was fine or extra-fine, which is smaller than I want in that pen. So, although I thought it was a reasonable buy, I left it. (…and I nearly went back for it later!)

I played with some flexi-pens. That is an art I have not learned. But, I love the shape of the letters made with a flexible nib and think I want one. The offerings I encountered were more than my budget, so I continued wandering. I get back in the Noodler’s line, thinking I would check out his special pens when a lady walked up to me.

“Are you Ruminator or something on FPN?”

“Yes.”

“I thought so… I saw you and your dog and remembered your post on FPN.”

We chatted for a bit (the Girl was the big hit of the show, I think, perhaps just behind Nathan and Noodler’s). “Are you looking for flexible nib pen?”

“I’m interested in them.”

“Then you should talk to Pier,” and she pointed out the man running the table. I remembered watching him write. He is very skilled with a flexible nibbed pen.

“Let’s go!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yep, I can always get back in line.”

So she led me to the table where I met the “trophy husband” (as he calls himself). We sat down and he had me play with a number of vintage flexible-nib pens. I practiced pressure to spread the tines and increase the line width with three or four pens, but gravitated back to a couple of them that just felt “right” in the hand.

Pier walked over (he is a penultimate salesman) and visited with me. He made me an offer on one of the pens I was playing with. It is not a collector’s pen, but an everyday writer. It will do and the price is probably about what the nib is worth. When dealing with cameras, my rule is “a camera is a box to hold sensor or film and create a good exposure; the glass and photographer are what create the image.” The fountain-pen corollary is that a “pen is a tube to hold ink and a nib; the nib and writer create the writing.” So I have a tube that carries a decent flexible nib. I can play.

I’m thankful that “C” rescued me from the floor. I might have wandered about another hour before becoming exhausted. I was reminded that shows like this are hard on me — the energy and buzz push at me and that I have to be careful. When I go to shows, I have to have a plan and stay focused on what I’m there to achieve. Otherwise I’ll wander off into a fog and drift along the floor, there, but awash in all that energy and commotion.

The show, while small, was bustling with interest and transactions. This is good and I think bodes well for the show to grow into something a bit more. It will probably not reach the size of the big shows. But it could be a great regional show for local enthusiasts capable of drawing enough vendors to make it worth attending for both vendors and buyers. There was a good number of pens, nib masters, and papers available — as well as Noodler’s Inks.

I enjoyed my first show. I only wish I’d gotten my camera out a lot more and made a bunch of images. Facepalm

The trip home was unremarkable. The Girl and I stopped a few times to refresh ourselves, get a bite, and find a geocache. Traffic was heavy now and again, especially where construction or an accident constricted the flow. We arrived home late and tired, but safe and glad to be home.

Back from DC

The last week or so has been crazy. First, a week ago last Tuesday (about ten-days ago), my MacBook Pro suffered what appeared to be the Blue Screen of Death and nothing I did would rectify it. So, a trip to the Apple Store in Lancaster was required.

The genius inspected my notebook computer, then ran some diagnostics. The usual suspects turned up (no optical drive, non-OEM battery, failed logic board). I removed the original hard drive and the optical disc last spring and replaced them with a SSD and a larger hard drive. The SSD is for system files and the hard drive is my /usr space. The original battery was swollen, so I replaced it with an aftermarket unit.

The logic board was troubling. I suspected it was a failed logic board. Some snooping around the night before informed me that a replacement would be about $500 or more. The genius looked at me, “There’s a chance that if a very specific test fails the maker of the display board will replace the unit.” He ran the test while I waited with bated breath. The test failed. Therefore, I would not be out the$600 (confirmed) to replace the logic board. Nor would I be faced with the “Is it worth the repair?” question. So, I left the machine and returned back to Red Lion to finish some work and prepare for my DC trip.

I left for DC Sunday afternoon, trepidated by having to go to the big city. I’m not a city boy and really prefer the outdoors to city life. But, I had a duty to do so I went.

When I arrived at the Hotel Monaco (a Kimpton property and highly recommended), I learned the topper would not fit in the garage. The valet and the doorman were kind enough to assist me in removing it. They stowed it in the luggage area. The valet took off in my rig to park it.

I went to check in and the desk clerks lost their minds over the Girl. She’s always a hit with people when we are out and about. After I got checked in, we went to our room and I discovered that I left the Girl’s bowl in the rig. So, we went back to the desk.

A new clerk was there and she made over the Girl too. In fact, she came out and asked to greet. So I set up a greet and they were acquainted. The clerk offered the Girl a Milkbone and they were BFFs. When I explained my situation, the clerk said “No problem. I’ll have a bowl sent to your room.”

We went into the hotel restaurant for a light supper — well, a light supper for me and a nap under the table for the Girl. I met William, my server, and we chatted given they were not busy. I learned that William earned a degree in hospitality, but his passion is for training. So, he’s working on his license for personal training and will be going into business for himself.

I enjoyed a nice, light supper, a desert with a tawny Port, and then returned to the room. There I found two very nice stainless steel bowls and a bed for the Girl. I tossed the bed up on the big bed and took the bowls to fill in the bathroom. When I turned, the Girl was peeking over her new bed at me. She loved her little bed!

We walked back out to the front desk and I told them about her love of her little bed. I so appreciated them taking care of us like that.

Monday was all business. I met my colleagues in the morning, we prepared for our meeting, then headed for the Federal Department of Transportation facility. The Girl got to ride the subway (she did fine, even negotiating the escalator better than I do) and visit lots of new friends.

One funny event occurred on the subway. A young man had a set of cans (over the ear headphones) on. He made eye contact with the Girl and her energy perked up. When the train stopped, he made a step towards us to get off the car. “Woof!” the Girl said in her alarm voice and she sat up.

“It’s OK,” I told her, “eyes!” to get her focused back on me. It was all good, but the interaction made me laugh.

The meeting was challenging because of the way our scope is structured. The report was only half complete, so the relation between completed sections and sections to be completed was not present. That made the reviewers’ job quite difficult and it was reflected in the comments.

The Girl snored under the conference table, which made us all laugh. I think we all wanted to be snoring, actually.

I was relieved to have the meeting done. It was time to debrief and share an evening meal together.

My intent was to leave Tuesday, but I elected to stay over an extra day so I could see some places of interest. The Girl and I rose early Tuesday and walked down the National Mall. I have captures of the Washington Monument, the WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War memorials, and Lincoln’s Memorial. I’ll probably post a few of them over the next few days both here and on my Instagram account. I deeply enjoy those monuments to our heroes.

The Mall is a mess of new construction, or rather reconstruction as they are renewing the turf and a number of the facilities.

We walked back past the White House, then turned east on F Street and headed back to the Monaco. I was hungry and she was hot, so we stopped into Nopa for a bite of lunch and a rest. It was good to be cool and the food was very good. One of the waitstaff was familiar with service dogs and made over the Girl.

We took a break in our room for a bit. Then we walked across the street to the National Portrait Gallery.

That was a hoot! The Girl had never seen so many of the things in that building. Much of the sculpture caught her interest. It was fun to watch her look at things. She was so engaged with her surroundings, yet she still paid attention to me.

Tired and hot, we returned to our room and I got a light supper from the restaurant. They had seared halibut and that was very good and about the right portion size for me.

Wednesday morning we rose early again and humped it to the Jefferson Memorial. Jefferson is one of my heroes. He was intelligent, hard working, and had insight into what was going on. That insight travels forward to today, in my opinion, and the mess of politics we find ourselves in. I don’t think he believed the Constitution to be a holy document, but I think it would appal him the degree to which it is neglected by school children of our time.

Park personnel were in the process of washing the interior of the memorial, so it was roped off. One of the workers let me in to get a couple of frames but about the time I was ready another worker shooed me off. I had to laugh.

The Girl and I humped it back to the hotel and made it just in time for me to grab a shower and make it before 1000 for a bite of breakfast. I really wanted my eggs and I just barely got them.

It was then time to wrestle the Yakima back on top of the 4Runner (thankfully I had help) and head home.

We stopped in Lancaster on the way home to retrieve my Mac. It was all fixed and someone else paid for the new logic board. I’m really glad to have my machine back.

Remembering 9/11

Once again it’s time to remember what happened on September 11, 2001. I recall the incident well, my astonishment and horror at watching the aircraft crash into the buildings. Then the aftermath — the burning buildings, desperate people jumping from so high up that the time to ground seemed interminable, then the ultimate collapse of the structures.

A couple of generations ago there was Pearl Harbor. My generation has 9/11. I will not forget, nor will I forgive.

Trolls of The Internet Species

I have been meaning to write an essay about Trolls for a long time. The notion started rolling around in my head a few years ago, then dropped off the table of my attention for some time. It was recently reawakened when I read some of the comments on many sites and is something I think is important.

I’ve had my encounters with Internet trolls any number of times. My most recent was a Facebook cross-posting of a tweet in which the poster indicated they intended to assault the first person they saw with an (legally) openly-carried sidearm. Their declared MO would be to pepper-spray the offending individual, then do a gun grab and hold them at gunpoint awaiting the police to arrive.

I cross-posted to my FB feed the offensive tweet (which contained the poster’s Twitter handle) and made a comment about the proposal being both illegal (it’s assault to a degree of deadly force) and idiotic (it’s a great way to be shot — being a deadly force assault). I went so far as to track down the poster’s Twitter feed and read some of the traffic there as well as the feed of responses, many from gun owners.

I was appalled by what I read. Yes, appalled!

I am positive the poster had no intention of assaulting an individual who was observed openly-carrying a sidearm. I’m also confident that the poster knew they would either be shot, arrested, or perhaps both if they attempted such an action. I asked myself, then, what could possibly be the motivation for such an asinine statement?

“Troll!” was my internal response. The poster’s motivation was to stir up gun owners and those who believe in the Constitution (the 2nd Amendment in particular). There was no other purpose.

The Twitter comments and retweets were rife with vitriol (another topic for an essay) on both sides. I read through a fair number of postings, then paused to shake my head in disgust. Too many individuals I would identify with spewed venomous responses, many to a degree that was unacceptable. What I mean by that was the “try that with me and see what happens” macho bullshit.

It does not matter what side of this (or any other issue) one takes. The nature of the “discussion” was not a discussion of the points of the issue. It rapidly became a series of ad hominem attacks that serve no purpose other than to 1) hurt individuals on the other side and 2) make the poster feel better about themselves and their position. This is completely unacceptable. It is illogical (at the least), it is unethical, and it is immoral. To threaten someone’s life because of what the believe is unacceptable.

Those people who are ardent supporters of gun-rights and carry-rights have to reign it in. The “Gun-Nut” moniker can be justifiably applied to those individuals who responded to the OP’s tweet. Perhaps the respondents were being honest (I doubt it). But the responses do nothing to demonstrate that those of us who strongly support the 2nd Amendment rights are reasonable and thoughtful. Those rights are being put into danger by the very supporters who responded to the OP’s tweet. It is the wrong thing to do. I don’t care which side one takes, such responses are still the wrong thing to do.

I think that reasonable dialogue is an important part of freedom. It’s a requirement for self-governance, which is the basis for our political system (through “representation”). That we have descended to such a state that meaningful dialogue is no longer the norm but the exception speaks to me that we are in grave danger of losing our ability to self-govern.

This is unacceptable. I expect that I am in the minority. I expect that the probability that our interaction with those we disagree with will not improve, in general. I wonder what happened to the idea that we are all Americans and that it is normal for us to disagree on many topics, but that we can still treat each other with respect and kindness, even in that disagreement. I fear that we are entering (or already in) a downward cultural spiral that will not end well. I want someone to prove me wrong.

N.B. I found an excellent article on dealing with Trolls on Hacking Christianity entitled Disarming Internet Trolls. It’s worth the time to read.

40mm Machine Gun

I stopped in Rigby, Idaho on my way east. That would be a few weeks ago, now. The Girl needed an outing and I don’t really like to stay in a motel room all the time, so we got out and wandered over to the city park. While we were there, I noticed this old gun. My guess is that it was once mounted on a warship, perhaps from WWII or the Korean War. In any event, it now resides in a city park — a reminder of our veterans and the machines they used to do the job.

After a little research, I found this article on the Bofors 40mm Gun. If you have an interest in such things, be sure to look through the archive of images. I love historical images and there are some great captures in this archive.

I can only imagine what it must have been like to be one of crew members operating this gun. I know that the crew hand fed the magazines using stripper clips of cartridges. That must have been crazy, with all the racket going on, not just of this weapon, but all the others adding to the noise and confusion.

There’s a nice video here: FPS Russia [YouTube]. The video is a fun watch.

I had so much fun with the gun, that I made a second image. I’m still amazed by this machine… no, I’m in awe of it, especially after watching the video.

Aerial Fire Tanker

While on my way from Nevada to Pennsylvania, I passed a museum of retired aerial tankers used for firefighting. The museum was next to a rest stop along the highway. The Girl and I both needed a break. But, the real reason is that when I come across something interesting, I stop. I have no idea if I will ever pass this place again. I have no idea whether I’ll even be alive in a day, a week, a month, or a year. Life is to be lived and if I don’t satisfy my curiosity, then what’s the use?

So, without ruminating on that too much, I pulled into the parking lot and stopped. I put the Girl’s vest on her to make her official. Too many “pet” owners have ruined access for our furry family members because they refuse to police up their animal’s feces and their animals are poorly behaved. So, those of us who take care of such things are penalized by the actions of those individuals.

Bah! Enough with the ranting/ruminating/whatever! We stopped, she dressed, and we took advantage of the facilities. Then we crossed the fence to the museum facility and entered.

Inside was a plethora of aerial firefighting memorabilia. They were running a video presentation of the machines and techniques used to fight fires from the air. There were lots and lots of pictures and a few books. There was a donation bin to support the facility and the aircraft on display. I made a donation, then we walked outside to check out the aircraft.

Of course, I got lots of questions about the Girl. I always do. I always take time to answer.

One of the ships was opened to permit a look at the inside. I loved this view of the office, so I made the capture. I’m glad I stopped. It was a unique experience and a fun view of these aircraft.