Category Archives: Travel

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Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner.

Dear Dr. Babooner,

Taking a cue from the government-funded activities of NASA, several years ago I purchased a powerful telescope and began looking around my immediate neighborhood for other homes that showed signs they could support life as comfortably as the home I live in now.

I’ve been studying the area very carefully and for the most part the places I see all have something terribly wrong – they’re way too big or far too small, they’re too close to a busy street or too far from the local park, they have aluminum or vinyl siding (which I hate), or smokers live there and the air inside the home is simply not breathable.

That last bit is something it took quite a while to learn, but now that I’ve had time to practice with the telescope I’ve become quite good at training it on windows and getting a clear sense of what goes on inside by measuring shadows as they pass in front of the interior lights.

Just the other day I found a house that is quite far from my own but it seems to have all the
elements I love about the place where I already live. The size and temperature are nearly perfect and I think there’s even liquid water inside. I’m pretty sure on that count because I saw someone taking a bath!

You can imagine how excited I was!

But just this afternoon the police came to my door and told me if I don’t start pointing my telescope at the sky rather than the other houses up and down the street, they will try to move me to a new home that is cold and desolate most of the time and has food water only at certain times which are not under my control.

Dr. Babooner, I thought scientific exploration was a pathway to a better life, but in this case it feels like all my work is taking me in the wrong direction. Should I stop, or keep pressing onward, hoping for a breakthrough?

Sincerely,
Curious K

I told “Curious K” that he (she?) should definitely stop peeping into other people’s homes and calling it research. The sad truth is that even if you found a place that could support your life as nicely as the place where you already live, the chances are slim that you could get there and even slimmer that you would be welcomed by the current inhabitants. It would be much better to take care of and learn to cherish the place you call home.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

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elephant-walk

Return of the Winter Getaway

Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

Several weeks ago Husband and I had an afternoon appointment in Stillwater, about an hour from home, and he delighted me by saying we should make it a winter getaway and stay overnight there. I was elated – the winter has been long and grueling, and we had not yet been able to “get out of Dodge”.

But where to stay in this river town overflowing with Bed and Breakfast places? I’d stayed at one of them decades ago, was charmed by the antique oak furniture, lace, and florals. Still, I wanted to try something new. We searched online and eventually came up with The Elephant Walk Bed and Breakfast, whose byline is Tour the World One Room at a Time.

They are not kidding. Although the house is an 1883 “stick style” Victorian, walking in is like taking a trip to the Far East, where owners Rita and Jon Graybill spent twenty some years, he in military and diplomatic service in Bangkok, Thailand. Downstairs parlors are a veritable bazaar of large and small antiques from Thailand, Bali, Spain and Italy, and the Americas – many of the items for sale. Elephants abound.

They’ve given the upstairs guest rooms names like Rangoon, or Raffles (for the British Colonial Hotel in Singapore), and filled them with exotic and colorful furnishings. Bedrooms are also equipped with a whirlpool in a private bath, a gas fireplace, small fridge with soft drinks, and a sound system. Ours was the Chaing Mai, named for the mountainous region of north Thailand.

We found the place so enchanting we didn’t even leave for dinner… we’d eaten a late lunch in historic downtown Stillwater, and we were provided with complimentary wine, cheese, fruit and nuts, and homemade crackers! The bay window in our room faced west, and we could see The Sunset. Breakfast the next morning was outstanding.

It was so refreshing to have entered this exotic world. I used to think I’d like to run a Bed and Breakfast, and though I probably won’t at this late date, The Elephant Walk has had me thinking of what unique theme I could use for an inn that was something out of the ordinary.

What would be the theme for your B & B?

mars-light

A Few Limericks in the Mars Light

Who can blame impatient fans of extraterrestrial life for so closely watching the photos sent back by NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover? There’s got to be some kind of critter up there! It’s simply a matter of time before it wanders in front of our camera.

It’s this sort of anticipation that gave us the momentarily famous Mars-rat-(shaped rock).

And it’s the very same level of breathlessness that brings us the latest frenzy over a mysterious light in the distance on one of the Rover’s photographs.

NASA was quick to debunk the alluring spark as a momentary effect that can be easily explained by anyone who understands the physics of sunlight. But for the rest of us who know nothing about the physics of sunlight, the flash is most easily explained as a desperate attempt by alien life forms to get our attention by sending up a flare!

Just as puzzling is why this disagreement over supposed evidence of Martian light technology made me want to write limericks.

I.
On a planet that’s barren and flinty
Shone a light inexplicably glinty
But the experts said “Pooh!”
To the rumors – “Untrue!”
“It’s the lens of our camera that’s linty.”

II.
Martian motion detectors don’t glow,
unless triggered. This much we all know.
Out on Jupiter’s moons,
they’re set off by raccoons
But the wildlife on Mars is too slow.

III.
A mysterious Red Planet beacon
has the UFO translators freakin’.
It means “We’re over here.”
Or else, “Don’t come too near.”
Based on which dialect they are speakin’.

IV.
We will creep like a moth to the light
towards an alien campfire at night.
If we see them, in mobs,
roasting Earthling kabobs
we’ll retreat at a minimal height.

What kind of signal would draw you in?

San Juan Islands 15p

Three Cheers for Admiral Sir Robert Lambert Baynes

On our recent trip to Seattle on a delightful rainy, foggy day we took the ferry out to an island called San Juan Island, stopping along the way at three other islands in the group called the San Juan Islands.

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The San Juan Islands mark one of the places on the map I have looked at with longing. I was so enthralled by the two-hour ride I did not even bother with the couple dozen jigsaw puzzles constantly under progress on the ferry.

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San Juan Island was delightful, better than I had hoped. Perhaps best of all was discovering a little know moment of history. On both ends of the island are a National Historic Park. The north end is called the British Camp; the south end the American Camp. The park remembers what is called either The Pig War or The Pig and Potato War. (I prefer the lilt of the second name myself.) For a full explanation you can consult Wikipedia.

The essence is that after the 49th parallel was made the border between Canada and the United States, with the exception of Vancouver Island, the exact boundary through the San Juan Islands could not be determined for lack of a clear map. Great Britain and the United States agreed on what the boundary should be like but had to wait to see what line through the San Juan Islands would best meet those conditions. San Juan Island was left in limbo and had settlers on it from both countries, peacefully until the day of the pig.

A British settler had a pig which kept getting into the potato garden of an American settler. One day the American had enough and shot the pig. The American then offered the Brit $10 for the pig; the Brit demanded $100. Both sides bristled. Sabers were rattled. American troops landed. Their leader declared he would make it another Bunker Hill, seeming to forget that the U.S. lost that battle. The leader of the British forces, then titled Rear Admiral Robert Lambert Baynes, who later went on to great prominence and a knighthood, was ordered to attack. He refused, explaining that two great nations do not go to war over a pig. For a few days the two sides tried to goad each other into starting a fight, but soon became friends. For a dozen more years, waiting for a peaceful decision, settlers and pigs from both nations lived together in peace, and the two nations had token forces, more comrades than enemies, on both ends of the islands, the sites of the two parts of the National Park.

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Eventually, by international arbitration the U.S. was awarded the island. The island is worth a visit today for several reasons. One, for a beautiful view of Vancouver Island.

And a very picturesque lighthouse, The Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse.

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But one thing is missing from the island, a statue of the noble Admiral Sir Robert Lambert Baynes. We put up statues for great fighters. Why not for a great non-fighter? There is a code about statues of military leaders on horses, the number of feet the horse has off the ground telling us if the man was wounded or died in battle. I think Sir Baynes should be shown sitting on a camp stool drinking a cup of coffee.

How should you be posed for your statue?

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We Live Inside!

One of the surprises that came out of my recent trip to Fort Myers was discovering the remnants of the Koreshan Unity Settlement – a Utopian community established there in 1894 by a charismatic leader named Cyrus Teed, who believed in some fairly progressive things including the educational value of artistic expression and full equality between the sexes.

The opened sphere, showing the spinning gasses inside.
The opened sphere, showing the spinning gasses inside.

But there was at least one thing major thing he got wrong. Teed preached that the Earth was a hollow sphere, and we lived inside it. He thought the globe that we know so well was actually inverted – with the continents pasted around the underside of the curve. Looking up (or inward), you would see a revolving ball of gas that was layers thick, only allowing us to view the refracted rays of the sun, located at the center. The sun, rotating once each 24 hours, was light on one side and dark on the other – thus giving us day and night.

The land beneath our feet was also layered, but digging through it would eventually bring you to the outside of the sphere, beyond which there was … nothing.

Teed and his followers considered the commonly accepted idea of a limitless universe with humans living on the outside of the globe under a distant sun and with planets and stars all whizzing around in their own orbits as inherently chaotic and unknowable, putting God beyond the reach of human understanding. Teed said the Koreshan system “… reduces the universe to proportionate limits, and its cause within the comprehension of the human mind.”

Easily said, though it didn’t take very long for his book, The Cellular Cosmogony, to lead this particular human mind to a state of exhaustion. Still, I would love to have a t-shirt featuring their motto – “We Live Inside!” After all, it’s not that different from the philosophy of Minnesotans in January.

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The Koreshans went to great lengths through observations and experiments and words, words, words to support their notion that the wide horizon visible off the Florida coast actually curved up with a smile, rather than down with a frown.

Cyrus Teed died in 1908 and while his utopian settlement lingered for a few decades it eventually faded away. A prime directive of complete celibacy for the most ardent followers of Koreshanity might have had something to do with that. The last Koreshans gave their vast tract of land to the State of Florida in 1961 which allowed for the establishing of a state park.

What impressed me most in this brief encounter with Cyrus Teed and his philosophy was the power a charismatic person with absolute conviction can have over others who are less certain in their beliefs; and once convinced, the amazing ability we humans have to cling to ideas that are completely and obviously wrong.

How do you know you’re right?

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A Lovely Wake

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Now that I’m back, I feel comfortable telling you that I spent all last week on a Florida beach. At the time, even bringing it up felt, well, cruel. But now that we’re all suffering together (again) through an extended extreme weather moment, let’s pause to consider the lives of our brainy sea-going fellow mammals, the dolphins.

Dolphins do not have to shovel snow or shiver through a -40 degree wind chill at a Metro Transit stop, and no doubt they would be grateful for that if they had any concept of what it means to wait for a bus.

The closest thing to it may be represented by this video I took with my phone from the back of a Sanibel Island tourist boat called “The Thriller”. I’m more of a casual sailor who is most comfortable on a boat of the putt-putt variety, but when you operate a vessel called “The Thriller” you’re not really expected (or permitted) to take it easy. We had some very intense wind-in-your-hair stretches that the people with hair told me were quite exhilarating. Although the most exciting moments came when we slowed down enough to allow a pod of dolphins to ride our wake across the bay.

I consider this the marine mammal equivalent of waiting for a bus because experts say that dolphins are inclined to ride boat wakes as a way to save energy during travel, and also because they are naturally curious creatures who want to have a good look at what’s going on.

Which makes them somewhat like tourists.

As a tourist, I understand why we enjoy watching dolphins jump, but I’m puzzled at what possible satisfaction dolphins might get from watching us. Yes, it’s natural to come have a look because you’re curious, but once you see it’s yet another boatload of plump, pasty Midwesterners waving their smart phones around, why linger?

What makes you curious?

Mars

Off-Planet Paradise

I feel I’ve arrived late to the party because I just discovered plans are well along to recruit people to settle the planet Mars starting in the year 2022.

Your Garden Spot Awaits!
Your Garden Spot Awaits!

The plan is to send a small group of people every few years until a community is built. Costs will be defrayed through TV broadcast of the proceedings as a reality show, and in addition to being famous the Mars pioneers will have the opportunity to live out their days in the dim light of a dry, cold, airless world!

Did I say “live out your days?”

Yes, there’s a spoiler alert – you don’t get to come back! But that makes sense, because adapting to the Martian gravity will weaken your muscles and we already know that living in space reduces your bone density, so a return to Earth in your later years would just be an oppressive, painful ordeal.

Which, of course, your later years are bound to be anyway.

Clearly this creates a wonderful opportunity for people who truly hate the lives they currently have on Earth. You might as well die on Mars. This is so much better than hospice!

You’re the first Earthling to die on Mars. What does your tombstone say?

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Frightful!

Finally, something to bring us all together – the searing pain of wintry weather. It seems like just about every part of the United states is experiencing some form of frostbitten misery this week.

It’s enough to make even the most self-indulgent winter-smug Minnesotan finally feel understood. And while we’ve been trained not to say it, the temptation is irresistible. Especially if it can be sung:

Though the weather outside if frightful.
Winter suffering’s insightful.
Don’t believe us? Well now you know!
Told you so, told you so, told you so!

While it’s true we don’t get typhoons here,
and we’ve just a few baboons here,
there’s calamity in the snow!
Told you so, told you so, told you so!

Though we surely complain enough,
You’ve reacted like you didn’t care.
Mother Nature has called your bluff.
Now there’s frostbite everywhere!

Feeling sympathy’s not verboten.
We are all part Minnesotan.
Hypothermia leaves a glow!
Told you so, told you so, told you so!

Ever say “told you so”?

vw_ad

Hippie Road Trip

On what must be the busiest travel weekend of the year, I was tickled by this L.A. Times article about two Brazilians on a modern day hippie road trip across Latin America in a VW Bus.

The car is unsafe by today’s standards, of course. But what it lacks in functioning crumple zones it makes up for with it’s approachability factor. It’s a much better head-turning and friend-making car than, say, a Camry. But then the ability to get strangers to smile isn’t usually designed into modern cars, and Volkswagen has announced it’s discontinuing production of the microbus at the end of this year.

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Thus we all will receive, for Christmas, a succession of news articles featuring people telling us their VW Bus stories.

Here’s one about a couple that has made a business out of giving people tours of San Francisco in a VW Bus. San Francisco is always interesting, but it seems this business is built mostly on the feeling people get around the car, especially in that historic hippie setting.

It doesn’t take long to find more – a 22 year old North Carolinian who has been dreaming of owning a VW Camper since he was 14, and a Brit renting one for a family holiday in the UK.

And of course I know there are fond VW bus memories on the Trail from Crow Girl and tim, which I would love to hear more about.

No doubt once production ceases (or even before), there will be calls to bring back the bus!

What discontinued product would you like to bring back?

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Extrovert Airlines

Everyone is feeling cheerful about the news that the F.C.C. will consider allowing cellphone use on flights.

Well OK, not everyone is cheerful. But many of the people speaking up seem to be happy about it. And the problem is – they’re so loud, it’s hard to know what the quiet types think. I suspect that in this age of marriage equality and marijuana legalization, the decision will go in the permission-giving direction, and people who see air travel as an opportunity to read and/or sleep are going to have to learn to live with it. Either they will learn to sit near the engine where no one can hear anything anyway, find a comfortable pair of earplugs, or resign themselves to serving time for Seat Mate Murder – a new category of homicide that will exist as soon as people discover a handy weapon to carry it out. How drunk does someone have to be before you can you smother them with a Delta Snack Mix bag?

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Perhaps the best solution would be to segregate air travel by personality type, putting all the loud, verbal people on one flight and all the quiet non-engagers on another. The crew might also be assigned based on social inclination, so Extrovert Air captains would be on the intercom pretty much constantly, blathering on about wind direction and travel time while the Introvert Air flights would sit on the tarmac, their pilots quietly fuming over the way those gabby ExAir crews chat up the tower.

Until we sort this all out, everyone could benefit from learning how to de-code a one-sided conversation, because we’ll be hearing a lot of them. I recommend lots of Bob Newhart videos.

When have you overheard something alarming?