Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Will Freedom Ever Be Free Again?

Today is the Fourth of July, otherwise known as Independence Day.  It is a day we celebrate America's freedom, or so I'm told.

One phrase I see often on this day, and other patriotic holidays, is this one:

Freedom isn't free

I never gave much thought to that phrase, but I'm starting to think about it now.  What does it mean?  Is it really true?

Sadly, it is true.  Freedom isn't free.  It is being held captive by regressives.  People who call themselves conservatives have hijacked freedom and put it in chains.  They are hoarding it and slowly perverting it for their own ends.  They want freedom to be only what they want it to be.

What freedoms are imprisoned by the Right?

Freedom of Speech - It's okay to say, "Fuck your feelings," and be politically incorrect if they are the ones saying it.  If you dare speak out and criticize them or their Dear Leader, the White House Orangutan, you will be called mean and uncivil.  Your good name will be dragged through the mud.  Also, don't dare say, "Happy Holidays" to anyone on the right.

Freedom of the Press - The press was once a key to keeping this country free.  A well-informed populace can make intelligent choices.  The press was meant to keep the government honest by reporting its every move.  Now any medium that dares to report actual facts is called "liberally biased" or just plain "fake".

Freedom of Religion - Only Christians are allowed to freely practice their religion, including the freedom to dictate how everyone else lives.  All Americans must play by their rules.  If the rest of us don't agree, it abridges their freedom.  This only applies to white fundamentalists of course.  Liberal Christians and black churches need not apply.  Token Jews might be allowed if they toe the party line and don't criticize Israel.  Catholics are welcome if they are hard right anti-choicers and follow Rick Santorum and Paul Ryan more than they follow Pope Francis.  Muslims better shut up.  If you're an atheist, you don't even deserve citizenship in this great country.  Bite my ass and leave.

(So many of my tolerant Christian friends have put this one up on social media over the years)

The Right to Bear Arms - Every citizen can have a gun on demand and without apology.  At least every white person can.  If you're a black person demanding a gun, you will be under suspicion.  A black gun owner is likely a thug or a gangster.  White libertarians can publicly say a gun is protection against a militarized police state, but a black person certainly can't say that.

The Right to a Fair Trial - This is another freedom limited to white people.  People of color can be convicted in the Court of Public Opinion and either killed or imprisoned for life.

Protection from Illegal Search and Seizure - This doesn't apply to poor people who can be drug tested, even if it costs millions in taxpayer dollars.  Also, if you're Muslim, or at least suspected of being Muslim, it's permissible for the government to search your bags or tap your phone.

The Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness - You get the right to life only if you're a white fetus.  If you're a black teenager, it's fine to kill you.  As for the pursuit of happiness, your happiness should have nothing to do with sex, particularly gay sex.

Freedom needs to be liberated.  As loyal Americans we can not let one group define our freedom and hold it hostage.  The Right has believed it can define freedom for the rest of us for far too long.  We need to take freedom back so it applies to everyone.  Freedom does not mean the right for conservatives to dictate (and ruin) everything in this country.

Hang in there Freedom.  I'm going to get you in November!  Maybe I won't succeed completely this time, but I will keep working for you. I will not give up on you.  Free Freedom!

Sorry Trump Voters. You Don't Get a Pass.

So you voted for Trump and you still want to defend your choice.  Somehow you still want to defend the indefensible.  You made your choice, but you think you are innocent of the consequences of your actions.

"Stop calling me a racist.  I'm not a racist because I voted for Trump."

Sorry.  You can come up with as many excuses as you want, but if you support and defend a racist, you're not off the hook.

You say you're not a racist because you think the KKK is bad, or because you refuse to use the N-word.  You would never support the reinstatement of Jim Crow laws.  You couldn't possibly be a racist.  You love black people. You have black friends.

This is what most white people don't understand (or want to understand) about racism.  Just because you're not burning crosses or segregating bathrooms doesn't mean you don't practice elements of racism in your daily life.  Racism isn't black or white.  It's a continuum.  There are many type of behavior - some subtler than others - between lynching picnics and being a true ally to minority communities.  Chances are you fall somewhere on that spectrum.  Most of us do. 

You don't think you're a racist?  Have you ever practiced any of these behaviors?

Do you ever use dog whistles like "welfare queen", "ghetto", "inner city", or "thug"?  When Obama was president did you contemptuously mention his middle name?  Did you make birther jokes (or maybe you weren't joking)?   Do you want to "take back" your country?  Do you pretend to know you don't really understand what these statements mean?

If I talk about "welfare" in any context, does it put a picture of a black person in your mind?

If a casually dressed black person comes into an uncrowded space with you, do you find yourself clutching your purse or wallet more tightly?

Is there a part of you that believes minorities would have it easier if they would simply behave better or fall in line with the rest of society properly?  Maybe you take issue with minor things like how minorities dress or talk? Do you feel certain "black" behaviors deserve societal contempt?

If an unarmed member of a minority group is killed by a police officer or trigger-happy neighbor, do you find yourself lapping up any news you can find that the victim is somehow a "bad" person and deserved to die?

If someone says "Black Lives Matter" do you immediately shoot back with "All lives matter," and not really understand what the statement, or the movement, of BLM is about?

Do you often preach the paternalistic, pseudo-intellectual position that welfare hurts black people because we are holding them back by giving them handouts instead of forcing them to stand on their own?  Do you understand how that statement is racist?  (If you don't, I'd be happy to explain it to you.)

If you're still reading this, maybe at this point you are protesting that you don't do any of these things.  You never did.  You're an ally, really and truly. You just voted for Trump.  That's all.

Racism didn't magically appear after Trump was elected.  He has a long history of making racist statements.  His business engaged in outright acts of discrimination.  His entire campaign was based on racism.  You knew this and voted for him anyway.  He played upon your fear of The Other.  He played on your fear of minority welfare recipients spending your tax dollars (a trick every Republican has used on you since Reagan).  He played on your fear of immigrants.  He played on your fear of people who don't practice your religion.  The true fear he played on is your fear of the country becoming less white.  He knows you fear becoming the minority.  You bought into it.

The favored media trope is that Trump's voters were all lower class white people who felt left behind by globalization and the educated elites.  That is the biggest lie the "liberal" media have told you.  If you look at the polls strictly by income level, Trump did not get the biggest share of low income voters.  He did get the biggest share of white voters across all income levels.  Educated, high-income, white people voted for him overwhelmingly.  This past election was about race, whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

As this nightmare of a presidency continues, he is relentless with his dog whistles, his offensive remarks, and his defense of racists and racism.  You stay silent and refuse to condemn him.  Is that not just a little bit racist?

"I didn't vote for Trump because I liked him.  I was only voting against Hillary."

So let's talk about Hillary Clinton for a minute.  Why did you so eagerly vote against her?  She has devoted her life to public service.  Her career began as an advocate for disabled children.  She then went into education reform.  She was a lawyer in the private sector.  She served on the board of WalMart in Arkansas.  She was a senator.  She was Secretary of State.  In other words, her career has consisted of advocacy, education, business, law, legislation, and diplomacy.  I don't think there has ever been anyone more qualified for the office in decades.

Why would you be so vehemently against someone with such an impressive list of accomplishments?  Let me guess.  It's because Trump and some Fox News pundits said she was "crooked".  What proof is there?  After spending thirty years being chased and monitored and accused, no one has ever come up with a single shred of evidence.  She has been convicted on nothing.  Millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to prove she's no guiltier than the rest of us.  In my opinion, her ability to withstand all of that scrutiny, not give up, and still stand tall and fight the good fight makes her extraordinary.

You don't feel that way.  That's fine.  We can differ.  I'm still not giving you a pass.  You see, if you said you really hated Mrs. Clinton and that you simply had to vote against her, so you held your nose and crept up to the polls and voted for Trump, then maybe I wouldn't be writing this post. That is not what you did.  You didn't hold your nose and vote.  You aren't ashamed.  You posted this on your social media pages.

This was posted all over the social media feeds of many of my regressive female friends.

This doesn't say, "I voted for Trump even though I don't like him.  He was the lesser of two evils."

This says, We marched into the voting booths.  We didn't creep.  We weren't unsure.  We marched.

Marching doesn't mean you were tentative or regretful.  It means you purposefully and determinedly  did this.  You made a strong statement that Trump is your man.  You wanted him.  You meant it.  You marched.

You did this.  By revealing that you did this you proved your true colors.  There is no prize for protesting your innocence now.  You may not dress in white sheets, but you're a racist just the same.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

You Reap What You Sow

Who lit the fires of hate and incivility? It began with Donald Trump’s campaign. - Dan Rather

Wendy Williams.  Kathy Griffin.  Samantha Bee.  Robert De Niro.  It's open season for angry celebrities who want to shout rude names at the current administration and everyone connected with it.

Somehow that is making the supporters of this administration angry.  There are plenty of angry Republicans out there complaining about the rude, mean, liberals who are so disrespectful of that buffoon in the White House (I refuse to call him the president).  How dare anyone talk like that?  How has this country become so uncivil?

For all of you Trump supporters who are clutching your pearls and stewing in your shorts, I have one thing to say to you.

Ever since the early days of his campaign, Trump has been disrespectful and mean-spirited. Every American he has ever disparaged or made fun of is one of his constituents - the very people he is supposed to be serving. He has shown nothing but contempt for a large portion of Americans. 

His followers love this contempt. Make fun of a disabled man? Make tasteless sexist remarks about women who oppose him? Call developing countries “shitholes”? Conservatives can’t get enough of it. He’s “telling it like it is.” He’s being “politically incorrect.” How conservatives love it when they can call unkindness political incorrectness.  When Trump makes fun of a portion of Americans, regressives can feel superior.  They can put themselves in the position of the playground bully. 

Social media. Political blogs.   Opinion segments on Fox News (or maybe I should say Fox "News" is more like an opinion channel with news segments).  These are filled with hateful rhetoric from the right.  It never stops.  MRA sites attack "cucks" and "soyboys".  White men march in the streets screaming "Blood and Soil" while the buffoon in the White House calls them "Very Fine People."  Facebook and other social media platforms are filled with right-wing members complaining about the "libtards".  Roseanne Barr calls a former Obama advisor a "monkey" - a long-time insult to black people - and conservatives rush to her defense. 

Again and again, if anyone tries to correct this behavior, to remind them that as Americans we are better than this, the response is what you see on the t-shirt above.  You're too sensitive.  You're a whiner.  You're a "snowflake".  Mean is the new normal now.  It's open season on everyone.  Liberals better get used to it.  
Well, conservatives, you reap what you sow. If you want a world where there are no filters, no self-censorship, and no impediments to hurting others, then you had better be prepared for it to go both ways. Liberals can be “politically incorrect” too. Stop whining about how liberals are killing free speech and then cry foul when their speech is just as free as yours. Political incorrectness doesn’t feel so great when it’s directed to one of your own, does it?

Welcome to the world you created. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

So Who Will You Shoot?

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. - US Constitution, Amendment II

These days when I hear certain groups of Americans talk about "freedom" and "liberty", they only seem to be talking about freedom to own guns  Lots of guns. Unlimited access to guns.  If I ask, "What does freedom mean to you?" the answer would be "More guns."

So what exactly does a gun do?  What is its function?  What is its purpose?  If you strip away the flag waving, and the rhetoric, and the extreme nationalism, and just consider the essence of a gun as a tool, the answer would be simple.  A gun's purpose is to kill.

Don't tell me that humbug about "Guns don't kill people."  Yes, they do kill people (and animals).  The purpose of a gun is to kill something or someone quickly and easily.

So if you believe that guns are freedom, are you willing to kill someone in the name of freedom?

The Second Amendment (shown at the top of the article) is our mostly widely contested and variably interpreted section of the US Constitution in the 21st Century.  Many gun rights activists only care about the last fourteen words.  Libertarians are a bit more nuanced and claim this is about having the ability to take over the government if it becomes tyrannical.  They will quote the statements of the founding fathers - sometimes accurately, sometimes falsely, and sometimes out of context- to prove their point.  Personally I don't feel your average libertarian really understands the concerns of of the founding fathers (who opposed the idea of a standing army, so of course they would support local militias).  Most of them would tell me I'm wrong.

The right wing drumbeats are growing louder as more Americans are concerned about the misuse of guns in the wrong hands.  A day doesn't go by when I don't hear how we must have guns to defend ourselves against tyranny.  This is what I want to know:  At what points will you take up your arms?  What would it take?  Most importantly, who are you willing to take your gun and kill in the name of freedom?

One argument often used by libertarians, and occasionally by self-proclaimed conservatives, is that one manifestation of our tyrannical government is our increasingly militarized police force and its suppression of protests by marginalized groups.  This is an argument even I have to be in some agreement with.  Police overreach is a growing problem in this country.  This is one point liberals and libertarians can agree on.  This tends to be a point where conservatives tend to disagree with libertarians because on average (but not always). Conservatives (and this is where they really earn my favorite nickname "regressives") tend to be law-and-order types who want a strong police force (especially if the police are pointing those military grade weapons at black people).

This is my question.  If you believe that our police forces have become a tool of an oppressive regime, and you feel that guns are the only way to stop them, why haven't you done so?  If you think your guns will prevent further deaths by police officers, why aren't you out there protecting the weakest and the oppressed from police violence?  Why haven't  you been out there at those riots with your guns shooting back the the police?

Let's go back a few years.  For eight years my social media feeds were filled with conservative friends whining about how Obama was taking away their freedom.  Obama took away their guns (oh wait, he didn't, but he was planning on it...), he signed the Affordable Care Act (because having people with lower incomes have access to insurance is such a freedom-killer).  He overturned DOMA (because when other people have the same freedoms you do, it totally takes away all your freedom).  He obviously turned this country into a communist totalitarian regime.  Why didn't you take him out?

I know it's not easy to assassinate a president, but I'm sure it's not impossible.  The Constitution gives you a right to a militia.  Do you belong to one?  Maybe you should join or start one?  You should have done so when Obama was president.  Train as a sniper.  Better yet, you could have put a mole in the White House who would have given you a chance to just walk into the Oval Office and stuck a bullet in Obama's brain at point blank range.  I know in the first couple of years you ran a risk of dealing with the line of succession.  It wasn't just Obama.  You would have needed a coordinated effort to take out Biden, Pelosi, and Clinton as well.  So what happened?  Why didn't you take your legal guns and work on this?

What happens if Trump is voted out of office?  Even if he wins in 2020, a Democrat might make it into office in 2024.  Will you be ready to defend your freedom and use your gun to take over the freedom-hating liberal communist government?  I suggest you be prepared.  Trump won't take away your guns, so get those militias in action.

The US military is vast.  If you try to overthrow the government, it is the military's job to step in and protect it from your threat. You can't just take out the president.  Your militia will have to be massive, well-trained, and stealthy.  You will have to take out bases all over the entire country in a near-simultaneous attack and be quick about it.  You have to take them by surprise and kill as many of them as you can before they can retaliate with their superior force (unless you own tanks, fighter jets, and drones of your own in addition to your guns).

Conservative worship the military.  I hope killing all those soldiers and sailors doesn't cause too much cognitive dissonance.  I hope the US veterans in the militia don't feel too bad about killing their brothers in arms.  I assume you don't plan to do anything to help their spouses and children.

(I assume in the case of your assassination of Obama, you would have killed Michelle, Sasha, and Malia and done what the Bolsheviks did to the Czar and his family and thrown them in a pit, or maybe do what the did to Mussolini and his mistress and hang their bodies upside down from meat hooks in the city center.)

If guns equal freedom, then stop whining and tell me how you plan to use your gun to defend against the government.  Guns do kill people.  You aren't going to overthrow the government with hammers, knives, and jujitsu.  You can't say you want to use your gun to overthrow a repressive government and say you don't want to kill anyone.  If you think you need a gun to defend your freedom, then walk the walk.  Tell me who you are willing to kill in the name of freedom.

Then again, Martin Luther King and Gandhi somehow managed to change the laws and even remove an imperial power without violence.  Just saying.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Facebook Conumdrum

I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss Facebook.  I haven't heard from some of my friends for two months. I left Facebook and now it's out of sight, out of mind.  I find myself hovering over Kevin when he has Facebook up on his iPad, desperate to know if anything is interesting is going on.  I have that worry that if I try to contact friends some other way I'll be bothering them and making them go out of their way.  Besides, without my being on Facebook, we have nothing to talk about.

Knowing I still want to know what's happening on FB is a sign of my addiction.  I'm like an alcoholic trying to just get a little drop. As badly as I want to be back in the fray, I know it's not good for me.

Then again, this whole data scandal makes me glad I am staying away.  Do I really want to be the victim of having my personal data sold?

Who am I kidding?  Facebook has been monitoring my use, collecting my data, and selling it long before I left.  All of this Cambridge Analytica stuff went down over a year ago.  The algorithms at Facebook have been curating my feed for years.  Every site I ever browsed became an ad on Facebook.  Every post I shared became an invite to another page.  My very presence on Facebook brought a hundred spam emails into my inbox every day (and it still does).

What exactly was Russia and the Trump campaign doing with my information?  Should I have been worried about that?

I'm confident this was not an issue.  I do see the possibility of what bots and trolls might have been trying to do.  If I were going to call out the opposition for trolling Facebook, I would say they were definitely trying to divide Democrats.  The whole Sanders-Clinton war was overblown, and too many Democrats fell for it.  There were so many posts supposedly from liberal sources denouncing Clinton, accusing her of corruption, and putting doubts in the minds of voters.  As her nomination seemed more likely, it seemed more obvious that there were forces at work trying to keep Democrats and undecided voters away from the polls.

I was not going to stay home.  The Sanders-Clinton war was one of the most tragic political exaggerations of our time.  The two of them were almost ideologically identical.  Yes, Sanders was more outspoken on topics Clinton was afraid to openly talk about for fear of sounding too socialist (a title Sanders embraced), but when it came down to the actual issues, they were in agreement for 93% of them. Sanders may have seemed more ideologically pure, but Clinton has a far more impressive resume.  She was an advocate for the disabled, an education reformer, a member of the Wal Mart board of directors, a lawyer, a senator, and a diplomat.  So in other words, she has a background in advocacy, business, law, government, and diplomacy.  I don't think this country has ever seen a more perfect and well-rounded candidate as we saw in Hillary Clinton.  Anyone who fell for that "crooked" thing (despite being hounded by the right for decades, nothing has ever been proven against her) deserves to be hacked by Russians.

Anyway, I digress.  Just because I'm not gullible doesn't mean I was safe.  I don't know what will happen to my social media posts in the future.  I do know that social media sites need to make their money somehow and if I'm going to enjoy these services - whether it's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat (I will NEVER use Snapchat), Tumblr, or whatever comes up in the future - those sites need to make money.  I will be agreeing to let them sell my information to advertisers.  That's how it works.

There is one solution I can come up with for this.  It's one nobody wants to accept, but it will be a huge step towards having our data sold to advertisers.

We need social media sites that aren't free.

How much are social media worth to you?  How much do you depend on them?  How many services out there do you depend on daily that you pay for?  You pay for internet.  You pay for television services.  You pay for your phone.  Maybe it's time you subscribe to a social site that caters to you and your needs and pay what it is worth to you. 

I would love to see a new site that integrates many of the ideas from popular social sites both past and present.  I really do miss MySpace.  I liked how it's blogging feature was like a daily journal.  I could write my daily quips and brainfarts as well as write essays and more thoughtful pieces.  I could also share photo albums.  Now I have everything scattered.  My daily thoughts were once on Facebook.  Now I keep them LiveJournal (I have them here on purpose since I know almost nobody on that site and it's less attention seeking than Facebook).  I use Blogger for essays and recipes.  I use Shutterfly share sites to share photos.  I use Instagram for random thoughts and photos.  Why do we need to be on so many sites?

What would my ultimate social platform look like?  It would like something that would contain the best of all worlds.

The site would contain a microblogging feed like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram where a user can quickly share a few lines, a link or a photo.

Conversations on a feed can become lengthy.  The feed would have a limit to the number of comments going back and forth.  To make up for this, there would also be a forum feature.  If a discussion on a post takes up too much space, the users could take it to the forums. There would also be a private messaging feature.

There would be a journal/blog feature like the one on MySpace for those who had more to share than just a few lines of text.  It could be a journal or it could be a space for essays.

Those who like to share large numbers of photos would have albums just like Facebook and MySpace.  Users would also be able to share audio and video files.

It would contain a scrapbooking feature like Pinterest or Tumblr.  The site has a section where people could share random memes and pictures and pages.

Finally Musicians and filmmakers would have a space to share audio files and video files. 

Would I be willing to pay for a service like this?  Why shouldn't I?  I pay for many other forms of entertainment.  I could even see this as being an a la carte service.  A photographer may subscribe to show off photos, while a writer might use it as a place to feature new works.  Musicians and filmmakers would just subscribe to the AV sharing.   The feed would be part of all subscriptions to give an extra platform to advertise your work.  Paying for the service would keep away the trolls trying to get more information from you or harass you.

A platform like this couldn't be completely ad-free, but if the users are contributing, there would be less pressure to take ad revenue from shady and unethical sources.

I'm not a techie-head.  I have no means to build this site - financial or programming-wise.  For all I know someone might see this post, take my idea, and make millions off it.  I'll end up paying for my own idea and someone else will profit.  Oh well.  Maybe I'm the only one who would go for it?  Tell me, friends, if a site that contained all your networking needs in one place, would you pay for it knowing your privacy would not be violated?

Friday, May 4, 2018

Hawaii Take Two - Maui Wowee!

I have more photos here

I know that title is a cliche.  I just like the way it sounds.

Is there any place more beautiful and magical than Hawaii?  There is a reason so many tourists will flock to a remote island in the middle of the Pacific.  Now that I have left, I am already making my plans to return.  Returning isn't easy.  The trip is long and the stay is expensive.

I suppose Hawaii's cost and distance is part of what makes it so special.  If it were accessible, if you could easily travel there often and cheaply, it would be just another tropical island.  Hawaii is like anything rare and precious.  We value it more because we can't easily have it.  Then again, some people end up moving there and are just as happy to be there full time and not just as a special vacation.  That's not something I could easily do.  I couldn't just pack up my stuff and move thousands of miles away from my friends and family and life here on the east coast.

It was a full and happy week for me in Maui.  There were some glitches with the weather and with Kevin's health, but I think it was a good vacation overall.

Day 1 - We didn't have the most auspicious start.  We printed our boarding passes ahead of time and were ready to check in and drop our bags.  We waited on the security line, but when the agent checked our boarding passes, mine wouldn't scan.  Our printer was low on ink and the code wasn't completely visible.  The agent said once we printed new passes we could go through the fast check-in line.  We left the line and printed our boarding passes at the kiosk.  We went to the back of the main security line and the agents standing at the back of it said to go to the fast check line.  When we went to the fast check line, the agents there said we couldn't do that unless we were accompanied by airport employees.  It was back to waiting on the main security line.  What a pain.  Fortunately it wasn't any longer than any typical line and we were through security in plenty of time.

We had extra comfort seats for our flight and I was looking forward to it.  The last time we flew comfort on Hawaiian Airlines we had so much legroom that I could get up and go to the bathroom without disturbing Kevin. All of the entertainment was free.  It was almost as good as first class.  This trip it wasn't as good as I remembered.  I had to pay for the good movies and there was less legroom than I remembered.  Still, it was better than the regular Economy seats.

After a grueling ten hours we arrived in Honolulu and made our connection to Maui. As we flew into Maui I could see a lovely coastal road at the base of the mountains.  I wondered if it was part of the Road to Hana. It all looked beautiful and I was extra excited when we landed. After our transportation disaster in Kauai two years ago, we learned our lesson and rented a car at the airport.  We got our car and Kevin asked me to drive.  At first I wasn't thrilled because I hate driving in strange places.  I decided to just embrace the adventure.  We had a GPS.  How lost could we get?

Once I was behind the wheel, I was happy to be driving.  That road I saw from the air wasn't the Road to Hana, but Route 30, the road I would drive to Lahaina.  It was a beautiful drive and I felt perfectly comfortable taking the car on that road.  We were in Lahaina well before sunset.

We checked into our beautiful hotel, The Plantation Inn.  It sat on a rather unattractive commercial street, but that street terminated at the ocean as well as the beautiful Front Street.  Lahaina is an old whaling town and still retains some of its historical charm.  The hotel also has a small, but charming pool courtyard and the mountains are visible from there.  Our room was spacious and pretty with an enormous lanai (we could have hosted a party on that terrace).  We definitely made the right choice with hotels.

It was on a rather bland commercial street, but the ocean was right at the end of the block.

The neighbors have a cat who discovered he could mooch breakfast and cuddles from the hotel guests, so he was always hanging around.
We spent the evening walking along Front Street and had dinner at a casual restaurant on the strip called Captain Jacks The downside of dining in Lahaina is that it is a party town and the restaurants are crowded and filled with bustling bar scenes.  It's hard to have a quiet dinner if you don't want to spend major cash.

We did our best to stay awake for a reasonable bedtime and combat jet lag, and looked forward to starting our first full day.

Day 2 - We concentrated all our efforts in Lahaina that day.  It's a charming town.  It was a former whaling village and also former state capital.  It's main road, Front Street, is filled with shops and galleries.  In some ways, it reminded me of Chincoteague, but more upscale with more stuff and bigger.  We walked the north of our hotel to the end of the business district for part of the day and then spent the other half of the day looking south of our hotel.  We found our favorite lunch spot for the week, The Lahaina Luna Cafe.  

One of the places we visited was the shop of ukulele maker Ken Potts. He had a handful of instruments in his shop, but they were all impressive.  He had a tenor ukulele, a six-string ukulele, and this unusual eight-string ukulele that had the richest sound of any stringed instrument I ever heard.  He is a master craftsman who works with local woods.  You don't have to play one to be impressed.

When we had enough walking we returned to the hotel and I spent some time in the pool before dinner.

For dinner we headed to the docks for a sunset cruise with the Pacific Whale Foundation.   Unfortunately the whales already migrated north, so we were only able to view the landscape and a handful of dolphins. It was a beautiful view though.  As we pulled away from the shore, we could see a beautiful rainbow in the mountains.  The sunset over the island of Lanai across the way was equally impressive.  The dinner itself was a bit better than mediocre.  We had a good salad and a good dessert, but my steak was overcooked and Kevin didn't like his shrimp.  The side dish was an interesting dish of mashed purple sweet potatoes with coconut.  Kevin didn't like that at all.

Early to bed for our next advenutre that was starting early the next day.

Day 3 -We had a van tour scheduled for a drive down the Road to Hana.  This is a road on the east coast of Maui that is known for winding roads and spectacular views of the ocean and filled with waterfalls.  There isn't much civilization along this road.  There is one way in to the area and one way out.  It eventually lead to the town of Hana, where the residents enjoy their isolation away from the tourists and Americanization of Hawaiian culture (although the town looks pretty Americanized to me).

The day turned out to be problematic.  First the driver for the tour company we scheduled the trip with had a death in the family and couldn't do the tour, so they subcontracted a guy who normally does only private tours.  He vehicle was small and the 6 of us were squeezed in there pretty tight.  It rained pretty hard for most of the day.  We were unable to stop and really enjoy the waterfalls.  On normal days it might be possible to swim, but the weather and the water conditions made that impossible.  The winding road triggered Kevin's dizzy spells and he was sick the whole time.

We did see some beautiful spots.  We did see some waterfalls.  Our guide was knowledgeable about the flora on the road and told us which trees were native and which were brought in from other areas and which were considered invasive.  We were lucky to have a break in the rain when we reached Wai'anapanapa State Park.  It has a beautiful black sand beach.  I saw black sand beaches on the Big Island on my last trip, but those were rock beaches.  Wai'anapanapa is actual smooth black sand.  There is also a small lava tube on the beach (not as big as the one at Volcanoes National Park).

We were given an hour to explore.  I spent some time walking along the magnificent lava formation cliffs, but it started raining again.  I had a wet hike back to the van.

We stopped by a beach that was surrounded by red cliffs.  The sand at that beach is regular sand colored, but if you walk down the beach to the adjacent shoreline, you see the sand is red.  The red sand flows away from one beach and forms another.

Once we returned to our hotel, Kevin was able to recover.  We ate dinner in our hotel that night.  The Plantation Inn has a beautiful French restaurant called Gerard's.  We had a lovely dinner on their front porch.

Day 4 - Kevin wisely opted to stay behind while I went on a hike.  My guide, Lily, picked me up in the morning and we started off back on the Road to Hana.  We didn't go too far in though.  The preserve where we went hiking was at the start of it.  The purpose of this hike was to view and swim in waterfalls, but the rains from the previous day made some of the streams impossible to cross and some of the pools too dangerous for swimming.  We were able to swim in one waterfall though.  It was a fun hike.  Lily spent a lot of time talking about the plant life and pointing out what plants were edible.  We even ate the flesh from the pod of a cacao tree.  It tasted like a sour mango rather than like chocolate.  (The raw seeds don't have their distinct chocolatey flavor yet either, so don't try to eat them.)

That evening we went to our first Lu'Au at Old Lahaina Lu'Au.  It was a lot of fun.  As soon as we arrived they served mai tais as we waited on line to enter.  Performers gave dance lessons.  We watched them take the pig from the pit.  The buffet was excellent.  I enjoyed the pig, but they had delicious beef and chicken dishes too.  The drinks flowed freely.  I think they flowed a bit too freely.  I started nodding off during the entertainment.  We watched various dances and rituals.  I learned that Queen Liliuokalani was a musician and she was the one who wrote the famous Aloha Oe. (I think that is a more well-known fact than I give it credit for and I just didn't know it.)

Day 5 - Kevin decided to sit this one out as well.  I took a snorkel cruise to Molokini Crater.  This is a volcanic formation that sits between Maui and Kaho╩╗olawe.  It has clear underwater visibility, so it is a great snorkel spot.  It is also a bird sanctuary and I spotted many interesting shore birds.  I had to drive a bit out of my way to find the boat (I should have done more research because similar cruises leave right from the Lahaina docks), but I made it on time.  

I bought an underwater camera so I could get some photos (see the link at the top of this post).  The views were spectacular so I'm glad I had some evidence this time.  Some of the best views in Hawaii are underwater.  We spent an hour swimming around Molokini and then got back on the boat for lunch. 

We headed back to the west side of the island to Turtle Reef where the famed sea turtles are known to hang out.  The turtles were shy that day.  I only saw one before I gave up and went back to the boat.  Some of the other folks on the boat say they saw two or three.  The most interesting thing about the turtle I saw was that he had a shark bite on his shell.  The visibility wasn't as good at Turtle Reef as it was at Molokini, so I didn't save the photos I took.

Some of us got frustrated and decided to stop snorkeling and just go swimming.  The guides had encouraged us to rent wetsuits to protect against the sun as well as the colder water at Molokini.  By the end of the time at Turtle Reef, I ditched the wetsuit and the snorkel gear and just enjoyed taking a dive off the boat and swimming around.  For some reason the water seemed warmer when I did that.

I had been vigilant about avoiding the sun for most of the week, but got a bit fried on the ride back.  I was enjoying the air and sunshine on the upper deck and kept neglecting to go below deck for more sunscreen.  I was rather pink.  That didn't stop me from spending my afternoon back at the hotel at Baby Beach in Lahaina.  It's a calm, shady, and quiet beach about a 15 minute walk from the center of town.   The water is calm (no surf), shallow, and warm.  I was able to swim laps (although I had to route around the reefs) away from the shore and back.  I felt so fried despite adding more sunscreen.  Kevin wanted to take a walk before dinner but I made him wait until I felt the sun was down enough.

We had dinner at a restaurant at the end of our street, Lahaina Grill.  I think it was the most expensive restaurant in town.  It was a bit noisy, but we had the most entertaining server.  This guy was one of those servers who likes to put on a show.  The food was excellent.  Kevin had to wait a long time for his chicken, so they brought us a complimentary piece of pie in compensation.  Kevin felt it wasn't enough dessert, so we went out for ice cream.  I decided the pie was enough.

Day 6 - How disappointing was it to have it rain on our last full day?  I optimistically took rented some snorkel gear, took the car and tried to drive to the famous nearby Kaanapali Beach.  Even with the rain I couldn't find parking.  There are some spaces in local garages for "Beach Access" and they are free, but there are not many of them and they were all taken.  The beachfront is taken up by hotels.  Those hotels all have paid parking.  I thought I might be able to pay for parking at the Kaanapali Beach Resort, which is a sister property to The Plantation Inn.  Unfortunately hotels will not allow beach parking in their lots.  I guess hotels want to keep as much of the beach to themselves as possible.  I learned later on that there is a bus that goes from Lahaina to Kaanapali, but it was too late then.  It rained most of the morning anyway.

The Plantation Inn has a laundry room, so that's where we spent some of our morning.  It's always good to have less laundry to do at home when you come home from vacaction.

There was enough of a break in the rain for me to take my snorkel to Baby Beach.  There wasn't much to see there, but there were a few interesting fish.  I think I saw more than I expected to.

In the late afternoon we took a short drive into the mountains for some horseback riding.  We went to Lahaina Stables and met with our guide Alison.  When she gave us our waivers she included a helmet waiver.  I think she was surprised when we told her we wanted helmets.   We were introduced to our horses.  My horse was a dark bay named Willy.  I was told he was a good horse, but he would always want his head and I would have to work to keep him from eating on the trails.

I didn't find him to be too problematic.  I just rode him on contact for the entire ride.  There were times when I would let him eat and he seemed surprised and reluctant.  The ride was surprisingly grueling for an all-levels ride.  We had to deal with some steep mountain terrain.  We were rewarded with a beautiful view though.  All week long I was at the level of the ocean, looking up into the mountains.  This day I was up in the mountains looking down at the ocean.

After the ride they gave us champagne and chocolate.  What could be better than horses, champagne, and chocolate in one afternoon?

For dinner that night we went to Fleetwoods, a restaurant owned by Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac.  It's a popular tourist spot, but the food is some of the best in Maui.  They have three levels.  The bottom level is a gift shop.  The middle level is a lounge with a bar and live music (Mick Fleetwood plays there with his current band most Tuesday nights).  The main restaurant is on the rooftop.  It would be a beautiful view, but it's too dark to see the water at night.  Still, it's the highest spot in town and has a majestic feel to it.  We had another excellent meal there.

Day 7 - Time to say goodbye.  That's always sad.  I really would love to come back here some day.  I love The Plantation Inn and I love Lahaina.  There are so many things to see on Maui too that we missed (we never made it to Haleakala for example).  The inn has a discount for returning guests, so we should take advantage of it.  We had no issues getting home.  We hardly used our car all week.  We used it to get to and from the airport and I used it four other times.  They rental agency gave us a discount since we used so little in mileage and gas.  We were lucky that everything we needed was in walking distance or else our tours had hotel pickups.  The flights were fine.  We made it back to New York around 6AM the next morning.  All I wanted to do was sleep.

Aloha Hawaii.  Thanks again for another great trip.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Random Thoughts

I think the best picture Oscar going to The Shape of Water was the Academy's (still don't know what that is) apology to GenXers for not choosing ET for Best Picture when they were kids.

Why do some people have such an aversion to wearing socks?  I understand there are some drawbacks to wearing cheap socks.  It's uncomfortable when they fall down inside your shoes.  I know people who are too lazy to replace old socks and walk around with giant holes in their socks  That isn't terribly comfortable either.  Assuming the socks are good quality and well-fitting, what is so wrong with them?  They can be cute with fun colors and patterns.  They can be warm and soft and comforting on a cold day.  They can help prevent frostbite on a cold winter day.  They help prevent shoe bites and super-stinky feet.  I guess some people just have sensory issues. People don't like socks the way I don't like baggy pants or corduroys.

When did Avery become a girl's name?  Also, Ryan.  These are boys names and have been for centuries.  What is the appeal of giving a girl a boy's name?  At my previous job I was reviewing the resume of someone wanting to join my team.  Her name was Ryan.  She had to indicate on her resume that she was female.  If someone has to ask what a person's sex is, they have the wrong name.  Don't tell me you want to give your daughter an "androgynous" name that will make people not judge her by her sex.  If giving a girl a boy's name is gender neutral, why doesn't that work in reverse?  If it's androgynous to call a girl James or Maxwell, then why is it not androgynous to call a boy Susan?  When you give a girl a boy's name, you are making a strong statement about how society still views men and women. 

My hair amazes me.  It is unbelievable how much curls affect length.  Friday I had my hair cut and had it blown out.  The length seemed long-ish when it was done.  It was below my shoulders anyway.  Sunday I washed it and let it dry naturally.  My hair is now almost to my college-era bob length.  It's as if I have a magic hair texture.

I wish adults would learn to dance like adults.  If you're old enough to have graduated from college, you are old enough to learn how to properly hold a dance partner.  I can't stand seeing adults at an adult function holding their dance partners like horny teenagers.  Putting both arms around your partner's neck and waist is not dancing.   It just looks tacky.  How do you dance properly?  It's simple.  Women, put your left hand on your partner's right shoulder.  Men, put your right hand on the woman's back and hold her right hand.  Now both of you start moving.  How hard is that? 

I admit sometimes when I get dressed in the morning, I create my outfit solely on the fantasy that I might meet the lens of The Sartorialist.