On to Quito

Getting Ready to Pack

Getting Ready to Pack

The next couple of days, I will be busy cleaning up after tax season at work, and packing for my Ecuador vacation at home. Consequently, this is my last posting until my return in November. I do not anticipate making any postings while I am there.

Quito is two hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time—essentially the same as Central Daylight Time (UTC -5 hours). That means there will be no jet lag. There will, however, be some danger of altitude sickness, as Quito is approximately 9,000 feet (around 3,000 meters) above sea level.

So, vaya con dios, amigos!

You Gotta Have Sole!

The Grier Musser Museum Near Downtown LA

The Grier Musser Museum Near Downtown LA

Today, Martine and I visited the Grier Musser Museum on South Bonnie Brae, about a mile west of downtown L.A. Even before we pulled into the museum’s parking lot, however, disaster struck. The right sole of my New Balance shoes came unglued and flapped like a tongue as I walked.

Fortunately, Ray and Susan Tejada, curators of the museum, allowed me to do the tour in my stocking feet. Else, I would have pitched down the stairs and landed on my head. When we left, Ray and Susan gave me some masking tape to wind around the shoe. The fix held until I walked into my apartment, whereupon the sole flapped—but I immediately tossed the shoes into the nearest trash bin.

This time of year, the Grier Musser Museum is chock full of Halloween displays ranging from antiques to recent Hallmark creations. The net result is to give us a sweeping view of what is fast becoming one of our major holidays. (I wonder how long it will be before it becomes a national holiday.)

Messing with Mother Nature

Chinese Mass Wedding

Chinese Mass Wedding

China is worried. The all-powerful Communist Party has messed with Mother Nature once too often. For many years, they banned having more than one child per family. That led, not surprisingly, to an excess of male newborns over female newborns. (Accidents sometimes happened to infant girls, when it was boys who were desired.)

Although the Party has eased up on its child restrictions, there are two serious consequences:

  1. The number of marriages is dropping, possibly because many young men cannot find a sufficient number of marriage-age women to wed. I also remember reading stories about suicides of male factory workers because they had no hope of being able to raise a family.
  2. A disconcerting 500,000 elderly have wandered off—most of them suffering from dementia—partly because there are not enough children to bear the burden of their support.

China has been in this type of situation before. One of the decrees during the Great Leap Forward period (1958-1962) was that the “Four Pests” were to be eradicated. The pests in question were rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows. One effect of killing massive numbers of sparrows was that the ecological balance was upset as crops were eaten by insects that were kept under control by the birds.

Maybe having too much power over men and animals is dangerous in the long run.


Voting Against the Creepy Clown

It Was Worth It!

It Was Worth It!

Despite all my strong feelings about the upcoming election, there appeared a real possibility that I wouldn’t be able to vote. I could wait for the sample ballot with its attached absentee ballot application, but there was a better than 50% chance that I wouldn’t get the absentee ballot in my hands before I boarded my plane to South America.

So I called the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters and asked what I could do. They said I could vote in person by going to the County Clerk’s office in Norwalk. Foolishly, I took the 105 Freeway to Norwalk and got stuck in a behemoth traffic jam. It took me all of two hours to drive the 30 miles to the County Clerk’s office and only 15 minutes to vote. Fortunately, I took a better route home (the Golden State Freeway over to the Santa Monica Freeway).

This election matters a great deal to me. I know that California will not go for Trump—even Republican ex-Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to vote for him—but I have to be able to face myself when I look in the mirror. I have to act on my beliefs, or what am I?

You can bet that the Creepy Clown did not get an X in his box on my ballot. I can go to Ecuador now with a good conscience.

An Unnecessary Holiday

It Was Leif Eriksson Who Discovered America

It Was Leif Eriksson Who Discovered America

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue …

Okay, I’m willing to grant him that. He didn’t “discover” America, though. The original discoverers walked across what is now the Bering Strait (or sailed in from various Pacific islands) and scattered through North and South America thousands of years ago. If you’re looking for a European discoverer, your man is the Icelander Leif Eriksson, aided and abetted by information from one Bjarni Herjulfsson. He started a settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows at the northernmost tip of Newfoundland.

The Viking settlers did not stick around. They faced constant warfare with the Skraelings (i.e. aborigines) and gave it up as a lost cause. But they left behind an archeological record and wrote the experience up in the Vinland Saga, which you can read for yourself. Penguin Books has a good edition, which includes several related sagas bound in the same volume.

In the meantime, we are stuck with this holiday in October commemorating an Italian explorer who is reviled by generations of the people he called Indians. If you want to see what they really thought, read Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire. The Spanish and Portuguese colonial experiences left behind some very pretty churches and millions of tormented Indian slaves, if they were so unlucky as to survive.

Columbus himself was not himself an arrant villain, but he made it possible for real arrant villains like Pedro de Alvarado and Nuño de Guzman to control the lives of thousands of innocents. Okay, so maybe they had human sacrifice—but nowhere on the scale of death practiced by the Iberian newcomers.

Defiance Is Everything

Wearing It Like a Badge of Honor

They Wear It Like a Badge of Honor

I know I said I would shy away from politics in this grim election season, but I could not avoid writing about what troubles me to the base of my soul. And that is the fact that people persist in backing Donald Trump despite the horrible behaviors that he is admittedly guilty of. At one point, he even said he could shoot some innocent down in the streets of New York without impacting his political base. Now I think that perhaps that is true.

The United States does not matter to these people. All that matters is expressing their defiance of all things relating to Obama, Hillary, liberalism, and political correctness. I keep thinking of Sly in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew:

Y’are a baggage, the Slys are no rogues. Look in the Chronicles—we came in with Richard [sic] Conqueror. Therefore, paucas pallabris: Let the world slide! Sessa!

Yes, but once one wakes up from a drunken stupor, one has to face a world that is irretrievably broken. What then? Another impeachment trial?

This is the first election in the history of this young nation in which a large number of voters just want to scuttle the ship and sink it, even if they themselves drown in the process.

I am so exercised by this state of affairs that I’m going to drive out to the L.A. County Clerk’s office in distant Norwalk to pick up my absentee ballot for fear that, in the normal course of events, I won’t have it until after I leave for Ecuador. I know that Californians will reject Trump, but now, more than ever, I feel that my vote is personally important.

Consider it my own act of defiance.