The Salt Mine and More

I did not know what to expect from the Wieliczka Salt Mine tour, so  I guess my expectations were met and exceeded.  It was my mother-in-law’s idea.  I was kind of thinking ‘eh, this is going to be boring, let’s get it over with.’
What I didn’t expect was what a big deal it was.  The crowd looked like the crowd at JFK airport, except the line moved even slower.  A family ticket was 161 zlotys, which is about 40 bucks, which I would have balked at but, we were there, that was the plan for the day and, like I said, my mother-in-law was looking forward to this part of the trip.

Whether or not it was worth  it depends on  your definition of worth it, but they sure tried to give you your money’s worth, credit where it’s due.  There are different chambers with different salt statues, Nicholas Copernicus in one, Goethe in another, a group of elves in another, some miners in one carrying torches and they did some special effects, 3 chambers with pools of water, a diorama on salt mining 6,000 years ago which had nothing to do with the place at all, a huge Cathedral chamber which rivals actual Cathedral’s in both size and elaborateness of statuary, and a sort of surreal and scary elevator ride at the end.
Three hours, and when we came out it was pouring rain.  We went for lunch at a restaurant not far from there, the prices were much less than last night’s dinner, you just have to get away from the tourist center.  We were home about 4 or 5 and I was ready for a nap, but didn’t get much time for that, as everybody else was ready to go out again.  Saw Wawel (pronounced Vavel) castle, which was seriously impressive.  It reminded me a lot of Prague Castle, the situation and the views, except there was a lot of green in the main courtyard.  Then a bit of a walk along the river, by the fire breathing dragon and the giant bubble makers, then a quick hike back over to Old Town Square, then I went for a walk with Helena to explore the center a bit further (it is an amazing city for impressive old buildings; it is the equal of Prague in that respect and that is saying a lot) while the others got an ice cream, then we went for dinner at a restaurant in our temporarily adopted neighborhood.  The food was great, the atmosphere suitably Polish, with long, wooden tables and bench seating, but the service was comically bad.  The waiter was a nice guy and all, but all I wanted was a piece of apple cake and he had to be reminded of it several times.
That’s my blog for tonight.  I am all touristed out.


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Day 1 – Arrival in Krakow

So far, Krakow is totally living up to its  reputation as being a gorgeous city.  We could  see that as we drove around, lost, trying to find  our Air BnB accomodations.  A river runs through it and there appear to  be  nice riverwalks on both sides, and some interesting buildings.
After finding our place and moving in (parking was kind of a nightmare, it’s a seriously crowded  street, and not entirely  free, as we’d understood, but free evenings and weekends, so no big deal), we went out exploring.  I was a bit surprised to learn that out of our party of 10, no one had been to Krakow before and two of them (my  mother-in-law and my wife’s cousin) are Polish.  So, a new experience for  all  of us.

Found a restaurant pretty  quick and Helena decisively herded  us in, which was smart, because otherwise the ‘where to eat?’ debate could have taken hours.  The food was pretty  good, I thought, and the prices reasonable, and the service friendly.  Then we stopped for an ice cream after and the ‘small’ scoop  was, in the words  of  the dad  character in ‘So I Married an Axe Murderer,’ “friggin huge.”
We made our way to old town square, which impressed me as being bigger than Pragues, and there were some people making giant bubbles to entertain the kids, and there is this long, palatial building with an arcade along the front which I thought was exceptionally beautiful, as beautiful buildings go, and  we walked through it, inside is a long hall  of souvenir shops, and out the other side… to Old Town Square 2!  A bit smaller, but not  much, and a lot going on.   More bubbles, balloon guys, a juggler, a wedding happening up on a terrace of aforesaid long building, statues, and  the horses  and carts, but  that  was 150 zlotys for 15 minutes and we thought that was a bit much.
Tomorrow, we’re off to the Salt Mines.  Seriously, that’s not a figure of speech, we’re going to visit a salt mine.

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Off to Poland

We’re leaving for Krakow tomorrow  early  in  the  morning.  When Helena told  me 5 o’clock I was thinking she meant 5 o’clock in the afternoon and here it’s after midnight she tells me, no, we’ve got to be up in a few  hours.

So, for the next couple of days this  is likely to be more of a travel blog than my  usual political rants, which I know most people prefer.  Those of us who like to  argue politics, like those of us  who are interested in writing poetry, tend to forget that the vast majority  of people care more about the weather, and that’s not  because  they really care about  the  weather, either, they spend all their time indoors.

But, Donna Brazile said something seriously stupid today, and since I really don’t like Donna Brazile (chairman of the DNC between Wasserman – Schultz and Perez, a mere place holder  between placeholders, and the woman who gave Hillary Clinton the debate questions in advance) I’m going to take this opportunity to make fun of her for it.

I don’t  know what the original  question was, undoubtedly something about Russia, because that’s all Donna Brazile and her  friends ever talk about, and in her reply she said ‘the communists.’  When  the questioner pointed out that Russia hasn’t been communist for quite some time, like more than two decades, she said something like “doesn’t matter, they don’t call  it the KGB any more, either.”

Now, there is some reason for those in the West to be alarmed at Russia – their obvious agression against Ukraine, their sneakily moving the Georgia border a little further into Georgia in the middle of the damned night, stuff like that, but being confused about what kind of government they  have, well, that’s just stupid.
If they are still communists, Donna, why do  they have  so many billionaires who keep coming to America to make real estate  deals  with guys like Trump?
It’s not  really a big deal.  Donna Brazile  is not actually  in any  position of  importance at the moment.  And I hope she never is.  That’s why I’m writing this.


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People are Stupid

People are stupid.  People are horrible.  We hear it all the time.  People are so stupid!  Why can’t they use their turn signals?  Why don’t they leash their dogs?  Why do they say they’ll be there when they won’t?  Why don’t they vote like me?
It’s really kind of a silly thing to say, since we’re all people.  So, you can’t  say ALL people are stupid.  First of all, that would be including yourself, and second, that would be including people like Noam Chomsky and Stephen Hawking, who very clearly are not.
To say “all people are stupid” is not like saying “all Southerners are stupid” or “all Trump supporters are stupid” where you do have some evidence, but given the numbers involved there are still certain to be some exceptions.

“People are stupid” is just a stupid thing to say.  Compared to who?  The lizard cactus people of planet Xxgloroth?  We don’t know, do we.  Other species on our own planet.  Yes, I know they say dogs are intelligent, and apes, and dolphins, and pigs, but it’s not the same thing, is it?
A pig has no concept of history, or any idea what a star actually is, apes may have primitive tools but they haven’t invented the wheel or the steam engine yet, none of those species have a written alphabet and I know some people say dolphins have language, but I’ll bet it amounts to ‘water, water, water, water, hey, fish!’

Compared to that, humans are smart like crazy.  Compared to some of the beings we’ve seen on Star Trek, we’re thick as two short planks.

We are what we are.  Average IQ 100.  Some people a bit higher, some a bit lower.

It’s a bit like when people say ‘things have never been worse.’  Yes, they have.  We argue about health insurance, but most of us aren’t too worried about the plague.  We’ve got wars in Syria and Afghanistan but back in the early 40s it was half the world.  They’ve been better, though, too.

And will be both better and worse in the future.
And now I’m rambling.  End blog.

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Why Kamala Harris?

The guesses as to who will be the Democratic nominee have begun, of course, pundits have no holidays, pundits have no soul or  conception of  human decency.  American elections have become worse than Christmas, they  have spread across the multi-year calendar like a pool  of blood coming from the shower in the Bates’ Motel.
But the guesses are lame, more filling up space in obligatory columns than being serious guesses. No, Michelle Obama is not running.  The problem is  not just that they are lame, it is that they are deliberately lame.  Two  names that are regularly excluded from that list are Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders.
Now, I’m a Sanders die-hard and wouldn’t care if he was 96 in 2020, he’d have  my support.  But, I don’t feel conflicted, because Gabbard and Sanders are essentially  on the same side and I don’t think both will run, because neither is seeking the position for egotistical terms.  So, I think if Gabbard  chooses not to run, it will be because Sanders is running.  And vice versa.
Which brings us to Kamala Harris.  She says she’s a liberal, but she’s friends with all those people who think ‘liberal’ means lady  Democrat from California.  In modern parlance, she’s more liberal than progressive.  She’s the one cozying up to the big donors, the Hillary donors, and some journalists (and I  use the term lightly, ever so lightly) are already talking about her  as the Democratic frontrunner.  But why?

Her time in the Senate is short, like barely begun, and before that she was California Attorney General.  Sure, that was Bill Clinton’s old job, but he had some experience as Governor, as well.
But that’s not why I’m against her.  I  suspect that she is  an appointed  candidate, the one they want to unify the Hillary wing, the one who will approve their pipelines and trade deals, the one who will not  spend  too much time worrying about health care, and maybe they seriously think they can get her elected.  But, I suspect the conversation went something like this:
DNC guy A: They want Tulsi Gabbard. We can’t let that happen.
DNC guy B: How about if we trick ’em?
DNC guy A: What do you mean?
DNC guy B: Find somebody who’s like Gabbard, enough that they get confused.
DNC guy A: But we don’t want somebody like Gabbard, we want somebody who will play ball
DNC guy B: Superficially alike. Say Kamala Harris, for instance. Kind of ethnic, not unattractive, youngish (compared to most of the dinosaurs out there), weird first name, normal last name.
DNC guy A: and she’ll play ball?

DNC guy B:  Like a big leaguer, sir.  Loves the Hamptons.
DNC guy A:  O.K., let’s do it.

Anyway, that’s my theory.

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The Wall – Suggestion for a Compromise

I’m pretty sure that most thinking people  think that President Trump is a bona fide retard, and I’m pretty sure he was just blathering and had no concrete plans at all when he said that the wall  should be topped  with solar panels, and be transparent because if it’s not transparent, or at least has holes in it, you’re never going to see it when somebody heaves a 60 pound bag of wacky tabacky over it and crushes your noggin like a cow patty under a cowboy boot.

Now, despite your odds of getting beaned on the head by a 60 pound bag of dope while talking a casual stroll under the prison walls being only slightly greater than getting struck by lightning in January, while on the moon, and despite the fact that I don’t like the idea of a wall at all, because it’s very unfriendly and totally counter to the idea of one planet/one love, I think the fat old pervert might be on to something, in a blind pig finding an acorn once in  a while kind of way, and since he’s determined to build a wall, it might as well be a cool wall.

Solar panels.  A large portion of the territory the wall has to cover is just flat desert, i.e. most of the southern borders of New Mexico and Arizona, and it would be a great place for solar panels.  Say about 5 or 10 miles deep, both sides of the border (if the Mexicans are so inclined)  and it would keep anybody from coming across, or at least slow them down, and provide all the energy  that both countries need.  I mean, that’s an area that’s as large as two or three of our smaller states.

Trump and his supporters can  say  they built a wall, and nobody’s going to be bonked on the head by  large bags of pot hurled by catapults, which is  a relief.

The rest of us get cheaper energy and a cleaner environment.

It’s a win-win.


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Utopia vs. Dystopia

Today I saw a thing, I think it was from Ted Talks, but reduced to cartoon form and  kept to less than 12 minutes, just the way I like it, about Utopias and why  they always turn into Dystopias when you get to  figuring out how they’re implemented.
It struck me as a bit defeatist, since we need to keep striving toward building a better society, as the alternative would be to try and build a  worse society and that is truly a dumb idea.

Bad will always figure a way in by itself without  us going and looking for it.

Maybe we should spell it Eutopia, like the Eu in Eugenics (which originally was meant to be a good thing, it’s right there in the name), euphonia, euphemisms, or euphoria.  Eu means good.  Like Europe.  Good rope.  (I just made that up.)  Just better PR than Utopia, which means ‘nowhere,’ as in it can’t ever happen.

Not as an abstract concept, maybe, because no matter how much we perfect  society, there will always be people who want it perfecter (They are malcontents.  However,  they sometimes have a point.) and, just like a Navajo Blanket, there’s always going to be a flaw somewhere.  But, mankind has the technology, the resources, and everything needed to create a world of wealth for all, in which greed, environmental degradation, war, crime and violence are downright unnecessary, and not common at all.

We need to ask ourselves one question:  What kind of a future do we want?

A.  The Star Trek future, in which the problems of Earth are pretty well sorted with some sort of benevolent socialism (although the Ferenghi are mad capitalists and still seem to get along with everybody), even the refugee problem would be solved because, you know, space.
B.  The Hunger Games future, where the rich people in Capitol City seem to be doing pretty well, but life sort of sucks if you live in the districts.

C.  A Logan’s run future, where people live in domed cities and things are super clean and well organized, but you can’t go outdoors and you get ‘renewed’ when you’re about 28.
D.  A Waterworld Future, which is what we’ll get if we don’t do something about Global Warming.

Did everybody say A?  Good.  Because people who would seriously suggest one of the other models are just being trolls, and trying to derange the conversation.

The conversation then turns to “How do we get there from here?”  And that could be a very interesting conversation, indeed.

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