Furkot - a trip planner web application that we develop - displays attractions and points of interest that can be worked into one’s trip. So we are constantly on the lookout for websites collecting geotagged information about particular type of attraction, be it divesites or museums, that we can point Furkot to. Imagine my joy - and, as I explain below, imagination is all that you have to go on - when I found byways.org. It was a website for travelers that presented information about scenic roads in US, over 850 of them, complete with maps, photos, and sample trips. And we didn’t even have to run our crawler over it, since the raw content was made available as a set of XML files.
We take a turn and here it is. A dam. Not particularly huge, not a very handsome one, but a dam nonetheless. Complete with a power station and a reservoir. Also, amazingly out of place. There is, or there was, quite a picturesque valley with several waterfalls around it. The dam actually makes for a great viewpoint. If you venture on the other side you can even hike through the wet tunnel and reach thoughtfully placed bridges under Wapama waterfalls. Very impressive even now, they must have been quite a sight before a raising lake level met them.
Internment. I suspect I know this word longer than people my age born here. One winter morning almost 30 years ago my family TV set flatly refused to play the usual portion of Sunday cartoons and was showing somber people inexplicably wearing uniforms. The night before more than a thousand people all over Poland were detained and placed in isolation sites. Phones were disconnected. Curfew was imposed. Tanks appeared on streets. And I found out what internment meant. So when I walk around the place which had been an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II it’s not some kind of abstract history lesson for me. Still, I have a strong and strange feeling of disconnect. I know to which self-serving purpose the communist government introduced martial law. But it’s the United States, a democratic country, a self-professed defender of freedom. How could it so easily excuse itself and start behaving as an authoritarian regime?
One has to admire humility of the state that calls its capital Little Rock. If we were, for instance, in Utah, the name would doubtlessly be: Big Arkansas River Rock City. Or at least: Rock Bigger than Any Other Rocks in its Vicinity City. But the Arkansas capital takes its epithet a bit too literally. If I didn’t have the trusty wikipedia I would guess its population at 20 thousand and not almost 200 thousand.
Natalia has a problem with Jefferson. I kind of do as well. Usually I am way more forgiving. From my experience people are almost always better than their beliefs and political convictions. The case with Jefferson is the opposite: his views and beliefs are much better than what we perceive as his real persona. And that’s the crux of the matter. If one wants to stretch casuistry, it might be possible to defend your average American 18th century slave owner. Different times, different sensibilities. But an average slave owner did not engage in penning all men are created equal kind of sentences. An average slave owner didn’t consider life, liberty and pursuit of happiness to be unalienable rights. And he didn’t refer to slavery as an abominable crime a moral depravity, a hideous blot.
There is something in South Dakota that can decide the fate of the world. Scratch that. There was something there. It’s just a national historic site now. A museum staffed by national park rangers preserving a launch control center and a silo hiding 18 meters long, slender, white missile. Which used to be topped with a 1.2 megaton warhead. Nothing to sneeze at if you consider that the entire WWII used between 2 and 6 megaton of explosives and that includes 20 kiloton nuclear bombs detonated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
United States hold a dubious distinction of establishing the most unfair healthcare system among the nations of the developed world. Unfair as in marked by injustice, partiality, or deception. And unfair as in not equitable in business dealings. It has been hard not to think about the healthcare lately. It was a hot topic in the most recent election despite its overhaul enacted just this year by Democrats. Republicans’ promise to ‘defund’ the bill may have been one of the factors that brought them the House majority.
This is the first time I am voting in American elections. And I am dead serious about it. I need to decide whom I like the most. And I do mean an emotional positive response, not the result of a rational analysis of pros and cons. The neuroscience finally excused us to pick politicians on looks and other superficial factors: a decision making process is about emotions not reason. That’s not the first campaign we witnessed in US but we’ve spend the last 6 months traveling and completely missed all the campaign adds and candidate canvassing. We’ve arrived home the night before election day and the only option I have is to try to learn all about candidates from their websites.