Thursday, August 31, 2017

Mike T's Big Birthday

This is probably the best photo I've taken of my friend Mike. Mike is an exuberant sportsman and often gets injured, which is why you see him here in a cast. Today Mike celebrates a milestone birthday, which seems as good an occasion as ever to say how fortunate I feel to have known him for lo, the last 25 years or so. Mike's integrity, loyalty and sense of humour never fail to impress. Since we're both shy guys, I'll refrain from embarrassing both of us further. Suffice it to say - Happy Birthday, Mike, and here's to many more! 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Earl 2020

I enjoy travel, maps, and politics, which is why I started to wonder, after our most recent road trip, if I'd visited enough states to win a US Presidential election, assuming I'd win each state I've visited (and assuming a parallel universe in which I'm eligible to run, not being an American).

I added 10 states to my existing tally on this trip, but as you can see above, that's not enough to reach the 270 votes required for victory by the American electoral college system. On the other hand, Sylvia and I are planning to visit New York next year, and that would give me another 29 electoral votes - enough to eke out a narrow win in 2020.

Given the state of American politics today, it's pretty hard to imagine any two candidates delivering this map. Somehow the left wins Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alaska and Indiana while losing the election, and for some reason the reliably Democrat New England - including Washington, DC - chooses the Republican! But then, I suppose practically anything is possible in this bold new era.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Superman vs Muhammad Ali

I picked up this set of action figures in Metropolis, Illinois on our road trip to see the 2017 solar eclipse. It's so cool to see an iconic story translated, after over 40 years, into three-dimensional form. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Shadow Over America: Epilogue

My mental state after spending countless hours driving through 11 states and three provinces. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Shadow Over America: Antumbra

Fargo bustles, but we are too tired and short on time to explore. For us, it's a way station, our last stop before heading home.
The road home is long but familiar. We're treated to a particularly gorgeous sunset over Saskatchewan before pulling over for a few hours' rest in the car. After that fitful sleep we push on for home. And just like that, it's over - a once-in-a-lifetime experience we'll carry with us forevermore.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Shadow Over America: Hello, Wisconsin!

Wisconsin turns out to be quite lovely. We stop for a break at Moe's Diner, a place steeped in 1950s nostalgia:
Wisconsin is famous for its cheese, so we feel obligated to stop for samples. Foster Cheese Haus does not disappoint, with dozens of exotic varieties.
Hours later, we arrive in Fargo. Our time in the USA is drawing to a close. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Shadow Over America: The Long Road Home

Thus far the sights on our road trip have been nothing less than spectacular, but the trek through Indiana underwhelms - though to be fair, our view is limited to what we can see from Interstate Highway 65. With the clock ticking down on remaining vacation time, the priority now is getting home. But the congestion on I-65 and through Chicago on I-90 and I-94 is insane. Chicago is the largest megalopolis we've yet encountered, and it takes hours to bull our way through six lanes of full-to-bursting, bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Hours later we find ourselves in Madison, Wisconsin, a destination chosen at random that turns out to be the state capital. It's a gorgeous little city, with this capitol building at its centre, perfectly framed on all sides by the perfectly-maintained streets leading to it. The city is awash in both natural and engineered beauty, resting between two lakes, its neighbourhoods lovely, brimming with activity and vibrance. We rest easy this night.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Shadow Over America: Eclipse


When the moment comes, everything but awe is eclipsed. It is the sight of a lifetime, majestic, irresistible: nature's reminder of our place in the vast and wondrous cosmos. The moon's shadow passes over us at over 3,600 km/h, and from our location that gives us a little over two minutes of totality. We soak up every moment as we are suddenly cast into an eerie midday twilight.
And then the shadow passes, heading southeast. We'll remember this for the rest of our lives.

To Metropolis, Illinois, where even Superman himself has donned a pair of eclipse glasses. He doesn't need them, of course, but ever the public servant, he sets an example for the throngs that came here to experience totality.
The drive from Farmington to Metropolis is sublime, with winding back roads twisting through lush, gorgeous country of dense forests teeming with life. As planned, we make our way through Kentucky and Tennessee to Nashville, our original destination for this trip, made impossible by sky-high hotel prices. We had thought that prices would come down and hotels empty after the eclipse, but alas, there are no rooms at any inns for we weary travelers. Our plans to explore Nashville are dashed, and we're forced to press on - but there are no hotels in Kentucky, either, and worse, it all the traffic we avoided heading to the eclipse is visited upon us. Endless convoys of tractor-trailers bar our progress, compounded by construction that reduces the highway to single lanes. By the time we finally find lodging we're in Indiana, and the hotel, though cheap, is a disaster. We collapse on bloodstained sheets, Sylvia laying out a protective towel and sleeping in her clothes. We refuse to shower in the morning, though we desperately need it after so many hours of driving, for bathing here would only make us filthier. It is the nadir of our trip.