Sunday, July 15, 2018

Official Vacation Photos- The Last Batch

Well, like all great vacations mine ended far sooner than I was comfortable with. As of this posting, we're all back home with my daughter doing her fifteen year-old stuff and my wife returning to her incessant puttering around the house. All I can do is return to my mental special place and take refuge. The picture above was taken Tuesday morning with me sipping coffee and looking out at the marsh. 

Another Tuesday morning picture with me carrying on a conversation with a default Disney employee. Such employment does have its risks. While I was still sitting on the marsh earlier a beautiful hawk was being chased away by an irate bird of unknown species.

The main pool on the primary resort grounds. The other being at the beach house which I didn't take any picture of this trip . It was a hot but beautiful day with the pool water refreshing. 

The other side of Shelter Cove Marina next the restaurants and gift shops. The buildings of the Disney resort can be seen in the background. Not big on motorized yachts, but these babies are all quite lovely. For years many of the yachts and sailboats in Shelter Cove seemed to be permanently moored. But many the yachts and sailboats I came to expect to see there are gone. The recent hurricanes probably had something to do with that situation.   

Did a nature walk of the nearby Pickney Island and spotted numerous groups of hermit crabs living their crabby lives in the mud of the marsh. Being me, as the resort naturalist was giving her little lecture on their life cycle I couldn't help but associate the crabs with human existence. My point being that those little guys and gals crawling around in the mud have absolutely no inkling of the wider,and infinitely complex universe. It doesn't taken much for people like me to see how humans are in a quite similar circumstance. Sure, we've discovered much about the nature and workings of the universe but the vast majority of our species never seem content on just waving their arms around while living in the mud.  

One of the regular events at the resort is a campfire sing along where they cook up some smores afterward.  

Literally took this picture as we were driving out Friday afternoon on our way to Savannah. What you see here are "marina cats" that have taken up residence at the now closed Captain Gillan's restaurant. Not sure of the exact store concerning these relaxing felines. For the last several visits to Disney's Hilton Head Resort it was common to see a cat or two strolling around the grounds. I assumed they were pets of people who had their boats moored in the marina. From what I have heard now though, they appear to have made the closed restaurant their home. I guess that would make them strays but no one seems in a hurry to rescue or even evict them from the area. Not worried about Captain Gillan's reopening, that building has a long history of failed businesses and with so many other eateries in walking distance the cats should have a home for a good while.  

Added this picture because I like it so much. The lone kayaker seemed so peaceful and relaxed last Thursday evening.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

On The Beach

The clouds, all pure white and fluffy like cotton candy gave a much needed contrast to the baby blue color of the sky above Hilton Head, South Carolina. Truthfully, there was a bit of the surreal with the picture perfect nature of the sky. The fluffy clouds seemed too beautifully plump and organized. Someone a little too involved with technology wouldn't be wrong to think it all might be a computer simulation. At least that was what I thought reclining in my beach chair.

Where things went off kilter, giving a much needed boost to mundane reality was the lack of a real breeze and the blistering hot temperature. If reality was just a computer simulation, our god-like programmers could have coded in at least a refreshing breeze and enough surf to supply the sound of small waves crashing onto the shore. Waking from a fitful nap in my beach chair, I got up and repositioned it to get back under the shade of the umbrella that my wife and rented that morning. Just for clarification, the beach chair was a rental as well. Its wood frame possessing a brown patina from what had to been the sweat of countless tourists who used it before me. The nylon mesh used for the backrest and seat obviously brand new or close to it.

My wife, who upon our arrival at the beach had taken the chair beside mine was nowhere to be seen. Being the early afternoon, it was easy to assume that she had returned to the beach house to get lunch at the small bar and grill located there. While not really hungry, given the crowded nature of the beach house, I realized it was prudent for me to pack things up and head in so I could order something myself without having to wait so long it became my dinner.

Taking a moment to survey my surroundings, the beach had long since become packed with fellow tourists all clamoring for their share of the sun and ocean. It was a huge gathering of all ages and apparent economic castes. Being South Carolina, the one thing glaringly obvious in its absence was any other ethnic group. Given amount of pale white skin being exposed to the harsh ultraviolet rays of the sun, I figure a couple of hundred dermatologists will easily get their kids through college treating stupid Caucasians in the coming years.

Without wasting anymore time, I gathered up my backpack and sandals leaving the shade of the umbrella and the much cooler sand under it. For about half a second, I considered putting on my sandals but figured that being raised on the coast and having endured the hot beach sand since my childhood, I didn't need the protection.

The distance from my rented umbrella refuge to the steps leading up to the beach house and its protective shade had to be about forty feet. Just a few steps into my walk it was easy to figure out I had significantly overestimated my ability to withstand the current temperature of the sand beneath my feet. Honestly, I can't decided if whether I was just mistaken on having walked through similar hot sand, or that years away from prolonged and regular exposure had reduced my ability withstand the temperature. But the one certainty I can relate was that the bottoms of my feet were being cooked.

An old beach trick is that in such circumstances to get some relief a person digs their feet underneath the sand where the temperature is cooler. The technique worked up until the loose sand became hard packed and I again had to walk on the surface. This is where things start to get ridiculous but unfortunately true.

Before my nap underneath the beach umbrella a fellow group of tourists setup their own beach tent in front of my wife and me. During the course of the morning both my wife and I had some minor conversations with them that never went much beyond the exchange of names, our hometowns and professions, and how much we all love Hilton Head.

Just as I stepped on the hard pack sand with it beginning to cook my feet again, I noticed one of the ladies in that group leaving the beach house walkway coming towards me. She was young thirty-something wearing a dark green bikini with the bottom portion of her swimwear being damn close to a thong. Legalistic niceties not withstanding, the line where a bikini bottom becomes a thong I have no idea but the difference can't be all that much. But when you combined this lady's body with her brown hair and graceful walk I defy most men not to act like nervous teenagers.

Let's get this out of the way before going any further. Yes, I noticed what she and the four other ladies in that group were wearing! I'm a heterosexual guy dammit, and one with enough sense not to do anything disastrously stupid that might wreck my marriage or bring about a lawsuit. All told, that puts me ahead of numerous politicians, celebrities, and rich television preachers. I have long since reached the age where I harbor no illusions about my looks or ability to attract other women. More importantly my wife is a lawyer, a damn good one, and if I did suffer from some delusion of being a “player” she would have my balls hanging from her car's rear view mirror before the ink dried on the divorce papers.

Still though, some small remnant of masculine self respect wasn't going to allow me to panic and fall all over myself to put on my sandals before my feet started smoking. So guess what I did?

Gathering all my mental and physical strength, I continued walking across the hot sand ignoring the blister pain coming from my feet. Internally, I was counting the seconds until I passed this lady and could run up to the beach house walkway.

“My God,” this lady said to me as we passed, “isn't the sand burning your feet? I couldn't even leave the shade without putting on my flip flops.”

“Naw,” I replied nonchalantly deciding to go for broke and really pile on the bullshit. “I was raised on the coast and lived there most of my life. I've walked through hotter sand.”

We passed each other without saying another word. Being a crappy but typical male, I did suffer the heat a second or two more to turn around and admire the view- yes the lady, not the beach- one last time. That's when the pain really decided to kick in requiring that I run the last ten to twenty feet to where the beach house walkway started. Actually, I jumped the last foot or two trying to land on a part of the walkway that was shaded by the overhanging limbs of a tree.

Were my antics juvenile? Very much and while the middle-aged guy feels some shame the twenty-something version of me doesn't have a problem with it. Better still, no one saw my panicked dash then desperate jump to keep my feet from truly being burned. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Official Vacation Photos# 2

As usual, I was up before sunrise heading to the beach. Despite it being July, the temperature this morning was quite pleasant. Plus, there was a persistent breeze that made it seem even cooler. I later found out there was a tropical storm not far off the coast of the South Carolina heading north. That probably had a lot to do with moderating the temperature.    

Despite it being summer, the beach was surprisingly empty. Not that I minded that situation, the solitude was refreshing.

Returning to the room I pulled out the trusty mug and relaxed with several cups of coffee while looking out at the marsh.

After getting the family up and going we spent the day at the beach. Sorry, no pictures of all the scantly clad young ladies because I've reached the age where sneaking snap shots seems sort of gross. We did head to Santa Fe Cafe for lunch where I got the soup, salad, quesadilla special. Honest to God, I would drive down from Columbia on a normal Saturday just to have this lunch, only to have to drive back home afterwards.  

Going a little conspiratorial, this sprawling condo complex has always seemed excessively underused. You can always detect activity at the Disney's Hilton Head Resort, where we are staying. This one across from us is well maintained but I can count on my two hands the number of people I've seen using the beautiful pool, walking the grounds, or using the kayaks that are stacked next the water. The lack of use of the pool is particularly weird to me. During the summer the Disney staff almost have to force people to leave the pool in the evening. During a previous summer visit, our room looked out at that complex and it stayed quiet the entire day.   

I finished my day walking around the resort taking in the beauty of the marsh. The heat and humidity finally kicked in late in the afternoon making things seem sticky. Looking forward to repeating everything tomorrow.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Officially On Vacation

Began a long awaited vacation back down at Disney's Hilton Head Resort. Yes, that is one ugly face but surprisingly I didn't break the camera.
Despite the human traffic a species of terrapin decided to lay her eggs close to the resort fire pit. Talked with the a member of the staff and she said the babies are due Monday morning, if the obey the schedule from the time they were laid.

Hoping to get some relaxation in the coming days. There will be more pictures tomorrow.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Pondering Human Intelligence

That dot is Earth!

One of the ideas that I have toyed around with for years is the philosophical question as to whether Homo sapiens are a true intelligent species. My overall point being that most animals have enough sense not to crap in their homes, fight to the death, or practice fanatical or fantastical beliefs when there is no evidence to support them. Yes, I know some exceptions exist, such as chimps who have shown disturbing human-like behavior such as organized group warfare and murder.

If humans were truly intelligent it seems to me that we wouldn't totally trash the planet for resources nor destroy whole ecosystems for short term gain. But yet we are still doing both of those things all in the name of capitalistic profit even though we have ample information that those practices cannot go on for much longer. For Americans, water shortages are a relative minor pain in the ass that stop us from washing our cars or filling the backyard pools. In many regions of the world there is a real possibility that countries might have to go to war in the decades ahead to secure enough water for basic existence. And as for ecosystems, the world's oceans were once thought to be inexhaustible, but some species of fish are now commercially extinct because of decades of industrial scale fishing.

Nor would humans instinctively divide the planet into competing ant hills. Yes, world government is foolish wish given that our species can't really shed our primitive tribalist tendencies. That being my whole point, evolution has forced us to cooperate for the benefit of our individual groups but we can't seem to connect the dots and realize our species is just one big tribe. We gleefully divide each other into countless groups for the benefit of economic exploitation or outright genocide. If a starship full of intrepid alien explorers discovered our planet and after some observations realized we had divided the planet into over two-hundred omnipotent, self-serving nation-states the best thing they could do would be to quietly get the hell out of Dodge before we notice them.

On the matters of faith, while numerous religions have promoted the ideas of serving the greater good and that all men and women are brothers and sisters, you can't ignore the fact that many people believe that only they know the will of God. That delusion has brought about some of the bloodiest wars in history. Even now fanatical and self-serving devotion to various invisible friends causes otherwise decent people to commit monstrous actions. You would think that an intelligent species might be able to realize that if some A-hole religious leader commands his followers to kill their neighbors because that is what God commands, they wound just find a new holy man. 

I was raised Christian, but the idea that God would only let the followers of Jesus into heaven while truly saint-like Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and countless others have to burn in Hell because they practice a different faith is ridiculous. While officially agnostic, I still follow what I was taught in Sunday School as a young kid. As long as people treat each other decency and respect and don't trash the planet, they should get their Heavenly ticket punched. Yes, I believe that would even allows atheists and sorry ass agnostics like me through the Pearly Gates. Screw it, not to insult anyone but given the hypocritical and even monstrous behaviors of supposed “holy” men and women in all faiths, if all they have to do to wipe the slate clean is whisper a halfhearted prayer of forgiveness to get into Heaven, otherwise decent idjits like myself should be in like Flint.

Given my criteria on what it means to be an intelligent species Homo sapiens pretty much fails across the board. Yes, there are personal exceptions, but overall I tend to agree with a character from a science fiction movie, humans are more like viruses than mammals. No, this isn't some John Lennon-like lament over an imagined Utopian society, our species will never achieve such perfection.

On a personal level, what supports my idea is that we live in a wondrous universe filled with mysteries and intriguing possibilities but can't stop our squabbling for very long to explore it. There are questions that beg to be answered but we seem content to continue to crap in our home, fight to the death over stupid shit like who has the better ant hill, and obey the commands of delude psychopaths who believe they and God have one-on-one conversations. 

Mudskippers, humans are little removed from their behavior

This is sad to write, but my one of my few hopes is that Elon Musk succeeds in getting his dream of a permanent human colony on Mars established. I firmly believe that in such an alien and hostile environment where survival is the primary concern the age-old human sins that have kept us bickering like little mudskippers will be burned away. That over time humans would evolve into an intelligent species, not gods by any means, but a species that could look beyond their primitive desires and delusions and find a worthy purpose for our existence.

Well shit, after rereading this it did get a little John Lennon-like. Frak it, I'm getting a beer.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Resisting Oblivion

The only human desire that rivals the ancient wish for eternal life is to be remembered. In fact since researchers had shown other animals can cooperate in groups, use tools, and even have a type of culture, the desire to be remembered by those that come after us might be something that defines what it is to be human. I say “might be” because given what we have already learned from highly social animals like chimps and some cetaceans, it wouldn't surprise me that they too have some innate wish to be remembered by their descendants. How we would find evidence of that, I have absolutely no idea.

Some of the most poignant and hopeful pictures I have seen involve hand paintings on the walls of caves that can be dated to have being made tens of thousands of years ago. What goes beyond mind blowing is that such behavior was once thought limited to just our paleolithic Homo sapien kinfolk. An extremely recent discover in Spain has found cave artwork and a hand print produced by Neanderthals that dates back to sixty-four thousand years ago. The earliest evidence of Homo sapiens living in Europe doesn't appear until twenty-thousand years later.

Interpretations vary, but to me cave hand paintings are at least a partial declaration that “I existed.” That in a time long before writing, hand paintings on the walls of caves transcended the limitations inherent to intelligent creatures who know they will eventual die and be forgotten. Of course as humans progressed we created written languages that were often carved into the sides monuments to declare our triumphs and achievements so that the memories of great exploits would live on, hopefully forever. Years ago while reading about the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, I found it somewhat humorous to learn that the hieroglyphic these ancient kings had carved on the side of their vanity-driven monuments never really mentioned any defeats they suffered in their lives or military campaigns. One Egyptologist on a television documentary half-jokingly suggested that any failures or defeats were carefully spun by the pharaohs' scribes to seem positive by the clever use of careful wording.

As the centuries passed humans made sure anything they created had their name attached to it. Whether it be books, paintings, or any number of other creations or discoveries. It's just human nature for a person to want everyone to know that their hard work or inspiration produced something that will live on after they are gone.

This gets to the reason I am writing this self-reflective crap. A few months ago I got into a conversation with someone about our respective hobbies. Normally, I absolutely do not reveal my blogging to anyone, my politics alone makes me an outsider here in South Carolina but when your hobby can be considered rather abstract and even slightly cerebral, well that just makes you a total weirdo in the eyes of these sophisticated and nuanced folks. But since the individual I was talking with seemed a little obsessive over his model train collection, a fine hobby no doubt, I thought what the Hell.

The question this person finally asked what was the point to all my efforts? I had already told him that it has been years since I made a serious effort to have anything professionally published. He knew enough about blogging to understand that the vast majority of these websites go completely unnoticed by the wider world. My usual, and largely true answer is that I use blogging as a way to blow off steam and frustration. But there is a deeper answer that you can probably guess.

At some point I intend begin recording all my rants and various attempts at fiction onto some sort of permanent storage. The idea being that when I finally head off into oblivion my kids and their kids will have a record of my thoughts. While in no way comparable to the massive ancient Egyptian monuments left by the pharaohs, there is more than a little bit of vanity associated with my intentions. Then again, I like the idea of imagining what one of my descendants one-hundred years or more from now would make of my ravings. This is assuming humans do not bring about a planetary environmental collapse in the next several decades, civilization destroying pandemic, or just go out with a good old fashioned nuclear war.

This train of thought naturally leads me to speculate on the ultimate way to be remembered. As our technology has advanced the ways to recording our existence has become more numerous and sophisticated. Making a video recording of ourselves is so easy these days we're on the other end of Clarke's Law that says, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Just image Joe and Jane Smith from the early twentieth century seeing a commonplace video recording of a kid's birthday party. They may not run away in fear from the magic picture box, but they would have absolutely no idea what to make of it.

While the technology is still decades, if not centuries away, I can see people making recordings of their consciousness that would be fully interactive with anyone accessing them. This brings to mind the question would such consciousness snapshots be sentient beings deserving of human rights and protections? Or would our descendants consider them nothing but more sophisticated versions of home movies no one wants to see?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Waiting is the Worst Part

Several months ago, a Canadian guy I know from Facebook posted a question wanting to know which American president was worse, George W. Bush or Trump. His personal assumption was that George W. could still claim the title since he had spent a trillion dollars on the Iraq War and had approved the practices of torture to obtain information from suspected terrorists and mass Orwell-like surveillance on the general public. Being Canadian safely ensconced in the bosom of top rate government healthcare and a far more rational and intelligent population, he is totally cutoff from the facts here in this cauldron of seething fear and rage that is the United States.

True, the current occupant of the White House hasn't gotten around to launching a totally needless but self-serving war that wrecked the political stability of the good chunk of the planet and destroyed literally millions of lives both overseas and here at home. Well, at least not yet, and I mean every word of that short statement. Trump's need for adulation and glory is a dangerous combination and when joined with his saber rattling on Iran, a favorite boogeyman for the clash of civilizations types and the Israeli government, anything is possible. Despite the recent love fest meeting between the narcissistic wonder and the little squirt from North Korea, we are in no way out of the woods in that region.

What Trump has done that in my opinion makes him so dangerous as to change my perceptions of George W. to the point he is almost acceptable is to eat away at the basic foundations of constitutional government and the very stability of the country. Trump is desperate to begin persecution of his political enemies and anyone else that doesn't measure up to his definition of loyalty. Personally, I despise the racist Kebbler elf now running the Justice Department, his policies on marijuana and immigrants are at the very minimum backwards and self defeating for the former and criminal on the latter. The only thing good I can say about Jeff Sessions is that he recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference on the election and has resisted Trump's insistence that he do something to get rid of Mueller.

Civility, a tough concept for Americans in the best of times, has taken a huge hit since Trump has risen to national political prominence. The modern Republican Party, never a bastion of progressive thought when it comes to promoting equality now has admitted neo-Nazis and white supremacists running for elected office. There is only one reason why such individuals haven't been expunged on national television by the Republicans. And if you didn't automatically think of the name of the person who is letting the party of Lincoln slip into fascism you really need to get a grip.

Equally disturbing is how numerous Republicans on social media are saying things worthy of not just the propaganda arm of an authoritarian country, but outright totalitarian police-states. Trump recently said to a Fox and Friends moron that he wanted Americans to sit up for him the same way the North Koreans do for the Kim Jong-un. Another instance involves a Republican party official that recently tweeted we should all get with the Trump program, or else. Not an exact quote by any means but close enough to express her sentiment. What exactly the “or else” means is anyone's guess but I have heard it repeated many times by other Trump supporting morons.

The situation that has sent me into spasms of anger and bewilderment is how Trump is now separating children from their parents or guardians at the border. Yes, these people are trying to enter the country illegally but they are still human beings and should be treated with respect and compassion.

In just over a month almost two-thousand children have been separated from their parents and housed in conditions that at best approach that of dog-kennels or even something far worse. If you've read a little history think back to the Japanese interment camps of WW2 and how they were just thinly disguised concentration camps. Adding another dose of inhumanity is how Trump is using these kids as bargaining chips to get his wall along the Mexican border. He blames the Democrats for his own racist and xenophobic actions. Pretty much the same thing as an abusive husband blaming his wife and kids for the beatings he gives them.

Frankly, I'm ashamed of being an American right now. Far more than during the Bush years when you had Cheney prowling the halls of government with his Sauron-like smirk. If the United States hasn't fallen into the abyss we're damn near the tipping point. Now if my words upset any super patriotic dipshits, start a crowd sourced fundraiser and buy me and my family a Canadian, Australian, or New Zealand citizenship. I'll gladly unass this shithole and watch as you all go into societal nuclear meltdown.

As for Democrats be they “liberal” or “progressive”, I honestly blame you lazy and petty fuckers for the overall situation. I'm talking about the apathetic shits who couldn't be bothered to vote despite the fact that they realized Trump was a monster. And I have a special anger-borderline hatred- for the “voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil” crowd. God help me, I think more of the right-wing fanatics than you guys and gals. At least the right-wingers have enough sense not to cut their own throats.

As of this writing, summer hasn't even begun yet and I feel myself longing for November. Either the assorted Democrats will pull their heads out of their asses and take back at least the House of Representatives, or Trump will be given another blank check to remold the government and break the Republic. At least the waiting and uncertainty will be over.