Monday, September 16, 2013

response to a question about the NSA

What would you do if someone you do not know at all asks you a question
by email about NSA? If they invoke our responsibility to the future of humanity, which I take quite seriously?

So here below is what they asked, and my reply. But -- I do not claim any kind of infallibility here. I do not have "the answers." I do feel a lot of faith that no one living in this cosmos is infallible. I have worked some things out to some kind of logical conclusion, but not these issues.

So... first I post the questions and my response, and then a few comments on infallibility at the end.

But oops -- suddenly the google blog system won't let me copy anything but his first question.
I start to feel like those Mayan peasants who believe in "alley-ooshas."
Knowing how to bypass things, without understanding them... I will compromise by posting just the first round...

His first question:

Due to a lack of certainty about the extent of calculations NSA might be
capable of, one might be tempted to attempt using a mathematical algorithm
(a la pi, which is non-repeating) to thwart decryption.

However, it is possible to agree (between 2 communicating parties, ahead of
time, and not in electronic form) on an algorithm (method or base, rather
than an "algorithm", which would suggest a mechanically produced sequence)
that is not repeating, and has no calculable solutions, hence rendering
decryption impossible (in principle and practice).

It seems to me impossible that people as smart as the large countries (USA,
Russia, etc.) would not be aware of this. Hence, I think they are purposely
keeping the conversation within the bounds of what they can decrypt. Quite
simply, if there isn't any systematic relationship between the input and the
output (unless you know the non-systematic algorithm, which could be random
and non-repeating, and near-infinitely long), then you could never decipher
the message.

I can easily tell you what you could use as a base for a non-repeating and
non-decypherable  mechanism.  But at that time, a bunch of undesirables will
read and get a hold of it at the same time. What do you think?

By the way, the clock is ticking...

The USA has about 30 years to get on board. After that, things are pretty
fluid. Luckily, the Chinese are pretty stupid (do not take me for a bigot),
and it might take them upwards of 50 years to catch up to the US.

But they might undergo a cultural transformation, and become a veritable
competition sooner. In the meantime, the best bet is for the USA to enable
the largest number of US citizens to be really well educated and well off
(i.e. not just the proverbial one percent.)

What do you think?


My reply:

What do I think?

Today I am thinking about how to get past hangups people have, preventing them from understanding
even the most elementary quantum reality. How to make the arithmetic simple enough, yet interesting?

But... you are asking what I think about various encryption ideas. And what have people caught on to?

I would speculate that NSA would want the maximum possible security of all US communications (especially sensitive ones
where tampering could cause physical damage to the US), subject to the constraint that they and only they can
monitor it all.

But there are difficulties in achieving that goal, and others pursue different goals -- such as many who seek absolute privacy without NSA being able to drop in.

I do discuss these things a bit with my wife and teenage son, when they get deep into it and they put up with just a little 
comment from me. (I am not the prime mover in these discussions!). They suggest that almost all the encryption
systems of major providers may have special backdoors put in for NSA access, and that the government is working very hard to
minimize the small exceptions -- use of which is already a flag to NSA. 

Myself -- I put a bit more mental energy into how to understand what killed my last Imac computer.
I thought that Imac had a solid, verified "ring bracket" operating system, similar to the well-designed modular
architecture of Multics, the computer I used for my PhD thesis. Hence, unbreakable without "insider attack."
But killer versus appeared... about three of them.. like Maccontrol... and it seemed possible that the devastating "hard drive failure" I experienced a year ago may have actually been due to one of those viruses. I did what web search I could... and was aghast at the superficial understanding of most "security experts" (not even knowing what a backdoor is!!)... but did get the impression that discovery of the backdoors in the operating system was what explained the ability of the viruses to cause problems. At first, I speculated that the death of Steve Jobs might have resulted in NSA or FBI persuading Apple to insert the backdoors, but when I checked this, it seemed that the backdoors came earlier.

After that death by POSSIBLE virus by backdoor... I did momentarily consider shifting to secure SE-Linux based system..
but did not feel that the benefits outweighed the liabilities for me. Still, for sensitive physical infrastructure,
for which failure could even mean mass death, I believe that the time has come to deploy seriously unbreakable operating systems without backdoors, under well-managed conditions.  When NSS filed with the State Department, I even
sent along a personal filing urging them to consider such possibilities.

Also -- absolute unbreakability is not ALWAYS a threat to the goals of NSA; for example, in US government agencies
(leaving aside the insider issue, which I am no expert on), NSA access and unbreakability may be consistent,
and desirable in today's world.

This does begin to segue into the insider issue: qui costodet custodes? Not just versus low-level folks
like Snowden, but vis-a-vis high level moles (such as Cheney friends as depicted in Orson Scott Card's novels on Empire)?

My inner "pay grade" is not so low in some ways, but this does begin to get into areas where it is
well above mine at this point. For the moment, when I am not just engaged in reactive  behavior,
or trying to improve relations with family, I mainly think about "the little things in life" -- electrons and photons.



Mind as we know it ... to be honest.. is based on approximate dynamic programming. Really.
No time for euphemisms or BS this morning. It is a great chain of approximation. It is also a lot
like a hall of mirrors, as one thing approximates another, and reflects or articulates another..
It reminds me a lot of some ancient words I once heard from the mystics about being giving rise to reflection,
and life as we know it being based on reflection... roughly... Of course, approximations
vary a lot in quality and depth... but at no level are they infallible.

But what about the universe itself? If the universe solves aHamilton-Jacobi (an exact optimization equation,
without stochastic terms or uncertainty or approximation), could we imagine that the universe itself
is infallible? But -- what does the universe "want", if so?

It's funny... I just finished reading a science fiction the Long Earth (Pratchett/Baxter) which I may recommend back to Joshua... which has questions like that embedded within in, if you look closely.

BUT... in yesterday's physics, the mathematics look more like minmax or saddle point than
true Lagrange-styly optimization. So is the universe itself sort of manic-depressive, with life as we know it nothing but chaos or convulsion resulting form the intersection of two conflicting ... "perfect actors"?
The math is real; the words are just ways to try to understand what it really tells us. 

But... today I will focus on much simpler math, and simpler daily tasks which are more complex than I would like...

And of course, I saw no need to get explicit about various levels of math for the cybersecurity area.

Best of luck,


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cheney love child and related weirdness

This past week was too funny to just ignore...

Many times, when things seem weird... on careful further examination, they turn out to be even weirder than they seemed at first. But sometimes... they turn out to be totally spurious.  This one does seem to be in the second category... (though I will do some checking if I can to be absolutely certain).

It starts with my wife suggesting we both take a simple DNA test. We went to,
paid about $160 for two DNA test kits. When they came in the mail, we basically just spit a cubic centimeter in a tube, and put it back into the self-addressed box, and waited for an email.
The results come back on the web, via log in to a "health" tab and an "ancestry tab" with lots and lots of detail, tabulated based on different ways of analyzing the data. (In fact, not all the detail is up quite yet.)

Zinger number one: region of ancestry tab says that 30% of my relevant genes are uniquely identifiable
as British or Irish, less than one percent French or German; also less than one percent Balkan, but more of that than French/German.


I though I was half Irish (mother's side) and half German  (father's side).

But there was a "speculative" tab, stretching a bit on fuzzy evidence... that could see as much as 7% French/German...  but 60% British/Irish. (By the way, 100.0 percent European. Also, no long-lost Jewish connections.)

Zinger number two: another tool, nation of ancestry, homes in on what they have learned to predict that. For that one... the evidence was... 55% Scotch-English, 45% Irish, a tiny bit of Slovenian and even tinier of Swedish. No German or French whatsoever. (Yet my wife and father both did independent computer searches on where my father's family came from... basically putting it in the Mosel/Alsace.Trier/Luxemborg area.)

And then another database, comparing my DNA with other DNA, and reporting just the location of "closest relatives" (with names only in the few cases where people chose to openly share).
Outside the US -- all were Scotland, England or Ireland, except for one Australian woman who sent an email saying we seem to be long-lost relatives... and noted she is descended from the Stuart/Stewart royal family.

Oops. What's going on?

Is my father my real father? If not, then whom? Where are my real origins?

One more tab compares your DNA to the clusters defined by a very long list of possible surnames.
There was a clear lead, a closest fit: "Cheney."


Is that really my real father? It gives a whole new meaning to some of the stuff from Star Wars. I did know that Ryan is on my mother's side, so I did a quick google of "Ryan Cheney," and found some evidence of some mutual support between those two...

There was an ordered list of other options after that... but all in the Irish/Scotch/English category.
(For example, Reid/Read, which was in the Australian woman's list.)
The paternal haplogroup was also totally northern (i.e. coming to Europe via Sweden, Norway and Finland, with high --4% -- Neanderthal components for other folks in the group... though I don't have that datum yet.)

Now in fact, my mother has always been very strict about her own Catholic principles.
I knew enough about the story of the time when I was born to really doubt what the DNA seems to be telling... and if I stretch my memory..... I can say that anyone else she ever talked about was from a Freemason family... but it gets to be too weird even for me, even for an obscure web site.

But in fact...

The Irish side of the family was much more inbred over the past 500 years (what most of this data focuses on). The cosmopolitan population around the Low Countries around Luxemborg (approximately the area which the Norman invasion of England came from) would simply not have as many unique, specific markers as the Irish side would.  All the more specific clues I mentioned above can be explained from the Irish side.

There was another cluster chart which compared my point to others self-reported in the categories Irish, German, French and English, among others. I was distinctly far from even the furthest outlier in the "German" cluster, which had a pretty decent representation.  But I was only a little less distinctly out of the English cluster.  (The French cluster was pretty close to the German cluster.) This last suggests that there is decisive data supporting an Irish side, but no real discriminating power between Scotch/English and German here; given prior information, as a Bayesian, I do not believe those initial indications,
amusing as they were.

Yet proper Bayesians also believe in buying information, at times, even when the preponderance of information is on one side. Trust but verify and all that.  But I guess a Cheney would say the same...

Best of luck,


Monday, September 2, 2013

family road trip to battlefields, art museums, high mountains, lobster and cruise

About a month ago, Luda said: “We have traveled so much in China… we know more about that country in some ways than we do about the US. This year, we have to change that. It’s time for road trips in the US. Let’s start with the northeast.” She made detailed arrangements – high value, limited cost – and then…
(There will also be lots and lots of megapixel pictures, somewhere…)

This is a detailed "memory dump" from mundane to enlightening, no effort to separate...
and lots more details that COULD have been added...

Day one, Thursday ***************************

1-1.        Get rental car

Luda and I drove together to Mark Center Hilton Hotel, by Beauregard Street, to pick up Budget rental car. Signs pointed us to Budget, which pointed to a parking lot with no people.  We drove back to the hotel; I got out, asked a hotel valet parking guy where to go; he said to park right there and go inside to find the budget office.  It was complicated in the hotel; we asked another hotel worker where to go, but he sent us far; we retraced our steps and noticed the office in the corner at the end of a side aisle.  As Luda got it together, I asked about EZPass; they had one already in the car, which can be activated at a cost, but he said we could just
Put our own on the front dashboard instead, by the windshield, without attaching to the windshield. Luda drive the Chrysler 200 home, and I drove our Mercedes home. Later, we calculated that gasoline saving alone almost fully paid for the cost of the rental (higher mpg, less expensive gas), which had other advantages.

1-2.        Drive to Harper’s Ferry.
Luda had printed out a full set of maps for day 1, for when I would get used to working with Garmin GPS again. (I used it twice before, for Alex’s wedding and a trip to Clemson, but it’s tricky and I needed a refresher and more knowledge.) For good or ill (good, says Luda), we drove to the National Parks visitor center west of Harper’s Ferry proper. (Throughout this trip, the “Golden Eagle” lifetime senior citizen park pass was useful.)  Nice maps and pictures right there. As I approached the counter, I saw the ranger give a black and white detailed paper map to a group ahead of us, explaining how to hike down to the Shenandoah River. Since Luda had just said she wanted to do the same, I asked if we might have a copy of the same map… but Luda broke in and said we don’t have time, we would want to hear the Usual Thing the ranger wanted to tell us about instead. The ranger gave us a copy of the usual town map, showing where the free park bus would take us (in the main town, where we could have parked!).  On the bus ride, the drive acted like a tour guide, explaining how important this (once a city) has been back before the Civil War… a major economic crossroads, maybe like Pittsburgh but more important, where two rivers,
a major canal and a crucial rail line all converged.. second biggest arsenal in the US… major production hub along the Shenandoah, later destroyed…
After the bus stop, we walked towards the main intersection, which was mainly the “john Brown” place.  But first, before we got there, we popped into the bookstore on the left. We discussed whether the bookstore was biased towards one side or the other on the Civil War. Chris suggested a pro-Confederacy bias, but I saw pieces on both sides. After that… we didn’t have time for most of the numbered points of interest on our map… we went ahead to the arsenal and John Brown “fort” on the right, and learned things I did not remember from history class. It was interesting to see different slants on the history…  how it was a local militia, not the union army, that first holed up John Brown, though the army accepted his surrender… how modern pleaders for the cause  of the confederacy stressed Brown’s “murder” of five Afro-Americans when he took over the arsenal at first (planning to arm about 10,000 in an anti-slavery army).

We turned left, followed just a couple of the numbered points of interest on the official walking tour, and walked to the old but still functional train station. It was interesting for us to stand by the track, and see a train coming, and many real passengers still.  This was a really crucial point in the great opening of the West, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a key part of the way best from Baltimore.

But then we crossed the street, to where the nice little stores are, and walked by them on the way back to the bus station. Some nice looking stuff, but not much time or need for us to go inside.

We also noticed a few maps here and there of how StoneWall Jackson took over the place towards the start of the Civil War.

1-3.        Next stop, Antietam (Sharpsburg).

First, went straight to visitor center.  Came just in time for the 1PM briefing by Ranger in the observation deck, which sees two-third of the battlefield. Decided to hear that one, skip the regular movies downstairs. It was good to see the field as he spoke.  It sounded pretty clear – that the Rebs step up a long north-south line; that the Union rightly decided to concentrate on their left (north flank), and just mow down from north to south. Stage one… not so tactically clear… taking the north part, in the “bloody cornfield” ; stage two, capture the middle, through the “bloody lane”; stage three, crush the south, over Burnsides bridge; then, ALMOST got to a stage four, still further south, crushing the rest of Lee’s army… but for the timely late arrival of AP Hill’s group moving up from Harper’s Ferry, creating a kind of quiet stalemate and allowing a truce and orderly retreat the next day. All told, one day of battle, the “bloodiest day in American history.”

Today, I looked at the Wikipedia article, which seems a bit more precise and credible.  Yes, the Union captured the bloody lane and Burnside’s bridge in time, but it basically was a kind of bloody stalemate in middle, north and south throughout.

After the ranger briefing, we drove the numbered car route (not quite finding all the numbered points, but it was OK).  First North – curious that a pacifist church was the start of the bloodiest day in US history!  Next, the bloody lane, for which we have many pictures.  And then Burnsides’ bridge. I was a bit surprised to see that the ‘near impregnable highground” position of the confederacy on the other side of the bridge was actually so minor a fold in the ground.  And how important an open fence was in protecting defenders in the “bloody lane.” We discussed Lanchester’s Laws. We heard different views on Burnside’s errors with that bridge. (Wikipedia has a third viewpoint). There was even some kind of military or military history class discussing the Burnside bridge battle, right there next to the bridge, and we listened in. They said: “His error was NOT to flank over from another bridge earlier.” But other sources said: “His error was to send over too few people on the first several waves, not enough to quickly overwhelm the rebs.”

1-4.        Gettysburg

From there, we had intended to go next to Cunningham Falls in Catoctin. But we had spent more time than planned in the two previous stops. And parking has been changed on route 77, so that we would have to park at the visitor center or elsewhere and then walk about 1.5 miles to and 1.5 miles back… a big time cost. We did drive around, to the parking next to a nice big lake we visited once many years ago… but verified it was too far… and drove on to Gettysburg.

At Gettysburg, we drive straight to the visitor center/museum, reaching it at 4:45 PM. Since it closed at 6, we chose to spend 30 minutes in the museum, before 45 minutes movie and Cinerama. I forget right now what the most interesting point was in the museum… in the movie and Cinerama, it was a Story of Three Days of battle, July 1, 2 and 3….  Which I also checked in wikipedia.

Maybe it was in the museum… I thought, even meditated, on Dwight Eisenhower…this was a battle where I would have no trouble at all in taking sides and feeling deep emotions… and as I did so, and question s came back… yes, I too started as a Pennsylvania German… now Quaker…  from the modern world of iron… with a full understanding of the strategic power of rational efficient defense… reminding me even of Germans holding out along the Danube versus the Golden Horde…  unusually complete resonance all ways along. I was also happy Chris could see a more detailed and precise story (here and in Antietam) of what Lincoln stood for and why he waited until he did to issue emancipation proclamation… (I certainly do not worship Lincoln or Obama, but I do respect them more deeply than many other folks do.)

The movie/cyclorama told us more details, and for me, reinforced the emotions.

Then we again followed a numbered drive tour and took pictures. But as it got late, we went very quickly after Round Top, and drove to Hampton Inn
a few miles east.  It was quite interesting, and makes it easier to read stuff like the Wikipedia story, but I won’t repeat all the details here.  I was struck with the thought: “After day one, why didn’t Lee just move on to take Harrisburg, and implicitly try to force the Union to attack him on more favorable ground if it did?” Later… it seems Longstreet did say something like that to Lee. Lee answered, in a latter to the president of the Confederacy, that he simply believed he could win right then and there. Luda and I debated: was it his depression or his overconfidence? Did a combination of body pain and intuition that he was on the wrong side that led him to do worse than he could have?

1-5. End of the day

We enjoyed the good coffee, decaf and hot chocolate out there at the Hampton Inn. The pool and Jacuzzi sounded good… but after awhile, I decided I did not feel like it… we crashed… (with Chris doing some laptop stuff and me some samurai Sudoku in the final hour or two).

A major part of the day, I was worried about our navigation. I did not yet know that Luda had also printed detailed maps for day two – but the regular socket for the Garmin recharger did not work in the rental car, and the little car charger (lighter to USB conversion socket) for Luda’s smart phone broke. How would we find our way after day one? Maybe it was late on day one we studied the car book, and found a backup socket in the center console, but had troubles using it at first. Without navigation or maps, it would have been hard.

Day two, Friday *********************************************

2-1.        To Ephrata market, via Costco near Lancaster.

Luda found (on computer or phone?) that there was a Costco near our route from Hampton Inn to Ephrata open market. This was a bit of a test of navigation, especially since it wasn’t on our printed maps (and road names were not so clear on the dense maps).  I never learned how to really set a destination AND via point on Garmin, so that it worked right, and that made life difficult. Also, while Garmin could guide us to intersections and addresses in other states, it refused to let us do so for points of interest or city names, and it seemed unable to find a majority of the intersections we tried.  Later, we would use the laptop the night before to come up with alternative nearby intersection names for our destination, in hopes Garmin would accept at least one of them.

We certainly needed that to get to the Ephrata open market! (The maps for day two did at least have some intersections nearby enough).

The open field parking was HUGE, and there were many many stalls and small stores in that market.  I looked for a new smart phone charging socket; one place had many baskets full of similar looking things, but not that. We saw a great variety of things. Lots of nice fruits we wish could be available at that quality and price near our home – but they weren’t THAT cheap, and our trunk was fully stuffed even though I just used my small blue suitcase and Luda her big brown bag, in addition to a back pack each. We also had a food box, sleeping bags, a car bag… using even the seat on the other side of Chris in the back seat of the car.
We did stop at a nice small place which served everything from steak sandwiches to teriyake… and really liked the $7 big cheese steak we shared in the car… would probably have ordered two if we knew. Also, the fresh natural glass soda bottles ($1.50 each, real cherry for me, cream soda for Chris).  One little store had “good smell stuff” lots of folks would love.

We talked a little about Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish versus Mennonites and Quakers, even a little about scrapple (which Luda abhors), Rosicrucian history, etc.

2-2.        Roadside America

Another huge challenge for GPS and maps. Also, a sneaky motel on the way appropriated the name, so we stopped there first, though we lost only a little time on that one.

The proper place had bathrooms nice enough that I felt comfortable brushing my teeth. We couldn’t enter the main room (or even pay admission) until a few minutes passed, because “the night show is going on right now.” Just a few minutes in the outer gift store as we waited.  Among the little things they sold… if the stones had included optical calcite, I would have bought it, this week… just to help focus my mind on certain physics questions. But alas, no.

Inside… the biggest model … city?  Township?... in the US. Imagine the tiny towns under a Christmas Tree (or the botanic museum/greenhouse near the Rayburn building)… but each building at least a foot square, covering an area.. not as large as a football field… but that kind of thing. Also a numbered tour. Part would really be great for an architect.. on display dozens of general types of houses and buildings. And other things, from caves to airports to country club to circus to canal to… little stories… to certain historic buildings (but more like Franklin’s shop, not Congress).

Then the night show began. We went to the viewing level they asked us to go to, and they dimmed the lights. Overmodulated low quality music, big standard pieces .. like God Bless America… the contrast between the quality of models versus quality of music was striking to me, but most people got more emotional listening to music as lights went down and then up…  with little lights in the ceiling during the “night.”

At the end of the night show, Luda and I were not sure where Chris had gone to.  I left for the small gift store in front, where Chris showed up in time, and Luda, and we moved on.

2-3 Ruins of ancient steel mills

Next, we used an intersection to find an old Bethlehem Steel plant: see ""
 We arrived just a few minutes after the visitor center closed. Thus all we could do was stare at the big rusty-brown steel stacks and buildings. We started on the visitor center side, and took awhile to bend around and go to the front.

The main section ... was like a Rorshach test. It's easy to imagine you know what you are seeing, but I found myself wishing for something more real. In the main "stacks" are... things which looked like silos, smokestacks, and giant kitchen-type step ladders (still rusty brown) with strange things on each step. All hooked up to big pipes and chutes, in two connected buildings. And then a small outbuilding on the same side (next to the railroad track), and lots of long low buildings on the other side which could as well be textile mills from what you could see on the outside.

Past the visitor center, and even the middle of the stacks, was a performing art center. A group was practicing there, to an audience of a big field of grass, us and a couple of other people wandering through. They sang a song of how empires come and go, rise and fall, but the jester always stands. Clearly they were the jesters, and the fallen empire was rusty brown.

We talked a bit about how I once worked for Senator Specter, how he tried to protect more jobs but many staffers wanted to focus more on saying he already did all that could be done, how I once knew
the head of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO (whose son is a strict sort of neoconservative).

2-4.        Drove to motel near West Point New York.

Luda reminds me: the Garmin has a complete list of destinations we went to, and also ones we tried or considered.

Getting to our motel near West Point was another tricky navigation challenge.  Garmin does not really distinguish between “turn left” or “stay in the left lane.” Also, it is not consistent about when to tell us that we need to make a special effort to stay on the road, in whatever lane.

At one point, we needed to make a quick shift to the left. It was a cognitive stress on Luda both to drive tricky unfamiliar roads, and listen to my not always precise navigation suggestions. Near our motel, at the end of a long day, she drifted up to 70mph briefly on a 55 mph road – and was immediately stopped by a police car.  Chris wanted to talk then.. and did not understand why not, as Luda hoped to gear up to some mercy form the policeman.

No mercy, from either of them. Bear mountain became a joke.

Back on the road, I told a story about a friend’s dog, who would bark loudly if I let myself feel fear or negative emotions.
 “How can dogs sense fear? That sounds like crazy superstition.”
“You need to have more experience living around dogs.” (Yesterday, Saturday, my brother John accidentally made the same point, as he has four dogs in the house.)

We didn’t go out for dinner that night. Sandwiches from deli type meat and bagels we bought from Costco.  Finishing off a gallon of milk we brought with us from home, though only I would drink it towards the end.

Day 3, Saturday ******************************************************

3-1.        West Point proper

Only one global map per day at this point, with very tiny print.

We first used nav to get to visitor center. Two main roads in the main town, very close, one on the military side, one on the town side.

But it was too early for the center to be open. We wandered around near it. I was once before in real West Point, but did not recognize any of this. We found a nice view of the river from one of the parking lots behind the visitor center, and saw a closed museum… but  it clearly wasn’t the real thing yet.

So we walked out to the road (keeping the car in the big visitor center parking lot). We crossed to the civilian side, and walked along the street by many interesting restaurants and such… until I saw a real looking field ahead to the right, after an entrance gate, on the military side of the road. We showed our IDs, and walked in, to see what was right there. MPs, a medical emergency place, stuff like that. We learned what “buffalo soldiers” are.  Bt looking the watch… we walked back to the visitor center, where it was us and a huge contingent of Chinese (who seemed to have some kind of preferred access).

At the visitor center… I was struck by the similarity of West Point’s philosophy and Friend Community School – “develop strength of body, brain and spirit.” (At FCS, we said ‘soul,” but clearly they meant something similar.) The role of Thomas Jefferson in creating this institution was also impressive.  Yet.. for “spirit,” more than half the pictures were of competitive sports, and nothing really heavy. I was reminded of McArthur and Robert E Lee and McCain… not precisely the kind of vision and true depth that Jefferson might have had in mind. All institutions have strengths and weaknesses and challenges to meet.

At the museum, I basically wanted to go upstairs, to strategy and grand strategy, but happiness of Luda and Chris is a top priority for me, so I was content to go down stairs… seeing exhibits about the history of guns and civil war boats and war trucks/tanks. More lessons about the civil war!

We eventually persuaded the office to give us the standard map which the Chinese had, and a few answers to questions about what we could do next. We drove to the same gate we had walked through before.
The Chinese group came later, in a big bus, but we were asked to wait until they were taken care of, and then drove ahead. We parked along the road, well after the buffalo soldiers field (where we went through a second check point), but before the turn in the river we decided to go to.  As we walked to towards that point… we walked along what seemed to be the main academic road.  Later, coming back, I noticed the building for “systems engineering, operations research” (and related stuff), which came first. But.. what I noted first as we moved ahead… was the Dean’s gothic building on the right.  Then photonics, nserc and such. Then the building for English, social science, coping with terrorism. I started to feel a bit of self-confidence, as I have had lots of good experiences in such universities, and great interest specifically in these subjects – but Chris pleaded “Please don’t act here the way you do in other universities. Please just keep quiet.”

We stopped briefly at the statue of Patton, where Luda took pictures. Then on closer to the river… on past a couple of observation points.. stopping more at the Clinton point really best located for looking at the turn of the river.  Luda held the map at that point, and led us to the specific…trophy point… where we saw lots of cannons before 1900,
Many with plaques explaining what they were, telling us more about the physics and engineering and history of cannons.

It was striking to me how many big cannons the British had given to the Confederacy. Clearly the issue of British support for the Confederacy was a very serious matter, reminding me of some of the paradoxes of who the US has supported at times in international politics. And I remembered from Gettysburg how it may have been really decisive that the South ran out of ammunition for cannons when the North had plenty left, to stop Pickett’s charge. We also saw how the big Chinese group had driven straight to the same point, and parked their big bus there. Luda says: “Hey, it’s not that they were Chinese; it’s that they were an organized tour.” True.

We then spun around, and walked past various barracks/dorms
(more like Princeton dorms than like  any other barracks I ever saw)..
Eisenhower and others… until we came to the statue of Eisenhower near the statue of Patton. (Actually, on the way, we saw signs of a big indoor open event in one of the dorms… but figured it wasn’t THAT open..). And then we retraced our steps, talked a bit about the relation between use of Lanchester’s Laws and what is discussed in that operations research building… In the car, Luda (driving as always) did a U turns, and we found a way around the new security obstacles to the loop to the exit from the same gate.

3-2.        Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA

Garmin led us to an intersection NEAR the museum (Stockbridge, not Sturbridge.)
I reminisced about John going to Berkshire Academy, and the family going to North Adams (HQ of my father’s biggest client, Sprague), and stopping by Sturbridge when coming back from Harvard to Haws Lane (family home then near Philadelphia).

On the right road, Luda saw signs for the museum, and we parked.

I was especially quiet here, as I viewed this as Luda’s place much more than mine. But I learned what I could.

After paying admission, we explored the main, ground floor (after the entrance island). I first saw exhibits from Rockwell’s SON, clearly a Buddhist (e.g. picture of a work on “maya”), a fair amount of sense of humor in his stuff.  Next came a whole lot of stuff on Snow White.  (I sometimes talk about how I “first” saw Luda as part of delegation of the eight leading AI people from Russia to a conference at NIST – “they turned out to be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. ) But Disney’s Snow White would be scared at times by trees – not even close to Luda’s style! Luda and I discussed this a lot. “Maybe Snow White was more like my mother than like you. Buddy was certainly no dwarf, in size, but he was a LOT like some of them…”

Then finally, Norman Rockwell pictures proper. Interesting aspects of his history I had not seen before… but nothing as striking as what we saw before in the Smithsonian when they had a visiting exhibit. Luda was distressed at that… but looked at the building map… and then we all walked downstairs (and also looked the “creativity center” of to the side).  More interesting stuff there.

Then we walked to the “Rockwell studio” (not in the original location.)
Heard more memorable stories about his “humility helmet” and humility slag bucket… nice story about how he did not hide from those two mistakes but kept them visible as reminders.

We ate a bit, sitting on a blanket in grass near our car… (for me, all fruit).. and then got in the car.

3-3.        To Mount Greylock

Germen was again a bit confusing… but we picked up a tourist map at the museum which really helped.

Our next stop was Bascom Lodge, at the top of Mount Greylock, where we stayed the night.  We had the exact address, and Garmin did lead us to it (with some problems with a dogleg on route 7 which the local map helped us with).  We stopped for gas along route 7. It was great that the rental car had both higher mpg and a bigger fuel tank than ours, necessitating fewer such stops.

When we reached the address, Luda said: “The lodge people told us they are at the top. This is not the top. Are you saying they lied?” I said: “Garmin said. But it also shows a visitor center here. Maybe that building is the visitor center, and not the lodge.” I walked out to check, got a local mountain map, and was glad for their friendly guidance.  Then we got up onto the road up (which the visitor center people pointed us to). After eight miles of twisty small but well-paved road… we got there.

When we got there, we really wondered about where to park.  Only small reserved parking lots by the Lodge itself. One big park parking lot, with an entrance structure saying we need to buy a parking pass. But it was covered with “Out of order; you must buy a pass from the ranger (or be towed).” No ranger. We parked anyway.
Looked more for a ranger. Finally walked the moderately long way to the lodge, where they told us not to worry; it was late (4PM or so), so we could wait until 9AM next day.  We left 10AM that next day, and never had to buy a pass. As we checked in, I was grateful that the front desk said we could store our gallon of milk in their refrigerator that night (though they asked to make sure we did not plan to drink it there).

The lodge was barracks style… four or five bunk beds (some by the wall) in one big room, a few big rooms. Several small shower rooms on the floor. A major men’s room and a major women’s room on the floor as well.  Luda and Chris put stuff to stake out a bunkbed by the wall to the left as we enter (no window on that wall),
and me the lower bunk in an interior bunk bed, near the door.  We didn’t bring everything from the car; weight and security…

The shower was a bit odd. There was a timer in the room, but forcing it to zero just turned off light and fan. No “off” switch on the water flow as such; just some kind of automatic cutoff, and the algorithm wasn’t clear. Lately, I like to take on-off showers: get wet, turn off water, soap up and rub, get wet again, soap up and rub different parts, and so on. That saves water and gets better results. But I couldn’t do that here. Still, a clean shower felt good by this time. (At home, I even use the flexible shower head, at the end, to direct very hot water to a few places that need it.)

We had lots of daylight left before the 7PM dinner, for which we had made reservations. Chris wanted to go his own way, at least until 6PM, some for trail, some for laptop, in many ways his lifeline.

Luda especially wanted to get to a nice overlook to see the sunset. We walked down the road to an overlook we had driven by. But the sun angle did not seem good enough to justify staying there. There was a nice trail down,. But deep down, not likely to have much view. Across the street, we saw a rough scramble trail up, and a crosswalk.  We walked back on that trail, and saw how it led back to the main parking lot.  We saw a family with small children planning to take the trial, maybe… we spoke to them… but moved on to explore the higher ground. We walked to the main observation tower, and the plain near it right by a cliff.  I saw small children get closer to the cliff, on steep ground, and stumbling, in a way which would have scared me a lot if they were my children.

We walked back to the lodge… and noted picnic tables on both sides of the lodge. The lodge itself had a nice big sun room perfect for observing the sunset, but it was reserved for a paid workshop on photography.  (Luda reminds me – at first it was off limits because of a wedding party; another time it was only for people buying drinks; yet really, I did walk in briefly when the photography workshop was going ahead, and they were uncomfortable and ready to protest when I quietly went into the far corner just to stand up and look at the outdoors well before sunset.) So… per Luda’s guidance.. she went to the car to get a couple of things (I mainly remember a bottle of red wine) while I held a picnic table. We sat there, to watch sunset, sipping red wine and talking… though it became a bit chilly, and I regretted that I didn’t ask Luda to bring one of my jackets from the car.  (I had packed two effective but lightweight jackets, because of Mount Washington being in the plans.) As I shivered… and she didn’t want me to crowd her TOO much for warmth… she encouraged me to wear HER pink jacket. I said: “Usually you worry when I wear things much less embarrassing than a pink women’s jacket. But… people won’t get the wrong idea if I stay close enough to you.” She put up with me, kindly. Until 4PM, our agreed time to pick up Chris.  She did have Chris visit the observation tower… maybe just with her… and we joined for dinner at 7PM. Luda and I had many great conversations on this trip… but this “memory dump” is already long.

At some point… the parking lot mostly emptied out, and Luda parked the car closer to the lodge.

Tables were all prescheduled, but the woman at the counter, with a British accent, agreed to reseat us on a table near the main sunset window.  (It was still bright out there.) We were next to another family of three – guy in the quality lumber business, woman working for Hasbro (guiding displays for “My Pretty Pony” and such) and a baby looking very actively all around.  Chris was a bit upset about how much we talked to them, lugubriously. Though we were perfectly coherent, Chris hinted that we were too friendly (me and Luda both) because of the wine.  At first, it was just the guy, who talked about Irish and other ancestors of his. I asked the woman a lot about the toy business, and it was interesting to hear. I mentioned how my father was in the marketing field, and stress the importance of “both sides” – communicating to the customer about the product, and communicating to the product designers how to better address real needs and interests of the customer. She discussed how her work fits into this. At some point, she asked “how about you?” I did have the temerity to mention doing a lot of stuff, because of a background in applied math and working at NSF. After I said that, and Chris accused me and Luda of being drunk, and I disagreed, things became quite quiet.

Luda and I order salmon, Chris chicken. Luda was surprised at how great the salmon dinner was.  Chris was not quite as happy about the chicken.

It was a long, leisurely procedure, and we went straight to bed. In the night, Luda said at a normal level of volume: “Paul, you should really see the great sky and milky way and…” I stayed in bed, but about five other people heard and joined her outside to look. She says this was about 10PM (I tend to go to bed early), and she was saying it not just to me but to the woman in the bunk over me, and anyone interested.

Snoring was an interesting issue. I generally slept well, except for just one time to wake up and go to the bathroom. At that time, I thought I heard just one person snoring – Luda. But that did not affect my sleep. It seems she woke up at other times, hearing an interesting taking-turns of other people snoring – one so loud that another person couldn’t sleep, until the first finally quieted, the second slept, and the second himself snored loudly. Luda was a bit surprised that I didn’t snore that night.

Day 4 , Sunday ++++++++++++++++++++++

We woke up 6 or 7 AM, as usual. I had intended to buy the bug regular breakfast at about 8AM when they opened… but we sat in the dining room had the complementary hot drinks and great blue berry muffins (with butter and jam)..
As Luda pressed me to tie up PhD qualification exam questions for Yuriy at U. Memphis which we had discussed the previous day while driving. She had the laptop, we talked… and finally she emailed it right there from the lodge. She said: “This is what it took to get you to do your part of this important job.”  I did eat a bit nervously in the process.. and by the time we were done, and Chris also had lots of the good stuff (though he chose to sit at the next table over)… we decided not to wait for breakfast. I did think about finishing the milk on the road… Also, the unusual lack of external pressure throughout the trip made it possible for me to discuss with her some of my recent thinking about photons and polarizers and how to model them in a new way.

In the morning, Luda did find a ranger, by the lodge itself, and he told us not to worry (given that we planned to leave anyway, and the lot was still mostly empty).

.  4-1.  Through Bennington to Dartmouth

In the original plans, Luda intended to go through Bennington on the way… in part to send us north to see the Green Mountains of Vermont… but she decided we shouldn’t spend extra time, especially since she didn’t really have a specific point of interest to see there, and I said the Green Mountains aren’t so special compared to the White Mountains.

As before, NAV was a bit of a challenge., but I could get Garmin to go to the address of the art museum in Dartmouth which Luda was most interested in. It turns out that we went right through Bennington anyway! And Luda loved all the big cat statues we saw as we drove through. We talked a little about the tiger mascot of Clemson, about the Seven Sisters colleges (including Beaver, an area where I once rode my bike), and about cows and cheese and Senator Sanders. After we turned east,
we did see a beautiful bright Riley-green little mountain on our left -- not a real Green Mountain but more vividly green, as one might imagine. Further down the road, just a few miles before we turned up onto route 91 north, we saw a big hamburger and shakes place on the right which we decided we wanted to go to.. after it was too late.  We kept on to Dartmouth, and parked on the street at the intersection where Garmin said our address was.  Before that, we navigated around town and found little parking… but found street parking at the right place. But Luda was very nervous about it, because behind us was a badly parked student car and she was worried he might scratch up our car when he left.  The Garmin also showed lots of eating places near the museum intersection.

When we walked to the obvious building right there  -- not the Hood museum; the student union. Luda saw a big building about a block away, atop a grass hill… but I thought it was too far, and we should try the intersection  and address we had first.
We crossed the street… and found a hotel. But I asked, and he told us the museum was on that side, down most of a block… As we walked, Luda remembered exactly what the hotel guy said, and looked to the right, and saw the word “Hood.”

It was a curious walk from under that word, to the far side of a courtyard, to a door… and then inside… not clear where to go next. At first, we walked right… an empty cafeteria.. a curious student looking at us… and then nothing. We went back the other way, found the museum door, and looked inside. Not all that much; some very familiar types of Asian pieces, gifts from rich patrons. Some Amerindian pieces novel for me. I don’t remember it all. And then, as we left, it took a couple of steps to
invert ow we got there, and get back to the street.

Next stop: the library with the Mexico murals. We asked a couple of people, and got down there.  Downstairs, the librarian offered us (free) a choice of three audio tours of the murals. I chose Watanabe (“more history and greater context”) while Luda and Chris chose the full, longer art history tour. Theirs went mural by mural, while mine started on the right in the Mexican revolution circa 1910, and then only a brief part of the left earlier part discussed as a kind of legend used in 1910.  We all learned interesting things.

Then: where to eat? Down main street, walking on the right.. not so impressive… sins for an interesting brunch but nothing on WHERE to find it (and it was getting close to the end time anyway)… so I said “OK” to wandering in to Molly’s, a place Chris had found earlier on the web, which seemed a bit too much like “a place for the rich parents” to me.  I ordered a steak sandwich, and Chris ordered a pizza. Chris’s was much more of a success… though he liked half of my steak sandwich more than I did, and was generous to trade for it with good pizza. Luda shared some of both.

   4-2.  From Dartmouth to the AMC Pinkham Notch (Joe Dodge) Lodge

Using Garmin, it was a mess that it would let me target cities only when IN the state. Thus the Vermont/New Hampshire border  was important to us.  In Dartmouth, in NH, I targeted Littleton, NH, as an initial target to get us started, and that worked. But until we were on the road, I didn’t realize that crossing a bridge back to route 91, put us in Vermont, where I couldn’t refine the target further!

As we drove up route 91… we did get a Vermont map from the side of the road, an official rest stop, which helped some.  A very quick stop, worth it. And, on the long roads, Luda played the first few disks of an audio book if Atlas Shrugged, which we discussed some. (I sometimes compare Atlas Shrugged to the Bible – a book which has many contradictory viewpoints, despite the claims of offering a new unified view of life; a book which can energize many different types of behavior, some great and some grossly awful. Well worth understanding and looking at  -- but hugely dangerous for folks who act like true believers and can ‘t think for themselves.)

We considered cutting over on route 302, but decided to stick with Garmin and stay on big roads. Thus at Johnsbury, we turned… and on the way, we saw the big dam and park which was the end of the New Hampshire side of route 91… Later, Garmin sent us along 302, when we were in New Hampshire, on the way to Gorham; it was a slow road, due to single lane each way and slow traffic, so we were glad we didn’t take that short cut.

In New Hampshire, finally, I switched the destination to Gorham and then Jackson. (No Pinkham Notch or AMC option I could find.)

It was very picturesque New Hampshire on the way… and I even remembered the campground where Lissa long ago lost her Siamese kitten (“Kara”). Of curse, we saw trails and mountains and streams very very clearly on the right.

We were only a little nervous, going down route 16 with no end on the Garmin… passing Wildcat Mountain and then the auto road… and then two miles later I asked “What is that?” about a building on the right, nestled in the trees. Luda, with sharper eyes, looked, and saw the sign. “That’s it.”

We parked to the right, right on the edge between asphalt and gravel sections. Lots of buildings, really, and we weren’t sure where to go. First we walked to the right. “No, not here.” Then towards the Visitor Center, where they pointed us just across to Joe Dodge.

The guy registering us at Joe Dodge really had good vibes.  Not as old as me… but experienced and constructive and in control and very helpful. As three people, we had a room (two bunkbeds) to ourselves. When Luda saw that room… and the two common rooms.. and the clean bathrooms… she said “If I knew, I would have booked all three nights here!”  And there was also a complimentary (served, not buffet) dinner and breakfast.

Later, Luda said we should have driven up the auto road that day, when it was so clear all the way to the top, though I was a bit scared of that road – the hairpins, and what it could do to brakes. Instead, we stayed for dinner at 6PM, which didn’t impress any of us. First potato soup… then rather tasteless corned beef  or hard tofu and black beans…

We went to the visitor center, looked at maps and the 3D model.. though we appreciated both more deeply on the second day. Maybe we should have bought a book.. but the lodge let us borrow  one of them (and walking sticks) the next day. We did bring our main suitcases to the room, as it was private, and we needed some stuff.  We repacked for the next day – e.g. my two light jackets in my day pack,
and hat, and so on.

We slept well, and knew we planned to wake up early.

Day 5, Monday: the big one, Mt. Washington

It was great knowing we would not have to drive very far that day.

We woke up reasonably early. 

I had showered at Mr. Greylock, but not this day, because I knew I would be dirty enough by the end of this day.

I did insist on going to the breakfast, which did seem good to me. Scrambled eggs and bacon, and hot liquid. (Chris was suspicious about whether the eggs where powdered, and did not stay as long.) I forget what else. Luda vacillated on whether to go to it; when her ticket got lost (it was hard to keep track of everything when repacking every day), I got her a new one, but Chris’s suspicions and the need to get going deterred her, and she finally decided not to eat.

I saw where the trailhead was, in part by watching other people. (Luda tells me she had already scouted it out the night before.)

We put all our stuff,  except day packs, into our car, and checked out.

Should we borrow one set of walking sticks or two or none? I was vacillating. I could see how they might help my knees on the walk down, and that MIGHT be an issue.
(I don’t know how good my knees are now. They were very awful about ten years ago, when I walked down Old Rag… but they got better after exercise and glucosamine.. but I didn’t keep up so much with those for the last few years.) At first we took two sets, one packed into my daypack for later possible use… but it looked a bit hazardous, and Luda decided to run with Chris to return the one set, when we had just gotten started. Luda kept her set… but said she was thinking she could give me one of the two on the way down if necessary. On the trail, we saw others vigorously brandishing their two sticks, as if they were skiing.
Before getting started, we did of course decide “which trail,” and I bought just one almost-waterproof map covering both east and west ob Mount Washington. (Maybe I should have bought just the cheaper totally waterproof east-only map, with more detail, And bought the west map only if it made sense at the end of the first day. Ever so many lessons learned on this trip.) The folks at the visitor center were emphatic that the Lions Head trail would be the safest from the east, safer and less steep than Tuckerman Ravine Trail… so we decided to go that way. We saw a possible shortcut or easier way… but one part was closed except in winter, and, they said, risky per getting lost in a dangerous way.

We mostly had slept well that night… but Luda was very worried when it rained so hard. It finally cleared just as we started walking.. but we were warned to expect thunderstorms all three days we would be around… and also that weather becomes a whole lot worse in the afternoon, that we should make sure to be below tree line  by 2PM.

The book said… this is an 8 hour hike, 1 mile per hour, 4 hours each way.

Starting at 7:30, we reached the turn of the real trailhead for Lion Head at 9:30.
Since we were more than half way, and it was quite clear, we began to feel a bit complacent. Luda and Chris were starting to complain “This is too easy and too boring.” Also, “lots of nice pictures, but let’s take then when it’s safer, on the way down and we know where we stand.”

First part of trail was just a half mile of upward scramble, straight up to the “plain” above. Not so boring. Lots of actual climbing. Then one part where there was a ladder, because the cliff was just too steep. Soon after than, one of the scariest parts of all… “Like that bad part on the Billy Goat Trail,” I said… which once was easy for me, but almost could not work at all now, due to issues of weight, shape and strength. (For that bad part… last time I had to convulsively throw myself over a ledge to make it, and use the limit of my strength.) As we walked along a narrow ledge, holding for dear life onto a rock edge several feet above us… I thought: “I would not at all be sure I could survive this point, coming back. It does not compute, as I look at it. Should I have just put my foot in the ground and stayed here, as I once did at the base of a cliff in Sudok?” But really, it was too late. And I remembered that Tuckerman Ravine Trail was supposed to be worse.

The rest of this scramble was not nearly so scary, though it took a lot of effort and frequent rest stops for me. (Chris was ready to move much faster, and even Luda said it made it harder for her to try to stay back with me.) My chest started hurting,
and I wondered how much was digestive (heartburn) – did I forget my daily Prilosec, or was I getting motion sickness from un familiarity of using one walking stick or form complex calculations needed on every climb up the trail? Or was it a cardiovascular thing, more serious? Certainly my pulse rate was high, and I remembered what folks said about older people taking up running. Luda kindly asked Chris to carry my light backpack, as she carried both his and hers; I argued against that, but she insisted. She said that his quick movement and joy helped give her spirit, which she needed.

Finally, as we cleared the end of the scramble… Christopher yelled out from above.
One word: “WIND…” It was unbelievable. Pushy wind and thick fog both. I pulled out both jacket and the hat.  I was glad I had long johns on, under the flexible long gym pants.

The next step seemed a little flat across to the summit on the map. That was an optical illusion. Luda kindly took back the walking stick, which was more pain and hazard than use (and packed it with hers).

After a long time, we reached a kind of “seven corners” type intersection, where I asked us to stop, and look very closely to remember which way was which, to be able to remember what the signs MEAN.  Another group came up from Tuckerman Ravine Trail, and they said they were very resolved NOT to do back down that way. Now they believed it about Lion’s Head…

On the next stretch, towards the final 0.9 miles up… I remembered once loving part of the trail where there were low bushes… maybe even small trees sheltering us form wind… but still serious rocks to climb, and still pain..

In fact… earlier, I told myself to FEEL the rocks, the walking stick.. to focus.. to “be here now”… I remembered how Tibetans too climb mountains… At that time I told myself to really feel BOTH the ricks and my body, and the stick so that my natural cerebellar circuits could engage and learn efficient movements… but at that time, my body had just a he litany of  nagging and complaints, so I stopped that part. Probably I should NOT have stopped, but worked through the nagging.

I remember another scary point, as we tried to follow the  cairns and a very few yellow blazes… when there seemed to b e nothing ahead. Chris sped off on a downward tilting stretch of wet slippery rocks over a cliff to the left… not seeing where to go ahead,.. and Luda worried whether it was the wrong way. She clambered over to a small lawn, over a slightly higher ledge.. and slid down.. but urged me not press on until they were sure it was safe. I clambered to that lawn myself, and slid down as slowly as I could myself… as Chris and Luda agreed the next spot was through a kind of “window” of rock where there was a blaze visible through the window. We had to jerk ourselves up to thrust into that window, and crawl ahead, with a cliff under our waving legs behind…

At the final sign.. (where? 0.9? 0.5)… I said to Luda and Chris:
“We really need to stop and make a conscious decision here and now. It is now…
(1:15PM)?  We aren’t going to make it to the top by 11:30, the four hour mark!!
Being above tree line after 2PM is said to be dangerous. Do we face up to reality, and just go down… by which of the two scary trails… or do we go on to the summit and hope to go down by bus or road or something?” We weren’t sure about whether we COULD get a bus ride down, but it seemed to make sense they wouldn’t want folks to die on the mountain, and we knew there is shelter up there.

Luda said: “Let’s go on.” And Chris really hoped to get on that bus.

So we kept on.

In the final stretch… I remember a little delicate looking black dog which just jumped up cliff trails which looked pretty tough to me. At one point it even pointed the way to me, and I felt such good feelings towards hat friendly little dog…

At another point, a guy with a younger (colleague?) helping him.. slowed down, and said to me: “you are doing this the right way. This kind of strain really required frequent stops to protect the heart.”  He brandished his walking sticks, which didn’t seem to help him much. “In fact, can you believe I am 65 years old? This is the last time I do this. I am also feeling dizzy. Never again.” I said: “I too am 65. And I too am dizzy. It might be heart. But It may be vestibular. I felt is especially when I tried to use the walking stick, which is not familiar to me.  Maybe older folks get dizzy when they do familiar complicated motions. But it might be digestive.” He said: “My 66 birthday is next month.” I said “Me too.” He said: “Do you realize, if we get stuck here, people will not be able to save us? We could die.” I certainly had considered that, with the incessant pain, more in my stomach and chest than anywhere else – still requiring an effort of will to start each convulsive movement up.

I also recall… he was trying to walk up a bit like a mountain goat, with the sticks. I was more like a monkey on all fours for that whole last part, climbing, and for much of the earlier parts on the Lion Head’s trail.

Chris really wanted to move faster, so Luda said “OK, wait for us at the summit”.”

As one guy cam quickly down the trail walking sticks in both hands and smiling in a confident friendly way, I said: “I hope the top is close.” He said: “Oh yes. Only about twenty minutes.” Luda and I both groaned. Twenty minutes for him might have been enough to kill me. But what else to do, but press on and get to shelter as soon as possible. Still, thick fog and heavy wind, hard to see anything but the next cairn, barely that.

When it began to seem truly impossible…and pain mounted… another guy came down and said, “oh it’s just 01 mile.” Like 100 yards. Maybe ten cairns? Maybe some hope. What else to do? Luda had just gotten a “charley horse,” a serous cramp, which is vey scary right there,..but she says it went away when she heard that guy.

I felt I was controlling my reluctant body violently, like jerking a puppet form afar.. and was so relieved when I saw the last rick ahead of me , just under asphalt… and I even remembered that little bit form long ago!

So I made a final convulsive movement with great relief up unto the asphalt…

But my relief was heavily dampened within a moment, when I found myself again in really super intense wind, in a fog so heavy I could see about 20 yards or feet, could see that asphalt went in all directions, and saw a sign “summit 0.9 miles” with no direction indicated! And barely able to move.

But… here was a crosswalk, and some stairs on the other side. And Luda encouraged me to go there. I knew there was lots of stuff on the summit, of varying value… but I went up the stairs… still needing multiple rests as pain continued…

At the top, I still did not know where to go… but moving forward in the fog… I saw a little cabin with the wonderful words “Hikers bus” on it. It gave me great joy to see that there was such a thing, and my first priority was to get tickets for that trip, to be sure we were safe.

I pushed in (as Luda worried about where Chris might be, and looked around more). I said we were those typical people who overestimated our capabilities, and would like to buy bus tickets. The woman at the counter asked: “Are there any old people or children in our party?” I smiled and said: “Absolutely. I am the old guy, my young teenage son is the  child, though my wife is eternally young.” The guy standing next to her (who turned out to be the driver) smiled a big smile, and she said OK.
No problem paying $90 to protect our very lives.

But.. the next bus was 2:12, and it was 1:45. Luda broke in and said: “But I haven ‘t found Christopher yet. We have a lost child somewhere on top of this windy foggy dangerous mountain.” I asked the woman: I hope we can use these same tickets on the final run at 5PM, if we don’t find him son enough.” She said: A lot of people wanted those tickets. Make sure you tell us soon if you don’t find him.” OK. And we checked: “This goes to the AMC hut, not just the road start?” “Yes.”

Our next plan was to look for Chris at the summit building further on, where the driver was also walking. He said we could pick  up the  us there, don’t worry… which was a good news for me, finding it hard to move quickly (if at all at this point).

At the entry to the summit building, I plopped down on a bench inside, near the entry. Luda moved on to look elsewhere for Chris. I didn’t go into the nearby cafeteria and buy soup (though others on the trial had mentioned hot soup at the top). Not enough time to be safe, in my view, and pain in the stomach anyway. Luda says she felt there was enough time for her and Chris to see more of the summit (to the extent possible in thick fog), and she did… whle I stayed put on the bench.

While waiting, I talked to two other groups. One the group smiling, terrified by Tuckerman, preparing to go down Lion’s Head.  – group we met earlier. I worried a little for them. I later thought about the lack of seats on the 2:15 bus… but at the time did not ask about the 5pM bus. I did tell them I found Lion’s Head a bit scary for downhill…

Another group was a couple coming by Cog Railway. Very relaxed they were, not aware of a lot going on here. No problems for them.

Of course, nice bathroom and water up there was also great… but I finished my last water bottle before noticing it, in front of me. Yes, I was tired.

Was so happy when Luda and Chris came in, and we even had a few minutes to talk right there. Chris was worried about going to get bus tickets… and ever so relieved when I said we already had them.

Later Luda and Chris estimated that the wind got up to 70 mph at Lion's Head (the most) and the summit. I checked for Monday August 26 --
and it did show wind getting up to 64mph on that day.

Bus at 2:15. At 2:05 or 2:10, we walked outside. (Didn ‘t want to miss HAT bus!).
We walked a bit towards the 9garage?) where last I saw the bus… saw it coming… raced up to it.. but the driver said,” No, wait on the walkway of the summit building, up there.” So we went there. He carefully checked all three groups of us (and waited for the fourth). We were so happy to sit in the back seats… finally home free.
Three on one seat… and scrunched in a bit for one more person as the fourth group arrived.

One of the other groups had the black dog, and we were of course very friendly to them and to the dog. I had though the other old guy was with them… but no, just at the same place at the same time.  The fourth couple was down from Quebec. The woman, next to us, said the clam chowder at the top was the best she ever had in her life.

On the way down, the driver told us things about the history of the place, and the road.  The view became very clear maybe 1/3 of the way down.

At some point Luda said: “I always said you guys were just hiking, not climbing, doing trails and not rick climbing. But after today… you were right. It certainly IS climbing. Every step is like solving a puzzle. How could you ever be intimidated by where we went in Sudok, when this is 100 times the challenge?” “Well, there is a difference between difficult and grueling, versus life-threatening. I did stop at that cliff in Sudok because of a calculation that the probability of death was too high to justify going up. And because I could wait there. Here, there was nothing to think about, even in the scarier part (past the “Billy Goat cliff”), because it was get to the summit or die, nothing to hesitate about, just something to optimize. Probability of survival.

It was a great pleasure again to get into the visitor center place. We walked to the lodge, to turn in the walking sticks, and asking if we could rest and dry a bit in the “library.” “No problem.” We turned on the propane fireplace there, spread out some of the wet clothes (like my wet flannel shirt, worn under two coats and above an army tee shirt, and socks…). Chris and Luda decided to stay a good hour or more.
We read a few magazines, and I even did some samurai Sudoku puzzles we pulled out when Chris and I went to the car for a quick trip. I think Chris did laptop.

We read the AMC Lodge guide, and noticed the Highland Center on the Crawford Notch side, which I suggested we might try if we ever return. Chris said he really enjoyed this said, and really wanted to come back. A friendly maybe-30 woman hiker with dark complexion and a lot of knowledge talked to us…and said she always goes up the west, Crawford side now,.. Amonouusac (sp?) or Jewell… much less dangerous, and not really slower if you account for what slowed us down! We learned about some of the history, especially the great gift the Crawford family gave us all. From the Lodge book, we also learned about the local weather museum, named for “The World’s Worst Weather” on that mountain.

Finally, we drove to the homey bed and breakfast inn in Jackson, a short block from Wildcat Inn, where we spent that night and the next. When we arrived, they gave us the old style key… we looked around… brought up bags…  something else I left in the car… room nicer and larger than we had expected, nice view… though two staircases up… but no cot for Chris! The first night, he used a sleeping bag. It was so nice to have nice showers… and Chris a full bath.

Not notice …no food since breakfast, and Luda and Chris not all of that.

Luda and I walked to Wild Cat Inn. I had clam chowder bowl, and Luda a lobster roll.
She ate half, brought half to Chris. We meant to get maple/nut ice cream eventually… but never got to it. Bowl was OK, not all that large. I also had a ginger ale, in hopes it would help settle my stomach. And also grabbed a prilosec and antacid (CaCO.. type). (I mused a little about calcite for optics, versus limestone and its long history, versus antacids. But of course, this was more of a place for granite… with bits of quartz and mica, very different optical materials.)

In  the entry lobby of our inn, we saw a picture book of “our bear” in a tree… the tree right out one of our windows!

Day 6, Tuesday, still in White Mountains ++++++++

Here and Acadia were the only two days spent in the same morning and night!

We all enjoyed the breakfast at the inn. (The bacon was a bit burned, but sausage patties and other stuff good.) Luda and Chris said they loved the big French toast, and Luda said she was impressed by her bit of the big omelette I chose.  Nice coffee and decaf and chocolate and milk choices too. Etc. But in retrospect, was it good food or good feelings? Maybe more the latter, says Luda… still, good coffee setup…

We were almost alone there in the early morning. Next day we arrived later, didn’t get the corner verandah table (nice window with view instead)… but heard a woman describe how the bear to into her car in the parking lot the night before, and how she saw a bear slowly walking back form the dumpster at the Wildcat Inn… where we had walked! I found myself wondering: “How do you train our bear?” The innkeeper said the hunting season begins in a week, and bears always disappear about then.

6-1.        Back to Wildcat Mountain and Lodge

AMC (unlike the Inn) had given us three keys, one for each person. Chris misplaced his (and a breakfast ticket). By Tuesday morning, he had found it, and we decided it to drop it off first thing. However, as we drove up route 16, we missed the  (left) turn, so we drove on to wildcat mountain on the right. From the parking lot, we looked at Mount Washington, including Tuckerman and Huntington ravine. Luda was especially happy about the great view, which had been totally missing on the previous foggy day. We looked around a little,  and talked to the friendly young woman at the ticket counter, but she said it was too early for either the gondola or zip ride. She told us where to go to the gondola boarding point, or “the trail.”
She said we could get half price tickets if we went up or went down by trail.

I heard and remembered the old song “double vision.” (I think it’s “Rush”, an old, she said.) I am pretty sure I heard that a lot in the background when I visited my mother and brother at Marple-Newtown years ago… a “shadow” of my thinking at the time..
Even more another song in the same track about the weight of the world..

Since it was early, we drove to the lodge, returned the key, and got a final look at the 3M model at the visitor center, now that it meant more to us. We did talk about doing the Glen Boulder Trail. (No Crawford path for us that day… unless we felt energized at the boulder..). Or no trail. But Luda guided us to a middle way, a trail (a flume trail near Willey House) about .75 miles each way… She said: “None of us ready for a really strenuous trail after yesterday. But if we don’t do SOMETHING, we will all be stiff for a week.”

We drove back again to Wildcat Mountain, bought the gondola tickets, went up,
And took pictures form the top. But we did not stay so long up there. Only explored the top a little. Saw a sign “easy way down” pointing to a rough road good for a small truck.. . but don’t know where it comes out. Didn’t see much sign of better views off the other trails, and felt pressed for time. Back at the base, as Chris waited doing something, Luda and I walked along “the trail,” which seemed to be a small local loop trail to keep people entertained while waiting, with a link at the other end to a “brook trail.” Who knows? A little of the history on the signs. Interesting that wild cats – bobcats – still live there, though the cougars have died off.

6-2.        Up route 302 to Willey House and the (Kedros?) Flume

Next, we drive to the Kedros Flume Trail, described in a New Hampshire book Luda had borrowed from our library.  The book said “Park by the Willey House, along route 302, about three miles south of the famous Crawford Notch crags...” Garmin recognized 302, but not the Willey house; so we set it for Crawford Notch State Park, and simply relied on our eyes more and more as we came close to the park.

We went south along 16 to 302, much further north (and closer to us) than the famous Kankamangus Highway. Up 302… we saw an entry to the Appalachian trail
(which includes most of the Crawford path, and goes smoothly along the high ridge line connecting the major peaks). We saw an entry to the Andalusia (sp?) falls, a 1.5 walk each way, which maybe we SHOULD have chosen; biggest falls in NH, they said,
and nice for swimming? But we did see Willey House on the left
(just a local inn with a history and gift store, so far as we could see, but we didn’t really look.)  The trail was well-marked.

After Monday.. the trail was much easier, but it was still work for stiff limbs, and many places had slanted soft dirt where I could see serious potential for slipping off and getting hurt.  When we reached a railroad track, Luda and I saw Chris sitting on the trail (steep right there) on the other side of the tracks, waiting. Based on our experience walking near home (1.3 miles from NSF to home, which I walk every day), I felt as if we should be at least half way there, or more. But the trail kept going, with more jumpy parts and soft dirt issues, for a long, long time. I began to wonder:
How could I possibly underestimate distances so much? Or could the flume have dried up? Luda began to worry – she had extracted a firm promise from Chris to stop at the very start of the waterfall/flume and wait, but what if it had dried up or he didn’t recognize it? I then mentioned that the .75 miles in her  book was NOT the end of the trail, just the distance to the flume; at the trail head, it listed three other milestones, the last seven miles in. “Why didn’t you tell me that before?” But then she said: “the book said 0.75 miles but 45 minutes. We should not really worry until we have walked an hour.” At the 50 or 55 minute mark, we heard running water, and felt less worried. Then, when we clearly reached the flume… no Chris. Luda asked me to wait there while she ran ahead and looked for Chris. Chris came back and said the flume didn’t look like much from the trail, so he had gone ahead in search of something bigger… which he did not find. Back at the flume… we were basically at the TOP of a high waterfall. To see the high thin g, Luda and Chris walked right to the edge of the waterfall/cliff and looked down. I mostly stayed where I was, on a comfortable shady rock by the trail.. though I also walked a little upriver, where there was interesting rapids. We stayed a little to feel the spirit of the place.

And then down, Chris ahead again, promising to stop at the car.  I went down much faster than up. Long ago, when I was younger and stronger, I had learned to use and walk with gravity, and even how to use my hands out to maintain balance. I would basically run down for 20 minutes, wait for Luda to get to a safe enough distance ahead, and then run again.

On the way down, we also ran into a group of backpackers going the other way, using this trail as an entry to the Appalachian Trail. One had even had similar experiences before with fog and wind on the Lion Head trail.

Back at the car,  I asked to go back and check out Andalusia Falls and again look at the Appalachian Trail connection. Luda said OK, since it was only a few minutes’ drive.

Next we drove to Mount Washington Hotel, where the IMF and Wotld Bank were formulated. It was very impressive on the far right, as we drove further up 302 (same direction, now N, as we started with on 302 that day).  We stopped, and Luda took pictures from various angles.

Then to return, she said she would like to see more, not just go back the way we came. So we went up 302 until we hit “route 3 to 93.” I was worried a bit about which way on 93, and Garmin did not display the number of the roads we were on. But we WERE going the right way. We even exited briefly to just look at the Franconia Notch tram and the place where the Old Man of the Mountains had been for 200 years or more… until 2003… a bad omen for American freedom, as Cheney’s plans came into play?

We got off 93 down at Lincoln, turning into the Kankamangus to het back to Conway and Jackson. Soon after the start of driving on Kankamangus, Luda mentioned that a small unassuming rstaurant on the left was Greek; I looked at the words “pizza and fried,” and said it would be worth checking out. Luda did a u-turn, not so easy, and did go to GHPizza. We ordered the House pizza with extra cheese, and barq root beer from the fountain.  Luda and I tend to like different types of pizza.. but all three of us agreed that this was great. And we had about four refills of the root beer.

From there we drove straight to the inn, and no longer felt compelled to look for a dinner.  Luda and I checked google maps in the hotel room, and then walked to Jackson Falls. Very soon we saw the sign “public trail to lower falls,” which was interesting… but limited. Between that sign and the no entry houses beyond it, we began to give up… but past the houses, we ran across a couple walking down, and asked if there was a public entry to the higher falls we could now see on our right. They said yes… just past this bend in the road, there are steps down.

From the steps down… Luda climbed up on some rocks, while I slowly grew used to the water a bit down… as deep as my neck in some nice quiet places. It was bracing but not too cold…. And probably I swam for about 15 minutes (though it felt like longer), going underwater. Luda then dove in, and went further downstream to a place which looked a bit foamy and scary t me… and said “it was like a Jacuzzi, and perfectly safe if you know how to hold on.” Later, we dried out slowly, and then walked on the dry rocks near the raging torrent, downstream, almost as far as the
Pink house… the furthest of the closed houses… but on the water side of course.

When we got back to the inn (all on foot), Luda said she HAD to take Chris. So I stayed behind, while they went. She told me they walked very far, but did not go back in the water.

Of course, the private bathroom was good for showers and bath.  We saw a couple of hotel room books, one history of local inns, and one a kind of journal where we added our paragraph. (“How do you train your bear?”). Luda and Chris explored a bit inside when they came back, and showed me the room downstairs with juice and cookies and coffee set out for guests. I saw a couple watching TV in the common room down there. On this night, I saw the innkeeper, and asked about a cot for Christopher, which they brought up when Luda and I were in the Jackson Falls.
“Usually we don’t bring cots to the upper floor, but OK this time..”

   Day 7, Wednesday, from White Mountains to Maine

After breakfast, we shifted between packs and day packs again, and checked out.

First stop, to the viewpoint of the parking lot of Wildcat Mountain, to see if the top of Mount Washington would be fog-free finally, enough to justify driving up. No such luck.  So we set the Garmin for Maine… initially Augusta, and then to one the waypoints near our motel on Acadia which I had written down the night before, from google maps to the back of my samurai Sudoku book. Garmin would not recognize the Belle Isle Motel ever, but once we were in Maine it recognized Hadley Point Campground, close enough to guide us almost all the way.

Lots of small roads… and road work… with delays for single-tracking. But also very quaint, as you would expect. We basically went through Augusta, and stopped at a Hannaford just before 95 and after the restaurant district, Nice clean men’s rooms. Luda was delighted at the big $7 fresh lobster rolls; we bought ne for each of us, plus some small mudslide bottles, and something else.

As we approached the main bridge to Acadia, the island… we noticed a big lobster shack on our right, the Trenton Bridge lobster place.

At the motel, we checked in quickly, brought in our bags, and asked about that lobster place. The woman smiled, said it was good… but she prefers Lunts, just a small bit beyond it (and 230) on the left coming from the motel. “A better lobster stew, if that’s what you like.” So we drove to Lunts that evening. Chris had a 1-1-1/3 pound lobster, me lobster stew, and Luda a hot lobster roll. After tasting my lobster stew, Luda resolved to come back and have one for herself… but it never worked out. By the way, the parking lot of the Trenton place was totally full when we came; that made it easier to choose Lunts instead. We liked the food, but each of us could have eaten twice as much.

Late that afternoon, mindful of how we had missed a clear day on Mount Washington, we also drove to the park. In fact, we got to the Visitor center before it closed, obtained a pass for the car, a standard park map, and two copies of the free bus schedule and map (in some ways a better map than the official park map), and a tide schedule for the coming week. We jumped a ride in the loop road bus; the driver spoke like a tour guide, and showed us all the lettered main stops.. such as sand beach, Jordan Park, otter cliffs, and the place of thunder hole (which was quite when we were there).  That became part of our plans for the next day, our one full day in Acadia.

            Day 8, Thursday, on Acadia

Acadia is basically half (or more?) park, and half mainly wealthy private property.

  8-1 before breakfast: drive to see sunrise

Before we even got out of bed, and before I was ready to declare I was awake, my mind was quite active, as usual.  This morning, it seemed unusually clear and penetrating – which may have been due to greater closeness than usual to Luda and Chris, to greater feelings of security and harmony on Chris’s part, or to lack of global external stress, or simply the great air and environment.

BEFORE breakfast,, at about 6AM or earlier, Luda told us she planned to drive up to Cadillac Mountain in the Park immediately, to see the very first rays of sunlight reaching the US. I said yes, for her, and of course did not delay her with a shower or such. Chris likewise.  The park guard was on duty, and checked my park pass and ID as well as car pass. At the base of the moutnain, it was fogger… and ever more so as we rose. Near the top, it was not nearly as scary as Mount Washington had been that week… but it felt surprisingly similar, in heavy fog, cold and windy enough to require jackets, and even small trees like in the alpine region.

“I guess we won’t be seeing sunrise, or much of anything else here.” I saw a little trail up to true summit/summit, but no one had interest in going there. Just a few pictures, and back down, to the hotel room and showers.

While we were standing at the top, I mentioned the phrase "golden dawn." When I did, Chris said I should be careful... not to be associated with the Greek political movement of that name. I said sure... there is also a British magic club from a century ago that could also create red herrings. But... the phrase "golden dawn" refers to a powerful emotion, going back at least to ancient Greeks, and we should not lose its broader meaning. I remember when I was 12 or 13, and went often to planetarium shows at the Franklin Museum in Philadelphia. I remember how interested I was as they navigated
thorugh stars, galaxies and other images across the huge ceiling overhead... and ended with a very moving dawn image... huge and overpowering, with birdsong and light. Not something to forget. But on this morning, as I looked at the fog... I was reminded how the dawn often means waiting for the sun to burn off the fog. And in high places, like mountains or high society or leadership "at 300,000 feet"... the fog may persist a long time, even after the sun comes up. And so we drove down, to levels where it had become clear and bright, with clouds overhead...

            8-2: Lobster breakfast

Next, to start the day, we  went to the Trenton lobster shack (just opening, with few cars in the parking lot). For breakfast.. I urged Chris to have a two pound lobster this time. Kuda had a cold lobster roll, and I had the lobster stew despite warnings from various books that it would only be mezzo-mezzo.  It was fine, and appropriate for breakfast, though I also asked for a milk. They folks in the shack said “breakfast of champions.”

    8-3 Main visit to Bar Harbor

Next we drove back to the motel, geared up, and walked to the free bus stop.  Some confusion about exactly where it was. On the road, as suggested by the map? Or somewhere (where?) In the sprawling Hadley Point camp ground? We stayed near the entrance to the campground, saw the bus coming, ran to follow it, and finally saw a well-labelled bus stop deep inside. The bus went to “village green” (downtown Bar Harbor).  But Luda asked them to drop us off at the side of the road, near “Atlantic Oceanside” where our boat trip would depart. There, we traded out printed web receipts for three boarding passes… learned that boarding was 1PM to 1:15… and then we walked to Bar Harbor, with a plan to take a bus back just in time for boarding.

Along the walk, we passed College of the Atlantic. I wonder exactly what it really is. We also saw a moose statue on the other side (right) of the main road (route 3?) we were walking on. Luda had to wait a bit to cross that busy road.. but she did, and I took a picture of her next to the moose. She wished I had known to use the zoom, but it was an OK picture.

We kept going.. until I side on the left pointing towards downtown Bar Harbor.
After we walked to the left… the road became more scenic and little-town… and we could see water on our left, town on the right. It seemed like ¾ of the way to the end of the road (and the land) that we finally saw the big sandy trail on the left (“Butler avenue”)  leading to Bar Island. Bar Harbor and Bar Island are both named for the sand bar we walked on  most of the way to the island. It’s one of gthose neat things which looks like a normal gravel road at low tide, and is underwater at high tide.
At 11:45, with high tide at 12:01, it was almost hard to believe it would be underwater. But Luda noted all the barnacles on even the highest rocks, and we saw lots of living seaweed up in the air. Luda and Chris brought a few barnacle-covered neat rick souvenirs.  I went closer to the right side, where there were tide pools, excited sea gulls and a small family which seemed to know its biology; their little girl proudly carried a dead sea urchin she had just found.  But I didn’t want to get too far from Luda and Chris. Luda also pointed out what looked like small tress stumps, about a quarter to an inch in diameter, one with “tree rings.” Did humans previously cut down some vegetation here?

Chris pointed to the water on the left (looking form Bar Harbor), and how the water did seem to be rising, lapping slowly up into dry areas at the margin.

   8-4 to the boat tour

But… we had a bus to catch and could not dawdle. We caught the 12:45 free bus at village green (using a tourist map, memory and logic to find it) with just 5 minutes to spare, made it to our stop at 12:52, and were waiting on the pier for the boat five minutes later, just before it was open for boarding.

Ok, they called it “VIP Simoes (sp?) cruise.” Three to 3.5 hours. They also run morning and evening fishing cruises, with lots of fishing rods on board (but not the special equipment we saw in Alaska a couple of years ago).

The captain and his aide were extremely articulate. They showed us many things – too many for me to repeat here. They talked about the “cottages” of rich folks who only come for the summer, called “folks from far away” or other things they would not repeat.  They knew who owned what of these huge houses, and told many stories.

Northeast Harbor seemed to be number one for rich folks. They showed us Martha Stewart and Rockefeller boats and places, among many others.  But southeast harbor was not so bad either.  And they showed us a mooring place used by Russians about 10 years ago.

They told us of Squantow – the pilgrim’s “mysterious miracle” who had attended a proper English boy’s school in Maine years before, long before the Pilgrims arrived, and had even been to London. They showed us the location of a Jesuit versus English battle, and told the story, also form long ago. On the way back, they described how islands with year long residents had been changed by new state laws, so that one (Sutton Island) now has NO year-round residents, only a few “cottages”
(including one fancy place for Princeton folks and another for Harvard). We did not have time to take the ferry to visit the two others with some full-time residents still, the cranberries, with their own historical museum and such. They also told us “sand beach now has 25 minute water today.” They finally showed us two types of seals sleeping while floating, noses just above the water; eagles; and stories about how they collected sea gull eggs for biological research. At one point, the captain asked:
“NSF – what does that stand for?” (I was wearing a light jacket with that logo.)
“Not Sufficient Funds.” “No, what does it REALLY stand for?” National Science Foundation.  And he told me about how he worked on an NSF expedition to the South Pole Waters – mainly mapping fish, but he watched birds. The number two guy… seemed to be university faculty just doing this for summers.

Lots and lots of interesting discussion – from migration and mating of osprey, to linguistic analysis and bird song, to the Jackson Laboratory they pointed out for mammalian genetics. It was interesting to hear about the Great Fire of 1947 which wiped out every one of the rich “cottages” – except for the one donated to Jackson Lab, housing graduate students and such.  And about their recent conversations with David Rockefeller.

Among the many points… we got pictures of Sand Beach, where on an earlier loop in our car I had waded into the water.

But it ended. Back at the bus stop, we took the free “hotel line” (Eden Road) bus around back to Village Green. We decided to look a it for food. Our motel keeper had said: “If you want to find a REAL lobster bisque, some place in Bar Harbor would probably have the best.” But we didn’t have patience to check out more than one place. We just went into the first place across the street (southeast corner of the park, crossing south)…. I ordered lobster bisque AND clam chowder, Chris ordered “prime rib sandwich” ‘(sounding like steak sandwich), and Luda lobster roll.

When I saw the bisque, I cancelled the chowder. Yes, it was very proper and orthodox and tasty in its way… but none of the meat or tang I remembered from the bisques at the Monocle or Rays in our area at home. I was hoping that in Maine I could find something similar, but bigger, for a reasonable price. Not so. But the prime rib sandwich was bigger and better, so I added an order for that (and gave half to Luda).

We then took the bus home, and got some data for the next day, and packed.

                                     Day 9 Friday

Luda considered trying again for sunrise, but did not. But we did do another loop drive in the park, stopping by sand beach. This day I wanted to stay clean, but Luda waded, while Chris stayed in the car. We also parked by cliffs, where Luda and I walked out… still no Thunder Hole action…

We had showers and were fully packed at about 9AM, when we checked out. This time, I arranged back pack yet AGAIN, with big toothpaste and such, things I might need before the end of the day’s long drive.

Stop one after we left the island: another trip to Trenton lobster house. This time, we EACH had two pound lobsters for breakfast, and we paid for two others in a ‘fedex style ice box shipping box”. I crammed the box into our trunk… and returned..
Luda brought a lemon from the car, and two real knives to help…

And it was quite an experience. I asked for the smallest lobster… but mine turned out to have roe, and Luda traded for that. She also handled the head of my lobster and hers, but gave me the big tail.  It was all great. Total bill for five live wild two-pound lobsters (probably in the ocean the day before) plus packing: $100.

And then – another Garmin exercise.  Also, I sent multiple emails to my brother John in New Jersey, who said we could lay out our sleeping bags in his living room. (He actually offered more than that when we arrived – a couch and two reclining chairs and lots of linens.) The initial ETA was 6PM, but with traffic and other things it finally became 10PM.

We were a bit worried, because Garmin and Luda’s smart phone (charged up in the motel room and good for cautious use) both really wanted us to go through Bronx tunnel or George Washington Bridge. What with a heavy traffic weekend (Friday the day of migration for Labor Day) and dark and such… we wanted to go via Tappan Zee. But the systems essentially refused. And Garmin seemed to think we would need an hour more for its route that Google wanted on the laptop the night before.
Initially, we found an intersection in Nyack that seemed to be good enough to get us to 287 towards Garden State (good enough). We were also grateful that John’s address was already stored as “recently” found on the Garmin.

On the way… the Garmin initially told us that Salem, NH, was only 0.3 miles form the route, so we decided to take one last side route to the American Stonehenge there. After we found the exact address, it was more like six miles off the road, with some heavy delays due to local firemen blocking the road to ask for money.

I had been to the Stonehenge 40 years before, and wondered what new progress we would see. It was a huge disappointment. There was a “free” introductory film of 10 minutes for people paying admission, which did have a little  information to me, such as pictures of the guy Stone who had opened the area to the public. I formed an impression that the guy is extremely old now, and that a lot of the reduction in interest to me was due to his noninvolvement. The family probably saw a nice cash cow… and boosted its child appeal… but no more leaflets summarizing the archeological knowledge here or in the other important site near Harrisburg by the Susquehannah river.  No tour guide to point to directions… and rocks cleared of vegetation blocking the stark and impressive view I had seen before. The facts are still there, but not presented in such a clear way.

Also… this time I clearly saw something I may have repressed in my memory from before: the graphic “sacrifice table” with a channel for blood to flow and an oracle tube to use it in rituals.  “Even if it was just animals,” I said, ‘The idea of getting power form killing or blood of animals is 90% of the way to the very dangerous delusion of trying the same with humans, all too common all over the world in those days.” (Later when I repeated this in John’s house, it’s amazing how the dogs behaved that that point… mainly wanting to get out and away, and needing reassurance.)

I actually saw a small piece of “optical calcite” for sale at $10. I briefly toyed with buying it… just to help me focus on some questions I have about Richard Holt’s optical calcite polarizers… but there wasn’t much time, it was a small sliver, and it seemed a bit much for such a small piece of rock.

As we left, Chris saw a dog locked in a car with closed windows in the heat. He became worried, and went to the  admissions desk to ask them to help the poor dog… maybe by alerting the owner or maybe calling the local authorities. (Why keep windows totally down when there is a dog in there?) They refused, but gave him the phone number of the Salem police to call if he wanted to himself. He tried, but got got diverted to a recording machine.  We all hope that the dog survived…

After that, the ETA to New York was late enough that we decided to give into Garmin, and take the GW bridge. Maybe that was a mistake. Traffic and difficulty in juggling the many lanes led to a delay enough that Tappan Zee mightb have been just as fast. Someday we will come back and see if delays in Garmin time also occur over Tappan Zee route, in normal traffic such as then. Dark and confused, and problems due to limited spatial resolution of Garmin’s GPS.

But eventually, we were clear on the Jersey Turnpike.  And listened to disk five of Atlas Shrugged, to a point when we had to stop due to “stuttering.”

At almost exactly 10PM, we rolled into John’s driveway.  They had a great truffle soup waiting for all three of us, big full cups which tasted so good right then…

Of course, by then we certainly did not plan for lobster that day. We did discuss stew or bisque recipes, for them after we would leave the next day, but it’s their choice, and we did not  check to see what they chose. And we left the mudslide.

Lots of long conversation… and more the following morning.  For example, Mom told me about a sermon she heard in her bedroom that morning, about “the talents,” and John told me lots of what sequestration is really doing to the Aegis program. And we discussed esoteric stuff, and family plans.

As I type this, it is late Sunday, September 1, 2013. We left John’s on Saturday morning … we emailed Maia on the way home, and met her about an hour after noon at Three Brothers in Beltsville, Maryland. We bought my favorite pizza (their extra cheese, pepperoni and sausage large round pizza), a cheese steak with moderately hot peppers, and a canoli. We had never ordered the cheese steak there, because of my fetish about the pizza; however, tasting a bit of the cheese steak, I said: “this is the best steak sandwich I have had in more than ten years…”.  (Chris prefers Rays…)

Then home… teeth… unpack… I drove to National Airport hourly parking; Luda returned the rental car there; I walked to her, and walked with her back to parking lot, and drove home. End of trip.