Friday, July 23, 2021

How To Fix The Olympic Games

Every two years, more or less, I plant myself in front of the television and watch the best of world athletic competition.  The Olympics is one of the few sporting events I watch.  I guess I enjoy the individual triumphs more than the team successes more commonly seen in sports.  But the Olympics have problems.  The primary problem is they are so expensive to host.

Hosting the Olympic games is expensive.  Billions of dollars are spent building venues, housing the athletes and the spectators.  Infrastructure has to be improved and the area around the games are often beautified at the expense of the local residents.  The cost is getting so high that some bids to host have been withdrawn after public outcry.  The games are becoming an economic superpowers only club in terms of hosting the events.  I think this hurts the spirit of the games.

This is just my two cents and I doubt it will be seen by more than a handful of people but here is my solution: Divide up the games  amongst several nations.  The Olympic games are already sort of divided up: Swimming, gymnastics, track & field, field games like soccer.  I propose dividing up the games by these event categories and have nations bid to host a category.  This would make it much more affordable to smaller countries to host part of the games.  An example, South Africa could never host the entire Olympic games without going into massive soul crushing debt but they could host the soccer portion since they already successfully hosted a World Cup in 2010.

Dividing the games up over several nations would bring more internationalism back into the game.  More nations would be invested in seeing a successful Olympic games and they would do it without incurring much hardship.  Also, in the age of COVID, if the games were divided up the chance of the entire Olympic games having to be cancelled due to disease or disaster would be reduced and the risk more spread out.

The only downside would be the lack of opening and closing ceremonies involving all the athletes.  Perhaps another way to open and close the games that would include all participating nations could be worked out.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Another One.


But who's counting.

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 13 And Epilogue

Our last day of our summer travels was a combination of civil rights and literature.  We got up early, checked out of our hotel, and headed up Highway 80 to Selma, AL.  This is the route taken by Civil Rights marchers in 1965.  The route is designated the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.  Along the route there were camp markers where the marchers spent the night on the way to Montgomery.  The National Historic Trail visitor's center was unfortunately closed due to COVID when we stopped.

The Edmund Pettus bridge.
We reached Selma where we went to a Mr. Waffle for breakfast.  From there we were pleasantly surprised to see the Edmund Pettus Bridge visitor's center was open.  We walked through the modest but moving museum and bought magnets before we walked across the bridge named for a senior officer of the Confederate Army who would become a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.  It is where Civil Rights marchers, including John Lewis, were beaten as they tried to march over the bridge on the way to Montgomery.

The plaque on the bridge.
We stopped at a gift shop on the other side of the bridge to purchase magnets.  There is a National Voting Rights museum across the street but it appeared closed and a bit run down … which seems a bit symbolic of of how our country's voting rights are heading at the moment.

The Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.
(Picture taken by the Wife.)
We returned to Montgomery and stopped at the Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum and house.  The Fitzgerald's moved around seasonally and this house was one they lived in in 1931-1932.  The museum was well done and showcased their writing, Zelda's art, and their lives and correspondence.  The really cool part is that the top floor house is an airbnb and we spent the night in the house for our last night in Montgomery.

The sitting room in the F. Scott Fitzgerald room.
The next two days were just driving through Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky (Where we saw the largest Confederate flag flying in a public area), Missouri, on the way home.  Our roadtrip was 15 days long and covered around three thousand and nine hundred miles.  It did not come close to covering all the history in the area but I think there is only so much of the sordid southern history one can take at a time.  We will probably go back someday to visit a few more spots we skipped this time but I'm not sure it will be anytime soon.  This was a good trip but it was taxing emotionally and it just proved that this country has a long ways to go.

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 12

Today was going to be a somber day.  We were going to visit three places connected to civil rights struggles and the systemic racism the black people have endured over too many years.

Jars of soil collected at sites of racial terrorism.
The first stop was the Legacy Museum.  The museum covers the injustices starting with enslavement, through Jim Crow and lynchings, to mass incarcerations.  Most of the displays were based on first hand experience and testament of those who suffered.  It was a moving and sadly depressing history that too many are trying to erase.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
From there we visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.  This memorial, opened in 2018, is often deferred to as the lynching museum.  A good memorial should stir feeling in those who see it and this one does just that.  Metal boxes engraved with the names of people lynched are suspended from the roof.  Rows upon rows of rusting boxes, thousands of victims of racial terrorism.  It is hard to visit this place and not feel emotional.  Sadly the amount of security I noticed around the memorial suggests the the emotions stirred by the memorial are mixed in our divided nation.

The hanging boxes engraved with the names of the dead.
Duplicates of the six-footer boxes are laid out beside the memorial in order of state and county allowing for a closer look at the names and numbers. The sides of the memorial are open to the weather so the hanging boxes along the edges will get wet when it rains.  Over time the runoff will leave red rust stains running down the concrete like blood.  The memorial will just become more compelling over time.

The rather modest Civil Rights Memorial.
Our last stop of the day was the Civil Rights Memorial.  The center connected to the memorial is temporarily closed but the memorial itself is outside and accessible.  It is a rather modest memorial displaying highlights of the civil Rights struggle.  Across the street was a simple painted memorial to Congressman John Lewis.

This was a tough day but it was also another highlight for this year's travels.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Friday, July 09, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 11

Before tackling Montgomery we headed to another literary town, Monroeville, AL.  Monroeville is the birthplace of Harper Lee and Truman Capote.

We got to town a bit early for thing to be open so we decided to rearrange a few things.  First we went to the cemetery to pay our respects to Harper Lee.  Next we drove by Truman Capote's childhood home which, sadly, no longer exists but there is a marker on the site.

The courtroom the movie set was based on.
We parked near the courthouse that was used as a model for "To Kill a Mockingbird" and explored an antique store nearby before walking to a nearby diner for lunch.

Literature is important one Monroeville.
By the time we finished our excellent lunch we went to the courthouse which is now the Old Courthouse Museum dedicated Monroeville history, Lee, and Capote.  In Alabama the masks went back on for any indoor space.  The museum was self guided and included lawyer offices, the courtroom that was used as inspiration for the movie (The movie courtroom was built on a set), and exhibits covering Harper Lee and Truman Capote.  It was a nice setup and we both thought Monroeville seemed like a nice town.  We ended the visit with some ice cream.

A Rosa Parks Statue in the museum lobby.
Not sure they meant the "Please Do Not Sit" sign was supposed to be ironic.
The next stop for the day was in Montgomery, AL.  The Rosa Parks Museum covered Rosa Parks and the bus boycott that helped move civil rights forward in America.  It was a well done exhibit but did not allow photography.

Tomorrow we will continue to explore the civil Rights movement in Montgomery.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 10

We left Savannah and headed northwest.  While we couldn't visit Flannery O'Connor's childhood home we would visit her farm, Andalusia, near Milledgeville, GA.

Flannery O'Connors home at Andalusia Farm.
Flannery O'Connor wrote in a farmhouse, living with her overbearing mother, until she lost her life to lupus.  The house is full of the period furniture.  It felt very much like a typical farmhouse.  Flannery's room had her typewriter next to her bed so she could lay down when the lupus was having the best of her.  The house has a sad feeling.

Flannery's favorite birds: Peacocks
Along with the house there are several outbuildings including pens holding a pair of Peacocks.  Flannery was a bird lover and peacocks were her favorite.

We left the farm (they are in the process of adding a visitor's center) past the cop car who may have been on a stakeout of the hotel across the street, and drove to the cemetery where Flannery was buried to pay out respects.

The second stop for the day was a dark piece of Civil War history, Andersonville.  Andersonville was the infamous Confederate prison of war camp where thirteen thousand prisoners died during the Civil War.  The National Historical Site consists of the camp, a Prisoner of War museum, and a national cemetery.

We visited the museum first.  It was a fairly comprehensive history of how prisoners of war from all US involved wars were treated.  Sadly, this story was also sanitized to some extent.  In one section showing how US Troops were mistreated after being captured reminded me a lot of how many were mistreated in Iraq and Afghanistan by their US captors.  These stories were conveniently left out.  America is a country afraid to learn from its mistakes.

Rows upon row upon rows.
We visited the cemetery next.  The rows and rows of stones were a sobering reminder of the horrors of war.  We checked but there are no Nebraskans in the cemetery.  This makes sense since Nebraska was still a territory during the Civil War and few fought and even fewer were trusted by the Union.

The rows just go on.
We finished the visit with a drive around the field where the prison camp once stood.  The most notable thing was the lack of trees.  Prisoners were exposed to the elements and the hot Georgian sun which contributed to the number of deaths.

On that sobering note we headed west to our next destination.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Days 8 And 9

We got up early, the first in a week I think.  We really slept in a lot this vacation which was very welcome.  We headed south to our next destination, Savannah, GA.

The truth be told, we really didn't have any concrete plans for Savannah.  Since we didn't have anything big like the Hunley or Fort Sumter we decided to do what we did in our Canadian train trip and ride the hop on hop off trolly.  Riding the trolly would give us the lay of the land and show us what Savannah has to offer.

The Basilica stained glass.
Savannah is a beautiful city with historic buildings and streets lined with spanish moss draped trees.  The historic portion of the city is built around 22 squares.  There were once 24 squares but some were lost to development. The city is currently reclaiming one of the lost squares so it can be restored.

A statue dedicated to a black Haitien regiment who fought in the Civil War.
Our trolly tour was narrated by a docent in historic costume and, at random stops along the route other costumed characters would board the trolly to explain part of the city's history.  It was interesting but, once again, it was a bit whitewashed and fixated on death (The trolly company does haunted tours which bled over into the standard tour a bit).

After doing the full two hour loop we stayed on and returned to a square next to a Catholic basilica and the childhood home of Flannery O'Connor.  The Flannery house was closed when we got there.  It appears that COVID did a number on a lot of the museum's and historic homes in Savannah.  The Wife called a number and sent an email to an address on a sign outside the house hoping to set up a tour of the house but she never received an answer.

After that disappointment we went into the lovely Catholic Church and cooled off a bit before getting back on the trolly and heading for another landmark, Leopold's Ice Cream shop.  Unfortunately we misread where it was and got off at the wrong trolly stop.  We decided to walk the eight blocks or so to the shop.  By the time we got there we were hot and sweaty and we were greeted by a long line snaking outside Leopold's.  We stood in line for ten or fifteen minutes before giving up.  It was too hot and the line was moving too slow.  We walked to the nearest trolly (the one we should have gotten off at) and road the trolly back to where our car was parked.  Not a very satisfying day so far.

The Chandler Oak, here since the 1700s, draped in spanish moss.
We checked into our hotel which was close to a trolly stop and the city market area.  We walked down to the city market and looked for a place to eat.  There were fewer places here than we expected.  We finally settled on a cafe/bar that actually had good food.  The rest of the city market was a bit underwhelming.  It was very small, just two blocks, and lacked character.
The famous Forsyth Park fountain.
On day nine we were going back to a couple places along the trolly route.  The first was Forsyth Park. The park was a nice place to walk despite of the large Confederate soldier memorial.  The memorial was balanced in the park by a large fountain.  A lot of people were out in the park today and it was nice seeing people out and about.  The park was full of trees covered in Spanish moss, a type of bromeliad.  Across the street from the park a large and very old tree called the Chandler Oak Tree stands in front of what once was a hospital.  The tree has been here since the 1700s.

The Waving Girl of Savannah.
We got back on the trolley and headed for River Street.  This street is lined with restaurants and souvenir shops.  Very touristy but a good place to procure magnets.  There were also statues dedicated to enslaved families and Florence Martus (the waving girl).

It was along here that we encountered our first mask required visitor's center.  Until then masks had been optional and were rarely seen.

We returned to the hotel, cooled off a bit, then ended up going back to the same restaurant we'd eaten at the day before.  There were plenty of restaurants in the Savannah historic district but they were all a bit ... froo-froo for us.

We came into Savannah with low expectations and that's what we got.  The place felt older as opposed to Charleston which attracted a younger crowd.  Sometime when we go into a place cold like this we find something that pleasantly surprises us.  Savannah had few surprises.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Part Of Day 6 And Day 7

After visiting the Hunley we headed back to the market district of Charleston.  Ruling out a walking tour due to humidity we decided to substitute a horse drawn carriage tour instead.  We were a little early so we had an ice cream lunch (Chocolate and Banana Pudding for those wondering) while we waited.

A garden from one of the one hundred thirty churches in Charleston.
The carriage held sixteen people and took us through various historic parts of downtown Charleston.  The Wife and I both registered the lack of African-American history in the driver's descriptions.  Good parts were emphasized and bad parts were glossed over.  It was a very sanitized history of Charleston.  The most controversial thing on the tour were the college students yelling "Ride a bike" at us as they passed the carriage.

A gate make by Philip Simmons, a renown blacksmith.
Our last stop of the day was the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon which had been recommended to us by a couple we'd met at the Hunley.  The tour was through the basement ("Dungeon") of the exchange building where trade goods once flowed in and out and, as the name suggests, held prisoners.  The interesting thing is how far the Exchange building is from the water.  Over the years land was reclaimed resulting in the coast being pushed back a couple blocks from where it once was.  The basement was inhabited by poorly made mannequins which gave everything a cheesy feel.  The docent in period costume talked of the history and how the African-Americans were enslaved by other Africans.  How he did this with a straight face while standing next to an African-American family is beyond me.

Inside the Charleston Gaillard Center.
On the seventh day we decided to risk a walking tour and met with Franklin Williams, the guide of Frankly Charleston African-American tours.  This morning we were the only ones with Frank.  The tour was a casual walking tour that took us to various locations important to the African-American history of Charleston.  We clicked with Frank right away.  He filled in the blanks that we'd seen the day before.  He came across as honest and truly caring about getting the truth out there.  We all had a laugh as we compared the sanitized history we'd heard the day before with the grittier side that Frank showed us.

A little literary history for lunch.
(Picture taken by the Wife)
After the tour (which we survived despite the humidity) we headed just outside of Charleston to a restaurant recommended by one of the Wife's students.  Poe's Tavern was exactly the type of restaurant we liked.  Good food and good atmosphere.

The Aiken-Rhett House with the enslave quarters,
kitchen, and stables along the sides.
Back in Charleston we headed to the Aiken-Rhett House that had been recommended to us by Frank.  The house and adjoining enslaved quarters are now a museum.  Unlike other museums that gloss over the enslaved, this self guided audio tour is honest and includes the lives of the enslaved using their actual names.  You hear about their lives and the lives of the house owners in an unvarnished way that was quite refreshing.

A Joggling Board.
These last couple days were very interesting.  It is hard to find honesty and truth.  We were reminded of the undercurrents of racism as we visited the Mother Emanuel AME Church where nine African-Americans engaged in Bible study were murdered.  People just want to forget the indiscretions of the past but if we forget them, how are we supposed to learn from them and improve ourselves? 

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Friday, June 25, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 5 And Part Of Day 6

On day five we drove into Charleston, SC.  We were spending three nights here exploring history mostly.  We stopped at our hotel, dropped off out bags since we were too early to check in, and headed to Liberty Square where we would catch our boat ride to Fort Sumter.

Fort Sumter where the Civil War started.
The first thing we noticed after getting out of our car was the humidity.  Neither of us expected it to be so hot and humid in June.  I thought this was more July and August weather.  We went to the Fort Sumter park headquarters, bought our tickets, and explored the small museum as we waited to get on our boat.

You can see the red mark on the flagpole that marks
the height of the walls before bombardment.
The boat ride was short one providing views of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier (now a museum).  As we approached the fort we were given a brief historical lecture about what happened on the island.  A red mark on the flagpole was pointed out.  This mark was the original height of the fort walls. The pounding the fort received first from the Confederates and then by the Union forces had reduced much of the fort to rubble.

An unexploded shell embedded in the inside wall of the fort.
We got off our boat and explored the fort seeing the canons, the shells embedded in the walls and the fingerprints of the enslaved people who made the bricks the fort was made of.  Seeing these things helped make the Civil War more real.

The three indentations are fingerprints of enslaved workers who made the brick.
After touring the fort the boat returned us to the mainland.  It was lunchtime and our plans were to leave the car where we'd parked it and walk to a place for lunch before heading in search of a walking tour of Charleston.  It didn't take long for us to discover the issue with that plan.  In the four to five blocks we walked to the restaurant we were drenched in sweat and very hot.  It was obvious that a walking tour was no longer in the plan.  We sat in the bar and ordered food while we cooled off.

We finished our lunch and headed south to where the walking tours started.  We never got there as the heat and humidity reasserted itself.  Instead we walked through the historic Charleston City Market.  We both came to the conclusion that the market was … underwhelming.  We saw nothing worth buying and things were overpriced.  We left the market and headed … slowly … stopping frequently … back to our car.  Our hotel picked by the Wife was in the perfect place to walk to everything.  In the end, we walked nowhere.

The USS Hunley submerged in water to help preserve the wreckage.
On day six, after a breakfast at our first Waffle House, we headed to north Charleston to visit the USS Hunley exhibit.  The Hunley, a civil war era Confederate submarine, was the first to ever sink a ship.  The Hunley disappeared after it sunk the ship and was not found until 1995 by a group financed by Clive Cussler, the author.  This was a very well put together presentation given by an enthusiastic docent and I would have to say the Hunley was one of the highlights of this trip.  The tours are held on the weekends so that archeologist can work on the submarine during the week.  During the weekend the wreckage is submerged in water and other chemicals to help leach out the salt and slow the degradation of the submarine.

Lt Dixon's coin recovered from the Hunley.
One story that has been confirmed by the archaeologist is the story of Lieutenant George E. Dixon who commanded the final voyage of the Hunley.  It was said he carried a gold coin given to him by a young lady.  During an earlier battle he was hit and the coin, bent by the ball, saved his leg and possibly his life.  While examining the ruins of the ship the coin was found and the story was confirmed.

The final resting place for the last crew of the Hunley.
(The only appropriate place for the Confederate flag in my opinion.)
No one knows for sure how the crew on the Hunley were killed.  The one I think is most likely is that the shockwave of the torpedo (actually an explosive attached to the end of a pole connected to the front of the submarine) killed the crew instantly.  In the end the Hunley's successful sinking of a ship was a suicide mission.  The remains of all eight who died that day were recovered and, in 2004, given a burial with honors and a four mile long precession.  After visiting the Hunley we visited their graves.

This afternoon we would see one side of Charleston's history.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 4

On day four we left Erwin, TN and headed southeast, away from my Appalachian Trail memories, toward Ashville, NC.  On the way we stopped at a small diner for a good down home breakfast at a greasy spoon where you had to listen carefully to the waitress to understand what she was asking.  The food was excellent.

Ashville, NC is the home of the Biltmore Estate. This small bachelor's pad (and eventually a family home) was built by George Vanderbilt with help of architect Richard Morris Hunt.  The not so modest home with its adjoining gardens (designed by Central Park designer Fredrick Law Olmstead) occupy a small portion of the eight thousand acre estate.

The Biltmore house and its modest front yard.
We were shuttled from the parking area to the home and arrived roughly an hour before the entry time on our house tour tickets.  We use the time to walk through the expansive gardens and the green house with it's models of the estate buildings and model trains.

One of the model buildings and trains in the greenhouse.
By the time our house tour started the day had turned hot.  The tour was a self guided audio tour.  We walked room to room with the other visitors.  There was no air conditioning so we moved from one blowing fan to another as we admired the large rooms and the custom made decor.  By the time we reached the servant's quarters and kitchen area we were both getting warm and the Wife has never handled warm well so we rushed through the basement area to the food court in search of shade, hydration, and a snack.

The modest library.
The house itself reminded the Wife of Hearst Castle.  It felt less ostentatious to me.  Hearst Castle was filled with actual European antiques and furnishings and had a darker, more cluttered feel.  The Biltmore house felt more open, airy, and all the furnishing were custom made.  It felt much less crowded.  In my opinion George, and his wife Edith, Vanderbilt had much better taste.

A stop at the gift shop for t-shirts and magnets and we left the moneyed abode and continued southeast towards our next stop on the coast.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.