Here are some thoughts (in no particular order) at the end of day one of our much-anticipated, meticulously planned (by Katherine), ridiculously expensive vacation to Scotland:
We had dinner this evening at the Butterfly and the Pig, on Bath Street. Here is the restaurant's website. What a charming place! Although it was gray, chilly (by Texas standards), and drizzly outside, it was cozy, warm, and inviting inside. The restaurant is below street level and appears to be tucked away in a basement. The reason we ate here is that we wanted fish and chips twice during the vacation, once early and once late, and this restaurant has excellent fish and chips (according to Fodor's Travel Scotland, 2016). The fish was well battered, tender, and hot. We ate it with vinegar only. The "chips" were not the wimpy, soggy French fries you sometimes get in the States, but hearty, hot potato slices. All in all, a superb meal. Katherine and I enjoyed it very much. (We paid with my VISA card and I gave the server her tip in British Pounds.)
London's Heathrow Airport is borderline absurd, in the Kafkaesque sense. After zipping through DFW (I had feared the worst), we had to take a shuttle bus at Heathrow from one terminal to another, then walk or escalate up and down and all around as though in a maze, then stand in a line that WAS NOT MOVING. Only two people of a potential four were working at the counter. (At one point, only one was working.) We were worried that we would miss our connecting flight to Glasgow. Finally, an airport employee asked in a loud voice who had a flight leaving at noon. Since we did, we were moved to the front of the line. But then we had to fill out a Landing Card that we had been told was unnecessary. Grrrrr! We got through a few minutes later, only to have to pass another security point. This one required taking off our shoes and passing our carry-on items through a scanner. Katherine's bags got through with no trouble, but my backpack was sent on a separate line for further scrutiny. The poor old man in front of me had to open up the baggie containing his drugs and sprays. He fumbled with it for a long time, probably out of nervousness. Meanwhile, Katherine and I were sweating bullets, thinking we were going to miss our flight. Once my backpack was examined and approved, we ran (okay, hustled) to the boarding area. We made it. Don't fly through Heathrow if you can avoid it (or unless you're a fan of Franz Kafka and want to see an illustration of his novels).
The nine-hour flight from DFW to London was awful. I can't tell you how much I hated being confined to a seat for that amount of time. The only escape was to squeeze up the aisle to use the restroom, and even then you felt rushed because someone else might need to use it. There were movies and television shows on the screen in front of me, but I wasn't interested and kept it off. I didn't even read. I just sat there, unable to sleep and trying to stay warm, for nine hours. As I say, awful. This may be my last international vacation. I'm good for about three hours on an airplane. Any more is torture. I'm already dreading the return trip. (To be fair, the airline meal was good. I had chicken and rice; Katherine had vegan pasta.)
We spent some time this afternoon walking the streets of Glasgow, both before and after dinner. The City Centre appears to be a mix of very old and very new architecture. One old building is now the home of the Hard Rock Cafe. I took many pictures of beautiful old stone buildings with gargoyles, columns, and statutes. The young people we saw looked rougher (perhaps the word is "tougher") even than those one sees in American cities. Almost all wore denim. Many wore leather jackets and boots. Some of the women had butchy, edgy, or choppy haircuts. These young people could have been the Mod Rockers of the Who's Quadrophenia, or, if that's too early, the punk rockers who gave us the Sex Pistols and the Clash. I'm not judging these young people, mind you, only describing what I saw. Goodness knows my generation cultivated its own image. (I think of mine as country-boy rock and roll, replete with work boots, faded bell-bottom jeans, flannel shirts, and long clean hair on males.)
The first Scot we met was our taxi driver at the Glasgow Airport, and we couldn't have been luckier. He drove us to our hotel in City Centre. It was difficult to understand what he was saying to us, in part because he spoke rapidly and in part because my hearing isn't what it once was, but we muddled through. He told us about Paisley (which he pronounced "PEAS-ley"), Chivas Regal (a Scottish whiskey), the River Clyde, and other local attractions, and answered a few of our questions, such as whether Scotland uses the metric system. (It doesn't.) When he dropped us off at the hotel, I tried to give him 32 British Pounds for a 23-Pound fare. That's 39%. He said no. He said he would take 30 Pounds (which is 30%), but not 32. I wasn't about to argue with him, so I gave him a 50-Pound note, he gave me a 20-Pound note as change, and we parted. What a great introduction to Scotland and the Scottish people! This man would never see us again, so he could easily have pocketed the extra two pounds (about three American dollars). He wouldn't. I like to think it was a matter of honor to him.
More to come in subsequent days. I hope you enjoy my musings.
Wayfaring Sons (1990). I'm in Glasgow, Scotland, as I type this. I'm sitting at a table in my hotel room (a Holiday Inn Express!) in City Centre with a beautiful view of a parking garage across the street. Ha! I searched for "Glasgow" in my iTunes music collection (over 9,000 songs) and found only one item, this song by Colin Hay Band. Hay, whom you may remember as a member of Men at Work, was born in Scotland (near Glasgow) but immigrated to Australia at the age of 14. He now lives in Southern California. Here is his Wikipedia entry.
Addendum: It just occurred to me that I'm farther from home than I've ever been, in 59 years. I'm not the homebody Immanuel Kant was, but I'm not exactly Marco Polo, either.
While David Brooks searches for reasons that Hillary Clinton is not the warm and fuzzy type, he overlooks the most obvious answer. The Republicans have spent 24 years and millions of dollars vilifying her and every step she takes. To endure such a sustained assault, she has had to develop a pretty tough shell. What was more interesting about Mr. Brooks’s ruminations is that he never once questioned Mrs. Clinton’s competence to be president.
Note from KBJ: Incompetence is the least of it. Hillary Rodham Clinton is the most corrupt politician in American history, with her husband a close second.
My support for Donald Trump is easy to understand. I am sick to death of Republicans standing idly by while Democrats destroy them. Think back to the way John McCain and Mitt Romney campaigned in 2008 and 2012 (respectively). Neither defended himself against the vicious attacks from the Left; both lost (and deservedly so). I saw early on in the 2016 presidential campaign that Donald Trump is a street fighter. To put it in the vernacular, he doesn't take shit from anyone. He will smash the Clintons in their faces, as they so richly deserve. This tit-for-tat response is long overdue, and it is discombobulating not only the Clintons in particular but the Left in general. George Neumayr touches on this issue in his latest column. What excites me is that Trump hasn't even begun to hit Hillary. By November, she will be staggering, if not knocked out. Get right with Donald.
Although I've had a bicycle since August 1981, when I was 24 years old, I didn't start riding in earnest until 26 May 1985. I rode that day (in Tucson) to take my mind off a failed romance and have never stopped. In the past 31 years, I've pedaled 84,048.2 miles, which is an average of 51.96 miles per week. I've pedaled 5,620 miles in the past year. I'm on track to have my second-best mileage year ever in 2016. Actually, I'm so far ahead of my pace that I may have my best mileage year ever. Stay tuned.
As a physician who favors a single-payer plan, I cannot disagree with your analysis about the high cost of moving to this type of health care plan.
Our present system is really all about profit—from the medical device makers to the pharmaceutical industry to health care workers and medical administrators to insurance companies. The challenge to bring down costs, under this system or single-payer, is large.
Yet we have seen what the free market has done over the last 70 years, and it has not been a success in terms of cost control. Indeed, health care costs are going to get significantly worse if we continue our present system, a combination of private and government payment.
Only a single-payer system has any chance to control costs yet guarantee that all citizens will have health care coverage. To stand pat with free-market fervor or to go backward, such as eliminating the Affordable Care Act, will deprive many of medical care while still driving up costs.
In the long run, the present system will cost far more than a single-payer option, and the sooner we proceed in that direction the better.
GREGORY L. SHEEHY
The writer is a retired internist.
Note from KBJ: If you like the Department of Motor Vehicles, you'll love single-payer health care.
This column by Dennis Prager is worth a few minutes of your time (in my opinion). If you stay home on election day and Hillary Clinton is elected president, I will blame you personally, even if your vote didn't make the difference. You do not want to incur my wrath.
Addendum: Here are two paragraphs from Prager's column (italics in original):
The most moving interview of my 33 years in radio was with Irene Opdyke, a Polish Catholic woman. Opdyke became the mistress of a married Nazi officer in order to save the lives of 12 Jews. She hid them in the cellar of the officer's house in Warsaw. There were some Christians who called my show to say that Opdyke's actions were wrong, that she had in fact sinned because she knowingly committed a mortal sin. In their view, she compromised Catholic/Christian doctrine.
In my view—and, I believe, the view of most Catholics and other Christians—she brought glory to her God and her faith. Why? Because circumstances almost always determine what is moral, even for religious people like myself who believe in moral absolutes. That's why the act of dropping atom bombs on Japan was moral. The circumstances (ending a war that would otherwise continue taking millions of lives) made moral what under other circumstances would be immoral.
It's shocking that this man doesn't understand the nature of a moral absolute. What he is espousing is situational ethics!
How crazy is this? On 6 June 1986, when I was a poor graduate student at the University of Arizona, I purchased J. D. Mackie's book, A History of Scotland (1964; 2d ed. 1978), perhaps through the Book of the Month Club. I bought it, as I recall, because I had always been interested in Scotland and hoped one day to visit the country. The book sat on my shelf, untouched, for almost 30 years. The other day, in anticipation of my trip to Scotland with dear Katherine, I pulled it off the shelf and began reading. Today, 13 days shy of 30 years after purchasing the book, I finished it (all 414 pages). I enjoyed the book very much and learned a lot, but was surprised and dismayed by the long history of violence in Scotland, some of it appalling in its brutality and much of it religiously motivated. I hope things have calmed down! (Images to come.)
As the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers are to the United States, the United States is to the world. Can we not stop selling death to other countries, whether democratic or not?
And how can we hope for a less violent America when America peddles weapons across the planet?
Note from KBJ: I agree completely with this letter. It should be illegal for anyone in the United States (including the government) to sell a weapon to a foreigner (including foreign governments). There are people in this country who are getting rich on destruction.