Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chris Christie Launches Presidential Campaign

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) has announced his candidacy for the president.  He is currently in his second gubernatorial term.  While at one time seen as a rising star among Republicans, his standing seems to have gone down a bit due to the recent "Bridgegate" scandal.

Read more at The New York Times, Politico, NBC News, ABC News and The Washington Post.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chris Squire 1948-2015

Chris Squire, the co-founder of Yes who played bass on all of their studio albums, has died at age 67 in his adopted hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.  Since May, he had been taking treatments for acute myeloid leukemia while on hiatus from the group.

Squire was born on March 4, 1948 in the Kingsbury section of London.  He left school after being suspended for "having long hair", and played in a series of bands including The Selfs, The Syn and Mabel Greer's Toyshop, before meeting singer John Anderson of The Electric Warriors.  He and Anderson then founded Yes, along with keyboardist Tony Kaye, guitarist Peter Banks and drummer Bill Bruford, with Squire and Banks also contributing backing vocals.  The band's lineup changed frequently over the years, with Squire remaining an official member.  He also was involved in solo work and some side projects.  Besides becoming one of rock's most renowned bass guitarists, he also occasionally played piano and harmonica.  Yes's upcoming tour, with Billy Sherwood substituting for Squire on bass, will go on as planned.  Banks became the band's first member or alumnus to pass away in 2013.

Read more at The Independent, the Mirror, Ultimate Classic Rock, Billboard and the Rolling Stone.

One of Chris Squire's most noted compositions was the instrumental The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus) from the album Fragile.  All sounds on this track, other than percussion, are made by Squire on the bass.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saturday Links

Some reaction to yesterday's Supreme Court decision, and other things in the news:

BarbWire calls the Supreme Court "alchemists".

American Thinker discusses Senator Ted Cruz's (R-TX) ideas about what to do in response to the ruling.

CharismaNews asks, "Can you imagine a Muslim same-sex wedding?"

PowerLine has another question for supporters of yesterday's decision.

In National Review, Andrew McCarthy opines that the Supreme Court is a political branch.

From The Washington Times, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) says that the ruling is "based on a lie".

From Fox News, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) launches his presidential campaign website.

From the Star Tribune, the Episcopal Church has elected its first black presiding bishop.

From WQAD, over 200 people were injured by an explosion at a water park in Taiwan.

From Bloomberg Business, the people of Greece hit their ATMs.

From the Chicago Tribune, earlier today, a woman was arrested in South Carolina after climbing a flagpole and removing the Confederate battle flag.  Afterwards, there was a rally in support of the flag.

TechCrunch discusses "the Millennial delusion".

From WGN, a beaver defends its dam.

And from the Whitewater Crossing Church in Ohio, a humorous response to the gay marriage ruling.  (via The Blaze)

What Is The Confederate Flag?

A video published just yesterday on YouTube tries to explain what is and what is not the Confederate flag.  Since one flag associated with the Confederacy is facing renewed controversy, it might be useful to know precisely what that flag is.  As it turns out, the real Confederate flag may have been partly inspired by the flag of the empire from which my own ancestors fled.

Wiki has more about the short-lived republic which created the "Bonnie Blue Flag".

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Little Bit Of Stresa

After returning to Stresa from the Lago D'Orta area, I decided to take a walk and get a few pictures of the town where we had been staying.   Near the shore of Lago Maggiore is this memorial to Italian soldiers who died fighting in the Alps in World War I.  (Italy seems to have numerous memorials to their troops who fought in World War I, and understandably not many for those in World War II.)

In a park on the lake are this sculpture and two others in the same style.

One thing I've noticed about Italy is that the distinction between indoors and outdoors isn't very strong.  Here's the furniture in front of the place where I stayed.

Four boats travel down Lago Maggiore.

And finally, one last look.  This concludes my Swiss-Italian travelogue.

SCOTUS Rules In Favor Of Gay Marriage

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court decided in Obergefell v. Hodges that all 50 states must permit "gay marriage" and recognize such marriages performed in other states.  This would effectively nullify state laws limiting marriages to heterosexual couples.  Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.  Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissent.

Islamists Attack In Three Countries

Earlier today, terrorists struck in Tunisia, France and Kuwait.

In the seaside resort of Sousse, Tunisia, two gunmen attacked hotel guests on a beach.  Most of the victims are reported to be British or German.  At least 27 people are reported to have been killed.  UPDATE:  The death toll is now reported to be at least 37.

Read this story at the Daily Record, the Express, CNN, the Mirror and the Daily Mail.

A man walked into an American-owned industrial gas factory near Grenoble, France and set off explosions.  Several people were injured and one decapitated.  An ISIS flag was later found at the site.

During or after (depending on the source) Friday prayers at a Shiite mosque in al-Sawaber, Kuwait, a suicide bomber killed up to 24 people, in an attack for which ISIS has claimed responsibility.

Read this story at ABC News, BBC News, Al Jazeera, Reuters and Al Arabiya.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lago D'Orta, Part 2

After visiting Isola San Giulio, we got back on the boat (which coincidentally was again the Valentina, seen in Part 1) and rode over to Orta, a town on a peninsula projecting from the east side of its namesake lake.  As we pulled out of Isola San Giulio, I got a shot of the area just east of the dock, including much of the church.

The island and the town form a comune named Orta San Giulio.  Somewhere between the two parts, I got one last shot at the island, from its east side.

Next to the Orta's main square, the Piazza San Giulio, is the Palazzo della Comunità (Community Palace), which is supported by columns and no longer in use.  A tourist (not from my group) doesn't quite seem to know where to go.

As we wandered northward on Via Bossi, we came across this example of Italian recycling, in which an old boat is now a public bench.

We passed through the new town hall, behind which was this garden.

Beyond the orange fresco was another garden area, right next to the lake.

I liked the old building with the stone roof.

Going east from the main square leads uphill to the Santa Maria Assunta church.

After visiting Orta, we had one more boat ride (this time not on the Valentina) to Pella on the west shore of Lago D'Orta, where we met our bus for the ride back to Stresa.   On the other side of the street from the dock was the Chiesa San Filiberto.

Pretty soon, we were back in Stresa for some more free time, on our last full day in Italy.  There's more about Orta San Giulio at Eat Travel Bliss, The Guardian and The New York Times.

Lago D'Orta, Part 1

During our last full day in Italy, we visited some places on Lago D'Orta, which like Lago Maggiore is long and narrow, but overall much smaller, only about 6 miles from north to south.  The north end of Lago D'Orta is about 5 miles west of Stresa as the crow flies, but the driving distance was more like 7 or 8 miles.  Our first stop was a small town named Pettanasco, on the east side of the lake and about midway between its two ends.  We got off the bus near this church, which had a separate bell tower.  The two structures don't really lean toward each other.  That's just the camera angle.

We walked down the street past the church to a dock on the lake, to catch a boat.  Near the dock was this driveway, which ran along the lake shore.

Here's the view across the lake.

Eventually the boat came along, and we got on.  The people on the bow were a different group.  The boat had the same name as our main tour guide, so we jokingly thanked her for letting everyone use her personal yacht.

We soon arrived at Isola San Giulio.  The dock is at the south end of the island.

We visited the church near the dock and then went back outside.  This wall is part of the church.

After walking down a narrow street, we could see the top of the church's bell tower, behind a tree.

This red brick structure is what's left of an old castle.

Continuing down the narrow walkway, we came upon this fresco of the Madonna and Child.

We also saw this patio, with its row of arches.

We leave Isola San Giulio and explore more of the lakeside mainland in Part 2.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Milan, Part 2

After viewing Da Vinci's Last Supper, visiting La Scala, and walking through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, we entered the Duomo di Milano.  This church is the third or fourth (depending on where you get your information) largest in the world.  After we entered, I got this shot from the inside back toward the altar.

Here's a small section of the floor.

This is the altar, with some organ pipes above and to one side, along with a modern light fixture support.

In one corner of the church is this statue of San Bartolomeo (St. Bartholemew), who is believed to have been skinned alive.  More on the Duomo may be found at Sacred Destinations, Wonder Mondo, A View On Cities and Milano 24.

After leaving the Duomo, I ran across Thomas the Tank Engine in the adjacent square, and took a pic.

I later wandered down Via Dante, which led toward the Castello Sforzesco, in front of which is a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi, who led the campaign to unite modern Italy, known as the Risorgimento.

I eventually encountered some shady characters, but made it back to the Piazza del Duomo, to get a shot of the Duomo's facade, and of course, the crowd.

That's all for Milan.  For the rest of the trip, it was back to the lakes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Milan, Part 1

By far the largest city we visited on the entire trip was Milan, the second most populous city in Italy.  Our first stop in Milan was the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, to see Leonardo da Vinci's painting Last Supper, which is on a wall of the church's cenacolo ("supper hall", appropriately enough).  The cenacolo is climate-controlled, and entered through a series of small ante-rooms, separated by a set of timed automatic doors, and each slightly cooler than the preceding one.  To my surprise, there was another painting on the wall opposite the Last Supper, a Crucifixion of Christ by Giovanni Donato Montorfano.  As one can appreciate, photography within the cenacolo is forbidden, so the only evidence I have of my visit is my ticket.

After leaving Santa Maria delle Grazie, we visited the theater known as La Scala ("the staircase").  In an adjacent square was a statue of Leonardo himself.

La Scala includes a large lobby, of which this is a partial view.

We were guided into some of La Scala's many balconies.  From the one I was in, I could see the stage and the orchestra pit.

La Scala also includes some museum exhibits, such as these old instruments in a glass case.

This keyboard instrument is a spinet, an ancestor of the modern piano.

Near La Scala (and the statue of Leonardo above) is one entrance to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which contains shops and restaurants, all underneath a transparent roof.

The central area of the Galleria's floor includes several mosaics, such as this one honoring ancient Rome.

On the side of the Galleria opposite la Scala is a large square that includes this statue of King Vittorio Emanuele II.  As you can see, it was pretty crowded.

I'll have the rest of my visit to Milan in Part 2.  In the meantime, you can read more about Milan at Understanding Italy, Lonely Planet, About Travel and Wikitravel.

Ten Years After The Kelo Decision

Ten years ago today, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which upheld the city's seizure of private residences and condemnation of the entire Fort Trumbull neighborhood to make way for development by a private entity.  The case's namesake was Suzette Kelo, one of several residents who held out against the city.  The decision expanded (and arguably distorted) the Constitutional provision allowing governments to take private property for "public use", previously understood to involve governmental projects (roads, bridges, etc.), to include "public purpose", meaning that the seized property could be turned over to a different private entity on the potential of the transfer resulting in some kind of public benefit.

In the aftermath of the decision, Ms. Kelo and the other holdouts were given some additional compensation, and her house was moved to another location.  The development fell through, resulting in Fort Trumbull becoming nothing more than a big vacant lot, which it remains today.

Read more at The Orange County Register, Reason(dot)com, the Independent Sentinel, National Review and the Center For Individual Freedom.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Maryland Governor Diagnosed With Cancer

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) announced today that he has non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes, which is now in stage 3 or "possibly" stage 4.  He will be undergoing a series of chemotherapy treatments and has expressed confidence that he will defeat the disease, while admitting that he will probably lose his hair.

Read more at The Washington Post, WUSA, WBAL, WJLA and The Baltimore Sun.

ABC's Dire Predictions Fail Miserably

Predicting the future is never easy, and can leave the prognosticator open to being spectacularly wrong.  An example of this, coming from ABC's Good Morning America, has been recently discovered by NewsBusters:
New York City underwater? Gas over $9 a gallon? A carton of milk costs almost $13? Welcome to June 12,  2015. Or at least that was the wildly-inaccurate version of 2015 predicted by ABC News exactly seven years ago. Appearing on Good Morning America in 2008, Bob Woodruff hyped Earth 2100, a special that pushed apocalyptic predictions of the then-futuristic 2015.
The segment included supposedly prophetic videos, such as a teenager declaring, "It's June 8th, 2015. One carton of milk is $12.99." (On the actual June 8, 2015, a gallon of milk cost, on average, $3.39.) Another clip featured this prediction for the current year: "Gas reached over $9 a gallon." (In reality, gas costs an average of $2.75.) [italics in original]
Although the NB post is ten days old, gasoline prices are still pretty close to $2.75 per gallon from what I've seen.  Since this is quite a bit lower than a year ago, my reaction is "Thanks a lot, you frackers!"

Read the full story.

Tatooine Podrace Veteran Fails To Outrun Earth Cops

It appears that Star Wars actor Jake Lloyd has gone over to the Dark Side, at least where his driving is concerned.  From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
A former child actor who starred in one of the "Star Wars" movie sequels faces charges after leading South Carolina deputies on a high-speed chase.
Colleton County Sheriff's deputies on Wednesday arrested a 26-year-old man they confirmed through a former talent agent was Jake Lloyd, who played a young Anakin Skywalker in the 1999 movie "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace," Sgt. Kyle Strickland said Sunday.
Lloyd, who identified himself as Jake Broadbent, allegedly hit speeds of more than 100 miles per hour, which is slow by podracer standards but well above most terrestrial speed limits.

Read more at the above link from RTD, and from The Independent and the Boston Herald.  As far as I know, there are no reports of Lloyd trying to force-choke the police officers or having a light saber in his vehicle.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Borromean Islands, Part 3

The third and last island in Lago Maggiore that we visited is Isola Bella (beautiful island), which like Isola Madre, includes gardens and a palace.  We arrived near the north end of Isola Bella, from which we could look back at Isola dei Pescatori, including the Verbano, where we had just had lunch.  The trees between the Verbano and this viewing point at the north end of Isola Bella are on a separate island, Isola La Malghera, which is tiny and uninhabited.

Cannons protect an artificial harbor, which at one time was for the private use of the Borromeo family.

The palace includes a large round room, of which this shot shows only a part.

The gardens include this terraced pyramid decorated by numerous statues, and of course, surrounded by tourists.

There was another flat area on the other side of the pyramid, with a few more tourists.

Like Isola Madre, Isola Bella had a few peacocks.  Unlike those Isola Madre, Isola Bella's peacocks were all white.

This one strutted his stuff.

After visiting the gardens, we went back to the boat for the ride back to Stresa, thus concluding a fun but tiring day of sightseeing.

The Borromean Islands, Part 2

As we continued walking around the gardens of Isola Madre, we came upon the birdhouse.  On its roof was a white peacock.

Meanwhile, back on the ground were a blue peacock and a peahen, who didn't seem to pay much attention to her male friends.

We eventually arrived at the entrance to the palace, in front of which is this Kashmir Cypress, which had been damaged in a storm in 2006.

We toured the palace, but photography inside was forbidden.  Back outside, we waited around a pond near a wall of the palace, along with some much younger visitors.

Also near the pond is this grotto formed by two staircases, at the top of which another tourist studies her electronic device.

We left Isola Madre and rode over to Isola dei Pescatori (island of the fishermen) for lunch.  During some free time afterwards, I spotted this guy swimming just offshore.

On the west side of Isola dei Pescatori was a small artificial harbor, on top of which stood this statue of Mary.

We later got back on the boat and set out for one more island, which will be shown in Part 3.

The Borromean Islands, Part 1

The day after we arrived in Stresa, we visited the Borromean Islands, located in the Borromean Gulf of Lago Maggiore, all of which may be reached by boat from Stresa and from each other.  Since the 1500s, these islands have been the property of the Borromeo family, who at one time owned a lot of land in the region of Lombardy.  Today, the family is headed by Principe Gilberto VIII and Principessa Bona.  Over the centuries, members of the family have migrated away from Italy, including to the United States and the Philippines, where one set of descendants runs a website dedicated to their family history.

The first island we visited was Isola Madre (mother island), the largest and farthest from Stresa.  On the way, we could see a mountain being quarried for its granite, looming above the town of Baveno.

Much of Isola Madre is taken up by gardens.  After we arrived, we proceeded along a walkway near the island's southern edge, which passes near numerous trees.

This ascending walkway is covered by many types of wisteria.  It was chained off, but still provided a good photo.

As we proceeded around the island, there were many more trees to see.

This round stone building was at one time an ice house.

The yellow building on the right side of this walkway was the residence of the guardian and his wife, at one time the only two permanent inhabitants of Isola Madre.  To the left was a nice shady spot.

That's all for now.  There will be more of Isola Madre in Part 2.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Saturday Evening Links

Now that I've been back for a while, let's see what's going on around here.

From The State Journal-Register, "grief hangs in the air" days after the attack in Charleston.

From The Telegraph, the Charleston church shooter told a friend that his original target was the University of Charleston.

From NBC News, the shooter appears to have had a racist website.

The Daily Caller notes that while politicians voice their views on the Confederate battle flag being displayed in South Carolina, one-time Governor Bill Clinton (D-Ark) had no qualms about commemorating the Confederacy in the Arkansas state flag.

From The New Orleans Advocate, a New Orleans police officer was fatally shot while transporting a suspect.

From the Northwest Herald, the southern Illinois town of Herrin honors coal miners killed in the 1922 Herrin Massacre.

From WGN, three teenagers in New Mexico have been charged with hacking a baby formula website.

From Fox News Latino, a Mexican woman seeking asylum suffers a miscarriage while in custody.

From CBS Chicago, an Illinois state legislator proposes liability insurance for gun owners.

From the Daily Mail, a drunk man in Nanjing, China gets a Darwin Award (dis)honorable mention.  (Since he did actually remove himself from the gene pool, he does not qualify for the award itself.)

From MSN News, ISIS targets young Germans for recruitment.

From Russia Today, protesters in Honduras call for officials to resign.

From Yahoo News, hundreds of thousands Italians rally against gay marriage.

From the Pensacola News Journal, drones are proliferating in Pensacola.

And from ESPN, Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer pitches a no-hitter, coming very close to a perfect game.

Down Lago Di Como And Over To Stresa

After visiting Bellagio, which sits between the two southern branches of Lago di Como, we got back on our boat and continued down the southwest branch toward the city of Como.  Not long after leaving Bellagio, we saw this villa, which is sometimes called "the house of 50 chimneys".

We soon came upon the Villa del Balbianello, which was used for on-location shooting in Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones, along with other nearby places.  Like Anakin and Padme, you can have your wedding there, too.  The villa was also used in the recent James Bond movie Casino Royale.  As you can see, we were not alone.

The next shot is from the south side of the villa.

We later came upon this villa, owned by Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines.  We were told we could stay there for a $30,000 per night.  According to this site, the rate is 115,000 Euros per week.

On the east side of the southwest branch of Lago di Como is Nesso, where several swimmers congregate next to a house that's right on the water.

In another part of Nesso, this bridge connects two neighborhoods separated by a gorge and a waterfall.

Further down Lago di Como on the west side is the village of Moltrasio, where Winston Churchill vacationed after the end of World War II (and losing his re-election bid), spending much of his time painting.

Not far from Como in the village of Cernobbio is the Villa D'Este, one of Italy's best-known hotels.

Not long after passing the Villa D'Este, we arrived in Como and were reunited with our bus.  We then rode to Stresa, on the west shore of Lago Maggiore, where we would stay for the rest the tour.  After settling in, I took a look across the street.

I could also see Lago Maggiore, including Isola Bella (beautiful island) and Isola dei Pescatori (island of the fishermen) behind it.  We would visit both later on.


Lago di Como in northern Italy is shaped like an upside-down letter "y".  On the promontory that separates the two branches of the lake is town of Bellagio, which we visited after arriving by boat from Tremezzo, on the west side of the lake.  Here's part of the north end of Bellagio, seen while we were still on the boat.

Also on the northern end of Bellagio is this house, named "Fanny".

We ate lunch at a local restaurant, whose balcony gave us this view looking west.

Near the restaurant, a street is a stairway.

Here's downtown Bellagio's largest church, surrounded by cars.

This was our boat.

After some free time, we got back on board and proceeded southward toward the lake's namesake city of Como.  As we pulled away, I got a last look at Bellagio.

For more information on Bellagio, go here, here and here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Double Standard, Anyone?

For a while, I've noticed a certain double standard regarding collective responsibility, where violent acts by Muslims against non-Muslims must never be blamed on anyone other than the individual perpetrators, and also not on Islam itself, but violence by whites against non-whites can be attributed to alleged racism coming from white people in general.  Today, SooperMexican has shown an example of this double standard coming from Salon, as shown in some of their Tweets.

As Sooper points out, Salon would have "White America" answering for the Charleston church shootings, but did not expect Muslims to "apologize for the Tsarnaevs".  Sooper further notes that one can choose to be Muslim, but cannot chose to be white.  If anything, in my own opinion, this double standard would be a bit less unfair in the opposite direction.

Read the full blogpost.

Charleston Shooter In Custody

As has been widely reported, yesterday, a man fatally shot nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.  The suspect, Dylann Roof, was apprehended over 200 miles away in Shelby, NC.  He is now in custody in South Carolina and has reportedly confessed to the shootings.  His alleged motivation was a desire to start a race war.

Read more at ABC News, The Telegraph, CNN, WLTX and ABC11.

From Switzerland To Italy

After we had spent a few days in and around St. Moritz, Switzerland, the time came to get on the bus and go to Italy.  Our course would take us westward from the Engadin valley over the Maloja (pronounced "mah-LOY-ah") Pass, through the Italian-speaking area of Val Bregaglia, and then across the border into Italy a few miles east of Chiavenna.  After entering Chiavenna, we turned southward toward Lago di Como.

Due to the high elevation of St. Moritz and the Engadin, we didn't didn't have to climb up very far to get over the Maloja Pass.  Going down the other side, however, was another story.  The switchbacks on the road and the drop in elevation made Arizona state route 89A north of Sedona look like child's play.  Here we can see a switchback just below us, and a few more farther down.

After we got down into the Val Bregaglia, I took a picture of this small village through the front window of the bus.

Somewhere along the way was this waterfall, behind a house.

After passing through Chiavenna, we continued southward along the western shore of Lago di Como, until we arrived at Tremezzo, to take a short boat ride to Bellagio.  The weather was definitely sunnier than it had been in the Engadin earlier that day.

As our boat pulled away, we could see the Grand Hotel Tremezzo.

Here's the dock where we had boarded the boat.

While looking up Tremezzo on Googlemaps, I became confused when the name Tremezzina turned up instead.  A look at Wiki explains the apparent discrepancy.
Tremezzina is a comune in the province of Como, in Lombardy, that formed on 25 May 2014[1] from a merger of the comunes of Lenno, Mezzegra, Ossuccio and Tremezzo. [emphasis and link in original]
So if you're interested in Tremezzo, Italy, be sure to also look up the name Tremezzina.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

San Gian's Church And Celerina

Celerina is small town northeast of St. Moritz, just one railroad stop away, and is also known as Schlarigna.  With some free time, I wanted to check out something I had seen from the road when our tour bus passed through the area on the way to Zuoz and Pontresina.  It was an old church, which included a tower that appeared to be in ruins, just outside of Celerina.  I learned that the church was named San Gian, and that the tower had been struck by lightning and the damaged portion not replaced.  Here's the church looking from the west.

As I continued to approach the church, a glider soared overhead.

I took this shot from the east side of the church.

A trail led up to an area behind the church, which would be to the right in the above photo, where I could see the graveyard, in which some work was going on.

After visiting the church grounds, I walked back to Celerina, found a place to eat lunch, and eventually rode a train back to St. Moritz.

A Hike Around The St. Moritzer See

As I mentioned a few posts ago, St. Moritz, Switzerland sits next to its own lake, the St. Moritzer See.  The lake is surrounded by pedestrian trails, which according to our tour guide totaled about three miles, so off I went.  Like the Inn River that flows into and out of it, the lake extends roughly southwest to northeast.  Here's a view from the northeastern side of the lake, looking southwestward.

I took a slight detour from the lake near its outlet, to see the Inn continuing its journey to Austria.

Near the outlet was this railroad viaduct.

After I got back to the lake and continued around it, I saw a cable car going over part of the city.

Here's downtown St. Moritz and the area above it, with a few clouds around the higher elevations.

In this area east of downtown, clouds appear to separate the forested area from the rocky area further uphill.

As I got closer to the southwest end of the lake, I took this shot, centered on a church.

Next to the church is the Inn, upstream from the lake.

This bridge takes the trail over the Inn, just before it enters the lake.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Riding The Bernina Express, Part 2

To pick up where Part 1 left off, we stopped at a place called Alp Grüm, near the top of the Bernina Pass, which gave us a chance to take some pictures.  Before I got back on the train, I took this shot of the structure through which we had passed just before stopping.  It includes a slanted roof supported by spaced poles, and appears to be intended to protect trains from rockslides and avalanches.  I've also seen the same sort of thing built over roads in the Alps.

After the train resumed its course, we descended down the other side of the pass through numerous switchbacks.  These curves gave me a chance to take pictures of where the train had just been, such as over this viaduct.

We stopped for a few minutes in Brusio, to let a train going in the opposite direction to pass.  From here, we can see two houses, the top of a church tower, the sides of the narrow valley in which we're traveling, and more mountains in the background.  The houses aren't slanted.  I merely held my camera at a slightly odd angle.

Here's some more of Brusio, looking back uphill in the general direction from which we approached.

The front of the train goes around the Brusio viaduct, where the track circles under itself, as seen from our position in the last car.

The front of the train continues toward the spot where the track goes under the viaduct, passing three sculptures.  The white line above the train is the track uphill from the viaduct, where we had been shortly before.

Continuing downhill after passing under the viaduct, we observe a step in the process of making Swiss cheese.

As our train continued southward, I saw that the tracks often ran parallel to roads, crossed roads at sharp angles, and in a few places actually ran down one side of the street.  We eventually crossed the border and reached our destination of Tirano, Italy.  Not far from the track is the Santuario della Madonna di Tirano.

The Fiume Adda runs through the center of town.

To get around Tirano, it may be advantageous to board another type of "train".

After some sightseeing, and lunch at Antica Osteria dell'Angelo, we returned to St. Moritz by bus.

Riding The Bernina Express, Part 1

The Bernina Express is a train that runs on a line of the Rhätische Bahn, climbing over the Bernina Pass southeast of St. Moritz, and then downhill though an Italian-speaking area, before terminating across the border in Tirano, Italy.  The train runs on tracks that have a gauge noticeably narrower than the standard of 4 feet, 8.5 inches.  We boarded the train at Pontresina, a few miles east of St. Moritz.  While we waited for the Bernina Express, I took this picture of another passenger train in front of the Pontresina station.

On the other side of the platform were a few railcars laden with logs.

After we boarded and the trip got underway, we started to see the mountain scenery, such as this.

This next shot shows a mountain stream, and some of the difficulty with taking pictures through a train window.

Further along the line, some mountains retain more snow.

This mountain, which from my position appeared to have the shape of a facial profile, is reflected in a lake.  When I saw the yellow and blue graphic at this website, I realized that I'm probably not the first person to notice this.

Near the top of Bernina Pass, some mountains stand behind Lago Bianco.

The train stopped for a while at a station called Alp Grüm, near a hotel of the same name, giving us a chance to get out and take a few pictures.  In his shot, water flows down from a glacier.  Discerning the top edge of the glacier from the clouds behind is pretty difficult.

Below the glacier is this house, along with two very large rocks that most likely came down from above.

You know you're high up when you can see a helicopter below you.  This one was carrying away a tree that had been cut down.

That's all for Part 1.  More of the Bernina journey and a look at Tirano are coming soon.

Some Thoughts On Rachel Dolezal

While I was in Europe, I learned from some of the international news stations about Rachel Dolezal, the director of the Spokane, Washington NAACP chapter who had been passing herself off as black.  After being outed by her (white) parents, she resigned from her NAACP post.  In related news, her adoptive brother Ezra reported on her charade, and in a bit of irony, it has been revealed that she once sued Howard University for allegedly discriminating against her for being white.  (Another brother of hers has some troubles of his own.)

She might not be aware of it, but Dolezal is an example of life imitating art.  From 1981 until his death in a car accident in 2007, Pultizer Prize-winning cartoonist Doug Marlette published the comic strip Kudzu, which satirized rural Southerners, and was set in a fictional town called Bypass.  The title character was teenager Kudzu Dubose, named after the Asian vine that was introduced into the southern United States in the late 1800s, which produced unintended consequences.  One of his friends was Nasal T. Lardbottom, a short, fat, uncoordinated dork who tried to talk and act black, but failed so dismally that he was named the "whitest white boy at Bypass High".  There isn't too much on the web about Lardbottom, but he is listed here among the Kudzu characters, from a musical play based on the comic strip.  While Lardbottom's desire to take on ostensibly black traits was satirical and Dolezal's was serious, I couldn't help but notice the parallel.

UPDATE:  Here's another example of fictional fake blackness.

Dolezal's story, combined with another recent controversy, shows how ridiculous racial discourse has become.  As anyone not living under a rock knows, a few years ago, a man in Florida named George Zimmerman fatally shot a black teenager named Trayvon Martin.  After Zimmerman's Hispanic appearance became known, he was re-classified as a "white Hispanic", apparently so that his actions toward Martin could be fit into the politically correct stereotype of white racism against blacks.  (No, I'm not saying that such racism doesn't exist.  It certainly does.  But this does not mean that every adverse action by a white person toward a non-white person is motivated by racism.)  However, a look into Zimmerman's ancestry turned up an Afro-Peruvian great grandfather, thus showing him to be 1/8 black.  Thus, in another irony, George Zimmerman, vilified as an anti-black racist, is more black than Rachel Dolezal, whose black identity appears to have been entirely fake.

Monday, June 15, 2015


A few miles east of St. Moritz is the small town of Zuoz, which includes an international boarding school and several ski lifts.  This picture shows some houses, the top of a church tower, and a ski lift on the hill in the background.

The tourists surround one of Zuoz's public water fountains.  The metal fixture on top of the wooden post is in the shape of the town's symbol.

Houses with wooden balconies are pretty common in Zuoz.

Other houses have balconies with metal railings.

I don't know what this building is, but it might have been a school (but not the boarding school mentioned above).  The Volg in the background to the right is a chain supermarket.

This is one of the older houses in Zuoz, built when wood was used for the outer walls.

St. Moritz

I returned yesterday from a nine-day vacation in Switzerland and Italy.  For the Switzerland portion, I stayed in St. Moritz, known as the birthplace of Alpine winter holidays and as a hangout for the rich, in the canton of Graubünden.  In most of this canton, German coexists with Romansch, a language descended from Latin, but there are a few areas where the principal language is Italian.  St. Moritz is located in a valley called the Engadin, next to the St. Moritzer See, along the Inn River.  The name "Engadin" is derived from the Romansch name for the Inn, "En", and the Romansch word "giadina", which means "garden".  The river flows generally southwest to northeast while in Switzerland, and eventually passes through Innsbruck, Austria.

To get to St. Moritz, I flew into the Zürich airport, and after joining my tour, rode a bus in a generally southeastward direction.  We stopped at a rest area near Thusis.  Here was some of the nearby scenery.

Along the way, we saw scenes like this and this.

After I got settled in, I took a partial shot of the neighborhood, with the northeast end of the St. Moritzer See in the background.

In another direction is this residential area and a funicular, which unfortunately was not open.

We would eventually walk around St. Moritz, and find this combination statue and water fountain, near a small restaurant.

The Chesa Veglia is one of the oldest houses in the city.  The word "chesa" is Romansch for "house", similar to Spanish and Italian "casa", and is pronounced "KAY-zah".

We also saw the old elementary school.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Some Stories Before Traveling

As I get ready to embark on my latest vacation, here are some things in the news:

From USA Today, former Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) officially launches his campaign for the presidency.  He had previously run for the GOP nomination in 2012.

From The New York Times, Rick Perry's close relationship with retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the author of Lone Survivor.

From Yahoo News, the Office of Personnel Management has been hacked, resulting in a "massive data breach".

From the Daily Mail, the charity run by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D) took between 1 million and 10 million dollars from a church in Cameroon that likened homosexuals to "devils".

From Fox News Insider, Gretchen Carlson provides an excerpt from her book Getting Real, in which she recalls being fired a week after getting married.

From Fox News, a drug called "Viagra for women", after being twice rejected by the FDA, still faces concern.

From Inside The ACC, Georgia Tech and Boston College will open this fall's NCAA football season in Ireland.

From ARRA News Service, under Obamacare, health care costs are rising for families, taxpayers and employers.

From NBC Chicago, a Chicago man is accused of chewing through a seat belt in a police car.

From Natural News, intravenously supplied vitamin C has been shown to eradicate cancer cells.

From the New York Post, the man who was convicted of killing Washington intern Chandra Levy after she disappeared in 2001 has been granted a new trial.

From Breitbart's Big Government, researchers from Harvard and Syracuse appear to have falsely claimed that their study was conducted independently.

From Military News, the Naval District Washington honors the anniversary of the Battle of Midway.

From National Review, the left comes out against over-the-counter birth control.

From American Thinker, President Obama has admitted that enforcing climate change regulation is part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that he is currently negotiating.

And from Epoch Times, NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab unveils the RoboSimian.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Boston Terror Suspect Shot, But Not In The Back

A man in Boston suspected of planning a terrorist attack, who was fatally shot by police, was not shot in the back, nor while using a cell phone, as previously alleged.  Instead, he reportedly tried to charge police with a knife.  His alleged co-conspirator was arraigned in court today.

Read more at AOL and My Fox Boston, the latter link brought to my attention by Sue from New Mexico.

UPDATE:  Read still more at ABC News and CNN.  My Fox Boston (above) and CNN are now reporting that the conspirators originally wanted to behead Pamela Geller, one of the organizers of the recent "Draw Mohammed" event in Garland, Texas.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Senate Passes USA Freedom Act

Today the Senate voted by a 67-32 margin to pass the USA Freedom Act, which had already been passed by the House.  President Obama has already indicated that he will sign the bill.  When enacted, the law will reinstate some recently expired provisions of the Patriot Act, but will not reinstate the controversial collection of phone data by the National Security Agency.

Read more today's developments at USA Today, The Washington Post and The Washington Times.

Read about how the USA Freedom Act and the Patriot Act differ at Politico and Russia Today.

Re-Elected FIFA President Steps Down

Sepp Blatter, who just last week was re-elected president of FIFA, has announced his resignation from that position.  The organization has been facing a corruption inquiry, including the arrest in Switzerland of some of their officials.

Read more at The New York Times, The Guardian and The Independent.