Halo 3 and the statue of the 3 lies

Speaking of Boston MA as I (ummm … sort of) did yesterday, MIT students have pulled a great prank on Harvard by decorating the famous statue in Harvard Yard as a Halo 3 fighter.

The “John Harvard” statue may now get nicknamed “Statue of the FOUR mistakes”. Ironically the statue has three big mistakes as it sits in the hallowed yard of Harvard University, that bastion of intellectual achievement.

Also called sometimes “The statue of the three lies”, the mistakes are:

The statue isn’t really John Harvard. It was commissioned after his death and he had no known portraits so a student sat for the artist.

John Harvard was not the founder of Harvard. It’s named after him, founded by Mass. legislature.

Statue has the wrong date for the founding of Harvard. 1636 is correct, statue shows 1638.

Oregon Travel

I’m hoping to get my Oregon Travel blog going soon with tips and tricks about great vacation stuff here in Oregon. One of the things I *always* notice after travelling is how nice it is to come home to the great cultural and outdoor attractions within a few hours of my house here in lovely Talent Oregon

We’ve got some good basic detail about Oregon at the Online Highways Oregon Travel section but I’m hoping to do a more personalized version of this. Some will appear at the Online Highways travel blog but that travel blog will be focusing more on destinations around the globe and not digging into Oregon in great depth.

Oregon is home to several great regions. The state defines them like this but I’m going to be a little more precise at the Oregon Travel blog and try to focus in on more of a single city or destination basis.

I’ve already covered some Oregon Travel information in these Travel Highways and History posts but I have quite a bit of information, pictures, and adventures to share in the future. Oregon is one of the few places where you can enjoy skiing on peaks over 2 miles high, smashing surf and sea, and a round of golf all in the same day. (No, it would not be a relaxing day!)….

Living on the fringe?

Why was I thinking that the top two states in population were California and New York?  Must have been an old thought because Texas is second.

A bit more wikipediaIzing and I learn that fully half of all Americans live in the top 9 states, about one of 3 of us in the top 4 states of California 36MM, Texas 23MM, New York19MM, and Florida18MM.

This is not just statistically interesting, it’s critically important to many things like economics and elections as we saw in the bizarre 2000 election where silly butterfly ballots *in a single region* in Florida very significantly shifted the balance of power in the country and changed history forever given the dramatic difference between a Gore and a Bush administration.

Contrary to what many argue about the 2000 Florida election it’s now pretty clear, based on a study by the Miami Herald that examined virtually *every single Florida ballot*, that Bush would have won Florida even with a recount of all the ballots using the most commonly accepted historical standard of “2+ chads detached is a vote, 1 chad is not”. HOWEVER and more importantly, Gore would have won the election if the confusing Butterfly Ballots of Palm Beach county had not been thrown out. It was logically and statistically obvious that Palm Beach voters intended to vote for Gore rather than Bush (disputing this is absurdly irrational given the vote tallies and ballot examination). The Palm Beach ballot design left many confused voters voting a second time for Buchanon. These ballots were not counted. I think this explains why exit polling was predicting a Gore victory – people in Palm Beach County had thought they’d voted for Gore when in fact their vote was not counted. The ballot design was from incompetence rather than a Rebublican hit job – the elections person was a democrat.

Also contary to much commentary the courts could have used some historical precedent to allocate those Palm Beach discarded votes mathematically rather than discarding them, though I think it is unlikely the Supreme Court would have allowed that to stand and would have thrown the election to the Florida legislature (which would have given Florida’s electoral votes to Bush).

So, Florida’s population prominence gave them the say in the election, and quirky circumstances took the vote out of the control of voters. Contrary to what many seem to think it’s not really reasonable to say the election was stolen – it was won and lost “unfair and square” on technicalities from our obscenely outmoded electoral vote system combined with bureaucratic and court incompetence.

Here’s a nice CNN summary of the real story.   Note the irony in that most Republicans still seem to think it was a “fair” outcome (WRONG since voter intention was clearly not the result) where most Dems think it was the chads (WRONG – Gore’s Tally was not affected enough by chad decisions to matter) or the Supreme Court Decision to bar a recount (WRONG – Gore would have lost the recount) or some form of vote tally conspiracy (WRONG – little evidence of this).

It was just good old bureaucratic incompetence and some voter ignorance that distorted the 2000 tally with one VERY IMPORTANT caveat – the Republicans have been very aggressive with methods to bar certain people from voting.   I’m unmoved so far by muckraker Greg Palast‘s claims about this type of manipulation in 2000 and 2004 Bush victories, but I just now found this Robert Kennedy piece that is far more thoughtful about the possibility that the Ohio vote in 2004 was not properly tallied.  It is critical to keep open minded since the stakes in US presidential elections are so very, very high.    We should all be ashamed of how casually we view our responsibility to have fair and impartial elections.
Wow, that sure diverged from my intended post!? I really need to get a regular job.

Amish Country, Pennsylvania

We are winding up our trip to Pennsyvania and the New Jersey Shore here in Lancaster, the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Sunday is kind of a “slow” day here because the tourism is very much geared to Amish themes and real Amish folks go to church and take a day of rest, doing only essential chores on Sunday. We did pass a lot of buggies today on their way to and from Churches in the area.

Tomorrow we’ll drive to Intercourse and Paradise and there will be folks tilling their fields with horse drawn plows, vegetable stands tended by kids in bonnets and hats, and hopefully some time to chat with folks for whom time has largely stood still, in a technological sense, for over a century.

[where: lancaster, PA]

Travel Tip: Roomsaver Travel Coupons Rock

Here we are in Gettysburg, PA.    The Days Inn here in Gettysburg is simply excellent with well appointed, extremely clean rooms and comfort.   Grounds are spotless and pretty.  The pool is large, warm, clean.  Desk staff has been *outstanding* and professional.   Rack rate at the Days Inn website was $141 but the Roomsaver Coupon made the rate $49.00.

Roomsaver and other major discount coupon havepage after page of advertising and a few bad maps.   But don’t underestimate these coupons.  The books generally require that this “walk in, only when rooms are available” rate be the lowest the property offers to the public, and in my experience this has been the case.   More importantly the availability of these is very good on most days.    Even in tourism hot spots like here in Gettysburg hotels generally have vacancies Sunday-Thursday nights.    Do NOT expect to use the coupons on Friday or Saturday nights or during special events or high crowd times, but always ask about availability of discounts and always keep coupon books in your car.  You’ll find them at many McDonalds and gas stations, especially those along the interstates.


For mid-week travel try coupon book rates which are often 60% or more off the regular rates.

Betsy Ross House Performance, Philadelphia

Betsy Ross House Performance

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck.

Here in Philadelphia’s historic district many of the buildings offer historical tours and insights.   Here at Betsy Ross’s actors from “Once Upon a Nation” talk about women and the Revolution.     I’ve really been impressed with the quality of some of the interpreters here who make you feel like you really are stepping back in time.

I’m glad to see this approach is becoming a popular way to teach people history. National Park Service ranger guides are usually professional but lack the clothing and often that spark of historical enthusiasm that makes the enactment interpretations so effective.

Blogging Philadelphia ?

Wow, I’m here in Philadelphia enjoying the Hilton Hospitality with good free WIFI, but didn’t realize until tonight that the Blog Philadelphia UNconference is going on today and tomorrow.   Looks like a great and sold out event, and it’s great to see blogging conferences sprouting up outside of Silicon Valley.  I’ll miss meeting other bloggers which would have been fun, but I will plan to enjoy history and cheessteaks with the family as we explore this spectacularly historical American Masterpiece – Philly!

U-S History is one of our Online Highways websites with great history info.

Pennsylvania Travel at Online Highways

Gophila.com is a great information resource but has some serious navigation challenges.  For example the drop down menus are annoying and complex, and most crazy is the flash photo montage at the index page which almost immediately wipes out the intro screen that has the navigation a user needs.   The pix are OK, but don’t do the history justice.   I think local folks don’t realize that people don’t come to Philadelphia to see a pretty garden or Christmas light display.     They come here to see Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin’s house, and the cradle of American Liberty.     I guess those things just aren’t stylish enough for the Philly web design crowd?   Sillies!

Philadelphia Freedom

Happy birthday to our great American Experiment!

Our local morning talk show had many callers who were concerned about American’s poor reputation over much of the world and concerns about the health of the USA as a democracy. I’m not so pessimistic, believing that we should view the violence and instability around the world as caused by those who want violence, instability, and major change rather than those who have as their objective personal freedom, religious freedom, free speech, and prosperity for almost everybody. (ummm – that would be my country that wants all that, right?!)

America’s mistakes – and there are many – almost always come from a *distortion* of the ideas and ideals of the founders rather than as part of the great American experiment. Slavery, poverty, civil unrest, political power abuses, corruption, and most or our other American problems here and abroad are in defiance of the basic US Constitutional and ideological framework, not part of it. Critics of America both here and abroad should spend more time asking themselves “what is the right course of action” and far less time ranting about whatever course the other party/person/nation is currently taking.

Even the founders themselves recognized the challenges of a populist democratic experiment, and even the remarkable and otherwise politically prescient Ben Franklin notably suggested that he’d be surprised if the American experiment in democracy and personal freedom he helped inspire would last very long.

Ironically, Franklin also noted that people should not complain about taxes – unless the rate got to a terribly outrageous amount approaching 10% – in which case another revolution would be justified. “Yo, Ben, put DOWN that muzzle loader, we tax the heck out of everybody now”…

One great irony of the current American situation is how far we’ve come from the original vision of the founders. Even the founders would struggle to understand the sheer volume of our American empire – the largest economic and military power in history. They’d also certainly view with great skepticism our huge federal and state Governments bureaucracies, and also be very concerned about how aggressively we have sought to maintain our power or the power of our allies through force in so many regions of the world. The founders were globalists – remarkable for that time – but they viewed large, centralized governments as dangerous, unneccessary, and an inhibition to innovation and progress.

We are heading to Philadelphia next week and I’ll hope to get some insights about our great American experiment as I sit in the cradle of American liberty. Are we now adrift or does America remain the shining beacon of liberty, justice, and prosperity to all our fellow global citizens? Maybe …. we are both.

Airports Blog and Online Highways Blog

Well, I’m going blog crazy these days and hope I can keep up the writing pace needed to maintain a bunch of blogs related to website projects. For me, the blog format makes it a lot easier to write a lot. Perhaps this is because I’m a very fast writer but somewhat design challenged. Blog content management allows me to focus only on the words and ideas and not much on the navigation, design, or overall site structure.

The new Travel blog is Online Highways, a companion to our mega travel site. I’m also starting an Airports Blog
as a companion to my languishing QuickAid.com Airports website project which *will* get a major overhaul as part of this process.

The President Picker blog is one I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep up. Here I will try to keep current with the latest presidential stuff though president news is so overwhelming so early in the process I’m hardly providing much of a service here.

More likely to get maintained will be the Prescription Report blog. This will be a companion to the Prescription Report website. The idea here is simple – whenever I see an advertisement for a new prescription drug I’ll review the drug, trying to provide information about the basics of the drugs include the safety and about the pros and cons of the prescription drug as well as links to company sites and sites with alternative views about the drug.

Another one I have yet to start will feature detailed travel tips from Oregon. This is an area where, theoretically, I’m a big expert so you’d think it would be going by now … but … it’s not. Soon though, soon!

San Diego, California

We are heading down to So. California in a few weeks so I’m pulling together information about what we’ll try to do during our week in the area.     Southern California is one of the world’s top travel destinations so there are literally thousands of attractions.    The challenge there is not finding things to do, rather it’s focusing on the “best” of many great attractions and experiences that are suited to your tastes.

The Travel Channel just had a nice feature on San Diego and I’ve sketched some of their advice below.  I’ll flesh this out and add links later.

With 1.2 Million people San Diego is the USA’s 7th largest city.

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Balboa Park

San Diego Zoo

Sea World, San Diego. You can dine with Shamu. Trainer for a da.

La Hoya. “Beverly Hills on the Beach” Exclusive shopping.

Surfing. South Coast Surf Shop is the place for gear. Surf Diva Surf School is all girls but they also have guys class.



Navy Town USA. Principle port for the Pacific Fleet of US Navy. 1846. Maritime Museum of San Diego, home to HMS Surprise of “Master and Commander” fame, and Star of India 1863, the oldest active sailing ship in the world.

USS Midway operated for 47 years 1992 is the US’s longest serving Aircraft Carrier. at total of 225,000 sailors served on this ship at some point in the history of the USS Midway.

Port of San Diego is huge, and supports both Cruise lines and shipping.

Hotel del Coronado. “Hotel Del”. This lavish hotel, inspired by railroad architecture, 1958 “Some Like it Hot” was filmed here.


Old Town

Bazaar del Mundo in Old Town

Dining: 6400 restaurants in San Diego and surrounding cities. Point Loma Sea Food on San Diego Bay is among the most famous Seafood Restaurants in the world, and arguably one of the finest. Their smoking process and tartar sauces are secret recipes are guarded carefully.

The Marine Room in La Hoya. On the beach since 1941 offering some of the most elegant seafood dining in California.

Casa de Pico is one of the best Hispanic restaurants in the USA, offering famous, and huge, Margaritas. El Agave Tequileria offers a Tequila Museum as well as one of the finest collections of Tequila in the world. 1500 types of Tequila are here and you can sniff and sample El Agave’s spectacular selection in special Tequila glasses.

Fish Tacos: deep fried pollock in corn tortilla with lime and cabbage?. Ralph Rubio may be the guy who brought the Fish Taco to America. He opened Rubios Fresh Mexican Grille, with 150 restaurants all over the country. The very first Rubios is still open in San Diego.

Gaslamp district

East Village Neigborhood.   108 redevelopment projects are underway.  Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres is making this one of the key new hotspots for the city.