Tag Archives: travel

Wales Day 3

Bryn Celli Ddu

Arthur's Table

John Jo splitting slate

Our travels today in Wales took us to three sites, all completely different.

First we visited Bryn Celli Ddu, a neolithic burial chamber, built about 5,000 years ago and shown in the top right photo. After following a well-defined path along the edge of two fields, we all entered this mound and stood in the chamber inside. The entrance shown in the image was aligned with the summer solstice so that the sun at sunrise would beam directly into the inner chamber.

Next, we drove to the northeast corner of the island of Anglesey to climb a flat-topped hill called Arthur’s Table. Our guide, Gareth Roberts, has been doing extensive research on the place names in Wales that appear to link directly to the legend of King Arthur. It is his contention (supported by those place names as well as research by others) that Arthur was actually a Welsh military leader, born of Roman parents (who had integrated into Welsh society) and who united the tribes to fight the Saxon invaders in the sixth century, after the Romans had abandoned the British Isles. He has found more than a hundred place names in this part of Wales named in honor of Arthur. He has also found in the written record much evidence linking Arthur to Wales and the war to resist the Saxons.

This particular hilltop has been identified by archeology as the location of a significant Welsh village from the time the Romans were conquering Great Britain. The middle right photo, taken from the top, looks east across the Menai Strait that separates Anglesey from the mainland, with the mountains of Snowdonia beyond. This strait is where the Romans crossed in their first attempt to conquer Anglesey and Wales.

Roberts’ thinks that the Round Table from the King Arthur legends was a misinterpretation by later French and British storytellers of this important Welsh hilltop village. Instead of being a table where Arthur ruled with his knights, the table was this hilltop, where that Roman invasion was first spotted during their initial invasion. Five hundred years later, when the Saxons invaded and Arthur led the resistance to them, Roberts’ believes the name was given because in some way Arthur was connected to it.

The third image shows slate cutter John Jo as he demonstrates how to split slate into the thin slate tiles that are used to cover rooftops. We watched this demonstration as part of a full tour of the National Slate Museum, nestled within the mountains on the way to Snowdonia, where for more than hundred years one of the world’s biggest slate mines mined, processed, and sold slate. Closed since 1969, the mine facility now serves as a museum. The most spectacular feature of this mine facility was the still functioning giant water wheel, more than fifty feet in diameter, that was turned by a stream of gravity-fed water at its base and was used to run all the belts that powered all the belt-driven machinery in the facility. The video of the wheel, embedded below the fold, shows the wheel as we saw it today. Unfortunately it does not include any people in it for scale, though one of the last shots shows a ladder for accessing the wheel’s top. Trust me, a person seems dwarfed by this wheel.

We then drove up over the mountain pass in Snowdonia National Park to our hotel, nestled at the base of Mount Snowdon. We shall be spending the rest of our trip hiking these mountains. The hike tomorrow will once again be led by Gareth Roberts and will show us further links between Arthur and Wales. On Sunday we will attempt to hike to the top of Mount Snowdon.
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In Wales

747

The view from the Village of Rhosneigr

This will be a short post, as we are about to leave on our second day’s adventures.

To the right is the plane that finally got us out of the U.S. to London, where we had to transfer again to get to Dublin. Twas nice to fly on a 747, rapidly disappearing from the fleets of American airline companies. British Airways however appears to still be flying a lot of them. A super smooth flight on this magnificent plane.

Transferring planes in Heathrow was horrible, as it seems all international travel is becoming. Even though we were never leaving the terminal they still forced us to go through customs.

The second picture shows the view from the coastal village of Rhosneigr at the end of the day. We had met up with our group and had just completed a 4 mile hike along the beach. It seems there are a lot of bird watchers among us. It also seems in a way like we were back at Cannon Beach, without any crowds at all.

Time to go! More later.

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Finally in Dublin

Because American Airlines cancelled our Sunday night flight to Dublin (on the way to Wales), we ended up getting here one day late. The result is that we are both exhausted, partly from two days of travel, and partly because the messed up flights has made it harder to adjust to the time change.

My impression of American Airlines drops with every flight. This time they were very disorganized in every way in dealing with the cancellation, caused because our airplane had a maintenance issue. We managed to get our new flight plus our hotel, taxi, and food vouchers quickly because we did some smart quick thinking, working as a team. However, though American told us we were now going to be on a British Airways flight and would send me an email confirmation within minutes, that confirmation never arrived, and when we got to the BA ticket counter the next day they knew nothing about us. Fortunately,. the BA ticket person was great. She called American and got our tickets issued.

I should add that we had an almost identical experience coming home from Oregon on Southwest only a little more than a week ago. Not only did Southwest keep us better informed, they also were able to find another plane and crew and got us out the same night, though six hours late. Moreover, Southwest gave everyone on the flight a $100 voucher, unasked, as an apology for the delay. American meanwhile offered us nothing as recompense. And their food vouchers were pitiful, failing to cover the cost of any meal at the airport.

I will try to post more tonight, but likely I won’t get much done until tomorrow.

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At the rim

at the rim

On a lark, last week I called Xanterra, the vendor that runs the hotels on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, to see if they had any rooms available anytime during the summer. Diane and I wanted to do a day hike down the Hermit Trail, and to do it we needed to stay at a hotel the night before and the night after.

To my surprise, they had a rim view room available in Bright Angel Lodge, for tonight and tomorrow. The picture on the right is taken from our room, right after we arrived earlier today. I am right now sitting at that window, watching the sun set on the canyon buttes even as I type. Yowza!

I will post more tonight, and some tomorrow night as well. I will also do my podcast with John Batchelor tomorrow, live, from this room. Most cool, I must say.

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Off to Israel + new op-ed!

My April travels continue. It has been too long since I traveled to Israel to visit family, so today I am heading out for the long flight, arriving tomorrow afternoon. I will be there until April 20. I expect I will be able to post, as I have in the past, though my commentary will likely be reduced somewhat.

Note that I will have a new op-ed published sometime this week at The Federalist entitled “What Trump’s space policy should really do.” I am positive that my conclusions will not be what most people expect. The op-ed was inspired by this comment by Edward Thelen, part of comments in connection with this Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast, where I talked about space exploration in the context of the American settlement of the west.

The comparison with the American west is appropriate. There have been other expansions throughout the world, too. In the 19th century, the US was not the only country that had a frontier. We have several examples of expansion from which to learn, but the frontiers in the Americas were clearly the largest, complete with immigration from the Old World straight to the frontier.

An example of a lesson — beyond Robert’s example of the Homesteading Act — is the need for better communication between the US east coast and California. Messages and people needed to move across the continent in far less time and in a safer manner than those that were available in 1860, so government funded a transcontinental railroad, a line longer than had ever been built or operated before. Earthbound or space-born governments may also have needs for similar large projects. Although the needs of We the People has been shown to be best met through private-ownership of free-market capitalist commerce, there will be times when government should also fund projects that solve its needs.

Edward was suggesting that the focus of the federal government — and Trump’s space policy — should be building an infrastructure that will make it easier for private companies and individuals to work in space. My initial response had agreed with him:

What NASA should do is build the kind of infrastructure that private enterprise needs to explore the Moon, the asteroids, and Mars. Build a communications network. Put communications satellites behind the Moon. Set up radiation monitors that private tourists trips will need to monitor solar and cosmic radiation. And even here, the model should be that used in the west with the transcontinental railroad, where the government hired private companies to do the work for it.

I need to think about this more. This needs to be written up properly.

In thinking about it, however, I completely rejected my initial response, and Edward’s suggestion. The infrastructure that the federal government needs to build in space has nothing to do with physical objects. This is the mistake everyone has been making for decades. In my op-ed I argue for something else entirely, and I hope the Trump administration is listening.

Stay tuned. When the Federalist op-ed gets posted I will post the url here immediately.

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IRS given power to revoke passports

What could possibly go wrong? A new federal law, passed by a Republican Congress, gives the IRS the right to revoke your passport, even as another federal law will soon require many to use that passport for any airline travel, even within the United States.

What should happen is that both these laws should be repealed, now. Otherwise, I fully expect in the coming years that this new IRS power will be used to squelch opposition to those in power, just as the Obama administration used the IRS prior to the 2012 election to block conservatives from fighting his re-election.

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On the road

On Thursday and Friday I will likely not be able to do much posting, as I am heading up to Kitt Peak to watch an amateur astronomer do overnight observations using the 2.1 meter telescope on the mountain. I will also be taking a tour of the numerous facilities on the mountain top. All of this is in connection with an article I am writing for Sky & Telescope.

I am unsure if I will have internet service there. If I do, I will continue to post. Otherwise I will return Friday afternoon and pick up from there.

Update, Friday mid-day: I am back. Though I had access to the internet, I was too busy with other business to post. A lot of news stories since yesterday, so there will be a lot of posts in the next few hours.

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On the road

Posting for the two weeks shall sometimes be limited to the evening hours, as Diane and I are heading east for the first time in two years to visit the Smoky Mountains on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.

We decided to drive, partly because it is cheaper, and partly to avoid the TSA (Airlines: Pay attention!). It also will give us a vehicle for driving north after our hiking vacation to visit friends and family in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

I intend to post about our trip. I should also do most of my appearances on the John Batchelor Show as well. The only negative is that I will be out in the real world when both Falcon 9 and Cygnus finally complete their next flights. I will only be able to post about it after the fact.

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Back from Israel

After a long flight beginning yesterday I am finally back in Tucson. I have a lot of clean up work to do, but I will be posting a series of short essays about what I saw and learned while visiting Israel, beginning either later tonight (if I can stay awake) or tomorrow.

I would have posted some of these essays during my visit, but my old laptop finally died on me early in the trip. Time to buy a new one.

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In Israel

After a plane journey that took far longer than it should, I have finally arrived at my brother and sister-in-law’s place in Israel. It is rainy, windy, and colder than normal. Yuch.

The Sabbath begins shortly, so I will be off line until tomorrow. On Sunday I will be doing some sightseeing with family. Posting will be difficult here, but if I have the chance I will. If not, I will write up something when I get home.

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On the road

Walk with the lamas

I must apologize for the light posting the past few days. I am on a trip with my wife Diane visiting friends in Colorado. (The picture on the right of me (on the left) having lunch in the woods with Diane (standing) and friends Joel and Marianne will give you a taste of some of the fun we are having. The lamas were the pets of our host, who took the picture.)

I will be back home Sunday, when posting should resume with vigor.

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Because of a new federal regulation, passengers who use US Airways for only part of their flight will have to check their bags and go through security again when they switch airlines.

Thank you DOT and US Airways: Because of a new federal regulation, passengers who use US Airways for only part of their flight will have to check their bags and go through security again when they switch airlines.

It appears that US Airways is at much at fault here as the DOT. Read the article.

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