The World’s Ten Best Performing Economies

Seattle’s economy is scorching hot — I thought surely we’d make the list.

We didn’t. Only  two U.S. cities measured up: San Jose, at the heart of Silicon Valley, and San Francisco. Dublin is #1. The rest are mostly in China, with a nod to India and the Philippines.

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We need to be realistic, as Americans, about our place in the world. By many measures, it’s not as exalted as the ordinary American thinks.

Travel: Fireflies in Ocean Grove

When we were kids there were fireflies galore in the summer; we used to watch their graceful, blinking arc after darkness fell on our back yard. I haven’t seen fireflies in years, on either coast. Supposedly they’ve been killed off by insecticide and other environmental stresses.

But in Ocean Grove, awaiting the concert at the great hall, I saw a firefly — not an army of them, a single one. I was just as fascinated as I had been all those decades ago. My eyes tracked the same graceful, blinking arc I remembered from before. I felt a wave of nostalgia for an era when there were armies of them, blinking in the night.

Rescuing the Cave Boys in Thailand

Almost miraculously given the difficulty of the rescue, four of the young boys caught in a flooded cave in Thailand have been rescued as of Sunday night.

I find myself wondering about complex cave rescues, for which I’m sure there is a protocol. Given the protracted nature of this rescue, do rescue divers bring out the strongest boys first, or the weakest? Do they bring the youngest, or the oldest, or is age not a factor? I’m sure the boys come before their coach, who is 25 and the leader of this ill-fated adventure. What if he is suddenly in critical condition — does  he move up the triage list? How do the parents of the boys not chosen for an early exit handle their feelings? What is it like to be the parents of the last boys to be rescued? What will happen to the courage of the boys still entrapped if one or more of their group dies?

These kids are young, and their expedition was a foolish mistake. All of us who love children hope that they escape the worst consequences of excrebly poor judgment.

I’m hoping the miracle continues.

Traveling While Old

I’m 73 and approaching that point when friends say they are beginning to curtail travel because it’s too effortful. I’m not there yet, although the trip home on Friday was slightly effortful. First I got pulled over for extra random screening — three men and two women. They took the men right away, but there was no female TSA officer available for us. I get to the airport in plenty of time so wasn’t concerned, but the other woman had a flight to catch and was quite agitated. TSA officers get snarky when people yell at them, so I just kept saying quietly that it wasn’t fair to pull us over and then not be able to do the screening, and could they possible figure out how to help? Finally they found someone and I was through in three seconds. Interestingly, they took me first — likely because I wasn’t making a fuss.

Then the flight was delayed for a maintenance issue. First they said they’d try to find a plane to swap out, but that didn’t prove do-able. Then they said they’d fix the plane and it would take two hours — but not to leave the gate area because it might be faster. I took a chance and scooted over to the United Club, in part to get my snack and in part because their service desk gets better information. Sure enough, they called maintenance directly and said I should be back at the gate no later than one hour from that moment since the repair wasn’t going to take as long as expected. I had my glass of wine and some cheese and crackers and then a square of carrot cake, and headed back to the gate.

The flight did take off, and I was home only a couple of hours later than planned — but it was after midnight Seattle time and I didn’t get to bed until around 1:40am. I’d had a very restful week, and my brother-in-law drove me to the airport so I didn’t have to deal with returning a rental car. I even got a chair massage before boarding the plane, as there was one right opposite the gate and I had the extra 20 minutes. That said, I was really tired on Saturday. I got everything done in terms of grocery shopping and unpacking/laundering, went to Sara and Ben’s to water, then logged my 4 miles, 10,000 steps — but I really felt the travel in my body.

Still planning to travel without any hesitation, but am feeling a slight inkling of what people mean when they say it’s too effortful.

 

Travel: Shout Out for Vic’s

Jersey has a lot of Italians, and a lot of great Italian restaurants. Vic’s, in Bradley Beach, has been there since I was a kid. The place has classic tomato pies, with thin crust and great sauce and just a dusting of parmesan on top — plus a full dinner menu, cocktails and wine, and rich desserts. There’s nothing trendy about this place — it probably still has the red and white checkered table cloths that I remember from years ago. But it’s been there for 60 years, on the same corner. In this era when trendy places go in and out every 20 minutes, I’d say kudos are in order. 🙂

Tour de France Stage One

Stage One of the Tour is usually a long ride, not terribly challenging technically, and is intended to launch everyone into the grueling event. It’s not supposed to be a big deal stage, more a chance for everyone to settle in and get the timing right and shake out the jitters.

But sometimes the early stages are a  big deal. Last year sprinter Peter Sagan elbowed sprinter Mark Cavendish into the barriers during the final seconds of Stage Four. Cavendish was badly injured and could not continue, and Sagan was disqualified and also had to leave the race — although that disqualification was later overturned when the thrown elbow was deemed not intentional.

Stage One of this year’s Tour was surprising in that it had a number of crashes — mostly in places where it didn’t look like professional riders would crash. The sprinters survived, but big names like Chris Froome were involved in crashes and fell back. Froome is 62 seconds off the lead, which in professional cycling is a lot.

The saving grace may be that other riders who have a chance to win the yellow jersey also had problems and opened up a gap. Froome lost time against the sprinters, but not so much against his direct competitors for the overall win.

Sunday is Day 2. I’m riveted. Archie likes the Tour too — he and Matt stopped over for awhile on Saturday afternoon. Archie has already picked Team Sky — Froome’s team — as the eventual winner and Froome as the guy who winds up with the yellow jersey. 🙂

Travel: Ocean Grove Tents

The Methodist Camp Meeting Association owns the land in Ocean Grove; you get a 99 year lease, which can be transferred to your heirs. This is a very small town and homes are at a premium, but the most desirable of all and most rare is to snag one of the tent homes that cluster around the great hall. The tent bungalows are, actually, tents on a slab with some permanent walls. They are cute and charming and tiny and probably damp in the rain. I’d never been in one, but the usher we talked with invited us to take a quick tour of his, just down the street. Linda and I did.

The tents have small, old fashioned kitchens, toilets and showers, bunk beds and a double bed in the living room — they sleep 6-8.  This tent has no internet, although our host said you can get it. They operate four months a year, then the canvas is rolled back and the places winterized as best they can be.

I think the tents are absolutely charming. For me, I suspect they are more fun to look at and photograph than to live in. But people who have them hang  on fiercely and come down every year from wherever they live in winter, and work assiduously to have their tent lease passed on to family members. Hardly any ever comes open.

If you have a tent home you are near the great hall for worship, near the beach, and near the best ice cream parlor in town. Sweet deal, as they say, for those who like tents.

Travel: Old Horn Players Never Die, They Come to Ocean Grove

Ocean Grove, as I’ve written about in the last few days, is a Methodist camp town on the Jersey shore. Wood frame Victorian houses, some quite stunning and some modest, are packed tightly together along the narrow streets. There is a vibrant, if small, main part of town with shops and restaurants and banks and ice cream shops that draw lines of 50+ people. No bars — the town remains dry. These days you can BYO, but no liquor is sold within town limits. The place is very white, and patriotism is intertwined with overt displays of religion. The center of town is the 6000 seat auditorium, over 100 years old, which hosts nationally known preachers and religious services as well as numerous secular concerts — you have to pay for keeping up these old buildings, after all. I asked one of the ushers, old white men in blue shirts and khakis, when the hall is filled. He said, “We get some big name preachers, and people come from all over for their services. The Beach Boys, too. They fill the place up.”

There is one original Beach Boy left performing with the group. Linda and Ron and I saw the Beach Boys on TV on July 4th, and they still manage to crank out the original sound. 🙂 Glad to hear they are still beloved by people of a certain age, including camp town Methodists.

On Thursday night Linda, Ron, their friend Elena and I went to the first performance of a Classical Music Series to which they have tickets. Performing was a group called imperial Brass, featuring celebrity guest Phil Smith, former Principal Trumpet for the New York Philharmonic. Jazz cornetist Warren Vache’ also soloed. The performance, led by conductor Ronald Waiksnoris, began with a Bible reading and short reflection, and ended with a rousing God Bless America complete with a huge flag that lights up. Honestly, it was mind blowing for me — talk about culture shock.

Imperial Brass began as the Rutgers Alumni Brass Band, and they play a varied program of popular and patriotic and classical sounds.

There are capabilities that decline as we age. But clearly you can be old and still blow a horn with a liquid, magical sound. As I said in the title, old horn players never die. They just come to Ocean Grove.

Back Home: Tour de France

I got in very late last night west coast time, took a shower and brushed my teeth, left my bag for this morning, and went to sleep. Am now watching the Tour de France Stage One. I’m a fanatical Tour watcher — I just love the sport. And, NBC Sports follows the race as it unfolds, so I see gorgeous views all over France for the 4-5 hours that each stage takes . The major channels have some Tour coverage, but it’s almost all human interest stuff. NBC Sports is for hard core professional cycling lovers.

Breakfast break — just made coffee and oatmeal — will resume today’s posts shortly.

Back Home

Arrived in Seattle a little after 9pm on Friday night, which is midnight east coast time. By the time I got a Lyft, arrived home, took a shower, it’s 10:42pm, or 1:42am. Going to bed. Too tired to write Saturday blog posts. Coming … please check back.