My Head is Filled With Music

Something I found while looking into Piper Bill Millen who I mentioned in a post yesterday- a nice song by Celtic Punk band the Real McKenzies-

Wolves and poodles

What college could be like if professors weren't expected to walk on eggshells for fear that their students might curl up into the fetal position:
[W]hen an undergraduate announces to the class that women only earn 57% of what men earn due to the patriarchy, one need only respond with, “Well Ms. Bernstein, let me ask that if you are the CEO of GM, would your fiduciary responsibility to investors, many of whom are women, require you to fire all men (or least as many as possible) and replace them with equally competent cheaper female employees and thus boost the quarterly dividend? And, for good measure, tell us how you would address the many government regulations designed to prevent sexual discrimination in employment? Surely the fired men would sue and how would you instruct the GM legal department to respond? Is social justice a legal defense?”
To take the reverse of this technique, I can remember three arguments that reduced my constitutional law professor to sputtering incoherence.  One classmate was not considered a bright student, too simple-minded.  I wish I could remember this fellow's name, because I'd like to look him up now.  He once asked, very innocently and in good humor, why we couldn't settle some hot-button social-justice issue by letting different states resolve it differently.  The professor snapped that we'd fought a war over that--as if she felt she'd elucidated a legal argument to stun him into silence.

Later, my classmate wondered whether a peremptory juror strike was really unlimited, something that could be used to oust any potential juror for literally any unexplained subjective reason.  Could the prosecutor strike all black jurors, for instance?  Well, obviously yes, you idiot, the professor replied.  Peremptory means peremptory, weren't you listening?  Only a few years later that tactic became a hot topic in the appellate courts.

Finally, he asked whether charging someone with murder for kicking a pregnant woman and inducing a miscarriage were not in some way inconsistent with an absolute right to abortion.  I mean, weren't we sort of implying that the fetus is a human being?  Again, of course not, you Neanderthal.  The professor wouldn't even argue that one.  It was beyond the pale.

Honor and Ceremony

No one does formal ceremony like the French.  That talent was appropriately used 14 May 2019 to honor the two French Commandos killed in an operation that successfully rescued four hostages in Burkina Faso on 10 May.  They were Cédric de Pierrepont, Commando Hubert, 17/07/1986 - 10/05/2019, and Alain Bertoncello, Commando Hubert, 1991 - 10/05/2019.

The second half of that video is the chant "Loin de Chez Nous" (Away from home).  A very appropriate choice and beautifully rendered. A poor (direct) translation here (I could not find a good poetic translation).

The thread that tweet is in also has a nice mention of Piper Bill Millin.

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain. The Linn Cove Viaduct is that tiny, tiny line on the bottom left corner of the photo. 

Crossing under the viaduct into Grandfather's boulder field.

One of the larger boulders, with the viaduct for scale. 

Looking back at Grandfather from the bike.

Tough crowd

We knew already that life in North Korea's fast lane is no picnic.  Still, how would you feel if you walked out of negotiations, only to find that your adversaries afterwards took their head negotiator and a handful of his underlings out back and shot them?
Kim Hyok Chol was executed in March at Mirim Airport in Pyongyang, along with four foreign ministry officials after they were charged with spying for the United States, the Chosun Ilbo reported, citing an unidentified source with knowledge of the situation.
“He was accused of spying for the United States for poorly reporting on the negotiations without properly grasping U.S. intentions,” the source was quoted as saying.
That's an odd note to strike. I get that North Korea has such a horrible government that its emperor can have some poor flack shot because he muffs it at the bargaining table, pour encourager les autres. Maybe the next guy will read the tea leaves better.  But calling something like that "spying for the U.S." is kind of a stretch, except in the sense that anything that annoys a dictator can be labeled "spying" for his enemies  It's not like he has to worry about people parsing his words and wondering if he's crazy.

At least the dictator in this case isn't trying to pass off the failure of the negotiations as no big deal.  That's a lot of public chagrin over "not properly grasping U.S. intentions":  bullets in the brain-pan at the airport.

I like that "unidentified source with knowledge of the situation."

Rolling Thunder

The ride to Rolling Thunder was a nine day adventure, a little less than half of it in the DC metroplex, and a little more than half on the road up and back. I am very glad that I went, but I can see why the organizers are considering making this one the last one. It's an event that creates an astonishing effect, but there's a huge amount of work and expense on the back end, as well as a substantial amount of physical risk for participants. The original participants are Vietnam-era veterans, now in or entering their 70s, for whom the risks are now far greater than once. The popularity of the ride has also greatly increased the scale of the risks.

The two main risks are heat exhaustion and motorcycle wrecks during the ride itself. On Sunday, I arrived at the Pentagon parking lot at 7:30 AM. My group began the ride through DC six and a half hours later. Sunday was a typical day for late May in DC, hot and humid, spent under a bright sun with few clouds on a sea of asphalt and no shade. I brought a half a gallon of water, strong sunscreen, and clothing that was light enough to wear in the heat but would protect me from the sun. Even so, I consumed the entire half a gallon of water and refilled it thanks to the Christian Motorcyclist Association, which did great ministry by providing free water to riders. If you had your own container, they would refill it, but if not they would give you water in cups inscribed with prayers and evangelical writings; they also gave out free cloths, dipped in cold water, that were similarly inscribed. The fire department set up several trucks around the Pentagon with sprays of water to help cool riders, but the Pentagon parking area is so large that no such truck was anywhere near us.

As for the risk of motorcycle crashes, I've seen figures for the ride everywhere from 500,000 riders to 900,000. While many come in groups that know each other, very many more are people who have never ridden together before and have no shared agreements on how to do so. The ride (like a long route march) has an accordion effect, bunching up and stopping in places and stretching out into relatively high speeds at other places. It was chaotic, sometimes two abreast, sometimes four, sometimes falling into single file. It is a testament to the skill of the individual riders that there were not far more crashes than there were -- the figure I've heard is fifteen, which in a ride of half a million to nearly a million is itself amazing. This is all the more true given that all the riders were subject to prolonged heat and sun before the ride, and that so many of them are older Americans for whom such exposure is more dangerous than once.

Thus, I get why the organizers might be thinking it's time to hang up their spurs. It's been amazing, but the very scale of their success has made it dangerous to participants.

Now that I've said all that, let me talk about the ways in which it is very much worth preserving.

From Thursday night, DC was taken over by Veteran and Veteran-friendly motorcycle riders. You'd go down to the Lincoln Memorial, near the Wall, and there would be thousands of bikes parked on the grass. Thousands more lined the Mall. The sound of them was constantly in the air. All along the walks and the oaks by our national memorials, men in cuts covered with patriotic patches would greet you as "brother." By Friday, the police had given up on enforcing traffic lights: groups of bikes went together as one vehicle, be they a string of fifty or a hundred bikes long. By Saturday, the already-heavy Memorial Day crowds of ordinary Americans were supplemented by a million or more of us: the riders themselves, and those they brought with them.

I counted dozens of riding associations and motorcycle clubs, all of them patriots. Hotels used to lobbyists in suits and ties were full of bikes, AC/DC blaring in their parking lots. The Legion Riders and the VFW Riders were there in force, as of course was the Rolling Thunder group. The Combat Vets Motorcycle Association had many members there. I mentioned the Christian MA already, but during the heat of the day Sunday they were joined by the Sinland MC, who was grateful for the water they brought. On Saturday I dined at a sports pub in Crystal City, just by the Pentagon. The Nam Knights MC had largely taken over Crystal City, but a bunch of other groups were there as well, especially the Leathernecks MC. The IBEW even had a crew of electrical workers who were also veterans. Unlike at many rallies, though, there was no sense of tension between the various groups -- nobody was trying to prove anything. Everybody was a brother, everybody was already proven, and we were all there for the same reason.

Most of all I will remember the spectators, who lined the ride with flags and flattering signs, and cheered us on the whole way. I've been on many rides before, but never one in which the community made us so welcome. They were proud of us.

After the ride, with my bike in Potomac Park and the shade of the trees to rest in, I met a group of riders one of whom was having his shoe tied by the other. The one guy couldn't bend his back anymore due to injuries, so his brothers knelt down on the grass and tied it for him. He didn't get left behind. No one gets left behind. That's what the ride was about, with the POW/MIA issue as its main focus. It wasn't just words. They were living it out.

The Long Rider Returns

I finished the ride today, passing through my two favorite places on the Parkway. The first was Grandfather Mountain. Grandfather is the home of the mighty Linn Cove Viaduct, the most complexly engineered stone bridge ever built.

Grandfather Mountain is majestic and beautiful, and regularly featured here over the years because it is the home of the Grandfather Mountain Scottish Highland Games. I also passed by it on another long motorcycle ride some years ago.

It was an absolutely perfect morning in Linn Cove. I found it very hard to leave -- I often have the sense there that I never want to leave -- and might well not have done so if it had not been for the thought of my wife waiting at home. She had been expressive of missing me on the phone the night before, however, and, well, somehow I found the strength to ride away from a place of breathtaking beauty.

At some point between Blowing Rock and Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway leaves the true Blue Ridge, and begins traveling along the crests of other ridges. North of Asheville, it follows the crest of the Great Craggy Mountains. (AVI will have seen this part recently on his trip to Craggy Gardens). Then, south of Asheville, the parkway mounts the Pisgah Ridge. The Pisgah Ridge section is the highest section of the parkway, frequently over five thousand feet and at one point well over six thousand.

The Pisgah ridge is also where two of North Carolina's National Forests come together. The northern forest is itself called the Pisgah National Forest, and the southern and western one is the Nantahala (a Cherokee word that means, I am told, 'the land where the sun sets at noon' -- which is certainly true of the Nantahala Gorge, a steep-sided festival of waterfalls).

This is the section of the parkway, more than any other, that gives you the feeling of being in a wild world without civilization -- except for the road itself. You can see for miles and miles, and all away below you are ranks upon ranks of mountains and valleys, covered in forest, with no cities in sight.

There are some impressive physical features, though, such as Looking Glass Rock.

The parkway finally ends at the southern entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here it intersects US 441, which goes south away out of the park and into the Cherokee reservation held by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. Turn north, and you will come at last to Gatlinburg -- but not before seeing some of the most striking and beautiful country in the world.

But that ride is for another day.

Bee Stings

NBA To Assign 'Adversity Score' To Pudgy White Guys Who Want To Play Professional Basketball

Groot In Hot Water After Recent 'I Am Groot' Comments

Ocasio-Cortez Disappointed To Learn The 'Free Market' Isn't A Grocery Store Where You Don't Have To Pay For Anything

Amazing: Mueller's Statement Confirms Whatever You Already Believed About Trump

The Mellow Mushroom

The Mellow Mushroom is a pizza chain founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1974. In its youth all of its restaurants were Grateful Dead themed, but at this remove from the end of the Grateful Dead, it has expanded and employed a creative team designed to make each one unique. I was told tonight by the bartender about her favorite, which was themed on Alice in Wonderland; this one is the one I think of as "the Hobbit" Mellow Mushroom, for reasons that should be obvious. In Gainesville, Georgia, they have occupied an old mansion with stained glass windows and turned it into a masterpiece.

Pizza is an American dish, not much like the Italian namesake, with several regional styles especially including New York and Chicago (and Philly's 'tomato pie'). The Mellow Mushroom deserves to be numbered among this elite as the Southern variation on pizza. The dough is made from spring water and excellent wheat, and is chewy and buttery. Ingredients are numerous and thickly cut, preserving their flavor and texture even after cooking. They prefer a rich tomato sauce, but also make a white pizza named after the Beetles' album, and a good pesto. I've never had a bad one. The one pictured is a small half-House Special, half-Pacific Rim (with both pineapple and jalapenos, as well as thick, applewood-smoked bacon).

They generally also have an ace beer selection, as if there wasn't enough to like about the place already. The wife tells me the salads are fantastic, but my appetite for research has not so far extended to them.

Roanoke to Blowing Rock

Today's ride was shorter than yesterday's, according to my decision to take it easy coming home. After the big, impressive rocks north of Roanoke, the Parkway levels off near the city where I spent last night. It then resumes a climb to the crest of the Blue Ridge, but the climb is steady and gentle and the ridge is wide enough that you might not think you were in the mountains at all for a long time. Several tiny towns, and a few pretty churches, bestride the route.

I spent some of today talking with other bikers returning, or going further out from, Rolling Thunder. One of the vets I met asked after the knife I was wearing, and then showed me the dagger he was carrying on a neck chain. I advised him of the local laws on the subject, so that he could avoid police trouble. His was a lot shorter than mine, but NC is an open-carry state with one of those stupid knife laws that bans concealed knives by name: dirk, dagger, Bowie, etc. I'm working on rationalizing the laws, but I think it will be a difficult process. My first attempt got good responses from legislators, but didn't go anywhere practically.

There's a lodge at Peaks of Otter that looks like it might be fun for a future trip. There's also a "Northwestern Trading Post" where I bought my wife a scarf woven with skulls and roses. She'll love it, I don't doubt, and she's never read this blog so it's safe to tell you.

At one point a hawk flew over my head. Otherwise, unlike the rampant and frequent deer yesterday, there was little wildlife besides songbirds in evidence. The country grows wilder and more mountainous as you approach the North Carolina border, just south of Fancy Gap. Most of the day I had the Parkway entirely to myself, no other traveler in sight in either direction.

I'm spending the night in Blowing Rock, my favorite little mountain town in the north of North Carolina. The picture above is of the countryside from an overlook nearby. It's beginning to get nice, but the very best country lies on tomorrow's ride.

A Little Reading

Five Philosophy Books to Take on Holiday

The Philosophy Behind the First American Dictionary

Why Won't Socialism Die?

A Claim That Seems Like Silly One-Upmanship: Muslims were in America before Protestants


Bilbo Baggins' Global Restaurant (and Green Dragon Pub)

There aren't a lot of great restaurants in the DC area, but there is one in Alexandria, Virginia. Of course, I only thought to try it because of the Tolkien-themed name. That was fifteen years ago, though, and every time I happen back it's just as good as it used to be.

Plus it has a great mural on the upper floor, and an excellent beer, wine, and cider list. Its mead list is limited to only one item, but in fairness, it was the first restaurant I know of to carry any sort of mead at all.

That treatment of the dragon with the hairy back is clearly drawn from the 1977 animated film version of The Hobbit. Sure enough, the restaurant dates to 1980, same owner all that time. I wonder how he ever got permission to use the characters and names? But clearly he must have, since he's carried on doing it ever since.


I decided to intercept the Shenandoah National Park's Skyline Drive at the Thornton Gap, and head south from there. It's been years since I took that particular route, but there is much to recommend it. (And one thing to recommend against it: there's a sizable per-car fee, which is only slightly smaller per motorcycle). It is similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which begins at the end of Skyline Drive, except that much of it overlooks the Shenandoah Valley.

I had left Arlington at 3:30 AM in order to avoid the heavy, crazy traffic. This was a good decision, even though it entailed rising at 3 AM. The traffic was already heavier than I'd have liked, even at that optimal hour. But by about 6:00 AM, I had escaped to the mountains via Warrenton and US 211. Once I entered the park, I was almost completely alone due to the hour, the weekday, and probably partly as an effect of the aforementioned fee.

It began to rain at Sperryville, and continued to rain for an hour or so. Then it got hot as the day went along. I swapped gear several times as I moved from humid and warm, to cold and wet, to hot and humid. All the same, it was an enjoyable ride through lovely country.

Traffic picked up once I got on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is free to travel; but it was also later in the day. Mostly motorcycles still, even though the long weekend is over. A few more than myself decided to stretch it out, I suppose.

Now what?

I guess she might make a career as a motivational speaker.
Rolling Thunder was a real experience. I’ll have more informed thoughts after I have returned home. I’m taking the ride slow and easy on the way back. Should be in Thursday evening. A long ride now and then does the soul good.
The EU election was a banger.