How About an Early Election?

Many voting precincts around the country allow people to vote early for elections, which is a dandy idea if you ask me.  I get to avoid a line even if there aren’t any real crowds (sadly), and I take care of my civic responsibility at a time that suits my schedule.  Early voting is a wonderful convenience.  Given the current political climate leading up to what is likely the most controversial and divisive presidential election of my lifetime, I would like to carry the concept one step further.  Let’s get this over with by having an early election.  If social media is any indication of the current volatility of emotion and anxiety surrounding the election, we need to blow the lid off this pressure cooker as soon as possible.  Is there really anybody left out there who hasn’t made a decision about the candidates?

If we’re honest with each other and ourselves, which hardly ever happens on social media, we know that what we all do is accentuate the negative news about the candidate we oppose and ignore the damning news about the one we support. After a while, most of the “breaking news” about the candidates just becomes sound and fury, signifying nothing. The latest scandal is just another bug on the windshield — hit the spray switch and the wipers and in a few seconds it’s gone. It doesn’t change the course, it certainly doesn’t change anybody’s mind, and it doesn’t get us any closer to being one nation indivisible.

Members of Congress will continue to thwart the efforts of the President no matter who wins the White House, and the President will continue to use executive orders and other powers to bypass Congress. With this model now firmly established in Washington, the federal government will get very little good work accomplished, which for some of the remnants of the Tea Party, will be just fine. The chances of the federal government shrinking any time soon are practically nonexistent, so the next best thing for the anti-government crowd is for the train to stall on the tracks. Of course, that means that horrible abuses of the system and wasteful spending of tax money will continue to escalate, and both of the controlling parties are equally out of control with spending.

I don’t know what it will take for Americans to overcome their deep differences. We may be too far gone. Even an attack on our own soil only produces a temporary and superficial sense of unity that is quickly forgotten when the partisan rhetoric machine cranks up again. I certainly don’t hold out any hope that Trump, Clinton, or Johnson will be able to bring the nation together. If the model of Darwinian evolution’s survival of the fittest can be applied to the U.S., perhaps we simply aren’t the fittest.

Galveston Beach Deserves Better Press

Being a lover of the seashore and all things beach-related, I take every opportunity to dig my toes in the sand and soak up the salt and sun.  We try to make a trip to the beach at least once a year if possible.  I even play the sounds of waves on my computer at work for background noise.  It’s better than music sometimes.  For a good portion of my life, the highlight of my summers was a trip to Florida, usually to Daytona Beach, for a family vacation.  I have also visited beaches in Alabama, South Carolina, California, and southern England.  I know people who drive 24 hours from Texas just to spend a couple of weeks on the beach in Daytona, passing by numerous other locations along the Gulf to get there.  They say that Texas beaches are dirty and run-down.  They claim there’s no entertainment.  Specifically, they are talking about Galveston Island.

This summer, my wife and I were invited to spend a week at Galveston Island with some close family who live in Kansas.  We don’t get to see them very often and really enjoy spending time with them.  The plan involved them driving down to the Gulf in a couple of vehicles, loaded down with everything we could possibly need for a week at the beach.  We flew into Houston, rented a car, and made the short trip down to meet them at a large, rambling house on the beach we had all rented for the week.  I was expecting to be underwhelmed when we got there; however, I was pleasantly surprised to find Galveston’s beaches full of life with plenty of attractions.  There are water parks, an impressive amusement park on a huge pier, gardens, theaters, historic areas, some good restaurants, and more.  The beaches are clean, the waves are better than the Florida Gulf, and the house was perfect for our group of ten people, which included two children under the age of three!

Galveston Beach
Galveston Beach

The house was separated from the beach by a lawn and a some grassy dunes, but the sand was easily accessible by a raised, wooden walkway.  There was plenty of beach area to set up a permanent tent canopy for relief from the mid-day sun.  The porch looking out to the ocean extended the entire width of the house.  There was a large kitchen/eating area, numerous bedrooms, three bathrooms, two televisions on either end of the house set far enough apart to avoid any bleed-over effect.  It was such a relaxing place that was well maintained and nicely furnished.  We had a wonderful time with people we love in a setting that was just perfect.

Before heading back to Houston to the airport, we drove around the more developed area of the beach.  The hotels and condos looked very nice.  Most were probably built after Hurricane Ike devastated the area in 2008.   There are even a few resorts on the far east section of the island and what looks like a residential community development that is just getting started.  The old downtown section of Galveston is full of character typical of a port town.  There are even a few structures that predate the huge storm of 1900,  America’s worst-recorded hurricane disaster, that brought a massive surge across the island killing at least 8,000 people. Now there is a substantial sea wall that serves as the foundation for the major highway that runs along the beach, which helps protect the town from surges.  The highway separates the hotels from the beach, but it is a necessary barrier in case of storms.  For those who still think Galveston is not such a great destination, I suspect they are thinking of an older Galveston that doesn’t exist anymore.  The place has reinvented itself, and it is definitely worth considering.  Galveston is too far away from us for regular beach trips, but if this opportunity came open again, I would definitely want to go back.

Kayaking on Lake Burton

My wife and I took our Hobie kayaks out on Lake Burton recently, putting in at a shady little cove at Moccasin Creek State Park near Clarkesville, Georgia.  Lake Burton is considered one of the highest demand lakes in the country for real estate, and on its shores are fabulous homes owned by celebrities, athletes, and wealthy entrepreneurs.  Some of the two-storey boat houses are grander than most middle class homes in America.  The 2800-acre lake is nestled in the mountains of northeast Georgia, about 100 miles northeast of Atlanta.  It is one of several Georgia Power Company lakes created by a series of dams on the Tallulah River.

Kayaking on Lake Burton
Kayaking on Lake Burton

I have bragged on Georgia’s state park system several times, and Moccasin Creek is one of the reasons.  In addition to providing access to a beautiful mountain lake, the park is a perfect setting for camping, and the campground is one of the best I’ve seen in the state. It has a large pavilion, a big playground, a general store, a fishing dock, a boat ramp, and several boat slips.  Activities at the park include picnicking, fishing, canoeing, hiking, and geocaching.  There are good restaurants close by, and it’s a short drive from destinations like Helen, Georgia too.

We got out on the lake a little after 9:00 on a Saturday morning and stayed out for about 90 minutes.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of kayaking on a lake like Burton is the leisurely pace and close proximity to the shoreline afforded by these boats.  You get to see so much more detail than you would on a motor boat or jet ski.  Some of the houses we saw just in the small portion of the lake we traveled were incredible.  Of course, we also appreciate the exercise we get from peddling the Hobies.  We plan to explore more lakes in north Georgia on the kayaks, and there are quite a few from which to choose.