Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Pennsylvania: Flight 93 Memorial

  The Memorial Visit

I remember September 11, 2001 well.

The Plane Immediately Burst Into Flames On Impact
While I was on that day in NJ, about 40 Miles away from Manhattan, I do remember the attack on the United States vividly. It came as a shock to me, I was totally unprepared for what I witnessed.
What I don’t remember well are the 2 other attacks, the bungled one at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and the failed attack on the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. where the house was in full session at the time.

It was an evil plan, premeditated and brutal. While the NYC plan came to fruition, the Pentagon attack was only somewhat successful. The Capitol attack however, failed totally.

I heard about the farmer’s field where the Capitol attack came to a crashing halt. I heard about the people on board the now infamous flight 93 but I wanted to always give them a silent ‘thank you’ for sacrificing their lives for us.
Crater, 40 Feet Deep, Made When the Plane Crashed

There were 40 good people on board flight 93. Plus the 4 terrorists who stole the operation of the plane, blatant piracy, at some point. The news on the cell phones of the crew and passengers on board the doomed flight told them that they were now part of an organized attack on the U.S. They had to ask themselves what is there to do?   It was certainly a shocking revelation to be in the midst of an organized attack on the U.S. I can not even imagine the horror the 40 people must have felt.

I am sure it was not an easy decision these good people made to fight the terrorists. Using the plane they were in against the hijackers was their only option. All crew and passengers on board did the only correct thing. They KNEW they were going to die anyway, but by fighting the terrorists, they saved countless lives on the ground and dealt the murderers a situation that those thugs, ultimately could not handle. It was a smart move from the crew and passenger's point of view. Naturally it developed out of desperation but in hindsight, we all know now it was the right thing to do.

The U.S. Government, in the middle of the fields, away from any town, literally in nowhere land, in a field, established a Memorial to the brave people on flight 93 that stopped the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Here, at exactly the spot where flight 93 ultimately crashed, a memorial was built. A bolder was placed over the filled in impact crater as a reminder to all of us. Time will not erode this spot. We will never forget. In years to come it will not be easy to remove the exact location of the people's sacrifice from our consciousness. Here is the spot where Americans and other Nations fought evil and lost their lives doing it, but in doing so saved many other lives. This spot is a moving experience. Rage still built up inside of me when I visited.

What a lot of people do not understand is that the spirit of an American is awesome. They would rather die than give in to demands from others. In a pinch they do give up their own lives to save others. Collateral damages are accepted. ‘Don’t tread on me’ is the motto of an U.S. Marine.
17-Ton Sandstone Boulder Marks the Approximate Site
of Impact

While the vile attack on the U.S. did surprise many, including me, I can say I am proud to be an American and part of this prevailing spirit of Americans. The news, even today, paints a picture of disharmony among the inhabitants of the U.S. but when the USA gets attacked?  Watch out, our response is deadly. As it should be!  I am sure a retaliation today would even be more devastating than what was done in the past. Al-Qaeda and the people who harbored them can call themselves lucky that the U.S. acted restrained.  Personally I would not have been so nice. There would be no Afghanistan today had I been in charge. Do I sound harsh? Certainly! But I would have been very effective, too. Collateral Damage goes both ways.
Largest Piece of Wreckage Found

If religion to some people means destroying others, then they must pray to the wrong God. They certainly are not ‘religious’. They are nothing but misguided murderers, living in a dream world of their own.

If hate overshadows common decency and mature acceptance of differences, then you are not fit to be called a human being. You are worse than even a vicious animal. Compassion would be nice but I don’t have it all the time. I guess I need to learn that part of being on Earth.
Each Marble Stone Has the Name of One of the Passengers
or Crew

I am in awe, and always have been, of the people on flight 93 on September 11, 2001.
Thank you for giving your life to save ours.

Rest In Peace and Thank You

Friday, June 16, 2017

West Virginia: Cass Ride

Cass, WV and Radio Telescope - 

Our BMW Ontario Motorcycle Club had their annual spring tour, this year it was visiting PA and WV; these are some of the best riding places in the North East of the U.S. Where else can you ride for 2 solid hours at almost unlimited speed and meet only one car or two. Literally, after 2 hours I ran into a traffic light, forcing me to slow down, even stop. That happens very rarely to me when riding in the North East of the U.S.  Usually, I share the road with any kind of traffic and the closeness of towns makes it difficult to crank up the speed. Oh, I know that the folks in Montana cringe when they read this, but NY State or NJ are just not good for riding the twisties at speed. 
Company Store On Left of Main Building, Restaurant in Middle and Museum on Far Right With Train Station in Front

Trains Used to Haul Lumber
Now They Haul Tourists

Our Fully Equipped Cabin in Cass
Enjoying the Swing



So Carol and I rode the distance to motorcycle heaven; to the town of Cass, WV. It is a very small town located in the middle of a National Forest, the Monongahela State Forest. Cass, a town now forgotten, was a busy Wood Cutting town starting around 1900. The town was owned, run and managed by a lumber company. The expression, the song: ‘I owe my soul to the Company Store’ could have come from here. The company gave you everything, food, clothing, health care, schooling, etc. but all for a charge, an extra charge in many cases. You earned your money by cutting, or sawing trees and then the company would take that same money (and sometimes more) for all the things you needed to live. You would never get out of the rut you were in. Work and earn and then spend the money, giving it back to the same people that just paid you. Phew, am I glad I did not live at that time, in that spot on earth. 
Cass Lumber Museum - That Is Some Saw!
A Shortcut Through the Woods
From Our Cabin to the Restaurant

Today, this town of Cass has a railroad one can ride in the summer months. One can ride a slow train through the mountains, into the woods to appreciate ‘nature’.  There is a Company restaurant (basic food only). And a Company Store still sells stuff. Cass is very 
touristy, in fact the only industry around Cass today is the rental of the old Company houses, the old Company store, the old Company Restaurant. You can visit a museum and the old Company train and tracks. Nothing is going on in Cass. It is probably busier in the summer when the train is in service. Even the roads leading to Cass, if you follow the GPS, lead you to very narrow, twisty, forgotten lanes; a haven for motorcycles. Just be careful when you ride here, there is nobody around to help should you have a problem and…… there is no cell phone service.  Surprise!
The Green Bank Museum and Start of Facility Tours

You see, Cass is in the middle of the National Radio Quiet Zone, an area the size of Connecticut and Massachusetts combined. Ever heard about this? No cell phones? No non-shielded micro wave ovens? No electronic devices that could cause radio frequency interference? All these 'no' items happen because there is a GBT. That is the Green Bank Telescope, a radio telescope that listens to noises in outer space. It is a Federal offense to make noise that interferes with this listening device. Yes, on 2 occasions folks who would not adhere to the quiet request have been charged.

Model of the Green Bank Telescope Showing That It
Rotates As Well As Tilts

The GBT is the biggest, articulating radio telescope device in the world. There are two larger radio telescopes on earth (the largest in the world at 500 meters across is in China) but they do not move. This West Virginia GBT can be positioned remotely, running on tracks so it can adjust itself to whatever it is aimed to look at. And that is the spot, this GBT, I visited when the rest of the club rode around the ‘nature’ of WV.

Carol and I, and some others, took the morning tour through the installation of the GBT. I felt like a school child to get this tour. I read some info on the telescopes, a total of 7, that are on
The Green Bank Telescope - Very Impressive
300 Meter Diameter

the premises and even visited the informative museum. If ever you are near this place, Green Bank, WV, go and see the Radio Telescope. When I read the word ‘telescope’ I think of a long tube with lenses inside that makes it possible to see far, kind of super eyes.  Well, no, not here. The GBT is a big super ear, a receiver for waves and sounds of all kinds. Light or sound waves are captured, analyzed and interpreted. Those radio telescopes scan the skies to ‘listen’ in to the Universe 24 hours a day. The GBT is sensitive enough to detect an energy less than a snowflake gives off when it hits the ground. Scientists spend hours upon hours mapping out galaxies. NASA even hires them to find lost probes and yes, those guys found a lost space probe after looking for it for 8 years.  
A Much Older Telescope, No Longer Used

The GBT is a rare and ‘out of this world’ experience for most people. Concepts of radiation, of light sources or planets, of stars, of very small and minuscule variations of sounds and/or lights are followed. What is it like out there in the great unknown? What is the Universe like? Is there only one Universe? Has there truly been a 'big bang'? Many questions arise, but also many new, useful discoveries are made. The GBT is our ear to the wall, listening to what is being said to us from far away and through some invisible walls we cannot see through.
Having Fun With Mirrors In the Museum

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has financially supported this facility but for a year now, the NSF has been reducing their contribution and will further reduce it in the coming year. The GBT manages, somehow, to stay afloat through donations and through leasing out their installations to paying customers. The Russians are a customer of the GBT. A few years ago the Russians sent a probe into space that sends back info on a continuous basis. When the Russian Telescopes are faced away from this probe, they hired the GBT to download the probe’s signal and relay it to them. It’s a good business for the GBT. They can even use some of the older Radio Telescopes to just download the info from space and relay it to Russia. It pays 2 million U.S. $ a year. That money is sorely needed at the GBT today as their annual budget is $12 million.
Our Images In Infrared (Detects Hot Zones)

The Museum was a hoot. It’s a hands-on setup and you can spin a dying ‘star’ to hear its pulse. Those pulsars were one of the latest discoveries, I think it was in the 1970’s that it set the scientific world on fire with that discovery.  The internet, nothing more than radio or light waves, depending how it is sent, is still tweaked to find a better way to work with it. The possibilities are endless, the list of applications that could or might be feasible are at the center of the ongoing research. Already some of the technology has been used in health care diagnostics. An MRI is the result of the research that was done with a radio telescope. 
The GBT is a wonderful place, albeit it is
It Would Be Awesome to Solve This Equation

quiet in Green Bank, WV. Not even gasoline driven cars are allowed near the actual telescope installations. The bus we used to get close to the actual dish was a diesel bus, somehow the coils inside our bus did not interfere (on an electronic basis) with the listening stations. 

Years ago, scientists had to actually live at the GBT site but today, with the internet, you can be any place on earth to operate the gigantic dish, larger than a few football fields, or receive and analyze data wherever you are. I felt a little like living or visiting an alien installation. The GBT is the cutting edge of research, a window, no an ear, into space, a world far away but yet, a world that affects us daily. We found out we would not be on Earth were it not for all those stars that sent us complex molecules. We have a lot to learn yet and visiting the GBT is a great eye (ear) opener. 
Would Love to Know the Answer to This Riddle
So, while the other folks in our group rode the great twisty roads, Carol and I just rode 10 minutes away from Cass and spent a morning getting nerdy. 

Years ago, in the 80’s, I participated in SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). I gave my computer on loan (on off times, when I did not need the computer) to the Berkley Group in California to search for Alien Life. All this was (is) done via the internet. The possibility that there is life in the universe is actually very high. There is a formula that makes logical sense.  So part of the GBT is also listening for Alien civilizations. Multitasking is a great way for a radio telescope to stay active.

We had a great time, if you can, go and visit, too. And if you are on a bike, have fun riding the curvy roads.  


GREECE: Athens

Leaving Heraklion

We could not get a direct flight from Crete to Toronto, nor could we get a flight from Athens to Toronto. We tried but the best we could get was to fly to Athens, stay one night, then the next day get a flight to Munich and only then directly to Toronto. Well, we were well rested and we do have the time to just hang out. Our first leg from Crete to Athens was an 11.30 AM flight that got us into Athens at about 12.30 PM. All arrangements were made on line and we knew what to do after the flight. We caught the Hotel Shuttle (Holiday Inn) and we were in our hotel room by about 1 PM. 
View From Our Hotel Room Window

Now what? This Hotel, this Holiday Inn, is near nothing. A nice place but we were looking out the window and Carol looked at me and said: “Let’s get into Athens proper and let’s visit the Acropolis!”
Mmmm, we only had this afternoon free, I asked myself is this at all possible? We asked the receptionist and were told: “Of course, it’s easy…just take the busx95 outside the hotel and you will end up right in the center of Athens, right at the Main Square, very near (about a 10-minute walk) to the Acropolis, you can’t miss it”. 
Many Old Ruins In Downtown Athens

The Signs Pointed to Narrow Little Lane-ways
Ha, little did this guy know how we can screw things up! The bus ride, indeed, was easy enough. The x in front of the bus indicates an Express bus, so it only stops in a few places and within an hour we were at the square, smack in the middle of Athens. Now we just have to walk up to the Acropolis. So we looked up and saw? Large buildings that obscured the view! So we asked people and they told us to go this way and it’s only about 10 minutes away. We walked, and walked, and walked some more. We asked again and they all pointed us in this direction. Finally, we could see, high on a mountain the Acropolis. Now all we have to do is walk up to it. Right! It was easily said, but not so easy to do with our old legs. 
Signs Point the Way

All the people we asked meant well, they showed us a wonderful area of old Greece. Small houses, perched on a hillside, with a stunning view of the valley and with 30-year-old legs, it would have been a real treat. Well, Carol put on her determination and this woman is nothing if not determined when her mind is made up. We,with a few breaks on the way to catch our breaths, walked all the way up this hillside,
following homemade signs that pointed always upward towards the Acropolis.
Still On Our Way Up to the Acropolis
The area we walked in was delightful, artsy even. People really lived here. It was very quaint and an experience. No, there were no restaurants to stop in, no benches to sit on; it was a neighborhood we had to climb through. With huffing and puffing we made it to the old ruins, only to find out the whole complex of the Acropolis is fenced in; the fence high enough that we could not climb over it. Now what? Ask again of course, and we were redirected back downhill, along the fence where we found the main road up to the Acropolis. 
We Have to Go Up There?

Let me tell you, we earned our  
admission by walking this way, but no, the booth at the entrance charged us, like anybody else, 25 Euros each to get in to the complex.  And, of course, we were not yet at the actual temple of Athena. For another 20 minutes it was going up and up. Steep ramps, stairs, steep ramps again, even steeper, more stairs, etc. Top all of this by extremely slippery footing (the marble has been worn down by all the tourists to make the stones very slippery) and we spent a good 2 hours getting to the top. 
Our First View of the Entrance to the Acropolis

So, don’t listen to them when they tell you it’s only a 10-minute walk up. The temperatures were around 25C so it was not cool, either. Phew!  That was a fine idea Carol, to ‘just’ quickly visit the Acropolis. But… we made it! Here is the story of the Acropolis.

Whew! We Finally Made It to the Propylaea,
the Monumental Gateway to the Acropolis
This place, this Athens Acropolis, was one of the wonders of the ancient world. Construction started in 447 BC, after some years of planning. General Periclesof Athens was in charge of the building. The town of Athens, named after the goddess Athena, could now proclaim to the ‘world’ the virtues of her patron Athena and show off, with pride, that Athens ‘is’ the best place to
be. Like in most ancient city states, this proclamation, this building of a Parthenon, of a temple, of anything important and holy was always built on the highest spot. The Athens Acropolis sits on a high mountain and is visible from very far away. It dominated the view from anyplace in Athens. There was no place in town from which one could not see the temple. Like God him/herself, it reigned over all activities of the town. It was, and still is, a wondrous sight to behold. There, high on the hill is the holy place of Athens. Way up there is Athena’s Temple. Way up there is the Palladium (wooden effigy fallen from heaven – something NOT man made). Way up there is the Erechtheion, the Propylaea, all the holy items of the ancients. Naturally there is also a theater, living quarters for the priests, altars for offerings, a whole complex of ancient religion and belief systems that we now look at and are in awe about. 
Our View Of the Parthenon (Athena's Temple) Was
Marred By All the Scaffolding But It Was
Still Very Impressive

But in the 5th Century before Christ, this was a huge center of the Greek civilization. I cannot emphasize enough how important this area was to any city, especially a city like Athens.  Athens was not just any city; it was a city state, a center of learning, of politics, of ideas, of military might, of trade, of knowledge, etc. etc. Anyone who came and visited Athens then could see from afar that this place was special. This place, this Athens, was so special that it might even have been be the center of civilization itself. This Acropolis showed it, flaunted it, and proclaimed it. 

Erechtheion Built to House the Wooden Statue of Athena

We spent about an hour at the very top of the hill, among the ruins of what is left of the pride of Athens and then slowly made our way down the hill. Slowly down, because the footing became even more precarious and perilous. It was a relief to finally walk on even ground. Make sure you wear good shoes with rubber soles when visiting is my advice to people not familiar with Athens. These old marble buildings were made to be visited on bare feet, which today is not practical either.

Close-Up of the Caryatids (Sculpted Female Figures Used
as Architectural Supports)
We ate a well-deserved dinner way down among the touristy visitors, in a spot we felt was a bit away from the crowds. The food was excellent, like most Greek food always seems to be. Or was it the workout we had, climbing for hours creating an appetite. Athens is full of foreigners, of souvenir stores, vendors, hustlers and ‘iffy’ looking folks. I heeded Ms. Donovan advice who always told me: “Watch your wallet”.

After dinner, after we sauntered back to the Square, we had no problems taking the bus x95 back to the hotel. This part went very smoothly. Sure it was another 20 minutes of walking after dinner to catch the bus, but all in all we made it and Carol can now say: “Yes, I have seen the Acropolis”.   It was, all in all, a very good day.
Theatre of Dionysus

Tomorrow, we will take the flight to Munich, which gives Carol a chance to take pictures of the Alps. From the top, of course! Hopefully we will have nice weather and all our connections will be on time. We have less than an hour between fights and that seems sometimes not enough time to walk from one gate to the next. We had enough walking in Athens. Wow, are my legs sore!

Dinner Was Most Welcome and Delicious

Fairly Clear View of the Alps

More Alps

They Really Were Spectacular

Flying Over Germany

Ahhh - Home Sweet Home

Thursday, June 15, 2017

People of Heraklion Pictures

Bringing Home Her Groceries

Street Entertainment

This Little Guy Was In a Parade
We Saw the Tail End of It

Proud Grandpa

Too Cute For Words

She Was Dancing to the Music

Two Women Enjoying Each Other's Company

On Her Way To ?

These Feet Have Seen a Lot of Miles