Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Random thoughts

We spent Presidents Day weekend in St. Augustine, Florida, extreme eastern end of the Spanish el camino Real (the other end's in San Diego), one of the all-time tourist meccas, and home of the famous Alligator Farm. It occurred to me (again) that one of the many things I have to be thankful for is that I'm not stuck working in a public contact job in a town that depends on tourism to survive. Sitting and watching the hordes of tourists for awhile can convince almost anyone that whenever humanity's evolutionary peak occurred, we're well past it now and are quickly sliding back down into the muck.

It also struck me while tourist watching that, wow, we really are a Fat, Fat nation. I'm one of those people who tends to be a skeptic about the much hyped and dreaded Obesity Epidemic and what it's doing to us as a country, but, holy shit, there are a lot of unbelievably fat young people wandering around. It can't just be the fast food and ready availability of empty calories; there's got to be something environmental happening -- either that, or we're devolving into shmoos. 

Other stuff I learned:  Really tall lighthouses are hard to photograph. If you're close enough to see the stuff at the base, you're too close to get a non-distorted shot of the whole thing. The St. Augustine light has a focal plane of 161 feet so you spend a lot of time working on developing a nice crick in your neck while wandering around the grounds trying to figure out the best angles from which to mediate the experience through technology. The light does, however, have its original 1874 first order Fresnel still sitting in it, still lit every every night, and looking really nifty after sunset.

The least crowded space on a sunny February weekend in St. Augustine is the beach. All the tourists are back in town stocking up on overpriced chocolate and tacky, tacky souvenirs made in Spain and Mexico, as well as the inevitable dried alligator heads.

And, for what it's worth, seeing a whole lot of live alligators en masse is more than a bit creepy. Yeah, they're remarkably slow and awkward out of the water, so even I could probably outrun one, but I still don't ever want to come close enough to any in the wild to put it to the test.


  1. It occurred to me (again) that one of the many things I have to be thankful for is that I'm not stuck working in a public contact job in a town that depends on tourism to survive.

    Actually, damn near every town in this country depends on tourism to help keep it going. People leave your town and spend their money in other areas on the attractions there so you have to attract others to your town to try to replace some of the money your neighbors spent in other areas.

    Oh, wait, you do that tourist thing also, never mind. I'm just pissed cuz I can't shoot them.

  2. Atlanta has lots of tourist attractions, you know that they are after the money others will spend there. Just ask any hotel or motel owner, or the Chamber of Commerce.

  3. I think West has a large population of fat adults..but we really have some skinny kids..really..weird.

  4. The alligator picture is now my desk top, replacing the Black Mamba I had yesterday.

    I looked up el camino real and Wiki only referred to the California version but said all the roads were referred to that way. Can you give a reference with more info about the trans US version?

    I hear you about fat and am curious about the causes. With me it was too much food, a habit learned when I was doing physical labour, and then not enough exercise after. I am wondering about deeper causes that include drugs and alcohol abuse, not just food abuse. What happens if we apply the social and economic reasons for drug abuse to food abuse? Do we see a pattern?

  5. BBC - I have nothing against tourists, especially when I enjoy being one myself. I'm just grateful I'm not one of the poor saps who's stuck answering the same questions 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, at local attractions or having to explain for the zillioneth time why it's not a good idea to dangle your toddler over a pen full of alligators. (Personally, I say dangle away, and when the kid gets eaten, the gene pool's probably been improved -- and it would certainly be more entertaining than watching the gators snap lazily at dead rats.)

  6. Not so sure I'd count on them being "remarkably slow and awkward."
    Most fit humans can outrun a gator, but gators can reach speeds of 8 - 10 miles per hour, so you'd have to take off and run quickly. 10 mph is the equivalent of a 6 minute mile. I can't do one of those... although I can sprint for a short distance at that speed. (Good thing gators don't generally chase their prey for long distances.)
    Gators tend to lunge *very* quickly at first -- they are good at surprising their prey by hiding and then lunging. Most prey animals are caught before they've even seen it coming. It would be hard to take off quickly enough to outrun the initial lunge, especially if you were surprised by it and within range (a gator length or two), so staying a big distance away from them is a good idea.

  7. I do work with the public and have most of my life. I am amazed by the fact thet people refuse to read anything put right in front of them. They also don't listen very well, I am asked questions about things I have just told people.

    I am patient, though. I am accustomed to it.


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