Bike crazy

We’ve been all over the place biking this trip. The list includes:

  • Hurstborne
  • Cherokee Park
  • Iroquois Park
  • Waverly Park (not recommended)
  • Seneca Park
  • St Matthews neighborhoods
  • Broad Run and Turkey Run
  • Floyd’s Fork
  • Anchorage Village
  • Biltmore Estate in Asheville
  • Various side streets around Frankfort Avenue

And I’m sure I’m forgetting somewhere. One factor is we’re renting a minivan, a first for me. I always made fun of minivans, but it makes loading and unloading the e-bikes so easy. Every other option (mostly SUVs) requires completely folding up the bikes and horsing them around to get them into a small cargo area. Not so with the minivan – just fold down the handlebars, lean them against the sides of the cargo area and bungee them in. Easy and fast.

And the weather has been perfect for biking. We’ve covered 150+miles. Louisville is a biking mecca.

Just pay the bills, morons

Congress’ idiotic negotiations over paying our already-incurred debts is getting old. Misdirection, lies and bad faith abound. From Letters From An American today:

Yesterday the far-right House Freedom Caucus called for an end to any discussions of raising the debt ceiling until the Senate passes its bill calling for extreme budget cuts. Today, former president Trump announced on his social media channel that “REPUBLICANS SHOULD NOT MAKE A DEAL ON THE DEBT CEILING UNLESS THEY GET EVERYTHING THEY WANT (Including the ‘kitchen sink’).” THAT’S THE WAY THE DEMOCRATS HAVE ALWAYS DEALT WITH US. DO NOT FOLD!!!”

(In reality, Congress raised the debt ceiling without conditions three times when Trump was president as Trump added an astonishing almost $7.8 trillion to the national debt, much of it thanks to his tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations before the coronavirus pandemic hit.) 

Immediately after Trump’s demand, the Republicans walked away from negotiations over the budget that they are demanding before they will vote to raise the debt ceiling. 

Then, hours later, they came back to the table. 

Meanwhile, the headline in the Washington Post read: “World watches in disbelief and horror as U.S. nears possible default.” The story by Rachel Siegel and Jeff Stein revealed that at the meeting of the G7 leaders in Hiroshima, Japan, this week, the finance ministers for the G7—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the European Union—have been pulling U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen aside to ask her what is going to happen.

“Around the world,” Siegel and Stein write, “experts have been watching in disbelief as the U.S. flirts with its first default, fearful of the potential international economic ramifications—and astonished by the global superpower’s brush with self-sabotage.”

Heather Cox Richardson

Biden should just go ahead and invoke the 14th Amendment clause and tell these asshats to go do something productive.

iPhone 14 Pro vs Fuji X-S10

Sleep. It’s become a mysterious and elusive thing. After a healthy, productive, busy day yesterday, I had a night of sleep that can only be described as awful. Sporadic. Discontinuous. Interrupted. Restless. So of course this morning I feel like a zombie. I suppose the answer is to have an unhealthy, unproductive, lazy day today in hope of getting some sleep tonight. What a pain in the ass.

I also assume that this is a side effect of age, not something disease-related. Though at the moment I’d pay for an eight hour case of something that would put me to sleep. I know, they make pills for that.

Here’s a little photography experiment. First, here’s the Fuji shot of the Biltmore library. The room was dark, so the Fuji compensated with an ISO of 10,000 and a shutter soeed of 1/100 second, yielding a very pleasing color and tone. The detail on the original RAW file is really good.

Now, for comparison, here’s a shot of the same room using the iPhone 14 Pro camera.

The iPhone chose to collect light at ISO 1000 for 1/30 of a second, and of course it did its famous internal JPEG processing. The iPhone lens is also much more wide angle than my prime Fuji 50mm lens, so you see more of the entire room. I cropped out the ceiling in the iPhone photo to give a more apples-to-apples comparison.

Both shots are decent, though the bright light from the windows is a problem in both. The iPhone’s rendition of the scene is a little more realistic – it captures the room’s darkness better than the Fuji’s light-gathering-crazed sensor. of course on manual settings I could have forced the Fuji into a more iPhone-like mode, with longer exposure and less ISO.

I have to admit, after looking at the two samples, I prefer the iPhone shot. That doesn’t bode well for my future with an expensive “pro” camera like the Fuji.

Here’s one other comparative set, outdoors at the rose garden. First, the Fuji.

Next, a similar shot with the iPhone.

The Fuji’s colors are quite a bit more vivid, but I can’t really say which is closer to reality. Maybe the iPhone, but I would probably pick the Fuji shot in a blind test. Though at a casual glance there’s absolutely nothing wrong with either. Once again the Fuji chose to take the shot at a higher ISO and faster shutter speed than the iPhone. I’ll have to think about why the color saturation is so much more pronounced on the Fuji.

But here’s the deal breaker for me. When I zoom in on each image, the near field focus on the iPhone is much, much better. That’s a big deal. I increasingly dislike the Fuji’s weak-ass autofocus, and this comparison just adds to the problem. Why use $2500 camera and lens to get an inferior shot to an iPhone?

Overall, the winner in this comparison is the iPhone. I’m going to keep doing these tests for a while, but right now it’s not looking good for the pro gear.

A tale of two gardens

There’s a beautiful small garden close to our KY house at the Whitehall estate. We stopped by there a few days ago to see what was in bloom.

The answer was quite a lot. Whitehall’s gardens are, as always, immaculate and lush. I used the new iPhone 14 camera for these pictures, and they came out nice and sharp.

My favorite flower in bloom there is probably these irises.

Whitehall is a little gem that we visit often. But I promised two gardens. For the second one, we had to drive 5+ hours to Asheville and the Biltmore estate. Visiting the Biltmore has been on the should-do list for a while, and we set off for there on Tuesday.

We first had an unexpected hurdle to cross. We entered a massive thunderstorm at Simpsonville, and had to drive through a biblical downpour all the way to Lexington. It was a tough, somewhat dangerous drive.As someone who lives through months at a time with no rain in Socal, a storm like this is astounding. So much water. But as we turned south at I-75, we escaped the storm and had smooth driving the rest if the way.

I’ll leave the pictures of the Biltmore house for another post, but suffice to say it didn’t disappoint. It’s hard to believe that a person built this as their country home at the turn of the century. I guess that’s what happens when you have infinite money and good taste.

But the Biltmore grounds and garden were at least as impressive as the home, probably more so. We didn’t have great light for these photos – it was overcast and cool, no direct sun. But still…what a place. The garden is *very* seasonal, so what you see depends on what month you visit. We missed the azaleas bloom this time, but we got roses, dogwood, and rhododendrum. Lots of roses.

The gardens at Biltmore are vast, and we didn’t see everything. But what we saw was gorgeous, even on a day with dull light. Here’s the entry path to the walled rose garden.

And here’s a nice shot of the house across the lagoon. Doesn’t every modern home have a lagoon?

I’ve got enough photos and thoughts about the rapid two-day Biltmore trip to fill up a lot of blog posts. I took several shots with both the iPhone and the on-the-chopping-block Fuji XS-10. I will say the Fuji worked like a champ in the low-light, no-flash conditions inside the house. So we’ll see.

One more garden to visit on this trip, and that’s Yew Dell. I like this time of year.

Four horrific years, and then three great ones

This is interesting. A Giuliani employee has filed suit against Rudy, and she seems to have some leverage:

The story of her time with Giuliani, whom she describes as a chronically alcoholic sexual abuser prone to racist and sexist outbursts, is bad enough—and she claims to have recordings—but her other allegations are politically incendiary. She claims to have heard Giuliani say that he was selling presidential pardons for $2 million a pop, splitting the proceeds with Trump, and that Giuliani told her on February 7, 2019, “about a plan that had been prepared for if Trump lost the 2020 election.” Specifically, Giuliani told Ms. Dunphy that Trump’s team would claim that there was ‘voter fraud’ and that Trump had actually won the election…. That same day, Giuliani had Ms. Dunphy sit in on a speakerphone conversation about a potential business opportunity involving a $72 billion dollar gas deal in China.” 

Also of note is her claim that, since part of her job was managing emails, Giuliani gave her access to his email account. The system stored at least 23,000 emails on her own personal computer, including “privileged, confidential, and highly sensitive” emails from, to, or concerning Trump, his children Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump; Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner; Trump’s lawyers and advisors; media figures including Rupert Murdoch, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson; and so on. 

Letters From An American, Heather Cox Richardson, 5/16/23

There doesn’t seem to be any end to the corruption of the circle around Trump. I’m amazed we survived four years of that crew.


In more wholesome news, Jesse’s 3rd birthday party was a hit. He was so much fun. When he got a bubble making gun as a gift, he declared “Now it’s a party!”. I have no idea how that phrase came from a three year old kid, but…there it is.

Travel tradeoffs

I’m finished planning our late July trip to Africa except for one final piece – the transportation to/from LAX. That one involves some complicated tradeoffs, made more complicated by the utter shitshow that LAX arrivals and departures have become. Some surprising facts:

  • There are no friends generous enough to “give you a ride to the airport” when LAX is the destination. I wouldn’t ask my worst enemy to do me that favor.
  • If traveling business class (we are), you might as well get there much earlier than needed, as you can hang out in the airline lounge. Free food, free drinks, good Wifi, comfortable seats…not a bad place to kill some time. And it sure as shit beats stressing out over a last minute arrival.
  • LAX parking is expensive and packed. No matter where you park, it’s gonna be $20-30 per day. And for a long-ish stay, it can be hard to find a spot even two months ahead. And…this involves driving oneself to and from LAX, a stressful event itself.
  • Taking a door-to-door shuttle is the most convenient, but will cost about $600 all in, round trip. We’d have to be gone a month to make that cost effective.
  • Taking the train to Union Station and then a shuttle to LAX is an option, but a lot of moving parts in that one. Uber from home to Oceanside train, train to Union Station, then Uber or shuttle to LAX. Lots of ways to get stuck and miss your flight.
  • There’s a decent option of driving to Orange County airport and then taking a shuttle from there to LAX. Not too stressful, and the shuttle price from there is about half the door-to-door price. But you’re still paying for parking at SNA.

Bottom line, I can get creative or just spend the $600. I’m not sure why, but I *hate* the idea of that price for the ride. It’s not much as a percentage of the total trip cost, but it’s the part of the trip I could do myself and am most familiar with. Familiarity breeds contempt, so I guess that explains my feelings about it.

Mothers’ Day

Rainy party day planned for today. Jessamine turns three today, and it’s Mothers’ Day. Happy Mothers’ Day to all you mothers of any kind out there – moms, stepmoms, grandmoms, wanna-be moms, etc. You’re pretty much the glue that holds civilization together. Hang in there.


Got back on the horse bike yesterday and took a long ride from starting in Broad Run and deep into Turkey Run. About 16 miles total, done at a fast pace. My legs could feel it last night. The e-bikes make the hills doable, but there’s still enough pedaling to challenge someone like me. And it’s beautiful out there.


Local taco shops rated, by a Socal resident who knows his Mexican food:

  • Taco Luchadore – I’ll give them a C. Tasty, but tiny tacos and expensive. Not likely to go there again.
  • Condado Tacos – Meh. Maybe a B, maybe worse. Very irregular quality and has a fast-food vibe.
  • Taco Choza – A solid A. Great tacos, generous size, and oh so tasty. And reasonably priced.

I’ll shop around for some more to evaluate.

Well, shit

CNBC reports:

From horse racing to college basketball, Kentucky is known for many things. But it may not be the best state to spend your post-work years.

Kentucky ranks as the worst state to take up retirement in 2023, according to a WalletHub study. This year, the state landed in last place which was occupied by New Jersey in 2022.

Last place! What if you’re only here half time?

Must see TV

I don’t often get enthused about a TV show these days, but we watched the first season of Netflix’s The Diplomat last week, and wow! Great writing and acting, a cool plot and location. *Really* interesting characters. It’s The West Wing dialogue meets a Tom Clancy plot. Keri Russell and Rufus Sewell do a spectacular job as a brilliant, intense, and dysfunctional couple in high-level government service.

Loved it and can’t wait for season 2, which unfortunately won’t be until mid-2024.

Florida man

Ron Desantis, busy making Florida a better place to live.

From The New Republic:

Just weeks ago, Ron DeSantis made it legal in Florida to conceal carry a gun without a permit, training, or even a background check.  —  And on Friday, he signed a bill to prevent credit card companies from tracking the sale of firearms and ammunition.

From The Guardian:

As the summer holidays approach, Florida teachers are feeling anxious, confused and beaten down by new laws, championed by DeSantis, that limit how issues of race can be taught, what teachers can say about sex, especially about homosexuality, and what books are permitted in schools. In promoting this legislation, DeSantis angered many teachers when he denounced “indoctrination in our schools” and let his press secretary accuse teachers of “grooming” students.

In interviews with the Guardian, Florida teachers said they’re feeling more disrespected, unappreciated and under attack than ever before, worried that they’ll be fired or otherwise punished if they run afoul of the controversial – and often vague – new laws. As a result of these laws and their emboldening parents to challenge and even castigate teachers, many Florida teachers say they’re considering either giving up teaching or finding a teaching job in another state – all when Florida, which ranks 48th among states in teacher pay according to a recent study, is already suffering from a shortage of 5,300 teachers. Florida teachers complain that DeSantis – who is expected to announce plans to run for the Republican presidential nomination – has targeted them as part of a culture war aimed at winning over GOP voters.

This is definitely the guy I want shaping US culture as POTUS. What a tool.

From biking heaven to biking hell

Yesterday’s bike riding adventure was more like a dark comedy. I decided we would try the trails in the Jefferson Memorial Forest, down along the Bullitt County line. Looked great online, and they listed biking as one of the many options for their park.

We drove down there and learned that biking is specifically NOT allowed in their parks. Bummer. The park looked beautiful, but we were there to bike, not hike. We asked the person at the welcome center for the closest park where biking is allowed, and she came up with Waverly Park, about 10 miles away. So we trundled off to Waverly Park in search of a new adventure.

It looked great at first glance. Scenic, kinda remote, and a nice lake with folks fishing at the center of things. So we unloaded the bikes and set off. Just a few yards into the first trail I realized this was NOT a repeat of the idyllic ride at Floyd’s Fork. The trail was narrow, windy and slippery dirt, mostly clay. Then we encountered the first of many death trap root systems on the trail. Huge roots, one after another for a few yards, slick with mud and anywhere from 1-6 inches above ground. Even with the big trail tires and shock absorbers on the bike, these were un-navigable. I almost face planted a few times and decided nope, this isn’t fun. So we carefully retraced our path and gave up on Waverly Park.

Tired, frustrated and irritable (speaking for myself), we set off for a place we knew would be good riding, Iroquois Park. I don’t know the roads in southwestern Louisville, so we got lost a couple of times, each time ending up in shitty parts of Shively (is there a good part?). I was in too bad a mood to laugh about it, and we finally made it to the park. Unloaded the bikes and tried to burn off calories and frustration. Mostly successful.

Lessons learned from the day: (1) Don’t go somewhere unknown on a day when you’re setting out fatigued from a crummy night’s sleep. (2) Don’t try biking in southwestern Jefferson County unless you have a death wish. (3) Don’t believe the website.