Links from the last week

1. Why Lansing is investing in bitcoin

Actually a nice local news article about bitcoin, for people interested in the subject.  On an odd note:

When the Lansing Board of Water & Light was compromised with ransomware in April 2016, hackers demanded they pay a $25,000 ransom in bitcoin to unlock its systems. The bitcoins were bought at a bitcoin ATM outside of the Lansing area.

We paid?  And, even more oddly, we bought the bitcoins from a bitcoin ATM?

2. Induced Earthquakes: Myths and Misconceptions

Nice little post from USGS, especially to say – it isn’t fracking, per se, causing the induced earthquakes, it’s wastewater injection, and only certain types (injection rate for example) of wastewater injection.

Most injection wells are not associated with felt earthquakes. A combination of many factors is necessary for injection to induce felt earthquakes. These include: the injection rate and total volume injected; the presence of faults that are large enough to produce felt earthquakes; stresses that are large enough to produce earthquakes; and the presence of pathways for the fluid pressure to travel from the injection point to faults.

3. The Rolling Revolution in Sex and Gender: A History

Worthwhile and pretty matter-of-fact attempt to trace the intellectual history of currently popular ideas about gender identity.

Subverting norms unites queer theory to transgender rights. For her understanding of norms, Butler relies especially on French post-structuralist philosopher Michel Foucault. Foucault shows how society imposes norms subtly, by constructing “truth” and “reality”; social norms come to constitute a theory of what categories one must fit into to be human. These expectations, Butler believes, must be exposed as artificial so that a more open and “queer” future can arise. In Butler’s technical language, Foucault exposes the “mechanism of coercion” behind the modern preference for heterosexual sex in the hopes of liberating a more polymorphous expression of sexual desire.

4. Departing AP reporter looks back at Venezuela’s slide

Truly remarkable personal tale of Venezuela’s rapid descent.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro blames the U.S. and right-wing business interests for the economic collapse, but most economists say it actually stems from government-imposed price and currency distortions. There often seemed to be a direct line between economic policy and daily hardship. One week, the administration declared that eggs would now be sold for no more than 30 cents a carton. The next week, eggs had disappeared from supermarkets, and still have not come back.

5. How Airlines Schedule Flights

I cannot entirely attest to its accuracy, but a neat video about how airlines schedule flights, especially as regards hub usage.

6. Grade Inflation, Higher and Higher

Grade inflation continues at four-year-colleges – but GPA’s actually peaked at community colleges just after 2000 and have been on a slow decline since then.

7. To Defend Public Schools, the Hard Left Puts On the Tinfoil Hat

The acceptance and availability of private and homeschooling in America is the best thing we have going for ourselves as a country.

This week brought to you by car shows in Lansing, Michigan.

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A few quotations I liked from “The Roman Way” by Edith Hamilton

See also my review on Goodreads – better than reading this post, read the book!  That said here we go, mainly quotations from the second half of the book because for some reason that is when I started underlining.  Quotations from the book that are themselves quotations of someone else are attributed to the original source:

  1. “More ought to be scratched out than left.” ~Horace’s advice to writers
  2. “They change their sky, but not their mind, who run across the sea.” ~Horace
  3. “Let us discuss what is important to us, not other people’s houses or villas or whether Lepos dances badly or not, but whether riches or virtue make men happy, and whether motives of right or utility should influence us in seeking friends.” ~Horace.  Though rarely stated so bluntly, surely many still wonder the same.
  4. “He was wise and good, yet he lived with a monstrous evil and never caught a glimpse of it.  So does custom keep men blinded.” ~the author speaking of Horace’s lack-of-comment on Roman slavery
  5. “Indeed, any attempt to establish a uniform average in that stubbornly individual phenomenon, human nature, will have only one result that can be foretold with certainty: it will press hardest upon the best, as everyone knows who is driven by large numbers to use mass methods.” ~EH
  6. “The spectacle, ever growing more and more varied and more and more gorgeous, was what Rome by now wanted. Not what satisfied the mind nor yet the spirit, but what satisfied the restless eye. Rome’s importance was her size and her wealth and her power. Roman citizens’ lives consisted in the abundance of the things that they possessed. To Pericles, Athens’ glory was not the Parthenon, not the Acropolis, but that Athens had become the school of Greece in all ways of wisdom. Augustus’ title to glory, repeated over and over again, was that he had found Rome a city of brick and left her a city of marble.” ~EH
  7. “Twice, we are told, the citizens stopped a fight as it was about to begin, both times aroused by the protest of a great man. ‘Athenians,’ cried one of them, ‘before you admit the gladiators, come with me and destroy the altar to Pity,’ and the people with one voice declared that their theatre should never be so defiled.” ~EH
  8. “One of the great Victorians has said that if classicism is the love of the usual in beauty, romanticism is the love of the strange in beauty, and the statement gives to admiration the essence of the difference between the two.  The very words romance, romantic, call up a vision, vague yet bright, that banishes the drabness and monotony of every-day life with a sense of possible excitements and adventures.  Of course, if every-day life did not look drab and monotonous there would be no reason to turn to romance.  This is primarily why the Greeks were not romantic.  Facts were full of interest to them.  They found enough beauty and delight in them to have no desire to go beyond.” ~EH
  9. “Cicero’s remark that the investigation of nature seeks to find out either things which nobody can know or things which nobody needs to know, expresses perfectly the Roman attitude.” ~EH
  10. “We have learned to protect ourselves by shutting away within great stone walls shocking sights, but in Rome after the great slave insurrection the main road to the city was lined for more than a mile with the crosses of crucified slaves.” ~EH
  11. “Do you, Roman, remember to rule nations with power supreme.  Your art shall be this, to impose the custom of peace, to spare the humbled and war down the proud.” ~Virgil
  12. “Do you teach? Bowels of iron is what a teacher needs when each pupil stands up in turn and recites the self-same things in the self-same way. The same daily fare again and again – it’s death to the wretched master. ‘What would I not give,’ cries he, ‘that the boy’s father might listen to him as often as I do.’ And you live in a hole no blacksmith would put up with – and the lamps stink – and the boys thumb their begrimed Horace and their smoke-blackened Virgil – Be sure, O parents, to require the teacher to mould the young minds as a man moulds wax – and when the year ends reward him with a jockey’s wage.” ~Juvenal
  13. “…our breath has come back, but genius and learning are more easily extinguished than recalled.” ~Tacitus
  14. “History repeats itself. The fact is a testimony to human stupidity. The saying has become a truism; nevertheless, the study of the past is relegated to the scholar and the school-boy. And yet it is really a chart for our guidance – no less than that. Where we now are going astray and losing ourselves, other men once did the same, and they left a record of the blind alleys they went down. We are like youth that can never learn from age – but youth is young, and wisdom is for the mature. We that are grown should not find it impossible to learn from the ages-old recorded experience of the past.” ~EH

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Links from the last week

Read a lot of interesting stuff this week, but much of it in tweet or book form – harder to share this way then, let’s see what we have.

1. Average seasonal temperatures yearly inflection point

Neat map I thought.  The US as a whole is usually its hottest around July 21 – so it’s all downhill from here.  Check your location for more specific climatology.

2. First Human Embryos Edited in U.S.

Hard not to call this important news.  Would that I had confidence our public understanding of humanity was deeper than “if we can do it, and some people want to do it, why not?”

3. Our Cultural Waterloo

Nice piece by Carl Trueman, especially directed at Christian colleges, but with some advice for perhaps all who would wish to convince another.

My arguments did not work, because . . . well, they were arguments, and did not take into account how the mind of my young critic had been formed. She had not been convinced by any argument. Her imagination had been seized by an aesthetically driven culture, in which taste was truth and Will and Grace carried more weight than any church catechism or tome of moral philosophy.

4. Trump Cuts Wildly Ineffective Teen Pregnancy Program, Media Flip Out

Shared not because I particularly care about this program but because, as I often say, good thinking is in the details – and people ignore those details all the time when it suits them.

“Trump’s hires at HHS were notably hostile to teen pregnancy programs that worked. Now they’ve killed them,” claimed one fact-challenged columnist at the Los Angeles Times. No media outlet mentioned the ineffectiveness of the programs, whether it was NPR, the St. Louis Post-DispatchPoliticoBusiness InsiderThe IndependentForbesTeen Vogue, or Bustle, even though effectiveness reports are right there on the agency’s web site.

5. Because this has me tilting my head to the side as often as anything these days:

6. Richard Dawkins’s response to his de-platforming in Berkeley

A man who sometimes seems to almost make a living offending and insulting Christians, is de-platformed from an invited talk for saying something offensive and insulting about Islam.  As the host could hardly have not known about his feelings toward Christianity, why the double standard?

Another example from Dawkins himself:

The banner statements could hardly be more parallel.

7. Study: Intersectionality Makes People Less Empathetic

OK, that’s a bit of a partisan summary – feel free to ignore that article if you’d like and go straight to the original source: Competition over collective victimhood recognition: When perceived lack of recognition for past victimization is associated with negative attitudes towards another victimized group

Groups that perceive themselves as victims can engage in “competitive victimhood.” We propose that, in some societal circumstances, this competition bears on the recognition of past sufferings—rather than on their relative severity—fostering negative intergroup attitudes. Three studies are presented.

This week’s post brought to you by the Lansing River Trail.

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Links from the last week

1. On Political Correctness

The title of this essay severely undersells what is a great long-read on observations of academia by a self-described “member of the liberal elite”.  Any excerpt I did would undersell it as well, highly-recommended anyone interested in our universities take the time to read it.

2. Organic water? Asarasi exploits loophole to get USDA-certified label on bottles

Oh dear.

Because Asarasi’s water is filtered through a living thing ― a maple tree ― it appears to pass the USDA’s certification test.

3. NTSB: Air Canada close-call at SFO was even worse than first reported

Not sure how many people realize that two weeks ago *almost* saw what would have been the worst airline disaster in US history, when an Air Canada flight nearly landed on a taxiway with four other jets lined up waiting for takeoff, only finally aborting when told to by ATC.  Why?  It was nighttime.  The pilot was supposed to land on runway 28R.  Runway 28L was out of service and so had its approach lights off, which may have made 28R look like 28L to the pilot (the left-most runway), which made that long strip to its right (the taxiway) look like 28R.  The flashing lights of the planes lined up on the taxiway may have looked like the strobe lights of a runway – early on in the approach the pilot asked ATC about what appeared to him to be other aircraft on the runway but was told it was clear.  All very logical, frighteningly so.

4. I’ve Worked with Refugees for Decades. Europe’s Afghan Crime Wave Is Mind-Boggling.

Another long essay on how, and perhaps why, the “refugee crime” of Europe is not uniformly distributed, but actually especially significant among refugees from Afghanistan (who now account for half of all sexual assaults in Austria, for example).

So again: what’s going on? Why is this happening? And why the Afghans? A few competing theories are in circulation.

5. Some questions I’m asking while off to my white evangelical church

Interesting read via Rod Dreher. I found most discouraging her note that every time she opens her social media she finds herself reading:

yet another treatise on how white supremacy must be eliminated and how white people need to repent of their whiteness. A friend recently said that it is like the new prayer of Jabez.

Her bigger point is to suggest that the language and categories of social justice activism naturally create an us versus them mindset, and encourage people to view others suspiciously based on demographically determined guilt. Which is poison to real unity in the Church.

6. The correlation = causation fallacy in its purest form

7. Eugene Peterson’s Theological Sigh

There’s no intersection of Christ and culture that finally finds both running parallel all the way to glory.

This week brought to you by a red-tailed hawk in Lansing, Michigan’s Groesbeck neighborhood.

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Links from the last week

1. When Astronomers Chased a Total Eclipse in a Concorde

Thought this was a pretty neat story in light of upcoming events – in the 1970s, a group of astronomers used a prototype Concorde to chase a solar eclipse for 74 minutes across the Sahara.  Still kind of amazing to think about a commercial airliner flying at Mach 2.0, 55,000 feet – so fast the passenger windows were warm to the touch.

2. UPS Airlines

Yes, a Wikipedia article, but to continue the flight theme – almost sounds like a military operation.  Impressive the extent to which some of these large corporations have optimized their operations.

On every week day night, UPS designates 14 different planes at 7 hub airports to be spare aircraft ready to launch at anytime, known as hot-spares. The flight crew will preflight the empty aircraft and then wait to be launched to a gateway to rescue stranded packages, and then return flight back to a hub for sorting. Most commonly hot-spares are launched because of an aircraft mechanical issue, additional volume, or weather. Once the call is made to launch a hot-spare, the aircraft needs to be in the air within 30 minutes or less to assure the packages will make service the next day.

3. Mega Millions, Multiple Winners, and Expectations

Just some interesting math here – the calculated mean return on a Mega Millions ticket as the jackpot grows, *including data on the number of people who purchase tickets increasing as well*.  Yes, the graph does eventually go down – there is an optimal jackpot price when it comes to ticket buying!  (Of course as I say… lotteries are also a nice illustration of the difference between the median and the mean.)

4. Germany’s Newest Intellectual Antihero

Signs of the times.

Whatever becomes of Mr. Sieferle’s reputation, the scandal around him reveals certain unsuspected problems. When the German literary establishment unanimously denounced Mr. Sieferle’s work as an extremist tract, readers did not nod in agreement. They pulled out their wallets and said, “That must be the book for me.” This is a sign that distrust of authority in Germany has reached worrisome levels, possibly American ones.

5. Woman Finally Accepts Doctrine Of Total Depravity Now That Daughter Is Two

A humorous and yet, also rather real, article quoted in the sermon at our church this week.

NEW YORK, NY—Mary Eastwood, 29, says she struggled for years to accept the biblical teaching that human beings are innately corrupted by sin, preferring instead to think that people are basically good. However, now that her daughter Charlotte is right in the prime of her “terrible twos,” Eastwood has changed her mind, fully embracing and even espousing the doctrine of total depravity.

6. First Church of Intersectionality

Hard to summarize, but a good long read on the fashion in parts of academia that is quite fair, I think, to advocates of “intersectionality”.

7. Couple Opens Up About Being Banned From Farmer’s Market Over Same-Sex Marriage Views

The East Lansing saga continues.  The city claim that Country Mill somehow violated the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell continues to strike me as bizarre.  If that was actually true, they wouldn’t only be having problems with East Lansing, I’m sure.  If that was true, the city would not have had to pass a city ordinance specifically to bar them from the market.  Actually the city’s behavior on the whole, at least as reported, has felt very amateurish to me as regards this case.

This week brought to you by chipmunks in Potter Park Zoo.

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Links from the last week

(Abbreviated because a lot of traveling meant I did less reading – you can always follow me on Twitter for life as it happens.)

1. New studies of ancient concrete could teach us to do as the Romans did

Around A.D. 79, Roman author Pliny the Elder wrote in his Naturalis Historia that concrete structures in harbors, exposed to the constant assault of the saltwater waves, become “a single stone mass, impregnable to the waves and every day stronger.”

And it’s true (for Roman concrete)… how about that.

2. I pray to be a “mystic patriot”; I hope you do too.

Your semi-regular reminder that somehow, a century ago, G.K. Chesterton knew everything our modern age would need to hear and wrote it all down.

One must somehow find a way of loving the world without trusting it; somehow one must love the world without being worldly.

3. Alistair Roberts on gender-as-given v. gender-as-performance

Just a Twitter thread, sorry, you’ll have to keep scrolling down.  Generally though, if you don’t read Alistair’s blog, perhaps you should.

4. DNR confirms cougar sighting in Clinton County

Mainly a local story for me but – whoa, there is at least one cougar in mid-Michigan.  The article implies there haven’t been cougars here for a century.  Where did it come from?

This week brought to you by fireworks over Lansing, Michigan last night.

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Links from the last week

1. Alaska Air offers charter flight for solar eclipse viewing

Concerned clouds will block your view?  Why not fly above them?  (See also quite neat video from last year, below.)

2. City Emails: Christian Farmer’s Facebook Post Led to Ban From East Lansing Market

The East Lansing saga continues – MichCapCon filed an FOIA request to obtain emails related to the East Lansing / Country Mill interaction.  Not a lot that is brand new here, most remarkable thing I saw actually was EL’s mayor apparently wondering if Country Mill would be willing to *sell apples* to a same-sex couple at market. To be fair it appears to be a question – but it’s also about a distinction that has only been explained a thousand times in similar cases from where I’m standing, anyway. It’s a cultural hot button issue and yet clearly (and this is hardly the only example) people in positions are power are largely ignorant of the thinking of Christians on this topic.

Also – why did MichCapCon have to file this request?  Do genuinely local media outlets care that little?  Maybe I missed it, but it seems not uncommon on stories like this they you get better reporting from non-local courses.  A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown.

3. Our church participated in the Global Hymn Sing last Sunday

Check us out!

4. Helium shortage looms

How many people realize the helium is a non-renewable natural resource, very important for running superconducting magnets (if you’ve ever had an MRI, you’ve probably been in one).  And the blockade of Qatar is restricting the world supply.

5. Leading charity site labels top Christian organizations ‘hate groups’

Reminder that the Southern Poverty Law Center has no credibility left as any sort of non-partisan opponents of hate and the media (and everyone) should stop treating them as if they do.  It is beyond absurd to label the mild-mannered lawyers of Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that has now won 51 First Amendment cases at the Supreme Court, a hate group.  Beyond absurd.

6. How the FAA Killed Uber for Planes

But I want Uber for planes.

7. Seattle’s Minimum Wage Hike May Have Gone Too Far

A widely shared article this past week – Seattle hiked its minimum wage to $13/hr, study finds this caused the take-home pay for low-wage workers to *shrink* by an average of 6.6% because of layoffs and fewer hours worked.

This week’s post brought to you by a new placemaking project in Lansing, Michigan.

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Links from the last week

1. ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ will launch on CBS in September

Have to start out with something fun here as a Star Trek fan… did not find the trailer to be very impressive though, felt like pretty poor writing.  Perhaps reality will be better.

2. It’s so hot in Phoenix, they can’t fly planes

Physics!  Simple Physics but it is often the simple Physics that gets you.  Hotter air = less dense air = more runway needed.  Though you could make a joke here about “that’s what they get for buying Canadian aircraft” (Bombardier).

3. The Challenge of University Evangelism

This profound inarticulacy makes it hard for many students to conceive of anything like a “search for truth” that once marked the university. It also means students can (1) denounce a speaker for his beliefs and views, but (2) then say to their own critics, “No one has the right to tell anyone what is wrong for them,” and after doing both (3) see absolutely no inconsistency in this at all. To call this a conversation-stopper is putting it mildly. How does a Christian evangelist get traction, not just with moral relativists, but with moralistic moral relativists?

Great piece by Tim Keller – Christianity needs more people who take the time to understand how the culture is thinking.

4. All Roads Lead to Exclusion

On a related note…

Saying, “All roads lead to God” may make someone feel more tolerant, but it is just as intolerant as any other religious claim. Saying that is also saying, “Anyone who says only one road leads to God is wrong.”

The “tolerant” religious inclusivist has made themselves feel morally and intellectually superior, but that demonstrates the faulty nature behind those claims. You’re still telling those who disagree with you that they are wrong.

5. Alas, All Societies Have Closets

15. The reason we cannot agree on what sex is for is that we don’t agree on the answer to the question, “What is a human being for?” Meaning, “What is our purpose in life?” Is it to live in harmony with God’s will? Is it to fulfill our desires? Is it something else? Again: traditional Christianity has clear and consistent answers to these questions — and they are not the modern answers.

6. Official Country Mill complaint against City of East Lansing

A very readable 42 pages if you’re up to it – I have read it, and will be writing another post to share what I found interesting shortly.

7. Officer Stabbed in Possible Terror Incident at Michigan Airport

Flint.  Nothing profound to say about this, but just… getting very close to home.

This week’s post brought to you by a Monarch butterfly on the campus of Michigan State University.

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Some randomly-selected impressions of Montréal from a visitor

Just wanted to drop some thoughts, not a comprehensive post, just things that surprised me or I found especially interesting, as regards our recent vacation to Montréal.  Poorly labeled photos from our trip may be found here, and in succeeding albums, if you’re curious.  In no particular order then!:

1. So many beautiful churches.  You could spend a whole trip just visiting churches.  Probably my favorite part of the trip right there – many American cities would love to have just one church of the visual splendor we encountered again and again in Montréal.  A strange thing it must be, though, to be a functioning church and also a tourist attraction.  The Basilique Notre-Dame had a laser and light show one evening we were there, for example (we didn’t go).  Basilique below:

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2. No free soda refills anywhere!  (Hey, I drink a lot… drink soda a lot.)  Not even that nice America-themed diner we ate at where we were informed “the portions are big because we’re modeled after the states”.  You’ll like your soda with a can, and a glass, and when the can is empty you’re done!  Except for the casino – yes, our city passes came with $25 in free credits, so we visited.  Not only free refills, but actually free soda, period, there.  Casino and Bec below.

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3. Some more casino thoughts since I’d never been to one before.  Our city passes gave us $25 in credits – $25 is probably nothing to the casino, the *minimum* bet at Blackjack tables was $10, you could go through $25 in an instant and I’m sure people do.  Slot machines have gotten way more complicated than “line up three of the same and you win” – how about 50 different arrangements that count as some kind of victory?  And finally – a lot of people there just didn’t seem that happy.  The experience was not as glamorous as Oceans 11 might have predicted.  The happiest people we saw were those watching the live music – you know, not gambling.  Below, catching the bus to the casino.

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4. And now some thoughts on language!  People really will greet you with “Bonjour-Hi!” – friendly and a way to figure out your preferred language. We bought some items at a convenience store and didn’t reply to the greeting, so the clerk was forced to say “voulez-vous un sac do you want a bag?”  There was bilingual signage, especially, in “official” places (like the airport), but I was surprised how French the city was in terms of conversations overheard and plenty of French-only signage as well.  Just observing people use French was a lot of fun for me – it was probably especially fun watching the children when we visited the zoo.  “Regarde!  Un ours, un ours!”  Photo below is not the Zoo Ecomusee, which we took a train to, but is the Biodome, a sort of zoo closer to the city center.

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5. The 747 bus was a great way to get from the airport, and the Metro subway system was a great way to get around town too.  I learned that bus stops were “arrêt”, above-ground “real” train stations were “gare”, and subway stations were just “station”, said as you would speaking French.  Below me in a Metro station.

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6. Oh right, other thing about restaurants that struck me was that if paying by credit, they bring the card reader to your table and have you run it.  Makes sense from a privacy perspective, did think it made the experience feel a little less professional/formal as compared to the United States habit of letting the waiter run the card.  Below is Bec at a nice French restaurant with some Quebecois cheeses.

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7. Just a few other French word things that surprised me – saw “patate” for potato almost everywhere rather than “pomme de terre”, which is what I learned in school.  Quotations were indicated by << >> rather than, what I at least, would call quotation marks!  Saw “comptoir” which just means “counter” a lot of places to indicate a food place – we had lunch at “Comptoir 21” one day.  Generally was very pleased with my ability to read-stuff, and say stuff if I had time to think about it, understanding what other people were saying as they were saying it definitely the hardest thing.  Below, eat fresh.

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8. Just one more thought!  If you’re thinking about traveling from the United States, we found that easy-peasy.  The Montréal airport has space for an *enormous* line when it came to processing travelers entering Canada… and, at least mid-day in mid-May, there was almost nobody in it, we went pretty much straight through, had to answer a few questions about where we were staying to the French-accented border agent, a fine experience.  On the way home, the Montréal airport actually pre-processes US travelers so that, when you land in America, you’re just like another domestic traveler, which is nice.  Below, Montreal from the air as we depart.

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Thus ends this random collection of impressions!  To learn more check out the photo link above or, better yet, visit yourself, I highly recommend the trip.