Sunday, June 26, 2016


I've returned from Lopez Island and have enjoyed the trip. Besides visiting relatives whom I don't often see, I liked living in a marine environment for a change. The surrounding waters of the seas north of Puget Sound keep the island cool and moist, resulting in the spectacular growth of plants. Many parts are thickly forested with Douglas fir and Western red cedar, though much of the interior has been cleared for farming. Unfortunately, a lot of the land abutting the shoreline is privately owned and filled with vacation homes, but there is still public access to some choice sections of the coast. On a clear day you can see snow-capped mountains to the east and south, the Cascades and the Olympic Mountains. The water is teeming with life: we saw crabs, jellyfish, herons, otters, harbor seals, sea lions, golden eagles, bald eagles and an orca. Some portions of the island are overpopulated with deer and rabbits. We especially liked Shark Reef Sanctuary at tide change, when you can see strong currents of water stretching for miles. I have good associations with the smell of the sea from my early years.

The permanent population of Lopez Island is only about two thousand, and most of the natives are very friendly – friendlier than Vermonters. There isn't much to do there besides enjoy the outdoors, so it is easy to run out of things to do, especially if you are encumbered with a toddler, which makes traveling beyond the island a challenge. The only unpleasant moments of the trip sprang from heated arguments about the merits of attachment parenting.

I have been following the Brexit vote and will say a little about that. I agree with the consensus among educated people that the voters made a colossal mistake, but don't think the long-term consequences will necessarily be significant. In the short term there may be fewer jobs in the UK, but sooner or later the UK will become integrated with Europe one way or another. What I haven't seen so far in the discussion is emphasis on the kinds of themes that I write about here. For example, everyone is quick to say that trade will be impaired, but they say little about the fact that on a greater scale it is trade itself that has caused wealth inequality in the UK and elsewhere. The lessons of Thomas Piketty don't seem to be coming up much. In other words, free-market capitalism is actually the underlying cause of dismay among the British working class. I'm also not hearing that the viability of democracy has been brought into question once again, with citizens voting en masse against their own interests. Commentators remark that "the people have spoken" and stop there because they'd rather not talk about how stupid those people may have been. As you might expect, I'm hoping that AI will one day take such choices away from those who lack sufficient understanding of the issues to vote sensibly on them.

While I was in Washington I read a little of Stendhal's The Life of Henri Brulard, and I hope to comment on it soon.

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