The Weekly Watch

Surf, Sand, Sun, and Fun...

Loving Our Beaches...to Death
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We went to the beach this past work week...to Grayton Beach State Park in Florida. We hadn't been there since our college days when we would pile a bunch of us in a cabin, cut up and carry on as young folks do. Every coast holds its own beauty and attributes, but the gulf coast along the panhandle, the red neck riviera, is one of the prettiest we've experienced. A few years ago we visited the Alabama and Mississippi coast, which I wrote about back at issue 65 of the WW... it has some pretty good photos which were fun to review. I noticed this week's edition is the 250th, so it was time for another beach vacation. We scored on weather, and it was a great trip. Come along on a photo journey this Sunday.

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As you can see the park has three beach areas with developments in between. We were in the far western portion of the park where you can see a tent on the map. The white areas are developed with many rental units. Along the white colored private rentals and green park borders are drainage outlets from lakes which are behind the dune system. These little creeks are dark from tannin in the water.

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Here's an aerial view of an outlet to the gulf

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You can wade across each creek outlet and walk the entire park along the beach. Here you can see one of the developed private areas. Notice no dunes, and building right on the beach.

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From the beach itself the mixing waters are unique.

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The waters have a brown color against the beach and grade to the greens of the sand bars and the blues of deeper water.

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The dark tannin water has good reflective ability.

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The borders between protected areas with dune systems and the developed parts of the beach provide a stark contrast.

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The park cabins are behind the dunes in the most western section of the park. To access the beach is a short walk to and over a boardwalk.

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The economical cabins ($110/night) are situated in the piney woods behind the dunes. We spent most of our time out and about, but when we were at the cabin we hung out here on the porch...

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Looking out over the palmetto in the piney woods.

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We found a bike rental with delivery and pick up service and had bikes at our cabin on arrival. There's a 18 mile bike trail (Timpoochee trail) that runs along the park border and to several towns. We used the car only once the entire trip.

The nature of the gulf coast is to be lined with dunes...a smaller foredune and larger hind dune.

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The fore dunes are protected with Sea Oats.

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...and other vegetation like seafoam morning glory

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The hind dunes can become completely vegetated.

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...or be covered in flowers.

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The vegetation on the tops of the dunes is salt pruned by sea winds.

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These dunes are protected by live oak...

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Coming down the backside of the dune other vegetation begins as it grades into the piney woods.

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The piney woods has its own community too...like Yaupon Holly

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A thousand years ago, Native American traders dried, packed and shipped the leaves all the way to Cahokia, the ancient mound city near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Native Americans sometimes used it in purification rituals involving purging (this led to its Latin name, Ilex vomitoria — a misnomer, because yaupon is not an emetic). Traveling through North Carolina in 1775, the naturalist William Bartram said Cherokees called yaupon "the beloved tree." Early settlers even exported yaupon to Europe.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/08/04/429071993/heres-the-buzz...

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In the park the piney woods grade into salt marsh along the lakes with its array of rushes, reeds, sedges , grasses, and blooms.

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While looking at the sky above the lake, I caught a fuzzy picture of an eagle.

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We saw many osprey but failed to get even a fuzzy picture.

Throughout the area is the gulf fritillary...

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Along the beach are other birds and animals...

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However we found it disconcerting that there were so few birds. We only saw one group of pelicans and only a few gulls all week. This is quite a contrast to the abundant bird activity here 40 years ago.

There were some primitive life forms which I'm happy to say I avoided contacting...

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One of the nice aspects of the gulf coast is seeing both sunrise and sunset...
The eastern view looks over a developed area and houses, but it was beautiful none the less.
Panama City sits several miles to the East.

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And dawn unfolds...

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To the west lies Destin, once a sleepy fishing village, but now a busy vacation destination.

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Notice the empty state park beach and the activity down at the development to the west of the park. Fortunately the sun sets over the ocean this time of year, so sunset shots were fun.

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So I'll close with the setting sun and a bit of reflection. In the forty years since our last visit to Grayton, it seems every square inch where development has been allowed has been developed. Once sleepy towns and villages are now bustling vacation resorts which seemed like ant beds that had been kicked. Wildlife was around. Like at home, we even had deer browse past our porch. However it was the decline in the number of animals, especially birds, which caused us alarm. Turtles nest on this beach. There have been seven nest this summer on the stretch of beach where we were. Only one was successful. Storm surge swept away the eggs in the other six nests. Since our last visit, the foredunes have been washed inland all the way to the foot of the hind dunes as you may have noticed in the pictures. I can remember twenty or more feet between them. These ecosystems are sensitive and make obvious the strain we are placing on the planet. We saw many mosquito control spray trucks in the area; the number of visitors and their trash, sewage, and water demands; the large track hoes deforesting the piney woods for even more development; are just a few of the many impacts of people on our fragile coastal systems.

I know we added impact with our visit, but we did our best to tread lightly. I'm glad we supported the state park with our rental, and am glad their development is behind the dune system. We enjoyed the short bike ride to the beach, and bike access to brew pubs, restaurants, and seafood outlets. We spent a good bit of time walking the beaches, and I can still feel my calves. Walking on sand is very different than our up and down the mountain hikes. I hope you enjoyed traveling with us today and look forward to your shoreline and coastal stories below. It is still an amazing planet... which would be more appropriately named Ocean rather than Earth.

Have a lovely Sunday! The thread is open to any or all thoughts, stories, and ideas.

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QMS's picture

Thanks for a beautiful narrated photo journey to your beach vacation. Fantastic images. About 40 years ago I also lived in that area. Mary Esther, not far from Destin and Ft. Walton. It was an Air Force town, this an air base nearby. That portion of the gulf shores is quite something to behold.

Sounds like you had a wonderful get away. Thanks for sharing!
It's like taking a trip and never leaving the farm. Wink

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Lookout's picture

@QMS

https://www.military.com/base-guide/eglin-air-force-base

There's another large one in Pensacola too.
https://www.military.com/base-guide/pensacola-florida-military-bases

Culturally, the region is incredibly laid back, hospitable to visitors and transplants and fiercely patriotic. The economy of the region relies heavily on the military. Though we’re talking about Florida, most consider this region to be more “Lower Alabama” and deep south. God, guns, and country are core values in this conservative haven, and this is definitely part of the “Bible Belt.” Sundays are set aside for worship and family, so adjust your errands accordingly as many establishments close for the day. Many of the towns that draw military families have a super small-town vibe and are more “country” than “coastal.” It’s also closer to New Orleans than Orlando, so there is a heavy Cajun influence in the region.

Thanks for the visit, and glad you enjoyed the trip!

EDIT to add:
If you haven't been to Destin in 40 years, it has developed beyond recognition. I remember it as only a fishing pier with a restaurant. Now it is condo city, full of hustle and bustle. Quite the change.

All the best!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

QMS's picture

@Lookout

It was Elgin AFB nearby. Camped out there while still working out of the bayous in LA. 2 weeks on and 1 week off schedule. It was good to get out of the brown water region into the blue. Only lasted about a year there before moving down to Clearwater.

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Lookout's picture

This film came across my feed and is a usual topic for this column. (70 min)

Revolution: Food is all about the positive changes taking root in our modern food system. It focuses on real farmers who are growing, raising real food and the consumers who are demanding it.

For those who wanted more content this morning.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Lookout

Thanks for the link.

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

that Alabama is in a covid meltdown due to vaccine refusals and lack of masking.

What's your perspective? I'm surprised you vacationed. I would have hunkered down at home which is pretty much what I'm doing in Illinois.

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

Lookout's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness

..or were on our own in our cabin. So pretty safe I think. We did ride bikes to an outdoor restaurant and sat under a fan.

Understanding that I will get COVID (unless I've already had it) makes me think being exposed while my vaccine is still effective might not be a bad idea anyway.

We're glad we went, but it was a reasonable question about how wise is it to travel.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Azazello's picture

Here's something to watch:

And a pretty good essay from Pepe Escobar: The Living Dead Pax Americana
This one comes with a recommendation from Glenn Greenwald: Personal Note
My sister lives right there on that piece of Florida coast. She moved back there about 5 years ago. We've been thinking about flying out to see her someday. I've never been to Florida and there's a really good air museum in Pensacola.

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It didn't have to be this way.

Lookout's picture

@Azazello

Pensacola is an old settlement. From wiki...

The first multi-year European settlement in the continental United States was Pensacola, which was established at Emanuel Point in East Hill, a small neighborhood in modern Pensacola, by conquistador Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano in 1559. Two years later, in 1561, the settlement and its fleet were destroyed by a hurricane and the site was abandoned. Two survivors managed to walk the arduous journey to Mexico City. Pensacola was permanently reestablished by the Spanish in 1698 and became the largest city in Florida and the capital of the colony of West Florida. Another important Spanish settlement was established at Saint Marks in Wakulla county (San Marcos de Apalache). The Spanish settlers established a unique Creole culture in the region and brought in the first African slaves to the area and introduced the Roman Catholic Church.

Pensacola was the first settlement of Europeans in what is now the United States. The area was first sighted by a European in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León. Three years later, Don Diego Miruelo became the first European to sail into Pensacola Bay.

It has a great bay. The lots to see and do there, and plenty of beautiful beaches all around.

Thanks again for the links. I'll check them out.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

dystopian's picture

Sounds a wonderful trip! Great photos and essay! Thanks for sharing. Anything that nests on the beach or in the dunes is in trouble, pretty much nationwide. What a great unique habitat. My wife and I loved the MS Gulf coast around Biloxi, Gulfport, Pascagoula, in '81, and could not believe what gambling had done to it by 1988, last time we went through it. See any Swallow-tailed Kite? They are mostly nearing gone for the year by now. Rising seas does not bode well for all the beach and dune species.

The longer-billed medium-sized gray above shorebird in the 2 pix above the Great Blue Heron is a Willet. The first sandpiper, white below with a black mark at the shoulder is a Sanderling. They are the ones that run back in forth in front of waves, and are sandcrab specialists.

For some reason (ok, it's greed) developers are insatiable. It is a like a crack addiction. Destroying natural habitat for fun and profit. Usually whilst they thump their bible, insist it was a miracle created in 7 days, and bulldoze it in one. Thinking their arrogantly ignorant view is the special one.

Enjoy it while you can!

Thanks again for sharing, great photos!

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We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein

Lookout's picture

@dystopian

It was surprising to find the bird population so diminished. First the insects...then the birds.

Glad you liked the picture journey. Thanks for IDing the Sanderling...knew it was one of the sandpipers. We thought the other was a Willet. The heron was predawn and I had to monkey with it to lighten it.

That's what we figure...

Enjoy it while you can!

Good to "see" you this Sunday!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Lookout

on the sea life has removed too much of their food supply.

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Dawn's Meta's picture

the rugged West coast of Oregon and Washington. Love the coastal region and in the past the food and sea life right under your feet or boots. Clams, mussels, Goose Neck Barnacles, Rock Fish of so many kinds, Razor Clams - my favorite.

Of course the bird and fish life was extraordinary. Only forty years and it seems almost gone. We notice the loss of insects, bugs of all kinds, birds, and other critters.

We watched some Kites move through this last week; Crows seem to be schooling and preparing for flight; Hawks of many kinds are moving South. Our first Fall storm is here with high winds and over an inch of rain since noon.

Don't know much about the other coasts having seen them just a few times here and there. This was a great tour!

Always thanks for the ag info. I put myself to sleep watching them. We are on our third permaculture bed. Found great rotting logs in our little forest by the Mussy. Yummy mushroomy smells on those crumbly logs.

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A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. Allegedly Greek, but more possibly fairly modern quote.

Consider helping by donating using the button in the upper left hand corner. Thank you.

Lookout's picture

@Dawn's Meta

I was an adult before I ever experienced one. The similarity is the erosive nature of the sea ... especially as it rises. Weather and waves carving the shoreline in different ways in different materials. As an Earth scientist I find it fascinating.

The new beds sound wonderful, as does the coastal seafood. Those food stuffs represent our early diets. There are many shell mounds around the gulf. We once visited Skara Brae, one of the most perfectly preserved Stone Age villages in Europe, and it is built in a shell midden.

Nice to have you come by today. Always a pleasure.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Great stuff. I just booked a vacay at Gulf Shores, Ala. No use hanging around here over Thanksgiving. There is no court scheduled, and courthouses close for the family time of year.
I will post a couple of pictures from our last visit there.
Like you, we rent cabins or cottages when possible, usually eat in, although an outdoor patio with a fan would be great. This will be a condo, but they have stairs in addition to the elevator.

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Lookout's picture

@on the cusp

On arrival or departure you might consider going through Dauphin Island and cross the bay on the car ferry to Fort Morgan (or visa versa).

The Mobile Bay Ferry crosses beautiful Mobile Bay, Alabama and connects SR 193 at Dauphin Island on the west side with SR 180 at Mobile Point on the east. Considered “the Gulf-Coast’s Most Scenic Drive”, the ferry saves travelers hours of driving time plus the high cost of fuel by providing a travel link across the mouth of Mobile Bay.

The trip between Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island and Fort Morgan at Mobile Point provides wonderful views of the two historic forts that have long guarded the entrance of Mobile Bay. The trip takes approximately 40 minutes and is a great way for passengers to view birds, sea life and other boats and ships.

Please note: We will not run the 6:30 PM trip from Dauphin Island or the 7:15 PM trip from Fort Morgan except during Daylight Savings Time.

You'll also go right by the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
A last vestige of the natural ecosystem in a an ever expanding recreational development and resource extraction.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06ijlV-Wz2c (1 min intro)
Read more here.

Should be a great time to enjoy it. Glad this inspired you!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout We will have 5 full days to check out the 'hood. We thoroughly enjoyed our first visit there, and made a solemn pact we would go back once a year.
It is an 8 hour drive, but unless there is road construction, it is not too bad.

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mimi's picture

and wach your beautiful photo-journel, because I worked the whole day and now I am very distracted and confused by what I heard in the media.

May be you can have a look and explain what it all means. Is this for real?
Pandora Papers - The largest investigation in journalism history exposes a shadow financial system that benefits the world’s most rich and powerful.

I have no idea if that is bpgus or something that one should know about. Please help me to understand it.

Thank you and have all a wonderful Sunday.

PS: I am sorry that I can't read right now any of the content of the Pandora Papers. I am simply so exhaustet that I can't. I am sorry and hope for your understanding.

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mimi

Lookout's picture

@mimi

...I can say the financial system definitely benefits the rich...really the 0.01%
https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/covid-19-has-made-the-super-...

COVID-19 has made the super-rich richer. It’s time for a billionaire wealth tax
The US’s billionaires have amassed democracy-distorting concentrations of wealth and power as millions have been thrown into poverty

The designed the system for the elite and by the elite...been the way of things for who knows how long....probably forever.

Have a nice night and good rest tonight after your day of work.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

mimi's picture

@mimi

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mimi

Lookout's picture

@mimi

the original report.
https://www.icij.org/investigations/pandora-papers/global-investigation-...

Lots of elite being exposed...seems like a good thing to me.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

in touching base, let me know; I've been wanting to go to the Panhandle myself. Someday we could maybe meet for a meal, or something.

Although maybe, given what you say about the birds, I shouldn't go. The idea is to bolster my mental health, not present myself with more causes for distress, no matter how real.

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Lookout's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

is scheduled for Memorial Day. May be we could met there?

Hope you and yours are doing well!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Lookout

if me being masked and outside at a festival is something she's comfortable with. I think it'll be OK.

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3 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Lookout's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

We have no choice but to play it by ear, and adjust course as needed.

All the best to you and yours.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Lookout

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1 user has voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

about where to cross-post writing I do here?

I'm finally getting around to writing about something that I actually think lots of people should see and talk about (more people than just us). I have been assuming for over a year that we here at C99 are being shadowbanned (that's when C99 stopped appearing in Google Chrome's list of my frequently visited websites; I can't figure why that would happen other than shadowbanning.) Since I'm not on Twitter or FB, I need a place (or places) to cross-post. Do y'all have any recommendations?

I don't need to monetize my content. I just want to get more eyeballs (and possibly direct some of them back here).

Not sure I fully understand the way publication on the Internet has evolved (devolved?)

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal
c99 isn't displaying in your frequently visited websites so that's proof c99 has been shadowbanned. OK then.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@JtC

And what I said wasn't a criticism of this site.

And I wouldn't be surprised if the site has been shadowbanned; given how we conduct business here, it would be surprising if we weren't. Given the fact that mostly we're non-partisan rationalists who care more about what is true than what is convenient for one set of powerful people or another.

But I'm not saying it's been proven. I'm saying I think so. And I don't know why that made you mad.

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2 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Lookout's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

https://substack.com/

or https://medium.com/

personally, I'm happy here.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Lookout

That could be real helpful.

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Lookout's picture

I like to sing this lullaby by Lotus Dickey

Here's the O'Brien's version

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3 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

That was really nice. I enjoyed the photos and the descriptions of the area. I do love going to the coast...any coast. I understand why and how people love our coasts to death. We just want to be there. Something about the waves, the sand, the air, the wind, the birds, the saltiness, etc.

It sounds as if you had a good, relaxing time. Hope you are refreshed from you trip. Thanks again for sharing.

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Lookout's picture

@randtntx

along coasts...most sites now underwater. They also suggest the sound of waves is reminiscent of our mothers heart beat when we were surrounded by amniotic fluid. So I guess there are many reasons we are drawn to the coasts.

Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed it!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”