Coming in for a landing

I flew back to Boston this morning. I always try for a window seat, and was pleased that I scored one. (Even better, the seat next to me was empty.) The flight landed right around noon, and I enjoyed watching the plane’s shadow growing below us as we landed.

I’m off to bed now. It was a long day. (Again.) Tomorrow I need to get my thoughts organized to tackle the week’s miscellaneous commitments. (Work projects, political postcard projects, household projects, and more.) For tonight, I’m just going to enjoy sleeping in my own bed.

above the patchwork fields of middle America (friday foto finder: high)

The photos I’m sharing today are of a much loftier sort than the ones I posted on Wednesday. While dumpsters are rather down-to-earth, these photos are taken while looking…down to earth. From a plane.

Much like the abstract compositions that I find in the small details of peeling paint and rust, I love the giant-scale abstract compositions formed by fields, roads, rivers and other features of the landscape when viewed from above.

Many of the fields of the Western and Midwestern United States use a system of irrigation that leads to fields that are circular, or segments of circles, which are then interspersed among more traditional rectangles. These geometric shapes arrange themselves in a surprising array of colors: hues arising from different soils, different crops, different stages of growth, and likely other and sundry factors that are better known to those who farm those fields. Flying in a plane above, if you are lucky enough to have a window seat and the right weather and lighting conditions, not to mention the right flight path, you are presented with an ever-changing gallery of these wonders of shape and color.

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These photos were taken on 3 different trips. The first 6 are from August 2004, taken en route from the East Coast to Colorado (or vice versa), or from some connecting flight in between. The next 3 are from a January 2006 flight from Albuqueque, New Mexico. The last two are from a May 2008 flight to Houston, Texas. I don’t recall my specific itineraries, so I don’t remember where I was in each case. (I mean, other than in a plane. I remember that much.) They were all taken with point-and-shoot cameras.

This week’s friday foto finder theme is “high,” another that offered many choices from my photo archives.¹ I’ve mentioned it before, long long ago, but I really love heights. I therefore have many photos from high places: tall buildings, hikes, ferris wheels, and gondola rides. I considered posting something from each of these. However, I figured that seeing as I haven’t had the opportunity for space travel, views from a plane are about as high as I can manage.

I’ve posted a few of my other window-seat pictures before. And I probably will again. And if ever I have the chance to travel into space, I promise to share the pictures.

¹ This theme also offered much opportunity for playing with words. You were very nearly given a post with the title “getting high in Barcelona.” But I decided not to go there. I mean, I *did* go to Barcelona. And I visited a fairly elevated spot. But I decided not to go that direction with my post…or my title.

railway by the railway (friday foto finder: railway)

My photo library is loaded with railway-related photos. I love to travel by train, frequently commute by train, and as a parent of young children, we have many toy trains and rails in our home. I have many years worth of photos of railways of all sizes. So when I saw that Archie had picked “railway” for the friday foto finder theme, I figured I was golden.

What I hadn’t really taken into account is the trouble in making a decision when I have too many options. A couple of days later, and I’ve finally chosen share some of my more recent photos on this theme. (Not that I’ve been doing nothing else other than deliberating over train photos, mind you. I also had to do things like deliberate over what to wear and what to make for dinner.)

The week before last, I had a workshop to attend in New York City, and I opted to take the train down. I first took the commuter rail into Boston, and then took an Amtrak down to New York Penn Station. I had a couple of hours to wait in Boston between trains, and spent part of the time wandering around taking a few photos. Here are some photos of the model railway that is an annual tradition of South Station. This one is apparently a newer and bigger one than has been there in previous years.

(This is a crop of the photo above, but I wanted to show the two very serious-looking men in dark suits.)

As I hadn’t wanted to be weighed down with a lot of luggage for only a couple of overnights, and since my schedule was going to be too tight for any sightseeing, I had decided not to bring my real camera. It turned out to be a bit of a shame, because there are some times when having more options is a good thing. I did find myself wishing that I could adjust my settings to better deal with the bright light. On the other hand, my phone is handy to have in my pocket, and is easy to whip out for snapping a few shots reasonably unobtrusively.

true colors

I went to a conference last week in Portland, and while there is plenty to say about that trip, for now I will just share this moment from the start of my trip.

I flew out last Sunday evening, and I arrived at the airport a good 2 hours before my 7 p.m. flight. Boston Logan is, as major city airports go, a fairly moderate and manageable size. Airport security typically goes pretty fast (at least compared to some airports (Denver, I’m looking at you)), and I expected to have a good chunk of time before boarding. For whatever reason, though, things went really slowly in security that evening. I watched my cushion of extra time dwindle away such that it looked like I’d be getting to my gate only a few minutes before boarding. Having finally passed through security and reassembled myself and my luggage, I wasted no time heading to the gate, which naturally was as far from security as possible in that terminal wing.

With my gate just in view, I looked out the window. It had been raining earlier, and the clouds had parted a bit to provide a spectacular sunset.

What’s more, there was a rainbow.

Rainbows are big in our household. Phoebe and Theo both love color, and rainbows are a frequent subject of artwork. For that matter, rainbows are a frequent subject of conversation.

I confess that this love of rainbows in my children has been encouraged by me. I loved rainbows as a kid. I mean I *loved* rainbows as a kid. I had what might be considered a “rainbow phase.” And for someone who mostly wears gray and black, I still love color. I love that my children love color.

So imagine my excitement at seeing a rainbow. At an airport. (Because I also love airports.) My inner child was giddy.

My flight was scheduled to board in about 5 minutes, but I didn’t hesitate to stop to walk over to the window. I had my iPhone handy, and snapped a few shots. But they absolutely didn’t do it justice. I parked myself at some conveniently open seats at the gate closest to me (a gate which happily didn’t have a flight scheduled imminently). I unloaded my backpack, and dug out my camera with my telephoto lens.

What I found sort of hard to understand was that the vast majority of the people waiting around in the airport seemed to be completely indifferent to the stunning view. I say “vast majority” because I did overhear one guy on his phone nearby saying something about the rainbow and pretty sunset, but that may well have been in reaction to seeing me whip out my camera. (I think I made him look.) Nobody else appeared to be looking. I wanted to just stand at the window and stare.

But I also wanted to share, especially with my rainbow-loving children. I headed over to my gate, and found a seat. They hadn’t started the boarding process yet, so I figured I had time. I got out my laptop, and loaded the photos from my camera onto it. I sent an email to John with a photo, and posted it to Facebook as well. I may well have posted it here on my blog as well, but my row was called for boarding, so I had to pack up my laptop in a hurry.

I realized that if I hadn’t gotten stuck in security, I would likely have missed the rainbow. (I’d likely have settled down at my gate and buried my head in my electronics until called to board.) I wouldn’t have heard a peep about the rainbow from anyone around me.

Are most adults really so blasé about rainbows?

A photo taken with my iPhone. You can find the rainbow only if you know where to look. (It’s near the white rectangular structure near the horizon, about a third of the way from the left.)

Taken with the telephoto.

Rainbow and plane.

The scenery was beautiful even without the rainbow. This scene is to the left of the rainbow. The views of the sunset from the windows near my gate were also striking, but the crowds were too thick for me to get close enough to take pictures.

One last zoom of the windmills and big tanks just beyond the runways.

These were the photos I was considering for the friday foto finder theme of “right.” To see a rainbow, conditions have to be just right. You have to be at the right place at the right time, with the weather conditions and the lighting just right such that the water droplets are in the right direction from the sun.

I must have missed the fork in the road.

A friend from the 365 Project group commented on a recent photo: “Lots of inspiration on the morning commute, eh?” To which I thought, “I should take more photos from the afternoon commute!”

So it was that yesterday I found myself taking a lot of photos on the train ride home. It was raining, and I was having fun with the water drops beading on the window. As the train moved, the patterns behind the drops changed. Much of the ride was just a blur of green, as we sped past trees and undergrowth, but as we slowed coming into stations, the patterns would get more varied.

As I’ve mentioned several times¹, I’ve started taking the train into work more often. I really like taking the train, and in some ways it is more relaxing than driving: I can read (or even nap) during a big chunk of the commute, and don’t have to worry about city parking or traffic. On the other hand, it takes longer. When I drive, my commute is about one hour each way to get to work. When I take the train, it takes a bit more than 2 hours each way. A good hour of this each way is spent sitting on the train, the rest is spent driving to and parking at the train station one end, and taking the T and walking on the other end.

Yesterday’s homebound commute took 3 hours and 15 minutes. Because of a tree.

At the station 2 before mine, the train started to pull out of the station, and then stopped again. After a few minutes, the conductors came through to announce that there was a large fallen tree on the tracks ahead, and that it was too large for the train to push through. It apparently fell from one side of the tracks, where the root ball was still intact and partially buried, across both tracks, and smashed into the fence on the other side. We were told that a track crew had to be called to cut through the tree to let the train pass. There were murmurs of passengers volunteering to help move the tree, but the conductors believed the tree was too big², and the passengers were told they weren’t allowed to, anyhow. (I’m sure it was a liability issue.) We were told it would be only about a 20 minute wait. I translated that in my head to mean at least half an hour. Since we were still at a station, passengers were allowed to get off the train, and some probably called to get picked up there. Others waited out on the platform.

I was comfortable sitting on the train, and had my camera, phone and various electronic devices handy to keep me busy. John had already picked up Phoebe and Theo, so I didn’t have to worry about being late. I relaxed and took many more shots of raindrops on the window and rain splashing on the platform.

After about 45 minutes, the official track crew had still not arrived. But suddenly all the passengers hurried back onto the train, and we were told we were leaving. Apparently, the group of volunteers had moved the tree, after all. We got moving again, towards the next stop. Rather than continuing all the way to the end of the line, our train was going to let everyone off at the penultimate stop, and head back to Boston. So, I had an extra 15 minutes waiting for another train at a different stop. Just as the next train was pulling into the station, I spied this along side the curb where I was waiting:

Sometimes, in life, you come to a fork in the road. It is a rare occasion when you come to a spoon.

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¹ Perhaps I’m trying to drive the point home?
² Did I mention that the tree was big? It was, from all accounts, a big tree. Also large.³
³ I should also say that I was glad that the tree, which was quite large, did not fall on the train.

looking at cars in the driving rain

Last Saturday, the hourly forecast showed quick storms at 1:00 and then again later in the afternoon, but with otherwise sunny skies and relatively low chance of precipitation. Even with the chance of rain, we decided to motor on to get to Micro Mini Car Day.

As predicted, the morning was clear and hot. We’d hoped to leave around noon to make the start of the car show at 1:00, but with the typical challenges of getting everyone fed and otherwise ready to go, it was closer to 1 by the time we got the kids buckled into the car. As I ran back to the house to grab one last thing, John called out to me to also grab some umbrellas.

I don’t have many superstitions, but I know for certain that the best way to avoid rain is to bring an umbrella. In this respect, the umbrellas failed us. Which is not to say that we were sorry to have them with us.

The hourly forecast was partially correct. It did indeed rain around 1. But it then continued to rain. And rain. And rain hard. And then it rained harder, and it rained some more. And did I mention that it rained?

I did manage to get a few photos, though, as I huddled under my umbrella.

Here is Phoebe with a bigger Mini. (I have a photo of her with the same Mini from last year.)

As you can see, the attendees were still very enthusiastic about the event. Here is someone braving the rain to photograph a convertible Isetta along with some sort of matching toy version. (I was very curious about the sort of pod-like, three-wheeled gray thing on the right, but didn’t have much chance learn what it was. Note that there is also what appears to be a black pole sticking out of the roof of the museum. That was my umbrella strap.)

Here’s are a couple of bigger Isettas. They seat 4!

Here’s that gray pod thing again, which I think looks a lot like the end of a bullet train or monorail. But a whole lot smaller.

I took this photo from the gift shop, up in the museum building, where I’d gone to get a t-shirt for John. (John’s shirt had gotten completely soaked while he was pushing Theo in the stroller, while trying to keep his umbrella moderately covering Theo.)

We spent quite a while inside the museum waiting for the rain to lighten up. Um…it didn’t.

By 4:00, the scheduled end of the show, the rain finally started to slow. By the time we returned to our car, it was barely raining at all. Then the clouds parted, and the sun came back out.

This is all to say that we went to the car show, but it was very wet. This wetness was, further, the only period of such wetness the whole weekend.

I was not sorry that we went, but it wasn’t quite the experience I might have hoped for. For one thing, they weren’t able to have the rides in the cars, at least not after we arrived. The rain was torrential, for one thing. And the attendees were drenched. (Would you want soggy-bottomed strangers plopping themselves down in your car?) And then to top it all off, a retaining wall collapsed from the rain onto part of the circular driveway where the car rides typically passed. So, no ride in an Isetta for me after all.

But I did have some fun.

Beep beep! It’s Micro Mini Car Day!

I decided not to go to away to the conference this week after all.¹

A sweet bonus of not being away this weekend is that I’ll get to go to something fun that I would have otherwise been sad to miss: Micro Mini Car Day at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum. Car shows are not generally my thing, or at least not what I would think of as being historically my thing, and I don’t necessarily consider myself a car buff.

There are, however, a couple of noteworthy exceptions: British cars, and really small cars.² Last year, we went to and enjoyed British Car Day³, a lawn event at the same museum, and when we saw the upcoming listing for Micro Mini Car Day, I was well and truly intrigued.

I have to say the event was even cooler than I’d anticipated. In addition to the Minis and MGs and Smarts and such that I’d anticipated, I got to see all kinds of little cars that I’d never even known existed. I’ve been meaning to share some of the photos from the even for ages, and here I am finally getting around to it. Buckle up!⁴

Seeing as they were my first car crush, I was happy to see some classic Austin Minis. I have long said that I wanted to pinch their little cheeks.

In front of the very impressive museum building is a pair of Isettas, a car that was totally new to me.

The Isetta was also known, not too shockingly, as the “bubble car.” Fond as I am of the Austin Mini, I may want to pinch the cheeks of the Isetta even more. I mean, just look at it!

One of the most striking quirks about the Isetta is that the driver enters through a single front door. (Observe that the little 2-seater above has no side door.) The front door opens sideways on hinges, much like a refrigerator door. By the way, the car was originally made by a company that also made refrigerators. Coincidence?

Below is a picture with one of the “larger” Isetta models with the door open. (In the foreground is one of my own smaller models, who answers to the name of “Phoebe.”)

An especially cool feature of this event is that many of the car owners offer rides to attendees. (You can see people and cars lined up in the background in the photo, below.) I got to go for a ride in this Austin Mini, which was my first time actually inside a classic Mini.

I also went back in line a second time, and scored a ride in this cherry Nash Metropolitain, whose enthusiastic owner was dressed in colors to match her paint.

This year, I’m hoping to have a chance to go for a ride or 2 again–maybe even in an Isetta!

Even if I don’t manage to catch any rides, I’m looking forward to a fun day outside in a beautiful park. There is lots of room to run around, and Phoebe happily did so. (Theo, on the other hand, could barely yet stand.)⁵

And in case you want to see more photos of tiny cars, I’ve put a bunch more in the slideshow below. (If you want to slow down or stop the slideshow, put your cursor over the slideshow to have the controls appear.)

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¹ Much as I wanted to attend the conference itself, I couldn’t bring myself to commit to the travel involved. I’m still recovering from two biggish trips in the last couple of months, and it seemed unusually hard on John and the kiddos to abandon them so soon after my return. What finally helped me stop the waffling, or to tip the waffle into the “stay home” side of things, was taking into account both the expense and the fossil fuel gluttony of such a trip. (After all, I am trying to cut down.)

² You might remember the photos I posted from last year’s British Car Day.

³ And yes, I really love the really small British cars. Really.

⁴ Or otherwise brace yourselves, as many of the vintage cars probably didn’t have seatbelts.

⁵ You may recognize the setting as the same as in my photo I called Theo’s World. That’s because I took that one the same day.


Something that you may not have known about me is that I have a bit of a soft spot for British cars.

I fell in love with the Austin Mini when I was 9 years old, living in France. Over the years, others caught my eye, like the little MG and Triumph convertibles I’d see from time to time in the San Francisco Bay Area. When I was 16, I became enamoured of the Lotus driven by Mrs. Peel, my idol. And what fan of the Prisoner could forget 6’s Lotus 7?

So when John told me he’d heard of a British car show coming up nearby, I put it on the calendar. We went this past Sunday.

The car show was held on the lawn of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA, which is in an incredible park.

We picked a shady spot to picnic near this sweet purple MG.

Phoebe and Theo enjoyed the sunny day at the park.

John and I enjoyed taking pictures of the pretty cars, most of which were polished up to a high shine, like this Triumph GT6+.

little green berkeley
This little Berkeley, though, appeared to have its original paint.

spider paint crack
The paint showed some really cool cracking patterns, like this spider-like one.

There was quite a variety of unusual sports cars. Here’s an Allard and a Jaguar. Note the leather straps fastening the bonnet of the Allard (left), and the third headlight on the Jaguar (right).

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I didn’t see any wicker seats, but there were a few wicker baskets, like the one strapped to the boot of this classic MG (left). There were lots of two-seaters at the show, and at least one single-seater, like this Lotus (right).

row of triumphs
Here’s a row of Triumphs.

I wanted to get a closer look at this (more humble-looking) Triumph, but it drove off as we were walking towards it. (Yes, it started!)

This new Mini was parked next to a hand-built reproduction of a Lotus 7.

This was the only classic Mini we saw. I wanted to take it home with me.

the arrival: loss, losers, and a whole lot of lugging

Here we are, safely and comfortably settled in Saarbrucken. It’s day 2 of our trip. Or is it day 3? Well, it’s Monday night. I know that much. I guess that does make it day 3. It’s just that we’ve only had one actual night of sleeping in a room with walls and, you know, a bed.

Ah, beds. How we do take them for granted. Until the point where we’ve spent 24 hours or so sitting in various car, plane and train seats, or floors, not to mention walking and standing…

The trip here was…long. Not terrible. But well…long.

Day 1: Leaving home

We left home around 2:00 p.m., drove to the airport and checked in without incident. We were very happy to find out that the flight was underbooked, so we got to sit in a row with a free seat. It was fabulous news considering Phoebe would otherwise have been only in our very crowded laps.

The flight was good, though it involved too little sleep. I tend to forget how chaotic and noisy flights are, what with the beverage and meal service and people getting up and moving around. And with the lights on. It was almost as if people weren’t scheduling their activities around Phoebe’s bed time. Could that be possible?

Phoebe was very good overall, though too interested in what was going on. There was a bit of crying here and there, but not for too long overall. She was almost asleep when dinner was delivered. And then she perked right up and wanted my cantaloupe. I tried covering up my food to keep it from calling to Phoebe, but eventually worried the flight attendants would think this meant I was finished and snatch up my tray before I could eat. So eventually, John held Phoebe while I ate. Which Phoebe did not like. (Translation: she cried.) I shoveled the food in, some sort of lentil-ish loaf and mashed potatoes (the “special” dinner), and what was left of my cantaloupe, to a soundtrack of Phoebe’s various sad and angry vocal stylings. But then Phoebe settled in John’s arms before I finished eating, and eventually fell asleep. She slept well enough that we could transfer her to my arms at some point.

The flight was long, but seemed too short once Phoebe finally fell asleep, around 9:00 p.m. by our time. Meaning about 4 hours before our scheduled arrival in Paris. And then the lights came back on and the chaos started up again about an hour before landing, what with breakfast service and all.And then, before we knew it, we were on the descent.

Day 2: arrival in Paris (and departure)
So there we were on the ground at Paris, CDG. And we gathered up our big piles of stuff and eventually got off the plane. There were quite a lot of other babies and small children on the flight, and it was funny to see that most of those other families were also slow getting off the plane. And we headed out of the plane, and expected to see our stroller, which we’d checked at the gate. It wasn’t there. Neither were any of the many other gate-checked strollers. We hung around for a bit, with the gathering small crowd of baby-toting people, until we finally got the news that all the strollers had all been sent to baggage claim, as everybody “had already left.” Everybody, I thought, except for all the people travelling with small children!

So, we headed off to clear immigration and customs, joining the end of the line with the rest of the baby people. And I was crankily muttering to John that it defeated the purpose of checking strollers at the gate when they have the stroller sent off to baggage claim. And John said something like: “If that’s the worst thing that happens on this trip, it will be a pretty good trip.”

An excellent point.

But it turns out this was not the worst thing that happened to our stroller. We don’t actually know what happened to our stroller. Everybody else got their stroller. Ours didn’t appear. Apparently, the very cranky agent at the desk in Boston misdirected our stroller. I didn’t notice when she handed me my receipt that she’d written LAX (that’s LA) and some other possibly non-existent flight number, rather than CDG and our flight number. And sadly, we didn’t even have a name tag on the stroller. When I asked the agent if I could put my name on it, she just said, “I’ll take it now.” I complied. That was all she said to me, before she scribbled on a tag, and handed me the receipt, all the while ranting to a coworker about the crappy day she was having. I slunk off without even reading the tag. Was it spite?

So, our stroller is probably gone. It was a very nice stroller. Nicer than American Airlines (losers) will be willing to reimburse us for, according to the lost baggage agent. They offered us a loaner, some poor other soul’s lost stroller, from all appearances. But that sad little thing wouldn’t even open. I thought we’d be better off without it. We can apparently get reimbursed for up to 50 U.S. dollars for a new stroller. There was the possibility that they would be able to find the stroller, and get it to us.

So, off we stumbled and lugged. Happily, we’d at least brought our new lightweight carrier for Phoebe, so we were able to manage our luggage with Phoebe on my back. We had to get moving to get the train station to make our way to Saarbrucken, Germany.

We took the RER to Gare du Nord, then the Metro to Gare de l’Est, which was where we planned to take the newly opened TGV line, a super-duper fast train, direct to Saarbrucken. Notice how I used the past tense there…planned. Because, you see, all the TGV trains, for the day were sold out. One can purchase tickets in advance. However, I hadn’t. Unbeknownst to me, one can only purchase online at least 5 days in advance. Once I got my act together to buy, our departure was 4 days away.

No big deal, I thought. We’ll buy our tickets at the station.


It turns out that not only were all the fast trains sold out for the day, so were the usual slow routes. What the agent finally arranged for us was to get a 2:00 train, after a 3 hour wait, to Nancy. Followed by a train to Metz. Followed by a train to Forbach. And then a train to Saarbrucken. Count ’em, my friends. 3 changes, 4 trains. Plus 2 suitcases, 2 backpacks, a diaper bag, and one very tired toddler. Anyone care to do the math?

That’s all I have time for now. I’ll write more when I have a chance. For now I’ll say that I’m actually having a great time, in spite of various inconveniences. The first day of the conference was good, and tonight I get to sleep in a bed. Which I should do now, because it’s way, way too late. And because I really appreciate having a bed to sleep in.

Phoebe enjoyed looking at the planes at the airport.

p.s. If you are a relative of mine, and wondering why I haven’t emailed, it’s because I can’t manage to get to my email just now. I managed to check it just fine, but haven’t been able to get back on for the last few hours. I’ll try again tomorrow.