Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet | Netflix

I highly recommend watching this documentary if you have a Netflix account. The whole show was very effective and moving. Human beings on Planet Earth are ultimately doomed unless we change our behaviors as a species. According to the documentary, it may still be possible to change course.

This documentary addresses a few of the factors that define the health of Planet Earth, and talks about “tipping points” when it comes to the state all of these factors.

The Visit to Astoria, Queens, NYC

Last weekend took us to Astoria, Queens, in New York City. We were transported from the quiet and somewhat pastoral suburbs of Maryland to the concrete noisy jungle of the big city within a matter of hours. There is no blog this week about the canal and the river, and of the flowers and the animals of the wild, because of this trip. Instead, during the events of this weekend, the mind was transported to a state of alertness and hyper-sensitivity of a different kind, a period of time during which the neurons in the brain seemed to be firing every single minute of the weekend, whether it be day or night. For a newcomer, NYC can offer you an experience that is dynamic and stimulating – perhaps even over-stimulating. It works well for the young of body and mind. It takes more of a mental adjustment for people like me who are older and who have been away from this kind of a scene for a while. In a way, it was good to be back to spend a short time here, but it did also require an additional effort and expenditure of energy to keep up.

New York city hits you immediately with the richness and fullness of its experience the moment you arrive. That having been said, it is fair to also state that not all of this experience may be looked at in a positive light. After all, this is an old city with a very high population density, and a diversity of people of all economic backgrounds. It is indeed a jungle of concrete and steel that can tend to overwhelm the senses. I actually used to spend a lot of time in the city when I was young, and I used to thrive in the seeming chaos and diversity of Gotham. I am not sure that would be the case for me any more.

The experience of navigating our way into New York City, and that of driving on the highways within the city itself into Astoria, was my first exposure to what was to come. The confusing roadways – including the nature of the road signs, and the sudden appearance of entrance and exit ramps, and the aggressive driving that one has to become a part of – all of it might want some people to close their eyes. One should not be surprised when driving across the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan to find out that one has to drift across two or three lanes of very heavy traffic within a very short distance to get to where one needs to be in order to exit on to another highway. It helped that I have driven these roads in these kinds of conditions before. It all came back rather quickly, even though my mind might not have been very receptive to how it all felt at that point! One has to be hyper-alert!

Once off the highway, the city driving in Astoria itself turned out to be somewhat easier, although one still had to adjust ones senses to the rules of driving in the city – including the fast changing and frequent traffic lights, the one-way streets, the fact that right turns are only allowed in NYC when your light is green, the existence of pedestrian crossings at every intersection, the behavior of pedestrians in the city, and the general sense of chaos. Drivers start honking at vehicles in front of them almost immediately when a light changes to green regardless of how how far behind they are in the queue. And you really do not want to hit somebody or something at a crosswalk in NYC! Additionally, you have to be on your toes looking out for other drivers (or even jaywalkers) making a move or two that was surely not lawful and allowed by the authorities. And then you might even be cursed at by people who simply seem to like the feeling of releasing some some of their built-in stress (a result of living in a state of hyper-alertness) by yelling or gesticulating at other more mild-mannered folks. Sometimes both parties involved in such an interaction on the street are similarly worked up. People may not appreciate the sense of caution of a newcomer, one who is normally a mild-mannered individual, but one who is now going to be transformed into a fire-breathing Godzilla himself!

Rules of the road are broken with great regularity, and the aggression that the mindset of the city can bring out in some people on the street is amazing. There was the one occasion when I was walking across the road on a sidewalk at an intersection (after the “Walk” sign turned on), when a driver of a sporty convertible with its top down made a turn from a side road behind me and accelerated on to the road I was on, passing dangerously close to my backside, while giving me some kind of a nasty look. He revved the engine and raced away even while he was passing me. Why do that?!

It is not possible to survive with a cruise control mindset if you are an outsider driving in NYC – regardless of circumstances. When driving under the elevated N and W lines of the subway system (that runs up to Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria), one has to be even more cautious. There are two lanes of roadway available in each direction, one under the supporting pillars of the elevated line and one beside it. You have to look out for traffic entering (sometimes darting) on to the main lane under the railroad lines from beside the pillars, and you have also to make turns carefully to avoid the metal supports for the elevated line at intersections.

The more commercial streets of Astoria are filled with a diversity of small mom-and-pop establishments. While it might be disconcerting to some who are used to shopping at the big-box stores and supermarkets that dominate the suburban spaces, I actually appreciate their presence. These neighborhoods were in existence well before the big chains even came into being (which also says something about how the nature of the economy has changed in this context over the years). There are the local grocery stores, the fresh fruit and vegetable markets, stores for all things organic if you are so inclined, the bodegas, cafes and coffee shops, the restaurants, beauty shops, home goods stores, flower markets, barbershops, laundromats, etc.., to give a few examples. There seems to be enough business for these establishments to survive – by catering to the needs of the locals. Even the development of the online shopping experience, and the presence of the ubiquitous Amazon delivery vans, does not seem to have affected these places that badly. It makes sense when you think about the density of the population of the city.

These days there also seem to be a large number of food trucks present at street corners. I do not remember these from my youth. The street food in those days used to be served from smaller food carts that were pulled into place by other vehicles. They used to primarily serve food like hotdogs and pretzels – low cost foods that could be consumed in a hurry while standing around the cart. The food trucks of today are much bigger and much more sophisticated. King Souvlaki, at one of its established locations at the corner of 30th Street and 31st Avenue in Astoria,comes highly recommended. I had a craving for one of those old-fashioned souvlakis (something that I cannot include as a part of my regular diet these days!) that I remembered from my youth. Mission accomplished!

You find people from all parts of the world with a wide range of backgrounds on the streets of Astoria. People come from many different social and religious backgrounds. NYC is a true melting pot. You can actually hear different languages spoken on the street. Astoria has a significant Greek immigrant population. You can see the commercial storefronts with Greek names. The landlord for the apartment that we helping Angela to move into was Greek. I think I was even hearing Greek spoken at Madame Sou Sou Cafe and Bakery between the person behind the counter and a customer. You tend to think that people speaking other languages are doing so because they are not comfortable with speaking English. That is not necessarily the case in NYC.

The parking situation in NYC seems to have not changed significantly from what I remember it to have been during my youth. The residential areas are lined with cars, and one might have to drive around in circles for a while hoping for a parking spot to open up before being able to park and get out of your car. You will sometimes be fooled by what looks like an open spot from a distance, but which turns out to the area near a fire hydrant, a location where you cannot park legally. You might even find your parking spot on a different street somewhat far away from your intended destination, and then have to walk. The streets we visited were packed with apartment complexes with the distinctive fire-escapes (still functional!), and with single family homes with very small yards, all packed tightly next to each other. There may be just enough place for the owner of a home to drive a car into the private space in front of the house, to park it behind a gate that can barely be closed shut! We were not fortunate to find street parking close to where we wanted to be when we arrived, and ended up getting a parking ticket from the city for parking in the place I found instead nearer to the a commercial area. (I had, unfortunately, not spent enough time fully understanding the parking sign attached to the street lamp close by.) Fortunately, the amount involved on the ticket was tolerable.

These days, most of the restaurants in Astoria (and probably all of NYC) have a place in front of the establishment where customers can sit in the open and enjoy their meals. This space is created in what formerly must have been a parking area for the restaurant. I suspect that this development is a result of the COVID pandemic. This can actually be a very nice experience if the weather is cooperative, but you might have to put up with some aggressive behavior of drivers on the road beside you in some areas. There are some who tend to rev up their engines and accelerate when they get on a empty roadway just after crossing an intersection. There are vehicles whose silencers seem to be non-existent, or modified to creative impressive sound effects. We did get somewhat used to the sound while having dinner one evening at the Shady Lady. Truth be told, even though I was only driving a fuel efficient hybrid car, I was tempted to play the acceleration game myself the more I got used to the driving tendencies and habits of the city.

I had the opportunity to sit on a bench at the corner of Ditmars Boulevard and 30th Street and observe the pedestrian traffic while others were shopping. This a somewhat busy location because it is a commercial section of town. There were other people also hanging out there by the benches, either by themselves or with friends. I had nothing to do but to simply observe people going by. Folks come in all shapes and sizes. There are families out for the evening; there are young people who are hanging out and chilling; there are people who are conservatively dressed and there are those who are letting it all hang out; there are people who seem to be lost in their thoughts and seem serious and focused – walking with a purpose, there are others that are enjoying the weather and the setting. There are the children and the babies in strollers. There are the people with their electric bikes and mopeds gliding by silently. There are the dogs. I feel sorry for the dogs because they are in an environment that is so far removed from what one would consider natural for animals (but then, one could also sincerely and honestly consider the human beings around me to be living this kind of a existential experience!). Many dog-owners also seem to deal in halfhearted ways with the problem of cleaning up after their animals in a situation where the concrete is the only surface available for peeing or pooping. Some do not even bother. Any open area that is not maintained becomes fair game. It is funny when people in countries like the US sneer at the behaviors of folks in other places with regard to the sophistication of their public behavior. The truth is that you try to get away with what you can regardless of where you live.

I need to emphasize that my impressions of this part of New York City by no means represent the entirety of of the character of New York City, and the experience of all of what it has to offer. Each borough of the city has its own character. When one thinks of New York City, one typically thinks of the great borough of Manhattan, and more specifically the areas closer to downtown and midtown Manhattan, including perhaps its gleaming skyscrapers, stores, and centers for the financial industry. One thinks of things like the entertainment of Times Square, and the glorious expanse (at least in my eyes) of Olmsted’s Central Park. Astoria in Queens is far removed from all of this. It is a more residential part of town. We did drive past a more industrial part of Queens in Sunnyside – close to the railroad yards, junkyards, and the auto dealerships; and also to the parks and newer developments on the east bank of the East River at Long Island City. And, of course, I did lose my way during this drive on our way back to Astoria!

I did not get to take many pictures during this trip because the primary reason for the visit was to help with a move into an apartment. I was exhausted at the end from all the driving, the repeated lifting and carrying of heavy stuff up two flights of stairs to a third-floor apartment, and from the shopping and the extended walking we did around town in order to get the things needed to make the apartment livable in! But all is good! I did manage to get the pictures below early one Sunday morning (before most people had gotten out of their beds). I made it a point to take my camera with me when I went to Madame Sou Sou for my morning coffee. Hopefully, these pictures serve to illustrate the little bit of what a particular section of Astoria looks and feels like.

The Cicadas In Full Force

The Cicadas seem to have ramped up their numbers and activity these days. It got so loud one afternoon that we could not even follow the conversations on the TV show that we were watching in the living room with the patio door open. We had to close the door! The trees in the backyard and in the front are full of these creatures. This is how it sounded one afternoon from the deck.

If you look at a capture of the volume levels for the above audio recording (processed using an app called Audacity), it looks like this!There is a real pattern here. They are actually communicating in their own way.

There are dead cicadas all over the ground in the outdoors these days, anywhere you walk. It is difficult to avoid stepping on them. The birds must be having a feast. You can hear the cicadas buzzing in the air, and watch them flying all over the place. You may even get hit by a cicada every once in a while if you are outside for a long time. While there can be a somewhat panicky reaction when this happens, with some frenzied flapping of the hand(s) where you thought the insect made contact with you, they are actually quite harmless!

We continued to experience the presence of the cicadas during for our walk from Edwards Ferry last weekend. Here is a picture of one of them.This is also the time for dragonflies and butterflies. Here are some pictures. We saw a few different kinds of dragonflies, but I had a difficult time getting them in a position where they could be photographed properly. I was successful with this Common Whitetail male.

You can see two Cabbage White butterflies in the picture below.

This is a a Question Mark butterfly. As you can see, I had to be happy with getting a picture from a significant distance away.

The picture below is of a Northern Pearly Eye butterfly on the trail. It might be sitting on the remains of a dead field mouse. That was the conclusion I drew when looking at the rest of what lay around it. Interestingly enough, we saw a couple of dead frogs on on the trail. The sight was surprising enough for me to give a yelp and leap into the air on one occasion to avoid stepping on it.

Here are a few of the newer flowers this year.

This is the flower of what seems to be a somewhat common weed. It is easy to miss because the plant is very small, and I did not realize how common it was until looked around more carefully this year. I have seen it in other, very different, locations. I have also seen it in the past years but have been unsuccessful in identifying it so far. The flower looks like a sombrero to me.This one is called Deptford Pink. It is a real tiny plant.

And this is Chicory. We will be seeing much more of this all around us from now on – as the weather heats up.

I thought these mushrooms on the trail were quite pretty. They were tiny. You may be able to make the size out from the size of the stones around them.

Another week passes by as we quickly head towards the Summer Solstice and the official start of summer in these parts. Outdoor activities, including the barbecues, the lazing around swimming pools, the visits to the beaches, etc.., have already begun since Memorial day. The increased vaccination rates have made it possible for people to gather together in a safer manner than was possible last year.

Unfortunately, there are still many who do not want to be vaccinated in our country. Some do not “believe” in the vaccines. Some talk about their “freedoms”. Perhaps there are also some who still even refuse to acknowledge the reality of the pandemic. It is a pity that people do not understand the concept of living in a society where we all need to pull together and look out for each other. It is also a pity that there are people living in an “advanced nation” who do not even recognize that the science and the technology that was responsible for providing us these vaccines is the same thing that is allowing us to exist and also enjoy our current lifestyles at the current moment in time in the earth’s history. It is especially a pity when people in our country do not realize how fortunate they are to have vaccines freely available. They still do not want the vaccines, even while other countries are suffering because they do not have enough, or any.

The Scent of Honeysuckle

There were a few suggestions being generated for the title of this blog even as we were walking along the towpath last Sunday. I settled on using this one.

The weather turned cold and somewhat nasty over the weekend. There was also the threat of rain. None of this impacted our plans for the weekend walk. One motivation was the fact that the rest of the week had been a disaster with regards to doing any form of exercise. It has been quite hot outside, and there were also the persistent distractions of the mind on a few fronts that affected the motivation in this regard. In fact, the weather had been hot enough during the week that we had to turn on the air-conditioner one day. And now it was cold enough that we had turned on the heat once again.

Thankfully, it did not rain while we were walking. Also, thankfully, the weather is back to normal temperatures for this time of the year once again.

The decision to go to Brunswick, MD, was made even as we were driving towards Point Of Rocks, our originally intended destination for the start of the walk. There was a sudden realization that we had actually visited Point of Rocks quite recently, and we really felt like going to some place new. We indulged ourselves! We changed our destination while en route. Because of this very late decision, the route we took to Brunswick was not one that I would normally have taken. We drove on the more beautiful back roads between Point of Rocks and Brunswick, arguably taking a little more time to get there than we would have done otherwise.

We walked north from Brunswick in the direction of Harpers Ferry. We did not make it to Harpers Ferry, but turned back more than half way there, less than a mile beyond the entrance to the trail at Weverton. Weverton used to be a mill town on the Potomac river. Water power from the river drove its development back in the day. The town was eventually destroyed by flooding from the river. All that is left behind today are the thick woods. You can apparently find the remains of some of the old buildings – a surviving foundation wall or a chimney – if you wander off the main trail. I have made such efforts in the past to find the lost town. This was when I used to run along the towpath by myself. I had no success. I only found this one trashed car during one of my explorations. (The car was most certainly from a time well after the original town’s existence.) We did not make any such attempt to discover the remains of the town during this walk, though we kept peering every now and then into the woods, hoping to get a some glimpse of the remains of foundation stones for buildings – without success!

As we were starting our walk from the parking lot in Brunswick, we came upon a creature that looked like a nutria (or a beaver, I cannot tell the difference!) with its little one. They were just a short distance away from the restroom located next to the parking lot. It held its place, not attempting to get any further away from us humans.As I walked towards the restroom, another small creature emerged from the ground beside the restroom.This little one was so engrossed in what it was doing – probably looking for food in the grass – that it did not attempt to get away from me until I was almost on it. I had some fear of being charged by a parent beaver (one could imagine it even being rabid!) that was obviously waiting for its young one, but, thankfully, it stood by calmly. The little one eventually noticed me and ran towards the parent, and the whole family vanished into the tall greenery next to the water. Just FYI, Canada Geese react very differently in situations like these!

Talking about encounters between animals and people, here is another one that took place during the later part of our walk. The deer had been staring at us from a distance while standing on the trail before these bikers appeared.

It was another beautiful walk,including the subject matter of the title of this blog. The sides of the trail closer to Brunswick had been mowed. These sides were covered all along the way by mock strawberry plants that had fruited.

We saw a plant with a flower that looked like a rose,and this is other new flower that I also could not identify.

I believe these are blackberries!

We passed Lock 31 and its unique lock house as we approached the entrance to the trail at Weverton.You can see Weverton Cliff in the background of this picture. We have climbed Weverton Cliff in the past. You get there by getting on the section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) at Weverton going north (in the general direction of Maine). Of note is the fact that the Appalachian trail and the towpath share a common pathway between Weverton and Harpers Ferry. At Harpers Ferry, the AT crosses over into West Virginia on one of the railroad bridges across the Potomac (at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers). From Harpers Ferry onward, the AT heads south in the general direction of Georgia.

There were some interesting signs on the trail at the location in Weverton where the AT diverges from the towpath and heads off north on its own. The white blazes on the brown post in the picture below are the general markings for the AT. You will find these all along the approximately 2,200 mile long trail to guide you on your way. The double blaze on the post indicates that this is a place where there is a change in direction of the trail. You find it here since this is where the AT makes an abrupt left turn and diverges from the towpath. The unique element in the picture above are the road signs for bicycle routes. I do not recall seeing these anywhere else on the towpath. Some extended research has revealed the existence of a U.S. Bicycle Route System that covers the entire US. Interesting!

Brunswick has a massive railroad yard that is operated by the freight railroad company CSX. There is also a separate section in this railroad yard where the suburban MARC trains are parked when not in use. During the stretch of our walk closer to Brunswick, we walked next to a line of closed auto-carrier rail cars (also called autoracks) that seemed to stretch at least a couple of miles, more than half way to Weverton! I am not used to seeing such long trains. This is a picture of a coal train passing by the parked auto-carriers just outside of Brunswick.

We did see a couple of new birds for the first time this year. There was the goldfinch, and the other bird was a female wood duck with its little ones.I had seen the same kind of ducks in the same area around the same time of year many years ago.

The graffiti in the picture below was the source of one of the other suggestions for a title for this blog. It was difficult decision at game time! The location of this piece of graffiti was one of the supports for the Route 17 bridge across the Potomac river at Brunswick.You can barely make out the remains of lock 31 of the canal in front of the bridge support in the picture above. Our car was parked under one of the other supports for the bridge closer to the river itself.We took the back roads once again when returning home. I think this is the route we will be taking from now on to go to Brunswick. It avoids the stress of the highway traffic and lets us enjoy a scenic ride through the more peaceful back roads of rural Maryland. Why rush?!

Alternate States of Reality (10/11/2008)

This blog is another email from times past – a trip back to a time long ago when I used to travel to Los Angeles very frequently on business. All of of this is now a distant memory, but a memory that will take a long time to completely fade away. Times have changed.
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The trips to Los Angeles are becoming second nature to me. I drive the streets of El Segundo as if I know them like the back of my hand. Then there are the regular drives that I make north of LA to Burbank, on the crowded expressways that dissect the concrete jungles of downtown LA. The expressways are really amazing, with metered entrances, several lanes in each direction, soaring flyovers, and even some elevated sections that let the people who are carpooling fly high over the regular lanes of backed up commuter traffic. Although I have never lived in California, names like Pasadena, Ventura Boulevard, Burbank, seem so familiar to me. (Maybe I listened to too much California music when I was growing up.) All over the world we find a way to live in our different states of reality, but at the end of the day it is all a human creation. My life as a commuter, traveling at least once a month to LA, has become my reality, and it would be hard to argue that it is not my own creation.

With my regular trips to different places these days comes the attempt to make some adjustments and allowances for my internal state of affairs. Actually, this could be more of a psychological issue than physical. I have no pain, perhaps a very slight physical ache once in a while (that could be more mental than real) that I can ignore for the most part. I do need to remember to carry around my innumerable medicines. I seem to have no problems with the endless walking that is involved in getting from place to place within the airports even though I am dragging my luggage around with me all the time. I have no troubles with the endless bus rides to and from parking lots and distant car rental places. I do not feel any particular weakness (although I still have not been able to get back to my more strenuous efforts on the trail during the weekends).

I have had to try to adjust my eating habits during these trips and that is still a work in progress. But I have also found certain places that I can visit again and again during my trips to LA. The Subway deli with its veggie patty sandwich is an old standby. The Japanese eat-out place looks promising, especially the Salmon on rice with teriyaki sauce, consumed with a green salad and cranberry juice. I have become a regular at “Thai Dishes”, a hole-in-the-wall joint on an inhospitable stretch of Aviation Boulevard next to an old military aircraft factory and a railroad line, not far from DIRECTV. The spicy chicken and vegetable combinations, washed down by some Singha beer is a delight after a long day at the office. I drink a lot of water. (I now have to sit in the aisle seat on a flight rather than the window seat.) During the last trip I ate just fruit for breakfast on my last day because fruits are supposed to be good for you. I am not convinced that everything that I am doing really makes sense. It is the conventional wisdom of the day that one follows, but it is quite possible that conventional wisdom changes with time and is not always correct. One lives according to today’s rules, whether they are right or wrong. Does anybody have any wisdom beyond that?

Yes, I am building up an alternate state of reality with my trips to Southern California, and perhaps I will be able to survive this reality long enough to enjoy a different and more fulfilling reality some time in the future, before time runs out. I have a feeling I am not the only one in this state of mind.

Brood X

This is the year of Brood X, a brood of cicadas that emerges from the ground once every 17 years in our part of the world – to mate, lay eggs from which nymphs emerge, and then die, perhaps even before they are able to complete the process. The nymphs that are born drop from the trees where the eggs are laid, burrow into the ground, and they are gone for the next 17 years – to reappear once again and transform into fully grown cicadas. The cicadas are everywhere these days, and they will be gone within the next month or so. They do create a racket! We saw a lot of them last weekend on the trail near Dargan Bend.
This visit to Dargan Bend was a follow-up to a visit earlier this year. At the time of the first visit, all of our surroundings were primarily brown. This time the experience was completely different. It was green all around, although the leaves for the Sycamore seem to emerge a little later than for other trees and plants. It is also already getting warm enough for the gnats to emerge in certain sections of the trail.

We walked south from Dargan Bend, towards Harpers Ferry, the opposite direction to the one we had taken earlier this year. This was a stretch of the trail that we had not explored before.

The flowers of early Spring are gone and we are left with primarily the Rosa Multiflora, Honeysuckle and Fleabane. The American Bladdernut, a plant whose flowers we saw in April, have now fruited.I have not yet been able to identify this one new flower in the picture below. We saw it in at least a couple of places along the trail.The river is quite wide in the section of the trail close to Dargan Bend. This section is just upstream of the remains of Dam 3.We walked past an inlet lock just before remains of Dam 3.In times past, the inlet lock provided a good means providing water to the canal from the water collecting in the river behind the dam. We stepped off the trail in this section to go down to the river itself.This area of the river downstream of Dam 3 is quite rough.You can hear the roar of the river here.

We did not quite reach the bridges at Harpers Ferry, but we could see them in the distance, probably less than a mile away, from the shore of the river just beside the remains of Lock 34.To the left side of the picture above is Maryland Heights. There is a trail to the top of the cliff. We have hiked this trail a few times in the past. It is a good workout! Harpers Ferry is on the right side of the picture.

I have been thinking about the lifetimes of the cicada and what their lives mean in the grand scheme of things. They live underground (on the liquids in the roots of trees) for most of their lives, and they emerge from the ground once in 17 years to produce progeny. And then they die. That’s it! You should read about their strategy for survival as a species once they emerge from the ground. It is quite unique considering that they are consumed in large numbers by other creatures once they emerge above ground. (They are even considered a specialty for consumption by humans in some quarters. If you do an Internet search you can find a few recipes.) Do these creatures have a purpose, or is there simply an evolutionary process (or instinct!) for self propagation and preservation of the species that is in play? Is there some kind of grand plan that includes these creatures? How do human beings fit into all of this?

A Sudden Encounter

I came upon a black rat snake yesterday,
And came to a sudden stop when I saw it in my way,
I was running on an overgrown trail, emerging from the woods,
The snake lay halfway across the trail, just ahead of where I now stood.

We looked at each other as if to say,
Who of us shall make the first move and go his (or her!) own way,
I was a little hesitant to pass in front of the snake for sure,
Visions of it darting forward, it would have been more than I could endure.

As the snake stayed still and flicked its black tongue in and out of its mouth,
I had to make some kind of move, of that there seemed be little doubt,
I tried to tap my foot against the ground to create some kind of a vibration,
And picked up a stick to encourage the snake to avoid a confrontation.

The snake quickly turned and effortlessly slithered away to places unseen,
It’s curves and black color distinct against the shades of the path so green,
I ran by where it had been, and went my merry way without further say,
I don’t know if the snake and I are destined to pass each other yet another day.


The More Familiar Flowers

We stayed closer to home last weekend, going for a walk between Sycamore Landing and Edwards Ferry. This has become our go-to walk in recent times, when we do not want to go far, and when we do not want to be too adventurous. The distance that we cover is towards the longer end of our limits, and I am usually beginning to drag as we get towards the end. I am going to feel it more and more as the heat picks up.

This was the weekend that the old standby, the Rosa Multiflora flowers,made their appearance beside the trail. The other flowers that I became familiar with when I started visiting the canal was the Fleabane. Those were also around in large numbers.

Other flowers include a kind of white violet (it could be a Canada Violet),what I think is called False Solomon Seal,and clover.

In the sections of the canal bed with water, we found Yellow Pond Lilyand Yellow Iris.

I believe that this plant is called Solomon’s Seal.It would indeed be quite the coincidence if we happened on both False Solomon’s Seal and Solomon’s Seal during the same outing, but I am not completely confident about my conclusion.

This is probably a Mock Strawberry.

As an aside, I now think the plant I had mistaken for Virginia Waterleaf back in April is actually an American Bladdernut. They form very distinctive pods later in the year.

The trail was packed with people during the later part of our walk. (This is one of the disadvantages of staying closer to home.) We passed a troop of boy scouts. They were taking their own sweet time moving north. When they stopped at Edwards Ferry for a break, their troop leader was noting (maybe complaining) that it had been less than a mile between breaks. He wanted them to get up and keep moving.

The campsite near Edwards Ferry was full. When we took a detour along the river at Edwards Ferry, we actually discovered a couple and a dog camped out on the unmarked trail by the river. They said that the campsite was too full.

Bikers were also out in large numbers, and in large groups. They were mostly riding in a courteous manner, moving into single file when passing. All the same, we had to been vigilant. There were many occasions when we would turn back expecting somebody to be coming up behind us, only to find that we were imagining things!

The “LAX from the Westin” Picture Gallery

This gallery is linked to the subject matter of my previous blog.

Some interesting observations came to mind when I was trying to pick pictures for this blog. One is that quite a few of the aircraft that I used to see in those days are no longer flying. This list includes the Boeing 747 (with the exception of the later B747-8), the Airbus 340, and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and McDonnell/Boeing MD-11. There is even a picture of a freighter DC-8 above! The Airbus 380 and Boeing 747-8 aircraft only arrived later, and soon they too will be no more.

Also of note is that a few of the airlines that were in existence at that time are no more, including Continental, Northwest, and US Airways.

The picture in the collage above of the small rolling suitcase taken in front of the door of my hotel room as I prepare to depart Los Angeles to come home is symbolic of the nature of my work-related travels in those days. The bag carried everything I needed for a short trip. It was small enough to fit into the overhead bins of the aircraft I flew on, so that I did not have to check-in any luggage. I could get through airports quickly without having to wait at luggage carousels or in check-in lines. I was constantly traveling – in and out of hotel rooms, arriving and departing at all possible hours of the day. The passageways, the concession stands, and even the restrooms, of the United and American Airlines terminals at LAX became very familiar to me.

A person can do it, especially at a younger age, but you may not really fully realize what the experience of constant long-distance travel is doing to your body and soul, especially as it is happening. Some of us simply had to do it.

Random Musings On The Flight From Los Angeles (1/29/2009)

I wrote this during one of the many trips that I used to take to Los Angeles when I was working. I have taken the liberty of making a few corrections/improvements, but not that many…..
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The American Airlines Boeing 757 lined up on Runway 25R at LAX airport, with its distinct and ugly snout pointed West towards the Pacific Ocean. Silverbird quickly accelerated down the runway, muscling its streamlined form with rapidly increasing speed hard against the wind. Barely halfway down its runway the aircraft rose up from the ground, nose pointed skyward, as if eager to break its connection with Mother Earth and get away from its clutches as quickly as possible. It quickly ascended at a steep angle and attacked the sky like an eager and angry fighter jet rising to meet the enemy, its engines screaming with a distinct shrill and high-pitched sound that sounded so unworldly, yet so sweet, gaining altitude by the second. Within moments the aircraft was over the Pacific Ocean and was banking sharply to the left, beginning its U-turn to head back east to the Washington, DC, area. The aircraft turned east in the area over the Port of Long Beach and quickly rose to its cruising altitude. The unusually swift prevailing winds that had originally delayed my arrival into LAX on Monday were now speeding me on my way back home for an unexpected early arrival.

The Westin Hotel near LAX is located due east of the airport. Century Boulevard, which runs in front of the hotel, takes you directly from the hotel to the airport terminals. The hotel is shaped somewhat (but not exactly) like a cross, with the base of the cross facing the airport. The aircraft flight paths leading into LAX happen to be on both sides of the hotel (and therefore on both sides of the airport terminals themselves). LAX’s four runways run in an east to west direction (or west to east, depending on your perspective), on either sides of Century Boulevard. The runways on the south side of the airport terminal begin not too far from the hotel itself. The runways on the north side begin further away from the hotel, closer to the airport terminal itself. Most of the time the planes come in to land from the east and takeoff to the west. There are very rare arrivals from the west, usually late in the night or in the early hours of the morning before the regular traffic has begun. Being a frequent traveler, I usually get a room on the highest floors of the hotel. My view from the hotel depends upon which section of the hotel my room is located on. If I am facing east, I can get a beautiful view of the sunrise over the hills, and of the aircraft, with their lights turned on, lining up to land on the runway that runs close to the hotel. If my room faces south, I can see the planes fly right by my window at a very low altitude. To the west, I can view aircraft taking off from the airport, and I can also enjoy the glorious colors of sunset (if I manage to get back from work at a decent time). The planes look very nice in the light of either the rising or setting sun. To the north, I can observe the planes approach the airport at a significant height (since the runways start further away from the hotel), framed by the hills to the north of LA and the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles in the distance. The rays of the rising sun hitting the skyscrapers of downtown LA can create a unique and beautiful sight that lasts for just a few moments. I am usually awake well before dawn because of the difference in time zones, and I spend time looking for things to photograph in the distance. I sometimes wander down the hallways of the hotel to try to get a good spot to take a picture – to find the particular angle that, at the right time, offers a unique perspective. I have to admit that my pictures do not come out well since I am dealing with non-ideal conditions for photography, and a camera with limited capability. But I keep trying. And the hotel staff have not yet stopped me from doing what I am doing.
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American Airlines Boeing 757
American Airlines Boeing 757 through a dirty window

It has been many years since I last visited Los Angeles. I still have a lot of memories of my trips. The Westin Airport LAX is still in operation.

Sample pictures taken from the Westin during that period of time are in the next blog.