Days 0 and 1: Traveling to Southeast Asia




Days 0 and 1 are travel days for Pati and BeeBee. They got up at 4:30 Saturday morning to catch their 10:10 flight, the first of three on their way to Chiang Mai, Thailand. This blog post is titled “Days” because they did not actually arrive at their destination until Monday morning, a few minutes past midnight. Even considering the time difference between Chiang Mai and home, they still spent more than 25 hours in airports and on airplanes. The first flight to Dubai took 12 hours, leaving one hour late but arriving on time with a good tailwind. The second flight to Bangkok was 6 hours long, and the last leg to Chiang Mai left one hour late but was only one hour long.

The 12 hour flight was not as bad as other long flights they have taken, possibly because Emirates is a better airline. While not looking forward to another six hours in the air, Pati and BeeBee were very pleasantly surprised when the lady checking them in tore up their boarding passes, explaining “you have been upgraded to business class.” They had briefly consider ed the upgrade before leaving, but decided that it was not worth the extra $1600 it would cost them. As they boarded the aircraft with the other privileged passengers, they found themselves directed up a flight of steps to a large spacious area that they had only seen in pictures before. Each row was twice as deep as normal class and had only four seating pods. Their pods were in the center, lacking the windows of the outer pods, but, on comparison to the window pods, were better.  Feeling a little foolish, they took pictures of their pods and the many comforts of each pod (reclining seat!  a snack and beverage bar!) As more passengers arrived, they also posed for pictures of themselves with their pods. Not so silly, then. (They wondered what first class passengers had, because they did not see that area. BeeBee read later that first class  passengers could take a shower in flight.)

As the flight departed, they enjoyed the many privileges of business class and, for once, did not want the flight to end. They even got some sleep.

With all that excitement, they were fortified for the last remaining flight. Arriving an hour late, they were met by their tour guide and driver waiting patiently as they walk out of the airport baggage claim area. They were driven to their hotel, where the guide helped with the check-in process. In their room, just after midnight, they emailed family that they had arrived safely. And so to bed to await the adventures of the day that had already begun.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Lines and Angles

Here are four entries for Cee’s Black & White Lines & Angles Photo Challenge.

Before the Tasting (Mexican winery)
La Sagrada Familia Basilica (Barcelona, Spain)
Clock face, interior of Musée d’Orsay (Paris, France)
Pillar of La Tour Eiffel (Paris, France)



Winter Storm Jonas



Winter Storm Jonas arrived on schedule on Friday afternoon, with tiny snowflakes that continued through Saturday afternoon. The flakes gradually transitioned from vertical to horizontal. When the snow stopped, also on schedule, these tiny flakes had accumulated into a smooth surface about 18 inches higher than the previously-bare ground.

The tiny snowflakes also created tiny hats on our birdhouses, a beauty with no regrets since the houses had no occupants needing shelter from the wind. The bird feeder was also covered with a larger snow hat that would have covered and spoiled any seed that could survive the wind, but, again, no bird was depending on it. As the flakes abated and the sun was visible again, the bird feeder began to shed its snow coat as if in defiance of any future storm. It will be ready for Spring whenever Spring decides to appear.

And then a tiny miracle occurred on Monday. As we looked out the kitchen window, a tiny bird flew to our tiniest birdhouse. He {She?} entered by the tiny door, then flew out again. The mate waited on a nearby branch. We could see tiny sticks inside the birdhouse, which we had cleaned in the Fall. The tiny couple disappeared before we could grab a camera. Maybe they are the pair who have raised a family in the house for the past two years. Or maybe they are the children or grandchildren. I hope so.

I am optimistic.

A Parisian Alphabet



Serendipity exists for a reason, I always say. When I published my post There is no W in Paris a few days ago, I was unaware of the Alphabet photo challenge. But since I have a photographic alphabet, why not enter the challenge?

The astute reader will notice that the alphabet grid is 5 by 5, containing 25 letters. A clue to the missing letter is contained in the name of the referenced post. And I am beginning to wonder about K.

Hint: turn the M upside down.

Not (again) in my lifetime: my OTL list


Kick the Bucket

Some people have a Bucket List. Some people have an anti-Bucket List. This has never been so cut-and-dried for me. Certainly there have always been those (obvious) things I never intend to do: murder anyone, jump off a tall building, and so forth, but most people wouldn’t even consider such things for either list.

Instead, there are activities that once seemed attractive to me, but, through actual experience (mine or observed), repel rather than fascinate me. Let me describe some of these items that are OTL (“off the list”).

1. Own a gun, or even learn to shoot a gun. When I was young, in middle school, my older brother was given a single-shot rifle. There were poisonous snakes on our large property, which we saw not infrequently, and it seemed like a good idea. Also, it was common for teenaged boys to own guns for hunting turkey and deer (which he never did). Besides occasional target practice, he did use it to kill a large copperhead snake and a small bat. There were quite a few rabbits on our property that considered our gardens as their personal salad plates. One day I decided that I could do something about that and took that rifle up the hill to get a rabbit. I managed to shoot a fine rabbit right through an ear, but didn’t kill it immediately. Of course, it ran off. Days later, I found it lying in the weeds, dead. Apparently I managed to wound it enough that it died slowly and painfully. I buried the small corpse and never touched a gun again. I won’t have one in our house.

2. Re-visit Mexico. If you have read my post L’estomac de PLOMB, you already understand how I feel about Mexico. I will give almost any other country a first chance before I give Mexico a second chance.

3. Parasail. I have watched parasailers as I walk along the beach, and they are beautiful, soaring high in the sky above the blue waves. For many years, I thought that sometime I would get the courage to try this sport. Then, in a summer in the early 20-teens, we were on a cruise ship that stopped one day in St. Thomas. We went off the ship on a snorkeling excursion. On the way back to the ship, we were caught in a freak storm and took refuge in Senor Frog’s across the pier from our ship. (There are definitely worse places to be caught than Senor Frog’s.) Finally getting back on board, still soaked, just before the final boarding call, we dried off and went to dinner. And waited for the ship to cast off. After several announcements paging cruisers that were apparently late returning, the ship departed two hours late. The next day we learned that the missing cruisers (a mother celebrating her 60th birthday and her daughter) had been parasailing when the freak storm came up and fell 400 feet to the surface, the mother dying instantly and the daughter (the last we heard) still in a coma. I do not intend ever to parasail.

4. Scuba dive. I grew up outside a small town. Our town did not have a swimming pool. The first time I entered a swimming pool was as a freshman in college, when swimming was a mandatory class. After almost drowning in this class, I audited the class again and was finally able to float and turn over without sinking. Eventually I graduated to the doggy paddle and then to actual strokes. Years later, I took scuba classes and acquired the requisite wet suit (even boots, gloves, and hood), fins, weights, mask, and snorkel. I passed the dive test in a frigid, silt-filled rock quarry in Lancaster, PA. I never bothered to pick up the C-card that I earned that day. Once in a while, on vacation, I will venture out to snorkel, but never happily and never for long. Yes, I have seen beautiful things underwater. But I know my limits and when to stop pushing them.

5. Pilot an airplane. I grew up in the country directly under a jet route. Lying on my back looking up, or just glancing up, I saw these wonderful airplanes only as contrails or tiny silver specks high above me. Where were they going? Who was inside? How did they stay up there without falling from the sky? And would I ever be inside one? When I was in high school, we would sometimes drive to the small airport 40 miles away and watch one of the few airplanes take off or land. Once we even bought a roasted chicken and fresh loaf of bread at a grocery store neaby and had a picnic while watching. Fast-forward about 20 years. I had a job in research and development that required a knowledge of flying. Our company provided ground school classes as a prerequisite to flight lessons that could lead to a pilot’s license. I completed ground school and gained a greater appreciation for airplanes and their pilots. But I had no desire to be responsible for the lives of passengers and a realistic self-assessment of my (in)ability to do so. The closest I ever got to piloting was as a simpilot (simulation pilot) responding to air traffic controllers in an experimental setting. And that is just fine by me.

Probably there will be additions to this list in the future, but it will do for now.

There is no W in Paris

In October of last year, we traveled to our favorite city in all the world, Paris. As we usually do when we plan a trip, we chose a theme for our visit (well, two themes, actually): food and photography. Suffice it to say, we learned a wonderful chicken recipe from an excellent cooking school and it has become a staple of our evening meal planning. And, yes, you can buy pig’s caul locally, in our case, at The Meat House. But enough of food for now …

As amateur photographers, we always see room for improvement. We signed up for two classes in Paris with an excellent photography school, for night-time shooting and for street photography in the Marais. Perhaps the results will be the subject of a future blog post.

In any event, we thought that we could use our photography to create unique Christmas presents for our family. A recent fad that I have seen is to create personalized framed names or quotes using photographs of letters from signs or photographs of objects that look like letters. How hard could it be to “collect” photos of letters from Parisian signs? We decided to create a Parisian alphabet from which we could create any personalized gift we needed. The rules were simple:

  1. The letter must be contained in a French word that is publicly displayed in a large font
  2. The letter might be visualized within some physical object that is in public view

We would be the final arbiters of whether the actual letter or the physical substitute would be used in producing the actual gift.

Eiffel_TowerExcept that how can anybody use anything but the Eiffel tower for “A”?

Since we carried a camera with us everywhere, it was easy enough to snap any sign that could result in just the letters we needed. One Rmorning, leaving our apartment, we came across the letter “R” on Rue Cler, being towed behind a bicycle. We never discovered why R was there or what it meant. Wouldn’t that be a great solution to finding all the letters? Most of the letters we found the hard way; but really, it was great fun looking!

We kept a list of letters as we found them, to be sure we had the complete alphabet. What we discovered was that some letters were harder than others to find.  The letter that was impossible to find in a French word was “W.” We did find it, but it was in the name of an English company. That didn’t meet the rules. So our eventual solution, in creating Christmas gifts, was to use an upside-down M as a W.  (The gift recipient with the faux W didn’t even realize the trick until we pointed it out.)

So, the next time you are in Paris, see if you can find the elusive W!