Days Of Future Past

Thursday, 21 January 2016, 21:24

TWA Terminal, JFK

Once upon a time, there was an airline called Trans World Airlines, or TWA. And once upon a time, this airline built a futuristic terminal in New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, just in time for the New York World’s Fair.

It was a different time in America, a time when architecture made grand statements about more than just the prospective content of the building. And this terminal definitely made a statement. Even during construction, it was distinctive:

Now, I hate flying through JFK, based on admittedly a small sample size (going to England last summer and coming back). The terminal we went through was hot, the security lines were very slow (and hot!), the lines were long. But I would have loved to go through the TWA terminal. It was just such a cool place, and from what I’ve read was pretty well designed, able to move passengers through rather efficiently. (Of course, in the 1960s there were fewer passengers to handle!). In other places, the red carpet and seats might seem too much, but in this place they were perfect:

Unfortunately, it closed when TWA disappeared in 2001. Recently Jet Blue announced they were going to develop what’s left into a hotel (apparently some parts have been torn down), and hopefully they’ll preserve the look and feel, but it won’t be the same. Fortunately there are several sites that have made photographic explorations of it and preserved the terminal in it’s modernistic glory. Here’s one, with lots of pictures:

Explore the TWA Terminal, a Pristine Time Capsule From 1962

Up, up, and away!

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Wondering Why I’m Here – A Blog Examines Itself

Tuesday, 19 January 2016, 11:35

Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work.

This is so true. Now, I’m neither an author nor a reviewer, so my thoughts here are really in foreign territory (unless I do manage to finish my latest project and it does something other that occupy bits on my laptop). But my blog will soon be 13 years old, and it sits in lonely isolation along with thousands of others like it. I miss blogging. I really do. Facebook is starting to feel like those places you went post-college that you one day realized just weren’t that much fun anymore. I tried Tumblr, and my reaction was like Dawson’s – I felt like an intruder, an old guy sitting in a college bar. Twitter consists of people burning up their creative energy trying to fit a 144-character limit.

So why keep this around? Because Facebook. Because Twitter. Because Tumblr. Because even if nobody ever sees this, it’s one place that I can control. It’s one place where I’m not inundated with “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!”. It’s like a potting shed where I can go plant ideas, or just putter the afternoon away. It’s mine.

Blogging made people think in terms longer than 144 characters, or spout platitudes in comments, or hoist endless straw men. The audiences were much smaller, of course. A Facebook post reaches far more people than my blog ever did, although with Facebook’s continual changes I feel like the number of Facebook readers is getting smaller. Facebook has also made me realize that some people I’ve known through the internet for many years are essentially brainless morons. No, I won’t name names. But while the Facebook audience is larger, it isn’t more satisfying. Maybe I keep The Kudzu Files around in case one day people just get tired of the inanity of FaceTumTwittergram and blogging comes back around. Or maybe it’s just easier to keep it than to decide not to.

I should do this more. It’s made me feel better just by doing it.

Category : BlogStuff, Writing

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Hello, World, And Thoughts About Mars

Wednesday, 18 March 2015, 21:56

Periodically, I sit down with myself and think about what I really want to do. And one of the things I invariably say to myself is, I would like to blog regularly again. Even though blogging as we knew it is 5-6 years (or more) gone, and my old blogroll is mostly just a historical document, I still like the idea of blogging. Because I like the idea of writing. So every few weeks (months), I come back here and post something. Just enough to make me think I can justify paying my web host when renewal comes around again. And it always has that “Hello, World” feel to it, especially when the time between posts is really extended. A while back I decided to walk down my blogroll and see if any were still active. A few were, but most had either sat idle for a long, long time, with a last post hanging out there for several years, or were completely gone, drowned in the increasingly shallow pool that is Facebook/Twitter/Tumbler/whatever.

So why suddenly show up and post something again? Well – Mars. I was listening to a program about Mars, private spaceflight, and one-way missions. Especially one-way missions. They were discussing the many and varied problems that will have to solved for a successful Mars mission to happen, the personality profiles, all the supplies that will have to be taken along, the fact that in the entire history of space travel, while we’ve launched things of many sizes and configurations, we’ve never landed anything of the size that will be required to carry all that stuff. We’ve never even thought about how to land something like that. I thought about the medical issues that might come up, that there will need to be someone who can handle medical emergencies like broken bones and joint injuries, not to mention heart attacks. And then I thought about something that I’ve never seen or heard discussed. At some point, you’re going to have someone develop a condition, like cancer, that won’t be treatable with whatever medical facility and supplies there will be on Mars, but will be painful and debilitating. In other words, something that will be fatal, but will also be too much to live with. And somewhere in the medical supplies, there will have to be a planned method of suicide. As a society, we will have to embrace the notion that officially-assisted suicide is acceptable. It may well be that the plans for this are already in place. It’s not so different from the idea of a mission during he Apollo days going bad and marooning astronauts in space. But in some ways it is different. There would be no compromised facility, no dwindling air supply. Just someone who has no hope of a cure, and a remaining lifetime of pain or severe, deteriorating disability. And we’ll have to allow, and assist, that person to end their life, on whatever terms they think best.

Category : BlogStuff, Life, Science

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Ulysses

Saturday, 13 December 2014, 9:16

“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

— Tennyson

I still love Tennyson’s poetry. Always have.

Category : Poetry

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The Greece Trip, Part 1: London

Saturday, 1 November 2014, 16:50

Late – very late – blogging about this, but better late than never, I guess. About this time last year, my wife came home from school talking about a school trip to Greece in March (last March). We’ve often talked about places we wanted to go, and honestly Greece was never on the list – not because we weren’t interested in Greece, but because it just never bubbled up near the top of our lists. But this seemed like a great chance to take out first overseas trip – a planned, interesting agenda with people we knew. So we signed up, and that’s how we came to be traveling to Greece, with a one-day stopover in London, and ending with a three-night Greek Islands cruise.

We left on Sunday, March 9 – because the group was so large, we had to fly to Atlanta in 2 groups. We got the earlier flight, and had a 5-hour layover in Atlanta. But the time passed faster than I would have expected, and soon enough we were on the plane for London. I checked the flight path – right out over the Atlantic, no Greenland-Iceland skimming stuff for us. Arrived in London at 7AM, took our bags to the hotel, and then we were whisked off on a walking tour of London. The hotel was near Heathrow, so we rode the Tube to Piccadilly Circus, then started walking with our London guide. The day was cool to cold, windy, gray – I guess typical of London in mid-March. Our walking tour went from Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square, then to the Admiralty Building, then up to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard, then across St. James Park to Big Ben and Parliament, then back to Trafalgar Square for our first real stop, the National Gallery. They gave us about 45 minutes. Then to a shopping area called Covent Garden; then on to the British Museum. We had an hour there. Then on to a pub for fish and chips, then finally back to the hotel – it was about 8:30 by this time.

I did, of course, take pictures, but often they were rushed, as my group began to move away from me. But I had time for a few. In some semblance of order:

We took the Tube to our first stop, at Piccadilly Circus. It wasn’t actually that cold at this point, so I foolishly left my jacket at the hotel, a move I would seriously regret later in the day.

As I said, this was a walking tour, and we walked briskly to make it to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. But we didn’t get there early enough to get up to the Palace itself, so I settled for a spot alongside St. James Park, where I could see that day’s guard marching by:

Honestly, I thought St. James Park was more interesting, the early spring daffodils and blooming trees were really nice on an overcast day.

We made the obligatory stop at Big Ben (which is actually just the bell at the top of the tower – the tower is officially the Elizabeth Tower)…

After a short stop at the National Gallery and Covent Garden, we finally made it to the British Museum, the thing I most wanted to see in London. As I mentioned earlier, I only had about an hour, but at least I’ve been inside.

I will go back, hopefully soon, and make sure I have plenty of time.

Notice the lack of details here? That’s because there weren’t any. This was an add-on day designed to give people a taste of London, and it was just too rushed. I mapped our route when we got home – we walked about 6 miles that day. But, I can at least say I’ve been in London now. Up early the next day for the flight to Athens, where the trip got much better.

Category : Britain, Travel

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