Sunday, February 26, 2017

Pentagon, Washington DC

Then you take off from DCA, just across the river from the heart of the city, the plane will generally head up-river, banking sharply to the left keep over the water and avoid flying into any restricted air-spaces. That banking turn brings the Pentagon sweeping by on the left side of the plane, in all its strangely geometric glory.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Metro shadows, Washington DC

A train sliding into the station in the Washington DC metro cuts off part of the lights from below, throwing a long parallel shadow on the ceiling.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Washington DC Metro

I have always loved the Washington DC Metro system, from the first time that I saw it when I was twelve years old. My grandparents had a tradition, that they took each grandchild for a trip to the capital when they turned twelve, to see the government and various national museums. We stayed in a hotel out along the Metro red line near the zoo, went there and to the FBI and to see the Constitution, the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum, and Congress, but the thing that made the biggest impression on me of all was the subway. All of the stations are these beautiful futuristic tunnels, and the trains whoosh-sigh into them on cushioned tires, so different than the rattling clanking bangs of most subways. I felt like I had entered the future, and even now, when I travel the DC Metro professionally as a working scientist, I am reminded of that boyhood memory and feel an echo of its joy.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Back in 10 mins

Found inside of an elevator at the University of Iowa, this note saying "Back in 10 mins" conjures up many intriguing and unusual scenarios in my head.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Crossing power lines, Maine

Two sets of high-voltage power lines, crossing somewhere in the wilderness of Maine. Notice the service trail running long the larger one, to support maintenance and repairs. Where I grew up in New England, all of the power lines disappear discreetly into the hills and forests like this. I found it shocking the first time that we went to Quebec and the power lines were standing out stark, proud, and tall, looking like they were intended to make some sort of industrial statement. Now that I've spent more time out in flatter or drier lands, I realize that discretely hidden power lines are the exception rather than the norm, but I still prefer them that way.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Quarry near Chicago

This is one of several great holes in the Earth near Chicago. Looking at them, embedded within the depths of city on every side, it seems clear to me that the quarry came first, in earlier days, and then the city crowded around, unable to let alone any scrap of available real estate. I wonder how active this pits still is, how deep it will go with homes and roads teetering at its edge, swallowing the occasional home run or errant foul ball from the nearby baseball fields, and what will happen to it when it finally closes.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Salt-sand dome, O'Hare Airport, Chicago

I've always loved these "winter domes," which you see scattered all around the snowy states, holding heaps of sand or salt to be spread on the road. There is something elegant to me about the simplicity of the building: it's a pointy dome because inside there is nothing but a pointy heap that it is keeping dry, and they look basically the same wherever you encounter them because the angle of the roof is set by the angle of repose for the heap within.