Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Arlington, VA skyscrapers

Skyscrapers in Arlington, Virginia, one of the places where Washington DC puts its tall buildings, reflected in the slightly warped glass face of another skyscraper.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC

Another, somber sight on the way into or out of DCA is Arlington National Cemetery, filled with the dead of many American wars, declared or otherwise.

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.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Massive Chicago freight yard

A massive freight yard outside of Chicago, simply packed with train cars waiting to be switched around and routed all over the nation.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pipe yard, Chicago

Great stacks and heaps of all manner of different shapes and sizes of pipes, just waiting to be turned into infrastructure.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Chicago Midway Squareport

For a very long time, I was completely wrong about where Chicago Midway Airport was. Since I knew it was supposed to be "more convenient" for getting downtown than O'Hare, for some reason I'd mapped it onto Meigs Field, the airport that used to actually be right next to downtown, out in the middle of the lake.  I think this is because I remembered that location well from the old Microsoft flight simulator, which started your airplane on Meigs field, but didn't tell you its name. I crashed many a highly experimental virtual jet in the midst of the skyscapers of Chicago, which is not entirely unrelated to why Meigs Field doesn't exist any more. This airport below me one day, however, tickled me in its remarkable squareness, and as I search for the "squareport" I was startled to discover that it is indeed Midway, much less "close and convenient" than my fantasy had believed.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Taxi holding pen, Chicago O'Hare

Taxis, waiting in queue in a special lot on the edge of O'Hare, for their turn to go to the terminals and pick up customers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mist in Valleys, New York

Mist filling valleys in upstate New York, below an early morning flight from Boston to Chicago.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The End of the Highway, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

On the Northwest side of Cedar Rapids, they have been extending a a highway off into the expanding suburbs of the city.  At the time I took this photo, the extending edge stopped sharply at this bridge. I'm sure there must have been signs or barriers to keep people from driving onto the incomplete sections of road, but in this picture at least they do not seem to be visible.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cinnamon Roll Sexual Harassment

Spotted at the Iowa State Fair some time back, I think this is supposed to just be a silly "sexy sin" sort of reference, but I'm not so comfortable with the idea of a gang of men lustfully chasing a woman around. It feels like something that felt like a good idea when someone first conceived it, but that has aged badly, like those '50s sitcom jokes about spousal abuse or the '90s ones about the fact that homosexuality exists.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Birds on a car hoist, Washington DC

Along the same lines, here's a bunch of birds chilling on a car hoist.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Rental Car Rack, Washington DC

Space is pretty tight in Washington DC, as demonstrated by the stacked racks of cars at this rental agency.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Iowa River ice breaking up

Ice breaking up on the Iowa River in spring two years ago. This year, we've no ice to break up since we haven't had really consistent cold yet at any time all winter.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Baggage carts in O'Hare

Set off a bit to one side, past the security in Chicago O'Hare airport, this set of baggage carts seems to be not much unused, at least judging from the amount of dust and crud built up on them.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

O'Hare restaurant chairs

Swiveling style, vacant and unloved in an odd sushi joint stuck partway between terminals in a walkway in Chicago O'Hare Airport.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Dawn Silos, Oasis, Iowa

Silos gleaming in the early dawn light, at the terminus of the Hoover Nature Trail in the little hamlet of Oasis. The Hoover Nature Trail is one of my favorite local trails, a rail-to-trail conversion that slides between cornfields in a thin line of woods, a brook darting in and out beside it, and mulberry trees exploding their fruit onto the paths in season.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Frozen fields, Iowa

Under a light dusting of snow, the frozen fields below show most clearly the lines grained into them by planting and harvesting in warmer seasons.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Three T-38 Jets, Owatonna, MN

Standing beside the highway, three T-38 jets peel apart in a frozen dramatic maneuver. These are the supersonic training airplanes that, among other things, are used by NASA for training astronaut pilots. Why are they in Owatonna? There doesn't seem to be any particularly notable space, military, or aviation connection: according to what I can find on the internet, they came to Owatonna as an exhibit in a private transportation museum, now closed, and have since been adopted by the city as a matter of civic pride and moved over to the side of the highway for better visibility.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Flying Saucer on Interstate 35, Minnesota

Spotted on Interstate 35, a little bit South of Minneapolis, this is clearly some sort of large-scale rotating industrial machinery. What exactly it might be, however, is a mystery to me, and more than anything else I find that it simply looks like a flying saucer.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Darrieus turbines, Boston, MA

Spotted on top of a skyscraper near Copley, these helical Darrieus turbines are a less-frequently used type of windmill, in which the blades spin around the vertical axis of its tower, rather than around an axis perpendicular to the ground. They seem to do best at smaller sizes, and through they don't need to be rotated to match wind direction, they've got other disadvantages that have led wind generation to focus mainly on the more conventional designs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Kirkland Cleaners, Cambridge, MA

Outside this dry-cleaners shop near Harvard in Cambridge, MA, a tuxedo and a wedding dress embrace in coupled harmony.