Sunday, February 27, 2005


Been busy with my camera since I got it back from the repair shop.

I'll let this photo speak for itself...

(click it to read Flickr comments)

Saturday, February 26, 2005


We spent the day in Harrisburg, the state capital of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which was incredibly quiet in spite of the marvellous weather.

Will write commentary later, I'll just post the link to the photo set for now:

Harrisburg capitol building and the State Museum of Pennsylvania

Addition: Tuesday, Mar 1

We'd been meaning to visit the state capitol for a while now, but we usually go flying when the weather's good on Saturdays. David checked the forecast and it was dodgy, so we decided to drive to Harrisburg instead. The tours run every couple of hours on Saturdays, so we timed it to join the 1:00 time slot.

Just our luck, the weather on the way to Harrisburg turned clear and beautiful, but we were already on the road, so we tried not to think of what a good flying day it could've been. We passed the two and a quarter hours in the car by tuning into an 80's radio station and trying to be the first person to rattle off the title and musician for every song they played. What a scream...

When we entered the city limits, the very first sign of life we saw was the crowds of people at the Farm Complex. Yep, the main draw in Harrisburg is the farm show. Because other than in front of the agricultural arena, Harrisburg was eerily quiet. I'm not kidding -- we drove directly to the capitol building in the city centre, parked, and spotted maybe TWO people! Were we missing something? Did they evacuate the downtown core?

We took some photos of the exterior of the capitol building with its beautiful green dome before going inside. If I could mimic the Pennsylvania accent, I would, because the security guards definitely had it. The most recognisable pronunciation is the way they say you: they turn it into "ya's" or "yuz".

"If ya's like, you can wait here until the tour starts..." (If there are any Pennsylvanians reading this, let me make clear I don't hear this ALL the time. Just... often.)

There was a wedding in the building lobby. How did I know this? When I toodled off to the loo, I could hear strains of Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On, coming from an organ. How jarring when you're a... captive audience. I couldn't even run away.

The tour itself was a bit rushed, if you ask me. The guide was clear, informative, and in a hurry. Why? There were other people besides myself taking photos, and we just didn't have enough time in the individual rooms. The tours were two hours apart, so I didn't understand why we weren't allowed to just stop and take photos. We were informed that during the week visitors may wander the building freely, but on the weekends, we had to follow the guide.

The building is palatial -- the lobby is marble, each room has enough gold and art to float the Queen E. II, and many artists have spent years making it look extravagant. The original structure dates back to 1735 -- and takes some time to take it all in! David wondered how the civil servants could go to work every day in such a beautiful building. My thoughts are that they would become accustomed to it and take it for granted, probably like working in a museum.

a virtual tour of the building (uses Quicktime)

We gawked a bit at the wedding ceremony before getting our marching orders to proceed to the elevators, then we moved next door to the State Museum of Pennsylvania... which was also practically deserted!

It's so strange to visit a museum so empty, especially on a weekend. I'm sure the state museum was filled with schoolkids during the week, so I took the opportunity to take as many photos as I felt like, especially after getting shooed around the capitol building like a I was a schoolkid. For a museum in a capital, I thought it was rather neglected, particularly when compared to the ostentatiousness of the building just across the street. However, being the museum geek that I am, I enjoyed myself, anyway. We took our time perusing the three floors of exhibits, starting at the top with Earth Sciences ("Let's start at the beginning...") and making our way to the main floor, which was present-day. The level in-between was devoted to the history that shaped Pennsylania -- industry (coal mining, engineering, manufacturing) and agriculture.

An exhibit on the ground floor was dedicated to the interesting story of Smarty Jones, a little horse from Pennsylvania that won two of the three prestigious races last year that make up the triple crown -- the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. (He came in second in the Belmont by half a length.) The story is made all the more remarkable by the fact that he had a life-threatening injury in his second season and nearly written off, but was back in training two months later. I don't follow horseracing, so I'd never heard of Smarty Jones, but I can certainly see how the underdog story made such a mark in Pennsylvania.

After the museum we discovered where all the townspeople were hiding -- in the mall next to the capitol building! There we filled up with Japanese food, and headed directly out of Harrisburg to Hershey Park... the home of the Hershey chocolate factory and its very own amusement park. We were disappointed to find they closed about half an hour before and we wouldn't be getting our free chocolate at the end of the Hershey tour, but we stocked up on the sweet stuff at the gas station nearby for the trip home. Besides our food court meal, the whole day was free -- the tour of the capital and the state museum -- so $2 on chocolate was a relative splurge!

Friday, February 25, 2005

Happy Friday!

Fill with beverage of choice...


This post has been brought to you by Murphy's Law.

Everything is breaking down this week:

- the garage door just got fixed today
- the refrigerator conked out yesterday and the repairman can't make it until Monday (foodstuffs are in a cooler on the porch)
- David's car was in the shop on Wednesday
- my camera has just been fixed

... what's going on?? Drinks are in order.

True to Life

Uploaded by Sherlock77.
Click on the pic. If you're not Canadian, you probably won't find it funny.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Back on the Wedding Trail

Last Sunday we (David, his mum, and I) went to a wedding expo in Wilkes-Barre. My primary goal was to win a $20,000 wedding package that was up for grabs, but I had some secondary and tertiary goals as well to make the excursion worthwhile. Frankly, I was lukewarm to the whole idea of a wedding vendor blitz when I first heard it advertised on the local radio station, but the most obvious benefit (besides the opportunity of winning $20K of loot) was to see as many wedding merchandisers as possible in one afternoon.

The event was held at the Kirby Center from 12-5pm, so I thought even if we catch the final couple of hours, that would be all we'd need. Imagine my surprise when we arrived around 2:30 or so and were informed that the fashion show was just about to start and I had to get my draw slip signed by a long list of vendors BEFORE the big draw took place at the end of the show! Yikes!

After some discussion with the rep at Sarno and Sons (formalwear), I scurried downstairs to visit vendor tables and get my slip signed while David and his mother watched the fashion show in the main auditorium. I collected cards, chatted with photographers, DJs, limo reps, jewellers, and beverage brokers.

I had a special interest in the photographers -- that was my secondary goal. I wanted to see what kind of services they provided, and one couple in particular made an impression on me. It was a husband and wife who were originally from Pennsylvania, but lived in San Diego for 10 years and also had East Coast and West Coast receptions. We discussed how they managed it, and whether they took their own photos (as David is convinced I'm going to do).

My tertiary goal was to get some ideas about such things as guest gifts. I want to craft as much as possible myself, with David's help, and put our personal stamp on the wedding, as we've done with our rings (David designed them from some ideas I had.)

I couldn't get my draw slip completed as some of the vendors had packed up their booths, but the expo co-ordinator told me she'd put my paper in the draw barrel, anyway. I joined David and his mum in the auditorium and watched the rest of the fashion show. Most of the gowns were far too princessy for me: tripping-hazard trains, poofy skirts, glittery beadwork, busty bodices, et cetera, but there were some design elements I liked such as interesting split seams. I'm considering getting the dress made in the Philippines as I would love custom embroidery, but that remains to be seen.

I was hoping David wouldn't be bored to tears getting dragged to these things, but there was enough going on to keep him interested last Sunday, and at the very least I can send him scouting for dessert or beverage samples. Needless to say, we didn't win the grand prize (you'd have definitely read about it by now), but attending this wedding fair has convinced me there's much to be gained by going to the next one this Sunday. There are actually two more wedding expos this Sunday (we'll attend the closer one) and more next month, so there's plenty of opportunity yet to get FREE STUFF.

Maple Leaf

maple leaf
Uploaded by gailontheweb.
It's funny the things that you miss...

... for example, I miss Canadian currency. It's colourful, like the rest of the world's money compared to U.S. greenbacks. American dollars may be worth more, but it's so boring to look at!

I've made a Flickr photo set called The Colour of Money -- check it out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

American Idol: Kick 'Em While They're Down

I had a tough time deciding what the subject line of this post should be. Other ideas included:

Elimination Humiliation
Let's Rub Salt in the Wound and Pour Lemon Juice Over It
Cry, Baby, Cry
A World of Pain

American Idol is in its fourth season, but it's still fairly new to me. Something tells me the writers and producers had only one goal in mind for this stage of the contest:


Why? Because they can! Blah blah blah, you know, this is the reality of competition -- there's only one winner and a season full of losers. To put it into perspective, there are thousands of losers, but this week the objective is to ensure the losers get plenty of opportunity to bow out in spectacular Fox fashion -- with ample close-ups and white-knuckle drama. Suspense music and all that, too.

We had the foresight to tape all three episodes this week so we could skip the commercials and review the performances. I made some comments on Monday's and Tuesday's shows, and wondered how the two dozen contestants would fare with the TV audience as their panel versus the Armchair Critics (us).

Let's back up a bit.

Monday: The Guys

The Snoozers:
Travis Tucker - "My Cherie Amour"
David Brown - "Never Can Say Goodbye"
Anthony Fedorov - "Hold On To The Nights"
Jared Yates - "How Could I"
Joseph Murena - "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You"

I am predisposed to disliking anyone who sings Michael Bolton. WHY? WHY? WHY? The only thing worse than Michael Bolton is impersonating Michael Bolton.

Travis Tucker looked like a wedding singer, pointing and winking at the girls. (Or Simon.) A lounge act, David says. C'mon, "My Cherie Amour"? Put that finger away.

OK, I take that back. There is something worse than singing Michael Bolton. That's singing Richard Marx. Shame on you, Anthony Federov. At least Anthony stopped impersonating his favourite Latin singers. Last week he was channelling Jon Secada, but I would've preferred "Just Another Day" to the Richard Marx song.

Reaching Above Mediocrity...
... we have the likes of Nikko Smith doing a pretty good mimic of Stevie Wonder, singing "Part Time Lover". But hey, this isn't Love Boat karaoke! Since he was the first out of the gate, the judges weren't too harsh on him.

Scott Savol sang "You Are My Lady" and received the most backhanded compliments I've ever heard. All three judges harped on his looks -- or rather, the lack of them -- and Paula even said, "People won't expect that voice to come out of you." Gee, thanks! David thinks Scott looks like he belongs in jail, but personally I think he just needs to jazz it up with a pair of funky glasses or something, a la Anthony Federov. If you removed Anthony's glasses, he'd blend into the walls with his blond, pale pallor.

Memorable People
Anwar Robinson - "Moon River"
Judd Harris - "Travelin' Band"
Bo Bice - "Drift Away"
Constantine Maroulis - "Kiss From A Rose"
Mario Vazquez - "Do I Do"

I really liked Anwar Robinson and wanted him to do well, so when I heard the first few sappy bars of his music, I cringed. Was I ever surprised to hear him begin singing "Moon River" and I went OH NO! Kiss of death! I might've even shut my eyes for a moment. Then Anwar got up off the crooner stool and belted out the rest of the number with increasing power in a different key and brought life to the song. It was original and his voice sounded great.

Unfortunately, Judd Harris' version of "Travelin' Band" was a surprise, too, but a bad one -- lots of energy, but like David said, it's a SHOUTING song. It allows you to jump around the stage just like John Fogerty and there's really not much singing going on. I liked him more than David did, who said he was pulling an Elvis the Pelvis mid-song, but my prediction was that his resemblance to Joey from "Friends" would help his cause.

Bo Bice singing "Drift Away" drew praise from all the judges. We thought he sounded terrific. The other rocker, Constantine, picked a TOUGH gig with "Kiss From a Rose" -- whoa high notes -- but as Simon said, even though Bo had a better voice, he had more charisma. Both David and I like Constantine and hope he pulls through.

The show rounded out with Mario Vazquez, and he closed with a bang. The guy picked a difficult song and grooved across the stage like Prince while hitting the notes. I won't be surprised if he wins -- the guy's a natural.

MY ELIMINATION PICKS: Anthony Federov and Joseph Murena

Tuesday: The Girls

The Snoozers:
Amanda Avila - "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You"
Celena Rae - "I Will Love Again"
Melinda Lira - "Power Of Love" (Celine Dion)
Lindsey Cardinale - "Standing Right Next To Me"
Janay Castine - "I Wanna Love You Forever"
Sarah Mather - "Get Ready"

Notice how my snoozer girls list is longer than the guys'? CELINE DION. And oh my gosh, Jessica Simpson, Janay??? They actually pick these songs themselves? Or, do their moms??? So much bellowing!

Amanda Avila obviously didn't learn from Joseph Murena's spanking the previous night -- she sang "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You" AGAIN. So, there is something worse than Michael Bolton and impersonating Michael Bolton.

Reaching Above Mediocrity...
Carrie Underwood - "Could've Been"
Jessica Sierra - "Against All Odds"
Vonzell Solomon - "Heatwave (Your Love Is Like A)"

I don't understand why the judges are so uniformly keen on Carrie Underwood. I find her Underwhelming. Maybe it's because she doesn't go for the power ballads, she's a country girl. All the same, she was definitely bellowing at the end of "Could've Been".

Vonzell Solomon started the show movin' and groovin', which might've thrown off her singing a bit, but at least we didn't go to sleep or be forced to listen to Celine Dion.

Memorable People
Mikalah Gordon - "Young Hearts Run Free"
Nadia Turner - "Power Of Love" (Ashley Cleveland)
Aloha Mischeaux - "Work It Out"

Mikalah Gordon was channelling Barbra Streisand in "Young Hearts Run Free"... David thought she looked like a lounge act, and I don't know if it's her makeup or what, but she looked so odd! Her mouth was going a mile a minute -- singing and talking and whooping and hollering. I agree with Simon: she's going to have a totally polarised audience, a style people could only love or hate. She definitely stood out, though, she's hyperkinetic.

The biggest standouts were, for me, Nadia Turner doing a rock number, and secondly Aloha Mischeaux shimmying to "Work It Out". Nadia was totally confident, dynamic, and had her own look. Aloha's voice reminds me of Aretha Franklin -- rich and smooth.

MY ELIMINATION PICKS: I'd like to say all the snoozers, but I'll go with Amanda Avila and Lindsey Cardinale

Wednesday: SOUR GRAPES

There's losing, and then there's being told the American public thinks you were the worst performer while a camera is shoved in your face. The show is designed to crack people's composure.

I should've known they'd eliminate a girl first. Why? Tears. The way they booted Melinda Lira was meant to eke out the most drama out of the four sent home: first of all, they put her on stage with someone (Janay) who looked so convinced she would get sent home. Melinda's reaction was so painful I could barely watch. She looked so shocked and angry, I thought she wasn't going to leave the stage. I could not believe it when they asked her to sing. Talk about adding insult to injury:

"You're the worst singer, but hey, sing us one last number!" Of course, performing is all about smiling under pressure and plastering a grin permanently on your face, but Ryan Seacrest makes a point of fingering the audience for singling out the "losers":

"America! YOU voted who would be eliminated!" (That is, it has nothing to do with us! We just put people in front of the camera, but they screw up!)

There is incredible emphasis on this idea of "loser status". American Idol doesn't let the losers off gracefully, or send them directly to a crying room with a box of tissues. Nooooooooo, that would be missing the squirm factor. Milk it for all it's worth. David and I felt like we were watching lambs sent to slaughter with each of the four eliminated having to sing AFTER being informed of their loser status.


FIRST, they're told that they have to go home. Oh, but WAIT! They can't home yet, because...

SECOND, each judge is forced to rehash the criticism ad nauseam and stick the knife in a little further. Randy and Paula usually say it's because of song choice.

THIRD, they have to sing the song again. You know, the one they couldn't sing properly the first time around. Not only do they have to sing it again, but with the feeling of shock and shame, after getting their hopes royally trampled, and this time it doesn't count!

I felt SO HUMILIATED for these people. Except for Melinda Lira, the rest had to sing the song that got them eliminated in the first place. The worst was Sarah Mather -- all three judges told her both nights that she made a terrible decision to sing this song, and Ryan Seacrest says, "Guess what song you have to sing? It's the one we've got ready." What a setup! The song is called "Get Ready"... but now it's "Get Lose". David described it well: "She just phoned it in." She made no bones about the fact that she didn't want to sing it. She didn't even finish the song. Oh man.

This is who got the boot, in order of booting:
1) Melinda Lira
2) Judd Harris
3) Sarah Mather
4) Jared Yates

I didn't think any of these people were the absolute worst of the bunch, so obviously I don't share the views of the American Idol-watching public.

OK, it's a competition. There's only one winner, and everyone else is a "loser" -- but leave people with a shred of dignity! It's a singing contest, so why spend a WHOLE HOUR focussing on the "losers" and making people sit and squirm and cry and feel like a bug that's about to get squashed underfoot? Is this really necessary? There were four songs in this show, and NONE for credit -- in fact, they were for discredit!

American Idol should promote an analgesic during the commercials for all this pain: American Midol, perhaps?

(David: PMS - Pop Music Syndrome)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.
This photo makes me laugh. You can tell which one has taken ballet lessons (Melissa) and which one is the family clown (Madeleine).

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Eye-En-Ess

Uploaded by gailontheweb.
Oh, how I could write about the Eye-En-Ess here. I'd write a long, rambling post about my enlightening interview at Vancouver Airport when I flew to NYC on January 27. I knew I'd get hauled in. After all, there were several key details that I knew would trigger their interest:

- one-way ticket *ding! ding! ding!*
- quit my job at the end of December *ding! ding! ding!*
- fiance in Pennsylvania *ding! ding! ding!*
- did not apply for fiance/e visa *ding! ding! ding!*

... and so forth. Raise the red flag! The Canadian wants in!

I'd love to write about what the officer said. What I said. The expressions on his face. His choice of words. The other officer who took an epoch to get clearance for me to continue on to my gate, holding my passport and punching data into a keyboard. The other officers who sat in front of another terminal trying to look officious but probably playing a video game or an online lottery. The lady who sat with a mountain of luggage and a scowl on her face so dark she looked like one word would ignite a mental explosion. The Korean family who got barked at. The gentleman reporting with his mobile phone that "our guy got deported back to Mexico..." The first officer who started out so ├╝ber-friendly with me that I thought he'd just completed a Customer Satisfaction Seminar, but who became increasingly disappointed with every answer I gave because that meant he'd have to keep hunt-and-pecking more and more data into the computer. The look on his face said he wished I'd just said I was on holiday to Miami so he could just smile and say "Have a nice day, ma'am."

Yes, I'd love to write more about the Eye-En-Ess, but I shouldn't. We consulted with a second immigration lawyer today, and I want to avoid pissing off Aytch-Ess. I am aware of how they've investigated journal entries and their authors. Plus, I've had enough run-ins with immigration agencies to last me a lifetime, thanks.

So, I won't write any more about it. I'll do my darnedest. OK, I'll try...

Sunday, February 20, 2005


Catnapping, originally uploaded by AviatorDave.

David was so knackered last night after flying and a day in Corning that he fell asleep on the couch with Hugh and started snoring not long after we got home.

Hugh always curls up with David, and together they toss and turn and snore.

I took the opportunity to take their photos in the dark with the flash and neither one woke up. David Photoshopped a bunch of them together for me, for my amusement (and yours).

The full-size version is here: catnapping

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Corning Museum of Glass

David's and my photos combined: The Art of Glass

My photo set as a slideshow: The Art of Glass - slideshow

David's Multiply entry: Trip to Corning

glass slippers
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

glass skyline
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

World's Fair exhibits
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
David mentioned that his local pilot's association was having a fly-out to Elmira-Corning airport to the visit the onsite warplane museum, but we should visit the Corning Museum of Glass instead. When he first told me about this place, I was intrigued -- I love glass art, and I'm a borderline museum geek. Let's go!

Waking up relatively early for a Saturday morning, we made our way to Cherry Ridge, making a pitstop at Radio Shack to get a cable that will hook up my iPod to the Tri-Pacer's intercom system. Previously, I'd been in my own little music world with the headset over my earphones, getting David to nudge me in the thigh whenever he wanted to say something to me, but it was time to share the tunes. He managed to find the right connectors, and we were on our way again.

At Cherry Ridge, the climate was clear and COLD. FRIGID, even. The Wimpy West Coaster (that would be me) holed up in the car with the heater at full blast while David dragged the Tri-Pacer out of the hangar.

"Wake me when you're ready, OK?" I motioned, making myself comfy.

Meanwhile, David went through the pre-flight inspection:

1) drain the sumps on the fuel tanks
2) check oil
3) check brake fluid
4) walk-around inspection to check (in part):
- hinges
- control cables
- condition of fabric
- antennaes
- tires
- brakes
- propeller

(That's the outside inspection; there's an interior inspection as well.)

I had the heater on so high, I was nearly asleep when David tapped on the glass to fetch me. He knows he'll get his comeuppance once I learn how to fly and he'll sit in the car in the subzero temperatures while I pre-flight the plane. For now, he's letting it slide because he knows I'm just being a cold-weather chicken.


We were a bit worried the plane wouldn't start, since it was the coldest temperature David's ever experienced with the Tri-Pacer. It was -8 or -10C (13 or 14F) on the ground, and it had been six days since our last excursion. Our alternative method for getting the plane started was a pre-heat, David said, something which most of the other small planes have to do. In fact, a little earlier, a guy in the next hangar was trying to jump start his plane from a pickup truck, and while they were cranking the engine, they had a carburetor fire and David ran out of the hangar like a bat out of hell to the car to grab his fire extinguisher! I had no idea what was happening, so when I saw him race around the corner towards me, I thought he was on fire! Luckily, they were able to put out the blaze promptly without his assistance, which is a bit scary despite the fact that this is a common hazard of jump starting a plane!

Two engine cranks and two sighs of relief later, the Tri-Pacer started -- good ol' bird -- and we rumbled down to the runway. We would've left the ground accompanied by Nina Simone if it weren't such an aural conflict with air traffic control. In the end, we had to abandon the iPod intercom because we couldn't control the intercom volume interfering with radio communication. Ah well... I suppose installing a state-of-the-art stereo system in the Tri-Pacer cabin is rather out of the question, too...

The flight to Elmira-Corning started out in sunshine, but it was shortly replaced by low cloud. As we climbed, the temperature fell, reaching a toe-numbing -18C!! Normally, the Tri-Pacer pumps enough heat into the cabin to cook my feet and I end up shedding clothing, but not this time -- I could see my breath!! I should've put on my wool gloves and coat, but I thought I could tough it out this time -- not be such a whinge -- and shivered the rest of the way to Elmira-Corning...

... which turned out to be just over an hour, exactly what David's GPS predicted. It's 82 nautical miles from Cherry Ridge, or about 95 miles (153 kms). Elmira-Corning turned out to be a larger airport than I'd expected, and we recognised some of the parked planes belonging to pilots at Cherry Ridge. They're probably also the ones who took the airport's courtesy cars, because we ended up having to rent one to get to the glass museum!

Innerland, 1980
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

great wall of pyrex
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

cameo plate
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
The car rental was PRICEY, but worth it. The Corning Museum of Glass, newly renovated in 2000 (it took 6 years!), has amassed a collection comprising historical artifacts, masterpieces, and innovative designs ranging from the opulent to the eclectic. It is truly comprehensive -- there are quite literally thousands of objects carefully arranged in contemporary galleries, and it takes hours to see them all properly.

Photographing glass art is a challenge. For one thing, most of them, for the exception of the very large pieces (at least one of them was alarmed, we discovered), are encased in glass displays. I didn't ask, but I suspect that aside from protecting them from breakage, the glass cases are probably sealed fairly airtight so the items don't get covered in dust, either. Herein lie the challenges:

1) Reflections. Everywhere. Trying to take photos without reflections from the lights on the glass cases is difficult, so that means trying lots of different angles. The last thing I want is a photo of a glass object obscured by a pane of glass with points of light bouncing off it, or worse -- a shadow or silhouette of me taking a photo of it in the corner. Finding good angles for each object is time-consuming, and sometimes I just had to give up.

2) Too far for macro, too close for zoom. Taking a good macro photo means getting the lens within a couple of inches, which is sometimes impossible with a pane of glass in the way. The alternative is standing further away and using the zoom, but the increased distance from the glass case adds the unwanted reflections of light so the camera can't focus at all. What I ended up having to do was take more photos of the objects on the outer part of the display, closer to the glass.

3) Too much light/too little light. The placement of objects in the display cases are arranged for viewing at a certain height, and sometimes the best angle was from below, which meant I was shooting up into the light... argh! Sometimes I just couldn't position myself properly to capture the object in the best light because I'm too short!

I was using David's camera and not my own because mine is in the shop -- one of the menu buttons isn't working. I like David's camera, but I really miss my vari-angle screen!! The vari-angle screen is extremely useful for taking shots at odd angles. Being short, I often use my camera by holding my arm high to get a shot and tilting the screen down so I can frame it.

Anyway, challenges aside, I managed to get a lot of decent shots at the museum. There is so much beauty in glass art that I want to photograph EVERYTHING in sight. Light is so integral to the art that no two macro photographs of a well-lit glass piece could look exactly the same unless they were unmoved and the light source precisely in the same place each time. You move, and you see something different. Glass art is remarkable in so many ways: it's liquid yet solid, it can be colourless like water or filled with colour, it can take on vastly different forms, textures, shapes and purposes. Its versatility is limitless.

All good things must come to an end, and eventually we were reminded to clear the galleries. I bought a few things in the glass shop downstairs, and we took our rental car through the town of Corning in search for food. Does food taste better when you're hungry??? I certainly thought so, and I wanted to devour everything on the menu at the brick-oven restaurant we settled on. The French onion soup and smoked salmon (on a cedar plank, YUM) salad was scrumptious, but it wasn't enough -- I attacked David's pizza, too. I even flirted with the idea of trying out their dessert pizza -- baked apples and cinnamon on a pastry swirled with mascarpone cheese. Somebody stop me!!!

A stomach full of food kept me warm on the return flight, but I threw on a hat and gloves and kept my coat on for good measure. It was starting to snow, and the weather was chasing us. The air traffic controller at Elmira-Corning gave us clearance for takeoff, and I will say it is -- without a doubt -- an altogether different experience in a small plane than it is in a jumbo jet to take off at night when you know you're flying in snow. Time was of the essence to beat the worsening conditions, and I observed as David kept in constant communication with air traffic controllers all the way home. Meanwhile, I watched the tiny lights of cars along the highways (how I imagine white blood cells coursing through the body), the clusters of houses, the winter wonderland that was upstate New York. We had a tailwind, so we were able to get back to Cherry Ridge in about 40 minutes, without a peep from me about needing a bathroom or being cold... (where are the hot towels? my kosher vegetarian meal? my reading light? my in-flight magazine???)

David never comments in his Multiply journal about his passengers, but I'm really not that bad as passengers go. As long as Fielding Airlines gives me my frequent flyer credit, I'll keep flying the friendly Fielding skies.


test flight outdoors
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

test flight indoors
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

Just a couple of photos I took of a biplane miniature that is usually parked on the side table beside the telephone.

Yes, I am a photophile.

Later I'll take photos of real planes -- we're flying to Corning, NY for some daytripping.

Friday, February 18, 2005


Today's shipment:

The Office
Season 1

One of the few series I've been dying to see. House of Fielding consensus: genius. More on this later.

Our faves since December:

More my fave (I've seen before) = *
More of Dave's fave = ^

Spellbound, 2002 *
The Celebration, 1998 *
Pi: Faith in Chaos, 1998 *
Before Sunrise, 1995 ^
Before Sunset, 2004 *
Waiting for Guffman, 1996 *
Kolya, 1996
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004
Good Bye, Lenin!, 2003

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Word From Our Sponsor: American Idol

We take a break from our regularly-scheduled program (wedding blabber) to bring you a message from one of our sponsors...

American Idol...

I watched my first episode of the season a few weeks ago (St. Louis, Missouri), and saw Tuesday's and Wednesday's episodes with David.

Can you say... morbid fascination?

Since it started, I might have seen a total of two or three American Idol shows at Eliza's place, but that's about it. I haven't watched any Canadian Idol, but I saw the grand finale of the French version called Nouvelle Star when I was visiting friends in Brittany last year. People go wild over this show in France, too. Nolwenn's mother and sister were glued to the TV screen. (I think Nolwenn's father went to watch footy somewhere else. I don't blame him.)

Watching one episode of city auditions, it was amazing how many people with so little talent could get as far as a televised audition. Aren't there any preliminary auditions just to weed out the truly awful? Isn't there an objective idea of "you stink!" that needn't waste the time of a 3-judge panel?

On Tuesday, they were showing the four rooms of prospects, and for the love of Mary, there were enough tears to drown the Titanic! All that crying! It's bad enough to be trapped in a hotel room with 24 other nervous people, but the camera operators must feel like they're stuck at a funeral or in a hospital waiting area. Either that or they're too busy zooming in on the sidelong glances between contestants who are obviously thinking, "There's no way I'm getting through with this bozo in the room."

On Wednesday, they narrowed down the two rooms of 50 people who made it through down to 24 finalists, and David and I tried to pick which ones would make it through. David guessed wrong on all his picks. After watching some of my picks make it and some of them getting the heave-ho, I came up with some theories:

1) The two long-haired, rocker types -- Constantine and Bo -- were sent through just for diversity. If either of these two win, I'll eat my shorts, although I think Constantine has a better chance because he's simply better-looking. Neither of them thought they'd both get through, but hey -- there's an audience for rock and roll, and American Idol wants them to watch. At least the boys will have each other, they won't need to listen to screeching ballads alone (well, until the first one gets eliminated, anyway).

There was this one goth girl who sang a song from Phantom of the Opera who made it through the city audition, but most of the theatre-types were sent packing. It looks like the diversity card is extended to the larger of the minority genres, rock. Country might stand a small chance, too, but it seems that screeching ballads are here to stay, ad nauseam.

2) "Niche" audience doesn't cut it, eg. Aa'shia Jackson, who sounds like Michael Jackson in his younger days (when he looked like a person) on helium. With her hat, big baggy shirt, big baggy pants and a scowl, it's tough to even tell she's a girl. Something tells me androgyny is not an advantage in this competition. So how did she get so far? Did Simon, Paula, and Randy think "Oh look! A novelty! Let's get her on an early episode but eliminate her in the semi-finals! Her feisty mother will scream at the camera, for sure! But Michael Jackson's on trial, so we can't let her win!"

3) Anything for suspense and drama. Let's put 25 people in a room and make them wait for an eternity, and see if any of them will kill each other on camera. Walk into the room and lead people on emotional rollercoasters as much as possible. Bring on the tears, people!

4) Women are hysterical. Show the hysterical women. If you were from another culture and were to judge Americans by the show American Idol, it wouldn't take long to reach a conclusion that ALL American women were emotionally unstable. There should be an official American Idol psych ward. Or, at least a sign:

A team of shrinks are on stand-by, for the ladies.

The camera crew shoot specifically for this and it's highly edited to show the emotional highs and lows, certainly, but oh boy. I felt badly for some of these people, especially one who got rejected and ran right out of the hotel and down the street. Of course, they sent Ryan Seacrest out after her, but as with everything about this show, that's for show.

I suppose that is endemic of all reality shows, as David mentioned earlier -- the situations are orchestrated as such to provoke the strongest emotional impulses, because that's what makes "good television", or at least high ratings.

That is why, in a nutshell, I don't watch reality shows. The fact that they're real people vying for a real prize is exciting, but when the cameras are turned off, the ones who don't make it are remembered for enduring camera-ready spirit-crushing by a panel of three judges (NONE of whom can sing -- and that includes Paula Abdul!) AND millions of viewers. I can't handle that kind of voyeurism on a continual basis, but moreso because I really do think some of them are being played like a fiddle for ratings. I cannot imagine the judges think these 24 are the cream of the crop. Selecting the finalists reminded me of the Spice Girls formula -- a bunch of people brought together and called a "band" because each one represented a certain type of girl, thereby broadening the appeal, and broadening the fan base. American Idol want as many viewers as possible, so they threw in a country girl, some rockers, and of course the biggest draws: the ballad-screechers.

I don't know if we'll be watching next week, I don't know how many more floods of tears and running mascara I can stand.

(Weirdly, it suddenly occurred to me that I can actually VOTE now. Any Canadians want me to put in a vote if I watch next week? And who for?)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Strange Dream

I had this bizarre dream about a week and a half ago, one that was so vivid I still remember some of it now, which is extraordinary since I usually don't recall dreams, let alone details.

In the dream, we were getting married, but EVERYTHING was on the cheap: food, decorations, our clothing, the whole schmeer (I'm learning Yiddish!). It was more like a nightmare... I kept picking at my horrendous outfit, thinking, "What on earth am I wearing?" and my hairstyle was so... big, like a bouffant. I had on this faux-velvet dress that was dark (???), with something I can only describe as a handkerchief-like cummerbund in a lighter shade dividing me horizontally. Loud, more like my mother's taste in apparel. I was dazed and confused, muttering under my breath, asking myself how my mother could talk me into thinking this was a good idea. We were truly scraping the bottom of the taste barrel for this wedding.

I know wedding details have been on my mind lately what with a ceremony and two receptions to arrange, and one of my main concerns has been cost. But I've told David that one thing I won't scrimp on is the food -- we MUST have good food, right down to the presentation; I don't think it should get short shrift at social functions. It's not just about satisfying hunger... for some people, it's their trusty icebreaker, like the weather (unlike Vancouver, there isn't enough traffic in Scranton to warrant discussion). In a roomful of people you don't know, you'll head to what you do know, and that's eating. People may not remember what colour scheme was going on at a wedding, especially the men, but people DO remember when the food was low-quality. Think back to all the weddings you've attended, and I'll bet even when you don't remember exactly what you ate, you'll recall if you enjoyed it, went back for more, or wanted to spit it out discreetly in your napkin...


ADDITION: Thursday, Feb 17

*sirens wailing*

Help! I've been hit! David Photoshopped me today!

<--- my worst nightmare

Monday, February 14, 2005

Death by Chocolate, or Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

No, I didn't make these, but don't they look great? They're courtesy of David's mother, who also gave me a lovely pair of earrings for Valentine's Day. Click on the pics for comments.

As for me, I'm going to slink off to bed to die a sweet and slow chocolate death from the calories of the one I managed to consume...


Click on the pics for info.

Lest anyone think I actually celebrate Valentine's Day, I thought I should clarify. I think Valentine's Day is on par with silly standards about engagement rings: pressure-laden, commerce-crazy. Give people a day off from work to go and do something fun, but until then, it's just another day on the calendar.

I may be engaged, but I was recently a perennial, hardcore singleton, and I'm still rather entrenched in that mentality.

I don't begrudge people who feel like spending money on their loved ones. By all means, indulge your feelings. Retail therapy, if that works for you.

David's well aware of my viewpoints, so I was curious when he showed up after work with stuff in his hands.

"I know you don't like mushy cards, but this one is perfect," he said, handing it to me. He'd made it himself, at work. (There was a message in the inside back cover, but I didn't publish it. It's not mushy, though.) He also bought some bamboo.

"I know -- get something alive, not dead."

He's learning...

Plan A: avoid restaurants. Cook. Not only are restaurants chock-a-block on Valentine's Day, but I avoid PDAs whenever possible. Since we opted for snowtubing on Friday, the plan was to go ice skating tonight, but it's blustery and the rink is outdoors. We'd get blown around the oval. So, David and I are hanging out doing stuff on our computers, listening to the wind gust its way around, and later we'll head for Plan B: bowling.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Winging Our Way Through Winter

Freezing Windex
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.

winged winter sunset
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

Montage Mountain
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
We planned to go flying today rather than yesterday because of the weather -- yesterday it was a bit snowy and overcast, and today was bright and sunny. We had a late start this morning to make up for a late night, but we couldn't miss out on a fab lunch with David's mother at an Italian place that filled us up probably more than it should have (as is the case EVERY week -- food lovers, we are!)... David had the idea we'd fly to Reading for hot wings, but Colarusso's took care of our appetites for the next, oh, three days.

I did make a point, however, to AVOID beverages as best I could so as not to repeat my bladder-bleating of last Sunday at 1,500 feet above the Hudson River. If you were in Manhattan a week ago on the west side, looked up and saw a little blue plane with yellow wings flying over, you might have seen me hanging out near the window, trying desperately not to look at the water or think of water or dams or reservoirs or otherwise imagine water flowing...

Anyway, today's flight was much different. For one thing, it was colder. A LOT colder. It was bright and warm during the day, but the temperature plummeted like a stone on our way to Cherry Ridge. I tried to clean the plane's windscreen, but only managed the starboard side before the Windex started to ice up on the port side. (I sit on the starboard side, but that had nothing to do with it, honest, photographic needs notwithstanding.) B-R-R-R-RRRRR....

Thankfully, the Tri-pacer is always toasty, so it wasn't long before I warmed up and started filming our take-off. Since it was getting dark and we had a Cherry Ridge Pilots' Association meeting at 7pm, we didn't fly very far. I managed to get some decent sunset shots once the sun peeked out from behind the clouds again, and got lost in my thoughts listening to my iPod and peering at the treetops as we skimmed the high points of the Wyoming Valley. It struck me, looking at the trees bare of leaves and exposing the snow-covered ground, how much it resembled a sort of stubble...

We tried to catch the skydivers at Skyhaven in Tunkhannock, but we missed the last dive by a few minutes. There was some cloud cover by then, so I don't know how well the shots would've turned out, but maybe if we make a practice of heading over there on sunny days, I can make videos of the skydivers and sell them the clips!

The other thing I'd like for us to do sometime is set up some air-to-air photos of our plane and other planes, not just for our ourselves but to make some money. Apparently, the going rate for such photography is in the neighbourhood of $500-$700 or more, although I don't know if that's for the session or a set number of photos, and because the outfit is using a helicopter to shoot from. At any rate, it could be lucrative, and there is definitely a demand for it. The conditions have to be optimal, and I'd need a raft of equipment with me, so it's probably not something I'd do until later, once I get my equipment upgraded... it's ex$pensive... I was looking at the Nikon D70 yesterday, and it's over a grand...

We did a touch-and-go* at Scranton Wilkes-Barre Airport, and I took some shots of Montage Mountain nearby. David nudged me to shoot the snowtubing chutes, but by then we were nearing the top of the mountain, so I didn't get any. Next time!

I attended my second Cherry Ridge Pilots' Association meeting tonight after we put the plane back in the hangar. The first time I attended, in November, I had to suppress some chuckling at the reading of the minutes from the last meeting. The main item on the agenda was the purchase of a windsock. There's even a Windsock Committee. Apparently, there's a lot more to windsocks than draping material at the top of a pole to show which way the wind blows.

Cherry Ridge Airport is in a rural township, and the pilots who have hangars there are a mix of New Yorkers weekending in Pennsylvania and hobby pilots, along with enough commercial activity to keep a little airport cafe humming, too. Since the weekenders are the least likely to attend meetings, the ones who do attend tend to skew older... retirees, bless'em... David is definitely one of the spring chickens in the group, but everyone is very friendly and I am highly entertained by the blend of East Coast accents and local dialects** floating around the room. It's a real treat for my linguistic fascinations.

To read more about our little plane, a 1954 Piper Tri-Pacer, read David's post in Multiply:
Fielding Airlines, Flight 001

* Touch-and-go: pilots do them to practice landings.
** Yes, there is a Scranton accent as well, which I have been studying and using to poke fun at David... I'll post about it another day.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Snowtubing Postmortem

the hill
Originally uploaded by scottgravatt.
We're a little sore today... David has some bruising on his legs, and I can feel my leg muscles today after hours of snowtubing last night. But, we made it down with our limbs intact, and we'll DEFINITELY go again!! WOO-HOO!!

David's account in Multiply: Test (tube) pilots

First, to clarify: this pic isn't mine -- it was uploaded by scottgravat on Flickr, but it was the closest photo I could find that shows what the snowtubing hill looked like. In reality, the hill was steeper, more like this, except with two steep rolling inclines on the way down, like a roller coaster or a gigantic waterslide. Honestly, we were both kind of SCARED when we looked at the tubing hill at Montage Mountain, but neither of us said anything until later. Because of the sloped chutes, we couldn't see the top, we could only see people coming over the edge, screaming, drifts of snow whipping off their heads and leaving trails in the cold night air...


Our combined snowtubing experience consists of me tubing with the older kiddies at Mt. Seymour, where there are no chutes, only a gentle hill with a variety of winter sledding-type equipment careening downwards, unsupervised. It's usually fairly crowded, but it would be even moreso if there were some mechanised way of getting back up to the top. Nope, no such luck -- it's free, after all -- so it's trudge, trudge, trudge upwards and try not to get knocked down by a wayward sled or slowpokes sliding backwards. David's only been skiing at Montage, and he didn't know this part existed.

Me, pre-snowtubing
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
When we were getting ready, David had the foresight to think of buying me a toque (that's knitted hat for you non-Canadians). Being a winter-wimpy Vancouverite who doesn't ski, I had to borrow some cold-weather gear from David. I left behind my unused wool hats, I only found one pair of wool and flannel gloves and some scarves to bring to Pennsylvania. I also sold my Gore-Tex jacket. But at least my toes were taken care of -- David got a pair of suede winter boots with sensible soles for me.

Waiting with a mix of anticipation and dread at the bottom by the tow lifts, we watched as people grabbed a tube, which had a nylon lead with a rubber hoop at the end of it. A lift operator attached rubber hoops to metal hooks along the tow line, and people were towed to the top in their tube. Nobody explained anything -- there was one sign with some rules on it at the bottom, and that was it for information. We figured, with no instruction, how dangerous could it be? They had a minimum age limit of 5 years old, kids under 8 had to be accompanied by an adult, and you were allowed one person per tube. Simple, right?

Behind us a few runs later, there was a girl who had also never snowtubed before, dressed in a long white fashion-not-function coat and looking like she'd just come from dinner. She pretty much summed up what we didn't say:

"I don't know what's happening, or what I'm doing," she said to her friend. "I don't like to do things when I don't know what's happening."

We'd done a few runs by that time, but we kept our mouths shut and let her find out for herself. Sometimes it's just better that way!

Here's the breakdown:


One sign: DRAG YOUR FEET TO CONTROL YOUR SPEED. That was it. In other words, if you were too busy yakking in the line to pay attention to the different techniques of people coming down the mountainside, then you might be in for a spill. As the disclaimers say: results may vary.

When David and I reached the top, there was one staffer there, and he walked away! We stood there, contemplating our strategy. The tube was basically an inner tube, sitting in a separate hard rubber piece shaped like a doughnut sliced in half horizontally, with two handles. Sit down? Lie down? Lying down looked aerodynamic, but we were more interested in control than speed on the first run. We decided to sit down, but the incline was still scary. The chutes looked like ice runs with an icing of snow.

I was freaked going over the edge, but I was even more freaked because I ended up backwards! I don't even remember seeing David come down in the next chute, I heard the wind whistling by and my tube picking up speed... need brakes! Brakes=feet? I have feet? Where are they? How can I control my speed when I don't know where my feet are?!? I didn't know where I was, or where the next slope-down was, and... oh crap, I'm now whizzing by the line of people... I'm at the bottom! BRAKE! BRAKE! I dug my heels down into the snow as hard as I could, but I didn't seem to be slowing down much... where's the NET??? IS IT STRONG ENOUGH??

I think I swore as I hit the net hard, limbs akimbo, and I had this thought of taking the whole net down with me over the drop-off... rolling down the side of the mountain and snowmobiles coming to retrieve me from the road. My only hope was for a big pile of snow and not sharp trees. To my GREATEST relief, I bounced instead, the tube flipping over and landing on top of me. I'm sure it looked like a Tom and Jerry cartoon crash. I started to laugh and couldn't stop. I was covered in snow and my hat was coming off. But I was alive!!


Things that went wrong the first time:

1) I didn't know how to sit properly in the tube going up. I didn't see the sign at the bottom until later, the one that said: RIDE TUBE WITH FEET DOWNHILL. I didn't see people doing that, they were mostly lying down, but I thought that was just personal preference.

2) Try and dismount earlier rather than later. Why? See #3.

3) I couldn't get out of my tube at the top of the tow lift. Simple physics will tell you that trying to dismount an inner tube from a sitting position facing uphill on an incline is making life hard for yourself. The lift operator at the top had to tell me to get out -- I'm TRYING!! -- then I tried to get out of the way of the next person, but drifted off to the right instead of left...

4) Use a tube that isn't so inflated that a short person like myself can actually touch the ground in order to brake.

5) Brake EARLY, and use heels to steer.

6) When using far chutes, watch out for incoming tube traffic!!

It took me five runs before I felt brave enough to try lying on my stomach. Also, seeing the toes of David's boots worn off made me wonder if it was such a good idea with a pair of suede boots.


David was right -- lying on my stomach is SO MUCH BETTER, and if I turn my toes out and dig the corner of my heels in, I won't go flying over the chute wall into the next one! I'll even go sort of straight! I can even hold on with one hand so the other one can keep my hat on my head!

Meanwhile, David's strategy was to get airborne off the first peak, aiming for maximum lift and speed. The downside was that hard braking at the end was wearing off layers from his boots and his fingers were getting numb, but he didn't seem to mind. Small price to pay for FLIGHT!

We were so hooked, we stayed until the very end, when they stopped the tow lift. I even had flashbacks of tobagganing as a kid in Winnipeg, streaking down the nearest landfill-turned-sledding-hill at top speed, disappointed when we had to go inside again. Winter is suddenly feeling a whole lot shorter...

Friday, February 11, 2005

Decision: 2005

Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
David Photoshopped Karl in his Multiply journal today.

Decision: 2005

Not to make light of Karl's quandary, but to add some comic relief. I don't envy him one bit, especially after just making a big move, myself. But he's a trouper with a positive attitude, so I have no doubt he'll land on his feet.

Speaking of landing on one's feet, I had an idea to go tubing tonight down Montage Mountain, only 4 miles away. I'll post later, but I don't think we'll take a camera this time... something tells me I won't be landing on my feet much!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A Twist on the Top-10 List

It's not often I write about myself, or fill out those "About Me" lists that arrive in my e-mail inbox from time to time. But I saw this version on Katy's blog, and thought I'd do it.

In no particular order...

TEN random things about me:

1. If I had the skill, I'd be a professional comedian
2. I haven't been to the dentist since I was 10
3. I've never had PMS
4. I can write straight without ruled paper
5. I hate pink
6. I was the only girl in my co-ed Grade 12 Phys Ed class
7. I've never had a headache
8. My birth name is not Gail
9. I've never broken a bone
10. Handbags: ugh

NINE places I want to visit:

1. Indonesia
2. Madagascar
3. Galapagos Islands
4. Quebec City
5. Cuba
6. Croatia
7. India
8. Portugal
9. Brazil

EIGHT things I want to do before I die:

1. Go to the dentist (haha!)
2. Have an exhibit of my favourite photography
3. Learn how to fly
4. Visit those nine places mentioned above
5. Read all the correspondence I've ever received
6. Learn how to scuba dive
7. Meet the three World Vision Canada kids I sponsor (Haiti, Chad, Brazil)
8. Throw my own "wake party" (except I'm alive and present)

SEVEN ways to win my heart:

1. Be able to guess musician/song titles within five bars
2. Be geeky and embrace one's own geekiness
3. Show your imagination
4. Be kind to little kids, old people, and animals
5. Be consistent
6. Make me a hot beverage
7. Keep in touch with me

SIX things I believe in:

1. Universal healthcare
2. Highly subsidised education
3. Preserving the environment
4. Exercising the right to vote
5. Public transportation
6. Affordable housing

FIVE things I'm afraid of:

1. The concept of infinity
2. The power going out and having to go into the basement to re-set the fusebox
3. Deep ocean
4. An emergency in the plane and forgetting the transponder code
5. Losing photos/photo data getting corrupted

FOUR of my favourite items in my bedroom:

1. Cypress reed diffusers
2. Flannel sheets
3. Humidifier
4. David

THREE things I do almost every day:

1. Drink hot beverages
2. Wake David up
3. Feed Hugh

TWO things I'm trying not to do right now:

1. Eat
2. Lose this Scrabble game (no danger, though! I'm ahead!)

ONE person I want to see right now:

1. 5 little people (the MJEs) -- together they make up one big person

If you make your own list, I'd love to read it!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ya talkin' ta me?

Ya talkin' ta me?
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

Took a few photos last night of the love-in that is David and his longtime buddy, Hugh, in the evenings. This is the pattern:

Hugh is a bonafide lapcat, but since he's on the bulkier side of cat, David has to create a bigger lap by folding one leg underneath the other. David sits in this uncomfortable position in a metal chair in front of his computer, then his leg falls asleep... Hugh is asleep, too, so the sleepy cat ends up moving to the floor and assumes the "beached whale" position.

Other times I'll go downstairs and the TV will be on, David's asleep on the couch, and Hugh is asleep beside him. What a pair.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Big Thanks to Our Friends

gift from Korea
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

gift from Hong Kong
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

I just updated Sunday's post on flying by Manhattan. *nudge* Go have another look.

I wanted to post these before I forgot, too. We've received some lovely goodies recently.

Our friend Tanya, an expatriated Canadian in Hong Kong, sent us a package laden with treats, the biggest one a handmade print with our names on it in Chinese characters. David had it framed and it's now hanging in the dining room.

We also received a charming card from Jinha, who is based in Paris but sent it from her homeland, Korea, while on a visit. The bookmarks are great!! Now I just have to get myself away from the computer and read some books! Haha!

Monday, February 07, 2005


I feel good
Originally uploaded by Cilest.
I HAD to post this photo from Flickr... this is one happy cat!

Click on the photo to read the many comments people have written about it.

Speaking of happy kitties, Hugh ventured out onto the back porch again today, as I was sweeping the kitchen floor. The look on his face was priceless when a squirrel zoomed by and up into the tree beside the house. It was like he'd seen a ghost!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Manhattan Fly-By

Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
Fielding Airlines took to the unseasonably warm and friendly skies over Manhattan today by request from its favourite frequent flier.

Yeah, that's me!

I'd write about it now, but the blood required by the brain to compose a blog entry has been rerouted to the digestive tract after dinner with David and his mother at Cooper's, a restaurant famous in the area for its seafood. We had so much food I think we took home more than we consumed there. So.... sleepy....

For a photo preview, check out the Flickr photos:
Manhattan aerial pics

All in all, a great weekend. Need another day to recover from the weekend.


David's corresponding journal entry in Multiply:
Gail and Dave Take Manhattan (Again) (From the Air)

Since David was flying and I was taking the photos, all of the aerial shots in his Flickr album are in mine, too. But, he did upload some photos of the Lockheed Constellation ("Connie") we encountered at Greenwood Lake airport after our Manhattan fly-by.


I've been meaning to write this all day, but I've been distracted by the new Flickr UI... *ahem*... where was I? Oh yes, flying over Manhattan.

David summed up the day best, as he's the knowledgeable one with the technical jargon and the most qualified to explain what a VFR Corridor is and what flying through this narrow airspace entails. However, if you've already read his rendition of the day, allow me to add a few passenger notes:

On flying...
One thing to expect on a beautiful day is that everyone else with a plane is thinking the same thing: fly! Somewhere! The skies were filled with aircraft of all sizes, and David kept pointing to other aircraft at 11 o'clock, 2 o'clock, 12 o'clock... I couldn't help it -- my fertile imagination involuntarily produced images of our little plane colliding with one of them. Thankfully, these thoughts were fleeting. Intuitively, I know there is a ton of equipment dedicated to preventing this, but I'm not familiar with it all. However, when David is flying on GPS, instructions from control towers, charts, and peering in the sky to spot air traffic, this is not the time for me to ask technical questions about how we manage to avoid in-air collisions. I do remember the transponder, and how the codes give our information to ATC (Air Traffic Control). Mental note: ask David, once we're on the ground, about how we avoid collisions.

On flying with David...
I've been in plenty of aircraft, but mostly jumbo jets. Very few were props, and David's Tri-Pacer is easily the smallest plane I've ever been in. I know of many people who find small planes nerve-wracking and are of the impression there's safety in size, i.e., the bigger, the better. Personally, I don't believe that, since pilots of any size aircraft have a safety checklist and a host of FAA regulatory hoops to jump through just to get that machine in the sky. I've been flying with David enough times now to see he doesn't hurry through his checklist so he can fly sooner, he doesn't take shortcuts, and even his 73-year old mother loves flying with him. (Hi Mona!) I might sound biased, but there are people in my own family I won't drive with.

On flying the VFR corridor by Manhattan...
David hasn't flown by Manhattan since before 9/11. I knew he would have to rely on his GPS and ATC navigating through the New York terminal area. Did this worry me? No. But once I saw how much traffic there was in the sky, how much he had to monitor all at once (GPS, radio instructions, etc.), and the skyscrapers of Manhattan rising up in front of the nosegear, I sat up and paid attention. Until that point I'd been looking out the side window at the dull suburbs of New Jersey, David's camera at the ready with its 12x zoom, listening to my iPod on low with the flying headset over my earbuds. I wasn't in "student mode" at all. Once New York Harbor came into view, I knew I had to snap quickly, because we only get one chance at the fly-by; David already mentioned that before 9/11, airplanes could circle Manhattan, but those days are long gone. We were flying from south to north, and whatever I couldn't capture flying at 100mph would have to wait for another day.

Manhattan Bridge
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
It was amazing to shoot SO CLOSE to the tops of the buildings. The 12x zoom was like a telescope -- I could practically see Trump going about his business in his tower. The city from above is a perspective you only see on commercial shoots and tourist placemats and postcards. It's tough to get a focus lock on a building at full zoom length, though, especially since the Tri-Pacer is a bit of a bumpy ride, but I got some decent shots. It was fairly hazy -- there's definitely an overhang of smog attendant with population density -- but maybe I can get a polarising filter for the Panasonic for next time. That would really improve the photos, especially since we're shooting from the sky more often than not.

Seeing Manhattan from above is a perspective that makes the island seem much smaller and less... imposing than it does if you'd just visited it by car. In the shadow of tall buildings and criss-crossing it by subway, you don't really have a sense of where things are. Subway maps show the order of stations and the line networks, they're never to scale, so it's conceivable that people who travel this way and in a small area of the island never really get a sense of Manhattan's topography. I took a circle cruise on December 31, 2002, which I would recommend to others, but you only see the buildings on the periphery. I can see why helicopter tours would be a great idea, but this is even BETTER :)

On our impromptu stop at Greenwood Lake Airport...
David was being genteel, saying that "Gail's coffee was making itself felt", but I'll just state it here: I had to pee. Before we reached New York Harbor, even. As David was gearing up to enter VFR corridor airspace:

Me: "You're never going to believe this."

He looked at me quizzically.

Me: "I have to pee... I'll remember next time not to drink that second cup of coffee. At least, not for HOURS before flying. I will dehydrate myself." I was feeling most sheepish, like a little kid.

David: "It's going to be a while before we can make a bathroom stop. Can you hold it?"

Oh MAN. We're going to have to equip this plane with an emergency container. A pickle jar, David says. Fielding Airlines is no-frills.

Grounded "Connie"
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
I managed to hold on until we reached the closest airport where we could land, but I made David give me a minute:second countdown. I kept squawking, "It's PAINFUL now!" The silver lining to this debacle was that Greenwood Lake Airport had the distinction of having a Lockheed Constellation, David's favourite airliner, on its property. It also doubled as a flight school! David was happy about the stop, in the end.

On future flights...
We'd like to fly by Manhattan again, in the evening. We've been told it's gorgeous at night, but I won't be able to get any photos since the light is insufficient for regular photographs, but a videoclip would definitely work.

Other future flights include:
- Long Island Sound
- Nantucket Island
- Martha's Vineyard
- Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
- Lock Haven

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Streets of Philadelphia

We're back from our day in Philly, and it was a beautiful one for February -- warm and sunny. It was my first time to visit, and impressions were good -- lots to see!

Will write about the day later, for now will just post the link to the photos uploaded to Flickr:

Philly in February

These are David's and my photos mixed together. I took some with David's camera because a button on my Canon A80 isn't working *sob* -- I'm going to have to send it off to the repair centre!

Tomorrow is Superbowl Sunday, so the city was decked out in Philadelphia Eagles fandom, too.


David's entry on Multiply: Gail and Dave Take Philadelphia

David covered our day in Philadelphia pretty thoroughly, but I'll step up to the plate with my own version. Mine is very much a photoblog, anyway, so most of my comments centre around the photos I took. It was early on in the day that I discovered the right arrow button on my camera stopped working, so to curb the frustration, I used David's camera part of the time. It's probably the button I use the most, so it stands to reason that one would be the first to go. We're incurable tinker-types, but after some messing around, I could see it was constructed in such a way that neither David nor I could fix it ourselves. Drat! We'll have to share David's camera until mine's fixed, which isn't such a big deal since his Panasonic is a great camera -- it has an incredible zoom (12x versus my paltry 3x) and built-in stabilizer.

Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love.

Like David mentioned, I've never been to Philadelphia before, but I've been hankering for a visit since I arrived in Pennsylvania. What do I know about it? Not nearly enough, only that it's one of the oldest cities in the U.S. and was the original seat of government. In recent years, I get the impression it is becoming increasingly associated more with urban crime and big-city problems than historical significance. There are plenty of signs that tourism is alive and well, but since it's the largest city in the state, it probably gets a bad rap, too.

I'm more of a city type, myself, so my "city filter" naturally focusses on the features of metropolitan centres: restaurants, museums, mixtures of architectural styles. In this respect, my impressions of Philadelphia are very positive. In the Old Town part of the city, there were loads of funky dining rooms, diverse in their cuisine and decor. I kept stopping to look inside the restaurants at the eclectic furniture, or just to have a sniff of the culinary delights from the doorway. Philadelphia is two hours south of Scranton, and even David -- who actually hasn't spent much time here -- suggested we could drive down for a meal! In my mind, I was already plotting which restaurant we'd hit first.

It was a sunny, warm day for February. Not just a bit warm, I mean springtime warm. I wanted to ditch my wool coat, but I knew once the sun went down I'd want my coat back. So, we walked around the city centre -- very walkable, THUMBS UP! -- taking photos of buildings and admiring the vertical views. I LOVE the fact that Philadelphia is favourable to the pedestrian, unlike most big cities in North America. (Philadelphia is the fifth-largest in the U.S.) One area that is a relatively long walking distance is the Museum of Art, which we didn't have time to visit, but it's definitely on the list of things I want to see next time. We drove in that direction at night, and it's picturesque along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the museum, which is lit up right now with the upcoming Dali exhibit.

Philadelphia City Hall
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

City Hall breezeway arch
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

The building that caught my eye first upon entering the city was City Hall, in Penn Square. One of the things lacking in modern North American city centres are squares. We're so caught up in the grid system that it's become very boring; squares are natural gathering places where people congregate and interact. City Hall has breezeways so you can pass through on each side and save some time.

need a clothespin?
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

Benjamin Franklin Bridge
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

Before we went, David said Philadelphia didn't have a very interesting skyline, but I beg to differ. It may not be Manhattan, but the tall buildings it does have in the city centre are interesting in their own right. Another notable building beside City Hall is the Masonic temple, the entrance design is most exquisite. And, once we headed to the waterfront, I couldn't help but shoot away at the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. One thing we noticed about the bridge after taking so many photos was that the bridge lights at car level changed colours! With the strobe effect, it looked almost like a disco!

on the waterfront
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
We wanted to head down to the waterfront to catch the sunset there, since the quality of the day's light was rather unusual. It shone very pink and purple, and made for great dusk photos.

When we were searching for wedding and reception venues a couple of months ago, David told me about this ship called Moshulu that had a long history and was eventually converted to a floating restaurant. (Click on the pic for more info.) It would've been an interesting place to gather people, given its history, and it's ranked highly for its food, but two hours is a long way to travel for a reception.

The Quest for the Ultimate Philly Cheesesteak. Yes, it was a real quest. We kept passing vendors all afternoon, but I thought we'd try and find someplace authentic and old-fashioned. I'm a bit of a foodie, and I'd never been bowled over by the cheaper variants of Philly cheesesteak. I tried it in Scranton and was unimpressed.

"Shredded beef and cheese on a bun?" I asked David. "Is that all it is???"

I thought there had to be more to it than that to reach this almost mythical status. We were famished after wandering around town all afternoon, and the great selection of eateries in the Old Town had us nearly swayed from our mission of finding a Good Philly Cheesesteak. Where oh where? We finally settled on this one place off Market Street that looked unfussy and had "The Best Philly Cheesesteak since 1969" on it. It was one of those narrow-frontage-but-long-to-the-back places that looked more like a sports bar with a dining room as an afterthought. But, oh wow, was their food ever GOOD. The menu was confusing to me -- what's the difference between a hoagie and a sandwich? Is the Philly cheesesteak a sandwich, but why do they say hoagie? David, the Pennsylvania native, was also confused. We ordered two different things, but they arrived looking nearly exactly the same. We didn't care, either about that or the many TVs blaring Superbowl coverage, because the eating took precedence. The bread was the best I've had in the state, the shredded steak was flavourful (but not oversalted), and the provolone cheese was perfect. The fried onions made it a delectable combination. Oh man, did I say it was good? It was great! THUMBS UP! I even ordered my vice: jalapeno and cream cheese poppers. I swear, these things will be the death of me. Even THESE were good... you'd think they would be impossible to screw up, but I've had poor imitations. These were the real deal, and get this: the cream cheese was cold, the jalapenos were hot (not just spicy, but heated), and the outside was crispy hot. How do they do this??

After we finished our heart-attack meals, I wanted to take some night shots of the city, but my theory is that there were sleeping pills ground into my poppers, because I wanted to go to sleep almost immediately. It was bizarre -- I was almost asleep at the end of the Ben Franklin Parkway. We'll definitely be back in Philly soon, but next time I'm not having the poppers.