August 27, 2008

Galapagos Adventure Day One

Cleveland, Ohio to Punta Gorda, Florida

Sunrise at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
Sunrise at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

This is the first in a series of entries highlighting my recent trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. Although I'm posting these after the fact, I've assigned entry dates based on when the events occurred. In the interest of being thorough I'll include info on the journey to and from, even if hanging out in American airports lacks a certain panache.

On August 27th I woke up sometime around 4:30 a.m. to begin my trek to the Galápagos Islands. I find it rather disconcerting to get up before the sun. Thus I spent much of the morning in a daze wondering what critical item I'd neglected to pack. Thankfully I have a friend Josh who is one of those odd creatures known as a "morning person." As if it weren't enough to drive me to the airport before the crack of down, he'd also kindly lent me his 300mm zoom lens for the trek. As you will see in upcoming entries, I relied quite heavily on this lens, especially when trying to capture birds in flight.

I arrived at the airport shortly in time to catch the sunrise, at which point the photo-taking began. No moment would be considered too small. By the end of it all I'd taken over 4,300 photos. In any case, I arrived on time, checked in, did the security thing, ate some sort of noxious breakfast sandwich while listening to travel podcasts, read a mystery (I'm a firm believer in reading lightweight paperbacks while traveling) and eventually boarded the flight. This took me to Charlotte where I skibbled through the airport hopped another plane and made it to Sarasota, Florida in time for a late lunch with mom.

Palm Tree
Palm Tree, Sarasota, Florida

We then went to her office so I could meet her co-workers, I loitered about a few hours at her house then we supped with her friends at Luna Ristorante. Here we were plied with oodles of pasta then some mountain of chocolate for dessert. All in all it was quite tasty. After dinner we packed up the car and headed south to Punta Gorda.

The drive south began typically. We were in a car, on the highway, surrounded by shrubbery. We've all been there. It doesn't matter if it's New Jersey or Florida, it all looks pretty much the same, except that you'll find alligators instead of squirrels lurking in the latter. But then the sky took a turn towards the dramatic. It was past dusk, so the sky was dark yet not black except for this one enormous cloud that glowed as though it were hiding a small star. Then the glow changed to a light show; the bright bits moved about and from time to time I'd see strokes of lightning bouncing about within confines of the cloud.

cloud
The dancing lights in the cloud eluded the camera

Given that it was such a fascinating bit of theater, I grabbed my camera with the futile hope of trying to document the moment. Those of you familiar with photography already know that trying to shoot a lightning show from a moving vehicle after dark is a fairly useless proposition (as my results clearly indicate) but one always feels compelled to try.

As mom and I discussed the cloud, and I continued in vain to document it, we noticed that just ahead of us a white pick-up truck was starting to swerve erratically. Mom slowed down so we could stay far enough behind when we started doing the same. Suddenly we were careening from lane to lane then off the pavement across the berm and onto the grass where we began to spin towards the aforementioned shrubbery—and possible alligators.

In a moment of utter clarity I did not see my life flash before my eyes.

Instead I wondered, "Is this it. Does it end like this? One moment photographing a cloud, the next careening into who knows what? If we hit who knows what will it hurt or will it merely be lights out?"

A glimmer of Cristina's cover of the Peggy Lee song, "Is that All There Is?" came to mind, then the spinning accelerated and at some point I let out an audible yelp. (Given my notably calm demeanor, one loud yelp from me is actually quite dramatic.)

Finally the car came to a stop. Thanks to mom's care in turning into the skid she was able to gain control and stop the car before we ended up as gator chow. We were on the grass, we were facing the wrong way, but as we quickly ascertained we were both O.K.

Slowly we tried to drive up the inclined grass back to the highway. Alas little progress was made as the grass was rather wet and muddy. But within moments a pick-up truck pulled over and a family of five came running to see if we were okay. We indicated that we were and they started pushing and giving directions. We wanted to give them something for their efforts, but as our tires reached the pavement they shouted to "go, go go" so we would have the momentum to both get off the grass and turn in the right direction before traffic reached us. And thus we were back on the road heading south. Despite all of the chaos on this planet, there are still many kind people in the world so thank you kind family, whomever you were. It was a huge help and a big relief after a rather scary moment.

Mom and I then continued the "Are you sure you're O.K.?" "Yes, I'm O.K. thrust of the conversation" and proceeded to the nearest gas station to check the car for damage and to inspect the tires. The road was wet (hence the skidding vehicles) and our tires were in need of additional tread, so mom made arrangements to replace them the next day. With that settled, if not our minds, we drove on to mom's condo, watched some sort of innocuous television, tried to read a bit then went to sleep. The trip had begun.

Next stop: Miami

February 29, 2008

Icicles and Objects in Playhouse Square

Yesterday I was running 15 minutes early for a meeting in Playhouse Square. Taking my little back-up camera out of my pocket, I slowed down and took a look around. Here is some of what I saw.

icicles

My friends think I keep a camera with me to annoy them at social gatherings. While that is important, it's really more about moments like this. Things you wouldn't notice unless you stopped to pay attention.

snow coated manhole cover and light fixture

December 02, 2007

Ireland 2007

Vacations go far too quickly. Ireland is actually smaller in area than Ohio, but 10 days there only gave us a quick taste of the south. Here are some photos. If this slideshow doesn't work in your browser, you can view the set at Flickr.

November 09, 2007

American Music Masters

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Please join us this November as we celebrate the life and music of Jerry Lee Lewis at the annual American Music Masters Conference featuring leading musicians and scholars who will lead us in in-depth discussions of his life and music.

Free Admission for Case Students

Register online to attend.

But I'm not a music major; will the conference go over my head?

Music fans of all backgrounds will be able to understand and enjoy the conference. Participants cover a range of topics. Some tell stories about what it was like to work, play and socialize with the honoree while others discuss the honoree's music and cultural impact.

At the end of the day attendees walk away with new insights regarding not only the musician and his legacy but also the life and times in which he performed. Overall the conference offers a rare glimpse into the life of the honoree through the eyes of those who know him personally and through the research of who studied his music.

September 18, 2007

Wanna catch social network fatigue?

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Pownce

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Streamy

If you're not already exhausted from Twittering your days away while making sure to Digg your favorite blogs, update your Facebook status on the hour, throw random thoughts onto Tumblr and pull your Flickr feeds onto your other accounts, then perhaps it is time to join Pownce or Streamy.

I have 2 Streamy and 6 Pownce invites available to anyone who 1) knows what I am rambling about, 2) promises to use the services or at least give them a solid try and 3) submits the most interesting/amusing reasons for wanting an invite in the comments field below.

If your comment is clever and you make sure to include your email address in the email field—and I've not yet run out of invites—I'll send you an invite.Learn more