a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

A tale of two transportation systems and several whales

Posted by Thomas Nephew on August 11th, 2008

Well, I’m back.

And for the third straight time in the past year and a half, the airline leg of my travel has taken at least six hours longer than scheduled. This time, at least, I got to the hub airport (JFK) from Portland just before things went south, instead of being stranded in some motel overnight. So I became a citizen of JFK Gate 23 and a hostage of Delta Airlines and the air travel industry, which conspired to assure me for the next 6 hours that my plane was “At Gate” and a scheduled departure time was always just a half hour away. (Hey — an “Annie” song! “Departure! Departure! I love you! Departure! You’re always half an hour awa-a-a-y!”)

To be fair, there were thunderstorms across the eastern seaboard yesterday afternoon. To continue being fair, this has happened before in our great country’s air travel history, without automatically triggering dozens of flight cancellations and half-day or overnight delays. I literally would have got home faster from New York by car than I did by air travel. In fact, thinking about it, we did door to door Maryland to Maine’s mid coast by car in about the same time it took me from Portland back by air. I am definitely, definitely looking at train or express bus transportation next time for anything in that mileage range.

When I finally got out to ground transportation at Dulles, however, my luck changed. That’s because lowly Metro has bus service from the airport to several Metro stops along the way (Falls Church, Rosslyn, L’Enfant Plaza). Walked on, swiped my card … and hung on, those buses can do some pretty impressive speeds on the highway. At L’Enfant, I happened to walk right on to the yellow line to Gallery Place, waited maybe 5 minutes for the red line home. It took me about an hour to get from Dulles to Takoma Park; whatever it was, I’m sure it was just about as fast as humanly possible unless you’re riding Chopper One.

Finback whale closeup
Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew

In better news, we all had a great time in Maine, which even my air travel experience — and frequent rainstorms during the week, and being unable to find the dang cabin the first night — did little to tarnish. Blueberries outside our cabin door on “George’s Pond” near Franklin, Maine; kayaks and a beautiful pond ten yards further; roadside lobster pounds, Acadia National Park, and whalewatching excursions down the pike. (Photos here.)

One highpoint of the trip: Maddie and I saw at least four or five finback whales (and heard them too, their blows are audible even at a distance). Sometimes you can see where they are even underwater; I learned (and saw) that the upstrokes of their tails leave huge circular “footprints” of momentarily smooth water on the choppy sea. It was really quite satisfying to see them going about their business — up, blow, slip back down without much fuss — without any visible concern about the boatful of humans a hundred yards away. The people up there care about them, so I have hopes there will still be some around for our grandchildren to see some day.

8 Responses to “A tale of two transportation systems and several whales”

  1. Nell Says:

    Welcome home!

    Not much happened while you were away. ;>

    Mmmmm, blueberries. MMmmmmmm, lobster.

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    not much happened
    Yeah, it’s hard to know what to even try to write about. The anthrax story seems to have sunk without a trace. Suskind story — even with holes in it — seems to as well. By now stories of lies and deceit from the White House seem to just get a “what else is new, dog bites man” reaction.

    Instead, Edwards screws around, thus screws up, and somehow becomes the story that won’t go away after being the story that wouldn’t get covered; his weird attempts at damage control did about as much good as usual, i.e., none. Russia reminds us imperial overreach isn’t limited to Bush and the US. And the future may look like China: Leni Riefenstahl shows to wow people, 24/7 surveillance to keep ’em in line the rest of the time.

  3. Nell Says:

    Russia doesn’t look to me like the country that overreached here, but we’ll see when the smoke clears. Obama disappoints on this issue as on much else.

    Emptywheel and eriposte have both written interestingly about the cottage industry of forged letters “found” in Iraq after the invasion.

    I hope some outstanding candidate is preparing to take on Mikulski in the primary. That toad.

  4. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Thanks for the links!

    Re overreach, I meant chiefly the “2d front” escalation and civilian bombing aspects; if Georgia fired indiscriminately on S.Ossetian separatist communities as Gorbachev writes, that was wrong, too, and may undo Western sympathies in the long run, once the smoke clears.

    It seems like Saakashvili (sp?) lost his cool and thought he had backup from Bush et al that he didn’t. Between Iraq (OK with galumphing in unilaterally) and Kosovo (OK with separatist movements if they’re getting shot at — though that was by a genocidaire, and this wasn’t) the US generally and Bush particularly don’t have much ground to stand on, whether Russia’s been prepping for this for a while or not.

    PS: I’m curious what Obama did precisely to disappoint on this; I think Russia was disproportionate from the start. But that’s admittedly just my first impression, and I’ll confess a rather strong dislike for Putin and his ilk in Russia. (With all due dislike for McCain, I agree with him when he said all he sees in Putin’s eyes is “K”, “G”, and “B.”) I guess I need to reread Obama’s statements on the issue.

  5. mick Says:

    It seems like Saakashvili (sp?) lost his cool and thought he had backup from Bush et al that he didn’t.

    Bush promised the backup, the General believed him. He should have known better.

  6. Nell Says:

    It’s a cranky leftist thing. I’ve not been a big fan of NATO expansion, nor of the various “color revolutions.” I’m very disinclined to a ‘Georgia good, Russia bad’ narrative.

    Lazy CW in which that has been the narrative has led Obama and most other pols to be mindlessly pro-NATO-membership for apparently every country between the Atlantic and the Russian border.

    Missile “defense” is a giant boondoggle and a serious, vast provocation to Russia. Once again, Democrats have acquiesced rather than repudiated it; now we reap the whirlwind.

    But it doesn’t have to be a cranky leftist thing: For the earnest liberal interventionist take on what’s wrong with promoting NATO membership for Georgia, see Hilzoy and more Hilzoy.

  7. Thomas Nephew Says:

    I agree 100% about missile defense, and that the European stationing of such missiles is an unnecessary provocation in addition to being a huge waste of money. I guess I don’t agree about the “color revolutions”, at least not in the Ukraine and (as far as what little I know) in Georgia. These are peoples and nations with good historical reasons — both recent and long term — for wanting to get out from under Russia’s thumb. IIRC, the current Ukrainian president was literally poisoned by the Russian secret service.

    I also agree that there are good reasons not to bring Georgia into NATO (I’d read the hilzoy pieces); though it seems a knife-edge question whether it *would* have helped or hurt, it seems a way to exacerbate things now. Perhaps the same reasoning applies to Ukraine, perhaps not.

    I’m still trying to learn what the actual situation was in Georgia prior to the blowup. It seems that before Saakashvili attacked the S.Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, with a Katyusha-style rocket barrage or barrages — extremely bad — S.Ossetian militia had gone over from isolated artillery shelling to artillery emplacements and systematic shelling of Georgian military emplacements. (This according to my BBC reporter neighbor.) This and other things I read suggest there’s been a ratcheting up of the military confrontation on the S.Ossetian and Russian side that was a real threat Georgian sovereignty.

    Saakashvili chose the wrong way to react, but he may well have had something worth reacting to. That all seems separable from the missile defense or NATO expansion issues.

    Re Obama, his Aug 8 response seems pretty reasonable to me, though he seems to favor NATO membership, I can’t tell whether a “Member Action Plan” actually means that, or means a committee to study that. hilzoy’s point, as I would paraphrase it, was that you let countries join NATO once you’re sure that’s not a casus belli, rather than as a preventative — overlooking, perhaps, that prevention might have trumped Russian irritation at the end of the day. Regardless, a “member action plan” may not be inconsistent with either approach, but I don’t know enough to say.

  8. Nell Says:

    Billmon rakes over the history of bipartisan groundwork laid for the recent ugliness. Glad he’s sporadically back.

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