Old Car Magazines

As long as I can remember, I have always loved car magazines. Of course this should not come as a surprise for someone like me who loves cars.

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At one point after college (when I could afford it), I had subscriptions to the three big ones: Car & Driver, Motor Trend and Hot Rod. Occasionally they would review some of the same cars and so I enjoyed getting to read each magazine’s take on the pluses and minuses of a certain car.

But to clarify, while I am an avid car lover, I am not a car racer or car modifier and so over time, I found that I appreciated more the “sheer driving pleasure” editorial perspective of Car & Driver and so dropped the other two.

Over the winter, while rummaging around in my closet, I came across a dusty shoebox and cardboard box at the bottom of my closet.

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What delight to find that inside were some of my old car magazines dating back almost 20 years to July 1998! Not that a 20-year-old magazine with circulation probably in the millions and questionable increased financial value would be my source of glee, it was just that these old magazines held sentimental value for me.

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My favorite issue was always the new car issue that came out in either September or October of each year. Car & Driver would faithfully chart the changes over their glossy pages for the new models, confirm the demise of certain models, and include technical highlights for some of the more significant updates. I would use this issue along with ones specific to a certain car I was interested in to help make future car buying decisions. So rather than saying I was just hoarding old magazines, I was building a database archive of research material.

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But the greatest find in my closet was this shoebox, which contained all of my Miata Magazines, the official publication of the Miata Club of America (now defunct).

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It was in 1996 when I bought my first Miata and as soon as I did, I joined the Miata Club of America. For the reasonable price of only $29 per year, you got a member sticker to put on your car and four issues of a magazine.

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This was the first issue I got, not long after purchasing my car, which incidentally, just celebrated 20 years with me. I really used to love this magazine, probably the only one I would ever literally read cover to cover. This was no doubt because of all the cars I have ever owned; the Miata is my all-time favorite (I own two now).

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The magazine included news of Miata club gatherings all over the world, tips on how to take care of your car, how to modify it (if you chose), stories by Miata enthusiasts and the fun they had in their cars, and of course lots of great photos of Miatas. In no other magazine would authors refer to his or her car as a Blue ‘95 and everyone would know exactly what that meant (down to the actual shade of blue and color of interior)!

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One of my favorite columns to read in each issue was this one by Barbara Feinman where she chronicled her own story about her relationship with her Miata, at least until she got married, started a family and had to sell it since it was no longer practical.

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Sadly sometime between 2003 and 2005, these magazines were discontinued.

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Mazda stepped up and began to publish another magazine, with coverage expanded to include other sporty Mazdas and then this magazine morphed into…

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…which covered all Mazda cars. These later magazines would usually include stories about Miatas but other Mazda cars as well that I was less interested in reading about. It was sad to lose a magazine dedicated exclusively to my favorite car.

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But in spite of the demise of the Miata Magazine, I still continued my subscription to Car & Driver.

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Then in 2013, in addition to their long-standing print version, Car & Driver began to offer a digital version of their magazine through a partner company, Zinio. It was incredible! It was a multidimensional digital publication that went left to right and top to bottom.

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In addition, many pages had black or red dot hyperlinks that pulled up even more detailed information when clicked. But the feature that blew me away was for car comparisons, they included videos of the trials upon which the story was based. So rather than just reading about the test results, you could actually see the cars in action in a video. I’m sure it raised an eyebrow from my wife the first time I was reading an issue in bed when all of a sudden, engine racing noises emitted from my iPad.

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They must have offered this as a one year trial to existing print subscribers because at the end of 2013, I was sent a bill for $25 or $30 to continue it for 12 months (over four to five times the reduced hardcopy price I usually paid). I declined and so switched back to hardcopy.

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Then in 2016, Car & Driver began to publish their own digital version. It was not the multi-media version that I had received through Zinio, but it was offered at the same price as the hardcopy. I signed right up and have been receiving the digital version to my iPad every month since then.

I realize that by now subscribing to the digital version, I will no longer be saving hardcopy magazines that could possibly be valuable in about 100 years. I did google the value of one of my Miata Magazines (since they are out of print) and found they were going for about $15 a copy (about double the price I paid 20 years ago ($29 annual membership divided by four issues or $7.25 per magazine). So I obviously won’t be supplementing my retirement income by selling these old magazines. But then again, I won’t be piling up more old magazines in my closet that will just have to be cleaned out one day. So rather than leaving a bunch of old magazines to my heirs, I’ll just bequeath my iPad with all the digital issues.

Building Books – The Great Bridge

After reading this book, you could say I put another “notch” in the proverbial workbench of my building book series (just search the key words “Building Books” for several other of my blog entries). For a long time, I have been a fan of David McCullough having read many of his works. McCullough originally published The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1972, at a time when I was not an active reader. Thankfully I am now. The 40th anniversary hardback edition came out in 2002 and ran a lengthy 608 pages long.

It was five years ago this summer that I actually listened to the book on CD on a road trip I took to my nephew’s wedding in Oklahoma in my new at the time Fiat 500.

It was the perfect length book for the 800 mile, approximately 11 hour round trip as the last CD finished just as I was pulling back into town. It was an enthralling story I thoroughly enjoyed only lessened by my discovery that the book on CD was an abridged version. As soon as I found that out, I knew I had to read the entire book and so added it to my list of books in waiting. That wait came to an end in May of this year when I purchased a Kindle version of the 40th anniversary edition.

Without any long airline trips during the month of May in which I could have enjoyed lengthy uninterrupted time for reading, it took me most of the month to finish the book. In no way a criticism of the book or of McCullough, I found there were times when my reading speed got bogged down with some of the background information included on many of the characters involved with the story. This level of detail certainly painted a more complete picture of what it took to overcome the challenges and build the bridge but there were times that I longed to get back to the technical details of the epic construction of the bridge. Fortunately, I have long ago accepted that the actual building of a large public project is often overshadowed by the backstory—the politics of its undertaking. That was particularly true in this case.

The Brooklyn Bridge majestically stands today, over 130 years after its completion, a one of a kind of bridge as it was conceived and begun at an age just prior to significant change in construction technology.

Certainly the father of the bridge, the one who envisioned it in the first place, was John A. Roebling head of his family’s wire producing business at the time. But while it was John who conceived the idea for a bridge to link New York with Brooklyn, it was actually his son, Washington A. Roebling who ultimately built it in his role as chief engineer due to his father’s untimely death. And tremendous credit must also be given to Washington’s wife Emily, who served as his surrogate in many ways while her husband was too ill to even go to the construction site. The part she played in this epic story would make her life alone an interesting read.

Construction began in 1869 at a time when steel was just coming into wider use as a construction material. Look at any suspension bridge after it and you will see towers of steel, rather than the unique stone of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was also built at a time when the engineering demands of such a structure were not fully comprehended and on average 1 in 5 bridges collapsed within 10 years of being constructed. It was no small task for the Roeblings to achieve.

The behemoth towers, which at the time dwarfed any other building and the graceful spans are what we see today. But what we cannot see and where the building actually began was with the sinking of two tremendous iron and wood caissons that ultimately became the base of the two towers (one for Brooklyn, and one for New York). These floorless, inverted chambers, the size of four tennis courts, progressively made their way down to a solid bedrock foundation as hundreds of workers manually dug out beneath them allowing the caissons to be forced downward by the sheer weight of hundreds of tons of granite being puzzle-like assembled on the top.

To keep the chambers watertight, since the towers were being built in the East River, the work environment had to remain pressurized with pressure being progressively increased as the caissons sank further and further. An interesting fact was that this site, as well as a similar bridge site in St. Louis, was the first reported episodes of what we now know today as the bends. Only at the time, it was a big mystery as it did not afflict every worker in the same way. The doctor on staff didn’t realize how close he came to solving the puzzle when he failed to recognize that symptoms immediately abated any time a sufferer returned to the pressurized caisson. This disease ultimately robbed Washington of his own health which prompted the key role his wife Emily played.

The bridge was also undertaken at a time of extreme political corruption. Predominantly spearheaded by Boss Tweed of Tammany hall, Tweed and cohorts would ultimately perpetuate tremendous fraud that would tarnish Roebling’s character and even bring into question the reputation and integrity of the bridge. For it would be these political machinations and others that would prevent Roebling from using his own company’s wire—recognized as the finest in the world—for much of the spans and even allow the use of rejected wire lots in the spinning of the individual wires that eventually made up the massive bridge cables.

It took seven years to complete the two towers and the anchorages that would secure the four suspension cables to solid ground. The cable spinning would take another two years and the bridge floor understructure, trusswork, and promenade another five years to complete (mainly caused by work stoppages due to New York City not providing their agreed upon funding and material delays at inferior suppliers selected for political reasons). And for much of this time, Roebling was absent from the construction site due to poor health. But his mind was ever sharp and his plans precise and detailed ensuring the success of the bridge. Driven by political reasons, it was terrible how Roebling was treated during this time by the Bridge Board with numerous attempts to oust him as chief engineer.

When the bridge was finally completed, it was one of the largest celebrations in our country’s history attended by no less than New York Governor Grover Cleveland and US President Chester Arthur (vice president to the assassinated James Garfield).

But beyond simply my interest in wanting to read about the building of the bridge, a more personal reason was that my oldest son, for the three years he lived in New York, had an active role in the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park, a remarkable green space created through the repurposing of the old eye-sore Brooklyn wharves sadly decaying in the shadows of the namesake bridge.

And it was upon the occasion of a visit there and tour of the park under construction that I got to walk from New York to Brooklyn on the century old promenade just like millions upon millions of people have been able to since its completion in 1883 thanks to John A. Roebling, Washington A. Roebling, and Emily Warren Roebling.

Our Condo – 5th Anniversary

Today marks the fifth anniversary of us purchasing our midtown condo. I took this photo of my wife at the coffee shop where I met her just a few minutes before we went to closing. I have written here before about several different aspects of this condo but thought it would be fun to look back to where it all began and how we have transformed it from just a condo to “Our Condo.”

It was in July over five years ago that upon my returning from the gym one morning, my wife asked me if I would be willing to buy her a condo for about $40,000. While I responded in the affirmative, I was soon to learn that for my wife, this was not a spur-of-the-moment, impulsive request but actually a lifelong dream of hers to own a midtown condo. The unit that caught her eye that morning and the one that she and I both had walked through was not to be as it was taken off the market the day before we were going to make an offer on it. But another condo in the same building with a sales price that would actually turn out to be significantly below that $40,000 figure did work out.

To say that this condo needed some renovation was a huge understatement. We would eventually gut the entire unit.

But in my wife’s eyes, she obviously saw the potential from the first moment we walked in.

From the time of closing, it took just over nine months to complete the renovations and appropriately furnish the condo with the mid-century modern look my wife was aiming for and the look which made me feel like I was on vacation at a “chic” hotel whenever I stayed there. Obtaining the artwork for the walls, which actually started before the renovations were complete, took even longer but was also a part of my wife’s plans for having only original art in the condo.

Once our condo was transformed into this desirable auberge, this charming boutique inn, it became for us many more things.

It first became our weekend getaway where we would spend a Friday or Saturday night to enjoy the vibrant, walk-able neighborhood where it was located. This afforded us the opportunity to walk to a microbrewery for a great beer or to dinner at a fine restaurant and then to a play at one of the four live theatres all situated within a block of each other.

It also became our “night before a flight” hotel with its short 10-minute drive to the airport ensuring we would never get caught in snarling rush-hour traffic potentially missing our flight.

It became a private resort for our kids and their friends whenever they were in town and needed to get away from it all as well.

 

When our youngest son started graduate school, it became a study lair for daddy and mommy to get caught up on school work while my wife or I watched our granddaughter.

It was even the venue for one of my SibSabs, the annual sibling sabbatical when I get together with just my two sisters and brother.

And it was a getaway location for just my wife and her sister whenever she came to town.

While construction traffic in Memphis made my morning commute to work miserable, I would even go there and spend the night just so I could have a 10-minute commute to work the next morning rather than the hour-long nightmare I sometimes had to endure.

And sometimes when my wife would be out of town, I would stay there by myself for the relaxation and cozy feel I get from being in what has been described as a “curated condo.”

When I think back to that warm July morning when my wife popped the question—that condo purchase question—I had no inkling of any of the many things it would eventually become. Were it not for my special wife and her dream, I don’t know that I ever would have thought to buy a condo, a second home, when I already had a large comfortable home to live in.

So on this fifth anniversary I must say thanks to my wife. Thank you for having the dream. Thank you for asking the question. Thank you for having the vision. And thank you for guiding the decorating and furnishing that made our condo such a special place—a place where we, our kids, and our friends all would want to come home to.  A place were can sit out on our balcony, have a beer, relax and enjoy catching up on our day with a view overlooking the quiet, wooded neighborhood behind us.

Painting at Work

In 2013, I wrote a blog post about exploring the artist in me—an artistic challenge that was inspired by my admiration for a painting that hung on the wall where I work. I was so fond of this particular piece of artwork that I decided to try to paint it myself. In that post I wrote:

My first attempt at creating art grew from an appreciation for a painting I passed daily at work on my way to the cafeteria. I was drawn to a modern painting of a couple of buildings. Maybe this was a resurfacing of my adolescent love for architecture. I admired the interesting colors and the straight lines and I thought, “I could do that” and I am going to try. I knew aspiring artists often developed their skills painting other artist’s paintings. But I knew I couldn’t sit in the hall at work all day attempting to paint this painting. So I took a digital photo of it and took it home. You can even see a reflection of me in the glass.

I took that photo in 2004 so the refection you see of me in the glass (in front of the red building) is a much younger version of me. In that 2013 blog post, I went on to describe how I painted my version since I was not a trained artist:

I decided to make my version of the painting the same size as the original so I could judge how well I achieved my goal. I printed out my photo and began to measure the dimensions of each of the features. Knowing that I needed to accurately translate the building’s dimensions from an 8 X 10 photo to a 16 X 24 canvas, I pulled out my calculator and determined the proportions necessary to “blow up” the scale. Using a ruler, I drew all the straight lines on a piece of paper to allow for any necessary corrections and then once I had the 16 X 24 drawing on paper, I redrew it on the canvas.

 I knew with my hand skill limitations and my desire for precise straight lines that I was not going to be able to paint straight lines either. So I used blue painter’s tape to block off a section at a time for painting. I didn’t even try blending colors; I just used the paint right out of the tube. While this can be a slow, tedious process, taping and painting and repeating, it allowed me to achieve my goal. And I thought a fairly true rendition of a real piece of art.

This is my finished painting that, thanks to my wife’s encouragement, we hung on our wall at home. I loved my rendering of the original painting and was very proud that I had been able to recreate it. It has hung in several different locations in our home for the past 13 years.

If you are a regular follower of my blog post, you know that I will be retiring later this year—as a result of the 2016 announced closing of my work site. While this will mean huge changes for me and my family since I have worked at the same location for almost 35 years, interestingly one aspect will remain the same.

With my work site closing, it was determined that certain assets would not be relocated out of state to where our operations were being consolidated with an existing company site. As a result, employees were encouraged to take home the plants located throughout our facility. I found this nice one to take home.

In the fall of 2016, I learned through the grapevine that employees would also be allowed to take home certain furniture and fixtures that would not be moved to the new site. And included in this allowance was some of the corporate art that had graced our walls for all the years of operation.

Some of the art work; in particular original oil paintings of our company founder and of one of our iconic corporate brands, will hopefully find new homes in local museums. When I inquired about the painting I had admired for so many years on my way to the cafeteria, I was told I could have it. Now almost a year later, that painting has now moved to our home.

With the two paintings side by side, I could easily see that while I had intended to reproduce it in the same size, I had far under-estimated the original’s size. In fact, once I got it home and held it up in several different places in the house, it was too big for the space being much larger than I even remembered. With its ultimate location uncertain, I temporarily leaned it up against our dining room table until we could figure it out, at least until my 2-year old granddaughter pulled it over onto herself with a resultant loud crashing sound. Other than being frightened by the sudden noise, my granddaughter was unhurt and when I picked up the framed painting, I was glad to see that it too was undamaged. Finding a place to hang the painting then moved up in priority.

With a two story entry hall, this wall space offered the scale such a large painting needed.

And so it now hangs.

I don’t recall when my company first purchased this particular piece of art so I cannot say for certain how many years I have walked past it on my way to lunch. Now in its new home, every time I stride through our entry hall, I will walk past this long-admired painting. I do not know if it will always remind me of work, only time will tell. But whether or not it does, it will still serve as a reminder of when I actually began to explore my creative side by rendering a likeness of it by my own hand, a pleasurable artistic activity I plan to spend more time enjoying once I do actually retire.

Amsterdam and Beyond

Having been to Amsterdam 29 times over more than a 20 year period, it seemed appropriate to explore beyond the quaint and serene canals of Amsterdam. Typically before I teach my course, I only have the weekend to take in sights while I acclimate to the seven-hour time change. After nearly thirty trips, it is getting more difficult to discover new activities that I have not experienced. On my most recent trip, I decided to split my weekend between Amsterdam and The Hague (Den Haag in Dutch).

On Saturday, I was able to find an Amsterdam museum exhibit that I had not seen before, one of Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci was one of those unique individuals who was not only an accomplished artist producing well-known masterworks, but also a talented inventor as well. This exhibit, while it explored both talents, prominently featured his inventions.

Included were hands-on, accurate replicas of many of his inventions that allowed one to explore the insightful creations of the inventor. It was truly amazing to see some of the ideas he came up with that pre-dated actual inventions by hundreds of years (think flying machines, gliders, and mechanized rolling wagons). One exhibit was of an unique 8-sided mirrored booth that allowed viewers a 360-degree view of themselves, reminding me of a house of mirrors at a fair.

It was quite an enjoyable display, particularly for someone like myself most interested in science and inventions.

My next new activity on Saturday was a visit to the Amsterdam Royal Zoo, the Natura Artis Magistra, oldest zoo in the Netherlands. When I looked up all of the top Amsterdam sights on Trip Advisor, I ran across many of the familiar ones that I had been to multiple times over the years. But the Artis zoo was one very high on their list that I had never visited.

It was a beautiful day and so was able to see many interesting animals. Knowing that my grandson particularly liked giraffes, I snapped this photo especially for him.

The Zoo also had an excellent aquarium and when I heard numerous people clamoring “look, its Dory”, I knew I had to get a shot of the colorful Blue Tangs.

Between these two enjoyable outings and walking to dinner, I was also able to log a new personal record for the week on my Fitbit although I missed achieving my second 25,000-step day by about 1,500 steps.

On Sunday morning, I set off on my “beyond Amsterdam” adventure. As is often the case when I travel by train on a Sunday, track maintenance precluded me from taking the most direct route to Den Haag and so had to make a connection through Utrecht adding about 30 minutes to my commute. But I had the whole day so it didn’t matter that much.

Although I have been to Den Haag multiple times, most recently to tour Madurodam, I still knew I could find some new activities. First on my list was the Mauritshuis museum, the Royal Picture Gallery. It was listed as number #1 on Trip Advisor so I knew I couldn’t go wrong. I also selected it, as it was less than a half-mile from Central Station in Den Haag. I was pleased to discover several well-known paintings of extreme interest to me.

First was this one by Rembrandt which was of particular interest to my siblings and I when we had been to Amsterdam a couple of years ago. I had seen a print of it before but seeing the real work was amazing.

I knew this painting by Vermeer, probably his most famous, was a part of the collection and so anticipated discovering it for some time as I strolled through the galleries. When I found it, I examined it from several different perspectives and wherever I was, it appeared as if the girl had her eyes directly on me. Even when I glanced back from the door leading to the next room, she hauntingly seemed to follow me.

But my most exciting discovery of the exhibits was this small painting by Carel Fabritius, entitled the Goldfinch.

This was a Pulitzer Prize book I had thoroughly enjoyed reading several years ago about a fictional, multi-year secretive journey this painting took outside its rightful home in a museum. It was as if I had found a long lost friend in finding this painting. For anyone who has not read the book, it is probably hard to grasp the significance of this small painting but just like the Girl with a Pearl Earring, it was a book that had made the painting so well known.

Over lunch, I explored what to do next. I had considered seeing an M. C. Escher exhibit but when I discovered that the Louwman Automobile museum was within reasonable walking distance, it was an easy decision.

My walk from the Mauritshuis took me through a heavily wooded park, Haagse Bos, an urban park on scale in size with Central Park in New York. It was nice that it was mostly shaded as this was the warmest day for me in the Netherlands.

At one point, I came upon a clearing with a large historical marker. When I approached it, I discovered from the photos that this was a secluded launch site for the German V-2 rockets that rained down on England in World War II. Given how poorly many of the Dutch were treated during the war, it surprised me that such a marker had even been erected.

Once I reached the Louwman, my first car to see was a classic “split-window” Corvette, a quite rare car. Ascending the elevator to the third floor where the exhibit started, I was presented with many firsts.

The museum was arranged in chronological order and housed some of the oldest and most unique automobiles any where in the world. Having over 250 cars on exhibit, in a word, it was HUGE.

My main interest was more modern cars but even here I found unique examples I had not seen.

As I rounded one corner, I began to hear Elvis music, very familiar sounds for someone from Memphis. Of course they had to have one of his customized cars.

Another car of interest to any Bond fan was the original James Bond Aston Martin featured in the early Bond films.

To say the museum was overwhelming is an understatement. Towards the end, I could only glance at some of the displays as I traversed the three separate floors.

But upon finding this unique car, I had to pause to take in its unusual design.

On my return trip to Amsterdam, while awaiting my connection in Utrecht, I realized this was the interesting train station that I had seen in miniature at Madurodam many years ago.

As I relaxed on the last leg of my train ride back to Amsterdam, I reflected on what an enjoyable day I had had. Over all the trips I have taken to the Netherlands, it always seems that I could find something new and interesting to do. With the photos that I captured over the weekend, I felt that I had permanent reminders of yet another successful adventure.

While there are always things I enjoy doing multiple times on my visits, on my next trip, I will definitely explore even further beyond Amsterdam for new adventures.

Amsterdam – Not a Visitor or a Resident

There must be a word to describe someone who has traveled to a city so many times, that they know it almost as well as the town in which they live. They’re not merely a visitor but at the same time they’re not a permanent resident in spite of having an intimate familiarity with that destination. This was a thought that ran through my mind as I landed at Schiphol airport to teach my course in Amsterdam for the 29th time. If I add up all the days I have spent in Amsterdam over the 20+ years I have travelled there, typically staying for at least a week, I come up with almost seven months. Even though it was not consecutive weeks making up those months, which I guess would make me a short-term Ex-Pat, surely I am still something other than just a visitor.

As with my trip to Amsterdam in 2016, this year found me travelling without my wife or other family members. And so being the sole guinea pig, I decided to try an experiment in my travel plans.

Normally I would be landing at Schiphol about 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning and then arriving at my hotel before noon which often meant I could not check into my room. This frequently after a fitful night of less than successful sleeping in coach for an eight or nine hour flight when the hardest thing to do upon arrival is to stay awake the rest of the day so you don’t fall asleep at 7:00 PM and then wake up in the middle of the night (which is really sometime in the afternoon to your body).

For this trip, I booked a connection through Atlanta that didn’t leave until 10:30 at night. Normally, I would be leaving on my direct flight to Amsterdam around 7:00 or 7:30 PM, which by the time you get wined and dined, you’ve lost, 2.5 to 3 hours of your potential sleep time during your flight. This late flight was advertised as only serving breakfast so I figured I would be able to get a reasonable five or six hours of sleep.

And the bonus was this connection was operated by KLM, an airline I used to enjoy flying with but have not been able to ever since Delta bought out Northwest. In the “good ole days”, I could even get a direct out of Memphis on KLM and earn Northwest frequent flier miles. And an even greater bonus for me this time was that it would be my first chance to fly on a Boeing 777, something I have wanted to do ever since watching the PBS special of how Alan Mulally brought this modern airplane into existence.

With a 2-hour layover in Atlanta, I managed to get in a number of steps walking between terminals, eat a quick sandwich for dinner, and begin to tire myself out reading before boarding. Once on the plane, I must say I was impressed with the modern interior. The technology was also up-to-date with what appeared to be an iPad in the back of the headrest of every seat. This allowed superior graphics and entertainment.

The ergonomic seats and generous legroom allowed me to easily stretch out my six-foot frame without encountering a hard surface; all the better for me to get some sleep.

Assuming they would keep the cabin lights off after take off, I read a little more to make sure I could easily fall asleep. But no sooner had we leveled off than the flight attendants began coming around with their noisy drink carts. Armed with my sleep mask, I whipped it on to get a head start on my sleep and so not be disturbed since I had already satiated my appetite for food and drink on the ground. Not long after, having squirmed around to find the least uncomfortable, partially reclined sleeping position, my olfactory glands began to sense Indian spices. Pulling my sleep mask up, I was amazed to see the passenger in the aisle seat chowing down with delight. Argh! That was not supposed to happen on this flight.

Needless to say, irritating serving and clean up noises disturbed my sleep multiple times (I unfortunately forgot to bring ear plugs).

Probably my longest period of uninterrupted sleep was about 45 minutes and all told, I might have gotten a total of about three hours of non-contiguous sleep. But I did get a delicious hot breakfast (KLM is known for their superior food), a cheese omelet with sausage and cottage fries, fresh fruit, yogurt, and actually very decent coffee which left me fairly refreshed and awake when I deplaned. Which helped me with my next surprise.

Typically I teach the three-day course staring on a Monday and to help acclimate myself to the 7-hour time difference, I usually arrive on a Saturday morning. But since I would be arriving much later having a 10:30 PM departure out of Atlanta, I booked my flight to arrive on Friday rather than Saturday. When I went to exit the airport, I found a phenomenally long queue line to go through passport control. Whether it was due to arriving during the business week or heightened security due to recent terrorist activities, it took me over 45 minutes to get through, about 44 minutes longer than normal.

As a result, I didn’t actually arrive at my hotel until 3:00 PM, about normal check-in time, which assured me of getting into my room for a sorely needed shave and hot shower.

Refreshed and cleanly clothed, I took in one of my favorite activities, sitting by a canal and enjoying a Dutch treat, a cold “domestic beer”…

…before wandering along the canals that I know so well. At the end of my first day, I was having a delicious dinner…

…at a balcony restaurant overlooking Leidseplein square.

But even following a small after dinner nightcap…

…and having had the rest of the day to ponder my original question, I still had not come up with a term that I could use to describe myself instead of simply visitor. But even if the visitor term is the best I can come up with, I was still glad to be back in this city that I know and love so well; a city that in spite of my numerous trips, I always find something new and fun to do.

Doll Houses Revisited

Several years ago, I wrote about my love for all things small—specifically miniature models. In that 3-part series, I delved into all the different types of models I had built over the years both growing up and as an adult. One of the items I included was the two doll houses that I built for my daughter.

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The idea to build a doll house for my daughter was spawned from two thoughts.

First, I had run across some really cool doll houses at the local hobby store and thought that it would be fun to build one some day.

Second, while playing cars and blocks with my son came easy to me—something I had done growing up, it was more difficult for me to play dolls with my daughter since I had no experience.

But then I put the two thoughts together and suggested to my wife that we give our daughter a dollhouse kit for Christmas, one that my daughter and I could build together. Not wanting to repeat the same mistake I had made with my son by trying to build a train layout before he could even walk…

Dottrain

…I waited until my daughter was at least old enough to participate before suggesting it to my wife.

It was a Christmas present for her one year.

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She picked the paint, wallpaper, and floor covering and we worked together to assemble it. I probably did more of the cutting and gluing since she was too young at the time but it was still a project we could share together.

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We even picked out some miniature furniture to fill the house and make it into a miniature home complete with a nursery.

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Completing this dollhouse only whet my appetite so a few years later again at my urging we gave our daughter an even larger dollhouse for Christmas.

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This dollhouse was a blast to assemble! I only wish I had taken some interim progress photos during the construction process.

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The brick foundation was made by painting the wood grey for the mortar and then spreading on a red sand paste using a brick pattern template.

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The windows were made from multiple pieces of wood and actually open and close.

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Even the floor was assembled almost like the full-scale version, gluing down individual wood planks, sanding them smooth, and then varnishing and sealing them.

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At this point, I sensed my daughter losing interest in the assembly part of the model so I put this one together mostly by myself. While working on it, I also realized that she was probably going to be too old to play with it by the time it was complete.   But surely it would be an heirloom she could pass down to her own daughter one day…

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…as you can see, it was never furnished so it is “move-in ready” for another day.

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After our daughter grew up and moved out, these houses stayed behind. But recently, one of our granddaughters who lives in-town has discovered them and has begun to explore them.

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She has even found an entertaining one at the Children’s Museum, a place that she and I frequent.

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Seeing her play with them has rekindled a desire for me to build again. The two houses I built will pass to my daughter whenever she is ready for them. But with each of our sons having a daughter, I now have two granddaughters to build for. They are both too young to really play with dollhouses like these that tend to be a bit too fragile. But if I get started now, hopefully I can have them finished for when they are just the right age to play.

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I have already begun to explore what is available now. Since it has been over 20 years since we bought the blue doll house for our daughter, there may even be some technological changes, maybe miniature Wi-Fi.

After I retire later this year, I will also have a lot more time available for the construction phase. I’m getting excited just thinking about it. Not only will this be a gift of love to my kids, but hopefully it will be a fun toy for my granddaughters as well. And just maybe they will become an heirloom for them to pass down to their kids as well.