Archive for Aviation

The Stars at Night are Big and Bright…

Our Grand Tour of Texas continued last week, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would include a cosmological dialogue about “dark matter,” “dark energy,” and the Magellan Giant Telescope. I had forgotten about Garland’s interest in astronomy and that years ago he and Mollie had given the McDonald Observatory some money to underwrite its operation.

I’ve spoken of this before, but my friend Garland is larger than life. His interests span a broad spectrum that includes Garcia Lorca’s poetry and Bruch’s Violin Concerto, the evaluation of insurance risk and mathematical puzzles like the Collatz Conjecture. He loves Mollie, math, astronomy, cosmology, politics and his beloved Texas. read more

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Texas – The Grand Tour Begins

The portrait over this bookcase is a good likeness of my friend, Garland Miller Lasater, Jr. It’s a wonderful picture painted by his friend, the artist Scott Gentling, but no painting can begin to capture his larger than life Texas persona. I didn’t stage the photo; I just took what was there but the books beneath the portrait speak clearly to the scope of his interests – art, travel, science, philosophy, nature and other cultures.

What you can’t see in the portrait’s background are a few fine pencil lines of physics diagrams and mathematical formulas – two of Gar’s passionate interests. This is not an ordinary (if there is such a thing) Texan, and though the contents of Jimmy Nelson’s book in the stack on the top shelf has nothing to do with us, Before They Pass Away is an apt description of the reason we needed to get together. read more

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Traveling with George Sand and Chopin…

This is the Serra de Tramuntana, Mallorca’s* spiky ridge of mountains, running from its southwestern edge near Andratx to its northernmost tip at Port de Pollensa. Razor-like peaks, limestone cliffs, centuries old terraces, hidden coves, and eye-catching villages mark the route, but they are only part of what brings visitors to this World Heritage site. There is more to Mallorca than its arresting landscape, and one of the benefits of travel is discovering its little-known secrets and the local color embedded in its history. read more

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Thoughts on Formentera… and more.

I don’t remember how I first became aware of the Balearic Islands, but they seemed exotic to me. Dots in the Mediterranean. Ruled successively by Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Moors, and Catalans. Spanish but not really Spanish. From that first awareness I felt a magnetic attraction. My first visit in the 1960’s, was a late honeymoon – several months after the ceremony. Abby had never been to Europe and we were looking for a special add-on experience. Something different.

On that first trip, we flew from New York to Barcelona, then on to Ibiza where we immediately boarded a lancha rapida to Formentera, the smallest and most remote of the Balearics. It was exotic. Palma, on the big island of Mallorca, was a full-on city. Ibiza was a jet-set hangout. No one had ever heard of Formentera. We were off the radar. read more

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Other End of the Telescope…

I’m always astonished at how time and space collapse when viewed through the other end of the telescope—how, as our lifelines expand, we see changes that weren’t evident as they were happening, of cycles we thought were one-offs repeating themselves, and how overseas travel helps us see beyond the forest of our everyday surroundings. The riverside restaurants in the picture above have taken the place of The Berlin Wall that stood here in 1989.

Being in Germany today heightens these reflections. I had the incomparable experience of working and living in Berlin for almost 10 years when it was an island in the East German sea, when the only ways in and out were the three air corridors or the three restricted highways between West Berlin and the rest of West Germany. I was there and walked through the Brandenburg Gate on October 3, 1990 when the two Germanys were officially reunited. All of this in my lifetime. Astonishing. read more

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