Sunday, May 15, 2016

Closing down "Mike's Musings" blog

I had begun this blog hoping that I would use it to share insights on my philosophy of life. Later, I saw that I couldn't maintain it, with so many other pages I was juggling. I've decided that I will use LinkedIn to express this particular aspect of my personality. You can find me there at . Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Philadelphia Water Works after its restoration

One of the most beautiful views in Philadelphia is of the Art Museum (of "Rocky" fame) overlooking the Schuylkill River, with the Water Works building, a product of the 19th century and a mainstay of the city's architecture, appearing underneath. This building has to be on any Philadelphian's bucket list, but though I am a resident of this area, finding it always eluded me, even though I have visited the neighboring Art Museum frequently. Finally, I righted this wrong by finding the correct traffic light on Kelly Drive, made my left turn (I had to act as if I wanted to overshoot the Art Museum completely), and found the parking lot that led to the back stairs to the Art Museum, various footpaths and the Water Works in view. Some time ago I had heard that the Water Works was in the process of being renovated, and when I finally arrived there, I saw that there were two parts to this restoration. One part of the complex had been converted into a restaurant, officially called the Water Works Restaurant and Lounge. Nearby is the second part of the restoration, a small museum called the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, which deals with the history of the structure and its role in supplying water to the city. In this area, you will often see bridal parties pose in front of the gazebo and other structures adjoining the river for pictures. Not far from there, you can also rent bicycles or walk toward the rowing club buildings on Boat House Row.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Valley Forge Park in autumn and a notable covered bridge

A few weeks before most of the United States went into its deep freeze, we in the Philadelphia area were blessed with a nice day in November. I took advantage of the opportunity to take a short foray into Valley Forge Park, which I'm convinced has some of the best views in the entire region. Autumn in particular is a great time to visit with the foliage, if you can time it right. By the time I had arrived, some of the trees had already shed their leaves, but in this case it became an advantage because it cleared the view of the covered bridge in the background. The bridge sits at an odd spot which makes taking a good picture a challenge (unless you want to play chicken with the cars).

A few details about Valley Forge park: the visitors' center is excellent and indispensable in my view to get the most out of a visit, because attractions such as the soldiers' log cabins and Washington's headquarters are scattered in different locations and easy to miss if you don't have the map handy. The park is a fantastic place to take advantage of walking trails or see the local flora and fauna, but the downside is that there is a severe overpopulation of deer, who spill out into neighbors' yards and eat the foliage, or fall victim to the nearby highways. Efforts to control the deer population with either hunting or sterilization have met with controversy.

If you are from out of town and plan to spend time in Philadelphia, be sure not to miss the park!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Gezelligheid" in Antwerp, Belgium

Downtown Antwerp, Belgium
Back in December I took a business trip to Antwerp, which is in the Dutch-speaking or Flemish part of Belgium, not far from the border with the Netherlands. It was great being in such an old-fashioned town. We stayed in a hotel in the very center of town, across the street from the Cathedral. Because of the time constraints, I had to get my touring in the very first day while people were arriving. We were also fortunate that a Christmas village was being set up during our stay.

I noticed a few things that were different for me. First, the sun didn't come up until after 7:30 AM, which I wasn't used to. Second, the buildings in the old part of town were very close together as would be typical of a European town built before cars were commonplace. Third, the quaint feeling of being in that part of town didn't diminish even with modern conveniences available. It definitely produced the feeling of being in a comfortable atmosphere, which is known in Dutch as "gezelligheid."

My trip provided me with a great opportunity to try Belgian chocolates, Dutch style pancakes and especially true Belgian waffles, and shop for Christmas ornaments. I also enjoyed being able to practice Dutch phrases in some of the stores, but it was good that I could fall back on English if I needed to.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

New blog - for everything that doesn't fit under "Latin and Caribbean travel"

For three years I've been writing a blog on travels to Latin America and the Caribbean. Later I realized that I had a bunch of other topics I wanted to write on that didn't fit under that heading, everything else under the sun, really: movies, popular music, modern society, other parts of the world, and so on. Unlike the structure that goes into the travel blog, this musings blog will be mostly free association. If I have to spend the work day keeping my brain from dancing in a million different directions, I can at least blog about the million different directions, can't I? I will come back to my favorite topics randomly, so there's going to be some sort of pattern.

Right now I'm listening to Aretha Franklin's "Think," and I'm reminded that my older brother was my principal teacher when it came to popular music back in the 60s: changing stations on the car radio constantly, and having all of his 45s labeled and organized. We younger siblings weren't supposed to touch his records, but my mom used to let us play them when he wasn't around. It wasn't just an audio experience, though: I would watch the needle make its way through the grooves, look at the record label and take in the color, the design, the length of the song, and so on. How else would I have known that the slogan of Motown's Gordy label was "It's what's in the grooves...that count"? And how about noticing an incongruity in the movie "Ray" with Jamie Foxx when they showed a Ray Charles record spinning and the Atlantic label was red? What they didn't realize was that in the Fifties the Atlantic label was yellow! Not a big deal to a lot of people but definitely a big deal to record collectors and people who remember the era!

Well, you get the idea. Random, but maybe not so random!