Sunday, 28 August 2011


Lately I've been traveling--too much. I've hit a wall and I've hit it hard. My only consolation is looking back at the trips I've taken and reviewing all the strange and wonderful things I've seen over the past month.

For instance, I observed this violinist performing in the JFK airport near the smoothie stand. I don't know if he was hard up for money, had lost a bet, or was just bored, but I do know that he was quite talented. This video doesn't quite do him justice, judging by how good he sounded on the previous song.

Speaking of JFK, they have iPad stations throughout the terminal so that you have something to do while you're waiting for your flight. Not only can you surf the Internet, read the news and weather, and check your e-mail, but there are also plugs on the side so you can recharge your own electronic devices. JFK may have had some crummy restaurant choices, but kudos to them for knowing what's really important these days.

While I was at the Animal Behavior Conference in Indiana, I often ate my lunch outside on a bench. This little guy came up to me for a handout, which I did not give. Disheartened by my lack of charity, and frightened off by a passing pedestrian, he retreated to the nearest tree, where he proceeded to drape himself across a branch and watch me eat. It was very strange to receive so much consistent attention from a squirrel. Even when I walked to within a couple feet of the tree in order to take this photo, he never moved a whisker. Weird.

I also got a lot of attention from this sheep (in the foreground) at the Egleton Nature Preserve at Rutland Water. When animals regard you with this much intensity, over an extended period of time, you can't help but feel a little paranoid--like they know something you don't.

The sheep was watching me take photographs of another inhabitant of the preserve--ladybugs. Or, as they are called in the UK, ladybird beetles. Evidently there was some sort of ladybird festival going on at the same time as the Birdfair, because there were an awful lot of ladybugs around, crawling on plants, flying through the air, landing on visitors.

When I was with my family in Ohio, we went to Cameron Mitchell's restaurant, M, to celebrate my mom's (second) retirement. One of the specialty cocktails on the menu was that most classic of British drinks, a Pimm's. So, in a move that was completely out of character for me, I ordered one...

But the presentation of my drink was nothing compared to that of my mother's. In this case, the monogram could stand for both the name of the restaurant and the name of the drink--a martini:

My parents and I also went to North Carolina to visit some relatives there. We had a lovely weekend at the beach, on the drive home from which we stopped at a rest area in West Virginia. There was a shop full of local handcrafted items, including this crochet opossum:

Because I couldn't justify purchasing it for myself, I decided that I would allow myself a photograph as a consolation prize.

Outside the rest area was another interesting find:

Only the most talented of graffiti artists take letters away rather than adding them--and the poetry of this sentiment demonstrates that this was truly made by a master.

During the train trips associated with my recent visit to Birdfair, I saw a number of noteworthy things that I could write about here. Because I only had limited opportunities to whip out my camera, I'll restrain myself to two observations.

Here's the emergency sign that was posted over my seat. I'm disturbed by the picture of the saw. All I can say is, I hope that's part of the emergency equipment, rather than the first aid kit.

Second, there were multiple times that I saw people--on the train, at the platform--dressed entirely in pajamas. Although it's not uncommon to see American college students in public in pajamas or pajama-like clothes, this is Britain. People are very proper. And yet:

Nightgown, silk robe, slippers. At noon. ?

I also encountered two different sets of people communicating using sign language--one on the outward journey, the other on the trip home. In my entire life, I think the only time I've seen someone use sign language is when one of my hearing impaired college classmates had an interpreter assist him during our bio courses. Yet here, in the space of just a few days, I encountered three signers (and another hearing impaired person who I suspect also knew sign language) during my trip to Rutland. What a strange coincidence.

These are just a few of the interesting and unusual observations I've made over the past few weeks. Interesting and unusual to me, that is--but I can't say too much about the state of my mind these days, as I've practically become brain dead from too much time spent trekking around, hauling heavy suitcases, switching time zones, and getting terrible sleep on flat hotel pillows. Home may have comparatively fewer bizarre sights to see, but at least it's a haven where I can get some rest and relaxation--at last.

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