Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Paris for beginners -Part 1

on the way up
This blog post is really for my friends M and A who are going to Paris for a week.  They are quite lovely people - well traveled and have an amazing perspective on the world. I believe the last time they were in Paris, they might have been roughing it a little more.

In any case, here is my best what to see in  Paris advice. Take what you can from it and throw the rest away.

Welcome to a city that is full of amazing stuff - croissants spilling out of shop doors, dogs clad in Chanel, millions of instagrammable shots everywhere you look and tourists, scads of tourists.
Be a tourist for a few days, take in the city by bites, there is no need to see it all in a purposeful way. Make it fun, not a trudge.

Paris is a bunch of cities in one. Pick a few things that appeal to you - gardens, fashion, art, technology,  revolution, food and focus on them. No need to be greedy. Paris will always be there. Focus on those things and do them well. 

Interested in gardens and adaptive reuse?  Visit Parc Andre Citroen, Parc de la Villette, Viaducts des Arts, Canal St. Martin, Bercy, Bois de Boulogne, Giverny spring to mind and don't forget the Jardins des Plantes.

Interested in Markets - pick three to see - one with a great view is the  Marche Au President Wilson, Posh Organic Market - Boul. Raspail, Ethnic Market - one on the Canal, Covered markets are worth a look as well... The Quai de la M├ęgisseries and others close by have great plants. From this you get a sense of how Parisians try hard to eek out a little green in the smallest of balconies.

Outdoor Art - Musee Rodin, Pompidou and the sculpture garden located at Quai St. Bernard on the Seine.

Understanding Hausmann - walk the Grands Boulevards, at least for bit - Start at Opera, look down the Avenue, go towards Madeleine, marvel at the square and the poshness that surrounds. If you are strong willed, walk up Boul. Malesherbes to see the grandness of the streets.  You can stop anywhere along the way to rest your feet.  Contrast this with the Marais and its medieval feel.

Find the best box of chocolates - you know my favorites - Foucher, Jean Paul Hevin, La Maison du Chocolat, compare and contrast.  Do the same for macarons - you don't have to order a whole box, it is perfectly okay to order one or two.

The maps that you get from the hotels are remarkably well designed and should be used in conjunction to those you use to navigate on your phone.

 



Thursday, May 03, 2012

Travel Thursday - Why bother engaging? American Airlines and Status Matching

Magnolia stellata
Magnolia Stellata on Rue des blancs manteaux, Paris, March 2011.

Your words can speak louder than your actions. Think about it before you put anything out there onto
the interwebs. I had to leave a conversation on twitter with @americanair because they were starting to make me cranky and it was not going to be pretty in the end.  To their credit, they do attempt to be proactive and engage with their best customers. In this case, they were just spouting the company line.

I am not currently very pleased with American Airlines, the legacy airline to which I have been chained to for what appears to be an eternity.  I originally stayed with them because they acquired TWA and all their elites.  They treated us well. I traveled a lot, some for work, and much for pleasure. I was lucky, I found  some decent fares, usually got upgraded and rarely was disappointed, until now.

The airlines have been hit by high fuel costs, high salaries and benefit costs, and shrinking networks. The results are downgrades to basic amenities such as clean toilets and nourishment on flights and fewer and more crowded flights.  Flying is really no longer fun, even in premium classes. I approach each trip as if I am going to Alaska to do field work. I pack plenty of snacks and carry an extra book. I make sure I have my phone charger and an extra pair of underwear in my carry on because who knows if I'll end up with an unexpected overnight in Cold Bay.  I am  grateful if my bag makes it to my final destination.

It is sad to see something that used to make me so giddy with excitement now fill me with dread. The new developments make it even more irritating. 

American Airlines is offering status matches to United Airlines/Continental fliers at a tier to tier match up.  I know this sounds like Urdu to some of you, but they are giving the same level of elite recognition to fliers with high elite status on one airline to another, including free domestic upgrades and eight international upgrades.  The fliers can choose to fly or not after being granted these perks.  While the perks are not allowed to be traded or sold, they can be "gifted" to friends and family; so there are now eight more opportunities for you to give your parents the trip of their lifetime. In the past, they have had to challenge (fly a certain number of miles or earn a certain number of points) to prove their mettle and dedication and still only granted the mid tier of status.  Matches have also been granted on a case by case basis, or done very quietly .  Social media and community forums have put an end to that -- everything is fair game and everyone can get in on the deal if they are eligible.

Its all so awesome, right? Bonus! Score! How nice of them! Fraternity! Equality! Liberty!

So what happens to the schmucks that either fly weekly for work, monthly for leisure or try a little harder and pay a little more to fly American?  They wait in the same queue as your newly minted elites and their families or "friends" for those upgrades that may or may not clear because there are now x% more of them than there were a month ago.

There as far as I can tell, no way to distinguish between the minted elites and the earned elites, unless AA's crack IT team can flag the reservations and the gods of revenue and seat management can work their magic and move them up in the priority queue. I don't have an answer. I would ask (nicely) that American Airlines think about how to retain their best customers by engaging them on or off line to figure out a way to keep them happy while courting the unhappy UAL/CO customer base.

It's just good business.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

rebranding and thinking

all eggs one basket

Easter, 2012.

I spend a lot of my day thinking about what I really want to do in terms of my next career move. I do not have an elevator speech at the ready, nor an ignite talk, pecha kucha slide show to show you, and blessedly no haiku. I do know I want to continue learning about social media and its penetration into the realm of science observation and reporting. I am pretty sure I am done being a scientist. I sometimes wonder how many scientists really do science any more. A lot of my friends seem to be managing budgets, programs, writing policy documents and creating power point decks. Very few people have the luxury of getting out into the field and collecting data, getting wet or sitting at the bench waiting for a gel to run out. I have done both. I loved the experience and hated the dread of ambiguous results.

I also had some really interesting fodder to throw out at cocktail parties. Fish poop! Gonads! Big tidal waves!

Is a better mix of/for me to look at my love of science, my understanding of observation platforms and using social media for engagement? I would have to say yes. I am sure to be shot down for some of my ideas and am getting used to dear colleague letter about lack of funding. Each stumbling block just makes me a better grant writer, editor and more confident.

Where does branding come into this? I am not toothpaste, nor an energy drink, but am more concerned these days about how people perceive me. Words are important, as are images and your interactions with colleagues face to face as well as on line. Do people view me as a dog lover, a lover of all things floral, or a potential social media strategist? My twitter handle (@floraandflying) was made up in 2005 when I first started blogging and using flickr for posting pictures. Things have changed now, but do folks only see me by this name? Should I go back to using my real name?

I don't know and right now I am trying to figure this out.

I just hope they read on...

Saturday, March 03, 2012

March Madness

19.02.2012

How it is shaping up to be a 10, or at least a 7.5.

I can't tell you that my life has been awesome, it hasn't. I have a roof over my head, a taller half who has put up with a lot of my struggles for over two years and a clearer mind that I have had in years.

Honestly, some days I wake up and can't believe what I have been through. Grace under fire and Grace coming home every night shaking and in tears. Now Grace is trying to reinvent herself.

Yeah, I'm that Grace.

I see so much opportunity and potential out there. I feel like I am on the cusp of something and its going to be awesome.

nm

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

a new day

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Sometimes you just gotta move.

Jump through a few puddles to free yourself.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A little perspective


I went to Boston last night on a comfort mileage run - one where my upgrades were confirmed. I had a lot of ticket value to use up and this seemed to be a good use of an otherwise chore filled weekend.

I needed a little distance from my not so stress free life right now.

It worked.

I walked the common, went on a photo tour of beacon hill, had a nice relaxing breakfast and lunch. I could have gone with someone, TH for example, but it felt good to go by myself.

I missed her terribly when I had a frappe at Algiers. I want to take her to see the glass flowers at the natural history museum. However, this time it just didn't work out.

We'll be back next month. We will make it back to Cambridge - frappe together and walk the Arnold Arboretum, but today by myself was perfect.

Friday, September 09, 2011

A harbinger?

Seen at miles 4 and 6 today. I am so over training for the MDI marathon and I am sure you are sick of me bitching about it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Don't look back unless you have something pretty to see.

I love you Annie banani.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Thursday, September 01, 2011

1 september 2011

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It's the Labor Day weekend here and without kids and back to school obligations, it just becomes another farewell to summer weekend. We have been pretty lucky - most weekends we have had nothing to do.

Nothing.

And. It. Was. Awesome.

We spent a lot of weekends with our friends at their house on Orcas Island. The house reminds me of the house I grew up in and the house my brother now owns - Northwest classic with soaring windows and lots of wood beams. The house also has a garden - one that had been neglected for so long but called out for a little love and reorganization. Clearly someone once had loved this garden as it was full of perennials and beautiful - oh so beautiful. Beds made with river rock, a bit crooked, a bit rustic, but with good bones. The garden is away from the house, in an area that gets lots of sun and wisely enclosed with a deer fence.

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We spent a few weekends making plans, pulling weeds, moving plants, mulching and spreading wood chips and made a garden for our friends. The weather here has not been so cooperative, so things are not as big or magnificent as we had expected, but we have an idea of what is to come.

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And now we rest- we take lots of naps, walk dogs, cook good food and walk on the beach. Other than weeding and picking peas, lettuce and kale, we can sit back and enjoy a garden that will once again, be loved and tended.

Maybe the same will happen with my blogging.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thirty. Eight. Twenty eleven

Or maybe I'll just go back to Barcelona. The world is replete with possibilities.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Moving on

At some point, you have to stop waiting for something to happen and start making plans.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Towards the end of the month

First of 3 20 milers done, sangria drunk, dinner catch up with a dear friend and the smell of ripe blackberries hitting the warm trail...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One day next year

We'll be able to look at today and wonder what the fuss was all about. Until then, life is just shit.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

19 august

Cookies bake while I roast. That, friends is a deep thought.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

17 august 2011

We lose 3 minutes of daylight each day - those 7 am starts are soon going to be dark. I hate that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

15th of august

I think one should celebrate a marathon by traveling to Helsinki. What say you?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Monday, August 08, 2011

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Friday, August 05, 2011

Thursday, August 04, 2011

August the fourth/forth

Honestly, it is just time to stop. Regroup. Think outside the box you put yourself in - for once.

The third in a series

At least we are seeing progress on one of many fronts we're fighting.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Life and Death 2.0

Heartfelt

This evening, I briefly saw a friend of mine at a food blogger event.
She is one of the most ebullient people I know. Tonight she was very distant and standoffish, and definitely not her cheerful self. She excused herself and left early.

Soon after, I sat down at a table with friends and checked my "streams" It was then that I saw a Facebook post mentioning the passing of Kim Ricketts, literary event promoter and genuinely amazing person. I was shocked, not just by the devastating news, but also in the delivery. RIP via Social Media? Do we no longer send black edged cards announcing the passing of family or friends? That is too slow and requires postage. We now do things quickly, instantaneously, and sometimes without thought. Like it or not, life does happen in 140 characters or less - but is it always appropriate?

My memory is filled with the exact place, time and delivery of the news of the death of loved ones. When I was little, I grew to dread the middle of night telephone calls that usually meant that someone back home had died. Later, we would receive telegrams and letters expressing sorrow. It seemed to prolong, yet at the same time soften the blow of loss - 6000 miles and staticky phone lines help, along with a touch of youthful innocence.

Making phone calls to family and friends after the death is also something I have grown accustomed to. After the death of TH's father, I remember sitting with the phone book in my lap making call after call. I hoped that the phone would ring and no one would answer so that I could hang up. I was relieved when I heard a friendly voice would pick up on the other end. The first words are the hardest, and I dread silence on other end - wanting to fill the gaps of comprehension.

I cannot say enough about the grace of my friend who while consuming her own grief and shock, did not announce to the world her mourning and loss. She is a class act.

We all have our ways of processing loss and expressing grief. I did post on my Facebook wall about my shock of her death and my sadness. She was an amazing person that had the knack and gift of building a community of food lovers, chefs and writers. I read others' twitter streams and realize that having an one to many conversation about loss is how they deal with grief. This is something I cannot do well in 140 characters or less, I need more bandwidth.

I will honor Kim by continuing to cherish books and the written word. TH and I will toast her with hot cocoa and wish you all had had the good fortune to have crossed paths with her.