TAKE THE LONDON UNDERGROUND

Mind the Gap, by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


There are a lot of great walking cities in Europe.  London is certainly among them.  Wherever you are in central London, you will be walking distance from many interesting and historic sites.  If the weather is fine, which is often in doubt, then it is good to have some comfortable shoes and take to the streets.

The day we arrived in London, we walked all around the Paddington area.  I always find it fascinating to see the shops and restaurants and various local business. Although I have been slowed by a chronic foot problem that caused for two corrective surgeries which did not seem to correct anything, we still logged a great distance.  We made it down to Hyde Park, saw the Marble Arch and crossed over to Kensington Gardens before heading back to the hotel.  It was a lot for a couple of weary travelers.

The Underground
The Underground

At night we purchased an Oyster Card which is the equivalent of a debit card for the Underground train.  You purchase one and then add money as you need it to get onto the train.  By the way, you need it to get out also, but it takes no additional value from the card.  We have something similar in Chicago called Ventra cards.  You can also buy single ride tickets, but if you are going to make a few trips around town, the Oyster Card is the way to go. It is more economical and it saves time from buying tickets.  You can get your card deposit back and any value left on the card when your trip is over, so do not be afraid to load up the card.

Since I had been to London before, I was aware of some places my travel companion should see.  We left from the Paddington Tube stop (see arrow on map above, a little left of center).  The train system is vast and has many intersecting train lines.  It is one of the best in the world and you can take it almost anywhere in the capital city.  Buses can get you to some spots more quickly, except in rush hour perhaps.

We took the tube to Piccadilly Circus, London’s equivalent to New York’s Times Square.  It may be a bit grander.  I can say that as I have been to both.  From there we walked to Leicester Square and found a Pub for dinner.  Then it was off to Trafalgar Square and down to the Thames River.  We crossed a pedestrian bridge to the London Eye. We came back  across the Thames River on the Westminster Bridge toward Parliament and watched Big Ben strike midnight.  This was all done in a few hours time. Of course, if you stay at the pub too long, there is a tube stop at Leicester Square for your trip home.

On our next great excursion around town, I followed the lead of my companion who wanted to see certain structures for their architectural significance and others for the historic value.  He picked the tube stop that would be closest to some building he wished to see and we wondered just how close that would be to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  If we could not find the church, we were willing to look for it another time.

Approaching St. Paul's Cathedral
Approaching St. Paul’s Cathedral

As we continued our walk toward the Thames from whatever building we checked out (one of us has an architecture degree), the church loomed in distance, and I do mean loomed.  Built at the highest point in London, it was mostly constructed in the late 17th and early 18th century, opening in 1708.

Hard building to miss
Hard building to miss

We walked around the entire structure and even peaked inside.  We avoided the high entrance fee that tourists must pay when there are no church services, so we could move on to find other architectural wonders.  I am not a fast walker and my friend was seemingly content with my pace of sightseeing.

Pedestrian Bridge
Pedestrian Bridge

A new pedestrian bridge is very popular and a good spot for pictures.  It is not a far walk from the Cathedral, which stands magnificently in the background.  Yes, there are many places to get a good picture of the church so no need to start purchasing them.  By the way, it is not as close as it looks from the bridge.

Formerly London Bridge Tower
Formerly London Bridge Tower

From the pedestrian bridge we could easily spot another stop on our architectural tour.  The Shard is the tallest building in the United Kingdom at 95 stories and by far taller than anything on the London skyline.  You can find a tube stop by the river or by St. Paul’s and ride to the London Bridge stop, but we walked our way over to the Shard.  Unless you have a lot of time for sight seeing along the river, you will want to take the tube.

HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge
HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge

Along the river we saw the HMS Belfast, a British Naval cruiser that was originally launched on March 17, 1938.  It was put on “reserve” in 1963 and serves more as a museum now.  Behind it is the Tower Bridge, not the London Bridge which is actually in Arizona (look it up!).  You can look back and see the new London Bridge, put it is really a rather ordinary looking structure.

When we finally reached The Shard we discovered a long line at the bottom to take a trip inside and up to the top.  It was not important to me as we have been to the observation deck of the Willis (Sears) and my friend was more interested in getting outside pictures anyway. I chose to grab the train near there and my friend went on to see City Hall and Buckingham Palace on his own.  I think he ran into James Bond before saying hello to the Queen, but I am not sure I trust him on these points.

By the way, when you get on and off the train, please “mind the gap,” the space between the platform and the train.

Related: “Heathrow Express”
London Calling,” Sunday Night Blog

THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE AS BASEBALL – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Anyone remember Grantland Rice? “It’s not about winning… It’s about how you play the game”.

That’s how we used to feel about our national pastime. Beisbol — not Futbol — at this address.

Ebbets Field, over looking Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, was my field of dreams. Harry Truman. Then Dwight Eisenhower would issue special remarks about the significance of each new beisbol season. It was bi-partisan stuff and it pulled Americans together in the love of that greatest of all pastimes.

Each spring, hope sprung eternal.

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Growing up as a kid from Brooklyn, there were my beloved Dodgers. The Bums, one of 16 teams in the Major Leagues. Eight teams in each league playing a 154 game regular season.  We could identify the players on all the teams, including the batting orders. We respected opposing players, like Stan “The Man” Musial, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle, and Bob Feller. Rivalry wasn’t war. It was part of the game and you cheered the winners, even when it wasn’t your team.

A young Vin Scully, Mel Allen, Red Barber, Harry Caray, and Jack Buck were prominent voices carrying the games across the country. St. Louis was the west coast. Virtues — not vices — were extolled. The pennant winners went directly to a September World Series.

Most games were played during the day, giving kids a chance to follow everything.

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The World Series champions were special guests on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Frequently, they were the dreaded New York Yankees. We still applauded, because they were heroes. We respected them for their prowess.

That was beisbol, when our world was young.

Everything has changed. Nowadays, there are too many teams and many more games. The season is like a Eugene O’Neill play, a long day’s journey into night.

The Prez Race has become like the modern beisbol season. Spencer Tracy’s “fictional” Boston Mayor foretold these changes in “The Last Hurrah”, 60 years ago. Tracy’s candidate would just be shaking his head now. It has all come true. Truer than true and worse than we imagined possible.

There’s the monumentally long regular beisbol season. You do everything you can to reach the post season. Lots of players are injured or burned out by the time the season’s winding up (or down, depending on which teams you are following) to the big finale.

The Post Season is the General Election race.

The World Series are the final campaign days. The hottest team of the moment will win it all with the best strategy — and a little luck.


Ike’s thoughts were noble. Pre-expansion beisbol. Another time, another world.

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JFK was a game changer.

Obama was Jackie Robinson.

Orange Head — Ty Cobb wins it all!!

In beisbol jargon, next year is 2020.

Grantland Rice is turning over in his grave. Let’s sign some good free agents, Maybe next season we’ll get the win!!


This post is also one of three responses to the “Three Days, Three Quotes” challenge on Sue Vincent’s site. Check her out, too. She is magic!

TRYING OUT THE NEW CAMERA – PANASONIC LUMIX DMC FZ-300

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: 2016 Week 47


Oddball pictures are pretty much always one of the unintended results of trying out a new camera. You want to see what it will do, so you take all kinds of pictures. Different lens lengths, different light levels. Indoors, outdoors. I wanted to see what this one would do, especially far away and in low light. I can report that I am most pleased. In fact, I am a lot happier than I expected.

Stones along the canal and the little plants that grow in the wall.
Stones that line the canal and the little plants that grow between the rocks.

This is the Panasonic DMC Lumix DMC FZ-300 which is the economy model of this group of Panasonic cameras. It’s got a 25 mm to 600 mm Leica super-zoom lens, and can shoot at f2.8 across its range. It has remarkable stability, even fully extended making ultra long shots of birds and other small objects easier than I’m used to. It can still be difficult to find a small object with a fully extended lens — that’s a given — but if you know where to point the camera, you can get your shot. This camera is a replacement for its predecessor, the FZ200 which died after consuming several batteries in a matter of minutes. Considering recent news about fireballs from exploding batteries, I decided not to push my luck and retire the camera lest it decide to retire me.

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I do not own a long zoom for my Olympus. The longest is a 300 mm equivalent and  at f4-f5.6, it’s kind of slow for low lighting. It has a built in flash, but I’m not fond of flash and almost never use it.

I knew if I want to take pictures of birds this winter, this was the camera I would need — and could more or less afford. I would have happily gotten either of its two higher end brothers, the FZ-1000 and the FZ-2500, both of which have a larger sensors — but they were out of my price range.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ-300

The FZ-300 is best of breed in its sensor class and I love the way it handles. It’s balanced, solid, but not heavy. I’ve been using a version of this camera for more than 10 years. It’s my “default camera,” my “grab and go” favorite. Not light or compact but very good.

Sometimes, it makes much more sense to buy the super-zoom camera than try to find a lens that will do the same thing for a system camera. Not only does it make fiscal sense, but frequently, you simply cannot get an equivalent lens … at any price. They don’t exist. If they did, the lens alone would cost easily four times what the camera costs.

Little music box on a narrow window sill
Little music box on a narrow window sill

Since I became more serious about photography, I’ve always kept one camera with a good quality very long zoom lens. Starting with the Canon A series (which Canon discontinued), I found these and have been happy with them. Each one has been an improvement over the previous model and I am grateful that Panasonic has continued to produce them.

Surprisingly high quality pictures with minimum barrel distortion. This is not just any old point and shoot. This is a real camera and yes, it shoots in RAW as well as jpg.

The lid of a tiny, old cache jar. A salt shaker (missing the bottom rubber plug) showing a Norwich Terrier, little glass bottle and a toy car -- on on the narrow sill in the kitchen window
The lid of a tiny, old cache jar. A salt shaker (missing the bottom rubber plug) showing a Norwich Terrier, little glass bottle and a toy car — on the narrow sill in the kitchen window.
Utensils, close up. Smile for the camera, please!
Utensils, close up. Smile for the camera, please!
My kaleidoscope music box. I found it hiding on the back of a shelf and spend two nights cleaning it with q-tips and brushes. It cleaned up nicely and still plays. If you look through the kaleidoscope (which comes out of the clip and you can look at other things through it), it makes a beautiful design. I wish I could attach it to a camera!
My kaleidoscope music box. I found it hiding on the back of a shelf and spend two nights cleaning it with q-tips and brushes. It cleaned up nicely and still plays. If you look through the kaleidoscope (which comes out of the clip and you can look at other things through it), it makes a beautiful design. I wish I could attach it to a camera!

This is me and my new camera, taken, of course, by Garry.

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