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A Glass House in the Mexican Desert

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At dusk, the house appears as a phosphorescent box, its mirrored panels reflecting the light of the sky and the ocher hues of the mountainside that, as if a mirage, will soon vanish as night falls. Casa Etérea — perched above San Miguel de Allende on the rugged slopes of the extinct Palo Huérfano volcano, part of the greater Los Picachos mountain range of Central Mexico — is both an architectural showpiece and a site-specific art installation, one built to inspire a sense of awe. A feat of sustainable engineering that uses solar energy and collected rainwater, the 800-square-foot dwelling has a glass exterior (with a striped UV-reflective coating) that is bird friendly — even as it creates the effect of a seemingly infinite landscape.

Prashant Ashoka, the owner and designer of Casa Etérea, first came up with the idea for a glass house during his initial trip to the country, in the summer of 2017. He had been working in Singapore as a writer and photographer, but was compelled to move to San Miguel de Allende for its beauty and its reputation as a destination for artists — in the ’60s, for example, visitors included prominent Beat-generation figures such as Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac. The facade, he says, is at once transitional and symbolic: “It’s a metamorphosis, not unlike my transformational journey to Mexico.” Determined to build himself a secluded writer’s retreat, Ashoka eventually purchased two acres of wilderness — situated just 20 minutes from San Miguel de Allende’s downtown — with no water lines or electricity. “I knew that it was my time to create something of my own,” he says. “And I’d always fantasized about escaping into nature, living on a mountain or a beach. But I decided to take a romantic notion many people flirt with and make it my reality.”

When conceiving of his retreat, Ashoka referred to the work of the 20th-century Mexican architect Luis Barragán and his longtime collaborator, the sculptor-painter Mathias Goéritz — in particular, their explorations of form, light and shadow. Although Barragán preferred to work with cubes, Ashoka decided to angle the two main components of his retreat at 120 degrees, mimicking his favorite feature of the mountainous landscape: a V-shaped ravine — visible from the house’s back garden — that harbors a rushing waterfall during the rainy season. Without hiring an architectural firm and instead relying on local engineers and carpenters, Ashoka built the bones of the house from volcanic rock collected from the mountainside. “The idea was to be completely isolated and with no distraction other than the wild that surrounds you,” says Ashoka. All in all, it took nearly three years to finish.

Inside, the home draws inspiration from near and far, blending Mexican craft culture with Ashoka’s Southeast Asian roots. He collaborated with the local furniture studio Namuh to accent the interiors with goods such as the twin Balinese jute lamps hanging above either side of the bed and the vintage, earthen porcelain vase from Shanghai on the bedside table. The kitchen, meanwhile, has an open layout that privileges elemental materials — there are exposed wooden ceiling beams, walls finished in concrete and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that frame vistas of towering cliffs. The porcelain countertops are offset by blackened walnut cabinets and topped with antique jade vases (which once served as grain containers for Chinese sailors) from Sabah, on the Malaysian island of Borneo. Walnut bar stools rest on a cream and teal Turkish Oushak rug. And on an adjacent wall hangs an arresting 2004 black-and-white photograph of Mexican charros, or cowboys, by the documentary photographer Nicole Franco.

In the living area, the eye is drawn toward a gray Romanian buffalo leather sofa and a reclaimed oak table placed over an Indian jute rug made in Jaipur. A red brick fireplace separates the space from the sleeping area, which is further accented by found objects including a brass telescope from the vintage market La Lagunilla in Mexico City, oversize woven baskets procured from the Shaanxi Province of China and charcoal-colored Tibetan wool rugs.

Though Casa Etérea has many impressive features, Ashoka says that “the house was born from the bathroom,” which features the structure’s only interior wall, a brick and concrete partition livened with flecks of rose gold. Behind it sits a large handmade copper bathtub with a sloped back and hammered finish that Ashoka sketched and then commissioned artisans in Santa Clara de Cobre in the state of Michoacán to make.

It’s easy to slow down here, to observe the subtle details of the natural world. Ashoka loves to do just that when he leaves his main home in downtown San Miguel de Allende for Casa Etérea. He enjoys hiking from the mountainside to the caldera of the volcano, a three-hour trek that takes him through riverbeds, oak forests and vast highland plains. “When the sun rises,” he says, “it paints the rocks at the top of the mountain in a red hue. There’s so much beauty here, especially the wildlife.” He has spotted a variety of animals, from mountain lions and bobcats to red-tailed hawks and woodpeckers. He’s also become fond of a local gecko who likes to sunbathe on the deck near the house’s outdoor dipping pool, surrounded by desert cactuses and bushes of rosemary and lavender. Elsewhere on the property, Ashoka planted fruiting olive, pomegranate and citrus trees.

Starting next month, Casa Etérea will be available to rent via the property’s Instagram. Guests can enjoy bespoke adventures led by residents of the local Alcocer community that might include horseback riding with Ashoka’s neighbor, a cattle herder, or a guided hike with a botanist. But most of all, Ashoka hopes visitors will take the time to marvel at the tranquil landscape. “There’s something so powerful about remote dwellings,” he says. “They have the power to turn you inward.”

By: Michaela Trimble
Title: A Glass House in the Mexican Desert
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/10/29/t-magazine/casa-eterea-glass-house-mexico.html
Published Date: Thu, 29 Oct 2020 17:54:41 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?

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People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on Airliners.net via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/ansett-airlines-inflight-bar-menu/
Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?

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The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/11/18/science/shrimp-parade-thailand.html
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?

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There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.



Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/aer-lingus-manchester/
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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