The crashes of Flight 370 and Flight 17 are not Malaysia Airlines’ first unusual insurance claims, however. The airline had an unusual claim in 2000 for the total loss of an Airbus A330 traveling in the opposite direction on the same route as Flight 370.
In that case, a canister of a mysterious Chinese shipment destined for Iran broke open near the end of a trip from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur and began leaking, producing a smell that prompted the captain to conduct an emergency evacuation upon landing of all 266 people aboard. A subsequent investigation found that the hold was contaminated beyond cleaning with mercury and other chemicals that may have been precursors for the manufacture of nerve gas.
The Malaysian government ended up digging a large hole in the ground near the airport tarmac and burying the entire plane. Insurers paid a full settlement of $90 million.
Whenever I go shopping, I like to come home and put on everything I bought. Which is why I am currently walking around my room in high heels and pajama shorts, listening to The Way You Make Me Feel on my new Harmon/Kardon wireless speaker. I danced by Siena, who was lounging on top of the dresser and leaned in close to do Michael’s signature “Ow!” that starts the song, and she scrambled to sit up, pulled her head back and spat her fiercest hiss at me. She’s not a fan of MJ, which is a felony in this household. Out on the streets with you, kitten.
“Art is something that happens inside us. We look at things in the world, and we become excited by them. We understand our own possibilities of becoming. And that’s what art is.”—Jeff Koons to The New York Times (via whitneymuseum)
I just got done with an 18-hour day of intense work, and I’m back at the hotel. There was a bridge club here earlier tonight and the lobby was filled with senior citizens quietly chatting away. The hallway smells nice, like that comforting powdery scent that grandmas often have. I felt like a weird ghost stumbling up to my room.
I can barely keep my eyes open, but my brain is still reeling from the day. It’s like that spinning top from Inception, imperceptibly about to crash, but still whizzing around, not ready to stop.
I don’t know the last time I was so tired from sitting and thinking all day. Lesson: adult jobs are hard. Good, but hard.
The sun sank into a grey sky this evening, but still managed to set everything on fire. Bright red glinted off the water tower when I got back to my hotel. A few hours later, a warm yellow moon hung huge and low on the horizon and then quietly slipped behind the clouds.
I landed in Chicago yesterday, and drove out to Fermilab, one of the other National Labs run by the Department of Energy. It’s about an hour outside the city. On my drive, I saw a few strange sights:
There was a hearse at the airport arrivals area, and when I saw it, the cheery-voiced flight attendant popped into my head: “If Chicago is your final destination, we hope you enjoy your stay.” Final destination, indeed.
Near the airport, there was a nail salon called (hand to God) “Manpart’s Nails.” I almost pulled off just to take a picture.
When I pulled off the highway toward my hotel, I had this crazy sense of deja vu, but not for just one moment. It was like I was replaying a scene from nearly every road trip I’ve ever taken. First, I thought, “Oh, this feels like that time in Indiana. No, Michigan. Wait, Tennessee.” I can’t figure out if it’s just that I haven’t driven for a long time to end up in a rural area except on road trips, or if all those places really do have a little something in common.
My hotel is surrounded by corn fields. There are three grain silos and two water towers within walking distance. In fact, one tower is directly outside my window, maybe 50 yards away. It’s one of those bulbous ones, not the kind with four legs and stairs that you can imagine climbing and hanging out on. I wonder if water tower enthusiasts know the different names for each kind. I wonder if there are water tower enthusiasts. I’d bet there are.
Anyway, Fermilab is a gorgeous place and I hope I get to take pictures and share with you guys. They have a herd of bison! They have cool, strange structures in the fields! They are the home base for the next generation of neutrino research!
Last night’s storm means the airport is full of stranded passengers who have been on standby for hours, and I just stood in line for an hour and six minutes merely to get a boarding pass at the gate, but at least I’m having a better day than the frazzled Southwest gate agent doing her best to smile through what looks to be one of the worst kinds of days to work for an airline.
I totally agree. Take John Cage’s 4’33, for example. As the piece is written, it’s four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Sometimes, you get a rowdy crowd that talks over it, sometimes you get near silence with just the rustle of paper as the performers turn the pages on their sheet music, and sometimes something magical happens where the coughs and nervous laughter in the room turn into this strange and wonderful little rhythm that could constitute music, depending on your definition.
I’ve sat through several performances of this, and the sound that happens during those few moments isn’t always beautiful. But the idea! What a thought! The space you’re in, the people you’re with, the breathing around you and the air conditioning hum and the crinkle of a candy wrapper and the creak of a chair, it’s all music. We’re all making it, all the time. What an idea!!
This episode covers those little gaps in knowledge that persist far later into life than they maybe ought to. Mispronounced common words, imaginary animals you think are real, basic info that most people have that you somehow missed out on.
Years ago, one of my favorite bloggers had a great conversation about this in her comments section, and I still think about a lot of the admissions people made there. (Someone thought limes and lemons were the same fruit at different stages of ripeness, for example.)
Anyway, here’s mine: I was out on maybe my fourth date with a guy and we were still in that deciding-if-you’re-cool-enough-for-long-term stage, when we happened to be waiting on a train and decided to buy drinks from a vending machine. He put in the money and selected his soda and nothing happened. He sort of looked around and muttered, “Is there something else I’m supposed to do?” “Nope,” I said. “You. End.” He scrunched up his eyebrows and looked at me the way you do a toddler who has just uttered total gibberish. “What?” “Look at the screen. See? U. End. Your part is over. The machine is just thinking.” He paused long and hard, looking at me and then the readout on the machine and then back at me. He burst out laughing. “You mean VEND? V-E-N-D!?! That says vend, not U End!”
I was 26 years old and I had always thought that the vending machine was telling me, “Okay, you’re done. You put the money in. It’s my turn to do stuff now. You. End.” It’s those damn squared-off radio-alarm-clock letters. They’re hard to read! I still chuckle every time I use a vending machine with one of those readouts.