Big Better Building Part II – WIF Engineering Feats

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Incredible Modern

Engineering Achievements

Humanity likes nothing more than building insanely large and complicated structures, except maybe reading about large and complicated structures built by other people. Today, we’re going to do the latter. While the ancient people had some amazing engineering achievements, we’ve all seen an article or six about the pyramids and the Great Wall of China. As such, let’s focus on the amazing achievements of relatively modern engineering, such as…

Engineering HOF – WIF Into History

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History’s Greatest

Engineering Achievements

The history of civilization is replete with examples of humanity improving the world in which it lives. Through ingenuity, imagination, and hard work, humanity has spanned rivers, built roads, erected cities, and created the infrastructure to connect them. Some projects took centuries to complete; others were finished with alacrity, driven by immediate needs. Many were treated with derision by contemporaries who considered the vision of their proponents’ to be delusional. Some — the Panama Canal being one example of many — were completed only after a spectacular and expensive failure during earlier attempts. Still others were spurred by the competition between nations and empires

Spectacular feats of engineering preceded the term engineer. The master builders and visionaries evolved over the centuries from mathematicians (spontaneously, it would seem) across the globe. The Great Wall in China, the pyramids of the Maya and Aztec cultures, the cities of the ancient world all were accomplished by engineering, though the builders and designers were unaware that they were engineers. Over the centuries, engineering accomplishments were directed at the worship of gods and heroes, the improvement of societal life, and to simply celebrate the spirit of humanity. Here are 10 of the greatest engineering achievements in history.

10. The Roman Water Distribution System

Three centuries before the beginning of the Common Era the Roman Republic, later the Empire, distributed water throughout its dominions using a system of canals, pipes, reservoirs, standing tanks, and aqueducts. Entirely through the use of gravity the Romans distributed fresh water to cities and towns, as well as to mines and farms. Some of the aqueducts still stand, architectural marvels built by laborers under the supervision of surveyors and master builders. By the end of the third century the city of Rome was serviced by eleven separate water conduits distributing water throughout the city, and in the case of the wealthier citizens directly into their homes. Poorer residents resorted to public wells and baths.

The empire was serviced with water systems as well, operated by both local governments and the state. Natural springs were the preferred sources of water. Easements were established by law on either side of the conduit’s pathway. The waterways were liberally supplied with inspection points – which would today be called manholes – and the water was routinely inspected for purity. Lead pipes were used in some sections, though the use of ceramic piping was preferred, and sections of the aqueducts which were of concrete were lined with brick, to prevent erosion and to help filter the water. The system was so well designed and built that there are sections still in use for the distribution of fresh water nearly 20 centuries after they were built.

9. The Cathedral of Hagia Sophia

Built as a Christian church and later converted to an Islamic mosque, the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia is today a museum, and an iconic image of Turkey. Originally constructed in the sixth century it has survived rioting, looting by conquerors, earthquakes, fires, and the ravages of time. Built chiefly of masonry, it is easily recognized by its corner minarets and its massive dome. Built and rebuilt many times over the years, it remains a symbol of Byzantine architecture, and for over 1,000 years Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world. Its design was revolutionary in its day.

The huge dome is set upon a square base, supported by four triangle shaped pendentives in the square’s corners. The pendentives carry the weight of the dome and direct it downwards, rather than outwards as the shape of the dome would otherwise dictate. Though the dome collapsed on more than one occasion, and was modified during rebuilding to include ribs which help distribute its weight to the supporting walls, each rebuilding strengthened it and improved the overall structure of the building. Hagia Sophia is a museum of both the Christian and Islamic faiths, as well as the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades. It remains one of the largest masonry buildings in the world in the 21st century.

8. The Leshan Buddha

Carved from a single stone and completed in the early ninth century, the Great Buddha of Leshan stands over 230 feet tall, with a breadth across the shoulders of 92 feet. It is the tallest statue of Buddha to be found in the world, carved from the sandstone of a cliff overlooking the junction of the Min and Dadu Rivers in Sichuan. Ordinarily sandstone would be easily eroded by the rainwater which has fallen on the statue over the centuries. That it hasn’t is a tribute to the ingenious engineering which controls the flow of water through and behind the statue, which has served to protect it since its completion circa 803 CE.

The Leshan Buddha includes over 1,000 coiled hair buns, of stone, which are placed on the statue’s head. They were designed to collect rainwater, and to route it to a system of drains and drainpipes which allow the water to flow through the statue’s head and arms, draining out the back, behind the stone clothes and away from the statue, protecting it from the effects of erosion. The system was installed as part of the original carving. Originally protected by a wooden shelter which was destroyed by the Mongols, the statue has stood exposed to the elements for seven centuries, with its drainage system protecting it from erosion. Today the greatest threat to the statue is the heavily polluted air of the region, a factor its designers could not have anticipated.

7. The Erie Canal

Between the Hudson River and Lake Erie land elevation increases by about 600 feet. Canal locks of the day (1800) could raise or lower boats about 12 feet, which meant that at least 50 locks would be required to build a canal which linked the Hudson with the Great Lakes. President Thomas Jefferson called the project “…little short of madness.” New York’s governor, Dewitt Clinton, disagreed and supported the project, which led to its detractors calling the canal “Dewitt’s Ditch” and other, less mild pejoratives. Clinton pursued the project fervently, overseeing the creation of a 360 mile long waterway across upstate New York, which linked the upper Midwest to New York City. The cities of Buffalo, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio, thrived once the canal was completed, in 1825.

The engineering demands of the canal included the removal of earth using animal power, water power (using aqueducts to redirect water flow), and gunpowder to blast through limestone. None of the canal’s planners and builders were professional engineers, instead they were mathematics instructors, judges, and amateur surveyors who learned as they went. Labor was provided by increased immigration, mostly from Ireland and the German provinces. When it was completed in 1825 the canal was considered an engineering masterpiece, one of the longest canals in the world. The Erie Canal’s heyday was relatively short, due to the development of the railroads, but it led to the growth of the port of New York, and spurred the building of competing canals in other Eastern states.

6. The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge was originally envisioned by John Roebling, who had built suspension bridges of shorter spans across the Ohio River and at other locations. The project in Brooklyn and Manhattan led to an accident which cost Roebling his life, and the engineering challenges passed to his son, Washington Roebling. Washington was stricken with the bends early in the construction, and was forced to supervise the project from his Manhattan apartment. The engineering challenges were difficult; wooden caissons were sunk to the bottom of the East River, with men inside them to excavate the river bottom until the caissons reached bedrock. In the case of the east tower supporting the bridge, they never did. The tower rests on sand to this day.

It took 14 years to complete the project, from 1869 -1883. Often described as a suspension bridge, the structure is in reality a hybrid suspension/cable stayed bridge, with the load of the span transferred by wire cables to the towers, and thence to the bedrock on the Brooklyn side, and the sand over the bedrock on the Manhattan side. In the 21st century it carries six lanes of traffic as well as bicycles and pedestrians, though it no longer accommodates rail traffic, nor commercial vehicles. It was considered the engineering masterpiece of the world at the time of its completion, spanning nearly six thousand feet, and linking the formerly separate cities of Brooklyn and New York.

5. The Eiffel Tower

Gustave Eiffel built the iconic symbol of Paris – indeed of all of France – to serve as the gateway to the 1889 World’s Fair. Contrary to popular belief, Eiffel did not design the tower, instead purchasing the patent rights to the design from engineers within his employ. He then signed a contract for the construction of the tower acting as himself, rather than as his company, and later set up another company to handle the management of the tower and the income derived from it. The design of the tower was controversial from the outset, with artists and engineers complaining of its lack of aesthetic value. It was said that French writer Guy de Maupassant ate at the restaurant in the tower after its completion because it was the only place in Paris from which the tower could not be seen.

The ironwork was delivered to the site with holes for connecting bolts pre-drilled, and as they were installed the tower was brought into proper alignment through the use of hydraulic jacks installed near the four feet of the structure. Creeper cranes climbed the legs of the tower to erect each succeeding level. The tower was declared complete in March 1889, at the time the tallest man-made structure in the world. It reached the height of 1,063 feet and remains the tallest structure in Paris. The tower was to have been dismantled in 1909, under the terms of the original contract, but its usefulness as a radio transmitter gained it a longer lease on life. By the end of the twentieth century the idea of dismantling the tower was unthinkable.

4. The Panama Canal

The 51-mile long cut across the Isthmus of Panama was a dream for many decades prior to the French beginning its construction in 1881. During the building of America’s Transcontinental Railroad, equipment for use in the Sierras was shipped from the east coast of the United States to Panama, transferred across the Isthmus, and then shipped to California. Engineers for years studied the building of a canal before the French attempted to complete one, but the engineering difficulties combined with the climate and politics to thwart their efforts after more than two decades. The United States stepped in where the French failed, and completed the canal in 1914, after another ten years of work.

The canal is actually two canals, connected on either end with an artificial lake, Lake Gatun, located 85 feet above sea level. Locks on the two canals raise or lower ships to or from the level of the lake, allowing them to traverse from Atlantic to Pacific, or vice versa. The canal allows ships to transfer from one ocean to the other in just under twelve hours. It was the engineering decision to abandon the sea level canal design favored by the French and instead create Lake Gatun through the building of Gatun Dam (then the largest dam in the world) and install locks to raise and lower ships which allowed the Americans to succeed in completing the dam, which changed shipping lanes and inter-ocean traffic forever.

3. The Channel Tunnel

For centuries the British Isles remained unconnected to the European continent, a situation which many Britons favored as critical to their national security. Numerous proposals for a tunnel beneath the channel were put forth, but opposition within England and France prevented any serious efforts. Attempts to build tunnels for automobile traffic were started and stopped in the mid-to-late 20th century. Finally, in the late 1980s, after the usual political and professional maneuvering among governments, businesses, and financiers, work on the tunnels for high speed rail trains got underway, already bearing the nickname by which it is best known today, the Chunnel.

The tunnel was built from both sides, using massive tunnel boring machines – TBMS – to approach each other. The machines bore through what is mostly chalk, though the varying geology of the French shore created some difficulties. Both the French and English used the removed spoil for land reclamation projects. The tunnels were lined with both cast iron and reinforced concrete. When completed, the tunnel provided electrical power to the trains running through it via overhead lines. The tunnel opened in 1994, and today allows for a trip from London to Paris in just over two hours. The tunnel also allows for freight traffic delivering goods manufactured throughout Europe to be imported to Britain, and British goods to find markets on the continent.

2. Burj Khalifa

The world’s tallest structure as of 2019, Burj Khalifa is a mixed use skyscraper in Dubai, which was completed in 2009. The building was designed by the same Chicago firm which designed the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in that city, and uses the same engineering principle of bundled tubes at its core to support the building’s weight. The tubular design allowed for substantially less steel to be used in construction, with most of the building being reinforced concrete. Its spire alone, which is mostly decorative, would qualify it as the 11th tallest structure in Europe were it erected on the continent.

The building has an outdoor swimming pool located on the 76th floor, with another on the 43rd floor. A 300 room hotel is located within the building, as well as corporate offices and private apartments. For those of a hardy constitution, 2,909 steps connect the ground floor with the 160th. The observation deck is located on the 124th floor. The surrounding park, known as Burj Khalifa Park, is landscaped with desert plants which are kept hydrated using water collected by the building’s cooling system, which itself relies on the cooler air of the upper portion of the building to decrease the temperatures of the lower portion of the structure.

1. The Apollo Space Program

It remains one of the signature engineering achievements in the history of the human race. No other program has delivered human beings to an environment other than their home planet and returned them safely to earth. Americans not only walked on the surface of the moon, they drove on it, using a battery driven vehicle designed for the purpose, capable of carrying two astronauts and greatly increasing the area which the lunar explorers could cover. It was carried to the moon within the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) and used for the final three moon missions in the early 1970s. In 2003, the National Academy of Engineers called the program the “…greatest engineering team effort in American history.”

The Apollo program led to significant advances in the development of integrated circuitry, contributed to the growing cause of environmentalism, and over 20% of the world’s population watched on television when astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first human footprints on the lunar surface. NASA claimed spin-offs from the space program in the areas of freeze-dried foods, emergency reflective blankets, hand-held portable vacuum cleaners, and more than 2,000 other areas. LASIK surgery is a direct descendant of the technology developed to dock with vehicles in space, first performed as part of the Gemini program, in which astronauts learned the techniques required of Apollo.


Engineering HOF –

WIF Into History

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 215

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 215

…I got a special use permit for the stable, so keep you and “our” horses noses clean…Carbon 14 Coaches-001

“I just talked to Constance and she said that they need 3 convertible carriages for the 28th,” Fanny is speaking to the co-owner of Carbon-14 Coaches, Eddie Dombroski. His footman/cousin Rex is where he always is, with the horses. The two of them have assembled three wagons and six horses, every one of them living the kings’ life behind Worth Moore’s new Near North Chicago Louis Sullivan residence. (The coach house concept is quickly losing its relevance in modern Chicago, with automobile garages replacing the buildings where the horses and carriages used to be kept)

“It’s a good thing we hired some new coachmen – two of them are 70 years old for crying out loud – but this will be like falling off a log for them, they were born in 1880 for crying out loud! They are used to the horse ‘n buggy.  I can’t keep from poking the floorboard for the gas and brake.”

For crying out loud.

“You do not need any accidents, Eddie. I got a special use permit for the stable and out of the ordinary liability insurance, so keep the place and your nose clean.” Attorney Moore is ankle deep in horse apples, knee deep in hay and up to his neck in angst.

“Not to worry Worth old boy, Rex has everything under control. I remember when we were kids and I was out visiting his pop’s farm, two of the cows and a goat got through the fence and were walking down the Burlington Northern train tracks on their way to Downers Grove.Well Rex and me jumped on a couple of their hay-burners and went over to round them critters up, which was good because there was a mile long freight train loaded with coal trying to get to the city and the engineer was furious because it takes him 5 miles to get up to speed from a dead stop. But we went over to the General Store and bought him a carton of Camels and a Baby Ruth and he was happy.”


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 180

Overrated! – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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World’s Most

Overrated Cities

The urban environment is powerful and evocative, reflective of the people, places and times that saw the construction of specific communities. Cities can be iconic, but they can also be overrated. They say you should never meet your heroes, but in this list, you might come to the conclusion that it’s equally unwise to visit your favorite cities. They may not live up to your lofty expectations after all…

You may or may not agree with me. This is just one traveler’s opinion. It could be I had:

  1. one lumpy mattress,
  2. two bad taxi rides or
  3. three  bad meals.

10. Paris

Paris may be iconic for its Eiffel Tower, culture, and architecture, and for being a romantic and meaningful place to get away. However, Paris is reputed to be overrated, so we’re going to check out the somewhat startling facts about this exceptionally famous French metropolis. Referred to as the City of Love or the City of Lights, Paris does have a variety of most famous human artifacts to appreciate or places to check out that are of historic or cultural fame and significance. Paris even has its own Disneyland. While seen as romantic and a place of love, Paris in fact might ironically be defined as a place to get lonely. Yes, there is much to appreciate architecturally and in the form of art and culture but Paris is well known as a place where bids for politeness do not constitute the highest priority in day to day life.

Paris has actually suffered the fate of being voted no less than Europe’s most overrated city, topping the list due to its unfriendliness. Visitors have often complained about unduly curt or unwelcoming treatment by locals. While Paris is a dream destination for foreign visitors around the world, it seems that becoming tired of serving foreigners without perfect French is an attitude clearly conveyed by enough Parisians. Apparently condescending attitudes and bluntness are ubiquitous in Paris to the point where visitors may not only feel disappointed but downright depressed. Finding that Paris does not measure up has created such severe symptoms as to be labelled as Paris Syndrome.

9. Rome

The Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. In iconic Rome, Italy, the list goes on, and there’s plenty to see for those interested in some more modern history too. The Vatican is also a stone’s throw away. While the famous ancient city does have remarkable architectural sites that are rich in history of religious, civic, and political significance, as well as being the scene of great conflict and drama, Rome itself is a place that one might say has seen better days in some regards. The ruins of ancient structures in Rome have been preserved for visitors but unfortunately, a number of modern amenities have come to resemble a less appealing version of what might be called another form of ruins.

Despite a steady injection of funds through tourist dollars, work to improve problematic transportation, sanitation, and municipal infrastructure shortcomings in Rome have lagged exceptionally. As money keeps coming in and the city remains crowded with tourists, a lack of efficiency and even strikes have left much to be desired, to put things mildly. Remarkably, sanitation problems, including garbage being left to the point of mass overflow, led to threats of European Union sanctions. Furthermore, visitors have complained about disreputable conduct from touts taking on the roles of taxi drivers, cash exchangers, and guides. Rome might attract millions of visitors yearly, but the city suffers some of Europe’s lowest repeat visit rates.

8. Sydney

The iconic Sydney Opera House of Sydney, Australia is so famous that one might say it is touted rather than simply promoted. Images of Sydney are also so curiously focused on the Down Under city’s famous opera house that you might make that image and the general character of the city synonymous in your imagination. However, the fact that the Sydney Opera House is such a focal point of the city’s depictions might hint, to the analytical mind, that perhaps this is the case because there is really little else that is all that remarkable in Sydney. Furthermore, the opera house itself is so overrated that the entire presentation begins to fall upon critical inspection.

The design of the opera house is the work of Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who won the contest to design it out of 233 contestants in 1956, with construction beginning in 1959 and lasting 14 years instead of the originally anticipated four years. Despite the fantastical appearance of the Sydney Opera House, the acoustics have presented many problems and it has not been the world star venue it was intended to become. With the acoustics of the opera house being widely criticized, makeshift solutions have often had to be sought due to some parts of the building being too big and others too small. The pit in the opera theatre has been identified as too small, causing acoustic difficulties, with the concert hall being overly large, causing sound to get lost. Interestingly, Australian music magazine Limelight gave the opera theatre the worst rating for acoustics out of 20 venues of significance, while giving 18th place to the concert hall.

7. London

London, England has a history going back to the Roman Empire with everything from sites of Royal interest at Buckingham Palace, Big Ben as a monument for the most die-hard clock fans, those infamous red double decker buses, and perhaps the odd unexploded German bomb lying somewhere waiting to be discovered, decades past the rabid fighting of World War II. The largest city in England and the United Kingdom, the capital of England suffers pollution in the Thames that was once so bad people were dying from it, and air pollution had the same effect by a different means of causing ill-health. Despite the mix of grandeur and squalor, visitors to London may find themselves disappointed by the crowding and also the lack of friendliness despite being surrounded by people, as London has the questionable distinction of being voted the second most unfriendly city worldwide.

Then there’s the sometimes garish and disjointed modern construction that has grown up in the city. While historic squalor and wartime damage have been definitive events in London’s history, visitors will be surprised by how iconic traditional buildings and perceptions of English culture and architecture in London are dwarfed by modern architecture. The skyline of London definitely appears rather random, with buildings in the financial district described in comparison to a cheese grater, a scalpel, and a walkie-talkie in some prominent examples.

6. New York City

New York City may not be the political capital of the United States but the grand city is certainly the de facto financial capital of America (and some might argue the world). With such iconic elements portrayed in popular culture, literature, news, movies, and daily discourse, New York occupies a larger than life place in the minds of the American public and further. Those who live there know what it is like, but first time travelers may be in for a disappointment upon actually arriving.

From 1785 to 1790, New York was actually America’s capital city. In recent history, the tragic 9/11 attacks represented the single worst incident to strike any North American city. While many cities are destinations for visitors, there has been a surprisingly significant level of effort — to the point of sacrificing comfort — just for the sake of living in New York City. Due to grand real estate costs, living in tiny, overpriced, and sometimes substandard accommodations has become commonplace. For visitors, sites such as the Empire State Building, Wall Street, and Statue of Liberty are certainly icons of great interest, but the actual city will produce a feeling of being dwarfed by two things. These are the enormity of the buildings, crowds, and traffic-jammed streets, and the enormity of the tab run up to stay in the city.

5. Shanghai

Shanghai is so well known that it has become an almost clichéd stand-in for popular imaginations of the People’s Republic of China. Yet while Shanghai is an important Chinese city with enormous economic, historical, and cultural significance, it is a city with a significant legacy of influence by Western culture and hotspots of past east and west conflict. Known for its modern towers, including the aptly named Shanghai Tower, and a myriad of modern architectural wonders, Shanghai is also defined by “The Bund” — a block of iconic European colonial buildings now repurposed for a variety of uses. Yes, Shanghai may feel too “westernized,” a valid perception based on the composition of the city by those seeking the “real China.” It certainly is the place to get coffee and hamburgers in China.

While modern architectural creations may define the Shanghainese skyline, the “waterline” of Shanghai is largely defined at its most famous points by these magnificent but undeniably foreign European buildings, the work of “Laowai” — or foreigners — in China. The foreign presence in China has been a tumultuous one, with many flash points relating to trade and attempts at colonization. So, why is Shanghai perhaps overrated as a place to experience China? While interesting, there are many other places, such as Xi’an in Shaanxi province, with the Terra Cotta Warriors close by, remote hill forests in Sichuan and incredibly spicy cuisine, ancient temples in Henan province, and of course the many access points to the Great Wall that more accurately reflect traditional Chinese culture over a more Westernized one.

4. Rio de Janeiro

Depicted in countless movies and artistic images, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is known for being located below the huge Christ the Redeemer art deco statue that contrasts with the extraordinary natural features of Rio de Janeiro combining steep hills, the sea, and perched buildings. The world famous statue constructed above the city is 98-feet tall with a 92-foot arm span, built on the 2,300-foot tall Corcovado Mountain in Tijuca Forest National Park. While famous for everything from car race hosting to nightlife and urban tourism, Rio de Janeiro is actually not so great to look at once you are down amongst the buildings, many of them generic in architectural form, lacking a sense of place, and often run down.

While Rio is often promoted as a center of culture, activity, and interest for travelers in search of a lively and exotic destination, the Brazilian city is becoming a hotbed of criminal activity. Crime rates have risen so drastically that violence is feared throughout the city, costing an immense number of tourism dollars. People are becoming smart enough to stay away from many parts of Rio much of the time, to the point where lost revenue in the year 2017 totaled an incredible $200 million.

3. Barcelona

Spain is both renowned for positive cultural aspects, notorious for being host to events with which many people do not approve (including bullfighting), and as the site of a brutal civil war in its 19th century history. With all of the complexity and intrigue of Spanish architecture and historic and modern culture, Barcelona is a famous destination that draws visitors globally every year, but something is clearly wrong when disappointment follows the arrival of the discerning traveler. What exactly is the problem with Barcelona? While the city is a cultural icon, the true Spanish cultural experience has unfortunately been, shall we say, diluted by the emergence of an extraordinary quantity of tourist traps replacing a quality experience.

At the same time, overcrowding of this already highly populated parcel of Spain is making additional visitors face immense challenges in simply getting around to see the place once they’ve arrived. Esteemed Spanish writer extraordinaire Miguel de Cervantes put the praise of Barcelona into the mouth of his fictional character Don Quixote, describing the city as nothing less than a “fountain of courtesy, shelter of strangers, hospice to the poor, land of the valiant, avenger of the offended, reciprocation of firm friendship, a city unique in its location and beauty.” Yet the crowded-ness of the city and tendency for many people to treat it as a short stop interestingly leads many people to be less responsible given that they will be in the area for a limited time, further adding to the aggravation many visitors experience.

2. Athens

Afforded near mythical status for being so ancient and the place where countless Greek Gods and Goddesses are described as having their origins, Athens is a richer place in history and culture than it is today in the flesh — or rather, in the brick and mortar. While the development of ancient democracy, philosophy, and faiths in a place where such famous humans such as Socrates and deities such as Zeus and Venus have their claim is bound to make Athens a revered site in popular imagination, there is much to disappoint, according to some visitors. The city of the Acropolis and other impressive architecture actually consists of vast arrays of run-down buildings that are often crowded together without very much shade in many areas. The Acropolis itself is known for being less spectacular and archaeologically, architecturally, and historically pristine than is popularly imagined.

Try to get to it, and you could be turned back by heat due to the barren nature of the grounds where the ancient relics stand, and monumental levels of overcrowding. Add that to the sometimes suffocating air pollution that Athens experiences. Upon arrival at the Acropolis, the scaffolding significantly takes away from appreciation of the architecture, creating the feel of a construction site. While ancient people built the monumental sites expediently, modern repair works have taken decades and still remain underway, resulting in not only scaffolding but all manner of construction equipment anti-climatically lying about the grounds of the most iconic structures of Athens.

1. Amsterdam

World famous Amsterdam. This city is an active metropolitan area situated on flat land, including areas that have had to be reclaimed from the ocean. Subject to flooding, massive urban construction has required more than just a little engineering to be sustainable. Amsterdam may be geographically flat and lacking in mountains, but it has been viewed as a place of where people can get high in the drug use sense without fear of legal reprisals. So-called “coffee shops” function more as marijuana lounges in Amsterdam, where use of the almost universally banned drug is tolerated by the authorities.

Furthermore, red light district activities draw more than a fair share of visitors, since prostitution is legal. However, a variety of issues, as well as a simple lack of interest when it comes to more standard comforts, render Amsterdam a place that is not just overrated but leaving something to be desired when it comes to mainstream human comforts.Amsterdam’s food is lagging behind the attention given to the marijuana focused “coffee shops,” being monotonous and simple for the most part, while the architecture of the coastal city is less than spectacular in many instances, with exceptionally plain construction defining much of the municipal jurisdiction.


Overrated! –

WIF 10 Cent Travel

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 38

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 38

Chapter Four

 REVELATION

…There is no 39th floor lady, see?…

The ground floor, good old Mother Earth, terra firma has never felt so comforting to one Constance Caraway. The elevator at 33 LaSalle has stopped one floor shy of the basement parking garage. Out on the street, automobiles provide a background for a sidewalk filled with pedestrians, so unexpectedly reassuring.

An added bonus: not one related relative story from one Eddie Dombroski on the way down..

You would think that having just experienced something inexplicable, that the leader of this expedition would guide them out of harm’s way. Instead of following Eddie back out to their car, she stops at the front desk to speak with the doorman. So should have Eddie stopped 20 feet away.

“What’s with the 39th floor? Do you know anyone from WORLD AGNOSTICA?” She hands him their card.

The polite professional Negro employee of many years, judging from his gracious interaction with the comers and goers, stares at Constance as if she had a single blue eye in the middle of her bang covered forehead, saying nothing.

“Isn’t that the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?” she rewords.

Without a response, she becomes annoyed.

“Have I become invisible?”

“There are only 38 floors in this building Miss.”

Now it is she who falls is mute.

“The Penthouse Suite is occupied by the Foreman State National Bank.”

“Excuse me, but we were on the top floor, the 39th, you know World Agnostica!”

“Who are “we”,” he inquires to the woman standing alone in front of the desk.

“Me and ………Ed……. well, he was with me.” The 20 foot rule has bolted out the lobby doors.

“This is not at all funny,” she proclaims while dashing to the right of five elevators, the one she had taken up. “Look, number 39 is right here.”

The lone person who, is patiently waiting to begin his ascent, is snickering at the crazed woman who is chasing phantoms.

There is no 39 lady, see?” states the doorman.

No odd numbered 39 on the top of row of 8 with 5 to each row. Most buildings are designed without that anomalous odd final story.

“I’ve been here since they opened her up in ’29, know her better than I know my wife. If there is a 39, I’ll quit right now and ask for a devorce!”

Leaving a job of 21 years is as inadvisable as it is for Constance to carry this conversation any further. She just shakes her head and blends into the bustling crowd outside.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 37

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 36

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 Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 36

It’s like a half-dozen people are talking all at once, but I can’t pick out a single word they’re saying

The right elevator takes Constance up to the #39 she had pushed, noticing that that the lighted button wasn’t as worn as all of the others. After several stops and starts on the way, for the other comers and goers, she alone disembarks at the final floor of the building. She steps out into an incomplete level, without form or function; no carpeting, no paint, no lighting and not a single soul to be seen.

“Wasn’t expecting this,” her words are swallowed up.

She begins looking into each of the six doors on the floor, every one as pristine as the next, starting with 39660. Empty.

39661, empty.

662, 663, 664 + 665 all empty, yet spotless, floor to ceiling.

Before she attempts to gain access to the remaining 39666, an impatient Eddie pops out of the same lift and of course he adds his commentary, “They sure skimped on the furniture, Con!”

“Nothing much here, yet I feel like we are not alone.” She looks back at where she’s been. “Look at my footprints, they last for two or three seconds then disappear.”

“Footprints? Do you see the steam coming out of your pretty little mouth?” Eddie is getting the creeps. He watches his own breath leave a trail, “It’s cold, but not that cold in here.”

“Do you hear that?” she asks, reacting to the sound of whispers.

“Hear what? I had a grenade go off inside a bombed out building at the Battle of Verdun, Verdun France in the Big War, didn’t see that lousy kraut hiding behind a wall. My buddy shot him before he could throw it, but it did go off… my ears still ring some to this day…”

It’s like a half-dozen people are talking all at once. The chatter is non-stop, but I can’t pick out a single word they’re saying, like babbling.”

“I’ll take your word for it. Can we leave?”

“No, I have one more office to check.”


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 35

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 35

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 35

…I may need the back-up, but stay 20 feet behind me and let’s pretend we’re not together…

Once the initial shock of discovering Fanny safe ‘n sound has set in and the requisite debriefing is out of the way, Constance leaves her in Martin’s care for the remainder of the day. The excitement meter needle has been redlining for the last day. It needs to return to normal levels.

33 North LaSalle

Eddie is re-gathered for the task of taking his employer to 33 N. LaSalle Street. She is going to see what she can find out about World Agnostica, at the address listed on that fortuitous business card. What is their deal?

“That building at 33 LaSalle is one of the last skyscrapers built before The Depression. I don’t get many fares from there… bankers are cheapskates and their secretaries are heavy smokers. I pretend not to see ‘em.”

“That’s a bank building, interesting?”

“I don’t know if you know, being an out-of-towner, but 39-blank, blank, blank means you’ll be going to the 39th floor?”

“Thanks for the tip in higher arithmetic Eddie,” she looks up at the top of the building. “If I’m not back in 30 minutes, call the Coast Guard.”

“The Coast Guard is another name for the sissy’s navy. I don’t think they have guns on their boats… my Uncle Fred (not a cousin?) rescues ducks or something…”

“I was only kidding. On second thought, instead of waiting, let’s park the car and you come in with me. I may need the back-up, but stay 20 feet behind me and let’s pretend we’re not together.”

“If anyone asks me what I’m doing, I’ll tell them I’m here for a mortgage on my house.”

“Meet me on the 39th floor and don’t talk to anyone,”

He visually zips his mouth shut.

“You’ll need a lock for that Eddie!” the out-of-town sleuth quips.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 34