Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 7

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 7

…This is going to be a long drive. Eddie has more tales than a book of short stories…

“You are so kind Eddie, but our friend is in the academic field. He is a scientist and a professor.”Eddie's Cousins-001

“An egg head, eh? My 4th cousin Wilfred, yeah I know… what a name… is really smart. He invented the paddle board.” He demonstrates how, when a rubber band and ball is attached to a ping-pong paddle, it keeps coming back.

This is going to be a long drive. Eddie has more tales than a book of short stories and he is determined to regale the girls with every single one; each stoplight seems to trigger one to the next.

The Yellow Cab mercifully makes a right hand turn off 55th St onto one-way south Kimbark and stops in front of a two-story gray stone much like the others on either side. He stops the cab, gets out to open doors for his passengers and opens the huge truck to take out their luggage.

“Could you hang to our bags Eddie? We don’t know how long we will be here.”

“Your friend ain’t much for guests? Figures. I’ll turn off the meter for 1 hour, seeing this will be my last fare. I’m too close to home to go back out to Orchard Field.

“Orchard?”

O’Hare, whatever they want to call it now. I have a bungalow over in Englewood that me and the Mrs. bought a couple years ago, just ten minutes away.”

“One hour?”

“One hour and then the meter starts up again.” He squints at the device mounted above his rearview mirror. “You are looking at 12 buck and change so far.”

Escalating cab fare will not be the determining factor in how much time they spend here.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 9

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 6

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 6

…You must be from China sister. That is clear down by the lake….

Once the Constance and Fanny retrieves their suitcases, they now must find their way to the University of Chicago. At least when traveling by train, the paths leading away from downtown Union Station are much easier to follow.

“I can see the skyscrapers from here, but this airport is out in the boonies,” laments the frustrated 3rd grade teacher.

As if on cue, a boxy yellow car pulls up alongside them.

“Where are you headed ladies?” yells the bold driver of a Checker automobile painted in striking yellow with a Taxi light affixed to the roof. “It’s mighty cold out and ain’t nowhere I can’t take you.”

“That’s a triple negative,” the librarian mentions.

Shush,” Constance pokes.

“We’re looking for the University of Chicago,” Fanny blurts “Is it nearby?”

You must be from China sister. That is clear down by the lake.

“We saw a thousand lakes on the way here, which one is it near?”

“Are you for real? Michigan, come-on, that big one over that way!” Eddie points.

“My friend was merely kidding sir; we know where the university is located. We just need a reliable way to get there.”

6137 South Kimbark

“My name is Eddie, not sir and Avondale Avenue will take us to Lakeshore Drive, bing-bam-boom.” Eddie Dombroski has been a cabby since his discharge from the Army at the end of the Second World War. “That’s unless the wind drifted that snow we got last night, then we could cut down State Street to 55th.”

“Splendid! 6137 Kimbark and don’t spare the horses.”

“Horses?”

“That is just a saying Eddie,” explains Constance. “Just get us there quickly.”

“I don’t speed on slick roads are Missy, but I do know all the shortcuts.”

“We have the utmost confidence in your driving.” They have no other alternatives, but just in case, that yellow taxi is built like a Sherman Tank.

“Let me introduce us: my name is Carolyn and this is Sara.” She points to Fanny, fending off an approaching elbow with a timely wink. “We are visiting a high school friend who has made it to the big time.”

“You mean like Benny Goodman, or maybe that Rita Hayworth? She ain’t got nothing on you, if I must say so myself.”


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 8

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 5

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 5

…“Chicago sure looks different from the air,” comments Constance in a moment  of rare wonderment…

1950 Chicago

The large two-propeller airplane from Florida approaches Chicago from the southeast and the terrain of some 15,000 feet below is changing radically as it descends; from the hills of Tennessee and Kentucky, the Ohio River Valley to the sprawling farm fields of the Midwestern Plain.

And then out of nowhere sprouts a cluster of buildings; one taller than the next, looking like they are daring the Great Lake called Michigan to wash them away.

“Chicago sure looks different from the air,” comments Constance in a moment of rare wonderment. She is well-traveled, some would say worldly, but she is accustomed to the perspective provided by a plodding train car or the rolling deck of a steamship.

“This is the view God has.” From Fanny’s perspective, that is exactly how she sees it.

Flight 12 from Tallahassee lands at Chicago Orchard, even though commercial air travel to and from Chicago is just revving up. The airfield had its beginnings as a Douglas Aircraft assembly plant, with close ties to the war effort. Just as World War II pulled up the United States by its bootstraps, out of the depths of the Great Depression, so did war-related industries create new venues for a growing nation.

Once the passengers walk down the stairs of the Pan American airplane, they are escorted to a newly built circular structure resembling giant spider; separate “legs” meant to serve the individual companies using the airport. Most of current air traffic moves cargo across the country, so the freight terminal, at the far end of the field, is actually busier.

After retrieving their suitcases, they now must find their way to the University of Chicago. At least when traveling by train, the paths leading away from downtown Union Station are much easier to follow.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 7

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 4

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 4

…Let’s get our winter clothes packed and hit the road…

 Fanny points out that A-Bomb was tested out in the American Southwest..

img004

Fanny Renwick

“Yes,” deep breath, “but the spy was traced back to the Manhattan Project at Argonne National Laboratory, which is out west of Chicago.”

Fallow Deer of Argonne

“I didn’t know where we were. It looked like out by Campbell Lake, all the trees and country roads and such, though I did get some great pictures of those Fallow Deer.” Fanny was fascinated with animals, like these white deer, even took color pictures of something white.

“We were tailing a suspected double agent, that German spy in Ally clothing, on his way out to his drop area, not sightseeing for local animals.”

Constance fully expects to bring things into focus most times for Fanny, who disarms people in ways that her boss cannot. That occasional blank stare takes the attention away from Connie’s intense presence.

“You make sure Betty (the upstairs neighbor) looks after Molly. And tell her it may be a while this time. Let’s get our winter clothes packed and hit the road!

         A Christmas adventure is calling.

Having had a clarifying conversation with their prospective client Mr. Kamen, there is no doubt as to CCI’s involvement in the case of the missing the missing scientist, Mr. Willard Libby. There seems to be some problem getting unbiased P.I.’s in that city of Al Capone.

Constance and Fanny wait to board a Pan American DC-3, Flight 12 non-stop from Tallahassee Commercial Airport, a one runway operation, to the newly named Chicago Orchard [Douglas] Airport. Their fellow fliers, gathered in nice straight line, are an interesting mix of snow birds (an new trend for those who are originally from the north, but live in the south during the winter months) and holiday travelers (who want to experience the fairy-tale world of Christmas at Marshall Fields department store, on the famed Michigan Avenue of Chicago).

Not that any one would recognize either one of the women. Constance has her hair in a bun, dressed in a lace-collared blouse and calf-length shirt, looking every bit the 3rd grade school teacher. Fanny is wearing black rimmed glasses, like she would be helping you find a library book. Perfect disguises, “Two frumps on a log,” is how Connie put it.

They will need to blend into the college scene they are about to enter. If biochemist Martin Kamen is being watched by anyone, the two Floridian women cannot stand out any more than they already do; at 5’8 apiece, Constance and Fanny loom over most their gender brethren.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 6

Newfangled Transportation – WIF into the Future

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Transportation Methods

of the Future

It is somewhat safe to say that, without transportation, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. The discovery of fire, speech, writing, and all the other man-made inventions, have definitely brought us a long way. But without the ability to transport these inventions to other parts of the world, many of them would have simply faded back into obscurity. And many of them have, by the way. Nevertheless, transportation freed us up to become the dominant species on the planet, moving from one place to the other with relative ease, colonizing new places and meeting new cultures – sometimes with bad consequences.

We went from simply walking, to riding horses, to inventing the wheel, to crossing vast oceans, to flying over them entirely, and finally, to going into outer space. But even with how much transportation has evolved over the centuries, especially during the past several decades, innovation is only picking up steam. Who knows how people will be moving around in 20 years? Well, these examples might offer us a glimpse of what is to come.

10. Gliding Taxis

Up until the invention of flying, water was the fastest means of transportation. But even to this day, traveling by water is still the cheapest. In any case, by combining the benefits of both air and sea travel, two men, Alain Thébault and Anders Bringdal, have designed a water taxi that seems to be gliding right above the water surface. Known as Sea Bubbles, these transportation vehicles are perfect for overly-congested cities that also have a major river, or another body of water, passing through. Not only are they able to take you to, or close to, your destination in a fraction of the time, but they will do it in a completely clean way.

Each individual Sea Bubble can hold up to five people, and can be accessed via special docks along the river. They are battery-powered, and have a 50-62 mile range at speeds of up to 20 mph. What’s particularly interesting about these vehicles is their ability to glide over the water surface, thus reducing friction with the water, and improving both its speed and range in the process. They do this by making use of two wings submerged below the water surface. When in motion, the Sea Bubble lifts up from the water, with only its two wings making contact. Because of this, the ride will be less bumpy as compared to ordinary boats, and there will be little to no waves generated. And because it is battery-powered, the Bubble is completely silent.

They made their debut on Paris’ River Seine in the summer of 2017. Anne Hidalgo, the city’s mayor, said in a statement, “I really believe in the development of river transport. Most of the world’s big cities were built on riverbanks, an advantage we have to use to reduce our reliance on polluting cars.”

9. Hoverbikes

How long have we’ve been waiting for hoverbikes? Probably ever since we first saw them being used in Star Wars, at least. Well, they are finally here and they work. Looking more like a commercial drone on steroids, the Hoversurf Scorpion-3 is the brainchild of a Russian drone start-up. These hoverbikes are programmed to fly at altitudes of 16.4 feet for 25 minutes, and at maximum speeds of up to 44 mph. They are capable of going much higher than that, setting a record of 93.5 feet, but for safety reasons they are limited to only 16.4 feet. It weighs only 229 pounds, which luckily is below the 250-pound threshold – the maximum weight allowed before you would need a registration or a pilot’s license in most countries.

According to their website, these hoverbikes are made for extreme sports enthusiasts who don’t shy away from heights and high speeds. But someone else has shown interest in acquiring an entire fleet of them – the Dubai Police. With them, the officers could zip over traffic, or reach inaccessible areas, in a moment’s notice. But before they will unleash them onto the city streets, the Dubai Police will conduct further testing to explore what other possible uses these hoverbikes might have.

8. Flying Cars

If there are hoverbikes around, then flying cars shouldn’t be too far behind. Now, even though the project is still under development and has some way to go before it will become available to the general public, Uber and NASA have come together in order to make flying cars a reality. Known as Uber Elevate, this project involves the development of a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, which will most likely have a fixed-wing design. Mobile propellers at each end of the wings will be able to rotate up and down, thus allowing the VTOL to land and takeoff on the spot, without the need of a runway.

The aim of this project will be to bring an airborne version of present-day Uber taxis to large, congested cities all around the world. Uber is also aiming to make their vehicles autonomous, so as to eliminate the human error element. The hope is to have these flying cars take people from one place to another over the city and land on specifically-designed helipads or on the rooftops of certain buildings.

But in order to do that, a special system needs to be developed that will manage the airspace above the city. NASA has been working on a project called Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the National Airspace System(UAS in the NAS) which aims to achieve just that. In a statement, Uber’s Chief Product Officer said that “Uber Elevate will be performing far more flights over cities on a daily basis than has ever been done before. Doing this safely and efficiently is going to require a foundational change in airspace-management technologies.”

They hope that by 2020, some of these flying cars will be operational. The company has also announced that LA, Dallas, and Dubai will be the cities where this technology will be implemented first. Uber is not the only one with such grand plans in mind. Airbus is also developing its own City Airbus program, which will work, more or less, on the same principles as Uber Elevate.

7. Personal Submarines

In recent years, Aston Martin, the British luxury car manufacturer best known as James Bond’s car-maker of choice, has entered the seafaring market with a 1,000-horsepower motorboat. More recently, however, they’ve designed and created a submarine. Together with Florida-based Triton Submarines LLC, Aston Martin has developed a high-end, luxury submersible, codenamed Project Neptuneand worth $4 million. Built around a platform specifically designed for super yachts, Neptune will only be 5.9 feet in height and with a total weight of about 8,800 pounds. It will be able to carry three people to a depth of 1,650 feet and at speeds of up to 3 knots, or about 3.5 miles per hour. Oh, and it’s also air conditioned.

Now, based primarily on its price, this submarine will not be for everyone. Like their cars, Aston Martin is providing for the higher-ups in society. With those super rich people in mind, Marek Reichman, the company’s chief creative officer, said in a statement that “what they want to experience is changing. It’s no longer about just having a launch or having your tender. It’s about having some other way of entertaining your guests.”

6. City-to-City Rockets

“If you build a ship that’s capable of going to Mars, what if you take that same ship and go from one place to another on Earth? We looked at that and the results are quite interesting,” said Elon Musk in an interview not that long ago. Over the past several years, Musk’s SpaceX has been experimenting with reusable rockets in an attempt at lowering the cost of going to Mars. If the cost of sending people and cargo into space was at around $10,000 per pound, after Musk’s many test flights and experimentation with reusable rockets, that price has dropped to around $1,000 per pound. This price reduction has ignited some debate about a possible intercontinental transportation system involving rockets.

Now, the plan is pretty out there and it may take some time before it could become a reality and available to the general public. Nevertheless, if it’s ever put into practice, it could connect any two cities anywhere on the face of the Earth. One such rocket would be able to transport 100 people from New York to Shanghai at speeds of 17,000 miles per hour and in just 39 minutes. It would, thus, take most people more time commuting to work every day than it would to travel half-way around the world.

5. The Self-Driving Monorail

Back in 2015, a company by the name of SkyTran opened a 900-foot test station near Tel Aviv, Israel. This station is used as a testing ground for a self-driving monorail system capable of transporting people 20 feet above the ground, and at speeds of 155 mph. The system involves a series of 300-pound pods traveling on a network of rails suspended above the ground. Together with NASA, SkyTran designed differently-sized pods that can accommodate two or four people, one for the disabled, and another, larger one used for transporting cargo. Somewhat similar to a Maglev train, these pods glide on the suspended rail by making use of electricity, gravity, and magnetism. Using the same amount of electricity as two hairdryers, each pod reaches a speed of 10 mph, after which it accelerates on its own, without any additional power.

Due to their small design, these pods can even go through buildings, with stations being located within the buildings’ lobbies themselves. Unlike normal public transport, SkyTran pods do not have a precise schedule. Passengers will get on the first pod that shows up and will input their destination of choice. They will then be taken there automatically in only a fraction of the time it would take traveling on the ground. The first such suspended rail system will be implemented in Lagos, Nigeria by 2020. There are also plans of building one in Abu Dhabi.

4. Self-Balancing Wheelchairs

An obvious sign of a developed society is how well it treats its weakest members. When we look at disabled people, for instance, that progress presents itself in the form of integrated infrastructure such as ramps, special platforms, toilets, and so on. But this infrastructure, especially if not built right from the start, can cost well into the billions nationwide. One other way to address this issue, while still providing for the disabled, is to redesign wheelchairs so as to get around without the need of this costly infrastructure. This is what four university students have managed to achieve by independently funding, designing, and creating the scewo wheelchair.

By making use of state of the art technology, this wheelchair uses two large wheels to drive on flat terrain, while two sturdy rubber tracks allow it to climb and descend stairs with ease. Thanks to its wide base, the wheelchair is also able to go up and down spiral staircases. Its design is also compact enough so as to maneuver easily indoors and fit through standard doors. It can also rotate on the spot, drive on slippery terrain such as snow or loose gravel, and can raise itself so as to bring the user at eye-level, as well as to reach overhead objects.

3. The Float

With the tremendous potential the Maglev system has when it comes to fast transportation, it is no wonder that more and more companies are looking to implement it in the coming decades. But while this system is still restricted to rail networks for the time being, some have envisioned it being used on our roads and highways. Short for magnetic levitation, the Maglev system makes use of two magnets – one that lifts the train off the tracks, and another that pushes it forward. The train is, thus, able to accelerate without actually making contact with the rails themselves. This way, it can reach speeds of up to 375 mph – making a trip from NYC to LA last only around 7 hours. Anyway, the Float is a car concept designed by student Yunchen Cai which makes use of the Maglev system.

The design makes the Float look like a bubble floating just above the street. Each individual pod is able to seat one or two passengers, but several of these pods can clamp up together (like bubbles in a bubble bath), allowing for more people to travel together. The Float also has bucket seats and sliding doors, making it easy for people of all ages to get in or out. And like several other entries on this list, the Float will not necessarily be private property, owned by individuals, but rather, they could be better seen as taxis which one could call upon anywhere, by using an app.

2. Windowless Planes

At first glance, windowless planes (and definitely not windowless in the way you’re probably thinking) do not sound like a particularly good idea. But after seeing this new design, some may just change their minds. Conceptualized by Technicon Design, an international agency, this proposed idea was designed to make use of already existing technology, or one that will be available in the very near future. Instead of the standard plane windows, these private jets will have no windows whatsoever. Instead, they will make use of high-resolution, low-voltage screens located on the sides and ceiling of the plane. Cameras mounted on the outside will capture the surrounding views and will display them in real-time in the inside of the plane.

These screens will be powered by solar panels mounted on the roof of the plane. Now, besides making the flight a more pleasurable experience, this technology will make these private jets sturdier and less cumbersome. By removing the windows altogether, the overall weight of the plane will drop significantly, thus making it much more fuel efficient. And with a simplified fuselage, there is much more flexibility for the interior design, as well. These displays can also project other images, besides the outside view – changing the mood inside the jet, depending on preference. If desired, they can also display a traditional plane interior.

1. The Space Train

With so many proposed plans of colonizing the solar system these days, it would only be fair to address at least one means of future space travel. Hopefully, in the not-so-distant future, humans will begin forming a colony on Mars. If this ends up being the case, we will need to develop a means of transportation that is fast and reliable enough to get us to and from there in only a fraction of the time. Today, a manned mission to the Red Planet is expected to last somewhere around six months, or even more. During this prolonged period of time, astronauts and colonists will be exposed to microgravity which has a long series of negative effects on the human body. One proposed transport system is a hypothetical space train, known as the Solar Express.

When it comes to space travel, the most expensive and time-consuming portions are the acceleration and deceleration phases. This proposed space train would, thus, never stop, going back and forth between Earth and Mars indefinitely. The Solar Express will first begin to accelerate by making use of rocket boosters. It will then use the planets’ gravity to continuously slingshot itself back and forth between the two. This way, the train would be able to reach 1% of the speed of light, or about 1,864 miles per second. This speed would reduce an Earth-to-Mars trip to just 2 days. Geez, Matt Damon would be pissed. 

Unmanned probes would mine for water or other resources from asteroids and would rendezvous back with the train on its return journey. Boarding the train from the planets would be done in somewhat the same fashion, without it ever needing to stop. We are still a long way away from developing one such space train – with much of the technology required not even existing at this point. Nevertheless, the entire concept is intriguing, to say the least.


Newfangled Transportation

– WIF into the Future

China 5*Star Tours – WIF Travel

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Must-See

Tourist Attractions

in China

The most populous nation on Earth, the world’s second largest country in terms of land area, and a land of incredible cultural, historical and archaeological riches, China is one of the world’s leading tourism destinations. With diverse geography and the legacies of historic civilization coupled with modern innovation, China’s must-see sites should be on any outdoor travel, archaeology, or ancient architecture enthusiast’s list.

In this account, we discover sites ranging from the ancient Terracotta Warriors unearthed in Xi’an Province to the unbelievable feat of modern innovation that is the glass walkway clinging to the side of Tianmen Mountain, take a closer look at the Great Wall, and the Tomb of a leading female emperor.

10. The Terracotta Warriors

Standing in rank with an assortment of weapons and horses, the Terracotta Warriors form a spectacular mausoleum of international renown that attracts over 1 million visitors each year. Named the 8th Wonder of the World by French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac in 1978, the artifact site was discovered buried under a field in Linton District, Xi’an, in the centrally located Shaanxi province in 1974 by a farmer and his workers who were in the process of digging a water well.

Created late in the third century BCE at the order of the first emperor of China, Emperor Qin Shi Huang, to guard him in the afterlife, the Terracotta Warriors consist of a magnificent array of earthen likenesses of men, chariots and horses, complete with weapons and detailed uniforms standing below the surface of the surrounding land. The sculptures are a little larger than life-sized and, incredibly, are individualized, showing different soldiers with distinct expressions, postures, and clothing and adornment details.

Perhaps eerily, the degree of individualization suggests that real soldiers were replicated, one by one. Hundreds of Terracotta soldiers have been meticulously unearthed and preserved or restored to high standards. Currently, teams of archaeologists are working to unearth large new sections of standing ranks. Four distinct pits are known, three of which have been excavated to a significant degree, while the fourth has not yet been unearthed. It is thought that an entire replica of the ancient City of Xi’an may exist in the emperor’s tomb located near the warrior pits.

 9. The Forbidden City (Beijing)

A prime destination for visitors despite its name, the Forbidden City is now open for public viewing of ancient, intricate and colorful imperial buildings that bring the ancient world to life in China’s capital, Beijing. Upon arrival, one will be faced with building after building amongst expansive squares, defined by traditional Chinese architecture constructed with fine south China jungle wood and Beijing marble. The Phoebe zhennan wood came from a tree sufficiently rare as to be outside the price range of all except ancient Chinese royalty.

Considered the definitive Chinese architectural accomplishment, this largest of palatial complexes on the planet originated in the years 1406 to 1420, serving as the ancient seat of Chinese government from the Ming up to the end of the Qing Dynasty. Built with the labor of over 1 million workers, the Forbidden City was so named due to the requirement for the Emperor’s permission to be given for anyone coming into or out of the city. Now, the preserved and extensively restored splendor of the Forbidden City attracts a whopping 14 plus million visitors per year, prompting concerns over the level of use of the site. The Forbidden City represents that greatest set of preserved ancient wooden buildings in the world, now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

8. The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

Rising from the grounds of the Da Ci’en Temple complex grounds in Southern Xi’an, Shaanxi province, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda dates back to 652 at the time of the Tang Dynasty. Accessible for a modest fee, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is a marvel of Chinese architecture with an iconic and commanding appearance. A World Heritage Site, the tower offers spectacular views of the city of Xi’an from the top, a panorama mixing ancient Buddhist architecture with modern buildings. The pagoda was erected to contain Buddhist artifacts brought from India to China by the highly regarded Chinese Buddhist translator and traveler, Xuanzang. According to legend, the name comes from the story of a wild goose falling from the sky at the spot to provide food for monks who had prayed for a meal.

Originally built from rammed earth, a construction method not generally known for being earthquake resistant, the structure collapsed in a 1556 earthquake before being rebuilt taller and stronger at the direction of China’s only female Emperor, Empress Wu Zetian. The rebuilt Giant Wild Goose Pagoda incorporated 5 additional stories, for a total of 10 stories.Yet, this tall structure was too high in relation to its stability and 3 stories simply toppled off, leaving the present day 7-story building that reaches a height of 210 feet. Reachable by a short walk from Da Yan Ta station on line three of the Xi’an Metro, the tower is built of brick with an interior winding staircase that matches the square shape of the building, fashioned from wood.

7. The Temple of Heaven (Beijing)

 A mysterious looking circular building, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing was constructed in the year 1420 AD by Emperor Zhu Di of the Ming Dynasty, which spanned 1368-1644, and subsequently used into the Qing Dynasty of the years 1644-1911. The location of temple construction, the Royal Garden, had been used for Heaven worship from the beginning of the Ming dynasty. The largest sacrificial building constructed in Chinese history, the Temple of Heaven and its grounds cover an area even larger than the already enormous Forbidden City. Designed to represent mystical laws and principles of cosmology, the temple was a place where Heaven itself was worshiped during the Winter Solstice, when prayers for a bountiful harvest were offered.

The Temple complex consists of an area of 3,529,412 square yards and was deliberately made larger than the Forbidden City due to a prohibition on Chinese emperors living in a dwelling place of greater size than the construction dedicated to Heaven. The Emperor was regarded as the Son of Heaven, according to ancient Chinese culture, and a representative. Two times per year, the Emperor and his imperial accompany-ers would camp in the complex to appeal to Heaven in hopes of successful harvests. The spectacular and iconic Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is built upon a three-tiered marble base and spans 118 feet in diameter with a height of just over 125 feet. The other main elements of the site include the Imperial Vault of Heaven, a circle shaped building with one gable, while the Circular Mound Altar is an enormous set of concentric circles, the largest spanning just over 229 feet. The 360 balustrades symbolize the 360 degrees of heaven, which was seen representing the roundness of heaven as viewed in traditional Chinese culture.

6. Qianling Mausoleum (Resting Place of China’s Female Emperor)

Originally just a concubine in the harem of Tang Dynasty Emperor Taizong, Wu Zeitan (624-705) took a spectacular rise to power that interrupted the Tang Dynasty once she declared her own Dynasty, a reign that would span from 690 to 705. Upon the death of Emperor Taizong om 649, Wu became an increasingly high ranking and influential concubine of his son, born Li Zhi, later becoming Emperor Gaozong. Having gained the favor of the Emperor, she became Empress Consort and through a serious of largely disputed but clearly brutal purges of rivals, established herself as Empress Regent, equivalent to the male title Emperor. In this role, she was to become the only recognized female Emperor of China in history. Her strict and aggressive but effective reign constituted the Zhou Dynasty, spanning from 690-705, interrupting the Tang Dynasty that began in 618 and ended in 907.

After a serious of aggressive military campaigns and spectacular construction projects completed at her direction, Wu Zetian weakened and died in December 705 at age 80 or 81. Wu Zetian is buried in a shared tomb in the spectacular Qianling Mausoleum, which is seen as the number one Chinese royal tomb and known as the only tomb containing the bodies of multiple emperors in China. Just 53 miles northwest of Xi’an, the Tang dynasty tomb complex was completed in 684. Subjected to numerous attempts at robbery over 1,200 years, the mausoleum is a guarded artifact that must be kept shut under Chinese law. The site is dramatic with vast gardens, walkways, and statues amongst panoramic mountain views, with two huge stone steles commissioned by Wu herself. One offers a rich tribute to her deceased husband, Emperor Gaozong (Li Zhi), but mysteriously, the other stele, commissioned for herself, is completely blank.

5. The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China steadily extends across mountains and valleys, crawling up seemingly impossible grades while maintaining its grand structural integrity and a consistent appearance. A wonder of the world of paramount significance and iconic status, the Great Wall of China as it currently stands is primarily a Ming Dynasty relic of impressive defensive architecture. Attracting 10 million visitors per year, the wall is unfortunately facing significant impact pressures, yet conservation measures are challenging given the wall’s inter-jurisdictional span. Readily accessible from Beijing by a short bus ride, the wall spans multiple cities and provinces across China, with a length of 13,170 miles and numerous access points. To put that size in perspective, it is approximately half of the length of the equator in its extent. The most visited point of the wall, the Badaling section, received 63,000,000 million visitors in 2001, with visitor flow reaching 70,000 per day at peak times.

Perhaps the most surprising fact about the Great Wall is the fact that there is no single Great Wall from any particular time. Instead, the Great Wall is a combination of construction efforts from different dynasties and in different places. The 7th century BC saw the start of construction efforts intended to keep out raids from nomadic tribes from the steppes of Eurasia, while the famous first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang constructed massive sections of wall from 220 to 206 BC. While famous, that wall is mostly gone, with the largest portion of the current wall dating from the Ming Dynasty of 1368 to 1644, constructed to resist Mongolian and Jurchen invasions. With massive wall bodies, flanking towards and battlements, the Great Wall looks like a cross between a castle and a wall, and it is also the project with the greatest ever cost to human life and effort.

4. The Coiling Dragon Path (Hunan Province)

Located on the bizarre looking Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park within Hunan province, the Coiling Dragon Path is defined by an eerie glass-bottomed walkway attached to the side of the mountain as it extends in a curving pattern for 330 feet, 4,600 feet above sea level. Opened in the summer of 2016, a fully sheer drop lies below as the path is stuck to the side of the cliffs of the thumb-shaped peak, plunging hundreds of feet to the base sections of the mountain below. In replacing the more rudimentary and also terrifying wooden path, the glass-bottomed path allows tourists to look directly beneath their feet at the ground far below as they advance along the side of the mountain on the impossibly curving glass walkway, brushing against the vegetation of the vertical mountainside.

Just 5 feet in width, the Coiling Dragon Path is accompanied by additional dizzying attractions, including a spectacular record breaker in the form of the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge, which is the world’s highest and longest glass-bottomed bridge. This bridge has been subjected to bizarre safety tests including being cracked with a sledgehammer, after which a car was driven across. The glass-bottomed bridge spans 1,410 feet, with a height of 984 feet above the floor of the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon that it spans. Adding to the bizarre and stunning visuals of the site is a 431-foot high hole in Tianmen Mountain known as Tianmen Cave, accessible by a crazily winding road with 99 sharp bends that inches its way up the slopes.

3. The Bund (Shanghai)

A complex of enormous colonial European buildings that are seemingly out of place, the Bund in Shanghai is comprised of 52 colonial buildings that include Baroque, Gothic, Neo-Classical, and Renaissance architectural styles, and the most extensive set of Art-Deco construction on the planet. Despite their foreign origin and appearance, the buildings of the Bund are seen as forming the definitive landmark of Shanghai, extending along the waterfront to include spectacular churches, hotels, and former government buildings. The buildings include trading and colonial posts of countries including the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and the consulates of Russia and Britain.

Understood to be invaders by China, European colonists and soldiers engaged in conflicts that led to significant destruction of Chinese heritage property and cultural artifacts and imposition of trade and territorial concessions, most notoriously through the Opium Wars, where England declared war against China in 1839 in the First Opium War. As part of colonial settlement, the Bund served as a headquarters for enforcing trade and territorial concessions up the end of China’s final imperial dynasty, the Qing Dynasty (CE 1644-1911).

Viewed by China as unreasonable and labeled the “Unequal Treaties,” the concessions fell apart during and subsequent to the events of WWII. Closed down in 1949 as a result of Chinese displeasure with what was seen as a symbol of Western colonialism, the site is now viewed as a prime tourist destination and economic engine. Attracting scores of visitors each year, the buildings have been subject to extensive historical restoration efforts by the Chinese government and form one of the most visited tourism sites in China. Now, uses for the buildings include hosting museums, hotels and corporate centers.

2. Mount Huashan

The 7,067-foot Mount Huashan, Shaanxi Province, offers a heart-stopping and unusual hike consisting of boardwalk sections strapped to the sides of the rising peaks and secured to each other with giant “staples.” A potentially dangerous “geotourism” site, the mountain rises dramatically above the surrounding foothills and farmlands. Stunning panoramic perspectives and firsthand views of sheer drops of unimaginable heights can be seen from the shockingly precarious chain hold and rickety wooden plank pathway called the “Plank Road” on the South peak of the mountain, which is known as “The Monarch of Huashan.” The plank road appears awkwardly rigged to the sides of the mountain and sometimes tilted towards it on an angle. At the end of the plank road, the “path” transforms to mere foot pegs jutting out of the mountain and footholds carved into the rock.

In fact, the sky walkways onsite are more akin to an assisted rock climbing experience where you had better hang on for your life with the help of the required harness than an actual developed “path.” Considered one of China’s five great mountains and a holy site dating back to the construction of a second century Daoist temple, the Monarch of Huashan has many sheer cliffs and a stout shape that may recall a giant peg or even a barnacle as it protrudes far above the surrounding peaks, reaching a staggering height of 7,070 feet. Mount Huashan has been labelled “The most dangerous hike in the world,” with widely disputed claims of high death tolls but an undeniably real risk of danger. Due to the popularity of Mount Huashan as an extreme hiking destination, concerns of crowding have become a significant problem, leading to numerous visitors choosing to climb at night.

1. Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

Not truly a bear, the Giant Panda is an icon not only of Chinese wildlife and biological diversity but a symbol of nature conservation globally and the logo of the World Wildlife Fund.

Considered vulnerable with a population of only 1,864 pandas remaining in the wild, the Giant Panda is restricted in range to mountainous regions of western China where they naturally live, breed, and forage in bamboo forests, subsisting almost 100 percent upon this gigantic grass species. Home to 83 pandas, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is located at the north end of Chengdu, the sub-provincial capital of Sichuan, a province known for spicy food, mountains, and bamboo forests on which the critically endangered Giant Panda depends. The majority of the Giant Panda range is in Sichuan province, with smaller populations in Shaanxi province and Gansu province.

The birthplace of 124 new pandas as of 2008, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding started through the rescue of six pandas in the 1980s and aspires to be recognized as a world class destination for research, education, and international tourism. The site is readily accessible from downtown Chengdu by bus or vehicle but enjoys a wilderness setting. Awarded the categorization of “Class 4a National Tourist Attraction,” the center attracts an incredible 3.5 million tourists per year intent on viewing the pandas and seeing the breeding facilities, handler interactions, and surrounding lush forested hills. The site also has facilities to enable the gradual release of pandas into the wild, and conducts crucial fieldwork projects to research the ecology, conservation, and life history of pandas in the wild as well as pioneering panda conservation breeding techniques.


China Sightseeing Highlights –

WIF Travel

The NULL Solution = Episode 76

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The NULL Solution = Episode 76

… the Space Family McKinney is exceeding its status as kings of deep space lore…

While hearing of Cerella’s recent travails first hand, where she actually left out the details of the dark space she occupied for months, Gus can hardly contain himself. One part joy – two parts anger, he wonders why a clearer message was not sent, rather than the fleeting apparitions in dribs & drabs, albeit cryptic clues about his family.

“We could not risk the current timestem on sentimentality,” she explains.

“And yet you plopped the technology for the molecular stabilizer and Warp 3 in our laps?”

“And disruptor weapon and force field?” adds Roy.

“If Celeste McKinney and I do not stabilize the molecules within your spacecraft, you both would have been lost.”

“Celeste and Sam, they’re alive too!”

“… and your sister Deimostra.”

A sense of irony has grabbed the headlines.

“We named our baby daughter Marscie Deimos for crying out loud! Did you hear that Roy, I have a sister?”

For as long as Dr. Picard will allow, Cerella narrates the full McKinney saga as best as she can. Mars to NEWFOUNDLANDER, NEWFOUNDLANDER to Eridanus and now Explorer to the ends of the Milky Way and beyond, the Space Family McKinney is exceeding its status as kings of deep space lore.

A “somehow” family reunion is in order, but first Cerella must recover and the NASA boys need to regroup. If only they could call over to Eridanus and make the arrangements. Lost on all the Earthly excitement is that Deke and Co. are no doubt worried silly. Before she conceived, Cerella would have been able to use hyperphysical transmigration to facilitate or at the very least reestablish a telepathic connection with home, but Picard’s surgery did not preserve those extraordinary Eridanian functions. Although he firmly believes that a brain will find a way to mend broken links.

Too bad, either option would come in handy right now.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 76


page 79