Sky Spectator! Travel Tuesdays Gets Celestial

Fair voyaging-inclined readers, flying is awesome.

Yes, I see you over there, giving me the side-eye. Okay, flying does involve cramming yourself into a seat whose dimensions seem calculated to keep you juuuuuust on the wrong side of comfortable. And then sitting that way for two to sixteen hours, hoping the stale air in the metal tube that encloses you doesn't transmit whatever pathogens the person three rows behind you is coughing up. But consider: you are above the clouds.

The vantage point you experience on a flight is one that people could only dream of for most of human history. More to the point: it's gorgeous. When I manage to secure a window seat, I generally spend most of the journey with my face and camera pressed to the porthole, photographing the swirling vapor skyscape and the earth and sea below it. Human society creates a fascinating array of visual patterns from 30,000 feet. For perspective on the shape of civilization, it doesn't get much better than that.

I thought I'd post a few plane-photographs today, and share the cloudscape joy. If you have any of your own, please do share! Does anyone else like to spend a flight looking out the window? If so, what's the most interesting thing you've flown over? Has anyone seen the Grand Canyon or a famous mountain range from above?

Travel Tuesdays Braves Thanksgiving Traffic

Salutations! Apologies for the radio silence on my end, fair readers. I threw out my neck rather spectacularly last week (was it the extreme laundry-basket-carrying? The high-octane reading-a-large-and-heavy-book? The three and a half whole push-ups I managed the previous day? The world may never know), and have since been scrambling to catch up. Because crafting is more or less out of the question for the moment, and because we’ve just come out the other side of a famously travel-heavy holiday, I thought I’d do another travel column this week. And so I shall henceforth dissemble on that chestnut of a Thanksgiving tradition, traffic.

Traffic is the horsefly in the ointment of adventure. I’ve been stuck atop the apex of Miami bridges, looking wistfully at the expanse of Art Deco silver and turquoise sea stretching far below. I’ve wished with carsick fervor that Atlanta would either implement a decent public transportation system or adequately accommodate the vehicular density that comes of not having one. I’ve stared ahead as I inched across the stocky grey George Washington Bridge, gradually losing all hope of seeing the other side. I’ve discovered the terrible truth about driving in Boston at rush hour: that it is a slow-motion but nonetheless terrifying game of chicken with every other animate occupant of the road—car, pedestrian, or intrepid pigeon-zilla—and whoever flinches first yields right of way. I’ve sat in gridlock near Philadelphia’s Centre Square; the friend in whose car I was a passenger took advantage of our stillness to point out the unusual pose of William Penn’s statue atop Philadelphia City Hall. I’ve lurched in stop-and-go up Maine’s coast, and rolled my windows down, soaking in the summer morning sunlight and smelling salt on the air. I’ve chugged past Berkshire cornfields in pummeling rain, blasting Queen’s “Seven Seas of Rhye” over and over on my car stereo so as not to fall asleep. (I dare you to hear Freddie Mercury bellow, “I challenge the mighty titan and his troubadours!”, look me in the eye, and tell me you’re still in the mood for a nap.) In the coming years I hope to sit idling in lines of motorists farther afield. I’ve heard L.A. is in a class all its own.

Somewhere in all of this, as those possessed of a vagabondish nature must do, I’ve made my peace with gridlock.  If you’re not late, exhausted, feeling the press of biological necessity, or on a very tight gas budget, traffic can be eminently bearable. The infamous day before Thanksgiving is over, but the next time you’re stuck, my recommendations (perhaps obvious, but eminently helpful to me):

–Audiobooks and serial podcast fiction will keep you from leaping out the car window yelling, “I’M FREEEEEEE!” I personally find stories with a certain amount of brio to be most effective in keeping spirits high while speed is low. I love a challenging novel that unfolds delicately. I adore subtle, understated wit. But if you’re like me, you may want something robust to distract you from dolefully eyeing the bumper ahead. A favorite of mine: Decoder Ring Theater’s Red Panda Adventures. It’s a jolly, cracking 1930s radio play–style serial recounting the deeds of the Red Panda, “Canada’s greatest superhero.” Banter! Gadgets! Evildoers! Derring-do!

–Especially if you’re driving, have chewing gum or mints on hand for when you get too tired or stir-crazy. Taste is stimulus and entertainment, and chewing provides some small outlet for pent-up energy.

–If you have backseat malcontents (children or passengers inclined to act like them), especially if they’re inclined to motion sickness, give them something to fiddle with that doesn’t have a screen. Playing with smartphones and tablets is a great distraction, but after a while spent doing so in the car, a lot of people start to feel ill. (Myself included. I am the sovereign of the backseat malcontents.) Give them a break with a non-messy tactile thing, like silly putty and its ilk, or a three-dimensional puzzle that doesn’t require too much hand-eye coordination. If you’ll permit me to sneak in a Peter Pauper item mention, Foil It is actually great on this score. It’s entertaining, and playing with it feels productive, but it doesn’t require the acute visual concentration that can make passengers woozy. Also, creating shiny things is a little addictive, which is seldom a bad thing on a long journey.

–Modify your seat—with pillows, padding, and whatever configuration-adjustment your car will allow—to compensate for the physical discomfort of moving from brake to gas and back, over and over. The next time you’re in traffic, pay attention to what starts to get tired or achy after a while, and experiment to determine what best alleviates that. It’ll pay off when you’re stuck on a long trip. I keep Tiger Balm in my car, though the applications thereof are obviously somewhat limited while driving. (I’ve been told I’m too young for such cares. I’ve also been told I’m too young to fear Facebook, though, and I do in abundance.)


And with that, I bid you au revoir! May your next round of travels be swift and smooth.

Travel Tuesdays and the Grand Plan

Hello, stalwart desk chair adventurers! It’s been a turbulent few weeks in the New York area, and as some of you could probably use a diversion, I thought I’d chronicle a rather spectacular venture in which we were involved pre-Sandy. Long story short: San Diego native Jeff Niles used PPP’s New York Travel Guide iPhone app to propose to his now-fiancée, Diana Cuevas, in midair over the Statue of Liberty.

If silver screen romance is to be believed, the key components of an extraordinary marriage proposal (whether it takes place in one’s living room or on the moon) are delightful context and the element of surprise, both of which Jeff’s plan contained in spades. Our app’s role provided a little bit of each. In early October, Jeff wrote Shy Bear Apps, our partner in iPhone endeavors, to ask if they’d help him realize his ambitious vision.

Shy Bear worked with Jeff to determine more precisely what he wanted and how they might achieve it. They then postponed their regularly scheduled lives for a little while, and set about inventing the proposal functionality in time for Jeff’s trip to New York. Their start-to-finish window for this was about two days. Peter Pauper contributed mostly in a second-pair-of-eyes capacity, previewing iterations of the feature and offering (mostly helpful, I hope) suggestions. We discussed, considered, and finally submitted the proposal-equipped build to the App Store. Jeff downloaded and installed it.

A week later, Jeff took Diana on a helicopter tour of New York City. In the sky above its iconic skyline, he handed her his iPhone. They soared over America’s most famous green giant (sorry, Incredible Hulk), and a Push notification popped up on the phone’s screen, summoned by their proximity to Liberty Island. The notification led to a secret screen in the app containing Jeff’s proposal.

Excellent readers, she said yes!

Our congratulations to Jeff and Diana, and to Shy Bear for pulling off this not-insubstantial programming feat so swiftly and cleverly. We were honored to peripherally participate.








A quick postscript: If you reside in the tri-state area or another region affected by the hurricane (or the subsequent snowstorm, what even), and are still feeling its effects, our continued sympathies. I hope recovery efforts provide some relief shortly.

Another, less-topical postscript: We’ve decided to embrace subject matter variety! That is to say, we’d like to introduce a crafts (and other creative endeavors) section to Pauper’s Corner, and I’ve volunteered. Travel Tuesdays will therefore alternate with Artful Tuesdays henceforth! Join me next Tuesday, and we’ll draw dinosaurs. There’ll be excitement! Fun facts! Extremely large teeth!

Image credits:

First image – Luciano Mortula/

Second image – Shy Bear Consulting and Peter Pauper Press Interactive

Third and fourth images – Kindly provided by Jeff Niles for one-time use in this blog post.

Travel Tuesdays and the Serious Interlude

As you may have gathered from our last few posts (or any major news outlet), the tri-state area has, erm, weathered its share of upheaval in the past few days. We've been fortunate at PPP, but Hurricane Sandy devastated many nearby areas. First responders and relief workers have undertaken–and continue to undertake–Herculean efforts to assist those in need, often working through exhaustion and despite threats to their physical safety. (If you're reading this, any of you, thank you.) Last Monday evening, quaking a little as the wind slammed my apartment, I followed (through the magic of cell phone internet) the successful emergency evacuation of NYU's Langone Hospital at the height of the storm. News of flooding, building collapses, and extraordinary rescue efforts streamed in through the night.

I had planned before the storm hit to write about a rather magnificent marriage proposal carried off a few weeks ago with the help of our New York Travel Guide app. I'll regale you with the details next week, I promise! But this week, I wanted to utilize this space to laud anyone who's pitched in (with money or time) on the rescue/repair front, offer my deepest condolences to those who suffered losses in the storm, and mention to anyone with the resources and inclination to help that many of those hurt by Sandy are still definitely in need.

I wish you all a safe and dry time of it in the days to come. If you're in our neck of the woods, please take care in the much smaller nor'easter (yes, I know, unbelievable) due to arrive on Wednesday.

Also: It's election day! If you haven't already voted, via absentee ballot or the opportunity to do so early, best of luck casting your ballot! When this post goes up, I'll probably be standing in line at the local high school :).