Churl-Free #4: In Flight

Getting this in under the wire on an only-positive day.

Late yesterday afternoon this is how the upper Hudson River Valley, north and east of Albany, looked from 4500 feet at around 6pm. Miles away to our left, serious thunderstorms were pummeling cities from Westchester County and New York down to Philadelphia. This is the view out the left window of the plane, looking east, taken by my wife who was sitting in the right front seat. She angled the camera to shoot behind me, in the left seat. We were away from the clouds, which started to our left, and safely distant from the storms on a trip from Maine to Gaithersburg, outside DC.*

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My wife is planning to write soon for her site and the's "Life" channel an account, based on the same photo, of the dramas one overhears on the air-traffic control frequencies on trips like this. For now, and closing an upbeat day, I just offer the picture as an intro to her tale. And, yes, when I'm ready to reconsider less upbeat topics tomorrow, this will also be an intro to the Congressional spectacle that has led to the shutdown of the FAA.

*And before you ask: yes yes yes, small airplanes are an incredible luxury in addition to being an adventure. But with the fuel mixture set on "best economy" and benign winds and flying point to point, our total gas consumption was no more than if we'd done the same route by car. (OK, I know this is a rationalization, and train or bus on the route would be less. But we're looking on the positive side of things today.)

Back to work tomorrow.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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