Saturday, November 10, 2007

32 Years Ago Today

Came The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Here's Gordon Lightfoot's version of what happened on Lake Superior, costing 29 men their lives and breaking a 729 foot long ship in half:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconson
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
T'was the witch of November come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane West Wind

When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it's been good to know ya.

The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the words turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.

--Gordon Lightfoot

Friday, November 09, 2007

Nuke Unto Others...

Before They Can Nuke Unto You?

This crap going on over in Pakistan is making me a little nervous these days. I've done a good deal of reading in news outlets outside the US and it's getting more interesting by the moment tonight.

Instead of referring you to the ill-written ASSociated Press stories, here's a link to the horse's mouth the English Al Jazeera website talking about former Prime Minister Bhutto's situation:

Pakistani police have surrounded the Islamabad home of Benazir Bhutto ahead of her planned rally in Rawalpindi against emergency rule.

Sherry Rehman, a Bhutto party spokeswoman, said although the former prime minister was not officially under house arrest, police were blocking all movement in and out.

"It's virtual house arrest," she said.

Tariq Aziz, the information minister, however, said the former prime minister has not been formally placed under house arrest.

But "we will not allow any leader to carry out any rally. The law is equal for everybody and anyone violating it will be dealt with accordingly", he said.

A senior official said police had cordoned off Bhutto's only for her protection.

But other officials said she would be stopped if she tried to attend the rally, due to begin in Rawalpindi near Islamabad at 1pm (0800 GMT).

"She's free to go anywhere but if she tries to go to the rally she'll be stopped," said a government official who declined to be identified.

A senior police official said an order placing Bhutto under house arrest had been prepared.

I can't offer any glib insight or answers here except to worry, but when I first started reading these stories I thought about how different things would be if this guy were in charge:

(That's Bluto...played by John Belushi in the movie "Animal House.")

Instead of this woman:

(That's former pakistani Prime Minister Bhutto)

Just call me sexist, I guess.

I can't help but wonder if we haven't laid down with the wrong dog there by backing this Musharraf character.

One would hope that he knows better what to do than our own president and most of all the clowns in our US Congress, but then again, taking the steps that he has--suspending the constitution and locking up all of the lawyers--could be considered a bit extreme (no matter how much you dislike lawyers.)

Regardless of the outcome, of course 51% of the folks in Washington DC and 94% of the lamestream media will assert that it's all George Bush's and his maniacal VP's fault.


My Soul Is Mended

And I'm Warm Too...

Pat and I did something the past two nights that we've never done together, and I haven't done in thirteen years.

OK, get your minds out of the gutter, it's nothing like that--I'm talking about having a fire in the fireplace in the house I live in.

You see, after growing up in a house with a fireplace, spending weekends in my grandfather's house that had three fireplaces, and having fireplaces in both of my first two houses, I've allowed myself to live since late 1994 in houses and condo's without a real wood burning fireplace.

Of course the last house which I lived in that I owned didn't have a fireplace either, but it did manage to burn to the ground one April day in 2001. I guess that spontaneously combusting and burning down doesn't count because I wasn't there to enjoy the blaze and when things finally died down all of the wood and most of my possessions were reduced to ashes.

I suppose that you could say that it was the first and last fire in that house's 35 year history...all in the same four hour period.

Any way, living here on the coast in south Georgia makes a fireplace a truly seasonal luxury, but the past couple of nights the temperature has gotten down into the mid 40's and I just couldn't resist digging into the small pile of firewood that the previous tenant left sitting beside the edge of the driveway.

Last night's effort could hardly be called a roaring blaze because the wood was a little rotted, bug infested, and slightly damp on the outside, but I separated everything this morning to let it dry out during the day and then took a big hammer and masonry chisel (I don't own an axe or hatchet) and split the 6" and 8" logs into nice manageable wedge shaped pieces.

I fired things up about 6:30 PM while cooking Almond crusted Tilapia for dinner, and now I'm coming up on the sixth hour of this evenings inferno. I've been sitting at the coffee table about eight feet from my spirit healing blaze enjoying the cracking and popping, and now reluctantly in the interest of saving some wood for tomorrow night I'm forcing myself to let things burn down for the evening.

For some reason I'm sad for people that insist on using gas logs (and gas grills for that matter), because there's something instinctively soothing about the sights, sounds, and smells encountered while sitting in front of a real wood fire on a dark winter evening.

Maybe it's just an ancient inherited human trait...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Rosie Screws Up Again

Show's Dead Before The First Taping

I was wandering around Drudge Report this morning and noticed a link to Rosie O'Donnell's Website.

The link was to a posting indicating that she had lost her planned MSNBC evening political show because "she blabbed" publicly about the negotiations and the Network backed out of the deal.

All I can say is...

Good Riddance--very few people care what she has to say about current events and politics anyway.

(Anyone but me notice that she writes in her blog like an eighth grader, using all little letters and words like "2day" and "b4"?)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Marley's London...

Haven't I Been Here Before?

I swore that I was going to write something glib and compelling (or boorish and infuriating--depending on your political leanings) this evening, but I can't get my mind off my new theater set project.

I've had the privilege of designing and building the set for Brunswick's Ritz Theater's annual Christmas production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" for three years running now.

Working with Heather and Rob and the rest of theater staff is a pleasure, and they always do an excellent job with the casting and end up putting on a wonderful series of shows seen by about three thousand people over the short production run each year.

Two seasons ago I was challenged with building a set that was entirely contained within a giant trunk or "treasure chest" that could be opened up to reveal it's contents during the play.

Here's the set in the closed position with the members of the Cast presenting the Giant Key in preparation of opening it up:

and here it is opened up:

Last season's show was a more traditional production only requiring storefront scenes and Scrooge's bedroom, so here's what Heather and I came up with (we went tall and wide as you can see):

(that's my buddy Brunswick Mayor Brian Thompson there center stage left playing Scrooge)

Now this year's show presents yet another entirely new challenge, with a minimalistic set designed again for Mayor Thompson's portrayal of Scrooge, with the balance of the cast being pre-teen aged actors.

The coolest part of this set will be the design of a giant eerie "Ghost of Christmas Future" puppet with illuminated eyes, a throbbing red heart, and glowing ribs and hands.

Needless to say it's right up my alley, and my mind is racing over the possibilities. I'll be at Radio Shack as soon as it opens tomorrow morning to start looking at electronic doo-dads to include in my design.

Wish me luck, if you will...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I'm Actually Working Today

Sorry folks, but I've got new copper to solder in my "Mad Scientist" Waterhammer research project, and as of this afternoon I have a new Theater Set to design for yet another version of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" (my fourth consecutive Christmas Play production of an adaptation of Dickens' work,) so needless to say I'm a bit distracted.

I feel a little rant coming on later...I just have to decide what to complain about.

Monday, November 05, 2007


It Was Chilly Out...

Well, the International Space Station made it's appearance this morning right on time in a brilliantly clear sky and flew a complete arc overhead ending on the eastern horizion in the morning twilight.

Here's a look as it cruises past Orion's belt (Orion's standing on his head upside down):

Click on the picture to enlarge.

(Yeah, I know...astronomy pictures are had to be there I guess...)

Time now for a nap with Missy the Turbo Pup.

Camera Set Up

Tripod In Hand...

I just walked outside and found the sky to be brilliant and clear this evening. I also did a couple of manual test shots to test my Cannon G3's aperture and slow shutter settings while mounted on the tripod and aimed at Mars.

Everything seems to be working fine, although I can only get a 15 second maximum exposure--I should be able to get some nice "streaked" images of the space station flyover later this morning.

Stay tuned to this channel...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

More Nerdy Neat Stuff

I'm Here To Let You Know...

I think that I've mentioned here in the past that I'm currently "Telescopeless."

You without Telescope.

I'm really embarrased to admit it, but I only currently have a couple of pairs of Binoculars...but no telescope, because two of them burned up when my house burned down; and some slack jawed moron broke into my Suburban about that same time and stole my sweet little portable Telescope.

I guess that it was stolen because it was stored in a vinyl case that looked like it had CD's or something inside that an imbecile could appreciate. (They probably threw it in a ditch when they found out that the Pawn Shop would only give them ten dollars for it because people that go to Pawn shops are only looking for gold colored "Bling" or used power tools and TV's--telescopes aren't generally high on the hit parade at pawn shops.)

Any way, I've been reduced the past few years to running around with a camera and binoculars looking to enhance things that can easily be seen by the naked eye, and one of the coolest but yet under observed things out there these days in my opinion is the International Space Station (ISS).

Did you know that in spite of the fits and starts and recent problems with things like computers and solar panels, the the ISS is the THIRD BRIGHTEST OBJECT IN THE SKY?

It's number three behind the Sun and the Moon.

Further, right now, with the Space Shuttle attached it's even brighter, and coming up on Monday morning here on the east coast the duo of spaceships is going to make a spectacular early morning pass over the southeastern US.

I can hardly wait--I've been planning this adventure for a week now.

Weather permitting, I'm going to toss on some sweat pants and a jacket and peddle over to the marsh causeway about 5:49 AM EST and watch the four minute transit across the sky.

You can go here to the space station tracking website to check future sighting events for your own area of the country or world.

Being the nice guy that I am, as a customer service I've taken the liberty to point out where my friends and known readers can go look if they're inclined to rise early and go outside to take a gander:

For my old friend and college roommate Rusty up in western South Carolina, things start about 5:50 AM and last for five minutes as it sweeps overhead to a maximum elevation of 54 degrees.

For my Buddy Roy over on the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast, you can go here and find out that it will fly out of the southwest sky at 4:49 EST and spend 4 minutes making an arc up to 60 degrees overhead before it disappears on the Northeast horizon.

For my Mom over in Alabama, the info's here and just like for Roy it's E-A-R-L-Y.

Finally, I'm happy to tell Pat's family that they can wait until Tuesday morning and sleep until about 6:14 AM up in Western Pennsylvania and still run outside on their deck to take a gander at the goings on. As a bonus, in addition to getting to sleep later than we can down here on our little island, they also have the longest transit time--up to an angle of 66 degrees and a five minute transit period.

Now aren't you happy that I'm paying attention to stuff like this so you don't have to?