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Friday, March 31, 2017

More "bird-watching"

     Today was the day of the first flight of the Boeing 787-10. It is built only here in Charleston. The union folks in Seattle are grinding their teeth. It is the stretch version of the soon to be profitable 787. It can carry more people further on less fuel than any other aircraft. I knew the first flight would be early afternoon with all the hoopla that Boeing could manage. So, I moved a lawn chair into the back yard and sat there with my camera and my Kindle. After 45 minutes, I gave up. I was getting burned (sorry NH) and there was too much glare to read. Shortly after I came inside, Cindy noticed a roar. She made it out the door first, and I came along too late to get a picture. With her I-phone Cindy clicked a true snapshot into the sun and captured the picture below.

     In a total coincidence she caught the 787-10 on the left and an ancient T-33 flying "chase" on the right. In between the two is the top of our Bradford pear which is beginning to show leaves and blossoms.
     No esoteric thoughts or deep insights...just a neat, lucky picture of an historic event.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

More Birds

     We have had a bluebird house on the back fence for several years. While we have seen bluebirds from time to time, we haven't seen any nest building. This winter I thought about, but did not accomplish, a cleaning of the inside. I had built the house to have an easily removable roof for just that reason. For the past few weeks we have seen renewed activity, When a camera is carried into the back yard, however, they disappear. Yesterday, Durelle set up a camping chair and waited with the camera. When the bluebirds finally reappeared, she discovered that the camera battery was inside on the charger...grumble, grumble. The battery is over a dozen years old and needs to be recharged after every use. So, this morning, with the battery fresh from the charger, I ventured forth with the camera and a cup of coffee to await the bluebirds. They did not disappoint.

     First up was the female doing all the heavy lifting.


     As is the case with most avian species, the female bluebird's coloring is decidedly more drab than the male's. Here is the male, perched on the fence post, leaning on his shovel, as it were, and supervising.

     This is the eastern bluebird at his finest. 

     While waiting for the bluebirds, I got a nice shot of a female cardinal (equally drab) perched in the Bradford pear with its new buds.

     Before I had finished with the bluebirds, the viewfinder flashed red, the Leica logo appeared and the camera shut off. I went inside and typed "replacement battery for a Leica camera" into the Amazon search window. Immediately up popped a picture of the very battery I needed. There are now two on order. I'm decidedly "old school', but that was neat.

     OK, now that we have a single-themed coherent blog, I have been requested to include some additional Spring pictures by other photographers:

     While Durelle's dear friend Estelle Anderson and her two daughters paid us a visit, Cindy took this nice shot of the group on the Isle of Palms.

     Then, while Durelle failed with the bluebirds, she did capture a few other nice Spring shots:

     She also took a nice picture of "our" alligator, but I did not save it as we already had a handful of similar shots.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Birds of a Feather (?)

     From time to time I have posted pictures of the American Bald Eagles that we are so fortunate to have as neighbors. I think I have also posted at least one of the blue herons which make good use of the large retention pond in our backyard. This morning the two species were almost on top of one another. It reminded me of The Odd Couple, or for you old farts, Mutt and Jeff. The eagle had apparently snared a fish and was eating it on the bank. The heron was tip-toeing nearby like a hyena at a lion kill.

     That looks like a fish tail under the eagle's left foot, but there is blood on his beak so I am not absolutely certain what he has there. I can't imagine that the heron would dare to leave the slightest impression that the eagle's breakfast might be in danger.

     In the local demographic of feathered fish eaters the eagle has to be the unchallenged alpha dog, so it was very surprising that the eagle never made a motion to scare the heron away. I'm curious if the birders out there have seen similar encounters.

     Thursday evening was the "Founder's Day" celebration. It commemorated the 215th anniversary of the founding of the military academy at West Point. These events follow most of the same agenda wherever and whenever they are held. There are a number of traditional toasts, a guest speaker, and brief talks by the oldest (I'm starting to get close.) and youngest grads present. Typically the dress is formal. Last year I suggested strongly to the president of the local chapter that he would double the attendance without sacrificing any of the agenda if the affair were not formal. He did and he did. Little did I know that he would go whole hog. We had 90 people at Alhambra Hall in the old town section of Mt. Pleasant on the edge of Charleston Harbor for a pig roast! It was good, but it couldn't match the one we had last summer on the edge of Penobscot Bay.

     There's no real news on the medical front(s). I'm still doing a lot of physical therapy, but the problems are so embedded in the neuropathy, that progress is hard to see. Durelle is finally going to get a lumbar MRI Tuesday. The cortisone shot worked like magic and is still working. The X-rays showed some sites where the vertebra spacing indicated the potential for trouble, but only an MRI will tell for sure.
     This week, while New England was seeing a couple of feet of blowing snow, we had 28 degrees and frost on the lawn. That is NOT a complaint you just heard.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Alaskan Earthquake of 1964

     Since I can't come up with much in the way of currently interesting material, I decided to dig into the archives. And I mean DEEP into the archives. On Good Friday of 1964 was the memorable Alaskan earthquake. We were living in Anchorage at the time. We later learned that it registered 9.2 (!) on the Richter scale, and that the resulting tsunami killed people as far away as Crescent City, CA. Shortly afterwards I sent a letter back to my folks in Massachusetts. Communication options were few. It cost six cents because it was Air Mail! Below is an actual transcript made from the original letter that I still have. I hope you find it interesting. There are many other stories from the ensuing days, but this is the unvarnished immediate reaction.

                                                                                                                       29 Mar 1964

Hello Folks,

     Well, not much to write about, but we did have a little earthquake over the weekend.  Seriously, we have had quite a time of it.  I was on my way home from work Friday, and in the process of running a couple of errands.  I was going to pick up an Easter egg coloring kit and an Easter lily.  Apparently the idea of my buying flowers for Durelle was an earth-shattering event, for suddenly I felt a weird, wobbling sensation as if a wheel were about to fall off.  I pulled over and stopped so I wouldn’t lose that wheel only to discover that my car wasn’t wobbling…the road was.  For an instant I was relieved because I was already anticipating car repairs.  Then I got things back into perspective.  After all, an earthquake can be at least as serious as a broken wheel.  That instant of relief to find that “it was only an earthquake” was a very transitory thing, but it still stands out in my memory because of its incongruity.
     I hopped back into the car and headed home; now only two blocks away.  The earth was still shaking, for the quake lasted over 5 ½ minutes.  For a few hundred yards it was quite a drive.  The road was even more slippery than usual and I saw one driver park his car and sit there minding his own business when the ditch on the side of the road moved over under him.  That is what literally happened.
     When I got home Cindy was still crying, but Durelle had everything under control.  A few lamps scattered some broken glass when they fell and bookcases fell over.  One kitchen cabinet disgorged some of its contents of Mark’s baby food.  There would be a mess to clean up, but no real damage was done.
     I did decide that it would be a good idea to get out of the house, so we all got in the car and wandered over in the direction of a friend’s house a couple of miles away.  We did see a collapsed carport and some cracks in the road, but we still had no idea of the seriousness of the tremor.  After we had travelled down MacKenzie Drive a few blocks, I suddenly realized that the horizon had changed!  I turned the car around and parked aiming south away from the collapsed area and told Durelle to leave if she heard anything that scared her.  I ran down to the point where the road disappeared.
     My first impression was that it looked as if someone had dropped a giant box of peanut brittle.  The ground was frozen about three feet down and covered with 6 to 12 inches of snow.  Thousands of chunks of those three foot thick slabs were jumbled in unreal disorder.  These pieces varied in width from  5 to 100 feet.  About a block from where I stood I could see my boss’s house.  Major Jack Hornsby, his wife, four kids, house, car, and dog had dropped en masse about 40 feet and slid north toward Cook Inlet almost a block.
     I yelled to him to find out what his immediate needs were.  He said his family was OK and that there were many people who would need ropes, helicopters, wrecking bars and first aid gear.  I couldn’t get through to the Air Force Base by phone to call on my radar shop, but I briefed a mobile ham operator on what I knew and he started the wheels rolling.
     With Durelle and the kids at a neighbor’s house away from the most dangerous areas I changed clothes and headed back into the Turnagain area.  This area of about 400 homes, ranging in value from $50,000 to $300,000, was the finest residential area I had ever seen.  It was located along a bluff a hundred or more feet above the ocean.  About 100 homes were flattened and tossed around.  Another 100 had settled, shifted and broken.
     It took about fifteen minutes to navigate the crevasses between the broken end of the road and Hornsby’s house.  Normally it is only a block.  He had gotten his family out and was commencing a house to house check for possible occupants.  I joined him, and in the next two or three hours we led several people out.  There must have been some panic at the time of the ‘quake, but while I was there, there was an amazing calmness and sense of purpose.  How those helicopters found places to land in those shambles is beyond me, but they must have made a dozen trips while I was there.  I crawled through one house that was actually upside down.
     We finally quit and crawled back to his badly worried family.  We all piled into my car, went home, settled the kids down with some hot chocolate (heated over a propane torch), and began to lay out some bedding.  Then that tee totaling Southern Baptist got himself outside about four ounces of bourbon just as if he knew what it was for.  I can’t say that I was surprised. Considering the state of shock, I’m sure it did a lot of good.
     When daylight came, we went back and retrieved his valuables, food and clothes.  Then I drove them out to the guest house on base.  We cleaned up some here, but without power and heat, we decided to spend the night with a friend with a fireplace.  We came back this morning, picked up some more of the mess and heated the house by leaving the oven door ajar.
     Alaska has been set back many years, but without exception everyone is digging in with optimistic enthusiasm.  There were almost no fires and well under a hundred fatalities, yet the ‘quake was actually stronger than the ‘Frisco ‘quake of 1906.  Coastal cities that have lost their “raison d ‘etre” will rebuild bigger than ever.  What I mean by that is that Seward, just named one of America’s “All American” cities by Look magazine, has lost its canneries, docks, and rail yards.  There is not much else in that town, but they are already floating bonds with initiative as their only collateral.
     Perhaps it is overly romantic to say that strong remnants of the Alaskan pioneer blood has made its presence known, but the way this place is bouncing back is amazing to me and yet taken for granted by the natives.
     I feel that my family will have profited by this experience.

P.S.  Did that Seattle operator get in touch with you?