Friday, August 31, 2007

Love is in the air (and my ear)

Because my ships are required to run a 24/7 operation, we almost never port. This means we are supplied and bunkered (pumped full of gasoline, or water) at sea. Supply ships motor out to wherever we are, come alongside and tie up to us while we are doing our thing. Supplies are craned across while hoses are slung between ships. Usually, the whole operation lasts a few hours and our last supply was no exception from what I've heard-it happened early in the morning and I was off-shift and sleeping.

However, this time we were given more than bunkers and supplies. Have you ever seen lovebugs? Plecia nearctica is also known as the two-headed bug, telephone bug and the march fly. Evidently, they are quite common in the gulf coast states and Central America and now, my ship. Several flew over from the supply ship and were transferred over on our supplies. Within days, they covered my ship. I'm reminded of the shrimp that occasionally shut down our operations with their noisy copulations. These damn love bugs are ALWAYS mating. One wonders where they find the time to eat, shower and catch a movie.

Walking down the port side shelter deck today I was instantly covered in sweaty, moaning love bugs. Other than the couple who crawled into my left ear to be alone, they have no shame, grunting and thrusting in wild abandon all over me. Midly repusive to say the least and yet another reminder that everyone but us is getting some...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's all a matter of scale

Classifying galaxies, ho-hum, then I saw this and knew I had a winner...

So, I opened it up in the SDSS DR6 Finding Chart Tool and........



I saw this...

Why me?

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The longest voyage

Coming soon to a theatre near you-yet another re-make of The Longest Yard, starring Michael Vick…

Tonight, in honor of the total lunar eclipse, I watched Apollo 13 on my laptop after shift. After the movie ended, I went up on deck to check on the progress of the eclipse. The moon had just entered the penumbra and it looked beautiful, framed in puffy, black cumulus clouds. I thought about the Gemini and Apollo missions and what they accomplished in such a short time span, with technology that could easily be called ancient by today’s standards. As Jim Lovell stated, “It wasn’t a miracle. We just decided to go.” Today, with all the advancements in computing, materials science, propulsion and engineering, it would take more than a miracle to return. It’s not the technology that’s lacking, it is us. That is a sad reflection on what we have achieved and become since then.

With those thoughts, I chose not to wait to wait for the moon to enter our umbra and retired here, to my cabin.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Travis Guber is over there

Sailing in on Google? Travis is back up here

He's not here, so go on, take a look. You know you want to...

Galaxy of the day(s)

I've not been myself lately (ha, ha) and neglected to post any galaxies of the day. Here's two:

This one is tough to classify. Could be a ringed elliptical, which is thought to be the product of a galaxy merger and therefor pretty special, or possibly a faint, bared spiral.

This one isn't so tough and is either two ellipticals, or an elliptical and a spiral merging. I suspect the latter.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Good lord are some people dumb as a box of rocks. At least one person has ended up at this site searching "Travis Gruber", thought I was actually selling Official Travis Gruber merchandise and believes I am Travis. I hate to disappoint, but I'm older, fatter and infinitely better looking;) I have also been writing about being at sea for how long, now? I believe I've mentioned that I live in the Great White North. This does not mean Sacramento, people. I mean above the 45th parallel. I wish people would read a little further before condemning Travis for my filth.

It's sad to see how quickly people jump to conclusions and see what they want to see. This person believes Travis is the Anti-Christ and therefor started this website and persona months ago, in order to sell T-shirts, knowing a shoddy journalist would crucify him sometime in the future, with a drive-by article not worthy of a grocery store rag like the National Enquirer. Please. Anyway, this place would be a whole lot funnier if Travis was behind it.

The damn post was meant to be a humorous jab at what I felt was a malicious act by an unethical person and website/newspaper/magazine-whatever. It was meant to bring a small smile to someone who really needs one. I debated taking it down after my previous post was copied into comments on yet another copy/paste drive by article on Trav. It was used to slam him for selling merchandise in the wake of recent events. I wanted to pull it, but was persuaded to let it stand, though I am not pleased with the idea that it may cause Travis more headaches and that is the last thing the man needs more of at the moment.

Once again...Travis, you may crush my windpipe.

The Pirate

Friday, August 24, 2007

Travis Gruber Sold Here

DISCLAIMER: The following was NOT written by Travis Gruber and is not meant in any way to be serious. I am not Travis Gruber and I am NOT selling anything. I am giving away cheap humor. I mean humor, cheap! -The Pirate

Not to outdone by every news agency and website on the planet, as well as the Queen's Travis Watch 2007, I'm now soliciting offers for Travis Gruber. Movie rights, book deals and personal appearances. Only serious offers of large sums of money, chicks, beer and ham steak will be considered. Kickbacks to the agent (me, motherfucker, me) will earn you preference and I reserve the right to discriminate against anyone without a sense of humor. I guess that leaves one little man and and the news rag he rode out on, out of the running, already. Hmmmm....

This website will now also be the official outlet for the following items, to sold in limited numbers:

Travis Gruber Autographs:
Get the real deal, not a snow job from Mr. Peel

Travis Gruber for Governor T-shirts:
Tommy Stoole is just a girlie-man in need of Enzyte and a good buggering.

Travis Gruber Stealth Condoms:
(They'll never see you coming)

"FREE TRAVIS" Coffee Mugs:
I like my coffee like my reporters; rancid and bitter.

The Pirate says, "We've hired three, disgraced, ex-guardsmen you wouldn't hire to mow your lawn as factory workers, after noticing their last attempt at looking impotent by assisting a half-assed excuse for a journalist attack in what they assumed would be another attempt to discredit the institution that was forced to turn them out as men of questionable character.

These confused, old farts are now working around the clock (literally 24 hr shifts-at Airsoft gunpoint) to churn out these mass-produced, poor-quality items, hand-sprayed with three, not just two types of insecticide. Motivated by the chance at looking better than they did before the guard wised up and forced them out, these men are turning out the best possible products they've learned from master craftsman, Tommy Schmeele-smoke, mirrors and bullshit comments designed to make them look better at your expense. Better than what you get at Wal-Mart and at twice the price due to the limited manufacturing run of these keepsakes soon to be treasured by people who actually get it, everywhere."

It will also offer up-to-the-minute reporting on the continuing mis-adventures of Travis Gruber and his razor-sharp wit that ContraCostco Times reporter Tommy Tool saved Northern California and possibly the world from, just a few short days ago. No telling when the next joke might spring up out of the dark soul that is Travis Gruber and cause babies to turn green, virgins to faint, or groundhogs to sprout vacuum tubes out of their ears; according to The Tool.

Sources at ContraCostco Times have quoted a disgruntled, ex-Salvation Army Santa as saying Travis sold a test model of Top Secret stealth condom-clad seamen in a clandestine fluid transfer between himself and an Indonesian body wax saleswoman with known ties to The California Lobby Against Pseudojournalism, or THE CLAP. Is it a Naval scandal coming, or is ContraCostco trying to sell us another pearl necklace?

In an article from reporter *cough* Tommy Toole, Gruber is cited as not only stealing Top Secret plans for the stealth condom and selling them, along with the above-noted test model, but actually attempting to destroy the only known U.S. supply of these high-tech tuna torpedo toppers. Unfortunately for Mr. Tool, Gruber managed to destroy only the Sacramento warehouse containing the extra-small sized stealthy sheaths. Now, left with only fluorescent models; everyone will see Mr. Toole coming from a mile away, despite his obvious shortcomings...

(Don't miss tomorrow's installment of Hack Jobs; How Tommy "T-for tiny" Toole went from pseudo-reporter at ContraCostco Times to driving a cab in the time it took to investigate and write his last article-about five, fucking minutes.)

**All characters portrayed in this charade were not meant to resemble any persons living, or dead with a reasonable sense of humor, and those who don't get it-well, let us hope they eventually get theirs, one way or another.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

They're back...

The shrimp are at it, again...

Tommy Tool's Tiny Dick is a DANGER TO SOCIETY

Yesterday, a guy named Tommy Peele, who fancies himself an investigative reporter, or journalist at Contra Costa Times, chose to use his position in an attempt to ruin a friend of mine and fellow blogger and blacken the eye of the California National Guard by citing the fact that he maintains a website where he posts dark and sometimes offensive material. Things like this always confuse me at first. Why/how can someone take the time and effort to personally attack someone else for no apparent reason?

It’s a simple equation, really. Take one uptight, humorless little man with a penis the size of a half-eaten, bite-size tootsie roll and give him a job where he can say anything he chooses and people will believe him because he's in print, where he can use insinuation and innuendo to ruin another man and that equals trouble. Investigative journalist he fancies himself. His latest piece smacks of something other than investigative and journalism, for that matter. He took one mans humor and used it try and turn people and specifically his employer, against him. Used it to try to ruin him. Printed allegations that his jokes make him a danger to society and the people he serves. Insinuated that his tongue-in-cheek comments are, in fact reality and therefore a physical danger to others. Please.

I found no investigation in the article. Tommy Poole states Travis Gruber has a website where he posts humorous writings and that this is reason to have him removed from his position in the California National Guard as a personal assistant and driver to a general and got a few, old ex-military to agree with him by pulling out select quotes from Travis’ website out of context. He states that Mr. Gruber needs to be removed because-GASP-someone might ask his opinion about something and that he would be promoted in the future. If a man performs his job well and warrants promotion, why should a free society question this?

Indeed, his current position is most likely due to exemplary performance on the job. The hack job perpetrated by Tommy Tool ignores Mr. Gruber's service record and instead calls into question the entire California National Guard's selection process because Mr. Gruber has a dark and razor sharp wit about him and chose to anonymously publish it. Why was this not investigated and reported on by a so-called investigative reporter? Did Tommy Tool do his job and choose to hide the truth, or did he arbitrarily smear Travis Gruber out of malice, ignoring the ethical and moral tenants of journalism from the beginning?

Vilifying a man based on having a sense of humor and a position in the military at the same time, while completely ignoring his service record? One does not have to look hard to see that the motivations for such a piece are rotten to the core. He's not worried about the Governor, the General Mr. Gruber drove around town, or the good state of California. If he were, the article would have been about his history of Travis voting democratic, his violent felony arrests, or lousy driving record, not his sense of humor. No, sadly Tommy is just a mean, little man who feels the need to hurt others for his own pleasure and male enhancement. Get a bottle of Enzyte, dude.

I defy little Tommy Stool to stand up, grab a handful of tootsie roll and say he perpetrated this farce for the good of anything, other than his career, or an obsessive hatred of Mr. Gruber that he has yet to explain. I think the man obviously has a very tiny dick and desperately needs to prove himself by attempting to bring down people and institutions better and yes, bigger than he, in order to feel more like a man. Tommy wants recognition, a penis, readers and he wants to use Travis Gruber to get it. He comes across as pure, 100% undiluted asshole to me. I cannot help but wonder why he chose Travis Gruber and his blog, though. His allegations that Travis Gruber is dangerous are weak to the point of being farcical, so why the stretch? What motivated him to toss this hail mary pass specifically at Travis and the California National Guard in an attempt to enlarge his tootsie roll?

My first guess was that at some point in the past Travis must have boinked his girlfriend, but given Tommy's childish attempt at ruining Travis's career, I suspect Tommy's never had a real girlfriend and instead pays to have his little tootsie roll unwrapped under freeway overpasses and dark alleys. (Not that there's anything wrong with that). So, I can only conclude that Travis ran over his cat, puked on his shoes at a party, kicked his pansy ass in a bar fight, or that Tommy has a sick crush on the little girl in the family circus cartoons and took major offense to Travis' portrayal of her on his website. It's that, or the tiny dick theory, people. Take your pick.

Finally, It is worth noting that in the year, I’ve been acquainted with Travis, he has not once mentioned his position in the military. He kept his private and professional lives well separated. He didn’t blog as member of the Guard and kept his views and humor anonymous, hurting nobody until a joke of a reporter attempted to use them to ruin a good man and a helluva funny guy.

The good Queen has kindly created a generic login for anyone interested in reading the article and I am going to steal it. Isn’t she great? Go say thank you

Password: tmbg8624

I urge you to comment on the article at the bottom.

In addition, if you find the attack as offensive as I, here is the contact information for Tommy. Give him the hell he deserves.

Thomas Peele
investigative reporter (ha, ha)
Contra Costa Times/MediaNews Group
fax: 925-933-0239

and Travis? I apologize for calling you Mr. Gruber. You can crush my windpipe, now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Galaxy of the Day

Nuthin happening out here, today. Here's my GALAXY OF THE DAY:

I thought the red star set off this anti-clockwise, unbarred spiral, nicely.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dolphins, supernovae, satellites and galaxies

Had my morning coffee with a pod of dolphins. About a dozen came to play alongside. They followed me to the bow, playing in the bow wake and chasing the occasional shark away. What a pleasant way to start the day.

We're nearly back to the prospect and soon to be laying gear. I've been doing a little training and classifying galaxies every couple minutes.

This beautiful baby popped up about an hour ago. I searched the forums for its galaxy number and was not surprised to see that it sparked some debate and discussion about supernovae, due to the faint rings. It can be seen from it's negative image that it's not a supernova, but a classic barred, anti-clockwise spiral.

Someone posted this supernova remnant, or planetary nebula (PN G164.8+31.1 - or Jones-Emberson 1) as part of the discussion and wow!

Finally, I acquired this star and satellite track and while useless, looks pretty cool. Stars are identified by their color, intensity and the light reflecting from the four beams that hold the mirror. Satellites are identified by single-color tracks across the field of vision. The reason they are single-color lines is that these images I post are four-color composites, each color is a separate exposure, taken a minute apart-hence the track(its moving relatively fast because its a billion times closer than the stars, or galaxies)and single color. Distant and fast-moving asteroids will appear as a series of colored dots, closely spaced in a line(red, green, blue, yellow)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Scratch that beer

If you knew this business, you'd not be surprised that we suddenly weighed anchor and headed back out to the prospect without even getting to shore. I had a good long look at it from 6 miles out this afternoon, but we're well on our way, now. You could almost smell the stale beer...

Pair of Aces

Found this pair of spiral galaxies just now. Do you guys realize that chances are very good that you're the first humans to see these galaxies, after me, of course?

Deano Watch: Day five

We're at anchorage six miles out from Fourchon and likely stuck here for several days. Seems they can't find us a parking spot. Typical onshore planning. Going to get bumpy in a few days. At least I have cell coverage and was able to speak with PW, both my girls and mr. bud.

Speaking of the girls, LP's zero bullshit tolerance tries my patience when at sea. Granted, she's not really into talking on the phone and I should consider that a blessing if it continues for the next 13 yrs, or so, but when you add in her zero bullshit tolerance it gets frustrating. Example:
Today she has a friend over (rare occurrence) and is a little feisty and hyper. PW is a little under the weather. So, when I call, there's a little tension in the air and to top it off LP spills her second drink. I ask to speak to her and proceed to suggest maybe she slows down a little and thinks things through before she acts. I hear, "talk to him." KLUNK. She dropped the phone somewhere and just walked away. No tolerance for my bullshit, whatsoever. She knows I'm 4 weeks and 2,000 miles away so she has nothing to worry about and doesn't need to listen to me. If I could only remember to tan her hide when I get home next month and steel myself to do it after not seeing her for 5 weeks-yeah, right.

Back to training and galaxy classification-got this puppy about 20 mins ago...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Deano Watch: Day four

Our fleet has left the AO. We're heading ESE toward Fourchon at 5 knots. Our "real" work is done and it has been a day of rest, surfing and tying up loose ends, such as making up a gangway watch list and the like.

I've classified about 300 galaxies in the last few hours. so far, this has been the most appealing to the eye, though the few mergers I've had were also spectacular in an abstract way. I've also spent a an hour, or so reading the analysis forum, getting a refresher on things like red shift and learning the advanced analysis techniques the experts use. That stuff is soooo cool. All the information's available, you just need an advanced astrophysics/astronomy degree to be able to sort it all out...which leaves me fucked.

Anyway, I thought you might appreciate the galaxy as opposed to more images of Deano and it unerring track West. You know, after viewing 1500 galaxies; each containing countless billions of stars, I can't help but dwell on what insignificant and arrogant creatures we are. We live out our tiny lives in 100 years (give or take) of a universe born 15 billion years ago, surviving in only the narrowest range of light, heat, pressure, radiation and chemical composition, confined to one planet of nine orbiting a star that is only one of billions in a galaxy that is also one of only billions in the universe. I am awed at what we take for granted and appalled at what most people completely ignore-the amazing width and breadth of the universe and the wonders it contains. Instead we hunger for news of some trainwreck movie starlet's rehab misadventure as if it adds some sort of meaning to our lives. We kind of suck as a species, sometimes and I really need to quit watching Fox news in the mess at the evening meal.

So yeah, Deano is heading West and I, ESE to port in Fourchon. Anyone in the neighborhood is welcome to join me at Eddies...I wish I could bring my family down for a short visit, but I think they would kill me after seeing the shit-hole that is Fourchon.

Other than the occasional foray to the watering hole, I fear much of next week I will spend on gangway watch, guarding this rusty hull and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes-not a favorable prospect.

I'm reading a great book on the Viet Nam War, by Colonel David H. Hackworth called STEEL MY SOLDIER'S HEARTS. It's sad and tragic but a damn good read at the same time. Since the Queen mentioned that I'm proofing her novel in progress, I guess I can also say that what I've read is also a damn good read, but sad and tragic, too, in that I'm already hooked by it and have no more to read at the moment.

I also spent an hour adding everyone to my Google Reader (TM) and tweaking it to my liking. I think it's a great tool for staying current with everyone more efficiently, but I'll still read posts from your sites, though. Everyone's site is a small extension of who they are and I would miss the flavor reading from Google.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Deano Watch: Day three

Not much to report. Seas are calm, skies are sunny with a few bright, puffy clouds. Saw an isolated squall to the south this morning during my pre-shift coffee on the starboard shelter deck. I've noticed the sea birds are bunching up around the ship more than normal, including a few guys that look like pelicans. I assume they know bad weather is in the wind.
We're finishing off the last of our work here and beginning to pick up our gear off the sea floor in anticipation of getting the fuck out of Dodge in the next 24, or so. If all goes according to plan and Deano tracks West into Mexico, we should head for port in Fourchon, LA., a backwater shithole of a port with one freaking bar a LONG walk from the quay. I hate Fourchon, but it's dry land and maybe a warm beer, or three.

I'm thinking of starting a lat/long landfall pool here on the ship. Worries here are limited to things like will the new cook get seasick and not cook us dinner, or will it be too rough to pee standing up. Here's the latest 1-2-3 image (not good) and 5 day forecast cone (not bad). Despite the high pressure ridge sliding down from the northeast over Florida and the lack of systems from the West over Mexico, I realize that what Deano does coming off the Yucatan is at best, an educated guess and worse a roll of loaded dice. I got caught with my pants down in 2005 by Wilma and don't fancy being trapped against the coast, again. That was definitely a sit down to pee experience.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Deano Watch: Day two

The local weather has calmed here. Effects from Erin have lessened, seas calmed an only the occasional rain squall pops up, which alleviates the oppressive heat and humidity for a time.

Studying the resources available at NOAA's National Hurricane Center, Deano's track leaving the Yucatan is still guesswork. The only sure bet is that Deano is already a killer and will most likely continue that trend, at least.

Things here in the GoM are getting a little uncomfortable. Using the old mariners 1-2-3 rule, working in the GoM is just flat-out fucking dangerous during the season. Deano has already plugged up the GoM worse than John Madden after he's eaten a pound and a half of Gouda.

From the 1-2-3 image, you can see that there's really no escape from the danger zone in the GoM, especially at the 5 knot max speed of this tired, old fleet.

A westerly track as seen in NOAA's five-day cone image would be best for us, allowing a possibly a lee anchorage to the East of the Mississippi Delta while Deano fucks with the Texas/Mexico border, but we're not counting on anything other than getting tossed around, somewhere, at this point.
Looks like a bad day at the office sometime next week unless we have the opportunity to port and hit the bar...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Deano Watch: Day one

This blows. Nothing interrupts your day more than some asshole like Deano here, come stompin into your office and making you clear the fuck out. We're making plans to do just that, sometime this weekend. I see the Mexican Estado de Tabasco, or a good, Cuban cigar in my future.

The Orka Man (TM)

The crew boat came back out today bringing the offshore equivalent of the Orkin Man. Evidently, about a week ago, cockroaches broke through the wall of a cabin, dragging off one of the navigators in his sleep. They chewed him up real bad and threw his lifeless body overboard undercover of the moonless night, but he was found tangled in the towed gear of another vessel.

I guess if your gonna step on them, do it when the other little fuckers aren't watching. This is why the Orka Man (TM) sprayed down most of the ship at a dead run and literally dove back aboard the crew boat without even saying goodbye, or bothering to note what would happen if you're one of those people who puts pens and pencils in your mouth, even after dropping them on the floor where Mr. Orka sprayed. It wasn't pretty, but we think the second mate will survive the swelling as long as it doesn't crush the trachea tube our medic managed to jam down his throat before he suffocated. Speaking of the medic, he just stopped by and said not worry about the metallic taste in my mouth from the fumes and that the sudden rash should disappear except for the areas that have started to suppurate...

My God, how I've missed this shit, I mean ship.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Back at sea

I'm back at sea. I'm dead tired, pissed off and I had to change my Velg språk in Blogger back to Engelsk, again. This time I remembered what Freddie told me the last time it happened and it was easy:)

Weather sucks, food is ok and this time I'm only 2 hours offshore and still have cell coverage through the oil rig networks, for now, anyway. I wanna go home, at least before Dean gets here:(

I'll get to posting some overdue stuff after I catch up on some sleep.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Final Frontier

I've had a real problem adjusting to a different schedule this break. Since coming home from sea, I have not been able to get to sleep before 2-3am. For the first couple weeks, I just motored along on a lot less sleep, but lately I just cannot get my sorry ass moving in the morning. I'll be working days, this trip so barring lack of sleep from traveling, I should be in good shape for my upcoming work schedule, at least.

Lack of things to do at 2am kind of sucks, though. I've got 200 channels on cable, but there is almost nothing worth watching. I wish UFC was on late night (its on now and distracting me-YES Matt Hughes just kicked the shit outta Royce Gracie!!), because nearly everything else is just mindless crap. This has led me to my addiction to both Galaxy Zoo and StarDust@home. I discovered both through LL's blog a while back and immediately joined both efforts.

StarDust@home allows anyone with a computer to assist the folks at NASA and University of California, Berkeley with identifying dust particle impacts in an array of aerogel cells that were flown into the tail of the 4.5 billion-year-old Comet Wild 2 on Jan. 2, 2004. After a seven-year mission, the cells returned to Earth in the Utah desert in January of 2006. The cells were impacted by cometary dust particles which were either formed in the vicinity of our sun or a neighboring star-I believe the jury is still out on that, despite the appearance of some very surprising mineral combinations, that suggest formation near an alien star.

From home, you can assist in the search of these aerogel cells, analyzing small areas at a time, by viewing a series of micrographs progressively focusing deeper into the aerogel, like a movie. When you think you’ve spotted an impact, you notify them and after it’s confirmed, it’s yours to name.

Galaxy Zoo allows anyone with a computer to assist the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) with classifying galaxies from home. The SDSS is taking images of a large portion of the sky and will eventually find and image a million galaxies. Edwin Hubble divided galaxies into two major types, elliptical (like a football) and spiral. A third classification used at Galaxy Zoo is merging, where you have evidence of two, or more galaxies merging to form one-these are kind of rare, I’ve had maybe 3 out of the eleven-hundred I’ve classified this month. In addition, spiral galaxies can be classified by rotation, or edge-on, if they are viewed from the side and rotation cannot be determined.

Both analyses require a little training. StarDust@home runs you through a series of tests like Galaxy Zoo, but unlike the Zoo, continuously throws in test micrographs to keep you on your toes and rate your results in real time. Galaxy Zoo has an area that tracks the number of galaxies you analyze, with a members forum and profiles.

While Galaxy Zoo analysis is infinitely more pleasing to the eye, as you saw a post, or two back, StarDust@home is the more important effort at this point in the game, I feel. Classification of the million galaxies will give us some insight into the formation of the universe based on the type distribution, especially when cross-referenced against probable age, but at this stage in the game, insight into how our galaxy vs. that of an alien one from a chemical standpoint is a more logical first step in galactic mechanics, in my opinion. Nonetheless, both are interesting and fun and would be a great way to interest children in science and the universe we live in.

That's about it from this side, I'll stick up a post about dropping trees around me casa, from the ship. Ciao.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Superior Adventure

Thanks to LL's reminder, PW, LP and the pirate mutt walked down to the abandoned copper mine right behind our property to watch the night skies. In a matter of minutes we saw maybe 10 Perseids and a satellite. After walking back, PW went to bed, so LP and I walked down the hill a ways and lay in the road. This time the two of us saw no less than 4 satellites, a dozen Perseids and making an appearance as icing on the cake, the International Space Station, closely followed by what we thought was the Space Shuttle as it caught up to the ISS. I've checked the human space flight and STS 118 mission update pages and see that I'm a bit behind in the mission-they have already docked and even completed a space walk.

Well, it seems that one of those two satellites was the ISS/STS 118 docked and the other must be a satellite that keeps an eye on the ISS, because it held the same heading/speed and was less than an inch away, in the sky. Funny though, it isn't shown on any of the real-time tracking tools NASA offers, including the J-pass ones.

Anyway, it was a wonderful end to a great day. We drove North, up the Keweenaw Peninsula, along the Lake Superior shoreline, today.
It was a gorgeous drive along Cliff Drive, below the basalt cliffs

and Eagle River, of course stopping by the historic courthouse where PW and I were married.

Then we hit the Jampot, run by the Byzantine monks who live on the shore up there. PW and LP each got a giant muffin and we brought back a jar of one of their KILLER jams.

We kept going along Great Sand Bay and up past Cat Harbor, before turning back and opting not to head up Brockway Mnt.

We stopped back at Great Sand Bay
and walked the beach for a while, finding a bunch of teenagers who had damned up a small creek flowing into the lake for a few minutes, then quickly built an impressive sand castle city. On our return walk they let the creek go and watched it fill their man-made rivers, moats and lakes. Just as quickly it overran their city and wiped everything away. Mother Nature is the same on any scale and people who live along large rivers just don't seem to get this were my thoughts as we walked away. Before leaving, I took a picture to tease the Queen:)

Driving back South, we stopped to visit something I have passed by a million times, but never stopped to explore-the lookout tower on the cliffs above the Phoenix Mine. I didn't get a picture of it from below, so this will have to do:

However, I did take a few from the tower and the view was awesome.

I was surprised to find that it is like a little house some dude built for everyone to enjoy. It has two floors inside and a platform on top. It's equiped with stove, sink, fridge, lights, one futon bed and is trimmed completely in wood. The lights and fridge are powered by a little windmill on the very top. We signed a small guestbook laying on the counter, before leaving. It was a long hike up the cliff, but worth it once we reached this little hideaway. I am tempted to hike up and camp there one night.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Warped Spiral

I'll post a nice, long-winded explanation of why I posted this image later, but for now, just enjoy the image of this warped, counter-clockwise spiral galaxy!

And just for PW, a rose to beat all roses-

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Wrestling with the beast

UPDATE: I'm done for the day, sort of cleaned up and in need of a gasket and a ceramic ring around the burner gun. That aside, it seems to be passing exhaust, not sure why it acts plugged. I've spent another 6 hours on it and I'm done. It either works perfectly after said parts are installed, or I start looking for a contractor to install a new, propane-fired number. oil furnaces suk monkey balls.

There was point this evening that I should have had PW take my picture. Mr. Bud would have appreciated the sight of me literally covered head-to-toe in soot. I spent a fair part of the day attempting to clean out and get my fuel oil-fired furnace running, again. This spring, the exhaust side plugged, it began to burn very rich and filled itself with soot. Mr bud found it, dead, some days later as PW was out of town and I was at sea.

So, today I tried to bring it back from the dead. If you've ever owned a fuel oil furnace, you might have an idea of how unpleasant this can be. I began by pulling the entire motor, pump and burner assembly in order to access the burn chamber. I should note, I spilled a fair amount of fuel oil from the pump and the supply line at this point. The burn chamber, like the rest of the furnace was filled about half full with soot. My little shop vac would not do the trick so I blew into town with LP and got a man-size shop from mr. Bud. I vacuumed out as much as possible, then tore off the exhaust pipe running to the chimney and sucked as much soot as I could from it. Still, I knew there was a lot of soot between the burn chamber and the exhaust pipe, so I decided to take advantage of the fact that the shop vac included a removable blower.

I thought to test the power of the blower by sticking into the exhaust pipe to blow the unreachable soot back into the burn chamber. Instead, I blew a shitload of soot directly back into my face and then all over the basement. Soot doesn't taste bad, exactly. Neither does it taste particularly good. After much gagging and spitting black shit on the floor, I decided on a better plan.

Jurry-rigging the exhaust back to the chimney, I plugged the large hole to the burn chamber and inserted the blower into the observation port. Turning it on, I re-learned that Mr Bud does not mess around with tools. It blew soot from the burn chamber, up into the heat exchanger, through the exhaust and into the chimney. It also blew it out ever half-assed seal from the other furnaces and wood stoves connected to it over the last 101 years. And out of every joint in the exhaust pipe and poorly sealed burn chamber directly into my eyes. Fuel oil soot burns in the eyes (and in cuts).

Nonetheless, I had accomplished the mission of clearing the burn chamber. I unhooked the exhaust, cleared it one more time, as well as clearing the chimney. Next, I opened two, small access ports to the heat exchanger. In order to get at one of them, I had to remove the control box mounted on the inside of the motor space. A series of vacuum tools connected to assorted improvised "things" such as a washing machine drain hose and some sort of rubber doohickey sucked soot out of the access holes, scraped down from the upper burn chamber with a bent coat hanger. I scraped and vacuumed, over and over for 3 hours, hunched down into the motor space with a small Maglite flashlight in my mouth. LP came down for a short tutorial, determined her dad is a disgustingly dirty idiot and left.

After putting it all back together (stripping one bolt and kinking the copper fuel oil line) I fired it up. I had to bleed the fuel line and the pump, but it fired right off, blowing soot, smoke and fire about 2 feet straight out of the observation port and I am back to square one. Somewhere, the exhaust side is plugged. I also noticed I need a new cork gasket between the burner gun housing and the burn chamber. I've spent at least a grand on this fucking beast in past 3 years and it doesn't work, dammit!!

Anyway, it took an hour to get myself passably clean, I had some cold pizza for dinner and later I made myself a chocolate malt. It's 2am and I'm watching Escape from Alcatraz. Why?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Clean my furnace

How smart are you?

Found this at Jack's place and was quite pleased to see the fact that I am a useless trivia sponge has finally come in handy, in the form of knowing that 27 isn't a prime number and Sacramento is the capitol of Californ-i-a.
In addition, Newfie has seen fit to hand me a
and I humbly accept, though I probably am more deserving of the slacking blogger award, lately:)
Off to see if the three kinds of adhesive I used to seal my broken shop vac will hold long enough to allow me to clean out my furnace.

Monday, August 6, 2007

A cue stick jamboree

The Leo Kottke concert we attended last night was wonderful. I love music and what better way to follow up a classic Kottke show than to head out to the beach, on the shore of the largest freshwater lake in the world. (By the way, if you live in South Carolina, my lake is bigger than your state)
Once every summer, on a very remote beach called Agate, a gathering of people occurs. The impetus for this change in the population density from zero to about 300 is the need for acoustic pleasure. For two days, the soul-soothing sounds of hollow-body guitars, mandolins, fiddles, dobros and all things acoustic waft among the pines and wash over the rustic campground as the waves from Gichigami wash over the beach, just a few short yards from the small, hand-built plywood stage where the music is made.
The silences between acts were filled with the laughter of children playing on the campground swings next to the stage. From my lawn chair on the grass, I could keep one eye on the stage and one on my daughter as she played.
I guess the same could be said for the view from PW's chair-she was able to keep one eye on me as LP pushed me on the swings.
A gentle, cooling breeze from the mighty Superior kept us cool and refreshed
and was delightfully mixed with smoke from campfires and barbecue grills, and yes, that can make you hungry. If you aren't camping at the beach for the weekend and didn't bring food, the jamboree boasts a small concession stand that offers the grilled staples, nachos, drinks and ice cream. Next to the concession window I found these two drawings---

LP didn't notice the drawings, but was intent on getting those munchies...

I spent most of the day slumped in my lawnchair, watching the kids and the acts, occasionally nodding off and dreaming about walking in the woods with a bluegrass band following me around. PW and the kids split for a while to sample the other delight here...
Here at the jamboree, if the mood suits you, the beach offers a refreshing break from the music.
The kids hunted for agates, splashed in the cold, Superior water and dug holes in the sand.
All in all, a relaxing, fun day in the sun and fresh air, far from the things in life that wear us all down. The music, food and people were great, the scenery beautiful and for me, as soon as I saw this scene, the day was summed up as music on the beach...

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Bosch Brewery is long gone but the jewel of the Keweenaw still shines

Saw Leo Kottke tonight at this beautiful, old venue. I've waited over 20 years to see him and there are no words. Go listen to Embryonic Journey, or Airproofing, or anything off of 6 and 12 String Guitar.

After the show we picked up LP and went for ice cream and the used book store. Oddly enough I purchased nothing for myself at either place.

After getting home, I retreated to the basement to wire a fluorescent fixture to light up the area where my bench grinder and vise are mounted.
Note I used wire nuts, mr. bud:)

Afterwards, I drooled over my new tools for a minute, or two-
10" Cummins compound mitre saw with laser. Did you see my fingers go like *this* when I said laser?

...and a 10" Ryobi table saw without laser. I didn't do the finger thing this time. God, I love when the Cummins road show tool sale comes to town-just like the fucking circus!

After the drooling, for no apparent reason I picked up the top to an old, wooden beer keg I'm restoring, from a long-gone local brewery. It will be a floor lamp, eventually.

I stared at one of the piles of driftwood in my shop, hoping for inspiration on the piece I need to do for one of my sister-in-laws. No joy.

Then, I noticed my soot-filled fuel oil fired furnace that needs every square inch, inside and out, vacuumed and scrubbed after belching flames out of the little porthole you see in the picture WHILE NOBODY WAS HOME and the basement lost it's appeal, so I came up to stop being a blogging chump and post, finally. It's now 2:50am and I need to get my ass into the rack, so I think I'm gonna stop right here for now. Tomorrow, we're heading to the beach for a bluegrass festival-I will get pictures!