Friday, August 31, 2007


Long distance, East-West, airline travel does funny things to our normal rhythms of daylight and darkness.

Years ago, while a county commissioner, I led a 10-day, economic and goodwill mission to Taipei County Taiwan, Republic of China, with whom we had a Sister-county Relationship.

That trip involved an hour airline ride from Cleveland to Chicago where we boarded a Boeing 747 for the next leg, a 13 hour, non-stop flight to Tokyo. There we had a scheduled lay-over for an hour or so then the final, 3 hour flight to Taipei.

Here’s how we followed the sun: I got up about 5 a.m. and rode a shuttle bus from Mansfield to Cleveland with my 17 colleagues. We handled international flight details and left for Chicago about 8 a.m. Nine a.m. we arrived in Chicago. About 11 a.m., we left for Tokyo. About midnight (still on Eastern Standard Time) we landed in Japan.

Of course, it was just late afternoon over there.

About 1 a.m. (still our time) we left for Taipei, landing there about 4 a.m. After being up about 24 hours by then and seeing only one sunrise and one sunset during that period, we arrived in Taipei about 8 p.m., their time—where we were promptly treated to a VIP reception by our party-loving Chinese counterparts.

As you might imagine our biological clocks had tumbled into complete disarray. I had managed to stay awake the entire trip so after a dizzying round of toasts I slept well that night and awoke the next morning—conveniently adjusted to their local time. More or less.

That 24 hour travel period—done mostly in daylight—was naturally the result of traveling the same direction as the sun.

If you think about it then, the opposite occurs on the return flight.

Yup, in one 24 hour period you will experience two sunrises and two sunsets.

Imagine being an astronaut and whizzing around the Earth in the International Space Station, 17 times every 24 hours.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Editor’s Note: The camper and I arrived home Sunday, and, here is the final of the views from my visit.

Altoona, PA: Known locally as Fire Base Eagle, this scaled replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC was used for many years as a traveling exhibition. When that mission was finished it found a permanent home on the lawn of Altoona’s VA Hospital.

The First Known Casualty

Richard B. Fitzgibbon or North Weymouth, Mass. Is listed by the US Department of Defense as having a casualty date of June 8, 1956.

His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III who has a casualty date of Sept. 7, 1965.” *

They are among the 58,256 names honored on the updated Wall in Washington.

May they all rest in peace.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Editor’s Note: The camper and I arrived home Sunday but, I have two more views from around the Altoona area I will be sharing. Here’s #2 of 3.

Tyrone, PA: Makenna Wolf ponders the meaning of this memorial to deceased workers of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Tyrone’s downtown park. In 2000 the population was just over 5500, far below the 8800+ souls who lived there in the 1940s when the railroad was at its peak employment in neighboring Altoona just 14 miles down the road.

I remember Tyrone for its gagging, sulfurous smell from the large paper mill operating there during my childhood visits—when I was Makenna’s age.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


The Earth passed directly between the sun and moon Tuesday morning and produced a nifty eclipse. Since the Earth is much larger than the moon it took the shadow several hours to pass by—giving viewers an extended totality. Sort of.

I did this image at about 5:15 a.m. and went back outside at 5:50 to see if I could do anything photographically with the totally eclipsed moon. I couldn’t find it.

I did the photo through a hole in the trees but, in ½ hour celestial objects move 7.5 degrees in our view so, not only had the moon disappeared in the dark sky because of the eclipse, it had dropped below my west woods.

Additionally, the sky was beginning to brighten so an object as dark as an eclipsed moon likely became invisible at about that same time.

For you photo techhie types; the picture was shot at 1/250 sec., at f 6.3, ISO 400 with a 200 mm digital lens which is the 35 mm equivalent of about 320 mm.


Editor’s Note: The camper and I arrived home Sunday but, I have three more views from around the Altoona area I will be sharing the next few days. Here’s 1 of 3.

Hollidaysburg, PA: Cousin Bob Wolf enjoys the view of this small borough of 5300+ population from Chimney Rock Park south of town. Even though tiny when compared to its neighbor Altoona, it was named the county seat in 1846.

Back then it was a bustling port on the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal where the eastern branch of the canal connected to the Allegheny Portage Railroad. Shortly thereafter the Pennsylvania Railroad came into existence, the Horseshoe Curve was constructed and the main line passed through Altoona turning it into a bustling city, but, Hollidaysburg retains its status as the county seat.

Today it is known as the home of the toy Slinky where a quarter of a billion of them have been manufactured to date.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Railroaders Memorial Museum, Altoona, PA: Cousin Bob Wolf far right has a “chat” with a train’s porter, who is known for his waxy disposition, in front of a near life-size mock up of a steam locomotive.


We always visited my hometown Altoona for our summer vacations way back then—and, I quickly learned not to climb trees.

It went like this: Dad’s oldest brother Uncle Bob and family lived way up the hill on First Avenue where you could look far below and see the Pennsylvania Railroad—everywhere.

Those were the waning days of steam locomotives.

And they burned coal and belched black smoke, staining the otherwise pristine mountain atmosphere. And that smoke coated everything in tar-colored smudge. And, it had already done that for nearly 100 years, way back then.

Altoona was a railroad town, in fact, the home of the Pennsy RR and had more shops and railroad tracks than a small boy could believe. They built their own locomotives there.

And, they could fix them when the big trains came screeching down the mountain with sparks flying and brakes locked and the steel wheels grinding themselves flat against the tracks trying to hold the train against the mountain’s steep grade.

Today it’s a much cleaner town, but it still celebrates its railroad history. There is the world-known Horseshoe Curve we visited yesterday.

There is a delightful Railroaders Memorial Museum, located appropriately in one of the sprawling shops of that bygone era tucked in with the main line where folks still watch the much cleaner and awesomely powerful diesel engines pull the trains through their mountain valley.

Today, Altoona is like much of the industrial rust belt of our Northeast. The ear splitting, body-pounding shops that employed many, many thousands of railroaders are but skeletons of their origins.

And, the city is in the process of redefining itself while keeping careful custody of its rich railroad heritage.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


The Altoona Curve baseball team and facility are like a miniature version of the big leagues—except it is done with affordable class. Parking is free. So are the programs. A delicious hot dog on a fresh bun is a fuzz over 2 dollars and a 16 oz beer is 3 bucks.

And the fans love it. They can afford to take their family to a game.

Their classy stadium, built in 1999, seats 7200 and for seven years they have averaged a home game attendance of 5343 appreciative fans. That’s almost 75% ticket sales, every game, win or lose.

The Curve is a class double A farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates just 90 miles west on US 22. So, the local fans get a double dose of baseball enjoyment. Long a bastion of Pirate popularity, area fans now watch the young players as they mature toward the big leagues.

Five players on today’s Pirate starting team are products of the Curve program.

When you head for your lots-of-leg-room seat, an usher will ceremoniously dust it before you sit down. Class by the train load.

Baseballs are a treasured souvenir at big league ball games. At a Curve game most every stray baseball will be retrieved on the field and someone, usually a player, will speed to the bleachers and deliver this treasure to a very happy fan.

The scoreboard is alive with visual technology. Costumed characters cavort through the seats and usually preside over some kids-included silliness on the field between innings, much to the fans delight.

And, I think the baseball is better than the big leagues. Up there you have legions of millionaire players usually ho-humming us with offensive performance that manages to do something exciting less than one time out of four.

Down here, these youngsters are playing their hearts out in pursuit of their dreams.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


First you hear the roar of the powerful diesel engines as you look down the side of the mountain, then, they and their burden of some 100 hopper cars come into view. The train pictured (far left) is westbound; perhaps hauling its payload of coal to the hungry furnaces of Pittsburgh’s steel mills.

The Curve shaped like a horseshoe, naturally, was an engineering marvel in the 1850s when it replaced a series of canals and cable powered platforms that previously provided a way for people and commerce to cross the Allegheny Mountains.

While the country’s westward expansion was well underway this railroad vastly accelerated the process.

A history of the Curve reminds us wagon transportation from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh took about 20 days. The canal and Portage Railroad took about 4 days—when the canals were not frozen.

When the Curve opened in 1854 that same trip was reduced to an average of 15 hours.

It conquered the spine of the mountain range that was a huge barrier for the first 350 or so years of our nation’s history.

The length of the curve is 2375 feet and a train climbs a total of 122 feet while it is in view.

When I was a youngster I clearly recall visits to the curve where it was then possible to see the train come into sight, round the bend at the top of the horseshoe shape then go on with the engines disappearing around the other side of the mountain before the caboose came into view.

Towering trees today rob visitors of that marvelous spectacle.

Friday, August 24, 2007


About 19 tourists are shown in a narrow tour boat in a portion of Penn’s Cave while the guide spotlights a feature. The ceiling is said to be 50 feet above the water’s surface. The deepest pool in the cave has been measured at 25 feet and the cave’s overall length is approximately1,000 feet.

A white man who was a distant relative of poet Edgar Allen Poe first owned the cave, near State College, PA. This was as the result of a survey in 1773. But, it was not explored by a white man until 1860.

The cave was initially formed in two phases beginning millions of years ago when water dissolved the below ground limestone formations then disappeared from those cavities when the water table lowered to its current level.

Other major changes in the cave’s interior have occurred over time as portions of the ceiling have collapsed. It is considered a live cave because the process continues to this day with the formation of stalagmites, stalactites and other geological features.

Legend has it a young explorer, Malachi Boyer, in the early 1700s fell in love with an Indian maiden, Nita-nee, but their marriage was prohibited because of tribal customs. They fled into the wilderness, were captured and Malachi was ordered entombed in the cave where he died, his body was found, weighted with stones and dropped into the deepest water in the cavern.

Those who have heard the legend declare that on still summer nights an unaccountable echo rings through the cavern, which sounds like”Nita-nee – Nita-nee”.

One wag on our tour was heard to ponder whether ageless Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno was Malachi’s father.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


In the photo above please permit me to introduce Main St., Altoona, PA. Yup, if you mail something to 123 Main St., Altoona, PA it will arrive somewhere on this tiny street.

By some quirk in the original plot process, what has grown up to be downtown Altoona is now known totally by numbered streets and avenues.

Main Street is out here in the suburbs, where, as you can plainly see, they already have rolled up the sidewalks for the night.

Here’s another quirk. Hollidaysburg is a small suburb generally south of Altoona which is a modern city of some 50,000 souls about the size of Mansfield and long known as the home of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Yet today, Hollidaysburg is the county seat. Hmmm.

The new truck did an admirable job today. Six easy hours and 261 miles later we arrived in my hometown. The only time I got close to 65 mph was coming down Cresson Mountain into Altoona. And, while I was crossing the summit of about 2,400 feet, the temperature had fallen from 80ish to 63 degrees and we were driving carefully--in the clouds.

My cousin Bob Wolf whom I will be visiting for these four days promptly treated me to a supper of Texas Hot Dogs. He always gushes how much better they are than the Main St., Coneys in Mansfield.

I usually humor him; you see he belongs to the political party that appropriately favors donkeys as their symbol.

In the event he is still speaking to me after he reads this this morning, our itinerary calls for a visit to Penn’s Cave up near State College—yup, that one, known to Buckeyes as the home of the Nittany Kittens.

Maybe I better quit before this becomes a really short visit.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Just a bit later this morning I am off on another camping adventure. This one is to my hometown of Altoona, PA; about 260 miles east of here.

The campground where I have secured reservations advertises an “Internet modem station”. I’ll find out what that means when I get there, but, at least they are striving to be technologically capable.

Posting the blog while on the road is always an interesting challenge. If their modem set-up fails me I will either, find a local Wi-Fi facility, or, copy my blog material to a jump stick then download to my Cousin Bob’s computer for the daily posting.

As usual, please be patient with what sometimes is an erratic schedule.

Events on the itinerary include a visit to Penn’s Cave, and a ride on a nearby bike trail that parallels the Juniata River through the mountains.

There also is the always fun stop at the Horseshoe Curve, an engineering marvel not completed until 1854 which opened the way for trains to haul people and cargo across the Allegheny Mountains into the country’s then developing frontier.

Remember, Christopher C., is known for bringing settlers to our eastern shore in 1492 but it took 300 years until federal officials even launched the Lewis and Clark Expedition to investigate the west.

Those mountains were a formidable barrier indeed.

So, stay tuned. I hope we both enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Two adult and two young Whitetail Deer paid us a visit Sunday. They came up the face of the dam and spent about 20 minutes frolicking on the driveway, stopping for an occasional drink in the pond.

They maintained a high level of alertness being this close to my home; occasionally spooking one another into a hasty but temporary retreat. It was the adults doing the retreating. The youngsters tended to keep up their playful butting and doing those delightful jumps where all four gangly legs leave the ground.

Ohio’s Whitetail Deer population is projected at 675,000* this fall even after last year’s record hunting harvest of 237,316. Knox County, just a few miles south of here, placed fifth among the state’s 88 counties in number of deer taken.

A trophy deer was taken last year in Adams County. The 34 point, non-typical buck was scored as the fourth largest of its type harvested in the world.

While I can accept the necessity of the annual harvest from a driving safety point of view I would have to be extraordinarily hungry to ever kill one of these marvelous animals.

In fact, I am truly thankful for how often I am treated to one of nature’s displays such as this--simply by looking out the window.

*Wild Ohio Magazine, Fall 2007

Monday, August 20, 2007


I am beginning to have a love-hate relationship with my bank.

1) I have used their online bill paying service for several years now. This year, as usual, I paid my real estate taxes in plenty of time. Then, weeks after the due date, my bank statement arrived and I noticed a refund in the amount of my tax payment.

When I finally managed to chase this down, I was informed by local bank officials the outfit they farm this work out to does not handle tax payments. It didn’t matter that this had never been a problem for me in the past.

And there was certainly no sympathy that this egregious treatment had put me in a delinquent position with the folks in the court house. Fortunately, when I showed county officials the audit trail of this pathetic transaction they excused me with their own dicey remarks about modern banking.

2) The first time I ever used an ATM machine away from my bank’s area was in Port Clinton during one of my recent camping excursions. I cruised through a bank there and got 40 bucks from their magic machine. And, as expected, they dinged me 2 bucks for the privilege. I accept that.

But, when my bank statement arrived my bank also dinged me 2 bucks. And, I have been unable to pry anything resembling a logical explanation from bank officials for this larceny.

They have the benefit of my banking dollars and this transaction cost them absolutely nothing. Yet their bookkeeping theft compounded my fees to a whopping 10% of my tiny transaction.

3) In the next recent legal thievery I obtained an automobile loan to purchase my truck. And, instead of rewarding me for being a very prudent fellow and paying my loan off early, they insist on whacking me another $100 bucks as an early payment penalty should that occur.

Actually, that is highly likely to occur. I paid off more than half of the loan before my first monthly payment was due.

And this from the good folks at First-Knox National Bank, who blather the slogan “...Someone you can trust.”


Sunday, August 19, 2007

I did this picture after dark expecting Yellow Jacket nest activity to be minimal. Imagine my surprise when I found this much happening long after sunset. The top of the nest is approximately 8” below ground level and the excavated soil—is gone.


I was mowing around the stand of young pines east of the lagoon and noticed an excavation about the size of a large Cantaloupe in an opening between the trees. I was silently chastising a frisky neighbor dog as I mowed closer, then stopped, then reversed course as I saw the real culprits—lots of them.

Yellow Jackets; regarded as some of the more dangerous of the stinging insect pests.

They are social creatures, often building nests underground that can be quite large. Nests are made from a material called carton or paper, produced by the females who combine their saliva with wood fibers to produce their building material.

I would estimate this one to be somewhere between a basketball and a bushel basket in size, judging by the radius of the nest visible in the excavation. It likely is large enough to be inhabited by thousands of workers.

These underground colonies are annual with only inseminated queens over wintering. She will emerge in the spring and start a new nest site--the beginning of the next cycle. She remains in the nest all summer laying eggs and the colony expands rapidly, reaching a size of 10,000 to 15,000 cells. My colony could be reaching this stage now.

At peak size, reproductive cells are built with new males and queens produced. Adult reproductives remain in the nest fed by the workers. New queens build up fat reserves to overwinter. Adult reproductives leave the parent colony to mate. After mating, males quickly die while fertilized queens seek protected places to overwinter.

And the cycle repeats, but, the nests are not used again.

Also, this is one section of yard that, this season, will not be mowed again either.

After all, Yellow Jackets and other wasps are predators of caterpillars, flies and beetle grubs and they are great pollinators. Since this colony is out of the way, we will do as usual and simply let nature take its course.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


This story from yesterday’s news:

"Washington—The Census Bureau wants immigration agents to suspend enforcement raids during the 2010 census so the government can better count illegal immigrants.

Raids during the population count would make an already distrustful group even less likely to cooperate with government workers who are supposed to include them, the Census Bureau’s second-ranking official said in an Associated Press interview....”

What is this bozo thinking?

Stop enforcing US law because it will be inconvenient for another government bureaucracy?


When flies are laying eggs on spoiling meat, you don’t worry about precisely how many flies there are. First, you fix the problem that is causing the meat to spoil.

--A Fogeyism.

Friday, August 17, 2007



The state of Utah is in the Rocky Mountain area of the western US and flanked by Nevada on the west and Colorado on the east.

It is in the news as the site of the mine cave-in where six men remain trapped, their fate is unknown and three others have perished in the rescue attempt.

The highest elevation in the state is 13,528 feet and the rescue effort is near Huntington with an elevation of 5,800 feet above sea level. In comparison, the Mansfield airport has an elevation of 1,300 feet.

Mining activity is described as playing a “major role” in the state’s economy. Approximately 88% of the population of 2.5 million lives in the Salt Lake City urban area, leaving vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited.

Free Fire by C. J. Box

This is a fast moving yarn about perfect-crime murders and political conspiracy in Yellowstone Park which a defrocked game warden adroitly solves only to loose his hero-partner to the custody of the authorities. I smell a sequel in the works.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


The rotation of the Earth around its axis aligned with the North Star is apparent in this picture. That is the North Star (Polaris) lower left of center; the one bright spot around which the other stars appear to be rotating.

This photo, a time exposure of about 10 minutes, was done hoping to capture one of the Perseid meteors Sunday night. Naturally, the longer the exposure, the greater the probability a meteor would fly through the picture.

However, another photographic problem begins to emerge. It is light pollution. That is the warm glow you see in the lower part of this picture. And, that light source is the city of Mansfield which is centered about eight miles north of the shooting location.

Increasing the length of the exposure increases the effect of the light pollution until ultimately the image is obliterated.

Successful pictures you see of these meteors then, are 1) shot in locations without the problem of light pollution, 2) done with equipment or by photographers more sophisticated--or lucky--than yours truly, or 3) likely done sometime closer to dawn when there was expected to be more meteor activity—and long after this geriatric photographer’s bedtime.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I went to my friend and neighbor’s, gentleman’s ranch Sunday evening to take advantage of his marvelous viewing conditions for this annual celestial show.

Norrie Tangeman is a retired architect just up the road and shares my limitless amazement of such visual marvels.

We started munching on the delights of the evening’s aerial performance with the planet Jupiter, a stunning jewel low in the southern sky. My relatively small but tack-sharp Meade ETX 90 EC telescope delivered the goods.

Even punching through that much of the Earth’s atmosphere due to the low viewing angle, we were treated to the detail of the planet’s bands. Four of its moons also put on a lively show.

Two of them were bright, crystal-like specks on the planet’s left and a third was spaced farther to the right. While we were discussing their orbits and—almost on cue—the fourth moon popped into sight after first being obscured by the giant planet’s mass.

Throughout the evening we continued to witness the changing positions of those moons in relation to their planet—a phenomenon early astronomers used to determine they were, in fact, moons and not background stars.

As we enjoyed the planetary show, the constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus climbed into our northeastern sky and brought with them the radiant of the meteor shower which already was producing an occasional streak as the sky succumbed to total darkness.

And, with that darkness the wispy, cloud-like bands of an adjacent arm of our own Milky Way Galaxy came into view, a rare treat in that evening’s sky of near maximum clarity. That band of countless stars paralleled the meteors that pierced the constellation Cygnus on their brief, visible journeys.

More eye candy appeared in this same area of sky, The Andromeda Galaxy, the only item visible to our naked eyes that is outside our own Milky Way Galaxy and located at a distance that defies human comprehension; two and a quarter million light-years away.

With binoculars it appears as but a shadowy fingerprint on the celestial dome.

The sky was punctuated by a slowly growing quantity of meteors as the International Space Station joined our show. It came into view just above the trees on the northern horizon but its visibility was quickly extinguished--as I predicted--when the station flew into the Earth’s shadow.

I was tempted to let Norrie believe I was capable of cosmic magic, then, we shared a laugh over that foolishness.

As midnight slid by our optical tools were disabled by condensation and two old guys were left to quietly ponder the magnificence of our visible universe.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

INSECTS, Yup, the Buggy type—

About 20 of us from near toddlers to near toddlers (that’s both ends of the age spectrum) enjoyed a recent program put on by Merrill Tawse at The Gorman Nature Center near Mansfield.

The opening piece of his program informed us, “With over 700,000 known varieties, insects outnumber all the rest of the plants and animals in the world combined”.

Some studies favor the staggering figure of about six to ten million varieties including estimates of those yet descovered.

Tawse delighted the audience when he had some boisterous young boys in the front row believing they would have to use their pants pockets to haul our soon to be caught specimens back for examination.

“You’ll have to be especially careful with the BIG bumble bees,” he intoned. The boys giggled.

Before leaving on a hike through the center’s expansive acreage we were treated to a lesson on how to successfully employ an insect net and stow our captured “bugs” in some scientific specimen containers; small zip-lock bags.

He usually wrinkled his nose when someone used that horribly casual term, “Bugs.”

Soon our expedition was scurrying throug the trails and into the tall weeds with nets being deployed with suprising success. “Oh, that’s a such and such,” Tawse exuded, and, “Ahh, look there, she has a Splifflewhizzit,” he smiled.

Actually, I couldn’t write fast enough to accurately record the census of our capture as identified by the encyclopedic Tawse.

But, it included butterflys and beetles and bees, and, those marvelous dragon and damsel flies as we worked around the edge of a pond.

He always insured the critters were handled gently then sent on their way when the curiosity of the fledgling entomoligsts, young and old alike, was satisfied.

There are more than 300,000 species of beetles alone, easily topping the list of varieties.

Insects are usually easy to tell from their other “buggy” counterparts. Their body consists of three elements, a head, thorax and abdomen. They sport two antennae and six legs. They do not have lungs but breathe through a series of tiny holes along the abdomen.

You learn things like that when you tag along on one of these marvelous GNC programs.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Monday, August 6 I had an eye examination at the local Veterans Administration clinic.

Saturday, August 11 my new glasses arrived in the mail; from Nebraska, no less.

And, except for the optional sun tinted lenses, they were free.

This place is astounding.

Back when the army’s Walter Reed Hospital facility in Washington, DC was taking some well deserved lumps for its lousy service I wrote a letter to the local paper suggesting the bureaucratic weenies responsible for that fiasco should visit Mansfield’s clinic and take a lesson.

Here’s another example. I’ve been going there for my primary medical care for more than four years now and I’ve never failed to be in and out of there before the scheduled time of my appointment.

And this with a doctor who treats you like you are his most important patient.

And, a doctor who has never once missed his diagnosis.

And a staff that is not only efficient, but courteous and friendly.

And, all this wrapped up in a modern and clean facility with free parking at the door.

And, except for the lens option on my new glasses, I have never paid for any of their service except for my prescriptions which have only recently been raised to the price of 12 bucks each—also delivered to my mailbox.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

This Neubian Goat munched his hay lunch while pretty much ignoring a pesky photographer in the well ventilated barns at this year’s Richland County Fair.


A slice of Americana rolls around about this time every year. It is barn after barn of animals; the proud projects of countless Future Farmer of America kids.

And it is a fairgrounds midway stuffed full of Carney hucksters and food concessions and spinning, stomach twisting, ear blasting rides.

It’s a symbiotic relationship that works.

The fading sign on the antique barn celebrated the 150th year of our fair, highlighting the years 1850 to 2000. That means it started here a decade before Honest Abe was president.

During the heat of the day the corn-fed kids spiff up their animals—and themselves—and head for the show ring with dreams of everything from a ribbon to a grand champion award that could contribute to their ride to college.

At night the townies arrive; a noticeable quantity of them heredity’s rejects and fresh meat for the Carnies and each other.

And, it is a time to reminisce. My dad was an auxiliary policeman and worked the fair in the late 40s. I remember tagging along. That was when the fairgrounds were on Springmill St., where the Taylor Metal factory is today.

Now, since sometime in the mid 50s I’d guess, the facility occupies a huge batch of acreage on the corner of Home Rd., and Longview Ave.

My bride and I had our first date there in those mid 50s and the first kiss happened that very night way up on the Ferris wheel. My oh my!

Today I got there in time to see a herd of those corn fed kids doing a community shower in a critter washing pen. They had just finished a mud volleyball contest. Then a hunk of that crowd moved to the bleachers for a spirited toy tractor pull.

That bunch of folks, at least, knew chocolate milk doesn’t come from brown cows.

I got a pineapple sundae and sat in the shade and wondered if that old Ferris wheel wasn’t, maybe, right over there.

What a marvelously clear memory of that night way back then. My oh my!

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Nearly every day since I bought my newer truck something has shown up in my mail box urgently reminding me if I don’t call some 800 number within 72 hours my factory warranty will expire.

**FINAL NOTICE** or some such nonsense they scream at me. “Immediate action is required to safeguard yourself from severe repair costs associated with electrical and mechanical failure” I am warned.

Of course, this is a really special opportunity; “This program IS NOT available to the general public” They shriek.

They also hint there is a “Recall Update Notice” involved.

Obviously, if I do not fall for this larceny my truck is doomed to explode going around the next curve and all future generations of Wolf babies will be born from unrelated parents.

Egad. How dumb do these bozos think we are?

On the other hand, maybe I do not want to know the answer to that question.

After all, if some profitable percentage of foolish consumers did not answer this blather the perps would have quit this scam years ago.


Space Wars by Michael Coumatos, William B. Scott and William J. Birnes

I am not sure you could follow the story line of this pathetic book with a road map. Of course, with three authors that is a small committee, and, we all know what happens when a committee does a project.

Don’t even bother with this one.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Yup, it is a close up view of a flowering plant. The question is which one?

It is a wildflower seen in abundance around my open fields and trails this time of year. In fact, it can be found in temperate areas around the world.

The picture is a close-up—really close-up—view of its blossom. The blossom is fairly flat and usually about three or four inches in diameter.

It, itself, is made up of the even smaller blossoms visible in the picture—seemingly supported by wagon-wheel shaped stems.

A common name for the plant is associated with a vegetable to which we often attribute good eyesight.

It’s more formal name smacks of royalty.

Still stuck?

Would you believe Queen Anne’s Lace, sometimes known as wild carrot?

Really curious? Read more

Thursday, August 9, 2007


While this is not fun, yesterday's 100 degree temp was in the direct sunlight. The temperature in the nearby shade of the woods was a mere 85 degrees. More of the same is expected today.


Profit at all costs?

Recent news brought us events that shook the stage on which they occurred.

A dispute is arising regarding the horror of men yet trapped in a collapsed Utah coal mine, and, another surrounds the achievement of Barry Bonds, a major league baseball player who broke the premier record in baseball of most home runs hit in a career previously held by Hank Aaron and, initially, by Babe Ruth.

The obvious similarity in both cases is the suspicion of a personal inclination to act in one’s own best interest regardless of the rules or scientific evidence.

While the scientific community believes seismological evidence points to the mine collapse in triggering what first appeared to be an earthquake, the mine’s owner is fighting fiercely to make the point, the scientists are wrong and a quake was indeed the cause of his mine’s collapse.

The mine owner allegedly uses a practice called retreat mining which removes the coal in the columns that support the mine’s roof as miners work their way toward safety. It’s a highly profitable practice but regarded as very dangerous by federal mine authorities.

In Bond’s case, his monumental record was achieved while he is undergoing an investigation on his alleged use of steroids; a body enhancing drug some believe artificially and against league rules supported his achievement. Bonds denies any wrongdoing.

In both cases evidence points to the fact personal profit could have been more important to the principals involved than obeying the rules.

Let us hope the trapped miners survive and truth ultimately prevails in each of these controversies.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


I am one of those social anachronisms that effectively have no TV in the house. The closest I come is two weak broadcast channels out of Columbus that dribble down from my antennae and give me about a half hour of news each evening at dinner time.

This happens only when the wind is from the south, that is, and their signal is strong enough to overpower the electronic snow.

The cable moguls haven’t found it profitable enough to deliver what passes for programming service down my sparsely populated road. And, their satellite cohorts still insist on bundling about a zillion worthless channels with the half dozen or so that might interest me. I have this quaint habit of not paying for things that are worthless.

Some years back I would have included FM radio in my opening remark.
Nah, no more. They have mostly homogenized and clear-channeled themselves into ho-hum producers of sound-alike noise.

For the first several hours of FM programming each morning they are cookie cutters of giggle-on-cue bimbos jawboning sophomoric blather with their on-air, male accomplices. The radio dial has been infected with boring sameness.

I always have a chuckle when one local FM outlet advertises itself with “More music—less talk” all afternoon and evening. They are correctly shooting themselves in the foot with a candid admission their morning schedule is about as pleasurable as watching paint dry.

With radio, there is one notable exception; 107.3 FM, “The Wave” a delightful, mostly jazz listening experience out of Cleveland. Even there, though, I have the poor fortune of being located in the weak signal margins of their broadcast area.

Gottta stop now. My pooch wants to go for a hike and the library just sent me a notice across the Web one of my requested books has arrived.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


The awesome beauty and power of Nature arrived just west of my home one recent evening. I was near the lagoon and fiddling with some images of a wild grass plant when I heard the most basic of storm warnings—an ominous rumble of thunder.

I turned my surprised attention around and was rewarded with the above tapestry.

An immature but rapidly growing Cumulonimbus cloud provided the pallet for the sun to push its diagonal rays through the rapidly waning, clear evening skies.

This one was a mere child. A mature, towering cumulous thunderstorm can exceed 60,000 feet in size; twice the height of Mt. Everest.

Soon scattered raindrops dimpled the pond, then, God dumped the buckets as I doubled over to protect my camera and scurried for the house.

Max was waiting under the eve that somewhat protects the front step and his mildly, scolding stare seemed to inquire, “What kept ya’”?

Monday, August 6, 2007


...and a moonlit tropical beach

My bride and I were on the Bahamian island of Inagua years ago where I was working on my multi-engine flight rating.

That night it was just like you might have imagined. The moon was low in the western sky and making undulating sparkles in the slowly pulsating ocean swells. At regular intervals the lighthouse on the point would cast a glow on the rocky, shoreline while the vacant beach beckoned a pair of young lovers.

We chuckled as my bride and I left the lighthouse road and scampered down through the scattered saw grass, then, climbed slowly over the rocks as the nearby waves gently slapped our beach.

We whispered those sweet nothings as we allowed the ambiance to smother our willing senses.

Then--it was just like you might imagine.

Some years later I was flying as the instrument qualified pilot with a local doctor in his Piper Aztec. We were southeast bound in the cool air at 9,000 feet between West Palm Beach, FL and Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

That same lighthouse began to pass under us far below. It was arriving just in time as I checked off another correctly estimated leg of our flight. I said, “Doc, you’ll never guess what I was doing the last time I saw that lighthouse.”

As he looked at me curiously I felt a sharp thump through the bottom of my seat as my bride, who was sitting behind me on this flight, silently announced her preference for my discretion.

I obliged by a smooth change of subject.

When I looked back I was rewarded with a chaste wink.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

CJ and an evening of vibrant rhythm...Jim and Marianna on their Red Neck Yacht-of-the-evening, Jazz Express...Marianna “rehearsing” her choir of Ring Billed Gulls.


It was one of those enchanted evenings that has been firmly embossed in my memory.
Picture this: A pontoon boat ride across a placid, sun drenched lake with friends whose presence is always a treasure. The destination--a casual mooring leading to a walk in bucolic woods to a prime restaurant and a dining experience punctuated by classy, jazz music.
Marianna Basting tossed treats to a flock of gulls as husband Jim gently piloted us to the impromptu dock area of The Cabin restaurant down below Mifflin.

Our table was “stage” front where local jazz icon Dr. Tom Croghan was already sharing his keyboard magic. Our waiter, Larry, was the Basting’s favorite. I wondered if Jim had generously tipped an invisible Maitre ‘de.

Soon CJ arrived, a bundle of smoothly vibrating rhythm with a voice that had a range from New Orleans to Tahiti.

He and Croghan made music with a casual flair like two guys long acquainted. They ooze music. It’s not rehearsed. It’s a live happening. It’s jazz candy, delicious to the senses and the soul.

We ate and listened and clapped and listened some more. My shoes wanted to dance. I was enveloped in the warm fuzzies of an experience that life only occasionally awards.

Afterward, the plan was to float back to the Basting’s home with a setting sun on the bow. Actually, our lanterns bounced jiggling shadows off the trees as we mellowed our return to the boat long after sunset.

We wound up rafting Jim’s boat port side to a neighbor’s houseboat and enjoyed a boisterous, nautical frolic as we glided home through the moonlit semi-darkness.

My meal, you ask? A small fillet with all the trimmings, of course.

An enchanted evening indeed.

Saturday, August 4, 2007


Now that we have passed the Summer Solstice our days are getting shorter. Why?

The sun's latitude changes. That’s why.

The sun lights about half of the planet at any moment. As the Earth turns, we enter the lit area, experience a day, and then leave the lit area. When the sun is toward the south, our path through the lit zone has a shorter length. When the sun is toward the north, the lit path has a longer length.

Accordingly, at the Summer Solstice when the sun is highest in our sky our days are longest. Then, the sun starts to head back south and our days begin to shorten. On the Winter Solstice, the sun is farthest south and our days are shortest.

Maybe it is easiest to understand this way: Remember extreme effects occur at the North and South Poles. When the sun is farthest north (our summer) there are 24 hours of daylight at Santa’s house. The opposite occurs in our winter—there are 24 hours of darkness up there.

Consequently, the length of our days change as the sun is making this annual migration back and forth. There, it’s just that simple.

Editor’s note: For those of you with greater scientific curiosity you realize, of course, there are many other things involved: the Earth is tipped 23.5 degrees, it wobbles and precesses in its elliptical orbit, and it takes us 365¼ days to orbit the sun, a fractional inconvenience that imposes the concept of leap year.

You may even note the omission of sidereal and synodic days or the plane of the ecliptic from this discussion, or, mention of how an analemma explains the variation in the rate of change of the length of our days.

While these are very interesting topics to explore, the inclusion of too many facts can sometimes get in the way of comfortable understanding. I chose to present this topic with any error of omission being in favor of both brevity and clarity.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Blurred by speed, a cyclist takes the checkered flag at the Vintage Motorcycle Days at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last weekend.


In the earlier post on this event I mentioned our $35 tickets and nobody collecting them at the back entrance gate. To that, my oldest son, Brian, quipped, “It’s going to make it difficult for me to sell my other ticket.” He was kidding, naturally. He had four tickets as a gift from a business friend and managed to rustle up three of us to enjoy the day—including his helper Adam.

* * *

After devouring our lunch at the kiosk’s picnic table, we discussed heading for our favorite race viewing area and stood up, nearly in unison. There was a concurrent, squawking commotion and I turned around to see what was causing the ruckus. Our three rather rotund tablemates, seated on the opposite side were making a Herculean effort to free themselves from the capsizing table.
We offered our profound apologizes as six guys enjoyed our dose of poor table engineering with a collective laugh.

* * *

For you photo enthusiasts the above picture is an example of using shutter speed to create the illusion of motion in a still photo. I ran the digital SLR on the manual setting and pre-selected a shutter speed of 1/1,000 of a second with the appropriate aperture for correct exposure. While there is minimal shutter operation lag in these higher end cameras I still turned off other automatic functions like auto-focus because I needed an instant reaction from the camera.

As the bike approached the finish line I sighted the camera with my right eye through the viewfinder and, watching the action with my left eye, tripped the shutter the instant the bike came into view. A little bit of human and camera lag placed the bike ideally in the composition.

A slower shutter speed likely would have made the racer blurred beyond recognition and a faster shutter speed likely would have diminished the illusion of speed. The easiest way to determine the correct shutter speed is to do some test shots during the race.

* * *

While walking through a camping area I had eye contact with a fellow who promptly offered me a political brochure and explained swiftly, “Ron Paul needs your vote for President he’s the candidate who wants to abolish the IRS.”

That’s certainly a catchy way to get someone’s attention.

I made a careful comparison of this fellow’s visage to the brochure photo. Nah, wasn’t the candidate, just an enthusiastic supporter. I wondered why Paul’s candidacy was failing to ignite much national interest while we chatted for a few minutes.

Regardless, this fellow certainly received my “A grade” for grassroots political effort.

* * *

I noted a couple of other things that spoke to the classiness of this racing event. There was an astonishing lack of trash spewed about on the ground. Twice, I even saw parents escorting toddlers to trash containers for an early lesson on being friendly to our Earth.

And, at the conclusion of each heat, the track marshals in the infield would signal an enthusiastic “thumbs up” to the contestants for their gentlemanly and spirited performance. Real class!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Sorry readers. Of late I am experiencing all kinds of difficulty with the formatting of my posts. In today's post on viewing the International Space Station I have found it impossible to get the text to appear correctly. With luck, I will return tomorrow with a new subject.


Wednesday, August 1, 2007


I was hoofing it around the village of Butler the other morning. The Jeep was in Weekley’s garage getting some last minute repairs before I delivered it to its new owner.

I had read my library book for awhile—until my butt began to protest the park bench hardness—then, I was simply amusing myself by poking around the back alleys of the town.

Up there on Henry St., I was pondering my next turn when I encountered a lady about my age who came hustling up the hill on 5th Ave. with a well used binder under her arm. I could tell that by all the yellow Post-Its sticking out.

My cheery “Good Morning” led to a discussion and it turned out we knew each other, from somewhere in our distant pasts.

The binder she was carrying was a well-thumbed copy of the town’s zoning ordinances and she was on her way to share her notes with a cohort regarding the town’s current dispute.

The controversy involved another lady running a very well populated cat shelter in an area of residential zoning. “She’s doing the right thing with all those cats,” she told me with a wrinkled nose, “She’s simply doing it in the wrong place.”

Turns out I also knew the lady where she was headed so I wandered along and listened to her informed analysis of the town’s peculiarities, both structural and human.

Her grade card for the town’s council wasn’t like one you would want your youngster to bring home from elementary school. I nodded with complete understanding. And, anything the mayor manages to accomplish is usually an accident or notably to his political advantage she opined. I continued to nod my understanding.

The town’s convolutions are regular fodder in the valley’s weekly newspaper.

Up on Reeder Dr., she showed me the huge scar where a new housing development was just beginning. We don’t have enough water pressure to serve those homes yet they allowed it to be done anyhow she explained with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm.

The drainage infrastructure is awful too she pointed out as we walked by a house often flooded by overloaded sanitary sewers.

And, these council people either don’t have anyone with the ability to write applications for federal grants to help us with our problems, or, anyone with sufficient ambition to even try.

As we concluded our walk down Union St., I found myself pondering the town’s future with her hand firmly on the political tiller.

I didn’t have a chance to advance that theory to her but I found it mischievous to contemplate.