27 July 2010

Noah! I want you to build...an ark!

We've had a bit of flooding here over the past week. It rained heavily most of last week up in Wisconsin and Minnesota (with at least a couple of bouts of 8-9 inches at a time). Well, that water has to go somewhere, and here it runs south, making its way down the Mississippi River drainage basin toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Last Saturday, I drove to Savanna, my old hometown, and picked my mom up so she could do her shopping about 10am. We got done with everything and got home about 3pm, only to be treated to this in the neighborhood.

We were fortunate that her house and property is just high enough and the flood at its highest got to within probably 1 meter (by height) or 5 meters by slope from the garage. The downslope neighbors weren't quite so lucky, as can be seen above. All of these pictures were taken last Sunday, and the water was starting to recede.

Thing is, Mom doesn't live close to the river, but close to what were the old Milwaukee Road yards. They did get flooded back in '65, but the water has to go up considerably to get to this point-much higher than most floods along the Mississippi. A flash flood like this, rolling down the Plum River on the east side of town, can overflow.

The Plum River is probably 3-4 meters wide on average and in most spots is probably about 1/2 meter deep. Not so last weekend:

It's flowing pretty fast under the Route 64 bridge east of town. Looks more like the Mississippi at this point. This cut off a couple of roads nearby.

This is Marquette Park in Savanna, right along the Mississippi. The blacktop is actually parking for people towing boats. Just below is the road through the park-currently underwater, along with the picnic shelters. I've seen the water higher in downtown Savanna-1993 comes to mind. The floodwater kind of 'snuck in through the back door' this time.

Probably the big blow of this bout of high water was the flow through the old rail yards. Although most of the yards have been gone for going on 25 years now, the Canadian Pacific (which bought the old Milwaukee lines) still has a main line and crew change point here, as does the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The CP yards did get major wet, and I suspect the BNSF yard did as well. I saw trains starting to stack up on the mains north and south of town. They'll be a while getting those rerouted around the affected rails.

Looks like several cars got derailed here. I wouldn't be surprised if the rails were displaced as well. Looks like the CP will need a big hook and a rail building crew here before too long. The lake in the background is normally flat and dry land where the yards were.

Which brings us to the Route 84 bridge and viaduct:

Part of the embankment to the bridge approach was washed away, along with the concrete piling nearest. It looks like the rebar is still in place but the outer concrete was peeled away. It looked like one or two railroad cars got knocked into the bridge as well. I'd guess the 84 Bridge will be out of commission for a while. That road gets a lot of traffic as it goes up the Illinois side of the river. Fortunately Savanna has a bridge across the Mississippi and the people in town can get south with a minimum of hassle. The people of the south side of town past the washed-out bridge now have a several-kilometer detour through various country roads to get to the business district, which of course was a short hop before the weekend. Since the State of Illinois has somewhat less money on hand than your average homeless person, God and the federal government (which is in a similar financial situation to Illinois) are the only ones who'll know when the bridge and viaduct will get repaired.

It's been something of a mess along the Upper Mississippi over the past few days, but we'll all pull through. This is a hazard of living along a watercourse. This event has given people in the small towns something to talk about, if nothing else. And bloggers like myself as well.

You can read a report from the local TV station here.

yankeedog out.

18 July 2010

A day at the diamonds

We got TBH's aunt cremated last week. She didn't want any visitation or ceremony, so that made things go pretty well. Now we tie up all the loose ends and get all the stuff taken care of that needs to be taken care of and everything financial shut off that needs to be shut off.

Since things are in a bit of a holding pattern here, we decided to continue with our trip to the Cubs/Phillies tilt at Wrigley. What say we hop on the bus a take a trip to see some baseball?

A quick jaunt up Interstate 55 (which parallels what's left of the famous old highway US 66 of song and screen) finds us in The City That Works. Before long we'll hit Lake Shore Drive, right around the Loop, and to the North Side and the Wrigleyville neighborhood and the ballpark.

Probably a unique feature of the buildings around Wrigley Field are the bleachers on the rooftops of the bulidings around the ballpark. Originally these were apartment buildings, but starting during the 1984 season when the Cubs made their first postseason run since 1945, people started to watch the games from the upper floor windows and the rooftops. Then they invited their friends, who invited their friends, who built makeshift bleachers. Eventually professional interests bought the buildings and turned them into essentially the far outfield bleachers. After negotiations, the Cubs allow these enterprises to exist-for a cut of their profits. Fair enough.

The statue of the great baseball announcer, Harry Caray. He started his career with the Cardinals in 1944 and was the radio voice of the Birds until the early 1970s. After stints with the A's and the White Sox, he signed with the Cubs. Harry was the voice of the average fan, always ready to cheer on a Cubs home run with his signature 'Ho-ly COW!' or criticize a bad play or bad call. He was the voice of the Cubs until his death before the 1998 season. According to all accounts, he was always willing to talk to the fans-and he lived every one of his years!

This is new-and overdue-the statue of the great Ernie Banks, Cubs' first baseman and the team's first black player. He was quite a talent-and the eternal optimist. He made the Baseball Hall of Fame-but never played in the postseason. The Cub teams of the 1950s were truly atrocious, the teams in the 1960s somewhat better, but not quite enough to beat the equally good Mets teams of the era. And Ernie never got a World Series ring.

Let's get out our tickets and go on in. Today's starters: for Philadelphia, Joe Blanton, for the Cubs, leftie Ted Lilly, who quite possibly will be on the trading block if management decides the Cubs are out of the race. At 39-51, that is quite likely.

And here's the first pitch! Both pitchers were locked in for the first three innings. The top of the 4th, however, would see Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino (a hard-nosed, scrappy player who can go get it with the best of them) knock a solo home run to put the Phils up 1-0...

...and here he is crossing home to the cheers of the Phillie faithful in attendance!

In the bottom of the 5th, the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez smacked a long double in the power alley to left. Byrd flew out. Later, Alfonso Soriano would draw a walk. Castro struck out. 2 on with 2 out. The Phils elected to intentionally walk catcher Geovany Soto to force pitcher Lilly to bat. Since the pitcher usually doesn't hit well (Lilly hasn't gotten a hit this year), the odds say this is a good move-right? But Lilly managed to work the count full. Three balls, two strikes. Bases loaded, 2 out. Will Lilly strike out?

No! Lilly drew a walk to force a run in! The strategy backfires! Sometimes it happens. But the Cubs tie it up at 1-1 at the end of 5.

The top of the 6th would see the heart of the Phillie order do damage. Jayson Werth drew a walk, bringing up their big slugger, Ryan Howard. Lilly gives up a lot of fly ball outs-except for the one Howard hit, which landed on the roof of the Batter's Eye Lounge shown in the picture-410 feet from home. Phils up 3-1. I figured this is where we'd end up since the Cub offense has been woeful this year.

But not today. In the bottom of the sixth, Ramirez walked, bringing up Cub centerfielder Marlon Byrd (who's played extraordinarily well on a mediocre team). Byrd parked one in the left field bleachers to tie it up at 3-all! Got ourselves a game here again all of a sudden! Don't go away, folks!

The 8th inning would see both starting pitchers gone. Sean Marshall came in and shut the Pirates down in the top of the frame. Ryan Madsen took the ball for the Phils in the bottom, and again Aramis Ramirez was at bat. After getting two strikes, the Ram connected! A deep drive, it might be out of here-going...going....

GONE! A solo shot to put the Cubs up 4-3!

The top of the 9th, and Piniella put in Carlos Marmol for the save. Now, will we see the Carlos who throws the wicked unhittable slider, or the Carlos who's nowhere near the plate and walking the bases full?

Two quick strikeouts! We got Wicked Slider Carlos today! And a called third strike for the last out!


And the fans got to sing 'Go Cubs Go'!

And that's how the game went. Always good to see the home nines get a victory. They've been few and far between this year. I have a feeling the Ricketts family, the new owners of the Cubs, will be doing some housecleaning in the last part of the season and afterward. Could be some lean years ahead until they can (if they can) get the organization running like a professional sports franchise instead of the world's biggest beer garden. They have promised a goal of a world championship. We'll see how they go about attempting to try that most elusive, nay, the Holy Grail of sports accomplishments-a World Series victory for the Chicago Cubs.

We hope you enjoyed the game and the outcome. Any reproduction, retransmission, or rebroadcast of the pictures or accounts of this game without the express written consent of Yankeedog IS prohibited!

yankeedog out.

13 July 2010

A good race run...

The Better Half's aunt passed away the other night, just over a month past Birthday number 95. Not a bad run, all things considered. She lived independently up until last October, then dementia and a mild heart attack saw us put her in a nursing facility. After New Year's, the mental facilities slipped pretty drastically and toward the end it was a reversion back to infancy.

Might sound hard-hearted, but I do believe in dignity in life as much as possible. I'm glad she's free of this existence. I choose to think that she's gone off to a better place. If that isn't your thing, then she's just gone-but trapped in an old body with no mind...it's still a release.

The amazing thing is that if her obit was going to be in the paper, it would probably read 'after a brief illness'. As many of you know, illness and dementia are only 'brief' if you aren't the one dealing with it!

To use a rather ancient joke, I hope I die peacefully, in my sleep-not kicking and screaming like the passengers in my car!

yankeedog out.

11 July 2010

More great monikers

Just one of those things. You live in a country where they don't speak your native language. Your parents give you a name which in your old homeland is a great and magnificent name-a name you can be proud of-only to find out that in your new country, your name is a joke. Happens all the time, both on a personal level and in product naming. I suspect some of us might have an English name that in some Urdu or Hindi or Malay dialect sounds like their word for 'Deflowerer of Young Male Goats' or some such.

And sometimes you get a name because your parents a) didn't like you or b) heard Johnny Cash sing 'A Boy Named Sue' one time too many and thought giving their kids some funky name will make them tough. Perhaps they should have thought this through. Those kids do, after all, pick their parents' nursing homes.

So let's see what names got dropped here, shall we?

Actually, this wouldn't be funny if it were in the Pinyin transliteration used by the PRC. Well, maybe it would...

When Star Wars fanatics have children! Strong the Force is in this one. Picked on mercilessly in school he will be...

You have to admit, this catches the eye when you're driving by.

And popular, with that much experience! Just like my rejoinder when in St. Louis and the drunken inbred Cardinal fans yell 'Cubs suck!'.

'Yeah? Well, the Cardinals swallow!'

Then we run as fast as the local gravity field will allow us to perambulate.

Only a Dick would do this to his kid.

I see this guy doing a variation of Hyacinth's routine from 'Keeping Up Appearances':

"It's pronounced Fuh-ZHOH!"

And her mother back in the old country showed her to friends and neighbors, saying "Would you like to see Mahboobeh?", blissfully unaware that in the English-speaking world, that remark would be followed by a snicker!

Didn't KISS do a song about this guy? 'They call him Mister Love...'. No, wait. That's 'Dr. Love'.

Sorry. With a guy named Mister Love, I don't want to link to Yello. I GOTTA link to Yello!!

She was in the first Austin Powers movie, wasn't she? Sure. Natal'ya Vagina! I remember her.

Actually, I think Natal'ya Vagina married former Twins and Tigers outfielder Rusty Kuntz. That'll take care of that silly maiden name!

I do remember Rusty. The name was pronounced 'Coontz'. You know he took a lot of crap anyway.

I'll vote for a guy named 'Loser'. It's the guy named 'Taxraiser' that would worry me.

What do you bet this guy has brothers named Dick, Percy, and Wally?

I think I'd change that last name to 'Abadass' if I came here to live.

I  appreciate the warning, and will tip large. Because I personally don't swing that way!

Now this guy, on the other hand, aced the whole name thing!

Batman bin Suparman: greater than Chuck Norris and Shatner in those Priceline commercials!

yankeedog out.

09 July 2010

The Adventures of the Russian Spy...

...not our Natalia The Russian Spy, rather the honest-to-God real Russian spies we recently got hold of (at least one of which did indeed really sport that common feminine first name) and have just recently traded by back to the Empire for some agents we wanted.

Служба Внешней Разведки-Formerly the KGB. New name-same great service!

I find spycraft to be interesting. It's for the most part quite unlike the non-stop action and jet-setting made popular by Ian Fleming's James Bond. Spying for the most part seems mostly to consist of blending in, keeping your head down and your eyes and ears open, and not drawing attention to yourself, at least until the mission demands that you do otherwise. In a closed society, that's tough to do. In a free society, not so difficult, especially as this bunch was drilled well in American ways and indeed did quite well here-raising families, getting educations at some of our better colleges. Lived the dream of the country they quite likely grew up indoctrinated to dislike.

The swap takes one back to the 'good old days' of the Cold War. One only needs a foggy night somewhere in Central Europe, both sides staring each other down across the bridge between Freelandia and Cabbageslavia or across Checkpoint Charlie as the spies cross over into their respective spheres of influence, to complete the image.

I suppose their mission was to simply worm their way into American society, get as far up the ladder as possible, and wait for further orders. A well-placed asset can do a lot of damage that way-ask British Intelligence or the people who caught the Walkers or Aldrich Ames. None of these people were close to any high-value military locations-but there are other things worth picking up-industrial secrets, technological advances, research, financial records, information itself.

I wonder, though, if some of this bunch didn't 'go native' a bit, since a few of them raised children here. It does add to their 'cover'-just a normal American family and all that-but what if you get caught? There is love of country, and love of family One wonders if these people are thinking on a certain level "What the hell did I just do? I had family. I just deprived them of a decent life". Maybe not. Only they know.

These people lived double lives and not only endangered themselves but put their own children at risk. You get caught and eliminated in the espionage game-well, nobody gets conscripted into spy school. Adding the extra dimension of raising children in 'enemy territory'? They didn't ask for that disruption in their lives.

And what do we do with some of these spies' children? How much do we trust them? Do we watch them for the rest of their lives? They were born here. They are American citizens. The Russians have no right to ask for their custody and little inclination to do so. Some of the kids are in their teens to 20 years old. How much do they know about their parents' other lives? Are they loyal to Russia or the United States? Can they be subverted by the SVR using blackmail or threats on their parents' lives? I honestly don't know. I don't know if anyone knows, probably most of all them. It must have been something for those kids. They come home from school and someone says 'Sorry, kid. Your parents aren't really from here and were performing activities against the United States. We'll need to ask you a few questions as well.'

And what of the reception these spies will get back in Russia? I don't know how the Empire handles failed spies. The previous bunch found suitable jobs for them, I suppose-lots of work in Siberia to do, after all-or they were simply eliminated. I'm pretty sure Tsar Vladimir (I know, Medvedev is prime minister. Putin is the Man In Charge there, though) isn't any too happy with them, although being an old alum of KGB University I'm sure he understands the game, and that these things happen. It isn't personal, after all. It's just business.

I shouldn't be terribly surprised if some one or two of them has an accident on the Ring Road or gets hit by a car or has a giant kettle of borshch fall on their head. Someone has to pay for this pretty good-sized mistake.

If His Majesty isn't thinking that, some of the Russian street is:

"They obviously were very bad spies if they got caught. They got caught, so they should be tried," said Sasha Ivanov, a businessman walking by a Moscow train station.

Doesn't look like there's going to be sympathy or parades for them in Moscow. They might be dusting off that great old Russian saying from the days of Big Joe: Смерть шпионам. Smiert' shpionam. Death to spies.

I know I personally wonder why people like Ames and the Walkers are in the Graybar Hotel. You do that much damage with your treasonous actions, there's only one punishment. Capital punishment. At least this bunch was working for someone else and weren't born here.

This whole affair will make for some interesting reading if/when it gets declassified.

I'll leave you with this little gem of 'Spy' music. Probably not one of McCartney's best.

Oh, very well. I'll leave you with this little gem of 'Spy' music. A little bit better effort from Sir Paul. I never get tired of this particular piece.

yankeedog out.

08 July 2010

QC Air Show-Finally, the end!

Thought I'd finish up with some of the jets at the QCAS.

The big fast jet display was put on by the F/A-18 Super Hornet. The big cousin to the F-18, I have to say, was pretty darned impressive. The pilot put the Hornet through its paces (spins, stalls, four-point rolls, and the ever-popular Pugachev Cobra) and it handles surprisingly well for its size. It even did good in some unstable manuevering, which tells me that its flight control software is pretty solid.

You know, I have to remember to take the videocamera to airshows. It's just too damn hard to try to focus and click in time!

The now-venerable F-15E Strike Eagle made an appearance as well. Though the Eagle design is almost 40 years old, it's still an impressive sight as it goes through its paces. It certainly looks to me like the Eagle can still handle itself on the modern battlefield.

A Heritage Flight of (top to bottom) a P-51 Mustang, the F-15E Strike Eagle, and that airshow favorite, the A-10 Warthog. This is a great formation to watch, but something of a challenge: the Mustang has to go full out and the jets have to fly at about as slow as they can without stalling!

Yes, the Warthog Demo Team showed off the big tank-killer as well:

The Hog is great fun to watch-it's big and slow and at certain angles has an uncanny resemblance to an old B-25 Mitchell bomber. But it can turn on a dime and give you three cents change, carry a massive load of weapons, and is tougher than 10-year-old dried turkey. It made the long low pass over the field on a strafing run, the 30mm Gatling gun flashing at the nose and a loud 'BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRP' and a long gout of dust. Quite the machine!

Look! A baby Raptor! All it needs is some food, water, and the tender loving infusion of several million defense dollars, and it'll grow up to be a Big Fighter!

Ah, there's a Hornet up close. This example is from the Navy's VFA-211 (Fighter/Attack Squadron 211) which either just came off or more likely to be attached to USS Enterprise. VFA-211 is known as the 'Checkmates' (When you're out of Checkmates, you're out of fighters!). The folks in the tent were selling T-shirts with the squadron logo on them. The proceeds will probably go to the squadron's slush fund or for a few rounds of beer at the next port of call.

Now those are causes I'll gladly donate to! I'd rather buy a squadron T-shirt than the gear the regular vendors sell. This will go with my VS-32 Maulers shirt.

And that is that. You readers are probably saying 'Thank God! You do go on way too long when it comes to planes!' I'm going to try to get to Rockford at the end of the month. I'll see if I can get vids of the BUFF and some of the planes they can't get here.

Thanks for your patience and forbearance!

yankeedog out.

06 July 2010

QC Air Show Part 3 of whatever-Giving Props

Back to the airshow after a break. I thought I'd show everyone the craft with props and rotors that were there.

This is, of course, the C-47 (Dakota to the Commonwealth), the primary Allied transport of World War II. The C-47 served in the US Army Air Corps and Air Force into the Vietnam era, and there are quite a few still flying, a few still serving as military transports in some Third World countries, still more with small airlines and charter services. The plane was designed some 65 years ago, so the guys and girls at Douglas did a good job. This example is supposedly the oldest C-47/DC-3 still flyable. It's owned by the Ozark Aviation Museum. I'd guess this plane served in the Israeli Defense Forces by the camouflage scheme and colors-it's the scheme the IDF called 'cafe-au-lait'.

Kind of a favorite of mine-the P-38 Lightning. I like the center 'pod' for the cockpit and weapon bay. It isn't a bad arrangement, though I'm told the cockpit could get cold on long flights, since there's no waste heat coming back from the engines. The Lightning had good speed, decent manueverability (though a bit tricky to handle), and long range-qualities required for long flights over the Pacific or doing bomber escort into Germany. Although the Mustang and Thunderbolt supplanted the Lightning as the primary USAAF fighter by 1944, the P-38 still served as a photorecon bird until the end of the war. The Germans referred to the Lightning as 'Der Gabelschwanse Teufel' (the 'Fork-Tailed Devil), showing their respect for the plane's abilities.

The TBM Avenger, primary torpedo bomber of the US Navy after Midway in 1942. The Avenger was a tough design and well-liked by its crews. The primary mission of the Avenger was to carry a torpedo to destroy enemy ships, but the big roomy hull and crew of 3 allowed the Avenger to be converted into an anti-submarine plane (which would be what those underwing rockets would be used for-hopefully catching an unwary U-Boat charging batteries and relatively helpless), ground support, Carrier Onboard Delivery (transport), and even as some of the very first radar-equipped Airborne Early Warning planes. The Avenger was replaced by the Douglas Skyraider in US service, but during the war the TBM served with the US Navy, Royal Navy, France, and New Zealand.

A look inside the TBM. This is the radioman's position. Above him would be the rear gunner and, forward and above, the pilot. The weapons bay is directly in front of the seat. The radioman doesn't get a great view of the world from where he's sitting.

This plane is the Nord 3202, a postwar trainer built by France. It's recognizable by its landing gear with 'knees' on them. I personally think the nose art is awesome!

Our last prop plane is the Pilatus PC-9 (T-6 Texan II in USAF service). This bird is down from the Canadian Air Force (Canada usually has a presence at the airshows around these parts. I suppose it isn't very far for them to come.). The Texan II is an advanced trainer for the USAF (before pilots get into jet trainers). Many air forces use the PC-9 as a trainer and light attack aircraft, and I believe the PC-9 is the primary mount of the RAAF Roulettes aerobatic team. Plenty of plane for most pilots to have to deal with!

We leave the prop planes and go to the helicopters.

Here's the big MH-53 Super Stallion helicopter from HS-14 (Helicopter Squadron 14) of the US Navy. The Stallions are essentially a derivative design of the 1960's era Sikorsky Skycrane, with a proper fuselage instead of the skeletal design of the Skycrane. The Super Stallion is used primarily for mine-clearance, troop transport, and cargo transport, and can be found primarily on board amphibious assault ships.

The vintage CH-47 Chinook helicopter. The design dates to the early 1960s, but they're still the backbone of the Army's transport copter fleet. Several nations fly the Chinook, including Israel, Britain, and I believe Australia (one of you will correct me if I'm wrong). This example came clear from the National Guard base next to the airport-a flight of some 700 feet. I've seen a lot of these flying around the area. Again, got the nose art, which I believe is the Miller Beer Girl from the Miller ads from around the turn of the last century, and the name of the 'copter is 'Magic Bus'. Probably a good name for the Chinook!

And finally, a helicopter that has been in service since 1984, but I've never seen up close! Odd since I've been to a lot of airshows. It's the AH-64 Apache, which has replaced the venerable HueyCobra in Army service (though the Marines still like the Cobra for their attack helos). I used to play Gunship on the old Commodore 64 back in the day. That was a pretty good simulation of the Apache, at least for the mid-1980s. Here you get a good view of the 30mm chain gun and sighting/targeting systems. These are connected to the helmet of the weapons officer, so basically he/she can shoot what he/she is looking at. The system worked so well that the Soviets used helmet sighting on the MiG-29, and now it's fairly standard to the current generation of fighters. This Apache has the standard weapons loadout of 8 racks for the Hellfire anti-tank missile, and 2 19-round unguided rocket pods (this loadout can be adjusted to 16 Hellfires or 4 rocket pods as required).

The Apache has served well in the Middle East. It has taken its share of losses in addition to inflicting them. Helicopter warfare is a nasty business. Helicopters are inherently aerodynamically unstable in addition to having a lot of the propulsion system and drivetrain exposed. Landing an unpowered helicopter (autorotation, which is a procedure involving disengaging the rotors from the gearbox, letting them spin free, then pulling the nose up for lift) is dicey at best and depending on conditions might not be possible at all. Unfortunately, that's the nature of the beast.

Good to be able to get an up-close-and-personal with the -64. Quite impressive.

Reckon we'll finish up here with the fast movers, including the A-10. Hope y'all enjoyed.

yankeedog out.