29 September 2011

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yankeedog out.

10 September 2011

Thoughts ten years on...

I've been fortunate enough to visit the Aloha State, and when in Honolulu I made the trip out to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona memorial. It's probably a place everyone should go when on the Islands. It's a somber place-understated but a dignified monument for those that died on 7 December.

One thing I would be interested in, though, is what was on radio and television on December 7, 1951. I expect it wasn't full of memoirs and retrospectives on what happened ten years previous. Actually, I suppose I Love Lucy was on the tube, Gunsmoke was on the radio, and the news was all about the direct-to-video sequel to WWII-the Korean War.

Point is, Americans probably remembered Pearl Harbor on that day-and moved on with their lives.

I'm not sure we're doing so well with the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks. Tomorrow will see almost every channel on TV showing retrospectives of the day. The History Channel is even having a special to be shown on all of their channels all over the world. The rest of the world will probably think a) we're a nation of people who can't cope with adversity or b) won't care or c) both.

I realize there is an exponential increase in mass media since the mid-20th Century, and September 11 will be, at least for Americans, a 'remember where you were' day, much like the day President Kennedy was shot, or the Challenger exploded, or the night the Berlin Wall cracked open (I remember watching the news the night the Berlin Wall opened up and thinking 'Well, that was easy'.). That's, I think, fair enough.

But shows featuring the final phone calls and messages of the people who died that day seems to me to be in poor taste and somehow in my opinion cheapens the meaning of the day. Those messages really should have been kept private. And how many times do we really need to see those planes crashing into the World Trade Center?

There was that day, like in any another disaster, the whole range of human nature. There were some outstanding examples of heroism and valor along with I'm sure panic and cowardice. We remember the acts of firefighters, police, and ordinary citizens, who went into places most people were trying to get out of. A lot of them didn't survive the day. We remember those people on Flight 93 who chose to fight back instead of dying in fear. They died anyway, but far better to go down taking a swing if there's no real choice. We remember all the good people who've died since then in the various conflicts.

At the same time, Americans need to move on. There are a lot of issues we need to try to tackle and solve. The current administration seems to want to wind down our foreign adventures, and it's probably time. We've captured or otherwise dispatched most of the brains behind the plot. That the main plotter of the events of September 11 is currently fish food is adequate revenge for me. Paid in full. Perhaps the fish that nibbled on the body of Osama bin Ladin will get caught and provide a day's nourishment for some family-proof that some good is present in all men, I suppose. Anyway, let's get our troops back here. I dare say we could use them around the southern borders of our tired old Republic.

Much to do, everyone, in this nation and world. Remember our fallen, but move on. The people that died on 9/11 would want us to do that, I think. Let's roll!

yankeedog out.

25 August 2011

YD's Diet Plan

Well. Been a while since last I showed up here.

Been a lot of stuff I suppose worth writing about-a debt deal by the government which really isn't much of a deal; the fall of Tripoli and Qaddafi's regime in Libya-good riddance to bad rubbish; the incoming NFL season (the Bears still haven't improved their offensive line); the looming conclusion of the baseball season (Cubs in 5th in the 6 team NL Central-I'm surprised they're that good); the recently concluded International Softball Congress Men's Fastpitch Tournament here in Moline-some good ball played by some talented players from all over the world, and congratulations to the Jarvis Travelers from Ontario for winning the whole thing.

Hmm. Since we're on the subject of ballgames, let's discuss that staple of the baseball stadium concession stand-the hot dog. For me, part of the experience of going to the game is having a dog and a cold beer. I suppose if I were in, say, Australia, watching the footy, I'd have to partake of the infamous 'meat pie', which actually would be quite good if made from someone's recipe, in their kitchen, with identifiable ingredients. I shudder to think of its mass-produced counterpart. I actually had a bratwurst at the softball tournament from a stand run by a local meat market. It had real identifiable meat in it and it was to a mass produced bratwurst what a '59 Cadillac is to a Yugo. Outstanding!

Now I know that hot dogs are made of basically whatever's left from the animal du jour being killed at the slaughterhouse. They're full of fat, salt, and nitrates-which is why they taste so good. I eat maybe six or seven of the things a year. I know they aren't the best things in the world to build a diet around.

But nothing we eat these days escapes the Food Police, those organizations, which I suppose have good intentions, that tell us that anything that has, say, flavor-is going to kill us. And they may be right. But then, life is bad for the heart as well.

This billboard appeared recently, I believe in the Los Angeles area-

That has the subtlety of a mallet! I might be inclined to think that if one were to eat six or seven hot dogs a day-every day-for 20 years-then one might suffer adverse health effects. On the other hand, there is probably some 95-year-old guy out there who's eaten hot dogs every day since the end of Prohibition and is healthy as a horse. Who can say?

I've looked over a lot of studies and looked at the websites of a lot of different scientific and environmental groups, and I've been able to piece together a lot of nutritional and diet information. In the interest of promoting good health, I'm going to pass it along to you, the Concerned Citizen. Ready? Here goes:

Eat fish-Fish are full of good omega-3 oils and are generally lean and full of protein, and can be prepared in a lot of low-calorie ways.

Don't eat fish-Fish absorb a lot of the pollutants that humanity has thoughtfully placed in the world's waterways. Minerals like mercury accumulate in many species of fish. Fish should, therefore, be avoided.

Eat eggs-Eggs have a lot of nutrients and protein, and are portable and tasty.

Don't eat eggs-Eggs are loaded with cholesterol, which clogs arteries and contributes to heart disease.

Eat red meat-Most meat is loaded with vitamins and protein, which helps to make you feel full.

Don't eat red meat-Red meat is laced with fat, contains cholesterol, and, depending on how it's prepared, put a strain on the digestive system. Also, beef and pork take a lot of resources to produce. Red meat should be avoided at all costs!

Eat poultry- Poultry is generally low in fat, high in protein, and very versatile to cook. A must in your diet!

Don't eat poultry-Poultry in high in cholesterol and generally produced in 'inhumane' factory farms. Not to be supported with your purchases!

Drink coffee- Coffee has caffeine and seems to have some life-extending chemicals in it. Enjoy a cup!

Don't drink coffee-Coffee has caffeine, which can increase heart rate and increase the risk of a heart attack or disease. Stay away from the coffee pot..

Eat vegetables and fruits-Vegetables and fruits are high in fiber, and many contain vital antioxidants for cancer prevention.

Don't eat vegetables and fruits-Many vegetables and fruits are grown on huge truck farms and full of pesticides and herbicides. Eat at your own risk!

Drink a lot of water-Drink 8 8 oz glasses of water a day to replenish fluid levels and help flush the body's internal workings.

Go easy on the water-There have been cases of people literally drowning from taking in too many glasses of water. Also, most municipal water supplies are treated with chlorine and flourides, which can be harmful in large doses.

Eat grains and grain products-Grains are loaded with fiber and nutrients and are a good source of energy.

Don't eat grains and grain products-Grains are full of carbohydrates, which, if consumed to excess, can lead to diabetes. Give grains a wide berth!

Eat sugar-Sugar is a natural sweetening substance, unlike saccharine or aspartame, and is generally preferred over its man-made counterparts.

Don't eat sugar-Sugar is a veritable trove of refined carbohydrates, which the pancreas finds hard to produce enough insulin to break down. Can lead to diabetes. Avoid sugar.

Eat salt-Salt is a necessary component for the body to function, and has been infused with iodine, also necessary for the body's functions.

Don't eat salt-Salt conributes to hypertension, which, if untreated, can lead to heart disease. Put down the salt shaker!

There you are. That's easy to follow, isn't it? Sure it is! Enjoy your newfound health and vigor. Bon appetit!

yankeedog out.

07 August 2011

Vale Borders

So, Borders is finished as a chain. The local store up in Davenport has had a lot of traffic over the past couple of weeks. Actually, our store was always full and ours was one of the few that remained open after the initial filing for bankruptcy, but I think the business volume has doubled. Obviously, a lot of people are looking for bargains. The place is starting to get a definite 'picked-over' look.

I've picked up some stuff of interest fairly cheap that I wouldn't have paid full price for. Allen Steele's Coyote series-interstellar colonization in the Heinlein tradition. Not bad, but Heinlein would've wrote it better. The Great War in Africa. Interesting reading about WWI in Africa. Completely different style of fighting than in Europe. Robert Conroy's 1945- not bad alt-hist regarding the US invasion of Japan in 1945-46. Robopocalypse. Don't waste your money on this-either watch the Terminator series or read World War Z which is much more masterfully crafted. DVDs of the early seasons of The Red Green Show. Obviously people in rural Ontario live just like people in rural Northwest Illinois. Overall, not a terrible bunch of titles.

I'm going to miss Borders. I spent a lot of hours in their stores and put more than a little bit of money in their coffers. We still have Barnes & Noble, but a lot of times Borders had a bigger selection of titles to choose from. I guess they were a little bit late to get on the e-book wagon, and they couldn't compete with the colossus that is Amazon.com. Some of the employees have quietly said that perhaps the company had too many chiefs and not enough Indians. If so, some of the chiefs they had might have made some tactical errors in running the business.

I grew up going to Waldenbooks, which could be found in nearly any mall in America back in the 1980s. Most of the stores were small by today's standards, but when you grew up in a small town they looked like the Library of Congress. I believe Waldenbooks was absorbed by Borders, so they'll be gone as well.

In the 1990s, there used to be a smallish chain called Media Play. They had books, and videos, and music. AND video games. One stop shopping! What a concept! That WAS the place to go come Christmastime. A person could get everything on the Christmas list and be done in a couple of hours. But they got too much into items outside of their core business and they folded in the early 2000s.

Oddly enough, some of the small local bookstores are still hanging in there. I don't know how they do it, but they are. It's good to see. I can see the advantages to e-books. They're cheap (after the initial investment in the reader), and they take up NO space. But I still like having an actual book in my hands.

There is a campaign going to get Books-A-Million, which appears to be based in the southeastern US, to locate a store here in the present Borders. Yeah, I'll email the company to do that. I think the area could support a store. For some reason we appear to be more literate than the rest of the country or something. Plus, I like having a couple of major chains in the area to keep each other honest, pricewise. We'll see.

So long, Borders, and thanks for all the reading!

yankeedog out.

01 August 2011

And more rails

Tonight, a few more pics from Train Festival 2011.

First up, though...Steamboat a-comin'!

The Celebration Belle, our local dinner cruise/tour boat. Of course, nowhere near so old as she might look. In the fall, there's not much better than a cruise upriver, looking at the colors along the bluffs.

One of the more interesting engines that showed up was the newest:

Yes, that's right. The newest. This 4-4-0 was the mainstay of American railroads from the 1850s into the 1880s. This engine is actually a homebuilt project/replica of the Central Pacific Railroad's Leviathan. The CPRR was the western 'half' of the first transcontinental railroad. The owner did a fantastic job of recreating a piece of Americana. And since it's new, the engine is actually fuel-fired (instead of wood-fired) and has all of the latest safety gear. Leviathan could run on any road in the country. Now all he needs is an old combine car and a coach to complete the set.

Not Thomas, but a couple of tank engines. They were quite common around factories, lumbermills, and mines until the advent of diesels. Quite small and handy for working industry.

One of the 'stars' of the show was Nickel Plate 765. Officially, a Berkshire class 2-8-4 of the New York, Chicago, and Cincinnati Railroad, built in 1944 by Lima Locomotive Works, Lima, Ohio. 765 had a fairly brief career, hauling freights from 1944 to 1958. The railroad donated the engine to the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She sat in a city park, deteriorating away, until the local chapter of the National Railway Historical Society took it upon themselves to restore her to running condition. It took a few years and a pile of cash and labor, but today 765 is a star of the steam engine family.

If you grew up on the image of, say, Thomas the Tank Engine, or seeing small engines from the 1800s, it's amazing to realize the immense size of the final generation of steam locomotives. NKP 765 weighs 804,000 pounds (364 tonnes), has a driver diameter of 69 inches (1.75 meters), is over 100 feet (30.7 meters) long, and can cruise along at a leisurely 70 mph (113 km/hr). Not bad for pulling fast freights across the flatlands!

Next up-some diesels.

yankeedog out.

29 July 2011

Riding the rails

"Oh, the Rock Island Line is a mighty good road

Oh, the Rock Island Line is the road to ride
The Rock Island Line is a mighty good road
Well if you want to ride you gotta ride it like you find it
Get your ticket at the station for the Rock Island Line."

-Rock Island Line, Leadbelly Johnson

"Well, listen to the jingle

To the rumble and the roar
As she glides along the woodland
Through the hills and by the shore
Hear the mighty rush of the engine
And the lonesome hoboes call
No changes can be taken
On the Wabash Cannonball"

-Wabash Cannonball, various artists

Last weekend saw Train Festival 2011 in Rock Island, complete with various old engines and rolling stock and numerous excursions, both on the railroad and on the Mississippi River. The event seemed to be pretty well attended and well-run. A great time for all of the railroad geeks out there, of which I am at least a junior member of the club.

Most of the excursions were run on the rails of the Iowa Interstate Railroad, which is the spiritual of not actual successor of the old Rock Island Railroad. The IAIS runs from Chicago to Omaha on the old Rock Island main line and crosses the Mississippi here in the QCs.

IAIS even recognizes their ancestor road by having one of their new GE ES44s done up in a 1950s era 'Rock Island' paint scheme. It's an eye-catcher and a favorite of rail photographers.

Iowa Interstate is a 'fan-friendly' railroad, generally amenable to hosting excursions and rail events. They even keep 2 Chinese-built 2-10-2 steam engines on the roster for running steam trains!

TBH and I took the train last Saturday for the all-day excursion west approximately 60 miles through Iowa City and turned on the wye west of town. The consist was one of the IAIS steamers, 2 Amtrak diesels, and 13 passenger cars.

We rolled across the bridge at the Arsenal over the Mississippi River (sorry-no pics. National security and all that. It's absurd in a million ways, but, hell, I don't wanna give ol' Ahmed any ideas), and soon we were on our way across the farms, fields, and small towns of eastern Iowa at a comfortable 45 mph.

For those who haven't heard a steam engine whistle, it has a deep and mellifluous sound not heard on modern-day horns. One need only close their eyes when they hear the old whistle blow and go back in their mind to the days when the train pulling up to the station was a major event for a village or town, bringing goods from far away and passengers leaving and arriving from distant and exotic locales (possibly someplace as far as 25 or 30 miles away!). A big treat when a person's world stretches mostly just to the horizon, I reckon.

The trip went well-no problems that I heard about. Everyone on board seemed to have a good time. I've said it before and I'll say it again-travel by rail isn't always the fastest option, but I think it may be the most relaxing. Nothing wrong with a nice, roomy coach seat and a drink and just taking everything in. Kudos to the Iowa Interstate crews and Friends of the 261 for work well done!

A little bit of background for the next encounter:

When the Iowa Interstate started up in the late 1980s, it ran over the Rock Island main line west from Chicago. The Rock was in sad financial shape for years and had let the physical plant (equipment and roadbed) deteriorate to the point where 15 mph was about as fast as could be run without risking a major derailment. The Rock went bankrupt in 1980 and the track lay abandoned for a number of years. A group of investors, led by a former Conrail manager, Henry Posner, looked at the traffic that was available and could be scraped up, took a chance and created the IAIS. At first, they ran with a hodgepodge of equipment, and none too fast. (Aside within an aside-there used to be a dinner train here in the late 1980s-the Quad City Rocket. I had the pleasure of having dinner aboard her once. Over the track in the condition it was in at that time, the experience was akin to eating on the pitching mess deck of a small ship in a storm.) Over the years, with wise spending and some loans from government and private entities, the ownership group got the roads fixed, new motive power, new service facilities, and a lot of new accounts for moving industrial and agricultural goods along the line. A real business success story, which should be studied by some of the current shlups running businesses (and government) in this country.

We're sitting in our coach on the way back to Rock Island when this thin guy in overalls and a jacket, looking like the guy in the painting American Gothic, walks into the car and introduces himself. None other than Chairman Posner Himself! Cool! He looked like he'd just got done with a turn at the throttle of the steam engine, and maybe he did-it IS his locomotive, after all. He welcomed us aboard, told us a bit about the condition of the railroad when his group bought it, and told us to be safe when waiting to shoot the runby. Actually, he pleasantly told us not to screw up or screw around on his railroad. I can accept that. Railroads are dangerous places to be hanging around. Liability insurance for excursions is expensive, and IAIS doesn't HAVE to sponsor them. Also, running essentially a non-revenue passenger train does divert people and resources from making money moving freight.

I also know from what I've read that Mr. Posner is something of a railfan at heart. He likes trains and is aware of how the rails helped form the nation. And hosting these events and excursions is good publicity for the company and fosters goodwill between the railroad and communities along the line. IAIS keeps their right-of-way, facilities, and motive power clean and well-maintained. Some of the bigger roads could do well to follow their example. It looks like everyone from the Chairman down to the guy wielding the hammer takes pride in their work-and it shows.

A long ramble-but impressive to me that there are still a few businesses that are trying to do things 'the right way'.

Anyway, an outstanding trip. I hope we can pull out another one again soon.

Oh, yes. Of course. You can see the runby and the column of smoke and hear the chuffing of the cylinders and the clicking of the drivers simply by going here. Enjoy!

yankeedog out.

19 July 2011

An Overcast day

with a lot of help from Wikipedia's article.

Aluminum Overcast is the Exprimental Aviation Association's B-17 Flying Fortress. She visited the QCs a couple of Saturdays ago.

Technically, the plane is a B-17G-105-VE, serial number 44-85740, built by the Vega Division of Lockheed (!-think of GM building Ford's cars). This particular plane never served in combat, having been built in May 1945. Most flying examples of the B-17 still existing were planes that either served as trainers in the States or built and moved to surplus. However, this plane was bought by a private citizen, who used it as a mapping plane, so the Overcast had a very interesting career mapping the remote corners of the world.

In the late 1970s, the Fort was bought and restored to a wartime appearance, mostly by veterans of the old 398th Bomb Group. The plane has nearly a million hours of flight time, the leader among the surviving Forts.
Today,  the EAA flies Aluminum Overcast to around 60 cities every summer. An enthusiast can even take a flight in her, if said enthusiast has a spare $465. Worth every penny if you're into historic aviation-there are only ten of these still flying. Fortunately, there are several more in museums around the world.

In addition, the local military vehicle club brought a couple of Jeeps to the airport:

The fellow in the pith helmet is I believe the owner of this classic WWII era Jeep, all resplendent with a major general's plate. The windshield frame bears the slogan 'HUMVEE RECOVERY UNIT'. You go, Jeep!

This model dates from the Korean War era, and Jeep made them like this for us civilians well into the 1980s. This bad boy sports the colors of the 45th 'Thunderbird' Infantry Division (Oklahoma National Guard), one of two National Guard divisions activated for the Korean War, and still exists today as 45th Infantry Brigade (Oklahoma). Someone around here has a Jeep with a .30 caliber machine gun on a pedestal mount. I saw it in the 4th of July parade. I'd drive that-and I bet I'd get a good parking spot wherever I went!

Anyhow, a few more pictures of Aluminum Overcast for your viewing pleasure:

Love the B-17. It has elegant lines not seen on the other major Allied heavy bomber types (B-24 Liberator, B-29 Superfortress, Lancaster), though the old Liberator jockeys at least will give an argument over which plane was the better of the two, and I suppose the surviving British, Canadian, and Australian Lancaster crewmen will argue for the British bird. They're all at this point great to see still flying.

As you can see from several of the photos, there was a line approximately the length of a communist-era bread line to tour the interior of the B-17. I decided that waiting an hour in the Midwest sun wasn't going to happen, so I pulled a photo of the cockpit of the Collings Foundation's B-17, Nine-O-Nine, to give an idea of what the interior of those old warbirds looked like.

Close quarters-but then so is the main office of a B-52.

A nice bit of aviation and military history to see. Keep 'em flying!

yankeedog out.

14 July 2011

A quarter century ago...

14 July 1986. Doesn't seem like all that long ago. Perhaps I must have skipped the second half of the 90s and all of the Noughts.

On that July day in '86, I started my first job after college in my chosen field: drafter/designer. And a lot has changed in 25 years in the American workplace.

I started at a company called IMECO, based in a small town in northwest Illinois. We made industrial refrigeration and HVAC equipment for food processing and logistics facilities all over North America. It was a great place to work. It was a family-owned business, and most of the time it felt like a family. We did a lot of after-hours stuff as a group-beers after work, hayrides, company picnics-that I've not done since. I think this kind of thing may not be as common as it used to be. Seems like people are just busy all the time these days trying to keep their noses above water. On the other hand, IMECO was in a small town. Everybody knew everybody else and the only thing that traveled faster than light was gossip. If someone did something at 8, everyone knew about it by 10. But overall, the general atmosphere was pretty laid back.

Back then, I started out drawing on the boards. The guy next to me had a smokeless ashtray. Yeah, kids-at one time you could smoke in the workplace. Tells you how far back this is! We did most of our work on boards until about '88 when we got our first dedicated CAD stations, which no doubt had roughly 1/100th of the computing power of today's smartphones. But drawing on the computer was a hell of a lot faster than doing so on paper, so it was pretty high-tech stuff. Then we could take our drawings to the new fax machine and send them over the phone lines!

Finally, we had a big ol' Digital Equipment DEC VAX mainframe for all of the company's records. There were several workstations scattered around the office for access. You know, even now, IMECO was probably the best organized place I ever worked at. It was super easy to pull up bills of material, purchased parts descriptions, and drawings. In the 9 years I was there, the company's business quadrupled. Am I proud to have been a part of that? You bet!

Eventually the owner of the company retired and the place changed hands a couple of times before I left. The last bunch mismanaged the company and it went under a couple of years ago. In a way, it's still a hard pill to swallow. We made a good company-made it work, made it valuable, only to see some chumps who didn't know their asses from their elbows run it into the ground. All too typical a story these days.

A definite change in the workplace since the mid 1980s has been the onward march of technology. Back in those days, it was possible to actually leave work. There were big clunky mobile phones, of course, and pagers-but nothing like what we have today. Given that I could run Pro/E on the very laptop I'm writing this on, I have a cell phone, and quick access to sites that host Web meetings, it'd be possible to never get away from work. Most people don't really get away from their jobs any more.

Are certain tasks faster than they were before? Certainly. Is life in the modern workplace better? That I'm not so sure about.

Right now, I'm on my third company since 1986. Not too bad a record. The last place I was at was converting over to an employee-owned company. When I left there, I got a nice chunk of change (my 'share' in the company) to roll over into my pension plan. Generally, when I've left a company it's been a more profitable place than when I started. That is by NO means all my doing-you have to have at least a core of good people at all levels to make business work, and I've been most fortunate to work with some fine people. But it's a sight better than most CEOs of major companies can say.

yankeedog out.

11 July 2011

Some rails long gone

As most of you know, I'm a railroad buff. Perhaps naturally, since my Dad and my uncles all worked for the old Milwaukee Road, and the Burlington also went through my old hometown. The Burlington had the great roadbed and track and the gleaming stainless steel Zephyr passsenger trains that roared up the Mississippi valley on the way to the Twin Cities and points west. The Milwaukee was more cash-poor and the equipment was generally a bit more weatherbeaten and worn.

In addition, the Rock Island was south of us. It was the first railroad to have a bridge across the Mississippi river back in the 1850s. By the 1970s it too was running on a cash shoestring and looked it. The Illinois Central ran north of us, along the Wisconsin border. The Chicago North Western ran west through Illinois and Iowa on its way to Omaha, and its connection to the Union Pacific (the first transcontinental railroad).

A local road that occasionally gets overlooked is the Chicago Great Western, which was in existence from the 1880s to 1967, when it merged with the Chicago North Western.

The CGW was a latecomer to the Midwest railroad arena and as such didn't have access to the best terrain or most direct routes between major cities. It crossed through some of the hilliest terrain in the Driftless Area and had to bore through the river bluffs near Galena with the Winston Tunnel. It had numerous branches in Iowa, as did most of the other Midwestern railroads. I believe that in the early 1900s, no place in Iowa was more than 20 miles from some rail line. Since a team pulling a grain wagon could cover 20-some miles in a day, the strategic placement of rail branches made perfect economic sense.

By the middle of the 20th Century, trucks began to haul all that grain, and the growth of the highway system took a lot of passengers and freight away from the rails. Those railroads burdened with a lot of (now) light traffic-density branches and no direct lines between major cities were the first to fall into bankruptcy and merger. So went the CGW. After the merger with CNW, the North Western pulled up a lot of the lines they didn't want or need. By the 1980s, most traces of the old railroad were gone.

The hub of the Chicago Great Western was the city of Oelwein, Iowa. Its lines to Chicago, Minneapolis, and Kansas City all merged there. The main engine and car shops were located there, and the North Western did keep these shops going until its own merger with the Union Pacific in the mid 1990s.

Most of the rail jobs are long gone now, and the UP runs through Oelwein these days instead of stopping. But there are a few people in town trying to keep the heritage alive with the Hub City Railroad Museum, located in the old Oelwein Yard Offices. This is where your correspondent took a day trip last Saturday.

The museum has a decent collection of old employee records, pictures, and small equipment. The museum does a good job of showing the CGW's influence in Oelwein.


A lot of the pictures and equipment aren't shown in any coherent order, and the few pieces of rolling stock they own are in somewhat sad shape. That isn't anyone's fault, really. The museum is run by volunteers, most of them getting up in years. It's a classic case of too few hands and too many projects and not enough visitors to fund said projects. It's a shame, but all too common.

Probably the centerpiece of the museum rolling stock is an old F7 locomotive. General Motors' E and F series were most railroads' first purchase of diesel road power. They're something of an iconic design in 20th Century industrial equipment and have been on many US and foreign rosters. Even today, the F7 can be seen occasionally hauling museum passenger trains, commuter trains, and business trains for the major railroads. They weren't extremely popular with road crews (they weren't easy to climb up into), or maintenance crews (major engine work meant removing a good portion of the carbody), but the things still look cool!

From the outside, she looks resplendent in crimson and black with yellow lettering. This is how she'd have looked pulling a long freight up across the hills and plains on her way to Chicago or the Twin Cities or down to KC.

We'll climb the stairs and go in through the vestibule door in the rear of the engine.

The powerplant-an EMD16-567B 16-cylinder diesel engine, producing 1500 horsepower. Fairbanks-Morse made a similar design for its locomotives-but a person would be more likely to see one on a fleet submarine from the World War II era. F-M produced its 16 cylinder diesel in trainloads for the Navy. Even today, a nuclear submarine carries a similar engine for last-ditch, emergency use. But I digress.

At the nose of the engine is, of course, the head office-the control station. Until the 1980s, a freight train carried a crew of five, three in the engine (engineer, fireman, brakeman) and two in the caboose (rear brakeman, conductor). Nowadays the average crew is two. So the engine has three seats-one for the engineer who actually did work, and two for the relatively useless fireman and brakeman.

This would be view from the engineer's seat:

The interior is, to put it kindly, in rough shape. Certainly not beyond restoration, but needs some serious work.

Like military vehicles, railroad museum engines and rolling stock should be kept under some sort of cover. This F7 would do well in a shed, with the interior refurbished and monitored to keep the riff-raff from stealing stuff and ripping the engine up, or traded to another railroad museum that could keep her up properly.

In short, as a city museum featuring their railroad history-not bad. As a railroad museum-not so good, but still  a good collection of a 'fallen flag' road.

yankeedog out.

06 July 2011

Hail Atlantis!

And the end of an era:

The last of the Space Shuttle missions will soon be launched, and with it at least a pause in American-run manned space flight. One hopes this won't be the last time the US launches men into space.

It's hard to believe that just over 30 years ago, Crippen and Young flew Columbia on the program's maiden flight. I remember back in the 1970s seeing pictures of the old Enterprise do landing and glide tests. And of course, the losses of Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. Exploration has always been a risky business.

To be honest, I'm not sure if the shuttle program was a huge success, or if it met any of the 'goals' the original designers might have had. The shuttles were instrumental in launching, supplying, and repairing several satellites and space stations. And for the stresses the vessels went through in a typical mission, they were remarkably durable. 30+ years for an aviation program is remarkable enough.

I think the shuttles were largely a victim of being part of the political football that NASA has been during most of its existence. Given a mission to perform, NASA performed generally well. President Kennedy wanted to place and retrieve Americans on the moon by the end of the 1960s-and it got done. Numerous agencies and nations wanted satellites launched-and it got done.

Now what? During the 1970s and 1980s, NASA didn't seem to have a clear vision for the future. Sure, the shuttles were in the pipeline. But what to do with them? Use them to build an orbital station? What about a manned mission to Mars? A return to the moon?

The collapse of the Soviet Union may have been both a blessing and a curse for the US space program. The 'curse' was that any plans to build orbital stations and planetary bases to counter the USSR went by the wayside. The 'blessing' was that the Mir station could be supplied and serviced by the shuttle. Mir and the new International Space Station provided work for the shuttles through the 1990s and 2000s.

After this final mission, the 135th of the program, the Space Shuttles will fade into history. The surviving vessels will be parceled out to various museums.

Again, now what?

Unfortunately, we haven't found a compelling reason to go to the moon or the other planets. The moon doesn't appear to be loaded with a lot of exotic minerals which would make mining a viable proposition. There may be enough water ice at the poles to sustain a small base-someday.

Building a big enough orbital station to have a permanent industrial presence (building interplanetary craft, for example) seems to be a non-starter. Venus, unfortunately, doesn't have the life many sci-fi authors thought it might. Same with Mars, though it is livable after a fashion, and more amenable to life as we know it. I haven't given up on life on the other planets, since we find organisms in the most inhospitable places here on Earth. If a bacteria can thrive on the inside of an operational nuclear reactor, certainly something could be living on Mars. Obviously, if Mars were more Earth-like, every nation would have been building ships as fast as they could to set up colonies there.

Observation and communication relays can be handled adequately by satellites, so it isn't like we need a manned station to perform those functions.

So what do we replace the shuttles with? Or will we?

The Russian space program seems to be doing okay with its venerable Soyuz/Salyut systems. They've been around a long time, but the Russians are believers in the engineer's dictum-if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Chinese used a Soyuz clone for their manned space flight. Perhaps our next step will be a step back, like the proposed Orion and Constellation craft, which are at heart enlarged Apollo capsules. Perhaps the Air Force already has a replacement craft. There are a lot of strange craft seen out in the hinterlands of Nevada. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if we had something else available to send a brace of astronauts into orbit if necessary. Oh, nothing like a flying saucer with inertialess drive-but maybe a spaceplane like the old Dyna-Soar.

Or some private concern might pick up the slack and develop a manned craft. There may be a market for a very upscale hotel in orbit for the super-rich to spend a few days. Again, with no readily identifiable resources or industry within a practical distance of Earth, it might be a tough sell to get the private sector to invest in space travel. The space program has generated a lot of projects and products that we use every day. I believe continued investment in space, along with a well-defined program with realistic goals, is important for the nation.

In addition to the material benefits, the space program and any endeavors it can accomplish provide a source of pride in a non-violent sphere. Our seeming 'abandonment' of space seems like yet another example of an America in decline. Maybe it is. Certainly, in the halcyon days of the push for the Moon in the 1950s and 1960s, many people and organizations had big dreams and thoughts about man's future in space.

All I know is that by the 1990's, we were supposed to have interplanetary ships like the famous Botany Bay:

And by 2001, we'd have a real, honest-to-God space station with regular Pan Am service:

And I want them!! What the hell happened?

Of course, by some accounts, by 1992 the Apes were to take over the planet and that didn't happen. Whew!

yankeedog out.

04 July 2011

I hate a parade!

Another Fourth in the books. Another year, and the country still together! Didn't think we had it in us, did you?

There are some great Independence Day traditions: baseball, family get-togethers, community festivals. We here in the QCs don't do the Independence Day parade very well, though. Now, the Soviet Union-there was a bunch that could do up a proper parade!

Oh sure, they could only produce one roll of toilet paper for perhaps 10,000 people, but if you need a real, honest-to-God, big-boy parade, you'd have to call the guy who organized the annual May Day spectacle in Moscow.

Now, our Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena on New Year's Day is pretty darn cool. The work those people put into the floats (decorating them with flowers, seeds, and other natural materials) is astounding!

The local parade doesn't have big displays or cool floats, however.

TBH's mom loves parades for whatever reason. I suppose it's because back in the day there wasn't all that much to do, and people had simpler tastes. She did, in her youth, see a few (old!) Civil War vets, and that's a great story to tell. That's 150 years past, but in a way, three generations removed. Doesn't seem like such a distant event when put in those terms. But I digress.

Since Bob (her companion) died, we decided to take her to the 4th of July parade. Now, I don't mind spending the time-but the logistics of carting around someone in their early 90s can be complicated. We got to the parade route two hours early. Any later and it's a hike to the route. She doesn't see too well, so you have to get a spot right on the curb of the street. Oh, and make sure it's shady the whole time because those old Scandinavian types got no appreciable melanin and they burn easily. Also, need to find a spot close to a restroom. The choice of spots available goes down tremendously. Those of you with older relatives understand.

The first part of the parade was a series of firetrucks from the local communities. Very nice-and I have great respect of firefighters, most of whom in smaller towns are volunteer-but I don't know if I need six firetrucks in a row. There was one antique that the local firefighter's union restored, which looked right sharp. Other than that, all the fire engines look about the same.

Next were the local vet's groups. The color guards for the Vietnam Vets and Hispanic-American Vets here I'll put up against any other color guard outfits out there-they're crisp, they march in time, and they look like they could go out and fight today-not bad for guys in their 60s! Even had a couple of World War II vets in restored vehicles. Those guys are going away fast now, and before too long they'll all have passed.

The middle of the parade is local businesses and politicians and wannabe politicians. Oddly enough, most of the politicians were noticeable by their absence. Our local representative to Congress, a Republican, came by and shook TBH's hand. I told him to get his arse back to work. Country's drowning in debt and the economy sucks and you've got time to be fucknuckling around out here instead of being in Washington. Next was the state senator, a Democrat, the scumbucket gentleman we send to Springfield to screw up things. That worthy got in a shoving match with another senator over something or other during the last session. I yelled out and asked him who he'd beaten up lately. There. Got one Republican and one Democrat. Never let it be said that I'm not a fair man.

The worst part of the parade is that everyone in the parade tosses candy to the kids. Consequently, the kids (and worse, their parents, who in most of these cases are roughly the size of a dressed-out bull moose) get up in front of those of us who sat around looking at nothing for two hours before the damn parade started! Now we can't see squat. To be fair, if you ask, they'll usually move-but there's always that ten percent who are stone-cold clueless. The kids-OK, really not much problem with them. They're generally small enough to see over or around. When a handful of candy gets tossed to the street, the scene is reminiscent of a potato-chip truck getting tipped over in Mogadishu. A feeding frenzy. You can replicate this by going to a zoo or aquarium. Go to the feeding pond and buy a handful of fish food pellets and toss them into the water. The carp or goldfish or whatever react just the same as the kids. Really, we're hip deep in candy and gum here. I don't know why the frenzy.

Finally, the equestrian team from some Hispanic group here did some fancy riding. They were pretty good and had some fearsome costumes.

So to sum up: First 1/3 rd of the parade OK. Last group OK. Rest was a waste of time, though TBH's mom enjoyed the show. Guess the day's objective was met.

Back to the grind tomorrow. If the 4th were Monday or Thursday, we'd have gotten a four-day weekend. Since it's on Monday-three-day weekend. That's the way it goes, I suppose.

yankeedog out.

01 July 2011

235 years on-still here!

Fourth of July weekend. Baseball game and fireworks tomorrow. Don't get much more American than that!

Happy 235th to our Republic, somewhat belaguered and debt-ridden bunch that we are at present.

Later, citizens!

yankeedog out.

27 June 2011

Stuff of late

Well, been a while since the last post.

Been a bit busy of late. Mom's house renovation proceeds, perhaps not at the pace I might like, but still progressing. We have the bathroom in running order, and the laundry room is ready for tileboard on the walls and tile on the floor. We'll need to get electric, water, and gas rerouted, and the washer and dryer up from the basement. We should be on the downhill side after that. Still some electrical wiring issues to fix and some copper plumbing to rip out (the Cu should fetch a decent price at the scrapyard).


Last weekend TBH helped run the swim meet for the local Senior Olympics. I 'volunteered' (read 'was conscripted') to help with seeding, timing, and general gofer duties. That went pretty well, though I think 50 as the minimum age to participate seems a bit young. I'd think 55 would be a better minimum age.

The only major issue was that some of the people wanted to change events in the middle of the meet (scratching an event is no big deal, adding is). In any other meet, changing events really wouldn't be allowed, but what the hell-it ain't the real Olympics. I figure as long as nobody got hurt and everyone got their medals, it was a good day.


President Obama is coming to the QCs tomorrow to visit an aluminum plant! Lucky us. Now, I'm not going on ideology here, just on practicality. They're working on a lot of the roads here this summer. The last thing we need during morning or afternoon drive is the President's big tank of a limo, his entourage of War Wagons, and Secret Service types closing off the airport and the one or two major thoroughfares that aren't under construction so he can go to see some people actually working for a living. It'd be nice if they'd bring Marine One along and just helo him to the plant. They could park his copter at the Iowa Guard base outside of town (a helicopter unit, so they have the facilities) and it wouldn't tie up traffic. I think this would make some sense. Therefore the powers-that-be won't do it.


The B-17 Aluminum Overcast is coming to town in a couple of weeks. She's one of the very few surviving airworthy Flying Fortresses out there. A person could take a flight in her-for $429(!) (reckon I don't begrudge the EAA the fare-it isn't cheap to fly a four-engine plane around, and it isn't like everybody can fix the thing if something goes wrong). Not sure it's in the budgetary cards to fly her this year. I did fly in the Collings Foundation B-17 Nine-O-Nine about ten years ago. Truly awesome to fly in a piece of history! I had a great-uncle who flew in Forts during WWII. My flight didn't have any locals trying their damndest to blow us out of the sky, so I suppose my flight went better than his combat missions.

At any rate, one can walk-through Aluminum Overcast for $15. I think I can swing that. I'll get pics.


That's about it, other than the myriad little details that make up life. Fourth of July weekend coming up-chance of rain at least for Saturday and Sunday. I've got tickets for the River Bandits/Lumber Kings game on Saturday night (with postgame fireworks), so c'mon good weather!

yankeedog out.

19 June 2011

Some fastpitch from the weekend

We took a little bit of time off this weekend to watch some of the International Softball Congress adult men's fastpitch qualifier. The winner of the tournament will go on to the ISC World Championship, which will be here in the QCs in August. There are some pretty good teams and players that show up for the event-teams from all over the US and Canada, with players from both countries, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. I believe Kitchener, Ontario, has won at least two of the last three tournaments, so they're the bunch to knock off in August. The fastpitch tournaments are a good time if you're into stick and ball games. And the players at world championship level are talented enough for the scores to be 2-1 or 1-0.

For a time in the mid 1960s, Rock Island was the home of the ISC Worlds. They played the whole tournament on one diamond. Although a given night's games might be scheduled for 6,7,8, and 9 pm, they'd inevitably run much longer and it wasn't uncommon for games to still be going on at 2am! This year's tourney will be at Green Valley Sports Complex, which has 12 diamonds-makes for a MUCH faster tournament.

The Better Half remembers going to some of the 60's tournaments, especially the 1967 series which saw a local car dealer's squad winning the whole thing. One of the players was an affable fellow named Chuck Thome. As TBH remembers it, Thome had a broken arm one year but he was a good player.

Oh yes, he has a son who plays a bit of baseball. Most fans of the game would have heard of him. Not too bad a player-and one of the nicer guys in Major League Baseball.

But that's the past and the future. Back to the present.

This weekend's matches were in Walcott, Iowa, a town just west of us. It's in many ways your basic Midwest small town. You know the place-a couple of bars, a couple of churches, a big grain elevator along the railroad tracks, truck stop on the edge of town along the interstate. A nice quiet place where no one's in much of a hurry and gossip and news travels at warp speed.

Walcott hosts these qualifiers most years. They have two really well-kept diamonds and the community is happy to have the teams and players in town. The townspeople and civic clubs do a great job with the facilities and concessions. While there are many fanatics of bacon that patronize this blog (including the writer of said blog), when it comes to a debate on ham or bacon, I might posit as a third choice a butterfly cut Iowa pork chop, done on the grill and made into a sandwich, for favorite pork product. The pork chop sandwich is a staple at most town fests and local hangouts around these parts.

First game we saw was Quad City Sox vs Life of Iowa (sponsored, of course, by an insurance company). I think the QC Sox were the #1 seed for this tournament, and generally they played like it.

The windup, and the pitch!

Batter up!

And the score after three innings-QC Sox 11, Life of Iowa 0. Oops!

The game ended up 11-1 as the Sox pitchers combined for a one-hitter (the lone hit being a solo home run in the 4th inning). The Sox advance and Life goes to the loser bracket. It's a double-elimination bracket so it's possible to lose a game early on, get hot, and end up playing for the championship vs the winner of the winner bracket.

The second game was Bones Barbeque vs Bowen Merchants Association:

The nine from Bowen look impressive in the old time grays. They had a couple of players who could flat out fly-I've seen MLB players who didn't have those baserunning instincts. Bowen went up 6-2 early and were rolling along until the 5th inning, when the wheels came off the car. A couple of bad defensive plays and a pitcher who wasn't fooling any of the Bones players after a couple of times through the batting order saw Bones come rip-snorting back to win the game 13-6, the highlight of the Bones comeback being a grand-slam homer in the 6th inning. That's the nature of a game played by people who have other jobs-the team looks good, but a play gets screwed up or some error occurs, and the whole momentum of the game changes. The team that was leading comfortably ends up two or three runs down all of a sudden.

Next weekend, the tournament will wrap up. With luck, we'll be there to catch the championship round games on Saturday. It's always a good time at a great venue!

yankeedog out.

03 June 2011

A little Zeppelin for the fans

Just not Robert, John, John Paul, and Jimmy.

I read an interesting piece on the US Navy's fleet of zeppelins, which were used in the 1920s and 1930s.

There were four dirigible airships in the fleet: USS Shenandoah, USS Los Angeles, USS Akron, and USS Macon.

As a review: a dirigible generally has an internal structure that the skin is attached to, where a blimp doesn't have much of a structure, more like a balloon.

Germany and Britain flirted with airships as recon platforms and bombers during World War I, with what I would consider mixed results. Dirigibles didn't seem to have a long lifespan. Although they could outclimb the fighters of the day, they were slower, much larger, and filled with very flammable hydrogen for a lift gas. After the war, Britain pursued other avenues of aviation, while Germany concentrated on passenger airships. We all know how that ended-the Hindenburg explosion at NAS Lakehurst in 1937.

It would appear from reading the article in Naval History and the editor's note that the chief of Naval Aviation, Admiral Moffett, used the airships as much as a way to collect scarce postwar and Depression-era defense dollars for the Navy than in any belief in the airship as the weapon platform of the future. The Navy zeppelins crisscrossed the country, hovering over fairs and parades and visiting cities and towns of all sizes, showing the capabilities of the service and no doubt enticing more than a few souls to sign up for a chance at adventure in the skies.

And adventure is what airship crews had, because the vessels were not easy to handle on the ground or in the air. Tie a balloon to a pole and put it out on a windy day. Watch it flop around. Airships handle much the same way, as shown below:

There were several instances of sailors being hurt or killed when securing airships as they pitched up in a wind gust, and also of damage to the airship when a downdraft slammed a moored ship to the ground. The United States used nonflammable helium as the lift gas for its airship fleet, so at least there were no colossal explosions or fires aboard any of the vessels.

The US Navy generally used zeppelins in a military role as long-range scout platforms during the various Fleet Problems of the 1930s. They were moderately successful at this-airships can loiter for long periods at slow speeds and were capable of shadowing the battlefleet, at least as long as the opposing fleet didn't have access to aircraft of their own.

It wasn't long before someone thought of giving the airships the ability to launch and recover small planes to act as auxiliary scouts and for protection. Germany first performed this task, launching a plane from the Hindenburg on two occasions (not counting the work of a certain archaeologist-adventurer and his father).

USS Akron and sister USS Macon both had facilities to carry 4 F9 Sparrowhawk fighters, using a trapeze and conveyor mechanism for launch and retrieval. The fighters were equipped with a large hook on top of the wing to latch onto the trapeze. The whole process must have looked similar to modern-day aircraft doing in-flight refueling, which is a fair feat of airmanship for all concerned.

Impressive work. But the airships were in the end too accident-prone and vulnerable to other aircraft and even the vagaries of weather, in addition to being very expensive to build and maintain, to survive as military platforms. Three of the four Navy airships met tragic ends. Shenandoah first flew in 1923 but was caught in a squall over Ohio and torn apart in 1925. Akron was launched in 1931, only to crash off the New Jersey coast in 1933, killing 73 of the 76 aboard, including Admiral Moffett, the airships' main proponent. Macon was launched in 1933 and crashed in 1935, losing a fin in wind shear and crshing in Monterey Bay, California. Only Los Angeles had a long career, being commissioned in 1924 and decommissioned, struck, and dismantled in 1939.

That was the end of the Navy's zeppelin fleet. However, the Navy also was developing several non-rigid airship (blimp) classes, and the blimps would go on to perform yeoman service in World War II as anti-submarine patrol and search and rescue craft, where their low speed and long loiter time would prove to be advantageous-and they were kept away from significant air opposition. Blimps served the Navy as radar pickets well into the 1950s, so it seems the lighter-than-air program wasn't a complete waste of time and resources-just that the more simply-constructed blimps proved to be more capable platforms for their given missions than the expensive zeppelins.

So ends the story of the Navy's lighter-than-air ships-an interesting era in aviation.


You want to hear some Zeppelin? But I want to hear some country music. Looks like a compromise is in order here.

yankeedog out.

30 May 2011

Three-day weekend post mortem

Here 'tis-Monday night, and another Memorial Day Weekend in the books.

Generally the weekend went well. TBH and I carted ourselves off to the Amana Colonies (about which you can review) on Saturday. There was a Renaissance Festival going on in Middle Amana Park, which, to be honest, had a lot of minor league talent. We made a circuit of the grounds and left. A visual arts school had a pretty cool glassmaking demonstration-molten glass has some amazing properties and workability. Other than that, meh. We walked through some of the shops, loaded up on various and sundry culinary items, and picked up a couple of bottles of the Colonies' renowned wine. They make wine out of about anything there. The Mark I Model 0 Grape is good, at least in my estimation. I tried the rhubarb wine, which wasn't bad. The dandelion wine (yes, that common nuisance in your lawn ferments up nicely. My great-aunt used to make some of the best dandelion wine around.) was a little TOO sweet for my liking.

Supposedly the microbrewery in the Amanas puts out an award winning beer. I'd like to have bought a sixer for the summer, but the place didn't offer samples. Sorry-but I've had some excellent microbrews, and some that needed to be put back in the horse. I'd like to try before buying, thank you. Ah well. All in all, a good day out.

Sunday, we got Mom's sit-down tub connected up. My brother got the tub plumbing dead on-not a leak or drip anywhere. When we did a test run, Mom was delighted and showed it by saying 'Don't waste all my water.'

You're welcome.

Evidently 'please' and 'thank you' aren't in her vocabulary-perhaps dead in a murder/suicide thing. My brother and Mom were estranged for several years. He says he's done with her after he gets this all completed. Can't blame him in a way. It wouldn't have killed her to put in a kind word for the effort. Me? Fairness and $1.50 will buy you a cup of coffee. I don't expect a lot from most people. What is it they say? You can pick your friends. Family you're stuck with. Something like that.


Monday we trekked on up to Clinton to see the LumberKings play Beloit. We got a bonus game-since Saturday's game was rained out, we got a doubleheader. Two games for the price of one! Such a deal!

Davenport and the River Bandits are the closest Midwest League team to me, but when I grew up, it was summer nights watching the old Clinton Giants play down at Riverview Park. Even now, the stadium in Clinton is more comfortable, smaller,and a little more 'old school' baseball, than our Modern Woodmen Park is.

The LumberKings are currently residing in the cellar of the Midwest League West with a less-than-stellar 14-38 record so far this year. True to form, they lost the first game 7-1 and the second 2-1 in extra innings. I can see why. The team couldn't catch a cold, their errors cost them games, and they can't capitalize on the other team's mistakes. I didn't see anyone on the roster that really struck me as future major-league material. Looks like a few more lean years for the parent Seattle Mariners. Beloit isn't light-years better, but there a couple of position players which I wouldn't be surprised if they showed up at Target Field in Minneapolis in Twins uniforms in a couple of years. One Beloit player I will have to follow is Wang-Wei Lin. You know everyone calls him 'Wrong-Way' and he'll be stuck with that moniker for the duration of his American baseball career.

The 'Kings got swept, but it was still a great time. How better to spend Memorial Day than watching a ball game or two? And, to top it, the 'Kings did score a run in the 3rd inning of the second game. That was the Arby's Winning Inning-good for a coupon for a couple of roast beefs sometime. Also, we scored a coupon from the Candlelight Inn (a local restaurant known for its Chicken George) due to a young lady catching (in a big bucket) two of three rubber chickens slingshotted into the air in a between-innings contest. Got a big discount on a carry-out order of same Chicken George. Supper's done tomorrow! I rarely leave a LumberKings game without a coupon for something or another. Nice way to take care of the fans!

So mostly a good weekend, with a hint of sour. Reckon I can live with that.

yankeedog out.

26 May 2011

Sometimes the universe rolls your way...

I took Wednesday off to do some work on the bathroom renovation. We're just a few connections from Mom having a working sit-down bathtub. Should happen this weekend, God willing and the creek don't rise.

Unfortunately, I missed the dustup at work. Seems our boy Rimmer finally got told 'no'. And well overdue it is.

Rimmer came up with this idea for a rotator device to pick up a casting. The designer had his doubts but drew the lifter up anyway. The guys in the shop built the lifter, and during the test lift....voila! It doesn't rotate the part and doesn't actually want to pick up the part safely.

Anyone who knows anything about an unmachined casting knows that dimensions of features can vary significantly-that's why faces and features get machined to precise dimensions. In addition, most surfaces have a draft, or slope, to them to allow the part to come out of the mold. These variances and features make large castings a bit of a challenge to handle and manipulate.

So Rimmer was out in the shop trying to come up with little additions and gadgets to add to the lifter. Our new Chief Design Poobah told him that his basic concept was wrong. Evidently that didn't sit well with Rimmer, since he launched into his 'I've had 14 years of experience' spiel. Then he said that this would be a decision for the general manager. The Big Guy heard them both out and said 'I have to go with the Chief Design Poobah. We hired him for his engineering experience.'


I was informed that Rimmer was pouty for the rest of the day. I for one couldn't be happier! He wasn't in the office today. Rather a shame.

My thought would have been 'You've been doing this for 14 years, and your concept sucks, like a good portion of your concepts do, since we rework a good portion of them.'

I've also been designing lifting equipment for 14 years. I've got big-boy lifting equipment in factories and mills from Ontario to Australia and places between. And one thing I've learned is that I don't know every-fucking-thing, and I can listen to other people's ideas. Actually, the amount of stuff I find I don't know is truly astounding at times. I reckon Bangar probably learns something new about the electrical trade most days. Birmo and Flinthart and Murph would probably say that they don't know everything about authoring. Rhino probably learns something new every day in his quest to be a supergenius. Same goes for the rest of you in your respective occupations. Rimmer, for being a salesman, has an inflated sense of his design knowledge and can't be told anything. That is a bad combination. My advice to him from afar would be to stick to selling stuff and stay away from where the adults are trying to work. He's been allowed for far too long to have his nose in every detail of design and fabrication there. All he needs to do is give us a rough concept for a lifter, then go away and sell something else to other customers.

Don't get me wrong-I screw up more than my share of stuff. But I'm not in the shop trying to manage work flow or telling the other designers how they should do their drawings.

Rimmer is a perfect walking, talking, real-life personification of the line 'A man's got to know his limitations.'

Wish I could have seen the whole exchange, though. The really interesting stuff always happens when I'm not there!


Memorial Day weekend is coming up fast.

First, of course, to all the veterans, American and Allied, thanks for your service, and well done! A popular and fitting verse for the day, is In Flanders Fields, written in the terrible aftermath of the Battle of Ypres in WW I.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Well said, Lt. Col. Dr. McCrae.


On a lighter note, Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial beginning of summer here, and there'll be a lot of people enjoying a bit of downtime.

 TBH and I have a day trip to the Amana Colonies planned for Saturday and if we get back early enough, there's a fastpitch softball tournament in a nearby town this weekend. Might take in a game or two during the evening. Sunday will be working at construction, and Monday if it's decent out might see a trip up to Clinton for the LumberKings/Beloit Snappers baseball game.

I intend to have a good weekend. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to do the same!

yankeedog out.

22 May 2011

Singing kids at the ball park

For the past few weeks, TBH has been planning an outing for youth and families at our church-a trip to the River Bandits v. Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball game.

We've been sweating the weather. It was supposed to rain a bitch today, with high winds and hail. Indeed, as I write this, Joplin, Missouri, looks a bit like someone popped a nuke on it-tornadoes hit them hard a few hours ago. Minneapolis got hit as well. Seems as I watch the incoming footage that the rest of this entry might be a bit incongruous. Going to be a long next few weeks around the Midwest getting cleaned up and repaired.

Well. At any rate, at least the first wave of storms went north and south of us. We had a surprisingly nice afternoon, weatherwise. Clouds and sun and a hefty breeze blowing across the field.

The children were to sing the national anthem before the game:

TBH is the one in the red T-shirt running the kids through their singing paces.

And here they are on the infield belting out the Banner.

Our church doesn't have a formal children's choir. These are mostly the sons and daughters of the members, but the young ladies and gentlemen did a good job with the tune and tempo. The Star-Spangled Banner is a tough song to sing well (would that the anthem were America The Beautiful, or Columbia, The Gem of the Ocean-much easier to perform) and ideally a singer should only take 1 minute 5 seconds to 1 minute 20 seconds to sing it. Anything longer is being a camera hog.

The kids did well. Each family got tickets for their party and some Bandit Bucks (tickets good for food and merchandise at the park). After the singing, most of the children made for the play area with all the jumpys and inflatables and the parents scattered around the park. TBH obtained tickets for the Family Section of the seats (where no alcohol is allowed) but once the ticket is in hand, no one cares if people move out to general admission or the berm to have a beer. Fair enough. I got us tickets in box because I like being away from everybody else. I suppose everybody else doesn't like being around me. Also fair enough.

As I said, we ended up with some pretty decent weather today, judging from this shot out to the left field berm:

Someday I have to pack the blanket and catch a game from out there. Looks like a pretty decent place to watch the action and maybe snag a home run ball. Here the Bandits had the bases loaded but couldn't push a run across in this inning. A couple of guys appeared to be running on contact and got caught in a double play. Gotta make sure those line drives go past the infielder, because the double play ends innings quick!

The Bandits did score earlier in the game, though, and pulled off a nice 4-1 win over the Kernels. Looks like the Anaheim Angels may not have a lot of good pitching coming up anytime soon if today's pitchers for Cedar Rapids are any indication. Too much standing around on the mound and lack of control on pitches.

The three guys in front of me are most likely players or assistants for the Kernels. One has a radar gun to check the velocity of his comrade on the mound, and the fellow with the computer is likely charting tendencies of the Bandit hitters and where they're hitting the ball. Come July, the section I was sitting in will be full of scouts for the Major League teams, as they try to pick out prospects to trade for, trade away, or possibly promote to the next level.

Some of our kids got to be in the between-inning games and those with birthdays got their name on the scoreboard screen.

I reckon in the end everyone that went had a good time. TBH spent a lot of time in organizing and planning the event, so it was great to have the weather cooperate here. Also, the River Bandits staff did their usual great job with making sure big groups are taken care of. It pains me to say anything good about any facet of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, but they do take care of their fans at all levels of the game. The Cards, much like the Cubs, know how to market their teams.

Again, it was an event paid for by our church, and I think promoting fellowship in a family atmosphere is a better use of resources compared to the bunch were going around gathering funds and prattling on about an end of the world that appears not to have happened on schedule. But that might just be me.

yankeedog out.