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.