Blog Archive

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Another Great Idea From a Mind That Never Rests

    I was speaking to my daughter Autumn this evening and found that we both have a penchant for the delicious flavor of Almond Joy candy bars. As a general rule I never bother to buy candy bars. I'll admit that I do pick up a few of those little bite sized Reese's Peanut Butter cups when I'm in shopping at the store, and I imagine if you ate enough of them in one sitting it would be the equivalent of a full sized candy bar, but I try hard not to put too fine of a distinction on that. Anyway, with the recent passing of Halloween I found myself the proud owner of a number of M&M's, Snickers, Twixt,Milky Ways, Reese's Cups and the afore mentioned Almond Joy candy bars. When I was in Juneau shopping, I picked up the economy bag of candy at Costco. It had 150 candy bars and packs of M&M's inside. I didn't want to run out. Kids can be viscous when they come knocking on your door expecting a treat and you don't have anything. Better to play it safe than sorry. The unfortunate part of having so much candy is that I only had between thirty and forty Trick or Treater's come around. What was I supposed to do with all that extra candy? I couldn't just throw it out, that's wasteful. Of course I set aside the Almond Joy's for my own enjoyment, along with a few bags of peanut M&M's. The rest I took up to the post office to share with my neighbors. The candy pictured here is supposed to be for Jan. I keep it in the freezer so it's out of sight. The thing is, she's visiting her mom and won't be back for another two weeks or so. Hmmm.... Anyway,  Autumn and I were speaking of the dilemma of having candy hanging around the house and what a poor idea it is. Frankly, I was shocked when I stepped on the scale a few days after Halloween  and saw that I'd gained several pounds. Now granted, it could have been water weight, but it does seem like that would be a convenient coincidence if that were the case. I mentioned to her that if we immediately felt the extra weight hanging on us, we might be inclined to make wiser choices in what we allow past our lips. At first I thought about strapping a few ten pound potato bags around our waist for a convincing argument against that extra treat, but that would be bulky and uncomfortable,especially if you were exercising. Of course if you were exercising regularly, you probably wouldn't be packing around the extra weight anyway. In any event, I came upon the rather genius idea of just buying some large baking potatoes and sticking them in a potato belt that could be worn around your waist. The potato belt would have little pockets like a holster for a gun or perhaps a cartridge belt that you could fit the potatoes in. I suppose the big baker potatoes would be the best. If you had to pack ten or twelve of those bad boys around all day, it would be a good reminder not to over do it. Since it's getting close to Christmas, and we've already started down the holiday path with even more fattening food on the way, I think the potato belt would be a great gift. Unlike buying someone extra large underwear, the potato belt wouldn't really be saying -"you're fat" It would more like - "can you imagine packing around this much extra weight?" A kind of subtle hint. The nice part is, packing around all the extra weight of those bakers, you'd be bound to lose a few pounds just walking the dog or vacuuming the carpet. Of course the downside would be if you decided you were hungry and ate the very thing that was supposed to be helping you lose weight. That might be a problem, but hey, lets solve one problem at a time.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Rolling Thunder

I recently had to make a trip down to Wisconsin to visit my ill mother-in-law. It was a rush trip and totally unexpected, but it all worked out good. She recovered in spectacular fashion, I was able to visit with some family members and before the battery on my camera crapped out, I got a few pictures of one of my favorite subjects, trains. I've been fascinated with trains ever since I can remember. While I was standing near the tracks, waiting for the train, I could both hear and feel the rumbling of the approaching train; the ground vibrated like a small earthquake as it came nearer and the flashing red lights and ringing of the bells  of the crossing were just the icing on the cake for me. Growing up,whenever a train happened to be passing in front of our car, I'd sit in the back seat with a grin from ear to ear while my dad fumed at being held up.The only time I shared his disgust was when I  had to pee really bad. There are no trains in Southeast Alaska, although I do wish there were. They would be much faster than ferries and most likely cheaper than planes. It would take quite an extensive network of bridges to accommodate them though, and I suppose the expense would outweigh the convenience. Whenever I visited my grandparents so many years ago, I would always dash out the screen door in back upon hearing the horn of an approaching passenger train blow. I could run to the corner and look up the street and usually I would be perched upon a yellow fire hydrant before the engine appeared at the station. Occasionally my grandpa would take me down to watch the the trains come in. Somehow we'd always end up at a bar on the street that parallel the track where he could have a beer and buy me a 7 up with instructions not to let Grandma know that I'd had a soda so early in the day. It's apparent that I'm not the only person who has an uncommon interest in trains, railroads, signal crossings and whatnot. I did a little research, and if I wanted this post to go on for pages, I could easily fill it with a number of facts. There is so much to know that I'll just put it out there in no particular order. I discovered that it's illegal to stand on the tracks and take pictures of the trains. Fortunately I wasn't on the track when I took these pictures. I'm not sure how true all these facts are, since some time has passed since the original articles were written, but I believe for the most part the facts remain the same. The worlds largest locomotive engine is owned by the Union Pacific railroad. Engine number 6936 weighing in at 270 tons and utilizing 6600 horse power to pull the heavy loads it pulls. The average weight of a typical steel wheel on a train car is from 240 to 480 lbs, although apparently there are new, lighter weight ones being developed using aluminum alloys that weigh only about ten percent as much. Train crossing signals are activated by the passing of the train over the detection circuit on the track. Though it varies state by state, trains are not permitted to block a crossing for more than 20 minutes. Who do you complain to if they do though? Federal rules require a train to blow its horn 15 seconds before it enters the crossing and continue all the way through it. When trains and traffic became more prolific, there was an increase in accidents at railroad crossings, so watchmen were hired to sit in towers at some of the busier crossings and wave red lanterns to warn of the coming train. Some even manually lowered crossing gates. The first automatic crossing signals were bells mounted on poles. Signals were soon expanded to include swinging red signs with a red light. They were called automatic flagmen or wig wags. Wig wags gave way to the current alternating red lights mounted as part of the cross buck sign. The first flashing signal was mounted in New Jersey in 1913,  but is reported to have been created by Albert Hunt, a mechanical engineer in 1909. Currently crossing lights utilize 100 watt light bulbs, but I believe that LED lights may be starting to replace them. For those who are environmentally conscious, trains are currently the most environmentally friendly way to move freight. They can move one ton of freight 470 miles on one gallon of diesel fuel. One article I read mentioned that there are fewer box cars on the rails than there has been in quite some time. Part of the reason for that is the cost. When the article was written, the cost of making a new box car was $135,000.00. They have a 50 year life span and then the law requires them to be retired. There are all kinds of behind the scenes operations going on with railroads. As you can imagine, one freight line's cars can be mixed in with other line's cars and sent to all points of the country. I guess with the use of computers it's much easier to keep track of where your cars are. There is a system for maintaining all those cars as well. Rail car management is a big business, replacing bearings, painting, hydraulic repairs, brakes and whatnot. Paperwork must be filled out for every repair and the bill sent to the appropriate owner in order to be reimbursed for the work. Big money people seem to think that railroads are a good investment. Warren Buffet owns quite a bit of rail stock, and Bill Gates owns some 3.2 billion dollars of Canadian National stock, about ten percent of the company. Finally, I come to the end or what used to be the caboose in trains. With the exception of a few small local lines, cabooses are no longer used by the railroads. They've been replaced by end of the train devices, a suitcase sized steel box attached to the last car. The average caboose weighed in at a startling 25 tons, and was costing from fifty cents to a dollar a mile to run. The new devices cost about a half cent a mile, so losing the caboose was strictly a monetary decision, saving the railroads about 200 million dollars a year. Like so much that I've witnessed in my life, there have been some major changes in the railroads. I imagine that they could be considered improvements. I'm just glad that there are still trains that run for all of us folks who never grew up to enjoy.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

October Splender

    I whine quite a bit about getting older. There isn't a whole lot about attaining the "golden years" that I find very golden. Maybe they're called that because all the gold you might have been lucky enough to accumulate when you were working is now spent on medicine and doctor visits. There is one very good thing though about being retired, and that is, while everyone else is out trying to make a living, I have time to go to some of the places that others can't access during the week because they're at work. This past Friday, Jan and decided to take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and take a drive out to Freshwater Bay. It's located down Chatham Strait, and if I were to take my boat down there, it would take me at least six hours to get there. By road it's only 28 miles. Even so, it still took us the better part of two hours. There is a lot of loose gravel and pot holes, to say nothing of multiple blind curves and hills, so you can't go too fast, even if you wanted to. Several times we came down a hill and darn near slid off the road because whoever had graded the road had  let the blade chatter, which caused lumps which filled in with loose gravel. It was kind of like driving down a big ladder.  Braking on that decline made it really hard to maintain control.  the time it would be hard to  It was pretty lumpy. Now that I think of it, I should invite some folks whom I know have money in their pockets for a drive. Afterward I could check the seats and floor boards. I might make enough to buy a few gallons of gasoline. Anyway, it was a delightful fall day, sunny and warm. The leaves on the cottonwoods were turning golden, and stood out in stark contrast to the green of the spruce and hemlock trees. On the way out we spotted seven deer. Six were on the road, four of which decided to run in front of the truck for quite a ways before finally veering off into the brush or muskegs. I was kind of hoping to see a bear, although I don't know why. No doubt if I'd been hunting in the area bears would be found behind every blueberry bush. We stopped at several of the little streams that we crossed hoping to see some sign of cohos, but never saw a one, not even a rotting carcass. Not sure what to make of that. Hopefully the run either came and went or is yet to show. While I was standing on a hill overlooking Freshwater Bay, I looked down and saw what I thought at the time was the biggest fish I'd ever seen swimming a few feet down and flying through the water. Although it wasn't shiny, it took me a few seconds to realize that it was a seal. It's tail was moving back and forth like a fish's tail would and it really covered some ground in a hurry. It was under water for a full minute or two before it surfaced about a quarter of a mile from where I first spotted it. You never know what you're going to see up here. One day as I was walking down the breezeway at Hoonah Trading, I looked down in the water, and there, about two feet from the shore was a giant Pacific Octopus. That thing was every bit of four or five feet long and swimming effortlessly. What it was doing in that close I have no idea. Of course I was the only one who saw it. Why is it that when something truly amazing occurs, so often you're the only one who sees it? I like it when, say, I spot a twenty dollar bill on the ground and I'm the only one around, but there have been other times when I really wish I could share the experience with someone else. It's one of life's mysteries. In any event, we enjoyed a truly wonderful day. This time of year you don't know when you'll see another one

Sunday, September 29, 2019

As I Age...

 Here's a picture of me from a few weeks ago, coming to the top of the ladder at the cold storage. I had just unloaded my catch of cohos and had to climb up the ladder to get my fish ticket and check. Like so much else lately, the trip up the ladder was a workout. I try not to do it much any more. I get winded, in part because I'm packing a lot more pounds than I should be. No discipline I guess. It's also part of the aging process though I think. As we get older we have less energy and slow down. We need more time to rest and we're less active. Lately I've taken to having an afternoon nap... or several. Sometimes they're planned, and sometimes they just sneak up on me while I'm in my chair watching the TV for a few minutes. I was up at the post office today and my friend John Murray, who is always outspoken was talking to a lady. When he saw me, he said-"Botts! Pull up  your pants!" He was right, they were starting to sag a little. I'm not sure how, it's certainly not because I'm losing weight. I think that my belly is so big that it keeps pushing my jeans down. I know that I've taken to tightening my belt all the way to the last hole just to keep from looking like one of those inner city kids with their pants down close to their knees. I'm sure that it's a common affliction, as I've seen a number of men my age running around with suspenders now. One friend just wears sweat pants. I hope I never get so old that I find sweat pants or pajamas suitable wear out in public. This year while I was fishing I noticed that several of my fingers on my left hand are getting numb. I was mentioning this to my neighbor and fellow fisherman. He's got the same problem as well as his foot getting numb. Almost all my older friends suffer with arthritis in one form or another. I've got it in both knees and in my right hand as well as my back. It makes getting a full night's rest a thing of the past, that and having to get up several times to pee. Prostate issues, go figure. Unfortunately not all that uncommon in us older guys. When I was a kid I used to stare at the hands of my older relatives. They were all wrinkled and had age or liver spots on them. I always thought they looked so ugly, never giving any thought to the idea that one day I might have them. I do, and they are still ugly. They make me look like an old man- that and the grey or white hair and the paunch and stooped shoulders and limp when I walk. The bushy eyebrows and hair that sprouts out of my ears like broccoli trees. I went to my favorite barber shop over in Juneau this past week. Pete, one of the barbers has retired, and Joe is talking about taking more time off. Joe lopped off quite a pile of grey hair; enough to make my own "My Pillow". I mentioned how much cooler I already felt and he commented that I was losing some of my "r" value- like insulation in an attic. He's right, and it's not just because of the haircut. Lately I've been noticing a fair amount of loose hair in my baseball cap when I take it off, and after a shower and shampoo, I've got a lot more skin showing through the top of my head than any time since I was born. It's getting kind of scary to look in the mirror any more. Things that I wish were bigger are shrinking, and things I wish would shrink are getting bigger. Everything is backwards. It's like living in Bizzarro world.  Without a full time job to worry about any more I have more time to stay in touch with my friends. I miss them dearly. I guess I always have, but I was too busy to think about it back then. Now I call Buffalo Bob about every two weeks. We discuss books and weather and politics and God. Bob lives alone at the end of a road in rural Vermont. I don't know how much he gets out and around; I think fairly often, but it's not like he's in town every day. Next time I call I need to ask him to give me the phone number of a friend that I can call in case one day I call and he doesn't answer after a few times of trying. I know that some day he'll die, we all will, but I don't want him to be up in his cabin all alone for days on end. The thought makes me want to cry. I don't tell the people that I love that I love them very often. I don't know why, but I know that I need to. For their sake when I'm gone, and for mine while I'm here. I don't know how it's possible, but I think that on the one hand I'm crankier than I used to be, and on the other hand, I'm more patient. I guess it depends on the situation I find myself in. On the ferry surrounded by  self centered, obnoxious buffoons, I really get irritated, much like how I feel when I'm surrounded by tourists in town, and yet, I can sit in the boat for hours without getting a bite and not get too agitated any more. I'm at an age where I don't worry about money too much. I'm not rich by any means, but we paid for the house a few years ago, the boat, truck and fishing permits are paid for, and aside from the regular monthly bills, we don't have any debt. I'm at a time in my life where my priorities are changing, and it's a good thing. I spoke to my good friend Bob Pinard today, and he mentioned how the idea of going out and trudging around the woods hunting doesn't have any appeal for him any more, and even though his passion has been helping people work on their houses, he just doesn't have the strength or desire to do it now. We change when we get older. We have to. Our bodies won't co-operate with our brains any more. I hope that as you are getting older each day you will give thought to your priorities. Get out of debt, spend time with your family and friends, eat well, get plenty of rest and laugh a lot. Be generous, there are so many people who are in need, often through no fault of their own. Pray and worship, we need divine guidance. Try to enjoy every day. It's a gift.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Away From the Roll of the Sea

  The fishing season is winding down, as is normal for this time of year, and with the end of the season comes the foul weather that fall brings. For the past few days we've experienced some thirty knot winds in Icy Strait, with higher gusts. A lot of the boats that were fishing the outside coast have come in to fish Homeshore, but with almost no protection from the winds, everyone was forced to seek shelter in town. There are boats tied up to the floats from Petersburg and Wrangell, Juneau and Angoon and Sitka and of course Hoonah and I don't know where all else. Boats with names like the Trisha Marie, Loretta Ann, Corvus, and Sea Fire. They're all shapes and sizes, and most of the ones that came in from the weather are trollers, like myself. It's interesting to see the different shapes, especially on the old wooden ones. They're all unique. I happened to be listening to some music the other night on U tube and came across a song titled Away From the Roll of the Sea. It was sung by a young lady named Sarah Copus, who is the vocal part of the new age group 2002. Anyway, I thought I would copy the lyrics down. They seemed to capture the feeling of these boats seeking shelter from the storm.

 Away From the Roll of the Sea

Small craft in a harbor
That's still and serene
Give no indication
What their ways have been
They rock in their moorings
All nestled in dreams
Away from the roll of the sea

Their stern lines are groaning
A lullaby air
A ghost in the cuddy
A gull in the spar
But never they whisper
Of journeys afar
Away from the roll of the sea

Oh, had they the tongues for to speak
What tales of adventure they'd weave
But now they are anchored to sleep
And slumber alee

Come fair winds to wake them tomorrow we pray
Come harvest a-plenty to them ev'ry day
Till guided by harbor lights they're home to stay
Away from the roll of the sea

Away from the roll of the sea

Allister Macgillvray

I really like the lyrics and the music. Today the weather is a little better, so a lot of the boats have set sail again, some to go back to harvest the sea for the remainder of the season, and some going back to homes and loved ones whom they haven't seen for so long. I wish them Godspeed and good weather.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

On The Anchor

    Last week I was fishing at Homeshore for cohos, along with a number of other boats. Fortunately it's a big area so it doesn't get too crowded, unless the fish are all being caught at one end or the other, in which case it's like throwing a single lifesaver on the floor in an old folks home and watching the elderly people scramble for it. On the night that I took these pictures, it was calm and relaxing. It's the kind of weather that you long for. This year has been uncommonly windy, with day after day of westerly winds blowing. Finally, as we approach the end of the season there's  been a stretch of calm weather, which is greatly appreciated. Unfortunately I was lulled into believing the National Weather Service was going to be correct after they correctly predicted good weather for about a week. Several nights after these photos were taken I anchored in the same spot. I was a little surprised that no other boats were around me, but that was fine. I don't like to be hemmed in. After I had set the anchor and cleaned up the boat, I noticed that the wind seemed to be freshening. That happens sometimes when the tide changes. The forecast was for ten knots out of the east, good for anchoring where I was. As the evening wore on though, the wind picked up, as well as the wave height. Not only that, but the easterly that it was supposed to blowing was not easterly at all, but westerly, and the ten knots that was predicted turned out to be twenty, and the two foot or less seas were four feet and above.By then it was dark and too late to run for a protected place. I didn't want to take a chance on going out onto the deck to pull the anchor and falling overboard. I turned on a light and proceeded to do a crossword puzzle. I choose the easy ones, and even then I sometimes have to look in the back for the answers. I'm trying to keep by brain from atrophying from lack of use, but I don't want to get totally frustrated by not being able to answer any of the questions. While I was sitting there getting rolled and bounced by a never ending series of waves, my friend Doug called. At the time I was still hot from being baked all day by a scorching sun streaming through the windows and the diesel engine cranking out about 800 degrees through the exhaust which runs right through the cabin, so I had opened my windows and door. Unfortunately the unseasonably warm weather must have started a new strain of irritating little fly to hatch, and they were all over the place. Doug had called, as he often does, because he was having a less than stellar day, and he knows that however bad his day has been, mine will have been worse. He was certainly correct about that. While we were talking, I had another great idea. As you may know if you've followed my blog for any length of time, I have a chicken hat, and a turkey hat. They are of course just replica's of the animals they represent. What I think I should have, as I told Doug, is a bat hat. Unlike the chicken and turkey hats though, this would employ a live bat. It would have to have a line connected to the leg of the bat and the center of the hat. Probably some spring loaded retractable device which would allow the bat to venture out in search of the bugs that were tormenting you, and yet not get too far away to where he was eating insects that were at the outer limits while leaving you exposed to painful bites and aggravation. Of course a bat that eats it's weight in bugs every night is going to have to eliminate the waste. I'm not sure how that would work. I suppose a disposable plastic tray that was molded to fit the design of the hat could be used for collection. Even if  the bat had an accident inside, it would probably worth a little elbow grease to clean up after him to avoid the irritation of bugs. Anyone who has ever been in that twilight time right before you drop off the sleep only to hear the unmistakable whine of a mosquito enter your sleeping space will understand the need for the BAT HAT. Fishing season is almost over, so I should be having a little more time to research bats, hats and bugs. I should probably talk to the good folks at PetCo to see if they would be interested in supplying bats for the summer season. As Martha Stewart would say- it's a good thing.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Where Would We Be Without Music?

   As I sit here writing this post, I'm listening to the hauntingly beautiful sounds of the flute and synthesizer that were used in the song La Folie 2  by New Age artist Deuter. It's one of several songs I've downloaded by this artist. He's so incredibly talented. I was looking on my Ipod and see that I have 686 songs downloaded onto it. Frankly, there have been a few that I wish I hadn't downloaded, but for the most part I'm delighted by them all. I was thinking of how much a part of our every day lives music is, and I wondered, where would we be without it? It would be like strolling through  a garden without color or scent. My musical tastes are quite diverse.  In the past six months I've downloaded songs ranging from the deep twangy voice of Johnny Cash to the mellow Charlie Rich in the country venue, new age music from John Adorney, Deuter, and the husband, wife and daughter team that make up the group 2002.I've got a song titled Release Me by the heart throb of every middle aged housewife in America at the time, Engelbert Humperdink. I honestly don't know if that's his real name or not, but he had a voice that was impressive and looks to match. I've ordered songs that I've heard on Sirius radio on their Sixties on 6 program with Cousin Brucie. In fact, about two weeks ago a fellow called and asked to hear a song by a sixties group called The Nightcrawlers. They sang a song that Brucie claims didn't even make it onto the charts called The Little Black Egg. I remembered the song though from the radio back in "67". It's quite a catchy tune, so I don't know how it didn't make it into the top 100, except that it was competing with so much good music of the time. I've got several songs by Tony Orlando and Dawn. They sang a song called Knock Three Times that was very popular back in my hometown in the late sixties at the local roller skating rink. It's funny, a song can come on and you will be instantly transported back in time to whatever was happening when you heard it originally. What would Hollywood do without great composers setting the stage for what was happening. I'm listening to the end credits from the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks. It's the same music that was playing when he got off the island in a raft and the volleyball he had named Wilson drifted off. He was devastated, and it made me cry as well. Hearing the song I can vividly recall the scene. I've got songs from Ennio Morricone, the Italian composer who provided the music for so many spaghetti westerns like A Fistful of Dollars, and Once Upon a Time in the West. Who can forget the opening scene with Charles Bronson having a shootout at the train station when you hear that harmonica start playing. A few months back I had a memory of a song called Sing Along by a band leader named Mitch Miller. He had a program on TV years ago when I was a boy. It was called Sing Along With Mitch. When my grandma used to visit I had to watch it, which at the time I hated. Mitch had a goatee and when he conducted he used to move his arms just a few inches, which was comical to watch. The show displayed the words to whatever song was being sung at the time and there was a yellow bouncing ball that moved under each word so you could sing if you wanted to. Of course I never wanted to, but I think Grandma couldn't contain herself sometimes. Television commercials have made great use of music. Alka Seltzer had a popular commercial back in the sixties which showed all manner of stomachs. The slogan was -Alka Seltzer, for whatever shape your stomach is in. Anyway, the music that went with it was so popular that they made a recording of it. I listened to that on Cousin Brucies show a few weeks back. What memories. In any event, music is just such a blessing to enjoy. I can't imagine being unable to hear. I hope that you'll take some time to reflect on a favorite song, and hopefully it will bring back a pleasant memory for you as well.