Wednesday, May 23, 2018

DSC In the Sky

Zebulon, NC

Long time readers of this blog know how reverently we talk about the Dismal Swamp Canal (DSC).   On the canal we experience senses of security, serenity, suspension of elapsed time, and the feeling of being transported two centuries into the past.   Sanctuary would be an appropriate word.

For example, in October 2012 I wrote:
My, the contrast is striking.  Just yesterday I wrote of being terrorized out in the harsh sea.  Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, we're surrounded by supreme tranquility, beauty and security of the Dismal Swamp Canal (DSC) and the Pasquotank River. 
And in June 2014, I wrote:
We spent Friday night at our favorite anchorage.  A place so beautiful that we marked the GPS waypoint "Pearly Gates"  It is a place guaranteed to calm the most agitated soul
Well, as the title suggests, we have come to view the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) as an equivalent sanctuary.  Up there, one feels that time is suspended, and that we can live the illusion that we are in the 19th century.  Of course, the DSC is genuine in the sense was dug by George Washington's slaves  in the 1700s whereas the BRP was created in the 1930s to preserve the feeling of an era past.  But contrast both with the manufactured illusions of Disney World which we find to be repulsive.    I can describe the experience as that of living as wealthy 19th century tourists did.  (Certainly not as 19th century farmers did, because they had to scrabble to provide enough to survive the winters.)

For sure, the BRP is more easily accessible and offers much more variety than the DSC.  I recommend it to all my friends.   Find the opportunity to spend time on the BRP.   If possible, spend more than one day, up there.  Best of all, travel the full 469 mile length.  You'll average only 30 mph,  because you'll want to stop at nearly every one of the hundreds of overlooks to enjoy the views.  So the full trip will take you 16 hours of driving.  3 days and 2 nights is ideal.   Be sure to stop and enjoy the BRP highlights along the way such as the Cone Mansion, and Mabry Mill.  A list of the highlights is here.    Just make sure that the weather is nice.  It is not fun being there during storms, fog, or cold.

Libby and I just came down after 2 days and 2 nights on the BRP.  It was wonderful.  We drove.  We hiked.  We paddled in a canoe.  We camped.  We relaxed.   We would still be up there if it were not for forecasted thunderstorms. 

Here is an album of pictures from those 2 days.   Here's one picture from the album that I snapped as we paddled in a rented canoe.

One of our favorite highlights on the BRP is the Cone Mansion; an example of 19th century life of the rich.  You can explore the mansion and the grounds.  Below are some pictures ofthat I found on Google Images.

View of the lake from the porch
View of the mansion from the lake in fall.
View in winter

Monday, May 07, 2018

A Scary Storm

Umatilla, FL

Wow, the storm in the picture below was taken in Williston, Vermont last week.  It is about 5 miles from Jen's house.  The storm is approaching from the direction of one of our favorite anchorages on Williston Bay.   It did a lot of wind damage on land. 

All I can say is that I'm glad we weren't there.  Especially glad that we weren't anchored there when that storm passed over.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

This is What I Would Really Like

Zebulon, NC

I enjoy a lot of things.  Sailing of course is one of them.  But the video below shows what I would love most of all.

When I flew gliders in Vermont, they were WWII era clunkers.  Even that was great fun. But a sophisticated modern gliders, with all that electronics, in the mountains of the West would be a very different experience.

What blocks me?

  • Not enough money.  You need a $250K investment and $50K annual budget to do that.
  • Don't live in the right region.
  • I couldn't pass the rigorous flight physical any more.
As a consolation, watching these videos is almost as much fun as doing it.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fake News Déjà vu

[This is project #2 of The Entertaining Speaker.  My objectives are: 1) Draw entertaining material from experiences other then your personal experience.  Adjust the material to suit yourself and the audience.   5-7 minutes.   This is my last speech for the Advanced Communicator Bronze rank.  Silver and Gold  remain for future years.]

Fake news and misinformation. We are taught that this is a modern problem brought on by the Internet. Actually in the Civil War era, it was worse. And at the heart of that fake news was a name familiar to you from my previous speech --- Thomas Alva Edison.

It was the age of the telegraph. No longer did it take weeks or months for news to spread around the country, it could happen in a single day. To make it all work, the country needed lots of telegraphers. People to send and copy (or receive) Morse Code dot dot dot dash dash dash. Between ages 15 and 17, young Thomas Edison worked as a journeyman telegrapher. That means he took lots of short time jobs in cities across the country.

He got a job at the Western Union office in New York City. On Edison’s first day, his co-workers set up a prank. They told him to copy an incoming news story. On the other end of the was the world champion telegrapher, able to send Morse code faster than any mortal being could copy. He started slow and gradually started sending faster and faster. But not matter how fast he sent, Edison copied with no problem. Eventually, the champion began slurring his words and running them together. Edison had no difficulty correcting all the error on the fly. Finally, Edison caught on to the joke. He interrupted and sent a message back. It said, “Say, young man, change off and send with your other foot.”

Here’s how news actually spread in those days. A politician in Washington would give a speech. Often his language was poor, or he would be drunk while speaking. In the gallery, one or more shorthand takers wrote down what he said. (Young people in this audience may need to look up what that word shorthand means.) But they didn’t write it word-for-word. They translated clumsy language into eloquent oratory. They took their notes to the telegraph office. But the telegrapher added his own improvements as he sent it. That got the message out to maybe 4 receiving stations. Each of those stations copied the message down (including the recipient’s embellishments) and resent it (including the sender’s improvements) to 4 other stations. So it went, 4, 16, 64, 256 stations until it reached every corner of the country. From the stations, the paper copy went to the newspaper, where the reporters wrote a story using their own words to describe what the politician said. Therefore, every town in the country got their own unique version of the news of the day. Doesn’t that remind you of the child’s game where a story is whispered to the first child, who then whispers it to the second child and so on? So now you know how each town in the country got different versions of the news of the day.

At age 17, Edison was still so shy that if a 17 year old girl entered the room he would fall over furniture and became speechless. But he was at the apex of his telegrapher career. I’m going to tell you about his demise as a telegrapher.

He took a job at a Washington newspaper. After 3AM when the paper was put to bed, the reporters gave Edison access to their notes of the day. Only a tiny percent of those notes actually created news stories, but Edison read all of them. He knew what every congressman, every Senator, said in every meeting all day long. He considered himself to be the best informed person in the whole country about the goings on of the government. One night, he was copying a story about an important vote that day in Congress when the telegraph wire broke. No problem thought Edison, so he fabricated the rest of the story. He said who voted aye, who voted nay and what the leaders said to the press after the vote. He was confident that his account would be a believable enough to fool the whole country. ---- Well, in the morning he came to regret that, because the important vote had been postponed.

Ladies and gentlemen. In modern times, we love to complain about our favorite villain, Vladimir Putin. Little did you know that Putin follows in the footsteps of my personal hero. Thomas Alva Edison.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


I discovered something very important about my Hobie 16 yesterday.  The mast was full of water.!

A mast full of water is much heavier than an empty one and that extra weight was as much as 28 feet above the water.   Could that have been what made me capsize so easily?   The answer is, "Certainly yes, provided that the water was there before capsizing."

The bad news, is that I can't be certain if the water was in there when I bought the Hobie, or if it came in while the boat was capsized. 

  • Libby and I were unfamiliar with the "normal" weight of a Hobie mast.  
  • I did look the mast over and I did apply some sealants before sailing to keep water out.  That applies specially to the mast head where I had replaced the sheaves.  There's a water barrier there, and I put sealant on it.
  • When the mast was up, there was no sign of water dripping out from the internals.
So I guess, I'll never know for sure.    In any event, I drained all the water out, and I took extra care to inspect and re-seal every screw or rivet hole where water could get in. 

Before sailing next time, I propose to put the mast in the lake to float by itself.  If it sinks, or if I hear water sloshing inside, I'll know there's a leak.