November 23, 2010

The Misfit Battleships

When one thinks of battleships, what leaps to mind?  The gleaming Iowas, usually.  Others would think of the hulking Yamato-class, still the largest battlewagons ever built.  Or perhaps the menacing Bismarck and Tirpitz, pride of the Kriegsmarine would hold primacy over all.  If you have a sense of history, classes like the Nevada/Pennsylvania, with their cage masts and one of which, the Arizona, is now one of the US military's most hallowed sites.  Or the first of them all, the Dreadnought.

And then there's me.  I'm a weirdo, because my favorite battleship class is one that few people know or (historically) care about.  You see, I'm a fan of the Nelsons. 

I can hear you now: "The whichnow?"  These:

The sharper-eyed amongst you have already noticed the obvious difference.


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November 22, 2010

"If You Don't Like The Weather...

...just wait a few minutes, it'll change," is a saying you hear a lot here in Illinois.  Strangely enough, there's often a grain of truth to sayings like that. The day started with oodles of rain, but by the time I got to Duck U., it was bright and sunny if a little windy.  Around 245pm, I stepped out of the Duck U Bookstore and... it was around 70 degrees, dark, with heavy clouds being blown across the sky at high speeds, and near constant thunder that actually made me laugh out loud.  It sounded exactly like a "thundersheet," or a big sheet of aluminum that stagehands flex for thunder sound-effects.  Thinking nothing of it, I went back into the Bookstore.

A few minutes later, I heard a strange warbling sound, one that I've only heard on the second Tuesday of each month.  Rubbawhat?  Then my e-mail chimed... it was Duck U Security, saying get to the basement Auntie Em, it's a twister!  And lo, it was:

It touched down in the vicinity of the intersection Riverside and Perryville, two fairly major streets about five miles Northeast of Duck U, and headed Northeast towards the nearby state park... and a little village named Caledonia.  In Caledonia there was substantial damage, though no serious injuries at all.  Which is a relief, because when it touched down there was a School Bus right nearby.

The bus was thrown off the road and knocked over; five or six (reports vary) children and the bus driver suffered minor injuries, but nothing more. 

At one point, somewhere north of 46000 people were without power though as of 630pm that number had dropped to around 10000.  Eyewitnesses report something like four high-voltage towers were ruined, and one power substation reportedly has significant damage so it might be a while before those people see electricity again.  The waterfowl in the foreground had nothing to do with the damage, I can assure you. 

Just to assuage any fears anybody may have, Duck U is fine, completely unharmed.  The sirens went off all over Duckford.  I never even went to the basement of the building the Bookstore is in, preferring instead to follow the weather radars on computers in Admissions.  It was pretty clear from the looping screens that we had nothing to worry about. 

"If you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes... it'll change."  Sometimes though, it doesn't change to something good...

UPDATE:  Here's video of the tornado!

Near as I can tell, this was taken from one of the gazillion subdivisions springing up all over that side of town.  We actually got quite lucky; if it touched down about two miles to the southwest, it would have smacked a rather populated part of the Duckford metroplex.  The damage track is supposedly a half-mile wide... fairly substantial.

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November 19, 2010

Dogs Are Stupid, But At Least These Are Funny Too.

I don't usually do this sort of thing, but if you want to laugh until your spleen threatens to rip free from your sternum, go and read this post over at Hyperbole And A Half.  (via)

When I was growing up, we had a dog with the embarrassing name of Dribbles.  You can guess why Dribbles had that name (hint: it has nothing to do with basketball).  Dribbles looked like a cross betwixt a weinerdog and a German Shepherd... and the weinerdog had the dominant genes.  If she was a foot tall at the top of her head, she was wearing stilts.  Unfortunately for her dignity, she looked overweight at all times, even if she was normal size.  Imagine a football with tiny legs and you've got the right idea. 

Dribbles' idea of fetch was to have me throw a stick, she'd go running after it... and just keep going, as if the entire concept of "stick" would get shaken out of her skull once she began her sprint.  Ever seen a street car designed to dragrace down the quarter-mile accelerate off the line?  The rear end drops, the car gets light on the front tires, and if the engine is powerful enough it stays in a nose-high attitude all the way down... yeah, that was Dribbles trying to run. 

She particularly loved to run after a Frisbee.  On those rare occasions that she'd actually pick it up and bring it back, she'd start running until it dug into the ground.  At that point, one of two things would happen:
1) she'd go arse over teakettle, pinwheeling sadly.
2) she'd let go of the disc, run over it and THEN go arse over teakettle.

Dribbles was also an ill-tempered beast.  She'd growl at me at any time, for any reason.  Approaching the couch?  Grrrrr.  Walking away from the couch?  Grrrrrr.  Offering her some food?  Grrrrrr.  And on and on.  Then she broke a leg, got arthritis, and would growl at ANYTHING, just because she could.  It was pretty sad, actually, but after it was hard to blame her considering that the cast she wore was probably heavier than she was.

When she passed away, maybe 20 years ago, that was enough dogs in my life.

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November 17, 2010

Hey, Everybody, It's Music Time!

So on a whim this evening I told my media player to choose songs at random.  The first 10 to come up were such an interesting mix of styles that I was inspired to write it up as a post, which is what you're reading now.  Click below to hear what I'm talking about.


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November 11, 2010

Veterans Day 2010

To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.
-President Woodrow Wilson, in his proclamation creating Veterans Day, then called Armistice Day.

To all who have served or who are currently serving, The Pond gives a heartfelt "Thank you."

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November 09, 2010

Warbird Up

In the comments of my post on the paddlewheel aircraft carrier Wolverine, reader The Old Man asked "How many WW2 carrier training birds are on the bottom of the Great Lakes and perhaps could be salvaged?"

Well, as of Monday afternoon the answer is "one fewer," as salvers brought up a doozie.

It's a Corsair, but not just any Corsair.  That right there is the world's only known surviving F4U-1, the first marque of the bent-wing bird.  It was sometimes known as a "Birdcage Corsair" for the latticework framing of the cockpit.

On June 12th, 1943, Ensign CH Johnson tried to land F-21 on the deck of the Wolverine.  Losing sight of the LSO on approach, a common enough occurrence for the long-nosed Corsair, Ensign Johnson took a wave-off and, applying power, began to peel off to the left.  Unfortunately, he had settled enough that his tailhook caught a wire, slamming the plane down onto the deck hard enough to split the rear fuselage from the rest of the Corsair.   The tailhook assembly was ripped free of the plane as well.  Both chunks of the F4U fell overboard and sank, though the front section stayed afloat long enough for Ensign Johnson to escape without harm.

The plane is in remarkably good shape for having been submerged in Lake Michigan for 67 years.  The underside is coated with zebra mussels, a common enough problem in the Great Lakes these days.  There is rust, of course, but the structure of the Corsair is wholly intact.  Indeed, the salvers brought up both pieces of the plane.  The only bit missing?  The tailhook assembly.  Eventually, the F4U-1 is destined for the National Navy Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL.

The salvage company that performed the rescue, A&T Recovery, says that there's at least 80 more warbirds sitting on the bottom of Lake Michigan, many of which are within 50 miles of Chicago.  Almost all of them are Dauntlesses and Wildcats of various types.  The F4U wasn't seen in the air above Lake Michigan, as the Wolverine and Sable were really not big enough to handle them comfortably.  It may have been there as part of an attempt to requalify the Corsair for carrier operations, as the type had already been limited to ground-based squadrons in late 1942. 

While Ensign Johnson got away unharmed from this crash, he wasn't so lucky later.  He was killed in a midair collision over Hawaii on Thanksgiving Day, 1943.

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November 03, 2010

Because I Can

Not including the weekend's coverage of the Grand Prix of Brazil, I've got two separate posts in the pipeline.  The first is in response to the question posed by Vaucaunson's Duck, namely why do I like the HidaDuck so much?  The other is a good look at my five all-time favorite anime series, inspired by the neophyte fan that I mentioned a few weeks back.

But I find that I can't be arsed right now.

About much of anything, truth be told.  Working on it.

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