Thursday, April 20, 2017

This May Khipu Occupied for a Bit

National Geographic has reported upon recent discoveries related to the Inca khipus. It is hoped that the recent finds may eventually help unravel the information encoded into the braided strands. The article may khipu keep you occupied for a brief bit.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Joys of Home Ownership

Sorry posts have been sparse the past week or so. I've been facing some deadlines at work, traveled 1500 miles over Easter weekend, and have been a bit under the weather courtesy of allergies. But what has really gotten me is my house.

I own a home. There are a lot of benefits. Even in the most cramped of subdivisions, you achieve a bit of separation from the neighbors, a vast improvement over apartment life or even condominiums. With a house, I don't have to worry about a notice from the landlord giving me 24 hours to get everything two feet away from the walls for electrical work. I have more room for hobbies and projects. I build equity every month rather than seeing cash simply disappear out the door in the form of rent. Alas, there are some downsides.

Like taking care of things when they break. Doing yard work. Especially during Spring, the lawn occupies far too much time. I've mowed twice in the past seven days. Tonight, for the first time this season, I pulled out the trimmer/edger and found it didn't work. And a downspout fell down. It is currently sitting in the tall grass at the edge of the house. Sigh.

Reviews, trailer progress, and other interesting stuff will likely start appearing over the next few days, as I work through the home and yard issues and get some time again.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Sometime simple acts and events send ripples through history. For want of a nail...  One small example: A small air raid ends an empire.

We are about a week away from the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. A few months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought about US entry into WWII, the US retaliated with an air raid on Tokyo. Sixteen specially-modified B-25 Mitchell bombers took off from the deck of U.S.S. Hornet and bombed Tokyo, then escaped to the Asian mainland. Nearly all the planes were lost in Japanese-occupied territory, and several of the aircrews as well. They inflicted minor damage, destroyed a few important buildings, damaged a Japanese aircraft carrier that was nearing completion, and killed a few hundred people. As a morale-boost, striking back for Pearl Harbor, it was valuable, but the damage inflicted was almost insignificant.

The indirect effects, however, were far more significant. During the attack, the Japanese military made widespread use of coded transmissions in an attempt to coordinate the response to the attack. Japanese leadership decided to rearrange their defenses, and wanted control of Midway Island. The bounty of transmissions the Japanese produced allowed US cryptographers to decode Japanese naval signals and ambush the Japanese carrier fleet. The Battle of Midway was a major victory for the US and a turning point in the war in the Pacific.

What Do You Call...

What do you call a large group of priests or preachers driving around in motor homes?

The Holy Roaming Empire.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sunday Trailer Progress

I made a little progress on the trailer Sunday. The previous Saturday I cut and fit a patch for the "hole" in the belly skin just forward of the street-side wheel well. Sunday has been permanently affixed with rivets and proper sealant. Small progress. I'm doubtful of much more progress this week, as I have yard work and taxes I need to catch up with. If there is more progress I'll report it here.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Songs and Circumstances

Over the course of my life, there have been a number of times where I've been listening to music and the lyrics have proven strangely appropriate to the circumstances. Almost eerily so. A few in particular stand out.

For example, I was taking a vacation out west, including a few days at the Grand Canyon. One day I'm driving along from the campground near Grand Canyon Village over to the east side of the park, to visit the Desert View Watchtower. I was playing on the stereo at the time, and just as I pulled into the parking lot at Desert View it advanced to the next song, "All Along the Watchtower."

A year or two back I was driving along here in greater Cincinnati listening to a classic rock station. I came to the intersection I needed to turn left onto, but the light was red. As the left turn signal on the traffic light turned green, the street sign for the road registered. I was turning onto state route 747. The song that was playing: Steve Miller Band's "Jet Airliner."

Last night, I went out to eat in Northern Kentucky (the 51st state?). Afterwards, I was driving back home via I-75 well after dark. A bit south of Ohio River, several miles south of Cincinnati, the highway descends several hundred feet toward the river valley through a wide bit of curving excavation known as The Cut in the Hill. As a northbound car descends the grade a wonderful view of the Cincinnati skyline comes into view. Last night was fairly clear, so the city stood out brilliantly, the tall buildings fairly glowing against the backdrop of the night sky. The song that was playing was The Doors' "L.A. Woman," with its lyrics of "city of light" and "city of night" and "driving down your freeways."

(Not included are the number of times "Route 66" came up on my mix while driving down old historic route 66, since I had several covers in the mix and was taking a Route 66 trip.)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Monkey Girl

Now here's something you don't hear everyday. A news article reports on a ten year old girl in India who was spotted nude, running around with a pack of monkeys. Police responded to the reports and had to fight the monkeys off to "rescue" the feral girl from her simian companions.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung. Everything is greening up even more than it had before, and more trees and flowers are blooming. The pollen is in the air and my allergies have noticed. Despite allergy medicine I've been a bit tired and my sinuses ache. Instead of writing that review of Peter Grant's awesome Rocky Mountain Retribution like I planned to last night, I went to bed early and regrettably woke up late. Ugh. More later, hopefully.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Lost in Other Worlds

On Saturday morning I finished reading Peter Grant's Rocky Mountain Retribution. Seeking something else to read, I stumbled upon Pam Uphoff's Directorate series, which in turn led me to Amazon to purchase the first book in the series, which in turn led me to start reading her Wine of the Gods series that is set in the same universe. I've read nine books since Saturday afternoon.

I had to force myself to go to work and not stay home reading another book in that lengthy series. I'll try to write a review of Rocky Mountain Retribution later (TL:DR version is awesome!), prior to reading the next book.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday Trailer Progress

My work Saturday was limited. I have more or less fixed the "hole" I mentioned several days ago. It is by no means aesthetically perfect, but it should keep the elements out.  I am waiting on tomorrow's expected warmer temperatures before applying sealant and riveting into place. Today's temperatures were marginal. Tomorrow will also hopefully see the rest of belly skin work done.  If all goes well, the wires for the brakes, the insulation, and the middle section of plywood floor can then go in, and the old floor in front can come out. We'll see.

Patch being held in place by clecos, pending riveting

Before the patch was applied

Airstream on Mars!

Airstream announces special Airstream trailers for Mars!

Artist's rendering of Airstream trailer on Mars. From the Airstream website.

Yes, today is April 1st.

Columbus Interurban Terminal

Much like Lima, Ohio, the city of Columbus, Ohio was also home to an interesting interurban terminal of decent size. Like that one, this one was also a product of the Ohio Electric Railway, an electric interurban railroad that served much of western and central Ohio during the early part of the twentieth century. The Columbus station had both passenger and freight facilities, located in two adjacent buildings fronting on Third Street, between Rich and Town. Like the Lima facility, it had individual canopies/trainsheds situated between or alongside the tracks, rather than a large trainshed covering all of the tracks and waiting area, like at the Indianapolis, Muncie, or Akron interurban stations.

Alas, unlike the one in Lima, it hasn't survived, but there are a few web pages out there with some decent coverage, including one with the content from a 1912 Electric Railway Journal article. A number of photographs of it exist in various publications, including in Jack Keenan's excellent 1974 book Cincinnati & Lake Erie Railroad: Ohio's Great Interurban System. There's at least one photograph of the station in use available online in the Cincinnati & Lake Erie gallery on New Dave's Railpix, copied below.

Photo of C&LE 110 at the Columbus station, from Bill Volkmer collection.
Found at

The Ephemeral Nature of Things

I was reading Peter Grant's Western novel Rocky Mountain Retribution when a brief mention of Buckskin Joe set of a cascade of memories and thoughts. Buckskin Joe is the name of a former mining town in Colorado, now a ghost town, and that is what the novel references. However, it bequeathed its name to a facility west of CaƱon City, Colorado, a  1957 Western movie set turned tourist attraction. The only direct connection between the ghost town and the movie set/tourist attraction was Horace Tabor's general store, moved from the ghost town to the movie set; the rest of the set's buildings were acquired from other locations in Colorado.

The towers of the Royal Gorge Bridge perch on the rim of the Royal Gorge, nearly a thousand feet above the Arkansas River

I encountered Buckskin Joe's in 2009, on a road trip and vacation to Colorado squeezed in between summer and fall quarters at college. I was en-route between Colorado Springs and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and had decided to make a brief stop at the Royal Gorge Bridge to break up the trip. Buckskin Joe's was right along the road up to the bridge, and looked really cool, but I didn't have time for it, or for the associated mini-railroad that ran from Buckskin Joe to an overlook on the rim of the Royal Gorge. I spent a couple hours at the Royal Gorge Bridge and did a few of the attractions, but not all, and I planned to come back some day and leave myself enough time to do more there and to visit Buckskin Joe's.

Portion of a photo taken from Royal Gorge Bridge, 2009. The railroad from Buckskin Joe's to the rim of the gorge runs across the middle of this photo, to the observation area just left of the center of the photo. The views of the bridge from the observation area in the afternoon must have been amazing.

Billionaire William Koch bought Buckskin Joe's lock, stock, and barrel in September 2010 and moved it to his ranch. The old buildings are gone. The railroad is gone. I discovered this when planning a 2011 trip to Colorado. So that departed my itinerary.

Incline Railway from rim to floor of the Royal Gorge

Still, the Royal Gorge Bridge and its related attractions were interesting enough I was considering a visit to them again when I was planning vacation for summer of 2013. Then a wildfire in June 2013 destroyed most of the "far" side of the bridge attractions. Some flames made it over to the "near" side and wreaked havoc, there, as well, destroying the aerial tram, damaging the incline railway, and causing assorted other damage and destruction. Glacier National Park in Montana suddenly seemed better than any thought of another Colorado trip for 2013.

Locomotive and caboose at edge of Royal Gorge Bridge parking lot.
The caboose was destroyed and the locomotive damaged by the June 2013 fire.

Why do I bring all this up? Simply because this all flooded back and reminded me that everything is ephemeral. People, places, things, everything is ephemeral. So carpe diem. Talk to people when you have the chance. Visit places while they're still there to be visited. See things while they're still there to be seen. You never know when a person will move or pass away, a scenic place may be destroyed by rockfall or fire, or an institution close.

Even that which is set in stone may change. In 2003, New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain, the ancient and iconic rock formation that was the state's choice for its quarter, collapsed. Change happens, and sometimes it is destructive change. Make the most you can of whatever comes your way.