Thursday, November 29, 2007

Catchin' Blues

It rained Sunday morning and the wind continued to howl as it had done since I’d arrived at Lookout on Friday. Gathering under the tarps we drank coffee and traded stories. I asked my Uncle L if he remembered the fake graveyard he’d created when I was a kid. I’d remembered correctly that he and his friend had used temporary grave markers they’d found in a junk pile on in the edge of the woods behind the church’s cemetery. He’d told me the people buried there had been too poor to afford a regular tombstone. This morning he told me the reason he and a friend had created the place had been to scare another boy. As L took the boy out to see the graveyard he’d “discovered,” his other friend hid under a pile of thick leaves. When they were in the middle of the cemetery, L’s friend jumped up from the leaves, creating a vision of a premature resurrection of the dead. The other kid, feeling doomed on the Day of the Lord, ran home. We told some more stories and joked about the weather and how it could be worse. After all, it could be snowing or sleeting or instead of a gale we could have a hurricane. On the other hand, it could be warmer with no wind and the mosquitoes so thick that we’d think we were reliving one of Pharaoh’s plagues. As fun as this was, I had no desire to spend my last day on the beach huddled up telling stories. After finishing the last of the coffee, I pulled on my hip boots and donned my rain jacket, grabbed a medium sized rod and a couple of Hopkins' spoons (a shinny metal lure) and headed out across the dunes to the beach.

The wind had shifted and instead of coming out of the north, it was coming from the northwest, blowing sand inches above the surface at a 45 degree angle to the surf. Although it still wasn’t ideal, the slight shift in the wind direction meant I could at least cast into the surf. The waves were foamy and the rain and spray reduced visibility to maybe a mile. I waded out into the water, to where the waves swirled around my calves, and made my first cast. The heavy spoon flew deep into the water, beyond the breakers. I retrieved it fast, yanking it every few turns, so that it skimmed across the top of the waves. The Hopkin Spoon is one of the most un-appetizing lures on the market. It’s essentially a piece of long metal (I was using a four ounce variety) pounded flat and with a triple hook on the end. It’s pulled fast through the water, hoping to get a fish on a non-discriminating diet to eat before looking. As a kid, I remember an old man telling me he’d lost his only Hopkins one morning when the Blues had been running like crazy. He took a flat metal bottle opener and wired a hook to the end and cast it into the surf and continued to catch Blues.

After about a dozen casts, I got a strike but missed it. As I continued to casts, I noticed a number of gulls and pelicans hovering over the surf about a hundred yards north. Occasionally one would dive down and come up with morning breakfast, a sure sign that some sort of fish were congregating. The birds would be after small fry, the same sort of fish that would attract Blues. I started making my way up the beach toward the birds, casting occasionally.

As I got closer to where the birds were making a fuss, I noticed there appeared to be a deep hole just offshore, hollowed out by riptide. I cast out into it and started yanking the rod and retrieving it fast. It didn’t take but a second before I felt the tug on the line. I yanked the rod back hard to set the hook and began to fight to reel the fish in. As he got closer to the edge, I backed up onto the sand and pulled the fish out of the water. He wasn’t huge as Bluefish go, but was one of the nicest Blues I’d catch that morning, maybe two pounds. It took me a second to get the hook out, with all three of the hook’s barbs piercing into both the top and bottom of his mouth. One has to be careful with Bluefish, as they have sharp teeth. Many times, fishing for flounder with a live finger-size mullet, I’ve seen a bluefish hit the bait and in one swift bite cut the mullet in half. This is not the type of mouth I wanted to stick my finger. Bending down over him, I got my out my pliers and went to work. When done, I tossed him up on the hill, waded back into the water and resumed casting. A few minutes later, I caught another, this one around a pound. I threw him and all the smaller Bluefish back, or at least those whose mouths weren’t damaged by the triple barbs of the hook. Bluefish aren’t the best kind of fish to freeze, so I didn’t need any more than we’d eat that day. They’re best roasted on coals at the beach. The second best way is to flay and skin them, then fry ‘em up. I continued to catch Blues, and missed a few, some getting them to the edge of the surf before they got off the hook. At one point, I caught three fish in five casts. I kept reeling ‘em in and after catching nine, two other guys fishing a quarter mile north came down to see what I was using and asked if I mind if they joined me. They hadn’t caught a thing, but soon after casting into the same area where I was fishing, they too started catching Blues.

My arms were getting tired, but I decided that I wanted to at least catch the limit which was 15. When the birds were out, I’d cast and generally bring in a fish or two. When the birds stopped hovering, I’d rest. After I caught 16 (which is legal as the limit only applies to those you keep and I’d only kept four), I called it a morning and headed back to camp. I’d had so much fun I hadn’t noticed that the rain had increased and the wind was picking up. It was time for lunch (Bluefish). Then I had to pack up. It was going to be a rough boat ride back to Harkers Island, where I had left my car.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse
Sunrise at the surf (taken Saturday morning)
Dad fishing in the surf (taken Saturday morning)
Wind blown sand around a Welker Shell

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Camping on Cape Lookout

I haven’t been online much since getting to North Carolina late last week. I hope to catch up with you all later, but it’ll probably be after I get back home. Here’s the story of the first part of my trip.
Friday was a travel day. Surprisingly and unlike my experiences with airlines this summer (in which it took longer to fly than to drive or take the train), my flights were smooth and on time. As soon as I got to Wilmington, I dropped off my excess luggage at my parents home, had a quick lunch with my brother and mom, then headed north to Harker’s Island where I met my dad. He ferried me over in his boat to the fish camp on Cape Lookout. He, along with my uncle and my uncle’s brother-in-law, had gone over early that morning to set up camp. As I got to the marina, the moon rose. It was a day before full and had a ghostly appearance as it climbed above the horizon, partly veiled behind high level clouds. As the sun was setting, we quickly stowed my gear in the boat and I pulled on hip boots and a rain jacket for the rough trip across the Back Sound and through Barden Inlet, to Cape Lookout. The ride was choppy but as we were running with the wind, it wasn’t nearly as bad as he had been for my dad when he came across to get me. We got to camp about the time dinner was fixed. After eating, I headed out to the beach. The moon was now high, its light shimmering across the water. After walking on the beach a ways, I came back, had a nightcap, and then went to bed early.

The next morning, the wind was blowing even harder than the night before. The marine weather forecast called for winds 20-30 knots for the next two days, with rain moving in Saturday night. That morning, my dad and I tried a bit of surf fishing, but the wind, blowing straight out of the north and parallel to the surf, made it impossible to keep a line in the water. We tried plugging, but after about an hour with no luck, we gave up. I hiked around, looking at and photographing the lighthouse. I already have a collection of photos of this lighthouse (which you’ve seen if you’ve read this blog for any time), but what’s wrong with a few dozen more?
After lunch, we decided to try fishing along the leeward side of Shackleford Banks, another deserted barrier island inhabited by wild ponies. As Shackleford runs east to west, we stayed in close to the shoreline where we avoided the rough water and was somewhat protected by the wind. The four of us in two boats spent three hours fishing, catching enough Bluefish for dinner. Clouds were rolling in as we worked our way across Lookout Blight, back to the camp. Clouds shrouded that evening’s sunset and moonrise. As the rain began, we huddled under tarps and told stories and drank whiskey till bedtime.

It was raining even harder Sunday morning, but I went fishing anyway (I’ll write more about that later). Sunday afternoon, after a long bumpy boat ride, I changed into dry clothes and headed to Wilmington to relieve my brother who was taking care of our mom.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I'm Out Of Here!

I’m out of here in the morning—flying to the Great State of North Carolina. I plan on doing some surf fishing, some walking on the beach, some reading, and mostly spending some time with my parents. I may post while traveling. We’ll see, it depends on internet connections and whether or not my muse decides to join me for the trip. If you want to reach me, you can always email at sagecoveredhills [at] Whatever happens, I need the break even though part of it will be bittersweet as I need to see first hand how my mother’s illness is progressing. Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving; here, we got our first dusting of snow for the season last night!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Eatin' Cheap

When I was in grad school, I learned to eat cheap. One of my favorite dishes was to fix a big pot of beans and rice—which would last me a week. Economical and nutritional, such a fare wasn’t for everyone. But I got by and occasionally I still find myself longing for a pot of beans. This weekend I didn’t have to cook for anyone but myself and decided to make a pot. I’ll be eating them at least a meal a day for the rest of the week. Here’s my recipe (remember, everything is approximate).

-one pound of dried beans (red beans, pintos, navy, experiment with different varieties)
-ham hock (optional)
-2 cups of rice
-24 ounce can of stewed tomatoes (not really optional, but I didn’t have any this time!)
-a couple of onions, sliced
-Garlic, diced
-½ a cabbage sliced
-Variety of spices like oregano and basil
-Hot sauce

Wash and then soak beans in water for an hour. I fix my beans in a pressure cooker—small red beans can cook in about 12 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. If you are using a ham hock, put it with the beans in the pressure cooker.

Afterwards, add rice, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage and spices. Add liquid (you’ll need to make sure there is enough liquid to cook the rice, at least 4 cups plus the juice from the tomatoes. Guess on how much juice you have from the beans, then add enough to make the difference or drain the beans and add 5 cups of water plus the liquid in the tomatoes). Bring to a boil; turn down to a medium low flame and cook, stirring regularly, till rice is done. Serve with bread (or if you want to be fancy, fix up some of Sage’s cornbread), along with plenty of hot sauce.

Note on using a pressure cooker: The pressure cooker is a useful kitchen tool, but you must learn how to use them safely for they can be dangerous. Once mastered, pressure cookers cook food much quicker and with much less energy. If not for the pressure cooker, you’d be cooking the beans for hours. In my list of favorite pots, my pressure cooker ranks right behind my cast iron skillets and my wok.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Eatin' Oysters

I couldn’t find a digitally saved picture of the sound near where I grew up and where oysters are raised, but this shot of Cape Lookout is of a similar terrain (with the addition of a lighthouse). The small tidal creeks in the sound are perfect breeding grounds for oysters. The second photo shows two types of oyster knives, presented on the traditional oyster shucking table cloth (that is if you don't have a table built just for the purpose, out of tin roofing).

My mouth began to water for a juicy oyster after reading about having ‘em on the half-shell in a restaurant review by Kelly the Culinarian in her blog. Kelly had stopped by my blog yesterday and so I returned the favor and was reminded that by this time next week, I may be enjoying some good Carolina oysters. I just hope the weather has been cool enough for the season to open. The idea of eating oysters in the months in where there is an “r” (September-April) appears to be a thing of the past, perhaps another example of global warming. You want the water to be cold enough to deter bacteria before you indulge in the delicacy. Growing up where I did, oysters were a stable. We always had oyster stuffing at Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s Eve just wasn’t right without steaming a bushel. One New Year’s Eve, when I was living in Western North Carolina, I’d come home from Christmas with a bushel of oysters for a New Year’s Eve party. We were eating steamed oysters outdoors; the party was at my uncles. I almost broke a tooth when I bit into a beautiful black pearl. At the time, I thought that if anything came out of the date I had for the evening, I’d have the pearl made into a necklaces. Well, there wasn’t any spark there, and soon we were dating other people although we remained friends, which was a good thing according to my uncle who wasn’t sure what to make of the lady who could eat as many oysters as us guys (normally the women-folk stayed inside while the guys when outside to steam oysters and washed them down with some sort of alcohol). I’m not sure whatever became of my pearl.

I’ve even eaten my share of oysters raw, including times when harvesting ‘em, I’d take a nice oyster, swirl it around in the water to wash off the mud, then pop it open with an oyster knife and enjoy. That said, being landlocked like I am now, mine’s one of the few homes in the Upper Midwest to boast a set of oyster knives. With that in mind, let me share with you a story that may cure your desire ever to eat a raw oyster.

Eatin’ Oysters

I was at a conference down in Florida when I was working with the Boy Scouts. One evening, another guy and I had gone out to a bar. It was a nice place that had a patio built out over a lake, somewhere north of Gainesville. I don’t even remember the name of the guy I was with, but he was from East Tennessee. Seeing they had oysters on the half-shell, he confessed he’d never tried them. I ordered a dozen and told him I’d share, that he should have the experience. The waitress brought out the platter, oysters nicely presented on ice, with sliced lemons and some horseradish in a dish in the center. The first one, I slurped down, without any condiments. Then I showed how he could put horseradish or lemon juice or hot sauce on the mussel, before eating. After I’d consumed about half the platter, he decided he’d try one. He popped the oyster in his mouth, started gagging, and immediately spit it back into the shell. I encouraged him to try again and he did, pulling enough horseradish on it to clean not only sinuses but also a clogged drain. He then chased it with a beer, forcing it down. “That’s enough,” he said, “I can now say that I’ve eaten an oyster.” I went on to eat the rest, leaving the one partly consumed oyster sitting on the tray.

In the bar were others who were attending the same conference, including one of our colleagues, a first-class jerk. I think he was from New Jersey. I may be wrong but with his manners, he couldn’t have been a native southerner. For those of us who sat in the back, this guy became the blunt of all our jokes. He knew everything, or so he thought. He continually vied with the instructor to teach the course and we joked about why, if he was so damn smart, he was even in our class. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly happy that evening when he walked over to our table and greeted us like we were his long lost friends. Standing by our table, we didn't offer him a seat, he spied the one lone (regurgitated) oyster. Without asking and before we could say anything, he reached for it as he proclaimed his love for shellfish. Then, in one motion, he slurped it down. We burst into laugher and right then, I knew there is a God and that sometimes we do get to experience justice here on earth.

Friday, November 16, 2007

3-WW: New Years Day 1987

Every week Bone has a 3-Word Wednesday writing assignment. The goal is to write something using his three assigned words. Lately, every week, I've lost a two letter grades by turning in my work on Friday! This week, our words are: icy, pause, and train. I tried to recreate a train ride from North Carolina to Pittsburgh, back when I was in grad school. The photo was taken from the third floor apartment, looking east. Enjoy (I may have to come back and proof this better!).

New Years Day 1987

Soon after getting checked in by the conductor and shortly after pulling out of the DC Station, I headed to the lounge car for a beer and a sandwich for dinner. In a corner booth, a card game was being played by several obnoxious guys who were already intoxicated. I sat down at the only open seat, at a table where the conductor was doing some paper work. We exchanged greetings and he went back to his work and I began eating and looking out the window, watching the dropped crossing gates and the city fly by. Leaving DC, the tracks snaked along the Potomac. The icy winter mix that we’d been experiencing all day had changed to big snowy flakes by the time we reached Harper’s Ferry. After finishing my sandwich, I pulled out my book and began to read the few pages I had left, all while downing another beer.

The guys in the poker table in the corner kept hollering and then one of them told a racist joke. The car attendant came over and told them they’d been inappropriate and needed to return to their seats. When they asked for another beer to take with them, he refused, saying they’d had enough. The game broke up and all but one walked away. He got louder, shouting obscenities and racial slurs. The conductor immediately stood up, supporting the attendant and calling the calling on his radio for the other conductor to the car. I wondered if I was going to witness my first mobile bar fight, as the three men, the drunkard on one side, the conductor and attendant on the other, appeared to be locked in a stand-off, waiting for someone to blink. The man was told again that had better go back to his seat or he’d be removed from the train. He refused and sat back down in defiance. I’m not sure who made the call, perhaps the other conductor who stood in the back of the car. A few minutes later, at a lonely rural road, the train came to a stop by the dropped crossings bars of a rural road. Next to the crossing bar was a police cruiser, its spinning lights cutting through the night. The attendant opened the door and two sheriff deputies entered the car, spoke briefly to the conductor, and then to the man’s amazement, told him he was under arrest, cuffed him and led him away. The conductor made a call from his radio, the whistle blew, and the train jerked forward. From then on the ride was quiet.

The day, cold and gray, had started early as I’d boarded the Silver Star in Southern Pines. I’d spent New Years Eve with my grandma, barely making it till midnight, going to bed as soon as Dick Clark finished clicking off the seconds of 1986 at Times Square. Boarding the train, I was seated in a coach that I soon learned had a malfunctioning heating unit. Everyone was cold and the attendant had given out every blanket he had. I pulled my sleeping bag from my backpack and sat down, sliding my legs into it. My eyes alternating from the barren winter landscape outside to the pages of the Bridge over the River Kwai. In Raleigh they tried to fix the heating unit, and again in Petersburg, but in both cases, as soon as we were running, the unit kicked out. The train, having been filled with folks heading home for the holidays, had no seats in the other cars. That afternoon, I napped, warm in my bag, as the sleet and freezing rain began to pound against the window. There wasn’t a second to pause when we to Washington. We were late and had to immediately board the Capitol Limited for its run toward Chicago. Winded, I was at least pleased to find a warm coach, one whose heating system worked.

After my light dinner and the evening entertainment, I’d returned to my seat. The train crossed over the Appalachians and began the downhill dart through coal towns nestled along the Youghiogheny. The snow piled up. When we stopped at the little hamlets, folks getting off the train would leave footprints in the powder as they head toward the station or awaiting cars. Some looked around, as if waiting for someone who wasn’t there to greet them, a lonely feeling I thought. As the tracks approach Pittsburgh, running through the Monongahela Valley, flames could be seen coming from the few steel mills which were still operating, their red glow cutting though the darkness. A few minutes later, we pulled into Pittsburgh. As I got off, I wonder if I’ll have a ride, if Rusty has been able to make it through the snow to pick me up.

Sure enough, Rusty was waiting in the station. Pittsburgh had received nearly a foot of snow, but he was use to driving in it. The roads were vacant as we drove through town. Once we got back to the school, I dropped my bags in my apartment, pulled on my boots and headed outside. It was early in the morning, January 2nd, but I couldn’t sleep. Outside something magical happened. The dreary day had been transformed and now, at night, the snow added a cheerfulness to the air. I walked along, enjoying the left-over Christmas lights piercing the darkness. I was home.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Top Ten Indulgences

  1. Yes, it’s that time of the year. The trees have dropped their leaves and they now wait by the street where, once the grass is good and dead, the city will come around and pick ‘em up. You may notice below that raking leaves isn’t one of my top ten indulgences… It probably makes Murf’s list, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make Ed’s list…

    My Top Ten Indulgences

This meme has been going around. Both Kevin and Jadedprimadonna have posted their list, so I thought I might give it a try too.

1. Chocolate Oatmeal No-bake Cookies. I can make ‘em myself or by them at a local cookie bakery.

2. A good soak in a Hot Springs. Sorry, hot tubs just don’t do it; I’ve been spoiled by spending too much time out west and whenever I return for a visit, I have to find a spring to soak in. Favorite hot springs: a. the spring just south of Muir Beach, north of San Francisco, right on the surf. b. Lava hot springs in Idaho. c. The springs in the Black Canyon, south of Boulder Dam on the Arizona Side… This bring up the question, what am I doing here?

3. Puzzles. There is something about completing a puzzle and working on puzzles is one time my mind seems totally free. Currently putting together a puzzle of the top 30 must see cities of the world.

4. Sitting by a roaring fire and either chatting or reading a book. This can be in the living room or out in the wild.

5. Backpacking and camping by myself. I occasionally like to go out solo, to spend the evening and morning in silence, taking in the changes of the hours, during this time I often journal and read the Psalms, and it becomes a spiritual retreat.

6. A good massage, ‘nuff said

7. A variety of good quality beers and liquors from which to choose. Right now the fridge has the following: several bottles of Arcadia IPA and Starboard Stout, a couple of Bells Porters, and a bottle of Lion Lager (from Sri Lanka). In the liquor cabinet, I make sure that I have at least one bottle of each of the following: George Dickel, Flor de Cana (7 yr old rum for Nicaragua), and Glenfiddich. And to nip any comments from Murf in the bud, I’m currently drinking ice tea.

8. Ice cream from either Mootown (a nearby dairy) or Plainwell (a nearby place—in the other direction, where they make their own ice cream).

9. A familiar book of poetry

10. An afternoon nap, in the hammock if the weather is warm and the mosquitoes are also napping.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Kite Runner: A book review

Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner (New York: Riverhead Books, 2003), 371 pages.

Several years ago a friend suggested I read this book. After finally getting around to it, I wonder what took me so long. The Kite Runner is beautiful yet painful, hopeful yet ominous. Set in the United States and Afghanistan, the novel tells the story of Amir and his childhood friend Hassan, as well as Amir and his father’s story as they escape the nightmare that followed the Soviet invasion in the late 70s and built a new life in America. Hosseini explores themes of childhood friendship and betrayal, the relationship between sons and fathers, and the dangers of an excessive religious state. Through it all, the reader experiences the changes in Afghanistan over the past four decades.

Amir, whose mother dies at birth, is a privileged child. He is a Pastun, one of the ruling tribes of the country and a Sunni Muslim. His father is rich and proud and Amir grows up never being able to live up to his father’s standard. He finally does something to gain his father’s praise, the winning of winter kite fight (where hundreds of boys fight with their kites till only one kite is left). But unfortunately, on the heel of that victory, due to fear, Amir fails to come to the rescue of his friend Hassan, who is brutally raped by another boy because he’s of a different tribe.

Hassan, the son of Ali, Amir’s father’s servant, is a Haaras, an ethnic minority of Chinese descent. They are also Shi’a Muslims, so Hassan’s oppression is two fold. He is both an ethnically and religiously a minority as well as being poor and illiterate. Yet Hassan is fiercely loyal to Amir, which only inflames Amir’s shame. Finally, Amir concocts a plan to drive Hassan and Ali away from his family. Soon after that, Amir and his father flee to Pakistan and later as refugees to the United States where they start a new life. Now poor, they work hard. But through it all, Amir’s guilt and shame haunts him. In the end, this drives him to return to Afghanistan, following the take over of the Taliban, to rescue Hassan’s son. On this trip, one see’s the brutality and the hypocrisy of the Taliban, as his old childhood nemesis is a Taliban official.

Shame can destroy us and can also drive us to do good deeds, as Hosseini shows. Shame finally forced Amir to face up to his fears and to risk his life to save the son of Hassan. Shame also drove Amir’s father to build an orphanage (that was destroyed in the fighting). We’ve all felt shame and also betrayal, although hopefully not to the extent of those experienced by Amir and his father in Hosseini’s novel. Although there is much pain in this book as evil is exposed, even in the characters we love, Hosseini also shows that redemption is possible. I strongly recommend this book. I listened to an unabridged version on Ipod, but then brought the book and read large sections of it. Hosseini is a talented storyteller.

For other book reviews by Sage, click here.

For Semicolon's Saturday's list of book reviews in blogs, click here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Memories as a Ham Radio Operator: A 3WW Post

Bone’s 3-Word Wednesday assignment for this week is to write a piece using the following words: Compensate, Modern, Radio. I thought back to my experiences in school as an amateur radio operator.

I’m not sure all the reasons I got so interested in Ham Radio. Perhaps it was because I was small and there was little chance of me playing sports once I got to junior high. To compensate, I decided to excel at something else. A man from our church, who only had daughters and perhaps to compensate for that, offered to teach my brother and me about radios. His having daughters my age also peaked my interest and I jumped at the opportunity. Once a week, we’d met at his house, and sitting around the dining room table, we’d work on Morse Code for fifteen minutes. That was easy ‘cause I’d already learned Morse code and semaphore, the consequence of spending too many days grounded in my room. After a code session, he’d pull out some paper and for another fifteen minutes, we’d have a math and drafting class, learning how to slice the PIE formula and the meanings of various electronic symbols. Then he’d take us out to his “shack,” a small white wooden building out back by a persimmon tree. The place was crammed with electrical parts and all kinds of radios and test equipment. Here we learned the purpose of resistors and capacitors and how to solder. In time, we built a power supply that was designed to take AC current and, after running it through some kind of bridge, convert it to DC. Then we started building a transmitter, using a 6146 tube. When finished, this transmitter was able to put out 60 watts of power. It was a simple machine, utilizing crystals to control the frequency, meaning that if you wanted change frequencies, you had to pull out one crystal and replace it with another. I had three crystals, two in the 80 meter band and another in the 40 meter band. This was fun; soon I’d learned enough that we passed the test and received my novice license, which arrived about the time we’d finished building the transmitter. It couldn’t have come at a better time as I was in the eighth grade and not doing particularly stellar in school.

Winter nights, as the sun set, the 80 meter band would come alive. The cold air gave the long wavelengths great bounce off the ionosphere. Every day I’d rush home from school and be ready to be online before dusk. It was exciting to hear that first “CQ” of the evening, a call from operator looking for someone with whom to chat. I’d tap out his call letters a couple times followed by “de” (from) and my call sign, WN4YGY. Soon, we’d be exchanging information about our location and age and the weather.

Although my brother (the one who is now a mechanical engineer) eventually passed his test and got his license, the radio bug never really bit him. Maybe this was because I was always online. Since we shared a room, it would annoy him when I would get up at 3 or 4 AM and pull on a headset and fire up the radio, no one else in the house could hear except him. Using CW (code) I enjoyed talking (via code) to folks on the West Coast as well as in South America and Europe. Each new state or country was like a conquest and over time the wall behind my radios were covered with post cards from other operators I’d communicated with from around the world.

The most exciting period of time was when I was online and an emergency net was called to relay messages from Central America. It was right around Christmas 1972, the same Christmas that Mark had been killed in an accident. An earthquake had hit Nicaragua and for hours I monitored traffic for messages were coming to North Carolina. Although I never had traffic sent my way, I felt as if I was a part of something big, especially when I saw the devastation on the morning news. This was the same earthquake that my hero, Roberto Clemente, the slugger for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was killed in a plane crash while on a humanitarian mission. Death seemed to be all around me that year, but it was also enlightening to watch history unfold.

In time, I lost interest in the hobby and by the time I started college, I was no longer logging on regularly. For a time, I played with low power equipment and purchased a small 2 watt transceiver that ran on a six volt battery. Using a portable long-wire antenna, I would take this unit camping with me. But in time, I lost interest even in that. The radios I was working with, which seemed so modern, was really behind times as everything was shifting to transistors and eventually to pre-wired boards. Sometime in college, I gave all my equipment to the man who had helped my brother and I earn our licenses and went on to other hobbies.

Addendum just for Murf: Amateur Radio operators are often known by a series of words based on their call sign. The ending of my call letters, “YGY,” got converted to “young girls yell.”

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Check out my Guestbook!

I got this from Karen (since I've been busy, she's been the inspiration for posts that don't require much work. I thought it looked like fun and decided I'd put a pic of me dressed up instead of my usual fare of me looking like a bum...

On another note, my friend Dave the Economist had a rebuttal (of sort) of my comments on The Death of Adam. Although Robinson talks a lot about economics in one chapter (on the Family), it's not the main focus of the book. None-the-less, Dave's comments are interesting.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

3WW and some test results

I’m finally getting around to completing Bone’s Three-Word-Wednesday writing exercise (two days late). Such is life today—but I’m need to do some writing not related to work, so here’s this weeks attempt. Bone’s three words are: "phone, stumbled, windy"

Life in the 21st Century Dust Bowl, or What happened to the cell phone?

“Honey, what are we going to do? The phone line’s down again.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll take care of it.”

Throwing on a jacket and buttoning it up all the way, I grabbed my hat and headed to the door.

“Be careful, it’s awfully windy,” she warned.

Placing my body in front so that it won’t blow wide open, I cracked the door enough that I was able to slip outside. The wind was howling, swirling around the house. Dust filled, the air felt heavy. Tumble weeds raced across the back fields and collected along the fences. Holding the rim of my Stetson, I leaned into the wind and walked toward our neighbor’s house a mile away, out on the county road. As sand began to pit my face and I pull my hat down further for some protection of my eyes. Keeping the fence row on my right, I make good time and soon am knocking on their door.

“Is your phone working,” I asked when the door opens.

“Think so,” the old man said, “but I haven’t used it lately. Get in here and out of that wind.”

“Thanks,” I said, as I stumbled into their parlor and drop by the chair by the phone.

“Need the book,” he asked.

“Nah, I got the number memorized.”

I picked up the receiver; a tone was present indicating their line was working. I dialed the number. It rang twice and someone on the other end answers, “Dominos, may I help you?”

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what’s known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.

Karen, who often has funny (and no so funny) things to say about our President and his henchmen, recently had this test on her blog. For kicks, I decided to take it. I like the idea of being an intellectualist—but my faith is Jesus centered. And I’m not sure what kind of reality-based fool (except me) would choose to take Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on a space trek—except that the rest of my choices weren’t really appealing except for the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (which is that I thought a true “reality” based fool might take). Anyway, if you take the test, have fun and don’t take it too seriously.