Saturday, November 28, 2009

Blog # 116: A.W.O.L. Icon, Republican hot air, dirty tricks

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We had originally planned to open this week’s blog with SNL’s incisive parody of both the movie 2012 and the forthcoming election. In the video a news announcer announces that Sarah Palin has won the election, after which Palin is shown accepting the election juxtapositioned with the destruction of the earth as depicted in the film 2012. As a kind of final outrage the video reveals that Glen Beck was elected vice-president.

Unfortunately three hours after I embedded it and tested that it worked, it’s icon went black and a note appeared that the video was no longer available. No reason given, but I guess no reason was needed. If it is ever made available again we certainly will bring it to you. R.L.E.

Two of My Desktop Icons. The lower one went A.W.O.L.

Little Eddy’s Pre-Thanksgiving Near Disaster

Thanksgiving Morning: Lordy, lord. I have a 500 gigabyte Iomega Hard Drive on which all of my goodies sit, my movies and tv shows, my erotic writing collection, in short, all of my collected goodies except music. To make a long story almost unbearable, on the eve of the day I am expected by tradition to give thanks, my Iomega’s icon disappeared from my desktop. I did everything I could think of, which included plugging and unplugging its connections various times, and turning the device on and off repeatedly. The on light was shining brightly, but above it the activity l.e.d. was dead to the world. Turning it on and off seemed to have the effect of turning the activity l.e.d. on once, but that didn’t seem to be enough to effect a connection. Needless to say sleep was hard to come by on my Thanksgiving eve.

This morning the Iomega was still not showing up on my hard drive, and the activity light was still not blinking. After eating and reading the morning newspapers, I turned my attention back to it to see if the digital fairies had managed to make a connection while I was eating, but it was still dead to the world. I opened up the iMac’s preferences and checked the start-up icon, but only the iMac showed us as an available drive. I was in deep doo doo, still. Would Thanksgiving Day be a day of thanks, or a day wrapped in digital hell?

Well, persistence finally paid off. I kept plugging and unplugging both connections, the one on the iMac and on the Iomega. And clicking it on and off and on again. And suddenly, the little blue activity l.e.d. flickered a couple of times, and Viola!, the Iomega icon popped into its proper place below the iMac’s icon. I opened the preferences and clicked on start-up volumes, but drat, only the iMac was showing.

Then I ran the iMac’s utility programs, Disc Utility which comes from Apple and Alsoft’s miracle worker, Disk Warrior. I used the two programs on the iMac to work on the Iomega. Disc Utility fixed a whale of a lot of disk permissions, but the repair utility didn’t seem to have much effect. But as usual, Disk Warrior came to the rescue, and after it finished rebuilding the directory, I quit it. And this time when I opened preferences, the Iomega was showing up along with the iMac. So I chose the Iomega, restarted, and held my breath that it was start up, but luckily it did, and I ran the same two programs from the Iomega directed to the iMac’s drive. Success. Now the nightmare is over, and I know enough now to run those two programs on the Iomega, perhaps not as often as I run the for the iMac, but maybe every other time. And so I have something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving after all.

Actually I had a blessed Thanksgiving dinner, thanks to my late sister Mary’s daughter, Susannah Nix, and her husband Dave, and their daughter Emma, who unfortunately woke up sick Thanksgiving morning. I used to do that. I swear I spent every growing up Thanksgiving sick with the flu. What is it about Thanksgiving which makes kids ill? Anyway, as for the meal, Susannah’s cooking just seems to be getting better and better each year. It’s a delightful kind of scary, but it makes you want to hang in there for another year, so you see what she is going to come up with next year.§

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Giving Barney Thanks

2009’s 500lb Turkey:

The Republican Spin on Health Care!

Well, the Republican spinning bottle stopped, and when it did it was pointing at dear Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The other 38 GOPers were laying low letting McConnell get the benefit of any possible backlash resulting from his bizarre reasoning. His technique, hammer away endlessly on his position that the American People wildly oppose this hunk of a ruthless Democratic takeover of the one fifth of America’s economy which is health care.

He kept calling it something the country cannot afford, as if the country could afford not doing something substantial about the spiraling cost of health care. He went on, smile plastered on face all the while, talking as though he was reading from Moses’ Tablets of God’s Truths, about how Republicans were out to protect the American taxpayer from these Democratic big spending dolts, all the while overlooking all of the Republican government big spending that went on under his and Bush/Cheney’s leadership. He kept insisting that it is the Republicans who are representing the overwhelming majority of Americans who are counting on the Republican leadership to lead the charge against the Democrats.

That his words seem to fly in the face of virtually all of the polls is beside the Republican’s Talking Point, for the polls indicate that a majority of Americans favor not only the Democrats bill, but even favors the so-called Public Option, which several prominent Democrats conservative Democrats, including Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas decry.

If Molly Ivins was still with us she would undoubtedly have commented something to the effect that their feelings for solving the nation’s health care problems is “weaker than bus station chili.” (In truth she used that phrase to describe Bill Clinton, who she went on to defend primarily because of the Republican abuse he was receiving. Would that she were here to take care of Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson, triumvirate, it would be our pleasure to see how her wit would label the three. Perhaps “weaker than Bill Clinton chili?”)

The Best of Times . . . the Worst of Times

These days represent both extremes. We have tea party types exhibiting caricatures of our President as an African witch doctor mingling with signs questioning the legitimacy of his U.S. birth, which if true would disqualify him from the office to which he was elected by one of the larger majorities of recent elections. (George W. Bush was actually the loser in the popular vote in the Presidential election where he ran against Al Gore. He attained the presidency thanks to a Supreme Court fiat, during which on his behalf, the Court stopped the Florida recount which had Bush majority at 360 and falling.

In 2004 Bush won reelection with a bare majority after John Kerry was Swift-Boated with lies questioning the authenticity of his Vietnam service. (This was highly ironic because George W. Bush had sat out the Vietnam War serving with the Texas Air National Guard, a service from which he was allegedly AWOL from for an extended period. The other so-called hawks in his administration, v.p Cheney, Defense secretary Rumsfeld, and authors of the Iraq invasion including Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, all had also managed to avoid military service during Vietnam. And therefore none had a clear idea of what it was like to serve in a war, which was verified by their testimony as to how our troops would be received in Iraq.)

That Republicans have been getting themselves elected time and time again through lies and fear is nothing new. In fact it began with the 1950 congressional race which pitted Richard Nixon against Helen Gahagan Douglas. According to Sally Denton writing in the Daily Beast “that race was one of the nastiest in history, and a prototype for today's GOP smear tactics.”

Sixty years before Hillary Clinton ran for president, and Sarah Palin for Vice President, Helen Gahagan Douglas was the first woman in America who had the capacity, the credentials, the ambition, and the political gravity to realistically aspire to the highest office in the land. During her rise as an American female politician she struggled to define herself in the highly charged climate of Red Scare America. Her trajectory from Broadway star, to California congresswoman, to vice-presidential contender, to senatorial candidate seemed unstoppable—until her 1950 Senate race against Richard Nixon.

In a carefully orchestrated whispering campaign of smear, fear, and innuendo that would go down in American history as the dirtiest ever — while also becoming the model for the next half-century and beyond — Nixon exploited America’s xenophobic suspicions and reflexive chauvinism with devastating consequences. Nixon’s henchman, Murray Chotiner, introduced his own brand of dirty tricks to the political campaign.

Five years after the historic 1950 California match, Chotiner spoke to a Republican National Committee school for campaign workers about the Douglas-Nixon race and political strategy for the future. It would be one of many secret lectures Chotiner would give to “GOP schools” and where he would meet the protégés who would succeed him: Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. His 14,000-word syllabus, which became a legendary GOP dirty tricks manifesto, laid out a simple formula: “Discredit your opponent before your own candidate gets started … associate your opponent with an unpopular idea or organization, with just a suggestion of treason … above all, attack, attack, attack, never defend.”

And there you have the Republican sure fire formula for success. They didn’t exactly originate it, it is straight out of Machiavelli, but they sure as hell fine tuned it over these many years. And year after year it has worked successfully for them. And even in their out of power years during the Clinton administration, they attempted to keep the buzz going with lies and repeated investigations, until they finally scored with Monica Lewinsky. And you can see it beginning to work again these days as people get impatient with Obama, and Republicans press their outrageous claims and charges. For Sally Denton’s complete account point your cursor and click here!

Will the American voter fall for it once again in 2010 and especially 2012? Or have the Bush/Cheney years finally taught us our lesson. Stay tuned. We at the Little Eddy Blog prefer CNN for news and msnbc for doctrine, but some people like to tune in to follow the opposition, which would be Fox News. And why not? Just know they aren’t advocating lowering taxes and diminishing the federal government so that you and I can get richer. They are doing it to make the very wealthy richer, the poor poorer, and the rest of us clawing to avoid joining the poor at the bottom of the heap.§

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From Our “It’s About Damned Time” Department

In a copyrighted story Associated Press Writer William McCall reports a new phenomenon taking place in Portland, Oregon.

At the newly opened Cannabis Cafe, people sit around taking tokes from a "vaporizer" — a contraption with a big plastic bag that captures the potent vapors of heated marijuana. Glass jars hold donations of dried, milky-green weed, and the cafe serves up meals and snacks for the hungry.

It's all perfectly legal and, for cancer patient Albert Santistevan, it's about time. "It's a very positive atmosphere. We could use more places like that," the 56-year-old former jewelry shop owner said.

And from Washington Post writer Karl Vick, we learn: “The same day they rejected a gay marriage ballot measure, residents of Maine voted overwhelmingly to allow the sale of medical marijuana over the counter at state-licensed dispensaries. Later in the month, the American Medical Association reversed a longtime position and urged the federal government to remove marijuana from Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act, which equates it with heroin.

"This issue is breaking out in a remarkably rapid way now," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Public opinion is changing very, very rapidly." The shift is widely described as generational. A Gallup poll in October found 44 percent of Americans favor full legalization of marijuana -- a rise of 13 points since 2000. Gallup said that if public support continues growing at a rate of 1 to 2 percent per year, "the majority of Americans could favor legalization of the drug in as little as four years."

And virtually anyone who has used pot would agree, making it a schedule one controlled substance which equates it with heroin, is absurd. It’s about damn time. Full stories here! and here

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Dipping into More Children’s Camp Memories

Lately I’ve been dipping into my memories of working in New England children’s camp. It was certainly one of the most positive activities I’ve been associated with, and I feel there’s a lot to be learned from counseling children, about children, and about yourself.

As I’ve said many times, trips were my favorite part of working at camps. I loved the mini adventures which these two and three day excursions with small groups of campers gave me. I learned to really enjoy climbing the mountains we climbed, Ragged Mountain, Tumbledown, and finally Mt. Katahdin, all in Maine. I loved cooking out in the open on campfires, and washing up my cooking gear afterwards. And I even learned to love sleeping out in the outdoors, although that took some time.

That took some time because for one thing, for most of my life I have been skinny. I went into the Army Air Force at age 18 weighing 118 pounds, and left the USAAF one year, ten months and 21 days later weighing 128 lbs. And standing 5’10.5” in stockinged feet, skin and bones would be an appropriate description of me. And sleeping on terra firma with only a sleeping bag between you and an unfeeling earth, shows very little mercy to those of us who have not been endowed by a proper amount of fat. Plus, I seem to only be able to sleep on my side, which is far bonier than sleeping on one’s stomach or back.

And so my early experiences in outdoor sleeping consisted of a lot of mostly awake nights, dreading the whine of the occasional roving mosquito. After a time however I discovered the wonders of an air mattress, which made up for that natural layer of fat that I was missing, and suddenly I was sleeping with much the same degree of comfort as that more normally fleshed counselor.

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Adventures with Animals

I was always a bit naive when it came to the animals you meet in the Maine woods. One day while I was camping by myself in the field near Tumbledown I returned to my backpack which I had left under my tarp, only to find a black bear bent over it busily trying to open it. When the bear saw me he/she left my pack and began moving away. Stupidly I followed the bear for a hundred or so yards, until the bear stopped, and turned to look at me, as if to say, “what the hell do you think you’re doing? stupid!” I stopped in my tracks, and asked myself what in hell I thought I was doing, following that bear? Like what was I going to do when the bear got to his/her destination? What if she had two or three cubs that would certainly need protecting. I shrugged and turned and left. I couldn’t resist peeking over my shoulder to see if the bear had turned and was following me. Luckily it hadn’t, and when it saw I was actually leaving it went on its way back to where we presume from whence it had come.

Returning briskly to my pack I found that the backpack was still intact, fortunately the bear had not had time to rip it open, though it probably had been minutes away from its doing so, after which my stuff would have been scattered far and wide. And so, except for several minutes of aimless pursuit of the beast, I finally came to my senses and left well enough alone. And so that’s how my one close encounter with a bear turned out.

Occasionally we would see a wild animal while hiking. Bears were rare, there’s nothing like the sound of a group of kids moving through the woods to remind them they have business elsewhere. A doe, perhaps with fawn, was a more common sight. In the Maine woods they seem smart enough to know there is only a short hunting season in the fall during which they are fair game, and the rest of the time they are home free. And whereas they are shy, they don’t seem particularly frightened. The most impressive animal we came across one day on a trip whose trail ran parallel with a brook, was a male moose. He was knee deep in a pond, drinking water and munching on some leaves which were growing alongside the water.

On seeing the moose our group grew instantly quiet and stopped to study the creature. He looked us over, but with curiosity, not in fear or anger. Fortunately the rutting season during which moose can be irritable and aggressive, comes in late autumn, well after our camp season. Otherwise I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have been so curious and so brave. A moose is a very impressive sight, particularly a male which sports those huge, top heavy antlers. We stood quietly and watched for probably ten minutes before the moose looked up at us, seemed to bob his head, then lumbered off into the woods, disappearing away from us.

Trips Taught Responsibility

From my point of view one of the best thing about trips is that it taught the camper to take care of him or herself. For instance, we used to let the campers choose the menu on a trip, and usually they chose typical outdoor fare. Hamburgers and frankfurters were popular, of course, being easy to cook on an open fire. As were ears of corn, baked potatoes and the like. More involved dishes like stews were also popular, as the preparation is relatively simple, and cooking time is not too long. And as we have mentioned before, food tastes unbelievably good in the outdoors, well worth waiting for.

On one of our canoe trips to the Moose River in Maine, one of the campers selecting the menu chose crêpes for a breakfast. It seemed that we had a proper crêpe pan we had bought for pennies at a local garage sale. It also turned out that she was a specialist with this dish back home, and so the rest of the kids on the trip approved only if she would be the cook on that meal. She agreed and assembled the necessary ingredients for one of the breakfasts.

Imagine for a moment the problem of making authentic tasting crêpes in a proper crêpe pan deep in the woods on an open campfire. Crêpes demand an even heat, which is the devil to maintain on any kind of open campfire. I for one was anxious to see how she was going to solve this problem. Well, damned if she didn’t use a frying pan under the crepe pan, which successfully evened the heat situation.

The campers who weren’t cooking were picking blueberries which were growing wild around our campsite, and we had the crêpes smothered in blueberries with a little powdered sugar sprinkled on top. It took half the morning, the pan made four crêpes at one time, we were each served two, and since these were hungry teenagers on the third morning of a trip deep in the woods and crêpes are light and fluffy, well you can imagine there was a gnawing hunger lingering after the meal. But out there in that woods those crêpes tasted simply superb. They were a real culinary masterpiece served out in the open air on the third morning of a canoe trip. And not surprisingly, it turned out to be the most memorable trip breakfast I can ever remember.§

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With the thought of those drool worthy crêpes smothered in fresh blueberries being served deep in the woods on the third day of a canoe trip, we wind down this Thanksgiving edition of the Little Eddy Blog still salivating at the memory. If you’re still with us at this point in our dissertation, we thank you very much for coming and invite you back for more next week. We fuss and polish our Blog during the week, and upload a new edition each Saturday morning between 7 and 8 a.m. CST.

Meantime, hang in there, have a good week, and thanks again for stopping by. See ya.

The Real Little Eddy §

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blog # 115: Republican's: ACORN Done It!

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Latest Republican Fantasy

According to Talking Points there was a new poll which asked the question, did President Obama win the 2008 election or did ACORN steal it for him? The overall top-line is legitimately won 62%, ACORN stole it 26%. Among Republicans, however, only 27% say Obama actually won the race, with 52% – an outright majority – saying that ACORN stole it, and 21% are undecided. Public Policy Polling communications director Tom Jensen says: "Belief in the ACORN conspiracy theory is even higher among GOP partisans than the birther one, which only 42% of Republicans expressed agreement with on our national survey in September."

So that’s the kind of tea they were smoking at those Tea Party demonstrations. Isn’t it wonderful how much fecal matter the right wing is willing to throw into the fan these days, to see what, if anything, will stick to the walls.

For the entire bizarre story point your cursor and click here

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Ask a Republican politician the $64 Question

Which is: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be the President of the U.S. in 2012? Then watch them dance and dodge.§

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God-Awful Dancing in a Microsoft Store

Bet You Can’t Watch This Video All the Way Through

Observation One: Time in milliseconds that Steve Jobs would have allowed this video to stay up if it had been filmed in an Apple Store?

Observation Two: Video leaves no doubt that Dance Monkey Boy is an extremely contagious affliction, catchable from the top down.§

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The Late Molly Ivins: A Blessing Deeply Missed by Texas Liberals

One of the few blessings in the realm of Texas liberals was the writings of the late Molly Ivins. A recent book on her, the cover of which can be seen below, records the fact that she was a Houstonian, a product of River Oaks who went to the St. Johns school next to Lamar. A fascinating article about the book which includes an interview with one of the writers, may be found here

And here are a few Molly Ivins moments courtesy Wikipedia:

• In 2003, she coined the term "Great Liberal Backlash of 2003," and was a passionate critic of the 2003 Iraq War. She is also credited with applying the nickname "Shrub" to George W. Bush.

• On the subject of Pat Buchanan's famously combative "culture war speech" at the 1992 Republican Convention, which attracted controversy over Buchanan's aggressive rhetoric against Bill Clinton, liberals, supporters of reproductive and gay rights, and for his comparison of American politics to religious warfare, Ivins famously quipped that the speech had "probably sounded better in the original German," implicitly comparing Buchanan to Adolf Hitler.

• On Bill Clinton: "If left to my own devices, I'd spend all my time pointing out that he's weaker than bus-station chili. But the man is so constantly subjected to such hideous and unfair abuse that I wind up standing up for him on the general principle that some fairness should be applied. Besides, no one but a fool or a Republican ever took him for a liberal." (Introduction to You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You)

• "Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that."

• "So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was." — quoted by John Nichols for The Nation. Original source: "The Fun's in the Fight" column for Mother Jones, 1993.

After her death, President George W. Bush, a frequent target of her barbs, said in a statement, "I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words. She fought her illness with that same passion. Her quick wit and commitment will be missed."

As indeed it is. R.I.P. Molly Ivins, and thanks for cruising our way.§

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My True Feelings Regarding Republicans

I’ll be frank. Regular readers of this blog may have noticed, I don’t have much use for Republicans. They are country club types, and the type to join the local church with the most business influence. And they are most likely to urge you to do the same.

They think of money, and only money. I probably should think more about money, but I don’t. Republicans seem to be a well disciplined bunch, and are presently sticking together like no other party in history has before them.

They seem to have evidently decided on their course of action during the Obama administration. And it is to oppose anything the Obama administration offers. They seem to be dedicated to the proposition of fighting each Obama proposal tooth and nail at every step of the way, regardless of its possible usefulness to the country and the needs of our economy. This, they have evidently decided, is their surest way back to power. Which is of course all they really care about, they care not a whit about you nor me, or the rest of the country’s inhabitants.

And so, whatever President Obama attempts to bring to the country as a way of returning the people’s tax dollars to them rather than delivering them to the terminally wealthy, the Republicans will fight him every step of the way. Why would they do that, you might ask? Because Republicans don’t feel that government should be run for the benefit of its taxpayers. They believe that government should devote it’s time to cutting taxes, curbing government services, and after severe cuts funneling what resources it has left over to the wealthy, to assist them in their eternal quest to get wealthier.

Is this going to work to re-bloom the Republican Party in 2010, much less 2012? Who knows? It has gained Republicans two recent victories in governors races in New Jersey and Virginia. But it caused them to lose a congressman in New York State when an ideologically pure conservative forced a Republican moderate to quit the race, and thus allowed a Democrat to win the seat.

Whether or not this GOP strategy is going to be a winning one in 2010 and 2012 depends very much on us, the voters. If the Democrats continue to prove that they can’t govern, as they are seeming to be hell bent in doing at the present time, then the chances are that change will be born out with Republicans winning back some of the seats they lost in 2006 and 2008.

However, if voters analyze what the Republicans are really standing for, and what changes they will enact if and when they do get back into power, then chances are it will be a freezing day in Hell before knowing voters put Republicans back into power. Just think back on eight years of Bush/Cheney running up the national debt to heights of spending that eclipsed the spending of all previous Presidents put together. Of course, as Liz Cheney unblushingly points out, we could always replace President Obama in 2012 with her father, Dick Cheney. Line forms to the right.§

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A Note About my Picture

A note about little Eddy’s picture which may be found page right, second from top as well as above. This picture was taken with the iMac’s on-board eye sight camera, using a distortion effect called Light Tunnel in a program called Photo Booth, a program which comes free with any Apple Mac computer these days.

Light Tunnel is one of nine optical effects you can get on page 2 of your options. Other page 2 distortion effects include, bulge, dent, twirl, squeeze, mirror, fisheye, stretch, and of all things, normal. The page shows you a small version of each effect, and clicking on any one of them brings that one to the fore. And clicking on the camera icon at bottom center brings on a three second countdown and SNAP – your picture is captured for posterity.

There is also an Effects Page 1 which gives you a more organic level of effects, sepia, black and white, glow, comic book, colored pencil, thermal camera, x-ray camera, pop art, and again, normal. Once again each effect is seen in small view until you click on one to bring it to full screen.

I couldn’t resist the temptation of captioning my picture recalling L.B.J.’s famous light at the end of the tunnel remark, although just how much light can actually be found at the end of my tunnel is perhaps open for debate.

Programs like Photo Booth horrify staid business types who only think in terms of bottom lines (the money making kind, not the fun kind) where anything unrelated to business is frivolous and somehow sinful, but built in extras like these help make owning a Mac a fun and creative experience. In addition to Photo Booth, you get 5 iLife programs free with every Mac, iTunes, iPhoto, iDVD, iMovie, and a music program called Garage Band. In addition you get three business programs, a word processing program called Pages, a presentation program called Keynote, and a spreadsheet program for business users called Numbers.§

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What Happens When the Woods is On Fire?

In New York State You Can Get Drafted as a Firefighter

As I deftly cruise into this week’s children’s camp memories, I am first off going to deal with an ingredient which must be handled with a great deal of care. Fire is a useful tool for cooking your meals, and for sitting around afterwards singing and telling stories. But it can be a dreaded side effect of a careless camping trip.

I remember one night I returned with several Settlement Camp counselors from a trip to a tavern down the road in Beacon, N.Y., only to find out that some group of our campers had left the mountain on fire where their cookout had been, and we subsequently found ourself greeted by a representative of the New York State Fire Commissioner, who duly conscripted us as firefighters for the night. We were issued large water tanks which were strapped to our backs, and hurriedly directed up the mountain to fight the fire. It took us three hours, and was coming up on three a.m. before it seemed to us that our night’s endeavor had finally come to an end.

There were no more glowing embers that we could see. However, it seemed that now we were in the service of the State of New York’s Fire Service, and we would damn well man our backpacking water tanks until our commanding officer had determined that the fire really was completely out, thank you very much, after which then and only then we would be duly dismissed. It was another hour before that happened, the blaze was decreed over, and we were dismissed for the night.

The Settlement Camp had several completely beat counselors the next day. And because we felt guilty that the fire had been caused by one of our own camping groups, none of us ever tried to bill N.Y. State for our services, even though the law would have allowed us to do just that. In fact, in retrospect we were damned glad that the N.Y. State Fire Service was there for us when we needed it. I never found out which trip had left the fire we were drafted into putting out. Myself, I didn’t want to know.§

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A Lake with Woods

A Rude Awakening on a Trip by a Lake

Fire played a part in one of our more beautiful lake trips from Camp Killooleet in Hancock, Vt.. It was a two nighter to a beautiful pristine lake somewhere in the wilds of Vermont. It was almost completely private, although there was one fisherman with a particularly noisy outboard motor who broke our morning peace with the put-puts of his engine. However once he got to his location of choice, he was quiet. He was moored completely on the other side of the lake from us, and was well out of our sight, and so we were free to go about our skinny business as usual.

Everything went well, we had an impeccable day, we had a nice cookout late in the evening, and had a short round of singing around the campfire after dinner. We put out the remains of our campfire the old fashioned boy scout way, with all of the boys lining up around the fire to douse the remains with their urine, sending up rancid odors but thereby killing two birds with a single stone, as it were. I felt really good about every aspect of our trip, and I was soon sound asleep without a care in the world.

It was about two hours later that I was awakened by a camper named John who was shaking me violently, saying, “Wake Up! Ed! Wake Up! The woods is on fire! ”

My eyes flew open, and sure enough, a small tree near where the campfire had been, was wildly burning. I was out of my sleeping bag in an instant, and had the good sense to grab my canteen, which I had filled after dinner, preparatory to confronting the flames. “Get the big pot from dinner and fill it at the lake,” I suggested as I rushed to the flaming tree. I emptied my canteen on it, to little effect, but a minute later John was there with the filled pot, and that did have somewhat more of an effect. Upon emptying it, he was back down at the lake refilling it. It took about four pot fulls of water to douse the flaming little tree completely.

Then I started trying to figure out how the fire had started.Turning the flashlight off, I could clearly see strings of glowing embers that went out from the campire in several directions, as if anxious to see what each could inflame. You could actually trace the progress of the fire from the site of our campfire to where it had inflamed the tree, and had we not discovered and doused it, before long it would have caused several other blazes to go along with the small tree.

What I discovered after closer examination was that much of the soil around our camping area was not soil at all, meaning not ordinary dirt, but instead was a flammable organic material that resembled soil. It was made up of a combination of decayed leaf and bark material. And so our campfire was never really extinguished, but instead had bided its time before it could escape the campfire area and travel several directions seeking mischief.

It took five or six more loads of water carried in the big pot before all of the glowing ember trails were extinguished. I shut off the flashlight, and both of us carefully studied all of the ground around the campfire, to finally determine that the glowing embers were indeed all extinguished, and that it was safe to go back to bed. I told John, “good job,” and he acknowledged my praise with a grin, proud that we had been able to put out the fire all by ourselves, without waking up the others. It was awhile before I found my way back into sleep, my mind kept going over what might have happened had John not waked up and discovered the fire and awakened me. But finally once again sleep overtook me.

It was with a great deal of pleasure that our group hiked out of there late the next morning leaving our campsite just as pristine as we had found it, with only a single blackened tree to give a hint as to what might have been. With a great deal of effort I manage to purge thoughts of what might have been from my thinking. However, after that trip I got a healthy appreciation for more thoroughly testing out the soil around future campfires. It was the camping equivalent of a grade A insurance policy.§

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When Technology Met the Outdoors

Technology is usually not thought of in combination with a camping trip. And for good reason, as a camping trip is a basic fundamental experience, which we can date as far back as humanity goes. And technology is on the cutting edge of what is new, and where tech is going. But on at least one particular trip a quite unique piece of technology played a somewhat bizarre role in my experience of the trip. The piece of technology I’m talking about was a tiny battery powered Sony short wave radio, no bigger than a deck of playing cards.

Like many Sony products of the time, the product was elegant looking, coming completely in white. And it could do amazing things, this tiny piece of technology which could fit comfortably in my jeans pocket. It could draw in short wave signals from the other side of the planet, an intriguing thought indeed as I lay in my sleeping bag on that night, contemplating this remarkable piece of machinery.

However, it was a grown-up’s toy which had no place in the day’s camping experience, it was a toy meant for use only after the campers were asleep. I’m not exactly sure just what trip the incidents I am about to describe happened on. It could well have been on a Tumbledown trip, like the one l described last week where two of my almost teen campers, Kirsten and Gretchen, had their little bathing suit off interplay. Anyway, it could have very easily been the same night, taking place only after all the campers were asleep under their tarp.

Event number one that was happening that night was certainly a major event in itself, as it was a spectacular display of the Northern Lights. There are two phenomenon that happen when the earth’s northern or southern magnetic fields act up. The Aurora Borealis, which I have never seen in Maine, only in Beacon, N.Y., throws colored lights, red and green every time I’ve seen it, throughout the sky. The skies seems to crackle with near soundless sounds that seem to crackle along with a vibrant, ever changing visual display.

The Northern Lights in Maine

But in Maine, on this given night, there was a display of primarily white Northern Lights. Had I been on a Lake, the scene might have resembled the photo on display above. But there were no reflections off the water, and no color tint. The display lighting up the night, consisted of all of the colors in the spectrum, and the resulting light came out as the purest of whites.

It was after all of my campers were soundly sleeping, that I dug out my Sony short wave radio from my jeans pocket, inserted the ear piece, and turned it on. As the Northern Lights display lit up the night sky I tuned the radio. I got stations broadcasting in French, and I suspect stations broadcasting in Russian, but not understanding a word I quickly moved on. I finally settled in on a short wave station which was in Canada, and which was broadcasting a newscast in English. The newscast was one I found of intense interest as I followed the story. The story being featured was an A.P. story from the western part of the United States.

It seemed that there was this traveling group of teen agers touring the west, who were camped out on this night in their tents. Montana could be the state, my memory is foggy there. At any rate, two teen agers of opposite genders were sharing a tent, according to the story, and were evidently indulging in an activity which not only bared the male’s buttocks and which was pretty sure to have invoked some pretty elemental odors on both their parts, when suddenly a bear burst through the top of the tent and took a bite out of the young man’s hindquarters. Fortunately, his and her screams seemed to have frightened off the animal after his initial bite (perhaps he did not care for the taste of an American teen boy’s buttocks) but at any rate help also quickly flocked from nearby tents, and the animal was run off, after which the boy was carted off to the nearest hospital to be treated for his wound.

Imagine if you will, listening to this story as it accurately described the unfortunate young man’s experience via short wave radio while camping out oneself in an open field in Maine. All the while viewing an incredible display of Northern Lights. It was indeed a heavy situation, which found me continually checking on the campers’ tarp for any sign of bears, although Maine’s black bears are nowhere near the menace that western grizzlies are. It was an incredibly creepy story all the same, and given the circumstances one I will likely not forget any time soon.

However, to tie the description “small world” onto the story, a couple of weeks later as our camp was closing down for the summer, I was telling the story of my camping trip to two of our parents, complete with Northern Lights and the Sony shortwave radio carrying the news story from Canada, and suddenly they started in some heavy blushing, coughing, and throat clearing.

And low and behold, it turned out that the boy in the news story had been their nephew Hugh W. They both blushingly told me that of course they and the boy’s parents had no idea that the campers were sleeping coed in their tent. They blushingly admitted that Hugh and his paramour were indulging in some lively, odor causing physical activity when the bear burst through the tent and took a bite out of the poor boy’s gluteus maximus. Both parents had seemed a wee bit embarrassed when the incident first came up, but later looked back upon it with the humor it deserved, as it could have certainly turned out far worse. The parents assured me that the boy was doing well, and would probably eventually forget all about the incident. Twas a small world indeed, to hear another version of this bizarre story, coming from relatives of the boy in question to boot.

I had no further adventures with that remarkable piece of technology as I was relieved of it a couple of weeks later when I made the dreadful mistake of leaving it unattended in my VW bus as I parked it in a N.Y. City garage. I had yet to learn of Rule One of New York City’s Basic Rule for Survival, which is if you want something do not leave it unattended in your car or anywhere else for that matter. Or as Lilly Tomlin once explained, “New York is always knowing where your purse is.”§

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And so as we leave Little Eddy learning the basic rule for retaining one’s possessions in the City of New York, so we also have to take leave of Blog #115. We promise to never let the images of Microsoft’s Genius bar workers livening up an afternoon at a Microsoft store with their unforgettable dancing, leave our memory banks.

Next week will roll around all too soon, and if next week goes anything like this week has, the first thing Saturday morning we will upload next week’s edition of L. E.’s Blog, after which we will finish our breakfast of Irish Oatmeal well covered with Saigon Cinnamon, and eaten with a banana and four strawberries, after which I get to spend my post breakfast cycle proofreading it. Join us Saturday, or anytime there after to witness the results of whatever our week produced. Bye now!§

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blog #114: Of Work Done, and Sky Hooks

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Lou Dobbs Returns to His Planet
‘My Work Here is Done’

Bids Earth Farewell, Boards Rocket

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NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - Controversial CNN host Lou Dobbs bade the people of Earth farewell today as he embarked on a long voyage back to his planet of origin.

Standing on a launching pad with his rocket ship at the ready, Mr. Dobbs addressed a crowd of dozens who came to wish him a safe trip and godspeed.

"People of Earth, farewell," he said. "My work here is done."

In his farewell speech, Mr. Dobbs acknowledged the irony of his being an alien but insisted that he had been on Earth legally.

To sign up to have the Borowitz Report delivered to your very own email box, go here

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Lou Dobbs: Bye Bye, CNN

Lou Dobbs, in announcing that he is quitting CNN, refused to speculate where he might end up, but Fox News must definitely be in the running, as their tolerance for fantasy journalism and the slanted and fabricated news story is notorious. His split with CNN undoubtedly came when he continued espousing the “birther” cause after CNN’s news director Jonathan Klein emailed his staff to “cease and desist.”

Little Eddy dates the deterioration of the Dobbs Show with his penchant for presenting Radio Talk Show hosts as if they were experts in some field or other, and he fatefully traveled down the road himself when he began a radio talk show of his own. Whether we will flee CNN after Wolf’s Situation Room will depend upon what replaces Lou Dobbs. At least we won’t feel the pressure we have recently felt to leave at all costs, although we must admit we have gotten very fond of msnbc’s evening lineup. And particularly Countdown with Keith Olbermann and the Rachel Maddow Show.

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Sky Hook Creator

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The Associated Press reports that all time Laker and NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is being treated for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Jabbar reports that his doctor has told him his prognosis is good. Gleevec is the drug of choice for treating CML, however its unbelievably high price should most certainly be an inhibiting factor in its wide spread use. In Abdul-Jabbar’s case he is acting as a paid spokesperson for the drug company which manufacturers Gleevec, the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, and it is presumed that his salary as spokesperson will be paid in pills.

Meet Gleevec, the only known drug which successfully treats Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Gleevec costs $100 a pill, which brings the costs of its monthly dose to $3,000. I happen to know this because CML was the cancer that I was misdiagnosed as having several years back. As there would have been no interest on Novartis’ part to employ me as a paid spokesperson, and a $3,000 monthly cost was far beyond my means, I would have to have gone untreated. At my son Joel’s urging, I registered with Houston’s V. A. Hospital, and fortunately for me they did a second bone marrow scan and found that I did not have CML after all.

Mr. Abdul-Jabbar had a career in basketball that was without peer, and we feel he has certainly earned his position as spokesman for Novartis. We congratulate Mr, Abdul-Jabbar on his good fortune in having the company’s assistance in his care, and we wish the ex-Laker and present Laker assistant coach a most successful treatment.

Mr. Abdul-Jabbar wishes to inform the world of his treatment so that others can benefit from his experience, and we all wish him the best in that endeavor, but it does seem to us that at its price per pill, with its $3,000 tab for each months dosage, most CML patients, like patients in the Republican health care reform, will be left out in the cold to die on their own.

Perhaps Novartis could develop a program whereby all sufferers of CML except the very rich, could become spokespersons for the company, and receive the pills at a substantial discount. It would take much longer for the pill to pay back its R&D, but the company would be making a real contribution toward curing a major killer, and it would bring the hope for a cure to others besides the extremely wealthy. After all, isn’t the endeavor of our pharmaceuticals to serve humanity by curing disease and extending life, rather than rewarding itself and its employees and stockholders for its discovery.

It certainly tells us something when someone of Mr. Abdul-Jabbar’s status can only afford a drug as a spokesperson for the drug’s manufacturer. What good is a drug which so few can afford? What good is a health care system which only the wealthy can afford? Those are question we citizens need to ask ourselves as the Senate debates its version of health care reform and eventually the two versions are pared down into one.§

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The War Between Paid and Free

There is a quiet, behind the scenes war going on in this labyrinth we call the internet. It is a tug of war between the forces of content providers, film studios, record companies, etc., seeking to be paid for their content, and those internet forces that would offer all such content for free. It is somewhat amazing, but these days in certain cases you can download a hot new film over bit torrent before it’s actual scheduled release date in theaters and over DVD. And there is a large segment of the internet population that’s fine with that, as all the while content owners fight tooth and nail against the forces that offer the free content.

The record companies cry over every illegal download as if it was money lost from their children’s piggy banks. But the facts are quite different. Surveys show that file-sharing types do buy cd’s for their higher quality and their physical presence. The RIAA’s attempt to sue file-sharing college students has gone about as far as you could go in the process of alienating your fan base. The RIAA’s legal program, which it has since given up on, was simply a convenient, quasi legal way to extort a small percentage of the file sharing public to pay for the sins of the many.

The CBS program 60 Minutes recently ran a piece during which each of the Film Industry’s Talking Points were presented as scientific truth, something Don Hewlett’s 60 Minutes would never have been accused of doing. Not that there is likely to be any solution to the problem which pleases all sides any time soon. But any resolution which leaves a good section of the downloading community as criminals is no solution at all. And actually, in today’s climate the problem is probably unsolvable.§

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Nap Time U.S.A.

Sounds like it could be a Beach Boys song, doesn’t it? Nap Time U.S.A. A brief personal report: I have been taking naps after meals lately as if it was going out of style. The other day I sat in my comfy chair at around 5 pm wishing to close my eyes just for a minute before dinner, only to wake up two and a half hours later, throwing my tight eating schedule to the birds. What is bringing this on, I keep asking myself? Have I somehow captured an intense case of spring fever as the rest of the world plows deep into autumn? Or is my system practicing up for the Big One, for that Nap to End All Naps, the one that leaves me sound asleep in the Jaws of Eternity? Stay tuned. That is if you can stay awake long enough.§

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One More Thing: Bill Gates on Steve Jobs of Apple

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Camp Memories Take a Tall Drink of Water

In this week’s camp reminiscences I would like to talk about water. In addition to water being our most needed nutrient for life, it is also that magic ingredient which makes camp living work. The water, for swimming and recreation, as well as drinking, is camp’s most essential ingredient. Every camp has it’s on site water source, either a pool, a pond, a lake, or in the case of Blueberry Cove, the Atlantic ocean.

A Camp Pool

At the University Settlement Camp life revolved around its pool. Back when I was working there the Camp had a very experienced and skilled swimming instructor, who we will call Sonny G., who managed to give a swimming period to each camper at the very least every other day. This meant combining groups, which gave Sonny a great responsibility for the campers’ safety. Of course each group’s counselors helped keep track of their campers, paying particular attention to those of questionable aquatic abilities.

Nights after dark Sonny supervised same sex “B.A.” (bare ass) Swims, also with combined groups. On girls’ nights Sonny was a bathing-suited eagle eyed observer from the sidelines, as both camper and counselors frolicked around in the altogether. Sonny would never admit glancing at fully stacked female counselors, claiming his attention was always on the campers, and of course it would have been next to impossible to contradict him on this point. Even if one had reason to.

Fun in the Evening

On boy swim nights Sonny stripped and participated more directly, even teaching novice swimmers during nighttime “B.A.’s”. It was an interesting cause and effect that a “B.A.” swim of either sex had a volume level at least 25% higher pitched that of a normal, daytime swimming session. It was also relevant that no children ever refused to participate in a “B.A.” swim. And lots of campers ranked them very high on a scale of camp’s most memorable moments.

A Camp with a Lake

Killooleet in Hancock, Vermont, had its own private fresh water lake, or what would probably be more accurately described as a large pond. In addition to swimming, this allowed for in-camp canoeing and boating. Swimming was conducted from a land-based dock, and from a raft anchored a ways out. The water was spring fed, but because the lake’s water didn’t flow anywhere, the water had a chance to warm somewhat, especially on sunny days.

In short, the water was a refreshing antidote for a cool, cloudy day as well as a hot sunny day. In camp nude swimming, was referred to by the somewhat campier term “skinny dipping,” and was done by cabin, meaning same sex, and it too happened after dark. I used to enjoy making my trek to the lake barefoot and sans flashlight, feeling my way along the dark path by my feet and with great care. To me this was a fun challenge, which taught me to think with my feet, as it were, though as I remember camp director John Seeger frowned when I told him of the practice, afraid that I would step on something or stub a toe. But John neglected to forbid it, and so I kept right on doing it. Again I looked forward to my group’s nighttime skinny dips, as I really preferred the feeling of the water on my body’s entire circumference.

A good swimmer I was not. I was too skinny to naturally be able to float, and I was a nervous swimmer who knew I was due to give out after 12 to 15 strokes. And so I always made damned sure I had terra firma underfoot after the required 12 to 15. Also I damn near drowned one day at Killooleet when Mike Sherker and I participated in some kind of skit which had us both fall off the dock at it’s end. As I hit the water I took in a panic breath. The flame-out of nostrils and lungs was indeed an eye-opener as I cursed my stupidity and fought for the surface. No more water skits for the likes of stupid me.

Swimming was indeed a part of many of the overnight trips from Killooleet. Many of them were on or near water, and if they were in isolated enough locations campers frequently went skinny dipping on trips. Of course trips were usually of a cabin, and thereby were same sex. However, on certain all girl trips a male counselor might be asked to accompany the girls for bear protection, etc. On one such trip I accompanied my sister Mary’s group of girls on a trip, however it was pretty dull couple of days, for the girls decided that they wanted to keep the quality of their trip all girl, and so I didn’t participate in any of their activities. I read a book instead, which was no way to enjoy a trip. This male protectionist thing is a fraud, at least it was in my case. Fortunately no bear or other wild beast challenged the group, as I can tell you frankly I don’t know what I would have done if one had attacked. Probably outrun the girls.

It was at Blueberry Cove, Tenants Harbor, Maine, where I found the greatest challenge facing me by way of the water. I grew up in Houston, Texas, and our salt water swimming was in the Gulf of Mexico, either off beaches on Galveston Island, or at Freeport, Texas. And water temperature was probably in the low 60’s. Even our tap water comes out of the faucet at temperatures in the 60’s, which is why people in Texas and the south are addicted to ice cubes in our ice tea and our glasses of water.

And so it became a major system shock when coming to Blueberry Cove to find I had to swim in the Atlantic Ocean. The relatively warmer gulf stream goes as far north as Maine, but unfortunately it runs a hundred miles out to sea. The inshore water, coming directly from the Arctic, is cold. I used to joke that even in summer it was only the ocean’s high salt content that kept Tenants Harbor from having ice cubes floating around.

Henry Haskell, the director of B.B.C., was one of the most empathic people I have ever known. On the one hand, he knew that the only way that you can run a camp which swims in the ocean is to have a swim program which poo-poohs the chill factor of the water, and this works for all of the children and most of the counselors who were born and raised in N.Y. and New England. But he could literally feel my pain as it would take me the entire swim period to work my way neck deep in those frigid waters. Not much help with campers needing swimming instruction. Not to mention the fact that children would pick up my pain and it would increase their own reluctance.

Yes indeed, as much as Henry liked my banjo and guitar song leading, and appreciated my developing that exposed film so BBC children could view the eclipse of the sun that summer, he was between a rock and and a hard place in regards to my contribution to the swimming program. Not that I didn’t try, I certainly did, and he knew that I did, which only made the situation that much worse.

There was one condition which would get me in the water fairly quickly, however. In the evenings occasionally I would take my group on a one night sleep out down near the shore, and we would almost always build a fire down below the tide line and after a hot dog cookout we would take a quick skinny dip for dessert.

With the relatively cooler air of the night, plus the lure of being able to dry off in the warmth of the campfire at the end of the dip, I was always more motivated for these night dips. Plus I was conscious of my extended responsibilities for the safety of these campers and so I was able to drag myself into the water at a faster rate. Not that I would have been much help if a camper had a problem, but I needed to be out there, and I was.

Of course, no one was up to a really extended ocean swim after sundown, and so the dips were always short and sweet, and were followed by gloriously warm huddles as we all dried off around the campfire, sometimes with a story, or sometimes with a cappella singing. Or sometimes with both.

However, it wasn’t only the cold, but also the salt which made ocean swimming less than ideal for me. I much preferred the fresh water streams which flowed down mountains like Tumbledown. Tumbledown actually had two mountain streams with pools deep enough for a few strokes of swimming. One of them was a stream which ran alongside the field in which we camped. I found out that by adding a few stones at strategic places I could make a pool deep enough for the water to reach my waist.

And so every time we came to Tumbledown after setting up my tarp and seeing to the supplies, I would take myself down to our pool and add rocks to raise the water level. Then after a hard days hiking and climbing, when dark came we would take a bar of ivory soap down to the stream and have a group soap off. The stream was so fast moving that the soapy residue was soon dissipated. And although the water was both chilly and brisk, those soap-offs after a hard, sweaty day’s hiking and mountain climbing were indeed memorable.§

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A typical mountain stream

There was yet another mountain brook with a swimmable pool if you took the easy way down after your Tumbledown Climb itself. This one was waist deep for me without doing any rock adjustments, and you could take maybe 9 strokes before you found yourself grounded. I was particularly fond of this spot, and made note of the tree configuration which marked the spot, so I could spot it each time I came down the mountain using this route. However, the kids who would take the easy way down the mountain after the climb were usually the less adventurous ones, most of whom would probably prefer to watch others swim, rather than swim themselves.

On this one trip to Tumbledown with my Teen Campers, there were two 11 year old girls who were bunkmates and who were very competitive with one another. When we reached the spot we left the trail for the stream, I was the first one in. And it began to look like I was going to be the only one going in. However it turned out that one of the two 11 year olds, Kirsten, had a bathing suit hidden in a waist belt, the kind of waist belt you usually carry money in. Smugly she went behind some trees to change into it, and was back in no time and swimming freely.

Her bunkmate Gretchen, the more rounded of the two, had nothing to swim in other than her panties and her tee-shirt. And no matter how hard she tried swimming in them the two garments just would not let her. They caught water and ballooned out, slowing her pace to a standstill. Three other kids, two boys and a girl, were sitting on rocks fully dressed, watching the show that the three of us were putting on.

Gretchen was determined to get a chance to swim, but she was equally determined to not to be the only girl to swim naked. And so she began her campaign by first trying to talk Kirsten out of her top. This wouldn’t seem on the surface to be that much of a deal, for Kirsten had not yet begun to develop, and her nipples were indistinguishable from those of a boy. Gretchen herself was much further along, sporting ripening nipples sitting on noticeable mounds of flesh.

Even so Kirsten did not give in easily, but made Gretchen go on for close to ten minutes about why she should take her top off so they both could swim freely. It was a fascinating conversation, with Gretchen answering every Kirsten objection until finally Kirsten gave in, and turning her back, removed her top, throwing it up on the shore. Of course when she turned back around she could have been a boy for all the development her chest showed.

Gretchen then removed her own baggy tee-shirt, and she tried a few strokes but her swimming was still frustrated because the water got into her panties and they ballooned, attempting to pull themselves off with each stroke, which made progress very near impossible. By this time all of us not involved were thoroughly into the game. Would Gretchen be able to talk Kirsten out of her bottoms? Inquiring minds wanted to know!

After one more try, Gretchen gave up swimming and turned to watch Kirsten knife through the water. When she returned from a lazy paddle across the 9 feet Gretchen began again. “I can’t swim worth beans,” she muttered, as if to no one in particular, but we all knew it was directed to Kirsten. Kirsten shrugged, and said she should’ve brought one in a suit-belt like she had. “But I didn’t,” Gretchen whined, “and it’s too late now.” Kirsten nodded as though she was feeling her pain.

“Of course,” Gretchen went on, “there’s one way I could get a good swim out of this.” “Yeah, how?” asked Kirsten, pretending not to have the faintest idea.

“If you would just take your bottoms off, I could take my panties off too, then I wouldn’t be the only one naked.” Kirsten made a gesture towards me, “You wouldn’t be the only one naked anyway. Ed’s naked.” “Ed doesn’t count,” said Gretchen, “he’s a boy.” “He’s a man,” corrected Kirsten. “Whatever?” said Gretchen. “I’d still be the only girl.”

Kirsten looked at Gretchen for a long moment, you could almost hear the wheels turning in her head. All four of us were hanging onto their every word. Not that it really mattered, we each knew how the feminine half was gendered. But there was a real honest-to-god human drama unfolding before our ears and eyes, and every one of us was waiting breathlessly to see what the outcome was going to be. The two continued to eye one another unblinkingly.

Finally, after what must have been at least a three minute wait, Kirsten nodded slightly, smiled, and said, “OKay.” And this time she didn’t bother to turn around, but slid her bottoms down while facing us. Gretchen slipped her baggy panties off right along with her. They both stood for a moment, as if each was studying the other’s feminine attributes.

Then in a bound they were off, swimming the length of that pool and back, again and yet again. They were like two golden seals barreling through that mountain stream, diving over and under the surface as they flashed by, leaving streams of bubbles trailing in their wake.

Earlier in this drama I had climbed a large rock covered with moss down which water was streaming. I had been trying to inspire the others to go in, and I had had a fun slide, but no others had been inspired to follow suit. However, to our eternal surprise, at one point Kirsten abandoned her streaking with Gretchen long enough to climb to the top of that moss-covered rock, and then seating herself she opened her legs and took off, proceeding to slide down the rock into the pool below. Once down she tried to talk Gretchen into doing likewise, but for whatever reason Gretchen wouldn’t give it a try.

A few minutes later the two girls seemed to run out of steam, stopping all forward motion, and a minute later they were seated in the bright sunlight drying off, in full sight and in deep conversation with the three non swimmers, all three of whom seemed to have a continuing interest in the two bare 11 year olds. In fact they had a longer conversation with the non swimmers than they had probably had all summer, and both had been dry for well over 10 minutes when at almost the same moment they seemed to suddenly take note of their lack of dress, shrugged, and got up to find their clothes and once again get themselves dressed. Shortly thereafter we finished our climb down the mountain.§

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A Sliding Rock

At Mt. Katahdin We Make the Water Discovery of the Year

It was when camp added Mt. Katahdin to our trip itinerary that we discovered what to us was the ultimate in a natural water phenomenon. It was maybe 50 or 60 ft. of rock worn smooth from centuries of water washing over it, and it bore down at an angle where we could easily and safely slide down it. We called it the Sliding Rock of Katahdin.

At the time we first discovered it we were driving by on one of Baxter State Park’s many roads, and of course we had to stop and check it out. There was no one around and within minutes the bravest among us had stripped to fresh air, and were lining up at the top to try it out. The more rational among us, me, decided that a counselor should try it first, and that of course would be me.

It was impressive, standing up there at the top, and noting the fresh stream of water bubbling down the slide. Someone pointed out my marked lack of padding back where there should be some to offer protection, and one speculated whether or not a more endowed female counselor should be the first to try it out. But I couldn’t hear of it, could I? After all I was leading this expedition.

I carefully walked out to midstream, seated myself, and away I went. The rock was as smooth as glass. The water was ascending at a fast clip, as did I. I ended up in a waist deep pool of water at bottom which had successfully braked my fall. I stood to give the go ahead, but I needn’t have bothered as two more bodies were already catapulting down the slide with many more in line to follow.

All in all, it was a sensational discovery. I who am usually not thrilled with water or water sports, made several more trips down the slide myself that day, and many of the campers made an uncountable number of slides. In short, before the day had past we were all “slid” out. We had to leave after we finally tore ourselves away from the slide, but a visit to the slide became a highlight of every trip we subsequently sent to Mt. Katahdin.

The Sliding Rock remains one of the remarkable natural phenonemons I have ever come across, and it remained a favorite diversion of Katahdin trips for several years. The slide combined with the remarkable climb of the mountain itself, made the Baxter State Park trip a favorite for years.

Our last trip to the slide was rather sad, however. Evidently the Park had put in a bridge which had given convenient access to the slide by the local population, for the Slide area was crowded with people, many of whom had brought portable grills with them on which they were barbecuing, while sitting around on folding lawn chairs, smoking, drinking beer and listening to boom boxes. And unfortunately the local people seemed reluctant to pick up after themselves and so their leavings had begun to litter the countryside. What a sad sight to see empty cans and other paraphernalia of our modern day civilization littered around what had formerly been a pristine location.

The slide was still fun, although it wasn’t quite as much fun in bathing suits as it had been in the altogether. And who needs and audience of beer drinking, chain smoking, ground littering locals. But what can you do? The slide didn’t belong to us. It was good that the locals were availing themselves of this remarkable and fun place, but it was a damn shame that they had to litter what had been such a pristine natural wonder.§

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And so while we take one more memorable slide down our own personal memory lane, we find ourselves at the end of yet another blog. Come to think of it, #114 was pretty much waterlogged. We hope none of you got wet in the process of reading it.

We spend our week dreaming up, then polishing this blog, and we post it on Saturday mornings between 7 and 8 central standard time. We hope you cruise around anytime next week to see what this week hath wrought. Meantime, bye now. And have the very best kind of a good week.§

The Real Little Eddy §

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Blog # 113: A Few Things Considered

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Stormy Crossing

Three Iraqi Schoolgirls cross a waterlogged street in Bagdad. Note how children can make even a difficult and challenging activity a fun adventure, something we tend to lose as we grow up.


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On top of the Ft. Hood shootings, and the Florida killings, Lee Siegal writes in Saturday’s Daily Beast: “More than health care, the economy, jobs, Afghanistan, Iraq, public malfeasance, private dishonesty, civil rights, disease or tainted food, mass murder is American’s primary problem and most fundamental shame. No prosperous country not riven by civil conflict has anything like our volume of mass killings.

”Nobody does a damn thing to try to stop it. Conservatives don’t want to make an issue of mass murder because then they would be confronted with the fact that nearly all of the massacres are committed by people using guns.”

These words are from an article in the Daily Beast which you can access by moving your cursor and clicking here!"

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Italy Convicts 23 Americans from CIA

An Italian judge convicted 23 Americans on kidnapping charges on Wednesday for their roles in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, an Egyptian cleric. The stiffest sentence was handed to the Milan CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady — eight years in prison; the other 22 were sentenced to five years in jail. All of the Americans were tried in absentia and are urged to keep Italy off of their future traveling itenaries.§

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She went to sleep as Rihanna . . .

In a new interview with Glamour, Rihanna talks candidly about her relationship with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, who assaulted her on the eve of the Grammy Awards in February. She called the abuse and the ensuing media frenzy — during which a police photo of Rihanna's injured face was leaked to the press — "humiliating."

"That is not a photo you would show to anybody," she said. "I felt completely taken advantage of." The chaos that erupted the day after the news broke made Rihanna feel, "like I went to sleep as Rihanna and woke up as Britney Spears."§

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Hoping We’ll Swallow the Big One

Here’s to Republican whip Eric Cantor, standing there among Tea Party Pretenders as if he was reporting Gospel, who must try and pretend that the House Democratic Health Care bill will break the bank in spite of the Congressional Budget Office figures reporting otherwise. Keep in mind that Republicans vehemently opposed Social Security, Medicare, and all other legislation which would have returned a portion of a one’s tax dollars to them in the form of government services. Will the public look upon this latest towing of the GOP party line as the party of “No” in 2010? Let us so hope.§

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Borowitz Report Focuses on Lou Dobbs

Move over Elmer Fudd, Mr. Independent is on his way.

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NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - Controversial TV host Lou Dobbs announced today that he was leaving CNN and would soon be joining the primetime lineup of The Cartoon Network.

Mr. Dobbs will be joining a schedule that includes such programs as Tom and Jerry and What's New, Scooby-Doo?

While a press release from The Cartoon Network called Mr. Dobbs' show "a perfect fit," Davis Logsdon, the chairman of the media studies department at the University of Minnesota, took a dimmer view.

"I think the addition of Lou Dobbs will be a tremendous blow to The Cartoon Network's credibility," he said.

In other broadcast news, on Sunday the Fox News Channel reported that an American won the New York marathon and a Kenyan won the U.S. presidency.

To have the Borowitz Report sent to your very own email box, go here

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What the Constitution Giveth, Some Would Taketh Away!

The U. S. Constitution gives all of our citizens the right to their own beliefs, and extends to each of us the right to petition the Congress to express our point of view. But there is an element in our populace which, if they could have their way, would likely restrict one group of our citizens. The group that would do the restricting are the conservative Republicans, and the group they would restrict are actors, artists, musicians, and performers of all types who would lead their fans astray with their blatantly liberal views.

Ever notice how they decry actors, musicians, and performers who take political stands. They absolutely hate it because nine times out of ten the performer’s stance will be of a liberal persuasion. They thereby claim entertainers are not qualified to lead anyone anywhere. Conservatives are afraid the artist’s following will blindly follow their lead. As if people in this day and age follow anyone’s lead blindly.

Of course, you never hear them complain about those occasional conservative performers, the likes of which was the late Charlton Heston, as do the still alive and worth kicking, Tom Selleck, Chuck Norris, Dennis Miller and Ben Stein to name but a few. (Googling “conservative actors” will bring up a more complete list of 25 of them.) They love it when their own kind have a nice, comfortable following to reflect their politics and Fox News frequently has them on as guests.

However, there is a good reason why the overwhelming majority of performers, actors, musicians, etc. live on the liberal side of the street. The reason is quite understandable when you look at it without political bias coloring your view. Most artists are empathic towards people, which is the tool in their personal quiver which allows them to hone their art in an image which reflects and therefore appeals to people. And those artists who are heavy in conscience, such as the late John Lennon, frequently attract the ire of conservatives who can actually see such an artist as a threat to their way of life.

Of course, the final word is that our constitution delegates us all the right to have, and to freely express our opinion. And if the liberal left is more eloquent in expressing of their point of view, well that’s the way it is. It’s all in those empathic genes.§

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Apple’s Macintosh Celebrates 25

The Mac – Then and Now

To celebrate the Macintosh’s 25 Anniversary published some criticisms of Apple’s groundbreaking GUI upon its inception. We reproduce a few of them below:

Byte, Gregg Williams, February 1984: The Macintosh brings us one step closer to the ideal of computer as appliance.

InfoWorld, Thomas Neudecker, 26 March 1984: We think Apple has at least one thing right — the Macintosh is the one machine with the potential to challenge IBM’s hold on the market.

San Francisco Examiner, John C. Dvorak, 19 Feb. 1984: The nature of the personal computer is simply not fully understood by companies like Apple (or anyone else for that matter). Apple makes the arrogant assumption of thinking that it knows what you want and need. It, unfortunately, leaves the “why” out of the equation — as in “why would I want this?” The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse’. There is no evidence that people want to use these things. I don’t want one of these new fangled devices.

Compute! David D. Thornburg, June 1984: This refreshing one-step-forward is the Apple Macintosh — a computer designed for anyone to use. Macintosh is reasonably priced ($2500 including display and disk drive and operating system software — IBM, please note). But more important than Macintosh’s system price is the almost intuitively simple manner in which it is used. Macintosh is, quite simply, a civilized machine. After working with it for a while, I found myself quite intolerant of my other computers.

Bill Gates: Anybody who could write a good application on a 128K Mac deserves a medal. Bill Gates also said, “The next generation of interesting software will be done on the Macintosh, not the IBM PC.” Gates was so impressed by the Mac that he was able to get access to Apple’s patents and create the Windows platform. With Apple’s insistence of staying with vertical integration, Microsoft’s Windows prevailed by the misconception that hardware choice was essential, when all it did was commoditize the hardware.

But fear of not having Microsoft continue to support the Macintosh with Office, Apple’s John Sculley handed over key patents tech to Microsoft. IBM paid the same price when they allowed clones. It WAS the software.

Happy 25 Apple Macintosh. We have been using you for all of our computing needs for 19 of those 25 years. We presently prepare this blog on a 17” iMac we bought in 2007 and we couldn’t be happier with our purchase. Thank you Steve Jobs, may you Live Long and Prosper. For the complete listing of these early reviews point your cursor and click here

Fun Downunder

An unidentified Australian girl attempts to discover whether the lifelike Beach Boy statue is gender correct.

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Families at Mealtimes

At Home and In Camp

In some families mealtimes are when the entire family eats together, and they can sometimes be less than positive experiences, as siblings, or sometimes a parent and child work through some area of conflict. But in children’s camps meals were usually a time of great stimulation, almost a celebration.

The room that Blueberry Cove ate the midday and evening meals in was in the building we called the Maine. It was longer than it was wide, and each side of the room was lined with tables, and each table had a counselor, a camper waiter, and of course a full complement of campers. Tables were assigned, and campers ate with their own group. Counselors did table duty usually with their own group, with an occasional day off for rejuvenation at the counselor table.

One day in early August of 1965 my older son, Daniel, still a toddler, was eleven months old, having been born the preceding Sept. 9th in Houston. My wife Anne wasn’t a counselor that summer, but she lived at the camp with Dan and me. Previous to that day Daniel had taken one or two isolated attempts to walk, but his heart hadn’t been in it and so all had ended in a date with the forces of gravity. But on this day Daniel used the occasion of the midday meal to take his very first steps in front of the entire camp.

I happened to be sitting at a counselor’s table on the day of Daniel’s big achievement, but at a different one from the one Anne and Daniel were sitting at. The lunch room was very noisy on that particular day. I don’t remember what the morning activity had been, I imagine campers had done the usual variety of activities. Perhaps it was the weather, who knows, but the campers seemed excessively loud and high strung on that day. I was blocking out the noise, looking down at my food and concentrating on moving my jaws in the rhythm of eating. Suddenly the din in the room began to noticeably fade, and in a moment it got deathly quiet. You could have heard the proverbial pin if one had been dropped.

The counselor next to me, gave me a nudge and whispered, “check out your son.” I did, and there was 11-month-old Daniel, tottering in the middle of the aisle, facing the entire camp. Every eye in the place was focused on him. He gave a hesitant smile, jutted out his lower jaw, then proceeded to take a step. We all held our collective breaths. He took another one. You could hear murmurs travel from one end of the room to the other. He took five more steps, seven in all, before once again he yielded to the forces of gravity and sunk to the floor. The room burst into spontaneous applause and a nearby camper rushed to help him to his feet. Daniel took what many swore was a bow once he was standing.

Daniel was indeed a resourceful young child. He would not talk for the first two and a half years of his life. Maybe he’d let a word or two slip out every once in awhile, but after hearing it we were never sure we really heard right. And try as we might we could never get him to repeat it.

I was working in N.Y. City as managing editor of Sing Out! and we were living in Ft. Lee, N. J. when Daniel’s brother Joel was born. Ann’s mother Marty Bowman came to help take care of Dan while Anne was recovering from Joel’s birth. After a couple of days Daniel surprised her by saying his very first words. And Marty, who taught in the Houston school system, proudly told us it consisted of three words, it had a subject, a predicate, and a verb, and it made a complete sentence.

Evidently he had been holding back, waiting until he could do it right. Or perhaps it was that old buggaboo, competition, that made him do it. After all he had to say or do something major in order to stay ahead of that newly acquired little brother of his.§

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True Love Comes in Many Flavors

Love stories are always sweet to hear or to read. There is something soothing about people with loving feelings for one another. An entire industry, the motion picture business, and a large corner of popular music sings only of love.

In the three camps I worked for one of the most lovable things in camp for both campers and counselors alike were the camp pets. And these ranged far and wide beyond the usual pet dogs and cats.

Thanks to an interesting feminine physical characteristic horses and horseback riding came first with a number of campers of the female persuasion. But also high on the list for most campers were the baby farm animals we would rent from a neighboring farmer for the summer. These included chickens, sheep and goats, and most definitely a young piglet or two. Piglets are charming animals, they are clean (they don’t seem to acquire their gross habits until they gain their majority), and they are both warm and affectionate. In short they are all you could possibly ask for in a pet. If only they didn’t have to grow up.

Our mental picture of pigs has them as ugly, dirty creatures, rolling in mud and dirt, all the while swilling their food. However during one year at Blueberry Cove, love blossomed between a camper and a piglet. It was perfectly true. I didn’t notice when, or how, it started. I don’t know of anybody that did. But just like that camper and piglet had become an item. All of a sudden love had blossomed as surely as true love always does and the two of them became inseparable.

Tony B. was the camper’s name. Mother nature blesses all baby animals with beauty, and Tony B.’s piglet, for now let’s give her the name Mabel, was a truly beautiful member of her species. Her skin was pink and unblemished. Her snout, which when she grew up would be large and unseemly, as a baby was cute and cuddly. And Mabel’s devotion to her Tony, was a sight to behold.

Mabel had freedom to go where she pleased, and wherever Tony went the piglet was sure to follow. Tony would be in the Foc’sle doing art, and the piglet would be snuggled at his feet, quietly and contentedly snorting away. When Tony would engage with some other camper in a short foot race, the piglet would trundle along behind. One of the oddest sights was to see Tony in riding, with the piglet cantering merrily behind horse and rider. We used to worry that a trailing horse might trample her, but she was evidently being careful and as far as we know none came close.

At Blueberry Cove every afternoon at around 4 pm the entire camp would come together for what we called milk and crackers, a snack to tide us over until dinner. Tony would conscientiously feed Mabel a part of his snack, and pour some of his milk into a bowl for her to swill. Then Tony would stretch out on his back, lazily gazing up at the sky, and Mabel would crawl on top of him. And there they would lie, nose to snout as it were, each in total peace within him and her self, and with the rest of their world.

We couldn’t help but wonder what Tony’s parents were going to think when they came up for visiting weekend and got to meet Tony’s paramour. Well, we needn’t have worried, Tony’s parents were cool with his newly blooming relationship. His parents thought it was very cute, if not truly beautiful, and I must say I and most of the rest of the staff agreed. There was nothing quite as charming as the sight of Tony and his piglet friend lying nose to snout, freely trading kisses and snout lickings.

But Mrs. B. was ever practical, as all mothers are prone to be. How could they possibly separate the two of them at the end of the summer? She quietly inquired of us privately what was likely to happen to Mabel after camp. We explained as how we rented the animals from Mr. Victor Dennison for the summer, and after camp the pig would probably get some fattening up over the winter and then be sold next spring for slaughter. (Such is the fate of virtually all farm animals in our civilized society.)

At that Mrs B. got concerned with Mabel’s fate. To her credit Tony’s mom racked her brain to try and think of a way that her son’s pet could escape the inevitable, but try as she might she couldn’t come up with anything. For as downright beguiling as a piglet can be, it will sure as hell grow into a large, smelly, obnoxious grown animal in a matter of months.

And dealing with an adult hog in a N. Y. apartment would be impossible. And so Tony’s mom’s options were limited to none. Whereas we couldn’t say for sure, of course, we were reasonably certain Mr. Dennison would fatten Mabel up over the winter, and sell her for slaughter the following spring. Or if an animal showed real promise in the weight gaining department, he might just keep it for another year before selling it at auction.

Either way we told Mrs. B. that we were afraid it was inevitable that Mabel would end up as ham and/or bacon on somebody’s table by the next year or the one after that. This conversation was held well out of Tony’s and Mabel’s hearing, of course. And Tony’s mom assured us she would find a dog for Tony after camp to take his mind off of his loss. And so very reluctantly, Mrs. B. made the only decision she could make under the circumstances, and that was to do nothing.

And so sadly enough Tony’s affair with his fair swine would have to be a summer romance, blooming like a wildflower until the cruel mistress Time would end it just like She ends so many of our human to human love affairs, in total separation, with only memories to keep it alive. Tony cried for the first time ever at camp’s end, and Mabel tried her best to follow the B. family car as it drove away. A few days later Mabel along with all of the other once baby animals was duly delivered to Mr. Dennison, where we presumed she lived comfortably and happily until the day of the auction. Love was frustrating between man and beast, as it frequently is between human beasts. But as Humphrey Bogart might have noted, at least Tony and Mabel had had their Paris.§

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Pursuing a Mark Twain Moment in Maine

To all who have read Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court one thing you are left with is an audacious desire to see a total eclipse of the sun for yourself. Twain’s description of it, and the way he wove it into the story, surely left all who read it with an insatiable thirst to experience one.

In 1963 I had come to Blueberry Cove not only as a banjo and guitar playing song leader, but I also brought my darkroom with me. The local newspapers had reported that there was going to be a total eclipse of the sun, visible in Maine, on the afternoon of July 20, 1963. Tenants Harbor would not be in the line of totality, that would happen further north, Bangor, Maine was in the line of totality.

Henry Haskell wanted his campers to be able to see the eclipse even if Tenants Harbor wasn’t in the zone of totality, and he made a deal with me. He had a lot of unexposed photographic film. If I would expose it to light and develop enough film for the entire camp to be able to view the eclipse through it, then he would let me have July 20th off, so I could go north and witness totality, and photograph the corona. It was a deal I just couldn’t refuse.

Exposing and developing enough film for every BBC camper to have a piece was no easy task, but I cheerfully performed my duties with a smile. Then on July 20th, a counselor from Holland named Doris, another counselor and I started out on our adventure. I had driven my car up to Maine that summer. I had bought it in Houston and it still had the cardboard tags on it, for I wanted to register it in Maine, as I was living in N.Y.C. in the winter, and N.Y. and Maine don’t share each others lists.

The eclipse was due to happen around 4:35 in the afternoon. We left camp right after lunch, and drove the 60 or so miles to Bangor by about 1:30 or 2. However at Bangor a nasty turn of events happened, it began to seriously cloud over. It would be sufficiently dark in the eclipse, but the thick clouds would mask out the corona, which is what I was so eager to photograph. And so we did the only thing we could do under the circumstances. The clouds were coming from the west, traveling east. We started to drive east trying our damnedest to outrun our would-be cumulous spoilers.

We drove and we drove, and the clouds seemed to be keeping up with us, neck and neck. Maine is a series of peninsulas all of which end up at the Atlantic ocean. The one we were driving on soon ended at Bar Harbor, on a beach at the ocean’s edge. There were about 50 people scattered about, many of them obviously here to witness the eclipse, as there were numerous cameras on tripods, and small telescopes aimed at the sky. Near us was a small cabin, the kind locals charge an arm and a leg for to city people wanting a few weeks of beach living. There were obviously one or more children inside, for cartoons of the Bugs Bunny ilk were loudly playing on the cabin television. I set up my tripod, and pointed my camera. There was a slight haze in the air, but it was not yet cloudy. We had a great view of the sun, we had managed to outrun the clouds after all. Holding an exposed piece of film over my camera’s lens I took several shots of the sun as it became more and more obscurred by the moon.

The sky began to darken as a significant part of the sun’s surface was being blocked by the moon. This caused near mayhem in the aviary and insect world. Nature’s lower life forms have excellent built in clocks, they knew damned good and well it shouldn’t be getting dark at 4:30 in the afternoon, and they were protesting this phantasm at the top of their lungs, or whatever it is that crickets use to sing with. I looked over to the cabin. Bugs Bunny was still blaring away. That child or those children were just before missing the phenomenon of a lifetime, an extremely rare total eclipse of the sun. Instead they were watching cartoons at full volume. Cartoons they have probably seen dozens of times before. Very sad.

It got very quiet and suddenly without fanfare it happened. Shadows of the hills and mountains of the moon suddenly raced across the ground and blip, when they passed us the sun went out. Just like that we could uncover our eyes from the exposed film we were holding over them and look directly up at the raging flares of the corona.

The sun’s corona flared really high, and was ever changing. Totality lasted 56 seconds, and during that time I was able to take four separate exposures of the corona, with no two of them looking alike. Whether or not the crickets and birds stilled their frightened songs, I couldn’t tell you, I was so into concentrating on taking photos of the corona I was unconscious of anything else. But then all too soon the 56 seconds had passed and shadows of the moons mountains raced by us chasing after the first, after which the sun turned back on. At about that time in the cabin a cartoon was ending with the traditional The Merry Go Round Broke Down and Elmer Fudd stuttering “That’s a-a-all, folks.” And so ended our remarkable Mark Twain moment, our unforgettable date with our very own total eclipse of the sun.§

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And so our memorable moments under the dimmed sun came and went, right along with our blog #113. It is our pleasure to spend our time dreaming up our blog. We spend the week writing and polishing our little creation like a fine jeweler polishes the jewels of his creation. And then when Saturday morning rolls around we upload it to Google.

We thank you for coming and making our blog a part of your life. Our blog stays up the entire week. We hope we’ve engaged you enough to lure you back for next week’s offering. Meantime, hang in there, don’t take any wooden Limbaughs, and have the very best kind of a good week.

The Real Little Eddy §