Saturday, April 30, 2011

Road Trip: The "All The Way There..." Tour

First off, I want to thank the state of Louisiana and their Office of State Parks for making this trip everything that it was.

Second, I'd like the discerning reader to right click on this link and search the resulting page for the word, "fence." This will become important momentarily.

I decided a few days ago to visit Fort Pike. Did some research and found the site linked above, noted the "Admission to Fort Pike SHS is by appointment only." I wrote down the number, dashed an email off to them asking how much lead time they'd need to set up an appointment, and got my stuff together.

The X-11 kicked ass. This is the longest single trip I've made with the car, and it wasn't without some hiccups--a pricey-sounding rattling racket after an hour at highway speeds, maybe the throwout bearing or clutch. I'm not looking forward to that job.

Pensacola to Mobile, past Pascagoula, pull off at a McDonald's somewhere in Mississippi (free Wi-Fi!), check email. No reply from the Fort Pike people.

Back on I-10, pass Biloxi and a thousand billboards urging the reader to gamble, into Louisana. They built a pretty new bridge to replace the narrow old Highway 90 Rigolets bridge. Road's smoother, too. Pulled into the fort's parking lot around 1 pm.

Nice parking lot. Big. Gravel, with a boat ramp. Maybe 200 feet on a side.

It's also the only part of the park that's not fenced in.

It's a nice fence. Well-made. Glints in the sunlight. It's galvanized, so it'll last for years. The three lines of barbed wire along the top is a nice touch. But that's the problem: they don't mention the fence on the park page. In all the searching online that I've done about Pike in the last few weeks, there's no mention of a fence. If you Google "fort pike louisiana fenced in" there's a mention of "fencing" (but not "completely fenced the hell in")...but also this:
Fort Pike is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday through Monday (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Entrance fee is $2 per person. Free for seniors age 62 and older and children age 12 and younger. Groups are asked to call in advance. For information, contact (888) 662-5703 or (504) 255-9171. Also send e-mail to
The Park site says $4, by appointment.

Last time I visited Fort Pike, the fort's doors were closed and locked...but there was no fence. I could at least walk around the outside and get pictures. Now, all you see is the fence and the fort's landward defenses (a big mound of earth that protects the fort from direct fire and tourists).

I called the park's appointment number; they were very sorry to have missed my call and would return it as soon as possible; I left a message and waited in the parking lot for an hour.

About 40 bucks worth of potential park revenue pulled into the lot in that hour. As soon as they saw The Fence and its locked gate, they turned around and left. There's no sign anywhere to tell random visitors who to call if they want to see the fort. No ticket booth. If someone's driving along Highway 90 and sees the fort from the nearby bridge, that's all the view they get.

There were maybe 6 more cars parked near the boat ramp; including kids, at four bucks a head there was easily another $50 in potential park revenue. I've always heard that the weekend is when the money flows at tourist places, and Pike could easily have pulled in a thousand bucks in 8 hours. Maybe more.

But the only message I was getting from the State of Louisiana and their Office of State Parks was "Welcome to Fort Pike. Now Go The Fark Home."

After sitting in the lot, I decided to run down 90 to look at Fort Macomb. That one's fenced in, too, but I knew it would be. I glanced at the site, but didn't bother stopping. I went a few more miles and stopped at the Michoud Assembly Facility, where the shuttles' big tanks were built, and the Saturn V first stages before that. The last Saturn first stage is still on display. And fenced in. Took some pictures.

Headed back to Pike. Still locked up. There were four more cars, that many more missed opportunities.

Got pictures of the fence, the fence, and the fence, and a sign thanking me for my visit (thanks, wiseass, glad to be there). On the way out, I discovered a flaw in the fence: it stops just under the Highway 90 bridge.

You can pretty much walk around the north end of the freaking fence and back up to the fort. Damn shame I can't walk very far right now.

Up on 90, eastbound, headed home with nothing to show other than wear on the car and most of a tank of gas burned.

Given that the State doesn't seem interested in collecting tourist money (they never returned my call, but replied to my email a few days later), I can't really recommend visiting Fort Pike unless you enjoy sitting in a parking lot and looking at fences. I won't be making that trip again in the foreseeable future.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pic of the Day: Admiral Trump, your ship is leaving

There are only two good pictures of the Billionaire Dope and this is the other one.

Nice hat, Admiral.

Flick of the Day: Gun Demo at Fort Gaines

I caught this in August of 2005 at Fort Gaines. We're in the fort's blacksmith shop, about 250 feet away from a group of reenactors firing a small brass cannon replica.

I wish I'd gotten some close pictures and video, but the cannon guys went on break almost as soon as I walked across the parade ground.

They started firing again--of course--once I went outside the fort to get pictures.

Might want to keep the volume down--especially after you hear "Fire in the hole" the second time.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Nefarious Mister S (part 5)

So I finally had video of Mister S caught in the act. What now?

First thing was to show our coworkers, of course. I copied the tape to a DVD, slapped that into a portable player, and showed everyone what Mister S did all summer.

Everyone but Mister S.
Pretty quickly, people came and told me that he was denying being anywhere near my car only to be told, "Dude, it's YOU, plain as day! He busted you!"

To this day, he still hasn't seen it. But it didn't stop him from keying the Tracker and sticking nails under the tires. Didn't get that on tape, though. Silly me, I thought he'd back down.

Boss got involved and barked at him and supposedly talked to Corporate and Human Resources...then came back to me with some bullshit about how the Company wasn't going to do anything. So much for the poster that says otherwise, huh?

Apparently, farking with my car is okay. Gotcha.

Fine. I spent the next two months screwing with my old buddy Mister S--sitting in the Tracker on lunch breaks with a camera prominently set up on the dash or a tripod, hiding my camcorder under a ballcap and letting it run for awhile, all with an eye to making a 10-minute flick to put on YouTube. Even when I wasn't filming, I still put a dummy lens on the dash, arranged to look like a camera.

It's a shame that the movie project got wiped out by a hard drive crash last year--and more so that some of the after-"Gotcha" taping I'd done got taped over. I'd have been able to rebuild the project, if not for that.

It gets better: since that last crash, I've gotten a new computer running Windows 7 of course that movie software I was using won't work.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pic of the Day: Pike's Broken Wall

Fort Pike is America's oldest Third System fort, completed in 1819. It sits at the east end of the New Orleans East Land Bridge (or St. Catherines Island, as Google Earth calls it), guarding the Rigolets pass between Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne.

Pike's taken a lot of damage over the years, all from poor maintenance. Like many of its contemporaries, Pike sits on soft ground, so a grillage of cypress logs was laid down to stabilize the foundations. As long as the wood is protected from cycles of wetting and drying, it won't deteriorate. Judging by this 6-foot-wide section of the north wall, the grillage isn't holding up well. The dark line along the fort's waterline is where bricks have fallen off, probably because of boat wakes and tides lapping away at the mortar. There are big through-and-through cracks in many places where parts of the fort are settling at different rates from the rest. The fort's south corner is almost as bad off as this one.

Hurricane Katrina's center passed directly over Fort Pike in 2005, wiping out most of the houses at this end of the island. The fort remained closed until 2008. Now that it's open again, I need to get out there. The X-11 deserves a road trip and I've got three empty DV tapes, two empty camera cards, and several rolls of 35mm film that need filling. Oh, and some blank notebook paper for making sketches.

Pike's sister fort, Macomb, guards the other end of the island at Chef Menteur Pass. It's in much worse condition--trees and plants overgrown, crumbling masonry. Before Katrina there was a marina just yards away from the fort, and even with "no-wake" zones there's going to be a wake washing up against the foundations. It's closed to the public, so of course I won't go (very far) inside when I visit.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Nefarious Mister S (part 4)

Took a few days off to build tension.

So where was I?

First, some jackass of a coworker was throwing his trash in my car.

I put together a motion detector and camera and set it to catch him in the act.

When that didn't work, I put in a camcorder and VCR.

On October 12, 2007, my little eye spied this:

I. GOT. HIM. *bahahahahahahaaaaaaaa!*

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pic of the Day: Happy Easter!

Silly dog! You're supposed to eat the ears first!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Nefarious Mister S (part 3)

After a few weeks of designing, testing, and building a camera rig to catch an idiot co-worker in the act of tossing trash in my car...I had nothing.

That's not quite right. I had a bag of cracker wrappers--oh, and Mister S went to Taco Bell one time, so I got that dumped in my car, too.

I went back to thinking of how I could get a camera into the Tracker. A camcorder would do the trick, but mine would only tape for 90 minutes. A VCR could go for 6 hours...and I had an inverter for making AC power, a car battery to run it. All I needed was a monitor: a cheapie black & white TV from the corner drugstore. Since I'm an Apollo Program geek, I started calling this the Block II and the still camera/motion sensor the Block I (Block I command/service modules were used for all the unmanned flights and Apollo 1; the Block II CSMs were the complete moon-rated item).

The Block II Project came together pretty quickly. I spent several lunch breaks tinkering with the layout. The battery went in back, the inverter sat on the back seat under a hat, and the VCR and TV would be in a tool bag on the floor. Turns out it's hard to hide an old VHS-C camcorder. That didn't matter so much, because the camera kept shutting off.

Another wait for another paycheck, and by October 11, I had a replacement camcorder and a revised name: Block IIb. On October 12, 2007, I set the camera up on a tripod, wedged it between the back seat and side wall, set the VCR running, and left it when my lunch break ended.

Mister S took his lunch as soon as I was back on the clock. I made a few runs, checked the VCR (still running), looked for trash.

There was a cracker wrapper right where previous ones had always landed.

Pic of the Day: RIP Elisabeth Sladen

From the write-up at BBC:

Doctor Who star Elisabeth Sladen, who was also in spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, has died aged 63.

Sladen appeared as Doctor Who assistant Sarah Jane Smith in the BBC television sci-fi series between 1973 and 1976, opposite Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

The Liverpool-born actress appeared in four series from 2007 of The Sarah Jane Adventures on children's channel CBBC.

Sladen had been battling cancer for some time and leaves actor husband Brian Miller and daughter Sadie.
My introduction to "Doctor Who" was in the early '80s, when the local PBS station ran the show. They only had Tom Baker, a little of John Pertwee, and less of Peter Davison in the lineup; I might have seen all of Baker's run twice. Sarah Jane Smith was my favorite companion.

There's a very bittersweet homage to her at The Dork Tower.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Nefarious Mister S (part 2)

So how do you nail someone who's been throwing trash in your car? Over the next few weeks I thought it out. It would have to be something reasonably cheap (minimum wage) and easy to set up and hide, since a Tracker's not exactly secure. The rear window hasn't zipped up since I unzipped it--the day I bought the car. All that's holding it up is a bungee cord sewn to the "glass" panel and de-barbed fish hooks sewn in several places around the opening. Mister S was dropping his trash through the gap on the left.

I don't remember what triggered the Big Idea, but in mid August of '07 it hit me: a small camera with a motion sensor. I found several online, but nothing I'd have to build it myself...but first I had to wait for payday.

RadioShack had exactly what I was after: a cheap digital camera and a motion sensor. As soon as I got home from work, I went over each of them and made notes. Camera's battery "AAA"...turns itself off after 1 minute of inactivity...can't be set to stop doing that...two buttons (Power/Mode, Shutter)...motion sensor takes 9 volts...alarm can be output that could trigger the camera.

Ponder, ponder, think, think...need a circuit that will "listen" for a signal from the motion sensor and trigger the camera shutter AND a circuit that just pushes the camera's Power/Mode button a few times a minute to keep it awake. Okay, dig out some electronics books...find something close to what I need...throw a prototype together...modify the camera and sensor...test, fix, test, fix, test, the September 10th it was all together, part of the camera and the sensor painted yellow to match the Tracker. Everything was powered by a block of "D"-cell batteries: 9 volts' worth for the sensor and circuit, a single for the camera. I was pretty proud of myself.

The plan was to hang the camera where it could see the Tracker's rear window. The sensor would be mounted so that it could pick up Mister S's hand entering the car. Click! I got a few test pictures, set the rig up, and left it to itself.

Didn't catch a thing. There was new trash in the car, but no new shots in the camera. I tried for more test pictures and realized pretty quickly that the infrared sensor was getting washed out by sunlight. Unless Mister S was kind enough to put his hand within an inch of the sensor (or wait until dark), it would never trigger the camera.

Well, crap. I had to think up something else.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Nefarious Mister S (part 1)

This all started back in early June of '07. I was a delivery driver; in the shop there was a big dry-erase board where we wrote our stops and time out. I came back from a run and noticed that someone had rubbed the top off the "O" in my name, so now I was up there as "Judy."


For cryin' out loud, can't this person come up with something better than this? What, am I working in a freakin' KINDERGARTEN?! What's next--"Circle, circle, dot, dot, now you got your cootie shot!"?

Instead of bitching about it, I did a little detective work. I was still the New Guy, only there for 3 months and change, so I didn't really know anyone all that well. I wrote down everyone's name, then over two or three weeks I eliminated people who were out or unlikely, and ended up with one name.

Mister S.

He seemed like an okay sort at first, just a lonely, grouchy old man. He spent a good bit of time and energy being worked up over one of the other drivers--she couldn't do anything right, he didn't like her, and he was always talking crap behind her back. I was starting to realize that this guy was so uptight, you couldn't pull a needle out of his ass with a Mack truck.

She quit in July, I think. That left Mister S without a playmate, so he latched on to me.

Since I didn't rise to the bait with the name thing, Mister S changed tactics. I found that out in late July, on my way home from work. I reached to the back seat for something and found a pile of something else, which I brought up to look at.

Cracker wrappers. Over the next few months, I would find several wrappers a week behind the back seat of my Tracker.

But whose?

Connecting the dots was easy--it was obviously Mister S--but I wanted to catch him in the act.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pic of the Day: Ft. Clinch NW Bastion Gorge

A companion piece to yesterday's picture, taken at Fort Clinch, the twin to Fort Gaines.

Where yesterday's picture had us looking straight down from a bridge across Gaines' gorge pit, this time we're at the top of a flight of stairs leading down into the northern half of Clinch's pit.

The retaining wall is to the left, the gorge wall of the bastion to the right. Straight ahead, spanning the pit, is a caponniere. This defensive work controls access to the pit, the bastion, and the fort's parade ground: there are four tall, narrow openings to allow musketmen to fire up the stairs and a heavy door facing on each half of the pit. Lock those doors and the bastion becomes a miniature fort complete with a powder magazine and room for four cannons on the ground level.

One interesting detail of Fort Clinch's history can be seen in the stretch of red brick atop wall in the background. When the Civil War began, the fort was incomplete. It was briefly held by the South, who abandoned it when they realized they didn't have the men to hold on to it. The Union guys moved back in and got back to building. Since they couldn't buy brick from the South anymore, they had to source them from Northern suppliers. Different clay, different brick color. The upper half of the west, southwest, and south walls and parts of the south, north, and east bastions were all built between then and 1867.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pic of the Day: Gaines Bastion E Pit

Here we're looking down into half of the pit behind Ft. Gaines' southwest bastion.

To the right is a gracefully-curved retaining wall; to the right is the back wall--the gorge--of the bastion.

Below is a short tunnel that spans the space between the two, giving a covered passage from the bastion to a tunnel running to the parade ground.

Above, the pit floor becomes a ramp that narrows toward the top and ends at a walkway spanning the length of the fort wall to the next bastion.

As built, the gorge pits and tunnels gave the only access to each of the five bastions. Each has a spiral stairway inside for getting to the gun emplacements on top.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pic of the Day: Samurai Guy (Winter Armor)

Turns out I did have a pic of Samurai Guy.

I've never seen him without his armor vest (duct tape) and Asian-style hat--either this one, a "Coolie" hat, or an armored sun hat (more duct tape).

I've seen him as far north as Ensley (several miles north of Pensacola) and as far south as the split at Palafox and Pace.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pic of the Day: Entering Florida!

Skid marks on the Alabama side of the Florida line.

Why would someone coming out of Alabama panic over entering Florida? It's not THAT much more liberal here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Important Day in History

Quite a bit happened on various April 12ths.

The most important, I think, is that Jonas Salk's polio vaccine was called "safe, effective, and potent" in 1955.

In 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to go into space and the first in orbit.

In 1981, the shuttle Columbia took its first flight.

In 1945, Franklin Roosevelt died, just months before the end of the second World War.

In 1983, Chicago got its first black mayor, Harold Washington.

In 1861, the South continued--and deepened--its treason against the United States by attacking Fort Sumter.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pic of the Day: Does This Rocket Make My Arse Look Fat?

Fair is fair, so here's my chunky self back in August, 2007 standing at the noisy end of the last Saturn first-stage booster to be built, # S-IC-15 at the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans. If not for budget cuts, the completed booster would have been loaded onto a barge, floated to Stennis Space Center just across the Louisiana-Mississippi border, mounted in a test tower, and lit off.

The combined roar of five F-1 engines could be heard as distant thunder as far away as Mobile, Alabama.

Once everything was certified "Go" the booster would go on a barge and take a long boat ride to Cape Canaveral to meet up with the rest of the rocket stack.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pic of the Day: Does This Bike Make My Arse Look Fat?

It would have been criminal to miss this shot, even though all I needed to do was drive straight ahead, point my little Fuji digital straight ahead, and let it do the work without distracting me.

This part of town has all sorts of interesting people riding the roads; there's a little guy (dwarf?) who rides a kid's bike. The high-rise handlebars give him the look of a biker with "ape hangers." I never had my camera ready.

Then there's Samurai Guy, who cycles up and down North Palafox. He wears an "armor" vest and helmet, both covered in shiny duct tape. Never got the camera up for a snapshot, but I did get him on video riding through a parking lot.

Ansel Adams had it easy: mountains don't move around.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pic of the Day: Pickens, N. Wall Drawing

This is one of my first scale drawings of Fort Pickens; it shows the north wall, sally port, and sectional views of the innards of the place. This is part of the fort designed by Gen. Simon Bernard to simplify Joseph Totten's larger, more complex design.

Looking back on it 11 years later, it still looks good, though my eye keeps going to stuff I got wrong. Gonna keep my mouth shut and just enjoy the thing. I can always make a new one.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Holy Grail of Pickens Drawings

By now it's clear that I'm a fort geek. I've been to Fort Pickens so many times that several of the Park Rangers know me by name.

I've got maybe a hundred pages of sketches and measurements, several hundred photos, some technical drawings, but after nearly 12 years of climbing and walking and measuring and scribbling, I have never put together a complete single drawing of the place. The smaller details--individual rooms, the curtain walls, each bastion alone--are easy enough on their own, but mistakes that aren't obvious in one can keep the whole thing from coming together. That's what happened with the 1:480 scale "hero" drawing I was working on in 2006--I couldn't get the northwest and southwest walls lined up.

The drawings I've found online and in Edwin Bearss' Historic Structure Report are low-resolution and don't blow up well enough to get good measurements from. The National Archives has everything I could possibly want--but none of the printing companies I contacted ever answered back (they don't want money? Well then!).

Then there's the #2 Plan that recently made Pic of the Day. I found it in a search on the Library of Congress website. They've got it as a 25mb JPEG 2000 image. It's good for archival, I suppose, since it gives a high degree of compression while preserving image detail. The format was supposed to replace standard JPEG, but 11 years on it's still kind of hard to find usable viewers. I went through several programs and the only thing that worked was the Express View plugin for Internet Explorer. You can open the image and save the visible section as a bitmap, but that's about it; no hi-resolution conversion.

It wasn't until I was looking at GIMP plugins that I finally found a program--IrfanView--that would let me open the JP2 file and re-save as a 75mb JPEG. Big damn file, but all the detail of Joseph Totten's original 1828 drawing is there, including his measurements along the Channel Fronts. This is the part of the fort that just wouldn't line up in my drawings.

I spent several hours just scrolling across the Big Picture, comparing the few sections of Totten's work that got built to my own and was pleased that I'd gotten so close to his numbers. All I was missing was that angle I'd never have gotten without surveying equipment...or an original drawing. Turns out it's just what I needed.

The "Heroes" tag is for Irfan and for Joseph Totten, who spent decades of his life in fortification engineering.

Pic of the Day: Summer's Coming.

I almost bought a window AC box last year, before the big artery blowout. Can't remember why I decided not to, but I regretted it soon enough.

I'm living in the same house as my mother and my sister (I'm supposedly the 'caretaker'...hah!). Both of them smoke and neither of them can leave the thermostat alone, so the place smells like an ashtray and it's always too warm (80?! Seriously?!) or too cold (65?!) because Mom can't make sense of the thermostat settings.

On top of that, my room stays hot year round because of my computer and a mini-fridge (no thanks to Hank--I got the fridge to keep him out of my food & drink stash). It's early spring and already close to 90 in here. Last summer was hell once all the health troubles kicked in. The AC box is my one splurge for the next few months, one thing I can do for myself right now.

In this, at least, life is good.

Song of the Day: Anthony Weiner's Civics Lesson

I've said it before. The Goposaurs people keep putting into office are dumb as a box of farking hammers. It seems like they can't help popping in front of any available camera to show just how little they know about doing their job, let alone how the government works.

At the end of March, Eric Cantor (R-Imbecile) and his Red Elephant pals showed that they didn't even have a "Schoolhouse Rock" level of understanding of the legislative process.

Said Cantor:
“What this bill says is it reiterates again the deadline, and that the Senate should act before the deadline, and that’s what the American people are expecting. The bill then says if the Senate does not act, then H.R. 1 [the House-passed bill] will be the law of the land.”

That's right. They wrote language into the bill that claims that if the Senate doesn't vote on a version of the House Bill, it will automatically become law.

There's a longer, better rant than mine at Sooner Blue 2's blog.

Yeah, I suppose that this could just be a dog-whistle gimmick for the Teabagger set, who really are this ignorant of how government works. But then I'm reminded of this raft of idiots:

Michele "Crazy Eyes" Bachmann, who gave a speech in New Hampshire commemorating the Shot Heard Round the World. When she was told that The Shot actually happened in Massachusetts, she didn't have enough sense to just correct the speech. She gave it again the next day. What do you expect from someone who claims the Founding Fathers ended slavery?

Jan "Crypt Keeper" Brewer, who lied about decapitated bodies in the Arizona desert, then refused to talk to the media about it. She tried to weasel out of it--"It was an error." No, it was a LIE.

Sharron "Second Amendment Remedies" Angle, who can't tell the difference between Hispanic and Asian.

Christine "wow, she can BREATHE and be this stupid" O'Donnel, who says she wouldn't lie to Hitler to save Anne Frank, but gets caught lying--Live!

James "Land My Plane Anywhere I Want" Inhofe, who endangered workers on a closed runway.

Scott "Screw the Courts" Walker, who first tried to lock protestors out of the Capitol Building (and ignored court orders telling him to stop), and is now ignoring orders to stop screwing around with his anti-union "law."

Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott.

Louis "Duh..terrrr babies!" Gohmert. Fark's sake.

Rick "Frothy" Santorum (bahahahahahaaaaa!!!)

...and so many more that I just have to wonder whether they're as dumb--if not dumber--than their constituents. (What? You say I left out Caribou Barbie? Nope. Just not giving the Snowbilly any Blog time.)

With that in mind, New York Democrat Anthony Weiner has become my favorite member of Congress. To help his poor lost Republican friends to find their way through the complicated legislative process, Mr. Weiner brought a copy of "House Mouse, Senate Mouse" to work and read from it:

This guy's what a Democrat ought to be.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pic of the Day: The Two Forts Pickens

On September 5, 1828, four men gathered at Newport, Rhode Island to review plans for several forts: General Simon Bernard, Colonel Joseph Totten, Major Samuel Babcock, and Captain William Chase, all of the Board of Engineers.

One set of plans--18 sheets worth--described Totten's design for the fort to be built on the west tip of Santa Rosa Island, guarding the entrance to Pensacola Bay from the Gulf of Mexico. Bernard was more familiar with the area. He pointed out that Pensacola's defenses were to include a second fort across the channel on Foster's Bank (Perdido Key, today). Reducing the size of the Santa Rosa Island fort without significantly weakening it would save a good bit of money that could go to building the other fort.

Both Totten and Chase wanted the big, elaborate design, but they deferred to Bernard's rank and his refusal to endorse the project. He was given time to come up with his own design.

Bernard did agree, however, that the channel fronts (at bottom in each picture) were satisfactory. Chase--the Engineer who would preside over the fort's construction--was given the go-ahead to start with those two walls.

Bernard's "streamlined" layout makes the half-bastions at the ends of the channel fronts into full bastions, shortens the north and south walls (north is to the left in both pictures), adds a pair of larger bastions at northeast and southeast, and cleans up the entire design by eliminating a lot of outerworks in the ditch (or moat).

The upper picture shows a lot of construction to the east of the fort, outside the ditch. Bernard scrubbed all of that, as well, giving the fort a leaner, cleaner layout. As it turns out, he's responsible for many of my favorite bits of architecture, such as the interiors of the northwest and southwest bastions and the curved stairs in the northeast and southeast corners of the parade. From Totten's surviving part of the project, we have the graceful 30-foot arches spanning the open casemates along the northwest and southwest walls and the impressive splayed arches in the west bastion.

I kind of wish Totten had prevailed, if only so I could explore his fort.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Most Aggravating Commercial

I'm a car guy. Love the classics--old Camaros, Mustangs, Chargers, Challengers, GTO's, Chevelles, Beetles, Microbuses, DeLoreans...which one's my favorite depends on whether there's one sitting in front of me.

Well, second-favorite. The X-11 is #1.

Anyway, there's an erectile disfunction pill commercial that bugs the living crap out of me. Our guy's driving his shiny, nicely-cared-for '69 Camaro through the desert. Car starts to overheat and steam, so he pulls into a rustic little gas station.

He goes in, buys what looks to be a 1.5-liter bottle of water from the cooler, takes a swig, and pours the rest into the hot radiator. No anti-freeze, and only the 1.5 liters, about a quart and a half, into a cooling system that takes a couple of gallons.

Didn't fix whatever was causing the overheating, either, apparently.

The voice-over calls our guy--and the viewer--part of the generation that knows how to "get things done." Really? He pops a hot radiator cap off (no rag?), pours cold water into a hot engine, doesn't try to figure out the problem. Didn't "get things done," really.

Hops back into the car, drives for hours and hours more before pulling into his 2-car driveway sometime in the evening or nighttime.

Yeah, I know, it's just a commercial; the "steam" was probably from a fire extinguisher; the manly guy with the car and erectile troubles doesn't have either one, he just got paid scale for showing up, and like that. After the shoot was done, the real owner took the car back to its garage.

But the clumsiness of the story kind of makes fun of those little pecker-pills: here's a guy who doesn't know what he's doing, possibly overheating and destroying the (expensive) engine in a rare (very expensive) car because he can't maintain it properly (wasn't that a mechanic in front of the gas station?). He's apparently also taking those pills. Did he put as much thought into using them as he did in maintaining the car?

I'm just glad I'm not the only Car Guy to be aggravated by this ad.