Thursday, March 31, 2011

Good news on the Kidney...

Actually two pieces; first I got a call yesterday setting up a surgery appointment for April 27th. This was to be the same surgeon and procedure--a 12" cut below the right ribs, some digging around and clamping and cutting and closing, then more than a month of recovery.

This afternoon, a new call from the surgeon asking whether I'd rather go with the laparoscopic method via one of his colleagues. Instead of one big cut, there are two or three smaller ones and a much quicker recovery. Unfortunately, either way I'm looking at a urinary catheter for a day.

It made me think of The Learning Channel and Discovery Channel, back when they were worth a crap. One of them carried a show called "The Operation" in which some pretty graphic surgical stuff was shown, from knee surgery to a cesarian birth to a laparoscopic gall bladder operation.

Maybe I WILL make my goal of being done with all this and back to work by mid-July.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pic of the Day: Battery Pensacola

Three vintage views of the cause of all the damage to Fort Pickens: the 12" guns of Battery Pensacola.

First up is one of the guns on its "disappearing carriage"--when the gun's ready to fire, a counterweight swings the barrel up above the wall. When it's fired, the gun's own recoil pushes it back and those big carriage arms swing it down to loading position. All the crew has to do is trip the latch when they're done reloading and the big beast will swing back into firing position.

Technology doesn't sit still, though. What was state of the art in 1898 was removed in 1934. In the second shot, Fort Pickens' northwest arches are visible behind a crew of workmen easing one of the gun tubes down a ramp. In the third shot, Battery Pensacola forms the backdrop for the removal of gun #2.

The carriages stayed in place until World War 2.

What was that about damage to the fort? In 1899 a fire started along the north wall of Pickens, which was in use as a warehouse. Crews fought it for hours in the night, but finally had to give up as the fire reached the main powder magazine in the fort's northwest bastion. 8,000 pounds of powder went up and that corner of Pickens came down.

The Engineers shrugged, moved the rubble, and used the new opening to get equipment to the battery more quickly.

In 1916, Engineers decided to blast the tops off the south and southwest walls and bastion to open up the field of fire for Battery Pensacola. They ended up collapsing most of the south wall's arches, damaged the cistern, collapsed one arch in the bastion, and cracked the southwest wall's arches along its entire length.

Faster than using a hammer and chisel, I suppose, but kind of hard on the old girl. The upshot is that some of the most interesting architecture in the fort is lost forever.

Here's 6 minutes worth of big guns like this:

Damn, but I love the Internet.

Credits: Photos are from the Florida Photographic Collection; unknown photographers, FPC numbers n045048, rc20219 and rc20215.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Car Will Defeat You

...if you're a valet at the hospital.

I decided to try the valet parking instead of hiking halfway across the parking garage's second level and crossing the flyover to the Medical Mall. Cutting a couple hundred feet off the walk makes a difference.

I pulled up and asked the guy, "Can you drive a stick?" He said he could, so I left it running, took my ticket, and limped into the building. Lobby, elevator, lobby, hallway (huh, my car's still sitting at the valet drop-off), doctor's office. Maybe half an hour later, I was back at the valet drop, handing my ticket to a different guy.

He looked at the number, got my keys, and tore them off their ticket, on which someone had written, "Customer must get own car."

"Is it a stickshift?" he asked. I nodded. "Well, it's straight through there, about 10 feet to the left of that silver car."

Crosswalk, goddamn stairs, ground floor of parking garage, 100 feet. Silver car, my car nowhere in sight. Middle lane, still no car, 40 feet. Turn around, wondering why the hell anyone hires valet people who can't drive a stick...there she is! 60 feet more. There's that 200 feet I was trying to avoid.

I didn't collapse into the seat, at least.

Kind of defeated the purpose of valet parking.

I'll gladly teach all their valets how to drive for $20 each using the Highly Classified Click & Clack NPR Stickshift Driving School Technique, of which I cannot write further.

Highly Classified.

Gimme twenty bucks.

A Big Effing Deal

Went to my regular doc this afternoon for a followup.

Not a long visit, but one I'd been looking forward to for several weeks after being scheduled for an abdominal & pelvic CAT scan/angiogram. My last one, back in December, showed that the tear in my aorta had grown. Only a quarter-inch more and I'd need surgery.

Doc didn't even mention the CAT scan, so I had to chase him down (fortunately he didn't go far) to ask about the test.

The tear has healed up some. That's the big effing deal!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pic of the Day: Pickens, decades ago

I really got a surprise last night while snooping at the Florida Memory Photographic Collection. I searched on "Fort Pickens" and found only 114 pics, but several of them completely changed some things I believed about the fort.

The first pic dates to 1976, just a few years after the National Park Service took over the fort. It shows a Ranger and some visitors on the parade ground with the fort's north wall behind them. The big arch is the sally port--the main entrance. To its right is a low square doorway instead of the pair of tall rectangular openings that are there today. I was all set to write to the site's owners to tell them this isn't Fort Pickens.

Then I found this next picture, from 1957. Even though it's reversed, there's no mistaking the parade ground if you've been climbing all over the fort for a few years. There's that little doorway...and up on top, over to the left, is another thing that's not there today, a low concrete range-finder station. All that's left of that these days is a set of concrete supports for the stairs, just behind the restroom building.

I like the cars parked in the parade ground. Before the National Park Service got the fort, Pickens was a Florida State Park. No parking there, today. At some point, the NPS folks re-worked that small doorway to match the tall double-doors that were supposed to be there. The other doorways were neatened up, too.

Next, from 1955, shows the parade-side arches of the southwest wall from the top of the northwest wall. In the distance are the twin arches of the cistern. The mystery wall from a recent Pic of the Day is visible as a dark square just to the right of the smaller arch. I was thinking that the Park Service built it to keep people from climbing onto the adjacent walls, but it's clearly older than I'd thought.

The last shot, also from 1955, shows the arches of the northwest wall, all bricked up with doors and windows. A chimney pokes up from the last complete room; just north of here (out of frame, right) is the big hole in the fort left by the 1899 explosion that destroyed the northwest bastion.

Today, you can see signs that those arches were walled-up, but they're all open and neat, these days. The partitions were taken down sometime before 1982, going by one picture at the Photographic Collection site.

#1, Karl Holland, Fla. Photo Collection #c684078
#2, Unknown, Fla. Photo Collection #rd0018
#3, Charles Barron, Fla. Photo Collection #c022321
#4, Unknown, Fla. Photo Collection #rc20205

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Adventures in Walking (PLT Edition)

Pensacola Little Theater held a fundraiser last night; my friend's band The Swinging Dick Tracys played in a 1920's-themed room.

I headed downtown early, thinking that with all the Pensacola history I'd been looking at in the past week, I'd walk over to Plaza Ferdinand VII (just across the street from PLT) to have a look at the bust of Andrew Jackson at the south end of the park. Plaza Ferdinand VII is where the Spanish formally handed over the keys and the land to Jackson on July 17, 1821. The bust marks where Jackson was inaugurated as Florida's first governor.

Didn't work out. As I pulled up, I saw a guy trying to break into his own car to get his keys. We tried a few things--screwdrivers taped to the end of a stick, then a pair of bent-nosed pliers taped on it. The pliers worked. Good thing he had an open sunroof. After maybe 20 minutes of that I had to sit down ("sit down" is a nice way of saying "I collapsed into the driver's seat"). This kidney/aorta/leg shit really needs to be done with. I'm tired of being unable to walk or stand, tired of collapsing into a chair and having trouble standing back up. Doctor's appointment this Tuesday.

So I sat in my car until 7:30, then hobbled across the parking area, hobbled some more across Main Street (sorry, man, I can't run, thanks for stopping to let me cross), then leaned against the PLT building waiting for my legs to catch up. They complained some more when I went up the stairs. Once inside, I wandered around until I found the right room. Couldn't go in until 8, so I stood and shifted from leg to leg, leaned against the wall, and wondered what time it was.

Once the doors opened, I found a bench, collapsed onto it, and stayed put the rest of the evening, people-watching and listening to the Dicks.

The Swinging Dick Tracys have been around since 1998 in some form or other. They've got a hell of a song list ranging from 1920's through Motown and the '80s--Swing, Oldies, Rock, Funk, Disco, Latin...about 200 songs. They kicked ass, took names, and did it with style.

There weren't many people dancing; they were content to hang out in little groups or wander from room to room. I hadn't known this was a costume party, but there were quite a few people dressed for themes with varying success, from a very sassy-looking '20s flapper with a Cheshire Cat grin to a few girls who were maybe trying for the Jungle theme in the next room but looked like they were headed to a strip club. It occurred to me that if this were a scene in a movie, everyone there would have been in period-perfect costumes, dressed to the 9's, and probably color-coordinated with the room. This crowd was more interesting than that--a combination of costumes and Sunday Best and "What was SHE thinking?" The gents followed a similar pattern, from gangster Zoots to Sunday suits to one guy in a T-Shirt and cargo pants.

By 11 I'd decided I'd had enough of sitting on the bench, but before I left I made a pit stop in the restroom. I took a stall, conducted my business, and decided to wipe the toilet rim and floor so no one would think _I_ was the one who made the mess (I wasn't). I lean down to wipe the floor...


Oh, dammit. I fumbled around for a few moments and found it: my pants button, and me without a safety pin.

I tried zipping up all the way...oh, good, it held. Left my shirt un-tucked to cover the damage.

Hobble out the front...dammit, those stairs again. No way I was going to try the wheelchair ramp (wrong direction and 20 feet farther). Hobbled along the cars this time...into the lot...I could see my car, but it seemed farther away with each step...finally at the door, huffing and puffing like a marathon sprinter, shaking hand holding the door key...I collapsed into the seat...


Zipper. I don't care. Too tired to care. I sat there for a few minutes just happy I didn't have to walk any further. I was halfway home when I realized that the gas gauge was right on top of the "E" and I had a vision of myself trying to walk along Scenic Highway to get gas. Last time I ran out it was a short walk uphill--and I could walk. She didn't do me wrong--she got me to a station.

Funny things, zippers. This one came apart. Left side pulled right out of the glide. I hiked up my pants and leaned against the car while pumping gas. Whoever invented pay-at-the-pump probably had a bad zipper and was missing a button.

A better writer would have a wrap-up right about here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pic of the Day: Morgan's Green Stairs

This is in the south corner of Morgan's parade ground. The old granite steps were stripped at some point.

We're at the big end of the triangle formed by Morgan's 3rd and 4th walls and Battery Duportail. I doubt many people ever come back here, since you have to walk halfway around the fort from the sally port to get to the little "back door" in the south bastion. Most of the people I see visiting these old forts do a cursory walk-around, following the printed guide, maybe snapping a few pictures, then leaving in under an hour.

I can't do that. There's so much to see! I'll typically carry a notebook, tape measure and camera, making sketches and getting detail photos, always on the lookout for stuff like this.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pic of the Day: Morgan Stairs & Gorge, Bastion A

This is what Fort Morgan's inside stairs used to look like at all 5 corners of the parade wall before Battery Duportail was built within the fort. Only two locations had access to powder magazines.

Oh, man, those knee-creaking stairs. Sensible stair-builders make them with an 8" rise and 12" run, but some sadistic bastard made these with a 12" rise!

At my best, I was hard-pressed to walk up those things without huffing and puffing for a minute or two after. Ain't gonna happen these days, unless hacking out my kidney helps to fix my legs. Plenty to look at at ground level until then.

The little squares in the wall are for ventilation; there's an amazing amount of air moving through the powder magazines (one to either side of that doorway)--and no mechanical assistance.

A really really NICE designer would have added a freaking elevator through that door. Just sayin'.

A Visit to my old workplace...

I've been out of work since July 13, 2010, thanks to the aortic dissection, kidney lesion, and leg problems that have made things so interesting these past 8 months.

For the first time since that day, I went by two of the stores where I used to work. Some new faces, or familiar faces in new locations (management's been shuffling people around, again), and they were surprised to see me alive.

It turns out that the former manager of the last place I was working either tossed or "lost" my file, including contact numbers, so none of my former coworkers could find me to find out how things were going, what hospital I was in, or anything. What an ass.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pic of the Day: Morgan's Covered Stairs

Those Engineers, always building stuff, even when there's something already there.

Fort Morgan's the one on the left. Battery Duportail is that big block of concrete to the right. Before 1898, Fort Morgan had a big, open parade ground with impressive granite stairs at each of its five corners.

Military guys being the way they are, they wanted some big 12" guns parked right in the middle of the fort. Guns need a bunker, and before long there was this honking big mass of concrete poured right over a few parts of the old fort.

Most of the fort is accessible. For this spot, you have to walk halfway around the outside to the fort's "back door" in the southwest face of the south bastion. This will let you see a little Boy Scout barracks, part of the latrine of the old citadel, and at the opposite end these stairs. You'll have access to most of Wall #3 and all of #4--and a generous length of gray concrete.

At the bottom of the page on that first link, there's a little Google Map window that'll let you get a good view of things; this corner's all the way to the left in the wedge formed by the fort's and battery's south walls. The latrine foundation is a neat square near the fat end of the triangle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pic of the Day: Pensacola, 1885

This map of downtown Pensacola was drawn by Henry Wellge.

You really need the big (7mb) version to appreciate what's still here and what's lost.

You can find the Old Christ Church at Church and Adams Streets, right next to Seville Square. No Rosie O'Grady's, yet.

Off to the north at 5th (now known as Cervantes) and Hayne streets, the Pensacola Police Department will be on the southwest side of the intersection, a Big 10 Tire shop to the northeast and the northbound on-ramp to I-110 to the northwest.

The last pier in the upper right is Muscogee Wharf (no luxury homes here for more than a century!); above that is Bayou Texar.

Near the last pier on the far left are a small boatyard and Joe Patti's Seafood.

The lumber industry was Pensacola's main claim to fame; the next pier down from Muscogee is a lumber pen and sawmill owned by G. W. Wright. Today, this is where the south end of 9th Avenue meets Bayfront Parkway.

One thing I never knew--and only noticed from looking at the old maps at that the waterfront got filled in quite a bit over the past 200 years. An 1812 Spanish map shows the shore just shy of Main street. Today there's a couple of blocks of fill between A and Alcaniz Streets. In the map above, we can see quite a bit of fill along and between many of the piers. In a later (1896) map by Koch, the fill's more extensive. Watson's 1906 map shows a massive fill running from the east shore of Bayou Chico to the west shore of Bayou Texar with close to 7 blocks' worth of new shoreline added below Main Street.

The 1906 map's confusing. The modern shoreline isn't nearly as extensive as what's shown, especially along the eastern end of the shoreline near the mouth of Bayou Texar. Along this end is a big filled-in section that forms the Pensacola end of the Three-Mile Bridge between Pensacola and Gulf Breeze. From here you've got 17th Avenue going north, Bayfront Parkway following the shoreline to Main Street, and Gregory Street leading to the middle of town and I-110.

I'm thinking that developers hoped to add some valuable waterfront real estate and cash in, but Pensacola's 1906 hurricane and San Francisco's earthquake quenched their plans. Why the earthquake? A 1908 report found that the strongest shaking happened in land-filled areas. I wonder if the earthquake and report made people rethink using landfill that way.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What does a teacher MAKE?! A difference.

This guy would have scared me into being a good student.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pic of the Day: Muscogee Wharf, near sunset

As a kid, I would look out the car window as we drove past this thing sitting out in the bay. I always called it "the Castle."

It's actually the far end of Muscogee Wharf. Pensacola used to be a booming port city with an easy dozen long piers fanned out into the bay and ships tied up along each one, loading or unloading, dealing in lumber, cotton, grain, all the commodities of the day.

Today, about all that's left is a much smaller port and the remains of Muscogee Wharf. This one used to reach about a quarter mile from shore. The "castle" was actually part of a ship-coaling station owned (like many of the piers) by the L&N Railroad.

A fire in 1955 destroyed much of the wharf. It was never rebuilt. Just after Hurricane Ivan in 2004, construction began on a small development of "luxury homes" at the land end of the old wharf. There were supposed to be 13 of these, but to date maybe only 5 such houses have been built.

I wonder if any of those luxury-house buyers realized that the city sewage treatment plant was just down Main Street from them before the new one went online in mid-2010. All it would have taken was a little breeze from the south.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Song of the Day: Mah Na, Mah Na

This is from Sesame Street's first season in 1969. Don't tell the kids, but the song's originally from an Italian porno.

Brought to you by the letter "F"--for F*ck Republicans.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pic of the Day: Pickens SW Wall, cracked

Back to Fort Pickens.

This is looking south along the communication gallery of the southwest wall--smaller arches that connect the bigger casemates like hallways. These are 10 feet across; the larger ones span 30 feet.

I've mentioned the 1916 blasting project in which Engineers used dynamite to knock down some of the brickwork on top of the fort to open up lines of sight for Battery Pensacola.

Most of the arches along the South Wall collapsed; those along the Southwest Wall here cracked through and through along the entire length of the wall.

As a little bonus, if you click on the pic to get the enlarged version, you can see the gap that was designed into the North, South, Northwest & Southwest walls between the big arch and the curtain wall. This allowed one or the other to settle without damaging the neighboring structure. It also allowed one or the other to be damaged or even to collapse without taking the entire section of wall down.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pic of the Day: Castillo de San Marcos

St. Augustine, Florida vies with Pensacola for the title of "Oldest City." I haven't paid much attention, aside from reading the occasional bumper sticker.

Who cares about that when there are forts to look at? St. Augustine has America's oldest masonry fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, completed by the Spanish in 1695.

The National Park Service maintains this beautiful place. It's not as large or elaborate as the "Third System" French-style forts the US started building between the War of 1812 and its Civil War, but it's every bit as formidable in its defense. Where most American Third System forts were built using common clay brick contracted from various producers, the Castillo was constructed with locally-quarried coquina, a soft sedimentary limestone made up of shells. This stone is soft enough that cannon balls would sink into the surface; brick would shatter or crumble when struck.

I got lucky on this photo; it's one of only 4 that survived a hard drive crash that wiped out everything I had in February of 2010, but it's also the most dramatic shot. There was a thunderstorm building behind me and the clouds overhead made for a perfect "When your jaw drops, trip the shutter!" moment. Within 5 minutes, the rain was coming down by the bucketload.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pic of the Day: Buck & Gag

2012 is an election year.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

25th High School Reunion Looms...

Looms subjectively, really; I went to the 20th in 2006 and found it too much like high school was in 1986: the popular folks...and me.

I was one of several in the under-popular group who banded together in geekdom; Instead of a "Members Only" jacket, I had the K-Mart equivalent, in black. Good jacket, and I didn't care whether the brand was right.

I was the kid who found a seat in the lunch room, whipped out whatever book I was reading at the time, and read it while I ate. I still tend to do that, with some of the same books.

I was the kid who drew plans for "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" starships when I should have been doing drafting exercises. Failed that class, but I still do technical drawings. Forts. Lots of straight lines.

I wanted to be a musician. I brought a cheap Casio keyboard to class and amazed a few people by playing the main keyboard line from "Axel F"--but that's about all I ever did with that thing. Never wrote a note of my own. I'm a much better guitar or bass player than I ever was with keys.

At that 20th Reunion, I ended up sitting at a table and wishing for a damn book. The same popular people grouped together, just like old times.

There was Mr. Football Captain, still short, less hair, more gut. I wondered if he still had the throwing arm and aim that let him chuck a cat liver across the Anatomy & Physiology classroom and under the door without an extra bounce. That throw was a thing of beauty even for a football-hater like me.

There's Ms. Friend's-Ex-Girlfriend. I joined him on long-ass bike rides in the dark of Friday or Saturday nights so he could whisper boyfriend stuff to her through her bedroom window, or so they could make out in a family car in the garage. I sat under a bush with the bikes, wishing for a damn book. And a light. I made some of those rides back home alone. These days, I'll drive along Scenic Highway and think we were batshit crazy. There still aren't many street lights along that road. She's married, he's divorced.

Then there's Dulcinea. I've been trying to think of a nickname for this vision of beauty, this object of desire, from the first days of this blog. I was reminded of my write-up of Peter David's "Vendetta." I went hunting in Googleville and found this at the Wikipedia link:
In the Spanish of the time, Dulcinea means something akin to an overly elegant "sweetness". In this way, Dulcinea is an entirely fictional person for whom Quixote relentlessly fights. To this day, a reference to someone as one's "Dulcinea" implies hopeless devotion and love for her, and particularly unrequited love.

I was totally hung up on this girl. She was totally un-hung-up on me. I went through high school tilting at that windmill. Embarrassing, now, and while I'd like to apologize to her for all of that, there's no way in hell I'm going to, oh, use the Reunion email with everyone's name, address, phone number and email address to, for example, email her to apologize. I don't think she or Mr. Dulcinea would appreciate it--and I swore off windmill-tilting years ago.

But there she was. She looked damn good. I sat at my table and wished for a damn book.

I eventually moved to a couch near the door, wishing I had my sixty bucks back. That's a bit spendy for a few hours of returning to high school.

Pic of the Day: Is This Your Cat?

Or maybe I should have asked "WAS this your cat?" Each of Fort Gaines' 5 bastions has a small powder magazine built into the corner opposite the bastion entrance. If I hadn't taken a spotlight into the fort on that trip I probably wouldn't have seen the cat or realized what it was. At first blink it looked like a plastic grocery bag.

There are plenty of places in a fort for curious cats to explore and hide, but Felix might have run across one of the resident foxes. If the fox ran him in here, the only way out is back the way he came.

Obligatory Fort Content: the rectangular openings to the left and above Felix are part of the ventilation system. Each one does a zig-zag through the wall, allowing air to pass in and out but keeping any sparks, embers, or cats from entering the magazine.

In the upper opening, you can see a brass or bronze grate that adds another obstacle to sparks. This opening vents to the outside of the bastion; the other vents into the main room.

You have to stand in the room to appreciate the amount of air that's flowing through here without any mechanical assistance. That's by design: keeping the air moving around helps to keep the gunpowder dry.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pic of the Day: The Scum of a Country.

PZ Myers brought attention to these low-life balls of crap in his blog. This is a collage of Facebook posts put up by various dirtbags across the States (click to make it larger). Their response to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan?

"Pearl Harbor, assholes!"

It reads like a roll call of the lowest of the teabagging Fox News-watching mouth-breathing bits of white trash, the Palin supporters, the sort of people who carry badly-spelled protest signs at a Beck rally, the very people who got this country in the financial and political trouble it's in today because of their stupidity and hatred of the Other. They are why the Republican party is in a slow-motion implosion, a death-spiral racing Charlie Sheen to the bottom. That'd be a really good thing, only they're dragging the rest of us along for the ride.

They gave us 8 years of George Bush. They gave us Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida, Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, Haley Barbour, Peter King, Rand Paul, Christine O'Donnel, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Allen West, John Boehner, Jan Brewer...a depressing list of the worst possible people for any political position, and some of them actually won because of morons like these.

Thanks for holding the rest of us back, scumbags.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pic of the Day: Graffiti Bridge

This is probably the most recognizable landmark in Pensacola, FL: the 17th Avenue bridge or "graffiti bridge." It's owned by CSX Railroad, but it belongs to Pensacola. For as long as I can remember, it's been a constantly-changing mural. The railroad and police pretty much leave it alone as long as there aren't a lot of dirty words to frighten the prudes. At that point, it gets repainted by the railroad...then repainted by the graffiti artists.

Given the underhanded scumbaggery from Wisconsin's (and those of other states) union-busting Republicans of late, I especially liked this picture of the bridge.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pic of the Day: Gaines Bastion D

This is the interior of Fort Gaines' Bastion D. This pic doesn't do the view any justice, but it's the only one I could find. Time for another road trip!

To left and right are paired gun emplacements, each separated by a thick pier, each with an arched ceiling. Those four "side" arches intersect beautifully with the main one.

The door leads into the bastion's small powder magazine. The "skylight" is part of the ventilation system that kept air moving in the magazine to keep the gunpowder dry.

That big manhole-looking thing on the floor is indeed a manhole. Rainwater was gathered on the roof, ran down through the piers, and into the drain system under the floors. I don't know whether it's a cistern or just drainage; haven't gotten my hands on any plans that show the foundation structure yet.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Shed Wars: the followup!

I was reminded of all that crap last year over my 25-year-old shed when I read this news item from down in Miami:

Last month, North Miami Beach blogger Stephanie Kienzle ripped her town's mayor, Myron Rosner, after finding that he'd spent more than $500 on hotels in nearby Hollywood and Miami. Days later, a code compliance inspector came knocking at her front door. "I had no doubt the mayor was trying to get revenge," she says.

Kienzle says she has an email that proves it -- and it appears she's not alone. Former mayor Raymond Marin, who lost to Rosner, complained to state officials last week that Rosner had done the same thing to him as a "personal vendetta."

I haven't written updates about my shed because there's nothing to tell. Once the neighborhood douchebag--my neighbor to the north, an ex-cop, who has a cop for a son, and plenty of City connections perfect for making someone else's life hell--sold his house and moved out, the City conveniently stopped bugging me about my old shed. Interestingly, Mr. Neighbor or his boy only got a bug up his ass about the shed when they were selling the house in March of 2010, not for the two years before that that I'd actually been working on the thing. New roof in November, 2009? Who cares! Selling the house? Holy crap, there's an ugly shed next door!


By the time he moved out, I bought a building permit for the shed. In nearly a year after I got the permit, I haven't heard a peep from City Hall, haven't had a followup or anything. The permit's been sitting in my car all this time. Must be nice, having political connections.

Within a few months of my getting the damn permit, I was rendered unable to work on the shed. I can barely climb a ladder. Perfect. I've had the new plywood for two years, plans are drawn, it'll be really nice, assuming I can ever lift a sheet of plywood again. That'll depend on my getting the kidney out and on how well that aortic dissection heals up.

Also apparently not an issue anymore is my Tracker; Mr. Neighbor or his son wigged out over the thing when it was house-selling time. The Tracker still sits with a canvas tarp over its rear window--but it was like that when I drove it all the time: there's no way to close the rear window.

It's not up on blocks, it's tagged and licensed, and has been for as long as I've had it. I had some fun with it when the Douchebag stuff started up: after he called about the supposedly "abandoned" vehicle I'd randomly take it out on errands or to work, making sure to drive slowly up the street (as if anyone would miss a screamingly yellow Tracker) in front of his house. With gas prices going up again, Old Yella will be hitting the streets again. It needs a bath, but as always I can just hop in and turn the key, start it right up even if it has been sitting up for a few months.

Pic of the Day: Gaines, Lit Up

I can't remember the photographer's name, but he was quoted in a photog magazine: "When your jaw drops, trip the shutter."

As the weather warms up, people like me grab their cameras and go to the various forts, looking for scenery like this.

This is inside Bastion 'A', at the northwest corner of Fort Gaines. This fort guards the west side of the channel into Mobile Bay from the eastern tip of Dauphin Island, AL.

Not as massive or as elaborate as Fort Pickens, Gaines' design is typical of forts built in the mid-1800's. Where earlier forts such as Morgan and Pickens had large, thick bastions guarding the walls, Gaines and her contemporaries (Clinch, Jefferson, and Taylor) have smaller, less elaborate bastions.

Those at Gaines and its twin Fort Clinch are different from any of the others in that long tunnels run from the back (gorge) of each bastion in toward the middle of the fort. The skylight and smaller openings (doors? windows?) are a nice touch. To the right, the dark opening leads to a spiral staircase that gets you on top of the bastion, where you can look out at Mobile Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and a dozen or so gas-drilling rigs.

The ceilings in each bastion are beautifully vaulted; that'll be a different POTD.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Parody of the Day: Deep In the Freaking Closet!

I wrote this one a few years ago, around the time Toe-Tappin' Larry Craig's little secret got out. It always amuses me when a lying hypocrite gets nabbed doing the very thing he's railed against.

Maybe it's a little dated...but still seems current, I think, considering the welcoming of a gay political group (GOPride) at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference, the rapid defection of various crazy-eyed religious gay-haters from the February get-together, and the subsequent kicking-out of GOProud from CPAC 2012. Big tent, all right.

"Deep In the Freakin' Closet"
(to the tune of "Deep In the Heart of Texas")

The G-O-P, it seems to be
Deep In the Freakin' Closet!
They're so devout 'till it comes out
Deep In the Freakin' Closet!

From Restroom stall to D.C. Mall
Deep In the Freakin' Closet!
They crucify, and then belie
Deep In the Freakin' Closet!

They rant and rage, then f*ck a page
Deep In the Freakin' Closet!
When caught we see them shout "Who, ME?!"
Deep In the Freakin' Closet!

In Dubya's bulge, they would indulge
Deep In the Freakin' Closet!
That SEXY BRUTE! in his flight-suit
Deep In the Freakin' Closet!

With nuts to chin, they try to spin
Deep In the Freakin' Closet!
But are they gay? Who them? NO WAY!
Deep In the Freakin' Closet!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pic of the Day: What Would Vader Ride?

He'd drive a Harley. Everyone knows that.

I don't think anyone would bitch about his straight pipes.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pic of the Day: Ft. Clinch--Phone Pole Evergreen

A rare phone pole evergreen tree, found at Fort Clinch on the northeastern-most point of Florida.

I didn't walk completely around it, but the overall effect was as if the pole had been set carefully in the middle of the tree, rather than the tree growing up around it.

Knees and ankles & the evil kidney--the mystery continues

Doctor #1 said torn meniscus. Nope.

Doctor #2 thought it was gout, jabbed a needle in there, extracted maybe 15cc's of gunk.

Lab results came back: nope. Gout's caused by uric acid, lab results didn't find crystals.

Meanwhile, my right knee's hot and there's fluid around the kneecap like before. I can't straighten my leg if I'm sitting. I can walk--well, hobble--for the time being.

Gotta get that damn kidney out; all the docs are saying that it and its "lesion" are causing all this trouble.

I Get Email.

PZ Myers and other bloggers get dreary email rants from devout, googly-eyed screechers and godbots.

I get erection spam and wonderful opportunities to rake in cash:


Under the United Nations scam victims rehabilitation scheme you are listed and approved to receive payment of US$750.000.00 as one of the scammed victims.

Be guided therefore to get in touch with the country supervising payment officer in Nigeria ASAP via his given information so that he can release your funds to you as per our standing instruction.

Name: Mr.Emmanuel Rhodes
Phone: +234 1890 0697

Notify us in writing as soon as you get paid of the above amount.

Faithfully yours,
Dr.Debra Green {Mrs.}

That's the third one this week! So nice to know that Dr. Green (Mrs.) is looking out for me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pic of the Day: Pickens--The Missing Stairs

There are lots of architectural mysteries at Fort Pickens. Most of them stem from damage done long after the fort was completed in 1834.

In the wake of the Civil War, Pickens and her sister forts were obsolete. They had been proof against the cannons and ships of their day, when smoothbore cannon and sails were high-tech. Now, however, rifled guns capable of firing much larger rounds and steamships using propellers were better able to stand up to a masonry fort--or simply motor past it against winds and tides.

In the years that followed, guns and ships quickly evolved. Fortification had to keep pace, as it had centuries before. Brick gave way to concrete. Forts gave way to buried bunkers. The massive two-gun Battery Pensacola was built within the walls of Pickens, stretching diagonally across the parade ground. The guns' powerful blast kicked up a cloud of sand on top of the fort every time they fired. The tops of the old fort's walls inhibited the guns' field of fire.

No respecters of old architecture, those Army types. They had Engineers dynamite the south and southwest walls and bastion 'B' in 1916. The Pic of the Day shows what's left of the south cistern, where rainwater was collected for drinking. The blasting knocked the facing off, exposing its twin arches. There used to be a pair of stairways here--one running up to the left, parallel to the cistern's face along the south wall, the other where the wall stands in the middle of the frame. That one always confused me, since the wall isn't part of the original structure. It's clearly old brick, maybe picked from the rubble after the blasting. It's not propping up the arch to the right. There's a big pile of sand and brush behind it. The only thing that makes sense is that it's there to keep people from climbing around back there or up on the walls and bastion in that area.

I wonder how much of the original stairway is under all that.