Paradise Lost

I was flying the other day, practicing a long distance, cross country flight plan with my instructor in the copilot’s seat when we came upon my next landmark used to make sure I am still on my planned route.  On the air chart, it’s simply listed as “stacks”, but upon seeing them in person, my first thought was “nuclear power plant”.

What kind of power plant?

What kind of power plant?

I pointed them out to my instructor and asked him if it really was a nuke site and he said “If that were true, we wouldn’t have been allowed to fly near it.”  What on earth could it be with water cooling towers like that?  It had a rail yard like a coal plant, but the cooling towers and the nearby river seemed to tag it as a nuclear power design.  It was a mystery for sure, one that had to be looked into later.

After returning home, I decided to find out where that power plant was located and whatever story was behind it.  Since air sectional maps are on a scale of 1:500,000, many small locations are omitted.  I scanned the satellite maps on Google until I found what I was looking for.  As it turns out, this is a semi-famous power plant.  It was one of the largest coal powered steam power plants in the world when it was built in the 50’s, has a song written about it, and even grew it’s coal strip mining earth-moving operation so large as to wipe the town of Paradise off the map… literally.  The nuclear-like water towers exist as part of the sulfur scrubbing process to help clean up the “dirty” coal being used from the surrounding area.

Seeing the area from the air shows the kind of scar such operations create and leave behind.

Surface mined coal leaves its mark.

Surface mined coal leaves its mark.


I was listening to some soundtracks of movies in the car (yay for having an mp3 6-disc player) and did a heck of a lot of driving around today so I got to hear a bunch of them.  While most of the tracks I have are themes and background music, there’s a few that stand out where the music was a big part of the movie itself.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a really good movie and has a lot of old time folksy music in it.  One of the aspects I like about the movie is that it’s script borrowed a lot from Homer’s Odyssey.  It was fun to pick out scenes from the movie that mirrored ones from the book (like Jon Goodman playing a character with one eye).  It’s a funny movie and well worth renting if you haven’t seen it yet.

Delmar O’Donnell: Them syreens did this to Pete. They loved him up and turned him into a horny toad!

[Discussing how to counter Homer Stokes’ campaign for governor]
Junior O’Daniel: We could hire our own midget, even shorter than his.
Pappy O’Daniel: Wouldn’t we look like a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies, bragging on our own midget, doesn’t matter how stumpy.

I like a lot of different music styles and this one contains a bunch that you don’t get to hear often.  Some are so catchy that I hum, sing or whistle their tune for days after. One of my favorite tracks from the movie is Big Rock Candy Mountain. I whistle along with it every time I listen to it.

… not to be confused with Candy Mountain. (Warning! Loss of brain cells may result!)

Nature at Night

Last night, after a long day packing, I took a different route home.  Instead of the freeway, I took a more leisure rural route.  It was a nice night at 67F with a slight breeze so I had all the windows rolled down.  I love to drive and exploring a rural route at night on a windy, unfamiliar road was a thrill I haven’t experienced in quite a while.  Along the way, at a junction a few miles out from my home yet, I stopped and wandered in a nearby field.  Cool night air with a hint of moonlight sifting through the cloud layer above lent a light just bright enough see, but still holding on to that mystery complete darkness.  The night was alive with the crickets and toads and their various songs and as I gazed out over the vast field, a mysterious spark of white light would appear and then fade as my gaze would shift over to focus on it.  Intrigued, I watched as several such little sparks appear and disappear.  The Bell Witch is rumored to play such tricks upon travellers and she supposedly haunts the area I am in*.  My imagination immediately gets to work as my curiosity leads me to close in on a nearby light by a tree.  After several minutes of observation, I realize these tiny little blue-white sparks are merely fireflies, though they aren’t giving off the golden drop of sunshine kind of light I am used to.  Could it be a trick of the moonlight or is this a variation on the normal firefly, I wonder.  Growing up in California, fireflies are magical creatures to me as they don’t exist where I grew up, so everything about them is a new wonder to me.

I stay in the field for a while longer enjoying the scene and taking in the night song of the wildlife.  It’s soothing, apart from the few interruptions of passing motorists with their headlights on bright and their music turned up quite loud.  Having grown up in a city, nights like this were few and far between and hardly ever without someone pestering me to get going somewhere.  Letting your mind wander in such situations can be quite fun.  I can easily see these blue-white lights being mistaken for Will-o-wisp luring people deeper into the night taking them on some adventure.  The barks of a farmer’s dog being that of something far more savage prowling the night.  Coyotes and deer do actually wander around this area and I have no doubt some of the rustling in the bushes I’d heard that night might have been one of them.

After some time, I head back to the car and make my way home.  I feel more relaxed and less stressed.  I breathe in deeply of the night air glad to have taken the long way home this night.  Since I’m still recovering from my illness, once I do get home, I crash in bed as soon as possible, but it is a one that is less exhaustion and more of a natural sleep cycle (handy since mine’s been disrupted for many days).

*The Bell Witch of Adams county, Tennessee is by far, the strangest “ghost” story I’ve ever read about.  It follows none of the usual conventions of a typical ghost story and is one of the very few that have made it into historical record.  It is currently the only known case of a death certificate in the U.S. being issued as caused by a spirit.  A short summary can be found here, but if you’re really interested, getting a book from the library on it would be the best way to go as the story and events of the town surrounding it during the haunting are quite interesting.

BBQ Tip #36

Now that spring is upon us and more and more days see sunshine and warmer weather, the BBQ’s are being readied for some grillin’.  There’s a really simple way to add a little flavor to whatever you are cooking on a covered BBQ.  Just follow these steps for putting a bit of kick in your grill.

  1. Take a pie tin and place it off in a corner of the grill.
  2. Pour in some beer (whatever is handy) to at least cover the bottom if it were perfectly flat – about a half of a can should be plenty.
  3. Let it heat up along with the BBQ a few minutes before you put on your foodstuffs.
  4. Now just grill your food as normal.

This technique works best if you close the lid to the BBQ during the grilling process as an open grill won’t be able to capture the steam to add any flavoring.  In addition to giving your grilled dish some added flavor, you will also add some moisture to the process so that it won’t dry out as much.  Try experimenting with different alcohols, each one adds a slightly different flavor.

A sign of the times

A tale from the “strange, but true” section of my career, which at this moment is a cross between small, independent computer consulting and searching for a decent company to provide a more steady income.

On my way to the office for my final interview on Wednesday, I received a call wondering if I can move the meeting up a half an hour.  Apparently, the big wigs in the company called a last minute, all partner meeting and my interviewers wanted to make sure there was enough time to go ahead with mine while still being able to attend the recently called meeting.  I had left home early to make sure I got there in time, so this schedule change was no problem for me to accommodate.

The final interview goes well.  The company seems fairly well run and everyone I had met were both professional and friendly. All that was left to be done was to go over the fine points of the contract to make sure everything was clear and equitable.

The next day, the headhunter agent that arranged for everything called me up to let me know that the position I was applying for had been eliminated due to budgetary constraints.  This was a direct result of the big meeting that occurred right after my final interview the day before.  So instead of going into the office to sign on the dotted line, I had been furloughed. The company asked for my permission to keep my contact details so they can call me up and see if I’m still interested and available when the position opens back up — but that could be another quarter or two.

Farewell Fuzzy Buddy

Some of you might have noticed that last week I spent nearly all of my time in Classic WoW, keeping mostly to myself in chat as well.  I wanted to do something mind numbingly boring to keep my mind off of worrying for my missing cat, Raja.  I found myself constantly looking out the back door hoping to see him wanting inside.  It was also a good choice since my latency is between 200 and 500 constantly, making serious combat a bit difficult. When doing ultra lowbie quests, though, it wasn’t something for which I needed to pay much attention.

Yesterday, I learned of Raja’s fate and now understand that he will not be returning to me.  He was struck and killed by a vehicle on a nearby road. No longer will I feel him play-attacking my hands and feet.  No more napping on my shoulder as I play WoW or nuzzling my neck.  Only memories of him playing with his toys remain, especially his favorite of chasing the laser dot.  I only had Raja for a year, but in that year I made sure I always gave him the attention he wanted and never let a chance to spend time with him go by.  He was my fuzzy buddy and spent his time with me whatever I was doing.  He was always close at hand when working out in the yard, in the house, or on the computer – sometimes trying to “help out” by batting my tools or pouncing on my hands.  He attended company whenever I had any and enjoyed my young nieces playing with him.  I used to break off bits of my cheese when making a sandwich for lunch so that he could eat it.  I loved Raja and will miss him dearly.  RIP my fuzzy buddy.

Raja can sleep in the oddest places

Raja can sleep in the oddest places

Raja sleeping in my favorite chair

Raja sleeping in my favorite chair

Freezing Rain

A year and a week goes by and now my new heating unit went boom and has stopped working.  The freezing rainstorm going on has made travel near impossible, knocking over trees and powerlines due to the added ice and now my heater decides to die now that a week as passed since it’s warranty is up. Time to light the fireplace for the next few days.  I best bring in some of the wet, ice encrusted firewood from outside so it has a chance to thaw and dry before my small stack in the garage runs out.

At least the sight outside has it’s own beauty to witness, even though one of my pine trees broke a main branch under the weight of the ice.

Ice coats my backyard.

Ice coats my backyard.