Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Birthday Blog Rerun

Firecloud has another birthday

The Earth has now revolved about the Sun 75 times since the universe first came into being.

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. —Charles Dickens

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. —J. D. Salinger,

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nice little boy named baby tuckoo. —James Joyce

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. —Ernest Hemingway

 Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. —Zora Neale Hurston,

 Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women. —Charles Johnson

Bligh: Do you really think you'll be able to command this rabble?
Christian: I'll do my best.
Bligh: Well I did my best, and I had the authority of the law. You're a dead man Fletcher.

The moment one learns English, complications set in. —Felipe Alfau,

Q: What's the difference between a tweaker and an elephant?
A: The elephant will eat all your peanut butter.”
Bucky Sinister

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.  —L. P. Hartley

A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. —William Gibson

I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 It was love at first sight. —Joseph Heller

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. —Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

In the cookies of life, sisters are the chocolate chips. ~Author Unknown

 To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time. ~Clara Ortega

 Never have children, only grandchildren. ~Gore Vidal

Saturday, 15 September 2018

A Thousand Slimy Things Lived On...and So Did I

Midway Atoll has changed from a source of guano., to a 1930s Pan-Am refueling stop, to a WWII critical battle site, to a Vietnam refueling stop for old military aircraft and then to a U.S bird sanctuary.

There are currently 400,000 nesting pairs of Gooney birds (Albatross) on Midway, about 70% of the world population. The birds arrive in August and stay until late Fall. The mating ritual involves throwing back the head, flapping wings and yodeling in perfect synchronization for days on end. They are graceful in flight but ofter suffer midair collisions.  They frequently crash and tumble on takeoff rolls and on landing. They won't move from the nest if approached by humans or vehicles.

 Overhead the albatross
Hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
An echo of a distant time
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine. 
-Pink Floyd

I stayed in this barracks a number of times after a 10 hour, 2,300 mile, flight from Japan. The Navy was our host and we showered and brushed our teeth in salt water. I often had diarhea here and first thought it was the water until someone told me that it came from eating raw snakes and eels days earlier in Okinawa.

The birds have to be in synch because they take turns shielding the nest from the sun, which kills many of the baby chicks every year. Up to 1,000 a day die in the hot sun and are hauled off to the is survival of the fittest...mother nature takes her toll.

Midway was the turning point in the Pacific war. The U.S. sank four Japanese heavy carriers here with great losses of their best pilots and airplanes. Japan never recovered from these losses. U.S. Navy code breakers allowed the Navy to learn the exact date (June 2, 1942) of the attack on Midway and position an inferior force to lie in wait.

For reasons not entirely understood the wandering albatross have a deferred mating pattern and do not return to Midway to mate until they are 8 or nine years old. Recently, a bird tagged in 1958 returned to mate which says something about lifespan..

The Breaking of JN-25
Breaking the Japanese code known to Americans as JN-25 was daunting. It consisted of approximately 45,000 five-digit numbers, each number representing a word or phrase. For transmission, the five-digit numbers were super-enciphered using an additive table. Breaking the code meant using mathematical analysis to strip off the additive, then analyzing usage patterns over time, determining the meaning of the five-digit numbers. T

AF Is Short of Water
In the spring of 1942, Japanese intercepts began to make references to a pending operation in which the objective was designated as "AF." In an effort to alleviate any doubt, in mid-May the commanding officer of the Midway installation was instructed to send a message in the clear indicating that the installation's water distillation plant had suffered serious damage and that fresh water was needed immediately. Shortly after the transmission, an intercepted Japanese intelligence report indicated that "AF is short of water." Armed with this information, Nimitz began to draw up plans to move his carriers to a point northeast of Midway.

The Gooney Bird's long wings are ill-suited to powered flight and most species lack the muscles and energy to undertake sustained flapping flight. Albatrosses in calm seas are forced to rest on the ocean's surface until the wind picks up again. 

I logged 2,800 hours of flying time at this C-124 navigator's station.  There is a lot of primitive WWII era gear here, including the APN-9 Loran A oscilloscope and a crappy radar. The best navigation aid was dead reckoning, followed by the bubble sextant.

The maximum takeoff weight of a C-124 is 197,000 pounds. Once, one of my pilots, wanting to fly 3,300 miles to Tacoma, had the empty airplane refueled to 110 percent of the allowable maximum weight.. We took off in the pre-dawn darkness, lumbering slowly to the very end of the runway and lifting off into the darkest night I can remember about five feet above the ocean. It took what seemed forever to get high enough that dipping a wing into the water was no longer a possibility.

 When taking off, albatrosses need to take a run up to allow enough air to move under the wing to provide lift.

The C-124 was designed for 5,000 hours of flight time, but often hit 50,000. It had the largest piston driven engines ever mounted on an airplane. The wings developed cracks and sometimes broke off in heavy turbulence. The last one was retired from the National Guard in 1974.

Gooney birds have been recorded flying non-stop over 4,000 miles to find food for the chicks. It's possible that the strenuous mating dance, which lasts for days, is a survival mechanism. The birds have to each be fit enough to share gathering food and sheltering the nest for months.

Above is a picture of Midway on December 7, 1941  after a sneak attack..

The picture below is the flight engineer's station on the C-124. They would do things like throws the levers to kick in the superchargers if we had to climb above 8,000 feet to get over a mountain range.

When a bird first returns to the colony it will dance with many partners, but after a number of years the number of birds an individual will interact with drops, until one partner is chosen and a pair is formed. They then continue to perfect an individual dance language that will eventually be unique to that one pair and last for life.

Young Phred Firecloud, the navigator.

Midway Atoll is about 1,200 miles from Hawaii. The atoll was formed about 28 million years ago by a volcano. The atoll is over the same hot spot that formed the Hawaiian Islands. The volcano gradually sank under its own weight, but the coral growth kept the atoll above water. This subsidence process is called isotonic adjustment.The atoll was claimed by a Captain Middleton for the U.S. in 1859 under the 1856 Uninhabited Island Guano Act.

Things change fast on the human scale of time, from the Battle of Midway to a bird sanctuary in my lifetime.

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow!

The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I. 
Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Coleridge

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Leaving Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi was an interesting place. We only had one day there to see things and now we are having breakfast in the Hanoi Airport and are 3 hours into our 36 hour journey back to Sarasota. The picture below shows Ray inspecting a column of NVA veterans. The veterans are visiting the Ho Chi Minh memorial complex in the centre of Hanoi. Ray is now in his 80s. Ray is a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam and has his veteran hat on for the picture. Ray's wife passed away a year ago during the holidays. He's taking this trip by himself.

You can't take any pictures in the huge mausoleum. They move small groups though quickly. Ray come close to collapsing from shortness of breath and I fall back and help him slowly move past the body. One of the Honor guards approaches and asks if Ray is all right. Another guard motions impatiently for us to move along more quickly. We ignore him and move past the body as soon as Ray can begin to catch his breath.

Uncle Ho wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread in both halves of Vietnam after reunification, but they ignore his wishes and do a Lenin style display of his body in this giant mausoleum.They close the memorial two months a year to refurbish the body. Uncle Ho died in 1969 before he could see the reunification that occured in 1975.

In the market, I see a street artist doing a copy of a stylised portrait of Hunter S. Thompson.

The wiring in Asian cities we visit always appears as if it would be difficult to troubleshoot. We really like our Vietnamese guide, Tony. Tony says that when they have an electrical  problem, it is not uncommon to just give up and string a new wire.

We see the lake in the centre of Hanoi. They fished John McCain out of it with a broken arm after he parachuted out of his Navy fighter jet.  This dragon is on the lake shore.

The dragon seems to have a happy face (and so does the statue in the background).

They customise scooters and bicycles in very innovative ways to transport goods.

The weave and dance of vehicles though intersections and roundabouts is completely amazing. They all seem to ignore what traffic lights there are. A double beep on the horn seems to mean "watch out, I'm coming past".

We visit the Hanoi Hilton, where some American fliers were imprisoned. The building below was right at the edge of the little historic prison, which was also used by the French. It had a guillotine at that time. The prison itself is just not all that photogenic. The cells are very dark and do not photograph well. There is a video explaining how well the Air Force POWs were treated. I'm sure that when Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib become museums, we will produce something very similar. The victor gets to write the history.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Another Perfect Day

Up at 4 AM to check E-mail,  delete spam and dress....a drive to the gym at 5 :30 to do ten repetitions of weight lifts on five weight machines..... I go  around the machines three times and wipe down whatever was touched.... I have the place to myself....skipped the pool today...

At 8:30 I play two sets of tennis with Mrs. Phred....  The scores are 6-0, 6-1....Tomorrow I am sure i will finally win a set.... We play on a public hard court. ...I  figured out how to reserve a clay court at the country club and put in a request for a court next Tuesday and Thursday....we'll see...

Then on to an AA meeting at 11....during the drive there "Dear Prudence" by the Grateful Dead comes up on the phone and plays over the car radio....I turn it all the way up.....Later I play the 11:41 minute version 5 more times...brilliance ...We went to a free concert by Jerry in 1966 at the Golden Gate park in San Francisco...Timothy Leary was there too...and the Hell's Angels...Love was in the was a wave of drugs and love that broke somewhere on the mountains to the east a few years later....we all became teachers, cops, CPAs and stockbrokers....and grandparents....

I haven't had any alcohol for five months...I wake up early these days feeling weight has dropped 20 pounds and my doctor took me off three of my blood pressure medications...I'm in a cloud of feelgood...

Back home I made a big pot of chili....I like to add a bottle of picante sauce, two pounds of ground Italian Sausage, two chopped and sauteed onions, three cans of kidney beans and three cans of diced tomatoes....good can do the picante and sausage hot or mild....I do mild for Mrs. Phred.

Later I write this blog and listen to more Jerry Garcia on Amazon Prime Music....saw three Amazon delivery vans being trucked down I-95 on the 11 hour drive from Raleigh to Sarasota yesterday...what a Juggernaut ....could it become a singularity?

Tonight we'll watch 4 or 5 episodes from the 1995 season of NYPD Blue...the World Trade Center Towers are still there...police brutality and compassion go hand in hand on the lasts 12 years...

What a day....perfect...


Sunday, 22 July 2018

M. T. Liggett, American Folk Artist

Mullinville, Kansas

We wake up in Wichita, Kansas at 6 AM and set out for Mullinville (Population maybe 300) about 100 miles west on State Road 400.

We saw M. T. Liggett's work there seven years ago cruising across Kansas listening to a great FM rock station out of Dodge City.I've never been satisfied with the pictures I took of his work back then, so I decided to drive 500 miles out of the way and try once again.

We hit the Mullinville junction of State roads 400 and 54 and get detoured down 54. Mrs. Phred suggests immediately parking in the Mullinville truck stop, but I insist on continuing down 54 twelve miles, up county road 39 four miles and back east 8 miles on closed road 400. There we run into a total road closure. I suggest walking to Mullinville the next four miles and back in 100 degree heat, but Mrs. Phred is having none of it.

I eventually agree to unhook the Honda, do a U-turn and return 20 miles to the Mullinville truck stop. Mrs. Phred says that I always eventually do the right thing after exhausting all other possibilities.

We stop for breakfast at the truck stop and I ask the waitress if she knows M. T. Liggett. She says he comes in mostly for coffee. She says if he likes you he makes you a heart, if he doesn't he might make an ugly sculpture and put your name on it....she has four hearts.It's a small town. She says his doctor doesn't want him to work anymore...

I went back just now to look at my 2008 blog about M. T. Liggett. It's interesting that out of hundreds of sculptures that I seem to have selected many of the same ones...maybe those are the ones that seem very powerful to me?

This time I take 170 pictures. I try to compose them properly and use Picasa to crop them. Obviously a blog with that many pictures wouldn't work well so I pick only16...not should go and look yourself before all this original genius rusts away....this guy makes Picasso look a little unoriginal and repetitive...

"Evolution is wrong," declares another of his signs. "Only a miracle from the Almighty could have created the moronic dumbasses on the Kansas State Board of Education." - See more at:
"Evolution is wrong," declares another of his signs. "Only a miracle from the Almighty could have created the moronic dumbasses on the Kansas State Board of Education." - See more at:

There is an article on Roadside America about Mr. Liggett.

"In 1989, Liggett  began creating metal sculptures.   He uses a plasma arc cutter and an arc welder to turn old farm equipment, car parts, road signs, and any other odd bits of iron he can lay his hands on, into fantastic characters which adorn his property, on the side of Route 400 just west of town.  Most of Liggett's sculptures are brightly painted, and many have moving parts that spin and flash in the hot Kansas sun."

Hillary Clinton is, "Our Jack-Booted Eva Braun,” Mr. and Mrs. Clinton caricatures are labeled, “Pothead” and “Porkadolf”. Mrs. Clinton is done up with swastikas.

As you drive around Mullinville, you see Liggett's work everywhere....rust never sleeps...

He’s got one that equates Waco with Auschwitz. Janet Reno has her head stuffed up her butt. A right wing Republican has his thumb in the same position. Halliburton is represented by a dark pig’s head.

"Evolution is wrong," declares another of his signs. "Only a miracle from the Almighty could have created the moronic dumbasses on the Kansas State Board of Education." - See more at:
It’s tough to figure out Liggett’s political position. He seems equally pissed by just about everything and everyone, especially politicians.

Lots of the “totems” are devoted to M.T.’s old girlfriends, who he has immortalised in junk. You have to wonder about his relationships with neighbours. My money says he doesn’t much care much what other people think.

. "Evolution is wrong," declares another of his signs. "Only a miracle from the Almighty could have created the moronic dumbasses on the Kansas State Board of Education."
Putting aside intent, is M.T
- See more at:
At times Liggett's neighbors have not been pleased with his work....however,  he has made Mullinville famous.

Lots of hearts... Here is a video about the artist....check U-tube for many more....