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CentralAmerica SAS
Eastern Shore
Vulcan's Vineyard
Monday, 28 March 2011
Lanford Wilson
Mood:  sad
I note that the playwright Lanford Wilson died over the weekend.  
He  came to the 12m a number of years ago to research material for a 
play he  was working on.  As I recall, he was trying to identify an idea 
which  would shake the astronomer character in his play's faith in 
physical  truth.  I remember him getting excited when we suggested 
discovering an  object in which the ratio of the forbidden green lines 
of oxygen were  not in the ratio 3::1.  In the play which he wrote, 
'Sympathetic Magic'  he assembles an intellectual round table of 
characters who represent the  sciences (a trio of astronomers), the 
social sciences (an  anthropologist), the arts (a sculptor and a choir 
leader) and religion  (an Episcopalian priest).  The belief-shaking idea 
he used was dark  energy (a much more astute choice).  I haven't 
read the play but I've  been meaning to do that (true of many things).
  It won an Obie award for  best play in 1997.  
See, e.g.:  
Yet another contribution of the 12m to American thought. 

Posted by astral at 10:23 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 28 March 2011 10:28 PM EDT
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Sunday, 13 February 2011
Beautiful Summer Sunday
Mood:  hug me
Topic: Chile
I went for a walk to the Parque Arauco shopping center just before 1pm  I didn't feel like eating alone at a restaurant last night so I just had some bread and Chirimoya allegre ice cream, which my paltry freezer couldn't keep hard.

I went to breakfast this morning--it was very nice.  There was someone else there when I arrived, then I was alone.  Not a bad place but I eat there alone all the time.  They have a bar, too but nary a soul in it.

I took a walk around the block.  The street out front, Americo Vespucci, is rather busy but the twisting, often dead-end streets behind are very quiet.  Flower-decked yards surround single story houses of varied architecture, with sidewalks occupied by women walking dogs.

At lunchtime I took another walk through the neighborhoods over to Parque Arauco.  The shopping center has doubled in size I think since I last visited it.  It was fairly crowded.  I headed for Starbucks, threading through the courtyard packed with cafes.  I guess it is in the 80s, but dry.  I got a cappucino and a muffin de arándano (blueberry) and sat down to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo outside for a bit.  I walked through the shopping center but, not being into shopping couldn't find anything I wanted other than the cash machine.  A jazz band was performing in a second courtyard.  I decided I felt like US food so I went to TGI Fridays and had a big burger.  Read for a while there, too then headed back home as it was fairly warm by then.

I'm lonesome.  Missed Darb's birthday, then it was Mom's and tomorrow Dad's and Valentine Day.  May go out to eat tonight just to see other people.

Posted by astral at 4:20 PM EST
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Saturday, 12 February 2011
Back in the Big City
Mood:  hungry
Topic: Chile
I started the girl with the dragon tattoo on the airplane.  Good reading--I didn't notice most of the trip.

I slept in today, missing the hotel breakfast.  I'm pretty tired after ten days of 16 hours or so.  Finally (hungry) I went up to the corner near where the Hyatt is, with Alonso de Cordova about two blocks away.  The street I am on has a pedestrian/bike path down the center so it is a very nice stroll though there are many cars.  I went to Piola, a pizza place there to which I think I have been in the past.

They didn't have the Neapolitan pizze I wanted, with anchovies, so I got one with arugula and old ham which was very good, as was the 0.5l of Kunstmann Torobayo beer with it.  I phoned up Darby to wish him happy birthday and caught him on 64 approaching Chesapeake.

After that, I went across the street and through some ritzy neightborhoods, then down a plaza of restaurants to the grocery store where I picked up some staples (coffee, spaghetti, potato chips; I went there last time I was here so I knew where I waa going) before heading home.  It is about 80 and all the flowers are in bloom.  A very nice walk.

I just put the groceries away and am thinking about what next...I was going to stop at a Starbucks but I couldn't find it so I'm coffeeless today.

Posted by astral at 4:17 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 13 February 2011 4:22 PM EST
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Friday, 4 February 2011
Voyage to ALMA Austral summer 2011
Topic: Chile
The flights from Charlottesville through Buenos Aires to Santiago were mostly nondescript.  I had a great exit row seat with many feet of legroom so I rested fairly well though it was cold.  I did get some sleep though not enough.  BA looked summery and of course the airport was warm as it is minimally air conditioned.  I picked up the United Red Carpet Club internet (the club was closed) and answered some emails then headed to the gate.

Pedro met me at the Santiago airport and whisked me to the Vespucci Suites.  Very nice older style room on a back corner on the fourth floor.  I can see the Andes dimly through the haze, and gardens adjacent.  Minimal kitchen--the fridge wouldn't work at all for an extended stay.  They have pots and pans downstairs should I want to cook though.  The grocery is about two blocks away--I found that last trip.

Rested a while and caught up on work yesterday until the hotel restaurant opened, then had a pumpkin-pear-rosemary soup, steak and caramelized onions surmounted by a breaded pepper and surrounded by french fries for dinner.  That was good though I was the only soul in the place.  I had a pisco sour too.  I packed and collapsed in bed just after ten.

Dragged myself out of bed at 430am for my 515am cab.  Waited in the lobby from 505am until 530am then had the desk clerk call a cab.  'Oh you're going to Calama?  I hope you have an umbrella!'  No sign of the scheduled cab by the time I left at 540am.  The cabbie asked if I had my rainjacket.  I guess the news here has covered the wet desert story pretty throughly.

The airport was mobbed--clearly vacation season!  I had no problems getting to the gate, on the plane and to the site, where I arrived at 11am.

Quite flooded here--they had to evacuate for water--computers were in an inch and more of water.  The canyon has a lake (stopped up at one of the culverts) and the road washed out above the guardhouse, other washouts on the way to the AOS.

Looks like I chose a disastrous time to come but when have I been here that there hasn't been a disaster?  Heavy rain two nights in a row.

Back in the control room, still has gaps in the ceiling tile from the explosion which ushered me out before Halloween.  Still no emergency exit door.  At least, I don't see a new gas system through the ceiling gaps.

The sun is out and it is balmy and breezy.  Back to work!

Posted by astral at 2:15 PM EST
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Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Leaving Guatemala I
Mood:  cool
Topic: CentralAmerica SAS

Spent the day relaxing on the ship after the 3am bedtime for the lunar eclipse.  The eclipse was great though I was a bit disappointed in the tiny turnout.  Went ashore with Ida Lee after b'fast to see what the shops had,  They hada lot but we had spent all our dollars yesterday and credit cards were not accepted.  No ATMs either though what I would have done with a wad of unspent quetzals is a good question.

 After lunch I reduced some of my recent GBT data--some interesting puzzles were presented by the data which I'll ponder tonight. 

Sat on the quiet 4th aft deck with Ida Lee watching freighters come and go until we pulled up the gangplank at 5pm to set sail for Nicaragua at six.  BBQ tonight--the delicious smells are floating through the salty tropical air.

Posted by astral at 6:50 PM EST
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Tuesday, 14 December 2010
San Diego
Topic: CentralAmerica SAS
TThe Explorer in San Diego soon to leave for Ensenada, where we will rendezvous.

Posted by astral at 12:01 AM EST
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Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Piankatank Passage
Topic: Eastern Shore
The dark humid expanse of the Bay swept its arms around us and pulled us in, around the Point, and then marker by marker up the River toward the heart of its source, the infamous Dragon Run, which we did not dare to penetrate.

Today, a sunny cloudless morning and forecast temperatures near 100 F inspired us to embark on a boat voyage.  After consulting the charts for an unvisited restaurant for lunch, we settled on the Seabreeze in Gwynns Island.  To get there via sea would require rounding Stingray Point and its namesake light.  The Piankatank had been explored by Capt. Smith soon after he ate the Stingray which stung him on the eponymous point in 1608--it is now part of the Capt/ Joh Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.  After slathering on the sunscreen and loading the cooler with cokes and ice we lowered the Shada into the nettled waters and clambered aboard.  We embarked at 1pm, just an hour past high tide.  We exited the shoal entrance to Sturgeon Creek with plenty of water and headed out into the Rappahannock.   Entering the Bay, we rounded Stingray in unusually calm waters.  Planing into the Piankatank at 24mph we soon spotted the green marker and passed to the right of it toward the long arm of Stove Point and Jackson Creek nestled in its pit.  Doglegging to port, we rounded the point.  To the right were the protected waters of Fishing Bay, reportedly where Capt. John Smith had paused on his 1608 exploration of the Piankatank.  Soon were cruising past Iron Point to Port and Horse Point to Starboard, then Wilton Creek's sheltered entrance before heading starboard again under the Route 3 bridge (43 ft clearance) into the big water of Stampers Bay, which encompasses Berkeley Island.  Rounding the island, we headed back down the river to address our appetites at the Seabreeze Restaurant.  At Gwynns Island one approaches a nice beach backed by an abandoned motel before passing under the bridge into Milford Haven, with the Coast Guard station to the right.  The channel heads to port past red marker 6.  We saw no sign of our quarry and maintained course up the small gut which heads to the center of the island, the community of Gwynn.  Seeing nothing promising, we went too far and gently ran aground before backing off and cellphoning the restaurant.  We quickly determined we had gone way too far and retraced our steps.  We guessed that the Seabreeze might be the greyish building with a well-carred parking lot near the boat ramp and headed there.  As we approached the ramp we could see the sign and knew our stomachs would be appeased.  The food was quite fine, service wonderful but cash only curbed our appetite a bit.  An hour later, stuffed, we headed back to the Bay to return home.  We decided to stop by Broad Creek to top off our tank (16g) before heading home--watch out they close at 4:30 but  Darby did manage to catch the fellow minding the store as he headed home and we got our fill.  Home at last, arriving just as the clock struck 5pm.  We had traveled about 45 miles all told and had a great adventure.

Ida Lee:  An inviting broad expanse of water.  When out in the Bay away from the land, it was like being on the Queen Mary again.   Darby did a great job of piloting us, Al of navigating, Kim sparkled as First Mate, and Ida Lee kept us on even keel.  
Kim:  A good experience.  Moving made it endurable; the heat was oppressive when stopped.  Going over some of the waves in the Bay returning
Darby:  Felt secure in the knowledge there were cold beers in the ice chest.  In case of sinking save the cooler.  Circling Berkeley Island was a high point.  Calmest day on the Bay I've ever seen.  Love distance cruising, cruising for the experience of it.

Posted by astral at 10:55 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 10 August 2010 10:58 PM EDT
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Friday, 30 July 2010
Pine Knob Farm
Topic: Eastern Shore
When we went to school everyone had some connection to everyone else, something that isn't really true of Salisbury any longer.

My grandmother had a farm east of Mt. Vernon just south of the Wicomico Creek (photo) where I spent a lot of time growing up.  It was off Polk's Road, and on old maps the farm is known as Polk's Landing--it is at the constriction in the creek above under the word Pine.  Pine Knob Farm was on the market again two years ago and Alison and I went back mostly to relive old memories, as it was just too expensive and far away.  However, I did some research on it--John Polk of Havre de Grace filled me in.    The property sold, Alison thinks to a speculator.  It was still just about as it was when I had last been there, in the late 50s, and needed LOTS of work.

In any event, from what John told me:
'In the late 18th century one William Polk held lands on the south side of the Wicomico creek about a mile downstream of Pine Knob Farm, in eastern Mount  Vernon, pieces from a few ancient patents.  A couple of landings were  mentioned in that vicinity in resurvey patents and deeds.  Cited are "the  Big Landing" and "William Polk's Landing", which are on the old patent  WILLIAMS LOT.  But nothing is seen offhand through the early 19th century  which connects the Polks to Pine Knob Farm, which would have been on or very near the original survey TONYS VINEYARD's abutment with the creek (and its successors).

 Less than a mile upstream from Pine Knob Farm, also on the south side, was  Chapel Landing, mentioned in the survey EDINBURGH, consolidating from several earlier patents.

 I just see nothing at Polk Landing/Pine Know Farm, so it seems that if a Polk owned the site it was sometime after about 1810.

  The land immediately downstream (west) of Polks Landing was originally  patented as TAUNTON DEANE for 300 acres in 1665. It was sold to Francis  Roberts in 1668 and resold to Benjamin Cottman in 1670. The tract was involved in various conveyances and resurveys in 18th century but mostly remained in Cottman family. In 1816 the tract BELLVILLE was patented as a resurvey for 615 acres incorporating most of the orignal TAUNTON DEAN,  together with other parcels, by William Bell, husband of Benjamin's descendant Arimintha Cottman.

 Alongside Wicomico Creek on this tract sits a colonial era house which in the 20th century was given the name Whitehall. There is an article about it in Paul Touart's "Somerset, An Architectural History", p.223. According to an article that appeared in Baltimore Sun Magazine 3 Nov 1974, this house was originally built in 1760 for James Polk,  husband of Benjamin Cottman's daughter Betty Cottman.  James was born in 1700, so this was fairly late in his life - he died in 1771, and Betty in 1780. He was the father of the William Polk that John Lyon mentions as having land a bit further downstream at WILLIAMS LOT, (also ROBINSONS LOT and COW PASTURE). The lands of these two Polks along the south side of Wicomico Creek no doubt gave rise to the name Polks Road that runs along the south of the properties about a mile or two inland from the creek.

 I haven't seen any mention of James Polk in the land records for TAUNTON DEANE or the other parcels comprising BELLVILLE, so I don't have any data to corroborate the statement made in the Sun Magazine. I believe that information was provided by the owners at that time, Mr. & Mrs. Miller White. It seems James Polk never owned it but lived there per some unrecorded arrangement with his father-in-law. If true this no doubt explains the origin of the name Polks Landing.

 James Polk was the son of William Polk and grandson of Robert and Magdalen Polke, the first Polk family immigrants in America, who settled at Dam Quarter in 1687.'

Posted by astral at 10:09 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2010 10:32 AM EDT
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Friday, 16 July 2010
Proposal Review Time
Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: Chile

All day drilling before the NSF team reviewing the proposal for ALMA Operations 2012-2015.  Eduardo has found an interesting-looking place for dinner tonight--

Clear and cool in Santiago.  High winds at the ALMA site have shut down the antennas.   60 mph and 17F makes for a miserable experience, even for astronomy.

Posted by astral at 5:29 PM EDT
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Thursday, 11 March 2010
Earthquake Swarm!
Mood:  blue
Topic: Chile


That was quite a string of aftershocks!  All of them very nearby.  We
went to the window to see the window washers across the street lowering themselves.  A moment late we were running down the stairs under evacuation warning.  I was last out, as usual, just after an announcement that an inspection had declared the building sound.  There were some local power outages; cell phone service was lost or overloaded.  The new President was sworn in.

Every building had a crowd of people outside.  Although loudspeakers
announced our building to be safe we decided to be safer and went to
Subway for lunch.  As it was early, there was no line.  We got back to
the building at about 1:30; one elevator was thankfully restored.  There
was a long line at Subway.

The string continued, on the coast west of Rancagua, with a total of twelve in the next six hours or so, all of them all nearby and fairly strong, none of them leaving any doubt in anyone's mind that pachamama wasn't serious.  I left the building after the tenth and came to my apartment as it is easier to go down 4 flights than 19!  I knew commissioning ALMA would be exciting (several multiline images now) but I had not included this dimension of excitement. 


Posted by astral at 8:39 PM EST
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