Monthly Archives: October 2005

Twelve Flagpoles

This morning’s exercise in “there’s a couple hours I’ll never get back”: A list of (some) of the world’s tallest flagpoles. An inquiry prompted by driving through Dorris, California (see last night’s post). Of course, the list is non-authoritative, because it’s based on Web resources; on the other hand, in most cases, someone who should know is cited as giving the height of these flagpoles and I’ve cited sources, both strong and not so strong. Also note that the No. 1 flagpole, the one in Panmunjom, North Korea is not really a flagpole at all but a structure that supports a flagpole at the top; it’s noted in several places that North Korea and South Korea have been engaged in a contest of “can you top this,” and that the North has raised the height of its tower more than once.

1. Panmunjom, North Korea: 525 feet (Source: Guinness Book of World Records)

2. Aqaba, Jordan: 433 feet (Source: Wikipedia)

3. Amman, Jordan: 416 feet (Source: Middle East Online; height also given as 410 feet by manufacturer).

4. Abu Dhabi: 403.5 feet (Source: Middle East Online)

5. Sheboygan, Wisconsin: 338 feet (Source: Sheboygan Public Library)

6. Bahrain: 330 feet (Source: U.S. Flags and Flagpole Supply)

7. Panmunjom, South Korea: 328 feet (Source; Wikipedia)

8, Brasilia, Brazil: 328 feet (source: U.S. State Department)

9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: 312-328 feet (described variously as 95 and 100 meters)

10. Fort Wayne, Indiana: 232 feet (Source: U.S. Flags and Flagpole Supply)

11. Dorris, California: 200 feet (Source: Butte Valley Chamber of Commerce, Dorris Lions Club)

12. Calipatria, California: 184 feet (Source: city of Calipatria)

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Back South

We were gone 51 hours. Drove 1,035.3 miles. Left Eugene today at 1:51 p.m. and got home (514 miles later) at 10:34 p.m. Stops in Weed, Redding, and Williams. And in Dorris, California, too, to snap a picture of the Elm Motel (see below).

Elmmotel

5:03 p.m.: Dorris is the first town you hit in California as you head south from Klamath Falls on U.S. 97. The highway makes several turns in town. This place is just south of the last bend, and just across the street from the big restaurant in town, a divey-looking place called La Tapatia. In addition to these two establishments, Dorris (population in 2000: 886) boasts that it’s the home of the tallest flagpole west of the Mississippi. Whether the claim is true or not (and I can’t find anything right now that contradicts it — stay tuned), the flagpole is an eyecatcher.

Shasta

5:11 p.m.: You could see Mount Shasta for well over 100 miles to the north along U.S. 97 today, despite partial overcast. This is from closer up — it was probably about 45 miles to the northeast of the mountain and just a few miles southwest of Dorris and the warm welcome waiting northbound travelers at the Elm Motel.

Corvette

7:13 p.m. At the In-N-Out in Redding. There were two Vettes parked just outside. This was the nicer one and the better picture.

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Falling Back

I’m writing from Eugene. Kate and I are on a quick jaunt up to see Thom. We’ve got an extra hour of sleep tonight, thanks to the end of daylight saving time. And tomorrow, an hour less afternoon light on the trip home. That’s OK. I’ll take the extra hour of sleep.

Let it be noted that after next year, the appointed dates for falling back (and springing ahead) will be changed as part of the new energy law passed and signed earlier this year. Beginning in 2007, clocks will be turned forward the second Sunday of March (instead of the first Sunday of April) and turned back on the first Sunday of November (instead of the last Sunday of October).

Compulsively scrabbling for a little daylight-saving history, I note that 2007 will also be 100th anniversary of the publication of the pamphlet that eventually led to adoption of seasonal clock changing. A well-known London architect and builder named William Willett proposed the scheme in his cheerily titled “The Waste of Daylight.” Willett described the ill he wanted to cure:

“… For nearly half the year the sun shines upon the land for several hours each day while we are asleep, and is rapidly nearing the horizon, having already passed its western limit, when we reach home after the work of the day is over. Under the most favourable circumstances, there then remains only a brief spell of declining daylight in which to spend the short period of leisure at our disposal.

“Now, if some of the hours of wasted sunlight could be withdrawn from the beginning and added to the end of the day, how many advantages would be gained by all, and in particular by those who spend in the open air, when light permits them to do so, whatever time they have at their command after the duties of the day have been discharged.”

He conceded that simply turning the clock ahead an hour might be a bit abrupt, and he thought a change of 80 minutes (instead of the 60 we’ve wound up with) would be more beneficial to society. So he suggested that at 2 a.m. on four consecutive Sunday mornings in April, clocks be turned ahead 20 minutes. The clock would be turned back again over four Sundays in September.

Willett managed to attract the attention of a prominent member of Parliament who championed his idea, but bills to put it into effect went nowhere. Willett died in 1915. The following year, after noticing that its World War I opponent Germany had adopted a daylight-saving scheme of its own, Britain started using Willett’s system.

(The history is well summarized at a site called WebExhibits. And a recently published book, “Seize the Daylight,” appears to tell Willett’s story at length; amazingly (I’m amazed, anyway), another book on the history of daylight saving was published the very same week: “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving“).

Now, with 2 hours and 28 minutes to go before the clock runs backward, I’m going off to enjoy my extra hour of fall-back sleep.

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Greek for Weather Watchers

First, Tropical Storm Alpha. Now Beta. Now that we’re into Greek letters for naming the remaining Atlantic tropical cyclones this year, a searing question poses itself: What follows beta in the Greek alphabet? The first two letters are easy enough, and I know what the last one is. And, thanks to the fraternities and sororities of the world, I can name many of the intervening letters. But I can’t put them in order.

To cut to the chase: Gamma follows beta. Then delta and epsilon. And if we get that far: zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa, lambda, mu, nu, xi, omicron, pi, rho, sigma, tau, upsilon, phi, chi, psi, omega.

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Sox, Hurricanes: No Link Proven

I’m happy to report that, contrary to no reports of which I’m aware, there’s no established historical link between White Sox World Series victories and severe hurricane seasons. This non-finding is the product of minutes of meticulous research.

The White Sox won the World Series this year — last night, in fact, if reports are to be believed. At nearly the very same time as the Chisox went into their victory dance in Houston, the National Hurricane Center was reporting the emergence of the 23rd named tropical cyclone, Tropical Storm Beta, of the 2005 Atlantic tropical cyclone season. Could there be a correlation between the ecstasy on Chicago’s South Side and the agony throughout the Caribbean and Gulf basins?

To answer that question scientifically, I typed “1917 hurricane season” into my conveniently located Google search box, located in the upper right of my Web browser. The choice of 1917 was not random. Rather, it is the widely reported year that the White Sox won their last World Series. A severe storm season that year might suggest a Hose-hurricane convergence. While these cyclones can never be said to be “a picnic,” in the meteorological sense, evidence indicates that the season that year was as carefree as they come, with just three storms reported and just one that hit the United States.

I next searched for information on the 1906 hurricane season — which unfolded the year of the only other Sox triumph in the Series. The 1906 season was considered “average,” with 11 storms, six of which became hurricanes (and three of the hurricanes evolving into major, destructive storms).

To complete my investigation, I checked to see who won the World Series in 1933, which, with 21 storms, had held the record for the Atlantic’s most cyclonic year. The answer: The New York Giants. (Three of the other four years the Giants won — ’05, ’21 and ’22 — were mild hurricane years; the last Giants victory, in 1954, was average in terms of number of storms but produced Hurricane Hazel, which killed 1,000 or more people.)

Conclusion — are you still with me? — The White Sox played no part in this year’s overactive hurricane season. Future inquiries might look at the coincidence of Sox championships and major earthquakes.

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Obligatory White Sox Post 3

They may not be my team, and I may never have set foot in their ill-begotten “new” ballpark, but the White Sox did something tonight that no Chicago ballclub, of either the National or American variety, has done since the first Mayor Daley was a teen on the South Side and getting ready to make his mark in the world as part of a street gang. I’ll skip that historical side trip, for now. Anyway, it’s a sweet moment in a vicarious way.

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All About Pants

Pantswhitesox

The last time a Chicago team won three straight in a World Series before last night was 1907, when the Cubs swept the Tigers 4-zip in a five-game set (you could look it up). If the White Sox go on to win the championship — take nothing for granted, sports fans — the name of manager Ozzie Guillen will be forever joined to that of Pants Rowland.

Sox cognoscenti — Lydell, I expect that’s you — will recognize the name of the South Side nine’s last title-winning manager. First, this is just more proof of the oft-lamented fact that the quality and color of baseball nicknames is in a sad state of decline. The ’17 Sox were loaded, moniker-wise. In addition to Pants, they had Shoeless Joe, Shano, Buck, Happy, Chick, Nemo, Swede, Ziggy, Birdie, Lefty, Red, Reb, and Knuckles. This year: Hmmm. They’ve got El Duque. And The (Non-Playing) Big Hurt. Other than that, a bunch of Dustins, A.J.s, Scotts and Jermaines — though mixed with non-nickname handles like Timo, Tadahito, Pablo and Raul that would never have been on a 1917 big league roster.

But let’s get back to Pants. According to one online account, the tag dated from his Iowa boyhood: "Rowland started in baseball at age nine, where he earned his nickname, ‘pants,’ from base-running antics while wearing his father’s overalls at games of the Dubuque Ninth Street Blues." Eventually, he became a minor league manager in Peoria. Then, perhaps because his services came cheap, a quality highly valued by Sox owner Charles Comiskey, he wound up in Chicago for four years; he was bounced a year after winning the Series. After that, he became an American League umpire and later president of the Pacific Coast League. Given the high quality of PCL talent and the rapid growth of the league’s franchise cities, his dream, apparently, was to establish a new major league on the coast.

He died in 1969, age 91, in Chicago. This Associated Press obit from The New York Times has the story. Both the subject and the way it’s handled are throwbacks.

(Photo above: Sox hurler Eddie "Knuckles" Cicotte, left, and manager Pants Rowland, c. 1915-18. From George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division. Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-133664.)

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More Sacrifice

CBS News leads its 10 a.m. hourly radio news with Bush giving a speech to military wives. He’s got a comforting message for them: The road to “total victory” — his recently declared goal in Iraq — will be paved by “more sacrifice.” Let’s not dwell too long on who will make the sacrifice. The military wives already know.

The sacrifice talk — Bush sounded the same theme in his weekly radio talk last Saturday — is prompted by the U.S. military death toll in Operation Mission Accomplished reaching 2,000 (along with 15,220 wounded).

The other side to Bush’s talk about the need to stay the course, shed as much blood and spend as much money as it takes, is that each passing day shows the war in Iraq to be a more and more fabulous success.

If, like me, you’ve missed that story — OK, yes, Iraq did just have the best election our money could buy, and that’s sure a change from the reign of Saddam Hussein — here are a few examples:

Unseen Enemy Is at Its Fiercest in a Sunni City

New York Times, October 23, 2005

RAMADI, Iraq, Oct. 22 – The Bradley fighting vehicles moved slowly down this city’s main boulevard. Suddenly, a homemade bomb exploded, punching into one vehicle. Then another explosion hit, briefly lifting a second vehicle up onto its side before it dropped back down again.

Two American soldiers climbed out of a hatch, the first with his pant leg on fire, and the other completely in flames. The first rolled over to help the other man, but when they touched, the first man also burst into flames. Insurgent gunfire began to pop.

Several blocks away, Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Rosener, 20, from Minneapolis, watched the two men die from a lookout post at a Marine encampment. His heart reached out to them, but he could not. In Ramadi, Iraq’s most violent city, two blocks may as well be 10 miles.

“I couldn’t do anything,” he said of the incident, which he saw on Oct. 10. He spoke quietly, sitting in the post and looking straight ahead. “It’s bad down there. You hear all the rumors. We didn’t know it was going to be like this.” …

US troops fighting losing battle for Sunni triangle

London Telegraph, October 22, 2005

The mob grew more frenzied as the gunmen dragged the two surviving Americans from the cab of their bullet-ridden lorry and forced them to kneel on the street.

Killing one of the men with a rifle round fired into the back of his head, they doused the other with petrol and set him alight. Barefoot children, yelping in delight, piled straw on to the screaming man’s body to stoke the flames.

It had taken just one wrong turn for disaster to unfold. Less than a mile from the base it was heading to, the convoy turned left instead of right and lumbered down one of the most anti-American streets in Iraq, a narrow bottleneck in Duluiya town, on a peninsular jutting into the Tigris river named after the Jibouri tribe that lives there. …

… Within minutes, four American contractors, all employees of the Halliburton subsidiary Kellog, Brown & Root, were dead. The jubilant crowd dragged their corpses through the street, chanting anti-US slogans. An investigation has been launched into why the contractors were not better protected.

Perhaps fearful of public reaction in America, where support for the war is falling, US officials suppressed details of the Sept 20 attack, which bore a striking resemblance to the murder of four other contractors in Fallujah last year.

Secret MoD poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops

London Telegraph, October 23, 2005

Millions of Iraqis believe that suicide attacks against British troops are justified, a secret military poll commissioned by senior officers has revealed. …

…The survey was conducted by an Iraqi university research team that, for security reasons, was not told the data it compiled would be used by coalition forces. It reveals:

• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified – rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province;

• 82 per cent are “strongly opposed” to the presence of coalition troops;

• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;

• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;

• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;

• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.

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A Storm Called Alpha

In most years, a storm of the relative inconsequence of Tropical Storm Alpha — it’s of little consequence unless you happen to live beyond blog reach in the mountains of Hispaniola, anyway — would barely have attracted public notice here in the States. But 2005 isn’t most years, and Alpha, which blew westward across the Atlantic for days while Hurricane Wilma got all the ink last week, finally became organized enough that it was officially recognized as a tropical cyclone.

The history has been well discussed: It’s the first time since hurricane records have been kept in the mid-Atlantic/Caribbean/Gulf region that so many tropical cyclones have formed in one season: 22. But that’s a record that goes back just 150 years, a sliver of a sliver of time. Leaving aside the impact we’ve had on long-term climate as enthusiastic burners of anything that will burn, is it really likely that the weather observed this year is of absolutely unprecedented severity? Just asking the question tells you what I think. Maybe someday climate scientists, like those working in the new field of paleotempestology, will produce a definitive answer to open-ended questions like that.

Alpha’s nearly done with. But Wilma’s still a story. Having read the discussions pretty religiously the last week or so, it has defied the model predictions (and thus our expectations) and restrengthened after crossing Florida. This is a boon for researchers looking for clues to storm behavior, no doubt. It’s also a treat for those who see this season’s monster hurricanes as evidence that Giant Weather Machines (GWM) are controlling the behavior of the atmosphere now.

Scott Stevens, former Pocatello, Idaho, TV weatherman and current leading apostle for the GWM worldview, took one look at Wilma last week and saw all the signs of a manufactured event:

“Hurricanes now develop in locations that best suit the weather makers. No longer do they need to spend a week traversing the Tropical Atlantic gathering a name as they first become a depression while slowly strengthening to a tropical storm and then on to become a hurricane. Yes, explosive hurricane development has occurred in the past, but these past few years are different. There has been a discernable shift in how quickly and where these tropical storms develop and mature. Storms now form much closer to where the Powers That Be want the maximum terror effect. These storms are clearly government sponsored terrorist events. The effects are economic, are emotionally draining to the point of exhaustion, certainly financially taxing, and used to cause a victimhood mentality that makes us all feel powerless in some sense. The net effect is fatigue and in the case of Katrina and Rita we have been delivered an infection of poverty that this deeply indebted nation will struggle to overcome for a generation or more.

“All weather is now manufactured. Period.”

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Can’t We All Just Get Along?

By “we,” of course I’m talking about Cubs and White Sox fans. My friend Randy, a former lad of the Chicago suburbs, now a judge in the wilds of western Idaho, called after Game 2 of the World Series last night. At first I thought he was just getting in touch after a very long time to say hi. But he had something else on his mind. As a Sox fan, he wanted to gloat to a Cubs fan about his team’s victory. I disappointed him, I hope, because 1) I’d never root against Chicago (unless the Sox are playing the A’s, my adopted hometown team) and 2) Houston, as the putative hometown of the Bush dynasty, must not prevail.

But even without Houston’s involvement, it’s never been an article of my Cubs faith that I need to hate the Sox; it’s also not part of that faith that I have to like the Cubs, either, though I find myself pulling for them on the rare occasion they play games to care about.

Randy says that he became a convinced Sox fan at age 7, when they went to the World Series. He says he knows all the stats from the team that year, and sleeps with a Sherm Lollar replica athletic supporter under his pillow. Randy’s account made me think about when it was I decided I was a Cubs fan.

Growing up, we rooted for both teams and went to games at both ballparks, and I never heard that my Cubs fan dad had any trepidation walking through the turnstiles at Comiskey Park. I followed the Sox and liked them. They were my mom’s family’s team. They had good-bordering-on-great years in the early and mid-’60s, finishing second in ’63, ’64 and ’65 and going into the last five games of the ’67 season tied for the lead in a close race with Boston, Minnesota, and Detroit. They didn’t manage to win even one despite playing the the last five against the ninth- and tenth-place teams.

The same year, 1967, was the year that the Cubs awoke from a 20-year nap. They’d lost more than 100 games the previous year. They had some mature talent in their lineup (Banks, Williams, and Santo) and had added some good younger players (Kessinger, Beckert, Hundley) along with some decent pitching (Jenkins, Holtzman, Hands and Niekro). Suddenly they were contending. They had an incredible run in June, winning 23 of 27 or something, and went into the All-Star break tied with the Cardinals for first. They faded, but people had started to expect things from them.

I was 13. Impressionable. And maybe I’m a front-runner, too, because after that I was a Cubs fan; 1969, the year of their huge fold and the Mets’ huge run, was just over the horizon; but by then it was too late to back out — I actually cared. And besides, the Sox also-ran dynasty had run its course after ’67, and the folks down at 35th and Shields got a chance to see up close what Cubs fans already instinctively recognized: a loser.

So: Cubs fan, but not overly proud to say it. Hate the Sox? No. To the extent I work up that kind of bile over sports any more, I reserve my bitterness and revulsion for the preciousness surrounding the San Francisco Giants. Used to sort of like them, though.

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