Saturday, January 28, 2012


"Draining"  -  what on earth does that mean?
answer  -  "draining" refers to the exploration of storm drains.
It was a hot summer day in Phoenix, Arizona.   I decided that it might be fun to go up the storm drains of the city of Phoenix.    I knew of the hazard of flash floods but this was summer and the sky was clear with no clouds.   I knew where a storm drain entered the dry river bed of the Salt River which went in a general east-west direction along the southern portion of Phoenix.   I called my buddy Rick and invited him to come along.   He quickly agreed and off we went on our grand adventure of exploration.   I had to climb down the grating cover of the storm drain.   I was afraid that the cover might be locked or welded shut.   It wasn’t, plus it was hinged.   You can see the large hinges at the top of the grating in the picture above.   I was surprised that we were able to move the grating on its hinges so that we could slip inside.
There was a steady flow of water but not bad.   I was surprised that there was water since I expected the drain to be dry in the arid desert region of Arizona.
When I looked into the drain all that I could see was a tunnel going off into an infinity of darkness.   There was initially some graffiti on the walls but the graffiti ended after about 50 feet into the tunnel.   From then on I had the feeling that we were traveling where no one had traveled since the storm drain was built.   The light from our lights was the first light that had shone on these tunnel walls in a very long time.   We walked and walked and came to a small opening in the side of the tunnel where there was a pipe with water pouring out of it.   At least it looked like water.   Perhaps it was a toxic chemical from some manufacturing plant.  
We continued on our way up the tunnel.  How do you like my spear which was an old cut-off broom handle with a nail in the end of it.    I was worried about encountering rats, but surprisingly, never did see any.   We traveled on for a long time and my chest started to feel a heaviness on it.   The breathing started to become a bit labored.   There was something wrong with the air.  We came to a vertical pipe that led up to the street above and was covered by a man-hole cover.   We could hear the traffic above driving over the manhole cover.   Our breathing problem was probably being caused by carbon monoxide from the car exhausts trickling down though the holes in the manhole cover and over time was possibly building up to toxic levels.    I had never thought about the dangers of carbon monoxide.   Rick climbed up and tried to move the manhole cover by pushing on it.   
He couldn’t budge it so much as an iota.   Nothing, nil, nada.   Either the manhole cover was too heavy or it had gotten sealed down by the asphalt of the road.   Because of the problem with the breathing we decided to leave.   So we turned around and retraced our steps back to the entrance.   We were glad to “see the light at the end of the tunnel”.   (pardon the pun)
Rick has borrowed my spear but I can’t remember what for.   I hoped that there wasn’t anything toxic or bacterial in the water because as you can see in the picture that our feet were in the water the whole time.   Since I have survived these many years I guess that the water wasn’t that bad.    Yeah, I know that hiking up storm drains is a bad thing to do but back then I was young and felt invincible.  Today they call exploring storm drains as “Draining”.   Have a good day and please don’t go “Draining”.   It is too dangerous.     Lew


Friday, January 27, 2012

Radioactive Garbage

Radioactive Garbage?
How can garbage be radioactive?   What a ridiculous thing.   Well, they have radiation detectors at the garbage dumps and they set off a radiation alarm if any radioactivity is detected in the garbage trucks as they enter the dump site.   They don’t allow radioactive material in garbage dumps.   That's the rule.     But when the radiation alarm goes off the big problem is the “unknown”.   Is it highly radioactive and dangerous?   Or just a little bit radioactive and not all that harmful.   That’s where I come in.    They call me or one of my coworkers.  We respond to radiation emergencies and make the radiation problem go away by taking care of it, which usually means hauling the radioactive material away or isolating it.   So one day I get a call from the garbage dump.   Their radiation alarm has gone off.   
Myself and a coworker head on out to the dump and when we arrive, the garbage truck that tripped the radiation alarm is waiting for us, along with a mountain of garbage.   Actually the truck is sitting on top of literally a mountain of garbage.
I wish that I were someone else.   Anywhere but here.   And the smell.   A mountain of rotting garbage giving off an unlimited supply of noxious odors.   And don’t forget about all of the garbage dust created by the bulldozers moving the garbage around and grinding it up in their tracks.   Mask were a must.   My partner with his mask.
And me with my mask on.   And still the garbage stunk.
The picture is shaped like this because the picture taker didn’t hold the camera straight up and down.   What is that blue stuff at my feet?   I have no idea and I don’t want to know.   But it is time to dump the garbage and get to work.   Lovely, the garbage truck is filled up all the way to the back.   A full load.    Yuk!
Well, let’s go ahead and dump the load and get this show on the road.   I don’t like breathing garbage dust.   My gosh, just look at all of the garbage.   
Is this why I got a college degree?   To be a garbage picker?   In all fairness, the dump was the worst of the radiation emergencies.   Compared to having to come to the garbage dump, all of the other  responses that I did were “a piece of cake”.    We got some of their workers to spread the garbage out.   I wonder why the workers aren’t wearing masks?   Everyone else is.
My partner is surveying the garbage as it gets spread out.  
Doesn’t the garbage really look nasty?   No?   Well we found the radioactive item, it was a soiled adult diaper.    Someone who is incontinent probably had a nuclear medicine exam and the radioactive material is eliminated from the body through the kidneys with urine.   Double yuk.   Fortunately the radioactive material that was used decays away rapidly and in three days it is gone.   We placed the adult diaper into a sealed drum, wait three days, survey the adult diaper again to make sure that the radioactivity has gone away and then dispose of it as regular trash.   Our work is done and we have once again saved mankind from a radioactive adult diaper.   LOL.    Have a nice day wherever you may be, and if you didn’t have to go to a dump today then you had a good day.   Anyone who works at a dump has my sympathy.    After reading this blog, I hope that you can enjoy your dinner tonight.    I promise that the next blog will not involve a garbage dump.    Do something kind for someone today.    Lew

Friday, January 20, 2012

rocket launch

I got to watch another rocket launch last night.   It was a Delta IV rocket which puts on quite a show.   I remained here in Orlando to watch the final countdown and the very initial part of the launch on television.   The local station here does a really good job giving live coverage of the launches.
I sometimes wonder why the steel structures at the launch pad don't melt under the intense heat of the rocket exhaust.    Once the rocket lifts off from the launch pad I run outside to see it go up into the sky in the east.  This picture was taken somewhere near the launch site. 
But it is really amazing how much can be seen here in Orlando.   On this launch I was lucky in that the sky was crystal clear and a bit unlucky  because it was a night launch which means that all that I can see is the fiery exhaust.
Isn't this an absolutely spectacular photo taken over on the east coast?   You can even see the stars.   The rocket exhaust is that fiery blob.   I couldn't see the vapor trail of the rocket but the fiery exhaust was very spectacular.   Just so incredibly bright.   With a daytime launch I would have seen so the vapor trail against the blue sky.
However, in the cloudy stormy summer months sometimes the clouds block the view.   I know that this isn't a shuttle launch but there is still an air of excitement to it.   If you can't be here to watch them, then just watch them on the NASA channel or your television news station.   And of course there is always the internet.   And don't forget this blog site as a last resort.   Have a really nice day wherever you may be.    Lew

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

92 year old house

I recently checked to see if the house that I grew up in was for sale.   I wanted to see how much it was worth.   When I did an internet search, the house was not for sale but I did find a house that I had lived in for a couple of years when I was young that was up for sale.  When I lived there around 1948 there was a large grape vineyard behind the house.   That deck on the side of the house wasn't present.   
When Mary and I went to visit my hometown about five years ago I had driven past this house and gotten a couple of pictures.
Look near the top of the chimney.   Looks like fresh mortar.   It appears that the chimney has been recently repaired.  Judging by the color of the mortar they probably did the chimney repair at the same time as they closed up the window to the right of the chimney.   What a shame to lose a window.   Makes the room darker.   I think that the natural outside light is always preferable.   Notice the curve arch of the brickwork over the door and windows.   I bet that the original door had a beautiful arch to the top of the door.   Now it has been replaced with a rectangular door.   An arched door would have looked so much nicer.   The same is true of the windows.   I see a window A/C unit in the dormer window as well in a window in the picture below.    No central air.    But then when I was a child we didn't have any A/C at all.   We just suffered through the hot summer doldrums.
Yeah, it is built on a hillside.  Look at the reflection of the beautiful large tree in the reflection of the outside mirror on the car.   Now here is the house as it was 64 years ago.   Still looks pretty much the same.   The house was built in 1920 and so I think that it is pretty good for a house that is 92 years old.
That is me with my mickey mouse shirt on.   Even as a child I loved Disney, and I still do.  Disney World is such a magical place to visit.   Everything is fun and everyone is happy.   The woman standing is my aunt Pearl who was my father's sister and the woman seated was my father's mother.   They were visiting from Schenectady where they lived.
This is my dad, my mom, and my brother.   So many homes in this area was built on hillsides.
I like this picture because it has my great grandfather in it.   Remember him from a previous blog?   The marigold man who got me interested in marigolds and which remains my favorite flower.   My brother is all dressed up in his boy scout uniform as he gets ready to go to camp.  And look at me wearing my brother's hand-me-downs.   This was common then, the younger children got the older child's clothing to wear.  People were thrifty back then.   And this particular doorway has a story to it.   On the other side of the door is the kitchen.   One night I was upset about something.   I think that it was because my mom was making the milk from powdered milk and I didn't like the taste of it.   I wanted whole milk.   Distraught, I told my mother that I was going to run away from home.   My mom was calm and said okay and she made me a sandwich and set it on a handkerchief along with some cookies and then brought the four corners up around a stick and knotted them.   Then she gave me the stick with the little bundle tied to the end of it.   It was just like you see the hobos carry in the movies.   I got to the door and opened it.   It was pitch black outside.    There was a grape vineyard behind the house and sometimes in the mornings we would see the footprints of the foxes who had come to eat the grapes.   My brother said "Watch out for the foxes Louie."   With that, in fear, I broke out crying and ran to my mom.    There was no more complaining about the powdered milk.   But to placate me my mom would buy whole milk and mix it half and half with the powdered milk.    And what about that two car garage?
Just look at that car with a running board.  You don't see running boards anymore.   I remember them also from the gangster movies whereby a ganster would be standing on the running board, holding onto the window framwe with one hand, and blazing away with a machine gun held in the other arm.   They were very exciting movies.  My mom is in the middle in this picture and my aunt Pearl is to the left.  And look at the external headlights on the fender.  But in retrospect, how did I manage to get into all of the pictures?   Amazing.   It was nice to see the house as it is today and compare the pictures to those from yesteryear.   I also find it a lot of fun to bring up my hometown on Google maps and then explore around to see how much it has changed.   Of course those of my childhood friends who never moved away probably don't do that because they are still there and only have to walk out the front door to see the current conditions.   I don't know, maybe I remember my home town through a child's eyes but it seemed so much nicer way back when than it is now.   Old photographs are nice and help refresh the old wonderful memories of childhood.   I guess that I am just nostalgic.   Pleasant times are pleasant to remember.   I hope that everyone out there have pleasant memories to look back onto and a photograph album chuck full of old pictures to look back on.    Lew

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Here are my lovely marigolds which were in full bloom all summer.   This old stump with the hollow center made a perfect planter for the marigolds.   I filled the central hole with potting soil and put the marigolds in.    They did very well.   Plus I also gave them fertilizer to ensure their growth would be robust.
But with the coming of the cold weather and dryness of winter they died out.
Then along comes Charlotte the cat and decides that this hollowed out stump would be a perfect place to lay down for a while.   All of you remember that sweet looking cat Charlotte.
She sees me taking her picture but she is lying in the warm sun and she is just so tired.
She takes time to clean her paws since I have awaken her anyway with my picture taking.
But this is one tired kitty who just can't keep her eyes open.
So she lays her head back down for a nap and in a flash she is off to slumberland.
Don't cats just have a great time?   I hope that everyone is having as great a time as Charlotte.   Florida is a great place for a cat.   The middle of winter and she lays on a tree stump in the warm sun for sleeping.   Isn't there a poem about the Lilies of the Field that relate to this story?   Have a great and snoozeful day.   Lew

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dumb and Dumber

Here is a picture of Tammy, the princess, trying to catch a squirrel.   I refer to her sometimes as the princess because of the regal lifestyle that she leads around her.   So as the title says Dumb and Dumber and it reminds me of the zany movie starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.   So here is the dumb part.   She can’t catch a squirrel because she weighs too much.   Too much of that gourmet canned cat food that she likes so much.   She likes the dry food also.   Actually, she just likes food.   Any kind of food.  I guess that she is just a “gourmand” cat and not a "gourmet" cat even though she prefers the higher priced cat foods.   What’s that you say, you can’t see the cat?   Well here she is.
And now comes the “kicker” which is the second half of Dumb and Dumber.    The Dumber, which is that she is hiding behind a very small alamanda flower plant thinking that the squirrel can’t see her.   You can see that she is looking directly at me while I take the pictures.   And yes, that is an annoyed expression on her face because she thinks that I am scaring away all of the squirrels with my picture taking.   Of course, it couldn’t be that the squirrels all ran away because they could see her as plain as day hiding behind that sapling alamanda bush.   She becomes thoroughly disgusted and decides to walk away, not to return until I am gone.
Maybe our lioness will return to hunt another day.   Maybe the neighbors across the street will take down their Christmas icicle lights from the eaves of their house.   Have a nice day wherever you may be and watch your pets at play.   They will give you plenty of entertainment.   Lew

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

a rose

Each morning at the crack of dawn Mary feeds the feral cats that hang around the house.   She does this even before she has her first cup of coffee since the cats are hungry and waiting.   Why do the feral cats hang around the house?   They are waiting for their next meal.    They get fed twice a day, breakfast and supper.   Since there are four cats Mary uses a large platter to feed them so that there is room at the trough for them all.   She piles on the dry meal and then spreads a layer of canned food on top of the dry meal as a treat.    She puts plenty of food on the platter so that they will have plenty to eat and leave fully sated.   That is why they probably keep coming back for more.   The feral cats have all had their rabies shots and the females (3 of them) have been spayed.   It was funny when we took the male cat Billy in for his rabies shot.
The veterinarian took the cat which was in the animal carrier down the hallway to a room far down the hall.   Billy was there just to get a rabies shot, nothing else.   We waited.   And we waited.   Five minutes go by.   And then 10 minutes have gone by.    What was taking so long?   It was just a simple injection.   The veterinarian was flustered because there was a dog in another exam room that was in a difficult labor and was having trouble giving birth, so he had his plate full of problems.   After 15 minutes go by, he finally comes back down the hall looking more flustered than ever with Billy in the animal carrier.   He told us that the cat had gotten loose and that he had one heck of a time chasing the cat all around the room trying to catch him.   I noticed that at one time he had briefly come out of the room, got a towel, wrapped it around his arm, and then reentered the room.   That should have been a clue as to what was going on.   I guess that the cat was fighting back and so he used the towel to protect his arm.    This was a new office and they had a special price for rabies vaccinations of only $5 and no charge for the office visit.   Well, he earned his $5 that day.    But enough about "The Adventures of Billy the Cat" and back to the cat's breakfast.   Don't you think that they are fed on a really fancy platter that is painted to look like a fish?
Mary also takes out a glass pie pan with warm milk in it to give them satisfying warmth in the tummy.    Plus the cats never seem to tire of the milk.   This morning it was cold, around 38 degrees.   When I went out to pick up the cat's dishes I saw that they had left a rose next to the milk dish.
As you can see, they licked the milk dish clean.   It's as if the cats left this rose as a thank you to Mary for the warm milk on a cold day.    I have no idea how the rose got there.   In the garage is a bouquet of flowers.
Mary likes flowers and likes to brighten up the house with lots of flowers.   I think that they look really nice and makes things a bit more cheery.    There is also a basket full of flowers for future use.
Since the roses in this basket look the same as the one on the floor, we assume this is where the mischievous cat got it from.   Was it:
Or Charlotte?
How could any cat this cute be the mischievous one.   Or perhaps it was Betty?
Or last but not least there is Molly.   Could it have been her?
Oh yeah, probably crazy Molly.   I love this picture of her because her expression is so zany.   Actually she had just eaten and was licking her lips in much the same way as we humans smack our lips after a good meal.   Molly is actually a very sweet cat and follows me everywhere in the yard and is very friendly to me.   I can pick her up but like most feral cats, she has a very short time limitation on how long she can be held.    About 1 minute.    After that she is squirming to get loose.   When she starts her squirming I let her loose and give her a small food snack as a reward for letting me hold her.   I worked very hard to gain her trust and I continue to work at keeping her trust.   So, vote for one as to who got the rose out of the basket and put it next to the dish of milk.    Was it:
Actually, this is something Betty would do out of kindness.    All of the cats have their own particular personality and this act of kindness would definitely fit Betty's personality.   Did you happen to notice the names are 3 females and 1 male.   Well this blog has gotten way too long.   Have a good day and don't forget to cast your vote in the comments section.     Lew