Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Offshore Water Survival

The recent Macondo fire and blowout reminded me of the school Dresser Atlas sent me to. We were, among other things, required to jump off a 50' platform into a deep pool, wearing coveralls, (I guess we were to shed our steel-toed boots), and in the "correct" position: one hand holding the nose, legs crossed, ankles locked, one hand shielding the groin. Head straight, eyes on the horizon: looking up or down throws one off the vertical.

I had to go twice before the instructor approved. I looked down, and sure enough went in at a slight angle. Next time, as hard as it was, I kept my eyes straight forward and went in straight. Perfect. I plunged all the way to the bottom of the 10' pool, and my rear end touched the bottom before I swam up. One guy could barely swim and was scared, but he was tough and overcame his fear and finally made it.

I grew up in Florida for a while, and we swam a lot and jumped off ropes into the water, and I had been off the high dive a lot at pools but 50' seems a lot higher.

On a drilling rig, the floor is about 100' off the water, at the least. I spent a couple of years working on the offshore rigs (or on land). Looking over the railing on breaks we would contemplate the possible eventuality of jumping. Someone said if you feel the flames licking at your ass, jumping gets a lot simpler. I don't know. Anyway, that was years ago.

One of the surviving crewmen on the Deepwater Horizon jumped from the heliport deck, which is higher, maybe over 120'. I can barely imagine this. I'm not sure I want to.

The patch is mine. I saved it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World

Here's my first large multimedia piece from '91. I stole the name of it from Harlan Ellison's short story. It's about 3' x 4'. Acrylic paint, colored ink, polyurethane, glue, and fragments of Cannon color copies.

It has many, many layers and normally defies attempts to confine itself to the picture plane. Additionally, it is the first piece I ever deliberately did to accommodate glare. It looks good from any angle or lighting.

It's a bit scary. I have no ability to judge this one. It is in many ways simply atrocious. In others, it's mighty interesting work.

Why, yes, it is for sale.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Failed to Achieve Mission

January 28, 1986

I left the mobile home I lived in and got in my '76 Corolla and drove to the dealership. My plan was to shop for a new car.

On arrival at the dealership, I entered the front glass door and encountered an empty showroom. Looking around I discerned a group in a rear office with the door open, huddled before a television, intent. One guy was saying something but I didn't make it out.

I assumed some sort of sales meeting was going on, with a motivational video playing. My thought was that they ought to schedule such things so that customers aren't given short shrift. Annoyed, I spoke up. "Hey, how about some service?" or something. A man scurried out and attended to me, as I asked about various models. He seemed distracted, fretting, and I soon disengaged and left, disgusted by the lack of customer care. "What is going wrong in society?" I asked myself.

Traffic was likely bad on the way home. No doubt I encountered distracted drivers not paying attention.

I was always proud of my sound systems I installed in my cars. Good stereo and amp, with a large choice of prime rock 'n' roll, and radio was never on my menu. Radio was for squares.

I arrived home and encountered my roommate, distraught, on the verge of tears. "My god, my god, it's awful. The TV... What, you don't know? The Challenger just blew up. Oh my god..."

I turned to the TV and within seconds I ascertained the news of the awful explosion of the Challenger. I too, then, came close to tears and went into that shock of horrible emotion of the tragedy. Being a space program supporter my whole life, I felt what everyone in our community felt. Awful.

"Have you heard?" No, the man at the car dealership never asked that as he ushered me around. So I didn't know. Looking back, I'm convinced he somehow thought that I had heard the news.

I wonder how he remembers it: the day the bastard who didn't give a damn came in on Challenger disaster day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

They Yam Still Confused

Apparently, some still confuse yams and sweet potatoes. I have tracked down most of the history that explains why.

The picture you see now is sweet potatoes.

Click on real yams for a picture of them. You can see they are not sold in most U.S. grocery stores.

Anyone can find out that the tropical yam is a completely different vegetable. African in origin, the most widely cultivated true yam is Dioscorea rotundata. There are pictures of them, but interspersed are pictures of, yes, sweet potatoes.

The sweet potato was a pre-Columbian food of both North and South America and the Carribbean, called batata. It was discovered by Europeans before the recognition of the Incan white potato, the completely different species, but that is the one which became known as the potato, because it was also called batata by the Europeans in the pidgin of the region.

The bright orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are relatively new in the U.S. Before introducing these cultivars, the sweet potato had yellowish, pale flesh. At the time of introduction, the new orange varieties were termed "yams" to indicate they were a different thing. Which they were: better tasting, creamier and smoother, and all the other benefits of modern breeding programs in which the U.S. excelled during the 20th century.

Here's a little history of the sweet potato in the U.S.

The mystery of the Polynesian sweet potato.

Here's an odd statement from this page: "The "Jersey" and related varieties having dry mealy flesh are favored in the northern states. The other type, more watery but richer in sugar and more soft and gelatinous when cooked, is favored in our southern states where they are called "yams". I'm not sure I want to try this "Jersey" thing. And it may explain why some of my Northern friends claim to despise sweet potatoes. That, and the overpoweringly sweet preparations of the basically decent orange Southern sweet potatoes -the "candied yam" - served in institutional cooking. You know what I mean. Yech.

Nine varieties of sweet potatoes grown in North Carolina. The purple one is intriguing.

The sweet potato does not have a shelf life as long as regular potatoes. I didn't realize that, although experience should have indicated that as a general rule.

I often cook sweet potatoes in the microwave. They come out best wrapped in plastic wrap. I find they need no salt, butter, or anything. I eat them as is, and I'm usually willing to jazz things up as necessary. I just don't think they need it. I just scrub them clean and poke a hole, although when I haven't, they have never exploded like regular white potatoes may.

I am going to cook some real yams soon. I have never had them.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Girawolf Redux

Girawolf is half wolf, half baby giraffe, morphed with Sqirlzmorph software. I plucked him from the dim recesses of the past and gave him some new attention.
Sqirlz morph