Sunday, November 29, 2015

U.S. Coast Guard Heavy Icebreaker Polar Star Visits Honolulu

The USCGC Polar Star arrived in Honolulu today, and as we finished breakfast on the lanai, what a treat it was to watch her sail into the harbor and tie-up at Berth-11.  The 399-foot long vessel was designed as a heavy icebreaker and commissioned in 1976.  Her primary mission when working in Antarctic waters is breaking a channel through the sea ice to resupply McMurdo Research Station in the Ross Sea.  Click on the link to learn more about this powerful ship.  Welcome back!

 No whale sightings to report today.  Last year, Michele spotted our first humpback on December 10th, so it shouldn't be long now!  Whale watching makes the winter months much more bearable here and we can hardly wait.

From several miles out, we noticed the striking red hull and broad bow of the USCG Polar Star.  As she sailed closer, we watched the small harbor pilot boat zooming out to drop off the Harbor Pilot who would be responsible for bringing the large ship safely to her berth.  In this photo, she is in the harbor and if you click on the image, you have a close-up look at her as she passes between the tall downtown buildings.

Zoomed in a bit for this shot of her bow.  Click on the image and you might recognize one of the crew members enjoying the view. :)

Two tugs guide the ship toward Berth-11, where she'll be bow-on to us.

The tugs continue to nudge her very slowly to the pier.  Click to see a closer view of the line handlers at their stations.

Pier-side line handlers stand ready to tie her up.  Can't tell for certain, but the security guard in the khaki-colored shirt may be my old pal, Junior.  We've spoken several times when I've been down there to get photos of interesting ships tying up at this berth.

Almost there and soon, excited crew members will be heading ashore for liberty.  Look out Honolulu, the Coast Guard is in town! :)

Hope you all have a great week!

More Oldies And A Sunset

Here are a few more photos from the "oldies" file, along with a beautiful sunset.  Hope you're having a good weekend.

A 2001 photo of Michele enjoying an unusually warm early spring day on our patio in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Thought our massive patch of creeping phlox in bloom might brighten your day if you live in a chilly northern hemisphere location.

This is not something you see every day.  It's the windshield of a navy CT-39 Sabreliner I just happened to be flying co-pilot in on the wrong day!  I'm not ashamed to admit it really got my attention on an otherwise routine flight.  There was a loud CRACK, almost like a BANG, and the cracks immediately appeared  Needless to say I instantly looked down, figuring the top of my head might deflect any glass shards and the seat belt would keep me inside the plane in the worst case scenario.  Next, I lowered my seat as much as possible.  We went through the emergency procedures and descended for an uneventful landing at Naval Air Station Memphis, Tennessee.  For those interested in the materials and thickness of the average aircraft windscreen protecting your pilots, here's a blurb about it which should make you feel safer next time you fly:

"Windshields are designed under the “fail safe” concept, which basically means that the failure of one component won’t lead to a catastrophic failure of the structure. Accordingly, it’s common for windshields on jets to be constructed of multiple layers to withstand the immense thermal, aerodynamic and mechanical stresses. For example, the Cessna 750’s windshield construction consists of a 0.10-in. outer (non-structural) face ply, a middle 0.19-in. structural ply and a 0.235-in. structural inner ply, separated by 0.15-in. PVB/urethane layers for a total thickness of 0.825 in. Either the middle or inner pane is structurally capable of maintaining cabin pressure. The interlayer between the outer and middle glass panes is heated."  Got all that?  Don't worry...there's not a test. :)

This is pretty much what our CT-39 Sabreliner looked like.  If memory serves, we carried two pilots, a crewchief who doubled as a flight attendant, and up to seven passengers.  It was a very solid aircraft, easy to fly and felt a little like a sports car.  

Fellow blogger, Jennifer Rose Phillip was promised some additional photos of Pitigliano and here's the first.  This view shows the old part of the town and the ridge line across the valley.

Michele's view of Pitigliano from Tarziello's motorcycle/Vespa repair shop.

Michele with her cousin, Angelo Bindi, and the town behind. 

An old door in the very old part of Pitigliano.

A view of some homes in the old part of Pitigliano.  Must've been taken during the long daily pause (riposo in Italy, siesta in Spain) between lunch and late afternoon.  It was always fun to see the town come back to life after the mid-day rest.  Shops re-opened, kids came out to play, old men headed home from the bars or park benches where they spent riposo playing cards or solving the world's problems, ladies began dinner preparations or shopped and many folks just took a walk, also called a passeggiata.  This almost ritualistic stroll could take place before or after supper (cena).  It was truly a stroll, not a "walk" as Americans know it.  Many husbands and wives dressed-up a bit for the "see- and-be-seen" event, while some took the opportunity to don their very finest clothes.  It was a wonderful way to end the day, chatting with your spouse or friend and greeting your neighbors as they passed by.  Living in a neighborhood of hard working farmers, there was no such thing.  Instead, we might see a neighbor herding their sheep home for the night.

A fruit and vegetable shop in old town.  This was taken in November, so chestnuts are offered for sale in the basket out front.  We were taught to cut an "X" into the fairly soft shell, roast them over an open fire, peel off the pliable blackened shell and enjoy them with a glass (or three) of Adelmo's red wine.

This is a painting I did of the view of Pitigliano from Tarziello's shop window, but with a twist:  There was a website long ago, which allowed visitors to place their own artwork into one of four fake museum settings--for free!  I thought it was one of the best sites on the web!  In my older posts, there are others, including this one.  This is really special to me, because it may be as close as I ever come to seeing one of my paintings in a museum.  It's quite an effective illusion!

It's about time for the promised sunset from tonight. 

A tanker and a single aircraft (top, left-ish) were enjoying a great view of the show.  No green flash tonight, however.

Hope you all have a nice Sunday or Monday!  Gotta keep those living on the other side of the  International Date Line in mind. :)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope all of you who recognize the holiday and celebrate it, made it special.  And talking about special, here's a look at our very special Thanksgiving way back in 1995 in Cerreto, Italy.

As the holidays approached, we were thinking of doing something different when Michele proposed   inviting our Italian family to experience a genuine Thanksgiving dinner.  We had to work around their work schedules and November 18th was selected as the day.  Michele had to do some scrambling, but thanks to still being active in the Naval Reserve, she picked-up the impossible-to-find items at the  navy commissary, while performing drills at Sigonella Naval Air Station, on the island of Sicily.  She was able to procure a whole turkey nearby our home, though she vividly recalls that the butcher was curious as to why she didn't want him to cut it up for her.  I'm not sure her explanation made sense to him. :)

Thanks to Anna and her sister, Wanda (pronounced "Vonda") who had spent time in England as teenagers in order to learn English, they were able to explain the Thanksgiving tradition to the rest of the family.  Michele told them what she had in mind and they were quite enthusiastic about the opportunity to attend.

Mario, Anna's husband, is not a fan of pudding, or foods which remind him of it, so he didn't try the gravy or the pumpkin pie.  Wanda's husband, Tarziello, had to work, but other than that, the rest of the crowd thoroughly enjoyed the feast and a glimpse into an American tradition.

November 18, 1995.  Working around the table from the left, there is Anna and Mario's daughter, Claudia, Anna, me, Mario, pouring water, Anna and Mario's older daughter, Emanuela, Wanda, Wanda and Tarziello's daughter, Francesca and Adriana, cousin of Michele's father.  Tarziello couldn't make it and Michele is taking the photo.

Here's a better photo of Mario, at the head of the table.  I don't remember if we invited him to carve the turkey, but he loves having fun, so he probably did.

A much better image of Claudia, Mario and Anna's youngest daughter.   Now, she's grown up, finished college and teaches children with hearing disabilities.

A favorite photo of Adriana Bindi with Michele, taken during our very first visit to Pitigliano, back in March of 1994.  It was a chilly early spring day, late in the afternoon and after a walking tour of the old part of town and introducing us to all of her friends, we stopped at this overlook for the photo.

This is Tarziello Niccolai, Wanda's husband, father to Francesca.  He was unable to attend the Thanksgiving Day dinner.  He has always reminded me of the famous actor, Claude Rains.

Say, "Buon Giorno" to Wanda, Tarziello's wife and mother of Francesca.  Almost forgot:  She is also Anna's sister.  Wanda taught English at Pitigliano High School and would often correct Anna's use of English.  It was a sister thing. :)  She loved being able to so closely observe two American English speakers and was often amused at both the sound and usage of certain words, "fluffy" being one I remember.  Thinking about her laughter at me saying "fluffy" brings a smile to my face as I type this. :)))

Wanda and daughter, Francesca.  Francesca works at the world famous Terme di Saturnia Spa and Golf Resort not far from Pitigliano.  Must be why she looks so healthy and lovely.

Emanuela, hard at work in the kitchen.  After graduation from college, she continued her education and is now a professional sommelier.

The star of this photo is our Angel, Anna, second from the right.  I'd be remiss if I failed to point out her two daughters, Emanuela on the far left and Claudia on the far right.  That's Michele in yellow.  This was taken in 2014.

 Have a wonderful day working off all those calories tomorrow!  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Childhood, Paintings And The Navy

Been busy today, scanning more old photographs and I thought I'd share a variety of them.  Here we go:

A great photo from 1954, you know...before color photography was invented.  That's me, on the right, playing in...what else, a pile of dirt, with cousins, Bobby (left) and his older brother, Richard, in the middle.  Upper far right in the photo is my mother doing some sun bathing.  If the "Our Gang" comedies hadn't been written yet, the three of us might have made a good substitute.

Flash forward to the summer of 1988.  Here I am, all dressed-up in front of my childhood home in Battle Creek, Michigan, ready to go to the 20th-reunion of the Lakeview High School Class of 1968.  Boy!  Does time fly. :)

A landscape painting of the Etruscan ruins at Vulci, located less than an hour from our home in Cerreto, Italy.  That bridge is a truly amazing structure to see, and walk across.

An early still life.  I really worked hard on this, trying to get that cream carton perfect, but still didn't.  I must've been afraid of ellipses at that time, since I avoided the issue with that huge mug.  It's evident the only artistic concept I had even a weak grasp of was detail, even though I clearly remember every book I read hammered home the point that details should be the final thing a painter should work on and then, only those which are important.  Oh, well.

A liberty boat approaches the stern of the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk (CV-63), anchored off Pattaya Beach, Thailand.  The long yellow thing is a string of lights which provide a visual aid to pilots landing at night.  The colorful twin vertical stabilizers belong to an F-14, Tomcat.  This was before the navy decided it might be better if aircraft are harder to see in the sky and did away with nearly all the traditional and very colorful squadron paint schemes.

November 1, 1974, Pensacola Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida.  Following the commissioning ceremony, our Battalion II Drill Instructor, Staff Sergeant E. M. Ramos, USMC, stood at the designated place and rendered each of his former charges their first salute as commissioned officers.  Tradition says we're supposed to hand him a silver dollar immediately following the salute.  I was able to honor the tradition, thanks to my grandfather, who had gifted my brother and I with a silver dollar on each of our birthdays when we were young.  Thanks, Grandpa!

Our Italian mailbox, handmade by our landlord, Sergio Pietretti.  I thought the tin roof was a nice touch.  The little door had a latch to keep it securely closed in the event of rain. :)

On the Royal Palace Grounds, Bangkok, Thailand.  Several of us from the squadron took a bus from Pattaya Beach for what I'm quite sure was some well-deserved R and R.  What a fabulously exotic city.  The architecture, as you can see in this photo, was stunning.  The people of Thailand were the kindest, most gentle and friendly of any place we visited.

Here's  a "salty" lieutenant seeing the world.

This was the set-up for my booth at the annual Dogwood Arts Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, April, 1997.  Michele and I rigged it up in our garage in Madisonville to make certain it wouldn't fall apart.  The weather didn't cooperate, as what's locally called, "Dogwood Winter" moved in.  Basically, it's a late spring cold snap, which usually kills the beautiful blossoms on the ubiquitous  Dogwood trees.  The two days we exhibited, it was windy and freezing cold.  After that disaster, I vowed there would be no further outdoor exhibitions for me.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee a few years later, I finally had my first solo indoor show.  An antique shop owner gave me this wonderful opportunity, but once again, Mother Nature reached out and got me.  It was December and on the day of the show, the weather forecaster called for FREEZING RAIN for the evening.  Are you kidding me!!!  We had a ton of wine and snacks for a hundred guests and I think only about twenty-six brave souls had the courage to venture out in the dangerous conditions.  One or two paintings sold, but still, what a disaster.  I began to feel like I was jinxed. 

I was in my abstract period, as you can clearly see.  Looking at these paintings today, I'd call my style, "spasm painting".  I used to think if I just went crazy on a canvas, it would result in a painting that someone might love.  Who new non-objective art could be so difficult?  The painting on the dark green wall, far left, was the first to sell.  When the dust settled, we covered the cost of the wine and snacks, so we almost broke even. 

This is one of my all-time favorite photographs.  The ship was anchored off Hong Kong and one day we decided to take a look into "Red" China.  To get to the New Territories where we could get that look, we hopped a train in Kowloon.  This elderly woman across the aisle caught my eye and I very carefully snapped this image.  She looked completely worn out and likely would not have appreciated being bothered for a photo by a tourist.  Even then, many years before painting was even a glint in my eye, this photo seemed very special.  I haven't yet attempted to make a painting from it, but, there's always tomorrow.

Back at sea.  One day, as our mission was about to end, we radioed the "Green Lizards" and asked if they'd allow us to join on them for the trip back to the ship.  They liked the idea and one of their NFOs (Naval Flight Officers) said he had his camera.  We joined on them and here's what it looked like from the right seat of an A-6 Intruder.

Where it all began and where this post will end.  That's me, in 1955, confident, excited and eager to let Mom take this photo so I can get on with the big adventure of riding that great bike to my first day of school.  Wonder what a profiler would say about this...."The kid is obviously fearless, loves fast rides, has a good sense of direction and is quite the stylish dresser. :))

The time trip today was far from smooth, so I hope you've recovered sufficiently to enjoy a most pleasant evening, or tomorrow, depending on your location.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Beautiful Game

Yeah, you guessed was on the agenda this morning--in fact, I was warming up on the driving range before sun-up.  The stars and planets overhead were so bright and clear, it became obvious why so many telescopes are built high atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island. 

It was delightfully comfortable at daybreak, with the thermometer registering only 71-degrees F.  Clouds over the windward (east) side of O'ahu held the morning sun at bay for the majority of the round and the trade winds kept us cool.  Best of all, my scorecard on the back nine featured five pars in a row.  The front nine was pitiful, but we won't speak about that, as this is a family-friendly blog. 

We were also treated to something of an airshow, as Honolulu International Airport was using runway 4R for landings.  During the morning rush hour, heavy airliners, one after another, and some smaller inter-island planes, too, were coming very close to the course on their approach to land.  The pilots and passengers could've easily seen us waving Aloha! :)  I used my smart phone camera to capture some of the action:

This is Richard Chang, preparing to hit his drive on the first tee.  The massive mound of multi-colored Bougainvillea demanded a photo.

Here he his, admiring his fine shot down the fairway.

The airport was using the reef runway for takeoffs and here is a UPS B-747, full of packages, taxiing for takeoff.

A Korean Airlines plane just seconds from landing on runway-4R.  That means there are two parallel runways, each heading 040-degrees from the cockpit and this aircraft is cleared to land on the right runway of the two.  Simple...right!

This should help...or not!  Click on the image for a closer view of those two diagonal parallel runways 4R and the shorter 4L.

A Japan Airlines heavy coming in.

A Hawaiian Airlines inter-island jet about to land.  And not to boast, but I missed a birdie putt on this par-5, but did make par. :)

Not my best effort, but that plane surprised me and I was lucky to get any of it.  That's Richard, lining up a shot.  Notice Diamond Head in the distance.

A strange photo, until you notice the golf ball stuck in the tree.  Gordon Cho, golfer extraordinaire, pointed it out to me.  A shot with this outcome can truly ruin your day.


How lucky can you get!  To be able to play this beautiful game on such a beautiful day in paradise cannot help but make one feel truly blessed.  Hope you had a good day, too.