Thursday, October 29, 2015

ARM Revisited!

Back in 2009, I wrote the series of articles on rail barge service between Seattle and Whittier, Alaska. I rode this tug, Western Towboat's "Alaska Titian," from the Lake Washington Ship Canal to Harbor Island,

where she made up with the "F/B Whittier Provider." This unique barge carries a deck load of rail cars, and shipping containers and other stuff on an overhead rack.

Poor photos are showcased in this offering. Citing "Executive Privilege," I foist them off on my quality conscious audience, with the lame excuse that I have not mastered my latest acquisition, a Panasonic Lumix ZS50.

I've only had the camera for about a week, so am still learning how to use it with confidence. Riding a ferry at dusk, on a windy stormy evening, obviously not the setting to learn-on-the-fly, setup the control ring for shutter speed!

ColReg 13 - Again!

Wednesday afternoon, I was returning from an appointment in Seattle. Noting the time, around 5:30 p.m., I was curious to see if we would cross paths with Alaska Railbelt Marine, now Alaska Rail Marine, which I knew departed Harbor Island, Seattle, around 5:00 p.m. each Wednesday, on her conveyor belt service to Whittier.

Soon after we departed westbound from Edmonds, I gazed to the south, and noted that the eastbound ferry, "Walla Walla," had stopped, shortly after departing Kingston Washington. And quickly it became apparent why:

The westbound ferry I was riding, "Spokane," departed Edmonds at 5:25 p.m., and created another contentious ColReg 13 passing situation, involving the eastbound ferry "Walla Walla," Mediterranean Shipping Company (another MSC vessel) container ship "Anya," and Alaska Rail Marine (ARM) rail barge service to Whittier, Alaska, with Western Towboat "Alaska Titan."

Belching a huge plume of black carbon-laden smoke, the 5,043 t.e.u. MSC "Anya" throttled up from cruising speed to flank speed, completing a starboard - port passing of the "Alaskan Titan."

Flipped Camera

The latest camera is the Panasonic Lumix ZS50. I had previously spent months researching compact camera form factor and specifications.The main selling points that prompted me to acquire the Nikon CoolPix 7800 was articulating monitor, hot shoe, and 3.5mm audio jack. But the Nikon P7800 went away on eBay a few weeks ago, replaced by former 2nd place choice, Panasonic Lumix ZS50.

•  Long reach zoom; Nikon 7.1x vs. ZS50 30x.
•  Vastly superior 1080p HD video recording; Nikon, 1080/60i, at 18.8 Mbps. vs. Panasonic 1080/60p, 28 Mbps. (Higher bitrate = better quality.)

When I shoot some of the rail video I am planning, I will fall back to the tried and true audio recorder and clapper/slate for sound synchronization in my digital video solution, Sony Platinum 13.

The bitrate made all the difference in the world. I shot video with the Nikon 7800 at the Polar Pioneer shoot, and was royally pissed off at the "focus hunting" and lack of 1080p/60.

As a career videographer, building my first TV studio in 1972, I knew the pioneers in video were JVC (Japan Victor Corp.), Panasonic, and Sony. So, I asked myself, why would I look to Nikon for video excellence?

This gnawed at me so incessantly that I sold the CoolPix P7800 on eBay and purchased the Panasonic Lumix ZS50, within the past few weeks. The switch was a zero-zero expense!

Since becoming a Septuagenarian, I've made a determined effort to pack a high performance camera that will fit in my shirt pocket. The objective; to be free from a bulky camera and camera bag, allowing unencumbered freedom, whilst exploring with my Production Assistant "GingerSnap," leash on my left hand.

I had a bad accident with GingerSnap years ago, trying to grasp a bulky camera, camera bag, and wriggling doggie, which resulted in her suffering a broken leg.

I have succeeded with the ZS50. If only the ZS50 had a dedicated 3.5 mm audio input, articulating monitor and hot shoe, I would be in camera heaven.  But like all photographers, I've had to refine my expectation.

As you can see from initial results, I've a long learning curve to master my "downsizing is best for me" shirt pocket camera modus operandi.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Hunt for Big Foot Continues ...

Click to Enlarge
I watched the entire gavel-to-gavel broadcast on CNN of  the "Benghazi Hearing." It provided a disturbing insight to the rabid confrontational mindset of Tea Party Republicans, broadcasting the worst of American politics around the world by CNN.

• The Republicans undignified and unstatesmanlike behavior -anger, hostility,and downright rudeness - was appalling! If your spouse talked to you as they talked to Mrs.Clinton, you'd throw them out of the house!

• The notion that email is the modus operandi for running the State Department was egregious!

Of course they know of the many ways business is transacted. Cables, written memos, briefings, etc. But for the sake of "Frying Hillary," they chose the nefarious email argument, knowing that the general under-educated public reacts to "email."

I would encourage you to contact your Representative in Washington, and implore them to end this shameful waste of taxpayer money. Let's spend money fixing the plethora of real problems we are faced with.

And remember these particular folk come election time.  Ask yourself, do I want to continue sending these people back to Washington for more wasteful spending and slapstick politics?

Think of it this way:  If you were not doing your job - what you hired and paid to do - how long would it be before you ended up in the Unemployment Office?

The Real Benghazi Cover Up

Benghazi the city, ignored by the Benghazi conspiracists (Gowdy and his Junk Yard dawgs, and many others in government,) remains roiled in violence. In the words of AP, the city is “shattered.”

As The New York Times describes it:

“Random shells sometimes fall out of the sky in various parts of the city. Trash piles up in the streets. Rolling power blackouts can last for five or 10 hours and sometimes engulf the entire city. Fighting in the farmland around the city has created a shortage of vegetables. 

"An influx of those displaced from war zones has overcrowded the safer neighborhoods, straining tempers. Public schools remain closed, and children have nothing to do. The Islamist militias appear to be welcoming foreign fighters into their ranks and there are reports of suicide bombings.” 

A Benghazi man told The Times “I don’t see anyone smiling… The city we grew up loving is not the one we see today.” This is the real Benghazi scandal. Yet it is being ignored.  (Source: Salon, Oct. 26, 2015)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Oil-Electric Turns Eight!

I was discussing my Blog with a friend, who noted this is apparently the eighth year of Oil-Electric's publication. She asked if I was going to "blow my own horn" about the milestone.

Cringe! Blowing one's own horn is considered, especially in this day and age - "Trumpish!"

On the other hand, pointing out the eighth year of Oil-Electric is really about a birthday celebration, yes?

And what better way to deliver the birthday cake than by Schnabel Car!

Canadian National Railways (CNR) 5000, a Pacific-type 4-6-2, is featured on this occasion, because she represents the end of steam operations on the Western Region, British Columbia District.

We had only been living in Prince Rupert for about eight months, when I learned from my newly forged contacts in the Yard Office and Engine Shop, that her main rods had been removed over the past few days, tacked to her running boards.  She was to leave in the evening as part of the consist of Time Freight 922, to be eventually stored at Jasper, B.C., awaiting the inevitable cutters torch.

Bear in mind; I was only 14 years old, and had been "railroading" for about eight months.

It occurred whilst writing this article, the shot I got of 50-hundred off loading in Kitimat, B.C., on April 25, 1958, is perhaps the last operating shot of this locomotive. CNR 5000 was often assigned to Fourth Class 892, a mixed passenger/freight run between Terrace, B.C., and Kitimat.

While the route was completed to the new aluminum smelter in Kitimat, the 38 mile division serviced several logging camps and lumber mills. A sign posted in the station prohibited the wearing of "caulked logging boots" in passenger cars.

I was naively beholding the end of steam in Canada.  50-hundred's older sister, CNR 5149 left Prince Rupert in June, 1958, with east bound passenger train 195, she passed a pair of General Motors Division (GMD) SW1200RS', pulling west bound passenger train 196, at Lake Kathlyn on the Bulkley Subdivision.

There is no photographic record of that momentous milestone; I heard her whistle off as I sat in a dental chair chilling a broken tooth!

CNR 5000, Whyte Class 4-6-2, Road Class: J-1-a
Number in Class: 4 (5000-5003)
Builder: Montreal Locomotive Works
Built: (as Canadian Northern 700) 1913
Boiler Number: 52255
Retired: May, 1958
Scrapped: November, 1958
Cylinder: 23"x28"
Driver: 69"
Boiler Pressure: 190 psi
Tractive Effort: 34,670 lbs

[Ed Note] In April 1960, CNR 6043 made the last scheduled run of a steam locomotive on Canadian National on train 76 between The Pas and Winnipeg.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reaffirmation of Intelligent Life on Earth!

The Democratic "Debate" Tuesday evening gives us hope that intelligent life still exists on planet Earth.

Following the "food fight clown circus" so repulsively displayed by the Republicans in mid-September, last nights presentation was an absolute delight!

The Democrats presented lively debate with:

• Civility
• Details of real issues

Quoting from the New York Times Editorial:

The Grown-Ups Take the Stage at the Democratic Debate 

"It was impossible not to feel a sense of relief watching the Democratic debate after months dominated by the Republican circus of haters, ranters and that very special group of king killers in Congress. For those despairing about the future of American politics, here was proof that it doesn’t have to revolve around candidates who pride themselves on knowing nothing or believe that governing is all about destroying government. 

"Civility was a big winner on Tuesday night, and the discussion of real issues was refreshing. But what stood out most was the Democratic Party’s big tent, capable of containing a spectrum of reality-based views. All five candidates — including two refugees from what had been the Republican Party, Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican senator, and Jim Webb, secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration — have real records. 

"They also have real differences on important issues — national security, foreign policy, gun safety, financial reforms. Those differences illuminate the choices that have to be made in governing, some likely to be successful, some ineffective."

Gentile Republicans, who remember when discourse was lively and bi-parasitism, are rightfully ashamed of the current crop of cranks.

Predictably, the Faux Deceivers did what they do best; berate and belittle Democrats, with commentary rife with snark.

How can these humans survive, filled with rancor and hostility, toward people they've never broken bread with? 

This Faux crew, plus many others, face this harsh reality found in Proverbs 23:7, King James Version:  "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Blood Moon" Lunar Eclipse

Tried my hand at astronomical photography this evening, the "Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse."

These InfoGraphics tell us the basics of what we were treated to this evening.

I am located in the West Coast Time Zone

For inquiring minds who need to know:

Camera:  Nikon P7800
Date Shot: 9/27/2015 20:59:00
Image Quality: Jpeg Fine (8 bit)
Focal Length: 171.2mm
Digital Zoom Ratio: 4.0
Focus Mode: AF-Spot
Vibration Reduction: Off
Aperture: f/4
Shutter Speed: 1/125s
Scene Mode: Night Landscape (Tripod)
Exposure Comp: 3.0EV
Metering: Spot
ISO Sensitivity: ISO 80
White Balance: Auto 1.0.0
Noise Reduction: Off
Active D-Lighting: Off
Picture Control: Standard

I am still learning my way around this camera, and forgot to shoot RAW. And I had to resort to kicking in the dreaded "Digital Zoom," or as I refer to it, the "Kiss of Death."

But I selected this camera for the remarkable "Nikon Glass."  

I forgot about the color changing; but one of my test shots, through the trees, hinted of the redness, hence the name "Blood Moon."

Again, the religious zealot prognosticators were foiled; the end of the earth did not happen!

Not to worry if you missed this event. In 2033 the moon turns red again!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Three Hours You'll Never Get Back!

That's how "The Nightly Show" host Larry Wilmore characterized the so-called Republican Debate broadcast by Cable News Network (CNN) Wednesday night.

Like the proverbial moth "attracted by the flame," I, too, wasted three hours of my life, watching this shameless Republican nonsense.

It's like you to have been duped into watching a dreadful movie. But instead of switching it off, you keep watching. You ask yourself, "How much worse can this get?"

How sad that the USA, a technologically advanced country of 321.7 million souls, and counting, offers a pitiful handful of emotionally exhausted and morally bankrupted misfits, who aspire to be President of the United States.

As a group, totally undisciplined, lacking anything resembling character, prattling inane lies and fabrications.

As one who remembers Ted Turner's gutsy notion that viewers would support a television network running news, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, one asks the question, why is Ted Turner allowing this?

Unfortunately, CNN long ago abandoned its hard core news model, succumbing to faux news entertainment paradigm.

And let's not even discuss the structure of these so-called "debates."Suffice, they are NOT debates, by any stretch of the imagination!

Does it rankle you, as it does me, when the "moderator" of these events never press the candidate for a direct answer, nor do they call out an outright lie! As when Jeb! made the claim that the US was safer after his brother became President!

That is an outright lie! 

Bush took office in January, nine months before the attack on the World Trade Center.

And who was the mysterious passenger in Ronald Regan's Air Farce One?

The entire three hour comedy special had a few stand out moments, one of which was the question every voter in the United States needed to have answers to, besides jobs, the economy, etc., the question "Whose picture would you place on the revised $10 currency?" 

Remarkably, Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, elected "Rosa Parks." And did so with characteristic Republican piety.

They seem to have forgotten that Parks was a political activist for the very same movements the GOP loves to target; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Mrs. Parks was an avid supporter of Planned Parenthood. She even served on its Board!

As Rick Perry once said, also during a presidential debate, "Oops!"

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Rain Obviates Essex Disaster!

From Interagency Situation Report, Sunday September 6th.

• Sheep Fire, Flathead National Forest Approximate Size: 2,171 acres Structures Lost: None

• Fire Update: The Sheep Fire is on the Flathead National Forest and burning in very steep terrain with limited access. The fire is about 1 mile south of Essex and about 1/8 mile from the train tracks between Tank Creek and McDonald Creek.

 • Structural protection measures have been removed. Crews will continue to monitor fire.

•  US Route 2 open; Amtrak "Empire Builder" on schedule.

•  The forecast calls for a 100% chance of a wetting rain for the fire.  Precipitation for this disturbance will be between 1/2 to one inch. 

This was but one of hundreds of fires burning in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Canada:
•  Alaska: 145 active fires
•  British Columbia:  83
•  Alberta:  30 fires burning, all under control.
•  Saskatchewan:  11
•  Washington:  29
•  Idaho:  39
•  Montana:  31
•  California:   34

The Face of Firefighting

When the media "reports" on forest fires, they superficiality loop (repeat) dramatic shots of  airborne water drops, and night shots of violent fires.

That is not the accurate take away picture you should be recording.

Forest fires are fought by human beings; men and women, who have have a deep seated desire to protect our most vulnerable resource. They come from all ages; ethnic, geopolitical.

Forest (wildland) fires require back breaking work, under the worst conditions — smoke, heat, dust — by highly motivated firefighters, including Federal, county, city and municipality, contractors, citizen volunteers, and even prison inmates.

And even though British Columbia has its share of wildland fires, the Province felt an obligation to assist the massive fires in Washington.

And behind the scenes, an army of wildland fire and logistic specialists, to keep the flood of media information flowing,

and keep food for the firefighters, and fuel for equipment, flowing uninterrupted  through the conclusion of the incident.

Hand-line crews may end up  "hunkered down" near the fire line, slightly less comfortable than in base camp tent cities...

 Bonjour! Comment allez-vous?

In addition to fire crews from Australia and New Zealand, first ever assistance from Quebec!

We thank them for their efforts! 

See Also:
•  BNSF War Train
•  Firefighters Ride BNSF to the Fire Lines