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Sat Mar 07, 2015 at 08:13 AM PST

Indiana by sail

by OldJackPine

Photo: Sharon Drummond,, License:
Beginning a work trip on Sunday sucks. My wife was driving me in to get a company car when we passed a local marina. “Beautiful new boat on the lot…” I said. And it was - graceful liquid lines, crisp detailing, a sensual serpentine masterpiece rendered in gleaming fiberglass and polished chrome.  I saw it on the way home the other day. A child of the Great Lakes, I have a weakness for boats. She smiled a wan smile. We both knew it was idle conversation. The boat likely costs well more than our combined annual earnings and I’ve  long since given up fantasies that I might one day own such a beautiful boat. I’m OK with that.

“Where do you want to retire?” I asked trying for a little conversation before I spent the rest of the day alone with the car radio. “I don’t know…maybe up north somewhere. What are you thinking?” she asked. “Up north….maybe near Superior. I’d like to find a neglected sailboat to fix up and then sail around the Great Lakes.” She smiled again. That same smile.

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Satellite view of Bad River estuary, Northern Wisconsin. Produced with Google Earth
WisPolitics is reporting on a press release from Bill Williams, President of Gogebic Taconite, LLC saying that they are shutting down their office in Hurley.
GTac will be closing our office in Hurley, Wisconsin effective March 1. We will continue to investigate the possibility of pursuing a permit to mine the Upson site but cannot justify maintaining an office in Hurley without a prospect of immediate action.

Our extensive environmental investigation and analysis of the site has revealed wetland issues that make major continued investment unfeasible at this time from both a cost perspective and given the uncertainty of recent US EPA actions, such as the events concerning the Alaskan Pebble Mine.

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Twenty-seven wooden angel figures are seen placed in a wooded area beside a road near the Sandy Hook Elementary School for the victims of a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut December 16, 2012. Twelve girls, eight boys and six adult women were killed
On December 14 2012, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut and killed 20 young children and 6 adults who were staff members and teachers.  It wasn't the first school shooting and to our shame it won't be the last but it was among the most deadly. We should not forget.
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Sat Nov 29, 2014 at 06:09 AM PST

Bog Time

by OldJackPine

Black spruces and sedges in a northern bog
After a work day in northern Michigan this past summer, a friend invited me to hike a riverside trail on the back side of one of Michigan’s beautiful state parks. He wanted to scout a new access point for fishing.  Afterward, we would hit the nearby town for dinner and a milkshake. “It’ll be fun” he said, “we can check out a little bog I know on the way”.

We never even made it to trailhead.

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Satellite imagry from Google earth of an agricultural region in southern Michigan USA
Well I woke Sunday morning
with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt…
I woke with a headache. Despite the scotch last night,  my throbbing head had less to do with being hung over than with residual stress from navigating the ninth circle of hell that emerges when summer construction intersects with the Chicago tollway system.

Travel to work in Michigan enables me to layover at my parents place. Normally, I drive up on Saturday and spend Sunday morning with Mom and Dad before heading to my worksite. These mornings usually involve church and a gracious Sunday dinner with happy conversation about their grandkids, my siblings, and the state of the world.  This Sunday, however, Mom and Dad are traveling. So last night I let myself in, helped myself to Dad’s liquor and tried to figure out the satellite TV. One is never fully alone here because every wall and all but the most utilitarian of horizontal surfaces hold tastefully framed and displayed family photos. At every turn I reacquaint with younger versions of people I love most. I am old enough to have honest gray in my beard myself so late on a Saturday, with the contributing effects of fatigue, good scotch whisky and conversations with ghosts, I went to bed feeling pleasantly melancholy.

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Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 05:57 AM PST

Snow and poetry

by OldJackPine

Ski trail in winter
Sunday morning in southern Wisconsin arrived with 6 inches of fluffy new snow hanging in the backyard trees. Sigh. Gotta ski today. I am in training to do a little ski race up north (midlife-crisis division) and this snow makes a mockery of any excuse I might dream up. I am already sore from logging miles on the treadmill and from a late-addition dumbbell routine.
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Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 05:13 AM PST

A ghost of Christmas past

by OldJackPine

I love Christmas for the music, the lights, the significance to my faith tradition, and the get-togethers with family and friends. I love the moments of contemplation as one year passes and another begins. I love the intermission in my work life and the snowy blanket that settles in and calls to me to go outside and play. But I am much less fond of the forces that work to usurp the holidays for the sake of shopping and buying stuff and mindless consumerism.

Years ago, a gift to me from my daughter was a simple handwritten card. The card is from the Carter Center and the front has reproduction of a dove that was painted by President Carter. It's printed with soy ink on recycled stock. I keep it in my desk. Here is what it says (spelling and grammar as written)...

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Firefighters pray in front of a memorial along the road to Sandy Hook Elementary School, a day after a shooting in Newtown, Connecticut on December 15, 2012. Investigators assembled
Late on December 14 2012, following news of a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, I published an off-the-cuff diary (title: I have been a gun owner for more than 30 years… It generated 466 comments and 1083 recommends and remained on the rec list for several days. I don’t know why I did it.  Diary-writing for Daily Kos was not my thing.  My diary was not especially eloquent or informative and offered little new information or new ideas. However, timing is everything and I suspect that the attention that the diary garnered occurred because my expression of anger and shock and frustration and sadness at the horror and injustice of the Sandy Hook shooting simply caught a rising wave of similar reactions among the DK community. I was asked to write a follow-up and I do so with trepidation.
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Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 05:56 PM PDT

The Venerable VW bus

by OldJackPine

My first vehicle was a 1968 VW bus. I spied it in the weeds behind a farmer’s barn, inert and consigned to a fate of slowly rusting into oblivion. The farmer probably could not believe his good fortune when I showed up on his front porch with 10 crisp twenty dollar bills and an offer to take it off his hands. We towed it home and pushed it into the pole barn and I set about fixing it up. I had no idea what I was doing but I was doing it with complete confidence. I was 15 at the time.
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Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 05:57 PM PDT

Peace, Love, and Canoes!!!

by OldJackPine

If I knew this were my last day on earth, I‘d gather my wife and kids, strap the canoes on my old truck and head off to our nearby river. If I knew I faced my last minutes on this earth, I’d give my wife a long sweet kiss, I’d look full into the faces of my kids and tell them that I loved them and that they make me proud and I’d have them set me adrift in my canoe. And in my final moments I’d queue up the Alison Krause playlist on my ipod, lie back along the gunnels of my canoe and watch a wild Wisconsin landscape drift by at the speed of a gentle current. And were I not blessed to be received into heaven and greeted by a chorus of angels, at least I‘ll have had its equivalent on earth.
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Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 09:55 PM PDT

An ovenbird and me

by OldJackPine

Saturday found me sitting near a window when I heard a hollow thump on the glass. I’d heard that sound before so I rushed outside to find an ovenbird on the ground with its head arched over its back, beak open, and a single wing extended and wracked with tremors. I picked it up, folded its wing into position and checked for broken bones in the wings and legs. The pragmatist in me offered that the compassionate action might be to euthanize this little bird as humanely and quickly as possible.
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Satellite imagery of the Great Lakes region of North American (from Google Earth)
I think that humans can fairly be classified by observing how they cross a bridge.  For some of us, crossing a bridge is a common and unremarkable experience warranting little more than a glance out the window as the scenery flies by. For others, crossing a bridge initiates a compulsion to peer over the side to see and know the water below. It’s a familiar pull, like a benign addiction but trust me, if I am driving, it’s simply a force of will that keeps me and my passengers safe. I am of the water tribe.
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