Monthly Archives: May 2009

Space, The Final Frontier, Sure is Fun to Stare At

Two galaxies swirling past each other

From time to time when I stumble across something cool or unusual on the Web that I think is worth sharing, I will post a link here so you too can marvel or wonder or gasp or whatever it is you do to react.

Check out this cool video on the Milky Way Galaxy.

I love astronomy and the many mysteries of space, and missed my calling due to a major failing in being able to understand mathematics at a much younger age. But that never dampened my enjoyment of deep space discovery and finding out about the world, solar system, galaxy and universe that surrounds us.

It is equally enjoyable to pass along this love of science to my two young boys. Just last week, we were having a campfire in the backyard (one of their favorite activities), sitting in our lawn chairs, heads bent skyward, looking for satellites. Most satellites go south to north in the sky, but we spotted a particularly bright object going west to east. I surmised (wrongly) that it could be the space shuttle as it was still awaiting word to land at that time.

But a quick check on the Web told us it was in fact the International Space Station, ISS for short. We found a Web site, Live Real Time Satellite and Space Shuttle Tracking, that gives advance notice of when the ISS would be overhead in the coming days, so two days later, when the viewing was good, we were back outside and it appeared like clockwork.

Nothing beats the wonder of a young child making the realization there are people up there, beyond the reach of gravity, traveling at thousands of miles per hour. Cool stuff.

Fence May Make Good Neighbors, But Also Creates One Grouchy Fence Builder

The next time you find yourself driving along Interstate 90 somewhere between Yakima and nowhere, look out either window (assuming you are on a nice long straight stretch of highway without an 18-wheeler blocking your view) and take note of what you see. I can tell you right now — besides a whole lot of agricultural nothingness — is a fence. Miles and miles of fence.

I know my sensibilities are a bit odder than most, as I sometimes find myself thinking about things that most other people take little or no heed of — like fences running along the side of the road.

But I don’t spend much time speculating why a fence is so urgently needed where there is clearly no one or no thing itching to get either on or off or even across the highway splitting two horizons of barren Washington terrain. No, I ponder the poor souls who labored countless hours (read days, weeks maybe even months) to construct a barrier stretching for countless miles — no doubt with the intent of keeping some lonely, drought stricken wild animal, delirious with thirst, from seeking the mirage of shimmering water way down the highway. Lot of work to keep one potential critter from becoming the latest roadkill.

The labor needed for such a venture was brought home with a vengeance a few weekends back when I decided — as a Mother’s Day gift to my wife — to replace our hastily constructed chicken-wire fence around the garden plot with a more traditional, sturdy and more or less permanent fence.

The sad excuse of fence currently surrounding the garden is no doubt a serious laughing point to all the wildlife in the area, being only about two feet tall before it got all squashed and bent and contorted by kids, garden hoses, dogs and who knows what else to the point that you’d have to go out of your way to stumble on it in going to and from the garden.

I figured this was a project I could handle, given I wasn’t looking at bordering the back 40 here. As garden plots go, this one is modest. All told, I figured I needed to build 132 feet of fence, gate included. Counting the chicken wire joke we strung up to keep the rabbits from going to town on the garden a few years back, my fence building experience fits neatly on one hand and requires only two fingers, excluding the days in my youth watching my dad build a backyard barrier to neighbors who didn’t even exist at the time (but who later showed up — very prescient of him).

The only other fence of note I’ve constructed was a prefab where all I had to do was properly space a half-dozen posts. To this day, the wife likes to remind me how my “straight” line had a kink in it — to which I will forever link the blame to our then 2-year-old who liked to play with the string line.

But this newest fence was to be built from scratch. No pre-molded sections here. I determined it had to high enough to keep the neighbor’s new dog at bay (the driving reason for a new fence) while still going underground enough to keep rabbits frustrated. It couldn’t be a plank or a slat fence as that would create too much shade on the garden. So I opted for a minimum set of posts (13) with a single horizontal rail of 2x4s running lengthwise to help hold the wire fencing in place.

Three weekends (including a disproportionate amount of Memorial Day weekend), 11 extra trips to both Home Depot and Lowes, one post hole auger rental, several budget revisions, six hours spent unsuccessfully attempting to unearth one beastly boulder, three unplanned layout changes, a mosquito attack, untold amounts of beer, two battles with blackberry bushes, one severely pinched nipple ( … don’t ask …) and a total destruction of a pair of workboots later — and “the project” still is officially only 1/3 the way strung with fencing wire.

So another weekend of stretching wire, hammering fence staples, ditch digging and random bouts of cussing in general await me before I can officially claim my third fence complete. Even with all of that done, I still have to build and hang the gate or the fence will remain just a piece of somewhat ornamental yard fare while remaining completely and totally useless.

Which brings me back to the highway and those miles upon miles of fencing.

My 132 feet of fence will swallow a month of weekends, has blown our family budget for the summer and has most assuredly robbed me of at least 10 years of easy living I could had had at the end of my life. Makes me want to go lay on the sofa just thinking about it. I can only imagine the cost paid to lay those miles and miles of fence running from point A to point B in the middle of nowhere.

Don’t Forget Why Public Facilities Are Named After Certain People

Gig Harbor has a new place to play.

The city dedicated a new park on May 20, the Kenneth Leo Marvin Veterans Memorial Park, located behind behind the business park that’s just behind QFC on Point Fosdick Drive. It’s a beautiful facility that features baseball and soccer play areas, copious open grass space, playground equipment and the city plans to add interpretive trails in the near future.

There is ample parking and restroom facilities and the locale should well serve the majority of the population in the Harbor Heights region.

With the burgeoning of youth sports and leagues in soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse and other field sports, the region is in desperate need of new playing space and even before this newest facility had even been officially dedicated, it was being put to good use by a number of local ball clubs.

The Peninsula Metropolitan Parks and Recreation District isn’t sitting back on its collective heels, either, as work is progessing nicely on the new park off Sehmel Drive. Known as the Sehmel Homestead Park, it will feature multiple baseball and soccer fields, horse and people trails and an outdoor amphitheater among its many amenities.

Work also is under way to develop a new set of baseball fields between the existing Gig Harbor Little League fields on Burnham Drive and the new Gig Harbor YMCA on Harbor Hill Drive.

All of these facilities will be put to good use and it’s nice to see the area responding to a long overdue and unmet need in the community: more open space for youth and families.

But let’s go back to the Kenneth Leo Marvin site for a moment. The site has been dedicated and named after a long-time Gig Harbor resident and decorated war veteran who deserves such an honor. A rich and community-minded dedication ceremony took place with the requisite dignitaries and ceremonial ribbon cutting, accompanied by speeches and music.

But like so many public facilities and structures, who will remember all this pomp and circumstance six months from now? A year from now? Five years down the road? Naming a park or building or bridge or stairwell or whatever after someone in the community is a grand gesture, one that no doubt brings a warm glow to those who love and remember that person. Problem is, people who visit the named edifice often have no clue as to who or why the particular public edifice was named.

All it would take, amid all the other fluff and glory that is a part of such a dedication, is a plaque that summates in two, three, maybe four sentences who the dignitary is who has earned the honor of having his or her name given to public use.

There are countless children and adults — many not yet born, who will spend many an hour at the Kenneth Leo Marvin Veterans Memorial Park. Let’s give them the advantage of knowing why we thought it important enough to attach his name to the public playfield.

Just What the World Needs, Another Blog

Excuse me a minute — fwhsssst — while I blow the dust off my AP Style Guide.

When Gig Harbor Life Editor Scott Turner asked me to write a column for his publication, I just laughed — long and hard. He’s got no space in that tightly packed publication to print any words from me — especially given his past propensity to write 1,400 word tomes.

As his managing editor, my job is to help him corral his copy, meet deadlines and otherwise generally run herd in the background as he fashions each bi-monthly issue. I do the same for a number of other similar publications in Kitsap and Mason counties, and none of those other editors pester me to write anything for their publications.

But anyone who knows Scott knows how danged persistent he can be. He’s been on me for some time to write something — anything — for his fledgling paper and finally, just to get him to stop asking, I agreed to write a blog. Ha. Can’t print that in the paper. That will just be online only, nobody will see it, I can trash talk about Gig Harbor to my little black heart’s content and no one outside of him and my wife will be the wiser.

Except Scott won’t stop being Scott.

Dang him and his dogged persistence, anyway. Being bound by some higher calling, he’s been on a fast track to seeing his nearly one-year-old publication gain traction with the gentiles (and not-so-gentiles) of Gig Harbor and its surrounding environs. And in so doing, he’s pumped a lot of time, effort, copy, photos, videos and various other content-rich items into the companion Web site, and you know what? That crazy galoot’s been making it pay off.

Even though the other publications had the jump on his by one or more years, his Web hits have been steadily increasing and he’s already moved his otherwise non-advertised Web site to the middle of the pack for all the Scripps-sponsored Web sites similar to his – and the numbers keep growing.

Cripes. That means people in and around Gig Harbor will likely be reading this blog. And commenting on it. And making me stay on topic and keeping me from spinning fancy with the facts. Man, now I’m going to have to research before making up … er, I mean, writing up the facts.

And Scott won’t stop.

I’m warning anyone who comes into contact with him now: DON’T ask him how the paper’s going. He’ll pin you down for hours about his vision, the potential, the unbounded and as yet untapped future of Gig Harbor Life and all things GHL-related. He keeps this up and someone higher up than me is going to take notice and then where will I be?

I can tell you. In my boss’s office, answering to how this upstart editor can jump in and outpace all the other sister publications all by his lonesome (at which time I will duly clear my throat and point out that, hey I’m writing for him too — no doubt accounting for a large percentage of his Web audience …). It’s an even bet who will laugh first.

Which is why I’m shaking the cobwebs off my writing Bible. If I’m gonna jump on this bandwagon, I better get aboard while I can still grab a handhold.

What will I blog about, you ask? Nothing. Anything. The old adage is to write what you know best, and being in the field of journalism, I typically know a little about a lot, but know a lot about nothing.

So you’re likely to hear about my wife’s garden one day, and the inconvenience of Harborview Drive construction the next. I’ll prattle about growth, old growth and growing concerns about education, environment, government and any other “ment” I can find.

Consistency is something I’ll strive for but be warned now — that’s a big inconsistency with me. So you’ll get what I can provide. And feel free to offer up a discourse whenever you want. Although this whole Internet thing has pretty much passed me by (much like Homer Simpson: “Ooh, the Internet, I hear they have that on the computer now.”) and I’m in need of help just to get this blog online, I think it will have the bells and whistles of the 21st century. I believe it will have reader feedback where you can comment on my comments to your little black heart’s desire — as long as you remain civil, clean and on task to the current subject matter. At least let’s hope so. Just hearing my point of view can be tedious — just ask my wife.

I’m not sure who will be the moderator of all this online blather.

Maybe I’ll make Scott do it.