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UNCLE JACK'S WEBLOG
Friday, September 30, 2005
Out like a lion.
       September is not departing the Outer Banks quietly. The surf is up, propelled by a strong wind out of the northeast, and bids foul to mess up the East Coast surfing tournament (is tournament the right word for a surfing competition?) which started yesterday just south of what is left of Jennette's pier in South Nags Head. Uncle Jack will stop by there later in the morning to see what's going on but he doubts that even the most skillful riders could function in this wild surf.
The Chairman of the Board(s) may have to call the whole thing off.
       The ocean is something to behold, though, and provides an exciting contrast to yesterday's perfect high season weather. Another fabulous day for visitors to get out there and shop their hearts out.
                    


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Not very pleasant on the beach this morning. Uncle Jack did not stick around until actual sunrise because it was obvious there wasn't going to be one.

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What might look like the sun in this picture is a drop of wind-blown water on the Elph's lens. This is where the sun was supposed to rise but today you could fuggedaboutit as they say in New Jersey.

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This was the scene at the East Coast surfing thing as they were setting up Thursday morning. Uncle Jack will stop by later to see if the tents have blown away yet.

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This sand castle appears to have about an hour to live as the tide moves inexorably toward it. Fun while it lasted but when you build on the seashore you have to expect the worst.

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This "sandcastle" (who was it that said 'build not thy house upon the sand'?) will be around a bit longer but faces an uncertain future, too. If you're a gambler or an incurable optimist it could be yours for about a million bucks. Call Coldwell Banker.

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Or you might prefer this one next door which is older and a bit shabbier. Nothing shabby about the price though, which Uncle Jack was told is $900,000.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:53 AM

Comments [6]



Thursday, September 29, 2005
The Kraft Dinner index.
                                                                                                                                                                                            
              Uncle Jack has been reading a lot in the paper lately about how the humongous deficit the government is running up is going to plunge the country into another depression like we had in the l930's.
The Great Depression is something he should know a lot about because he was born in l930 and lived through the whole thing at a very tender and
impressionable age. The fact is, though, that he didn't even know there was a depression until he read about it in college many years later. Uncle Jack's family was so poor they didn't have any way of telling when the depression started and when it ended.
The price of macaroni and cheese, which was Uncle Jack's mother's equivalent of the Dow Jones Average, stayed about the same through the whole
depression so it did not seem like anything unusual was going on.
It wasn't until after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Uncle Jack's dad got a job at the paper mill making olive drab toilet paper for the
army that things started looking up. The turning point was when Uncle Jack's mother stopped making macaroni and cheese from scratch and started buying
Kraft Dinner. Nothing would ever be the same again.
Anyway Uncle Jack doesn't know too much about the depression or what caused it or whether we are going to have another one but he does remember what things cost when he was a kid. It's easy to remember because in those days almost everything worth buying cost a nickel.
An ice cream cone, for example, cost a nickel. This was a huge scoop of ice cream in a large crunchy cone of a kind Uncle Jack hardly sees any more. It was kind of cone shaped.
A Snickers bar, or a Three Musketeers, or a Baby Ruth, or a Mounds (which he liked even though the coconut would get stuck in his cavities) cost
a nickel except when the grocer had a special deal and you could get three for a dime.
Uncle Jack could ride the bus from his neighborhood in the west end of town where all the Lutherans lived all the way to the east end where the Catholics lived (and back again) for a nickel and sometimes that was more exciting than a Roy Rogers movie (which cost 25 cents).                             The White Tower downtown, which was the McDonalds of that time except they didn't fry your hamburger until you asked for it, sold hamburgers for a nickel, or six for a quarter if you wanted to get one for everybody you knew.
One thing that didn't cost a nickel was an ordinary postage stamp. That cost three cents and you could use it to send a letter anywhere in the
U.S. except Alaska and Hawaii because they were still foreign countries.
Nowadays Uncle Jack has to pay at least a dollar for an ice cream cone which often isn't real ice cream but instead it is some kind of soft
stuff you should eat with a spoon, if at all. A hamburger usually costs more than a dollar and it's not even hot when you get it and sometimes it is not even hamburger.
In most places that have buses it costs at least a dollar to ride and the government has to kick in another dollar because it really costs more to operate buses than people can afford to pay. (People who can afford to ride the bus drive their own cars which costs four times as much).
And today it costs 37 cents to mail a letter from one end of the country to another (which is much farther than it used to be) instead of three cents.
Now Uncle Jack knows from reading the paper and watching TV and hanging around the post office that a lot of people are unhappy about having
to pay 37 cents to mail a letter. They say terrible things about the post office and they carry on like it was the end of the world or something.
But Uncle Jack can't help wondering why they don't get upset about those tiny candy bars that are half the size they used to be but cost ten
times as much. Or the hamburgers that cost 20 times as much. Uncle Jack must be getting soft in the head but he doesn't think that 37 cents is too much to charge for sending a letter to Alaska or even to Moyock, not when it costs more than twice as much for a can of flavored sugar water that rots your
teeth in the bargain.
Anyway this is why Uncle Jack thinks you should be nice to the people at the post office even when the price of stamps goes up again which will probably be pretty soon.

                                         


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6:50 a.m. in South Nags Head.

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Five minutes later.

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Sunrise evolves. Intelligent design?

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The end of the beginning of a new day which promises to be warmer and more humid than yesterday. Fall was nice while it lasted.

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Big crowd on the beach this morning.

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But there's still plenty of room for more.

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Another old timer bites the dust. On the Beach Road in Nags Head south of the Nags Head pier. Time and the wreckers wait for no cottage.

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Ciao.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:34 AM

Comments [5]



Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Fall is cool.
       For the first time in many months Uncle Jack turned off the air conditioner yesterday and it stayed off all night. With the windows open he could hear the birds twittering at 5 a.m. which made it very easy to get up at that hour. We seem to have finally turned the corner into fall which is the best season of all on the Outer Banks in his estimation.
       Lucky for him and Mrs. U.J. it is also the best season in a lot of places they will be visiting in the next couple of months such as the mountains of western North Carolina and Tennessee and Arkansas and the Grand Canyon for that matter.
This should make it less painful for them to leave Nags Head on Sunday.
       As the pictures below suggest, the sunrise this morning was a doozy---much more exciting than the Elph could capture. It's a great day to be alive, in good health and unemployed on the Outer Banks.


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6:45 a.m. 68 degrees. Humidity undetectable. Wind 6 mph out of the northeast. Wish you were here.

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Thar she comes.

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Right on time as usual.

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A nice morning to be out on the Outer Banks pier. Who cares if the fish don't bite.

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It just kept getting better as the sun moved up into the clouds.

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Room for a few more folks on the beach this morning. That's the Comfort Inn South in the distance.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:43 AM

Comments [8]



Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Conservation can never be.....
       Uncle Jack is in a pickle this morning because the first thing he read in the New York Times was that President Bush is urging Americans to cut down
on their driving to conserve energy. He picked a fine time to do that because Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are getting ready to leave next Sunday on
another cross-country motoring trip in the Mini.       Now Uncle Jack has to come up with a set of rationalizations that will make it o.k. for them to do that without feeling guilty or unpatriotic.
       He has thought of a few things already such as (1) President Bush himself wastes more gas every hour flying around the country for photo ops
than Uncle Jack would if he drove around the world 25 times a day in the Mini (2) Uncle Jack was already patriotic enough for one person when he bought a Mini instead of a gas-guzzling SUV last year (3) He will be helping the American economy by spending money in 20 different states during the next two months including the ones that need it most such as Louisiana, Mississippi
and Texas (4) He will be ignoring conservation for only two months while President Bush has been ignoring it for years (5) Vice President Cheney
himself said that conservation could not be the basis for a sound energy policy for this country so Uncle Jack is going to take him at his word for
just the next 60 days before he returns to being his usual patriotic, energy-conserving self again.
             
      


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This is what greeted Uncle Jack when he got to the beach at 6:45. He hung around until 7:15 but never did see the sun. Weatherman says intermittent showers today and it looks like he's right on.

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He was not alone in the dark, though.

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Mother Nature was out with her broom last night and swept the beach almost clean of seaweed. What is left of it by the dune line is developing an interesting aroma---not entirely unpleasant. Certainly not as bad as rotting fish.

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This was the only patch of color in the sky this morning. Could turn out to be a good day to go shopping. Or to stay in and read a good book. Shopping is better.

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In case you're sunrise starved here's a nice one from last May.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:30 AM

Comments [7]



Monday, September 26, 2005
Reading can be dangerous.


                     Uncle Jack read a story in the paper last week that said Americans are reading more now than they ever have before. The article said the scientists who found this out were surprised because they thought a lot of people had stopped reading and just watched TV all the time when they were not out cutting brush at their ranch.
                     Uncle Jack was not surprised, though, because he knows how much reading he does himself. Every day he reads the Raleigh News and Observer, the New York Times, and the top half of the Elizabeth City Advance which is all he can see through the window of the vending machine in front of New York Bagels.
                     Every week he reads the New Yorker magazine which keeps him up to date on cultural events in the Big Apple and also the Coastland Times which does the same for the Greater Manteo Metropolitan Area including Stumpy Point, Coinjock, and Buffalo City.
                     Every month he peruses the National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine and the 4000 pieces of junk mail he gets because advertisers think that anybody who subscribes to these magazines must have a lot of spare cash to spend on Norman Rockwell collector plates, goosedown comforters, cheese-of-the-month clubs and other high-class stuff like that.
                     Those advertisers could save themselves a lot of trouble if they knew that all those fancy magazines Uncle Jack reads are Christmas gifts from his upscale friends.
                     Anyway those are just a few of the things he reads in the privacy of his own home. Whenever he has to go to the doctor or dentist he also gets to read the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Tax Shelter Newsletter, American Legion magazine, Readers Digest, and Humpty Dumpty.
                     So Uncle Jack really does a lot of reading every day and he is not surprised that other people are reading more, either, because most American people are very much like Uncle Jack even though they are not all high school graduates. If you ask Uncle Jack the main reason Americans are reading more than they used to is TV.
                     If you are going to watch TV very much it is a good idea to have something to read in your lap at all times. This will help you to keep from dozing off during the long, boring stretches between pharmaceutical commercials. With practice you will be able to learn to read with one eye and watch TV with the other. There is hardly ever anything on TV that you have to watch with both eyes so you will not miss out on anything if you do this.
                     When something worthwhile does come on, like "Baywatch" for example, you can quickly switch over to watching with both eyes. Uncle Jack should warn you, though, that reading is not as safe as watching TV. You never know when you are going to read something that could be very harmful to your mental health.
                     You can imagine how he felt last week when he read in the paper that scientists have found out that fish experience pain just like people do. They say that when you hook a fish the fish feels just like you would if you had a hook in your mouth and some idiot was jerking it around.
                     If you want to know the truth this is something Uncle Jack would rather not know about. He would much rather go through life believing that fish do not feel pain, that bloodworms enjoy being dismembered and impaled, and the crabs are actually grateful when you dump them into boiling water and pour red pepper in their eyes.
                     This is the kind of caring, thoughtful person Uncle Jack is. He does not think any human being has the right to inflict pain on any other living creature who is not a member of his immediate family.
                     When he reads in the paper that it really does hurt a bloodworm when you cut a little piece off the end, and what you are watching is a worm writhing in agony when you do that, it is enough to make Uncle Jack want to give up reading altogether.


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Ten minutes before sunrise Monday morning, looking south toward the Outer Banks pier.

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Some clouds have a pink lining.

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The dawn of another spectacular fall day on the Outer Banks. Lucky are the folks who waited until now to take their vacations.

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The Currituck County berm sand in South Nags Head seems to be solidifying into something resembling sandstone in places.

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The red cliffs of Sonag.

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The $270,000 worth of sea oat sprigs planted last spring to hold the berms together are not exactly thriving in Sonag.

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The surf was beautiful to look at Sunday afternoon.

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Unfortunately it brought in a whole new load of fresh green sargassum weed to join the now sun-blackened stuff that came in after Ophelia.

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This house and its septic tank and drainfield have been sitting out on the beach well in front of the dune line for years. Apparently neither the county health department nor the Nags Head town officials who are supposed to enforce the law can see it.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:26 AM

Comments [52]



Saturday, September 24, 2005
Football



Uncle Jack read in the paper a while back that a Bishop of the Catholic church up in Virginia wants the schools in his diocese to stop having football teams. The paper said this Bishop was very upset because a student in one of his schools got killed playing football against another high school team. He said he thought a game that kills and injures kids the way football does might not be such a good game for schools to sponsor.
                     A few days later Uncle Jack started seeing "Letters to the Editor" in that paper from people who thought this Bishop must be some kind of communist or maybe even a liberal for saying that high schools would be better off without football teams.
                     Some of the people who wrote those letters must have been high school graduates, too, because they used "logic" to prove that the Bishop must have been playing without a helmet or something.
                     "More people get killed in automobile accidents than in football games", they said, "so why doesn't he tell people to stop driving cars, too?"
                     When Uncle Jack studied philosophy in high school they called this the "reductio ad absurdum" and it was guaranteed to knock the wind out of your opponent's sails---especially if he wasn't too bright.
                     Actually Uncle Jack thinks the Bishop is right that too many kids are getting badly hurt playing football even though only a few get killed or paralyzed for life each season. But he doesn't think that even a Bishop can make football go away just by ordering it to stop any more than he can get rid of drug abuse or premarital sex by ordering them to stop.
                     Uncle Jack knows how important football is because he is a victim of football. In fact it would not be exaggerating to say that his entire life has been scarred by football.
                     This is true even though Uncle Jack never played football because his mother wouldn't let him.
                     When Uncle Jack wanted to go out for football in high school she "put her foot down" as they used to say. "After all the money I have spent feeding you twelve times a day for the past fifteen years I'm not about to let you get yourself killed playing football," she said in no uncertain terms. "If you go out for football I will stop baking Swedish rye bread on Saturdays," she threatened.
                     Uncle Jack's mother knew that he had an Achilles stomach.
                     The humiliation of not being allowed to go out for football was almost more than Uncle Jack could bear throughout his otherwise distinguished high school career. While all his friends hobbled around on twisted knees and showed off their broken noses to the girls, all Uncle Jack could do was hide in the house and play jacks with his sister and eat homemade Swedish rye bread.
                     He is sure the main reason he has never amounted to anything in life is that he never got to play football in high school. Anyway this is how he found out how important football is and how hard it would be to try to get rid of it even if you were a Bishop.
                     It might be possible, Uncle Jack thinks, to get kids to stop trying to hurt each other when they play football. That's something most of them don't really want to do anyway, but they think they have to because that's what the college and professional players do on television.
                     All it would take is a few mothers like Uncle Jack's to go and watch at games and at practices. When they see a coach yelling and screaming at kids and telling them to go out there and hurt somebody they could hit him over the head with their umbrellas.
                     Maybe that Bishop ought to get an umbrella and do the same thing.
                                                       


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Ten minutes before sunrise. A gorgeous morning in South Nags Head.

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First glimpse, through the haze. Always an awesome sight.

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Looks like it's here to stay. Another unseasonably hot, humid day for which visitors pay through the teeth in August. Two years ago we were cleaning up after Isabel and the power was still off in Sonag.

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The sand sculptors were hard at work again yesterday. This humongous alligator survived high tide last night.

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As did this gated community or walled city or whatever it is.

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Every last shred of the Sea Oatel has been carted off to the rubble landfill in Stumpy Point. Let the building begin. (How many particle board palaces will fit on the lot of a hotel?)

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Save this picture so you can remember what a beautiful wide natural beach looked like before our leaders covered it up with dredge spoil which they seem determined to do.

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Uncle Jack was the first customer through the door at 7:25 this morning. His "everythings" were still warm from the oven. What a wonderful asset to the community this place is.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:11 AM

Comments [8]



Friday, September 23, 2005
Gullability


                     Back when Uncle Jack was a college professor and had plenty of time on his hands he used to hang around with a lot of people who called themselves "behavioral scientists". These are folks who get paid for watching what people and animals do and then trying to make some sense out of it. They try to discover "laws" that will explain the behavior of people and animals in much the same way that the law of gravity explains why things fall down and not up.
                     They haven't been doing too well at finding laws. People don't even obey traffic laws much less laws of behavior but the behavioral scientists are not about to give up. They are smart folks who discovered a long time ago that studying behavior is a lot more fun than working for a living.
                     The federal government throws money at anything called "science" so behavioral scientists can afford to fly around to conferences in places like Acapulco and Budapest where they take a few minutes to tell each other what they don't know and then go out to dinner. Being a behavioral scientist is not the worst thing that could happen to a person, that's for sure.
                     Now that he is a busy storekeeper Uncle Jack does not have a whole lot of time to think about behavioral science but it did pop into his mind the other day, though, while he was supervising the sunset from his command post on the back porch. He saw a seagull crash dive into the sound, scoop up a clam in its beak, carry it directly to a point over his driveway, drop it on the concrete, and then swoop down to pluck the meat out of the busted shell.
                     Now a long time before Uncle Jack knew everything there was to know, he had to take a behavioral science course in college. In that course he was told that "man" (which in those days included women) was the only creature on earth that knew how to use tools. In fact he had read a book called "Man the Toolmaker" in which the authors went on and on about how smart people are because they use tools and how dumb animals are because they don't. They told about one scientist who insisted that he had seen a chimpanzee use a stick to reach for a mango or something on a high branch but all the other scientists laughed at him and said he must have gotten his nose too far into a jug of fermented papaya juice.
                     Now it should be obvious to even a really dumb behavioral scientist that what our local gulls are doing is using tools to open their clamshells. Uncle Jack's driveway is no less a tool for the gulls than Uncle Jack's corkscrew is for Uncle Jack.
                     To put it another way our gulls are showing intelligent behavior. They have found a clever way to get a juicy morsel of meat away from a clam who has other plans for it. Among humans this is the essence of intelligent behavior. It is sometimes called "economics".
                     Uncle Jack has also noticed that, like people, some gulls are smarter than others. Some gulls actually appear to be feebleminded. These are the ones who drop their clams right back in the water where they promptly disappear unopened. High I.Q. gulls are the ones who carry their clams to the nearest empty parking lot where they have plenty of time to chew their food after they get it.
                     Average gulls, the ones who seem to make up the majority of the gull population around here, drop their clams in the middle of highway l58 where many of them, sad to say, take their last meals under the wheels of speeding trucks.
                     But even average gulls, while they may not be as smart as the average behavioral scientist, are obviously more intelligent than behavioral scientists have led us to believe. They deserve a lot of credit, too, for going out and hunting up their own dinners instead of living off government grants.


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Almost a carbon copy of yesterday's sunrise. Scarcely a cloud in the sky.

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Pretty nonetheless. Especially with pelicans in the picture.

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Yesterday's neat sand sculptures were washed away by the tide which also buried some more seaweed.

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The beach was almost hard enough to ride a bike on this morning but most preferred walking.

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Usually jittery sandpipers have been letting Uncle Jack walk right up to them for the past couple of days. It could be a trap.

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Rickfromahia and friends (who are a handful) enjoy a sunrise promenade in Sonag. The house on the left was recently purchased by an optimist for over half a million dollars.

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Uncle Jack noticed yesterday that thousands of evergreen trees along the bypass in Nags Head are turning brown. The same is true of this one in his neighbor's yard. Does anybody know why?

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:49 AM

Comments [10]



Thursday, September 22, 2005
Workaholics need love, too.
       Thursday is recycling day in Uncle Jack's Weblog. This one is from way back:


                                          Workaholics

                     Uncle Jack read an amazing article in a magazine the other day about people called "workaholics" who like to work so much that they work all the time except when they are sleeping, and they don't sleep very much either because they would rather work than sleep.
                     The article said these people like to work so much they hate weekends and holidays and they think Monday is the best day of the week. Whenever their wives manage to drag them off on vacation somewhere they take along their laptops and briefcases full of work and they spend most of their time talking on the telephone instead of swimming and fishing.
                     You can probably see why Uncle Jack thought this was pretty amazing. He tried work himself once a long time ago and he couldn't see anything in it at all. It is very hard for him to understand why anybody would like work so much that they would want to do it all the time.
                     At first Uncle Jack thought this writer made the whole thing up but now he thinks maybe there might really be people like that even though he has never actually seen one.
                     The people Uncle Jack hangs around with are definitely not what you would call workaholics. Some of them are "fishaholics" and some of them "sportsaholics" and all of them are alcoholics but not a single one of them even comes close to being a workaholic.
                     The article says you should not feel sorry for people who are workaholics, though, because most of them are very happy.They really do like to work all the time and as long as nobody tries to keep them from working they are happy as clams. The trouble is that the wives of workaholics are not always happy because they feel neglected, so one way or the other they make the workaholic feel guilty about having so much fun working all the time.
                     Uncle Jack has noticed that very often the same thing happens to fishaholics and sportsaholics and alcoholics. They would be perfectly happy if people would leave them alone but that is not the way it usually works out.
                     According to the article the really worst thing about being a workaholic is that sometimes they work so hard they wear themselves out and all of a sudden they drop dead of a heart attack or something. That is a good enough reason right there for not getting mixed up with work if you ask Uncle Jack.
                     You can be sure he will be keeping a sharp eye out for the "l0 Warning Signals" they give you in this article and at the first sign that he might be starting to become a workaholic he will head right for his rocking chair on the deck and stay there until he is sure he is out of danger.
                     For anybody who is reading this who is already a workaholic Uncle Jack will pass on a couple of suggestions that the article says will help you have better relations with your "loved ones", by which he thinks they probably mean your wife and children.
                     The article says you should volunteer to do household chores sometimes and also you should take your children jogging on weekends. The other suggestions are even dumber so Uncle Jack is not going to waste any more space on them. Besides he has been writing for fifteen minutes now and that is enough work for one day.


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Right on time but nary a cloud in the sky to light up.

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Not the most thrilling sunrise ever but reassuring nevertheless.

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Looks like a gorgeous day in store for the Outer Banks. It's much cooler and dryer than yesterday, most of the seaweed has been covered by sand and both the sea and the air are calm. Couldn't be nicer.

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Mermaid hair. That's what seaweed is good for!

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There is a talented sand sculptor among us this week.

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A bucket brigade must have done this one.

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Big doings at Prime Only last night. Some kind of UNC alumni group celebrating an anniversary of some major basketball triumph. Any excuse will do for a pig-pickin' when you're an aging 'Heel apparently.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:30 AM

Comments [7]



Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Cover-up begins
       Uncle Jack was pleased to note this morning that inscrutable old Mother Nature has chosen to conceal nearly half the Sargassum weed she deposited on the beach yesterday under a fresh layer of sand. Presumably now that it is covered up it will be less able to protect the beaches from erosion (as some of our public servants suggested it had done during Ophelia) but that's the breaks of the game. One never knows what Mother Nature is going to do next as the harried residents of the Gulf coast are learning to their dismay.
       The sunrise was magnificent this morning for the first time in a long while. Uncle Jack managed to get a few decent pictures in spite of the dirty lens in his Elph which is rapidly reaching a state of total opacity. The first item on his shopping list for today is a lens-cleaning kit (followed closely by his heart medicine and a bottle of merlot to wash it down).


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6:35 a.m. Some color for a change.

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A bit later.

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Later still.

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And still later.

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Actual sunrise was almost anti-climactic.

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One last shot. Lots of dark clouds in the rest of the sky. Could be a rainy day before it's over.

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There's still plenty of seaweed left for the people who love to fondle the stuff.

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This sandpiper was so intent on finding breakfast that he didn't notice Uncle Jack looming over him. Maybe the birds have discovered he's harmless.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:44 AM

Comments [5]



Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Sargasso Sea comes to South Nags Head.
       Uncle Jack has never seen anything quite like it in 36 years of beachwalking. As the pictures below show the Sonag beach is almost completely covered with sargassum weed which has been dislodged from its home in the Sargasso Sea by storms, carried north by the Gulf Stream and then deposited on local beaches in humongous quantities.
Uncle Jack has been wracking his brain trying to think of some way to sell the stuff but he hasn't come up with anything yet. (It's the wrong kind of weed for sure). If any readers have any good ideas please send them to him before it all washes back out to sea again.

                                   *********

       There was an excellent article in the News and Observer the other day on Ophelia's impact on the beaches of North Carolina. Highly recommended reading. You can find it by pasting this URL into your browser's address line.

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/2797529p-9238744c.html

(Will promises that some day Uncle Jack will be able to include clickable links in his weblog. Won't that be nice?)


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Seaweed to the north.

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Seaweed to the south. From what Uncle Jack has heard Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk are similarly afflicted.

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The surf is full of the stuff which doesn't make fishing any easier.

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Undaunted, Jim Morris of South Nags Head caught this nice bluefish which he returned to its weedy habitat a moment later.

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The sun made a reluctant and unspectacular appearance at around 7 a.m., 15 minutes after official sunrise.

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Pelicans were on the move this morning, some flowing low....

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and some flying high. They will no doubt be having Sargasso Salad with their luncheon fish today.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:27 AM

Comments [13]



Monday, September 19, 2005
Moon eclipses sun.
       Uncle Jack was too lazy to go back in the house and get his camera to take a picture of last night's glorious Harvest Moon. StephVa has posted a magnificent picture on the message board which you might want to take a look at in case you missed the real thing.
              He did get up to the beach at 6:30 to capture what he thought would be a stunning sunrise but it didn't happen. A very wimpy looking sun finally poked through the clouds at around 7:00 but it was hardly worth taking a picture of. It does look like another unseasonably hot and humid day which should be absolutely perfect for the folks who arrived over the weekend hoping for great beach weather.
       The ocean is almost flat so there should be no danger of riptides for swimmers and surfers. The wind is scarcely perceptible. Enjoy.
       Uncle Jack was in a state of shock all day yesterday so he was unable to post an entry. He had read in the paper that the Nags Head town board has decided to go ahead with their own beach renourishment program without waiting for the county commissioners.
       This will involve spending many millions of local tax money over the next ten years to widen the town's magnificent natural beaches with dredge spoil from offshore. Having apparently learned nothing from their expensive and futile efforts to save Surfside Drive and Seagull Drive, or from the Comfort Inn South debacle of four years ago, they are now determined to embark on an even more expensive exercise in futility, this time using real money extracted from the pockets of Nags Head taxpayers instead of the play money provided heretofore by FEMA and the state.
       Uncle Jack will return to this topic again from time to time but it's probably just as big an exercise in futility.
             


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Jim Morris of South Nags Head wets a line at dawn. He allows as how he remembers catching a fish in the Sonag surf back in January. Hope springs eternal.

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Old Sol's unspectacular first appearance at 6:50.

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Part of a flock of at least 50 pelicans that provided the only real photo op this morning.

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Remember the old Coast Guard station on the oceanfront in KDH?

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:03 AM

Comments [5]



Saturday, September 17, 2005
Back to normal.
       'Twas nice to see the sun at sunrise again this morning. It has been a while. The ocean has settled down to producing long, regular swells that are very pretty to watch, especially with surfers riding them. The humidity is extremely high and there is virtually no wind so it should be a great day to sit on the beach and think deep thoughts while watching the waves roll in.


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Pre-dawn pink. 6:30 a.m.

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The pink gets pinker. 6:45

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First glimpse of the sun, 7:00 a.m., fifteen minutes after official sunrise.

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This tattered flag still means what it says even though you can't see the words. No Swimming today for sure.

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That doesn't mean No Surfing, though. The board boys were out in force this morning early to catch the great waves, presumably before they had to go to work.

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Sandpipers were out in force, too. Ophelia peeled off about a foot of Currituck County sand in Sonag exposing something the birds can apparently get at.

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Remains of a shipwreck? More likely remains of a walkway to the beach covered up in an earlier northeaster.

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And the seaweed lingers on.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:53 AM

Comments [3]



Friday, September 16, 2005
She's gone at last.
       Uncle Jack went for a walk on the beach this afternoon which is something he hasn't been able to do for several days thanks to Ophelia. He is happy to report that for all her huffing and puffing she has apparently done little or no damage to either the beach or the beachfront properties in Sonag.
       It was good to see so many happy visitors out on the beach doing all the things people normally do when they come to Nags Head except for swimming, surfing and fishing. In the annals of hurricane history on the Outer Banks will no doubt be filed under "F" for forgettable for which we should all be thankful.


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Friday afternoon on the beach in Sonag. Folks who evacuated for Ophelia unfortunately missed out on some great post-storm beach weather.

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The Surfside Drive area was left a bit messy with a number of prehistoric sandbags from the Great Wall of South Nags Head exposed again.

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Surfside is also a repository for a lot of the seaweed that had come ashore during the past week in Sonag.

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Ophelia must have stirred up some goodies in the surf because the sandpipers and gulls were out in force this afternoon, chowing down on something.

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Ophelia knocked the steps askew on this house at the foot of James Street. The steps had replaced the decks that Isabel had removed in their entirety two years ago.

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The battered beach at Seagull Drive looked like it came through the storm very well. Another wonderful repository of fresh seaweed if you're looking for free mulch.

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The South Nags Head fire station grows grander by the day. It should one day be a source of great pride for the residents of Sonag and envy for all the other Nags Head taxpayers.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:35 PM

Comments [2]



Friday, September 16, 2005
Lessons we learned from Isabel?.
       Ophelia continues to be pretty much of a non-event in South Nags Head on Friday morning. Uncle Jack walked up to the beach at sunrise as is his wont (it wasn't raining) and he can report that nothing has changed in the past 12 hours except that the wind has switched to the north. The surf is still magnificent to watch but seems to have done little or no damage to the dune line, at least in the vicinity of Whitecap Street about a mile south of Sam and Omie's. Perhaps later today he will be able to check out a few other areas.
       He knows that this must have been a very disappointing few days for Jim Cantore and his fellow doom-mongers at the weather channel. It must be hard to hold an audience for a hurricane as unspectacular as Ophelia has been. And it's a lot harder to sell advertising when you don't have an audience.
       As a public service to disappointed hurricane lovers everywhere Uncle Jack has posted a few pictures from his Isabel archives. Those who thirst for more can find it on his old weblog at www.sparkpod.com/Uncle Jack       Click on the archive for September 2003 and scroll down to the beginning. Isabel paid her costly visit almost exactly two years ago and as far as Uncle Jack can determine we have learned little or nothing from that experience. Presumably it will take another Katrina to demonstrate even more forcefully that barrier islands are not very good places to build on, especially right next to the ocean.
       Thanks very much to all who have written to wish us well during this troubled time. Uncle Jack is happy to assure you that he and Mrs. U.J. and the Mini have all survived completely unscathed.
       But there's always a next time to look forward to when you live on the Outer Banks.


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This 1950's flat-top has been replaced by a magnificent umpteen bedroom house on the same lot which is now half the size of the one the original house occupied. Live and learn?

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Its next door neighbor (left) is the largest "house" in South Nags Head. It was under construction when Isabel visited and lost part of its septic system even before it was finished. Federal flood insurance covered the loss no doubt.

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Isabel moved a lot more sand than Ophelia as this freestanding walkway shows.

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Another of Isabel's victims. This motel in South Nags Head is still in business but with fewer units.

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More fallout from Isabel's beach renourishment efforts in Sonag.

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Post-Isabel wreckage removal took a few days but the task was trivial compared to what Katrina has left in her wake.

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Fish swam in Old Oregon Inlet Road after Isabel and when the waters receded the sand was revealed. Much of it was returned to the beach in trucks after sifting to remove debris.

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Little has changed in Sonag in the two years since Isabel except that 50 or so large houses have been built to replace the half-dozen smaller and older cottages that washed away. Property values have doubled or tripled, too. Sigh.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:48 AM

Comments [2]



Thursday, September 15, 2005
Still waiting for Ophelia
       At 5 p.m. Ophelia is churning up humongous surf but there has been relatively little rain and not much wind so far in the Nags Head area. Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. walked up to the beach at 4 p.m. and took the pictures below. The surf is definitely higher than it was this morning and could rearrange the South Nags Head beach a bit at high tide around 6 p.m. but so far Ophelia has been pretty much of a non-event in Sonag.


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Looking north from Whitecap Street (aptly named) at 4 p.m., about two hours before high tide.

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Looking east from Whitecap.

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Looking south from Whitecap.

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Not that anybody needs to be reminded.

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:15 PM

Comments [0]



Thursday, September 15, 2005
Waiting for Ophelia
       Like everybody else Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are watching the weather channel this morning. It now looks like Ophelia's eye won't make landfall but we will get some wind and a lot of rain during the day. It hasn't really started raining in earnest yet so they did make a quick trip up to the beach to ogle the surf which is fairly awesome but not much more so than several days earlier in the week when Ophelia was much farther away.
       No doubt as the day goes by the wind will pick up and the rain will start coming down (or blowing sideways) in buckets---a good day to stay inside. With any luck the power won't go off so we will be able to compare what Jim Cantore is describing on TV with what we are seeing with our own eyes. Always an interesting exercise.
       If the power stays on Uncle Jack will post another entry later in the day from Sonag Hurricane Central. P.S. Does anybody know the best way to remove rain drop residue from a camera lens?


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Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. walked up to the beach at sunrise (6:45) but needless to say there was no sun to be seen. The surf is up again and the wind is off the ocean at what seemed like about 20 mph.

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The seaweed is moving. Much of it was pushed up against the berm but a lot of it is apparently back out in the water.

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Looking toward the Outer Banks pier. The surf is brushing the pilings of some houses but this is high tide. Depending on where Ophelia is at the next high tide it could be pounding at the sandbags by this evening.

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This is where the sun was supposed to rise at 6:45. No doubt it is rising somewhere but we're not going to see it today.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:27 AM

Comments [16]



Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Whither goest thou, Ophelia?
       At the moment Ophelia is still creeping toward Wilmington at a snail's pace and on a path that might bring her to Nags Head via Pamlico Sound---the back door so to speak. This may (or may not given the tendency of hurricanes to be inscrutable right up to the point where you discover your car is underwater)result in severe soundside flooding with relatively little action on the oceanfront.
              This happened to Uncle Jack a few years ago when gale force winds started blowing from the southwest for no apparent reason and pushed a large part of Roanoke Sound all the way over to Old Oregon Inlet Trail in South Nags Head. Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. looked out their front window at midnight that night and were mortified to see both their cars sitting in water up to the steering wheels.
       Mrs. U.J. was teaching at ECSU at the time and had left 200 mid-term exam papers on the back seat. For the next few days the inside of their house looked like a Christo project as every flat space was draped with soggy term papers, most of which were even more unreadable than they were when dry.
       Residents on the west side of Old Oregon Inlet Road lost a lot of cars and heat pumps that night as the whole neighborhood once again became the swamp it had been before the developers moved in and filled it just enough to build houses on it.
       It may not happen again with Ophelia but you can bet that Uncle Jack will be moving the Mini to higher ground before she gets here.      


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6:30 a.m. The wind is stronger than yesterday morning and is coming from the southeast. Surf is moderate. Still no sign of Ophelia.

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Ten minutes later. Mother Nature has reached into her pink paint pot.

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Looking north toward Jennette's pier.

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6:45. First glimpse of the sun. Right on time as usual.

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Here to stay. Looks like a gorgeous day in store, at least earlier on.

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Mother Nature has rearranged yesterday's scattered seaweed into a neat row. Who knows where it will be tomorrow at this time.

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Four sandpipers in one picture. This is encouraging.

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Uncle Jack saw these characters at the post office yesterday. Another good reason to drive a Mini. (They are English mastiffs in case you're wondering).

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:40 AM

Comments [5]



Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Unsolicited advice for young teachers.
       School starts so early these days that Uncle Jack completely missed opening day this year. He meant to offer his advice to beginning teachers before they actually started teaching but he is hoping maybe these words will be "better late than never" as they say over at FEMA.

Dear Uncle Jack,
       Next week I start my first job as a schoolteacher and I'm really looking forward to it because I love children and I want to do good things that will make the world a better place to live in. But I am also a little bit scared and I know you used to be a teacher so I was wondering if you had any good advice for a beginner.
                                                               Nervous Nellie
                                                               Manteo

Dear Nellie,
       It is too late for Uncle Jack to give you the advice he always gives young people who want to be schoolteachers which is the same advice his Aunt Esther used to give him back when he wanted
to be a teacher which was "Don't be a fool."
       But even if it was not too late and he did give you that advice you would probably not pay any attention just like Uncle Jack did not pay any attention to his Aunt Esther even though he knew that she knew an awful lot about schoolteaching after doing it for 30 years.
       Anyway you sound like the kind of person who has not gone into schoolteaching just for the money and prestige so Uncle Jack is glad he did not have a chance to talk you out of it. Somebody has to teach the children so it might as well be persons like yourself who actually like children and want to make the world a better place for them instead of witches like his old fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Stonebreaker. Maybe someday the Japanese or Bill Gates or somebody willcome up with a computer robot (Mr. Chips?) who can take attendance and make up the cafeteria list and teach children how to do the train problems and all the vital things that teachers do but in the meantime human beings have to do it and he is glad that you are willing to put your head in the noose.
       As for advice to a beginner he has been racking his brain to try to come up with something helpful but all he could think of was the following:
       (a) On opening day count the number of children in your class and if you have more than 20 children go right to the principal's office and tell him he has made a mistake and he cannot expect you to teach more than 20 small children at one time and do a good job.
       When he gets through telling you where you can go you should ignore what he told you and go straight to the superintendent of schools instead. If he will not listen to you either you should go right
to the chairman of the school board and tell him your class is too big and the principal and superintendent should be fired because they won't do anything about it.
       This will establish you right off as a dedicated teacher who wants the best for her children and the school board will probably give you a big raise.
       (b) If they make you teach your class anyway, even though it has 38 children and 24 of them are insane, remember not to hit the children, even in self-defense. Hitting children is illegal in many states and it is also dangerous because you never know when a lawyer might be hiding under your desk.
       (c) Also never hug the children even if they surprise you and do something really nice which makes you feel like you want to hug them. Nowadays if a child goes home and tells his mother
or father (or both if by some chance they actually live together) that his teacher hugged him the parent might not understand and even if the parent does understand the lawyer under your desk may not understand so either way you are safer not hugging the children.
       (d) Stay out of the teachers' room at all times, especially if it does not have any windows which is usually the case. You will be depressed enough already without having to listen to the morbid conversations of experienced teachers and also you
could be overcome by cottage cheese and yogurt fumes and die in there.
       Seriously, schoolteaching is only about 90 percent as bad as Uncle Jack has made it out to be and he is actually glad that he was a schoolteacher for a while because it did a lot for his self-respect.
       Someday when you have to quit teaching and go into some disreputable line of work like picture framing or selling timeshares in order to make a living you will be able to say, "I am not all bad. I was a schoolteacher once."
       Also as long as you are a schoolteacher you can count on getting a good night's sleep every night because you will be too tired to do anything else. Uncle Jack knows.




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Much to Uncle Jack's surprise the ocean was almost calm this morning and the wind has died to a breeze. Obviously our weather has not yet been affected by Ophelia to any significant degree.

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The air is so humid this morning that it could almost be packaged and shipped to New Mexico.

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The sun was right on time (6:45)and visible from the gitgo through the clouds. Looks like another bright sunshiny day if Ophelia stays put.

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Today's unusual beach phenomenon is the seaweed which came in on the last tide. It is about as thick as he has ever seen it in Sonag. Somebody could make a fortune if he could think of something useful to do with it.

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Somewhere in this frame there is a sandpiper who refused to stand still long enough to have his picture taken.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:07 AM

Comments [3]



Monday, September 12, 2005
Gloomy Monday
       If the rain holds off this could be a superb day for beachwalking, but that's about all. The beach in South Nags Head is wide and almost as hard as a sidewalk, the wind is not blowing nearly as hard as it was yesterday, and the wild surf is beautiful to behold. An amazing assortment of stuff has washed up overnight along with more of the barnacle encrusted lumber that has been coming in from somewhere for the past several days.
       Ophelia is apparently still floundering around somewhere southeast of Wilmington but it doesn't look like a serious threat to the Nags Head area. Perhaps some of the folks who were told to leave Ocracoke will decide to finish their vacations here (the masochists anyway).

                                          **********

      


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Uncle Jack could have gotten by with black and white film this morning. Nothing but thick, black ominous looking clouds on the horizon.

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More of the same.

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East, west, north and south. All the same.

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It's possible the sun may make an appearance around 9 a.m. if this opening in the clouds holds up.

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Nobody here but us pigeons.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:11 AM

Comments [6]



Sunday, September 11, 2005
Pouring Snake Oil on Troubled Waters
       Uncle Jack read in the paper that representatives of a New Jersey company called Elemental Innovations were in town the other day trying to peddle something called the HALO Wave Attenuator to local officials. Apparently this is some kind of very expensive floating apparatus that would be anchored offshore and would cut down the size and force of incoming waves and thus prevent beach erosion.
       Uncle Jack did not know whether to laugh or cry when he read about this cockamamie idea which the salesmen claim has been tested and found to work beautifully up in New Jersey. He was thinking about it while he was walking on the beach this morning and watching huge waves roll in, pushed by a moderate northeast wind.
       How could anyone in his right mind, he wondered, think that you could anchor some kind of floating apparatus in twenty feet of water offshore and expect it to stay there for any length of time?
Today's powerful surf is only a fraction of that of a full-fledged northeaster which is an even smaller fraction of a hurricane like Isabel or Dennis. He recalls that storms off Hatteras used to drive the heavily anchored Diamond Shoals lightship for miles before it would run up on a sandbank. Mother Nature does not like stuff anchored in her ocean.
       It occurs to Uncle Jack that a few bottles of snake oil poured on the waters during a northeaster would work just as well so why not wait for some snake oil salesmen to come to town?.
             


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Sunset in South Nags Head, Saturday September 10. That's Uncle Jack's new $629,000 neighbor on the postage stamp lot across the street. Too bad the decks face south instead of west on a night like this. Nice view of his unmowed lawn, though.

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Twenty minutes before official sunrise. Not too promising.

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6:40 a.m. Official sunrise. It must be back there somewhere.

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Ten minutes later Old Sol punches through the clouds.

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Here to stay for what looks like another sunny, windy day.

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A strong east wind is whipping the ocean into a froth this morning. The beach is covered in foam in many places.

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Another great day for soaring gulls who catch the updraft at the dune line and hang in one place for minutes at a time making it easy for amateur photographers to get good shots.

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No swimming today, for sure.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:21 AM

Comments [1]



Saturday, September 10, 2005
Sayonara Quag's
       The news that Quagmire's watering hole and restaurant in KDH will close on September 18 has sent Uncle Jack into a veritable swoon of nostalgia. It was about 20 years ago now that a group of somewhat disheveled young men came into his framing shop at Yellowhouse Gallery on a cold December day. They told him they were about to open a new restaurant in a little building about a block south of Yellowhouse on the Beach Road in Nags Head.
       Uncle Jack knew the building well. Over the years it had housed a number of restaurants including, for a short while, Nags Head's only Chinese take-out joint. Its most recent occupant had been a delightful, offbeat bistro created by Bob and Jan Kannry called Gandolph's. The brief, happy life of Gandolph's was cut short by a kitchen fire that gutted the interior after which the building stood empty for a couple of
years.
       Uncle Jack doubted that anyone would be foolhardy enough to try to clean up the mess and open yet another eatery in such an unpromising location but much to his astonishment the guys who came to his framing shop that day planned to do just that. And they were going to open for business in January, the absolute nadir of the season. They called the place "Quagmire's" which wasn't going to help a bit in Uncle Jack's estimation.
       Furthermore they had no pictures to hang on the freshly painted walls of their new restaurant and that was why they had come to the framing shop. Oh yes, and they also had no money with which to buy said pictures.
       Would softheaded old Uncle Jack let them pick out a dozen or so posters and get them framed with no money down and only a promise to pay for them when they could? He has to confess that he thought their chances of success were somewhere between slim and none but the place was nearby and he could always go get the pictures back if things didn't work out.
       So they hung the pictures, opened the restaurant and the rest is history. Quag's immediately became one of the most popular places of its kind on the Outer Banks and the pictures were paid for in full before the tourist season even started.
       Uncle Jack learned later that "Quagmire" was the nickname of John Kirchmier, one of the intrepid partners in the business along with his friend Will Thorpe. A few years later Will bought out John's share and renamed the booming business "Tortuga's Lie" while John went on to open the very popular "Goombay's" on the Beach Road in KDH. Later he bought the old Croatan Inn building on the oceanfront nearby (which had housed a popular restaurant called "Papagayo's" for years). He renamed it "Quagmire's" which, like its earlier incarnation, quickly became a favorite destination for locals and visitors alike.
       (Not to be outdone, Will later sold Tortuga's to two of his longtime associates and opened the popular "Rundown Cafe" in Kitty Hawk which he later sold and opened his equally busy "High Cotton" North Carolina BBQ restaurant, also in Kitty Hawk.
       While Uncle Jack is saddened to learn of the demise of the latest iteration of Quagmire's and the historic building which housed it, his bosom swells with pride that he was involved in even a tiny way at the beginnings of the successful careers of two hardworking and talented local restaurateurs who have provided the Outer Banks with such excellent alternatives to the colorless franchised food emporiums that are creeping like kudzu across the local restaurant scene.      
      


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The sun didn't have a chance this morning against the thick cloud bank that obscured the eastern sky. The cloudy, windy weather could be related to Ophelia but Uncle Jack is not sure.

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The surf has been rough and dangerous all week and shows no sign of abating with a strong breeze from the east pushing it.

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Several days of high surf have brought an unusual amount of flotsam and jetsam to the beach. There is enough lumber scattered between Jennette's pier and the Outer Banks pier to build another particle board palace.

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This is where the sun was supposed to appear at 6:40 a.m. Not today.

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This group of visitors picked the wrong day to get up and see the sunrise. Maybe they were up all night. Who knows.

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A great day for beachwalking if you can keep from tripping over the lumber.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:26 AM

Comments [5]



Friday, September 9, 2005
Another landmark to bite the dust.
       Uncle Jack was saddened but not surprised to learn that the last remaining section of the Old Croatan Inn in KDH (home of Quagmire's Restaurant for the past several years) will most likely be demolished soon. The owners of Quagmire's have sold the property and will close the restaurant in a week or so.
       When Uncle Jack first came to the Outer Banks in 1969 the Croatan Inn was still functioning as an oceanfront hotel as it had for the previous 30 years or so. Along with the First Colony Inn and the Old Nagsheader it was one of the oldest and most picturesque hostelries on the Outer Banks.
       If Uncle Jack remembers correctly there were three buildings in the original Croatan complex: the ocean front unit which still stands, and two shingled structures on the right containing guest rooms. One of the buildings burned some years back and the other was torn down later.
       Uncle Jack does not remember exactly when the Croatan ceased to function as a hotel but he does recall that a popular restaurant called Papagayo's occupied the space for many years before new owners took over and the even more popular Quagmire's appeared. This was a second incarnation for Quagmire's which once occupied the present location of Tortuga's Lie and thereby hangs a tale which he will relate tomorrow.
      
      


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Ten minutes before sunrise. South Nags Head

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Looking south toward the Outer Banks pier at the same time.

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Before sunrise most of the prettiest clouds were in the west.

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At the appointed time, 6:40 a.m., Old Sol peeks over the horizon for the first time.

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Peek-a-boo time.

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This hungry willett had the entire beach to himself this morning. He must know something all the absent birds don't know. Either that or he is about to learn what the others already know. There's nothing to eat here.

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Remember the Acme Drive-in on the Beach Road just south of St. Andrew's church? This is what you will find if you go looking for one of their shrimp po'boys. The Acme was a fixture in this location for as long as Uncle Jack can remember.

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The Acme has metamorphosed into an ice cream shop in the Surfside Plaza shopping center a mile or so north. No more po'boys but they might have shrimp ice cream. Uncle Jack is afraid to ask.

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What's left of the venerable Croatan Inn in KDH.

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Where will this sign go next?

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:15 AM

Comments [5]



Thursday, September 8, 2005
Seaweed, foam and soaring birds
       Uncle Jack is happy to report that a day of rest did wonders for his gimpy leg so he was able to lurch up to the beach at dawn and take some pictures. The northeaster of the past few days has removed most of the man-made detritus (bottles, cans, paper cups, fireworks, cigarette butts, flip flops, etc.) and replaced it with copious quanties of seaweed and foam. No doubt the foam will disappear during the next few hours but the weed looks like it's here to stay for a while (at least until the next high tide).
       Uncle Jack doesn't know what kind of weed this is but the birds seem to go crazy over it, dashing from clump to clump and pecking away like there's no tomorrow. It doesn't look like marijuana but on the Outer Banks anything is possible.
       Birds do have another way to get high, though, and they were really enjoying themselves this morning---soaring and floating in the stiff onshore breeze. Those intrepid folks who do venture onto the beach today will have plenty of avian entertainment. Wings instead of "Wings" for a change.


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6:20 a.m., twenty minutes before official sunrise. Lots of huge black clouds and rain on the horizon.

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This jogger will probably need a trip to the chiropractor when this run is over because the beach is severely tilted at the moment (and so was Uncle Jack's camera).

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6:30 a.m. A little glow indicates where the sun will show up in about 10 minutes.

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Right on time.

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The clouds were not positioned quite right to produce a spectacular sunrise but it was pretty enough.

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The ocean seems to be calming down this morning but it did churn up a bit of froth last night. The wind has subsided to perhaps 5 mph so it will be a lot more pleasant on the beach today for folks who want to work on their skin cancers.

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Do birds actually enjoy soaring or are we anthropomorphizing? They look like they're having a ball. It can't be much fun being a seagull most of the time, or a pelican either for that matter.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:31 AM

Comments [5]



Wednesday, September 7, 2005
What a difference a day makes.
       Uncle Jack was nursing a pulled muscle in his accelerator leg yesterday morning (Tuesday)so he didn't get up to the beach at dawn. (He attributes his leg problem at least partly to driving 10,500 miles in the Mini earlier this summer). The sunrise appeared to be almost a carbon copy of Monday's so he advises readers to look at those pictures if you want to get an idea of what it looked like yesterday.
       Yesterday's strong winds and big surf had subsided by this morning but rain has moved in so he didn't get to the beach this morning either. All in all it looks like it's going to be a perfect day to get out to the malls and shops and get a jump on Christmas. There must be somebody on your list who wants a ceramic replica of the Hatteras Lighthouse lovingly created by skilled Chinese craftsmen. (You will never find one in Cleveland).

                            ***************************

       If you have time for some educational reading today go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/06/AR2005090601922.html
      
             


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South Nags Head Tuesday morning Sept. 6.

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Near the 11 milepost across the street from Yellowhouse Gallery, Tuesday Sept. 6.

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Ditto. It takes a determined beach lover to endure flying foam and sand on a morning like this. Uncle Jack doubts that they stayed long. That's the Nags Head pier in the distance.

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Just in case you're starving for a really good sunrise pic, this one is from almost exactly a year ago.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:23 AM

Comments [5]



Sunday, September 4, 2005
Sunrise Sunday
      
       PLEASE NOTE: DUE TO UNCLE JACK'S INEPTITUDE THE ENTRY FOR TODAY (MONDAY) FOLLOWS THIS ONE.



Looks like another spectacular day for the Labor day weekend throng to enjoy the magnificent beaches of the Outer Banks. If yesterday is any indication, though, at least half the people here will be prowling the malls and shops all day and never setting foot (or tush) on the beach. Go figure.


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6:20 a.m.

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6:25 a.m.

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Here comes the sun.

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Peek-a-boo

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Here to stay. It was chilly on the beach at dawn with a stiff breeze from the east but it should be another perfect beach day by 9 a.m.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:55 AM

Comments [7]



Monday, September 5, 2005
Our Crowded Beaches?
             


      
                                          LABOR DAY SERMON

       One of the favorite scare tactics used by proponents of beach renourishment, including some of our county commissioners, is to claim that if our beaches are not widened soon that tourists will stop coming here. This would result in the death of the economy and the end of the Outer Banks as we know it.
       Uncle Jack believes that this argument is phony and he herewith offers concrete (sand actually) evidence to explain why. The pictures below (with some exceptions that will be obvious), taken in South Nags Head on one of the busiest beach days of the summer, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend 2005, show that there is no cause for alarm whatsoever.
       Even South Nags Head which at least one commissioner has singled out to be particularly in need of beach replenishment, there are long stretches of wide, beautiful beach that will be more than adequate to accommodate any number of visitors at least until the next category 4 or 5 hurricane which will require starting all over again anyway---as in Gulfport and Biloxi.
       The only trouble spots in South Nags Head where the beach has narrowed are in front of buildings that have been allowed to encroach on the beach long after they should have been removed. Laws forbidding the use of "hardened structures" such as sandbags to protect private property have been flouted by property owners while lawmakers look the other way.
       These areas, too, would be as wide and beautiful as the beach in front of the former Surfside Drive if Mother Nature was simply allowed to widen the beach naturally. What we are witnessing obviously is a blatant effort to save buildings, not the beach. The beach can take care of itself as Surfside Drive has demonstrated.
       If the commissioners ever do get enough money together to begin despoiling the magnificent natural beaches of the Outer Banks he hopes they will spare South Nags Head. All the Sonag beaches need is law enforcement. Mother Nature will do the rest.


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Beach at James Street, 19 milepost, South Nags Head, 3 p.m. Saturday September 3, 2005. Labor Day weekend. Coney Island this is not.

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Looking south from the Outer Banks pier in South Nags Head. Saturday afternoon of Labor Day weekend. Looks like plenty of room for everybody here.

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Looking north from the same pier. People are stepping all over each other looking for a place to spread their blankets. (Not!)

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Another crowded South Nags Head beach at the end of Nansemond street at the 19.5 milepost. Uncle Jack would conclude that people are avoiding Sonag's terrible beaches except that all the particle board palaces are full.

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The renewed beach at Surfside Drive---renewed by Mother Nature that is at no cost to the taxpayers. Looks like there's plenty of room for everybody even on a gorgeous afternoon of Labor Day weekend.

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This is what the same beach looked like while the Town of Nags Head was still determined to "save" it at any cost.

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This man-made berm which took up half the beach at Surfside Drive (and cost a fortune) was removed by Mother Nature shortly after it was built. The result was the lovely, wide beach you see in Picture 5.

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Uncle Jack has heard a rumor that this condemned and derelict house that has occupied part of the beach at Surfside Drive for years is scheduled for demolition this month. He hopes he will be able to get some pictures of this long-awaited event.

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Sunrise Monday September 5, 2005. Labor Day.

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The beginning of another gorgeous day on the Outer Banks. There's a stiff breeze off the ocean and some nasty looking surf. A good day to stay out of the water and go spend money somewhere.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:31 AM

Comments [5]



Saturday, September 3, 2005
A Nice Weekend?
       Weatherwise it looks like perfection.
       Otherwise it's a downer. Uncle Jack wishes he could think of something cheerful to say but he can't. He will let the sunrise speak for itself this morning.


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6:20 a.m. Saturday September 3, 2005.

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Five minutes later.

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Five minutes later. Still no sun which is concealed by a thick layer of clouds on the horizon.

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It has to be back there somewhere.

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Finally, at 6:40 Uncle Jack's patience is rewarded.

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A close-up view from only 93 million miles.

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This is as good as it got this morning. You'll never see it on a postcard.

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This gull amused Uncle Jack while he was waiting by catching and eating a sand crab. They don't look very nutritious but "chacun a son gout" as they say in France.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:02 AM

Comments [0]



Friday, September 2, 2005
There's Something in the Water
       "There's something in the water that makes them do the crazy things they do" is one of the lyrics of a song about New Orleans written by Uncle Jack's friend Jack Maheu, one of New Orleans' finest jazz musicians. It's a very funny song but it has taken on tragic overtones as the incredibly sad events of the past few days have unfolded.
       Now that New Orleans itself is in the water the normal craziness of some of the denizens of the Big Easy seems to have metamorphosed into outright insanity. Armed gangs of young men, free of the normal restraints of civilized society, roam the streets, looting, robbing, shooting at would-be rescuers and committing every manner of unspeakable crime.
       How could this happen? What possible explanation could there be for such vile and despicable behavior at a time when many of their fellow New Orleanians are fighting for their lives and desperately in need of the help that young, able bodied men could offer?
       Certainly Uncle Jack does not know how the armed thugs who have added so much horror to the already terrible devastation of the hurricane could descend to such a level of depravity. He finds himself thinking dark thoughts about what he hopes will happen to them at the hands of the armed troops who will eventually end their rampage one way or another.
       Looking back on the many happy days and nights he has spent in that most delightful of all American cities, though, he knows that he allowed his own pursuit of pleasure to blot out and ignore a disturbing truth about New Orleans. Under the frothy meringue of Mardis Gras and the other hedonistic delights of the Big Easy that tourists know and love there has been a long-simmering stew of violence and misery.
       Death by gunshot is a constant in New Orleans. In one recent year over 400 people were murdered in this seemingly laid-back city, a fact that went almost unnoticed by the millions of conventioneers and other visitors who crowded the streets of the French Quarter that year. It wasn't something the visitors had to worry about very much as long as they heeded the official warnings about staying in the "safe" areas where the police were ever vigilant.
       Nearly all the more than 400 murder victims that year and in every year before and since, were young black men who killed each other---often in disputes over drugs but often, it seemed, over nothing.
       The vast majority of these crimes have gone unpunished. As long as the murderers and their victims were young, black criminals they were pretty much allowed to kill each other with impunity. Only when a tourist or an upstanding citizen of the community was robbed or assaulted (a fairly rare event actually) was a serious effort made to find and punish the perpetrators.
       It is in the light of this history of endless and unrestrained violence that the seemingly incomprehensible actions of some of the young men of New Orleans might be at least partially understood. It's nothing really new. But now, against the horrific background of the city's
destruction, it is not being ignored and it will not go unpunished.
       It wasn't just something in the water. It was something in the very fabric of a community that could somehow tolerate the ghastly violence that has been an integral part of life in New Orleans for a long time.      


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The sun struggled through thick clouds and haze before it finally ascended into a cloudless sky. It was almost chilly enough for a sweater at 6 a.m.

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That's all she wrote this morning.

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The beach was even more underpopulated this morning than usual. One sandpiper and one gull kept Uncle Jack company.

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The high point of the day at Yellowhouse Gallery yesterday was a visit from the obxconnection's vacation-prize-winning Colleen and her two delightful children (who seemed right at home in the Mini)

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:27 PM

Comments [1]



Thursday, September 1, 2005
Enter September
       Uncle Jack read in the paper that the state senators in Raleigh have decided (by one vote) that North Carolina should have a state-sponsored lottery. This was very disappointing to him because he thought that after he wrote this column a couple of years ago they would be persuaded by his logic not to approve a lottery. Obviously he was wrong.
                                          **********

Dear Uncle Jack,
       I read in the paper that some of the politicians in Raleigh think it would be a good idea to have a North Carolina lottery just like they have up in Virginia. They say it would keep North Carolina people from having to go up to Virginia to buy their lottery tickets and also it would help to raise money for charities such as the schools and old people.
       I don't personally plan to waste so much as a dime on lottery tickets so it sounds like a pretty good idea to me, especially if they raise enough money off the gamblers to lower my taxes. Also I am pretty old, just like you, so maybe we could both get something out of it.
       What do you think, Uncle Jack?
                                                 Aging Pragmatist
                                                 Southern Shores

Dear Aging,
Uncle Jack is glad you asked him about the lottery because he has been thinking a lot about it lately. He also read in the paper where some of the politicians want to have a referendum on the lottery which is how they can find out what the voters think first before they make up their own minds about the lottery. If the voters are for the lottery then they can safely vote for the lottery, too. This is not exactly what you could call "leadership" but it gets the job done sometimes.
       If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack thinks state-operated lotteries stink. They had one in Pennsylvania when he lived there and they had one in Virginia when he lived there so he knows how they work. The way they work is to try to make people think they have a good chance to solve all their financial problems by buying lottery tickets but if that doesn't work out which it almost never does at least the losers can feel like they are contributing to a worthy cause.      
       Uncle Jack does not think that the state government should tell lies to people to get them to spend their money on lottery tickets. Individual politicians tell the people enough lies already without the whole government doing it, too.      
       He thinks that people should be allowed to gamble if they want to because they are going to anyway but if you ask him the government should be trying to talk people out of gambling not into gambling.                    
       Uncle Jack does not think gambling is necessarily immoral or evil or anything like that and neither does the Pope as far as he can tell or he would not allow all those Bingo games in the church social halls. And he is not about to say that the Lions Club should stop leading people astray with their Bingo games, either, because nobody who plays Bingo is laboring under the delusion that winning a stuffed bunny is going to magically solve all their problems.
What is immoral is for the state government to try to suck poor people into spending what little money they have on pipe dreams with 7 million to l odds. If you ask Uncle Jack one of the saddest sights you can see is the lines of poor people waiting to buy lottery tickets in the 7-lls up in Virginia.                                                                                                 
       Why any self-respecting politician would want to bring that pitiful sight to all of North Carolina is beyond Uncle Jack's understanding.                                  



      



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September is off to a great start, at least in South Nags Head. There is a cool breeze off the ocean and the humidity seems to have gone away for the moment.

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6:32 a.m. Punctuality thy name is Sun.

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More peek-a-boo with the clouds.

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6:40 a.m. About as good as it got this morning.

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For a while the Comfort Inn South looked like it was on fire. Note the almost complete absence of people on the beach. If they knew what they were missing would they get up earlier?

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Nobody in this direction either. What a waste of a gorgeous sunrise.

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Uncle Jack was joined on the beach by one pigeon.

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And one gull. He hopes they are not thinking so hard about breakfast that they can't enjoy the sunrise.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:06 AM

Comments [8]




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Uncle Jack lived in Nags Head for 35 years before he moved to Baltimore a couple of years ago. He still has a house in South Nags Head which he and Mrs. U.J. visit every chance they get.
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