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Monday, December 31, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday December 31, 2007

     The last day of 2007 didn't look too promising at 7 a.m. when Uncle Jack went up to the beach to photograph the sunrise.  It was cold and windy and the southeastern sky was completely socked in with thick clouds.  Once the sun topped the clouds, though, it turned into a brilliant, sunny day---the first in quite a while.

      Due to the press of other activities like getting the Mini's tires rotated and going to the Charter office and re-upping his TV service for the long winter ahead, he didn't do his usual reconnoiter of the beach---hence no new pictures.  Instead he offers a review of choice sunrises from 2007, starting with January.

      He will be celebrating New Year's Eve tonight in the company of Mrs. Uncle Jack's swinging grandchildren, Sophia (2) and Isabella (4) so it may turn out to be a pretty wild night.  In case he hasn't recovered enough by tomorrow to do another weblog entry he will take this opportunity to wish everybody out there in cyberspace a very Happy New Year.   

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Sunrise March (oops)

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June (Camden)

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August (Camden)

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October (Camden)

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Moonrise November (Camden)

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December (Sonag)

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:17 PM

Comments [2]

Sunday, December 30, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Sunday December 30, 2007

     The penultimate day of 2007 looks like it will be a dreary clone of yesterday but chillier and probably damper.  A good day to read the Times and take a long nap.  Uncle Jack didn't bother to go up to the beach this morning because the sun was nowhere to be seen at 7 a.m.---and still isn't at noon.

     He has been studying the most recent issue of the Nags Head Town Newsletter which contains the annual exhortation to all citizens to make mighty efforts to conserve water.  His favorite suggestion is that he turn off the water while brushing his teeth and turn it back on when he is ready to rinse.  He tries to remember to do this because he knows the amount of water he will save over the next half-century will be almost enough to fill the jacuzzi in the rental house next door.

    This year he is also encouraged to reduce his carbon footprint by such sensible stratagems as unplugging his mobile phone as soon as it has finished charging.  If can remember to do this he could possibly save enough energy over the next year to keep one of the hundreds of lightbulbs on the nearest Wings store illuminated for several minutes. Ah, the futility of it all.

     As for "go for a run rather than drive to the gym" he doesn't know what to say.  The ambulance that would have to pick him up a hundred yards from his house would probably use a lot more energy than the Mini burns on a trip to the Y. 

     Have a nice day wherever you are.


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Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. did get to go for a walk on the beach last Friday afternoon when they got back from New Orleans. This defunct jellyfish was one of their finds.

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Mrs. U.J. picks her way over some rubble uncovered around the 19 milepost by recent high tides. This pile of concrete marks the former location of a cottage which was at least 100 feet east of the cottage now on this lot.

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Coastal archaeology.

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A modern day descendent of Sisyphus repairing a beach walkway.

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They were surprised to see folks on the Outer Banks pier this late in December.

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And even more surprised to see swimmers in the water.

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This house is easy to get past. Just walk behind it, being careful not to trip over the septic tank.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:38 PM

Comments [4]

Saturday, December 29, 2007
New Orleans at Christmas, Dec. 21-25, 2007

     There was no sunrise this morning (Saturday the 29th) and it has been a dismal, overcast day so Uncle Jack will devote this episode to a few words and pictures about Christmas in the Big Easy.  They stayed in the French Quarter which shows few surface traces of the havoc wreaked by Katrina  but the relatively serene atmosphere masks a perilous slowdown in business which may yet cause a number of venerable shops to give up before long. Not enough conventions are coming to New Orleans yet to pump lifeblood into the many dormant cash registers.

    They did their best to help by dining out (Bayona, Muriel's, Mona's, Tujagues, Felix's Oyster House, Croissant D'or and Central Grocery among others) two or three times a day but it was hardly enough.  Dinner at Bayona produced a celebrity sighting in the form of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt who arrived in a pouring rain just as Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. were leaving. Be still my beating heart.

     Despite its diminished population N.O. has quickly regained its unenviable title as murder capital of the U.S.  There were six fatal shootings (plus a number of woundings) while we were there and the total for the year is well over 200. The police seem bewildered by the mayhem and the court system is in shambles.  While the French Quarter is relatively free of crime the overall situation is discouraging many potential tourists from visiting the city.  Very sad.

     Back to the beach tomorrow.



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Pilings for the incredible new bridge carrying I-10 over Lake Ponchartrain just east of N.O. Large sections of the old bridge were demolished by Katrina. The new bridge will be higher and stronger and will cost zillions.

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Ellis Marsalis, the septuagenarian patriarch of the musical Marsalis clan, holds forth every Friday night with his quartet at Snug Harbor on Frenchman Street. He drew a full house.

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Visitors from Nags Head at the newly re-opened New Orleans Art Museum. Katrina did a number on the outdoor sculpture gardens and the rest of the grounds but the building escaped intact.

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This classic building on the Rue Royal was properly decorated for the season. "Peace Y'all" is the admonition.

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The Historical New Orleans Collection had a great show on the history of the Sugar Bowl which celebrates its 75th anniversary next year. Uncle Jack didn't know that Carnegie Tech played in it in 1939. When he got there in '63 football was long gone.

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This band at Preservation Hall was one of the worst Uncle Jack has ever heard in his long history of listening to jazz bands. The S.R.O. crowd loved them, though, so maybe he is just getting old and crotchety.

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Most of the old French Market is closed for renovations.

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This section has reopened and once again features an incredible assortment of tourist junk from all over the globe. Just better lighted.

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Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. and their Nags Head friends Suzanne and Everett Tate spent Christmas Eve riding the Mississippi on the Steamer Natchez.

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It was chilly on the river but the air was clear and the lights beautiful. This is the "Crescent City Connection" bridge linking downtown New Orleans with Algiers on the West Bank of the river.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:05 PM

Comments [3]

Friday, December 28, 2007
On the way to the Big Easy, Dec. 19-20, 2007

     With the help of a couple of patient tech reps at Charter Communications Uncle Jack has recovered his mojo and is now able to post pictures on his very own laptop again.  He was without any form of internet connection during his entire stay in New Orleans so he is happy to be connected with the cyberworld again.

      The pictures below partially cover the first couple of days of their trip during which he and Mrs. U.J. pointed the Mini south on I-85 from Charlotte and wound up a couple of days later in Biloxi, Mississippi where they spent the night in a cheap but sumptuous room at the Isle of Capri casino. 

     They have visited New Orleans several times since Katrina but this was their first opportunity to see what happened along the gulf shore in Mississippi.  Unbelievable is the word that comes to mind.  It has taken two years just to haul the wreckage away but rebuilding---if anybody is crazy enough to want to rebuild in the same place---will take a bit longer.

     More tomorrow. 


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Sunrise December 19 taken from Highway 64 near Columbia, N.C. enroute to Durham. Not quite the same as seeing it over the ocean but not bad.

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First stages of construction of a gigantic new Kia Motors factory in South Carolina. (This is just down the road from a huge Hyundai plant). Who needs Detroit?

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One of a number of fireworks outlets in S. Carolina and Georgia, each claiming to be the biggest in the world.

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The new bridge connecting Pascagoula with Biloxi, Miss. Built in just two years after Katrina destroyed the old one. Senator Trent Lott knows how to get things done.

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Two cottontopped gamblers feeding their Social Security checks into the Isle of Capri's slot machines at 9 a.m. (bottom center) The early bird gets the worm.

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Biloxi's many casinos were destroyed by Katrina but they have made a remarkable recovery. This is one of the smaller ones, the Isle of Capri, which has been rebuilt right where it stood before.

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This scene is repeated thousands of times along the coast from Biloxi to Gulfport---driveways, steps and slab foundations but no buildings. Most of the debris has been hauled away but rebuilding will be a humongous task.

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The Katrina monument in Biloxi. The granite wall is twelve feet high marking the height of the storm surge that obliterated much of the city.

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Biloxi and the rest of the gulf coast offers unparalleled opportunity to enterprising developers. Katrina was, of course, a "hundred year storm".

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And so was Camille in 1967 which deposited this shrimp boat in its present location.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:06 PM

Comments [1]

Friday, December 28, 2007
Sunrise Friday December 28, 2007
     Uncle Jack is happy to report that he and Mrs. Uncle Jack have returned safely from their Christmas sojourn in New Orleans.  He is not happy to report that he has  been unable to connect his laptop (wherein reside all the pictures he took on the trip) to the internet.  He hopes to resolve that issue sometime today and return with a proper weblog entry at that time.  He thanks you for your patience.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:28 AM

Comments [2]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday, December 18, 2007

 There was frost on the pumpkin in South Nags Head this morning.  Once again Uncle Jack didn't stay on the beach long at sunrise because even without a 20 knot wind blowing it was cold up there.  He stayed just long enough to make a two-minute video of the sun rising out of the sea which devoted sunrise watchers can peruse by clicking on the YouTube link below.

     Uncle Jack is not sure when he will be able to blog again inasmuch as he and Mrs. U.J. will be heading for New Orleans before dawn tomorrow. His internet connectivity situation is unpredictable for the next ten days or so.

     He leaves you with an article from the Port Elizabeth (South Africa) Herald which might take that long to read.  Serious students of beach erosion in all its worldwide manifestations might find it interesting. 

Sands of time catch up with property boom

Guy Rogers

BEACH erosion is a world-wide phenomenon and, although it is threatening parts of the Eastern Cape coast, we are also leading the way in reclaiming lost beach and finding ways to avoid the problem in the future. In St Francis Bay, the issue erupted two years ago following 30 years of gradual erosion caused by residential development on inland “bypass” dunes.

Sand which used to blow into the bay, from where it would wash in and renourish the beach has been artificially stabilised. The beach is disappearing and hundreds of millions of rand in prime property, as well as the village‘s reputation as a tourism mecca – and thousands of associated jobs – are threatened.

An innovative project, involving the construction of artificial reefs and transfer of excess silt from the mouth of the Kromme River, was initiated by a trust founded by local resident Alan Tonkin, with the aid of Kiwi expert Dr Shaw Mead. Having received the personal approval of Environment and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk it ran aground over a funding dispute and has lain dormant for a year.

With just a wrinkle of sand left on the bay‘s former coastal glory, some are contesting the trust‘s argument that a rescue plan cannot wait on the government agreement to fund the initiative. Tonkin is calling on St Francis Bay home owners to attend today‘s ratepayer meeting in the village so an action plan can be finalised.

In Port Elizabeth, engineers contracted to the municipality working on upgrading coastal infrastructure and amenities, seized on the Kiwi model developed for St Francis.

Several artificial reefs are to be installed around Algoa Bay‘s western rim, starting with Wells Estate. The reefs soften the blow of the waves and adjust their direction, diminishing their scouring power. The aim is to grow the size of beaches and create more protected bathing areas, as well as exciting new surfing and diving spots.

Project manager Don McGillivry says the reefs are also part of a strategy to resuscitate historic North End Beach, which disappeared in 1935 in the face of voracious erosion caused by the up-current construction of the Port Elizabeth harbour.

It is blocking natural pulses of sand which sweep west-to- east around the bay.

Another key aspect of the beach work is the appointment of Arcus Gibb to compile an environmental assessment to identify future opportunities and ensure that these kinds of mistakes are avoided.

In Plettenberg Bay, the decimation of Lookout Beach in last month‘s flood “tells us greater attention must be paid by planners and developers to the forces of nature and of history”, notes oceanographer Dr Eckart Schumann.

Together with the beach, the car park and road above it were wrecked and the townhouse complex Milkwood Manor narrowly missed being flattened by the torrents pouring from the Keurbooms River.

The damage could have been worse, says Schumann. “Records show that at the beginning of the last century, there was no Lookout Beach and Keurbooms River was exiting exactly where it is now.”

Focusing on the phenomenon of beach erosion, the UN has highlighted the role played by poor planning and development. Development can erode beaches by artificially stabilising feeder dunes (as in St Francis) or result in the removal of vegetation and consequent destabilisation of the beach, Oceanographic Commission head Patricio Bernal explains.

Consequently, “construction of hotels and other amenities aimed at drawing tourists are often responsible for the destruction of the very beaches they came to enjoy”.

Advancing waves

“The pressure to attract investment for coastal tourist facilities, which bring much- needed new jobs and revenue to developing countries, often ends up with projects that do not meet minimum standards of coastal protection.”

Dramatic examples exist around the world “where huge tourist complexes built immediately adjacent to the beaches are surrounded after a few years by pebbles and rocks, as tourists run away from waves crashing on their hotel doorstep”, Bernal notes.

One example is in Benin, where the flourishing Palm Beach Resort had to be closed down. In just eight years, it disappeared completely under advancing waves.

In Mozambique, the Maputo municipality is desperately seeking R134-million to solve its beach erosion problem.

Polluted reefs

Maputo‘s urban planning and environment chief said rubble from buildings knocked down during the capital city‘s makeover is being collected, and will be used to bulk out the receding shoreline. But sourcing funds to implement this rescue plan “has not been forthcoming”, he said.

On the US island of Nantucket, mega-rich home owners have committed themselves to spending R168-million to save their Sconset Beach. The money will be used to dredge 2,4 million cubic metres of sand from a site offshore and pump it onto the beach.

They realise that the sand will inevitably wash away, so they are prepared to do much of the work all over again, perhaps as often as every five years, according to the report.

Other reasons for beach erosion include damage to natural barriers like coral reefs. These reefs, which soften wave attack, are being damaged by pollution and by rogue fishermen, in places like Tanzania, who use dynamite to make their harvests.

Another reef killer is the silt blanket washed from rivers, fed by up-country erosion caused by poor farming and development practices.

Threat to survival

Besides the effect on beach erosion of rising sea levels, global warming (driven by industrial pollution) is also causing coral reefs to bleach and die, destroying their capability as natural sea barriers.

And, as usual with environmental destruction, it‘s not just humankind we are hurting as we destroy our beaches. Beach erosion endangers the survival of several species, including the sea turtle, which rely on these strips of sand at the edge of the sea to breed.

As dire as the situation is in St Francis Bay, for instance, we seem well ahead of the game.

Unlike the rich folk of Nantucket, St Francis home owners appear to have a sustainable solution.

Artificial “soft edge” reefs built from giant sausages of excess silt sucked from the Kromme seems better than Maputo‘s rubble idea.

Having raised R750 000, the average initial cost to St Francis households, Tonkin says, will be R150 a month.

My understanding was that Kromme mouth was badly silted up due to up-river erosion but it seems there is disagreement regarding what is excess sand, where exactly it is and how much there is.

Once this issue and the funding have been clarified, the aim will be to not just save the beach at St Francis Bay but to make it better than before.

On a wider front, we can still do better in our fight against beach erosion, says Schumann. Five years ago, a project was initiated by the Wildlife and Environment Society and several partners in which schools and NGOs were encouraged to “adopt a beach”.

More than 200 schools enrolled and began monitoring beach erosion and the forces behind it, generating vital data and great eco-education.

The project has lapsed with the withdrawal of its sponsor, the environmental affairs department, with no reason given. Environmentally and socially, Schumann says, it would be a great move if the project could be started up again.

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7:a.m. Greta Garbo would have loved the beach this morning.

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We miss you Miles and Doris (and Teddie and Breeze). As you can see your house is still there.

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Last Saturday's rain left puddles everywhere which turned to ice last night.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJItVWh9HeQ

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:57 AM

Comments [12]

Monday, December 17, 2007
Sunrise (almost) in Sonag, Monday December 17, 2007

     Uncle Jack is sorry to report that he mis-timed his trek to the beach this morning and couldn't stay long enough to watch the actual rising of the sun.  It is exceedingly cold this morning and the wind is blowing fiercely out of the north making the beach a forbidding place for man or beast.  It would not have been a particularly picturesque rising anyway because there is nary a cloud in the sky. A good day to go to the Y and work on his free-throw technique.

     He will also return the biography of Vice President Cheney he finished over the weekend to the KDH library.  He highly recommends it to any readers who are already favorably disposed toward Mr. Cheney and to the administration for which he stands.  Even Uncle Jack has to confess that he learned some things about him that he didn't know before which tended to mitigate some of the hostile feelings he has had toward the Vice President.  For example, they both matriculated at the University of Wisconsin although at different times.  It is always good to read things you disagree with once in a while but it can be dangerous if overdone.


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6:50. You would not believe how cold it was.

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He would have had to wait ten more minutes for the sun to appear but he would have been frozen stiff by that time.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:36 PM

Comments [0]

Sunday, December 16, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Sunday December 16, 2007

     Sunrise? Fugeddaboutit.  The rain has been banging on Uncle Jack's skylights for hours and the wind is blowing like crazy and it's still dark at 7:15.  Going to get bagels and the New York Times this morning will require extraordinary courage on his part.

     It could be worse.  His friends in Camden, Maine are battening down for another winter nor'easter that will roar in today dumping another foot of snow mixed with freezing rain on top of the foot of snow and freezing rain they got a week or so ago.  Last year Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. spent Christmas week in Camden during which the first snow of the year fell---all of two inches which disappeared in 24 hours. Their decision to go to New Orleans for Christmas this year now seems prescient.

     If you're snowed in or something wherever you are and you need something to read, here's an allegedly humorous piece Uncle Jack wrote about fishing many years ago when he still had a sense of humor. 

               Fishing the Point

Last Sunday was one of those days Uncle Jack used to dream about back when his body was living in Pittsburgh but his mind was on the Outer Banks. It was warm but not too warm and the sun was shining the way it only shines on the Outer Banks and it was his day off so naturally he felt this powerful urge to go fishing.

He went down to the garage and fished his trusty $4.95 Gaylord Perry signature reel out of the bucket of WD-40 where he keeps it between fishing trips and screwed it onto his trusty Junior Johnson signature flounder rod and headed for the beach in his (t)rusty new secondhand Jeep on which he has eight payments to go before he will own what is left of it outright.

He used his time-tested fishing strategy which is where he drives down the beach until he comes to somebody who is catching fish which is where he stops and tries to bum enough bait so he can fish there too. This is a very good plan as long as somebody somewhere is catching fish but if you want to know the truth he drove from one end of Nags Head to the other and he only saw one man fishing and he was not catching anything.

Uncle Jack is not sure where all the fishermen were but he would not be surprised if they were all sitting in dark rooms somewhere watching the Steelers and Redskins which is a fairly dumb thing to do on a nice Sunday afternoon but he has done it enough times himself so he is not entitled to cast aspersions.

Anyway this lone fisherman mumbled something about how he caught a hundred flounders down at Cape Point the day before and Uncle Jack is the kind of fool who believes stuff like that so he drove right straight down there. He was very lucky to find a good parking place only about a half a mile from the point so he could walk over there and watch all the crazy people standing up to their armpits in freezing water and fishing like there was no tomorrow which is probably close to the truth if what you have to do tomorrow is pack up and drive back to New Jersey.

Anyway he watched for a long time and the only person who caught anything at all was a small boy who snagged a broken conch shell with his Hopkins. Needless to say Uncle Jack did not even both to bait his hooks and bye and bye he decided to head on over to Bubba’s Barbecue and pick up a slab of ribs for dinner which he can tell you is not a bad substitute for flounder when you are in a pinch.

You can imagine how a sensitive person like Uncle must have felt when he turned the key of his new secondhand Jeep and all he heard was a puny little buzzing noise instead of the full-throated roar of his powerful gas-guzzling engine. His worst nightmare had finally happened---his Jeep was dead in the sand at Cape Point and he didn’t know how to fix it.

Lucky for him, though, a lot of fishermen who did not have anything better to do, such as catch fish, came over and peered into his engine and poked and prodded at all the various wires in there and after a while they all agreed that what Uncle Jack needed was a new Bendix which was news to him because he did not even know he had a Bendix in the first place.

The only Bendix he ever heard of besides William Bendix, the actor, was the old Bendix washer Mrs. Uncle Jack used to have which had a rubber tub which would collapse at just the right time and squeeze all the water out of the clothes. It worked real well, too, until the time Uncle Jack forgot and left his Swiss Army knife in his pocket with the corkscrew in the open position.

Anyway a nice man with a rifle in the back window of his pickup truck finally came along and gave him a tow and got his Jeep started again and he did not even wait for Uncle Jack to thank him before he was gone. If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack has never been too crazy about people who ride around with guns in their pickup trucks but he decided right then and there to send a generous contribution to the National Rifle Association and he is even thinking about voting for Charlton Heston if he ever runs for president.

It was a few minutes later before his radiator hose broke and that is another sad story but Uncle Jack does not wish to dwell any longer on his misfortunes. He can tell you he crossed the Bonner Bridge at sunset and what he saw was enough to make him forget all the trials and tribulations of the day.

And the ribs were not bad either.

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Something to cheer you up. Summer sky in 2005.

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An August afternoon in 2005.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:49 AM

Comments [3]

Saturday, December 15, 2007
Sunrise (sort of) in Sonag, Saturday Dec. 15, 2007

      As the pictures suggest the pre-dawn sky was dramatic this morning.  The wind, unfortunately, was blowing so hard off the ocean that Uncle Jack could not hang around long enough to actually see the sun come up.  The weatherman is predicting rain (100% chance) by this afternoon so there won't be any beachwalking today.  He has thus been deprived of his last excuse for putting off doing his obligatory Christmas cards.

     Uncle Jack is continuing to plow through the biography of Vice President Cheney he started a few days ago.("Cheney" by Stephen F. Hayes, HarperCollins, 2007).  He just finished the part covering the VP's five-year career as CEO of Halliburton, the Fortune 500 oil services company that later acquired large and lucrative no-bid contracts for government work in Iraq.

     Cheney went to work for Halliburton in 1995 after deciding not to seek the Republican nomination to run for president against Clinton in 1996.  He got the job after being hand-picked by the retiring CEO and Chairman of Halliburton, a fishing buddy named Tom Cruikshank,

    According to the author Halliburton was "...looking for a leader, not just someone to oversee operations.  The members (of the search committee) believed that Cheney had a good reputation with their customers in the oil industry and, importantly, he had good contacts in the oil-rich Middle East".  Apparently the fact that he also had good contacts within the dollar-rich American government, especially as the former Secretary of Defense, played no role in his selection.

     Displaying a very cloudy crystal ball Mr. Cruikshank is quoted as saying "One of the things that was clear was he was through with Washington.  He wasn't going back to Washington".

     During his tenure with Halliburton Cheney established residence in Dallas where he kept in close touch with the new governor, George W. Bush, who was known to have presidential ambitions.  When Bush asked him to join him on the Republican ticket in 2000 Cheney left Halliburton, apparently having done a bang-up job.  In any case the company had rewarded him with a salary of over a million dollars a year and he had "accumulated stocks and options worth over $44 million".  (Eat your heart out, A-Rod).

     Why do people read fiction, Uncle Jack wonders, when non-fiction is so much more interesting?

      Happy wrapping this weekend. Can anybody suggest some good wrap music?

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6:50. Looking toward the ocean from Old Oregon Inlet Road.

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posted by Uncle Jack at 9:28 AM

Comments [5]

Friday, December 14, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday December 14, 2007

     Another cloudy, warm day has dawned in Sonag.  The sunrise didn't amount to much but at least the sun made a brief appearance through a hole in the clouds and it looks like we might be seeing a lot more of it before the day is over.

     Uncle Jack is pleased to report that his heartless cardiologist says his ticker is in good shape and that he doesn't want to see him again until next December.  Obviously Mrs. U.J.'s heart-healthy cooking and their regular exercise regimen is having the desired effect.  He was also happy to note that his doctor has managed to lose 45 pounds since he saw him last a year ago---an inspiring example of a physician healing himself.

    The drive to Durham gets easier all the time.  A new section of I-540 has opened since last year which intersects with the new, improved highway 64 east of Knightdale and provides a relatively traffic-free route to I-40 near the Raleigh-Durham airport.  What a pleasure to completely bypass the insanity of the Raleigh beltway.  Even when observing all speed limits (which is a very good idea, especially in Tyrrell county where the major source of revenue seems to be speeding tickets) it now takes only 3.5 hours to drive from Nags Head to the Southpoint mall in Durham, almost all on four-lane, divided highway. Thank you, senator Basnight.

     Unfortunately the lovely new section of highway 64 between Columbia and Plymouth has already fallen victim to the outdoor advertising industry.  There are no fewer than 50 huge new double-sided, illuminated billboards on that 26 mile stretch and Uncle Jack confidently predicts that by this time next year there will be 50 more.  Build them and the advertisers will come, apparently.  (Every personal injury lawyer in eastern North Carolina seems to have at least one). The major offenders, of course, are Outer Banks businesses lusting after the incoming tourist dollar.  Uncle Jack wonders how businesses in Maine have been able to survive all these years without a single billboard to lure vacationers.

      Have a great day.

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6:50 a.m. Not too promising.

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7 a.m. Peek-a-boo.

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7:10. This was as good as it got.

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As usual there was a lot of affordable housing rolling down highway 64 yesterday. This extra-long double-wide had to negotiate a train track that runs parallel to the road and got hung up.

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After much angst and a lot of pushing, pulling and profanity the obstacle was overcome and the house continued on its way, somewhat the worse for wear no doubt. Caveat emptor.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:21 AM

Comments [1]

Thursday, December 13, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Thursday December 13, 2007

      Uncle Jack had to leave early this morning for Durham to make his annual obeisance to his heartless cardiologist but there was no visible sunrise so he and you didn't miss anything because he couldn't get to the beach.

     Yesterday was one of those fantastic summer days in the middle of December.  (If this be global warming let us have more of it).  He and Mrs. U.J. took a long walk on the beach and worked up a sweat doing it.  They had the beach around the 19-20 milepost all to themselves as the pictures suggest. Even the bulldozers were quiet.

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Nobody here but us willetts.

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Wide, flat, hard and empty. Ideal walking conditions.

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More of the same. You can see from the spots in the sky why Uncle Jack is hoping Santa will bring him a new camera.

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Pretty as a picture.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:27 AM

Comments [8]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Wednesday Dec. 12, 2007

     Yesterday's all-day foggy drizzle has moved out and the morning has dawned bright and beautiful.  Sunny, warm and windy is the forecast so a walk on the beach this afternoon is not out of the realm of possibility.

     Uncle Jack mentioned yesterday that he had finished reading a good book about Condoleezza Rice but that his review of same had vanished into cyberspace due to his computational ineptitude.  He still can't bring himself to start all over but he will mention that as her story unfolds in the book she reminded him of Joe Btfsplk, the character in Al Capp's "Lil Abner" comic strip who was followed everywhere by a black cloud pouring rain down on his head.

     Perhaps no Secretary of State since Henry Kissinger has worked so hard at the job with so little success.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that just about every foreign policy initiative she has been involved in has resulted in failure of one kind or another.  Of course it hasn't helped that she was attempting to carry out the "faith-based " policies of her boss but it also didn't help that she appeared to believe that they were good and right.  In any case the book provides some revealing behind-the-scenes glimpses at the Bush administration at work.

    He found it so interesting, in fact, that he has now embarked upon a biography of the Darth Vader of the White House crew---Vice President Cheney.  He has only read the first 30 pages so far which cover his childhood in Nebraska and Wyoming, his brief, inglorious career at Yale, out of which he flunked after two fun years, and his two drunk-driving convictions in his twenties.  This could make for a pretty good book report, too, if Uncle Jack doesn't mess up. 


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Jada's personal footbath.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:07 AM

Comments [8]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Tuesday December 11, 2007

     It had to end sometime and apparently that time has come.  When Uncle Jack looked out his newly washed front window this morning at 6:30 he could tell there would be no point in trying to photograph the sunrise  because there wasn't going to be one.  The fog is thick and a light drizzle is falling so he will eschew his usual stroll up to the beach. The weather predictors say it will get better as the day goes on but he has adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

     He just finished reading a new book (2007) called "Confidante" which is sort of a biography of Condoleezza Rice which concentrates on her last couple of years as Secretary of State.

Note:  At this point Uncle Jack "saved" what he had written thus far and then proceeded to write a long and witty review of the book, only to discover that it had somehow vanished into cyberspace.  He is too shattered to continue except to say that it's a very good book and that he has returned it to the KDH library.  Read it and you will learn, among many other things, how she got stuck with her rather unusual first name.  Maybe he will have recovered enough to say something more about it tomorrow.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:57 AM

Comments [3]

Monday, December 10, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday December 10, 2007

     Yet another sunny, cloudless, windless warm day in South Nags Head. Borrring. Sometimes Uncle Jack wishes he were up in northern Minnesota where it's 20 below and the snow is two feet deep already.  Sure.

     Sunrise this morning was almost a carbon copy of yesterday's. He forgot to take any still pictures but he did make a short video of the sun popping over the horizon if you're up for a little reality TV. Click on the YouTube link below the pictures if you have a couple of minutes sometime today.  It might help calm you down.

    Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. went for a long walk yesterday afternoon on the beach in front of the Village at Nags Head.  The moon must be in some odd juxtaposition with the earth right now because he hasn't seen the beach so wide for months.  Definitely a seller's beach.

     Uncle Jack is planning to wash the Mini today.  It takes all of five minutes if he doesn't hurry.

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The only color in the sky at 6:45 was in the west which is where the only clouds were.

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Hundreds of pelicans on the move this morning, some going north, some going south.

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The beach was wide enough yesterday in front of the Village at Nags Head to lull homeowners into a false sense of security.

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Motorized hang-gliders have come a long way in the past 20 years. They used to sound like flying chain saws but we could hardly hear this one.

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In the old days before the Village at Nags Head hang gliders would fly off the unoccupied dune at the right when the wind was blowing in from the ocean. They could stay up for hours.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LToW03lim9g

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:53 AM

Comments [0]

Sunday, December 9, 2007
Sunrise in Sandbag, er Sonag, Sunday December 9, 2007

    Hardly a cloud in the sky this morning and no wind which made for a pleasant walk on the beach but a less-than-exciting sunrise.  All indicators point to another great day on the Outer Banks.

    Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. took a very long walk on the beach north of Jennette's Pier yesterday afternoon.  The beach was flat and hard and easy walking and he has to confess they walked so far they wore themselves out. It was so much fun, though, that they will probably do it again today.

    If you are forced to spend the day shoveling snow somewhere Uncle Jack offers his sincere condolences.

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7:00 a.m. At least it showed up on time.

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Saturday afternoon. These folks didn't seem to care whether they caught a fish or not.

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Birds of a feather. It appears to Uncle Jack's untutored eye that the trucked-in, clayish berm sand from Currituck has moved out to form a bar in front of the natural beach---visible at low tide.

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This motel faces a mammoth challenge if the state decides to enforce its ruling that sandbags must be removed by May.

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Behind all the brown bags in the previous picture are these black bags which go way back. This photo was taken in 2004, about a year after Isabel.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:31 AM

Comments [4]

Saturday, December 8, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday December 8, 2007

      Another lovely day is shaping up in Sonag---no wind, lots of sunshine and even warmer than yesterday. Uncle Jack will eschew the Y this morning and take a long walk on the beach with Mrs. U.J. instead. Pictures at 11.

      Pearl Harbor Day yesterday sent Uncle Jack into a swoon of reminiscence about his experiences during WWII which he was lucky enough to spend in high school and not in the South Pacific.  He learned to locate and pronounce a lot of places with strange names like Eniwetok and Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima but luckily he never had to get closer to them than his home town, Ashland, Wisconsin.

     His memories of that time are highly idiosyncratic as you would expect of a person in the throes of puberty while  another (non-hormonal) war was going on in faraway places.  Some seemingly trivial stuff has occupied space in his subconscious for a very long time of which the following is an example.

     He believes it was in the eighth grade that his home room teacher decided it would be a good idea to help the war effort by having a scrap drive. Each student  was requested to donate an object made of metal which would be displayed on a table in the room until the lot would be turned over to the War Production Board for melting down into bullets or ships or whatever.

      This resulted in an amazing outpouring of stuff to which Uncle Jack added one of his most treasured possessions---a miniature cast-iron frying pan, souvenir of a visit he had made with his parents to a reconstructed lumber camp in Hayward, Wisconsin a couple of years earlier.

      Imagine his distress a day or two later when he discovered that his beloved frying pan was missing from the display of donated items.  After he called this to the teacher's attention she launched into an impassioned sermon based on the Ten Commandments (number eight in particular) with additional commentary on what happens in the afterlife to people who steal in this one. (The concept of separation of church and state was no better understood in the schools of the upper midwest then that in it is now).

     Somewhat to Uncle Jack's surprise (he was a budding cynic even then) the frying pan was back on the table the next morning. He would like to think that it became part of the destroyer he spent three years riding around on during the Korean Peace Action.

      And now we are in another war that has lasted almost as long as WWII but life at home goes on almost as though we were at peace. There's something wrong with this picture. 


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6:45 a.m. Uncle Jack thought this might develop into something but it never got off the ground so to speak.

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Fifteen minutes later it was still struggling.

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Even when the sun arrived it didn't make much of a stir.

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A northbound jet's contrail added a little interest to the otherwise banal scene.

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Uncle Jack's morning beach buddies: Miles, Jim, Audrey, Doris, Dixie, Ted and Jada, a.k.a. The Magnificent Seven.

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The pelicans were flying low this morning for reasons known only to them.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:40 AM

Comments [1]

Friday, December 7, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday December 7, 2007

     The arctic wind finally died down enough for Uncle Jack to approach the beach this morning which was a good thing because the sunrise was just short of spectacular.  He will let the pictures speak for themselves.

     People of a certain age will remember that 66 years ago today the Japs (now known as our friends, the Japanese) bombed the naval base at Pearl Harbor in the U.S. Territory known as Hawaii (formerly known as the Sandwich Islands). President Roosevelt labeled December 7, 1941 "A day that will live in infamy" and it gave rise to the slogan "Remember Pearl Harbor" which helped to rally our troops through the rest of the long and arduous war in the Pacific.

   Remembering Pearl Harbor is an annual event for most older Americans like Uncle Jack who are limited to recalling things that happened long ago because they can no longer remember wthat happened last week. He was 11 years old on the first Pearl Harbor Day and he can remember it vividly.  He and his father and mother and little brother had been out in the woods that Sunday looking for a Christmas tree to bring home.  When they returned to town (Ashland, Wisconsin) their progress down the main street was blocked by a large crowd gathered in front of the offices of the Ashland Daily Press.

     The windows were filled with large yellow sheets of paper which Uncle Jack later learned were teletype print-outs. (This was a long time before TV reached the north woods of Wisconsin, of course). Somebody up front was reading the printed material out loud and even at his tender age he could understand that something really bad had happened even though he had no idea what Pearl Harbor was or who the "Japs" were. 

      That was the beginning of a memorable four years of collecting tin foil, weeding the victory garden, eating margarine, writing V-mail letters to soldiers and sailors from the neighborhood, practicing black-outs and generally being patriotic in as many ways as possible. 

      He was 15 when it ended.  He can remember he was in the barber shop getting a haircut when the news about the atom bomb and Hiroshima came over the radio.  (Little did he know that ten years later he would be riding on a bus near Sasebo, Japan and sitting behind some Japanese children whose mothers had survived Nagasaki but were born with no ears).

     Some things a person would just as soon forget.

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Takes more than a gorgeous sunrise to get Jada's attention. (Or is it less?)

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Lots of these guys out this morning.

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But not many people.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:52 AM

Comments [8]

Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Sunrise (sort of) in Sonag, Wednesday Dec. 5, 2007

     At last a perfect early morning---not too cold, not too windy, not raining. Uncle Jack bundled up in his winter parka complete with hood and headed for the beach at 6:40 only to find that Mother Nature had served up a truly wimpy sunrise this morning.  She made up for it a little by putting some porpoises in the water but try as he might Uncle Jack couldn't get a decent picture of them. You'll have to take his word for it.

     Camden wound up with over a foot of snow yesterday and it looks like the town ski slope will be able to open a couple of weeks early this year.  Uncle Jack still doesn't think that's enough reason to want to live there all year round.


     He spent most of yesterday afternoon trying to organize the 1000+ pictures he took in Camden last summer preparatory to making some DVD slide shows to look at in his old age. (He hopes they will have a DVD player at the home).  He is not very happy with the DVD maker that came with his new HP laptop and he wonders if any readers have tips on programs they have used to make slide shows.  He doesn't need anything fancy but he would like to be able to put captions or labels under each picture so he will know what he is looking at a couple of years from now when he has lost what little memory he still has. Any suggestions will be gratefully received.

    Have a great day.


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6:45 a.m. looking toward the Outer Banks pier.

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Those black specks in the left side of this fuzzy picture are porpoises. Really.

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The sun is back there somewhere.

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A little touch of Christmas on the beach near Tides Drive.

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Uncle Jack's daughter, Emily, sent him this picture from California (where else?) He thought it was pretty funny.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:17 AM

Comments [5]

Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday December 4, 2007

     Uncle Jack left his winter coat with a seamstress last week to get a new zipper.  She said she wouldn't be able to get to it before January which he thought would be o.k. but today he is going to retrieve it and learn to be happy using the snaps alone.  Winter seems to have arrived on the Outer Banks and he needs that coat now.

     When he peeked out the window at 6:30 he saw enough to know he had to get up to the beach to take some pictures but by the time he got there he was so cold he knew he couldn't hang around long enough to actually watch the sun come up. It was worth the suffering, though, as the pictures attest.

     Meanwhile up in his summer "home town", Camden, Maine, the first blizzard of the winter has dumped a foot of snow on everything.  The schools are closed, on-street parking has been banned, the snowplows (snow removal is one of the major growth industries in the Camden area since fishing went south a few years ago) are rushing hither and thither and it's all very exciting.  Having grown up in northern Wisconsin Uncle Jack can remember how much fun it was but he is older and wiser now. He is happy to enjoy it vicariously through the pages of the Village Soup online newspaper whose URL he has thoughtfully provided at the bottom of the page.  

     He is happy to report that he made twenty free-throws in a row at the Y yesterday morning so he is already halfway to his goal of 40.  Uncle Jack's little brother finished off his golfing season a couple of weeks ago by shooting his age (75) so now Uncle Jack is thinking maybe he should aim for 77 free throws without a miss.  That could surely get him into the AARP hall of fame.


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6:45 Looking east.

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6:45 looking south toward the Outer Banks pier.

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6:45 looking southeast where he could have seen the sun come up in a few minutes if he had been wearing his winter coat.

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Uncle Jack met D.J. Watson, an exchange student from Thailand, this summer. Obviously he needs some guidance from his mentor as to what to wear during snowstorms. Picture courtesy of the Village Soup's ace reporter, Holly Anderson.

link: http://knox.villagesoup.com/

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:38 AM

Comments [5]

Monday, December 3, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Monday December 3, 2007

     Uncle Jack exercised one of the priceless prerogatives of old age Sunday morning by sleeping in while the sun rose in all its glory over the sandbags of South Nags Head.  He planned to make up for that dereliction of duty this morning by arriving at the beach in plenty of time to photograph the developing sunrise but alas, there is none.  Rain falleth and the skies are not expected to clear until later in the morning.  It should develop into a splendid day because the temperature is already in the 60's.  His other home, Camden, Maine is bracing for its first snowstorm today and the high will be about 32 F. meaning a dreadful mixture of snow, rain and ice will blanket the area by tonight.

     He spent most of yesterday plowing through the ad-swollen Sunday NY Times but he and Mrs. U.J. did manage a walk from Whitecap street up to Jennette's Pier and back in the afternoon. Needless to say they had the beach almost entirely to themselves except for the usual legions of sandpipers and willets scampering around at the edge of the waves.

    Uncle Jack finished another excellent book yesterday which he highly recommends to those readers who are interested in how the political process often operates in our "democracy".  It's called "Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future in Nantucket Sound".  The authors, Wendy Williams and Robert Whitcomb, tell the story of what happened when an entrepreneur proposed to develop a wind farm in the publicly-owned waters off Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and southern Cape Cod, the "backyard" (as in "not in my backyard") of some of the richest and most politically powerful people in the country.  It's a fascinating though ultimately distressing story that provides an excellent primer on how things work in the corridors of power.  Uncle Jack will return it to the KDH library this morning if anybody would like to read it.

    Meanwhile, down in South Carolina a drama is unfolding over sandbags.  The state has ordered the removal of a bunch of sandbags from a private beachfront development near Charleston and the sandbag owners are not cooperating.  Read about it by clicking on the link below.  It's kind of a foreshadowing of what's to come around here in a few months.


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Uncle Jack is happy not to be in Camden this morning where the snow and slush is piling up. This picture was borrowed from the webcam of the Village Soup online newspaper at 7:25 a.m.

link: http://www.charleston.net/news/2007/dec/01/the_line_sand23772/

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:26 AM

Comments [5]

Saturday, December 1, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday December 1, 2007

       Mother Nature must have gotten out of bed on the right side this morning judging from the sunrise she cooked up. Uncle Jack will let the pictures speak for themselves. 

      If you have four minutes to spare any time today he also made a short video which adds the lovely sound of gentle surf to the visual splendor.  To view and hear it click on the YouTube link below the pictures.

      And do have a nice weekend.

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6:00 a.m.

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6:30 a.m.

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6:30 Looking east. The whole sky was lit up.

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Even in the west. The beach was as wide as Uncle Jack has seen it in a long time.

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6:45 Looking southeast toward the sun.

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6:50 The eastern sky revisited at 6:50

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6:55 The somewhat anti-climactic official sunrise.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKPz00BwicI

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:40 AM

Comments [6]

click picture for more
After retiring in 2005 after 35 years as owner/operator of Yellowhouse Gallery and Annex on the Beach Road in Nags Head, Uncle Jack, accompanied by Mrs. Uncle Jack (a.k.a. Susan), commenced to travel extensively. This blog is a chronicle of their ramblings around the U.S. (in their redoubtable Mini Cooper convertible) as well as visits to England, Ireland, France, Italy, and Malta, interspersed with lengthy stays in South Nags Head and Baltimore between trips. He took a lot of pictures along the way, many of which are posted along with each blog entry.
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