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Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, February 28, 2007

     The beach was not a pleasant place to be at dawn this morning as Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. found out when they arrived at 6:30.  The temperature was in the mid-40's but with fierce wind blowing out of the north it felt much colder.  He took one picture of the unpromising sky and then they dashed back home to their morning cuppa.

     Yesterday afternoon was another matter.  The sun was out all day, the wind nearly non-existent, and the air so clear that everything in view seemed slightly unreal.  Uncle Jack walked around on the beach just north of James street and took a few pictures and a short video.  Fans of surf noise will want to watch this one because there is no wind to blot out the crashing of the waves.

     The Nags Head commissioners last week put on another in their series of "educational" sessions on the subject of their proposed beach renourishment project.  (They have been calling it "restoration" lately which is probably meant to suggest that there is no beach left at all in Nags Head).  Uncle Jack did not go to the meeting because he has heard it all before several times but he did read an article in the Coastland Times about it.

     As usual the main speaker was Mr. Tim Kana of the company called Coastal Science and Engineering which is running the show for the commissioners.  Not surprisingly he is very optimistic about the benefits of beach renourishment for the town and presumably for Coastal Science and Engineering as well.

    He outdid himself at last week's meeting if the paper quoted him correctly.  "When questioned about the possible impact of a major storm, Kana stated 'Even a category five hurricane does not have enough capacity to move four million cubic yards of sand away from Nags Head completely. You would lose some, but not all.' "

     Uncle Jack was somewhat taken aback by that statement because he had just read an article (with pictures) about the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina (which was something less than a category five but still pretty powerful) on Dauphin Island in Alabama which is very similar to the Outer Banks. There is no way he can describe it so he will give you the link to the article and you can see for yourself how much sand a powerful hurricane can move (and how many structures it can destroy if they happen to be resting on that sand).


    While you're there, click on the link to the pictures of Chandeleur Island off the coast of Louisiana for further information about how much sand a powerful hurricane can move.  You are unlikely to see any of this at a Town of Nags Head "education" session so go for it.

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6:35 a.m. Whatever sunrise that might come out of all this eventually was not worth waiting around to see this morning.

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Back in December Uncle Jack showed a picture of Mr. Hershell Grieves starting to build this sand fance. It seems to be working and one can only hope that it will withstand the next northeaster.

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This even more ambitious sand fence was built on top of a bulldozed dune by Mr. Grieves' neighbors. It's brand new so little sand has accumulated so far.

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For years the Dare County Health Department has allowed this cottage and its entire septic system to occupy the beach. Since the Thanksgiving storm it is even farther out in front of the dune line.

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This section of beach is currently strewn with chunks of peat---a reminder that a forest once covered this sand. Time marches on and so does the beach.

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This critter was almost invisible against the shell bed he was perched in. Godwit, do you suppose? Shelling was excellent yesterday.

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Last night's sunset was lovely. Uncle Jack got to see it because he was still waiting at 5:30 for the guy from Sears to deliver a dishwasher that was supposed to arrive between 12 and 2. Sometimes you get lucky.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyS2JH1tdfs

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:10 AM

Comments [6]

Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday February 27, 2006

       The penultimate day of February has dawned bright and beautiful on the Outer Banks.  The sun rose at 6:35 into a cloudless sky and the temperature is supposed to rise into the upper 50's later in the day.  By Friday the high will be 65.  Uncle Jack is beginning to allow himself to think that the worst of winter is behind us.  Mother Nature may have other ideas, of course.

     He made a short video this morning but again the noise of the wind pretty much blots out the lovely sound of the surf.  It shows the area just north of Whitecap street at about the 17.5 milepost where the bulldozers have obviously done their best to prepare for the next northeaster.

     Have a nice day wherever you are.  Uncle Jack is going for a walk on the beach. Pictures at 11.

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6:30 a.m.

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6:35 a.m. Actual sunrise but the sun is obscured behind a thick bank of clouds on the horizon and is barely visible.

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6:40 Here to stay.

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Jada the malamute is looking less like a puppy and more like a dog every day. Somewhat to the dismay of her owner she has decided that horse droppings on the beach are an excellent dietary supplement.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbX060QbObE

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:40 AM

Comments [4]

Monday, February 26, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Monday February 26, 2007

     Compared to this morning's sunrise yesterday's puny effort was a dazzler.  After an all night rain storm the sky is completely overcast and South Nags Head has reverted to the swampland from which it sprung. The one bright spot in this morning's perambulation was the temperature---a relatively balmy 52 at 7 a.m. The rest of the week is supposed to be equally warm so Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. should be able to get in some serious beachwalking.

     They went to the YMCA yesterday morning as planned only to learn that on Sunday it doesn't open until 1 p.m.  They deduced that this is probably to encourage people (Christians at least) to go to church on Sunday morning instead of swimming and shooting free throws.  They took the hint and went on up the road to the First Church of Harris-Teeter where they meditated over the price of organic spinach for a while and then bought a copy of the Sunday New York Times to take home.

     On the way home they checked out the new Staples which occupies the former location of Mrs. T's Deli in the Food Lion shopping center near the 10 milepost.  It looks like a nice store but they may want to think about putting in a sandwich department if they hope to make a go of it. When they stopped by at noon the clerks outnumbered the customers about four to one. Uncle Jack looked at a neat HP laptop they are using as a loss leader but in the end he broke an earnest salesman's heart by passing on the opportunity.

     Back to work this morning?  Here's something to read if things begin to drag a little late in the afternoon: 

                        Nature’s Most Perfect Food

Uncle Jack’s grandson, Andy, turned 18 last week which means he is now legally old enough to do some fairly dumb things if he chooses to do them, such as smoke cigarettes and buy lottery tickets. Fortunately he is too smart to do these things or he would have started doing them a long time ago. Some things are much more fun to do when they are illegal, which is probably why so many kids quit smoking when they turn 18.

This is not true of everything, though, as Uncle Jack knows from his own experience, and one of the things it is not true of is drinking beer. He discovered nature’s most perfect food when he was 16 and it was love at first taste. Lucky for him he looked like he was 25 years old when he was 16 so he never had any trouble buying the stuff even though he was two years short of legal.

Unfortunately for Andy he lives in one of those states where you have to be 21 before you can buy beer legally, which makes it harder, but he has managed to get around this problem by learning how to make his own beer. Like his grandfather he consumes it in moderation and only at times of great ceremonial significance such as the rising and setting of the sun. Or the waxing of the moon. Or high tide. Or Thursday.

Next year Andy will be going to college where he will join some of the millions of college students who drink beer even though they are not yet 21. Several fraternities have already offered him a full four-year scholarship if he will pledge to brew at least 200 gallons of his famous porter each week.

Uncle Jack is kidding, of course, but he does have to wonder what was going on in the minds of the lawmakers who decided that college students are not old enough to drink beer. He could see how it might happen in some extremely virtuous and sparsely populated state like Utah but how could this be the law in such enlightened states as Massachusetts, where Andy lives, or even North Carolina which may not be exactly enlightened but where moonshine has been a tradition even longer than March Madness?

Uncle Jack would never urge college students to drink beer if they didn’t want to. But having been to college and seeing what goes on there he has to say that any law that prohibits beer drinking by any college student under 21 is destined to create a large criminal class who will spend a substantial part of every week enthusiastically breaking the law.

He has to wonder about the wisdom of a statute that turns half the future leaders of our country into chronic criminals even before they get to law school.



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6:35 a.m. Not promising.

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6:55 Not much better.

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A minute later the sun appeared through the haze for about 5 seconds but it didn't show up too well in this picture.

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This empty shell canister washed up during the night. Better empty canisters than live shells which is what folks found on Rehoboth Beach after they renourished it with sand dredged up from offshore.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:50 AM

Comments [5]

Sunday, February 25, 2007
Sunrise (?) in Sonag, Sunday February 25, 2007


      At least it was warmer this morning.  The sun never showed but walking on the beach was a pleasure in the absence of yesterday's freezing north wind.  There is an 80% chance of rain later today and judging from the cloud cover the weatherman knows whereof he speaks.

     This looks like a good day for Uncle Jack to sharpen his free-throw shooting skills.  He skipped yesterday because the gym at the Y is overrun with "Little Dribblers" on Saturday morning who set up a fearsome din and have a tendency to get underfoot while he is trying to shoot.  He did hit 12 in a row in one stretch on Friday so he will have something to aim at.                                                      He has an additional incentive to improve before the 18th of March when his little brother Don (age 75) will be stopping for a visit on the way back to Minnesota from Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  Don not only still shoots his age in golf but still retains the uncanny shooting eye that got him a basketball scholarship to Luther College in Iowa more than a half-century ago.  It could do a lot for Uncle Jack's dwindling self-esteem if he could beat his brother at free-throw shooting just once in his life.  Stay tuned

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6:44 a.m. Official sunrise. This is as colorful as it got.

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Looking south over Dixie's head. (She's waiting for Audrey to throw a stick). Mother Nature did a nice job of sweeping the beach last night.

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Jada the malamute looks like she gained another couple of pounds since yesterday. Her mom weighs about 90 pounds so that's probably where she is heading.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:53 AM

Comments [6]

Saturday, February 24, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday February 24, 2007

    It is mighty cold and windy on the beach this morning and the surf is up.  Uncle Jack did not stay long but he did make a short video from the beach in front of Tides Drive near the 18 milepost. The roar of the surf is eclipsed by the roar of the wind so might want to turn the sound off.  Except for a couple of short blurry spots it's pretty to look at with lots of birds wheeling around over the surf.

     Looks like a bright, sunny, chilly, windy winter day on the Outer Banks.  A great day for malamute puppies and people, too.

     Enjoy the weekend.

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6:35 a.m.

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6:45 a.m. Not the most spectacular sunrise ever but welcome nonetheless.

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Late afternoon surf yesterday. The Shadow knows....

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This wandering stairway, detritus from the Thanksgiving storm, took another ride in the waves last night.

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The Thanksgiving storm took out this driveway which had earlier been destroyed by Isabel and then rebuilt.

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Here we go again. Two men and a bobcat took two days to remove the old slabs to make way for yet another driveway. Ah, the joys of oceanfront home ownership.

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This picture was taken two years ago at James Street. Not a trace remains of this FEMA-built berm, the estimated life of which was five years.

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With the berm gone the beach is much wider. (The house in the foreground looks much better with new siding).

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AEUYfkghVk

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:55 AM

Comments [5]

Friday, February 23, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday February 23, 2007, Part One

    Please scroll down to see the rest of today's weblog.  Uncle Jack borrowed a piece from a Delaware newspaper this morning and it took up the whole space.  Obviously the Outer Banks is not the only part of the east coast that is facing some big problems due to Mother Nature's perversity and the federal government's empty pockets.

    It was very cold and windy on the beach this morning with sand blowing all over the place.  Not the most pleasant place to be but beautiful nonetheless. 

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:39 AM

Comments [0]

Friday, February 23, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday February 23, 2007

Castle urges federal funds for beach work

State lacks money needed for Bethany, South Bethany dune project

Posted Thursday, February 22, 2007

Rep. Mike Castle speaks to local and state officials about the need for federal funding Wednesday in Bethany Beach. (Buy photo) Special to The News Journal/CHUCK SNYDER

It takes both sand and money to save Bethany and South Bethany's storm-battered beaches from further erosion. Turns out, both are in short supply this year.

Wednesday, Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., standing on a dune crossing with the ocean rolling onto a narrow strip of sand, said he was optimistic that federal money would be available for a $25 million project designed to build a protective sand dune and a beach that would stretch more than 200 feet toward the ocean.

"This dramatic backdrop ... highlights how we really do need to move forward," Castle said. "I was down here one day in the fall and the water was under the boardwalk."

Castle and state officials have been lobbying the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finance the project after Congress failed to pass an appropriations bill dedicating money for beach renourishment.

So far, $3 million in federal dollars has been set aside for the work. But Ed Voight, a spokesman for the Army Corps Philadelphia District, said it would take $14 million in federal dollars to rebuild the dune and have a beach that would provide protection from storm damage.

Under the state-federal partnership, federal officials provide 65 percent of the project cost and the state comes up with the rest. Anthony Pratt, the state shoreline and waterway administrator said Delaware already has the money to cover its share.

The project is huge by Delaware standards. Spending in the Bethany and South Bethany alone would surpass total spending on beach rebuilding projects in Lewes, Rehoboth and Dewey beaches and in Fenwick Island.

But the beach is vitally important both environmentally and economically.

"We absolutely need this," Castle said. "It's a critical barrier against storms. ... This is the heart and soul of the economy right here."

Each year, storms, wind and crashing surf cause the beach to erode into the ocean. By pumping sand from an off-shore bar, engineers are able to bulk up and widen beaches and eventually build sand dunes. Critics say depleting the ocean floor of sand weakens the natural defense against erosion. But supporters say it's necessary to protect property and keep the heart of the state's tourism industry -- which contributes an estimated $1.8 billion annually to the economy -- churning.

The fight to secure federal dollars for beach renourishment is not new. The Bush and Clinton administrations opposed spending federal dollars to rebuild beaches. But members of Congress from coastal states typically added money for the projects when they drafted appropriation bills each year.

But last fall, an appropriations bill that would have included beach renourishment was never passed. Instead, Congress decided to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to decide which projects to fund. State officials don't know whether the Bethany-South Bethany project is included in the corps plan, Pratt said.

"I'm optimistic that this is going to get done," Pratt said.

Local officials in both towns have encouraged area residents and property owners to write letters seeking money for the beach projects and they have hired a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to help them win support for their cause.

"You don't realize the importance until the beach isn't there," said state Rep. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View. With a serious storm "we would be doomed and our economy would be doomed for a long time. ... This is a must."

Contact Molly Murray at 856-7372 or mmurray@delawareonline.com.

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Posted by: lanodel1979- Thu Feb 22, 2007 StoryChat8:25

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6:30 a.m. Uncle Jack wasn't quite sure where the horizon was.

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Looking north from Whitecap into the teeth of a 25 mph northwest wind.

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The wind couldn't stop Jim, Audrey, Dixie and Jada. Especially Jada the malamute puppy whose double layer of fur came in handy this morning.(She's still a little wary of Uncle Jack and his camera).

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The sun eventually climbed over the clouds but it didn't raise the temperature significantly.

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It may have been cold and windy on the beach this morning but when you can see things like this it's worth it.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:37 AM

Comments [5]

Thursday, February 22, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Thursday February 22, 2007

    Light rain was falling in South Nags Head at dawn this morning so Uncle Jack wisely decided to forego his usual stroll up to the beach.  There was a tiny patch of orange visible on the southern horizon to indicate that the sun was out there somewhere but the rest of the sky was filled with fierce looking dark clouds.  And he thought yesterday's sunrise was a flop.

   On the positive side the temperature is already over 50 at 7 a.m. which means that for the third day in a row his emergency heating system, which burns expensive bottled gas like it was free, will remain dormant while his penny-pinching heat pump does the work. With only a week left of February this is shaping up to be a relatively mild winter for which he is grateful.  Not only has the sound not frozen over but neither has the water in the eternal pothole at the intersection of  Whitecap and Old Oregon Inlet Trail which he navigates nearly every day. If this be global warming let us have more of it.

     Uncle Jack is grateful to reader Steve Thomas for forwarding this press release from the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.  If you were beginning to think that the Outer Banks is going to hell in a handbasket you obviously have another think coming.

A press release from www.outerbanks.org


(MANTEO, NC) February 21, 2007 – The Outer Banks of North Carolina ranks #1 in TripAdvisor® list of Top Ten Family-Friendly Beaches in the U.S. announced this week. According to the world’s largest travel community with 5 million unbiased opinions and 20 million website visitors, you can “Put Your Money in the Banks.” The beaches of Nags Head and The Outer Banks offer families “plenty of beach to enjoy as the lovely Outer Banks islands are surrounded by 900 square miles of water. Nags Head, in particular has it all, including a sprawling sandy beach, lifeguards and water sports.”
“The Outer Banks of North Carolina has long been a destination for families, dating back to 1587 with the first English Colony at Roanoke Island, and remains one of America’s last great coastlines with 100 miles of oceanfront” says Carolyn McCormick, Managing Director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. “For new families, early summer and fall are some of the best times to travel here, when rates are a fraction of peak season prices and you literally have the beach all to yourself. And there’s no problem waiting in lines at restaurants or attractions.”
According to a recent TripAdvisor® survey of nearly 400 travelers, 78 percent will take a beach trip with their children this spring or summer, and 92 percent will specifically seek out family-friendly beaches.
To learn more, log onto the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau website www.outerbanks.org or speak to one of our information specialists toll free at 877-629-4386.

   Uncle Jack especially likes that "sprawling sandy beach" which he hopes that nobody will mess up by dumping dredge spoil on it.



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It won't be long now before our sprawling sandy beach will be full of folks building sandcastles like this one.

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Or surfing like this.

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Or standing around looking cute like this.

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Or fishing like this.

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Or fishing like this.

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Or admiring the sandfences.

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or collecting shells.

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or, best of all, just standing around watching while the kids do their thing.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:53 AM

Comments [6]

Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Wednesday February 21, 2007

     Not much of a sunrise this morning but the beach was a very nice place to be anyway.  The temperature was already in the mid-50's at 6:30 a.m., the wind was from the west and barely perceptible in front of the dune line, and the beach itself was super wide as it often is at low tide at this time of year. All this made for enjoyable walking which Uncle Jack did in the company of Jada, the incredible expanding malamute puppy, and her erstwhile master, Jim Morris. (This would be an excellent time to buy stock in the Iams pet food company considering the way Jada is putting it away).

     It would also be a good time to sell ocean front property because even some of the houses that are usually standing in the surf have a wide beach in front of them.  There must be a few prospective buyers out there who haven't read "The Beaches are Moving".

     There was so little action in the sky this morning Uncle Jack didn't bother to make another video.  If you haven't already seen yesterday's it's worth a look.

Here's a letter from deep in the archives:


Dear Uncle Jack,

I enjoyed my visit to the Outer Banks last month but I got very confused because I kept seeing signs that said “Bodie Island” and “Pea Island” and “Hatteras Island” but I could never find any islands. Does “island” mean something different on the Outer Banks than it does in other places?

Geography Major

Chapel Hill

Dear Major,

You have unwittingly discovered one more example of the wisdom, patience and frugality of the hardy folk who settled this fragile strand known as the Outer Banks. Bodie Island (pronounced “body” as in Pamela Anderson) and all the other non-islands you name, really were islands at one time. When the inlets filled up and they weren’t islands any more nobody bothered to change the signs because everybody who lives here knows that one of these days---maybe next week---they’re going to be islands again.


Uncle Jack


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6:30 a.m. Not much going on.

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Jim and Jada ambling up from the south. If you like your beaches uncrowded this is time to be here.

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6:45 a.m. This is all she wrote this morning, sunrisewise.

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Nothing much going on to the north, either.

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Lots of sand for the bulldozers to work with this morning. Looking south from Whitecap street near the 17.5 milepost.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:51 AM

Comments [7]

Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday February 20, 2007

     The sky was a symphony of color this morning--easily the prettiest sunrise in a month.  At 7 a.m. it was already warmer on the beach than it ever got yesterday and the weatherman is predicting temperatures in the high 50's by this afternoon.  Uncle Jack extends his deepest sympathy to all who would like to be here today but can't. 

     The video is especially pretty this morning.  A 360 view from the foot of James Street. Click on the YouTube link below.

     Here's a real oldie from the archives to read with your afternoon tea:

                     Social Notes From the Mainland

Mrs. Carter Fry hosted the Grumpy Harbor Ladies Literary Society at her home on Route 6 last Thursday. Luncheon was served followed by election of officers and a dramatic reading by Mrs. Otho Scramm of selections from the current best-selling novel "Hot Mountain". Mrs. Delmore Wiggett fainted during the reading and had to be rushed to the clinic in Manteo where she remained in intensive care for several hours.

Mr. Carter Fry went to Plymouth on Thursday and has not returned.

Miss LuWanda Crammitt, daughter of Mrs. Opal Crammitt of Clamflats, has a speaking part in a new feature film entitled "Debbie Does Amsterdam," the latest release in the highly acclaimed "Debbie" series of travelogues from Mammary Studios. LuWanda, who is known professionally as Debbie Craven, is employed as a masseuse in Los Angeles, California while pursuing her acting career. She was a l992 graduate of Thassamusketo High School where she was voted "Most Likely To" by the boys of the senior class.

Mr. Albert Zebulon, manager of the Grumpy Harbor 6-l2 convenience store was in Nags Head last week attending an Executive Training Conference at the Ramada Inn. More than 300 managers of 6-l2 stores in the three-county Eastern Swamps Division attended the meeting which focused on helping convenience store managers cope with inflation. Mr. Zebulon attended seminars on "How to Squeeze 50 Extra Cups from Each Pound of Coffee," "Save $$$ by Recycling Used Stirring Sticks" and "Creative Bookkeeping".

Mrs. Estelle Jones went to the HMO in Columbia on Monday to have her corns pared.

Billy Frank Weddle, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Joe Weddle of Drainfield, was home last week on a three-day pass from the East Carolina Correctional Center in Clam Quarter where he recently starred in an inmate production of Verdi's "La Forza del Destino".

Mrs. Greb Fillett and Mrs. Nettie Clayford drove to Norfolk on Wednesday in Mrs. Clayford's new Ford Siesta with optional overdrive. They got 43.6 miles to the gallon according to Mrs. Clayford's daughter Lula who is home on vacation from Central Junior Bible College in Charlotte where she is majoring in long division.

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Looking south from James Street (milepost 19.2)at 6:20.

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Same time, same place, looking southeast. This was nearly a half hour before official sunrise.

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Looking east, same time and place. More than half the sky was lit up this morning. Awesome.

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Just a few moments before sunrise.

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Worth waiting for.

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Looking north from James Street. Mother Nature widened this section of beach by removing three cottages---one by Dennis, one by Isabel and one by northeaster---at no cost to the taxpayers.

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Last night's sunset was spectacular in its own right.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A20v3PWEpqE

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:05 AM

Comments [5]

Monday, February 19, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday February 19, 2007

     After the snow flurries last night Uncle Jack wasn't quite sure what to expect this morning. What he got was a brisk wind out of the north pushing sub-freezing air right through his winter coat and numbing his fingers as he tried to capture the striking sunrise with his redoubtable Sony Cybershot.  The surf was up and the birds were wheeling around and squawking and an amazing number of neighbors were out on the beach with their dogs and a good time was had by all.  Sunrise is a wonderful time of the day and in some ways it's all downhill after 7 a.m.

     He managed to make a short 360 degree video of the sunrise and the area just south of Whitecap street which can be viewed by clicking on the YouTube link below.

     Happy Presidents Day to all.

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Looking southeast at 6:45 a.m. The biggest surf in quite a while. No fishing boats out there this morning.

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5 minutes later.

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A few minutes after that.

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Jada the malamute puppy who now rules Jim Morris's life has nearly doubled in size since Uncle Jack first saw her about a week ago.

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Who needs a hydrant when you live in South Nags Head.

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Intrepid beachwalkers negotiate a newly bulldozed section. The dozers are still working seven days a week to try to get ahead of the next northeaster.

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The surf was high enough last night to redistribute some of the wreckage left over from the Thanksgiving storm.

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Last night's sunset was eerily beautiful.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioy5hQB4x_Y

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:47 AM

Comments [1]

Sunday, February 18, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday February 18, 2007

    Another rather banal sunrise this morning, comparatively speaking, but well worth getting up for.  Being able to watch the sun come up over the ocean at his age is a privilege Uncle Jack does not take lightly.  The video this morning was taken from the beach in front of the former Surfside Drive.  He would be the first to admit that it probably won't get him a call from Robert Redford at Sundance but it's pretty enough.

     If the sun stays out and warms things up a little he might try a walk on the beach this afternoon and see what the bulldozers have been up to.

     If you need a break from shoveling snow, here's an oldie from the archives to rest up on.

                                  Modern Maturity

Ever since he had to have his gall bladder forcibly removed Uncle Jack has been thinking about what it means to grow old and he is happy to say that he is moderately optimistic about it at this point. He has had to take it easy this week while all the little holes the doctor punched in his stomach healed up so he has had a lot more time to read than he usually does and he really enjoyed it.

He started working his way down through the magazines that always pile up next to his barcalounger because he never has time to read them. He is now caught up on his National Geographics, Smithsonians, Atlantic Monthlies and New Yorkers and he feels so well informed he can hardly stand himself.

Anyway Uncle Jack got a good taste this week of what it would be like not to have to go to work every day and he has to say he can see some real merit in the retirement lifestyle. In fact he got so interested in retirement there for a couple of days that he actually read a couple of issues of Modern Maturity which he forgot to throw away at the post office which is what he usually does with them.

If any young persons are reading this he will explain that Modern Maturity is the magazine you get every month if you belong to the American Association of Retired People, better known as AARP, which is a good thing to be a member of if you are over 55 because they have terrorized motel owners all over the country into giving old people a 10 percent discount on their rooms.

He usually hates to read Modern Maturity because it is full of ads reminding vigorous old people like himself what is in store for them down the road such as motorized wheelchairs, Alzhimer’s pills, Medicare supplement plans, Florida mobile home developments and Viagra. The people who put out Modern Maturity really knock themselves out to make old age sound like fun but the ads tell the truth.

He has to admit he really enjoyed this month’s issue though because it is full of articles about how computers can enhance the quality of life for older people---even more than Viagra in many cases. This was very meaningful to Uncle Jack because he has only recently embraced the computer and he can honestly say that he loves it and he knows that it will be a great comfort to him in his old age if he lives that long.

The single most depressing paragraph he has read in any magazine in the past five years is in Modern Maturity this month and he would like to share it with all those who threw their copies away at the post office. It is in an article about Martha Stewart who is described as “the woman America turns to for clever tips on how to…revitalize discarded lighting fixtures…” and this is what it says:

Stewart has 30 telephone and fax numbers and more than 40 separate phones as well as seven cellular phones….She owns and uses five Macintosh desktop computers, two Mac Power Book laptops, an IBM Thinkpad 770 notebook computer, and carries a laptop at all times…Her cars are equipped with fax machines and VCRs and her Chevy Suburban is a rolling office outfitted with a telephone, a laptop computer and a fax that doubles as a photocopier.

Uncle Jack’s advice to Martha Stewart: Get a life.

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6:45 a.m.

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Looking south at the new, improved Surfside beach. Mother Nature will be giving it a good scrubbing one of these days.

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This is where the beach ends, looking north. Mother Nature will probably have something to say about this, too, one of these days.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gMJxacmNKs

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:18 AM

Comments [6]

Saturday, February 17, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday February 17, 2007

     It's a lovely cold, crisp, clear, windless morning on the Outer Banks.  The sun rose on schedule at 6:47 into a cloudless sky and while it won't warm things up very much today it is a welcome sight.

     The sea has calmed considerably in the past 24 hours and the many fishing boats that passed by this morning were having a much easier time of it.  Uncle Jack has been reliably informed that the fishermen are in pursuit of stripers which for some reason have congregated farther north and have not moved down to the inlet in significant numbers yet.

     If you love the sound of the surf you might want to take a couple of minutes to look at today's video.  There was no wind at at 7 a.m. so the soothing murmur of the waves comes through clearly.  Enjoy.

     Presidents' Day weekend has a special significance for him this year because he has been working his way through a series of books on the lives and works of the "founding fathers".  He started with David McCullough's biography of John Adams followed by his "1776" (a momentous year in the life of George Washington), followed by Joseph Ellis's full-fledged biography of Washington and now he is reading Ellis's "Founding Brothers", an analysis of the intricate business of nation building as our own infant republic began to take shape.  It is truly sobering and a little frightening to compare our current crop of political leaders (of both parties) with the giants who preceded them. 

     We were very lucky. 

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6:44 a.m.

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

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:32 AM

Comments [3]

Friday, February 16, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Friday February 16, 2007

     The sun didn't have a chance this morning.  The banks of clouds in the southeast permitted only a tiny glimmer of pink for a few minutes to show that something was happening backstage. 

     Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. stayed in the MINI out of deference to the 32F temperature and the brisk wind out of the north.  No video this morning for that reason.

     Even without the sun it turned out to be an interesting half hour.  They watched a large Buddy Davis-type sport fisherman heading north out of Oregon Inlet pounding through the waves at great speed, sending spray high into the air every time it crashed down into a trough.  It kept on like this for ten minutes or so until it was directly in front of us at which point it stopped dead in the water, wallowed in the waves for a few minutes and then started moving slowly south  back toward the inlet like a dog with its tail between its legs. 

      The boat was too far out to see exactly what had happened but Uncle Jack guesses that it might have sprung a leak from the terrific pounding it was taking.  He will probably never know for sure.

      While all this was happening a sizable pod of dolphins cruised by, also heading south, while a troop of godwits pecked their way up the beach heading north.  It was almost too much excitement for one morning.  

     An hour later the sun is out and it looks like another pretty winter day on the Outer Banks.  Not a flake of snow in sight anywhere. 

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7 a.m. Thick clouds to the south.

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The sun is supposed to be rising right here at this time.

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More clouds to the east.

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And still more to the north.

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This big fishing boat came to a screeching halt right in front of us after taking a battering from heavy seas for the preceeding 20 minutes.

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Then it turned around and limped back toward Oregon Inlet.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:21 AM

Comments [1]

Thursday, February 15, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Thursday February 15, 2005

    First of all, good news about the seemingly injured gannet who was rushed to the vet yesterday morning by good samaritans Eve Turek and Liz Corsa.  Eve reports that after careful examination by Dr. Grossman the bird was found to be o.k. physically but probably befuddled by finding itself on land and unable to figure out how to get back into the ocean.  Dr. Grossman's crew returned it to the water and it flapped away like nothing had ever happened.  Having been befuddled many times himself (and similarly rescued) Uncle Jack knows exactly how the bird must have felt and he is very happy for it. Thanks again to Eve, Liz and Dr. Grossman for their good works.

     It was cold (32 F) and windy on the beach this morning but beautiful in a wintry way.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. observed the sunrise from the comfort of the MINI whence he emerged long enough to make a quick video which is observable by clicking the YouTube link below. 

     If you are up in the blizzard belt he wishes you happy shoveling.  Many of his formative years in Northern Wisconsin were spent at the business end of a snow shovel so he knows what you are up against today (and tomorrow and tomorrow).

    Here's an oldie from the archives to read while you're resting:

                            From the Mailbag

Dear Uncle Jack,

I am one of those unfortunate people who gets to spend his two week summer vacation on the Outer Banks and then he is miserable the rest of the year because he is not down there. Believe me I could have quit my lousy job at Cleveland Gear and Screw and moved down there years ago except for my wife who does not think she could stand it down there in the winter with nothing to keep her brain alive.

We have been married for 42 years and raised 13 children so I do not feel it would be right just to dump her, especially since I got laid off at Cleveland Gear and Screw right before Christmas and my unemployment is due to run out this month.

You probably read in the paper where Cleveland Gear got out of the machine parts business and into frozen pirogis and they are doing real good, too, but I could never get the hang of that computerized potato peeler they put me on so they canned me without so much as a Timex watch after 35 years.

So now I mostly shovel snow out of the driveway and count the days until my wife gets her annual vacation from the Burger Bistro over on Cuyahoga Avenue. They made her the manager over there after only two days on the job when they found out she could read and write, both.

Anyway I know things are changing fast on the Outer Banks and winter isn’t like it used to be down there so I was hoping you could say a few words of encouragement to my wife so she would at least start thinking about the possibility of maybe moving down there for good some day.

Milo Minderbinder

Cleveland, Ohio

Dear Milo,

Uncle Jack receives many letters from unhappy persons such as yourself and he is pleased to tell you he has good news for all of you. You are absolutely right when you guess that winter is not like it used to be in the old days when winter started the day after Labor Day and ended on Memorial Day. If you want to know the truth it has got to the point where you can hardly tell the difference between winter down here and winter in Cleveland except we do not have any snow down here which is not all bad if you ask Uncle Jack.

When it comes to new cultural developments he hardly knows where to start. For one thing they are building a big addition onto the bowling alley and they are planning to bring the Pro Bowlers tour in here next winter which the wife will have to admit is a major cultural event and a big step up from those tacky karate fights they put on over at Roller World last year.

In case the Mrs. is into more intellectual pursuits Uncle Jack should mention the Great Books discussion club they have over at the Senior Center every Thursday night. They started out with “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and they are working their way up to Sidney Sheldon’s best-selling trilogy “Lust”, “Depravity” and “More Lust and Depravity”.and Uncle Jack can tell you those discussions have gotten to the point where they have to station a whole EMS crew over there on Thursday nights just to watch out for heart attacks.

Anyway it is a whole new ball game down here in the winter and there is no reason why your wife should not be happy, especially with all those new designer drugs they have on the market now. So like they always say on Wheel of Fortune, “Come on Down!!”


Uncle Jack


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7 a.m.

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Two minutes later.

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Sunset Wednesday night.

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Looking north from James Street in South Nags Head (19 milepost) Wednesday afternoon.

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Ditto. A stiff west wind was shearing the tops off the incoming rollers in spectacular fashion.

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Looking south from James Street, Wednesday afternoon.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L352UpD-OxI

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:10 AM

Comments [5]

Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Wednesday February 14, 2007

      A set of lovely sunrise pictures would have been appropriate for Valentines Day but it was not to be.  A drizzly rain was still falling at 6:50 a.m. (following the frog-strangler of last night) so Uncle Jack went back to bed instead of trudging up to the beach. He hasn't completely lost it yet.

     The saga of the injured gannet, which started the day before yesterday when Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. encountered the unfortunate bird on the beach in South Nags Head, is having a happy middle which hopefully may lead to a happy ending.  Two wonderful bird lovers named Eve Turek and Liz Corsa managed to wrap it in a sheet and take it to Dr. Mark Grossman in Manteo who will try to repair its damaged wing.  Dr. Grossman has performed marvelous feats of bird and animal rehabilitation in the past and we hope he will be able to repeat his success with this beautiful creature. 

      Uncle Jack would like to express his heartfelt thanks to Eve and Liz for rescuing the gannet.  For those who may not know, Eve Turek is the co-owner (with her husband Pete) of Yellowhouse Gallery where he hung out for nearly 40 years, and Liz Corsa is a wonderful artist whose work, along with Eve's excellent nature photography, is featured at Yellowhouse. 

     Stay tuned for further reports on the gannet's progress.  Uncle Jack will keep his fingers crossed in the interim.

     Happy Valentines Day to all.  Note that today also marks the halfway point in this forgettable month.  Another few weeks and spring will be upon us.  Huzzah.

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Eve took this picture just before Liz dropped the sheet over its head. It had moved from near the water's edge where it was first seen to the dune edge---a distance of perhaps 50 feet---overnight.

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A brand new beachwalker made her first appearance in South Nags Head yesterday. Her name is Haja (if Uncle Jack heard right) and she is an eight-week old, purebred Samoyed. Her owner is Jim Morris who lost his faithful companion, Kady, a few months ago.

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She's a little ball of fluff right now but watch her grow right here during the next few months.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:04 AM

Comments [8]

Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday February 13, 2007

      Uncle Jack is going to have to start setting his alarm or something because he almost missed this morning's sunrise, too.  It's coming earlier every day now and his internal clock is not adjusting very well.

     The weatherman says it's going to rain today but right now it doesn't look like it.  It was relatively balmy on the beach at 7 a.m. with no wind at all so the sound portion of this morning's video is all surf with no wind noises. Enjoy.

      If you don't have anything better to do at work today you might enjoy perusing this piece from the archives.  It's an oldie but it still has the ring of truth.

                       The More Things Change

Uncle Jack spent a couple of cold February days in bed with the flu last week an so he had plenty of time to look ahead (through bloodshot eyes) at what might be in store for the Outer Banks during the coming year.

FEBRUARY: A mild northeaster topples twelve houses into the surf in South Nags Head. Most of the wreckage washes ashore near Salvo where happy developers announce they will use it to build 24 new oceanfront condos.

MARCH: More than 250 Outer Banks restaurants officially open for the season joining 47 others that pretended to stay open all winter. Of the 250 about 75 are actually new and the rest are under new ownership. In their “Grand Opening” advertisements the restaurateurs collectively demonstrate 47 different ways to misspell the word “cuisine”.

APRIL: Chamber of Commerce officials announce that Easter Weekend was the biggest ever on the Outer Banks, drawing an estimated 1.5 million visitors who spent approximately $6.5 million more than last year. An informal survey of area businesses, however, reveals that most businesses actually made less money this Easter Weekend than last. “For the life of us we can’t figure out why that is”, a Chamber spokesman says.

MAY: Dare County officials predict that the severe labor shortage which has plagued Outer Banks employers for the past several seasons will be worse than ever this summer. Citing the continual shortage of low cost housing for seasonal workers, one county commissioner proposes setting aside 40 acres of the Baum Tract in Kill Devil Hills as a designated overnight parking area where workers and their Labrador retrievers could sleep in their pickup trucks without fear of hassling by local gendarmes. ”They could use the toilets over at the new Chamber of Commerce building so it wouldn’t cost the county a cent”. the commissioner suggests.

JUNE: A spokesman for Global International Malls of Lausanne, Switzerland announces that his firm will seek rezoning of a 400 acrea tract fronting the bypass in Kill Devil Hills. “We are confident that the commissioners will want to approve the rezoning”, spokesman Joe Bob Tacky says, “when they learn that the new shopping center will employ up to 35 persons, at least during July and August.” He adds that Global International will present each commissioner with a Gucci bag filled with unmarked twenties, “no strings attached” as soon as the rezoning has been effected.

JULY: An overloaded tractor trailer overturns while attempting to negotiate the sharp curve in front of the Duck Deli, dumping 18 tons of bamboo shingles into the narrow roadway and bringing traffic to a standstill from Wilmington, N.C. to Wilmington, Delaware. ”They have got to do something about this bleeping curve” says driver Byron Munchausen of Raleigh who was attempting to deliver the shingles to the Casa del Sushi development north of Corolla where 780 bamboo and stucco townhouses are under construction. Munchausen speaks highly of the hot pastrami with Swiss on rye at the Duck Deli where he dines for several days while waiting for his employers to fly in a crew of laborers from Guatemala to reload his truck.

AUGUST: Currituck County commissioners give the go-ahead to Consolidated Intergalactic Land Company of Shanghai for “Lorna Dunes”, a proposed 3000 unit ocean-to-sound development near the Virginia line. When questioned by taxpayers who complain that the only access road is already seriously overtaxed, that water supplies are inadequate and power shortages imminent, the commissioners respond in unison, “So?”

SEPTEMBER: The Dare County Tourist Bureau reports that in spite of horrendous traffic jams, overcrowded beaches, poor service in understaffed shops and restaurants and typically lousy summer fishing, more people visited the Outer Banks and spent more money this year than in any previous season. While most visitors appear to have had a good time in spite of all the aggravations one vacationer, identified as a “Mr. Berra” of Brooklyn, N.Y. complains that “This place is getting so crowded nobody wants to come here any more.”


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6:50 a.m.

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A few minutes later.

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7 a.m.

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7:10 a.m.

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The neighborhood pigeons were out in force this morning. Uncle Jack felt almost like he was in Trafalgar Square in London again.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQaZlSsEk4k

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:21 AM

Comments [4]

Monday, February 12, 2007
On the Beach in Sonag, Monday February 12, 2007

     Uncle Jack is chagrined to report that he slept right through the sunrise this morning.  He is not entirely rationalizing when he says it didn't amount to much anyway.

     He and Mrs. U.J. did go for a walk on the beach this afternoon and it more than made up for missing the sunrise.  The temperature was in the mid-50's, the wind from the southwest very light and the beach enormously wide and easy to walk on.  Needless to say they had it all to themselves except for a couple of bulldozer operators and a lot of gulls.

     He is pleased to report that Mr. Peterson the Plumber appeared right on time this morning and repaired his broken pipe so there is no danger that they will run out of clean dishes before the day is out. 

     He hopes to get up on time to catch the sunrise Tuesday morning but the forecast is for rain so he may have to settle for another free-throw shooting practice at the Y. 

     And that's the news from Lake Wobegon South.

P.S.  Today's video is provided courtesy of Ray Midgett.  Check it out by clicking on the YouTube link below.  You will find it very interesting for sure.



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The beach north of Whitecap Street was incredibly wide this afternoon.

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This critter didn't move when we walked past the first time and we were afraid he might have been deceased.

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We were wrong. He rose up and squawked at us vigorously a few minutes later.

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Here he is in profile. Any bird experts out there know what kind he is? (Or she, of course).

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Humongous amounts of sand have been trucked in to build new dunes in front of the condo developments just south of the Comfort Inn South. They had lost it all in the Thanksgiving storm.

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This is reminiscent of the great FEMA berm-building project of a couple of years ago but it appears to be under private auspices this time.

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The front-loader appears to be widening the berm at the base.

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This is a lot of sand. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts.

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Uncle Jack did get up in time for sunset which was actually a lot prettier than sunrise.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMvKOsp6gRA

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:01 PM

Comments [64]

Sunday, February 11, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday February 11, 2007

    Uncle Jack is a little late with his weblog this morning due to the belated discovery of a broken water pipe under his living room floor.  Mrs. U.J. discovered a mysterious wet spot in the carpet which forced Uncle Jack to enter the disgusting crawl space under the house where he discovered a steady spray of hot water soaking the sub-floor of the living room which after several days had wicked its way up to the carpet.  He has turned off the cold water supply to the hot water heater which has stopped the leak but has also left him bereft of hot water until a plumber can come and put things to right, perhaps tomorrow? Stay tuned for further developments in this familiar saga of home ownership on the Outer Banks.

    Sunrise was lovely even in the absence of any dramatic cloud formations.  It was very cold on the beach again (36 F) and the wind out of the north was feistier than yesterday so he didn't stay long. Today's video is only about a minute long but it's rather pretty if he says so himself.

    Uncle Jack is pleased to report that his progress toward a Gold Medal in free-throw shooting in the April Senior Games is encouraging.  He made his first seven shots without a miss yesterday and later made 12 in a row---a personal best.  In another month or two he should be a force to be reckoned with at the free-throw line which is more than any number of multi-millionaire NBA players can say.

     He hopes you are having a pleasant week-end and that you do not live in or near Oswego, New York.



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6:45 a.m. Ten minutes before sunrise.

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6:54 a.m. First sight.

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A couple of minutes later.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qaf2IoHzcME

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:01 PM

Comments [2]

Saturday, February 10, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday February 10, 2007

     It was close to freezing on the beach this morning but in the absence of wind Uncle Jack was able to take a nice long walk without freezing his face.  The sunrise wasn't spectacular but there was so much else going on that it turned out to be an entertaining twenty minutes.

     During the time he was on the beach at least a dozen sport fishing boats went by heading north out of Oregon Inlet at full speed.  He suspects there are tuna out there somewhere and the local sportsmen are out to get their share before they become extinct. (He hopes they have good luck because they take a terrible beating on the way to wherever they are going).

    He saw at least as many dolphins heading south at a pretty rapid clip.  He didn't expect to see dolphins at this time of the year but he guesses the water is only now getting cold enough for them to want to head for warmer climes.

     He made a short video of the sunrise again. The sound of the surf comes through nicely this morning because of the absence of wind.  Click on the YouTube link below to watch it.

     Uncle Jack just finished reading Bill Bryson's latest---"The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid"---a memoir about growing up in Des Moines, Iowa in the 50's and 60's.  Not the best of Bryson in his estimation but still very funny and nostalgic for somebody like Uncle Jack who also came to fruition in a midwestern town at about the same time.  Bryson fans have probably read it already.  If you don't know who Bill Bryson is it's time to find out.

     Have a nice weekend.



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6:50 a.m. Looking southeast from Whitecap street.

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A fuzzy glimpse at part of the flotilla of fishing boats heading north at sunrise.

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7 a.m. Getting brighter.

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7:10 a.m. About as good as it got this morning.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPp68-_bWGU

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:09 AM

Comments [3]

Friday, February 9, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday February 9, 2007

    It's a glorious winter day on the Outer Banks.  At the moment anyway.  Cold but windless and sunny.  Uncle Jack walked up to the beach at 6:45 and was rewarded by a beautiful pink sky from one end to the other even though the sun was nowhere to be seen.  If the wind doesn't pick up and the temperature does he might just get in a walk today.

    He took a short video of the scene this morning which will take two minutes of your time if you care to check it out.  A few seconds here and there are out of focus which he thinks might have something to do with the 32 F temperature because this never seems to happen when it's warm.

    Uncle Jack read in the paper yesterday that the N.C. Lottery came up about $200 million short short of what the Governor predicted it would do in the first year.  Apparently North Carolinians are not quite as anxious to throw their money away as the pro-lottery folks thought they would be and the schools will have to do with a lot less money than promised.  Anyway it reminded Uncle Jack of a piece he wrote back before the lottery started up and here it is again:

                                 Taxing the Poor

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 it. 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 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 convenience stores 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.


Uncle Jack





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6:45 a.m. Pink to the north.

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Ditto. Pink to the east.

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Pink to the southeast. It was too cold for Uncle Jack to wait for the sun to top the thick clouds so he didn't actually see it this morning.

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This is as bright as it got by 7 a.m.

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This is what this new stairway looked like two days ago.

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This morning: all finished and ready to brave the next northeaster. The owner is an optimistic soul, for sure.

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The indefatigable operatives at East Coast Demolition worked their magic on the old Nags Head Church on Soundside Road yesterday. The large hanger-like structure in the background is its replacement.

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The Outer Banks Steakhouse which partially burned a few months ago is being transformed into an office building. Probably not a bad idea considering that the Outback steak emporium is almost across the street.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ci83qWOeurA

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:57 AM

Comments [8]

Thursday, February 8, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Thursday February 8, 2007

     Uncle Jack got up in time to see the sun rise this morning but he chickened out after checking the temperature (36 F) and the southeastern sky which was completely obscured by thick, black clouds.  The discomfort he would have had to endure by going up to the beach seemed to outweigh anything he might have accomplished so he fired up the teakettle and stayed inside with his old friend Earl Gray.

     Having just finished reading an excellent biography of George Washington who, among other things, endured the privations of a winter at Valley Forge, he should feel shame at this latest manifestation of his own wimpiness but he can't honestly say that he does.  Had it been up to Uncle Jack to lead the Continental Army to victory over the redcoats we would probably all still be British subjects, cursing Tony Blair instead of George W. Bush.

     The picture of Niagara Falls below reminds him of the first time he saw Roanoke Sound freeze over in the early 1980's, shortly after he had moved here to live.  He lived in a house on the sound at that time whence he could watch juveniles race their pick-up trucks on the ice, free from the ever-watchful eyes of Sheriff Cahoon and his minions.  Some of those vehicles still rest at the bottom of the sound where the ice had given out from under them without warning.  He has seen them with his own eyes on occasions when hurricanes have blown all the water out of the sound, another amazing sight.

     He can remember making a fool of himself by donning arctic attire and carrying an axe out onto the ice with which he intended to extricate a number of swans whose feet he was sure were frozen into the ice.  Several members of his family watched as he slipped and slid his way toward the unfortunate creatures who, when he got too close for their comfort, took to the sky with much flapping and honking.  He is not sure of the swans were actually laughing at him but his family certainly was.

     Given the constraints of global warming will the sound ever freeze over again? Will Niagara Falls ever freeze solid again?  Probably not until Hell freezes over, unfortunately.

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Now that was cold. Maybe global warming isn't such a bad thing after all. Thanks to Eve Turek at Yellowhouse Gallery for the picture.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:12 AM

Comments [5]

Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Wednesday February 7, 2007

     What a great day to be alive, in good health and living on the Outer Banks.  From which statement one might deduce that Uncle Jack has recovered from his cold, there was a beautiful sunrise this morning,  it was already 45 degrees F at 7 a.m., there was little or no wind, the beach was flat and wide and  the ocean calm and he got to take a long walk down to the Outer Banks pier and back for the first time in over a week. It could rain for the rest of the day and he wouldn't care.

     If you have three minutes to spare sometime today you might enjoy the video he made at sunrise while standing near the Outer Banks pier.  Click on the YouTube link below. The sunrise wasn't too colorful this morning but it had a kind of serene beauty of its own.


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7 a.m. This is sunrise time but the sun is still obscured by thick clouds at the horizon.

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7 a.m. looking due east.

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Same time looking due south.

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Same time looking due north at some extremely ominous-looking clouds. The exceptionally wide beach must be due to some freaky tidal condition that exists at the present time.

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The Thanksgiving storm back in November did a number on this walkway near Whitecap Street.

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Work has begun on a replacement which won't need to be nearly as long inasmuch as the storm removed about 30 feet of the dune under it.

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Sunrise had progressed to this stage by about 7:25 when Uncle Jack went home to his well-earned porridge.

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By popular request---happy fishermen on the Outer Banks pier in warmer weather.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CucG4TL9n8M

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:10 AM

Comments [7]

Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday February 6, 2007

     Uncle Jack felt well enough this morning to go out and take a picture of the sunrise (in spite of the sub-freezing temperature) but it was not to be.  When he got to the beach and turned on his camera nothing happened.  The battery was stone dead for some reason.  You will have to take his word for it that the sunrise occurred on time and it was very pretty to look at, too.  All indications are that this will be a bright, sunny Tuesday but very, very cold---considerably colder than normal at this time of year.  Winter is apparently here to stay.

     It was too cold to do anything outside yesterday so he had plenty of time to read.  He finished "The Great Deluge" which left him wondering if it makes any sense to try to rebuild New Orleans in its old image.  Obviously it never should have been built where it was in the first place so why do it all over again knowing what we now know?.  However, the book also made it clear that politics, not science or rationality, will play the major role in deciding what gets rebuilt and what doesn't.

     He also spent a little time thinking some more about beach renourishment. One of the things he wonders about is what it might cost in the long run for the Town of Nags Head to draw a line in the sand in front of ten miles of existing oceanfront structures and say to Mother Nature "This is as far as you go, lady. These buildings stay where they are". 

     Uncle Jack does not know the answer to this question any more than the commissioners do but he is inclined to think it will cost vastly more than they seem to think it will.  They are willing to gamble that $32 million worth of sand will stop the ocean in its tracks for ten years and he basically thinks they are whistling Dixie.

     They seem to base their belief largely on the assurances of a consulting firm which claims to have experienced considerable success with beach renourishment projects in other locations, most recently at Emerald Isle. While Uncle Jack would be the last to question the competence of this group of experts he is aware that they stand to profit directly from the Nags Head project if it goes through as presently planned---and regardless of its outcome. He has also noted that they have been careful to admit that they can guarantee nothing given the unpredictable nature of ocean storms.

     He bases his own doubts about the likely success of this $32 million project primarily on what he has observed with his own eyes over 38 years of walking the Nags Head beaches and observing the impact of numerous hurricanes (none of which were actually direct hits---the "big one" is still to come) and an even larger number of unnamed storms----most of them northeasters.  After watching the raw power of the ocean as it has battered our local beaches over the past 38 years he simply cannot believe that widening them a bit with dredged sand can possibly accomplish what the beach nourishment proponents are hoping it will.

      It is not as though they have not tried to draw lines in the sand before.  The saga of Surfside Drive is a case in point.  Uncle Jack has no idea what it has cost the town, the state and the federal government over the past few years to try to keep that street from going the way of nearby Altoona street and others which washed away many years ago but it was a lot of money and in the end the effort was futile.  The ocean knocked down every barrier put in its path, some of which appeared to be quite formidable as shown in pictures below.

     Would it have been more effective to widen the beach in front of Surfside Drive by a hundred feet or so instead of building sandbag walls and berms?  Uncle Jack doubts it.  He can remember not so many years ago when there was another row of houses east of Surfside Drive as well as dunes and a beach that is at least as wide as it is now.

     And so it goes.  Is is worth spending $32 million to find out who is right?  The voters of Nags Head will soon have to decide.


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The first (or was it the second) Great Wall of Sandbags erected in front of Surfside Drive.

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The Great Wall in disarray after a storm.

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FEMA-financed berm under construction, post Isabel, in front of Surfside Drive.

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Same berm a few months later, half gone.

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The town built this sturdy walkway over the berm at Surfside but the berm vanished before it got much use.

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Mother Nature doing her thing at Surfside Drive after jumping over the sandbags and knocking down the berm.

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January 2007. Clean-up begins in the wake of the Thanksgiving storm which tore up what was left of Surfside. Empty sandbags ready for the dump.

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Sandbags gone. Berm gone. Street gone. Ready for Mother Nature to restore Surfside to a wide, natural beach again.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:52 AM

Comments [14]

Monday, February 5, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday February 5, 2007

     Uncle Jack is sorry to report that he behaved rationally again this morning and stayed in bed with his cold instead of dragging it up to the beach at sunrise and exposing it to sub-freezing winds. His sore throat has almost gone away and he is hoping for enough improvement today so that he can get to Tortuga's tonight to hear the Chuck Redd trio.  (7:30-10:30, tickets at the door).  Chuck is a fabulous vibraphonist and drummer who performed here back in December to sell-out crowds at Roanoke Island Festival Park and at the Red Drum in Nags Head.  If you like jazz and you live on the Outer Banks you won't want to miss this session.

      For a sample of Chuck's playing (on drums in this video) click on the YouTube link below.  The recording was made at the Red Drum and it's pretty awful but it gives you a flavor of the kind of music we will be hearing at Tortuga's tonight.  For a much better sample go to YouTube and put "Chuck Redd" in the search bar which should bring up a 5 minute video of Chuck playing drums with the Charley Byrd trio. 

      Looks like a bright sunny day on the Outer Banks but very cold.  Uncle Jack hopes he will have a sunrise for you tomorrow morning. 

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Chuck Redd and Robert Redd at the Red Drum in Nags Head, December 2,2006.

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Sunset in South Nags Head the same day. Breathtaking.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k7PegkjbuI

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:36 AM

Comments [4]

Sunday, February 4, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Sunday February 4, 2007

    Uncle Jack woke up with a sore throat and sniffles this morning so he decided to roll over and sleep in.  As it happened the sunrise was nonexistent anyway so he did the right thing. 

     A bientot as they say in France.

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This adorable grandchild is actually a walking petri dish in disguise, brewing up germs and viruses with which to attack any adults who come in contact. In this picture she is breathing pestilence on her mother's birthday cake.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:31 AM

Comments [52]

Saturday, February 3, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday February 3, 2007

         The run-up to sunrise this morning was very pretty but Uncle Jack has to confess he got too cold to hang around and actually see the sun come up over the thick cloud bank in the southwest.  It does look like a beautiful sunny day is in store after two days of cold, miserable drizzle. A short video of the scene in the vicinity of Whitecap Street at 7 a.m. can be seen by clicking on the YouTube link below.

      The lousy weather gave Uncle Jack plenty of time to think for the past couple of days and one of the things he can't help thinking about is beach renourishment.  As readers may have deduced by now he is not overly enthusiastic about spending vast amounts of tax money on something he believes will ultimately prove to be futile. 

         One of the arguments often made in favor of beach renourishment is that it will "preserve the tax base" by keeping structures on the tax rolls that would otherwise be destroyed by the ocean.  Some proponents of this argument claim that oceanfront and oceanside houses actually pay more in taxes than they get back in services so they actually turn a profit for the town. Uncle Jack has been thinking about that argument and he has to say he is not entirely convinced.

     He never was very good at arithmetic so readers might want to doublecheck his figures but this is what he came up with.  A house in Nags Head that is assessed for tax purposes at $1 million now pays about $1500 per year to the Town of Nags Head in property taxes.  Suppose a really bad storm comes along and destroys 1000 of those million dollar houses in one fell swoop, thus removing them from the tax rolls.  The loss in property tax revenue to the town in the next year would be $1,500,000, and in the next ten years $15 million. 

      The Town is planning to spend more than twice that amount on beach renourishment in the next five years in the hope that it will keep threatened structures on the tax rolls for up to ten years (which is far from guaranteed, even by the experts who are devising the project). Even with the drastically higher tax rate proposed to cover some of the costs of the nourishment program it is hard for Uncle Jack to understand how these threatened structures could be an asset to the Town that must be preserved at all cost. (Much less a source of "profit" as some have claimed).

     But he could be wrong, of course.  Like he said, arithmetic was never his strong suit.


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Looking east at 7 a.m.

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Looking southwest at official sunrise, 7:01 a.m. It would take the sun another 15 minutes to surmount the clouds so Uncle Jack split before he froze to death.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBNlnCupm20

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:58 AM

Comments [31]

Friday, February 2, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Friday February 2, 2007

     Yesterday's all day drizzle has continued into this morning and the sun has yet to make an appearance.  Maybe this afternoon according to the weatherman.  Maybe not. It's winter.

      Granddaughter Sophia, the one who gave her grandmother and Uncle Jack intestinal flu for Christmas, has continued her generosity.  After two days of babysitting Mrs. Uncle Jack has been rendered speechless by bronchitis, the origins of which can be traced directly to the adorable Sophia's current respiratory ailment. Babysitting should probably qualify for hazardous duty pay if Mrs. U.J.'s experience is any indication.

     Uncle Jack read some really bad news in the paper yesterday about his favorite fish.  According to a United Nations report on world fishing stocks the tuna is rapidly on its way to extinction because of overfishing.  Unless a miracle happens tuna will soon join codfish, herring, wild salmon and a bunch of other fish on the endangered species list. 

      What will we eat when all the fish are gone (and all the corn has been turned into ethanol)?  Read on.

                                 Wanchese Wings?

Uncle Jack is one of those people who really likes to read about cooking and restaurants and anything else that has to do with food. When he goes to the bookstore he is usually the only man in there sneaking peeks at the Joy of Cooking instead of The Joy of Sex. He always keeps an eye out for articles about food in the paper and he usually reads them two or three times so he is sure he hasn't missed anything.

Last week, though, he read an article about food that was so awful he could hardly get through it even once. What it said was that some scientists think that penguins could become an important source of food for the hungry people of the world, who seem to be getting more numerous all the time.

At first Uncle Jack thought this article was some kind of an April Fool joke but it wasn't. Those scientists really think we are going to have to start killing and eating penguins.

Now Uncle Jack loves to eat and he will chew up just about anything you put in front of him including his napkin, but he hopes he will never get so hungry he would have to seriously consider eating a penguin---even a penguin stuffed with crabmeat.

All of which reminds him of a conversation he had a while back with a man who really thinks that seagulls might become a pretty good source of food if things get any worse around here. He said the way the shrimp and fish are disappearing and the oysters and clams are getting polluted, the seagulls are going to be just about the only thing left to eat.

This man had been thinking a lot about the problem and he had some very good ideas, too. For one thing he said that if the government decides to give up trying to keep Oregon Inlet open and even the little trawlers can't get to Wanchese any more they ought to turn the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park into the Wanchese Seagull Industrial Park. He said they could turn that trawler basin over there into a sanitary landfill and if they put in all the garbage from the best restaurants and the classier neighborhoods like Pine Island and Southern Shores they could probably attract about 3 million gulls a day from all over the east coast. All the unemployed fishermen could go over there and throw their nets over the gulls and then they could take them home for the women to pluck.

Uncle Jack is not so sure this is such a good plan because he doesn't know if it is possible for somebody to get hungry enough to eat a seagull. He has read some stories about people who got lost at sea and managed to choke down an albatross or two when they didn't have anything else to eat for a few weeks so maybe it would work.

He also read where some American company has been test-marketing batter-fried seagull over in Japan where they call it "Colonel Hunt's Roanoke Island Turkey". The article said they really lap it up but that is not so surprising when you consider they practically live on raw fish over there. Uncle Jack has never tasted seagull but he would guess it must taste a little like raw croaker marinated in kerosene sauce.

Anyway it is something to keep in mind for when there aren't any fish or shrimp or clams or even crabs left to catch. Maybe by that time they will be growing enough soybeans over on the mainland to feed everybody in the world, though. They are already making bacon out of soybeans so it probably won't be long before they figure out how to make a nice plump salty oyster out of soybeans, too.

. Uncle Jack can hardly wait.



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Last year on this date we were in London. This picture was on the cover of "Spy" magazine, the offices of which were near our flat in Soho Square. Time marches on?

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We visited Handel's house on a drizzly day very much like today.

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Many years after Handel died Jimi Hendrix lived on the house next door for a while. What a pair they would have made.

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This stretch limo in front of Claridge's Hotel was so long it wouldn't fit in one frame.

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Uncle Jack doesn't miss the weather in London but he surely does miss the shop windows.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:57 AM

Comments [6]

Thursday, February 1, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Thursday February 1, 2007

     Uncle Jack was expecting rain this morning but it hasn't arrived yet so he did get to watch the sunrise that ushered in a new month.  It's still quite cold (36 F at 7 a.m.) but the lack of wind made it feel almost balmy out on the beach.

     He made a short video of the rather peculiar sunrise but on replay noticed that it goes in and out of focus a few times during the 2.5 minutes.  He has no idea why it did that but if you can put up with something less than perfection, parts of it are rather pretty if he says so himself.  It stars a lone gull who wanders in one side of the video and out the other.  Could have been Jonathan Livingston Seagull but Uncle Jack doubts it. He didn't swagger enough. Click on the YouTube link below. 

     If it rains today, which it no doubt will, Uncle Jack will spend some time reading the book "The Great Deluge" by the New Orleans-based historian Douglas Brinkley which covers Hurricane Katrina's assault on New Orleans and the Gulf coast and the horrific events of the week following.  It's a heart-rending story with many implications for people who live near the sea.  It's frightening to think that something like it is going to happen to the Outer Banks one day.  We just don't know when.


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7 a.m. Not very promising.

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7:10 A modest improvement.

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A brief appearance before diving back into the clouds again. This is probably the last time we will see the sun today if the weatherman knows whereof he speaks.

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Isabella and Sophia prepare to help their mom blow out the candles on her birthday cake yesterday. It was a gala affair.

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Sophia tries on her dad's shoes.

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The very large lot across from the Tanger Mall, formerly home to the Nags Head Speed Wash and Beauty Boutique, is crawling with workers and equipment these days. Anybody know what's coming?

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v33UsY96Y2s

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:47 AM

Comments [10]

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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