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Saturday, March 31, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday March 31, 2007

    March is departing from the Outer Banks like a lamb, albeit a slightly chilly one.  It was 58 F on the beach at dawn but the absence of wind made it quite comfortable.  It's one of those glorious mornings that makes living on the Outer Banks so special.  Uncle Jack made a short video that captures the look and sound of the surf as well as the very pretty sunrise.  He thinks it's well worth a couple of minutes of your time if you can find that much to spare on a Saturday.  No doubt the mall awaits.

     The picture in yesterday's blog of the proposed future site of a convention center in Nags Head reminded Uncle Jack of a piece he wrote many years ago when folks were talking about how badly the Outer Banks needed one, especially to attract visitors during the off-season.  He has retrieved it from the archives once again and here it is:

                                 Unconventional Thinking

Dear Uncle Jack,

I read in the paper the other day where a lot of experts in the tourist trade are saying that Dare County was never going to amount to anything until we got a real convention center down here. I never heard of a convention center and I was hoping you could tell me what it is.

Common Mann

Mann’s Harbor

Dear Common,

Uncle Jack will be happy to answer your question. This is something he knows a lot about because he used to go to a lot of conventions himself before he moved to the Outer Banks and stopped going anywhere. He can tell you that a convention is where a group of people who are all in the same line of work will get together someplace once a year to talk about what is new in their line of work. For example if you were in the plumbing business you would go to the plumbers convention to find out what kind of new valves or washers the Japanese have come out with since last year. Or if you are in the car business you go to find out what new engines the Japanese have come out with and so on.

That is not the only reason people go to conventions, though. Uncle Jack found out a long time ago that the main reason why many people go to conventions is that they can go someplace where nobody knows them and they can fool around a little and also take it off their income tax.

People spend a lot of money when they go to conventions which is why so many towns have convention centers now. If you want conventions to come to your town you have to have a convention center with a room big enough so everybody can sit down at one time together and eat rubber chicken and listen to boring speeches. This is how they keep from feeling too guilty about going to the convention in the first place.

Anyway if Dare County does get a convention center then maybe instead of going to some warm, sunny place like Las Vegas in January or February the way they do now, some conventions might want to come to Dare County instead.

Right off hand Uncle Jack cannot personally think of anybody in his right mind who would rather come to Dare County in the winter but there are large numbers of demented people in the U.S. so you never know. Uncle Jack has read about some people called the Polar Bear Club who go swimming in the Monongahela River every New Years Day when the temperature is usually about four degrees above zero. Maybe they would like to have their convention here in January or February.

Uncle Jack is not sure if the masochists are organized yet but if they ever have a convention they would surely want to have it here in the winter. They could do all kinds of fun things like hiking to the top of Jockey’s Ridge in the nude during a northeaster and letting the sand tear the skin off their bodies.

If you want to know the truth, though, Uncle Jack is not too crazy about the idea of having a lot of conventions around here in the winter. He kind of likes having a few weeks each year when he does not have to wait twenty minutes to make a left turn onto the bypass. Also he is worried about what will happen when the gulls start dropping their clams on the convention center parking lot when it is full of cars. Who is going to pay for all those broken windshields?

This is why Uncle Jack does not think a convention center is anything Dare County needs to rush into right now---unless they want to give him the windshield replacement concession over there.


Uncle Jack





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6:40 a.m. Pink to the east.

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Ditto to the northeast. Lots of pink across nearly the whole horizon this morning.

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The bulldozers were out in force yesterday leaving some difficult beach terrain in their wake.

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6:50. Official sunrise.

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The first step towards sunset.

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Dixie, Jada, Ted and Breeze---together again for the first time in three months. A barking good time was had by all.

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Uncle Jack's YouTube video of Breeze digging for crabs has been viewed over 1600 times. Now Jada wants to get into the act. See Breeze at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MohB4RBqpHI

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It's not too late to get a copy of Uncle Jack's Sunrise DVD before Easter. 105 glorious sunrises for $9.99 postpaid and you don't even have to get out of bed to see them. Write to Uncle Jack at yelnag@charter.net for info about how to get one. Thanks.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MohB4RBqpHI

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:15 AM

Comments [8]

Friday, March 30, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday March 30, 2007
        The penultimate (aaahhh) day of March has arrived clear and cold. (That is if you think 50 degrees is cold which Uncle Jack does after enjoying the summery temperatures of earlier this week).  There is nary a cloud in the sky which made this morning's sunrise somewhat less than thrilling.  (He is not complaining, just observing).The wind continues to whistle out of the north, pushing up waves that have chopped a little at the bulldozed faux dunes during the night. No beachwalking for Uncle Jack today, that's for sure.


     The following editorial appeared in a Wilmington, N.C. newspaper yesterday.  The editor, as would most thinking observers, looks with jaundiced eye at the recent decision by the Coastal Resources Commission to encourage building on lots created by beach renourishment projects.  As he correctly points out, this decision is likely to cost all taxpayers a bundle in the long run.




                Taking new chances on new sand

Hundreds of new houses could rise on North Carolina's renourished beaches in coming years, making lot owners and tax collectors as happy as clams in an incoming tide. The question is how long the houses can stand in that tide.

Under political pressure from local officials, landowners and developers, a unanimous N.C. Coastal Resources Commission on Friday moved to weaken one of its most prudent rules.

It required oceanfront houses to be built behind the first line of established vegetation. The line remained in place even if the beach was widened with pumped-in sand and the vegetation moved seaward.

The goal was to prevent construction dangerously close to the Atlantic's wild waves. When oceanfront houses come apart, their remains can become battering rams that smash into other buildings. Taxpayers get billed for evacuation, cleanup and the repair of roads and utility lines.

But with hundreds of lots rendered unbuildable by the setback rule, the CRC could no longer fend off a storm surge of money. There was too much money to be made by building, too much tax money to be collected. Oak Island politicians, for example, were threatening to ask the General Assembly to overrule the CRC if it didn't overrule itself.

So it did.

We are told that the new rule will require beach towns to keep pumping sand onto strands that are eroding in front of houses on formerly unbuildable lots.

But sand is sometimes scarce, and money always is.

The feds don't want to help us pay multimillion-dollar renourishment bills anymore. Even state legislators often fail to understand the logic of keeping beaches maintained - despite the fact that they probably enjoy visiting them, and the state benefits from the jobs and taxes they generate.

Maybe the weaker rule will work out just fine. But it's a gamble - and not just for the people who build on these iffy spots of sand. If they lose, we all lose.

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6:40 a.m. Ten minutes before official sunrise.

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Getting closer.

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6:52. Here to stay. Time for Uncle Jack to get out of the wind.

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Gone is the incredibly wide beach of a few days ago. Uncle Jack had to time his dash past this house to avoid getting his Crocs wet.

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Damage to the faux dunes overnight was minimal.

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This vacant soundfront lot just south of the Windmill Point restaurant may become a convention center sometime in the future. Anybody remember when it sported a roller skating rink?

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:01 AM

Comments [4]

Thursday, March 29, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Thursday March 29, 2007

    Uncle Jack made a return visit to Sparky's oceanfront deck near Pelican street this morning but what a difference a day can make.  "Paradise" is not exactly the word he would choose to describe the scene at dawn.

     Not only is it ten degrees colder than yesterday  but the wind is whistling straight out of the north and gusting up to 32 knots.  The ocean is riled up again, the pelicans and dolphins were nowhere to be seen, and neither was the sun.  Except for the excellent cup of coffee and the stimulating conversation with Sparky and Mrs. Sparky Uncle Jack might have been better off sleeping an hour longer this morning.

     He will seek shelter at the Y this morning and will further hone his already awesome free-throw shooting skills.  He read in the paper that Kobe Bryant made 34 out of 35 free throws in one stretch last week so that will be his inspiration this morning.  Swish.


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That little sliver of pink was the only indication that the sun was doing its thing this morning. The pennant at the end of Sparky's deck, limp yesterday, looked like it could take flight at any moment.

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Easter and sunrises go together. Uncle Jack modestly suggests that his sunrise DVD would make a wonderful Easter gift for friends and family---especially those who love the Outer Banks. Write him at yelnag@charter.net for info and quick delivery.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:07 AM

Comments [730]

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Wednesday March 28, 2007

      This was a special morning for Uncle Jack because he got to watch the sunrise from the deck of a (very) oceanfront house in South Nags Head. Sparky from Brooklyn made him an offer he couldn't refuse (namely to buy a couple of his sunrise DVDs and give him a cup of coffee) so this morning's pictures and video come from Sparky's deck just north of Pelican Street. 

      It is a virtually flawless morning in South Nags Head and elsewhere on the Outer Banks.  The temperature was already 70 as the sun rose into a nearly cloudless sky, the surf is gentle, the wind calm, the pelicans flying, the dolphins cruising.  It is not difficult to understand why Sparky loves this place so passionately; on a morning like this it is a small piece of paradise on earth.

      It is not always so paradisical, unfortunately.  When Sparky's house was built it was on the west side of a street that vanished years ago.  Also gone are the houses that stood east of that street as well as the protective dune that once encouraged people to build there.  Last November's freaky northeaster removed the last vestiges of the most recent bulldozed dune in front of Sparky's place and the others nearby.

     In other words the beach is moving steadily westward in response to inexorable forces of wind and tide while South Nags Head's buildings remain rooted in place (except for those that have been moved west out of harm's way or demolished either by the ocean or by the wreckers). 

    And therein lies the crux of the current argument about what should be done about this situation which boils down to another instance of man vs. nature.  Some believe that the solution lies in pumping sand from offshore onto the beaches to replace that which has washed away.  Even the proponents of this solution recognize that it will provide only temporary relief and that it will be very expensive. 

    Opponents of beach renourishment argue that the long term costs of nourishing and renourishing and renourishing (unto the end of time) are unsustainable and that it makes far more sense to adopt a strategy of retreat----removing buildings from the beach as they begin to encroach upon it and thus preserving the beach in its natural state. This, too, is recognized by its proponents and by its derogators as a temporary solution to the basic problem of the unstoppable movement of our local beaches to the west.  Sooner or later, they argue,  the ocean will be nibbling at Old Oregon Inlet Road and there isn't really anything affordable that we can do to prevent it from happening.  Why waste millions trying to do the impossible?

     In any case April 17 is going to be a very important day in the history of human settlement on the Outer Banks.  As has so often been the case, Nags Head will be leading the way---to we know not what.

P.S.  Sparky makes a great cup of coffee. Don't forget the video. Click on the YouTube link below.


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6:40 a.m.

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Ten minutes later.

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Out of the cloud bank she comes.

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Same picture with pelican obligatto.

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If you didn't like the last pelicans here's another bunch.

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Meanwhile, back on the Bypass, another desperately needed shopping center rises. Remember the Surf Slide?

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

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:39 AM

Comments [7]

Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Tuesday March 27, 2007

     It was almost balmy on the beach at dawn this morning but the sun was nowhere to be seen. "Overcast" is the operative word today.  A soft wind is blowing from the southeast bringing the aroma of burning stuff from somewhere over on the mainland.  It's not nearly as bad, though, as the period 20 or 25 years ago when forest fires and land-clearing operations frequently blanketed the Outer Banks for days at a time in air pollution worthy of downtown Manhattan.

    Uncle Jack will keep it short this morning so readers will have time to peruse the attached article from the News and Observer.  It seems that the Coastal Resources Commission, a group of folks charged by the state with writing intelligent regulations regarding coastal development, is seriously considering allowing new construction on lots that have been created through beach renourishment.  He was somewhat surprised by this even though he has watched with dismay the increasing politicization of this once-admirable body in recent years.  Read it and weep:


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This is all she wrote this morning.

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Now if you owned a copy of Uncle Jack's Sunrise DVD you could cheer yourself up by viewing over 100 glorious sunrises like this one any time. Write Uncle Jack at yelnag@charter.net to find out how to get one. They're only $9.99 and guaranteed to please.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:53 AM

Comments [5]

Monday, March 26, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday March 26, 2007

      Brisk is the operative word on the beach in South Nags Head again this morning.  A stiff wind is still blowing out of the north which makes it seem a lot colder than it really is.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. succumbed to the lure of the wide, hard, flat beach yesterday afternoon and allowed themselves to be propelled southward to the O.B. pier before returning home via the sheltered Multi-purpose Pedestrian Facility (aka sidewalk).  It was invigorating to say the least.

      After basketball practice this morning Uncle Jack will fire up his new laptop and crank out some more copies of his new DVD which contains 105 spectacular sunrises he has photographed in South Nags Head over the past four years.  Thanks to all who have already placed orders---they will be in the mail today.  (See the picture below for more info).

     It's Monday again.  Have a good one if you possibly can.  Here's a piece from the archives to help you while away a bit of time during the dregs of this afternoon:

                                 Crickets Are Our Friends

Dear Uncle Jack,

I have a problem I hope you can help me with. First I should tell you that I am not exactly what you would call a liberated woman. I have never had a real job unless you want to call raising five kids on the kind of money my husband makes picking up aluminum cans on the bypass a real job.

Anyway the kids are grown up now and I guess I don’t have a very good excuse for not going out and getting a real estate license like everybody else but I can never keep a straight face when I tell a lie so I don’t think I would be very good at real estate.

Besides I do get a lot of satisfaction out of staying home and doing housework, especially since the kids moved out and I don’t have to pick up after them any more. Cleaning is my strong suit and I am not bragging when I tell you that my house is a cinch to turn up in the Pine Sol Hall of Fame one of these days.

I always try to keep my house so clean that if President Bush and Laura should knock on my door some day and want to use the bathroom I will not be embarrassed and don’t laugh because exciting things like that have happened to ordinary housewives like myself more than once.

I have to give some credit for my clean house to my husband because he helps a lot by going up to the Burger King when he needs to go to the bathroom and that cuts my workload down at least 50% right there.

I suppose that by now you are wondering what my problem is and I am going to tell you even though it is really embarrassing to talk about it like this in public. My problem is crickets and I have tried every way I can think of to get them out of my house but they are still chirping away like crazy. Can you imagine how I would feel if Laura Bush was in the bathroom sometime and a cricket crawled out from under the plunger and hopped in her lap or something? Please help me Uncle Jack. You are my only hope.

Mrs. Clean

Nags Head

Dear Mrs. Clean,

First of all Uncle Jack will tell you that you are not alone in the cricket department. Everybody Uncle Jack knows on the Outer Banks has crickets in their house and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Also he would not be surprised if President and Mrs. Bush have crickets in their Texas ranchhouse so they are probably used to having crickets jump out in front of them at all hours of the day and night.

If you are wondering how crickets get into your house in the first place Uncle Jack would guess that your husband brings most of them in with him when he comes back from the Burger King. You might want to think about letting him use the bathroom at home, especially at night when the crickets tend to move around the most.

Nothing really works, though, so you might as well get used to having a few crickets in your house no matter what you do. Think of them as part of God’s plan for the world and try to relax and enjoy their humorous antics. That’s what Uncle Jack does and he can tell you that after he has had a few sips of Jack Daniel’s in the evening he thinks those crickets are just as funny as anything on TV with the possible exception of Fox News.

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6:55 a.m.

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Five minutes later.

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And five minutes after that. Looks like a sunny, chilly day is in store but tomorrow is supposed to be ten degrees warmer.

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Mrs. U.J. is not noted for her green thumb but her magnolia bush is thriving. (Those are magnolias, aren't they?)

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The daffodils that Uncle Jack thought had died two years ago have suddenly reappeared. The neighborhood deer apparently don't like daffodils or they would have been gone by now.

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This new mini-hotel in South Nags Head deserves some kind of prize for its anti-cookie-cutter design. If global warming inundates the Outer Banks it could be moved to the Swiss alps where it would fit right in among the chalets.

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Uncle Jack's splendid new sunrise DVD is now available. To order just send a check for $9.99, which includes mailing, to Uncle Jack Sandberg, Box 554, Nags Head, N.C. 27959. (Use PayPal if you prefer). Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:10 AM

Comments [13]

Sunday, March 25, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday March 25, 2007

     It was brisk on the beach at 7 a.m. and that's the way it's going to be all day according to the weatherperson.  The wind is blowing 20 knots out of the north and the thermometer hovers around 60 which is a major change from the summery weather that prevailed most of yesterday.

     The sunrise was hardly spectacular but Uncle Jack did make a short video of a big flock of pelicans that flew over just as he reached the beach.  There are a couple of fuzzy places in the video but it's fun to watch if you dig pelicans. Click on the YouTube link below.

     Again this morning the beach was incredibly wide and clean and flat---about as pretty as he has ever seen it in South Nags Head.  He really must get out and take a long walk this afternoon, wind or no wind.

    He was distracted yesterday afternoon by the Grand Opening of the new Staples store.  He didn't know it was happening until he walked in to get Mrs. U.J. some staples (what else?) and discovered they were practically giving stuff away such as DVD-R discs, 50 for $2.99 and jewel boxes for  DVDs, 50 for $4.00.  Just about everything in the store was 40% off which was enough to stir a budding DVD entrepreneur like Uncle Jack into a feeding frenzy. It also kept him off the beach on what was surely the prettiest afternoon of the spring so far.  It will not happen again today.

     He will, of course, be home by 5 as any Carolina fan would know.


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6:45 a.m.

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A ghostly apparition appears at 7:05

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It gets better as it goes higher.

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Here to stay at 7:10.

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Now that is a pretty beach. Vote "no" on April 17 and keep the vandals from dumping dredge spoil on it.

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Jada has gained 15 pounds in a little over a month. She will eat anything.

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Now here's a tasty morsel.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwK75qXiB1Q

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:28 AM

Comments [5]

Saturday, March 24, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday March 24, 2007

     Even though the sun barely made an appearance at sunrise it is another beautiful morning on the Outer Banks. While it probably won't get to be quite as warm as yesterday's mid-70's it will be a grand day to do outdoor things like sit on the beach and watch the birds, the waves and the porpoises.  (The bulldozers seem to be pretty much finished for the season).

      Uncle Jack is ashamed to say he spent the whole of yesterday's glorious afternoon (after his nap, that is) working on his sunrise DVD which is now almost a finished product.  The disc-burner on his new laptop suddenly decided to work and he also figured out how to print labels so by Monday he expects to have a bunch to ship to the hordes of eager buyers he knows must be waiting impatiently out there in cyberspace. 

    The disc consists of 105 selected sunrise photos he has made over the past several years---the cream of the crop so to speak.  The price is a modest $9.99 per copy postpaid.  If you would like to have a copy write to him at yelnag@charter.net and he will tell you where and how to send payment. Mrs. Uncle Jack thinks it's terrific but of course she would.  He will give you your money back if you don't think it's terrific, too.

    He apologizes for sticking this commercial into the middle of his otherwise unworldly blog and he promises not to do it too often.  Have a nice weekend wherever you are.


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7 a.m. Not too promising.

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7:05. Actual sunrise. A tiny sliver of red is visible just above the horizon.

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The sun emerged from the clouds about ten minutes later but promptly disappeared again. We probably won't see much of it today.

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There was a little color in the clouds overhead for a brief period.

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The beach is still flat and incredibly wide at low tide. The sand is smooth and perfect for walking and, unfortunately, driving.

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Uncle Jack has been watching events up in Maine where he will spend the summer. Last week's storm washed out a chunk of Main Street in Rockland, sister city of Camden. This is also Route 1, the main coastal road which carries a lot of traffic in summer.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:50 AM

Comments [5]

Friday, March 23, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday March 23, 2007

    Drop everything if you can and head for the Outer Banks.  The first full day of spring is shaping up to be nothing less than spectacular.  The sun was actually visible at sunrise and the temperature is predicted to rise into the 70's---even warmer than yesterday.  Hallelujah.

     If you can't drop everything and head for the Outer Banks today Uncle Jack offers you his deepest sympathy.  He knows how you feel because there was a time when he didn't live here either and he remembers how he suffered. 

     Anyway he made a short video this morning from the beach at the new, improved Surfside Drive.  In the absence of wind the surf sounds are lovely.  If you have three minutes take a look.  It may help assuage your longing to be here, or it may be sheer torture.  You decide.

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6:45 a.m.

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7:10 The first of two sunrises this morning as the sun climbed over a bank of clouds on the horizon.

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Here's the other one about ten minutes later.

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The beach north of Surfside Drive is phenomenally wide at low tide these days. Good time for the Visitors' Bureau to come and take pictures for next year's brochure.

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Uncle Jack has no idea why this group of ten-year-olds was out on the beach at dawn. He has a hunch it wasn't voluntarily.

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Some assembly was required for this new see-saw. Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. dunnit. Only took them about three hours. Sophia (left) and Isabella obviously enjoyed it and it was still intact after an hour of rigorous testing.

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Uncle Jack sincerely hopes that these placards popping up all over the place will turn out to be a waste of money. At least it won't be his.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9AHq1bFFbI

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:01 AM

Comments [6]

Thursday, March 22, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Thursday March 22, 2007

     Yet another sunless sunrise this morning.  Looks like the sun may appear above the clouds in an hour or two but Uncle Jack was not about to wait around for that.  Apparently a warm front passed through during the night because it's already 60 F at 7 a.m. and predicted to go even higher today. Unlike yesterday there is almost no wind and the ocean is almost calm.

     Yesterday's big blow and the resultant high tides have swept the beach clean leaving a wide, flat expanse of firm sand that makes walking a pleasure.  (It's a great day to sell oceanfront houses, for sure). He will try to take advantage of the opportunity this afternoon.  Pictures at 11.

    The story reprinted below arrived in his inbox yesterday from the News-Journal of Wilmington.  It looks like Dare County and Nags Head hired the wrong lobbyists because Bethany Beach up in Delaware has managed to come up with $17.4 million from the feds to rebuild their beach.  Read it and weep:

Even on the best of days, Bethany's beach is so narrow it is beginning to worry Mayor Carol Olmstead.

At high tide, waves roll under the boardwalk and around the stilts that support some houses.

But armed with the promise of $17.4 million in new federal dollars for a massive beach reconstruction project in Bethany Beach and South Bethany, Olmstead is breathing a little easier.

"It has really begun to be a public safety problem," she said.

Officials on Tuesday cheered a lobbying effort that landed federal funds to help pay for the $25 million beach reconstruction, expected to start right after Labor Day weekend, despite a Bush administration that has little interest in paying for such work.

But others question using tax dollars to bulk up beaches that face the forces of erosion, and asked why the state does not force private beaches -- which benefit from the projects -- to be opened to the public.

The controversy lies on Delaware's coast, which stretches 24 miles from the tip of Cape Henlopen to the Maryland state line at Fenwick Island, and consists of five municipal beaches, miles of state park and some beaches that are off-limits to the public.

John Flaherty, with the Delaware office of Common Cause, points to Sea Colony -- the private resort between South Bethany and Bethany Beach -- which will "piggyback" on the state and federal project.

To replenish the beach, which is restricted to residents and their guests or renters, private communities pay a set fee based on the cost to pump and move the sand onto the beach.

But, Flaherty said, those residents pay nothing for the sand -- nor do they contribute to the cost of mobilizing and setting up the equipment.

Anthony Pratt, the state shoreline and waterway administrator, said there is an advantage in having private communities participate. The sand on the private beaches will eventually spread to other beaches.

For instance, sand pumped onto beaches at Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach eventually contribute to the sand supply at Gordons Pond and Cape Henlopen State Park.

Ocean View-area resident William Winkler has a different complaint. While he agrees that something must be done at Bethany, he believes area landowners -- many of whom live out of state -- should contribute more to the project.

Winkler said that in the earliest days of state-funded beach renourishments, local communities did contribute.

Financing beach repairs

The federal share of this project is 65 percent, or $17.4 million. Delaware will contribute the balance of about $7.6 million. The state share comes from an 8 percent tax levied on hotel, motel and inn rooms. One percent of that tax -- about $2 million each year -- goes to a dedicated fund for beach renourishment.

By any standard, the project is massive. Hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sand will be pumped from an off-shore bar to create a dune and beach that would stretch 200 feet. The project is one of the most expensive beach repairs ever undertaken in Delaware.

But it's not a permanent fix.

John Hughes, secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said global warming and a rising sea level pose formidable challenges.

Replenishing what nature takes can work "for a while. Can you do it forever? Absolutely not," he said.

The question is how long to spend money to keep a beach that is the state's top tourism draw and an economic engine.

At the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies, George Parsons, a professor, is examining how to answer that question.

He is coming up with a model that will track the economic value of the beaches.

"I'll also be able to use the model to predict visitation and changes in visitation," Parsons said.

For now, however, state and federal officials say there is value in a wide beach.

"Is it worth it? Yes," Hughes said. "So far."

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

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Misty morning. 6:45 a.m.

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Mist to the north. (Look at the size of that beach)

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And mist to the south.

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This is what passed for sunrise at 7:05 a.m.

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Jim Morris and the welcoming committee, Dixie and Jada, loom up in the mist.

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The dogs could have had a ball chasing the deer that had been cavorting on the beach a bit earlier. Judging from the number and distribution of tracks there were probably four in the herd.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:59 AM

Comments [12]

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Wednesday March 21, 2007

     Another sunless sunrise this morning.  Uncle Jack walked up to the beach, took one quick picture of the dark clouds, and then let the 22 mph northeast wind propel him back down Whitecap street.  What a change from yesterday afternoon when he walked on the beach in a T-shirt.

     He and his brother Don, also known as "Deadeye Don", held their long-awaited shootout at the YMCA Corral yesterday morning.  After a brief warmup they shot several rounds of ten shots each in which neither of them could make more than seven.  You could hardly tell them from NBA players at that point.  Then in the climactic series Uncle Jack made 9 out of 10 and thought he had it sewed up.  Little Brother Don, now also known as "Minnesota Fats", stepped calmly up to the line and sank ten in a row to walk off with family bragging rights---at least until next year. Uncle Jack had been hustled by the best. 

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On the beach at 7 a.m. The surf is building propelled by a stiff wind out of the northeast this morning.

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Don "Minnesota Fats" Sandberg warming up for the big shootout. He comes by his nickname honestly after three months of pigging out at the Golden Corral's "all-you-can-eat" buffet in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:04 AM

Comments [6]

Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Tuesday March 20, 2007

    Uncle Jack is sorry to report there was no sunrise this morning and he would not be surprised if he doesn't see the sun all day.  It's 20 degrees warmer than yesterday at 7 a.m. but that doesn't really compensate fully for the absence of the sun. Sunrise just isn't sunrise without the sun.

     The tide is exceptionally low this morning but not quite as low as yesterday afternoon.  Uncle Jack didn't see it himself but reliable witnesses said the rarely seen peat beds that are normally offshore were exposed.  He saw them once five years ago and took pictures but lost them when the hard drive on his computer crashed.  On that occasion a number of cypress stumps were also uncovered at the edge of the surf.

     Some of the touristy things that he and his guests from Minnesota did yesterday afternoon are revealed in the pictures below. More excitement lies ahead today, including visiting the First Church of Harris Teeter. Mrs. Uncle Jack will be babysitting tonight so he will be cooking dinner---his justifiably world famous Swedish Lasagna. Pictures at 11.

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7:10 a.m. The sun is presumably back there somewhere.

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The old Oregon Inlet Coast Guard station grows more picturesque each year. So far nobody has been able to make some money out of it so it molders.

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The eight foot barbwire-topped chainlink fence has acted like a sand fence in several places, providing easy access for vandals.(or even Goths)

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Some lovely dunes have built up behind the rock groin which protects the south end of the Bonner Bridge.

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This tire was part of an ill-fated experimental reef made of tires that was sunk off the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. It is breaking apart and often the tires travel all the way to the Outer Banks before washing up.

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The tire came to rest in front of this house on Seagull Drive which has taken the place of the departed KooKoo's Nest on the front line.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:03 AM

Comments [9]

Monday, March 19, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday March 19, 2007

    It was near freezing on the beach this morning but the wind was calm and the temperature is supposed to rise into the mid-50's by noon so Uncle Jack is not complaining.  The sunrise was a carbon copy of yesterday's but he did make a short video of Daisy, Dixie and Jada cavorting in the surf as the sun popped over the horizon which  dog lovers might especially enjoy.  Click on the YouTube link below.

    Uncle Jack and guests went to visit the Elizabethan Gardens yesterday afternoon but he forgot to take his camera.  He can tell you that even in March the Gardens are lovely and he will try not to wait 25 years to see it again.

    Have a nice Monday if you possibly can. 

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Ten minutes later.

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Brother Don's Minnesota Mercury felt right at home with a coating of frost this morning.

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Pelicans were on the move again this morning.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kPCpoaupBE

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:45 AM

Comments [2]

Sunday, March 18, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday March 18, 2007

    It's still cold in Nags Head this morning (39 F at 7 a.m.) but both the wind and the ocean have calmed down a lot from yesterday so walking on the beach later today should be a pleasure.

    Uncle Jack made a short video this morning featuring a flock of pelicans heading north just before sunrise.  Lots of bird action and lovely surf sounds.  Go for it if you have three minutes to spare from shoveling snow (and/or watching basketball games) today. Click on the YouTube link below.

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7 a.m. Nary a cloud in the sky except at the horizon.

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Yesterday's high tide line is marked by seaweed.

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Uncle Jack wanted to walk down the beach to say hello to Jada the Pup but a heavily sandbagged house was in the way.

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7:15 The sun finally tops the clouds and should have smooth sailing from here on.

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The Dunes Restaurant in Nags Head is up and running for another season. Presumably the folks who put up the sign will be back to make corrections before this gaffe gets too embarrassing.

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Uncle Jack spotted a snowbird in his driveway this morning. Fortunately his brother Don and wife Idelle brought some of their winter clothes with them.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwS0uV82O44

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:49 AM

Comments [7]

Saturday, March 17, 2007
Unrise (again) in Sonag, Saturday March 17, 2007

     Uncle Jack could have stood in bed this morning, sunrise wise, but if he had he would have missed the always thilling sight of the ocean in turmoil.  Something offshore is kicking up some substantial waves and the northwest wind is blowing their tops off in spectacular fashion.  The temperature is back down into the 30's so he didn't stay long.  He did make a short video that captures a little of the wild feeling of the scene.  He almost dropped his camera at one point as a wave crashed into the stairway he was standing on.

      If you live in the storm belt----happy shoveling. It can be a wonderfully healthy way to spend a weekend.  Uncle Jack knows.

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Looking north at 7 a.m.

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The sun is supposed to be over there somewhere.

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He should have worn his waders this morning. This stairway is at the foot of Whitecap street near the 17.5 milepost in South Nags Head.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veH6nL15VXI

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:14 AM

Comments [5]

Friday, March 16, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Friday March 16, 2007


  Uncle Jack dutifully walked up to the beach this morning at 7 but he didn't hang around to watch the sunrise which obviously wasn't going to happen anyway.  South Nags Head is blanketed in fog this morning, no doubt due to the precipitous drop in temperature last night.  Suffice it to say that it is cold and nasty with the wind back where it belongs, out of the northeast.  March weather is nothing if not fickle.

   A picture story from yesterday's Coastland Times, reprinted below, was a source of great amusement to Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. who have been trying to follow a heart-healthy diet for the past four years or so.  Read it and weep. 

    Also shown below is a scan of one side of a colorful postcard Uncle Jack recently received from an organization called "Protect Nags Head" which is mounting a propaganda campaign aimed at convincing Nags Head residents to vote for a new tax to raise money for a $32 million beach renourishment program.  Judging from this postcard you would hardly guess that the Nags Head beach was recently honored by a national travel organization as the best family destination in all of America.

     The picture itself is, to put it mildly, totally distorted and dishonest.  The large house on the right known as "KooKoo's Nest" was moved off the beach years ago to a safer location on the west side of Old Oregon Inlet Road.  The post-storm trash shown in the picture was cleaned up quickly as it is after every storm and the beach in that area is now wide enough to accommodate many beachgoers even at high tide. That part of the Seagull Drive area is actually a shining example of the benefits of "retreat" as a strategy for coping with the inexorable westward movement of the Outer Banks but you would never know it from this postcard.

    Expect more of this sort of thing to show up in your mailbox and in the newspapers between now and the referendum on April 19.  A lot of money is at stake and that always seems to bring out the worst in people.



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7 a.m. looking east.

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Ditto, looking south.

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Ditto looking north. Uncle Jack is outta here.

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Hard to believe that this picture was taken yesterday afternoon.

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Uncle Jack can't decide if this story was written straight or with tongue in cheek. In the Coastland Times it's often hard to tell.

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This postcard was recently mailed to Nags Head voters by a pro-beach-nourishment organization called "Protect Nags Head". Expect more of the same in the run-up to April 17.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:14 AM

Comments [14]

Thursday, March 15, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Thursday March 15, 2007
    The ides of March are upon us. Uncle Jack feels a bit like the late Julius Caesar this morning after spending a large part of yesterday getting acquainted with his new laptop.  He isn't exactly dead yet but he is worn out from the stress of learning that two of the three DVD production programs on the machine he bought for the purpose of producing DVD slide shows do not seem to work. There is a faint possibility, of course, that he is doing something wrong and he will tempt madness again today trying to figure out what it could be.

     He almost didn't make it to the beach this morning because he and Mrs. U.J. stayed up until after midnight watching the Mavericks and the Suns, two of the best teams in NBA history, play one of the most exciting games they have ever seen.  For a Steve Nash aficionado like Uncle Jack it was a glorious three hours.  The little guy scored over 30 points, including buzzer-beating threes at the end of regulation and again at the end of the first overtime, made a large number of the amazing passes for which he is famous, and almost singlehandedly prevented the Suns from losing.  (Amare Stoudemire's 41 points didn't hurt either). The Mavericks lost when Dirk Nowitzki's fadeaway jumper clanked off the front of the rim with less than a second to play in the second overtime.   He also missed two crucial free throws near the end that would have cinched the game for the Mavs.  Obviously they need Uncle Jack out there in Dallas.                                                                        Sunrise this morning was definitely an anti-climax, even less colorful than yesterday when the sun played hide-and-seek in the clouds all day.  It was more of the same this morning as the pictures show but with temperatures in the 60's at dawn nobody was heard to complain.  Audrey the bird maven spotted a black-headed gull which she says is a sure sign of spring.  Nobody complained about that either.

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7:10 a.m. Almost a carbon copy of yesterday.

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7:25 A brief glimpse of a shred of sun.

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7:30 The celestial striptease continues.

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7:35. The anti-climax.

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Renters of this cottage will face a moral dilemma every time they go to and from the beach---until the next northeaster anyway.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:30 AM

Comments [8]

Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Wednesday March 14, 2007

   Almost 60 degrees on the beach at 7 a.m.  If this be spring let us have more of it.  The sun made a brief appearance at 7:18 and then promptly disappeared behind  the heavy clouds that cover every square inch of the sky this morning.

     Uncle Jack made a very short video of the peculiar sunrise which he recommends for the lovely sounds and sights of waves crashing upon the shore.  Go for it if you have a minute to spare by clicking on the YouTube link below.  (Viacom has sued Google for a billion dollars for copyright violations on YouTube so you had best take a look while you still can).

By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press Writer Sun Mar 11, 12:56 PM ET

CANCUN, Mexico - Cancun and Mother Nature are at war again.


Mexico spent $19 million to replace beaches washed away by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, but erosion has shrunk Cancun's sandy playground to the point where waves at high tide lap against some hotel patios.

To bring tourists pouring back after Hurricane Wilma, the ocean floor was dredged to rebuild eight miles of beach, nearly double their pre-hurricane size, and hotels were refurbished.

Just a year after the grand refurbishment was completed, the beaches have shrunk again, from 100 feet to less than 70 feet at mid-tide in the tourist zone, and swimmers are forced to clamber down 3-foot drops in the sand level to reach the water.

Most sections of beach remain about as wide as before the hurricane hit, although some are less — barely 30 feet wide — and the sea is relentlessly munching away at what's left, said biologist Alfredo Arellano, Yucatan director for the government's Commission for Natural Protected Areas.

Officials, developers and investors foresaw erosion and are preparing for a long-term response. They plan a public-private fund for future beach restorations, and an artificial reef to help contain the sand. Meanwhile, sandbags line some beaches and large, cloth-like tubes have been installed offshore.

But environmentalists see no point as long as hotels continue building at the water's edge and ripping out vegetation whose roots once helped to hold the sand in place. They are lobbying for a belt of native plants and walking paths, to separate hotels from beaches, even in places already developed.

"The type of construction that is going on is causing the beaches to erode at a much faster pace," said Patricio Martin, director of the Quintana Roo chapter of the Mexican Center for Environmental Rights.

Cancun has experienced a building boom since Wilma washed away beach and exposed rocks.

Hotel owners responded by giving Cancun its biggest makeover yet — a high-speed, $1.5 billion effort that brought the area back to No. 2 on this year's list of top spring break destinations, after slipping to No. 8 last year.

The Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau says beaches typically erode in winter, when wind and currents are strongest, and that the shore returns to normal the rest of the year.

Environmentalists, however, say erosion has worsened ever since the 1970s, when the Mexican government began converting the long sandbar with coconut farms into the nation's top resort.

Developers blocked the barrier island's natural channels linking the sea to the lagoon on its inland side. The result: Currents that once flowed gently in and out now slam into the land and suck the sand back out into the sea.

"It's very difficult to replicate the coast's natural dynamic. There's no way to know how it's going to react," Martin said.

Nevertheless, tourists seem pleased with the Cancun they see today. While students still flock to wet-T-shirt contests, booze cruises and get-naked-in-public events, the Caribbean city has changed dramatically into a more sophisticated resort of swanky spa hotels that attract couples and families.

"Every palm tree is new," said Antonio Pitta, Latin America director for Cheaptickets.com and Orbitz.com. "It's a brand new product."

Janet Ricciuti, 47, a funeral service executive from Victoria, British Colombia, said the sand is a little brown and there are more shells and kelp than in the past.

"But it's still lovely," said Ricciuti, enjoying the blazing sun as the turquoise waters washed at her feet. "Anything is better than the rain" back home.

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7:10 a.m.

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7:25 a.m. Now you see it now you don't.

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Harbinger of spring. The first volleyball net in South Nags Head.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtXYP9kDs1I

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:41 AM

Comments [5]

Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday March 13, 2007

   Uncle Jack has too much on his plate this morning to say much more than that it looks like a spectacular springlike day is in store for the Outer Banks today.  The sunrise was lovely, the wind calm, the beach flat and the temperature heading for the low 60's by noon.

    It's also Senior Citizen Discount Day at the First Church of Harris-Teeter which will cut into his basketball practice period this morning so there is no time left for him to bloviate about anything.

    Tomorrow is another day.  See you then.

P.S.  He did make a short video of this morning's sunrise which is quite watchable if you can spare 90 seconds of your valuable time.

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7:10 a.m.

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7:15 a.m.

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

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:38 AM

Comments [6]

Monday, March 12, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday March 12, 2007

    It's cold and windy on the beach this morning (hopefully for the last time this week) but the sunrise was pretty enough to compensate for the icy conditions.  The pictures don't really do it justice but they do convey some sense of what the sky looked like between 7:00 and 7:30.

     Something resembling spring weather is predicted for the next three days with a high around 70 by Wednesday.  Amazon has informed Uncle Jack that his new laptop has been shipped and is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.  How he will resolve this dilemma remains to be seen.

     "March Madness" is upon us once more and so far Uncle Jack has managed to ignore it, thus freeing up enormous amounts of time for more rewarding cultural pursuits, like reading a fascinating biography of Thomas Jefferson called "American Sphinx" by Joseph J. Ellis.  As a longtime graduate student at the U. of Virginia (seven years from start to finish) he was exposed continually to the myth of Jefferson as God which permeates that hallowed ground.  Ellis's well-researched take on the great man provides a somewhat broader view of Jefferson the Man which Uncle Jack finds refreshing.

     He must have been in a grouchy mood when he wrote the following piece about the NCAA basketball tournament during a visit to New Orleans some years ago. (Devoted students of the game will be able to deduce exactly what year it was from the evidence presented).  He hasn't bothered to update it because the sentiments expressed haven't changed even though the winners and losers this year are different.  It's still madness and it's worse than ever.

New Orleans has worked hard over the past 200 years to achieve its reputation as America's most decadent and morally bankrupt city. It is only fitting therefore that Uncle Jack's favorite town should have hosted the finals of this year's NCAA basketball tournament---arguably the most decadent and morally bankrupt event in the calendar of this country's "institutions of higher education" (which they still like to call themselves spite of mounting evidence to the contrary).

This extravagant show---known to basketball nuts as the "Final Four"--- is the culmination of a long season stretching over many months of the so-called "academic year" during which teams of so-called "student athletes" spend most of their time practicing, travelling, and playing hyped-up games to the almost total neglect of their so-called "studies". It is one of the major television events of the year, generates huge profits for the participating "institutions of higher learning", and sends professional gamblers into a feeding frenzy.

Having mislaid his personal moral compass decades ago Uncle Jack cheerfully admits that he normally loves to watch the "Final Four" as well as the lengthy series of contests which lead up to it, known collectively as "March Madness" in basketball lingo. In fact he rushed back from London (where this peculiar manifestation American absurdity is treated with supreme indifference) so he could watch the "Sweet Sixteen" evolve into the "Elite Eight" who then metamorphosed into the "Final Four" last weekend.

As it turned out he needn't have bothered. Something terrible happened on the way to the orgy in New Orleans this year which he thought was impossible---not a single one of his favorite teams survived to the last round. Not Duke, not Maryland, not Wake Forest---not even Wisconsin. How could Uncle Jack possibly care about who won the tournament when he is reduced to rooting for the likes of Texas (home of the twin disasters, Enron and Dubya), Syracuse (even though it is Mrs. UJ's alma mater), Kansas (Kansas?), and Marquette (granted, it is in Wisconsin but barely).

He hopes that his deep disappointment with the college basketball season will be somewhat assuaged by the forthcoming National Basketball Association playoffs which will occupy an indefensible amount of his leisure time for the next couple of months. The professional teams (distinguished from the college teams primarily by the fact that they are paid "over the table" so to speak) are in the final throes of their ridiculously long regular season, the only point of which is to determine which teams will get into the playoffs leading to the championship and further enrichment. As sophisticated and world-weary as he is Uncle Jack confesses to amazement at the obscene amounts of money that many professional basketball players are paid for their often dubious services. While watching the New Orleans Hornets play the Washington Wizards this winter in the Big Easy, he learned that a moderately talented New Orleans player named Baron Davis (who is often sidelined by a gimpy leg) has a ten-year contract worth $84 million. This, of course, pales into insignificance when compared to the total remuneration of the real star of that game---Michael Jordan---who could probably afford to buy a pair of Nike Air Jordans for every man, woman and child on earth and still have a few million bucks left over for jewelry.

Anyway he will put aside his envy for a few weeks while he watches a few dozen of the finest athletes in the world do what they do best, namely to cause an inflated ball to pass through an iron hoop suspended ten feet above the floor, and to prevent their opponents from doing the same, no matter what it takes.

     Shame on him.

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7:10 a.m.

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Ditto, looking south toward the Outer Banks pier.

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Dixie and Jada doing their morning rough-and-tumble. Just watching them play is exhausting. A few more weeks and Jada will outweigh Dixie by 20 pounds.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:07 AM

Comments [4]

Sunday, March 11, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday March 11, 2007

      At 7 a.m. (formerly known as 6 a.m.) it didn't look like there would be a sunrise this morning because of the masses of black clouds on the eastern horizon.  Uncle Jack walked up to the beach anyway and was rewarded by a brief glimpse of sunlight before Old Sol ducked back into the clouds.  The flat beach and lack of wind augur well for a pleasant Sunday stroll on the sand later in the day (before the Mavericks play the Lakers on TV).   

       He did make a short video this morning which is especially notable for its surf sounds which are clear and free of wind noise clutter.  The picture is not bad either if he says so himself.  Click on the YouTube link below to watch it.

     Uncle Jack mentioned yesterday that he looked at laptop computers while he was in Raleigh and Durham on Thursday and Friday.   He had hoped that he would find helpful, knowledgeable sales representatives who could demonstrate for him the DVD slide show-making capabilities of various machines so he could make an intelligent decision based on hands-on experience. In fact it turned out to be an exercise in futility.

     He started at a "Best Buy" which sported a bewildering display of laptops from many makers in all price ranges.  Several employees stood in one corner chatting while Uncle Jack fondled one shiny new keyboard after another only to learn that all were in some kind of "lockdown" mode that prevented him from learning anything that he really wanted to know.  He managed to attract the attention of one "busy" clerk who informed him that he did not have authority to take any of the machines out of "lockdown"  for which he did not seem to be even slightly apologetic.

     Uncle Jack moved on to the Dell kiosk in the Southpoint mall where an eager attendant leaped to his assistance as soon as he began to finger the keyboard of an Inspiron 1501 but his hopes for a real learning experience were quickly dashed.  The Inspiron was also in "parental guidance mode" from which the salesman was not permitted to extricate it.  Uncle Jack did learn, however, that it would have cost much more to buy that particular model then and there than it would if he went home and ordered it from Dell online.

      Which is what he did except that he decided to take advantage of an offer by Hewlett Packard through Amazon whereby he acquired a Vista equipped notebook with 1 GB of memory and a 120 GB hard drive with a super DVD burner for considerably less than a comparably equipped Dell.  It should arrive on Wednesday or Thursday and Uncle Jack hasn't been so excited since he got a new bicycle for his birthday in 1938.

     With any luck it will have  DVD-making software that is simple enough for him to understand.  He has assembled a collection of 108 of his best sunrise pictures of the past four years and he is eager to get it onto a DVD.  Stay tuned. 

     P.S.  New York Times technology writer David Pogue did an interesting piece on computer stores which you will find at this link:


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7:10 a.m.

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Ten minutes later.

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And two minutes after that.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xI9NoBSBOks

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:57 AM

Comments [10]

Saturday, March 10, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Saturday,March 10, 2007

     Uncle Jack has been in Raleigh and Durham for the past couple of days which was enough to renew his appreciation for the Outer Banks in winter.  All the roads over there are like the bypass in August all the time which is enough to drive a person crazy after a while.  No wonder the  legislature is so wacky.               

 He makes up for the general unpleasantness of his occasional visits to the Triangle by engaging in several sinful eating rituals which are marked departures from his usual heart-healthy diet.  He never fails to ingest at least one pecan waffle drenched in syrup and butter at one of the several hundred waffle shops in the Raleigh area.  He always consumes at least one junior bacon cheeseburger at the Wendy's in Knightdale, and for dessert he stops at Norm's ice cream parlor in Plymouth where he downs one of Norm's incredible $1.50  cones with one scoop of mint chocolate chip and one of buttered pecan.  He should tell you that if you have not yet discovered Norm's shop in old downtown Plymouth you have missed an extraordinary experience. A true time warp. Next time you find yourself passing through Plymouth make a pilgrimage to Norm's and then carry your dripping cone over to the riverfront park nearby and admire the remarkable replica of the Rebel Ram "Albemarle".  It's a heady combination of delights that is sure to bring you back to Plymouth again and again. There is no other reason to go there unless you enjoy inhaling paper mill exudates.

     While he was in Raleigh Uncle Jack spent several hours looking at laptop computers.  This was an interesting and revealing experience which he will elucidate tomorrow.  Have a pleasant weekend if you possibly can. 

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6:15 a.m.

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6:21 a.m. Official sunrise. Hardly worth getting up for in itself but the total ambience of the beach made up for the puniness of the sunrise.

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Not too thrilling but still far more impressive than sunrise over the parking lot of the Homestead Suites motel in Raleigh.

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The sandbaggers are coming to this house near Whitecap street.

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The super-stairway in front of this cottage is almost finished. Will it survive the next northeaster? Stay tuned.

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Jada the Pup, looking guilty after consuming a forbidden substance. She will eat absolutely anything with gusto.

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The Tyson Farms chicken operation near Roper, revealed by its proximity to the new Hiway 64, sprawls like this over hundreds of acres and is growing all the time.

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It goes on for miles and contains an uncountable number of these steel buildings. Chicken condos apparently.

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The new 4-lane hiway between Plymouth and Columbia has sprouted dozens of these massive billboards already with more going up all the time. That area is beginning to resemble highway 158 in Currituck at its worst. We humans do love to foul our nests.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:59 AM

Comments [2]

Thursday, March 8, 2007
What makes the sun look red at sunrise and Sunset

     Uncle Jack is traveling this morning and unable to post his usual sunrise pictures.  Reader Steve Thomas sent him this interesting piece about sunrises and sunsets which he herewith passes on for the edification of all who have time to read it:

Probing Question: What gives the sunrise and sunset its orange glow?

Photo: iStock

By Meghan Holohan
Research Penn State

In Key West, Fla., tourists flock to Mallory Square at the end of the day to watch the sun set. Street performers entertain waiting crowds with magic and vendors sell souvenirs of the daily sunset celebration. Flashes click as tourists try to capture the beautiful orange sun as it disappears behind the sparkling blue ocean.

In almost every location around the globe, the sky appears orange at sunrise and sunset. What causes this colorful phenomenon?

Sunlight is composed of a multicolored spectrum, just like a rainbow, explained Jon Nese, senior lecturer in meteorology at Penn State. Combined together, its different wavelengths are perceived as white light when they enter the Earth's atmosphere.

That atmosphere is made up of a mixture of gaseous molecules, mostly nitrogen and oxygen, with some water vapor and trace gases thrown in. These molecules, clumped more densely close to Earth where the atmosphere is thickest, create tiny obstacles for traveling light waves to navigate.

The light at the longest wavelengths -- red, orange and yellow -- sails more easily over these atmospheric speed bumps, while the shorter blue and violet rays get bounced left and right as they journey towards us, in a process called "scattering."

At "solar noon," when the sun appears at its highest point in the daytime sky, light reaches us most directly, passing through less atmosphere on the way, reducing the scattering effect. When the spectrum remains together, the light people see is the familiar yellowish-white look of sunshine.

But as the Earth turns during the day and the sun drops toward the horizon, sunbeams enter the atmosphere at a slant and pass through a denser swath of air before they reach us. "When the short rays at the violet and blue end of the spectrum are deflected out in all directions, they can't get to our eyes," Nese noted, "while the orange and red wavelengths dominate our perception of the sky's color."

While people in Key West almost always view orange sunsets, residents in heavily populated cities often see red. That's due to pollution in the air, said Nese. Older residents of Donora, a town on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, recall beautiful red sunsets at the height of coke production decades ago, due to the coal dust in the air.

Pollution particles are larger than the molecules of atmospheric gases, Nese explained. Even orange and yellow light waves have a hard time passing through. Red, which is composed of the longest wavelengths in the visible spectrum, is the most successful at streaming past the particles, creating a scarlet sky.

Volcanic activity can produce the same effect. In April of 1982, sunrises and sunsets were fiery red across most of the United States after the El Chichon volcano erupted in Mexico, spewing ash clear into the stratosphere. Red rays were the only visible light rays long enough to slice through the clouds of dense ash and sulfur dioxide.

While science has unlocked the secrets of the sky's many shades, "to many, the scientific explanation is secondary," Nese admitted.

"There's something magical, even mysterious, about it because the colors only appear near sunrise and sunset, and few people really understand why."

Jon M. Nese is senior lecturer in meteorology in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. He can be reached at nese@meteo.psu.edu via e-mail.

For more Probing Questions and other features about research at Penn State, subscribe to Research Penn State at http://www.rps.psu.edu/cgi-bin/subscribe.cgi online.

  Emily Rowlands


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Here's another sample from Uncle Jack's soon-to-be released collection of sunsets from his archive on DVD.

posted by Uncle Jack at 5:50 AM

Comments [2]

Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, March 7, 2007

     Uncle Jack's fingers are still frozen after a half hour on the beach this morning but he will fumble away at the keyboard anyway.  The ferocious wind of yesterday has calmed down to a mere 7 knots but the air is still cold enough to give his Sony Cyber-shot fits.  He made a short video this morning of the very pretty sunrise but it's fuzzy in spots.  Worth looking at if you don't have anything better to do at work today.

     Uncle Jack will continue his relentless practice this morning for the free-throw shooting contest in the Senior Games coming up in April.  His learning curve continues to rise as demonstrated by the fact that he made 28 out of 30 shots in one streak yesterday.  Unless Rick Barry comes out of retirement he should have a lock on the 75-79 age group by April 20. (That is, if he doesn't choke).

    Have a nice day wherever you are.

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6:20 a.m. Five minutes before actual sunrise.

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6:25. Right on the money. Except for the little sliver at the horizon the rest of the sky is completely clouded over.

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Dixie the lab never has a dull moment when Jada the malamute puppy is around.

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Mrs. U.J. treads carefully through a no-man's-land of bulldozer ruts Tuesday afternoon.

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Uncle Jack is compiling a DVD of his favorite sunrise shots from the past few years---at least a hundred of them---of which this is one. He will let you know when its ready if anybody would like to have a copy.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:15 AM

Comments [8]

Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Tuesday March 6, 2007

     When he checked the weather website at 6 this morning Uncle Jack decided to let discretion be the better part of valor, which is a fancy way to say he chickened out.  With the wind gusting out of the north at 30 knots and a true temperature of 39 F he decided the beach was no place he wanted to be this morning.  Besides, the sky is clear and it looks like the sunrise will be a carbon copy of yesterday's.  If this be cowardice then so be it.  (He can hear the ghost of Nellie Myrtle Pridgen, who walked the beach in all weathers, chastising him for his weakness but he is still not leaving the house).

     What a difference a day makes. It was so beautiful yesterday afternoon that he and Mrs. U.J. were compelled to go forth into the sunlight.  It wasn't exactly warm but the wind was slight, the ocean calm and the beach flat and hard---perfect for walking up to the Comfort Inn and back. Pictures below.

    Uncle Jack has mentioned that once again he has begun the agonizing process of selecting a new laptop from amongst the bewildering array of choices now available on the market.  He has done this before, of course, but the process is no less challenging than it was when he wrote this piece several years ago:

                                To Buy or Not to Buy

It is almost exactly two years since Uncle Jack started thinking about buying his first computer which is probably why he has started thinking about buying his second computer. Everybody told him that two years was about as long as you could own a computer before it became hopelessly obsolete and now he knows what they meant.

Actually Uncle Jack’s computer is not exactly obsolete for him. It still does everything he needs it to do and every day he is learning new things it can do which amaze him. It is much smarter than he is, that’s for sure. But it is still obsolete in the absolute sense of the word and that is why he is thinking about buying a new one.

For one thing if he had a new computer he could do everything much faster than he does now, and when you get to be as old as Uncle Jack this becomes very important. Instead of waiting for two minutes for somebody’s web page to load he would only have to wait one minute or even less if he had a new computer. This may not seem like much to somebody who does not have computer but he can tell you the difference between one minute and two minutes when you are sitting in front of a computer is like the difference between a Ford Fiesta and a Ferrari when you are trying to get to the ABC store before it closes. At his age Uncle Jack has only so many downloads left and the more he can cram in the better as far as he is concerned.

Also if he got a new computer it would have a bigger screen which could help a lot to keep him from going blind before his time. His laptop has a tiny little screen which he actually never noticed for the first year-and-a-half but now he realizes it is undignified for a person of Uncle Jack’s station in life to have to squint the way he does with his little laptop.

Also the keyboard of his laptop is too small for his large, arthritic hands. He is forever touching the wrong keys which causes strange things to happen such as making everything he has written for the past 20 minutes disappear into cyberspace, never to be seen again except maybe by somebody at the CIA.

Uncle Jack is not the kind of person who can be talked into buying something he doesn’t really need but he has to say the various computer companies have done an excellent job of keeping him informed about all the latest improvements and he can see how he could actually lead a richer and fuller life than he currently does if he had a new computer.

For one thing he could listen to music on his computer while he is doing his email which could come in very handy whenever the  NPR station goes dead for any reason or if he didn’t want to listen to the same Car Talk twice in the same weekend.

There are many other reasons why Uncle Jack should probably get a new computer which he does not have time to enumerate and the reason he does not have time is that he needs all the time he can spare to figure out which new computer he should buy. Last time he bought a Gateway because it was out in South Dakota and Uncle Jack liked to call up their technicians just to hear people who talk like he does.

He read in the paper where Gateway has moved its head office to San Diego because they could not find any top executives who wanted live in South Dakota so now they have lost their main advantage as far as Uncle Jack is concerned. He might just as well buy his computer from somebody in Texas if he can get a few more gigabytes for the same amount of money.

Anyway he wants to make it crystal clear that he has not absolutely made up his mind that he is going to get a new computer. He is thinking about it, that’s all. That does not necessarily mean that he is going to get one.



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This is something you don't see very often. A flat, calm ocean in March.

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It complements this flat, windless, sidewalk-hard beach. Plenty of room for everybody yesterday afternoon.

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Same thing going south, too.

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The only other human being we saw was totally preoccupied with his cell phone. Talking to God, perhaps, or maybe his broker.

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This big guy had won sole custody of this defunct fish and was enjoying a late lunch when we passed by at 4 p.m. (It could have been an early dinner).

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These onlookers were waiting impatiently for him to finish so they could get at the leftovers.

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Something else you don't often see on the beach in winter---the tracks of bare feet.

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The Comfort Inn South still has a bit of tidying up to do before the hordes of summer arrive.

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This walkway to a private home next to the hotel was left in a parlous state by the recent Thanksgiving storm. Seems a bit superfluous at this point.

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Meanwhile Camden, Maine digs out after last weekend's blizzard. Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. stayed in the Riverhouse at Christmas while looking for a place to rent this summer. Their apartment overlooked this square.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:11 AM

Comments [7]

Monday, March 5, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Monday March 5, 2007

     Not a cloud in the sky this morning but it's mighty cold up on the beach with 35 degree air driven by a 15 knot wind out of the north.  Bracing to say the least.

     It must have been quite pleasant on the beach yesterday afternoon because somebody built the first sand castle Uncle Jack has seen in months. (Picture below).  He really did intend to take a walk yesterday afternoon but he has a strong tendency to turn into a couch potato on Sunday afternoons, especially when the Phoenix Suns are playing  on TV.  The Suns super point guard, Steve Nash, has joined Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in his pantheon of "players he has most enjoyed watching" and his performance yesterday was typically awe-inspiring. 

      Nash has established himself as one of the premier passers in the history of the NBA and as far as Uncle Jack is concerned passing is the name of the game.  Anybody, even Uncle Jack, can shoot but very few players ever learn how to get the ball to the teammate who is in the best position to score and that is what Steve Nash excels at.  (He should also mention that Nash is the third best free-throw shooter in the history of the NBA which makes him an even greater inspiration as he prepares for the Senior Games).

     With the Sunday New York Times on his lap to peruse during the mind-numbing commercials and the peerless Kobe Bryant in opposition to Nash's heroics it was a thoroughly agreeable way to spend an afternoon.  Perhaps he will go walking today----after free-throw practice. Stay tuned.

     P.S.  Click on the YouTube link below for a view of this morning's sunrise and the arrival on the beach of Jada, the incredible expanding malamute puppy, for her morning ablutions.



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6:20 a.m.

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6:27. Right on time.

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The hardest working creatures in Nags Head.

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Uncle Jack did not expect to find this on the beach in early March. A bit like seeing the first robin.

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

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:02 AM

Comments [2]

Sunday, March 4, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Sunday March 4, 2007

     Sunrise was visible this morning for a change but it paled in comparison with last night's sunset. The latter was one of the most stunning sky shows Uncle Jack has ever seen and he regrets that the pictures below can only suggest what it actually looked like.  Unfortunately his Cyber-shot cannot see the whole sky at one time.

    The balmy air of the past few days has moved on and cooler air has moved in (today's high 45)but it is still quite pleasant for this time of year.  A walk on the beach is in order for later today. Pictures at 11.

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6:25 a.m.

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There were a few wispy pink clouds here and there in the sky this morning that might have been left over from last night's extravaganza.

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Words fail. Even the wires can't spoil it completely.

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From a different angle, with wires cropped out.

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From Uncle Jack's driveway.

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Another part of the sky.

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One more time.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:56 AM

Comments [3]

Saturday, March 3, 2007
Unrise (again) in Sonag, Saturday March 3, 2007

       Looks like it's going to be another warm and sunny day on the Outer Banks just like yesterday which was truly magnificent for this time of year.  Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. ate lunch on their south-facing deck yesterday and nearly fried before it was over. Unfortunately the heavy cloud cover at dawn totally obscured the sunrise this morning. 

      The surf is up this morning with big, beautifully shaped waves rolling in from somewhere.  There was no wind so Uncle Jack tried to capture the sound of the crashing surf on a video which you can see and hear by clicking the YouTube link below.

      Have a lovely weekend, y'all.  Don't overdo the snow shoveling.

P.S.  A shopping hint for folks who live near enough to the Harris-Teeter in KDH.  They had fabulous shrimp yesterday, fresh and sweet, for only $6.99 a pound.  We had them for dinner last night and they were a treat.

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This was sunrise this morning at exactly 6:30.

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Sunset last night was another kettle of fish entirely.

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This one got Uncle Jack out of his barcalounger and up to his neighbor's deck in a hurry.

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Intrepid oceanfront homeowners are getting their stairways put back together in preparation for early spring rentals. Guests should not have to rappell up and down the cliffs even at off-season prices.

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This one is almost dizzying.

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A small patch of cloudless sky in the north augurs well for the rest of the day. It could reach 70 again which would be freakish but welcome.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kugrpXnzim8

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:14 AM

Comments [1]

Friday, March 2, 2007
Unrise in Sonag, Friday March 2, 2007

     The good news is that it's already 62 degrees in South Nags Head at 6:30 a.m.  The bad news is that it's pouring down rain and the wind is blowing 25-30 knots all of which makes for very poor beach walking.  Mrs. Uncle Jack is sleeping in this morning and he is planning to use this time to catch up on what is going on in the rest of the world.

    One place he has been keeping an eye on for the past couple of months is Camden, Maine where they will be spending five months this summer.  One of the Camden newspapers has a webcam pointed at the docks and the harbor which the condo they have rented overlooks.  They have watched the bay freeze over and seen the snow and ice accumulate on the docks and been very grateful that they don't have to live in Camden all year round---as beautiful as it is.

    Here is this morning's weather forecast for Camden and vicinity:

Today...Snow...Mixing with or changing to rain or sleet this afternoon. Snow May be heavy at Times. Snow and sleet accumulation of 6 to 10 inches. Windy with highs in the lower 30s. East winds 20 to 30 mph. Gusts up to 45 mph this afternoon. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent.

      That makes "High in the mid-60's with heavy rain" sound quite acceptable. If Uncle Jack were in Camden today he wouldn't even be able to get to the Y to shoot free throws because the Y up there is closed along with all the schools and most everything else.  It reminds him of some of the great blizzards he experienced as a child growing up in northern Wisconsin---the main reason he left Wisconsin at age 21 and never went back even to visit----except in the summer which consists of the last few days of July and the first week of August.


     A couple of weblogs ago Uncle Jack expressed some skepticism about some statements made by Dr. Tim Kana of Coastal Science and Engineering , the town's consultants on their proposed beach renourishment project, in a recent presentation to the public on that subject.  Uncle Jack is pleased to report that Dr. Kana has graciously responded at considerable length to Uncle Jack's remarks in the "Comments" section of yesterday's entry. He hopes you will take the time to read what he has to say about the probable impact of a category five hurricane on the Outer Banks.


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A December sunrise from the archives.

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Here's one from last summer.

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Another from May a year ago.

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Another from one day last summer.

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Ditto. Uncle Jack is thinking about making a DVD slide show of perhaps 50-75 of the best sunrise photos from his huge collection. Can anybody suggest a good piece of software designed to facilitate this process?

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:33 AM

Comments [6]

Thursday, March 1, 2007
Sunrise in Sonag, Thursday March 1, 2007

     March came in like a lamb this morning with a beautiful sunrise, calm surf full of feeding dolphins and a sky full of pink clouds.  Uncle Jack hopes this is a harbinger of the weather to come in the rest of the month.  He knows better, of course.  Yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the Ash Wednesday storm which laid waste to the Outer Banks like no other storm since 1962, and March is usually the worst month for northeasters.

     He made a short video of the dolphins feeding which turned out pretty well.  You can view it by clicking the YouTube link below.

     At the risk of committing hubris Uncle Jack can report that in his  free-throw shooting practice at the Y yesterday he made 24 of his last 25 shots.  As Our Leader said on an earlier occasion, "Bring 'em on!" 

      He stopped by the new Staples store yesterday to take another look at their loss-leader computer. (He passed again).  While he was there he picked up an application form for the Staples Rewards program and was amused to find the following words printed on the mailer:  "Please do not staple".

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6:25 a.m. A few minutes before actual sunrise.

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6:30 a.m.

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6:35 Here to stay.

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For some reason the town left this snarl of wires on the beach at the former Surfside Drive after the recent clean-up. Perhaps the power company is supposed to take care of this?

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The wind has uncovered a lot of other wires snaking around the beach in the same area. One hopes they are not live.

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Uncle Jack managed to catch one dolphin in a still photo. The video shows a bunch of them doing breakfast.

link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSuD7lLZNWg

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:40 AM

Comments [17]

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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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