Jesse Collins, and then some.

A blog dedicated to those who would rather be at the cottage.

Archive for April, 2008

Those cars from the Cougar Ace? Destroyed.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

This is a quick follow-up to the post I made about Wired’s article Righting the Cougar Ace.

The Wall Street Journal Online has an article about how—and why—Mazda destroyed the 3000+ cars that were saved.

The Last Flight From Da Nang, 1975

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Not sure what’s more compelling: the quality and fearlessness of journalism then, or the desperation of people whose lives and ethics have been ravaged by war. Either way, this video is difficult to watch.

Every day, every moment, every second, we have to ask ourselves what is important and what isn’t, and we have to ask our leaders to prove their judgment and honesty. We have to avoid armed conflict, at almost any cost. It may be true that sometimes there are no choices. It’s also true, that often, choices have been overlooked. My allegiance remains with our veterans, our fallen heroes, and perhaps most importantly, with our young men and women who currently serve. We owe it to them to demand that government remains transparent and open and justifies any foreign policy that places them in harm’s way. We owe them our diligence.

From Wikipedia, there is a footnote to the Vietnam War entry (known in Vietnam as the American War):

General Maxwell Taylor, one of the principal architects of the war, noted “first, we didn’t know ourselves. We thought that we were going into another Korean war, but this was a different country. Secondly, we didn’t know our South Vietnamese allies … And we knew less about North Vietnam. Who was Ho Chi Minh? Nobody really knew. So, until we know the enemy and know our allies and know ourselves, we’d better keep out of this kind of dirty business. It’s very dangerous.”

via kottke

Righting the Cougar Ace

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Joshua Davis in Wired Magazine recounts this incredible saga, High Tech Cowboys of the Deep Seas: The Race to Save the Cougar Ace.

The drama inherent in trying to save a ship that has nearly capsized in the North Pacific is gripping, mostly because of the exotic cast of characters that populate it. From Captain Rich Habib to a bevy of wild salvage divers and naval architects, these guys are the stuff of a Hollywood movie.

The story itself is a screenplay. A deep-sea car transport, its 14 decks packed with 4,703 new Mazdas at an estimated cargo value of $103 million lays on its side after a malfunction while changing ballast water. The only way to right it is to create a digital model and calculate an intricate pumping system. The only way to accomplish it isn’t pretty.

The job is daunting: Board the Cougar Ace with the team and build an on-the-fly digital replica of the ship. The car carrier has 33 tanks containing fuel, freshwater, and ballast. The amount of fluid in each tank affects the way the ship moves at sea, as does the weight and placement of the cargo. It’s a complex system when the ship is upright and undamaged. When the cargo holds take on seawater or the ship rolls off-center — both of which have occurred — the vessel becomes an intricate, floating puzzle.

Davis handles the telling of this fantastical tale brilliantly. As he introduces each character as they are summoned to the project—from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Port of Spain, Trinidad—he back-stories just enough to help us understand the dangers and rewards. And in Captain Rich Habib, he has a protagonist that is sort of a seafaring Red Adair, square-jawed and steely-eyed through risk and tragedy.

The story has everything that I love: drama, technology, character and story. Someone needs to make a film of this. It’s the best thing I’ve read in a long, long time. Follow the link to the story after the excerpt.

Deep within the ship, the men dangle on ropes inside an angled staircase and peer through a doorway into the number-nine cargo deck. Their lights partially illuminate hundreds of cars tilted on their side, sloping down into the darkness. Each is cinched to the deck by four white nylon straps. Periodically a large swell rolls the ship, straining the straps. A chorus of creaks echoes through the hold. Then, as the ship rolls back, the hold falls silent. It’s a cold, claustrophobic nightmare slicked with trickling engine oil and transmission fluid. Trepte lowers a rope and eases into the darkness.

High Tech Cowboys of the Deep Seas: The Race to Save the Cougar Ace by Joshua Davis in Wired Magazine.

Spinnin’ wheel, got to go ’round…

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

A few days ago, I was lamenting that I would soon have to give up my after-work pint as I was losing the battle of the bulge. My good friend Barry who like me is a smoker-who-doesn’t-smoke-anymore and was inspirational to quite a few of us in that regard, used his usual delicacy to throw down the gauntlet.

“You know, if we got off our arses we could have both – drop twenty pounds and enjoy a good meal and a pint now and then.” He then issued a more specific challenge: if I sussed out the schedule, he’d join me for an early morning “spin”. It so happens that equidistant between our houses is a great bike shop that offers spinning sessions. I’d heard about spinning from Carol, who is a spinning-zealot, but I was always a little apprehensive. Images of myself receiving CPR in a puddle of my own sweat while a bunch of yuppies dressed in multi-coloured lycra looked on always kept me out of the spin cycle.

But Barry’s challenge pushed me over the edge.

Cut to he and I, bleary-eyed and slightly hung-over, standing in the dark of early morning, wearing gym clothes that were wrinkled from 4 years of rolled-up slumber. We were greeted by Joanne, a lithe instructor who recognized our virginity and declared good-heartedly that we would probably “cough up a lung.”

But we didn’t. In fact, I have to admit that while it was a bit of work, all in all—it felt great. I began to understand why people love it. The music, the push and pull of Joanne’s pacing, the communal experience of people with varying fitness levels virtual-riding together: it’s invigorating.

I always shy away from making pronouncements of conversion. But we did commit to going again, after some business travel and scheduling snafus get out of the way, and I think we will. In fact, I think we’ll go quite a few times, and maybe be a bit better off as a result.

The last thing Barry said to me, noting that I had picked up the tab and he would repay me on the next go ’round, was that as long as he owed me, I’d never be poor. Well, I do owe him. I owe him for prompting me to get off my arse and giving spinning a whirl. It’s great.

4-Ball in the corner. On Table #3.

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Since I’ve been too swamped to write a decent post, I thought I’d post a video of someone with too much time on their hands.


When I haven't been fishing, I've been looking at these on the dial-up: