Friday, December 31, 2004

Stalking the Night

Stalking the Night is a James River sunset photo that has it all, including a pair of night herons for our birding fans
Every sunset photograph needs some human interest, but in this photo session I settled for "bird interest".

The sun sets directly behind that boathouse in the distance only twice a year and while I was setting up my camera a pair of night herons alighted in the nearby dead tree and proceeded to help me watch the show. I call the picture Stalking the Night -- (c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Space Invaders

Guess what "new" game my granddaughter is playing on her new Christmas toy? Space Invaders, for Pete's sake. Remember that one?

I thought the picture turned out great.
Here's hoping your holiday was a happy time. -- Dalton Hammond

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Seven Sisters

No doubt this is the star cluster Mozart had in mind when he wrote " a diamond in the sky." Only about seven of these stars are visible to the naked eye, hence the nickname "The Seven Sisters".

More properly known as The Pleiades, they are often referred to as The Little Dipper, and the asterism does in fact resemble a dipper but the actual Little Dipper is far away in the northern sky. Astronomers know these gems as M45, from the Messier catalog.

The Pleiades are now believed to be traveling through a dense cloud of cosmic gas which is being illuminated as the blue stars pass by, giving them their blue halos, the diamond sparkle that Mozart sang to.

I took this film picture last night, a one-minute exposure with 70mm lens F4.5 @400. A good picture of M45 shows much greater detail and beauty but I'm ashamed to display one so here's a link instead:

-- Dalton Hammond

More of my Backyard Astronomy

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Christmas Treasures

The year-end hush of twilight falls
Across December's merry walls
And soon the months will mem'ried be
Like heirloom bangles on the tree.

Each glist'ning ornament attests
The love of friends I now assess.
I count each one and softly pray
God's blessings for them each new day.

And when the New Year dawns its light
I'll pray again with all my might
That all of you will still be here
When Christmas comes again next year.

-- By Dalton Hammond

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Craig Woolard / Jackie Gore Reunion


This was better than a Beatles reunion.

In this exclusive photo news scoop from the 2004 Carolina Beach Music Awards presentation in the Alabama Theatre in Myrtle Beach South Carolina, former Embers lead singer Jackie Gore stuns CAMMY Awards co-host former Embers lead singer Craig Woolard and the entire world of Beach Music by walking on stage unannounced and joining him in the song "I Love Beach Music" and, believe it or not, the encore, "Faraway Places."

Woolard later joked to the audience, "When I first saw him come up I didn't know if I needed to put on a football helmet or something."

Heavy stuff.

Photo is copyright 2004 by Robert D. Jones and may be freely shared for non-commercial purposes.

-- Dalton Hammond

My Other Beach Music Blog Page

More of My Radio Stories

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Northern Lights

We don't get many displays of the Northern Lights here in Virginia, but I got an email from an astronomy buddy who suggested I run outside and have a look. This was the first aurora borealis I've ever seen, November 11, 2004.

Aurora Borealis seen in Virginia, 07Nov04

-- Dalton Hammond

More of my Backyard Astronomy

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Satellite Radio

I bought an XM radio
And now I'm in the know
With all the latest episodes
Of The Lowell Thomas show.

I get the latest traffic scene
From downtown Singapore
And I can find what weather's like
Over there in Kuala Lumpur.

Across the world I tune the news
With ease and not a care
But I hear something that sounds wrong
They don't like U.S. over there.

While Tokyo Rose plays all the hits
Let's hope this won't sound silly
I really miss those home town guys
My buds John Boy and Billy.

(c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

Friday, November 05, 2004

Get Well, Meow Meow

My daughter emailed me that she's not coming to visit ole dad this weekend after all. Her cat is sick. Here's my reply. -- Dalton Hammond

Dear Meow Meow;

I am sorry to hear that you have not been feeling well. Maybe you are starting your period or something. My girl friend started her period a few days ago, on the 1st, so she says she has a chance of having two periods in the same month this month just like a Blue Moon and how about that? I thought about it for a minute and then told her that if I know my Sweet Thing like I think I do why she can do anything she sets her mind to and next time could we just talk about it after we finish lunch?

She just looked at me like she knew all along it was a mistake to share something like that with me.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Trick or Treat

Sometimes I embarass myself by writing stuff like this.

A Goblin girl, so prim and sweet
Knew how to make her pick.
While others tried to get a Treat
She tried to turn a Trick.

-- (c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

Here's a photo from a recent Mud Facial session my roommate and I recently tried. Pretty scary, huh? BOO! -- D.H.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Playing For Keeps

Years ago Mom told me all about sin;
How I'd go to Hell for the marbles I'd win.
Still in my thoughts her sermon still creeps:
She told me my sin was playing for keeps.

I bought a nice business, my income did soar
But pecunious lenders demanded much more
And soon I went under, my heartbeat still leaps
When I think what they told me: "We're playing for keeps."

So I found me a lover; I thought she'd be true
But I'd no idea what she'd put me through.
She said "In this life we plants and we reaps"
"I'm taking the house 'cause I'm playing for keeps."

My days here are numbered, I'm flat on the ground,
The clouds now are parting, the Lord's looking down.
"Spare me my Lord, I'm the lowliest of sheeps."
"Not this time" He answers, "I'm playing for keeps."

-- (c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

Friday, October 29, 2004

Eclipsed Moon and M45

Here is a wide-field image I took of last night's lunar eclipse. At totality, M45, otherwise known as The Pleiades and sometimes mistakenly called The Little Dipper can be seen here at the lower left. A larger version of this image looks a whole lot better but this is all the room I had. -- Dalton Hammond

Total Lunar Eclipse and The Pleiades

More of my Backyard Astronomy

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Total Lunar Eclipse -- November 23, 2003

From southeast Virginia, the November 23, 2003 total eclipse of the moon. Taken with the Nikon 5700 Coolpix at full optical zoom. -- Dalton Hammond

More of my Backyard Astronomy

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Stopping By a Lunar Eclipse on a Cloudy Evening

A full lunar eclipse is coming up October 27-28, 2004 for folks in my part of the world. I got lucky taking this picture last year. Sometimes the weather doesn't cooperate, which inspired me to write the following lament for my fellow astrophotographer friends. -- Dalton Hammond)

After months of long waiting it now is our night
The piggys are all backed and we've turned out the light.
Now the sky has turned dark, but because of the rain
Our photography sessions are eclipsed once again.
Why is it that when Earth's shadow goes Lunar
An eclipse by the clouds seems to happen just sooner?

-- (c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Hummingbird

I took this picture through my home office window. -- D.H.

A hummingbird is perched outside
He's near enough to see
How carefully I'm watching him
Likewise, he studies me.

How tiny and so frail, it seems
The wind would blow away
This creature of a loving God
Who sits at my buffet.

With jaded wings and ruby throat
He's gemlike in the shade
And as I watch, he takes a sip
Of nectar I have made.

His thirst now gone, he beats his wings
And flees without a word
To leave me just a memory
Of my guest hummingbird.

(c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Swan

The jacuzzi inspires me. This poem is from a recent summer session. -- D.H.

This time of night, up in the sky
Cygnus The Swan floats dreamily by.
Her wings outstretched, with grace and ease
She rides the Milky Way's sweet breeze.
May my heart soar, like our cygnet
Above the reach of discontent.

-- (c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

Friday, October 22, 2004

WKIX and the Ghost of Maco Station

For Halloween, here's an appropriate true ghost story from long ago and not too very far away -- Dalton Hammond

Just fourteen miles west of Wilmington is the railroad crossing known as Maco Station, the haunting ground of North Carolina's most infamous ghost, who was the headless subject of radio station WKIX's most extensive news investigation, ever.

Overnight show host Mike Reneiri had just left WKIX in the early 60s but some questions raised during his all-night-show lived on. In the spirit of announcers Joe Pyne (then), or Art Bell (now), Reneiri went to work on listener's malleable post-midnight minds on subjects such as U.F.O.s and 'Will Man Ever Land On The Moon'. Larry Gardner, Chief Engineer who had to be there all night anyway, sat in on the broadcasts and provided fact and clear thinking in non-combative contrast to Reneiri threads.

Everyone's favorite late night topic was "The Ghost of Maco Station", or simply, "The Maco Light." Any Tarheel school child knew the story, and references to the legend were easy to find in most local libraries. In 1867, Joe Baldwin, a conductor on the Wilmington-Florence-Augusta line was killed in a train accident at Maco. His head was never found. Ever since, a mysterious light resembling a conductor's lantern has periodically appeared, near the scene of the accident as if searching for the missing head. Mike Reneiri pumped up the story several times with much discussion and call-ins on his show, but with the mystery still hanging like a mist around KIX's famed four towers, he left to work for a Big Radio Station Up North and scientific thought after midnight came to a stop.

But Larry Gardner saw these things and pondered them in his heart. Months after Reneiri's departure, the Maco story would come up often and Larry would toss a fresh piece of tidbit research at us, like feeding porpoises, until our kollective KIX kuriousities kould stand it no longer. We determined to go learn the secret of The Maco Light.

At various times we sent different expeditions to Maco. Tommy Walker, Larry Gardner and I were among them. I would leave for Wilmington right after I got off the air, taking other Maco groupies along with me. Back then the road from Raleigh to Wilmington was all two lane and it was over a three hour trip, each way.

Larry's research told us that several scientific expeditions including, supposedly, a group from The Smithsonian, had attempted to learn the secret of the Light, with no luck. In like style we used his WKIX walkie talkies to scientifically communicate between our command post in our car parked at the station where the road crossed the tracks and the guys we sent to investigate the trestle where the track crossed the swamp about three quarters of a mile away. The guys at the trestle would shine flashlights, burn matches and lighters, anything they could think of to emulate the ghostly light, but at the car we always correctly identified the light source. Even almost a mile away a match looks like a match, etc. We could see car headlights on the horizon far across the woods, but decided there was nothing ghostly about them, nor could there be.

Despite our best efforts to attract him, the ghost never appeared and after many all-night excursions the WKIX research team gave up and courted the occult no more. A British Invasion was beginning and the Men of Music had other fish to fry.

Working my way up the coastal highways returning from a trip to Florida in 1964 I discovered that I was nearing Maco and I decided to visit the place for old times' sake. I was not working for WKIX at that particular time. As I approached Maco it was getting dark and I parked in the gravel beside the road, no more than thirty yards from the east side of the crossing, to await nightfall. There were no other cars or people anywhere around and if they were I could have easily heard them in the quiet, wooded countryside. I intended to get out and walk down the track when it got dark.

I didn't have to wait that long. Just a few minutes after turning off the ignition I saw something appear over the track only about fifty yards north of the crossing, just in front of the old depot. It was a light! As I watched through the windshield I saw the light grow in a second or two from a tiny flicker to a full flame that reminded me exactly of a lantern, being held waist high over the tracks. I have grown up around kerosene lanterns and have owned some, and this light looked exactly like someone lighting, and then turning up the wick on a kerosene lantern. Same color, brightness, everything. Except that no one was holding the light. At its full brightness it lighted the track and ground and everything else all around it in a large circle and anything holding it could easily have been seen, but nothing was out of place except a dead stick that lay between the tracks several yards from the light, but well illuminated by it. After no more than five seconds of brightness the light began to flicker and dim and in two more seconds was gone. It was not quite dark, I could easily see way past the track to the depot behind where the light had been and there was no one around, and no sounds. I got out of the car and walked to where I had seen the light, sixty paces from the car. I could find no sign of what I had seen. The previously illuminated dead stick I had seen from the car turned out to be a dead snake, but I gave that no significance except to verify the brightness of the light I had seen. I concluded that I still do not believe in ghosts, but that I had finally seen the famous Maco Light, whatever it was. In my life of amateur scientific curiousity I have seen many natural phenomena, swamp gas, etc. and have no explanation for this light I saw from such a short distance away. Every word I have written here is the truth.

New homes and rerouted highways have changed the Maco crossing so that you can't even recognize it anymore and my Internet Maco research tells me that the Light is being seen no more these days. I miss this piece of unexplained Tarheelia and have written these things as I have truly seen them to perpetuate the legend. But our ghostly conductor was never the type to give up easily, and I believe The Ghost Of Maco Station still lurks among us. See if I'm right. Write down the first letter in each paragraph in this story and see what you find lurking IN YOUR OWN HANDWRITING. Sweet dreams.

-- (c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

More of My Radio Stories

Why People Lie

Some friends and I were recently having a conversation about a mutual acquaintance who makes outrageous and outlandish claims about his work history. For thirty years he has insisted that he once worked at a certain high-profile radio station when we all know that he never did. He even claimed to be the radio announcer who introduced The Beatles at Shea Stadium back in the 1960s. All lies. It seems that some people will make up a lie when the truth is in their favor. What gives with these people anyway?

The point I wish to make is that he may not even know he has a problem. A lady patient in a recent Scientific American article, "Freud Revisited", had a very real and obvious physical problem with one of her arms which she refused to acknowledge or even believe, even when the therapist showed her the withered arm in a mirror. Under treatment, which involved temporarily blocking the lady's dopamine receptors in her brain, the lady was able to recognize her problem and discuss it openly and intelligently. But when they cut off the dopamine-blocking medication the lady reverted to her old self, not understanding what people were talking about concerning her arm. Not only was she again unable to accept the reality of her condition, she couldn't even remember the parts of the therapy session in which, under medication, she openly discussed it, although she remembered all else about the session.

If this is our friend's scenario, we now understand that he may tell lies; big HUGE lies, but he truly believes they are the truth.

At least he comes by his lies honestly.

Apparently it is one of the most difficult things in the world to say 'no' to your dopamine.

-- Dalton Hammond

To a Maid Who Loves the Night

I don't know who wrote this. I wish I did know. -- Dalton Hammond

Fly? Not yet.
'Tis just the hour when Pleasure,
Like the Midnight Flower,
Begins to bloom
For Sons of Night
And Maids who love the moon.

-- Unknown

With thanks to Jimmy Capps

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Funny Joke Contest

Do you have a funny joke you'd like to share with the Blog Community? Send it as a Comment to this page and if your joke is selected I'll post your blog link on my front page to hopefully steer a little traffic your way.

Check the Comments at the end of this post for entries received so far.

Send in your best joke right away. The world is waiting.

-- Dalton Hammond

"Honey, there's an alien in my television"

The dark clouds on the horizon were moving fast in my direction and would soon replace the thick white clouds which presently obscured my celestial horizon so I reluctantly decided to take down my telescope, go inside and do something different for the evening: turn on the television, if I could remember how.

After tossing the batteries that lay in a goo inside the TV remote, I scraped the inner contacts until only a trace of green remained and then popped in some fresh cells that I borrowed from a long-unused telescope guiding paddle. The familiar you-have-spam alarm dinged relentlessly in the other room as I removed a tattered Sky and Telescope magazine from my bedside tub chair and settled in to catch up on television's version of today's news.

The set warmed up to a random, monochromatic channel, devoid of color. I was about to adjust the settings when a scene showed a picture of the United Nations building and then a picture of U.N. representatives huddled around a table, interviewing a very tall human-looking man dressed in white. "I must've missed this on the internet news", I thought as I munched a cookie and decided to find another news home page the next time I visited my computer.

I began to realize that while I had been outside trying to watch the stars, a fleet of aliens from a world far away had slipped past me, coming to the Earth to share their knowledge and cure our world of all its problems. In just moments the head alien convinced our world leaders of his mission and set about his philanthropic task, accidentally leaving on the table a thick book written in an alien language which he had brought into the room. A slightly skeptical scientist gave the book to his secretary who hoped to translate the transgalactic tome. Almost instantly she deciphered the title, "To Serve Man", which seemed to verify the high puposes of the visitors from afar, but she was unable to make out the contents of the volume.

As I watched, the Earth became a wonderful, perfect place. Hate and greed became a thing of the past. Mere sprinkles of the alien's proffered fertilizer turned deserts into lush gardens. Hunger and war were no more. All diseases became cured. "Surely this is more interesting than the Eskimo Nebula", I mused. I concluded that I had been missing something in life and decided to watch TV again sometime.

Now the scene shifted to show many thousands of Earthlings queued in terminals, eagerly waiting to board space ships, to take a journey of only a few days to happily vacation on the friendly alien world so far away. Even the skeptical scientist decided at the last minute to go with them, and was among the last group to leave.

As he was walking up the ladder to enter the space ship, the scientist's secretary emerged from the crowd and shouted up to him. "Don't go", she cried out. "I deciphered the rest of the book: 'To Serve Man': It's a cookbook!"

But her warning was too late. The scientist was hustled on board and the final scene showed our hero locked in his solitary cabin despondently eating a meal, which the alien keeper had promised would keep him from losing weight on his trip.

It was then that I knew that those purloined 1.5 volt cells from my Celestron Astro Master guiding paddle had propelled me into...The Twilight Zone.

-- Dalton Hammond

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A Good Chili Recipe

The chili came out just super, as always, and as promised, here's the recipe which I got from

Title: Chili Con Carne
Categories: Soup/stew, Canning
Yield: 9 pints

3 c Dried pinto beans
-OR- red kidney beans
5 1/2 c Water
5 ts Salt (separated)
3 lb Ground beef
1 1/2 c Chopped onion
1 c Chopped peppers
-of your choice (optional)
1 ts Black pepper
3 tb -Chili powder, or up to...
6 tb Chili powder
2 qt Crushed or whole tomatoes

Yield: 9 pints

Procedure:Wash beans thoroughly and place them in a 2 qt saucepan. Add
cold water to a level of 2 to 3 inches above the beans and soak 12 to 18
hours. Drain and dischard water. Combine beans with 5-1/2 cups of fresh
water, and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer 30
minutes. Drain and discard water. Brown ground beef, chopped onions,
and peppers, if desired, in a skillet. Drain off fat and add 3 teaspoons
salt, pepper, chili powder, tomatoes, and drained cooked beans. Simmer 5
minutes. Caution: Do not thicken.


-- Dalton Hammond

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Essence of Time

Yesterday I played golf after a sabbatical of nearly two years.
Since it was a sunny, pleasant day, and because I had been with a good friend
Whose company I have shared on many happy golf and skiing outings
I decided to mark the anniversary of the occasion on next year's calendar page
To discover that the day did not exist; that we had invented it;
A leap day, a fanciful figment devised by Man to correct his calendar
Which does not agree with the way the Earth swings around the Sun.
I'm not so sure that I agree with it either.

If we believe the scientists who look to prove there is no God
Then the light from certain stars has taken several billion years to reach their mirrors and lenses
And our eyes.
But if we believe Mr. Einstein, and had been commuting with that same packet of photons
During its long voyage through history, it would have taken us no time at all,
And on arrival we would be just as young as when we climbed aboard
A billion or so years earlier -- and most of the universe away.
Isn't that weird? Can the concept of a God be any weirder than that?

Don't even get me started on the current notion of String Theory
And the idea of universes that pop in and out of existence
As if someone had snapped his fingers.

There should be a law against killing time
But it could not be a premeditated crime,
For to plan to do so would involve the use of time
Which is not an act of killing it.
We are all given the same Earth, blue sky, and twinkling stars
But none of us is served the same plateful of time.

As my guests turn off their minds
And turn on the TV
I can't help but reflect on those who sit at death's door
And how eagerly they beg for just a few years more,
Or weeks, or even days, of quality time
In this realm of time we share and take for granted.

How meaningless, our temporal things,
A lifespan of shortfall,
We know not what tomorrow brings
If it should come at all.

(c) 2004, by Dalton Hammond

Sunday, October 10, 2004

How To Tell If You're Serious About Golf

Do you think about golf during sex?

Does any room in your home not have a U.S.G.A. putting hole in the floor?

Do you sleep with your putter?

Have you video recorded your golf swing? This week?

Did you dream about golf last night?

When was the last month you averaged taking fewer than a hundred clubless practice swings per day -- in any room in your house?

Do you know the Stimp readings -- to the nearest tenth -- on every floor in your home, going both ways?

Are you really serious about this game?

(c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

My Other Golf Stories

More Jokes

Thursday, September 30, 2004

My Dog, My Cat, and You

When I remember happy days
And all the folks I knew
I count among my fondest friends
My Dog, My Cat, and You.

My faithful dog lies at my feet
Just waiting for my cue
With trusting heart, a love complete
And faith so full and true.

I know my cat is somewhere near
Just recently she purred.
She's never even been outdoors
I call her Parlor Bird.

But of them all I love thee best
My troth will e'er be true
Dear God please bless my favorite three;
My Dog, My Cat, and You.

(c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

A Kiss From The Sea

I blew a kiss into the sea
On wings of mist to you from me.
Years from now, I know not when
You'll travel to the sea again.
Close your eyes and feel the mist
As you receive my long-sought kiss.

(c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

Ode to the Hot Tub

Hot tub

My hot tub is a joyful thing
With bubble ports that fizz
And every time I settle in
I want to take a whiz.

The jets of foam caress my back
With speeds from fast to slow
But as I watch the water churn
I always have to go.

My partner doesn't wear a thing
The neighbors never peek
But when I start to feel a need
It's just to take a leak.

If men can build such wondrous toys
And think of every wrinkle
Why can't they also make a space
Where I can take a tinkle?

(c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Morning Kiss

Let me kiss your dreams away
As you begin each perfect day.
May my kiss bring peace to you
And make those dreams of yours come true.

(c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

Standing at the Urinal Talking to Myself

Tinkle, tinkle little star
What a dried up thing you are.
Years ago you could hit that shelf
Now you barely hit myself.

(c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

Honeymoon XP

My fiancee' had a laptop to share
But I failed to boot up in despair
I bought some Viagra
And took off to Niagra
Where my software all turned into hardware.

(c) 2004, Dalton Hammond

A Mockingbird Just Sang to Me

A mockingbird just sang to me
From his tall post in yonder tree.
With deja vue in every word
He mocked each song he ever heard.

He then went on without abate
To even mock a squeaky gate.
He shared his love, his breast unfurled
And sang us to a sweeter world.

Dear Lord please teach my heart to sing
Like my bird friend, let it take wing
To soar among the heav'nly winds
And serenade my Earthly friends.

(c) 2004, Dalton Hammond