Sunday, May 22, 2005

More Miles Per Gallon

Here's a product that can save you a LOT of money on gasoline. I am getting paid nothing for this report; I just wanted to pass it along. -- D.H.

Dollar SignsAt 150,000 miles my 1993 Cadillac was suffering from poor gas mileage. I was getting under 9 miles per gallon in town and about 14 on the road, as opposed to the new car sticker specs of 15 and 25. At $2.39 per gallon for high-octane I was suffering more than my car was.

I tried everything I could think of. I paid a quick lube shop to clean the engine throttle body, which it needed badly. I even replaced the original spark plugs (at 150,00 miles I figured it was time). All to no avail. Various gas treatments I tried didn't help.

Then, on a recent road trip, I bought some STP Fuel Injector Cleaner at a 7-11 just outside of town. What a difference it made!

By the time I had traveled fifty miles my fuel efficiency indicator was showing over 20 miles per gallon, and on the way home it reached an average of 26.5. After about a month I noticed that the cheap gas I was buying was clogging my fuel injectors again so I tried another bottle of S.T.P. with the same result; around 16.5 m.p.g. in town, which is better than I was getting when I first got the car twelve years ago. At under $3 a bottle every four or five tankfuls it's the best thing I have found to help my strained budget.

This story is true. I recommend this stuff to all my friends. Just be sure to get the black bottle that says "Contains Jet Fuel". STP Fuel Injector Cleaner. It WORKS!

-- Dalton Hammond

Friday, May 20, 2005

Be All You Can Be

I've been unable to verify this story...-- Dalton Hammond

Twenty-eight years ago Herman James, a West Virginia mountain man, was drafted by the Army.

On his first day in boot camp, the Army issued him a comb.
That afternoon, an Army barber sheared his head.

On his second day, the Army issued him a tooth brush.
That afternoon, an Army dentist yanked several of his teeth.

On his third day, he was issued a jock strap.
The Army is still looking for him.

More Jokes

Monday, May 16, 2005

Hail to the Chiefs

Don't get me wrong; I think we Americans should support our country instead of tearing it down, especially since

After all these years we should be used to having idiots for President.

-- Dalton Hammond

BONUS: Here's one I lifted from The Prairie Home Companion

A guy walks into a bar and is considering what he'd like to drink. He spots a strange-looking bottle full of a blue liquid. He calls the bartender over and asks, "What's that?"

The bartender says, "Oh, that's new. That's liquid Viagra."

"Okay," the guy says. "Pour me a stiff one."

from Brad Strickland, Oakwood, Georgia

More Jokes

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Rhythm of the Rain

In the early 1960s I quit radio station WKIX (the first of three times) after two frigid winters of doing a remote broadcast request show from a local drive-in restaurant and moved to sunny Florida to make my fortune, with no job in sight. I stayed with a friend for a week or so in Tampa until he found me a job to get rid of me.

I ended up at a station in nearby Lakeland and one day I got a call from my friend in Tampa saying a member of the then-popular vocal group The Cascades (Rhythm of the Rain) was in town and would come do a free appearance for me at a Friday night record hop I hosted at a local skating rink. I said sure, and drove over and picked up the Cascade.

That night at the hop he lip-synched the song Rhythm of the Rain rather poorly, I thought, but the two groupies I had lined up to meet him were impressed enough to go for a ride with us in my 1962 Ford Falcon after the show. We rode around until one in the morning before deciding to head for my apartment.

We were turning into my parking lot when the car behind us turned on the flashing red lights. My girl's mother had called the police. We learned that the girls were only fifteen! The Cascade and I were twenty. The girls sure looked older.

My boss came down and got us out of jail and the Cascade stayed with me for a day or two, disappearing for a couple of hours each day and coming back each time with cash, wired to him by his agent, he said. Finally he disappeared completely and a few weeks later I heard that he had been picked up in Orlando for grabbing money out of a merchant's cash drawer. The guy was not a real Cascade, just a total con.

Sometimes I wonder how I lived long enough to grow up.

-- Dalton Hammond

More Radio Stories

Thursday, May 12, 2005

History of Iridium Flares

I have been a member of the internet SeeSat-L newsgroup for many years, which led to my hobby of observing low-orbit Earth satellites. Several years ago an investment group began launching dozens of communications satellites that would enable telephone communications from anywhere in the world. They planned to orbit a total of 77 birds in all which, coincidentally, is the Periodic Table number of the rare metal Iridium, which turned out to be the name they chose for their system, purely for want of a better one.

Shortly after the launches began, keen-eyed SeeSat-L members began noticing that the Iridium satellites passing overhead would sometimes become very bright -- many times brighter than the brightest star -- only to fade away in a few seconds. The group members decided that the two door-sized main mission antennas on the birds were catching the sun's light and reflecting back to the observer on the ground, like a signal mirror.

I was following this thread with great interest since I had purchased stock in the fledgling Iridium company (and sold it at a very nice profit). One of the group members, a rocket scientist named Rob Matson was following it too, asking questions about the observations and the construction and in-orbit guidance of the satellites. Within a couple of weeks Matson had worked out a computer algorithm that was able to predict when and where on Earth the birds would suddenly flare up. He called them "flares", although his peers preferred the term "glints", and the name stuck. All of today's Iridium prediction software use his algorithm.

A few months later I learned that the astronomy club I belonged to had been invited to bring our telescopes and present a star party during a cookout hosted by the local Mensa Society, many of whom were engineers and scientists at NASA Langley. I wondered what I could possibly find in the sky to impress these folks, and went to my computer.

The cookout date coincided with a nice pass of the Russian space station Mir and I began to feel that I had something of interest to the Mensans. Then I cranked up Matson's SkyMap. Voila! A bright MINUS SIX Iridium Flare! I could hardly contain myself as I wrote down the predictions, and smirked.

On the evening of the cookout I looked around the yard and counted over fifty Mensa geniuses and maybe fifteen of us mortal astronomer guests. None of my friends there had ever heard of Iridiums. I looked at my watch which was set to the exact second and thought "This-had-better-work!"

The Mir pass was right on time and lasted for a couple of minutes, giving the Mensans time to come over and see what we were looking at over our heads. I took the opportunity to explain that in a few minutes another satellite, invisible at first, would suddenly brightly appear for a few seconds, and I pointed out a good location in the side yard where I'd meet them.

With two or three minutes to go I started calling out for everyone to join me -- and they all did. Every last person in the yard was soon standing in a gaggle as I pointed to a spot in the sky where our flare would appear, hopefully. With ten seconds to go I nervously looked away from my watch, took a big gulp, and pointed to the sky as I counted down.

When I reached "two" the sky where I was pointing suddenly lighted up like a flashbulb for about three seconds and an awesome "Ahhhh" arose from the Mensans as the entire group broke into appreciative applause.

It was one of those magic moments.

-- Dalton Hammond

More of My Astronomy

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Guilty Until Proved Innocent

I admit it; I lifted this one from the Toastmasters web site. -- Dalton Hammond

A man was pulled over for speeding down the highway. The officer came to the driver's window and said, "Sir, may I see your drivers license and registration?"

The man said, "Well, officer I don't have a license. It was taken away for a DUI."

The officer, in surprise, said, " What? Do you have a registration for the vehicle?"

The man replied, "No sir, the car is not mine. I stole it, but I am pretty sure I saw a registration card in the glove box when I put the gun in it."

The officer stepped back, "There is a gun in the glove box?!?"

The man sighed and said, "Yes sir, I used it to kill the woman who owns the car before I stuffed her in the trunk."

The officer stepped toward the back of the car and said, "Sir do not move, I am calling for backup."

The officer called for backup and about ten minutes another highway patrolman arrived. He walked up to the window slowly and asked the man for his driver’s license and registration. The man said, "Yes officer here it is right here."

It checked out so the officer said, "Is there a gun in the glove box sir?"

The man laughed and said, "No, officer, why would there be a gun in the glove box?" He opened the glove box and showed him that there was no gun.

The second officer then asked him to open the trunk because he had reason to believe that there was a body in it. The man agreed and opened the trunk. No dead body.

The second officer said, "Sir I do not understand. The officer that pulled you over said that you did not have a license, the car was stolen, there was a gun in the glove box, and a dead body in the trunk."

The mans looked the officer in the eyes and said, "Yeah and I'll bet he said I was speeding too."

More Jokes

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Dalton Hammond on the LPGA Tour

My friend Mark talked me into going with him to the MIchelob Ultra LPGA golf tournament this afternoon in Williamsburg, VA, although at first I didn't want to go.

I tried every excuse I could think of: "It might rain." "I don't want to do all that walking." "It'll be too crowded", et cetera.

When I voiced my best excuse, "I don't want to spend the money for a ticket" he told me "Don't worry, every time I go to one of these things a stranger on the shuttle bus always comes up with some free tickets for us."

"Fat chance", I thought. But it turned out to be a pleasantly cool, sunny afternoon and since I really had nothing better to do I agreed to go.

The shuttle bus from the parking lot was pulling up to the ticket gate and Mark hadn't said a word, so I decided to speak up. In a voice that could be heard all over the bus I asked him, "Now where do we go to buy our tickets?"

Just then a fellow sitting across the aisle from us leaned over and said "You guys need to BUY your tickets? I've got a couple of spares, take these", and handed me two complimentary gate passes.

"Unbelievable", I thought. Mark just smiled.

I had a great time, the girl-watching was superb, and we got to see Annika and all the stars of the LPGA do their thing on the newly renovated Kingsmill River Course under beautiful Spring skies.

The moral of this story: "Even a turtle gets nowhere until he sticks his neck out."

-- A tired but happy Dalton Hammond

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Women Seeking Men

I know that spelling doesn't come easy for some people, but I'll never understand why they don't run a check on their spelling and word usage before they advertise their illiteracy all over their web log, or worse, their Personals ads.

I'll probably catch pure Hell for this, but here goes:


"'Peek' my interest", their ads say
Expecting me to come their way.
While others write in hopes to seek
A man their curiosity to "peek".

While meaning not to be oblique
My fervour they could never pique
And my love I would never sell
To some dumb broad who cannot spell.

-- By Dalton Hammond

More Poems

Monday, May 02, 2005

2005 Iditarod Report

Remember my story a few months ago about the Iditarod -- The Great Trail Sled Dog Sled Race? Well, my friend is back from Alaska and has thawed out, and files this captivating photo report on the great race, and on life in the northernmost part of the United States. Oh, and as you read it keep in mind that she is a great-grandmother! -- Dalton Hammond

Why Nome?

'Why do you go to Nome?' -- the most asked question about my adventures on the frozen coast of the Bering Sea. My answer…'there’s no place like Nome'. Nome, born of the gold rush, was everything and nothing that I’d expected in 2004 when I ventured there to volunteer at the end of the greatest long distance race on earth. The small town of approximately 3,000 people stole my heart. What a great place to be! That’s why I went back this year to once again volunteer my time for the Iditarod.

The flight from Anchorage to Nome is a venture in itself. My flight left the Anchorage Airport about 30 minutes late (nothing unusual for airlines in Alaska). There were other volunteers and Iditarod officials on board, which made the flight entertaining. We flew first to Kotzebu (an Eskimo village within the Artic Circle) to take some cargo and pick up high school basketball players, both boys and girls, that had played in a tournament there and were on their way back to Anchorage.

Landing in Nome is uneventful. The excitement is being able to land at all. My airplane on Sunday night, March 13, was the last flight that was able to get into Nome until Wednesday afternoon, March 16. You see only scattered buildings as you approach the landing strip. As we disembarked, you immediately notice the difference between the Nome Airport and what most of us are accustomed to in the lower 48. As you emerge from the airplane and down its stairs into the cold and wind, all you can see is a lone one story building surrounded by the machinery of flying, but hardly welcoming. And yes, you exit down a flight of steps at the back of the airplane onto the frozen ground. There is most always cargo in the front of the airplane. Upon entering the terminal (that’s also questionable), you are welcomed by stifling heat and a crowd of folks standing about waiting for their luggage. It’s a little uncertain as to where baggage claim really is at the Nome Airport; it’s wherever the handlers decide to put your bags and up to you to find them.

Nome will definitely leave an impression on you. There are no tall buildings, the streets are icy and the tires occasionally spin as they strive to grip the road. I was picked up in a van driven by another volunteer (Rudy) who has volunteered at both the beginning and the end of the race for years. Rudy put 5 of us in his van, told another 5 to wait; it would not take him long to drop us off. Of course it would not take long, the town is so small, you could actually walk from the airport if it were warmer, the roads not icy and you had no luggage to haul! The building above is where I worked most of the time. It is the recreation center for the village and is located on the main street of Nome (Front Street) with the frozen Bering Sea behind.

My hotel this year left a lot to be desired! It was built in the early 1900’s and was probably built originally as a bordello or rooming house…I think the first. I had been warned about the hotel, but staying cheap was my goal this year since I knew I would be working most of the time. I changed rooms three times before I settled on a room I felt was in the quietest area. Because the hotel is very cheap…there are a lot of natives that stay there for Iditarod week. Of course they are there to “party” not work, so they stay drunk for the week. One morning I was accosted by a native woman in the very tiny lobby of the hotel. She wanted to buy drugs. After explaining that I was there to work and did not have any drugs, she allowed me to leave the hotel. Another morning I had to tip toe around a drunk passed out on the steps leading down to the lobby. And another morning there was yelling in the hall about 4:30am which of course did not set well with me since I had to be at work at 7am. Finally on the last day four natives were checked into the room directly across the hall from me. I had enough so I checked out of that hotel and went to another very old hotel, but well maintained and not noisy, for my last night in Nome. I needed a good nights rest because I was leaving at 6:30am the next morning, had an 11 hour layover in Anchorage which I planned to spend with my friends, and then an overnight flight home, so I knew I needed a good nights rest. It was also good to have my own bathroom (had to share in the other hotel) and have a television and telephone. I felt like I was in a Ritz Carlton after the first hotel. Needless to say, I will not be staying there again!

The photo above is where I spent all but one night of my stay this year. Hopefully next year I will be sharing an apartment with the parents and sister of one of the mushers, my friend Aliy. We met last year at the Bed and Breakfast where we both stayed, and then this year I worked some with Aliy’s mother. We will start to look for an apartment soon as all the better places fill up fast. There are not many options. The mushers stay with host families in the village.

This is me with Aliy and one of her lead dogs, Dugan. Dugan retired this year and is going to a good home to become a 'couch potato'.

Most of the volunteers make do with foot power in Nome. We truck from hotel rooms and apartments to the finish line and to the headquarters, all hours of the day and night, often alone, something most of us would not do in the “real world”, shivering in the cold with layers of clothing, only to break out in a sweat as we move indoors. This year was much warmer than usual in Nome. It got up to 30-35 degrees during the day, which is not good for the dogs and mushers. And as it turned out, the weather was not good for me either. On Wednesday, March 16, the teams started coming into Nome. One of my jobs during the week was to work security at the finish line. I would walk about a quarter of a mile down the street when they come into Nome, to get the spectators back from the street and away from the dogs. Then I would run up the street with the dogs to keep people from trying to pet them or get in their way. Then when they got to the finish line, I would have sometimes one to two hours before the next team. I got hot running, then cool down, then hot again. As a result, I came home with a really bad case of laryngitis and a head cold. I could not talk above a whisper for more than a week.

This is a picture the morning the winner came in of me working security at the finish line.

Many of the mushers came into Nome with colds. And some of the dogs got pneumonia from over heating in the daytime and then the cold at night. They were just not used to it being that warm. There were 14 teams that dropped out due to the weather conditions their dogs were not used to. The dogs really do well at not more than 10-15 above zero and down to 30 below.

Fans, volunteers, mushers and Nome residents all blend together during Iditarod. Without names, you quickly begin to recognize faces. The first few days are considered the learning curve. Last year was mostly learning, although I still felt I was an asset to the volunteer staff. This year the lessons I had learned were: cell phones do not work in Nome, airplanes are never on time, sometimes no one gets in or out of Nome for days due to blizzards, and the place to hang out and get some really local food (notice I did not say GOOD local food) is Fat Freddie’s.

Nome certainly reflects our past. The town is still isolated in some ways. There are two scheduled flights per day in and out of Nome, but those are always subject to cancellation or delays due to extreme weather or they may have to fly somewhere else first to take cargo that is not normally on their route. There are no roads and it is too far to do much traveling by sleds or snow machines. All you have to do is look out at the frozen Bering Sea just a short distance from the finish line to realize how frail human structures can be.

Nome has withstood the onslaughts of wind and snow for many years and yet it is still there clinging to its foundations. You can close your eyes and see history there. It is more the old way of life than in Anchorage and villages surrounding the bigger city. You can literally imagine yourself on the runners of a dog sled and for a moment you are transported back through history, seeing Nome as it may have been in 1925 when Leonhard Seppala and the other musher heroes and their dogs saved the lives of Nome’s children by getting the serum there to treat the diphtheria epidemic.

The most fun job this year was getting the information area organized and training new volunteers to work the area. Last year was a little frustrating due to my being new and it being totally unorganized. I communicated with the Nome coordinator this year beginning in January. I emailed my ideas on how to make the area more organized so upon arriving in Nome on the evening of the 13th, I was handed a stack of written material (everything you could possibly want to know about the Iditarod and the mushers this year) and told to organize it for the information desk. After doing that my first morning there, I set out to recruit volunteers that I could train to cover the position when I was working in another area or just simply needing a break. In doing this I met and became instant friends with three people from the Anchorage area. One was “Will” and his wife 'Zuleen'. Will is the flight doctor for bush pilots in Alaska, Zuleen is a nurse. Their friend Kandy is a Merle Norman Beauty Consultant. All three were so much fun and easy to get to know.

This is me updating the “leader board” in the recreation hall. We have every mushers name on the board with all the checkpoint locations. We log in time they arrive in a checkpoint and how many dogs they have. Then we log the time out and how many dogs. The board is for the spectators, friends and family of the teams. We keep all the times using military clocks Since we use military time in the radio world, I am accustomed to it and have no problem translating for those not familiar.

Most of the regulars were back to work the souvenir merchandise sales, so I stayed away from that this year. I found it much more interesting to be in the information area answering questions for spectators in person and people from all over the world calling with questions about the race or where their favorite dog team was at that moment.

Here I am with Charlie Boulding…a real character! He is originally from North Carolina but moved to Alaska in 1983. He lives with his wife in the bush in central Alaska. They have no running water and no electricity. They hunt and fish in the winter for their food. This was Charlie’s last Iditarod and unfortunately he had to drop out because the weather was too warm for his dogs. He plans to volunteer now and maybe run some shorter races.

I spent a limited amount of time in the dog lot. If I had not gotten a slight head cold and a bad case of laryngitis the last three days I was there, I would have worked there more. It was enough however, to fall in love with 'Heidi' -- a sweet, good natured mixed breed that finished this year in 11th place as part of Aliy Zirkle’s team. Each year I fall in love with lots of dogs but there is always one that stands out as being truly special. Heidi wanted to come live in North Carolina, but her musher said she needed her to race a few more years, so we parted with a big hug from me and a sloppy kiss from her. Now to answer the question “why do I go to Nome”? Heidi and several hundred dogs like her are the reason I go. I feel like I am doing something for them. All you have to do is be there to see them at their kennels get so excited when their musher or handler comes into the lot with harnesses. They jump into the air barking as hard as they can. This is their way of saying “please choose me today…I want to run”. Or come to Nome just one time to see the dogs come across the finish line. They are so happy and still eager to run even though they have just run over 1100 miles on the most rugged trail in extreme weather conditions.

This is Heidi and I am currently using her picture as my screensaver at work. Below is another sweet face. I wanted to show you the igloo built by the handler of this dog. The igloos were ready for the dogs on this team when they got into Nome. They were built with large balls of snow and positioned so they cut off the wind which was very strong much of the time.

This is Zoro with the beautiful blue eyes. And below are a couple more sweeties.

And this is Blossom…another of my favorites!

I hope that answers the question many of you have asked me several times…and the question my husband continues to ask every year. I go because I love the dogs…I find the mushers extremely interesting and a joy to get to know…and…there’s NO PLACE LIKE NOME!

The best long distance runners
eat raw meat
run naked
and lay in the snow

(From an Alaska Airlines t-shirt)

Dallas Seavey coming into Nome…the youngest musher to ever run the Iditarod. He turned 18 one week before the start on March 5. His father, Mitch Seavey, won Iditarod last year. His brother Tyrell, 19 years old, ran this year and finished 16th. Their dad finished 3rd.

Not your average great-grandmother, huh? -- Dalton Hammond

Iditarod -- The Great Trail Sled Dog Sled Race