Monday, February 28, 2005

Be An Einstein

You are invited to participate in one of the most far-reaching scientific experiments in history.

Einstein@Home LogoOne of the predictions of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity field equations is that a large acceleration of mass produces a ripple in space-time called a gravitational wave. A better understanding of gravitational waves would be of enormous significance in helping us to understand how the universe works. Unfortunately until recently there has been no way to detect or study this phenomenon.

Scientists believe that exploding stars, binary pulsars, and certain other massive space objects produce gravitational waves, and to study them, facilities have been set up at the U.S. Laser Interferometry Gravitational Wave Observatory, or LIGO, as well as the British-German GEO-600 gravity-wave observatory. Observations have begun and massive amounts of data are being collected, all of which must be analyzed before they can become useful.

Unfortunately only a super-supercomputer could handle these data. That's where you come in.

Einstein@Home is a collaborative project involving many thousands of computers around the world which collect and crunch smaller portions of data, sending the results back to project scientists for final analysis.

I have been running Einstein@Home on my home computer for several weeks. The program was easy to set up, runs invisibly in the background during my idle computing time, and does not slow down my system in any way. I can see the results of my work in archive and real-time, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I am contributing to the advancement of science.

To find out more and start your own adventure in scientific discovery go to Einstein@Home at

Once you get running it may take up to a week for you to receive credit for your work since your results will be validated against other computers for accuracy.

Then give yourself a nice pat on the back.

-- Dalton Hammond

My Backyard Astronomy Page

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Iditarod -- The Great Trail Sled Dog Sled Race

I had never heard of The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race until a few years ago when I learned that a friend of mine has been serving as a volunteer in the annual event.

The Iditarod web site explains it best:
More than a race...a Commemoration

The race pits man and animal against nature, against wild Alaska at her best and as each mile is covered, a tribute to Alaska's past is issued. The Iditarod is a tie to -- a commemoration of -- that colorful past.

A pretty volunteer gets a kiss from a Trail Sled Dog at the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage, AlaskaThe Iditarod Trail, now a National Historic Trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps at Flat, Ophir, Ruby and beyond to the west coast communities of Unalakleet, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain and Nome. Mail and supplies went in. Gold came out. All via dog sled. Heroes were made, legends were born.

In 1925, part of the Iditarod Trail became a life saving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome. Diphtheria threatened and serum had to be brought in; again by intrepid dog mushers and their faithful hard-driving dogs.

The Iditarod is a commemoration of those yesterdays, a not-so-distant past that Alaskans honor and are proud of.

How about that picture? Is that human interest or what? Check out the Iditarod web site for yourself, but hurry, we mush on Saturday, March 5.

-- Dalton Hammond

May 2, 2005 Update: The 2005 Iditarod Report

Friday, February 25, 2005

Windows Magnifier Tool

You didn't know that Windows has a Magnifying Tool? Well, it's hidden somewhat so here's a way to make this utility a lot easier to use.

Windows Magnifiying ToolGo to Start > Programs > Accessories > Accessibility and left click on Magnifier, then click on Properties. Place your mouse cursor on the Shortcut Key box, hold down Control and Alt and an unused shortcut letter of your choice, such as "M" for "magnifier". Click "Apply" and close the Properties box.

Now when you see something on your computer monitor that you'd like to enlarge, press Ctrl+Alt+M (or the letter you have chosen) and the Magnifying Tool will pop into view and magnify whatever you put your cursor on, or whatever you have selected, depending on your choices in the options box.

The Magnifier window can be moved or resized and once you're happy with your configuration you'll want to check the "Start Minimized" option to keep the Options box out of your way.

The older your eyes get, the more you'll appreciate this tool. I know.

-- Dalton Hammond
Other Windows Tips

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

M42 -- The Orion Nebula

Orion, The Hunter, is a very prominent star constellation in the Winter sky, characterized by three bright stars in a row that represent the hunter's "belt". This is the way it looks to the unaided eye. Hanging down from the belt is a little string of stars making up Orion's sword "scabbard". See the fuzzy star next to the bottom in the scabbard?

Now here's what that fuzzy "star" looks like through a small telescope.

The glorious Orion Nebula, number 42 in the Messier catalog is a veritable nursery of newborn stars which are being formed by contraction of the interstellar gases you see illuminated by the hot new stars. I took this picture with my 8-inch telescope fitted with a reducer so the whole image would fit in the field of view.

You can even make out a bit of its shape through your binoculars. Give it a try.

It is a beautiful and amazing universe we live in.

-- Dalton Hammond

More of my Backyard Astronomy

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Beekeeper

As a former Top 40 disc jockey I have worked with many record artists over the years in a somewhat peripheral way and have always been impressed at the sheer hard work, dedication, and talent required to make a living in the music business. In order to promote new recording artists and new label releases the record companies and distributors used to send record promo men to the prominent radio stations in their markets to introduce new artists and persuade us to play new releases. Many of these guys had reputations similar to the traveling salesmen you hear so many jokes about.

One night after work I went out for breakfast with a record promo man who was passing through and during the meal he reached in a pocket and took out an ordinary-looking matchbox and showed it to me, telling us that he was a beekeeper hobbyist and that he had just purchased this really expensive queen bee and had to get her to his house by tomorrow. Of course there was no way he could open the matchbox to show me or the little darling would fly away. I just sat there, totally impressed.

It took me years to realize that I had been had.

Try it on your friends.

-- Dalton Hammond

Monday, February 21, 2005

My Beach Music Pages

30 Smiles For Today

I don't care for the beer or the guns but some of these are cute. -- Dalton Hammond

1. My wife and I divorced over religious differences. She thought she was God and I didn't.

2. I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.

3. I Work Hard Because Millions On Welfare Depend on Me!

4. Some people are alive only because it's illegal to kill them.

5. I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

6. Don't take life too seriously; No one gets out alive.

7. You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me.

8. Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

9. Earth is the insane asylum for the universe.

10. I'm not a complete idiot --Some parts are missing.

11. Out of my mind. Back in five minutes.

12. NyQuil, the stuffy, sneezy, why-the-heck-is-the-room-spinning medicine.

13. God must love stupid people; He made so many.

14. The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

15. Consciousness: That annoying time between naps.

16. Ever stop to think, and forget to start again?

17. Being "over the hill" is much better than being under it!

18. Wrinkled Was Not One of the Things I Wanted to Be When I Grew up.

19. Procrastinate Now!

20. I Have a Degree in Liberal Arts; Do You Want Fries With That?

21. A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

22. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.

23. Stupidity is not a handicap. Park elsewhere!

24. They call it PMS because Mad Cow Disease was already taken.

25. He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless dead.

26. A picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up three thousand times the memory.

27. Ham and eggs. A day's work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig.

28. The trouble with life is there's no background music.

29. The original point and click interface was a Smith and Wesson.

30. I smile because I don't know what the heck is going on.

More Jokes

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Course Record At St. Andrews

This story about back-to-back U.S. Open golf champion Curtis Strange won't be for you if you're not into golf. Read some of my joke pages instead. -- D.H.

A few years ago I covered the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic at Kingsmill in Williamsburg, Virginia for a local radio station. One such year during lunch I was sitting with a pleasant gentleman who turned out to be Bill Neal, stepfather of feisty two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange, the touring pro and tournament host at Kingsmill.

Bill Neal worked as calligrapher for the leaderboard down in in the Press Room with me and I had already been impressed by how likeable he was. We started talking and he told me this story:

Several months earlier he and a group of friends had flown to the birthplace of golf, fabled St. Andrews Royal and Ancient Golf Club in Scotland, where his famous stepson had recently broken the over 200-year-old course record. Bill couldn't wait to play the course for himself.

St. Andrews golfLed by their trusty Old Course caddies, Bill and his friends played well in the chilly summer breeze that bathed the links from the North Sea, enjoying the ambiance and the culture of their medieval surroundings. The group had heard many jokes about the legendary Old Course caddies who were said to have a cynical talent for poking fun at the mistakes of any duffer who crossed them with unthoughtful play or comments, so the Americans played carefully and were careful in what they said.

At the end of the round while they were putting the clubs away and tipping the caddies Bill couldn't help bragging, just a little. He mentioned to his caddy that his stepson Curtis Strange had recently broken the St. Andrews course record with a 62.

Unimpressed, the caddy barely looked up as he mumbled, "Aye? Th' wind must nae ha' been blowin'".

-- Dalton Hammond

My Other Golf Stories

Rockets and Satellites In Your Backyard

As a boy I dreamed of one day being able to look up and see rocket ships flying overhead. That dream has come true, and now you too can see the International Space Station (ISS), NASA Space Shuttle missions and other space objects from your own backyard, no telescope or binoculars needed.-- D.H.

Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor -- STS-88The Space Shuttle Endeavor rockets past the Virginia coastline on its way to Earth orbit on shuttle mission STS-88 in a night launch from Cape Canaveral. To the eye Endeavor appeared as a bright orange star moving rapidly from the South to the East, staying low to the horizon. Low-power binoculars easily revealed a fan-shaped orange exhaust plume.

This picture was taken at 3:42 A.M. on December 4, 1998, seven minutes after liftoff from Florida. It is an 8-second exposure at about f4.5 and 110 mm or so (zoom). I had a very full moon at my back which is illuminating the trees, pole, and insulators.

To see Earth-orbiting satellites flying over your own backyard go to the free web site Heavens Above. Start with the ISS which is usually very bright and easy to see, and the next night that it passes your way show it to your family, friends and neighbors. They'll think you are some sort of rocket scientist and will thank you for pulling them away from the TV to enjoy our fascinating universe.

-- Dalton Hammond

More of my Backyard Astronomy

Friday, February 18, 2005

How to Wash the Cat

I've no idea who the author is of this internet tidbit. Just don't blame me. -- Dalton Hammond

1. Thoroughly clean the toilet.

2. Add the required amount of shampoo to the toilet water, and have both lids lifted.

3. Obtain the cat and soothe it while you carry him towards the bathroom.

4. In one swift, smooth movement, put the cat in the toilet bowl and close both lids (you may need to stand on the lid so that he cannot escape). CAUTION: Do not get any part of your body too close to the edge, as its paws will be reaching out for anything they can find. The cat will self-agitate and make ample suds. Never mind the noises that come from your toilet, the cat is actually enjoying this.

5. Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a "power wash" and "rinse" which I have found to be quite effective.

6. Have someone open the door to the outside and ensure that there are no people between the toilet and the outside door.

7. Stand behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift both lids.

8. The now-clean cat will rocket out of the toilet, and run outside where it will dry itself.

The Dog

More Jokes

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Snake and My Date

That famous threesome in The Garden of Eden -- Adam, Eve, and the Snake (serpent) -- really messed up didn't they? Remember what God told the snake?

Genesis 3:15 -- "I will put enmity between you and the woman..."

I always think about that provision of The Adamic Covenant as I recall this story. -- D.H.

Back in the early '60s I was the radio disc jockey for the nightly request program from a local drive-in restaurant. The car hops would take your food order and you could give him or her your written requests for songs and dedications which were sent up to me in the broadcast booth. It was a local favorite hangout and fans came from miles around, making it a great place to meet girls.

One night a particularly interesting girl expressed an interest in meeting me after I got off the air so off we went in search of adventure. We ended up at a well-isolated parking lot in a remote part of the suburbs where we wouldn't be bothered.

SnakeAfter enjoying the solitude, the music on the radio, and each other for a couple of hours it was time to go. My friend stepped outside the car to straighten up a bit and in a moment I heard an unusual commotion coming from her direction. When she got back inside she saw the quizzical look on my face and explained that she had seen a snake on the parking lot but that I shouldn't worry; she had stomped it to death.

God's Dispensation to Adam and Eve ringing in my ears, I opened the car door and went outside to see what this brave woman was talking about. There on the fresh pavement, looking very dead in the moonlight, was her belt!

-- Dalton Hammond

More of My Radio Stories

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

My Dog Bogey Gives Up Golf

There are two true stories that I sometimes tell that always leave me wondering if anyone believes me. The first, my encounter with The Ghost of Maco Station has already been shared on these pages, and now I'd like to try the other one. - D.H.

About sixteen years ago when my dog Bogey, a Lhasa Apso, was still a puppy I decided to take him with me on a golf weekend to the Outer Banks. On the morning I was to go home I had an early tee time at Seascape Golf Links and decided to leave him in the Bronco with the back glass down since it was a cool morning.

All went well on the golf course but as I made the turn the weather turned pretty warm so I asked the club pro if Bogey could ride with me the rest of the way in the golf cart. To my great surprise the pro said okay so I loaded ole Bogey and off we went to the next tee.

Now Bogey is an extremely smart dog. He has always understood nearly every word I've ever spoken to him, and he was happy sitting like a good dog on the cart seat, watching us play. He has seen a lot of golf on TV since that's all I ever watch on the tube and I began to kid myself that he was actually keeping up with the action, but he never got in the way. Bogey is a good little boy.

Finally we came to the last hole, a short 115-yard par 3 and since there was a group ahead of us still on the green putting out and I had the honor, I teed my ball and stood back waiting for my turn to hit up.

Bogey saw his opportunity. He slid down from the seat, jumped out of the cart and headed for my tee. Since I was teed up over the prettiest grass on the sandy tee box I figured Bogey was about to answer a call of nature somewhere close to mark his spot, but he was walking toward my teed-up ball. He has chewed up a few balata ball covers back at home and I thought my Titleist sitting dead still on the tee was chew bait for sure.

But no. As Bogey approached the ball from the player's side he looked left at the flagstick down below and then stared right at the ball as if actually considering walking off with my game ball in his mouth to go off somewhere while chomping a few holes and scratches into the cover.

Instead, Bogey looked downrange at the flagstick, which had by now been replaced in the hole, then turned to the teed ball and swatted at it with his right paw. It was nothing like a perfect swing; he wore no gloves and his four-point stance looked funny but the "palm" of his paw caught the ball and it came completely off the tee and rolled about three feet -- straight for the hole which was now a hundred fourteen and a quarter yards away.

He looked down at his shot, sniffed at it disapprovingly, left it where it lay just past the tee box, climbed back into the cart, and never played golf again.

What a dog. -- Dalton Hammond.

My Other Golf Stories

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I Love Beach Music

Beach Music fans seem to have more fun. The Embers song "I Love Beach Music" is said to be the largest-selling Beach Music song of all time, and it certainly does characterize the phenomenon that we call Beach Music.

Beach Music is The Temptations, Jackie Wilson, The Embers, The Four Tops, the worldwide syndicated radio show "On the Beach With Charlie Brown" (a co-worker of mine at WKIX in the '60s), Marvin Gaye, Craig Woolard, The Holiday Band and much more. It is the songs we grew up to and enjoyed on those wonderful vacations at the beach, away from our parents.

I took my girl friend (who is a bit younger) to see Band of Oz at the Outer Banks last year. When she saw the dance floor she said to me in amazement "I can't believe all these people are out there dancing (the Shag) -- with each other!" She never saw them do that at rap concerts I guess. She told me it was the most fun she ever had. I could only modestly tell her "That's what I'm here for, Sweet Thing."

This photo was taken at a free outdoor concert at Ocean View last summer which featured music by The Catalinas, another band from the Carolinas which has been playing around in clubs for decades. To catch this colorful couple dancing under the flag was a photo opportunity that would have thrilled any photographer.

Listen to my friend Charlie Brown's program on the 'net and see what you think. You might even hear my voice on a couple of recorded liners. All your other friends will be there too. -- D.H.

My Other Beach Music Blog Page

More of My Radio Stories

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Stupid Criminal Blotter

I just love reading about the stupidity of criminals. Here are some stories that are going around. Click on the titles to go to the Blogs where I found them. -- D.H.

From The Dumb Network: I'm 21!!!
A man walked into the corner store with a shotgun and demanded all of the money from the cash register. After the cashier put the money in the bag as instructed, the man demanded the bottle of Scotch he saw behind the counter. The cashier refused to hand over the Scotch because he did not believe the man was 21. The robber swore he was, but still the clerk refused. Finally, the robber handed over his ID and proved that he was indeed twenty-one. As soon as he left, the cashier called and gave the police the name and address of the man who had just robbed the store. The suspect was arrested two hours later.

From Stupid Criminals: The Bulge
A drug-possession defendant in Pontiac, Michigan said he had been searched without a warrant. The prosecutor said the officer didn't need a warrant because a "bulge" in Christopher's jacket could have been a gun. Nonsense, said Christopher,who happened to be wearing the same jacket that day in court. He handed it over so the judge could see it.

The judge discovered a packet of cocaine in the pocket and laughed so hard he required a five-minute recess to compose himself.

From Humor Like Stuff: He Gave Her the Finger
"This is no toy; the gun is loaded," the robber said to his victims Monday in the Pekin Cleaners on Chicago's south side.

Police said the robber, wearing a red handkerchief over his face and carrying a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun, then opened the gun to show it was loaded. When he closed it, the weapon fired, taking off two-thirds of the little finger of his left hand. After the gun fired, he took $10 from the cash register and a portable television set from the counter and fled.

Police recovered the tip of the finger and were able to get a fingerprint.

From Dumb Criminals, Stupid Criminals: Bad Investment

Louisiana: A man walked into a Circle-K, put a $20 bill on the counter and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled-- leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer? Fifteen dollars.

From Humor Page: stupid_criminal: Two Good Quickies

Did you hear about the guys that held up the Japanese tour bus?

The police apprehended them several days later, they had 500 good photographs of each robber.

Here's the other:

A man in Switzerland went to a photo shop, had pictures taken, and -- while the photographer developed the pictures -- he took off with the cash register, leaving behind, of course, the pictures.

-- Dalton Hammond...GOOD DAY!

More Jokes

Friday, February 11, 2005

I Bought My Love A Cherry

This is a little weird of me... -- Dalton Hammond

Because my love is fickle
I gave to her a nickel.

I gave my love a penny
Because she hadn't any.

I bought my love a sextant
Because she had none extant.

And then still feeling merry
I bought my love a cherry.

(c) 2005, Dalton Hammond


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Triple Tornadoes at Sea

Triple tornado waterspouts
You know it's a bad day at sea when you have THREE tornado waterspouts coming at you at the same time.

The good news is, this photo is only another fake that was making the rounds on the internet recently.

You can relax now.

-- Dalton Hammond

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

ARE Men From Mars?

I doubt it.

There was a lot of ballyhoo in the press back in August 2003 about the red planet Mars and its closest approach to the Earth in almost 60,000 years, but most people probably missed seeing it. About 35 million miles is as close as it came and it only appeared as a bright red starlike point in the sky, if you knew where to look.
Here is what you may have missed: Mars in all its glory as it appeared through my 8-inch amateur telescope on August 21, 2003. I jury-rigged my Nikon digital camera to the telescope, took a series of pictures and combined them to form the image you see here. I must have lucked into a night of good seeing because not many pictures from the worldwide amateur community using comparable equipment came out very much better. Pure luck.

The white spot at the top is the icy south pole, and the dark circle below it and to the left is the tallest mountain in the entire solar system, Olympic Mons, more than twice as tall as our Mount Everest.

If this kind of stuff tickles your fancy, find an astronomy club near you and attend one of their free public star parties. You'll be able to look through bigger telescopes than mine and your hosts will be happy to take you on a tour of the wonders of our universe.


-- Dalton Hammond

Monday, February 07, 2005

I Reminded Him Of His Brother

What a day.

A few minutes ago I received a call from the guy down the road who sells firewood. He wanted to know if I still wanted some. I replied that I sure did, and he drove right over to my house.

As I helped him stack the wood I noticed that he looked older than me, and I made a comment about all the hard work he does cutting, splitting, loading, and stacking wood for people. He replied that he grew up in the country where people had to work to eat. I muttered something and kept stacking.

After a brief silence he asked me "By any chance do you know where the Eastern Shore is?" I almost dropped a piece of wood on my foot.

"As a matter of fact," I said, "I do. A friend of mine grew up over there."

The man looked stunned. "Y-y-you know someone from the Eastern Shore?" he croaked.

I told him my friend's name, and added "I think he has relatives around here."

"I don't quite remember that name," he said thoughtfully, "but there were some folks named...", and he went about telling me who lived there and who did what and to whom, and we kept on stacking wood.

Finally we unloaded his truck and I gave him his money, thanked him, and turned to go up the garage steps to the kitchen. At the top of the steps I looked back to find him still standing at the bottom looking up at me. He had a funny look in his eyes and after composing himself for a few seconds he told me that I reminded him of his dead brother back on the Eastern Shore. He wanted to know if it would be too much to ask for me to call him "brother", just once.

By now I was getting a little scared and just wanted him to go, so I said, as sternly as I could, "I've got things to do" and I paused for just a second, and added "brother".

I knew I shouldn't have said it. The guy went crazy. He started crying and moaning, and reached over and grabbed me from the bottom of the steps and started hugging my leg, calling me "brother" over and over.

Now I was the one who was freaking. I tried to pull away but he kept hugging my leg. I warned him I would call the police. I even threatened to break a nearby mop handle over his head, but no matter what I said or did the guy held on, sobbing and moaning, and pulling my leg.

Just like I'm pulling yours.

-- Dalton Hammond

More Jokes

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Rejected Titles for Children's Books

1. You are Different and That's Bad
2. The Boy Who Died From Eating All His Vegetables
3. Dad's New Wife 'Greg'
4. Fun four-letter Words to know and Share
5. Hammers, Screwdrivers and Scissors: An "I-Can-Do-It Book:
6. The Kids Guide to Hitchhiking
7. Kathy Was So Bad Her Mommy Stopped Loving Her
8. Curious George and the High-Voltage Fence
9. All Cats Go to Hell
10. The Little Sissy Who Snitched
11. Some Kittens Can Fly
12. That's it; I'm Putting You Up for Adoption
13. Grandpa Gets a Casket
14. The Magic World Inside the Abandoned Refrigerator
15. Garfield Gets Feline Leukemia
16. The Pop-Up Book of Human Anatomy
17. Strangers Have the Best Candy
18. Whining, Kicking and Crying to Get your Way
19. You were an Accident
20. Things Rich Kids Have, But You Never Will
21. Pop! Goes the Hamster. And Other Great Microwave Games
22. The Man in the Moon is Actually Satan
23. Your Nightmares Are Real
24. Where Would You Like to be Buried?
25. Eggs, Toilet paper, and your School
26. Why Can't Mr. Fork and Ms. Electrical Outlet Be Friends?
27. Places Where Mommy and Daddy Hide Neat Things
28. Daddy Drinks Because You Cry
29. The Surprise at the Bottom of the Pool
30. If It Feels Good, Touch It!
31. Making Grown-Up Friends On The Internet
32. 101 Fun Games To Play In The Road
33. You Can't Help It If You're Stupid
34. Patty Went Splat! (Don't YOU Forget Your Seatbelt)
35. Bullies Deserve To Die
36. Mommy's Got A New Baby To Love
37. Timmy's The Wrong Color To Be Your Friend
38. I Dare You! 101 Challenges To Prove You're Not A Sissy

More Jokes

Friday, February 04, 2005

Comet C/1995 O1 - Hale-Bopp

Comet C/1995 O1 Hale-BoppDid you get a good look at Comet Hale-Bopp back in 1997? I mounted my Nikon 35mm film camera with a 70mm lens on top of my telescope -- it's called "piggybacking" -- and used the clock drive on the telescope scope mount to compensate for the rotation of the Earth while I kept the shutter open for four minutes to get this picture. Our Great Metropolitan Newspaper liked it so much they put it on the front page, in color. Image copyright 2005, Robert Jones

-- Dalton Hammond

More of my Backyard Astronomy

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Little Girl and the Sand Fiddler

A few years ago I decided to rent a room at the Outer Banks of North Carolina all by myself for a relaxing weekend. The John Yancey is a prime Oceanfront motel with few amenities, but it is right on the ocean. All the newer places at the beach are set behind the dunes, but the John Yancey was older and somehow hadn't been washed away yet.

I selected a room on the second floor hoping to sit on the deck at night with the lights off, watching the beach and what stars could be seen above the horizon wash and glare of security lights.

A Sand Fiddler - North Carolina Outer Banks vacation guestDid I just see a scorpion? No, it was a fiddler crab, scurrying sideways across the sand from a dune next door, to stop just under my balcony to preen and glint in the moonlight.

I could see completely through its body; its organs pulsating under its translucent exoskeleton. I marvelled in the perfection of this creature of God which lay fewer than twenty feet away from where I sat in the darkness.

Now, in my view appeared a young girl, maybe 6 or 8 years old. She was probably staying in the room below me. She was so pretty and fair with blonde hair and deep blue eyes; an example of pure, innocent youth. "Will she be afraid of it?", I wondered as the little girl approached the crab, studying it carefully. I decided she'd probably daintily try to trap it and take it home as a pet.

As I watched, she swung her sand pail and with one swat she crushed the sand fiddler to a pulp. It twitched once and was no more.

-- Dalton Hammond

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

How I Played the 1992 U.S. Open - by Dalton Hammond

This is a long story but it has a cool ending so stay with it. -- D.H.

A few years ago my friend Mark and I decided to see for ourselves what it is like to play Tour golf, by playing the venue for the upcoming 1992 U.S. Open Golf Tournament, the world-class seaside Pebble Beach Golf Links in Monterey, California. We arrived just three weeks ahead of the world's best golfers.

Mark is a good player; he shot 74 at Spyglass Hill earlier in the week. I figured I'd be lucky to break a hundred, but at least we'd be playing the finest golf course in the world, just like the pros.

The first part of the round was just a blur as I wallowed in the ambiance of the golf gods who had played this majestic Valhalla before me. The waves of Carmel Bay lapped at my feet and the gulls and harbor seals sang in harmony as I tried to focus some attention to my golf game. I could almost smell then-Mayor Clint Eastwood's "For-A-Few-Dollars-More" steaks grilling at The Hog's Breath Tavern just down the bay in Carmel.

Coming out of my reverie a bit I realized we were nearing the end of the round and I needed to finish with a bit of a surge if I was going to break 100. Accordingly, I pushed my tee ball out of bounds on #16 and shouted for the caddy to forget going Golf at Pebble Beach after it. I teed up another ball and slugged it just hard enough to plop it over the bunker in the middle of the fairway and it rolled several yards down the hill toward the little gully that goes in front of the green, a perfect shot, lying 3. From 135 yards my full eight iron skipped past the hole a bit, circled around like in a bowl and stopped eight feet from the hole. Made the putt for an Out-of-Bounds bogey 5. My caddy Casey, a former California State Amateur Champion, applauded it.

The 17th hole is a par 3, about 168 yards from the white tee box and I hit a four-iron that skipped to the second plateau of the green, and after a disheartening three-putt I had my bogey. "Nothing to this game", I thought. Remember, at my level of play I'm glad to get bogeys. Especially at Pebble.

On the spectacular 18th hole at Pebble Beach the white tees were all the way back with the pro tees, as far back as possible. Two more feet and we'd be over a rail and in the bay. My point is, the pros don't have to hit it any farther than we did on that day. What you want to do is draw your tee shot fearlessly around a corner of the water to leave an easier approach to the par 5 green.

The bay never came into play as my well-struck tee shot failed to turn left and went straight into the fairway bunker. Now, this was exactly six weeks before the U.S. Open and there was fresh sand in all the bunkers, and the rough was up over my knees as I walked to my ball. I decided to just try to get it out onto the fairway with an eight iron. I got the ball out all right, half way to the fairway. When I finally found my ball sitting down in all that grass all I could do was take a huge swipe at it with a sand wedge and the ball chunked out to the fairway wrapped in a bale of fresh-hewn bermuda grass.

I hit the eight iron again onto the green and two-putted for a bogey six that felt like a twenty. Yet I played the last three holes, three of the toughest holes in golf, in three over par. I finished the day with a 95 and figured I had gone to heaven.

Three weeks later I had the TV on for the first time in months, watching the long-awaited U.S. Open being played.

In the Sunday final round, my favorite, Jack Nicklaus who was having severe hip problems, took a bogey on #16 and a double bogey on #17. He and I were both shaken as he stood on the tee at #18 and I'll be damned if Jack Nicklaus didn't put his tee ball in the exact same spot in the exact same fairway bunker I was just in three weeks earlier. Like me, The Master played an eight iron out of the sand that failed to make it to the fairway and, like me, he played a sand wedge out [of another of my divots] as the great man went on to get a double bogey on the hole. In later years Jack would undergo a hip replacement which would help him recapture much of the physical playing ability which abandoned him on this round.

Then it hit me. The Greatest Golfer In The World had just finished the last three holes five over par. Three weeks ago I had played the same three holes only three over par, meaning


--Dalton Hammond

My Other Golf Stories

Windows Tip: Full-Screen Browser Key

Here's a little-known Windows Tip you can use to make your web surfing much easier:

To do away with the extra task, status, and link bars on your browser, just press your F11 key. They'll go away like magic. To retore everything like before, press F11 again.

This makes reading long documents and lists s-o-o-o much easier.

-- Dalton Hammond
Other Windows Tips