History at Hand (Literally)

Yesterday I worked with a crew of DNR Law Enforcement personnel on a project at the State Library in Lansing and we got a personal tour of the archives and how to use them. They actually took us into the vault and pulled out Michigan’s original constitution from 1835. Very, very cool. I love our state’s history and if you look you will see the original writer had to edit/ amend the document with the word “the” that had been omitted. Makes the folks just seem so much more human, eh?  The constitution was drafted in May and June and put to the people’s vote  October 5 and 6, 1835. The people approved the constitution 6,299 to 1,359, but we did not get taken into the union until 1837 when the Toledo issue was settled and the UP awarded to Michigan in lieu of the Toledo Strip. Good for us! Over.

Michigan's original hand-drafted constitution, written in Detroit, May 11 - June 24, 1835.


I was cruising through historical photos and ran across the following of what Mackinaw City and Iggy used to look like at deer season, pre-bridge. And there’s also shot of bridge under construction. Senator Prentiss Brown was the champion of the bride; John Voelker loathed it, didn’t want the added visitations. Over.

Long wait for Coxey's Army
Site Under Construction

Happy Belated Birthday

Yesterday was the day people celebrate Wm. Shakespeare’s birthday. Technicall the real date is not known, though there is an entry in Holy Trinity parish church in Stratford for Guliemus Filius Johannes Shakespeare (William, son of John…) for April 26, 1564. The mystery of the actual date revolves around rules for registering births at the time. In any event, Happy Birthday Mr. Shakespeare. How would Shakespeare fare as a writer were he alive today? I’d guess he’d have a pretty good following, maybe not the largest of any writer, but hey, he’d be a mere 457 years old, so any life and following would be pretty miraculous.

With apologies to the birthday boy I was thinking about some of his plays this morning and wondered what difference a title makes in a play’s reception and ultimate success. Remember the ongoing joke in Shakespeare in Love about the play the bard was writing to be called Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter?

If he were alive today and went to his editor to help trim the “duck” fat and find the best possible title, he might run off course until the editor helped out. I offer the following misdirected, almost titles from our times (and my mind):

Much Ado About Whatever


Henry IV . 1 and henry IV .2

A Midsummer’s Night’s Stream — (a play about hexagenia limbata fishing, or mousing, takes your pick, guv.)


The Taming of the Vole

As You Know (Ya Think Ya Know) It

The, Like, Product Specialist of Venice?

The Tragedy of Errors

The Briefest Storm

Easter Cupcakes & Fish On The Run

Happy Easter to you and yours. Sort of gloomy day here, but not raining. Mary Wood passed along an Easter cooking photo  to share. The color is  sheer Vesuvian and I’m sure the eating would be excellent too.

Most times around Easter I’m in the UP working with COs who are covering fish runs. When the ice goes out, the fish come into the rivers to spawn, smelt, rainbows, walleye and then the suckers. When you see the redhorses you know the walleyes are done. The yellow perch and whitefish tend to spawn out on reefs in bays, rather than in the rivers, but I know of at least one river in the UP where lake trout swim up to spawn. Many years ago a truck carrying lake trout for planting encountered some mechanical problems and rather than let the fish die, offloaded them into a river and lo and behold they began coming back up that same river to spawn every year.  Funny how memories drive a lot in every species.

Back in my high school days at Rudyard everyone looked forward to the smelt runs and word spread fast when they came into the creeks. Then for many years the runs seemed to fall off in volume and duration, and fish biologists told me the small fish had changed their patterns to spawning on reefs off the mouths of creeks and rivers they formerly ran.  But now smelt runs seem to be growing again. Maybe the drop in salmon population, with smaller plantings has influenced this? Whatever. Deep fried smelt are one of life’s pleasures, right up there with pan-fried brook trout and morel shrooms, which should be popping around Mother’s Day. Enjoy the photos. Over.

Mary's Easter Cupcakes
Recent batch of smdelt from the eastern UP.
Eastern UP "Steel."

Spring’s in the Air, Animals Moving Around

In the sixties today, and sunny. Nice. Last night Jambe Longue and I took our new friend, Doet Boersma (from the Netherlands), on an evening animal viewing tour south of Schoolcraft. She had never seen whitetail deer, or turkeys or sandhill cranes. Last night we saw about 200 deer, 20 or so turkeys and some sandhills, including a pair where the male was doing his mating dance, which is fun to see. Doet was intrigued by the Green Streamer, which is relatively empty this time of year, though I always keep a supply of flies in the roof over my head — just in case.  From further north, CO Nightlinger posted a photo from today. looks to me like a broadshoulder hawk, but not certain. Also, her friend Dani Rutledge of Epoufette posted a photo of a coyote seen on the Seney stretch en route to Marquette. It remained stationary for 2-3 minutes so photos could be taken. Look at the pointy ears and “fox-like” face and you know immediately this is a coyote rather than a wolf. The trout opener looms! Over.

Heading out for a nature tour, hoping rain will hold off.
Handy overhead flies...what every vehicle needs.
Break-time on the Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River, Bullshido Camp 2009. L to R: Robochef Bob Peterson, Al-the-Pal Allen VanDenBerg, and Reg YankCanuck Bernard.
Broad-shoulder hawk. Photo by K. Nightlinger.
Coyote seen near Seney. Photo taken by Dani Rutledge of Epoufette.

Cogitations and Ruminations

Lonnie (Jambe Longue) has finished radiation treatments and will begin a five-year regimen with Tamoxifen to suppress the estrogen that fueld the tumor removed in January. She made a decision to keep information public about what is going on to encourage other women to get regular mamograms and other checkups. She has met lots of women during this past couple of months, many with far more serious challenges and considers herself lucky to have caught this early. Since late December when the biopsy result came back Lonnie has continued to teach three classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, walk every day, do the stretches for her back every other days and maintain all her social relationships, all done with grace and a smile. Her way of handling such stress got me to thinking about how different people handle stressful times and moments in their lives.

46th Air Refueling Squadron patch.

 This led me to remember deep-winter excursions to Eilson AFB (near Fairbanks, Alaska), where we went to do periodic qualifications on what was called Max Gross Weight Takeoffs — maximum, nuclear war fuel loads. Don’t remember now how heavy the birds were, but Eilson was the only runway in the western hemisphere where this could be safely done (and then only in cold weather).  The takeoffs were required and while there we also used celestial grid navigation. As many know, the earth’s magnetic lines all converge at the poles, rendering compasses fairly inaccurate. To compensate we would disconnect the compass — which usually was oriented to Magnetic north, and point it out into the stars at an arbitrary spot and then navigate relative to our location versus that artificial point. This created in effect an artificial grid which would overlay the normal latitude and longitudes on regular charts and maps.

Missions typically took us up and out over the poles adjacent to Soviet air space and this naturally put a premium on navigators peforming flawlessly, less we run out of fuel and go down over a pole, or worse, wander over Soviet lines and be forced down (or worse) by Soviet air defense interceptors.

Not every navigator performed at expectations. I remember walking into the Eilson command post one night to get last minute information on weather, etc and looking at a wall with a map that stretched 20-30 feet across. On that map were pins and lines denoting actual routes traversed by errant navigators. Some of the tracks were so bizarre and so far off intended routes I wondered why crews had not crashed or been taken by the Soviets.

Naturally flying in the celestial grid mode with only stars to show the way (and assuming there’s no high overcast) tended to be nerve-wracking for all involved. Navigators were pretty much on their own and the crew totally dependent on his performance. Pilots couldn’t help because their alternate navigation devices were all compass-dependent, and the compass was disconnected. What I couldn’t figure out is why the errant navigators had not looked at their radars. True radar over year-round ice (it used to be so) caused strange radar readings and something called a reverse return. Most of us had done enough polar navigation in the ice belts to know how to translate what the radar showed, or if there was no undercast (which was rare) to simply look out the window for orientation. The far north is filled with countless islands, most of them unknown and uninhabited by other than a few Inuit hunters. Looking at your radar would be a way of checking your progress by letting you pick out prominent islands as a double check. My own principle, and that of my crews was to use every alternative available to us so we could successfully fly the mission and come home safely. Had I thought myself in a problem in such circumstances I would have been asking for help from my crewmates, not silently hoping for the best while we raced along at eight miles a minute.

KC-135 Stratotanker

Years later I saw the phenomenon again — this time in the corporate world. (Think military without uniforms.) I had been promoted a few times and wanted to offer my professionals a chance to go through a formal evaluation program to help them take stock of what were perceived to be managerial skills. I had been through such a program and albeit somewhat artificial, it was educational and useful. The entire battery of course is chock full of stressors, from intellectual to human.

One of my folks was a highly competent and competent performer, yet in several exercises he absolutely fell apart and go nowhere near the desired results. The scary part was that at no time did he reveal even a tiny degress of stress. He looked and acted like he was on top of everything. The results showed differently. he was certain he had maxed out every single task with the highest possible performance. Yet he had tanked virtually everything. In other words he had no idea of how he had really performed, only what he had programmed himself to think, a sort of tunnel vision, self-deluding wall as far as I could tell. The consultants pulled me aside and told me that this sort of individual was potentially most lethal to an organization, because he could not distinguish good peformance from catastrophic and might unknowingly continue on his merry way until everything fell down on top of everyone. You need to think carefully about what sort of assignments he gets and pay attention. The lesson is that we all need to know our limits and seek help and support before we begin to run off the edge of the map.

One of the exercises in the program involved a manager calling an employee to a meeting based on what he thought was a problem with the individual, but when the employee arrived he presented with a totally different and nearly off-the-wall situation. Most of the erstwhile managers of course prepared for Situation A, but came face to face with situation Z and those who lacked the ability to think on theri feet and improvise had an awful and stressful experience. Several actually sat in total silence behind the desk, tuning out the employee and his problem. We video-taped these sessions and invariable the person would say emphatically,” No I didn’t do that” until we played the tape and then they’d  amend their response to,” Oh.”

This shut-down behavior I had seen before during POW -interrogation resistance training at survival school at Fairchild AFB near Spokane Washington. There most tried to use techniques we had been taught to resist, but as weather and stress mounted others simply lay down on the frozen ground, curled their legs in fetal positions and stuck thumbs in their mouth. I was astounded to see it and learned you cannot tell by looking at people at a glance who can or cannot handle stress. Plus abilities change with age and experience. Each of us handles stress differently and the variation is surprisingly wide.

But Jambe Longue? She’s done good.  Enjoy your Easter. Over.

Chile Fish


Can't hit new water and come up with new flies to tie....

The world's game, even in fishing camp. Bueno.

Joe Guild and his lady Doc Casey were recently in Chile trout fishing — taking along her dad and his and they shared the following pix. Joe even proposed on the bank of a trout river, which is super. Oh yeah the fishing was pretty good too — as were the sights and sounds. Following photos capture some of it. [NOTE: Cancer update: Lonnie had her 20th and final radiation session yesterday. She has a very itchy rash and she’s tired as in whooped, but now looking forward. Sometimes luck comes in odd forms. She thanks everyone for their prayers.]

They speak trout in South America
The views are ho-hum.
Casey with a nice brown trout!
Love on the gravel.
Food presentation gets a 4.0.
Fish on!
Father and son.
Wild brown, Chernobyl ant. Notice blue spot on trout gill -- indication or wildness.
Okay we should have enough calories here to survive -- for a year.
Hey, it beats WALKING (maybe).
Troutfitter's troutlady on troutwater.
Somewhere-somewhere-over-over the-the rainbow-rainbow... (Hey I thought that was Kansas!).
Troutbums -- in the finest sense.
Another river, overcast day, let the fishing commence!
Shorelunch shenaningans
Fishing food? You've GOT to be KIDDING me!
Goodnight Sun, Goodnight Hon.
Nice fishy.
Uh, can we match THIS hatch? (OUCH!)
Joe the Guide rows, Jose the Guide casts. Ah, balance in life for troutbumdom. Bueno, amigos.
Can we spell happy?

Eavesdropping as research:Hearing the things people say

Much good writing is built on dialog, the rhythms and twisted logics of conversation between people. Group settings are good places to sit and listen and write down lines out of context – Sam’s Club, your local bar, train station, airport, people around you in a theater, or on a bus or train, in an auditorium at a play, wherever folks gather, listen and write down what you hear, one because it teaches how people think and express thought, and two because it is often downright funny, which can stimulate various ideas for you.  Another good source is C-Span call-ins, or radio call-in programs. Here are some things I’ve heard over the last year or so:

  • One woman to another at an art show: “Think apricot, not orange. Pale yellow, not phorescent.”
  • Two women talking, one defines menopause as: “Crying in the dishwater.”
  • Overheard on NPR:  “I’m very not mathematical.”
  • Heard on NPR: ” All Muslims ain’t up to something.”
  • Beside-the-Road sign in Texas:  “URGENT MESSAGE: Yes, you can know for sure that you are going to Heaven.”
  • At restaurant: “Then she ain’t got no way to get holt of nobody.”
  • In a restaurant: “Back when I was a kid there weren’t no lights off at Halloween. Didn’t have to worry about nothing in them days.”
  • Overheard in coffee klatch: “The old phone don’t work like the new one they give me.”
  • In Meijers on a Saturday night, one woman to an older woman: “That’s the stuff over there, but you don’t use that stuff.”
  • Heard on radio: “We are a learning industry.”
  • Heard on NPR: “I was a former teacher.”