Oh My Gosh

I was looking at some pictures online of pre cambrian creatures for the heck of it, and I saw a picture that had some quote on it about evolution. It was obvious it was from some creationist site. Just for giggles I went there for a look see. I am still trying to wipe the stink of stupid from my computer screen. You know those kinds of places where seriously confused people pretend to be professionals. Where they have all the answers. Where real scientists are all engaged in some sort of global conspiracy to foist evolution upon the masses. Where projection and credential envy run rampant. This is one of those places.

I offer you:


Which is bad, but not head exploding bad, then I clicked a link that took me here:


Anyone who is likely to read this blog, I warn you to go here is putting everything you know and understand to the test of sanity. This place is like the Fox News of creationism. The black hole of buffoonery. The DI, the ICR, and AIG all rolled into one! I wanted to do a takedown on an article I saw there, but I am just too tired this afternoon to do so. If any of you are looking for blog material, this place is a jackpot!

Just leave some for me, ok?

Oh, whatever you do dear reader, do NOT click on the “baloney detector” link. Not unless you are a level 3 sceptic with super powers. I barely survived. It’s a good thing I left a trail of bread crumbs to follow back. Though I may be walking with a limp for a few days…




So, What Is A Shelldigger Anyway?

I recently had to fill out a questionaire regarding my work history. I had filed for disability a couple of years ago, and the SS administration wants you to complete this form at least a couple or three times through the process. As per my normal expectations, meaning that no matter what the situation, nothing about filling out a standard form would be an easy job or in any way standard. They want you to list all of the duties you performed in a teeny little box about 2 inches wide and 1 inch tall. Well, I took one long look at that little space and decided to write them a report. Here it is with a few things added recently in parentheses:

Duties of a Commercial Diver

Daily routine:
Up by 6:00. Pack a lunch. Hook boat up to truck. Drive to service station to top off gas tanks. Grab a biscuit with something in it for breakfast. Drive to river, considering wind and weather conditions to maximize work efficiency on the way. Launch boat. Park truck, don wet suit. ( I used to joke among my diver friends that just getting to the river and into a wet suit was the equiivalent of a half days work for most people) Drive boat to pre determined location, again analyzing river current and wind en route (I have web sites bookmarked with this info, I know before I leave the house where I want to go, but often the wind you actually see does not jive with what the weatherman said. Sometimes conditions require rethinking intended location) Arrive at location, anchor off when you get there. Start (air) compressor. Throw out air/life line (and hang shell bags on the side of the boat). Buckle up weight belt harness, 50 lb. of lead. Prepare for dive (which consists of making sure all your gear is ready and functional) put a shell sack around my neck. (I also have a helmet with a very bright halogen 12 v bulb. They don’t call river diving “Black Water Diving” for nuttin) Raise anchor. Start dive.

A dive consists of descending hand over hand via air/life line to bottom (This ain’t Scuba!This kind of diving is classified as Hookah, using an oil-less air compressor mated to a Honda 5.5 horse engine to provide air, and using a “lifeline”. Basically an air hose attached to a good stout rope, that attaches to the weight belt. Wet Suits and regulators and masks you would recognize, they are the same as regular scuba gear.). Begin harvesting shell. Harvest shell till bag is full usually averaging 100 lbs sometimes more. Move bag to shoulder, instead of around neck (just in case of anything going wrong you can dump the bag easier from the shoulder instead of it mercilessly dragging you to the bottom), ascend line to boat, again hand over hand pulling yourself up, hang bag on side of boat, grab another bag and go right back down. Fill 2nd bag with shell. Ascend and hang 2nd bag. (If the river current is slow I can leave a bag hanging with no issues, if the current is strong, I have to go ahead and get in the boat, and drag the bag in before I fill another one. The hydrodynamic drag created by the bag in the water makes it much more difficult to pull the boat along behind you, upriver against the current)

Back in the boat you now have to heave the heavy bags of shell over the side and begin grading them for legal sale. Having many years of experience I cull very few. Shell are graded by size/species as per buyer preference and stored in 5 gal buckets. Add water to buckets to prolong shell life, and cover with burlap bags to protect from sun. Lunch time.

Make another dive just like the first. If there is enough time in the day after the 2nd dive to get one more bag, you get one more bag. Grade and store shell as before, time to pack it in and head for the truck. Load boat on trailer, put on street clothes. Head for shell buyer. With any luck there will not be a long wait, get boat as close as possible to shakers. (Shakers are long 20′ at least, steel tubes. These shakers have multitudes of holes in them sized for various sizes of shell. These shakers often can grade up to 2 or 3 sizes.) Transfer shell from buckets to the shakers. The shell proceed through shaker, grading shell to legal sizes and/or buyer preference (if you have them graded well and buyer trusts you you can often dump straight into wheelbarrow, either way this is the 3rd time they are handled) Manhandle the wheelbarrow to the scales (4th time they have been handled), get your weight (400-600 lb avg.), dump the shell. Get paid.

Drive home. If you are lucky you drag back in by 6:30-7:00 PM, hoping the wife has supper ready, watch the news for the weather forecast, go to bed to get up and do it again tomorrow.

This was my life for over 30 yrs. I worked through winter, summer, and all kinds of weather. Strong current, high winds, you name it Ive seen it. When things got rough, the waves were rolling, and the sky turns black I was there, only giving up when the lightning demanded common sense enough to run. I worked in water as shallow as 5 feet deep, and as far down as 70 feet deep. I worked the Tennessee river, the Cumberland river (both in Tn.), the Mississippi river up in Iowa/Illinois, and made a trip to Texas a long time ago to work the Guadalupe river. Also hit a lake in Texas on the way home from the Guadalupe, I forget the name now…

Self employment also means you have to be a mechanic. Trucks need fixing, trailers need lights, air systems require maintenance, boat motors have bad days, and you better have plenty of tools, parts, tubing, fuel line, air fittings, hose clamps, duct tape and bailing wire if you don’t want to go home early. Sometimes having these things means you get to go home, instead of being stranded on the water. Even being as prepared as possible however, there were many times in my career I had to sit on the bow of the boat and paddle my way in. One quickly learns it is wise to pack some extra water and a few snacks in your lunch box. They do come in handy when things go wrong.

These are the duties of a shell harvesting commercial diver. It is a rough way to live, but I miss it. Very few can say they have enjoyed darn near every day of work for 3 decades. Every day a new adventure, and a tale to tell. If my body were able, I’d be seeing you on the river. (end of my SS report)

What do shells look like? This is 2 shell sacks worth of shells. Close to 250 lbs of shell here, it is hard to tell how deep this pile is from this angle. Trust me, I was on ‘em this day, the pile is probably close to a foot deep in the middle. The large ones are called Washboards, the roundish ones are Ebony, the other ridged shell here are known as Three Ridge, for obvious reasons… These shells were of a very good quality and hardly any were too small to keep. At far left in the pic is a pair of “Coke” cans. Stainless steel tanks used to make fountain cola drinks. They have been repurposed as air tanks. Top left is my helmet, you can just barely see the edge of it, as well as a small part of the halogen light. That strap there top right of center is part of the weight belt harness. Of course the mask and regulator are obvious.


The shell are bought by the local buyers and resold to buyers overseas, mostly Japan and China. The local shell buyers process the shell by cooking the meat out of them. The meat, sad to say, is discarded. The shell are shipped to the overseas buyers who then cut through the thick part of the shell and make mother of pearl squares. These squares are then made into perfect circles. Now you have mother of pearl beads. These beads are then implanted into oysters. The oysters are kept in hanging baskets for a year or two. They then bring up the oysters and harvest the cultured pearls.

So, after 30+ years of this life, I guess you could say say it was a tad hard on my back. I suffer from degenerative arthritis in my lower back, sacral region. The body reacts to the arthritis by stiffening up all of the muscle groups in the area. Which creates a double whammy chronic pain issue. I have been suffering from this pain for many years. I started off self treating with over the counter stuff, Bufferin, Advil, etc, a long time ago. Thinking, it’s a long day and a tough job, of course it’s going to hurt a little. Little did I know then what was coming down the road. Had I known I probably would have sought out another profession.

I began complaining of pain to Dr’s back in my twenties. The first Dr. prescribed Ibuprofen, in 600 mg horse pills. I took those for a while, till I figured out I could get them cheaper OTC rather than from the pharmacy. Later on I complained to yet another Dr. (the first one had retired) This guy got me going down the medical history path, I saw a neurosurgeon, a sports medicine Dr., a physical therapist, had an MRI in there somewhere, all to no avail. The last guy I saw was the sports medicine surgeon, after a few visits they said “well you are not a good candidate for surgery.” They showed me the door.

Back to square one, I continued to self treat with OTC stuff, after getting a new Dr., I complained to him about the pain. Finally someone referred me to a pain specialist. After a couple of years of crap I was finally getting something to help with the pain. I continued to work however. The bills don’t stop coming in. I worked for 6 more years with the help of the pain meds…

Until I started having muscle spasms. My first one (as they all do) hit me like a bolt of lightning from the sky. Dropping me like a sack of potatoes in the kitchen floor. I could not move or exist in any way other than total fucking agony. My wife and kids were quite concerned, I got help to the bed where I stayed for 2 weeks. I finally got better…and went back to work. I had another spasm. This time I was back up and running in about a week and a half. Went back to work. After 3 more spasms and continuing to work, I had the grandaddy of spasms. I was down for 6 weeks this time. I finally realized I had pushed my body so far that it was pushing back, in a bad way. I knew I was done. I had to hang it up.

Oddly enough after I quit working, the spasms while they haven’t stopped, are much smaller, and much easier to get through now. I continue to manage the pain, and get through the day as best I can. I didn’t mean to turn this into my life story, but it is an interesting tale to tell and so much more left unsaid…

My disability claim was approved back on the 13th of this month. It was a long hard road to travel, but now I can safely say I have been retired. With the disability approved I’ll get a small check coming in, at least I can feel like I can help out around here now. I tell ya after a lifetime of self employment, where your worth is directly related to your output, being relegated to the sidelines makes you feel like a worthless bum. I gotta say, I sure am grateful my wife was able to keep us afloat these last few years. Should be smoother sailing around here if we can all stay healthy.

This was one of the many views from my old office, that ridgetop there is the highest point in W Tn. Known as Pilot Knob. It is located in Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park. :



At least I can still go fishing…and blogging. :)


Oregon Woman Goes Through With Planned Suicide

Over at Mak’s blog Random Thoughts there was a recent discussion on the assissted suicide topic. It is here if anyone is interested:


I commented over there, and now that this woman has bravely faced death, I thought I’d write something on it myself. I read about this story at my satellite providers news home page here:


All I can say is I am glad that there are a few states where terminally ill people can go to face death on their own terms. If you are suffering needlessly with no possible future but more suffering, pain, and misery, then who in their right minds would object to one bravely meeting death as they would see fit? The religious of course. Here is a quote from a Janet Morana from a group called Priests For Life. “Our prayer is that these people will find the courage to live every day to the fullest until God calls them home. Brittany’s death was not a victory for a political cause. It was a tragedy, hastened by despair and aided by the culture of death invading our country.”

So, in other words if you are in immeasuable pain, agony, and misery, you should hang on as long as possible till you just die of whatever disease is inconveniencing you? Because Jebus? What kind of sick, twisted mentality is that? Culture of death? What the fuck is religion if not a cult of death? Every religion I know of only makes one real promise, that you will live for a blissful eternity if you would just drink the religion kool aid. But there is a catch, you have to die first. That is what rational people call a death cult. Then let’s talk for a moment about all of the death fomented by religion for the last 2000 years, and it is still happening today. If there is one thing religion is good at, it is the bringing of death. Then they have the audacity to ignore their own bloody history and complain about someone who has the gonads to face death on their own terms and end the suffering that only they must endure? I spit in the general direction of religion. Demented hypocrites all of them.

They are also “Saddened by the fact that this young woman gave up hope, and now our concern is for other people with terminal illnesses who may contemplate following her example.”

I am grateful that a few progressive thinking states have made it possible for people who are suffering from the agony of terminal disease to end the suffering, when they decide it is time. Only you, the person enduring the pain, really knows how bad it is. Only you will know when death becomes a beacon of relief. Only you can decide to face the inevitable with some dignity. The right to die and end needless suffering should be a constitutional amendment…and religion should S.T.F.U.

I regret that anyone would need to face this decision down, would not wish it upon anyone. For those however who have no choice and are in the unenviable position of having a terminal illness with no hope for recovery or relief, I would hope you have the same opportunity, and the courage, to seek the relief that only death can provide.

I salute you Britanny Maynard. I extend my sympathies, and my understanding to her family.



Gone Swimming

Going through the pics on the camera to put up my fantastic view of the eclipse (sacrasm) I came across some pics I took one day. My son had a friend over, and my brats older brother and his pal were on their way to the river to go swimming, of course they wanted to go with them. I nixed the younger group from going. I am responsible for any kids that come to stay here, and letting them run off with the bigger kids, unsupervised, to the river was not my idea of properly looking after them.

So they were bumming around obviously stung by my adult decision, and I thought why not take them to the creek? It’s just down the road and there are usually good swimming holes dotted along its course. This perked them up, and we dressed appropriately, grabbed the insect repellant, and headed out in my 3/4 ton, 4WD Chevy.

We got to the creek, and as we go creeking often I have a walking stick that lives in the bed of the truck, walking stick in hand, and sprayed for skeeters, we headed off.

Along the way I spotted some fungi growing out of the creek bank, it was sporting a bright color hue that caught my attention. The damn focus on this camera is whack, but you can see it’s pretty cool:




Then we walked on down the creek where the really good swimming hole used to be. It wasn’t there anymore. I mean it was there, but we had some heavy rains earlier in the year and the old swimming hole had a log jam right in the middle of it. So we backtracked to a spot that looked inviting, but we passed by it thinking the good swimming hole would be there. Anyway we got to the hopeful spot and they made the best of it.


We stayed for a while and headed home. Not long afterward the two older boys came back, the swimming hole they went to at the river was overgrown with grass*. They didn’t get to go swimming. Ha!

*Several years ago while I was still diving some idiot bass fisherman from Texas, who thought there wasn’t enough cover in the river system, brought with him a sample of some sort of aquatic grass. They know it is from Texas because the state tested it’s DNA, and found where it came from. Anyway the grass was started way up river from our location, but it soon spread our way. It has become an infestation of enormous magnitude. Along the river banks and anywhere there is a shallow ridge, and there are many, it is covered up by this grass. I used to encounter this grass often while diving and it was a nightmare. It would get so thick I could not get through it, and have to abort the dive and move somewhere else. Besides being a major inconvenience to divers and boaters, it is also an eco disaster. I often wish they could find and prosecute the fucking moron that introduced this invasive species. An entire river system infested with this grass. Because some jackass fisherman knows best. I get angry every time I think about it… Think good thoughts, get back to swimming, lets not end this post on a sour note :)


The Eclipse, That Wasn’t

After a day and a half of getting my gear together. Taking a telescope off off this mount, removing another telescope from its mount, then putting the first scope where the other one was, twice. Which doesn’t sound difficult, but it took literally 50 trips to the shop to get the right hardware figured out. Then testing each of my two solar setups to make sure they were ready. Then scouting out a good spot to shoot/view from, because my view to the west is compromised by trees. Then loading everything up and driving to scouted location and setting it all up…

The clouds rolled in just in time to wash me out completely.


That was my view. It did not improve. I was totally bummed out from the experience. But, as usual the internet is a great place to see what you may have missed. APOD has a great pic of the event here:


To add insult to injury the clouds cleared out to become crystal clear skies not long afterward.

The next evening a friend of mine from Florida, a guy who bought one of my paralellogram mounts a while back, called to tell me there was a very new moon in close conjunction with Saturn that night. The same location for my missed eclipse was perfect for this new opportunity, sorry didn’t get any pics, but we were able to see both very close to the horizon and watched till they rolled out of view. This helped my mood a lot, having some success right after a huge failure got me back on track.

Got to take the wife for a follow up visit today to get the Frankenstein staples removed from here abdomen. She is much improved and getting around a lot better now. Still sore, still slow and carefull, but better.

Partial Solar Eclipse For Most Of N. America Tomorrow Evening

I will be spending much of today preparing for the eclipse tomorrow. (10/23/14) Here in W. Tn. we should see around 40% coverage, just less than half of the sun eaten by our moon. I am stoked for this event, for two reasons. One the forecast calls for clear skies, and two I am just that much of a nerdy science loving geek.

The eclipse will begin right around 5:00 PM CST.

Standard boilerplate warning. Do not look at the eclipse directly. Do not look at the sun with binoculars or a telescope without proper filtration, unless burning the eyes out of your sockets sounds like a good time. I have heard that a welders helmet is safe, and not safe, so that one I would call risky. Old cheap telescope kits used to offer a solar viewing eyepiece, they should not be used if you have them as they have been proven likely to explode, that sounds fun.

The only way to properly view the sun, or an eclipse, is to use a telescope or binoculars with proper modern filtration. More specifically with either a Mylar filter or a white light glass filter. Or you can use a decent quality telescope as a projector. Setup a white board, and let the telescope project the image upon the board.

There are Ha (hydrogen alpha) telescopes built specifically for viewing the sun, they are the cats meow, but terribly expensive. I wish I had one…

There are also solar viewing glasses on the market that allow you to look at the sun safely.

Then there is the option of building a cheap solar viewing box, with a shoe box and some tin foil. Instructions abound on the internet. When I was a young lad, there was a total eclipse where I lived. Our school teacher had us all bring in supplies to build one of these, and I was able to experience my first total eclipse with it. It was an amazing experience I still remember to this day. When the sun goes dark the birds and critters go quiet. There is an eerie calm I will never forget. The box worked like a charm.

Here is a link to one such solar viewer made from a box, although the one I had as a kid, we just cut a viewing hole in the top of the box, and did not stick our head in the box…?


Another one here, remember the longer the box, the bigger the sun appears through the viewing hole.


I will be setting up with two telescopes. One a 90mm achromat* refractor by way of the projection view upon a whiteboard, the other a nice quality 80mm apochromatic** refractor telescope using a full aperture white light filter. I hope to get many pictures. I used this same setup a while back for the Venus transit with pretty decent results. (I should dig up those old pics and post a few)

Most of N. America will experience this event. While not as spectacular as a total eclipse, a partial is still pretty cool, so get properly rigged up and go out there to see it! I am sure it will be live streamed as well, the internet is good for stuff like that, but there is nothing quite like actuall experiencing events like this.

Oh…in 2017 there will be a total eclipse of the sun. The maximum duration of this eclipse will be an hours drive from here. Guess where I will be?  :)  The eclipse will be viewable from where I live, but I can gain precious seconds by taking a short drive. I can’t wait.

* Achromat refers to a refracting telescopes converging of color. An achromat focuses most, but not all, of the colors in the spectrum to the same focal point. Plainly speaking you will get a violet fringe on bright objects.

** Apochromat is a refractor lens designed to more adequetly focus the spectrum, reducing or eliminating this violet/purple fringing. The apo requires much more work to get done properly, resulting in a higher cost/ better peformance ratio.

It’s Good To Be Home

As has been mentioned in some comments recently the wife came down with abdominal pain 2 weeks ago yesterday. It was bad enough we went to the local emergency room at 4 in the morning. . They sent her 60 miles by ambulance before noon the next day, suspecting an abdominal blockage, or intestinal kink. After several days of no food, and pumping the stomach of the fluids in constant manufacture there, plus daily x-rays and multiple cat scans with no improvement noticed, they decided to do an exploratory surgery.

Upon entry they immediately saw the problem was an abcessed appendix. It had ruptured at some point, and continued to fester. Appendicitis being a bacterial infection, a lot of the surrounding area was inflamed with pus pockets. With the appendix removed, and the area cleaned up as much as humanly possible, she was left to recover.

Usually, and I thought this was mostly the case, an appendix will go bad and rupure very quickly and is easily dignosed. In this case, and while it is more rare, but not unheard of, the appendix went through more of a slow burn process, and even with the modern tech available was not easily diagnosed. It was suspected early, but they just did not know for sure till they opened her up.

We finally rolled in last night around 8 PM. After living in a small hospital room for 2 weeks it feels oddly strange being home, but at the same time very comforting. It is a pleasure to see the boys, to get my hugs whether I need them or not, and to sleep in my own bed.

The wife is still quite tender having a 6 or 7 inch gash in her gut, that is nicely stapled up in a classic Frankenstein way, and she will require much attention for the next several days. The biggest job before me is to keep her down. She is just not the type to want to lie around, and will soon overtask herself if I am for a moment distracted. I have threatened to tie cinder blocks to her, to keep her from getting up and moving around. She will want to clean something before the day is out. This I know.

It is good to be home. I suspect a nap in my near future… and a lot of work to be done.