Sunday, July 18, 2010

 

Bombs and Binos


Sound like an odd combination? Not when I was the wettest behind the ears novice you can imagine. While I didn’t get a real (sorta) telescope until 1965, I’d started trying to learn the sky with binoculars (sorta) several years earlier. What I remember of that time, in addition to how amazing the stars looked in my 77 cent binos, was the omnipresent backdrop of the Cold War. The threat of thermonuclear annihilation is intimately associated in my mind with those first nights scanning the skies.

I’ve often said I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in the Great Out There, outer space. Alas, I also can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware we faced imminent atomic destruction. Hell, even a four or five year old would have had to be pretty dumb not to get the Big Picture if she or he had a television to watch. You couldn’t get through a day without seeing Bert, the Duck and Cover Turtle (“HEY, KIDS! WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU SEE THE FLASH?”), or e’en more disturbing public service announcements. Like an oft-shown animation of a nasty, pointy-looking bomb falling on a city, which I naturally figgered was my city, leaving nothing but a mushroom cloud and smoking, radioactive rubble.

What made the situation real clear to li’l Unk wasn’t a Civil Defense PSA, but a TV show. I’m not sure what it was—I couldn’t have been more than five—it may have been a rerun of Atomic Attack, an adaptation of Judith Merril’s famous novel of nuclear war, A Shadow on the Hearth, or it may have been Playhouse 90’s film of Pat Frank’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece, Alas Babylon. What I remember to this day is the family in the picture, realizing they are in the path of approaching fallout, beginning to panic, struggling to rig some kind of shelter, wondering if stuffing rags under doors might help (shades of the latter day duct tape public relations fiasco). What I also recall is my Old Man opining that the show might be “too much for the boy,” but Mama insisting I watch.

As I said a couple of weeks back, Mama was fascinated by tales of atomic war. And not just SF stories, but the real thing. If you wanted to know about REMs and Roentgens and Protection Factors, she was your go-to gal. Given her naturally forthright nature, she couldn’t help, just couldn’t help, speaking what she perceived to be the truth, which frequently didn’t do much for my pore little psyche.

One bright 50s morning, after being subjected to yet another CD masterpiece, maybe Surviving Atomic Attack, right after Captain Kangaroo for gosh sakes, I turned to Mama and said something along the lines of, “We’re far enough from the city that we’d be OK, right?” Instead of what you might expect, a reassuring “Of course, honey,” what I got was, “Oh, no. Remember what’s at the end of Cedar Point Road, just one block over? You can see the runway of Brookley (AFB). The Russians will drop at least one HYDROGEN BOMB on it. Why, we’ll be right in the crater.”

Mama was a good and loving mother, no doubt about that, but, yeah, she had her quirks, and seemed blind to the effect her pronouncements had on a somewhat timid little kid. Hell, as I mentioned a while back, she waltzed me right in to On the Beach, and took pains to make sure I understood exactly what was going on in that movie. I dunno, maybe it was her progressive streak expressing itself in a belief that children shouldn’t be lied to—though she wholeheartedly maintained the Santa Story with all its trappings. Tell y’all the truth, sometimes I wished she’d just LIE.

I was trapped between two different parenting styles, I reckon. One afternoon, Daddy and Mama and me ran up to the fascinating little convenience store on Dauphin Island Parkway for some cokes (and a comic book or two for me). Getting out of the OM’s Henry J., what should smack me in the face? A huge new billboard right alongside the store. This graphics-heavy Socialist Realism-style masterpiece showed an enormous, vividly colored mushroom cloud in all its frightening majesty. In the foreground was a little 50s family: Dad, Mom, Bud, Sis. The artist had managed to paint their faces with convincing looks of horror. The billboard’s simple legend? “Don’t wait until it’s too late.”

Naturally, I turned to the OM and axed, “Daddy, can we get a fallout shelter?” which was just the effect, I’m sure, the construction company who’d erected this terrifying thing hoped for. Daddy clapped a hand on my shoulder and made everything OK with, “Don’t worry about it, sport. Ain’t gonna happen.” Or he would have made everything alright if Mama hadn’t felt the need to chirp-up with “Remember what I told you about THE CRATER? A fallout shelter wouldn’t help us, baby.” Gee, thanks, Mom. I like to think the OM at least gave her a dirty look.

If I needed my anxiety kicked up another notch, my elementary school, Adelia Williams, managed that very handily with the dog tags they issued us when I was in first grade. Yep. Military-style dog tags. When I asked my wonderful teacher, Miss Franklin, whom I adored, “What for?” she smiled her brilliant smile and said us boys and girls shouldn’t worry. It was just so the AUTHORITIES could help us find our parents in the unlikely event SOMETHING HAPPENED. I wanted to believe her…but… I figgered what one of the sixth grade girls of my acquaintance—the Rodster always did have a thing for older women—told me at recess was likely more accurate, “Oh, no, honey, it’s so they can identify our BODIES.”

Right after the dawn of the 1960s, we moved away from Ground Zero, though not because of Mama’s pronouncements about The Crater and the HYPOCENTER. That may have been one of her motivations, but I believe she and the OM had just decided it was time for us to leave our working class 50s neighborhood and strike out for the greener pastures of 60s suburbia.

If Mama had thought she was escaping the big Russian two-stage jobs, she was to be disappointed. Not long after we settled in, the damn commies blew off a three-stager, a 50 megaton monster, Czar Bomba, way up yonder at Novaya Zemlya. Such an awesomely huge thing made the scant ten miles we’d put between us and the Air Force base laughable. The Big Bomb, which was actually detonated at a reduced yield from its 100 megaton potential (by wisely replacing the U238 in its secondary with lead), was not a practical, deployable weapon, but us little folks—by which I mean Mama and Daddy and everybody we knew—didn’t know that; all we knew was the Russkies had one big enough to get us no matter where we went.

The Czar, which was tested for the one and only time in late ’61, was probably why Duck and Cover made a comeback after dying with the 50s. Well, the Berlin Crisis of earlier that year probably had something to do with it, too. Don’t ask me how running into the hall of your elementary school or diving under your desk or hiding in a basement (if we’d had basements in Possum Swamp) would protect you from 100 or 50 or even 25 or 10 megatons of H-bomb hell. I thought it faintly ridiculous even then, and so did most folks, I reckon, since the fallout shelter’s second vogue was brief.

The tail end of 1961 was probably the height of both the country’s Civil Defense madness and my nuclear fear. After Berlin came to a half-hearted resolution, the Czar had blown his stack, and we and the Soviets at least began to inch toward an end to atmospheric testing, the duck and cover drills and the Civil Defense PSAs began to taper off. Yeah, October 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis brought a brief reprise of the whole sorry business, but the excitement (for want of a better word) didn’t last. Most of us had decided to stop worrying even if we couldn’t learn to love The Bomb. We had no choice but to live with the H-bomb, and set about doing that.

Which summed up the Rodster’s outlook, too. Yeah, when the siren next to Kate Shepard Elementary went off at 12pm every Friday, I still got the willies (“What if the Russians decide to attack at noon on Friday to fool us?!”), but I was more interested in normal kid things, and was mostly just tired of and bored with the H-bomb. Heck, rather than being petrified during President Kennedy’s famous Cuba speech, I was spitting mad that a rerun of Mr. Lucky, a show the little Rodster mucho admired for its sophisticated milieu, had been preempted.

On the penultimate Saturday of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Mama insisted I go to work with Daddy at the TV station’s transmitter across the bay (“You’ll be outside the worst blast rings,” Mama said). I was more put-out than scared. I had been looking forward to playing in the yard with the kids next door all day and looking at the stars when the day was gone.

No, I can’t remember a time I wasn’t curious about the night sky—and Mama undoubtedly was the reason for that. In addition to her interest in nuclear weaponry, war, and brinksmanship, she was into space, at least in the abstract. She, aided and abetted by the OM, made sure I had a subscription to the Science Service’s little paperback books, many of which were about space travel and astronomy, before I could even read. I had been particularly taken with one volume, Universe, due to the Find-a-Star planisphere bound into its center. For the longest time, all I could do was look at this pretty star wheel in the daytime. Once I was a little older and had moved to suburbia, though, I got a chance to use it.

Do younguns still campout in the backyard? If they don’t, what a shame. We sure had fun doing it, me and the boys next-door. A summer night, a few seven and eight-year-olds, a tent made from patio chairs or a picnic table covered with a plastic sheet, or maybe just some blankets laid-out in the backyard made for a wonderful evening’s entertainment. Or part of one. When we were small, we barely lasted till after sunset, till somebody just had to tell a ghost story, and somebody else suddenly remembered The Flintstones was about to come on, and we’d all better go inside.

When we were a wee bit older, our campouts lasted a little longer, if not usually all night. Long enough to lie back on those blankets (who owned a real sleeping bag?) and stare up at the stars in their multitudes. One night, I had a brainstorm. Why not go get my Find-a-Star? At first it was hard to read the planisphere without blinding myself with one of our big Eveready flashlights (“rabbit lights,” we called ‘em). Then I got another idea: I had a new flashlight, one I’d got that very Saturday morning in the toy aisle of S.H. Kress when I was dragged along on one of Mama’s epic shopping trips. Then as now, I was fascinated by flashlights, and this one was super-cool. It had red, green, and blue filters you could switch-in. I found that with the red one in place I could, almost magically, read the star finder and still see the stars.

At first I was badly confused by all those stars. Till I glommed onto the fact that the constellation patterns in the sky were much larger than those on my chart. I couldn’t find Hercules to save my life, but afore long I could trace the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, and, coming up over in the east, just over our house, Little Lyra with beautiful blue Vega. I was absolutely thunderstruck that I was seeing more than just the usual jumble of stars; I was finally seeing the constellations. Heck, I’d even learned the names of two bright stars, Polaris (the North Star!) and Vega.

In true amateur astronomer fashion, I wanted more; I just wasn’t sure how to get it. Until the late summer afternoon Daddy and Mama took me to Atlantic Mills. Atlantic Mills was, despite its name, not a mill of any kind; it was a primordial Walmart. What set it apart in my estimation was the toy department. Not only was its inventory extensive, it had a huge selection of items for the peculiar price of 77 cents. It was rather difficult for me to come up with even 77 cents, but I could usually cadge a few quarters off the OM with the promise that I’d behave and not whine about going home until Mama was well and truly Done Looking.

Wouldn’t you know it? In spite of the six bits rattling around in my pocket, I couldn’t find much of interest this time out. Usually, what I was after would be a bag or box of plastic army men or spacemen (better) from the old Multiple Plastics toy company, but none of that appealed at the moment. Oh, the Marx Atomic Missile Base Playset was finer than split frog hair, but it was five pea-picking dollars. Then I came upon a shelf full of 77 cent binoculars. Hmmm…might come in handy when playing army or Jungle Jim. Or…didn’t I dimly remember something about looking at the sky with binoculars in one of my astronomy books?

Nobody was more surprised than me that these plastic binocs actually did what I longed for and showed me a little more of the night sky. I don’t remember much about ‘em other than the fact that they Looked Like Real Binoculars and had real glass lenses, but in retrospect I believe they were probably composed of two little Galilean telescopes. For under a dollar, even in those deflated days, I would guess the prism housings were just for show and didn’t really contain prisms.

Which was probably the reason for the only disappoining thing about ‘em, their very narrow field. Nevertheless, not only did they at least hint at craters on the Moon—if not really show ‘em—they did show tremendously more stars than I could see with my eyes alone, especially on summer nights when I scanned to the south, or on winter eves when I pointed toward Orion and his Milky Way—which was still visible in our neighborhood all through the 60s. I believe I even spied the Great Andromeda Nebula (as most of my books referred to it) one fall night, though I did not have a clue what I was a-looking at.

I loved those little binoculars and kept ‘em for years, using them to help me see Comet Ikeya-Seki in 1965. In fact, I treasured them up until they were lost in one of my many moves in the 1970s – 1980s. One thing’s certain; they were my only pair for quite a while. Oh, Daddy had half a pair of binoculars, an expensive monocular, but you can bet your bippie I wasn’t allowed to touch that. Frankly, from the mid 60s on, I was more interested in real telescopes than binoculars, anyhow.

I didn’t get another pair, my first real pair, until 1976, when I was attending the Air Force’s ICBM school at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas (how I got involved in the thermonuclear war business is a story in itself). Naturally, I didn’t have a scope with me. My Pal and my home-made 6-inch were back in Possum Swamp. I thought, however, that a pair of binoculars, at least, might help make the awesome Comet West even more awesome. Strolling the aisles of the BX, my eyes lighted on a reasonably priced pair of Tasco 7x50s. I was wary of Tasco after my bad experience with my first scope, a puke-inducing 3-inch Tasco reflector, but this Tasco product seemed impressive. Solidly built, on the heavy side. The images it showed of the inside of the Base Exchange were, to my binocular-novice eyes, outstanding.

And they did make Comet West look better, as if that spectacle needed improvement. What amazed me, though, was what they did for the deep sky. That summer, I brought them along on a camping trip to the Wichita Mountains State Park, just up over the state line in Oklahoma and extremely dark. Not only could I pick out any globular cluster I turned ‘em on, what was most incredible was what they did for the summer Milky Way. Oh. My. God. The spout of the teapot was spitting stars and star clouds and star clusters wrapped in nebulae.

It was then I realized binoculars ain’t just a telescope substitute; they are a completely different experience, a wide field view of the heavens you can experience comfortably with two eyes, sometimes with the added beauty of pseudo 3-D views. Even without 3-D illusions, using two eyes is more comfortable than using one.

I didn’t go binocular crazy. I didn’t go out and buy a Zeiss or Nikon pair, but I did use those Tascos frequently, including on Halley, till the end of the 80s. Hell, I’d probably be using them still if I hadn’t foolishly lent them to my brother, who promptly dropped them on the concrete floor of the Municipal Auditorium at a fracking Foghat concert. (My fault, I shoulda known better.) I missed the 7x50s, but didn’t get around to replacing them until it was time for another comet, Hyakutake.

With Hyakutake here and that other aitch comet, Hale-Bopp, thundering in, I decided it was time for new binoculars. Again, I didn’t buy the expensive spread. I reckon I’m just not a Zeiss kinda guy. I went down to good, old Wal-Mart and picked up a pair of Simmons 10x50s, which taught me two things: how far Chinese optics had come by the mid-90s, and that a little extra magnification, 10x vice 7x, makes a binocular much more useful for astronomy. That added power equates to “dimmer objects,” and for most astronomical use I eschew 7x50s.

Since then, binos have multiplied like rabbits ‘round Chaos Manor South. In addition to the Simmons 10x50s, there’s the Canon 8x30s I picked-up used, and some ancient Bushnell Sportview 7x35s from lord-knows-where. We’ve also got a couple Dorothy, with her star party raffle prowess, has accumulated: Celestron 10x50s and (finally) some high-toned glasses, Canon 8x32 roof prism binos. How about larger aperture? Every amateur wants, bigger, right? I bought a pair of 15x70s from Bill Burgess at ALCON 2003 for a song.

Which pair gets used the most? The Simmons just keep on truckin’ year after year, delivering comets and the basic wonders of the sky. Miss Dorothy’s roof prism Canons are fantastic, yielding beautiful images as only expensive (to me) binoculars can. And yet…what gets pulled out most is the humble Burgesses. They are not fancy, just Chinese imports, but the optics are excellent, not much worse than Fujinon 16x70s. They are also lighter than the Fujinons, though they are rubber armored. Their 15x and generous aperture allows me to see a lot even in the city. Yes, a 20x80 pair might show a little more, but they’d be too heavy to handhold for long, and a binocular mount would never get used around here.

I’ve often said I wouldn’t see much most summers without the Burgess binoculars and my StarBlast Dob. It’s sometimes so miserable down here for months on end—bugs, heat, humidity—that it would take something mind-blowing to get me out of the house with a C8. I still see plenty every summer, though. With the 15x70s and the wee Dob near the backdoor, I’ve caught lots of little comets and plenty of other cool stuff besides. Usually with the 15x70s, since I often don’t even feel like fooling with the StarBlast after a day in the salt mines—err… “Shipyard.” Grab the binoculars, run out for five minutes of looking, run back in and grab a cold “sarsaparilla.” A binocular mount does not fit that style of observin’, muchachos.

Which is not to say I never use binoculars at dark sites. Yeah, I’m usually all fired-up about serious telescope work like the Herschel Project, but even then I like to take breaks and scan the sky between swigs of Monster Energy Drink. It was a Real Good Thing I brought the 15x70s to Chiefland, Florida in November of 2007, when Comet Holmes was in flower. It had looked real nice in binoculars and telescopes from home, but under the dark skies of the CAV the Burgesses showed that weird comet as it was meant to be seen: an enormous 3-D globe in a huge low-power field bursting with stars.

What’s that? You ain’t got a pair of any kind? Let’s rectify that. You’ll thank me later. First up is the question of size. You can get big these days, as with the Celestron Skymaster line, for a miniscule amount. I mean…I mean...a pair of 20x80s for 140 bucks and 25x100s for 350 (!). These are pretty good quality Chinese binoculars, too, and if you are after biguns, you could do worse. But I don’t advise that to begin with. You want a pair you can hand-hold. That means 10x50s or—tops—15x70s.

Whichuns do I like lately? I used to really admire the Celestron Ultima 9x63 glasses. Little bigger in aperture than 10x50s, but still light and manageable and fantastically good. The Ultima series seems to have been discontinued, but 9x63s are still around as part of the SkyMaster series. I highly recommend Orion’s 10x50 UltraView binoculars, too. Unfortunately the Celestrons will set you back a cupla C-notes, and the Orions are almost as much. What if you, like me, balk at over a hundred bucks for binoculars? You can lowball it, but be careful. Nothing is more useless and aggravating than a pair of bad el cheapos. I’m tempted to tell you to at least not go much under 100 bucks; Bigbinoculars.com can fix you right up with a great pair of 10x50s for about that price.

You really do need cheaper? Maybe 50 – 60 bucks? You can get a decent pair at WallyWorld for that, but it’s not as easy as it used to be for a couple of reasons. One being that the uber-cheapos, like the horrors advertised on late-night TV, have, to some extent, pushed the better ones out. Oh, you can find OK 10x50s branded as “Tasco” or “Barska,” but lately they are often sealed in plastic bubble packs, meaning you can’t try ‘em in the store, which is vital with cheap binos (more on that in a minute). For god’s sake, stay away from any binoculars with ruby lenses. The ruby coloring is there for only one reason: to suppress chromatic aberration and other defects in bad optics.

You don’t want 10x50s, you want a big boy’s binocs, 15x70s? Celestron’s SkyMaster 15x70s are insanely good given their miniscule price of less than a hundred dollars. What I really, really like, though, is Bigbinoculars.com’s 15x70 Oberwerk glasses at 150. Money burning a hole in your pocket? You cain’t do much better than the Fujinon FMT-SX 16x70s. Their only fault—other than their $650.00 price tag—is that they are a little heavier than similar Chinese binoculars. They are still quite handholdable, though, as handholdable as 70mm binoculars ever get, anyhow.

What should you check when you have the opportunity to test binoculars at the store or after the Brown Truck drops ‘em off? First and foremost, that they are in collimation. Set the interpupillary distance correctly—adjust the distance between the two halves of the binoculars for your eyes; the field should appear as a single, round circle, not the figure 8 you see on the TV or in the movies. Then, take a look to see if the images are perfectly merged.

How exactly do you do that? The most stringent test is to observe a medium bright star like Polaris. It should be immediately obvious if the binoculars are right. If they are not, you will see two stars rather than one, at least briefly, as soon as you put your eyes to the eyepieces. No stars on the ceiling of the dadgum Wal-Mart? Focus on a distant object in the store. Keep both eyes open and cover one objective with your hand. Pull it away as you look. Do you see two images of everything until your eyes compensate and merge ‘em? If so, put ‘em back. Yes, if the binoculars are not too far out, your eyes can compensate, but that will eventually lead to eye strain or even headaches. If your mail-order binos make everything a double star, send ‘em right back. Binoculars can be collimated, but even simple adjustments are prob’ly not for tyros.

What else? The binoculars should be sturdily built given their price. Eschew any with zoom, as those are just about useless for astronomy due to narrow fields and often poor optical quality. Also pass by any binoculars marked “permanent focus” or some such. They have a fixed focus, which means everything, close and far, will almost be in focus, but not quite. Finally, if you can get a pair with a tripod socket, do so, just in case you, unlike me, want a binocular mount at some point. The socket will usually be covered by a little plastic screw-off cap on the forward end of the shaft that holds the binocular halves together.

There’s a lot more the educated binocular buyer should know than I have space for. Roof or porro prisms? What kind of roof or porro prisms? How about coatings? And so on and so forth. There’s a lotta good information on binoculars for astronomy on the web, but one of the more better gooder binocular faqs I’ve seen is on the Bigbinoculars.com website. Better still is what I consider the standard work for binocular astronomy, my buddy Phil Harrington’s Touring the Universe Through Binoculars. Not only does this book have succinct guidelines on what to get, most of it is a wonderful tour of the night sky for binoculars that will edumacate you as to what your new glasses can do.

And they can do a lot. There’ve been quite a few times I’ve been under dark skies without a telescope, but with 10x50s, usually when I’m speaking at a distant star party. You know what? I’ve never really missed a scope on these occasions. One example was a year at the Almost Heaven Star Party on top of a mountain in West Virginia. The dark and pristine skies allowed the Celestron 10x50s to deliver everything from M101 on down. Hell, Andromeda looked more like a galaxy than I’ve seen it look in any scope. Not only could I see a dark lane, the usually somewhat shy M110 stood out like a sore thumb.

I can’t promise you M31 will look like that from your backyard or even from your club site, even in larger binos, but I do guarantee you will find uses for binoculars and will come to love them. No, I will probably never be a binocular connoisseur, but I have come a fur piece since the days of the plastic binoculars that took my mind off megatons and megadeaths. I don’t ever want to return to the outré days when little kids brooded about being immolated at any moment, but I wouldn’t mind at least a brief return to the blanket on the freshly mown backyard, the new binoculars, and the wonderful new stars.

Another Year Older Department… What’s goin’ on round the Old Manse? Well, one thing that ain’t going on is observing. I had hopes, maybe not high hopes, but hopes nevertheless, last weekend. But as the day progressed, the frickin-frackin’ Clear Sky Clock started getting worse rather than better. In short order, my plans went from “Herschel Project,” to “a little visual work with the C8,” to “it’s a Charity Hope Valentine night.” Unfortunately, ol’ Unk had the temerity to put Charity, our ETX 125, out in the front parlor early in the afternoon, which so angered the weather gods that it immediately started raining. This weekend the Moon’s back in the sky. Sigh.

Ain’t all doom and gloom ‘round Chaos Manor South, though. It’s, as you might have divined from the above ancient photo of Unk-as-sprout, Rod’s birthday (naw, I ain’t gonna tell you which one). What did I get? Well, for one thing,  I’ve gifted myself with a bottle of, not Rebel Yell, but Rebel Reserve. After all, they say the best gift is one you can use, right?

Comments:
Boy did you just heat up the old memory banks. How well I remember the darkest days of the cold war. I grew up in Chicago and when the White Sox clinched the American League pennant against the Cleveland Indians in 1959, around 10p.m. Mayor Daley ordered the air raid sirens sounded in celebration, I remember being scared out of my wits knowing that I would be vaporized within minutes when my father assured me that all was well. There were reports of a brief but widespread panic and several deaths by heart attack. Had that occurred in today's litigious society the court dockets would be filled for the next 20 years!

Our city scheduled weekly testing on Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. Each week we'd have a duck & cover drill in school in conjunction with the siren test. That, along with the CD spots on T.V. and radio, along with such popular fare as "On the Beach" and "Alas Babylon" we were convinced we'd never make it to adulthood.

BTW, just to keep this on topic, I really enjoy your blog and look forward to each Sunday. Thanks Rod and please keep it up.

Mike Morrone
 
Dear Uncle Rod,

You touched on quite a topic. I am a big fan of binos, but what of bombs… oh bad memories. In a different time and place, we boys knew very well where the underground “Moscow-2” was, a super-bunker of the kind known as a “weapons sink”. It was a few kilometers from where we lived. Serious blast shelters (not fallout shelters) were steps away from every house, but we also knew that the warning of the short-range Pershings would be a few minutes at best… Fear is an excellent remedy for the heat of the moment, as well as for political or military “expediencies”. May it not prove worse for the new generations to think primarily in the abstract of the awesome gear that they still possess.

Yours,
Ivan Maly
 
Hi Ivan:

Let me say that few of us in the SAC Missile force harbored any real animosity for our Soviet opposite numbers. We sometimes thought of your guys sitting on alert, and figured you were just as miserable as we were. It was a miserable situation, which everybody is glad is over.
 
Hey Rod, Happy Birthday! Sounds like Mrs. Dorothy made it a great one! Anyway, as an aside....I was skimming e-mails and saw that I hadn't read your latest blog installment and hopped over and mistakenly though the title read Bombs and Bimbos.......oooops! Good read as usual but those Cold War days were largely before my time (thankfully). I got a pair of binos (not bimbos) but don't use them a lot since I took a pill right in the ole eye socket bout 12 years ago....two eyes don't do me much good and trying to use binos gives me a headache. Oh well....
 
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