Sunday, July 24, 2005

A reliable friend

One there is, above all others, Well deserves the name of friend;
His is love beyond a brother's, Costly, free, and knows no end:
They who once his kindness prove,
Find it everlasting love!

Which of all our friends to save us, Could or would have shed their blood?
But our Jesus died to have us, Reconciled, in him to God:
This was boundless love indeed!
Jesus is a friend in need.

Could we bear from one another, What he daily bears from us?
Yet this glorious Friend and Brother, Loves us though we treat him thus:
Though for good we render ill,
He accounts us brethren still.

O for grace our hearts to soften! Teach us, Lord, at length to love;
We, alas! forget too often, What a Friend we have above:
But when home our souls are brought,
We will love thee as we ought.

-- John Newton, 1779 (Olney Hymns) -- Tune: Godesberg

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Touring the Bypass

This weekend my sons and I took a first trip on the new U.S. 64 bypass around Knightdale. I spent a couple of months working on a project at the Milburnie substation, smack in the middle of the bypassed section of "Old 64", and I can testify there was no joy coming or going during rush hour traffic.

Still, I think the new bypass will always be connected with the day I put my hand on a 500,000 - volt power line.

Of course the power was off, or I would have ended up like a six-foot pork rind in a blue shirt. Progress Energy had to relocate a steel lattice transmission tower farther back (and higher above) the new road's right of way, and in the neatest piece of construction work I've ever watched, the crew unbolted the base of the tower, lifted it sixty feet in the air, and landed it on a new base a hundred fifty feet up the line. Six of the nine cables were lowered to the ground (the other triplet was inaccessible, routed through the center of the tower), which gave me the creepy opportunity to lay hands on a once- and soon-to-be very high energy cable. Power lines aren't insulated, you know, just bundles of bare aluminum and steel.

This tower is on the north side of the new highway just west of Smithfield Road, at exit 425 .

There are some other points of interest along the Triangle's newest highway. The environmental walls transition from "North Raleigh brick" close to the Beltline, to a more utilitarian concrete-with-pebbles closer to Knightdale. The biggest piece of natural stone I've seen in Wake County is hunkering behind a barn on the south side of the road at mile marker 422 . There's a fully-signaled railroad crossing, with automatic gates and all, on a road that no longer crosses the tracks -- it was truncated by the six-lane bypass at mile marker 421 , on the north side.

Knightdale's water tower would earn the "Doorknob to Hell" nickname we assigned to a similar structure at college; it's visible, obvious, and freshly painted, so no mile marker needed. And the graceful junction of US 64 and the Beltline at Poole Road, with its interlaced bridges above I-440, is punctuated on the westbound side by an arabesque around the sewage pumping station inside the Inner Beltline -- an unexpected sensory experience.

The scenery along the eleven-mile ride is rural Wake County, but not for long. It might be advisable to enjoy the trip while deer sightings are still likely and the tire debris is infrequent -- the traffic is already picking up.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Kyoto? Try a little further west

Ah, spring in Shanghai.

Joseph Coletti at the John Locke Foundation posted a comment on the Locker Room today about a new way the U.S. can "participate" in the Kyoto accords -- by voluntarily doing whatever it takes to make our air better than it was fifteen years ago.

Before we go torpedo our economy, though, let's take another look at countries whose air quality is not subject to the Kyoto agreement -- like Japan's very large neighbor just to the west.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Explosions near resort entertain 13

No injuries reported

(LITCHFIELD BEACH, S.C.) -- A series of explosions shortly after dark on Sunday left thirteen family members entertained, although two fell asleep during the incident. Shadowy figures seen moving about the area were not investigated and apparently no crimes were committed.

Following the News & Observer's article about fireworks safety -- and the legend on their graphic that only "safe and sane" fireworks were legal in North Carolina -- our family's annual visit to the Palmetto State resulted in the purchase and ignition of about $33 of apparently unsafe and insane projectiles. South Carolina still has the admirable rule that if you can buy it, you can shoot it off, which has made it the envy of small boys and scofflaws from all the surrounding states. And I had a bag full of just about everything off-limits in Tarhelia.

Spending $33 is pretty small potatoes, to be sure, but we were never a do-you-itself family when it came to fireworks (whether stemming from homes inside the city limits or a certain economy on the part of my parents, I don't know). Still, this was the first time we've done it "at home"; since my work schedule precluded staying up for the professionals on Monday, we decided to have our celebration a day early. There weren't any duds in the bag, either.

So where's the insanity? Near as I can tell, all the consumer fireworks have warnings actually written by English-speaking people (not true of every Chinese import), basically saying "Don't hang on to this when the fuse is lit" and "Explosions throw things and hurt people". Anything else we need to worry about?

Oddly enough, the one thing missing is the only thing which I have ever found to put my family in real and imminent danger -- not amateur pyros, but amateurs full of alcohol. The next group up the beach managed to tip over their mortar -- I am certain they were not shooting the two-inch, two-for-$12 variety I picked up, either -- and lay a nice trail of smoke up the dunes and under their deck. I didn't actually witness the moment of mayhem but I'd say they sure got their money's worth from that munition.

To be fair, their chrysanthemum shell which went off about twelve feet in the air (producing something which looked like a twenty-foot dandelion head sitting on the beach) may have been a fluke.

Maybe instead of restricting the sale of the fireworks, our own state could just make it a class two misdemeanor to shoot them off while pickled, or to utilize aerial displays as wannabe weapons of mass destruction. In other words, let's penalize the operator who behaves irresponsibly, not shut down the whole world over the possibility.

And next time buy more of the rockets with nose cones -- they were almost as good as the mortar.

Convention write-up in the July Carolina Journal

The July issue of the John Locke Foundation's Carolina Journal has my write-up of NCHE's annual convention, over Memorial Day weekend. The editors gave it the title "Homeschool convention packs them in", appropriate since there we had well over eight thousand people there.

The story's on pages 10-11 of the pdf version here.