Craning

26 Aug 2014
Posted by Ellen

The penthouse dilemma story in yesterday's Good Morning was evidently inaccurate and incomplete.

Among the dozens of onlookers who spent much of the day Saturday supervising the crane assembly and glass-lifting from the sidewalk was a neighbor, Carolyn, not pictured above, who had the real scoop.

The crane, she reports, arrived on seventeen tractor trailers. The guys assembling it say it's one of three of its kind in the entire country. 

And the glassworkers were from Local 252, not 262 as written in these pages.

Several commenters observed that the estimate of a quarter million dollars to pay for new windows was likely on the low side. They believe the actual expense could be two or even three times as high.

But the main thing is: a good time was had by all.

The Penthouse Dilemma

25 Aug 2014
Posted by Ellen

This is the story we heard Saturday on the street. Of course, none of it is confirmed.

So. There's this guy who bought a penthouse atop a nice new condo tower on 18th Street, half a block north of Rittenhouse Square. His unit includes a nice big terrace that wraps around at least two sides of the building; his views must include virtually all of downtown Philadelphia and beyond. Expansive, and no doubt expensive.

But not good enough. He didn't like his windows, we're told. He wanted to replace them with better windows and, apparently, more windows. He wanted lots and lots of really, really big windows. Three long trailer trucks full of windows.

Problem was, the new windows wouldn't fit in the elevator to get them up to his penthouse.

He needed a crane, and not just any crane. To operate in the cramped confines of a narrow city street laid out in the days of William Penn, the crane had to lift glass straight up for hundreds of feet and then rotate without bumping into any of the buildings thereabouts and deposit the glass gently on the penthouse terrace. Vehicular traffic could be blocked during this process, but not pedestrian traffic; nearby businesses wanted to keep their doors open the entire time.

There were only three cranes on the east coast, we were told, that could handle this sort of job. One of them was hauled to Rittenhouse Square on Saturday morning. In pieces.

Another crane was needed to help put the big crane together. In case you were wondering, the pieces are held together with big cotter pins.

Police officers were needed to direct traffic around the closed-off block. City buses were rerouted and sometimes delayed, forced into attempting painstaking tight turns onto streets not really suitable for them.

Two large crews of workmen were on duty all day, a crew of heavy equipment guys and a crew of glaziers from Local 262.

So there's the cost of the new windows, and of a rare, expensive crane that had to be assembled by a second crane, plus three tractor trailers to haul in the windows, various vehicles to haul the parts of the cranes, two crews at union wages, lots of expensive permits to block a street and redirect traffic and park all the trucks all day . . . 

And then later, after all the new windows are up on the penthouse terrace, there will be the expense of removing the old windows, redoing the walls to accommodate the new windows, installing them . . . 

We were told $250,000. Does that sound right to you?

Bardarbunga

24 Aug 2014
Posted by Ellen

On Saturday morning, geophysicists believed Iceland's Bardarbunga volcanic system had begun erupting beneath the huge glacier that hides it from view. By Saturday evening, however, new data or new interpretations of the data were raising doubts about this conclusion; the magma might still be trapped in rock a few kilometers below the bottom of the ice.

The actual eruption might have already begun or might begin at any moment or might never happen at all. But Bardarbunga's magma is definitely on the move down there in the earth's crust, melting some of the rock in its path and shouldering the rest out of its way, along a northeasterly route tracked by literally thousands of earthquakes.

Halldor Eldjarn has set the earthquake data to music, which you can listen to in near-real time.

Bollywood

23 Aug 2014
Posted by Ellen

For an international festival this summer, Marco and friends did Bollywood with a San Diego accent. . . .

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Eating Breakfast

21 Aug 2014
Posted by Ellen

At the Waysider in Tuscaloosa, where another semester and another football season are already so close you can taste them.

At Blue Earth

19 Aug 2014
Posted by Ellen

Somewhere near this scene, just out of camera range, there's probably an old inscription scratched by a pocketknife into a barn rafter: "Norman Rockwell was here."

It's Minnesota in the springtime. You can tell it's Minnesota because the little boy with his back to the camera is still wearing his winter hat, with the earflaps folded up.

The photographer is not known, but there's a caption written on the Kodachrome slide: "Dam at Blue Earth, just below the cemetery, May 4, 1952."

Cheese Graters

18 Aug 2014
Posted by Ellen

Above, in New York; below, in London.

Traffic Jam

14 Aug 2014
Posted by Ellen

Water traffic is all backed up at Seattle's Ballard Locks on a sunny summer afternoon. Fortunately, there are a pair of locks straddling this dam, and even the smaller of the two–the lock shown here–can handle a couple of dozen small craft at a time.

The larger of the Ballard Locks was designed to allow passage by the largest ocean liner in existence, which at that time (1911) was the Lusitania. However, by the time the locks opened to traffic in 1917, the Lusitania had been sunk.

The boats in the photo above are all headed away from the City of Seattle and out toward saltwater; Puget Sound is just beyond the downstream end of the lock. Back upstream are numerous wharves and marinas and a couple of lakes. Although the Port of Seattle that handles today's largest tankers and container ships is accessed directly from the Sound, pleasure craft and smaller ships carrying more than a million tons of cargo still pass through these locks each year, utilizing smaller ports along the Ship Canal, including the homeport of much of the Bering Sea fishing fleet.

Depending on the tides and the water level of the lakes inland, the locks here raise or lower boats about 15 to 30 feet.

Sleepytime in Seattle

13 Aug 2014
Posted by Ellen

Downtown Seattle on a clear summer night, as seen from a hill near the stadiums.

The Taney Dragons

12 Aug 2014
Posted by Ellen

Next week, for the first time in Little League history, a team of 12- and 13-year-olds from the city of Philadelphia will be playing in the World Series in Williamsport, PA.

They are our Taney Dragons, who play at Taney Field in our neighborhood's Schuylkill River Park. To wangle an invitation to the big dance, the Dragons had to pull off a string of upsets, becoming the first Philly team ever to win districts, to win regionals, to win states, and then last week to win the Mid-Atlantic championship.

The way Little League works, it's almost always the well-funded suburban operations that come away with the postseason prizes. Taney had to raise money all year long to go out for these tournaments; they scrounged for practice fields all over the city, sometimes using a hangar out by the airport. Many of the parents can't afford to travel to watch their kids play, but they managed to raise $20,000 in a few days to send the team to Connecticut for the Mid-Atlantic tournament.

The Dragons' victory in Connecticut was a stunner; they dispatched Newark, Delaware, last year's Mid-Atlantic champions, 8-0. Their bats were hot, obviously, but their pitching was pretty much the same as always: a cool clinic of 70-mile-an-hour fastballs and heartbreaking curveballs, a shutout with just three hits allowed by the Dragons' star Mo'Ne Davis, who will be the only girl this year in the Little League World Series.

Although Little League has permitted girls to play since it was forced to by the courts in 1974, Davis is still a rarity. She says she has never pitched to a girl batter. But baseball is not really her passion; that would be basketball, her favorite sport. Her dream is to play in the WNBA.

Meanwhile, she's the Dragon who gets all the attention, which may be a good thing since she's unflappable, never discouraged or distracted, nothing at all like a typical 13-year-old. It's the boys on the team who crank up the drama, along with the energy level. 

Tune in on August 15 on national TV for the Dragons' first World Series contest, against a team from South Nashville, Tennessee.