Maine

Posted by Ellen

This Thanksgiving Day we 99-percenters might as well be grateful for football, a blessing as mixed as any but as American as . . . never mind. The postcard pictured here is from 1900

In Maine, Deering and Portland high schools have been facing off in their annual Turkey Bowl since 1911; the forecast for this hundredth annual game calls for clear skies, temperatures just below freezing, and a Deering victory, though you never can tell.

In Alabama, college football starts getting serious this weekend as LSU contronts Arkansas and Alabama has to deal with Auburn; if these games go according to book, LSU and Alabama will meet at New Year's for the national title, in a rematch of an October game that just didn't go right at all for Alabama.

I suppose that only the very smallest families in America could possibly all dine together at the same Thanksgiving table; our table, like so many others, will be missing important people this year, for all sorts of reasons. But we'll be thinking of them, and probably making fun of them, and we'll raise a glass and eat cranberries and maybe later if it's not too cold, some of us will go out in the street and throw a football around, because it's a free country or something like that.

Posted by Ellen

The rhododendron that were blooming back in June, when we spent a week at a camp on Little Sebago Lake in Windham, Maine, are just a memory now. Marion P. grew the flowers and cut them for us and arranged them and even supplied the bucket.

Posted by Ellen

In hopes of maintaining secure communication with its ships and submarines at sea, no matter what, the U.S. Navy maintains arrays of thousand-foot-high Very Low Frequency transmitter towers at three locations around the world. This is the Navy's Cutler array, the largest and most powerful radio installation in the world, with 26 towers located on a peninsula at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in downeast Maine, near Machias.

Cutler, constructed in 1961, is 100 percent Cold War technology: no GPS, no internet, no cellphone network. The biggest towers in the world were built here because this station services vessels in the Arctic Ocean as well as the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and naturally occuring electromagnetic pulses in the Arctic–the Aurora Borealis–can interfere with all but the most powerful radio signals.

The transmitters here run on power generated on-site and distributed to the towers by underground wiring. Underground wires also extend far offshore under the ocean, to maximize communication with submarines. There are no naval personnel working in Cutler; a civilian crew maintains the site, which sends out encrypted signals generated at a base in Norfolk, Virginia.

Although this shaky picture, which was taken with a handheld camera on a dark and cloudy night, suggests a somewhat haphazard string of towers, they are actually arranged in two identical clusters, which can operate separately or together. Each cluster can be shut down as necessary for maintenance. There's a problem, however, in the part of the installation around the power plant, where the two clusters are so close to one another that the electromagnetic field can be hazardous to humans, even when one of the clusters is shut down.

This area of the installation is called the Bowtie. People doing maintenance try to work as little as possible in the Bowtie, because even if they are working on towers that have been shut down they may still be exposed to dangerous electrical radiation from nearby still-active towers.

Because the Navy requires that at least one of the Cutler clusters must be functioning at all times,  the towers in the Bowtie area of the installation have seen little maintenance over the years. In particular, they have never been painted, and they are now fifty years old. The civilians onsite requested a four-month shutdown of the entire array to complete the painting, but the Navy said no.

I predict one of two probable resolutions: either they'll run out of money for the paint job and just let the salt and snow do their thing on the thousand-foot towers, or else they'll redefine the safety standard for electromagnetic radiation so that working in the Bowtie magically becomes safe.

Can you get cellphone service on submarines?

Posted by Ellen

Ferrets in their den, according to their mother. Groundhog Day comes next week. 

Posted by Ellen

 

The kids used to have their friends over, and they'd go down in the basement and rassle and stuff. They're all grown up now, more or less; they're not living at home any more, and so we sold the house. Basement and all.

Posted by Ellen

 

Thanksgiving weekend was seasonably cold in Maine, so sipping coffee was among the smarter things to do at the beach.

Posted by Ellen

He turned eighteen the other day. Our work is done. He's up and away now.

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Used to be, the city of Portland would set aside a time in June when people could put big pieces of junk--such as unwanted furniture--out by the curb for city garbage trucks to collect. But there are no more Big Trash Days; the service was slashed as a budget-cutting measure. Although city residents are now expected to haul their own stuff to the dump, Jacob Powers found this resting spot a few weeks ago in a couch left out at the curb.

Posted by Ellen

The water tank in Baldwin, Maine, has seen better days, but they still fly the flag on the Fourth of July. 

Posted by Ellen

 

Members of Deering High School's Outdoors Club head back down the hill and into the weather after summiting mile-high Mt. Katahdin recently, the highest peak in Maine and northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

As they followed the trail on down into the clouds, they got rained on but good. Fortunately, their youthful high spirits proved to be waterproof.