Posted by: elraymundo at 8:35 am on Monday, July 31, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random, History, Nature

I got up early this morning and ran on the treadmill. About halfway in I wavered between vomiting and suicide. It’s now just after 8:00am, and I’ve neither barfed nor slashed my wrists, so I’m chalking up a moral victory.

I added a few Photos of the Day that I was behind on posting:

I have a cool surfing plug-in installed in Firefox called StumbleUpon:

“StumbleUpon helps you discover great websites. With a single click you can find and share cool sites matched to your interests.”

You can configure it to go out and find sites that match the interests you’ve checked off in your profile. My profile is full of history sites, some science, linguistics, photography, travel and so forth. Pretty slick stuff - I use it all the time. Once in a while, though, it returns some curious things.

I have “Chess” checked off as an interest. As a result, I found out there are sites dedicated to chess hotties. You can even vote on which gal you’d most like to spend time in a hot tub with chatting about the Nimzo-Indian Defence or the weaknesses inherent in the Giuoco Piano.

Some other Stumble finds:

The Bradshaw Foundation has a very cool animated app that shows the paths of human migration over the last 160,000 years. It’s generally accepted that human origins are rooted in Africa, but did you know that 125,000 years ago a branch of that first group migrated across a green Sahara and up to the Levant? (The Levant is the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, where Lebananon, Israel, and Turkey are.) They didn’t survive, dying out 90,000 years ago when temps dropped and the Sahara turned into a desert. A second group broke out and got all the way to Indonesia and South China before a huge volcanic explosion wiped out everyone but 10,000 adults. Zoinks! Anyway, definitely take a look.

Here are some beautiful time-lapse photographs of atmospheric changes, like stormclouds and lightning, aurora, comets, moon-sets, etc.

Finally, I will never say I am cold again:

Photo of Geneva in winter

Photo of the Day - 07.29.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 1:08 pm on Saturday, July 29, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Photo of the Day, Nature

Hibiscus BitsHibiscus Bits - Great Falls, Virginia
Exif: ISO/200; f/5.6; 1/320 sec; 150mm
07.29.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006

Photo of the Day - 07.28.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 12:12 pm on Friday, July 28, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Photo of the Day, Nature

Moth on the Butterfly Bush

Moth - Great Falls, Virginia
Exif: ISO/400; f/4.0; 1/2000 sec; 195mm
07.29.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006

Fish Tales: Charlie Lands a Chocolate Salmon

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:38 am on Friday, July 28, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random, Travel

After a not-so-edifying experience working on the Turning Point in the summer of 1997 I had no plans to return to Alaska to fish; I was quite happy selling boots at REI for seven dollars an hour and planning another trip to Europe. That changed when I sold a pair of boots to a customer, her name was Amanda, as I recall, and she convinced me to give Alaska another shot. She knew people, she said. Just give me a call when you get there, she said, and I’ll hook you up. So I did, and she did, and that’s how I came to be in Ketchikan working on the F/V Puffin in the summer of 1998.

Charlie skippered the Puffin. Charlie ran away from home at fifteen, became a lumberjack, grew forearms the size of my thighs, got into salmon fishing in the days when they pulled the nets in by hand, and was now in his late fifties or early sixties pondering retirement. A survivor of prostate cancer, he once told me, “They said I could skip the surgery and I’d die in six months or I could have the surgery, not be able to get a hard-on, but still get to go hunting.”

“A man’s gotta hunt, Charlie,” I said.

“Damn right. So they took the thing out and I couldn’t get a hard-on anymore. But then Viagra came along,” he added with a wink. “My wife rations me on those.”

The Puffin was a converted tugboat, 48 feet long, with a pilothouse in the front and a flat deck in the stern. The head - that’s the bathroom for you landlubbers - was on the outside left-hand wall of the pilothouse and to get to it one had to walk along the outer edge of the boat. The head itself was only as deep as the toilet inside it and if one were in a sitting position - as is required from time to time - one’s knees would stick out past the threshold of the doorway and prevent the door from closing. So we left it open. It gave us the chance to contemplatively enjoy the views of the Alaskan wilderness. It also gave us the chance to wave to friends on other fishing boats as they passed alongside us.

Charlie wouldn’t use the head, though. He did everything over the edge of the boat, off the bow on the starboard side. He simply hung himself over the edge and let nature take its course. Being kind of fat - I’m not sure he would fit in the head anyway - it seemed the best solution for all involved. Until one fateful day…

Dave, Nathan and I were on the back deck bringing in the net, which is called a seine. As the seine came out of the water it passed over a boom, which is a crane-like arm with a giant pulley on the end. The boom was operated by hydraulics and only Charlie was allowed to run the hydraulics. The seine came out of the water, up and over the boom, then down to us at the back in a splendid mess of net and ropes. Our job as crewmen was to sort this mess out as it came down from the boom - at very high speed - and arrange things so that the next time the seine went into the water it did so in an orderly fashion.

On this particular day Charlie had started hauling the seine at a slow speed, as he usually did, and then disappeared. Ten minutes passed and we were still hauling at a very slow pace. Normally Charlie would have cranked up the hydraulics by now and things would be flying at us at light-speed.

“You seen Charlie?” I yelled at Dave. Dave leaned to the right and looked toward the bow. He indicated in secret sailor-language that Charlie was emptying his colon overboard.

“I can see his fat white ass hanging over the rail,” he added.

“He does understand that the seine is on that side of the boat, right?” I asked.

“Sure hope so,” said Dave.

We kept hauling and a few minutes later Charlie appeared from the bow, hitching up his pants. “You didn’t take a dump in the seine, did you Charlie?” I asked. Charlie grinned and said, “I know what I’m doing. Keep working.” Then he threw the hydraulics into high gear.

The seine flew over the boom. Dave and I worked at top speed – he sorted the net as it came down and threw the cork lines my way and threw the lead lines toward Nathan. Our arms moved constantly, throwing and sorting and throwing and sorting and throwing and sorting. We worked covered head-to-toe in foul weather gear, which protected us from the gigantic blobs of jellyfish that came over the boom with the seine. Now, when I say gigantic I mean it – jellies came over in globs the size of a dining room table and fell directly on top of us as we worked. You only need to feel a stinging glob of jellyfish sliming your exposed face and eyes once to convince you to cover every inch of your face and body. Oh, and never look up – a jelly-shot to the eyes really ruins the day – everything is done by feel while staring straight ahead.

About ten minutes into bringing in the set something began to smell. Bad. Real bad.

“Dave,” I said as I threw a coil of corks, “do you smell something? Like something really foul?”

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “Probably picked up some dead fish or something.”

We scanned the nets as we worked. There was no sign of any dead fish or rotting sharks, but the stench was becoming powerful. Overwhelming, even. I threw another coil of corks. “I don’t know what smells so bad but I don’t think it’s fish.”

Dave took a deep breath, so deep I could hear it over the noise of the boat. “You’re right,” he said. “That’s not fish. It smells like…well, like shit.”

Then Dave said, “Dude, what’s that on your shoulder?”

I took a quick peek. To my horror I saw, sitting there on my shoulder like it was the king of the undersea world, moist and lumpy and a rich shade of chocolate brown, a human turd.

I wish I could tell you the thoughts of a man who’s just discovered another man’s poop resting on his shoulder. I wish I could relate, in some soaring flight of philosophic language, what ran through my mind at that moment. But truth be told, there was no thought, only an urgent desire to reunite the juicy, lumpy load with its rightful owner, who was up front running the hydraulics and blissfully unaware that his bodily leftovers were perched on my shoulder. I dropped the seine – a cardinal no-no on a fishing boat – and ran straight at Charlie.

“What are you doing?” he yelled. “Get back there!”

I lowered my shoulder to just below Charlie’s nose. “DOES THIS BELONG TO YOU?” I screamed, pointing at the poo. Charlie exploded in laughter.

“It looks like birdshit to me!” he said as tears ran down his face.

“This is not birdshit, Charlie! This belongs to you!”

By now Charlie had shut off the hydraulics and the whole crew was laughing. I stormed to the boat’s railing and thrust my shoulder out, flinging the poop overboard – on the left side mind you, away from the seine – and then stalked back to my post at the back left of the deck. Charlie, tears still flowing from his eyes, cranked up the hydraulics. We finished bringing in the set with the faint odor of Charlie’s leftovers wafting up to my nose.

I spent a good half hour with a bucket of bleach and dishwashing soap and a stiff-bristled scrubber sterilizing the right shoulder of my jacket. I had to keep wearing the jacket – not by choice but because it was the only one I had and there are no clothing stores at sea. Finally, it passed the sniff test and I hung it out to dry. Life went on and we caught more fish but, thankfully, the run on chocolate salmon was at an end.

Photo of the Day - 07.27.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:07 pm on Thursday, July 27, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Photo of the Day, Nature

Squirrel on the Didgeridoo

Squirrel on the Didgeridoo - Great Falls, Virginia
Exif: ISO/400; f/4.0; 1/160 sec; 173mm
07.29.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006

Photo of the Day - 07.26.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:13 pm on Wednesday, July 26, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day, Nature

Ostrich at Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Ostrich - Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya
Exif: ISO/50; Fuji Velvia; 300mm
07.2004 ©Michael Raymond 2004 - 2006

Photo of the Day - 07.25.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:30 pm on Tuesday, July 25, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Photo of the Day, Nature

Spider with a Knapsack

La Raymunda’s Nightmare - Great Falls, Virginia
Exif: ISO/800; f/3.5; 1/40 sec; 150mm
07.23.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006

When Peasants Go Bad

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:28 pm on Tuesday, July 25, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Friends

A few days a go La Raymunda and I sent a vase of flowers to some friends to celebrate a happy occasion in their lives. We ordered the flowers online at What we ordered, and what we thought would be delivered, was an “eye-catching arrangement of the freshest white daisy poms, artistically designed in a striking green ceramic pitcher decorated with a daisy motif.”

You know, something like this:

Daisies in a Vase

What arrived was, well…different.

Stein with Daisies

Yes, that’s a beer stein. With daisies in it. Compare. Contrast.

What’s more, the beer stein appears to relate a rustic tale of passion, debauchery and murder - in exquisite bas-relief! Notice the peasants sitting around the table, easing back after a hard day’s labor, chatting about the days events while getting slobberknockered on cheap homebrew shot straight out of a green jug. Spoons for naughty fanny-paddling hang on the wall behind the woman with the pink headscarf.


And what good host would invite friends over and not get them high? A little pipeweed never hurt anyone now, did it? Toke, toke, toke. “Hey guys, I feel swell! Let’s eat!”

More Peasants

Ah, but there’s a bad apple in every bushel. Not only is the fellow in grey planting a kilo of coke in his friend’s knapsack, he’s also tipped the fuzz and told them to raid the party. Before they get there he’s going to shoot the men, steal the woman and make it all look like a drug deal gone awry. How do I know? Deductive reasoning: what else is he going to do with that loaded rifle beside him? Shoot peasant hippie drug dealers, that’s what!

Peasants with Guns!

This killer is clever - he brought along a change of clothes to aid his escape. He’ll look smart in that blue hat and white blouse! What woman could resist a mass-murdering dandy? The answer is none. He’s gonna score tonight for sure!

Peasants with Guns! - Detail

Photo of the Day - 07.24.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:54 pm on Monday, July 24, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Photo of the Day, Nature

Water in the Grass
Backyard Aquarium - Great Falls, Virginia
Exif: ISO/50; f/16; 2 sec; 150mm
07.24.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006

Fish Tales: Psycho Captain Dave and the Octopus

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:24 pm on Monday, July 24, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random, Travel

In 1997 I worked on a fishing boat out of Valdez, Alaska. The boat was named the Turning Point and we worked up and down the eastern inlets of Prince William Sound fishing for pinks, reds, silvers, dogs and, if we could catch any, kings. The skipper, an obese slovenly man who often wore sweat pants that showed half his butt, was named Dave. Our skiffman called him Big Dave and His Big Crack. Because he was absolutely nuts and frequently homicidal, I called him Pyscho Captain Dave. One day Psycho Captain Dave got a craving for crab and decided we were going to catch some for dinner. He told us to put a crab pot together and put it overboard.

A crab pot is a trapezoid-shaped cage with a hole in the top into which the crab fall. Once the crab drop into the pot they are unable to crawl back out due to the sloping roof and so they are trapped.

To lure the crab we lashed a couple of dead salmon to the inside of the pot, then cut them so they bled. I tied the crab pot to a length of rope and tied the other end of the rope to a buoy. Then we dropped the pot overboard. The pot would sit on the bottom of the inlet for a couple of days while we fished, the crab would sense the blood of the salmon, come investigate and trap themselves in the pot. We would return to haul the pot back onboard – hopefully jam packed with dinner.

After two days of fishing we returned to check on the crab. While Dave idled the Turning Point Jesse, one of the crewmen, snagged the buoy with a hook attached to a long pole. He dragged the buoy to the side of the boat, grabbed the line from the water, handed it to me and together he and I hauled on the rope until the crab pot broke the surface of the water. Gripping the pot, we heaved it onto the deck and took a look to see what we had caught.

The entire contents of the crab pot were as follows:

  • no salmon
  • three crab claws (with no crab attached)
  • one octopus

Not exactly what we had expected.

“Goddammit,” said Psycho Captain Dave in a rare urbane moment, “that octopus ate all our crab.” He reached into the pot, grabbed the octopus, and threw it down on the deck. The tentacles stretched out all over the deck, gripping the surface of the boat. Dave glared at the larcenous octopus. The octopus glared back, no doubt wondering where all the water in Prince William Sound had gone.

(I’m kidding about the octopus glaring. Octopus don’t glare. They gaze about with a sort of bemused detachment. But I digress.)

Dave grunted. “You guys like octopus?” he asked. I said no. Jesse shrugged. Brian, our skiffman, nodded – he was in. “I’ll put him in the freezer,” said Dave.

Then Dave did the single most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen.

Dave put one fat, hammy hand on top of the octopus’ head. With his other fat, hammy hand he reached underneath the head, down to where the mouth of the animal is, and in one quick motion – pushing down with one hand while pulling up with the other – he turned the octopus inside out.

You know all that stuff that’s normally on the inside of an animal? Now it was on the outside.


So here’s this octopus going, “What the hell?” and wondering who shut off the lights when Dave grabs hold of something vital attached to its once-and-former insides, gives a tug, rips it off and tosses it over his shoulder into the sea. The octopus instantly collapsed into a blob which Dave scooped up, slipped into a very large Ziploc bag, and dumped into the freezer. Then he stomped back to the bridge, yelling at us to get back to work.

I wandered over to Jesse, who was staring wide-eyed at the spot where the octopus-widget had plinked into the sea. “You ok?” I asked. The diesel engines surged and we began moving out of the inlet.

“Dude,” he said, his eyes locked on the churning white water of the wake, “that … was … foul.”

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