I've been on a novelty soda kick lately, as the above photo illustrates. The types I've spotted around town range from Christmas-themed to absolutely bizarre, such as the Qadaffi and Leninade sodas, and fun like Avery's disgusting soda line. Of course we can't forget good old Jolt Cola - sugar and caffeine, baby! By the way, many of these sodas actually use pure cane sugar instead of the high-fructose corn syrup used by the big soda companies these days.
My favorite so far is Leninade (here's their website) - it's the best tasting, and as a bit of a cold war buff I get a kick out of it. I bet Reagan would sip this stuff cold if he was still with us today! There are plenty of humorous bits in the label and the inside of the bottle cap as well.
These sodas are awesome - some for their novelty, some for their taste, and some for both. The best collection I've seen to date is at Runnings, although there are a bunch at Mac's Hardware as well. Mac's used to have an enormous display of these, but now they're down to just a single refrigerated case.
If you spot these sorts of sodas around town, please let me know!
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After its hull inspection and a winter spent safely out of the water and potential ice jams, the Lewis & Clark riverboat was ready to hop back into the Big Muddy. It's been up on blocks since the end of last season, prompting questions from my little boys as to how it got there. Well, thanks to a tip from my friend Diana, I was able to take them out to observe last weekend. Even better from a little boy's point of view: they use a huge crane.
Since the boat lacks sufficient anchor points with which to attach crane hooks, it has to be cradled to be moved. That's where this rig comes in. It provides a nice, wide configuration to which they can attach the necessary accoutrements for such a delicate job.
With the rig in place, it's simply a matter of using very large straps beneath the hull to provide a cradle for the gentle lift.
The tricky part: the propellers and rudders. If the rear strap would slip and hook on those parts, it could be disastrous. Proper placement is key.
Once everything is snugged into place and checked as tension is applied, it's time for the slow lift. I presume that the first rule of using a crane is to lift as slowly as possible and only as high as is necessary. Force equals mass times velocity, so getting a suspended load moving too quickly makes it much more dangerous.
Slow and steady. The crane had a lot of counterweight attached to allow it to extend out into the river without taking a dip. As the riverboat slowly made its way out past the shore, crews with guide lines made sure it stayed straight. Lots of eyes were on the payload and communication yelled between the guys holding the anchor lines at each end to keep it straight.
As it eased into the water, these rails kept it from nudging the rocks along the shore. They had been placed there for the lift to provide extra protection. As the waves began to lap against the bottom of the hull, it eased into the water safely along these wooden bumpers.
With the boat safely placed in the river and tension eased on the straps, it was simply a matter of letting the straps relax beneath the boat and slowly easing the rig downriver. Thankfully the straps did not get hung up on the props or rudders, or someone would have had to jump in and work 'em loose. It looks like the lift went without a hitch.
By this point it was too cold and windy for my little guys, so we headed home instead of watching the crane be dismantled. It's always fun to see a big lift, though...even though it moves slowly, it's a really neat spectacle to watch.
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As a would-be photographer, I've got a list of certain things on a photographic "bucket list" I keep in my head. Last night I was able to get one: a perfectly straight-on shot of the Provident Life Weather Beacon.
One of the reasons I got into photography in the first place is that my video work takes me to places and shows me things that are so amazing that I wanted to be able to share them with others. One of the others is a love of North Dakota, particularly my home town area of Bismarck-Mandan. As a result, our local landmarks hold special significance for me.
While wrapping up a helipad photo shoot last night I noticed something that had almost escaped me: a perfect vantage point for photographing the Beacon! Naturally I took a few seconds to spring into action and grab a couple of quick shots. Since what I'd been seeking is a simple, direct, squared-up shot, I didn't need to squander any time trying to brainstorm something funky. A few clicks later I had some different shots of one of my favorite local landmarks, just as I'd always hoped.
Here's a refresher on my long relationship with the Weather Beacon:
It was fun to joke about the Beacon, as if it actually made the weather, during my KFYR days. The TV station control operator (me, five nights a week) was in charge of changing the weather beacon to reflect the updated forecast throughout the broadcast day. On our program log in the control room, in between entries for commercials and programs, were occasional reminders to update the weather beacon.
There was a panel in the weather room with six buttons on it: red, white, green, flashing red, flashing white, and flashing green. These switches are still in a rack at the TV station, even though they are have not been connected to the Beacon for quite some time. Last I remember, the KFYR Radio control guys switched it by dialing a phone number (no, I'm not posting that here).
The poor Beacon almost faded into history in 1997. It was showing its wear, and the cost of modernizing it was prohibitive. That was, however, until KFYR Radio rode to the rescue. Phil Parker and Mark Armstrong headed an effort to Save the Beacon!
At this time, Meyer Broadcasting was still intact. While I was hard at work on the TV side of the building, I also freelanced the website for KFYR-AM Radio. As part of the campaign to save the Weather Beacon, we had a couple of pages on the website urging people to help donate.
You can click here to see the original Save the Beacon page from my archives. Yeah, the Web has come a long way.
The campaign was a success in that it raised money toward the Beacon's restoration, increased public awareness of its plight, and served as a rallying cry to its rescue. While the entire cost of the Beacon's renovation was not raised, its importance to the community was indisputably proven. Through a matching grant from local government and plenty of donations, the project was underway.
As part of the KFYR website, we were happy to post that the Beacon would be saved. Cliff Naylor did a report on the Beacon that aired as part of a live telecast from the roof of the Provident Building, atop which the Beacon still sits.
You can click here to see the post-campaign page from my archives and watch the video.
As I recall, and the details in my head are quite murky, the Beacon was restored but still had some gremlins. I believe it was then refitted one more time and has functioned ever since. None of it would have been possible without Phil and Mark. To this day, the controls reside with KFYR Radio instead of the television station. In fact, why don't you call the PH Phactor on KFYR 550 AM and ask Phil about it?
Oh yeah...the t-shirt. We had t-shirts made, and I still have mine. It has caricatures of Phil Parker and Mark Armstrong on the front, and a key to understanding the Beacon on the back:
Weather Beacon white as snow, down the temperature will go.
Weather Beacon red as fire, temperature is going higher.
Weather Beacon an emerald green, no change forseen.
When colors blink in agitation, there's going to be precipitation.
Provident Life used to sponsor TV spots featuring the Beacon and its rhymes. Since they're no longer doing business there, the ads don't run. That means that the weather beacon itself is somewhat obscure now, with newer Bismarck-Mandan residents unaware of its history. For those of us who have lived here a long time, it's good to see the weather beacon standing tall. No matter what the forecast, there's something great about seeing it red in the spring, green when things are just right, and white when Thanksgiving and Christmas approach. Thanks to everyone who helped keep it up and running!
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I've long been a fan of local entrepreneur Mort Bank's ability to put together themed restaurants. His themed McDonald's restaurants were innovative, but are now history. While the reconstruction (or destruction, depending on how you look at it) of the McRock 'n' Roll store on Main Avenue in Bismarck has been in progress for months, it all became rather official when those trademark Golden Arches were swapped out for a new set.
This was my favorite local McDonald's because of the themed tables most of all. The tidbits of music history contained beneath the transparent tabletops was an amusing addition to lunch, and the "Worst Albums of All Time" table was by far my favorite. As I recall, it listed Lou Reed's notorious "Metal Machine Music" album but didn't say anything other than the title. There really isn't any more to be said.
There have been a couple of previous remodels of the McRock 'n' Roll store, each one stripping a little more character from the original in the name of traffic flow or whatever. Even the ordering counter, which originally sported the grille and bumper of a classic automobile, has long been redone. In that regard I suppose the place died a slow death. Regardless of the atmosphere the newly remodeled McDonald's may have, it will never match the character of the original.
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It should be obvious by now that one of my favorite spots to catch a sunset is at the north corner of the Double Ditch historic site north of Bismarck. A familiar foreground object in my photos is a large wooden fence post marking the boundary of the park. It looks like I'm going to have to find a new onw.
Last August, while poking around beneath the cliffs of Double Ditch, I noticed that the collapse of those cliffs had finally encroached on that fence post. Even now, more large chunks of cliff nearby have cracked and separated, soon to tumble to the river below.
It seems as though this process has finally begun to claim my favorite fence post, as it no longer stands so firmly at the northwest corner of the park. It has begun to tilt at an ever greater angle, the fence it supports going slack. I presume it's only a matter of time, some spring melting, and maybe a little bit of rain before the earth supporting it finally gives way.
This is a stark reminder of an even bigger problem; Double Ditch has been receding for years. The area above these cliffs used to be a popular recreation spot. At some point a wire fence was erected to prevent this, as the banks had become so unstable. The road, which used to make a loop from one end of the park to another, was cut off and no longer exists from the south end. As time goes by, I fear we may lose access to the west end of this park entirely. I hope that doesn't happen any time soon.
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