Life at the Lake

a diary of living at a small lowland lake


Early moonrise over Lake Ketchum

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East Jack's Ferry Headed West

So, how was it for you? Hmm? The Fourth, I mean.

Here it was medium awful, but no worse, I suppose, than most years past. Since the Summer Solstice is upon us, darkness doesn't become truly that until after 9:30, so the Jingoists among us didn't really start to unload the red glow of their rockets and cherry bombs until about then, even though most of the day there was the snap, rattle, and pop of small stuff, with the occasional deep-throated boom that rattled windows and startled the dogs into protective barking.

From 9:30 until 12:30 the lake was lit overhead by thousands of dollars worth of Indian Gain, since they are the only ones who can legally sell fireworks in our state, Washington. About eleven I went out on my dock and looked up at the sky and the source of most of the activity. Sky and shoreline were ablaze. Many lake denizens have annual parties, with cookouts, bonfires, drinks. The men, and large boys, are traditionally in charge of the purchase and discharge of the sky rockets.

Some fire theirs steadily, at an even pace, while others enjoy staccato bursts of great intensity (and expense). The pharmacist down at the far end of the lake annually tries to outdo himself, and is his own chief competitor. He has banks of chairs arranged in a semi-circle around a beach made level with imported fine white sand, and it he himself who does the igniting. It is a fine display, and I am at a position along the shore to get its full benefit, were I to want it. And even if I don't.

Down a bit is Jack, the semi-retired Boeing salesman, who has logged his fine clutch of firs and cedars to built a modern home bereft of any tree or shrub over three-feet high. His too has a huge bonfire, and one suspects from its size that he might be preparing a human sacrifice. He has many friends and visitors most weekends. A good host, surely. His rockets are more modest in cost and effect, but are steadily fired, as if in an effort to provide longevity in the place of spectacle.

Earlier, another Jack, this one from the East end of the lake, who is a wealthy owner of a time-clock manufacturing firm, took his guests on a tour of the lake in a specially constructed boat that resembles a small ferry. (See above.) It is powered, however, by a powerful electric troll—the only type motor allowed by law on the lake.

I rushed out during dinner and snapped a picture of him and his friends churning by, all high up in the imperial air, clutching drinks and waving. Jack called to the photographer by name, who busily waved back, snapping away.

And there were many other lake denizens who systematically and a bit insanely fired off salvos into the night and early morning hours, dutifully, dedicatedly, a bit bored, I thought. It is important to use up all of your expensive fireworks by the end of the day of the Fourth, for you really shouldn't have any use for them any other time of the year, except perhaps New Year's Eve.

Hey, but that travesty of tranquility is nearly half a year away.

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What did I do yesterday? Nothing much.
Picked a few berries is all

Something there is about a lake that draws fireworks and rockets like no other place. It will be so tonight, judging by past events.

Earlier there was the crackle of firecrackers set off Chinese fashion, all at once, rather than in the niggardly American manner. And the deep, teacup rattling boom of cherry bombs that starts you out of your chair, then settles you back into it with a heavy sigh.

But tonight, tonight, will be the spectacle. The Stillaguamish Indian tribe, and their bigger brothers, the Tulalips, are flush with profits from their year-round fireworks stands, and some of the purchasers will migrate tonight to the public access and private homes of Lake Ketchum to put on a show that will last more than two hours, mostly for their own benefit but, hey, there are lots of people who enjoy and are emotionally dependent on the rockets of others.

No, I am not in that category, but try to avoid it. And I admit to a begrudging, one-night-only, type of enjoyment. And yet most of this evening, a long one, I will remain indoors, quieting my two Labs, who think we are under siege (true, true) and playing music or Mariners baseball a notch or two louder than usual, to drown out the din.

Then, mid-night, and the foolish pushing the destruction of their purchases into July the Fifth, a little giddy and battle-shocked from the day, fingers blackened, ears rattled in their heads, drunk on beer and big booms.

The sporadic bursts of crackers and bombs will push through the Fifth and into the Sixth, judging from past years. And by degrees our placid lake will be returned to tranquility.

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Storm Coming In Over the Lake

Saddam's "Plan"?
As a retired military strategist (I was a Corporal in the Korean War), I watched with fascination our recent invasion of Iraq (or was it Iran? What a difference a close consonant makes!). I thought that The Enemy, namely Saddam Hussein, was setting a trap, encouraging us to extend our supply lines for a quarter of a million crack troops, leading us deep into foreign lands, then cutting us off from the flank and destroying us. I had forgotten our air supremacy and how troops could be supplied endlessly by a country with lots of money and airplanes.

A student of Von Clauswitz and Von Moltke (whoever the heck they are), I thought it a superb tactic, until it never happened. Instead, the highly regarded Royal Guard simply vanished. Did they ever exist, I wondered? Was it some fantasy, like the dreaded WMD? Did the Iraqi troops simply demob, disband, and disappear into the scrub? Whatever happened?

It seems now, at least for the moment, that the troops "civilianized" themselves and are now fighting The Invader as small bands of armed militants in civilian clothes. Meanwhile, civil disorder reigns and our stay is prolonged.

President Bush says he knew it would be, all along, and the American public must be prepared for a very long occupation. This but a few weeks after he declared Victory and pronounced an end to the fighting.

What about disorganized fighting? Was this Saddam's plan, all along? If so, why didn't we see it coming? Was it that we were so used to Western style military action—bombing from two or three mile up, shelling from a few horizontal miles away—that we were ill prepared for an Enemy who will let his lands be ravaged, his people killed from overhead, his infra-structure reduced to shambles, in order to win in the long run?

After all, this is Persia, the land once conquered by Cyrus, Alexander The Great, and the Ottoman Turks. And now . . . Us or US. We are presently occupying its chief city, Baghdad.

How big is Baghdad, Daddy? Well, before we took it over, about 19 million people.

And do the people there love us, Daddy?

Not quite, Honey.

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"Life at the Lake's" home site. Yes, we are a frog!

Wayne M. Osse is the webmaster at BlogStudio, which is a comprehensive website for publishing numerous blogs, and has a comprehensive statistical program for analysis of traffic on a particular website or blog.

I asked him to explain a few of the statistical terms available to me on mine, and he kindly illuminated some numbers whose significance wasn't immediately clear or apparent to me. I pass these on to anyone who might be minutely interested in starting up a blog and learning about the traffic a blog generates.

For instance, I get 1.19 "hits" per visit. Pray tell, what is a hit? Well, it is a count of how much a visitor tools around, once he is on the site, and "visits" anything other than the top of my home page, or current log entry. My reading of 1.19, Wayne tells me, indicates not much tooling around. Less than 20f my visitors do anything other than glance at what I've posted or published, as it is called in the trade, that specific day.

Okay. And—much more interesting to me—is how long does a typical visitor "stay," that is, remain glued to my daily log entry?

28.25 is the statistical page's answer to this meaty question. Wayne explains that a typical, averaged-out visitor spends 28.25 seconds on my page. This allows for surfing around the pictures (numerous), scanning the links and hyperlinks, and actually reading the drivel I've posted that particular day.

Twenty-eight seconds is not so much and, at the same time, plenty, taking time out for mind-wandering and the entry of lewd thoughts. Perhaps half of that is rapt attention, perhaps not; I have to break Wayne's stats down hypothetically into stats of my own, which are largely speculative.

I do hope the Picture-of the-Day gets looked at, its caption read. This might take, oh, six of the precious 28.25 seconds. This leaves 22 seconds for actual reading.

Hey, that's okay—that's approximately the same amount of time I spend writing the stuff.

And how many visits do I get a day? Ah, we've got to save some of the more fascinating stats for another day. But, I'll clue you, they vary greatly from day to day—perhaps too on whether or not the sun is shining.

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Barn near to where the proposed gravelpit will exit to a major highway

Last night we had a special meeting of the lake's "improvement club," which is the recorded name of our association formed primarily to treat the lake for weeds.

The "emergency" was the proposed sand and gravel pit beginning its permitting process. The lakeshore owners, plus other residents living nearby, mainly to the South and West, are adamantly opposed to having 80 acres of vacant land turned into a noisy hole in the ground, with eighty (80!) truckloads of gravel being hauled out daily.

A truckload may well be 24 cubic yards, for the new dump trucks can hold 12 yards, and their trailer another 12. That is a lot of sand or gravel, or sand/gravel, if it turns out to be "pit run," which is what the unsorted, raw stuff is called.

The group at the meeting divided into two: those who are LID assessment-paying lakefront owners and those of that group who are also club members, which costs an individual $10 more, with a limit of two members and voters per household.

Clear? Well, it is not, and in spite of precautions to avoid it, there was much crossover voting on whether or not to use the LID money to commission an "unbiased" study by a hydrologist as to whether the pit mine might "empty" the lake, or at the least reduce the aquifer and springs that feeds it.

The vote was unanimous, except for one lone holdout, Rone Brewer, who is an environmental engineer who lives far from the part of the lake most directly affected by the proposed pit. For some reason unknown to most of us, he did not want us to protest the gravel pit or to use strictly accountable LID money to commission a special study.

All of which is well and good—the democratic neighborhood process at work, as it is often these days, throughout America. But the derision and contempt with which Brewer was treated by a retired contractor who owns 30 acres of land next to the proposed pit, who asked the member, time after time, to state his credentials (which are established and professionally recognized) smacked of tyranny and denigration. And this man, who goes by the initial "J" (because his mid-European surname is nearly unpronounceable for most of us) is not even a member or lakefront owner, but a guest. The guest was invited because he is spearheading the drive to raise money to hire a lawyer to fight for us against the county permitting the gravel mine.

Clear? Well, not to me. But I think the battle of neighborhoods vs. development is going on all over America today, and we share with the rest of the world the group anger and protest against change, whether it be for the good or the bad. And only time will prove which is which.

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Establishing a Food Source as Religion

That President Bush is determined to run for a second term is a no-brainer, and that he may believe that he is establishing a world-wide "empire," according to a long editorial in yesterday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer by Clyde Prestowitz (who is president of the Economic Strategy Institute of Washington D.C.), but this further establishment of a common food source named after himself is carrying things too far.

Next will be the "establishment of a religion" that we must all follow. All I can say to any of these charges is, "Baked Beans."

Thank goodness we still all have freedom of speech and religion!

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Quiet, isn't it? You just can't hear it

Crackle of small arms fire?

What, are we in Bagdad? No, no, it is only small boys setting off firecrackers they've bought from one of the many Indian fireworks stands. But is is a fairly accurate mimicry of a small-scale firefight.

The Fourth of July is a week away, but kids cannot wait, and the fireworks stands have been open for weeks, maybe months. So they jump the gun. They do not live on the lake but in nearby Wilderness Ridge, and come to the lake and its public access because it is the perfect place to get away with their minor mayhem. Still, it is annoying.

Only one's own fireworks bring pleasure, I guess. Other people's are a small, loud travesty, an assault on that greatly desired goal of so many—absolute silence. It is never to be had, and the numerous dogs and cats of this populous place, our small lowland lake, are the most bothered. The rest of us simply take it in our stride, and await the fateful day, the Very Fourth Itself, when the place will erupt and then, finally, quiet will return.

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