Saturday, June 23, 2007

Flying Cigars

By Alan Burkhart

Yet another busy news week. As I write this, Fox News is breaking (ahead of CNN, ABC and USA Today) the news that Bobby Cutts has been taken into custody for the murder of Jessie Davis. The man who lost his family in a violent Illinois shooting has been charged with their murder. A pair of naked twenty-somethings plummeted to their deaths from a roof top. The US and North Korea are again engaged in talks regarding North Korea's nuclear program. Iran still has a president who fancies himself the Bringer of the Apocalypse and Syria is still his willing puppet. George W. Bush is still the second-worst president in the last 100 years (and the worst Republican president), and Iraq is still a mess.

And, "The Evening Standard" is reporting that a mile-wide, cigar-shaped UFO was spotted over the English Channel. I'll let the other guys write about nukes, terrorists and murderers. I'm not passing up the chance to expound upon one of my favorite subjects.

First, the details:
The object was spotted by Captain Ray Bowyer of Aurigny Airlines while flying over the Channel Islands. Bowyer first thought the object to be about 10 miles distant but then realized it was as much as forty miles away. An experienced pilot, Bowyer judged the object to be at least a mile wide. Bowyer later spotted a second UFO, though it was much farther from his position.

An unnamed pilot with Blue Islands airline also spotted one of the objects, and two passengers aboard Bowyer's flight confirmed seeing the first one.

"The Evening Standard" quotes Captain Bowyer as saying, "I'm certainly not saying that it was something of another world. All I'm saying is that I have never seen anything like it before in all my years of flying."

Okay, so what was it?

The term "Unidentified Flying Object" does not automatically mean it's a visitor from Planet Zebes. The term simply means that it's flying and no one has a clue what it is. It's a safe bet however, that those of you who recognize the name "Zebes" doubtlessly share my view that we don't want any visitors from that particular planet. Call me a Zebephobe if you wish.

The object could have been a bit of freakish weather, glowing gasses (from where?) in the atmosphere or yet another top-secret government project gone awry. It could, of course, have also been an extraterrestrial visitor.

These incidents are generally swept under the governmental rug or explained away as weather balloons, mass hysteria or failed satellites reentering the atmosphere. And, I'm sure that at least some of those explanations are true. But, neither weather balloons nor satellites are a mile wide. Failed satellites don't maneuver, as some UFO's have been known to do.

So, do I believe we're occasionally visited by people from other worlds? Yes, I do. I find it impossible to believe that in all the vastness of the Creation, we could be the only inhabitants. When I was a kid, my fascination with UFO's (exacerbated by Star Trek reruns) often drew my mother's irritation. Mom would tell me that "It's silly to think there could be life in outer space." And, I would always reply, "But Mom, WE are in outer space."

Stumped her every time with that.

My UFO Sighting:
When I was a small boy, my dad and I would often sit on the front steps at night just before bedtime. He'd let me ramble on about whatever was on my young mind and treat it as if it were the most profound bit of wisdom he'd ever heard. One summer night, we were sitting there on the steps when a huge glowing disk passed low over our home (no, I'm not making this up). It made no sound, but it was clearly visible overhead and I had the impression that it was rotating. It simply flew straight over us and disappeared over the tree tops. The whole thing lasted maybe five seconds. Dad scooped me up and hauled me inside.

I was of course full of questions, but for once my father had no answers. He gently but firmly told me to drop the subject and go to bed. We never spoke of it after that night, but I'll never forget it. The incident genuinely spooked him, and dad didn't spook easily.

Much has been made over the years regarding the possibility of an elaborate government cover-up where UFO's are concerned. Let's face it, folks: Our government can't keep a secret. Whether it's Bill Clinton selling us out to the Chinese or some disgruntled government employee spilling secrets to the media, nothing stays secret in this country very long. I'm betting that if our government had knowledge of the existence of extraterrestrials, or actual dealings with them, we'd know about it by now. I'm not into conspiracy theory, alien abductions or crop circles.

As to what the occasional alien visitor might be doing here, who knows? I've never been one to speculate and most supposed UFO sightings turn out to be hoaxes. It is therefore impossible to deduce from visual observation what they might be doing, since we can't be sure we're observing the real thing.

UFO hoaxers don't help the credibility of people who have actually witnessed unexplained aerial phenomena. Some fraudulent sightings turn out to be no more than a hubcap tossed into the air like a Frisbee and photographed in flight. Others are more elaborate and take time to refute. Claims of seeing a UFO become equated to sightings of Bigfoot, Chupacabra or Elvis.

Still, believing in "Flying Saucer Men" allows me a sense of boyish wonder when I gaze up at a starry night sky. It allows me to dwell upon the possibility that while I'm admiring the twinkling lights above, someone else in the vastness of space may be staring back with a sense of wonder equal to my own. If an alien spacecraft should ever land in my town, I'll be first in line asking for a ride.

Related Reading:

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Python Pictures

By Alan Burkhart

My buddy Dave in Australia passed along these pics of a rather angry python. Originally, we believed the python was photographed in Australia. According to however, the pics were shot in Africa. Anyway, it's a big frigging snake.

The big guy had evidently just dined, and he was so large he got caught under an electric fence. That HAD to hurt. :p

Be sure to visit Dave's Australian trucking website.

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Visit to Vernonia, OR

By Alan Burkhart

Vernonia, Oregon sits comfortably in the rocky hills northwest of Portland. My first impression was that it's a quiet and friendly little town, and from all appearances I gather it has a rich history. I delivered a load of transformers today to the local electric cooperative there, and while things went relatively smoothly, the road into the co-op was a bit more adventuresome than usual, as you'll see in the photos below.

I arrived in town before daylight and parked in front of the coop's office. I had been informed previously that someone would take me to the "pole yard" to unload the transformers around 9:00 AM. With a bit of time to kill, I waited until the local businesses began to open, and then struck out on foot in search of a cup of coffee. A local out for her morning jog was glad to point me to a small coffee shop in the next block. The little place was already busy, and the smell of fresh coffee mixed with the soft jazz floating from the hidden speakers almost caused me to be late returning to the truck.

I'd been back in the truck only a few minutes when a co-op employee showed up and I followed him to the pole yard. When the guy turned off SR 47 onto the little gravel driveway, I thought at first he'd taken a wrong turn. The hill was about as nearly straight up as I would want to try in an 18-wheeler. I engaged the "differential lock" (a semi's equivalent of 4-wheel drive) and crawled up the hill. You'll note the images here show me going down the hill, not up. I didn't have the time or inclination to grab the cell phone and take pics on the way in.

In places, I had to hug the left side of the road to the point that the trees were shoving the left mirror out of adjustment. By the time I got to the top, there were small limbs hanging all over the front of the truck. And since the road is cut into a hillside, I had a dirt wall on one side and steep drop-off on the other. I did at least manage to get a couple of pics on the way out.

At the pole yard, there was no dock and no fork lift. The guys used a "boom truck" to reach into the trailer and drag the transformers out, then swing'em around and set them on the ground. This method of unloading is fairly common in both rural areas and job sites, although it had been awhile since I'd unloaded this way.

Vernonia is located on SR 47 about 15 miles north of US Hwy 26, west of Portland. It's a pretty drive from Portland, especially after exiting from 26 onto 47. If you're traveling in the Portland area, I heartily recommend a side trip to Vernonia. Nice folks, nice town (and great coffee).

See you on the road...