Train Through a Football Stadium

Going to any sporting event to watch your favorite teams play, as opposed to staying at home and watching the live broadcast, has its perks. Stadium is all about the experience—the noise, the crowd, the shouting, the occasional disruption—it all adds to the thrill. So imagine how thrilling the experience must be for spectators watching the TJ Tatran Čierny Balog club play against visiting teams, when the game is disrupted by an old steam train chugging right through the stadium between the stands and the pitch. This municipal stadium in Čierny Balog in Slovakia is the only stadium in the world with a pair of live railway tracks cutting across it.

Čierny Balog Stadium

Čierny Balog is a large municipality, a conglomeration of thirteen villages, which was one of the centers of the anti-Nazi Slovak National Uprising during the Second World War. The historical narrow gauge railway was built in the early 1900s, originally to transport wood between Čierny Balog and Hronec. Later, the network was extended to transport wood from the forests and by the middle of the 20th century the railway had a total length of nearly 132,000 kilometers, and was the most extensive forestry railway network in Czechoslovakia.

When the railway was laid in 1914 there was no football pitch. That was built later, as the village grew. In 1982 the the railway stopped operating, but ten years later, it started running again as a heritage railway for tourists.

The Čierny Hron railway track is now 17 kilometers long.

The football stadium belongs to the local TJ Tatran Čierny Balog club. It’s a small stadium with only two stands on one side, and open on the rest. The tracks pass directly in front of the stands.

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Old Swing Bridge on Red River

In the northern part of Winnipeg on the Red River is an antiquated railroad swing bridge. Out of service for decades, the bridge is still an amazing piece of history and engineering. When the boats were coming, someone would have to scurry to the middle of the bridge and hit the swing switch. Some type of motor would start the machinery causing the middle section to swivel. Hopefully no trains coming.

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That’s quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn’t it?

From the Woody Allen movie “Play It Again, Sam”.

“Allan: That’s quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn’t it?
Museum Girl: Yes, it is.
Allan: What does it say to you?
Museum Girl: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation, forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos.
Allan: What are you doing Saturday night?
Museum Girl: Committing suicide.
Allan: What about Friday night?”

The museum girl’s glass is obviously half empty.

 

Super Secret Janet Airlines

Janet, sometimes called Janet Airlines, is the unofficial name given to a highly classified fleet of passenger aircraft operated for the United States Department of the Air Force as an employee shuttle to transport military and contractor employees. The purpose is to pick up the employees at their home airport, and take them to their place of work. Then, in the afternoon, they take the employees back to their home airports. The airline mainly serves the Nevada National Security Site (most notably Area 51 and the Tonopah Test Range), from a private terminal at Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport.

The Janet fleet consists of six Boeing 737-600s painted white with a prominent red cheatline. There are also five smaller executive turboprops (two Beechcraft 1900s and three Beechcraft 200Cs) painted white with less prominent blue trim stripes. The fleet is registered to the Department of the Air Force, while some earlier members were registered to several civil aircraft leasing corporations.

The whole Janet fleet, minus one, parked in front of the Luxor hotel.  The fleet has its own private terminal at McCarran International.

 

Due to the airline’s secretive nature, little is known about its organization. It is operated for the USAF by infrastructure and defense contractor AECOM through AECOM’s acquisition in 2014 of URS Corporation, which acquired EG&G Technical Services in 2002, as derived from URS’s history of providing this service to the Air Force and job openings published by URS. For example, in 2010, URS announced it would be hiring Boeing 737 flight attendants to be based in Las Vegas, requiring applicants to undergo a Single Scope Background Investigation in order to be able to obtain a Top Secret security clearance. More recently, AECOM has posted similar openings.

Due to its secrecy, Janet airlines boards at a special part of McCarran International Airport. They board planes at the west side of the airport, next to the Janet Airlines passenger parking lot. There is even a small terminal building for passengers.

Janet flights operate with a three-digit flight number and a WWW-prefix. In the official publication of ICAO airline codes, this specific three-letter designator is listed as being blocked. The official airline callsign is simply Janet. However, the airlines also uses different callsigns, called Groom Callsigns once transferred over to Groom Lake from Nellis control. The callsign name would change, and the callsign number will be the last 2 digits of the flight number +15. For example, if the callsign was Janet 412, and was transferred to Groom Lake control, the callsign would be something like ¨Bunny 27¨.

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Fascinating Alternative History Fiction

Philip Kindred Dick (December 16, 1928 – March 2, 1982) was an American novelist, short story writer and essayist whose published work is almost entirely in the science fiction genre. Dick explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments and altered states. In his later works Dick’s thematic focus strongly reflected his personal interest in metaphysics and theology. He often drew upon his own life experiences in addressing the nature of drug abuse, paranoia and schizophrenia, and transcendental experiences in novels such as A Scanner Darkly and VALIS.

The novel The Man in the High Castle bridged the genres of alternate history and science fiction, earning Dick a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963.  Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, a novel about a celebrity who awakens in a parallel universe where he is unknown, won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel in 1975.  “I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards”, Dick wrote of these stories. “In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real.”  Dick referred to himself as a “fictionalizing philosopher.”

The following Dick novels and short stories were Hollywoodized onto the big screen:  “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” was the inspiration for the movie Bladerunner.  “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”  inspired the movie Total Recall with Arnie.   The newly release movie The Adjustment Bureau is based on the Dick short story “Adjustment Team”.

The Man In The High Castle takes “What If” fictional military history into an amazing new realm.  When I read this novel I could not stop thinking about it for months.

 

Plot summary:

Giuseppe Zangara’s successful assassination of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1933, led to the weak governments of FDR’s Vice President John Nance Garner and of the Republican John W. Bricker in 1940; both politicians failed to surmount the Great Depression and maintained the country’s isolationist policy against participating in the Second World War; thus, the U.S. had insufficient military capabilities to assist the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, or to defend itself against Japan in the Pacific.

In 1941, the Nazis conquered the USSR and then exterminated most of its Slavic peoples; the few whom they allowed to live were confined to reservations. In the Pacific, the Japanese destroyed the U.S. Navy fleet in a decisive, definitive attack on Pearl Harbor; thereafter, the superior Japanese military conquered Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and Oceania by the early 1940s. Afterward, the Axis Powers, each attacking from opposite fronts, conquered the coastal United States, and, by 1948, the Allied forces surrendered to the Axis.

Japan established the puppet Pacific States of America out of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, parts of Nevada and Washington as part of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. The remaining Mountain, Great Plains and Southwestern states became the Rocky Mountain states, a buffer between the PSA and the remaining USA, now a Nazi puppet state in the style of Vichy France. Having defeated the Allies of World War II and won the war for the world, the Third Reich and Imperial Japan, as the resultant superpowers, consequently embarked upon a Cold War.

After Adolf Hitler’s syphilitic incapacitation, Martin Bormann, as Nazi Party Chancellor, assumes power as Führer of Germany. Bormann proceeds to create a colonial empire to increase Germany’s Lebensraum by using technology to drain the Mediterranean Sea and convert it into farmland (see Atlantropa), while sending spaceships to colonize Mars and other parts of the Solar System in the name of the Reich.

As the novel begins, Führer Bormann dies, initiating an internal power struggle between Joseph Goebbels, Reinhard Heydrich, Hermann Göring and other top Nazis to succeed him as Reichskanzler.

 

 

A story within a story.

Several characters in The Man in the High Castle read the popular novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, by Hawthorne Abendsen, whose title, putatively, derives from the Bible verse: “The grasshopper shall be a burden” (Ecclesiastes 12:5). It is a novel within a novel, wherein Abendsen posits an alternative universe where the Axis lost WWII (1939–1948), for which reason the Germans banned it in the occupied U.S., despite its being a widely-read book in the Pacific and its publication being legal in the neutral countries.

The Grasshopper Lies Heavy postulates that President Franklin D. Roosevelt survives assassination and forgoes re-election in 1940, honoring George Washington’s two-term limit. The next president, Rexford Tugwell, removes the U.S. Pacific fleet from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, saving it from Japanese attack, and ensuring that the U.S. enters World War II a well-equipped naval power. The UK retains most of its military-industrial strength, contributing more to the Allied war effort, leading to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s defeat in North Africa; a British advance through the Caucasus to guide the Soviets to victory in the Battle of Stalingrad; Italy reneging on its membership in and betrayal of the Axis Powers; British armor and the Red Army jointly conquering Berlin; and, at the end of the war, the Nazi leaders — including Adolf Hitler — being tried for their war crimes; the Führer‘s last words are Deutsche, hier steh’ ich(“Germans, here I stand”), in imitation of the priest Martin Luther.

Post-war, Churchill remains Britain’s leader; and, because of its military-industrial might, the British Empire does not collapse; the USA establishes strong business relations with Chiang Kai-shek’s right-wing regime in China, after vanquishing the Communist Mao Zedong. The British Empire becomes racist and more expansionist post-war, while the U.S. outlaws Jim Crow, resolving its racism by the 1950s. Both changes provoke racialist-cultural tensions between the US and the UK, leading them to a Cold War for global hegemony between the two vaguely liberal, democratic, capitalist societies. The British Empire eventually defeats the US, becoming the world’s only superpower.

Sea Stack formations along the Pacific coast

A strange geological formation occurs along the Pacific coast of the northwest United States.  They are found especially along the Washington and Oregon coasts.  Islands that pop out of the ocean and are particularly tall.  They make for picturesque scenery.

Sea stacks are found around the world.  A different type of stack is the Flower Pot Rocks along the coast of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick.

A stack is a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, isolated by erosion.  Stacks are formed through processes of coastal geomorphology, which are entirely natural. Time, wind and water are the only factors involved in the formation of a stack.  They are formed when part of a headland is eroded by hydraulic action, which is the force of the sea or water crashing against the rock. The force of the water weakens cracks in the headland, causing them to later collapse, forming free-standing stacks and even a small island.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

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Flower Pot Rocks in New Brunswick