Monday, May 31, 2010

Demonstration of the Stability of Ikea Cat Tower

By the way you can find the description of it in the online Ikea catalog. As you can see in the video the below the tower is very stable. I think Ikea should give me ten bucks for advertising their tower.

This is Abby attacking the camera from the cat tower

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cat Tree

Yesterday at Ikea, along with a table, we purchased a wicker cat tree in the hopes of keeping the cats from further destroying the few nice pieces of furniture we do have. So far Abby, the kitten, has spent the most time exploring the wicker tower. I love Ikea.

I have hopes for the wicker tower because when I opened the box to start the assembly both cats came over started clawing at it. As soon as they saw what I had they were both like, "Oh! Wicker!" and then went all scratchy scratchy on it.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

San Francisco

I came across this blogger's blog entry of photographs of his trip to San Francisco. You can view it here. I enjoyed his photographs, he has a good eye.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The August Jam

(This post has been up for over a year now and still no one has come forth with any photographs. Surely, someone has some photographs out there? If you have any memorabilia I'd love to have a copy of it so I can add it to this article. Please contact me if you have anything you would like to share at edmcdonald at

Pictures from audience member
Flickr user Linda just emailed me a link to some photos she took of her time at the August Jam. You can view her picture set here

Recently I was going through some old newspapers that someone had donated to the library. Most of the papers in the stack had coverage about the resignation of President Richard Nixon. A Sunday Charlotte Observer from August 11th had four stories on the front page. The stories were about Nixon's last days in office, Gerald Ford assuming power, how the city of San Clemente was handling being the home of citizen Richard Nixon and the fourth story was about a huge rock concert held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was called August Jam.

On August 10, 1974, the day after Gerald Ford assumed the presidency from Richard Nixon there was a big party at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. An estimated 200,000 people came to a rock festival, milling around the front stretch, the pit area and the grandstands enjoying Southern rock and indulging freely in drugs and booze. Scheduled to play on that Saturday were the Marshall Tucker Band, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, The Allman Brothers Band, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Foghat, Grinder Switch, Black Oak Arkansas, an Italian prog rock band called PFM and several other minor bands. The Eagles were scheduled to play also but they canceled. Tickets were available through Ticketron for $12 in advance and tickets at the door were $15. I had no idea Ticketron was selling tickets in the mid seventies. The promoters rented all 154 rooms of the Coliseum Downtowner Motor Inn located on Independence Blvd. Performers were flown in all during the day on two helicopters.

According to a story in the Spartanburg Herald Journal it was the biggest concert on the east coast since Woodstock in 1969. The crowd was so big that it was equal to about one quarter of the whole population of the Charlotte metro area at the time and four times the population of Spartanburg, SC. Cars lined the road the day of the festival and late arrivals had to walk up to two miles just to get to the race track. The Times News of Hendersonville, NC, which billed it self as "one of America's most modern newspapers," reported that eight towing companies from the Concord area towed around 385 cars that were parked illegally in the area. Companies were forced to give a discount on their regular $25 fee for towing because a lot of the kids had no cash. Some towers even released cars for free. One even accepted in lieu of cash a "sawed off shotgun, a watch and a guitar."

The concert was slated to begin at 11am Saturday morning. The gates opened on Friday afternoon and those that showed up early rushed in to claim spots near the stage. Eventually the concert started to resemble the fabled 1969 Woodstock festival in one significant way, nonpaying customers eventually forced their way into the show through the fences and past "club swinging security." Security guards were so overwhelmed that they eventually gave up. One guard was quoted as saying to the rock fans, "Come in, they're not paying me enough to take this." Despite the chaos there were no serious injuries although two guard dogs were "trampled to death." The mob even took over the local police outpost for a short period of time but the cops cleared them out quickly. The crashers prompted one of the promoters, Larry Pressley, to say, "I'm sure not happy when our profit is so small because of this. But we'll do okay and they're going to see a good show." Richard Howard, president of the speedway, estimated there were 10,000 gate crashers. According to the Observer there was a large skirmish between the concert goers and security guards which were provided by a company called Security Dogs Inc at 8am Saturday morning. The crowd rushed the gates five times until the guards gave up and officials at the gates quit attempting to take tickets. Once that happened people poured in and the more dishonest of concert goers collected unused tickets and sold them to unsuspecting late arrivals who were unaware that tickets were no longer needed.

Those who are currently familiar with the Charlotte Motor Speedway may think it's odd that a crowed of 200,000 could overwhelm the area but up to that time the largest crowd for a race at CMS was 90,000. The music ran smoothly all day. The stages were set up along pit road. While one band was playing the next band would be setting up on another stage. Once the current band finished the next one started right away because their gear was already set up and ready to go. An expensive quadraphonic sound system was utilized. The speakers were on tracks so the bands would be playing in the center of the speakers no matter which stage they were using.

Drugs were sold openly inside the track. There were only around 100 police officers to provide security and they stayed outside in order to keep the roads open to traffic. If the police did attempt to enter the show they were pelted with debris. Cabarrus County Sheriff J.B. Roberts said his men could not enter the festival because "hundreds of them would have come at you...we're not equipped to do it." The story in the Charlotte Observer while addressing the indulgences of the crowd included this doozy in the opening paragraph: "The largest crowd ever seen for a rock concert in the Carolinas...swarmed over the Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday, tearing down fences, consuming rivers of beer, smoking pounds of marijuana and listening to hours of continuous, welling music."

After the excitement of the gate crashing the crowd calmed down and concentrated on imbibing and listening to the music. Considering the lack of security and the large size and few amenities there was very little conflict. The stories I found in local newspapers focused a lot of attention on the drugs and alcohol that were consumed by those in attendance and there was some hysteria from local officials concerning possible violence but there were no serious injuries at the event despite absolutely no police or security presence inside the gates. A quote by Sheriff Roberts in the Observer sums up nicely the preconceptions by the authorities. He said, "There will be drunks, fights, shootings and cuttings." As the article says "there were drunks in abundance" but the predicted shootings and cuttings didn't happen. A sense of community settled over the place. It became a "happening." There did seem to be a bit of nudity at the event. One man did a strip tease, encouraged by the crowd who paid him in "pretzels, sips of beer and puffs from their joints."

With that much chaos at the gates and that many people gathered in a hot August weekend at a facility where basic needs were scarce and serious partying was going on there were bound to be some injuries. The local hospital later reported that they had treated 138 people from the concert and that "most had not paid their bills." The estimated cost of the unpaid bills was $13,137. The injuries varied from drug overdoses to cut feet from walking on broken glass and one woman who was pregnant and was admitted to the hospital had a miscarriage.

The panic by local officials continued after the concert was over. In September the Cabarrus County commissioners discussed creating an ordinance either banning or controlling such concerts. Cabarrus County Health Director, Albert Klimas, said, "Our evaluation of the August Jam and its promotion is that it was a public health menace and a threat to the citizens of Cabarrus County." They may not have passed the ordinance because I can't find any news reports on the subject after the initial story.

The concert was promoted by Stan Kaplan (who went on to purchase WROQ and founded the weekly paper called The Leader) president of Charlotte's WAYS radio and a local promoter, Larry Pressely. The concert was promoted in Rolling Stone magazine and advertised on the radio "as far away as Florida." People came from all over. Near the end of the evening a Charlotte Observer reporter observed a young man with "a sign around his neck reading 'Ride Needed to Vermont.'"

Ron, a seventeen-year-old music lover from just north of New York City drove down that weekend with two high school friends. I contacted him through a music message board and he agreed to answer a few questions about his experience at the August Jam. They drove all night to get to the Charlotte Motor Speedway by Friday morning. The highlight of their drive was listening to Richard Nixon's resignation speech. They secured some beer, soda and ice and waited for the gates to open Friday afternoon. He remembers it being "really hot and humid." I would imagine a northern kid's first trip to the North Carolina Piedmont in the middle of August could only be described as that.

His experience was different than much of the reporting in the local papers. It was crowded and it was hot but overall it "was pretty mellow." He had tickets and got there early on Friday and secured a spot about fifty yards from the stage and missed the chaos of Saturday morning's gate crashing battle.

The newspaper reporting said that the bathroom facilities were badly overloaded and he confirmed that. Due to the overcrowding caused by the gate crashers it was a half hour trip to the bathrooms. Then you had to wait and then another half hour trip back to where you had set up. As Ron put it in his email to me, "...every trip to the bathroom was about a two-hour ordeal, and suddenly drinking a lot of beer lost its amusement value." Sounds like a flask of whiskey would have been handy.

He did answer another big question I had about the event: the sound system. From where he was sitting the sound was great. He wrote that the "quadraphonic sound system was enormous and magnificent." You can see the rear speakers for the quadraphonic system in the first picture of the event below. They are in the right side of the picture sitting just inside of the front stretch.

The track president Richard Howard estimated there was about $30,000 in damages done to the facility and Stan Kaplan estimated he probably broke even on his $600,000 investment. He said, "I'll never be part of an outdoor concert again."

Jim from Greensboro shared with me a poster from the event which he picked up after the concert at a Charlotte music store. Great find and thanks for sharing!

August Jam Poster 007 copy

Other than the pictures from the Charlotte Observer I haven't been able to find any video footage or pictures of this event. There's got to be some out there. I did find a Black Oak Arkansas DVD that supposedly has two songs from their performance at the August Jam. I'd purchase it if I knew for sure there were shots of the crowd included. If you were at the August Jam leave a comment or email me. I'd love to hear your story.

Picture taken from the beginning of the front stretch of the speedway
View of Crowd at the August Jam in 1974

Aerial shot of the crowd
Aerial View of August Jam

I finally found some video. This is some footage of Black Oak Arkansas playing.

There are a couple of photographs of festival goers hosted on the website of the UNC-Charlotte website. Photographs were taken by Steve Perile.

View from the front stretch here

Exhausted participants outside the track here


Cabarrus seeks rock concert control, The Rock Hill Herald. September 7th, 1974

Concert was a package deal, not for real music lovers by John Smith, Spartanburg Herald. August 13, 1974

Crashers win big battle at the gate, Allen Cowen, Charlotte Observer, August 11th, 1974

Some towing fees cut for concert goers, The Times News. August 14th, 1974

Thousands jam rock fest, The Charlotte Observer, Henry Eichel with filed reports by Mark Ethridge III, Johnny Greene, Allen Cowan and Mike Schwartz. August 11th, 1974

Thousands of fans crash rock concert gate, Sarasota Herald Tribune, August 11th, 1974

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Truck Race

Last night Melanie and I went to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the truck race. It was supposed to start at 8 but because of a rain delay it didn't start until around 11. Yikes. We waited though because we were, you know, there. We stayed for over half the race but we had to leave around midnight. We had to get back home in time for the cat to wake us up. I don't know what that cat would do if we weren't home at 3am for her wake up call.

Once you get beyond the top ten in the truck series there is a big drop off in the competition but the top five last night put on a show. We saw some outstanding racing for a while. If the truck series comes near you I recommend it. The tickets are about one quarter the cost of a Sprint Cup ticket and you have about ten percent of the crowd to deal with. Plus the races are much shorter. Another advantage of the truck series is for a fraction of the cost you get to sit in the really good seats. You can see in the video how good our seats were. We were way up high right near the start/finish line and we had great views of turns 1 and 4. I love turn 4 at CMS, it's legendary.

The video below is the first lap and a half of the race.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Trouble in Turn 2

At the Southern 500 at Darlington in early May I was following Mark Martin around the track with my camera. I got lucky and caught Bobby Labonte spinning out coming off turn 2. That is David Gilliland he takes with him. This is the first time I caught a wreck on video. I'm so happy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Winter/Summer Contrast

Two views from the deck of my Dad's house in northern Michigan.

Panorama from my Dad's deck during a snow flurry


Monday, May 17, 2010

Mick Jagger on Music and Technology

Thoughtful take on music selling/buying/stealing by Mick Jagger can be read here. It's worth noting that artists generally have a more liberal and realistic view of music downloading than the corporations.
The Greatest Song Ever

This song makes me cry.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Caption This

New Photoshop

I saw on John Scalzi's blog that the new Photoshop has a tool that allows you to remove spots and offending soccer defenders with one click of a mouse. It's called "content aware." It works better for small spots but it removed this whole soccer player in just a few clicks. I had to tell it to redo some of the background a few times to make it look better. It could stand some more tweaking but for just a couple of minutes of work that's a dandy piece of editing. Pretty amazing tool. If you go to the Adobe website you can use the new Photoshop for free for 30 days. It costs $999 so I guess I'll have to really enjoy these next 30 days.

Futbol in Freedom Park


Monday, May 10, 2010

Thanks, Linda

This weekend I went to the race at Darlington. Since Jeff lives in Raleigh we meet at the Wal Mart in Lumberton, NC and I pile my gear into his car and we continue on to Darlington, SC. I leave my car in the Wal Mart parking lot and recover it the next day. This year upon returning to Lumberton after the race I saw that someone named Linda had declared her love for me with soap. Thanks, Linda, I'm sure you're a special gal.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

More fun with Google Maps

The Middle of Nowhere, Australia

View Larger Map

The back gate of Camp Kinser in Okinawa. My home in 1987-1989

View Larger Map

Soldier Field in Chicago

View Larger Map

A street in ancient Pompeii

View Larger Map

Loch Ness in Scotland

View Larger Map

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Ed goes to Quail Hollow

On Wednesday I hopped on my bicycle a little before 9am and pedaled down to the Quail Hollow country club to attend my first ever PGA golf event, the annual Pro Am tournament. The Pro Am takes place the day before the Quail Hollow Championship starts. I chose the Pro Am as my first for two reasons, fewer people and cameras are allowed. The three-day practice pass that is good from Monday to Wednesday is a great deal. For $25 you can see most of the top golfers in the world and a few celebrities. To watch Vijay Singh tee off once is by itself worth $25.

Once inside I was confused for a few minutes. Since I had never been to a tournament before I had no idea how to properly spectate. A helpful volunteer at the entrance told me his favorite spot to view the players was around the 10th green. From there it's a a short walk to the 11th and 13th tees and the 12th green. I got sidetracked on my way to this spot but once I got there his advice was correct. This volunteer was not an anomaly. Everyone of them I interacted with was courteous, friendly and knowledgeable. In fact, for the most part, except for the oddly high number of loud drunk "woo girls," everyone there was friendly and willing to talk to a rookie. Beyond the entrance I passed the practice area. I could see players practicing their short game and after that I passed the the driving range. I was struck by how many people surrounded each player. Some had as many as five. Who could they all be? Trainer? Agent? Manager? Loser kid brother?

The first player I saw was Padraig Harrington. I caught him teeing off at 4. Then I got a chance to really look around. What I first noticed was the beauty of the course. It's stunning. I've only played on public courses and I'm used to bare spots and inconsistent greens and fairways. Quail Hollow is immaculate. The fairways and greens are uniform and perfect. Even the rough is lush and beautiful. I don't want to play golf there, I would like to be buried there.

My first stop was the 16th green. From there I could watch approach shots and putting and once the group finished I could turn around and watch them attempt to hit the green of the par three 17th. You really see how good these professional golfers are when you witness them hit a ball 217 yards with an iron and drop it essentially on what is a small island.

Tiger Woods was working his way toward 16 when I got there so I camped out and waited. What's the point of being there and not at least seeing for a short bit of time the most famous athlete since Michael Jordan? And camping in one spot allowed me to see more golfers. I even got to see Dan Marino. When his grouping arrived I was amused to see several people materialize wearing Miami Dolphins clothing. Tiger's arrival was like a tsunami, as he got closer the number of fans gathering around the green slowly grew until his approach shot hit and the mob that was following him showed up. They spent ten minutes watching him pooch a chip out of the rough, make his putt and then practice chipping out of the rough over and over and over while ignoring his amateur teammates as they putted. He's the only professional I saw take extra practice at the 16th green. He didn't ignore his teammates the whole time. I saw him talking with them on the 17th tee.

I then went searching for a spot with fewer people where I could take more photographs of the golfers and the course. The 16th tee was a perfect. There I saw Angel Cabrera, Vijay Singh (who completely crushed his tee shot) and Jim Furyk tee off. It's staggering how hard and far these pros hit their tee shots. When they connect it sounds like a low caliber rifle going off. The balls go up and up and up in a nice smooth trajectory and they are always in the fairway. To give you an idea of how much farther they can hit the ball, at Quail Hollow the 16th tee for the professionals was a good fifty yards farther from the hole than the farthest back tee normal humans use. Watching these guys really rip into a golf ball never got old.

In Furyk's group was Coach John Fox of the Carolina Panthers. The coach was being mobbed by kids and adults alike but he was very gracious and took time out to sign autographs. I was impressed by his patience. He seemed to really be taking pleasure in interacting with his fans, especially the kids. Shouts of "Coach Fox! Coach Fox!!" trailed him as he left the 15th green and strolled toward the 16th tee. I don't know what it is about football coaches but they seem to bring out a unique reaction from sports fans. It's like the whole city treats him like he's not only the coach for his players but he's our coach also. I guess football coaches are like drill instructors, no matter how old you are you can't shake the obedience you once gave them.

It wasn't just the pros that were good. The amateurs I saw out there weren't slouches. From what one of the spectators told me, in order to qualify to get on the course with the top PGA professionals you have to establish a pretty good handicap. From what I saw it probably helps to be really rich also. Regardless, since there were at least twice as many amateurs on the course as pros I had the plenty of chances to watch these guys play and they were all very good. It's hard enough to play well in front of your friends but to keep it together while playing in front of a few hundred fans of Tiger Woods? That's not easy.

After working my way around holes 15 and 14 and taking a few photographs for panoramas I would stitch together later with Autostitch I finally made it to the 10th green. I spent another hour taking in the atmosphere and witnessed Charley Hoffman casually hit a ball 200 hundred yards with his 5 iron at the 203 yard par three thirteenth. Standing there I heard a couple of club members offhandedly comment on changes they'd like to see the head groundskeeper make. You know, stuff like move a tree here and place one there. A conversation only the truly rich can have. Around 2pm I got hungry and went back out the way I came and rode my bike home. On the way back home I passed Glenn The Car Guy. I told him I saw a Lamborghini just a few minutes earlier near the country club. He told me he was heading to Joseph Beth Booksellers to browse their car magazines.

So, thanks Quail Hollow, for letting me mosey around your beautiful golf course for fives hours on a gorgeous Wednesday in late April. For a mere $25 bucks I got to see what world class really means.

Here are a few panoramas I took that day.

The 14th fairway and green with #17 in the background
14th Hole

The 13th hole from behind the green
13th Hole

A view the the signature hole #17 from behind the green.
Backside of #17

17 from the left side of the tee area
Front of #17 Panorama