I never said I was perfect, just that I was the best.

Friday, September 9, 2011


M and Ms on the Freeway

This city lives by its freeways. Forget BART, DART and Metro. The freeways are so congested that a number of toll roads have been constructed. Those tolls adds up fast if you're doing an 80 mile round-trip commute every day. Those tollroads that haven't reached the saturation point yet give the well-heeled the chance to compare their Ferrari to your Lamborgini, but all they really want to do is get away from the M and M's. Maniacs and Morons. M and M's are any other drivers that are not driving the same speed as you (behind you, at a respectful distance). The Maniacs are the ones going faster than you, and the Morons are the ones going slower than you and getting in your way. Is there a caste system developing? If you would escape from the mosh pit of rush hour, dodging the gal in the rusty truck with all the dents and the guy with a rollbar and numbers on the side, then get out your wallet, and soon you too can be cruisin' down the tollroad without having to worry about spilling your beer because some jerk up ahead slowed down.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Urban Coyotes

Written and published for the Brazos Country Monthly

General Information on Coyotes

The basic social unit is the family group, comprised of a mated pair and their offspring. Non-family coyotes include bachelor males, non-reproductive females, and near-mature young. They may live alone or form loose associations of two to six animals. The coyote is a very savvy and clever beast making it difficult to control. Coyotes have keen vision and a strong sense of smell, and they can hear up to 80 KHz, compared to the 60 KHz of dogs. During pursuit, they can run up to 43 mph and jump over 13 feet. Coyotes can easily jump an 8 foot fence, and have been spotted climbing a 14 foot cyclone fence.
Coyotes may be active throughout the day, but they tend to be more active during the early morning and around sunset. They are good swimmers.
The food habits of coyotes are varied. They are opportunists and make use of anything that can be eaten — garbage, carrion, fresh meat in the form of both wild and domestic animals, insects, frogs, snakes, fruits, melons, and so forth. Although coyotes prey on poultry and the smaller livestock, their natural foods consist largely of rabbits, rodents, and carrion. Coyotes will take their kill to a safe place to eat.  They may carry their prey up to a mile before consuming it.  They don’t leave much behind and tend to eat whatever they can fit in their mouth.  In some cases they may even eat a leather collar on a pet.  For this reason, not much evidence of an attack on a pet or any waste is left behind.
Evidence of coyote activity in Brazos Country includes tracks on the sandy shores of the nearby Brazos River, vocalizations around dusk including barks, growls, yips, whines and howls,  occasional sightings (even some in daylight), and attacks on pets which are usually fatal for small pets.
The breeding season begins in January, reaches its peak in late February or early March, and terminates by the middle of May.
Nursery dens are usually a burrow located in brush covered slopes, steep banks or thickets, and rarely, in hollow logs.  All of these environments are available in the Brazos Country area, primarily in the wooded area between the cleared reserve area and the river. Coyotes usually don't dig their own den. They will find an abandoned den of another animal and enlarge it.  It is rare for no den to be provided for the young. Dens are fairly easy to spot because of the trails leading away from the den. One litter a year is the rule. Normal litter size is one to 12 or up to 19, averaging about 6. The gestation period is 60 to 63 days.
Normally shy, coyotes have been known to attack human adults and children. The only known fatalities were in 1981 when a 3-year-old girl was playing unattended in her front yard and in 2009 when a 19-year-old women was attacked while hiking.
Coyotes carry diseases and parasites - distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and mange (caused by mites).  Coyotes also can be infected with rabies, and tularaemia that can be transmitted to other animals and humans.  Numerous parasites live on the coyote including mites, ticks, fleas, worms and flukes.  Coyotes are known to carry heart worm which can be transmitted to dogs.

Urban Coyotes

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department provides expertise and advice on urban wildlife issues, but does not implement nuisance coyote control. In some urban areas, Texas Wildlife Services assists with coordinating nuisance coyote control and public education. The Texas Wildlife Services officer for our area, Gary McEwen, in College Station can be reached at 979-845-6201. Shooting of coyotes does not require a hunting license or permit in Texas, and is permitted or banned by counties or incorporated areas. Urban coyotes are symptoms of a broader issue. People continue to expand human development into what formerly was open range wildlife habitat. This is increasing the potential for conflicts between people and wildlife. Trapping and similar nuisance control actions cannot eliminate urban coyote problems, although this can be part of the solution in some situations. The real solution and the greater need facing Texans right now is public education. We need to inform and empower people to take steps to coexist with coyotes and other urban wildlife. Some common sense precautions people can take to manage coyotes:
·       Do not feed coyotes! Keep pet food and water inside. Keep garbage securely stored, especially if it has to be put on the curb for collection; use tight-locking or bungee-corded wrapped trashcans that are not easily opened.
·       Keep compost piles securely covered; correct composting never includes animal matter like bones or fat, which can draw coyotes even more quickly than decomposing vegetable matter.
·       Keep pets inside, confined securely in a kennel or covered exercise yard, or within the close presence of an adult. Coyotes can easily jump an 8 foot fence, and have been spotted climbing a 14 foot cyclone fence.
·       Walk pets on a leash and accompany them outside, especially at night.
·       Do not feed wildlife on the ground; keep wild bird seed in feeders designed for birds elevated or hanging above ground, and clean up spilled seed from the ground; coyotes can be drawn directly to the seed, or to the rodents, like squirrels, drawn to the seed.
·       Keep fruit trees fenced or pick up fruit that falls to the ground.
·       Do not feed feral cats (domestics gone wild); this can encourage coyotes to prey on cats, as well as feed on cat food left out for them.
·       Minimize clusters of shrubs, trees and other cover and food plants near buildings and children’s play areas to avoid attracting small mammals that will in turn attract coyotes.
·       Use scaring devices when coyotes are seen. Check with Brazos Country authorities regarding noise and firearms ordinances. Portable air horns, motor vehicle horns, propane cannons, whistles, starter pistols, low-powered pellet guns, slingshots, shouting, arm-waving and thrown rocks can be effective.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Big Guns

When Generals Play “Mine’s Bigger than Yours”
By Mike Geary         
I originally set out to make this the story of Hitler’s mega-cannon. In my intention to describe how my parents came to be in these photographs, I included a great deal of information which really belongs in a yet-to-be-written memoir.
My father was one of four sons of a Michigan dentist. His name was Donald Stuart Geary and he was predominately of Irish ancestry. He was born in the Columbia Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 27, 1922. He attended school at St. Rapheals, Madison, Wisconsin; Ironwood High School, Ironwood, Michigan; Washington High School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Northern High School, Detroit, Michigan (graduated January 28, 1942) and Detroit School of Commerce. There he learned the photography skills that would become both his vocation and lifelong hobby.  My father enlisted in the USAAF (Army Air Force, we didn’t have an Air Force yet).
He attended A and M in Oklahoma where he met and married pretty Oklahoma farm girl Helen Bernice Armstrong from Billings, Oklahoma, who went by “Bernice” all her life. Her major was journalism and her memoirs expressed a desire to be “a good newspaperwoman”. My father proposed to her in March 1943. They were wed on Monday 28 June, 1943 at Stillwater, Oklahoma.
My mother was already pregnant with me when my father was sent to the Southwest Pacific July 4,1943, after Japan’s attempt to seize Midway Atoll had failed with a decisive victory over the Japanese Navy in June 1942. His responsibilities were reconnaissance and other photography for the Army. He was bounced around the Southwest Pacific for a while. Most of his initial assignments were at various islands in the Solomon Islands. The Solomons are divided into the Western, Central and Eastern districts. By the time he landed at Noumea, capital of the island of New Caledonia (south of the Solomons) on October 27,1943, Guadalcanal Island (Central district) had already been retaken from the Japanese by February 11, 1943. Following the Allied invasion of the Northern Solomon Islands on October 25–27, 1943, the Allies occupied the Treasury Islands near Guadalcanal. An airfield was built on Stirling Island, a smaller island in the Treasury Islands near Guadalcanal, which was more suitable due to its level terrain. My Father was photographer on many missions flown from this airfield. Stirling airport is still in use today. An airfield named Henderson field was built on Guadalcanal, and used to launch many attacks on enemy targets. My Father was photographer on many of these. The US invasion of the Japanese-held island of Bougainville (Western district) began on November 1, 1943 and succeeded by the end of November. On November 15, my father was moved to Mbanika Island, second largest island in the Russell group, Solomon Islands (Central district). In December, he was moved to New Georgia Island (Western District) in the New Georgia Islands group, which had been retaken by August 25, 1943.
On the 6 of January, 1944, he was flown to Guadalcanal for an appendicitis operation. Decisive naval victories in the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf, and the invasion of the Filipino island of Leyte, provided the US with air bases from which to launch heavy bomber attacks on the Japanese home islands. Many of my Father’s missions were in the Philippines. Fighting continued in the Philippines until the end of the war.
Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima August 6, 1945 and on Nagasaki August 9, 1945. The war in Asia ended on August 15, 1945 when Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan. The formal surrender occurred on September 2, 1945. By Thanksgiving 1945 my father was with the 91 Recon Squadron, at Howard Field, in the Panama Canal Zone. On November 3 1945, my Mother received a telegram from my Father saying he had arrived in San Francisco and was on his way home.
When he got back to the states he was transferred to Selfridge Field, Michigan, where he was assigned to the 56 Fighter Wing, and among other responsibilities, served as the columnist for the 56 Wing HQ Squadron in the Selfridge Field News. He was a Corporal when he started this but was promoted to sergeant around October 1947.  He attended The Ground General School at Fort Riley, at Camp Forsyth Army Officer Candidate School Class 4 graduating in June 1948 which led to a commission as a 2nd lieutenant.
The photos were taken in Grafenwohr, Germany, and the date was August 1949. My Father died at age 49, long before it ever occurred to me to ask him about the details of some of these stories among other topics. Recently, I set out to organize all those photos. I had tried it several times before and never got past the second or third shoebox because looking at all the photos in each of several boxes took all day . When I saw the picture again, I decided to see what I could find out about it. What follows is what I learned[1].

When Don and Bea Met Dora
Don is my father, Bea is my mother and Dora is the gun. The location is the Grafenwohr area in Germany, so called after the nearby town of that name. The German army had used this area for war games and weapons testing. When the US forces occupied the area, they decided to use it for the same sort of thing themselves. Grafenwohr is located in Bavaria near the eastern border with Czechoslovakia The ruins of this huge gun, Dora, were tucked away in a remote area of Grafenwohr, parts of which were heavily wooded. The Grafenwohr area had poor drainage and tended to turn into a swampy mud hole when it rained enough, which was frequently. My father always returned caked in red mud. Assigned to war games duty at Grafenwohr for two or more weeks, my father could not come home on the weekends, so my mother went to visit him on the job. The gun photos and this one of my folks and their friends in tanker’s gear were taken on one of those visits. My mother is in the center, my father is to her right.

Gustav and Dora

I have done my best to make all measurements as accurate as possible using measurements obtained from Wikipedia articles in both English and German versions, and several other websites. The measurements are shown in both decimal and metric. Many discrepancies occur in the different sources. I have converted the metric measurements to decimal and the decimal measurements to metric.
There are too many references brought up on a search engine with too many disparities for me to reconcile for the purposes of this document. If different websites give widely different measurements or weights for a particular component it is apparent that only one is correct. (For example: The following information from website http://user.mc.net/hawk/biggun.htm has “Gustov” Krupp anticipating and initiating the design of the weapon on his own. There are a number of data that disagree with other sources. The specifications shown in this source were to penetrate thirty-six feet (10.97 meters) of earth and concrete and then six feet of hardened steel plate. It also states that Hitler was so impressed with the weapon that he ordered three of them. The weight of the entire weapon weighed 1350 tons, not 400 tons as stated in this source.)
My primary subject is the Krupp 800mm cannons built by Krupp of Essen. I have included information on several other weapons in order to allay confusion or errors such as the correct name, specifications, usage and ultimate fate of weapons. My base information is drawn from from the Wikipedia articles entitled Schwerer Gustav (English version) and 80-cm-Kanone (German version).         
In 1934 the German Army High Command gave the firm of Krupp of Essen the job of designing a massive gun which could fire projectiles capable of penetrating the formidable Maginot Line defenses of France from beyond the range of French artillery.
Specifications called for an Armor-piercing (AP) projectile to penetrate 7 meters (22.96 feet) of reinforced concrete and one full meter (39.37 inches) of steel armor, and also could fire a High-Explosive (HE) projectile. A Krupp engineer, Dr. Erich Müller, estimated the requirements. The guns were never used against the Maginot Line because the guns were not ready for combat when the Wehrmacht went around the Maginot Line, through neutral Belgium.
On a visit to Essen in 1936, Hitler asked about the feasibility of constructing the weapon. Hitler made no definite commitment, but plans for the 80 cm weapon design began, and were completed and approved in 1937. Construction of the first weapon began that year. After some early work with test models in 1939, results were encouraging enough that the Germans ordered two of the guns. Due to the technical complexity required, it soon became apparent that the original completion date could not be met. Forging the enormous parts would prevent completion by the planned date of spring 1940 and completion was not until 1941.
The completed guns weighed 1,350 tons, were 155 feet 2 inches (47.3 meters) long, 23 feet 4 inches (7.1 meters) wide and 38 feet1 inch (11.6 meters) high. The barrel was 106 feet 8 inches (32.48 or 32.5 meters) long and 800 mm caliber. The barrel was rifled making it the largest caliber rifled weapon made.
Two types of projectiles could be fired – a smaller high-explosive (HE) round, and the “armor-piercing” (AP) round. The AP projectile weighed 7.1 tons and was capable of penetrating 7 meters (23 feet) of reinforced concrete and a meter (39.37 inches) of armor plate. It used 250 kg of explosive with a maximum range of 38 km (23 mi.).
Both projectiles were fired using a 2,500 pound (1134 kg) charge of smokeless powder
A super-long-range projectile was also planned with a range of 150 km and a barrel length of 84 meters that would have enabled the bombardment of London.  Development of a long cannon called Langer Gustav with a 52 cm caliber and a 43 meter barrel firing 680 kg shells with a range of 190 km was begun. This gave it the range to reach London. It was never completed after being damaged by bombing attacks on Essen.
The formal acceptance trials of the Gustav gun took place in the spring of 1941 at the Rügenwald Proving Ground. (The following quote is taken from the Schwerer Gustav Wikipedia entry but is likely in error. Such a projectile is not mentioned elsewhere in that entry or any of my other sources. “Hitler was so impressed he commanded that the 11 ton shell could only  be used at his discretion. It was never used.”)
The first gun, delivered in the spring of 1941, was named (a Krupp tradition named weapons after family members) “Schwerer Gustav” (Heavy Gustaf or Great Gustaf) after the invalid senior director at Krupp, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach. Dora was his wife and the name of the second gun. Schwerer Gustav, as the first of its model, was delivered without charge (another Krupp tradition). However, Krupp charged 7 million Reichmarks for Dora, finished soon after.  My sources for this story betray much confusion about which gun was which. Some called both guns Dora. Some said the gun pictured here was Dora and Gustav was the one that went to the Russian front, others had it vice versa. The name “Big Bertha” (German: Dicke Bertha; literally “Fat Bertha”) mistakenly used by my mother in a note on the back of the photo, also referred to a Krupp family member, but referred to a Krupp mortar-like howitzer used in World War I and some in WWII.
Since the giant gun was not used for its original purpose, the Germans cast about for some other target.  “We must blow up something!” One proposal was to attack Gibraltar.  The wily dictator of neutral Spain, General Franco, was not going to get involved in a major European conflict, so that idea got nowhere.
The Heavy Artillery Unit (E) 672 was reorganized to support Schwerer Gustav in February 1942 and began the long ride to the Crimea on specially re-laid track. Preparations were begun on the chosen firing position at Bakhchisaray, a small village outside Sevastopol, while the gun was in transit. The gun arrived at the Perekop Isthmus early in March of 1942, and was held there until early in April, while a special spur railway line was built to the Simferopol-Sevastopol railway 16 km north of the target, Sevastopol, and site preparations were completed at the firing position. The required preparations included laying the four semi-circular tracks; two for the gun and two for the locomotives used to assemble the gun and move it for aiming. Installation was completed by June 5. The following targets were engaged:
            · June 5
                        • Coastal guns range 25 km. Eight shells fired.                        
                        • Fort Stalin. Six shells fired. 
             · June 6
                        • Fort Molotov. Seven shells fired.
• The White Cliff: an undersea ammunition magazine in Severnaya. The magazine was sited 30 meters under the sea bed with at least 10 meters of concrete protection. After nine shells were fired the magazine was destroyed and a boat on the bay was struck by an errant shell.
            · June 7
                        • Firing in support of an infantry attack on Sudwestspitz, an outlying fortification. 7 shells fired.
            · June 11
                        • Fort Siberia. Five shells fired.
            · June 17
•Fort Maxim Gorki and its Coastal battery. Five shells fired.
Sevastopol had fallen on July 1. The siege ended on July 4th. A total of 48 projectiles were fired at various fortifications to great effect. Only 47 shells are accounted for above. My sources make no accounting for the 48th. The city of Sevastopol lay in ruins. 30,000 tons of ammunition had been fired.  The shells fired in the siege and 250 shells fired in testing and development had worn out the original barrel, and gun was taken back to Krupp’s in Essen where the original barrel was replaced by the spare barrel and the original barrel was re-lined or re-bored.
The gun was then dismantled and moved to the northern part of the eastern front, where an attack was planned on Leningrad. The gun was set up some 30 km from the city near the railway station of Taizy. The attack was cancelled before the gun was fired and spent the winter of 1942/1943 near Leningrad. That was all the combat Schwerer Gustav would see. Then it was moved back to Germany for refurbishment.
It appears that the disassembled components, many of them damaged in transit back to Germany or wrecked by their crews, were discovered April 22, 1945, in a forest near Chemnitz, Germany and undamaged components were cut up by the U. S. Army.  
Sent to the Russian Front to attack Stalingrad, Dora was assembled and readied, but, threatened with encirclement, the Germans had to scramble to get Dora out of there, while most of the trapped German force was annihilated or taken prisoner. Dora was returned to Germany where the Germans retreating from the Allies on the western front sabotaged it in 1945 at Grafenwohr. The damage to the breech is visible in the first photo.  Another photo shows the barrel for Dora. Both of the photos show disassembled elements of the gun mounted on the railcars used to transport them.

When talking big guns, there are different “bigs”: longest barrel, largest caliber, largest projectile, longest range, etc. The 80 cm K(E) guns fired an 800mm caliber projectile, but that only rates second place in that category. The rifled barrel lets it stand alone. “Little David”, a huge mortar developed by the US Army near the end of WWII, ties for first place with the 19th century French “Monster Mortar” (1832) and the British “Mallet’s mortar” (1857), all of which fired 915mm (36 in.) spherical projectiles loaded with between 400 and 500 pounds of explosive. Little David was planned for use against the heavy fortifications expected to be encountered during the invasion of mainland Japan. So the K(E) wasn’t the biggest caliber, but mortars and howitzers are each a class of artillery by themselves, anyway.
Where the K(E) guns were most impressive was in the size of the assembled weapon, the size of the projectile, and its destructive power. The assembled gun weighed 1350 tons – the barrel alone weighed 400 tons and was 32 meters (106 feet) in length. The entire assembled gun was 47.3 meters (155 feet) long, 11.6 meters (38 feet) high, and 7.1 meters (23 feet) wide. The disassembled gun required 25 railcars to transport all the components, construction equipment and support personnel, for a length of 1.6 kilometers, which could be transported on standard railroad tracks. Maximum elevation used in combat was 48° which yielded maximum range. Elevation of 65° could be used for testing and for special targets with the AP shell, sacrificing range for maximum impact on the target. The assembled weapon was so wide that two parallel sets of railroad tracks were required to support it for firing. Even with this arrangement it was not possible to aim the barrel laterally because the length and weight of the barrel might cause the whole apparatus to topple over onto its side like the yellow-slicker-wearing tricycle rider on the old Laugh‑In television show.  Lateral aiming required that two parallel railroad tracks be laid in a 180-degree arc, on which the weapon could be pushed along by two Oil Electric D311 691 kW locomotives which required their own pair of outer tracks. The arrangement of the gun’s rails is visible in the photo of the barrel. This enabled the gun to be aimed anywhere along a 180-degree field-of-fire.
In combat the gun was mounted on a specially designed chassis, supported by two bogies on the two parallel sets of railway tracks. Each of the bogies had 20 axles, giving a total of 40 axles (80 wheels).
A force of over 1500 men was required to excavate a large level curved trench through a small knoll, and prepare the four semi-circular double-track arcs and high berms of soil around the site for cover and protection for the gun.  Railroad tracks to be used by the gun moving into firing position were  re-laid and strengthened.  Excavated soil was used to build large berms to conceal and protect the gun. An 80 cm K(E) gun had a complete detachment of no less than 1420 men commanded by a full colonel who was responsible for assembly and preparation of the gun. The main gun crew of 500 was involved in the care and handling of the ammunition and loading and firing of the gun.  In addition there was a small army of troops to determine what targets to engage, anti-aircraft defenses, guard patrols on the perimeters, civilian technical advisors, railway workers and clerical and administrative personnel.
 It took from 3 to 6 weeks to prepare the site, assemble the gun and prepare for firing, using two specially built 10-ton cranes (visible in the drawing) to lift the projectiles to the level of the breech where they would be pushed into firing position by hydraulic rams.
At best, one round every 15 minutes was fired, and 14 rounds per day were typical.
A planned but unfinished German “V-3” cannon, and an Iraqi super gun proposed by Saddam Hussein would have been bigger, but with the development of the V2  and other ballistic missiles, the day of the giant rail gun came to an end.
The “Paris Gun” used in WWI by Germany to shell Paris in 1918 could lob a 94 kg (210 lb) projectile 130 km (81 mi). The projectile left the barrel of the gun on its nearly 3 minute long journey at almost Mach 5. Its trajectory took it into the stratosphere, where reduced air resistance contributed to its range. The distance traveled was so great that the trajectory was subject to the Coriolis Effect. I will not attempt an in-depth explanation of the Coriolis Effect here, as it is somewhat complex. It arises because the earth is curved, it is rotating, and distortion is introduced when a path over a curved surface is plotted on a flattened map such a Mercator projection. In effect the plot of the trajectory has a horizontally curved aspect.  If plotted without allowing for the Coriolis Effect, the point of impact could be in error by almost a mile. The high velocity of the 210 mm (8.3 in.) projectile through the 112 foot long barrel was so great that each shot wore away enough steel to significantly affect the barrel’s caliber. Batches of sixty-five shells were prepared, each shell of a slightly larger caliber and sequentially numbered for use. Using them out of order would be catastrophic (and would look bad on your record: “Ach, mein Herr, I have broken the gun.”) When the 65 shells were used up, the barrel was re-bored to 240 mm (9.4 in), requiring another 65 custom-sized shells. A miniscule payload and miserable accuracy limited the amount of damage done (250 killed), but the Germans wanted a psychological effect, attacking morale. The Parisians first thought they were being bombed by an airship or blimp, as no planes or gunfire could be heard. Only when enough shell fragments had been collected was it realized that it was an artillery shell. The Paris Gun still holds the record for range. The K(E) guns are not even also‑rans in this event.

[1]Information on development, ammunition, and all weapons was obtained
from the Wikipedia articles entitled Schwerer Gustav (English version) and 80-cm-Kanone (German version) under the Creative
Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
 Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a Non-profit organization.


9/4/11 - 9/11/11  

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