Firsts – Live One
Embodying new lifestyles and experiences.

Mar
21

For the next six months, I will no longer be posting content regularly on my WordPress blog.  BUT YOU ARE NOT OUT OF LUCK!  You can continue to find new material updated regularly at this blog’s main version, firsts-liveone.blogspot.com.  Thank you everyone whose followed this blog for the past six months and wait for the new and improved version!

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Mar
19

Dog dancing?  Dancing…with your dog?  You’re kidding right?

Actually, I’m not.  Known as musical canine freestyle, dog dancing is a mixture of standard obedience training and tricks that grants handlers a more intimate bond with their dog(s).  There are two categories in the sport, musical freestyle and freestyle heeling.  While freestyle heeling highlights the dog’s ability to stay in variations of the heel position with the handler dancing, musical freestyle allows more leeway as far as tricks are concerned.  The latter category is judged much more on creativity than execution. (Let’s face it…neither one of you are going to look cool out there.)

Although competition rules vary widely, there are two standards.  They include:

  • No use of training aids or leashes.
  • Participants must compete either as a single dog and handler, a pair of dogs and handlers, or as a full team of three or more dogs and their handlers.

Since you’re more likely to win with a creative dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller than a perfectly choreographed routine to the Macarena, the competitor’s choice of music is extremely important.  Routines much match the song or judges may not even give you a score.

Did you know?- Albeit, many who participate in dog dancing choose to express themselves in competitions, it’s not the only way to get yourself seen.  Exhibition freestyle is a non-competitive form of the sport that allows for the use of props, cues, and costumes.   These duos are often seen on television and occasionally in movies.

If you’re brave enough to have yourself seen dancing with your canine in public, you have nothing holding you back from realizing your dog dancing rise to stardom.  While there are not many instructional resources yet available to the public, the websites canine-freestyle.org and worldcaninefreestyle.org can offer you some beginner’s advise and point you in the right direction.

Mar
17

Why would you name a city in Alaska….UnalaskaUnalaksa, AK is a small town located in the Aleutian Chain 800 miles southwest of Anchorage.  We’ve all heard that Alaska is the least populated state per square mile (1.1, where the country’s average is 79.6), but to put things into greater perspective, Unalaska ranks as the state’s 11th largest city with a population of 4,000. 

Part of the reason for the city’s number of people may be the area’s stable temperate.  The mean annual temperature is about 38 °F (3.4 °C), dipping to 30 °F (−1.1 °C) in January and rising to 52 °F (11.1 °C) in August.  Yet I still doubt whether people choose to stay here because of the temperature alone.  The city is also claimed as the rainiest place in the United States with about 250 days of rain per year.

Did you know?- Unalaska has a total area of 212.3 square miles and almost 48% of that is water!

The city has only one port, Dutch Harbor, which the locals simply know as “Dutch”.  It was given its name because the Russians believed the first ship to enter the harbor was Dutch. (Why would that be the case?) The harbor is actually located on Amaknak Island which is connected to Unalaska Island by bridge.  While Amaknak is home to 59% of the city’s population, it makes up only 3% of its area.

Dutch Harbor

Unalaska and Amaknak Islands once contained a native population, known as the Aleut, for hundreds of years before being discovered by modern man.  The islands’ trading potential weren’t harnessed until 1759 when the Russian fur trade claimed the harbor as their own.  The Russians named the island Ounalashka, meaning ‘near the peninsula’. 

For three years, the Russians operated peacefully with the Aleut until violence broke out between the two.  Outnumbered and unable to compete with the Russians’ weaponry, the Aleut were forced to surrender. 

In time there were others who would come to take Dutch.  In 1788, the Spanish discovered the Aleutian Chain.  Explorers Esteban José Martínez and Gonzalo López de Haro visited hundreds of native settlements with Unalaska being the farthest west. These two men alone claimed the island for Spain and named it Puerto de Dona Marie Luisa Teresa, Port of Donates Marie Luisa Teresa, named after the former queen of Spain.

Marie Luisa Teresa (What is she wearing?)

If you’re still looking for a reason to bear what will most likely be a rainy trip, there are two places that have been deemed National Historic Landmarks you need to see.  The first is the Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and Fort Mears, one of two U.S. army bases located in Alaska when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  The fort also played a crucial role in the Battle of Dutch Harbor during the Japanese invasion of Alaska.  Second is the Church of the Holy Ascension which was built in 1826.

Church of the Holy Ascension

And if you’re not into taking tours, why not visit Makushin Volcano which has an elevation of 5,691 feet (1.75 Km).  On clear days, steam can be seen coming from its peak. 

Makushin Volcano

Unbeknownst to those in the lower forty-nine, Dutch Harbor is one of the most productive ports in the United States.  It has seen the largest volume of seafood caught for almost every year since 1981, and until 2000 ranked first in dollar value per catch.  The position is now held by New Bedford, Massachusetts. 

Did you know?- A experimental project based on the island is attempting to produce fish oil biodiesel from the fish waste from local manufacturers.  The idea is hoped to kill two birds with one stone by reducing the need to transport excess fish oil off the island (now, 3.5 million tons annually) but also to fuel the majority of machines which use diesel engines.  

Thanks to television, this once unheard of port has become the most famous in the country.  For five years, the Discovery Network has been documenting the life of Alaskan crab fisherman in their hit series Deadliest Catch.  One of my favorite shows, it is one of the few reality programs that is truly reality.  The series gets its name from the fact that it is the deadliest job in America, above other profession like logging and mining.  Watch one of the show’s most shocking moments when a ship rescues a man overboard below.

Mar
15

The Hindenburg’s destruction has been seen as one of the greatest, unforeseen tragedies in aeronautical history.  Because of this one incident, the Zeppelin name would be deeply questioned for the next half century.  Yet despite the number of lives lost, zeppelins were bounds ahead in engineering for their time.

Unlike modern blimps, the first lighter-than-air fliers did not hold their shape from the pressure of the gas inside, but instead made use of a lightweight, rigid airframe.  Known as ‘dirigibles’, these would become the standard zeppelin design allowing ships to lift heavier loads and be fitted with stronger engines.  

Zeppelin frame

Covering the frame was a cotton fabric coated with specialized metallic paints created to reflect the sun’s rays, preventing internal temperature change of the ship’s gas.  Inside the elaborate framework of aluminum struts were several balloons containing either helium or hydrogen.  For most dirigibles, these gasbags were made of countless sheets of a material known at the time as ‘goldbeater’s skin’, taken from the intestines of cows.  About 200,000 cow’s intestines were needed for the average zeppelin!

While earlier models were shaped like hot dogs, later designs had an elongated football shape that reduced drag as well as increased stability in the air.  At the end of the ship were four directional fins (two set vertically and horizontally) that steered the blimp.  Since zeppelins were so large, one pilot was sanctioned in the rear solely to man the fins while another pilot at the front of the ship controlled thrust and heading.

Did you know?- The later built Graf Zeppelin used engines fuelled with a gas named blaugas.  Similar to propane, it weighed roughly the same as the surrounding air and was contained uncompressed.  This meant that as fuel was burnt, the airship did not have to shift ballast to retain balance during flight.  

If it weren’t for the dirigible’s inventor, Led Zeppelin may still be known as the New Yardbirds.  Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin was a wealthy inventor who became interested in developing a lighter-than-air balloon after witnessing events of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 where he saw the French using balloons to transport mail. 

When Zeppelin completed his designs he went looking for sponsors to help get his idea off the ground, but when he presented his plans to a committee in 1984 no one showed interest.  Forced to fund the project himself, the Count founded the Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Luftschiffahrt (Society for the Promotion of Airship Flight) and began construction of his prototype.

LZ 1

The first Zeppelin, dubbed LZ 1, took its maiden flight on July 2, 1900 over Lake Constance in the Bay of Manzell, Germany.  True to what would be the Wright brothers’ style, the craft didn’t stay airborne for long.  Airborne for only 18 minutes, LZ 1 was forced to land on the lake after its winding mechanism for keeping ballast failed.  Unfortunately, when it was placed back in its hangar, the harness mechanism broke and the blimp crashed suffering damage.

Even with an essentially successful flight, many of the project’s investors decided to back out.  This prompted Zeppelin to take another leap of faith and buy the company and airship for himself in 1901.  With the help of donations, public funding, a mortgage on his wife’s estate, and some lottery winnings, the Count was ready to build the LZ 2.  Although sadly, during its first flight in 1906, the ship’s engines failed and it was forced to make an emergency landing in the Allgau Mountains where it was destroyed beyond repair by a vicious storm.

After two failed attempts in creating his dream balloon, Count von Zeppelin finally realized success.  Incorporating all usable parts of LZ 2, the LZ 3 became the first successful airship.  By 1908 it had travelled a total of 4,398 kilometers (2,733 mi) in the course of 45 flights.

Did you know?- In 1930, when the Art Deco spire of the Empire State Building was built there were designs for it to serve as a terminal for passing airships.  Passengers would exit the airship on a landing platform constructed on the 102nd floor.  There a separate elevator traveling between the 86th and 102nd floors would transport passengers to the building’s main elevators where they could exit the building.  However, after some initial testing the idea was kyboshed; powerful updrafts surrounding the skyscraper made anchoring to the spire too dangerous to be practical.

This zeppelin hangar opened by retracting is rounded outer doors.

Though many design changes would happen throughout the years of their operation, commercial zeppelins shared a majority of features during their prime.   150-160 meters (490-520 feet) in length, they could hold 22,000–25,000 cubic meters of helium or hydrogen able to carry a payload of nine tons.  Powered by three 475 horsepower diesel engines, the airships could reach speeds of up to 80 Km/h (50 mph).

Did you know?- During the first World War, Zeppelins were used by the German military for scouting and precision bombing in assisting infantry forces.  Yet Zeppelin was quick to realize that his airship had a fatal battle flaw, its gas chambers were easily susceptible to enemy fire.  Knowing this, he developed the observational car, essentially a metal basket holding a passenger.  Equipped with chart table, electric lamp, compass, telephone, and lightning conductor, the car would be lowered 750 meters below the main airframe where the occupant would give orders on navigation and what bombs to deploy.  Information was transmitted through a tether cable made of high grade steel with a brass core insulated with rubber to act as a telephone cable.  This allowed the ships to hide in cloud cover where they’d be out of range of artillery fire. 

obervation car

With the ending of the war and Germany’s defeat, came the passing of the notorious Treaty of Versailles.  In the document, Allied forces demanded the deconstruction of the German air force stating no further zeppelins would be built and that all remaining models were to be given to the United States as reparations.  Luckily, Zeppelin did not get to see the destruction of his great company having suffered a timely death before the war’s end.  The company’s new leader, Dr. Hugo Eckener, now planned to take the zeppelin in a whole new direction; making it a messenger of peace.

On March 4, 1936, LZ 129 Hindenburg made her first flight.  It was the largest airship ever constructed at 245 meters (804 feet) long and 41 m (135 feet) in diameter.  In comparison, the Hindenburg was longer than three Boeing 747s placed end-to-end!  Unlike today’s famous Goodyear blimp with its two pilots, the airship could accommodate 50 passengers and a crew of 40.  

LZ 129 Hindenburg

What many believe to have been making a date with death, the Hindenburg’s creators did not fill their ship with hydrogen by choice.  At the time, the majority of helium was being imported from the U.S., yet due to escalating tensions in Europe there was a trade embargo on the gas leaving no other viable option.

With the skepticism surrounding dirigible airships almost gone, a new generation of zeppelins is taking to the skies.  A company based in California called Airship Ventures recently revealed their new line of Zeppelin ‘New Technology’ (NT) airships.  A combination of new and old, the models are semi-rigid and come in at 246 feet (75 meters) long, the longest ship of its kind today. 

Also, if you’ve read my earlier post on autogyros, you’d know that there are companies out there making remote control autogyros for hobbyists.  Now the same is being done with scale blimps primarily for advertising purposes.  Two great sites where you can learn more about these new technologies are advertisingballoons.com and minizepp.com.

Mar
12

Besides the creators of South Park, many people feel Harley Davidson riders are “fags”.  However, the motorcycle has become synonymous with American cultures just like baseball and apple pie.  And although the machine is over one hundred years old, it continues to connect with our population’s need for speed.  In fact, Harleys have become so popular that they head their own movement.  So just like the hippies had Woodstock, motorcycle riders have their own rally.  But why in the world is it held in a small town in South Dakota?

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (here and also here) is held annually in Sturgis, South Dakota the first full week of August.  This tradition started on August 14, 1938 by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club which still owns the tracks, hill climb, and field areas where the core of the rally takes place.  While the first event had only 19 bikes, lasted two days, and concentrated on racing and stunts, today’s Sturgis Bike Week is a huge deal to Harley owners across the continent.

Did you know?- One of the events main stunts involved riders colliding head on into parked automobiles. (Why?!)

Other than some years off during the second World War, the rally will be celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2010.  And while bikers have been given a reputation as a rowdy bunch, bike week is a family affair at heart with many of the attendees being parents dragging their kids along. 

Even for the people who don’t feel like riding their bikes hundreds of miles, sometimes choose to drive trailers and campers to the rally only riding their motorcycles the final couple miles into town.  This has prompted several riders to start wearing patches and shirts saying “I Rode Mine to Sturgis” with the year they attended on it to separate the diehards from the wanabees.

Did you know?- In 2005, attendance was estimated at 525,250!  A lot of people right….especially when you compare it to the state’s population of 754,844 as of the 2000 census.