Daily Update: May 11, 2011

05-11 - HMS Beagle in Sydney Harbour

With no Saints to honor today, we note that on this date in 1820 HMS Beagle was launched, being the ship that took naturalist Charles Darwin on his voyage to the Galapagos Islands.

In 1820 on this date a Cherokee class 10-gun brig-sloop of the Royal Navy was launched on May 11, 1820 from the Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames, at a cost of £7,803, and christened HMS Beagle. In July of that year she took part in a fleet review celebrating the coronation of King George IV of the United Kingdom in which she was the first ship to sail under the new London Bridge. After that there was no immediate need for the Beagle so she “lay in ordinary”, moored afloat but without masts or rigging. She was then adapted as a survey barque and took part in three expeditions. On the second survey voyage (1831 – 1836) the young naturalist Charles Darwin was on board, and his work would eventually make the Beagle one of the most famous ships in history. After her third voyage, in 1845 the Beagle was refitted as a static coastguard watch vessel and transferred to Customs and Excise to control smuggling on the Essex coast to the north bank of the Thames estuary. She was moored mid-river on the River Roach which forms part of a maze of waterways in the marshes south of Burnham-on-Crouch. In 1851 oyster companies and traders petitioned for her to be removed as she was obstructing the river, and the 1851 Navy List dated May 25 showed her renamed as Southend “W.V. No. 7” at Paglesham. In 1870, she was sold to “Messrs Murray and Trainer” for breaking up. It appears that parts of the ship are still extant; investigations in 2003 found traces of timbers forming the size and shape of the lower hull, indicating a substantial amount of timbers from below the waterline still in place. An old anchor of 1841 pattern was excavated. It was also found that the 1871 census recorded a new farmhouse in the name of William Murray and Thomas Rainer, leading to speculation that the merchant’s name was a misprint for T. Rainer. The farmhouse was demolished in the 1940s, but a nearby boathouse incorporated timbers matching knee timbers used in the Beagle.

I awoke this morning at 9:00 am; my first order of business was to mail the birthday card off to Richard’s brother Butch. After I ate some toast for breakfast while reading the morning paper, Richard and I went down to Wal-Mart, where we purchased another 5-shelf Mainstays bookcase (in Alder) and where I picked up my contact lenses, leaving a message for my optometrist to remember to read the book for our meeting next Tuesday night for our Third Tuesday Book Club. (I got a Facebook message later in the day from my optometrist telling me that she will be out of town next week, but plans to make it for the June meeting.) Richard and I got home at 10:30 am, and he soon afterwards headed out on a trip with his truck to see how things were on the Morganza Spillway.

After putting the box from the new exercise bike out on the curb, I put the new drawer / cabinet pulls on the breakfast bar. I then did my Daily Update for yesterday, Tuesday, May 10, 2011, sent a message to my friend on the National Parks Travelers Club website with my address (he’s going to get me 25th Anniversary stamps from two Texas national parks), and went through my mail. During this time I got a phone call from Richard; the water on the north side of the spillway is very high, and there were workers and all sorts of official people all over the spillway. (He later called again, leaving a voice message, as my phone never rang, to the effect that no one will be able to stop between one mile before and one mile after the spillway once they open it up.) After I sent an RSVP online for the wedding of one of the Assembled, I got out the drill, dumped all of the books out of one of the bathroom To Be Read bookcases, drilled a new shelf support hole just to the right of the existing hole that was unusable, and refilled the books just the way I wanted them.

As it was now past 1:30 pm, I headed out in the car. At the Shell station I bought my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for tonight’s drawing, then ate lunch while reading my current book at Peking Chinese Restaurant. I then went to Wal-Mart and purchased, among other things, a 3-prong extension cord, salad supplies, a cheap car charger for my BlackBerry, and cat food. On the way home I got another call from Richard; he was on his way into Baton Rouge to see our daughter & Callie if they were in, and to see a friend. After I picked up my winter coat at the dry cleaners, I arrived home at 3:30 pm.

Once I finished my laundry, I started putting together the new 5-shelf bookcase, taking a break to watch Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm. Richard called during Jeopardy! to tell me he was going to be on his way home shortly. I finished putting together the bookcase, then moved all of my Pulitzer Prize books from the living room to the new bookcase. I then re-arranged some shelves of my regular fiction books, and moved all of my Shakespeare books to the library / exercise room. Richard arrived home at 6:30 pm, while I was finishing this project; I also went through some boxes of books that turned out to be mostly kids’ books, and moved the Jim Morrison poster, a bulletin board, and the full box spring mattress from the library / exercise room to Michelle’s room. I am now down with my books project for this week, having moved all the fiction books into the library / exercise room. (My next books project will be to switch two bookcases, one in the living room with one in the dining room, and to file books accordingly, and to attack all of my non-fiction books in the living room.)

At 7:15 pm Richard and I headed out; I ate a shrimp poorboy at D.C.’s Sports Bar and Steakhouse while Richard watched (he had eaten on the road, and it disagreed with him). When we got home, I burned the April 2011 photos from the hard drive of the computer onto a CD for Liz Ellen and a CD for myself. Richard gathered up the trash to put out tomorrow morning, and I did some Advance Daily Update Drafts for my weblog, getting through next Sunday’s Daily Update. I then washed my hat in the washer (cold water, Woolite, air dry). And once I finish today’s Daily Update, I will head towards bed, to read for a few minutes before going to sleep.

Tomorrow I will be doing the filing of papers. At some point I will prepare Liz Ellen’s monthly package o’stuff, load the collected newspapers and aluminum cans into the truck, and mail Liz Ellen’s package, get money back from the newspapers and cans at the local recycling center, and eat lunch. I will also make my lunch salads for Friday and Saturday, and try to arrange my life so that I will be going to bed soon after watching Jeopardy! tomorrow afternoon.

Our Wednesday Night Parting Quote comes to us from Douglas Adams, English writer, dramatist, and musician. Born in 1952 in Cambridge, England, Adams was known to fans as “Bop Ad” because of his illegible signature. At  boarding school he grew to a height of six feet five inches, which made him stand out, in addition to his abilities at creative writing.  On the strength of a bravura essay on religious poetry that discussed The Beatles and William Blake, he was awarded a place at St John’s College, Cambridge to read English, going up in 1971, though in fact the reason he applied to Cambridge was to join the Footlights, an invitation-only student comedy club that acted as a hothouse for some of the most notable comic talent in England. He was not elected immediately as he had hoped, but through sheer doggedness managed to become a member of the Footlights by 1973.Despite doing very little work he graduated in 1974 with a B.A. in English literature. Some of his early work appeared on BBC2 television in 1974, in an edited version of the Footlights Revue that year. A version of the Revue performed live in London’s West End led to his being discovered by Monty Python’s Graham Chapman. The two formed a brief writing partnership, and Adams earned a writing credit in one episode (episode 45: “Party Political Broadcast on Behalf of the Liberal Party in 1982″) of Monty Python for a sketch called “Patient Abuse”; he was one of only two people, outside the original Python members to get a writing credit (the other being Neil Innes). He had two brief appearances in the fourth series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, both broadcast in November 1974. Some of Adams’s early radio work included sketches for The Burkiss Way in 1977 and The News Huddlines. He also wrote, again with Graham Chapman, the February 20, 1977 episode of Doctor on the Go, a sequel to the Doctor in the House television comedy series. As Adams had difficulty selling jokes and stories, he took a series of odd jobs, including as a hospital porter, barn builder, and chicken shed cleaner. He was employed as a bodyguard by a Qatar family, who had made their fortune in oil. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was a concept for a science-fiction comedy radio series pitched by Adams and radio producer Simon Brett to BBC Radio 4 in 1977. he came up with an outline for a pilot episode, as well as a few other stories (reprinted in Neil Gaiman’s book Don’t Panic: The Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Companion) that could potentially be used in the series. Despite the original outline, Adams was said to make up the stories as he wrote. BBC Radio 4 broadcast the first radio series weekly in the UK in March and April 1978. Following the success of the first series, another episode was recorded and broadcast, which was commonly known as the Christmas Episode. A second series of five episodes was broadcast one per night, during the week of 21 January – 25 January 1980. Meanwhile, Adams then went on to serve as script editor on the science fiction television program Doctor Who for its seventeenth season in 1979. Altogether, he wrote three Doctor Who serials starring Tom Baker as the Doctor. Despite his famous difficulties with writing deadlines (his editor once locked him in a hotel suite for three weeks to make him complete a book), he eventually wrote five novels in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, published in 1979, 1980, 1982, 1984, and 1992. The books formed the basis for other adaptations, such as three-part comic book adaptations for each of the first three books, an interactive text-adventure computer game, and a photo-illustrated edition, published in 1994. In 1980, Adams also began attempts to turn the first Hitchhiker’s novel into a movie, making several trips to Los Angeles, and working with a number of Hollywood studios and potential producers. The next year, 1981, the radio series became the basis for a BBC television mini-series “The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” broadcast in six parts. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was first published in 1987, with a sequel published in 1988. Adams played the guitar left-handed and had a collection of twenty-four left-handed guitars (having received his first guitar in 1964). He was a friend of David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, and was invited to make a guest appearance at Pink Floyd’s October 28, 1994 concert at Earls Court in London, playing guitar on the songs “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse”. He was a friend of Gary Brooker, the lead singer, pianist and songwriter of the progressive rock band Procol Harum. He was what he described as a “radical atheist”, and was also an environmental activist who campaigned on behalf of a number of endangered species. He was also a serious fan of technology; he was a dedicated Macintosh user, having purchased one in 1984 (he may have purchased the first one in Britain). At the time of his death, he had been trying to get the movie project for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy started with Disney, which had bought the rights in 1998. The screenplay finally got a posthumous re-write by Karey Kirkpatrick, was green-lit in September 2003, and the resulting movie was released in 2005. In May 2002, The Salmon of Doubt was published, containing many short stories, essays, and letters, as well as eulogies from Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry (in the UK edition), Christopher Cerf (in the U.S. edition), and Terry Jones (in the U.S. paperback edition). It also includes eleven chapters of his long-awaited but unfinished novel, The Salmon of Doubt, which was originally intended to become a new Dirk Gently novel, but might have later become the sixth Hitchhiker novel. His biography, Wish You Were Here, was published in 2005 (died 2001): “If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.”

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