Writing

Some of the many stories I've been told and passed along.

Alberta residents walk away from devastation

As scores of her Alberta neighbors walked slowly in a mass exodus west along University Boulevard on Thursday morning, Brenda Gibson stood staring across the street at what was once her home. Looking south, a small white house stood out among the waves of broken trees and splintered wood, standing but leaning over, its front porch broken in half.

“It’s demolished,” Gibson said. “I’m still in shock. I’m like ‘Pinch me. Wake me up.’ This just can’t be true.” ...

Read more


Why Cat changed its machine branding—and the story behind that red hexagon

A growing product line and competitor imitation were two major factors in the recently unveiled redesign of the Caterpillar trade dress, the combination of logo and styling that the company uses to brand its machines and other products.

This is according to Ed Stembridge, product identity manager at Cat and the leader of the design team behind the new product styling. Stembridge discussed the new product styling and the process of its development during an interview with Equipment World in the days following its reveal.  

As a 17-year veteran of the company well-versed in its both its history and the strides it has taken into the digital age, Stembridge is uniquely suited to lead something as critical as dreaming up a new look for the company’s heavy equipment and variety of other products. He also led the team behind the last trade dress redesign, developed between 2005 and 2006.

Read more

Bobcat unveils iPhone/iPad remote control, bringing drone-like operation to skid steers, CTLs (VIDEO)

Maybe the single biggest factor in the growth of drones from a controversial and expensive hobby into a mundane example of consumer electronics is the incredible rate at which these flying cameras became easier to operate. 

Within just a couple years, we went from seeing countless examples on YouTube of $1,000 Christmas drones being crashed or lost to bodies of water, to new models that fold up in the palm of your hand with smartphone apps that made piloting them as easy as playing a video game or pressing a single on-screen button. Similarly, remote control heavy equipment operation is not a new concept. 

Machines of all sizes have been remote operable, but they’ve mostly required complicated, expensive controllers so enormous and heavy that they require a neck strap. Until the introduction of Bobcat’s MaxControl, that is.

Read more

Inside Smart Construction: Komatsu’s tech consultation service seeks to level playing field for the company and its customers

When Komatsu introduced Smart Construction here in the States two years ago, it was actually the second launch of the service. 

The first occurred a year earlier in the company’s home country of Japan, where the world’s No. 2 heavy equipment manufacturer began offering a fully-automated site preparation service. The company runs machines equipped with fully-integrated GPS/GNSS machine control in full-auto with little assistance or interference by operators, using site data provided by drones and 3D laser scanners. 

Since the launch, the service has grown quickly and has been used on more than 5,500 Japanese jobsites. The Japanese service has added 1,500 jobsites in the past seven months alone, and recently launched a new option called EverydayDrone for those customers who only require drone surveys. But for the American service, the offering was slightly different. In the States, the primary focus of the new initiative was customer support. Namely, offering comprehensive support for intelligent machine control (iMC), which in the U.S. are all run by operators in a semi-auto configuration: hands on the controls but taking advantage of the time savings and precise cuts machine control provides. 

Though it appears that Komatsu has launched two completely different businesses—an automated site prep service in Japan and an AppleCare-like service for intelligent earthmovers here in the U.S., there is now more commonality between the U.S. and Japanese versions than there may appear.

Read more

Families unite for traditional Indian ceremony

Brijesh Darji sat with his hands folded, staring straight into the white cloth inches away from his face.  
Meanwhile, nearly 800 others stood, taking pictures and clamoring over an entrance fit for a princess that was taking place behind him. Dipping through the doorway came a woman whose attire sparkled shades of red and gold in the overhead light and camera flashes. 

As she laid in the small bed carried by her uncles, she smiled bright and wide below the sheer veil with golden accents covering her long, black hair. As she was carried to the altar, Darji remained focused on the cloth, only looking away to share a quick smile with the girl’s brother, who held the sheet until the right time. 

After Snaha Patel was lowered to the altar, she sat, paying mind to the ruffles and ends of her long, ornate dress. And as she brought her hands together to smooth out any wrinkles, she looked up, the sheet dropped, and the two locked eyes and laughed. After the stress of planning the moment for almost a year, Darji and Patel were finally enjoying the happiness of a traditional Hindu wedding. ...

Read more

$10 wins turtle's freedom

He had already lost $10 he wasn’t about to lose his finger too. But as William Wilder reached down to retrieve most of his left index finger from the clutches of a 70-pound alligator snapping turtle, the turtle struck again. ... Read more

Field of memories

As the scattered gravel crunches beneath Jerry Lancaster’s feet on the winding clay path, something happens. 

The trees that border each bend of the path, stretching half a mile or more on either side to the Sipsey River, sink into the ground as grass rises from beneath decades of dead leaves and pine straw. The path disappears, as does Lancaster’s slow pace, as the years fall away and he strides confidently up to home plate, the orange sun warm against his cheek as it slowly sets behind first base. 

He recalls the chatter of the infield, the pop of the baseball as it whips into the catcher’s mitt and the country air slightly tinged with the smell of cow dung. But after awhile, the trees come back and the grass disappears. And the 50 years since Lancaster and countless other men gripped a bat in a now overgrown cow pasture pass in an instant. ‘But in my mind, I can see everything that went on down here,’ he smiled. What happened there was baseball in its purest form. ... Read more

What it takes to be a roller derby girl

“Rink.” 

Whoever said it shouldn’t have, and it’s unlikely they’ll do it again in the presence of Tammy Joe Hallman. 

Better known by her derby alias, Dixie Thrash, Hallman is the head coach of the Birmingham roller derby squad The Tragic City Rollers. And in the middle of conducting a practice built around the right ways to take a hit, “rink” is one of the last words Hallman wanted to hear. “It’s not a rink, it’s a track,” she yelled at the 15 or so women standing around her at Skates 280. “Rinks are where little girls twirl.“ There is no twirling in roller derby. ... Read more

No obstacle in sight

Liam White’s skinny legs sprawl over the carpet as he reads one of his favorite scary stories out loud. The legs are speckled with mosquito bites and small bruises, evidence of a little boy who plays rough and has seen the day retire before his imagination was ready to do the same. He pulls the book in close as light flows into the room, highlighting the movement of his fingers as they dance in irregular patterns across the raised symbols. While those around him depend on the light, it’s useless to him. Liam is blind. ... Read more

Greatest generation

For a time, death was never far from Archie Meeks. It moved in during Meeks’ service aboard the U.S.S. Colorado, when a Japanese attack fired 22 shell hits while the ship was floating near the island of Tinian. But perhaps death was closest when he set foot onto the tiny Japanese island of Iwo Jima and took part in one of the most violent battles in U.S. military history. Meeks, 85, earned two Purple Hearts and, before World War II was over, made stops at a total of nine Japanese-occupied islands in the South Pacific while taking part in seven invasions. “The main memory I took away from it all was coming out alive,” said Meeks, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps. “And I still carry the anxiety from it.“ Saturday, Meeks moved through the shadows of marble monuments within the capital of a nation he risked his life to protect. Read more

Mother and daughter in harmony at the piano

Their piano playing can appear to be a series of chases. There’s 98-year-old Eileen Fulton’s eyes, struggling to catch and bring into focus the scampering 16th notes that dance across her yellowed sheet music. There is her daughter, Charlotte Walker, eyes widened as she reads her own music while keeping her ears attuned to the slightest change in her mother’s playing in order to keep their harmony in check. And then, there are the women themselves creating as much as they can together in what time the good Lord sees fit to give them, doing their best to make up for time spent apart. Read more

Building a life and legacy are Roy Chipley's biggest projects

Things were getting better for Roy Chipley. After a successful but demanding career with Lockheed Martin began hurting his marriage, Chipley realized that changes must be made. His wife, Sian, led him back to church where he had given his life over to Jesus Christ. The couple renewed their wedding vows and were getting ready to build a house, “starting afresh with restored purpose,” Chipley says. But in the middle of his life’s reconstruction, Chipley had a troubling realization. Just as he had grown distant from his wife, he had also grown apart from his and Sian’s hometown of Florence, South Carolina. Cape Canaveral was some 450 miles away, and the distance had also driven a wedge between Chipley and his family. Read more

Billie Garver has been playing Scrabble since its introduction

Billie Garver is never at a loss for words. Whether she’s calling out her next victim before a heated game of canasta, or explaining to young people how love can catch you off guard and live with you until the day you die, Garver is one step ahead of the conversation. But nowhere does her mastery of language show itself more than atop game board divided into 225 squares.
- - - - - - - - -
World War II had broken out, ripping open healed wounds and creating plenty of new ones as thousands of American men sailed, flew and marched to their deaths in Europe and the Pacific. And as Garver explained in her Northport apartment, she was especially familiar with the situation. ‘My friend had gotten herself married to a sailor, and he had gotten himself killed and now she was pregnant,’ Garver said, shaking her head. As she walked through the doors of a Memphis dance hall in the early 1940s, Garver had no plans to get involved with a soldier. Then Norman showed up. Read more

At bluesman's funeral, the music said it all

The blues dripped from the harmonica, echoing from wall to wall, filling the auditorium of Aliceville’s city hall. Many people bowed their heads and almost no one spoke as that tinny wind blew with the force of the man it existed to honor. There weren’t many tears at Willie King’s funeral. Instead, those saddened by the death of the Alabama blues legend let Jock Webb’s harmonica do the weeping for them. Read more

Comments