Monday, November 27, 2023

Three Magical Days at Bradley Beach

[Composed 8/11/2023 - 8/13/2023]

For the last few summers my family has been converging on Bradley Beach, New Jersey. Shira and I were finally able to make it up for the festivities this year and it was awesome.

The weekend started with a delicious Shabbat dinner, where we enjoyed getting caught up with everyone. As much as possible, I ducked out of adult responsibilities by hanging with the kids. I showed them how to play the card game California Speed and within two rounds I was getting trounced by them. Oh man it was so great seeing everyone.

Saturday morning started before the sun was up by going fishing on the shore with my Dad. The fish were biting; literally. I'd feel some aggressive tugging, and poof, all the tackle would be gone. I did manage to pull off a novel feat: I caught two fish on the same cast!

While we were hoping for more fishing success, those two fish were all I managed to pull in. My Dad, of course, pulled in a few more. But ultimately, catching a prefect sunrise with my Dad was the real win. I also found a pristine sand dollar, which was an unexpected treat.

By mid-morning we were back at the beach and ready to take in the sand and surf. Shira and I showed up at the beach just as the kids were returning to the water. I plunged in, preparing for hypothermia to set in, but to my surprise the water wasn't that chilly. We enjoyed doing battle with the waves (spoiler alert: waves always win). Ralph gave me some proper boogie board lessons, and in a few cases, I managed to solidly ride some waves. It was thrilling. I'm sure I've goofed around with small body boards in the past, but apparently I'd been doing it all wrong. When things click, and the waves power you into shore and it really is a mini thrill ride.

After an hour or two, Shira informed me it was time to go and that weather would be rolling in soon. I argued with her. Just as I was explaining to her how she was misreading the radar app on her phone, the skies opened and the thunder and lightening kicked in. While she wasn't pleased I'd ignored her warning, she did relish the 'I told you so moment' she'd earned.

The rain didn't last long, but did disrupt things just enough that Ralph and the band he was supposed to play with that night had their gig canceled. In the evening we made our way back to Ralph and Rachel's place and found the band had collected there. Instruments were busted out, the front porch cleared and and an impromptu concert began. It was delightful. The band, named The Wag, played a mix of Beatles music and their own creations. While I'm sorry that most of the town missed out on the experience, it was really special to have what amounted to our own personal concert that night.

After the concert we made our way out for some ice cream. The next morning we wrapped things up with breakfast at Ralph and Rachel's. As you can see below, I got a parting make-over by the kids. My hair never looked so good. And before we knew it, it was time to get on the road.

As one last hurrah, I managed to get Shira to stop at the nearby Project Diana site. At this location, the Army Signal Corp bounced radio signals off the moon for the first time. This odd sounding accomplishment had far reaching implications:

In Project Diana after [World War II], Camp Evans bounced radio waves off the surface of the moon and read their echo, demonstrating the possibility to communicate beyond the earth’s atmosphere. This achievement showed, in principle, that it would be possible to communicate with spacecraft and with artificial satellites that could observe our planet from space. These capabilities have led to many military applications, but they have also given us weather satellites, for example, by which we can track hurricanes—including Sandy—and have global communications that support the Internet.

The head of the project, Jack DeWitt, explained the importance back in 1946:

If one allows the imagination free rein many future possibilities appear. Spaceships carrying passengers at thousands of miles per hour can be controlled and communication established with their passengers for we now know that the Earth's atmosphere can be penetrated.

What required imagination in 1946 is now the norm.

Project Diana was also made possible through a quirk in the hiring process at Fort Monmouth, the base where Camp Evens was located:

At the time, Fort Monmouth was one of the few places that didn’t require a photograph to be included in a job application, allowing an applicant to be judged on merit rather than skin color.

This allowed Dr. Walter S. McAfee, a black scientist, to secure a position at the base and ultimately participate in Project Diana:

Project Diana was a scientific collaboration in which engineers, including mathematical physicist McAfee, studied the Earth’s relationship to the moon via radar signal echoing. He contributed the necessary theoretical calculations including a radar cross-section of the moon, radar coverage pattern, and the distance to the moon, all of which were crucial to the project’s success.

Family, fun, boogie boarding, beach combing, music and history--what a weekend! I'm already looking forward to next year. Now, if I could just figure out a card game that I can teach the kids and win at, I'd be all set.

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