Sunday, August 31, 2008

Purple Haze

Purple Haze

Grim resignation.

That’s what I saw etched on the faces of Hokie fans after the football game yesterday. This was no ordinary malaise. As we zombied down the stadium ramps in our purple haze, numb to the “surprising” loss to ECU, we were serenaded by choruses of triumphant purple cheers which echoed through the bowels of the stadium through marooned people from purple person to purple person.

Their joy instantly transported me through time to places where Hokies innocently and passionately celebrated gridiron victory or proudly stood firm to vastly superior foes. The energy from those first victories over Miami, the comeback against the Hoos, and the symphonic dismantling of Alabama in the Music City Bowl are all kept safely locked away in my mind. “Let’s Go!...Hokies!” and the choruses of “Hoooooooooooooo” all growing stronger as we piled out of stadiums. The ramps quivering. The stadiums bowing to us. Times of victory and celebration.

Not so much now. It seems as if the one prize that will fulfill us remains as an unapproachable Holy Grail. Before the game yesterday, there was a glimmer of anticipation, more like a reflexive collective act. We bobbed up and down, but not so much. We screamed for our team, but not so much. We got upset, but not so much. When Kenny Lewis ran for twenty-three yards in the first series, there was a flicker of excitement from us, but that quickly settled into grim resignation as we watched the team sputter. The flicker returned when Virgil practiced the art of Beamerball. We turned to our internal Hokie viewing guides and checked that off the list. The grim resignation, however, returned as we settled in to observe the pending implosion. The grim resignation, drilled into us by anemic, exhausted effort and unimaginative play selection, was destined to keep us company. Never to leave even when we were leading by nine points in the fourth quarter, its purple haze cast a pall over us all.

I congratulate our independent brothers and sisters from East Carolina. The world is your oyster. You earned it.

When you are trapped for almost two hours in gridlock traffic leaving a mandatory not-home game whose tickets cost more than the opposing fans’ tickets and after experiencing a surprising loss to a plucky opponent, you have plenty of time to wallow in grim resignation.

I blame Jim Weaver. Thanks Jim.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Facebook Friends

An almost random skunk/possum picture

So...Saturday night, between heated arguments with the neo-con inflamatory republican flamers on UWS *, I decided to explore Facebook. I knew that I had gotten an account on MySpace a few years ago, but had never used it, and I thought I had a Facebook account as well. When I searched for it, I couldn't find it, so I applied for a new Facebook account.

Amazingly, they immediately authorized a new account for me! So I began to explore. I invited a couple of my closest Technology friends to become my "friends" and I thought I'd just leave it at that. As I explored further, looking at other tabs and choices, I clicked on another invitation tab by accident and accidentally clicked on "Invite everyone in the whole world to be your friend."

As soon as I clicked that "go" button, I knew I was in trouble.

Today, I've made over 20 friends. But I invited everyone in the world :( People invited included my bosses, my bosses' bosses, and my bosses' bosses' bosses. I invited my mother (she won't have a clue what this face thing is) and my son and 17 year old daughter (she'd rather shrivel up and become a boil on someone's bottom than be my Facebook friend).

So I've been searching Facebook for a button that erases friendship offers. A man CAN have too many friends.

(a message board very loosely associated with that was started as a unifying space in the afermath of the trade center attack in 2001 but has since been taken over by neo-con nuts)

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Crisis of Confidence

The political rhetoric is heating up and America seems to be more polarized than ever before. Wildly fluctuating energy prices and rising food prices have set every hard-working American on edge. It's becoming harder and harder to not only find our homes, but to keep them. This is not the first time America has faced problems like these. Reflecting back to a different era can sometimes be enlightening.

In 1979, America was a mess. Recession, inflation, ridiculous interest rates, rising fuel prices and energy shortages were the rule of the day.

President Jimmy Carter was the face of America back then, and he was known to visit with us on television and chat about how things were going. On July 15, 1979, Carter delivered this
speech which has become known as "The Crisis of Confidence Speech on Energy." Read today, this speech contains a blueprint that would have largely eliminated our current energy fix. But Carter expounded on more than energy in this incredible speech. he tapped into an American spirit that was poisoning our country. Unfortunately for Carter and our nation, his dreams of energy independence and a more moral union were derailed when his attention was forced away beginning that November by something that came to be known as "The Iranian Hostage Crisis."

Good evening. This is a special night for me. Exactly three years ago, on July 15, 1976, I accepted the nomination of my party to run for president of the United States.

I promised you a president who is not isolated from the people, who feels your pain, and who shares your dreams and who draws his strength and his wisdom from you.

During the past three years I've spoken to you on many occasions about national concerns, the energy crisis, reorganizing the government, our nation's economy, and issues of war and especially peace. But over those years the subjects of the speeches, the talks, and the press conferences have become increasingly narrow, focused more and more on what the isolated world of Washington thinks is important. Gradually, you've heard more and more about what the government thinks or what the government should be doing and less and less about our nation's hopes, our dreams, and our vision of the future.

Ten days ago I had planned to speak to you again about a very important subject -- energy. For the fifth time I would have described the urgency of the problem and laid out a series of legislative recommendations to the Congress. But as I was preparing to speak, I began to ask myself the same question that I now know has been troubling many of you. Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?

It's clear that the true problems of our Nation are much deeper -- deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or recession. And I realize more than ever that as president I need your help. So I decided to reach out and listen to the voices of America.

I invited to Camp David people from almost every segment of our society -- business and labor, teachers and preachers, governors, mayors, and private citizens. And then I left Camp David to listen to other Americans, men and women like you.

It has been an extraordinary ten days, and I want to share with you what I've heard. First of all, I got a lot of personal advice. Let me quote a few of the typical comments that I wrote down.

This from a southern governor: "Mr. President, you are not leading this nation -- you're just managing the government."

"You don't see the people enough any more."

"Some of your Cabinet members don't seem loyal. There is not enough discipline among your disciples."

"Don't talk to us about politics or the mechanics of government, but about an understanding of our common good."

"Mr. President, we're in trouble. Talk to us about blood and sweat and tears."

"If you lead, Mr. President, we will follow."

Many people talked about themselves and about the condition of our nation.

This from a young woman in Pennsylvania: "I feel so far from government. I feel like ordinary people are excluded from political power."

And this from a young Chicano: "Some of us have suffered from recession all our lives."

"Some people have wasted energy, but others haven't had anything to waste."

And this from a religious leader: "No material shortage can touch the important things like God's love for us or our love for one another."

And I like this one particularly from a black woman who happens to be the mayor of a small Mississippi town: "The big-shots are not the only ones who are important. Remember, you can't sell anything on Wall Street unless someone digs it up somewhere else first."

This kind of summarized a lot of other statements: "Mr. President, we are confronted with a moral and a spiritual crisis."

Several of our discussions were on energy, and I have a notebook full of comments and advice. I'll read just a few.

"We can't go on consuming 40 percent more energy than we produce. When we import oil we are also importing inflation plus unemployment."

"We've got to use what we have. The Middle East has only five percent of the world's energy, but the United States has 24 percent."

And this is one of the most vivid statements: "Our neck is stretched over the fence and OPEC has a knife."

"There will be other cartels and other shortages. American wisdom and courage right now can set a path to follow in the future."

This was a good one: "Be bold, Mr. President. We may make mistakes, but we are ready to experiment."

And this one from a labor leader got to the heart of it: "The real issue is freedom. We must deal with the energy problem on a war footing."

And the last that I'll read: "When we enter the moral equivalent of war, Mr. President, don't issue us BB guns."

These ten days confirmed my belief in the decency and the strength and the wisdom of the American people, but it also bore out some of my long-standing concerns about our nation's underlying problems.

I know, of course, being president, that government actions and legislation can be very important. That's why I've worked hard to put my campaign promises into law -- and I have to admit, with just mixed success. But after listening to the American people I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can't fix what's wrong with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.

I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July.

It is the idea which founded our nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else -- public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We've always believed in something called progress. We've always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.

Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past.

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.

As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.

These changes did not happen overnight. They've come upon us gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and tragedy.

We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not the bullet, until the murders of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were always just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected the presidency as a place of honor until the shock of Watergate.

We remember when the phrase "sound as a dollar" was an expression of absolute dependability, until ten years of inflation began to shrink our dollar and our savings. We believed that our nation's resources were limitless until 1973, when we had to face a growing dependence on foreign oil.

These wounds are still very deep. They have never been healed. Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our nation's life. Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual.

What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.

Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don't like it, and neither do I. What can we do?

First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can change our course. We simply must have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in the future of this nation. Restoring that faith and that confidence to America is now the most important task we face. It is a true challenge of this generation of Americans.

One of the visitors to Camp David last week put it this way: "We've got to stop crying and start sweating, stop talking and start walking, stop cursing and start praying. The strength we need will not come from the White House, but from every house in America."

We know the strength of America. We are strong. We can regain our unity. We can regain our confidence. We are the heirs of generations who survived threats much more powerful and awesome than those that challenge us now. Our fathers and mothers were strong men and women who shaped a new society during the Great Depression, who fought world wars, and who carved out a new charter of peace for the world.

We ourselves are the same Americans who just ten years ago put a man on the Moon. We are the generation that dedicated our society to the pursuit of human rights and equality. And we are the generation that will win the war on the energy problem and in that process rebuild the unity and confidence of America.

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I've warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem.

Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny.

In little more than two decades we've gone from a position of energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people. This is the direct cause of the long lines which have made millions of you spend aggravating hours waiting for gasoline. It's a cause of the increased inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation. The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.

What I have to say to you now about energy is simple and vitally important.

Point one: I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never. From now on, every new addition to our demand for energy will be met from our own production and our own conservation. The generation-long growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now and then reversed as we move through the 1980s, for I am tonight setting the further goal of cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end of the next decade -- a saving of over 4-1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day.

Point two: To ensure that we meet these targets, I will use my presidential authority to set import quotas. I'm announcing tonight that for 1979 and 1980, I will forbid the entry into this country of one drop of foreign oil more than these goals allow. These quotas will ensure a reduction in imports even below the ambitious levels we set at the recent Tokyo summit.

Point three: To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel -- from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun.

I propose the creation of an energy security corporation to lead this effort to replace 2-1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day by 1990. The corporation I will issue up to $5 billion in energy bonds, and I especially want them to be in small denominations so that average Americans can invest directly in America's energy security.

Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.

These efforts will cost money, a lot of money, and that is why Congress must enact the windfall profits tax without delay. It will be money well spent. Unlike the billions of dollars that we ship to foreign countries to pay for foreign oil, these funds will be paid by Americans to Americans. These funds will go to fight, not to increase, inflation and unemployment.

Point four: I'm asking Congress to mandate, to require as a matter of law, that our nation's utility companies cut their massive use of oil by 50 percent within the next decade and switch to other fuels, especially coal, our most abundant energy source.

Point five: To make absolutely certain that nothing stands in the way of achieving these goals, I will urge Congress to create an energy mobilization board which, like the War Production Board in World War II, will have the responsibility and authority to cut through the red tape, the delays, and the endless roadblocks to completing key energy projects.

We will protect our environment. But when this nation critically needs a refinery or a pipeline, we will build it.

Point six: I'm proposing a bold conservation program to involve every state, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle. This effort will permit you to build conservation into your homes and your lives at a cost you can afford.

I ask Congress to give me authority for mandatory conservation and for standby gasoline rationing. To further conserve energy, I'm proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems. And I'm asking you for your good and for your nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense -- I tell you it is an act of patriotism.

Our nation must be fair to the poorest among us, so we will increase aid to needy Americans to cope with rising energy prices. We often think of conservation only in terms of sacrifice. In fact, it is the most painless and immediate way of rebuilding our nation's strength. Every gallon of oil each one of us saves is a new form of production. It gives us more freedom, more confidence, that much more control over our own lives.

So, the solution of our energy crisis can also help us to conquer the crisis of the spirit in our country. It can rekindle our sense of unity, our confidence in the future, and give our nation and all of us individually a new sense of purpose.

You know we can do it. We have the natural resources. We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias. We have more coal than any nation on Earth. We have the world's highest level of technology. We have the most skilled work force, with innovative genius, and I firmly believe that we have the national will to win this war.

I do not promise you that this struggle for freedom will be easy. I do not promise a quick way out of our nation's problems, when the truth is that the only way out is an all-out effort. What I do promise you is that I will lead our fight, and I will enforce fairness in our struggle, and I will ensure honesty. And above all, I will act. We can manage the short-term shortages more effectively and we will, but there are no short-term solutions to our long-range problems. There is simply no way to avoid sacrifice.

Twelve hours from now I will speak again in Kansas City, to expand and to explain further our energy program. Just as the search for solutions to our energy shortages has now led us to a new awareness of our Nation's deeper problems, so our willingness to work for those solutions in energy can strengthen us to attack those deeper problems.

I will continue to travel this country, to hear the people of America. You can help me to develop a national agenda for the 1980s. I will listen and I will act. We will act together. These were the promises I made three years ago, and I intend to keep them.

Little by little we can and we must rebuild our confidence. We can spend until we empty our treasuries, and we may summon all the wonders of science. But we can succeed only if we tap our greatest resources -- America's people, America's values, and America's confidence.

I have seen the strength of America in the inexhaustible resources of our people. In the days to come, let us renew that strength in the struggle for an energy secure nation.

In closing, let me say this: I will do my best, but I will not do it alone. Let your voice be heard. Whenever you have a chance, say something good about our country. With God's help and for the sake of our nation, it is time for us to join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the American spirit. Working together with our common faith we cannot fail.

Thank you and good night.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Totally Rad!

"Everybody's doing it!"
"Doing What?"
"The Robot!"

Every now and again I stumble across something so absurd that I just have to laugh. I suggest you watch the video and be sure to keep a dull, vacant look on your face because, after all, "You're a robot!"

How To Do The Robot

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Truly thou art damned, like an ill-roasted egg, all on one side.
~Taken from "As You Like It"

Tomorrow morning, my seasonal unemployment ends as I return to the elementary classroom for my twenty-seventh year. Over my career, I've spent eleven years teaching third grade, nine years teaching fourth grade, two years teaching fifth, and one unfortunate year teaching sixth grade. In addition, I spent the past three school years outside the classroom as a technology resource teacher.

Now for the 2008-2009 campaign, I'm back for more cash as a third grade classroom teacher again. Many of my friends and colleagues have commented on my return to the daily grind of the classroom. Here's a sampling of what I've heard.

Are you crazy?
Are you nuts?
What's gotten into you?
Why on Earth would you leave your technology job?

Really, the answer is simple. I miss the classroom. I miss getting to know each of my students completely. I miss watching them as they learn. Most of all I miss telling stories to the kids. I suppose, also, that time has healed me and erased some of the burn I felt after being beaten down by seemingly endless paperwork and impossible demands of the job.

No doubt, this will be a grand experiment for me. Do I have enough reserve built up in my tank to carry me through another ten years in the classroom or will I be truly damned, like an ill-roasted egg?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mad Men

Good For What Ails You

I stumbled upon this old advertisement in a copy of the September 1960 NEA Journal. A friend of mine found the journal at an estate sale. What attracted me to this particular ad is the poignant juxtaposition of the apple with the Coke bottle. My scanner didn't like the size of the ad and cut off the hilarious ad copy below the photo. You really need to see read it:

"Coca-Cola, too, has its place in a well balanced diet. As a pure, wholesome drink, it provides a bit of quick energy...brings you back refreshed after work or play. It contributes to good health by providing a pleasurable moment's pause from the pace of a busy day."

God bless Coke.

Glowing Dreams

Another ad in the same publication takes a serious futuristic look at rail travel. This reminds me of an old filmstrip I once found entitled, "Space Travel A.D. 2000." Can you imagine trains powered by nuclear reactors toting around people and hazardous wastes? Apparently, the Association of American Railroads thought that would be a dandy ideer.

{Click to enrage}

For the Little (Gifted) Lady

I admit it. I still have several S&H Green Stamp books in the cabinet above my refrigerator. When i first started teaching twenty seven years ago, I really couldn't afford much. I had to pay the $250 rent for my three room (Kitchen, bedroom/living room, green room) drafty apartment, $153 form my car payment, and periodic insurance payments to cover my $1200 auto insurance policy. At the time I was making $10,500 a year. Life was not easy. That's why I collected Green Stamps (and those annoying Top Value Stamps).

Here's the ad that appeared in the NEA publication in 1960. In case you can't read the whole copy, let me share with you my favorite part:

"Your own wife has probably brought many improvements into your home. Millions of women-shopping for half the families in America-do so by saving S&H Green Stamps. Perhaps your wife is among them. If she is, you know how she feels about her S&H Green Stamps.

The little "luxuries" she acquires with them are small, but significant, examples of her ability to provide a better life for her family though intelligent management of her home."

Monday, August 11, 2008


1. USA 3:08.24
2. France 3:08.32
3. Australia 3:09.91

So went the most amazing swimming relay in history. The USA 4 x 100 m relay team was considered to be underdogs to the powerful French relay team. The race was close throughout, but France began edging ahead. By the time, Jason Lezak jumped into the pool for the last USA leg, the team was almost a full body length behind. Lezak proceeded to chase down current 100 m world record holder, Alain Bernard, by putting in an astounding 46.06 second final hundred.

In the end, Lezak closed the gap in the final 50 and lunged for the wall barely out touching Bernard for the stunning victory.

I've been around pools now for about twenty-five years as a coach, starter, timer, judge, and parent. Never have I seen a relay finish like that, on the world stage at that!

As I was writing this, I remembered that my son was part of a powerful 200 free relay team in 1999 in the 9-10 year old age bracket. Their Virginia YMCA record still stands. I remember watching those guys glide over the water like it was yesterday. As 9-10 year olds, they were such a dominating force. Of the bunch, Kyle Greene currently swims for The University of Kentucky. I don't know what happened to Nick Tudor, or Corey Chandler.

1.53.80 K.Greene, N. Tudor, C.Chandler, S.Ryder VA
200 Free Relay

Friday, August 08, 2008

Lefora Forum

I began goofing around with a free forum hosting service. I've been a long-time user of Internet message boards. Back in the 1991, I took part in a Listserv from Croatia. Every day, I'd receive the latest unfiltered first-hand news from that war-torn country. While receiving news from there was amazing, it was a passive service.

By 1995, I was frequenting an Internet instant chat board on Virginia Tech sports. Back in those days, Blacksburg, Virginia (Virginia Tech) was known to be the most wired community in the world. In 1996, I began associating with a new Internet message board called, Hokie Central. This site grew, changed its name to Techsideline, and morphed into an expansive community of users bound by a common interest. From that common link, other forums sprang up, and a thriving Internet community has prospered.

For the past three years, I've been blogging. I use my four blogs as an outlet, a way to get things off my chest and a place to exercise creativity.

So, it's not surprising that I'm interested in beginning my own forum. I've found this free forum hosting site, and I thought I'd give it a try. I'm hoping to become comfortable enough with it to utilize a similar forum in my third grade classroom. Please feel free to join the forum and add to the discussion. Start your own topics. Add photos, mp3's, or video...or words.

Click on this link to go to the main page

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Disappearing Act

As you may have figured out by now or are just beginning to learn. I downloaded some photos from my camera this evening, and I thought I'd share little stories to go along with them. This series of photos really belongs to my maple tree saga. After we had our massive maple cut down in our front yard and the limbs chipped , I had to do something with all that mulch. It was probably about two full dump truck loads. These pictures illustrate how the pile slowly disappeared over the course of two days.

If you are very observant, you'll notice two different wheelbarrows. About halfway through the job, my twenty-five year old wheelbarrow gave up.

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Cut Wood Study

If you are the regular reader of this blog, you may recall that I recently had the massive maple tree in my front yard cut down. Since it's been felled, I've worked to take care of the wood. I gave away two truck-loads and kept about two truck-loads for myself. However, I still have these massive chunks from the base of the trunk sitting in my front yard. They are simply too heavy to move. My neighbor has a backhoe sitting in his driveway that may be able to assist me in moving the chunks.

Anyway, I thought the stacked chunks looked pretty interesting, so I created some unusual angled shots.

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Camera Art by John

While at the lake on Sunday, we took many breaks to come inside out of the heat of the day. On one break, my nephew, John, found my camera and began taking artistic pictures. He also snapped a rare photo of me. John was intrigued by the fact that my camera lens shutter does not open all the way when you turn on the camera. I broke the camera a week after I got it at the William and Mary graduation last year. Anyway, John thought that partially opened shutter made for a cool effect.


"Thom, one day you'll check out these the photos on your camera and you'll find a bunch of pictures of flowers. Won't that be cool?"

Shutter art

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Lake Family

We visited the lake home of my mother-in-law this past Sunday. The special occasion was the visit of my sister-in-law, Carola and her daughter, Lauren.

Jim guards the deck while Callan texts on her phone.

Jackie and Carola sit in the shade and chat with their mother.

Lauren, Elizabeth, Callan, and Shirl prepare for a boat ride.

Carola like the last picture, so she took one, too.

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A Dog Study

Her name is Riley and she is about eight years old. She has survived two bouts of cancer, but has been cancer-free for three years now. She's a friendly dog, but very protective of her yard and her people. She likes to chase squirrels and will only walk or run along certain paths she's created in the yard. Riley is sensitive. She knows when she's been bad and she carries a wide range of emotions on her face. Most of all, Riley adores me. I am her reason for being.

As we sat on the deck this evening contemplating the shattered patio table, she would not let me take a close-up picture of the front of her face. The last picture I've placed here is the best I could do. I had to trick her into that picture. Riley is very suspicious of electronic equipment.

My dog, Riley. (Technically, she's my daughter's dog. Riley loves her, too...along with the rest of the family.)

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Zephyr Tease

August breeds sultry days and tricky breezes here in Southwest Virginia. Today, the demon wind returned after leaving us alone for almost a year. It built slowly in the searing heat of the smoggy afternoon. It was the kind of wind that slaps you in the face and is neither renewing or refreshing. It's a draining wind. It likes to play tricks, too.

My wife dismissed what she saw, because it didn't really make sense to her. We have a moderate sized deck just outside the back door of our house. On that deck we keep an older set of patio furniture. The set includes six artificially knit, green aluminum-framed seats along with a matching glass topped table. The table is guarded by a large, new dark green umbrella.

As my wife watched from the second story window, she noted a blast of furnace wind begin to push up on the umbrella. It began to lift from its base and levitate ever so slightly. My wife turned away, as I said, dismissing the importance of what she was seeing. Moments later, the umbrella was completely liberated from its table and began to fly up and away. That's when the devilish wind decided have some fun. Without warning, the wind turned off. The umbrella immediately came crashing back to earth right on top of the glass-topped patio table. The glass, shocked by the intrusion of the umbrella pole, morphed into thousands of tiny glass pieces.

My wife and I spent the last moments of light this evening picking up the pieces.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008


I visited my mother-in-law today at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia. The relatives from Bakersfield, California were also visiting, so it was an excellent time to hang out.

Later in the afternoon, I had to opportunity to take out my mother-in-law's brand new GTI SE 155 Sea-Doo. While there are more powerful models, this one is just perfect for the conditions at Smith Mountain Lake.

In the past, I've driven her older model Sea-Doo, and it would sometimes be able to push 40 mph. But this machine is much speedier. Today, heading into a stiff breeze from the west, I mashed the throttle and got the craft up to 60 mph over choppy main channel water. I couldn't believe it. My glasses sucked down onto my face. I found that my mouth was pried open by the onslaught of wind force and drool was seemingly siphoned out of my mouth and plastered around my face. I have never been that fast on the water before in my life, and it was thrilling and wet!

I recommend speed.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Swallows in the Chimney

Without warning of any kind and after living in our house for ten years, we've been invaded by barn swallows. This invasion has become personal. Sometime a month or more ago, a young mated couple of swallows decided to make their family home inside our chimney.

I'm sort of caught here. I can't quite see their nest, but I could probably get in there and blast it apart with a stick or something. Anyway, the baby swallows hatched about two weeks ago. Now they spend all hours screaming for food and defecating inside our chimney. If I destroy their nest now, they'll fall down further inside the chimney and die, stinking up the house.

I did gain access to near where their nest is. Our chimney is adjacent to our garage, and there is a covered flue opening there. At one time, our garage used to be a family room that was heated by a wood stove which explains the flue. Anyway, the flue is about six feet off the ground. So I attached a mirror to a board and used a flashlight to scope out the chimney. All I could see was one unhatched egg that had been kicked out of the nest and lots of bird poop. While I was looking around in there, the birds screamed a definite frightened cry; it was intensely shrill like something out of an Alien movie.

I've left the flue uncovered for a few days now in the hopes that the swallow fledglings will jump out all on their own. Sure enough, the morning after I first opened the flue, a swallow was frantically trying to escape from a closed window in my garage. I had to capture him and then release him outside the garage door. I think this was one of the chicks, but I can't be sure. The bird didn't seem to have much power to fly up, but when I showed him the path to freedom, he bolted away across the road and into a cluster of trees.

I sure hope they all leave soon so that I can cap my chimney.

Monkeying Around with Gcast

Gcast is a free podcast creation site run by the good people of GarageBand. In case you've missed the boat on GarageBand, I believe it's a group that pioneered personal mp3 editing in the Mac environment. They've also amassed a large library of copyright-free music.

With Gcast, a person can upload audio files by phone or by computer audio file. I believe you can also tap into the GarageBand library of music to enhance your pod. So with all that in mind, I've created my first Gcast podcast. It's quite simple and short. Over the past couple of years, I'veutilized a site called to house my podcasts., but I haven't been in that business lately. Gcast seems to be quite easy to use, I created my short podcast in about ten minutes total.

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