We got back from Utah last Thursday night, very late. I didn't sleep well, and when I woke up Friday morning I felt crappy. So I took a sick day off of work and went back to bed. Saturday I felt fine, and did a 4.5 mile Scout hike around a local lake, then mowed the badly overgrown front and back lawns - a very sweaty activity as it was very humid. In retrospect, perhaps I overdid it.
Yesterday I woke up feeling like something the cat dragged in. I left church early and went back to bed, and last night I drugged myself with some Nyquil and went to bed early. The high temperature is gone, but I still feel crummy. Apparently I caught a cold at some point. So now I'm at home teleworking and sneezing all over my keyboard. I feel weary and tired.
Did you enjoy the organ recital above? I'm practicing being a retiree, when all I do all day is obsess over my own situation.)
When I was in Utah my son let me borrow his season 1 "Flight of the Conchords" DVDs. What a funny show! It's sort of a mix of Spinal Tap and the Monkees, with a bunch of New Zealand references thrown in (Bret and Jermaine are kiwis).
Anyway, I had a great time in Utah, as my Picasa photo album suggests. I couldn't get interested in any of the paperbacks I brought along, however. I started four books in a row and gave up on all of them. I am now reading "Out of the Storm - The End of the Civil War, April-June 1865" by Noah Andre Trudeau. This is the third and final installment on his trilogy of the final year of the Civil War. I just finished the account of Confederal General General Pickett's being late to the battle of Five Forks because of his participation at a shad bake. I noticed when I went to the Five Forks battlefield earlier this month that a local road was named "Shad Bake Road..." Perhaps that was where it was held.
I've been listening to Professor Bob Greenberg's audio lectures on my iPod during the times when I'm not doing touring or hanging out with family; the ones about Tchaikovsky and Brahms have been especially good. How did Tchaikovsky die seems to be a central theme of the one about that composer - and the answer is surprising.
The usual story is that he drank a glass of unboiled water during a cholera epidemic and developed that disease and died of it. But... there has always been considerable doubt. For one thing, the illness didn't follow the usual course of cholera victims. For another, cholera was an illness that the poor and ignorant developed - not a wealthy, worldly sophisticate like Peter Tchaikovsky.
Greenberg's take on it, which he claims is supported by evidence made available to researchers as a result of the fall of the Soviet Union, was that Tchaikovsky, a self-loathing and closeted homosexual, was pursuing the nephew of a nobleman. This nobleman was a good friend of the Tsar. Angry beyond words, the nobleman convened a "Court of Justice" with fellow classmates of the law school Tchaikovsky had attended - with Tchaikovsky in attendance. The upshot of this was that Tchaikovsky was convinced to commit suicide via the ingestion of arsenic... the nobleman probably threatened Tchaikovsky with public exposure and exposure to the Tsar.
Or perhaps it was murder!
The symptoms that Tchaikovsky died of are more symptomatic of arsenic poisoning than cholera, and there is still debate about exactly how it happened, but it appears Tchaikovsky's brother Modeste - also a homosexual - covered up the whole thing with the cholera story.
It was a fascinating lecture series... like a murder mystery...
Planning a trip? Don't take Delta Airlines. We got to the airport 40 minutes before the scheduled take-off time and were told that the cut-off was 45 minutes to check baggage, and that we'd have to book a later flight - and pay an extra $100. Nowhere on any web page was there any notice of this; you'd think there would be given that it's so important. And we've never heard of this requirement. Naturally the Delta staff assure us that it's always been in place and everyone knows of it.
So, my wife got on the blower to Delta and, after much hassle, got the $100 surcharge waived and we arrived. (Our original flight was direct - with the later flights we had a layover.) There WILL be a well-worded letter to Delta Corporate about this. But in the meantime there's this Internet anti-endorsement: book with JetBlue or American Airlines, not Delta.
I got to watch that terrorist sent back to Libya over my morning Wheaties; I am so disappointed with Scotland. Somebody needs to reach up under that judge's kilt and find out what's under there. This terrorist is going home to a hero's welcome in a terrorist state. Some justice. As far as I'm concerned, allowing the guy to live eight years in prison was compassionate. Too bad he wasn't tried in Texas or Virginia.
Well, that's enough bile from me. Now it's time to visit kids and friends, etc. Tonight we go see a Plan 9 From Outer Space showing with the guys from Mystery Science Fiction 3000 thing. (I'm not totally sure what it is.)
I am nearly finished with "Gods and Generals," which I am enjoying. I noticed last night that I have had the first book, "Killer Angels" sitting on my bookshelf since 1990. I forgot I bought it; undoubtedly at a yard sale. I read it back in 1983 - I guess I planned to re-read it someday. I suppose I should read the last book in the trilogy, "The Last Full Measure."
Gods and Generals has some flaws. For instance, "Stuart could hear people moving, and from behind the rifle came a face, smeared black dirt in a wild mass of tangled beard, and Stuart recognized the the glare of the deep black eyes, the face of John Brown." Does it look like John Brown has black eyes to you? And this, "He led the captain to Hancock's door, pulled back a rickety screen and knocked." There were screen doors in 1861? I don't think so. (Metallic screening used in screen doors and windows was patented - #297,382 - on April 22, 1884 by John Golding of Chicago, Illinois. What would the screen be made of that was pulled back?) But these are nits; the book is very readable.
My pal Mike has come up with another big batch of old Burbank photos, so I've been running them. A couple of neat ones: Girls 1943 Softball Champs. The gal in the front row left looks like a librarian, but the gal on the front row right has a look on her face like she's ready to play some ball.
Boys 1944-1945 baseball. Note the dog... there was always a dog.
I'm in the laborious process of OCR scanning and converting a 1944 book about Burbank into an HTML file. It'll take me weeks. The last time I did this I swore never to do it again, but the work looks worthwhile. Besides, I like running a few steps ahead of the Burbank Historical Society... my Burbank web site is a lot better than theirs. (Why are we men so competitive?)
By the way, Mike owns the retired "Key to the City" mold. I said that next time I'm in town he needs to make one out of chocolate to present to me and we can eat it. Ought to make for a good photo...
I have decided that it's time in my life to once again take up the piano. (That is, learn to play it, not lift one.) I have some short term goals in mind... I would like to be good enough to play some simple church hymns and to perform a piece by Erik Satie which I bought the sheet music for back in 1973, Gymnopedie #1. (You know this work... it's a languid and simple work for the piano. You hear it now and again in the media. It used to be on a Calgon Bath Oil Beads ad.)
As was the case when I first got interested in rugby, I'm thinking that I don't want to grow old and have regrets about not trying it. And age 53 isn't too late to start, is it? I talked to a lady at church on Sunday; we agreed to start lessons in September. Now I need to find a keyboard or piano.
A keyboard with a MIDI interface would be nice, because then I could perhaps use it in band performances. But I once saw a Robert Greenberg lecture where he extolled the virtues of a traditional style wood and metal piano, an instrument with a soul. I agree with him... there is no substitute for an acoustic piano with a full sound board made in the time-honored way, with time-honored music played upon it. But that will have to wait.
So that's it for a while!
On Saturday night we attended a 50th birthday party for a friend. It seems like just yesterday that we attended the 40th birthday party for her husband. Yikes, time is passing by fast! It used to be that years went by quickly - now it's decades.
My pard Chris and I had some fun last night; we blasted around the Spotsylvania-Wilderness Battlefields in the convertible VW. It was fun! Captioned photos here. We got back home around Midnight.
In order to see the "Mule Shoe" salient you have to drive past the Park Service's posted signs, "Area closed after sunset." They don't lock the area up so you can still drive through but.. be warned: They know you're there. (As we exited the tour road a Park Service car passed us hauling down into it, looking like he was after somebody. Turns out it was probably us.)
How do they know? That was answered for us by a Spotsylvania County Sheriff at a 7-11 we stopped at. He was chatting with the cashier and mentioned to her that the Park Service has magnetic sensors in the road that detect cars. "I always wondered how they knew and one of 'em told me one time," he said.
When he said this Chris and I looked at each other blankly as we mentally added 2 and 2. I was hoping Chris wouldn't give anything away with his face and he didn't. We left, and so for the rest of our tour we confined ourselves to the Civil War landmarks and sights alongside the public roads: the Massaponax Church, the Spotsylvania Court House, the Brock Road/Orange Plank Road intersection, etc. It was quite fun and the weather was perfect.
I've been doing these little nighttime romps since 1986 or so... my usual haunt is Antietam and Harper's Ferry, but the Wilderness in Virginia is closer - rather a quick hop down I-95.
There's a new rugby documentary coming out: A Giant Awakens. Rather an optimistic title, it has reference to a belief among most rugby-playing nations than if the game was taken seriously in the United States and money was put behind it (as we do with NFL football), we would quickly become an international threat.
More rugby news: the Sevens version of the game is slated for the 2016 Olympics. To which I say, it's about time. Something utterly ridiculous like curling (competitive housework) or synchronized swimming are Olympic sports but rugby isn't? Please.
Here's a good bar bet: What nation is the current defending champion of Olympic rugby?
He wandered away, but another drunk made a nuisance of himself during the performance and was walked away by a forceful female sailor associated with the Sea Chanters.
We were at the Harris Pavilion, a neat, covered but otherwise open air space near the train station. While we were there it occured to me that I had seen that train station somewhere else - in 1972, on a huge billboard above Sunset Strip. Stephen Stills had used it for his "Manassas" Lp. I recall driving by the billboard numerous times on my way to Tower Records and wondering, "'Manassas?' Where's that? Alabama, I suppose - somewhere in the South."
Oddly enough I have far more rugby connotations with Manassas than I do Civil War ones. We used to play at Signal Hill Park (where, before the first Battle of Bull Run, Confederate signalmen wigwagged warnings), and three Manassas joints served as rugby bars. The City Tavern, downtown, was the classiest one. We would go there each week until one Saturday, when some rugger got sick and threw up on the bushes near the front door. We were told not to come back after that.
Another bar was "Irish Eyes," in the basement of a church. (!) Always a class act, eight guys in my club had decided to use that venue to moon the wife of the owner. We weren't invited back there, either. (Oddly enough that same church is used in the film being shown at the Manassas battlefield park. That story, and a photo of Sheila's moon show, is here.)
The third one was a dump called the Clubhouse. The locals looked scarier than the ruggers.
I am now reading "Gods and Generals" by Jeff Shaara, Civil War fiction. I had read "Killer Angels" (never liked that title) by Shaara's father, Michael, while in college. I figure it's about time I got to the sequel/prequel. I bought it last week at a yard sale. And the paperback will be a good little thing to take on the plane with me next week. (We're flying out to Utah to spend a week with the family, that is, the in-laws and kids.)
Ah, Friday. Tonight I have a band practice, and tomorrow it's yard sales, pool and parties. Have a great weekend yourself!
So now I'm reading a book that has been on my shelf for nearly 29 years, Edward Abbey's "The Journey Home - Some Words in Defense of the American West," a kind of travelogue. My wife bought it before we married and, casting about for easy reading material, I put it on my "to read" shelf. I'm halfway through. It reads somewhat like one of those hobo books I was reading earlier this year. (Yes, the author did describe some boxcar rides.)
Some interesting text he wrote about Death Valley is here.
Rugby practice for the fifteens season begins tonight. (Fifteens is real rugby - not the feeble, seven-a-side version that's played in Summer.) I have been telling myself for a month or two that I'd show up and take part for some of it, just to get some jogging in - I haven't run in years. Problem is, however, I don't really want to. It's easy to talk yourself out of attending rugby practice - it's time-consuming, tiring and often hurts - but that's not really it. It just seems too much like retracing a road I've already travelled, or revisiting a place I've already been to.
Problem is, I'm bored, and am in one of those wretched transitional phases of my life. I have no real interests right now and life seems tedious. But, in the same way I used to look at a soccer field and wonder if I could play two 40 minute halves of rugby upon it, or listen to a bass line and wonder if I could play it in a song, or consider jogging around Burke Lake to prepare to run a marathon, I have something else on my mind.
When I was seventeen, deeply interested in classical music, I took piano lessons. I was progressing moderately well with little effort when I made the decision to enlist in the Marine Corps. That took the focus away from my piano lessons and so I quit. Besides, I never came to terms with the music theory aspect of it, and told myself that I couldn't memorize the notes to do sight reading of music.
Looking back upon it, I gave up way too easily on things when I was a kid.
However I'm older and wiser, now, with more confindence and self discipline thanks in part to the Marine Corps and having made it though tough engineering classes in college. In other words, I have a better understanding of what I'm capable of.
Lately I've begun to think that I ought to once again take piano lessons and make more headway with it than I did as a teen. The interest in classical music is still with me - in fact, it's been one of the constants in my life - and lately when I hear piano music I find myself wondering, "Could I learn to play that?"
There's a friend of ours in church who used to give piano lessons... she and her family are on vacation now, but I'll ask her about it.
Another Army Band concert will be held tonight at Kenmore School, so the decision I have before me is rugby or music?
Rugby or music?
I've been complaining about poor grammar in published books recently. Here's another example - my friend Don found this glaring mistake in a 1990's reprint of a 1950's book about Gettysburg.
Last night I watched a film noir by French director Jean-Pierre Melville, "Le Deuxième Souffle" (1966). No, this isn't a movie about food; it means "Second Wind." It had a very common noir plot: A gangster escapes from prison, takes up with his former associates and moll, becomes involved in a heist. A celebrated detective is put on the case. Double-crosses take place (or are thought to have taken place), and a bloody, fatal end ensues. Fin.
The surprise is that anyone was still making films like this as late as 1966. In America ten years prior this sort of thing was considered old hat and was trending out. But French noirs are different, mainly because, to some extent, there’s always a degree of America-envy in them. French actors act like Anglo-Saxons, drive American cars (“L’Oldsmobile wagon… cette un belle voiture pour le get away”) and try to emulate the cool, cigarette-smoking stylishness of Bogie in a trench coat. But the streets are in Paris and the cigarettes are Caporals.
Actually, one great thing about French noirs is seeing the wonderfully evocative cinematography of 1950’s/1960’s Paris on black and white film stock.
There are good French noirs and bad ones – Melville seems to direct the good ones. His “Le Samouraï” from 1967 was a great treatise of the cool, stylish assassin (played by an impossibly handsome Alain Delon), and his “Bob Le Flambeur” (Bob the Gambler) from 1956 is about as good as a French noir gets.
Anyway, Le Deuxième Souffle was a nice way to while away a couple of hours.
And that’s it for today… I have Web Publisher training soon. And this blogspot bug is driving me nuts!
However, I am greatly enjoying listening to Professor Robert Greenberg's lectures about Igor Stravinsky on my iPod. (The Teaching Company produces these on audio CDs as well as video DVDs. I rip the library CDs and listen to them on my iPod.) Greenberg is the most fascinating lecturer I have ever heard. If you like classical music - or just music! - I recommend his lectures. Your local library system may have some.
I went to band practice last night and was told that our schedule is now set. Our next gig is the Burke Centre Festival's "Wine Garden" at 6 PM on Saturday, September 12th. My motto for these affairs is, "The more you drink, the better we sound." Usually, after about half-way though, the crowd is well on its way to becoming lubricated and people start dancing.
(It's funny... the last time we did one of these a photographer from a local paper came by, took some photos - and pasted me on the cover. The caption explains the irony.)
Coming out of practice last night a thunderstorm blew through the area, so I quickly set up the new tripod and camera. I got only one lightning photo. One of these days I'm going to be at the right place at the right time with the right camera settings...
Speaking of my night photography, my son sent me this: spray grafitti (sic) with an LED spray paint can, which I find somewhat pathetic. But it's funny... according to the caption I must be "down with the latest freshness."
Also on engadget is this light bulb to fit in a wallet. But, as sometimes is the case, I have a better idea. I once read that during the 9/11 attacks, the occupants of the World Trade Center buildings were making their way down the stairs, and using the light from their cell phones as improvised flashlights.
If I were a cell phone manufacturer I'd program the software to provide a feature whereby at a click of a button the screen lights up at maximum brightness to provide a sort of built-in flashlight. Sure, if left on you could drain the battery fairly quickly, but the idea is to use the cell phone for the occasional, brief times one needs a handy flashlight. Why haven't they done that? I can't believe nobody has thought of it...
(Did I mention my son got on engadget? I forget...)
Over the weekend I started to read a book I bought last week at a yard sale, "The March," by E.L. Doctorow - a novel about Sherman's March to the Sea. I passed on it at first, but picked it up when I realized that the seller was practically giving books away.
This was a first: I was utterly turned off at the very first sentence! Page one is here - tell you what, suck in a chest full of air and read it aloud. You would think the author might try something like this, to see if perhaps his sentence is a teeny bit long. But no.
Smelling a rat and still burned by the Quincunx and Jay Winik experiences, I looked ahead. There's lots of dialogue in the book, but no quotation marks! I then checked the amazon.com reviews, where nineteen readers complained about the horrible grammar in the book and gave it one star. Into the trash it went. Life is too short to waste time reading books you won't like.
Last night I watched "Tucker - The Man and His Dream" (1988) - a $1 yard sale item. Not a bad film. Doesn't necessarily bear rewatching, but I liked it. The 1948 Tucker Torpedo is a cool-looking car. (Well, except for the rear end - can't say I like that. Too blocky.) The Big Three and the U.S. Government shut down Tucker's plant. Sixty years later two of the Big Three are on the ropes - maybe it was karma.
Got to go!
That King Arthur book I read? While I was reading it I kept having the feeling that I had read it before. When I finished it and went to locate it into my bookshelf in the Arthurian section I realized that indeed I did - and what's worse is that I already own it! I got my first copy for Christmas in 2003. It has a different dust jacket, which is why I didn't recognize it at the yard sale, but it's the same book. I shall give my second copy to my Arthurian/rugger friend, Robert.
Yesterday's blog entry provoked a high volume discussion between us when I stepped into his office after getting one of his long e-mails. Robert, you see, is only interested in the literary King Arthur, and finds any historical Arthur totally irrelevant. I, on the other hand, find the literary King Arthur more or less dispensable... it's the historical one I'm interested in. So we argue whether or not an Arthur actually existed. This has been going on for years.
There isn't much credible documentation indicating that Arthur did exist, I will grant - a few mentions in annals and by monkish scribes. But the archaeological picture suggests that in about the right time and place, somebody did refortify hill forts and hold back the Saxon tide and bought a generation or so of stability and peace. Might as well call him Arthur, I say.
Another clue is a naming convention which interests me because of the genealogical angle. Not too long after Arthur was said to have existed, the name became popular and starts appearing in records. Why? Because people started naming their kids for a hero. I myself am an example of this.
I mentioned the other day that I am trying to establish the identity of my 3rd great-grandfather Clark. My main clue is my name and his son's (my 2nd great-grandfather's) name, Wesley. #2 was born in about 1818, which means that #3 could have been born about 1795. (People back then commonly married in their early or mid-twenties, and had kids quickly thereafter.) Who named children "Wesley" in the late Eighteenth century? Methodists.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was born in 1703 and died in 1791. Note that Wesley was his surname. Shortly thereafter you start seeing John Wesley Smiths, John Wesley Andersons and John Wesley Clarks appearing in records. The surname Wesley thereby makes the hop into being a middle name and, later, a first name.
I also know by a YDNA test that I am somehow related to Adam Clarke, who was the number two most famous early Methodist, having written an incredibly detailed Biblical commentary. Guess what? He named a son John Wesley Clarke. This may be my line or it may not, I do not know.
Anyway, sometimes names can be a significant clue in genealogical and historical work.
By the way, the name "Robin Hood" and other variants starts appearing in English records... from wikipedia, quoting a book by J.C. Holt (which I own): "The oldest references to Robin Hood are not historical records, or even ballads recounting his exploits, but hints and allusions found in various works. From 1228 onwards the names 'Robinhood', 'Robehod' or 'Hobbehod' occur in the rolls of several English Justices. The majority of these references date from the late 13th century. Between 1261 and 1300 there are at least eight references to 'Rabunhod' in various regions across England, from Berkshire in the south to York in the north."
Once again we wonder, who are people naming their children after? (Well, sometimes you can tell who people aren't naming their kids after!)
Have a great weekend! Tomorrow night my wife and I go to Wolf Trap to see the B-52's. That ought to be good.
Ever hear of an Econolite lamp? I'm guessing not. They were popular in the late Fifties and early Sixties. We had one. (Probably two.) For some reason I was thinking of it the other day. I used to be fascinated by ours, the way the rising warm air given off by the light bulb would cause the inner image to move, creating animated motion. I see I can buy one here for only $187.50... but my wife would probably object to its placement in the living room much the same way Darren McGavin's wife did with the leg lamp in "A Christmas Story." And, to be frank, I don't want one.
Yes, there's an Econolite motion lamp website.
I am now reading "Exploring the World of King Arthur" by Christopher Snyder, but I don't know why. (Well, yeah I do - I got the book for next to nothing at a yard sale).
I used to be deeply into Arthuriana when I was a teenager, but it's rare when anything new appears on the Arthurian scene and so interest waned. I can always predict what images are used with what topics in these books: "Let's see, Merlin constructs Stonehenge - yep, there's that old manuscript illustration of the giant... the Round Table... and there's a photo of that old dependable green and white Henry VIII oak table at Winchester... the Count of the Saxon Shore... there's that clunky medieval manuscript illustration of the gigantic buildings sitting on a poorly-rendered outline of Britain," etc. That's what comes of reading every non-fiction King Arthur book you can get your hands on. I think the Bettman Archive has more than made its money on the subject.
The latest Big Thing was the s0-called Arthur Stone in 1998, but even that really isn't Arthurian. As the wikipedia article points out, the only thing connecting this artifact with an historical Arthur is the prefix "Arth-," which could apply to names other than the right one. So it's a reach.
The stone itself doesn't look very impressive. The people who lived in Dark Age Britain apparently thought that as well, as the thing was used as a drain cover. But it was a big deal because clues about the existence of an historical Arthur are as scanty as clues are about who my 3rd great-grandfather Clark might have been.
But the search continues... after all, what's an interesting life without a central mystery?
Now face North
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven't before
Why the REM song lyrics? I had a scout meeting last night; the advancement topic of the month is maps, compasses and orienteering. I was pleased to see that the two eleven year-old scouts who showed up both knew how to shoot a bearing using a compass. This means they remembered what they were taught in camp in June. Commendable!
However, I was stunned when I realized that neither knew that the sun rose in the east and set in the west, or what the compass points were in relation to one another! (For instance, I would position myself somewhere and say, "I'm the sun. I'm setting. Now point North." They couldn't do that.) In other words, they could stare at a compass but not really interpret what they were looking at. How could this be?
The giveaway was in the answer one of them gave to the question, "How do you find north in daytime on a field without a compass?" "Use the Internet," one replied. Ahhh, of course... the Internet. (The other scoutmaster, not being much help, said, "GPS.")
Compared to the rural ancients, modern man knows very little about celestial events. For instance, quiz yourself (be honest):
1.) Did you know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west?
2.) Did you know that the moon rises in the east and sets in the west?
3.) Did you know that if you drew a line in the sky from the point on the horizon where the sun rises to where it sets, that (more or less) is where you'll find the planets?
4.) Did you know that while stars twinkle, planets do not?
5.) Did you know that lunar eclipses only occur during a full moon?
6.) Did you know that solar eclipses only occur during a new moon?
7.) Did you know that Polaris - the north star - is NOT the brightest star in the heavens?
8.) Did you know that the distance between the earth and the sun does NOT determine the seasons?
The ancients knew more astronomical lore than the common modern man because they had the need, time and inclination to gaze up at the heavens and make observations. Nowadays we don't bother. Besides, most of us live in or near cities - we can't see the stars at night very well.
I always find the whole city dweller/country dweller thing interesting, and was thinking about it as I was driving down country roads on Sunday. Who lives here? Where does he work? What does he do for fun? I was thinking about this on the country crossroads known to history as the Five Forks battlefield - as it was very quiet, thinking was encouraged. It's the kind of place where you can sit and sort of feel the earth rotate under you and the heavens spin about in the sky. Actually, I'm a little sorry I didn't loiter there until past sun fall to watch the stars.
(There are a few spots on earth I have visited that I really like, and I always feel gratified when I find another. I added Five Forks to my short list of favorite spots.)
I also recalled that, apparently for kicks, the Census Bureau tracks the mean center of population of the United States. Wikipedia article here.
This is also done for the entire world. Unsurprisingly, the antipode of the world population is near Easter Island - the world's most isolated spot.
From the article, this oddity: "Recently, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity in Massachusetts declared that the world's Christian Center of Gravity was located in Timbuktu, Mali. According to their definition of Center of Gravity, half of all Christians live west of Timbuktu and half live south of Timbuktu."
More fun: Here's a list of the Y2K population centers by state. Plotting Virginia's with google maps puts it in a place called Fleming's Creek, about halfway between Richmond and Charlottesville on I-64. I would have thought it would be around Fredericksburg.
I will go out on a limb, here, and state that never before has a workplace drudge wanted to go on vacation more than I. Even eight days in Utah is beginning to look good. I am really sick of work and the routine right now. I feel like all of the motivation has been drained out of me, and like I want to answer "Yeah, whatever" to any statement given to me.
Of course, in this economy I could be unemployed. That's pretty motivating.
I have Scouts tonight, which, I am ashamed to say, sometimes seems like uniformed day care. I think the problem is that I'm mentally sort of done with kids and teenagers for a while. I suppose it's the natural result of being at the end of a 25 year period in my life raising three kids. It was a lot of fun when I was involved with it (and I was heavily involved with it), but right now I'd really rather spend my time with humans who can discourse in something other than complaints, comments about passing gas and monosyllables. Other middle-aged people, in other words.
Part of the problem is the scouting program itself. Talking pre-teens and teens into why knowing how to tie a variety of ropes is important has always seemed like a futile effort. They know and I know that knots are irrelevant these days, unless, of course, any of these kids plan to be yachtsmen. Or adult scouters, in which case the whole knots thing is self-perpetuating.
Boy Scouting has fallen on rough times, generally. It's sad. A young friend of mine, who is an insider member of what his mother calls the "Scouting Mafia," points out that Boy Scouting in America has had declining numbers for the last thirty years straight. And is there any young man who considers the scouting uniform to be cool in any way, shape or form?
For instance, at a summer camp I once talked with a sixteen year-old who was bitterly complaining about his Scoutmaster's requirement to wear scout shirts to a troop event at King's Dominion. "What's the big problem with that?" I asked. "Have you ever tried talking to girls while wearing a scout shirt?" was the reply. I had to concede his point. Years later, I confirmed it with my youngest daughter and her friend: There is no situation in which a teenage girl would find a young man wearing a scout shirt cool or attractive. That's the mindset of a middle-aged mother.
But perhaps it's all just me. Perhaps I'm on my way to morphing into a selfish and grumpy old man.
For instance, last night I was talking to a guy at the pool whose son begins high school in September. The first thing I thought was, "What a dreadful prospect" - a sort of mental shriek. But that's okay... this fellow made the mistake of buying his son a car. He won't see him much.
I am still slogging through "The Last Citadel - Petersburg, Virginia, June 1864-April 1865" by Noah Andre Trudeau. My reading of it has been inconstant for various reasons; I'm only about half way through. But what started out as a work of abstraction is more interesting and relevant since I visited the Petersburg Civil War sites. I should have done that years ago.
I have learned what I suspected was true as a teenager: Simply reading about the Civil War (or some other historical event) is incomplete unless you've visited the sites. That makes it all more clear. Reading about the 1864 and 1865 attacks at Ft. Stedman is one thing - actually visiting the sites and walking the ground is another. There is simply no substitute for it.
That's it for today.
On Saturday morning I found a yard sale with interesting books; I bought some of 'em. Then I drove over to my pard Don's house, where we took off for the Walkersville, MD train.
Captioned photos here, on my Picasa site.
It was really neat... it's an out and back trip of about an hour. A diesel engine tug takes you out - not a steam train as I reported Friday. I kind of liked getting a lung full of diesel fumes in the open car just in back of the tug - the hobo experience!
The Walkerville RR volunteers were all working busily - on the hottest day of the year - rebuilding big diesel engines, restoring Pullman cars, etc. A lot of work. I kept getting the impression that Don and I were getting mildly recruited. But if you like trains and have a yen to work with heavy equipment, this is the place for you!
I was very bad on Sunday; I blew off church and drove two hours south to Petersburg, VA, about 20 miles south of Richmond. In the 22 years I've lived in Virginia I've never done the battlefield tour there. So it was high time to rectify that.
Captioned photos on my Picasa photo site.
I'm fond of repeating this, but as Tom Sawyer said, "There ain't nothin' half so interesting as a place a book has talked about!" Now when I read about Ft. Stedman, the Crater, Colquitt's Salient, Five Forks and City Point I'll have mental images of actually being at the sites.
That's all for today. By all means look at my photo albums - I spent some time putting them together...
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