Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pruning, Pruning

Now, I'll grant you that "Pruning, Pruning" does not have the same musical quality as "Wassail, Wassail" or "Caroling, Caroling," which is probably why the phrase hasn't been set to music...yet. But pruning is a noble and necessary undertaking and one in which I have been engaged for the past couple of days.

 We decided to have the siding replaced on our 43-year-old house and that meant I needed to cut back the giant holly trees and the overgrown pyracantha that hadn't been pruned for about five years. Now, I'm not much on horticulture, but I do know how to prune. I used to help an elderly neighbor with her rose garden and she taught me how to prune roses. My mother came over to my house once a year for the express purpose of telling me what needed to be cut back and how, and somehow the lesson stuck. It's a miracle. I learned, for example, that pyracantha needed to be pruned severely each year. Mine was flopped over its restraining cable. So, I cut it back. Here's what it looks like now:

The three sticks in the middle of the picture are the pyracantha. It will grow out by next year. I promise.

 Then I worked on two hollies yesterday. Here is a picture of one of four hollies "before":

Pretty shaggy, huh? Well, no more. Here's an "after" picture (the mostly pruned bush is the rightmost of the two):

There's a difference. The interior is cleaned up and the bush has more of a symmetric shape. I use some basic principles of pruning, such as cut any branches that cross so they don't cross any more, cut branches so they are away from the house and shape up the bush.

If you're interested and don't know anything about pruning, here are some basic tools. I use hand tools because I don't want to cut my arms off.Although I have come close with hand tools.

You'll notice, top to bottom, a pair of heavy duty work gloves for things like thorns and other hazards that come from working with plants, a pair of hand pruners for small cuts, a bow saw for bigger limbs and a pair of long-handled pruners for everything else. I didn't include eye protection since I was wearing it because I would usually get something in my eye during the proceedings. Actually, I could use a hockey mask since the falling branches almost invariably smack me in the face. But my eyes are protected.

Coming up: some more pruning pictures as I get to it.Stay tuned.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Days of the Week

When I was a kid in elementary school, before the earth had a chance to cool from its creation, we used to sing a little song about the days of the week.  Remember, this was before the video games, so this was considered high art and exceptional entertainment.

The song, as I recall it, went like this:

Today's Monday, today's Monday, Monday washday,
Everybody happy? Well, I should say!

Today's Tuesday, today's Tuesday, Tuesday string beans, Monday washday,
Everybody happy? Well, I should say!

As you can see, this is an accretional song (that's not the actual name for it: I can't think of the actual name. It's like "The Twelve Days of Christmas where the singer(s) keep(s) (<==I hope you know what I mean here. There's no good way to cover all the bases. I'm trying to indicate "singers sing" and "singer sings" at the same time, indicating I do have a knowledge of basic subject-verb agreement for the verb "to sing.) adding things to each verse. Wait, my friend Wikipedia tells me that it's a "cumulative" song. I like accretional better. You call it what you like). That's part of the raging entertainment value of singing it.

As I remember it, the rest of the days were:

Wednesday, soup
Thursday, roast beef
Friday, fish
Saturday, fun day
Sunday, church

One year we made up appropriate hand gestures for each day which our teacher hated for some reason, so we had to do them under our desks.

I was thinking about this song recently with all the publicity and hype about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I think both are media constructs to make money and oversimplify complex phenomena (i.e., the economy and the behavior of consumers), but we could add a few to the week after Thanksgiving.

After Black Friday we could have either Red or White Saturday. Either color in this case has no particular symbolism or meaning. It's just a contrasting color to black.

Sunday could be Church Attendance Day. That just seems to fit in nicely.

Tuesday could be No Shopping Tuesday, which I know would not be good for the economy, which, if you will remember, is a media construct. Or something.

Wednesday would be Take a Nice Quiet Walk Wednesday because it alliterates and quiet walks are good things during the holiday season, especially when we've had the kind of weather we have had.

Thursday could be Fun Day because I like the sound of it and everyone needs a little fun in their lives.

Those are my ideas for days after Thanksgiving. I hope you have some of your own and you will share them with us.

Working Backwards

My weekly copy of The New Yorker arrived Saturday, and I started reading it the way I always do: I looked through it and read the cartoons.  Then, during the week, I read some of the articles. Some of them are quite lengthy, and others are on subjects I don't care about, but usually I can find several insightful and well-written entries. That's why I get the magazine.  That and the cartoons.

It occurred to me that I am reading the New Yorker the same way I read the (long defunct) Washington Daily News, a tabloid-sized six-day-a-week newspaper. There might have been a Sunday edition, but I can't remember. The Wikipedia article doesn't say one way or another: I do remember color comics on Sundays but I'm not sure the paper was the News. It might have been the Post that my dad went somewhere (I never knew where) to get Sunday mornings.

We got the paper from about 1953 in Fairfax until 1962 when we moved. It cost 5 cents a day, home delivered, and had some pretty good writers. But I was there for the comics. They were located at the back of the paper, so I read the paper from back to front. (I know, that accounts for a lot.)

I've noticed this tendency to "work backwards" among choir directors as they teach a new piece to their choirs. I don't mean that we sing the anthem backwards, but rather, we work on the last section, and then the next-to-last section, and so on until we get to the beginning and the choir members are just about crazy to sing the anthem through from front to back. Without stopping. Which doesn't happen often when we're learning a piece. There's a lot of stopping and starting, but when we have it learned, we run through it from front to back without stopping and it's glorious. Sometimes.

So here's a Jeopardy category: Things That May Be Done Backwards. The answer: The New Yorker, the Washington Daily News, and any given choral anthem. I'll take that for $600, Alex.

Friday, November 25, 2011

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

To steal a line from that terrific series, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Or maybe that's the title of the fourth book in the trilogy. Yes, I did say trilogy.

I said I wouldn't write over the four-day weekend, but I was noticing that I have been at this five days a week for six months. I was going to try to last a year, but, frankly, friends, I'm tired and there are so many demands on my time these days I find it hard to find the time or energy to write even a short piece. It's a pity because I love to write and I love to hear from my blogistas.

I'll try to write something occasionally or post what's going on on Facebook, so do not despair. The sun is shining somewhere, largely because it always shines and it is the Earth that spins as it orbits the sun. I know you will miss that kind of profundity, but try to carry on.  Each of you without a doubt is kind, handsome or beautiful, intelligent, discerning and above average. Thank you for reading and I'll see you around the monkey house.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Diatribe about Thanksgiving

Now, normally no one would expect a diatribe about Thanksgiving.  The form is more given to tirades on, oh, say. incredibly terrible color printers. But I digress. Here's the scoop on Thanksgiving. It's not what you think it is...

I don’t know if you think a lot about the English Puritans or as they were known as in this country, the Pilgrims, also called the Fun Bunch. Quite possibly your memories of them are associated with the story of the first Thanksgiving, which by the way did not occur at Plimouth Plantation in 1621 but rather in Virginia in 1619, before the Pilgrims even set sail for the New World. On September 16, 1619, a group of 38 English colonists headed by Captain John Woodlief sailed from England aboard the Margaret. They landed at Berkeley Hundred 10 weeks later. The settlers were sent by the London Company; it owned thousands of acres in the area, and had settled and supported Berkeley Plantation. 

In the company's instructions to the settlers -- instructions to be opened upon reaching Virginia--was this sentence: 

We ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God. 

The settlers held that Thanksgiving at Berkeley Hundred on December 4, 1619

Anyhow, another way you might know something about the Pilgrims is that you read, somewhere and sometime, Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, a story of sin, guilt and redemption set in Puritan times but unfortunately (and that word really pertains here) written about 200 years later in the 1840’s, the Romantic Period.  You might not have read it and I don’t blame you if you haven’t.  It is the worst book ever inflicted on innocent sixteen-year-olds in this country, fit only for English majors and people lacking a real love interest in their lives.  If it is your favorite book and you read it once a week and have towels, tea sets and fork handles with images of the main characters on them, I’m sorry, but I’m just sayin’.

Anyhow, whatever you believe about Thanksgiving and its origins (I hope it's the True Virginia Version), I hope you have a great holiday.  I am continually thankful for my family, for my faith, and for the freedoms we enjoy bought at a tremendous price by the sacrifice of millions of men and women. And I'm thankful for you, blogistas and your taking your time to read these screeds. I'm taking the next four days off as a holiday but I'll be back Monday with more random observations.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Calling in Sick

Hello, friends,

Yesterday I went to the doctor for a sinus infection and a continuing sciatic nerve pain problem.  He gave me an antibiotic and got me in to see a physical therapist tomorrow at 10 AM.

As a result, I don't feel like writing, which tells you how bad I feel. I'll pick it up again when I feel better.

I hope each of you is well.

Lt. Dan

Monday, November 21, 2011

Twilight Time

Here's another song for your enjoyment. It was originally done by The Three Suns in 1944 and made popular by Les Brown and His Band of Renown in 1945 as an instrumental on the B-side of "Sentimental Journey" with vocals by Doris Day. Most boomers, though, know it from the version by the Platters in 1958.

Heavenly shades of night are falling
It's twilight time
Out of the mist your voice is calling
It's twilight time
When purple colored curtains
Mark the end of the day
I hear you my dear at twilight time

I was thinking about "Twilight Time" and twilight this past weekend when I was curious about the time of sunrise.  When I looked that up, I came across a reference to not one but three types of twilight.  Apparently there is a civil twilight, a nautical twilight and an astronomical twilight. Who knew?

Deepening shadows gather splendor
As day is done
Fingers of night will soon surrender
The setting sun
I count the moments darling
Till you're here with me
Together at last at twilight time

According to Wikipedia (from which I have egregiously taken most of the material for this post), twilight is the time between dawn and sunrise or between sunset and dusk, during which sunlight scattering in the upper atmosphere illuminates the lower atmosphere, and the surface of the earth is neither completely lit nor completely dark. The sun itself is not directly visible because it is below the horizon.

Here in the after-glow of day
We keep our rendezvous beneath the blue
Here in the sweet and same old way
I fall in love again as I did then

Morning civil twilight begins when the geometric center of the sun is 6° below the horizon (civil dawn) and ends at sunrise. Evening civil twilight begins at sunset and ends when the geometric center of the sun reaches 6° below the horizon (civil dusk).
The brightest stars appear during the civil twilight, as well as planets, such as Venus, which is known as the "morning star" or "evening star." During this period there is enough light from the sun that artificial sources of light may not be needed to carry on outdoor activities. This concept is sometimes enshrined in laws, for example, when drivers of automobiles must turn on their headlights; when pilots may exercise the rights to fly aircraft; or if the crime of burglary is to be treated as nighttime burglary, which carries stiffer penalties in some jurisdictions. A fixed period (most commonly 30 minutes after sunset or before sunrise) is typically used in such statutes, rather than how many degrees the sun is below the horizon. Civil twilight can also be described as the limit at which twilight illumination is sufficient, under clear weather conditions, for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished; at the beginning of morning civil twilight, or end of evening civil twilight, the horizon is clearly defined and the brightest stars are visible under clear atmospheric conditions.

Deep in the dark your kiss will thrill me
Like days of old
Lighting the spark of love that fills me
With dreams untold
Each day I pray for evening just
To be with you
Together at last at twilight time

Nautical twilight is the time when the center of the sun is between 6° and 12° below the horizon. In general, nautical twilight ends when navigation via the horizon at sea is no longer possible.

During nautical twilight, sailors can take reliable star sightings of well-known stars, using a visible horizon for reference. The end of this period in the evening, or its beginning in the morning, is also the time at which traces of illumination near the sunset or sunrise point of the horizon are very difficult, if not impossible, to discern (this often being referred to as "first light" before civil dawn and "nightfall" after civil dusk). At the beginning of nautical twilight in the morning (nautical dawn), or at the end of nautical twilight in the evening (nautical dusk)—under good atmospheric conditions and in the absence of other illumination—general outlines of ground objects may be distinguishable, but detailed outdoor operations are not possible, and the horizon is indistinct.
Astronomical twilight is the time when the center of the sun is between 12° and 18° below the horizon. From the end of astronomical twilight in the evening to the beginning of astronomical twilight in the morning, the sky (away from urban light pollution) is dark enough for all astronomical observations.

For anyone who lives on Mars, twilight is longer than on Earth, lasting for up to two hours before sunrise or after sunset. Dust high in the atmosphere scatters light to the night side of the planet. Similar twilights are seen on Earth following major volcanic eruptions.

Dusk, dawn, twilight, whatever, I hope you enjoy at least one of these marvels of nature today!

Here's a link to the Platters' version of "Twilight Time":

Friday, November 18, 2011

Random Thoughts

I know, these postings consist primarily of random thoughts, but I have some observations that are not necessarily related to each other or to anything else, for that matter.  Here goes:

I noticed some differences between the Atlanta area (Atlanta is further south). We drove on some really nice four-lane parkways.  Ron said the roads were built with the expectation that "if they built it, they will come," i.e., that development would follow the roads. It didn't. Other than a few isolated strip shopping centers, the area we were driving through was undeveloped. Imagine someone building a road around here and no one came. Can't do it? Neither can I.

The Atlanta area also has fewer deciduous trees and more conifers. The result is that there were fewer leaves in the treescape and on the ground.  When I got back to D.C. I was struck by the number of deciduous trees and the amount of leaves on the ground. I've heard people talk about gathering up their leaves and having their yards perfectly clean of leaves.  Ten minutes later they couldn't tell a rake or a blower had ever been near the yard. The leaves look like multi-colored carpets.

Atlanta has traffic, but nothing like we have.  I caught the familiar "traffic and weather on the eights" from WTOP-FM (and their glass-enclosed nerve center) and, three minutes after I got on 28 South, came upon the backup to an accident. Welcome home, Dan.

Ron and I were talking about eating on the road. I asked him how he tried to eat nutritiously while he was out on a flight.  He said it was a challenge--when he started flying for Delta, the only food at airports consisted of hot dogs and pizza. Now, of course, there are many, many more choices (not necessarily healthy ones, though). He said he had gotten bitten by airport and roadside food so much that he made and took a sandwich on trips. It is a known quantity and less expensive. Our family almost never ate at restaurants and my mother always packed a meal for us on trips to visit relatives (aka "vacation"). I used to be frustrated by what I saw as my parents' excessive, uh, thriftiness (and was reminded of it when I paid a ball park price for a deli sandwich at the airport), but now see the wisdom of what they were doing. They didn't have a choice, financially, but intuitively did something good.

Here's a bonus New Yorker cartoon that includes a reference to sandwiches:
As you can see, we as humans do well with sandwiches.  Not so much with playing well with others and having an exoskeleton.

(This rather long space has been brought to you by my inability to figure out the formatting to reduce the long space. It's part of the price for including a New Yorker cartoon.)

This past week I reached the age sung about by the Beatles a long time ago, "When I'm 64." I wanted to thank everyone who sent birthday greetings on Facebook (nearly as many greetings as friends) and give a special shout-out to the wonderful ladies of the Joy Class at our church, many of whom thoughtfully sent me birthday cards. I run hard copies of this blog every week for them, and they are exceptionally kind and appreciative about what I write. Their class is a model of a Christian small group, and the ministries they do collectively and individually are numerous and meaningful. They will not be happy that I have praised them like this because humility is also their strong suit, but they deserve notice. Thank you for all you are and do, ladies. You are indeed walking the walk and talking the talk.

Well, I think I have all the random observations out of my least until Monday. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Homeward Bound

Yet another Simon and Garfunkel song seems appropriate here, with certain word changes:

I'm sittin' at the airport station, got a ticket for my destination, mmmm,
Suitcase and guitar are safely stowed
And I know soon it will be time to go--

Homeward bound, I wish I was, homeward bound,
Home with my thoughts escaping, home where my music's playing,
Home, where my love lies waiting, silently for me...

The part about the guitar is a poetic fiction--ain't no way I'm going to check any of my guitars without a $400 air travel case, which would be worth more than half the guitars I own. And then I'm not at the "airport station":  I'm 35,000 feet up on Delta Flight 1125 from Atlanta to Dulles about 40 minutes out.

My bro Ron got me to the airport about 10:20 this morning, and I was through checking my bag and experiencing security by 10:30. I had time to get a sandwich, eat it and sit at the gate and read some until we started boarding about 11:50.  Hartsfield is a big honkin' airport but Ron told me which way to go and my gate was on A Concourse so I didn't have to ride the Love Train very far. ("The Love Train" is my name for the little concourse tram thingie that shuttles people between concourses, from the O'Jay's song of the same name:

People all over the world (everybody)
Join hands (join)
Start a love train, love train
People all over the world (all the world, now)
Join hands (love ride)
Start a love train (love ride), love train

I heard  "Love Train" the other day and it sounds like as good an idea as the day it came out.  And yes, I do think music can change the world for the better.)

So I am "homeward bound." I had a great trip and a wonderful visit with my brother and sister-in-law, but I am glad to be going back to where I live. The people and the places there make it where I belong.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Going Home

Packing up my winter clothes and wishing I was home,
Going home...

Discerning readers will recognize that line from the Paul Simon song,"The Boxer." I'm no boxer but I am going home today.

I'm writing this from my brother Ron's house near Atlanta.  We have had a terrific couple of days visiting, having wonderful meals, going to guitar shops and bookstores, taking naps and playing on the computer. This has been a much-needed break for me, and I appreciate everything Ron and Sherry have done to make it happen. I hope this will become an annual tradition.

So, we'll see how today's trip goes. It's raining hard here, and that should affect travel. I didn't bring an umbrella, so I'll have to pick one up on the way to the airport.

Yesterday was my birthday ("Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?") and I want to thank everyone who sent birthday greetings.  A number of these came via Facebook, which is one great way to keep up with what's going on in other people's lives. Thanks to all of you, my friends.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Travel Is Sometimes a Blessing

I’m writing this from about 28,000 feet aboard Delta flight 1093 to Atlanta to visit my brother Ron.  Now, Ron, who was a pilot for Delta for 27 years until his retirement in 2004, likes to say “Travel is a curse,” and he certainly traveled enough as a member of a flight crew to have enough bad travel experiences to be convinced of the veracity of his saying.
Sometimes, though, travel can be a blessing.  So far into this trip (about half an hour into a two-hour flight) everything has gone swimmingly.  I left for the airport fours hours ahead because I was having to travel in rush hour traffic and one never knows when there might be an accident. It took 45 minutes to get to long-term parking (normally it takes half an hour); I got a shuttle bus immediately, checked my bag and got in the security line at 7:30. That took half an hour and I was at the gate by 8:00. I got something to eat and waited for boarding to begin around 10:00.
During the flight, I was seated next to an attractive,  nicely dressed  lady and found out she was a psychologist. The blessing part came when I told her I had taught English in high school. It turns out her first husband was a professor at Belhaven College in Jackson,  Mississippi. The Southern writer Eudora Welty loved the college and lived many years in a house across the street from the campus.  My seatmate knew her, one of the icons of American literature! She said Miss Welty was genuine and unpretentious and made people from all walks of life feel comfortable.  And of course, she was an amazing writer.
Sometimes, when we’re just going along, doing something ordinary, like traveling on an aircraft, magic happens.  It happened to me today, and I am still in awe of talking to someone who knew Eudora Welty.  Travel today was indeed a blessing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

All My Bags Are Packed

Readers of a, uh, certain age might remember this phrase from the John Denver song, "Leaving, on a Jet Plane." I first heard the song when I went to see the Chad Mitchell Trio in high school at the old Cellar Door nightclub at 34th and M Streets in Georgetown. Denver was the replacement for Chad Mitchell, who had left the group to pursue an individual career. It was quite clear that John Denver was far more talented than the other members of the Trio. He sang like a bird and played a fabulous Guild 12-string.

At the time I thought "Leaving, on a Jet Plane" was the saddest song I had ever heard. I used to play and sing it myself, and, like most of the songs when I sang them, it was a big lie. First of all, the song supposes that the singer has a girlfriend whom he is leaving. I did not have a girlfriend to leave, and if I did I wouldn't have left her.  Secondly, I didn't go anywhere, on a jet plane or anything else. As a high school and college student, I couldn't afford to go anywhere and actually had no place to go if I could have afforded it. Now that's sad.

I was interested that the song had a resurgence of popularity in the late 90's when Alyssa was listening to it and actually learned to play it on guitar. (She has since gone to the ukulele, saying the guitar hurts her hands. Well, the uke is a cute little instrument ideally suited to her size and she uses it with her children's choir.) If you're not familiar with the song, here's a link to Denver doing it in concert: (The video quality is funky, but it has a good audio.)

Anyhow, all of this is to say I'm headed today for Atlanta to spend a few days with my brother Ron, a retired Delta pilot and all-around good guy and his lovely wife Sherry.  This is a break for me since my dad and I have been through a difficult year with his leg bypass operation last November, infection of the wound, falls, hospitalizations, rehab stays, move from a senior living center to an assisted living facility, countless doctor and emergency room visits and taking down his household. If you have care of an elderly person (and many of you do), you know how exhausting (and fulfilling at the same time) it can be.

I'll be back Wednesday and am looking forward to the time to hang out with Ron, visit some guitar shops and book stores and eat in some of his favorite restaurants. He and Sherry have been a big support as we have dealt with my mom's illness and death and my dad's health problems. I should be able to report on our activities and my trip back. Pace.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Gathering of Eagles

My dad and I went to the viewing of a lady who used to be his neighbor in Loudoun County, where he lived in a kind of semi-rural enclave with about ten other families.  He moved from there in 2003 and hasn't seen much of the community, or what's left of it, since then.  The viewing was a typical occasion to remember the deceased and also to see people that he hadn't seen in a long time.

At one point in the gathering, I looked over at him standing with some of the men from the old neighborhood.  With their shocks of white hair and craggy countenances, I was reminded of nothing as much as a gathering of some old, wise eagles.  And indeed, these are people who have soared far above the ordinary.

I think that for most of us, including myself, an end to civilization would be the end of me as as well. I am dependent on the complex infrastructure that we all use for food, shelter, water, clothing, security, services, and so on and so on. But for people like my parents and their neighbors, I don't an end to all that would make a difference.  They lived in a loosely-knit community that depended on each other. They knew how to raise animals and crops for food, to prepare and preserve them to eat. What one of them couldn't do, there was someone in the neighborhood who could, whether it was welding or canning or pulling a recalcitrant calf out of a mother cow.

I think it is not coincidence that these people are, by and large, a part of the Greatest Generation, having weathered the Depression and World War II and come to home to raise families and to build a world power. On this Veteran's Day, I salute them, those who served in the military, and those who also "stood and waited" and served thereby.  They are passing rapidly from us, and I hope you will take the opportunity to recognize them for what they have done for all of us, if you know any of them, and to thank them for it. The eagles may have gathered in this life for the last time.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

All in the Family

Yesterday, I wrote that I had made an interesting discovery about my family.  No, it's not that we were once circus performers or have a secret country that we run.

My mother had an ambivalent attitude toward genealogy. On one hand, she told me when I expressed an interest in our ancestors that they were probably low lifes who never amounted to anything and not worth finding out about and that if we had ancestors who fought in, say, the Civil War, they probably fought on the side that was winning in the area at the time. This was a possibility since most of my family is originally from east Tennessee, a part of a Confederate state that was strongly pro-Union.

On the other hand, aunts and uncles and cousins and family stories and names were important to her and I learned about them just listening to her talk.

Then this Monday I made a discovery that both credited and discredited her views on family history. I was noodling around on Ancestry. com, not wanting to get too much into it, know that genealogical studies can suck up tremendous amounts of time and energy. I was seeing how far back I could take both family trees. My father's side went back to his grandfather and that was it. But my mother's side blossomed with all the names I had heard over the years, the aunts and uncles and cousins I had met or heard mentioned. And the line kept going back, particularly the Dillards. My maternal grandmother was a Dillard and her ancestry traced back to a Martin Nalle, who was born in England around 1675 and came to Virginia as an indentured servant in 1702. His grandson was Captain Thomas Dillard who was in the Virginia militia and took part in George Rogers Clark's campaign during the Revolution. Suddenly these people seemed real and vital to me and I wanted to know more about them. Here is some of what I found that I wrote up for our daughter who teaches Virginia history in the fourth grade:

Martin Nalle (b. 1675 in England, d. 1728 in South Parnham Parish, Essex, Virginia, United States) arrived in the Colony of Virginia about 1701. He was listed as one of 62 persons transported to the colony by Chcheley (sic)  Cornin Thacker, for which Thacker received 3080 acres of land. Martin was most likely an indentured servant, working off his indenture and possibly receiving a tract of "tobacco ground." Married to Mary Aldin (b. 1681 in Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, Virginia, d. March, 1738 in Essex County, Virginia) in 1722 in Old Rappahannock and Essex Counties.
Captain Thomas  Dillard (b. 1732 in Essex, Virginia, United States, d. 23 Sep 1784 in Erwin, Washington, North Carolina, United States )

Listed as part of the 14th Virginia Regiment of 1777-78. Inducted as a corporal; rose to the rank of captain.

In January 1778, Pittsylvania sent several companies of militia again to the frontier. Captain Thomas Dillard and Lieutenant Charles Hutchings commanded a company that marched direct from Pittsylvania to Isaac Riddle's house, twelve miles above the Long Island on the Holstein; thence to Boonesboro, Ky., where they were stationed three months. While in Kentucky Moses Hutchings, one of the company, acted as Indian spy. In July David Irby, James Irby and Thomas Faris, other members of Captain Dillard's company, were transferred to Captain Montgomery's company and marched with Colonel George Rogers Clark's regiment into the country known as the Illinois, of which they took possession.

And there it is, history made personal.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fun Facts about American Literature

I'm interested in history, especially American history, which I obliquely taught as American literature in high school for about, I would guess, ten years.

Through that study, we learned that Edgar Allen Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin (though he claimed she was 21 on the marriage application) (marriage to cousins was legal and even preferred at that time since one knew the wife's family), left both the University of Virginia (gambling debts) and West Point (deliberately provoked a court martial), and possibly wrote "Anabel Lee" about a love lost to death about his wife who had died of tuberculosis two years early. Poor Poe.

We also learned that ardent conservationist Henry David Thoreau, in the words of a Boston Globe article,

"...started a  blaze in the Concord Woods (on April 30, 1844), scorching a 300-acre swath of earth between Fair Haven Bay and Concord. The fire was an accident, but the destruction of valuable woodland, the loss of firewood and lumber (it was the town wood lot), and the narrowly avoided catastrophe that almost befell Concord itself angered the local residents and nearly ruined Thoreau's reputation. For years afterward, Thoreau could hardly walk the streets of his hometown without hearing the epithet 'woods burner.'"

Another fun fact that attracted students' attention was that Ernest Hemingway's house in Key West to this day is home to 40-50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats, (Cats normally have five front toes and four back toes.) presumably descended from one polydactyl cat given to Heminway by a sea captain.

Fascinating facts all, I'm sure. Tomorrow I'll write about my discovery of some facts related to my family and American history.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Small Poem for Autumn

Today from Sudley Road
The near mountains cold blue in the
Clear air's distance.
Closer, turned maples, yellow and red,
Against the blue.
Winter follows fall.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Three Words

Watch this. Please.

Well, more than three words. I've been doing Biscuit City for about six months now every weekday, and as much as I love coming up with topics, researching (if that's the word) them, writing the post, and seeing your kind and insightful reactions, I'm going to have to go to an occasional post, maybe twice or three times a week. I hope you'll keep reading and responding; in return I'll try to give you some posts that will inform, amuse and maybe even befuddle.  Especially befuddle. Thank you for your kind offices and for being a Reader.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In a Handbasket

Now, I'm not one who thinks young people are any different now than they were back in the day when I was a lad and dinosaurs roamed the earth. Basically, I think they're about the same, and as someone who had worked with young people in one capacity or another for about 43 years, and loves them as a group, I'm here to say that they're a lot brighter than we ever were and are able to do things we never even thought of. You know what I mean. Still, there are some things about them I just don't understand.

Cisco, the software/whatever company and maker of the router than makes this blog possible (or was that about three routers back? I can't keep up) did a survey of nearly three thousand college students and young professionals. Here is a summary of their findings, taken from the "Cisco Connected World Technology Report." (To read the complete report, which is impressive in its methodolgy and findings, go to .)

The survey focused on two basic questions:  Is the Internet a fundamental human necessity? and Is a workplace with flexible mobility policies as valuable as salary?

 The study revealed that one in three college students and young professionals consider the Internet to be as important as air, water, food, and shelter.

 In some cases, the respondents call it more essential than owning a car, dating, and going to parties. Also, one in three would prioritize social media freedom, device flexibility, and work mobility over salary in accepting a job offer.

 Study Highlights:
  • Many respondents cite a mobile device as “the most important technology” in their lives
  • Seven of 10 employees have “friended” their managers and coworkers on Facebook
  • Two of five students have not bought a physical book (except textbooks) in two years
  • Most respondents have a Facebook account and check it at least once a day
    • Half would rather lose their wallet or purse than their smartphone or mobile device.
    • More than two of five would accept a lower-paying job that had more flexibility with regard to device choice, social media access, and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility.
  • At least one in four said the absence of remote access would influence their job decisions, such as leaving companies sooner rather than later, slacking off, or declining job offers outright.
    • Three out of 10 feel that once they begin working, it will be their right- more than a privilege -to be able to work remotely with a flexible schedule.
You'll note, perhaps, that I didn't comment much on these findings. that's because they leave me speechless. I just wonder what effect all this will have on society as we know it in 50 years or so. Something to think about, anyhow. Have a good weekend. I plan to get outside, work on my fence, take a walk, talk to some people, do some reading, fix some meals, go to rehearsals, got to church and watch the Redskins lose. Again. Take care.

Secret Gardens of the Heart

My aunt Shirley recently sent me a link that stirred up all kinds of memories.  She is my mother's younger half-sister, the youngest of the family of four girls and two boys. They are all gone now except for Shirley and my uncle Paul whom I have not seen in decades. 

The link Shirley sent was a real estate listing for my maternal grandmother Satterfield's house in Tennessee, close to Ducktown. Here's the picture from the listing:

 Seeing it, I was instantly transported back to the summer weeks we spent there as children.  My parents made the long drive back to the Tennessee mountains every summer and every Christmas.  It was the only vacation we got, but the memories I have of it are indelible.  Shirley is just a year older than I, and my uncles Wayne and Paul were always willing to play with my brother and me.  The house was small but we all fit in and had the most amazing times together.

We hiked in the mountains surrounding the house, splashed in the creek in the back of the property, swung from a rope there dangling from a huge tree, walked the railroad line that ran in front of the house, going to blackberry fields down the line, gathered up the candy and newspaper thrown out by trainmen as they passed.  They always waved at us. At Christmas, there was loads of food, and piles of presents. I never understood how Santa Claus managed to find us when we were away from home, but he did.

My parents never left us at home, but they went off to visit relatives when we were at my grandmother's,leaving us to get into all sorts of mischief. One time Ron and I went to the creek bank and got gloriously muddy and then realized we would be in deep trouble when my mother returned. Our grandmother cleaned us up, put the muddy clothes into wash, put clean clothes on us and said, "We won't tell anyone about this." She had our back. 

She of course is gone, although her house is still there. Seeing the real estate picture, I was reminded of the incredibly beautiful and insightful Judy Collins song, "Secret Gardens of the Heart." It begins,

My grandmother's house is still there
But it isn't the same
A plain wooden cottage
A patch of brown lawn
And a fence that hangs standing
And sighing in the Seattle rain...

It continues,

...I still see the ghosts
Of the people I knew long ago
Inside the old kitchen
They bend and sigh
My life passed them up
And the world passed them by


Secret Gardens of the heart
Where the old stay young forever
I see you shining through the night
In the ice and snow of winter

But most of all
It is me that has changed
And yet I'm still the same
That's me at the weddings
That's me at the graves
Dressed like the people
Who once looked so grown-up and brave...


(Here's a link to a somewhat dated movie from 1979 made with the song as a soundtrack:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gift from the Parking Lot

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh, was an author in her own right and penned a lovely book entitled Gift from the Sea that contained much wisdom. In the book, she wrote this:

I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.”

Anne and Charles certainly knew about suffering since their infant son was kidnapped in 1932 and his body found not far from their home two months later.  The case was covered to excess, but it did result in Congress passing a law making kidnapping a federal crime.

This post has nothing to do with beautiful writing or the tragedy of kidnapping,and I know it is trivial by comparison.

Someone gave my dad and me a gift in a parking lot by coming along and creasing the upper right wheel well area on his 2007 Impala, which I drive now because he has stopped driving. Whoever did this didn't leave a note, of course.

Here's a picture of the damage:

Not a pretty sight, and since I'm cheap, I haven't taken it to a body shop which will charge more than I want to pay and less than my insurance deductible. Then I was watching television and thought I found a solution. And here it is!

Now, I was sure that since I saw it on television it would work. When it arrived, I read the directions and there are about 200 exceptions to the kind of dent the kit will take out, including "creases and lines such as fender wells."  Hmmm.

Being nothing but hopeful, I'm going to try it anyhow.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Long Thin Dawn

The title of today's post is a reference to an early Gordon Lightfoot song by that name, in which the narrator sings of catching a ride with a long-haul trucker through the night and experiencing "that long thin dawn" over the plains.

I had to admit that I did some hitchhiking, in college, although the very thought of it makes me cringe now.  Things seemed safer pre-1970, and seemed to take an ugly turn after that. In any case, you don't see people "hitching" any more, and that's probably a good thing.

I was thinking about Lightfoot's song last week when I was filling my car's tank, and one of those big gas tankers was at the station, filling the underground tanks with hoses that were easily six to eight inches in diameter.  The driver was watching them carefully, and when I caught his eye, said hello. I said hello back and went over and asked him how many gallons he carried on his truck.

"About 9200," he answered. If gas weighs what water weighs, that's 73,600 pounds or about 36 or so tons of gas.

"That's a lot of weight pushing on you when you go to stop," I observed.

He allowed as how improved braking and steering systems made the big rigs easier to handle than in the past.  "Actually, an empty tanker can be a bigger problem."

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Well, if you have an explosion with a full tank, there's a big fireball and everything is destroyed. If an empty tank blows up, it throws pieces of metal all over. It's much deadlier." He stopped for a moment and said wryly, "Either way, I'd be the first to know."

I asked him what his biggest problem was driving and he said drivers of cars who follow too closely or cut in front of him suddenly. "I can't stop this thing on a dime," he said.

I said goodbye, got into my car and drove off, thinking that none of us would get very far without people willing to do difficult, dangerous jobs like deliver gas.