Andrew Clem blog home

Clockwise, from top left: Blackfriar's Theater in Staunton, VA, home of the American Shakespeare Center; National Cathedral in Guatemala City; church near Volin, SD; engraved stellae at ruins of Copan, Honduras; folk musicians in La Paz, Bolivia.

Culture and Travel montage shadow

Culture-related pages:

Travel photos

Religious blogs & sites

Local drama & music

Other Web links


My favorite movies

  1. Casablanca
  2. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  3. Raising Arizona
  4. Fargo
  5. Shawshank Redemption
  6. Field of Dreams
  7. Bull Durham
  8. Fiddler on the Roof
  9. Patton
  10. Bananas
  11. Fort Apache: The Bronx
  12. Broadcast News

October 14, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Shenandoah National Park getaway

Jacqueline and I spent a pleasant two days at Shenandoah National Park early last week, taking advantage of good weather following many days of rain and/or gloom. (I previously reported on our birding activities there in my Oct. 5 blog post.) To avoid missing any important baseball games, I picked a day between the end of the regular season and the first of the two wild card games. smile Unlike our previous trip to SNP in late June, the weather was very nice for the most part, excellent for taking photos. It was getting a bit cloudier as we departed to return home on Tuesday, October 4.

Andrew, Jacqueline at Hawksbill Mountain

Yours truly and spouse Jacqueline at Hawksbill Mountain.

While hiking to the top of Hawksbill Mountain on Monday, October 3, we were advised by other hikers that a bear was lurking in the area. We didn't see it, which was both a relief and a disappointment. But later as we were driving from the parking area along Skyline Drive, we saw some cars that were stopped up ahead, and sure enough we had a great closeup bear photo op! In the late afternoon we strolled casually through the amazing, unique habitat that is Big Meadows. We had such a busy day hiking to and fro that we fell asleep not long after enjoying a sumptuous dinner at the Big Meadows lodge. It's a very good restaurant there, with a good choice of wine and beer.

Black Bear

Black Bear along Skyline Drive, a half mile north of Dark Hollow Falls, October 3; one of two we saw that day!

The next morning we hiked along the west slope near the Big Meadows lodge, and I found it difficult to get good photos, because of the glare from the morning light and the fact that my camera (Canon PowerShot SX-50) can't handle extreme variations between light and dark portions of a photo. So, I had to spend some time carefully editing some of those photos on my Macintosh back home. Later in the morning we hiked along the road on the south edge of Big Meadows, where we saw a number of butterflies. Then we headed for home, full of natural energy from the beautiful surroundings.

To see more photos from that trip, see the Chronological (2016) photo gallery.

To the home of James Monroe (?)

Later that week (Thursday, October 6), we made a day trip to Albemarle County, intending among other things to see Monticello, home of the third president, Thomas Jefferson. (We have not been there since we lived in Charlottesville in the 1990s!) The skies were overcast, however, and I didn't want to waste the steep price of admission ($25) only to get mediocre photos. So we contented ourselves with browsing through the "David Rubenstein Visitor Center," an entirely new addition that was built since our last visit.

Then, we drove a few miles southeast to visit the nearby "Highland" estate, home of the fifth president, James Monroe. (For years it was also called "Ashlawn," but that was the name given by the subsequent estate owner.) I had been there with my brother Dan during the early 1990s, at which point there was some doubt about which of the currently-standing structures were in existence when James Monroe was alive. Just in the last couple years, archeologists have determined that only the smaller white portion of the main residential structure was there during Monroe's life, and it was just a guest residence. Monroe's own home burned down in the mid-19th Century, and was replaced by the yellow house which stands today. (That is why the title above contains a question mark.) The tour guide was very knowledgeable about history, and I learned quite a bit about the president who promulgated the Monroe Doctrine (1823), a lynchpin of U.S. foreign policy for well over a century. I also learned that Monroe came from humble middle-class origins, and indeed Highland pales in comparison to the elaborate Monticello nearby.

Statue of James Monroe

The Statue of James Monroe on the grounds of his Highland estate, October 6.

Then we had a tasty all-natural lunch at a delightful country market in the village of Simeon, where St. Luke's Episcopal Church stands. Then we headed back up hill, went past Monticello, and arrived at Carter's Mountain Orchard to shop for apples and other farm treats. The skies had turned clear blue by then, perfect for taking photos of Charlottesville and the surrounding countryside! Too bad it was cloudy earlier in the day... After sampling some local wines and buying some bottles, we drove back down the mountain, and stopped to browse at the shop in the Meadow Run Mill, next to historic Michie Tavern. Then, we headed home, satisfied with another fun day.

Carter's Mountain Orchard

The vineyards which are part of Carters Mountain Orchard. The lowlands to the left are northeast of Charlottesville.

To see more photos from those two trips, see the Chronological (2016) photo gallery.

September 30, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Three more Open Mic appearances!

Last Wednesday night (September 28), I had another Open Mic appearance with the Staunton Music Guild at Queen City Brewery. The sound equipment was set up inside, since the weather outside was overcast, with rain threatening. When Jacqueline and I arrived, there were hardly any other people there, but by the time I started playing at 7:20 or so, a nice-sized crowd had gathered. I played:

I only learned "Talkin' Baseball" last week, and I haven't quite mastered all the lyrics, for which I had to apologize in advance to the audience. Since it is the last week of the regular baseball season, it was either now or "wait till next year!" It was tough figuring out some of the chord progressions on that one, but I'm pretty sure I got it right. As I told the audience, the chords for that song I found on an Internet website are wrong! The next two songs I did much better on, and the audience applauded warmly. That last song ("Baker Street") was an "encore," as each musician got time to play one more song later on. (There were fewer musicians than usual.) I use the harmonica in place of the blazing saxophone solos on that song, and it sounds very impressive, at least to my own ears.

At Open Mic Night one week earlier (September 21), the weather was nice once again, with some really good performers, including a guy named "Fuzzy." I started with another big Simon & Garfunkle song, "Mrs. Robinson," following up on a song of theirs that I had done a week before that. It went well, as I mastered that one some time ago. Prior to the third song ("Barely Breathing"), I explained that I had just changed the chords I play on it, based on a website I found, but I substituted a simpler (and cleaner-sounding) version of that chord.

Finally (in reverse chronological order), two Wednesdays ago (September 14), the weather was beautiful and there was a nice-sized crowd on the outside patio. I met some more interesting musicians and we chatted about harmonicas and stuff. I played:

Before that last song, I talked a little about a guitar player from South Dakota where I grew up, Jim Jorgenson. He and another guy (Dave Colwell) from St. Paul's Episcopal Church pioneered in leading folk mass services in the late 1960s, which caused a bit of commotion -- some good, some bad. I played along with them in some of the services, but I was just a beginner with little to contribute. Jim, on the other hand, was a superb musician who played many songs by Simon & Garfunkle and Bob Dylan on his 12-string guitar. I learned via Facebook a few months ago that Jim passed away many years ago, in the heroic act of trying to rescue somebody from drowning. I was devastated to learn about that. So before the song "America" I told the story about Jim and how he inspired me with his wonderful guitar playing, and I dedicated that song to him. There's a line in that song, "And the moon rose over an open field," and it just so happened that a nearly-full moon was rising in the east as I was playing, so I called attention to that between verses. It was one of those spine-tingling karmic moments.

So, who the heck are these "Ozark Mountain Daredevils," whose songs I play so frequently? That will be the subject of a future blog post.

September 18, 2016 [LINK / comment]

East by Northeast: Big city scenic travelogue

Being frugal-minded, I try to "kill two birds with one stone" (figuratively speaking!) whenever the opportunity arises. So, as the American Political Science Association annual meeting approached last month, I decided to drive up to Philadelphia rather than take AMTRAK, as I have done in the past when those meetings are held in the East. That gave me more flexibility to go sight-seeing and see baseball games, something I had only done once so far this summer. After Philadelphia, I paid quick visits to New York City, then Providence, and finally Boston. It was an ambitious itinerary that ended up being affected by the weather: Hurricane Hermine. The following travelogue includes some of the best photos (and montages of photos) that I took on my trip; the complete set of photos can be seen on the Chronological (2016) photo gallery page.

Boston, Providence, Manhattan, Philadelphia

TOP LEFT: Boston; TOP RIGHT: Providence; MIDDLE: Manhattan; BOTTOM: Philadelphia

Aug. 31: Baltimore, Philadelphia

The first part of my trip followed the familiar I-81 / I-66 route toward Washington, D.C., which I bypassed on the I-495 Beltway through Montgomery County, Maryland. Soon I was on the I-95 "main drag," and took the Harbor Tunnel bypass through Baltimore, only catching brief glimpses of that city's skyline. Then I passed Ripken Field, where the Aberdeen Ironbirds -- one of the minor league affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles -- play. Then I crossed the very wide Susquehanna River, and entered Delaware for the first time since 2008. (Eight years!?) It took less than an hour to get through Wilmington and cross into Pennsylvania, and before I knew it, I was passing the airport in the southern fringes of Philadelphia. I arrived at Citizens Bank Park at about 6:00, in plenty of time to see the Washington Nationals play the Phillies. (See my September 7 blog post about my baseball adventures.) After the game, I checked into the Days Inn motel in Springfield, located about five miles southwest of the Philadelphia city limits, and about nine miles from downtown. It was comfortable and well-furnished, what you would expect for a medium-priced motel. (A downtown hotel would have been much too expensive for my budget.)

Welcome to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, & Rhode Island signs

For the next three days, my attention was focused exclusively on the American Political Science Association annual meeting, held at the Philadelphia Convention Center downtown. I had carefully chosen the motel based on its proximity to the commuter rail station. I was under the impression that suburban stations had pay parking available, but at the Morton station which I used, they told me there was a long waiting list to get parking. Fortunately, one of the passengers in the station waiting room told me what the local folks do: use a parking lot at a public park about three blocks away, for free. S-weet! The Southeast Pennsylvania Public Transit Authority (SEPTA) operates commuter trains, subway lines, trolleys, and buses, and works fairly efficiently from what I observed.

SEPTA Morton station

The SEPTA Morton station, near Springfield, Pennsylvania.

Sept. 4: Philadelphia, New York

Early on Sunday morning, I packed up and left the Days Inn and drove toward downtown Philadelphia. My original plan was to attend one of the final APSA panels that morning, but I encountered a traffic detour that diverted me onto some back streets. Well, that was interesting. [I saw a few University of Pennsylvania buildings, including some that are part of the hospital system.]Eventually I found a parking place right next to my first target: the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the famous scene in the movie Rocky was filmed. [The building was very impressive, as was the view of the Schuylkill River, which passes by the museum.]

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Joan of Ark statue

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Joan of Ark equestrian statue.

There was a big musical festival going on called "Made in America," sponsored by Budweiser beer, so the entire east side of that museum, and several acres of land on the east side, were closed off. (That's why I couldn't cross the bridge [across the Schuylkill River] into downtown, messing up my plans.) I could have gotten in by paying the admission price, but just didn't have enough time to make it worthwhile. So, I ended up walking a total of at least two miles as I searched for a way to get back to my car without retracing my steps. In the end, the extra effort paid off, as I saw several features I might have missed otherwise, including the Rodin Museum, where the French sculptor's classic "The Thinker" is on display. (It is one of 20-some replicas around the world; see Right in front of that sculpture, I saw a family of Common Yellowthroats, mentioned in my September 9 blog post about birds.

After completing my "marathon" circuit walk around the museum and festival area, I drove to the east side of downtown Philadelphia, near the Delaware River. Parking was scarce, even on a Sunday morning, but I found a place that charged $4 per half hour. I quickly walked over to Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and then to the building where the Liberty Bell is housed. (Unfortunately, I didn't have time for the nearby Independence Visitor Center or the National Constitution Center.) I was taken aback by two things: several members of the Falun Gong (a.k.a. Falun Dafa) religious sect who were protesting persecution in China, and a display about the history of U.S. slavery outside the entrance to the Liberty Bell building. I suppose it is meant to call attention to the fact that not all Americans shared in the new-found freedoms of 1776, but to me it seemed out of place -- an unnecessary sour note. I timed my hasty visit almost perfectly, but couldn't quite get out of the parking garage before the 30 minutes had elapsed, and had to pay $8 total. frown

Independence Hall

Independence Hall, in the historic district on the east side of Philadelphia.

Next I drove toward the north side of Philadelphia, in search of the sites of two former baseball stadiums, and quite unexpectedly ended up attending a church service, at the invitation of one of the local people. (He wondered what I was doing taking pictures of his church, which stands on land formerly occupied by Shibe Park / Connie Mack Stadium.) Deliverance Evangelistic Church was quite an experience, and I was happy to be so warmly welcomed. There were at least a thousand people in the congregation, with about 30 people in the choir, along with an organ, electric bass guitar, and drums. Quite a joyful noise! But with no set liturgical sequence, I couldn't tell whether the service was about to end or not, so after about two hours I discreetly got up and left. I noticed that other people were doing likewise, which made me feel better. I then drove toward the east through some very blighted neighborhoods, stopped briefly at a park along the Delaware River, and then got on I-95 northbound.

After a half hour or so I crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey, not far from where General George Washington did the same thing prior to the Battle of Trenton on December 25, 1776. I decided not to take the New Jersey Turnpike, but stayed on Route 1 for the next 30 or so miles, and it worked out pretty well. Crossing the toll bridge into Staten Island was a bit of a shock, as it cost me $15, but fortunately the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from Staten Island into Brooklyn was free. This was the first time I had visited New York without going into Manhattan. (My previous visits were in 1987, 1989, 1994, 2004, and 2008.) [I had my first glimpse of the new Freedom Tower, which was built on the site of the former World Trade Center Twin Towers.] For a list of all the skyscrapers in New York, including the newest ones, see, an affiliate of Newsday. It was quite a struggle driving through the extremely congested streets of Brooklyn as I searched for the site of Ebbets Field, and likewise as I drove from there into Queens, trying to find Citi Field, where the Nationals were playing the New York Mets. I had to pay a toll one more time while in New York, crossing the Whitestone Bridge into The Bronx [from Queens after the game was over].

Arthur Ashe Stadium

Arthur Ashe Stadium, at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, where the U.S. Open tennis tournament was just getting underway. It is located about a quarter mile from Citi Field, from whence this photo was taken. Note the brand-new retractable roof which was built this year.

Sept. 5: Providence, Boston

Originally, I had planned to see the New York Yankees play a home game on Monday afternoon, but Hurricane Hermine was approaching, and I feared that I would miss a rare opportunity to get daylight photos in Fenway Park. So I changed plans and headed directly toward Boston. I stopped briefly at the historic port town of Mystic, Connecticut, made famous by the movie Mystic Pizza. Then I entered Rhode Island, and my first impression of the smallest state was not a good one, I'm sorry to say. The rest stop building was closed for repairs, and the porta-potties outside were disgusting beyond description. Budget cuts? But my first-ever visit to the city of Providence was more pleasant, and I stopped to take photos of the State House and other buildings of note.

Rhode Island state house

The Rhode Island state house (capitol building), on the north side of downtown Providence.

[After Providence,] I passed through the suburb of Pawtucket, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, a minor league affiliate of the Boston MLB franchise. Then I entered Massachusetts and took the first exit to Foxboro, where Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots, is located. By fortunate coincidence, right next door I came across a combined wetland nature area / cranberry bog which is owned by the Ocean Spray company.

I finally arrived in Boston just after 1:00, and despite my best efforts to plan an efficient route, I managed to take at least two wrong turns that wasted at least a half an hour. I found Boston University's Nickerson Field, which is what is left of the former Braves Field, but being pressed for time, I stayed only about ten minutes there. I arrived at Fenway Park just in time for the 2:00 guided tour, joining a group of about 25 visitors. I was enthralled to enter these ancient hallowed grounds, and snapped photos furiously throughout the hour-long tour. [Afterwards,] I wanted to drive past Boston Common and get some photos of downtown landmarks such as Old North Church, but the traffic was too heavy for me to bother with. [Also, the skies were becoming overcast.]

Boston Symphony Hall

Boston Symphony Hall.

Just as I was leaving Boston, the winds picked up and rain started to fall. I timed my visit perfectly! That evening in Connecticut, the remnants of the tropical storm Hermine really blasted the area, but the rain wasn't as heavy as I had feared. I spent the night in a suburb east of New Haven, and my usually-keen sense of direction failed me, as I took a couple wrong turns on dark country roads.

Sept. 6: New Jersey

After deciding to go to Boston rather than see a Yankees game on Monday, my backup plan was to take a tour of Yankee Stadium. I was utterly exhausted from three straight days of intensive driving through heavily-congested big cities, however, so I decided not to. Instead, I took the I-287 bypass around the north side of New City, crossing the Hudson River on the Tappan Zee Bridge, where I saw a big replacement bridge being constructed. [The very hilly terrain of that part of New Jersey surprised me, but it flattened out as I drove south.] I then stopped at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Jacqueline and I were looking for it when we visited New York City in 2004, but never could find it. This time, I followed road signs to the destination, with very little trouble.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge sign

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

After leaving the Great Swamp, I drove through a couple quaint suburban towns in New Jersey (making me think of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils' song "Arroyo"), and then headed straight west on I-78, passing the old steel towns of Bethlehem and Allentown, Pennsylvania. (I kept thinking of Billy Joel's song "Allentown.") I had thought about stopping, but didn't see any obvious scenic spot, so I kept going west until I reached the state capital, Harrisburg. From there it was only about an hour back to Maryland, then briefly crossing the eastern "arm" of West Virginia, and finally passing Winchester, Virginia into the Shenandoah Valley. I got home as the sun was about to set, and slept very soundly that night. It was quite a trip, and I was quite tired! As mentioned in the first paragraph, those who are curious can view many more photos, including some large panoramic views of city skylines and sports stadiums, on the Chronological (2016) photo gallery page.

NOTE: I made a few corrections and additions (marked with [brackets]) subsequent to the original post.

August 26, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Two more "open mic" gigs

I made another appearance with the Staunton Music Guild at Queen City Brewery on Wednesday night. It was a smallish crowd at first and gradually grew to 25 or so, almost as many people as last week. It was a casual, laid-back atmosphere. I played:

For "Wicked Game," I use the harmonica to play the lead guitar parts. I can sing the low notes on that one pretty well, but it's a challenge for me to reach the high falsetto notes, since I have a limited vocal range. This time I pulled it off well enough. The next two songs went pretty well. On the last one ("Rhythm of Love"), I missed a few notes on the intro riff, to my annoyance. (Jacqueline noticed.) Since there were fewer performers, each of us got to do an extra song, and I hadn't prepared well enough for this one. Practice, practice, practice... I mentioned to the audience that Jacqueline and I had seen the Plain White T's do that song in a post-game concert at Nationals Park two years ago.

One week earlier (August 17) they had the biggest crowd that I had yet seen at Queen City's Open Mic night. Master of Ceremonies Fritz Horisk opened with a hilarious song by blues guitarist Keb Mo, "You Can Love Yourself." Jacqueline was once again present to show support. I played:

I used the harmonica on the first two songs, and my rendition of "Interstate Love Song" with it truly rocks, if I may say so. I try to play at least one relatively recent song (in this case "only" 22 years old) at each appearance to offset my heavy concentration in 1970s-era acoustic/country rock. I took a risk playing "Never Goin' Back," which involves some tricky guitar picking techniques, but it turned out OK. I talked about the Fleetwood Mac concert that that Jacqueline and I had seen last year, paying tribute to Lindsey Buckingham's guitar virtuosity. The audience applauded enthusiastically for all three of my songs, as they did for the several performers after me. Top-notch entertainment, and I was proud to be part of it. It seemed to me that the audience was especially attentive to the music that night, which is not always the case.

August 23, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Day trip to eastern Virginia / Chesapeake Bay

On Saturday, Jacqueline and I went for a day trip to the eastern part of Virginia along the Chesapeake Bay, one of those destinations we had planning for a long time. It was a combination of interest in the history of the Old Dominion, wanting to see some different scenery, enjoying fresh seafood, and (in my case) watching birds in the wetlands along the Chesapeake Bay; see the separate wild birds blog post. We accomplished most of our objectives.

We began the morning by heading east on I-64 past Charlottesville, and taking the I-295 bypass around the north side of Richmond. But on the east side of the city, where I-295 rejoins I-64, we encountered a traffic delay of 15-20 minutes, which was quite annoying. So, at the first opportunity, we got off the congested I-64 and took the back roads through New Kent County. We stopped in the town of New Kent to see the historic court house and other features. A local gentleman greeted us, and explained the history of the "ordinary" across the street, a kind of tavern in which there is a set price for all meals.

New Kent monument, ordinary

New Kent monument to fallen soldiers from the Civil War, and the historic "ordinary" across the street. "Lest we forget: Pamunkey Rifles, Barhamsville Grays, New Kent Cavalry."

We continued east, passing the two Indian communities in that part of the state: Pamunkey and Mattaponi. Soon we were passing over a high bridge into the town of West Point, and then crossing another high bridge. I learned that that town is a small port for commercial transport vessels, and a terminal point for a railroad line. After a few miles I decided to turn right, toward the southeast, and we arrived in the town of Gloucester about 15 minutes later. That was a very good decision, as the town was full of charming shops, restaurants, and historical sites. I was busy with my camera. Of particular note is Court Circle, around which the main street traverses, with several ancient brick buildings and a Civil War monument in the middle. After a very satisfying lunch at Olivia's Restaurant, we headed northeast, crossing the Rappahannock River along the very high and wide (two miles) Robert O. Norris bridge, named for a legislator who eventually became President pro tempore of the state Senate. (

Robert O. Norris Bridge

The Robert O. Norris Bridge, over the Rappahannock River.

I did not realize it at the time, but there are apparently serious concerns over the structural integrity of that bridge, which was built in 1957; see Anyway, that took us from Lancaster County into Middlesex County, into the part of the state known as the "Northern Neck," between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. We stopped for ice cream in the town of Kilmarnock, and I briefly explored a nature trail along a lily-covered pond on the north side of town.

After a few more miles, we left the main highway (Route 200) and ventured east toward the Chesapeake Bay shoreline, arriving at Hughlet Point Natural Area after a while. I went exploring while Jacqueline rested, and she had a good reason for not joining me: Biting flies were everywhere! A boardwalk trail led through a dense wooded area, which opened up as the soil turned to sand. I could hear the waves, and rushed over to the beach, the first time I have been to the sea [or in this case, an appendage thereof] in nearly two years. That was nice. Then I trotted southward along a trail parallel to the beach, arriving at one of the observation platforms after five minutes or so. I was swatting away flies the whole miserable time along the trail. I was using insect repellant, but obviously not enough.

Next we headed north to the Dameron Marsh Natural Area, about ten miles to the north. It was a little trickier to get to, with a gravel road as the only access. The observation platform there was closer to the parking area than at Hughlet Point, so that saved some time, but the biting flies were just as bad. With lush marsh grasses everywhere around, this was a somewhat more photogenic spot than Hughlet Point. In the distance, I could see the port town of Reedville. But it was getting late in the afternoon, so I had to leave in a hurry.

Dameron Marsh

Dameron Marsh Natural Area, an Osprey, and the Chesapeake Bay beyond.

We headed north again, and stopped for gas in the town of Wicomico Church, where I took some photos. The church itself (as opposed to the surrounding town) is an Episcopal Church, which is typical in that very Anglo-Saxon, very established part of the Old Dominion. After crossing the Wicomico River, we came upon U.S. Route 360, which terminates just a few miles east of that corner in the town of Reedville. That is where the ferry boat to the island community of Tangier docks. (Maybe we'll go there next time.) Instead, we turned left, toward the west.

We were looking for steamed crabs to take home with us, and finally spotted a van with "Mr. Crab" in big letters. BINGO! The vendor (an African-American) was very nice, giving us a special price since all the big-sized crabs had been sold, and added a few extras to the dozen that we paid for. We had a great meal the next day! When I lived in Northern Virginia back in the 1980s, we used to eat at Ernie's Crab House in Arlington, and it has been years since I have eaten whole steamed crabs like that. Yum!!! Anyway, we passed through the town of Heathsville and then Callao, where I took a bunch of photos of various stores. Why? Because Callao is the name of the port district of Lima, Peru, where Jacqueline grew up. smile

From there we passed through the town of Warsaw (!), after which the highway turned toward the southwest, re-crossing the Rappahannock River into the town of Tappahannock. There is a nature preserve on the north side of the river, which might be worth visiting again some time. Eventually we reached the I-295 bypass outside of Richmond, and from there retraced our path back to Staunton. Quite exhausted, we had a good night's sleep. After looking at the state map the next day, I determined that we visited nine (9) counties for the very first time:

  1. King and Queen
  2. King William
  3. Gloucester
  4. Matthews
  5. Middlesex
  6. Lancaster
  7. Northumberland
  8. Richmond
  9. Essex

It was in Northumberland County that we saw most of the birds that day. Other photos from our trip can be seen on the new Chronological photo gallery (2016) page, which will eventually encompass all years back to 2003. (It is part of a general website reorganization project of mine.) That page also includes several more photos that I took at Swannanoa Palace one week earlier.

Major world languages

Language 2002
Chinese * 874 # 1,213
Spanish * 322 329
English * 341 328
Arabic ? 221
Hindi 366 # 182
Bengali 207 181
Portuguese 176 178
Russian * 167 144
Japanese 125 122
German 100 90

# : 2004 data for Chinese pertained only to Mandarin speakers, whereas data for Hindi speakers were defined more broadly.
Asterisks (*) denote the official languages of the United Nations, which also includes French (68 million speakers).

SOURCE: The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 & 2012

I speak Spanish, some Portuguese, and have dabbled in German, French, Italian, Russian, Catalan, and Quechua.

Major world religions

Religion 2002
Christians 2,038 2,281
Muslims 1,226 1,553
Hindus 828 943
Chinese folk 389 454
Buddhists 364 463
Sikhs 24 24
Jews 14 15
Local, other 32 379
Non-religious 925 798

The obvious discontinuities in the last two lines of data are of uncertain origin.

SOURCE: The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 & 2012

I belong to the Episcopal Church and am annoyed at the recent polarization. According to a Theology quiz, I scored as a "Classical Liberal."

Ten Commandments

  1. Worship ONE God only
  2. No graven images
  3. No taking God's name in vain
  4. Keep Sabbath day holy
  5. Honor parents
  6. No stealing
  7. No murder
  8. No adultery
  9. No bearing false witness
  10. No coveting what others have

Seven deadly sins

  1. Pride
  2. Covetousness
  3. Lust
  4. Anger
  5. Gluttony
  6. Envy
  7. Sloth

Proverbs 6: 16-19

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies,
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Romans 12: 17, 21

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.

Serenity Prayer

Reinhold Niebuhr was a leading theologian of the mid-20th Century, and often wrote about foreign policy from a "Christian realist" perspective. From

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.