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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

September 25, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Day trip to West Virginia

Last week (Wednesday, September 19), Jacqueline and I went for an excursion into West Virginia, the first time we had been there together since late June 2010. (I have passed through the "Mountain State" on AMTRAK trains a couple times in recent years, and also while driving to or from the midwest.) But unlike our previous visit, which was focused on the town of Cass and the nearby Cranberry Glades, this time we headed toward the northern part of the state. At one point (while at Dolly Sods) we were actually within about 25 miles of the western tip of Maryland!

On the westbound leg of the trip, we drove along Route 250 into Highland County, making brief stops to enjoy the scenery. At one such stop just west of Monterey, we had a nice view in what I later determined to be the Bluegrass Valley, at the very source of the South Branch of the Potomac River! It is called "Hightown" because it lies along the divide between the Chesapeake Bay watershed (to the north) and the James River watershed (to the south). We also stopped briefly at Bear Mountain, which used to be a regular stop on Augusta Bird Club field trips to that area, and at the West Virginia state line just a few miles farther along the road. (See my separate wild birds blog post for more details.)

Soon after crossing into West Virginia, we turned right onto Route 28. We had planned to have lunch in that area, but at the only eating establishment we found the kitchen was closed that day, so we had to keep driving. Heading in a northeasterly direction, we mostly avoided the high mountain crossings that impede travel when going toward the northwest in the Appalachian mountains. We passed through a picturesque town called Circleville, and stopped to take photos, but not until we reached the crossroads of Route 33 did we find a place to have lunch: the Gateway family restaurant.

A few more miles to the north lay one of our main destinations: Seneca Rocks, a dramatic geoglogical formation that is part of a long chain of rock outcroppings that stretches for many miles. Our plan was to spend time there after reaching the other main destination (Dolly Sods), so we just took a few photos and continued on.

Seneca Rocks

Seneca Rocks, during our second stop there in the late afternoon.

It took another half hour to get to Dolly Sods, a wilderness area that I had been meaning to visit for many years. It was recommended to me by a former housemate and fellow UVa graduate, among others. The name "Dolly Sods" refers to a high-elevation flat pasture land once owned by a German farm family named Dahle. The side road to the top was a little rough for my car, but wouldn't be a problem for an SUV. I was shocked to see a "Road Closed Ahead" sign, but it turned out to be a false warning. I had consulted the National Forest Service website, but had only a vague idea of exactly what to expect there. In essence, it was an exploratory venture. We finally reached the road crossing at the top and soon found an overlook with dramatic views toward the east. There are many rhododendron bushes, fir trees, and other types of vegetation that are associated with northern latitudes. In fact, with an elevation over 4,000 feet, Dolly Sods is considered to be similar to Canada in terms of wildlife. We then drove about a mile south to a picnic area, and I walked for a bit along a couple trails. (I had to take it easy because of a strained Achilles tendon recently diagnosed by a podiatrist.) Finally, we drove a bit further south to the South Prong trail head, which features a boardwalk trail and plenty of birds. That will be one of our main stops the next time we visit. Time was getting late, so we had to leave.

Dolly Sods spruce trees, bog

Dolly Sods spruce trees and bog, along the South Prong trail.

On the way back south, we took some photos of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction project, which we had seen just after passing Seneca Rocks on the way north. There is a large industrial facility which I learned is the "Seneca Compressor Station," a sort of relay point in the pipeline network. I was taken aback that the construction was so close to Seneca Rocks itself, less than a mile away. Supposedly, the vegetation will eventually return to its natural state. I hope so.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline - 2018

Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction, just north of Seneca Rocks.

Finally, we spent about 45 minutes at Seneca Rocks, but just missed the closing of the visitor center. We strolled across a recently-built bridge across the river, took a bunch of photos of the rocks, and then took a look at a historic cabin and garden. It was sunny in the late afternoon, perfect for taking pictures. We wanted to stay longer, but the long trip home dictated that we leave promptly, so we did. To save time, we took a different route on the way back to Staunton, turning east at the intersection with Route 33, which passes through the picturesque town of Franklin. We then drove uphill across the mountain ridge which defines the state line and returned to the Old Dominion as the sun was sinking in the west. By the time we got home it was almost dark. It was a fun and exciting trip, and we hope to go back to that part of West Virginia in the next year or two.

More photos are on the Chronological (2018) photo gallery page.


September 15, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Utter "chaos" at Bedlam Brewing!

In preparing for my latest gig at Bedlam Brewing [a little over two weeks ago (August 31)], it dawned on me that their "embrace the chaos" theme was particularly appropriate for me, so I put an updated version of my "word cloud" on a Mandelbrot Set background. (See my Chaos page for an explanation.) That theme had added meaning, as the show came soon after the 50th anniversary of the the violence in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. Chaos in the streets!

Word cloud Mandelbrot

The "psychedelic" Mandelbrot Set, as an illustration of Chaos Theory.

Indeed, the first four songs I played had a direct connection to the social and political tumult of the late 1960s. "Revolution" and "[Chicago]" both sounded very good, I thought, especially considering I hadn't played either one in public before. "Gimme Shelter" fell short, however, partly because I really didn't practice it enough and partly because I had my songbook binder turned to the wrong page. Likewise, U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" refers in part to [the assassination of] Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968. I started that one a little bit sloppy and then got better. The next three songs were not political but rather had a common theme of loneliness and alienation stemming from the rapid social change of that era. I was really getting into the spirit of things, and they sounded fine.

I was eager to play the tenth song, Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath," which I had done very effectively at a Queen City Brewing open mic event earlier in the summer. But somehow I got started in the wrong key (C minor played as A minor with the capo on the third fret), whereas it is supposed to be F minor played as D minor. I fumbled around for almost 30 seconds before I got it right, which spoiled the building tension that the intro of that song is supposed to yield. The rest of the song was fine, but it could have been better. Next came a CCR tune I have played before and Supertramp's "The Logical Song," which I only learned recently. I closed the first half of the show with three songs by Paul McCartney or the Beatles, and I was pretty happy with how they went. The audience was appreciative and friendly, but there weren't as many folks as I had hoped.

After a ten-minute break, I shifted gears and played three relatively "recent" songs, i.e., ones that have come out since the 1990s. The song "Iris" is familiar to most people, but amazingly enough, until this year I was barely even aware of who the Goo Goo Dolls were! "Rhythm of Love" got hearty applause, as did the next two songs when I went back to the early 1970s. Then came more songs from that period, including BTO's "Let It Ride," which is not the sort of song one expects of a solo acoustic guitarist. I had fun with that one, and did pretty well on Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" as well. The intro part wasn't 100% clean, but it was close.

For the final portion of the show, I shifted gears once again, with somewhat more serious song themes. The Moody Blues' "The Voice" sounded fine, but the only Ozark Mountain Daredevils song I played ("It's How You Think") didn't elicit as much audience response as I had hoped. You never know. The late Tom Petty's "Here Comes My Girl" and Sheryl Crow's "My Favorite Mistake" went without a hitch, as did the Eagles' "Lyin' Eyes," which marked the grand finale. Was it the best choice for a last song? I'm not sure. Anyway, I felt good as I thanked the crowd for being there and being good listeners. Then I relaxed with a tasty IPA and chatted with friends for a while before unplugging, packing up, and heading home. In sum, it was a very satisfying night.

Seq.GroupTitleHarmonica?
1BeatlesRevolution
2Bob DylanThe Times They Are A-Changin'G
3Rolling StonesGimme ShelterA
4Graham NashChicago
5U 2Pride (In the Name of Love)
6Simon & GarfunkleAmerica
7Bee GeesLonely Days
8AmericaLonely PeopleD
9Jethro TullLocomotive Breath
10Creedence Clearwater RevivalI Heard It Through the GrapevineC
11SupertrampThe Logical SongBb
12Paul McCartneyUncle Albert / Admiral HalseyG
13BeatlesA Day In the Life
14BeatlesCome TogetherC
15Goo Goo DollsIrisG
16Gin BlossomsFollow You DownG
17Plain White T'sRhythm of Love
18Doobie BrothersListen To The Music
19EaglesTake It To the Limit
20KansasDust In The WindG
21Fleetwood MacBlue Letter
22Bachman Turner OverdriveLet It Ride
23Pink FloydWish You Were Here
24Moody BluesThe VoiceG
25Ozark Mountain DaredevilsIt's How You Think
26Tom PettyHere Comes My Girl
27Sheryl CrowMy Favorite Mistake
28EaglesLyin' EyesG

Some of my friends at the show complimented me on the song selection, which I appreciated. I always put a lot of effort into choosing songs and putting them together in an appropriate way. I was conscious of the need not to waste time between songs, and played for a little over two hours altogether: I started five minutes late, took a ten minute break, and finished about 20 minutes after 10:00 PM. I only left out one song from my planned set list: "Invisible Sun" by The Police. The above set list will eventually be incorporated into the recently-compiled "public repertoire" table on my Music page.

As for future shows at Bedlam Brewing, it will probably be at least three months hence because of the modest turnout that evening. I really need to promote my shows more actively if I'm going to get music gigs on a regular basis.

Recent open mic events

I couldn't even remember for sure if I had been to the open mic event on August 1, but after looking at my Facebook archives, I saw that Fritz Horisk tagged me as one of the performers that night, so I must have been [there]. smile After looking through my repertoire spreadsheet and song lyric documents (dated by when I saved them, implying that's when I learned them), I figured out with reasonable certainty what I played that night. As I recall, I did OK for the most part, but missed some of the words on the last song, which I was just learning. As usual, the hashtag symbols ( # ) refer to my use of the harmonica (along with the guitar), and the asterisks indicate songs that I played for the first time in public.

On August 8 there was a virtually full slate of performers, including John Dull, who has become a regular at the QCB open mic nights, specializing in Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, one of my favorite groups. For the first time, I heard Sissy Hutching and Travis Weaver, the new proprietors of Fretwell Bass, the music store that I frequent in downtown Staunton. They sounded great together. Of the two "new" songs I played, "It's Too Late" was the more technically challenging, and I was happy I did pretty well on it. "Daniel" could have been a little better; it's one of those songs that is hard for me to sing in the original key. As usual, the hashtag symbol ( # ) refers to my use of the harmonica, along with guitar.

After missing the next week, on August 22 I called attention to the anniversary of the solar eclipse in the first song, and also the appearance of three planets in the southern skies: Venus, Mars, and Saturn. (I'm not aware of any song about the Ringed Planet.) "Venus and Mars" led logically to two other Paul McCartney tunes, which sounded pretty darned good if I do say so myself. The encore ("Us and Them") was not quite as good as I would have liked, somewhat annoying since I have practiced it so much.

I was unable to play on August 29 because of a hospital visit, which fortunately did not impinge upon my big show on August 31. At my next open mic appearance on September 5 I played some of the same songs I had done at Bedlam on the Friday before (see above), noting the 50th anniversary of the the violence in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. All the songs went very well, except that I switched octaves while singing "Chicago," and that probably sounded a little off. Getting the guitar riff and vocals on "The Logical Song" was a minor triumph, and it got some nice applause. For the "encore" song I picked a standard Eagles tune that I had only done there once before, and it was also very well received.

And this past Wednesday night (September 12), I followed up with more Eagles songs, since people really liked "Take It To the Limit" the week before. Percussionist Craig Austin joined me on "Witchy Woman" and "Strange Way," which helped a lot. I had a hard time singing two of my "new" songs ("Hollywood Waltz" and "Madman Across the Water") in a consistent octave, so I'll have to work on that. Attendance by musicians and regular patrons was down compared to recent weeks, so we each had more time to play songs. The first two ["encore" songs] went well, as did the third, [a first-time public song for me,] "Tin Man." If I recall correctly, it was only the second song by America that I have played in public.

The hashtag symbols ( # ) refer to my use of the harmonica (along with the guitar), and the asterisks indicate songs that I played for the first time in public.


August 23, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Weekend trip to Annapolis

Jacqueline and I paid a visit to Annapolis on Saturday and Sunday, the first time we had been there in over 20 years. It was starting to rain as we left Staunton, but it stopped as soon as we crossed the Blue Ridge. Nevertheless, the skies remained overcast until about noon on Sunday. Not wanting to waste time, we resisted my temptation to stop at some of the Civil War battlefield sites along the way -- Wilderness, Chancellorsville, and Fredericksburg. The heavy traffic upon entering the latter city slowed us down, and I briefly got turned around while trying to make all the right turns on the east side of town. As we approached the town of Dahlgren (home of a U.S. Navy installation) we encountered a massive traffic jam, and it was agonizing stop-and-go pace for the four or so miles leading up to the Potomac River bridge on Route 301. Apparently, it was all because of an incident involving a car that had been stopped by police at the top of the bridge. There was no toll booth in the northbound direction, so that had no effect.

After crossing the bridge, we stopped at the Maryland welcome center, and got lots of good information. We passed through the towns of La Plata, Waldorf, Upper Marlboro, and then Bowie before turning east on Route 50. Soon we were in Annapolis, and drove straight to downtown where we became oriented and began looking for a place to eat dinner -- seafood, of course. There was a long line and waiting time of well over an hour at a restaurant in the Eastport area (across a bridge from central Annapolis), so we had to look elsewhere. Eventually, we ended up at Cantler's Riverside Inn, a big seafood establishment that lived up to its fine reputation. It's located in a nice riverside residential neighborhood east of the Severn River, isolated from other businesses. At least one hundred customers filled the inside and patio dining areas. We got a half dozen large steamed hard-shell crabs, a delicacy I had not savored for years. It was a bit pricey (thanks in part to a shortage of labor due to the Trump administration's tightened immigration policy, according to the Washington Post), but well worth it for a special occasion.

On Sunday morning, we had a hearty breakfast (waffle and French toast) at Grump's, a diner/bar with lots of "character," favored by local folks. It was friendly and much more enjoyable than a chain restaurant would have been. Then we headed downtown (which is extremely congested) and parked at a public lot, and started walking around. We headed north along some narrow streets lined with quaint houses built in the 19th Century, many with eccentric paint schemes. It's obviously highly coveted real estate. After a brief stop at the Maryland State House (i.e., the capitol building), we headed back south along a different street.

Next we decided to take a boat tour of the Annapolis harbor. (Two close encounters with birds occurred during that tour, described in a separate blog post.) Then we headed east along the south side of the U.S. Naval Academy campus, turning left at the corner and following the east side of the campus almost to the new (1996) bridge that crosses the Severn River. Then we passed some Navy facilities on the east bank of that river, turned east toward all the sailboat marinas in the Eastport area, where we had been late in the preceding afternoon. After about 45 minutes we completed the circuit and docked back in the harbor. It was very interesting and lots of fun.

After the boat ride, we walked northward once again, but this time along Main Street, which of course is where most of the businesses are located. We reached the State House, took a slight detour to nearby St. Anne's Church and the Government House (the historic residence of the governor), and I took some more photos of the State House as well. The sun had emerged by then, but conditions were still very hazy, making it hard to get good photos. The warming temperatures were an inducement for us to indulge in some ice cream. Finally, we went to the U.S. Naval Academy visitors center and saw a film about the life of cadets [midshipmen]* there. It was very inspiring, and a fitting end to our visit. On our way out of Annapolis I stopped to get a photo of the iconic Main Chapel and the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, home of the Navy football team. GO NAVY!

Annapolis montage

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The tower above the Maryland State House (south side), the Government House, U.S. Naval Academy Main Chapel, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, boats at dock, the Annapolis Federal House, and in center, quaint townhouses on Fleet Street.

It was a much shorter trip than our brief visit to see the solar eclipse in Tennessee last August, and to my surprise, we made it there and back on a single tank of gas! Full-size photos of the images seen above, and many more photos, are on the Chronological (2018) photo gallery. NOTE: I have recently upgraded that page, so that you can see full-size images of the standard landscape orientation by clicking on the photos, and then returning to small size by clicking again. Photos in a vertical ("portrait") orientation are now handled differently, hopefully making navigation and browsing easier.

* Thanks to Peter Van Acker for the correction.


August 9, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Highlights from a few "recent" day trips

Now that school has resumed for many people (way too early, I think) it's a good time for a "what I did on my summer vacation" exercise. And so I present a brief summary of various day trips that Jacqueline and I have taken to various places in the region over the past nine months or so. (There have been no long-distance or overseas trips to report on this year, and the last blog post I did about travel was on October 6, 2017: "Washington weekend in review.") Last weekend, as described in the final section below, we went to the small towns of Brownsburg and Goshen in Rockbridge County, about 25-30 miles south of here. But the following summary will proceed in chronological order, beginning with our trip to Lexington last November. The other big highlights for this year are Charlottesville (March and April) and Washington, D.C. (including Arlington), in May.

This is another case of me trying to get caught up with various website chores lately. Part of what took so much time for this particular task (travel photos) was figuring out a smooth transition to incorporating higher-resolution photos on my Chronological photo gallery page. Since last year I have begun posting higher-resolution photos: 1200 x 800 pixels, rather than 600 x 400 pixels as I had been doing since 2008 or so. (That's when I got my first high-quality digital camera.)

Nov. 26, 2017: Lexington

On the last Sunday last November, Jacqueline and I drove down to the quaint and historic small city of Lexington, our first visit there in at least a decade. Given that it's only about 45 miles away, I'm surprised we don't go there more often. It happened to be Thanksgiving weekend, so the town was devoid of students and thus very quiet. Our first stop was at Grace Episcopal Church, which had been renamed from "Robert E. Lee Memorial Church" in August, just three months before we visited. (See religionnews.com.) After a fine lunch at Macado's Restaurant, we strolled along the streets of downtown Lexington. The brick sidewalks have a number of embedded engraved stones which bear the names of famous alumni of VMI, such as General George S. Patton. We stopped briefly at Stonewall Jackson House, which is near the Red Hen Restaurant, which gained national notoriety last month (July) after President Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was refused service there.

Washington and Lee University

Washington Hall, the center of Washington and Lee University.

Next we explored the Washington and Lee University (WLU) campus, which was one of our primary destinations. Our first stop was Lee Chapel, where Lee's body is interred, and we were very impressed by the history of the building and the institution. Lee customarily sat in the front pew on the left, we learned. The chapel is not used for regular religious services any more, however. Directly across from the chapel, perched along a long slope, is the defining structure of the University, Washington Hall. In back of it is the main quad, surrounded by classic brick buildings of a similar architectural style. But space is limited, as a steep slope further west descends into a wooded ravine, on the other side of which some of the athletic facilities are located. We then passed the James Graham Clyburn Library, which reminded me of Clemons Library at the University of Virginia, since both are relatively modern and built on steep slopes such that the ground level on one side is at least three floors below that of the other side.

Virginia Military Institute 2017

The Stonewall Jackson barracks at Virginia Military Institute. (NOTE: Other photos from Lexington can be seen at the 2017 Chronological photo gallery.)

Immediately to the north of WLU is Virginia Military Institute (WMI), renowned as the "West Point" of the South. There the architectural style is likewise distinctive: tan-colored fortress-like structures with parapets all along the rooftops. It's not just for show, as the cadets of VMI did indeed defend their institution from invading Yankee forces in June 1864, but were soon overcome. VMI buildings were burned by the conquering Union Army. I tried to find out whether the VMI museum and visitor center was open, but there was no one to ask. (We should have inquired at the southern gate where we entered.) I was fascinated by the arrangement of the buildings around the central field where the cadets train, and took lots of photos. This apparently raised suspicion, as we were questioned by security officers, just to make sure. Finally, we drove over to the football stadium to take some more photos, and were soon on our way home. We stopped for a quick libation at Devil's Backbone Brewing, located a few miles north of town, the first time we had been there. Passing through a historical site at Church Hill, a few miles farther to the north along Route 11, we learned that it was the birthplace of Sam Houston, leader of the Texas independence movement. Nearby was the former site of Liberty Hall Academy, which was founded in 1777 and was the origin of Washington College and (eventually) Washington and Lee University. In sum, it was a very enjoyable and educational day for us.

March 23: Highland County

We didn't get out much during the winter months, other than a drive up to the Weyers Cave area on January 23 (when I took a great closeup photo of an American Kestrel), and January 24, when we went to the JMU Arboretum in Harrisonburg. In fact, we missed this year's Highland County Maple Festival, which we try to attend almost every year, but we at least made it to Highland County one week later, on March 23. It was a bright and sunny day, just after one of the big storms we had, and all that white made for some dazzling photos. Unfortunately, there were no craft vendors at all in Monterey, and several of the stores we had hoped to browse were closed that day. So, after buying some bottles of hard cider at the Big Fish Cidery, we drove north toward the town of Blue Grass, crossed into West Virginia for a few miles and then returned to the Old Dominion, stopping at the McDowell Battlefield for a few minutes before proceeding home to Staunton.

Monterey Big Fish Cidery

Monterey's Big Fish Cidery

March 26: Charlottesville

Three days later we drove to Charlottesville to buy tickets for the Don Felder - REO Speedwagon - Styx triple concert on April 4; see my July 19 blog post. Then we went over to nearby Davenport Field (home of the UVA Cavaliers baseball team), where I took some photos of the recently-enlarged grandstand. It was another sunny day, perfect for photos! Then we spent about an hour at the Ivy Creek Nature Area on the north side of town. We used to go hiking along the steep trails there when we lived in Charlottesville in the 1990s. Next we headed downtown to see the controversial Robert E. Lee statue, which had been covered in black for a few months but was uncovered that day. The plastic fences and warning signs around the statue were clear signs that vandalism and/or violence was a real possibility. After more window shopping and sightseeing, we returned home.

Robert E. Lee equestrian statue

The Robert E. Lee equestrian statue in Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park), downtown Charlottesville. Virginia appeals courts have blocked the City Council's attempt to remove that statue and put it elsewhere.

Charlottesville City Hall

Charlottesville City Hall, featuring the likenesses of three presidents who once lived in that area: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.

May 26: Our Nation's Capital

On May 26 we drove up to Northern Virginia to see Jacqueline's brother Roberto, who was visiting the United States for the very first time! Along with her sister Gloria's family, we did some sightseeing in and around Washington. On the Virginia side of the Potomac River, we spent a couple hours at Arlington National Cemetery. It was Memorial Day weekend, and I was afraid that traffic would be intolerable, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected. We saw the Kennedy gravesites (JFK, RFK, & EMK) but were unable to get into the Lee Mansion because of construction activity there. We did quite a bit of walking through sections of the cemetery that I had not previously visited.

John and Jacqueline Kennedy gravesite

John and Jacqueline Kennedy gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.

In Washington, I saw the National Museum of African-American History for the first time since construction on it was completed last year. Then we drove along Constitution Avenue past the Federal Triangle buildings, and took a slight detour so that I could see (and photograph) Capital One Arena, the home of the Washington Capitals hockey team. They had just advanced to the Stanley Cup NHL finals, and a week or so later, they emerged triumphant and the whole city of Washington went nuts in the championship celebration. In the Eastern Market area, we saw the Marine Barracks and had dinner at a Mexican-Salvadoran restaurant called "Las Placitas," and went back home. Finally, we drove past Nationals Park, which was festooned with banners heralding the upcoming MLB All Star Game, and nearby Audi Field, which was then in the final stages of construction. It hosted the inaugural match of the D.C. United soccer team last month.

National Archives building

The National Archives building in Washington. (All photos that day were taken with my iPhone.)

June 10: Manassas battlefield

Two weeks later (June 10), we returned to Northern Virginia and I took my brother-in-law Roberto (and niece Shary) on a visit to the Manassas battlefield. Roberto is fascinated by the American Civil War, but unfortunately the visitor center there had no books in Spanish for sale, merely a one-page typewritten summary of what happened in the two battles that took place there. Nevertheless, Roberto really enjoyed seeing it for himself and imagining the clashing armies. In light of all the recent heated partisan fury over the proper way to remember the Civil War, the battlefield assumed greater significance.

Manassas battlefield cannons

Roberto Jacobs inspects one of the cannons at the Manassas battlefield on June 10. A closeup photo I took of that monument shows the inscription, which must be in honor of Union soldiers from the way it reads:

"In memory of the patriots who fell at Bull Run.
July 21, 1861"

Aug. 4: Brownsburg and Goshen

Finally, last Saturday we drove south and west of Staunton, pausing in Middlebrook and other scenic spots along the way. A mile or so before the town Brownsburg, I was surprised to see a large brick building with a cemetery in back, and learned after stopping that it is the New Providence Presbyterian Church, founded in 1746. The attached three-story building in back is devoted to religious education but is not, as I originally surmised, the site of Brownsburg Academy, which the church built in town during the 1830s. In Brownsburg itself, we took a look at the historic homes and visited the museum which featuring quilts, household items, and artisan products from the 19th Century. The lady there was very friendly.

Brownsburg Museum

Brownsburg Museum.

From Brownsburg we headed west, and I was thinking about finding the location of the set of the 2005 movie War of the Worlds (in which I was cast as an extra!), but the roads were confusing and I decided it was more important to get to the other primary destination, which was the incredibly scenic Goshen Pass. The Maury River cuts through a mountain ridge, and with all the recent rains, the water that day was unusually high. I stopped there during a birding venture last summer, but otherwise we had not been there in almost fifteen years! I convinced Jacqueline that it would be a good picnic spot for the near future, but we were hungry and decided to go straight to the town of Goshen, where we had a nice lunch at a local restaurant. Then we headed northeast, bought some fresh tomatoes and other veggies at a produce stand in the town of Craigsville. (The canteloupe is incredibly tasty!) Finally, we stopped for a few minutes at Augusta Springs, which is one of the renowned birding locations in this area, but not much was happening, so we went home.

Goshen Pass, Maury River

The Maury River passing through the Goshen Pass. (Taken with my iPhone.)

The next day (August 5) we went for a vigorous hike along the Shenandoah Mountain trail, the same place where I had led an Augusta Bird Club field trip on May 26. There weren't many scenic photo ops, but I did take one of all the trees being cut near Braley Pond to make way for the pending Atlantic Coast Pipeline. I posted it on the Chronological (2018) photo gallery, along with many more photos that are available for your enjoyment and/or edification. And now I'm officially up to date with recent travelogues ... another one from three years ago will be posted soon!





Major world languages

Language 2002
(mn)
2010
(mn)
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
(mn)
2010
(mn)
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.

Niebuhr's
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 wikipedia.org:

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.

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