Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Robert E. Lee's Artist Father-in-law

George Washington Parke Custis' Arlington House

IMG_2699 The columns of Arlington House.

George Washington Parke Custis was the Father-in-law of Robert E. Lee. He built Arlington House as a tribute to his step-grandfather George Washington. The hallway features frescoes above the doorways that Custis painted of hunt scenes.

IMG_2828Hounds pursue a rabbit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cherry Blossoms in Washington

A Cold Morning by the Tidal Basin---------------------- _________________________IMG_2815 Cherry blossoms frame the Jefferson Memorial. Photo by Bob Kirchman. We have been working at Fort Meyer and stopped over in Washington to see the Japanese cherry trees. They seemed really beautiful this year. More Photos [click to view].

Friday, March 25, 2011

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume III, Issue XIII

Remember the Barbary Pirates?

Jefferson's Muslim problem came about long before the current issue of the 'other' weekly news magazine asked of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi: "What if he doesn't go?"

The real question is how long will it take for us to realize what a bad idea it is to diminish America's reputation for strength and decisiveness in world situations.

At the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, America faced the threat of North African pirates who captured our ships and imprisoned their crews. Jefferson was advised by other nations to pay tribute money like they did in order to protect our sailors. He sent the Marines instead.

The rest is history and Tripoli is still remembered in the story of our Nation's beginnings. A Century later, the White Fleet would circle the globe. America stood in the way of the National Socialists as they sought to take over Europe. Then she stood in the way of the Communists. More often than not, American strength has stood in the way of tyrannies that would render the world we live in a very bleak place.

Concert at Christ Lutheran Church

An Evening of Beautiful Music Offered to the LORD

The organ at Christ Lutheran Church in Staunton.

Tonight my lovely wife and I were treated to an evening of beautiful music played by Jonathan Greer, organist for Christ Lutheran Church. He performed beaurtifully pieces by J. S. Bach, Theodore Dubois and Louis Vierne.

After a wonderful offering of organ pieces, he sang a duet with Laney Riley (my muralist friend) of "Nella Fantasia." His tenor voice and her soprano blended beautifully to convey these beautiful thoughts:

(English Translation)

In my fantasy I see a just world,
Where everyone lives in peace and honesty.
I dream of souls that are always free
Like the clouds that float
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

In my fantasy I see a bright world
Where each night there is less darkness.
I dream of spirits that are always free,
Like the clouds that float
Fullof humanity in the depths of the soul

In my fantasy exists a warm wind,
That blows into the city, like a friend.
I dream of souls that are always free,
Like the clouds that float
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

We've Been Dating 32 Years Today!

One Really Great Thing that Happened in 1979

Old Rag
My lovely wife and I climbed Old Rag together! Photo by Maggie Stein.

Today I celebrate the anniversary of my first date with the most amazing and lovely human being that I know. I first met Pam at the little church we both attended in Charlottesville. We became friends largely through the ministry of Louise Via, a woman who loved to encourage young people and had a potluck supper in her home. Little did we know that G-d was to use Mrs. Via as a matchmaker for several couples... including us!

In fact, some of us guys found our inner chivalrous selves around Louise and the beautiful young women she befriended. One evening I found myself shovelling snow from Mrs. Via's steps for the sheer joy of service! I had no idea what the LORD was up to. Ulterior motives?, Nah, I was ready to head for Alaska. Maybe working in an oil camp or some adventure was what my restless soul needed.

Our friends Coy and Nancy were already engaged (Louise's magic at work). He was in school in Atlanta now and she was working at UVA medical center. One evening Nancy's car wouldn't start. I went to see if I could start it with Nancy and Pam. Coy was coming in for the weekend so when he showed up later that evening... I was taking my future bride home.

Now, dear reader, I must take issue with anyone who would deny that G-d is a romantic of the strongest type! As both of us conversed about our past unrequited loves, a spark of out-of-the box Divine Epiphany took hold. I asked her out!

We went to dinner at Sal's Italian Restaurant in Shopper's World on 29 North. Imagine us at Maria's or Scotto's. Emilio's would be way too fancy compared to Sal's. We went to see Norma Rae with Sally Field... a movie that begins with beautiful shots of mill interiors and chronicles the early attempts to unionize Southern America's now largely defunct textile industry.

What started out as a nice evening shared with a beautiful friend has gone on for 32 years now. I asked her to go hiking with me. We walked from Milam Gap to Hoover Camp and ate sandwiches that I made for the occasion. I really enjoyed being in the woods with her.

I brought her daffodils. She accused me of stealing them out of someone's yard! We started spending a lot of time together. Alaska would just have to wait.

Our friends Coy and Nancy needed to move her furniture to Atlanta. We packed it into the back of my large black Ford pickup and Pam and I drove it to Georgia.

I wanted to show Pam Stone Mountain. My college friends and I had visited this granite mountain a number of times. We rode the tram to the top and walked down.

We got caught in the rain... a sudden storm drenched us. We were laughing and walking down the trail when I said to her: "I want you to be my wife!" She replied: "I want you to be my husband!" Then she asked: "Does this mean we're engaged?" I assured her that it did... I didn't have a ring yet; this was totally a Divinely inspired moment.

We were married on May 24, 1980.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Virginia Woman Killed in Tsunami

After Quake She was Reuniting Parents and Children

Taylor Anderson

RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement today as the family of Chesterfield teacher Taylor Anderson was informed that her remains had been discovered in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami, making her the first American confirmed to have been killed in the natural disasters.

“It is with great sadness that we learned today of the tragic loss of Taylor Anderson, the selfless young teacher from Chesterfield County who has become the first American known to be killed in the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. We have watched the events unfold in Japan with heavy hearts and compassion for all of those who were impacted in this significant natural disaster. The discovery of Taylor’s body earlier today brings home to Central Virginia the emotions and impact of these terrible events that we have watched unfold on television. We have held out hope that this graduate of St. Catherine’s School and Randolph-Macon College would be found alive and well. And, we have prayed for her family during the difficult time of uncertainty since Taylor was last seen leaving the school where she taught English to Japanese students following the earthquake. Fittingly, she was last seen helping parents safely reunite with their children following the earthquake, an act which illustrates her dedication to her students and to the Japanese people she served. Today we join the Anderson family in mourning the loss of a wonderful young Virginian who personified the selflessness and sense of duty that Americans serving abroad have become known for. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Taylor’s family and friends during this difficult time. ”

Miracles are All Around Us

Keep Your Eyes Open... G-d has Wonders to Show You

"People can't see who the real G-d is because they can't see the simple miracles around them anymore." -- Laney Riley
Photo by Bob Kirchman.

by Walt Whitman

WHY! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love—or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds—or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down—or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best—mechanics, boatmen,
Or among the savans—or to the soiree—or to the opera,
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,
Or behold children at their sports,
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman,
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring—yet each distinct, and in its place.

To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass—the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women, and all that
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.

To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the ships, with men
What stranger miracles are there?

Coal Fired Fashion Fantasies

The Gown And the Volt Share this in Common

Coal Fired Fashion! Photo by Laney Riley.

Consumer Reports Tests Coal Powered Car

Most of our electricity is generated by coal fired power plants. That is not news. April's Consumer Reports got its hands on a Chevy Volt. I eagerly opened the magazine to see the bastion of consumer information's opinion of the newest coal fired automobile. To my surprise, there were no big surprises.

The volt is a plug-in hybrid. (Think 'Hack your Prius' technology here). You charge it up by plugging it in to your electric service overnight. The car claims to offer 25 to 50 miles of range on this charge, then a gasoline generator kicks in and extends the range to about 300 miles. Consumer reports has been getting the low end of the electric only range: 23 -28 miles. To be fair, they blame the low distance on the unusually cold winters. They say: "The car's electric range is very susceptible to cold weather, primarily because the heater runs on electricity. We also found that an extended highway cruise shortens the electrical range."

Obviously your driving needs will determine how efficient the Volt is for you.

Mike lives in Fishersville and works in Charlottesville. He has a mountain between him and his place of employment. Most days he'll be lucky to get to Crozet on his electric charge. Then he'll be getting about 30mpg. I'll cruise by him in my 1991 Mazda getting around 38. Since electricity isn't free, I doubt Mike would get any real savings from buying a Volt.

Consumer Report's Volt cost them $48,700. I paid several thousand for the Mazda. Who's ahead, especially when you consider the Volt's heavy government subsidies?

Consumer Reports concludes: "So far, the Volt works as an electric car with a gas backup, but it's not really much of a money saver in many places. Cheaper electricity or more expensive gas could tip the scales in its favor. For now, it seems that owning a Volt is an expensive way to be green." -- a FASHION STATEMENT, perhaps?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume III, Issue XII

A (Very) Brief History of Resilience

Today our hearts go out to the Japanese people as they face a crisis of enormous proportions. History tells us of how the Japanese people have faced massive devastation before and created the 'Japanese Miracle' in the face of it.

It is interesting to note that the one nation on Earth to actually experience nuclear devastation uses nuclear energy to such a great extent that most of its power needs are supplied by reactors.
One must be careful to do honest assessments of the risks and dangers involved without falling prey to those who would exploit disasters to inhibit energy production. We need to improve our methods in deep water oil production and design better backup procedures for cooling nuclear facilities, but that does not mean we cannot use them at all.

In the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the administration shut down ALL production. Governor McDonnell of Virginia speaks directly to such overreaction:

“Virginia’s efforts to become the energy capital of the East Coast include innovative, safe and affordable plans for investment in nuclear energy, coal, offshore exploration for oil and natural gas, and offshore wind energy development. It will only be through a combination of these energy sources that the nation will be able to meet its energy demands and curtail its dependence upon foreign oil. Our plans to develop Virginia’s offshore oil and natural gas supplies have been thwarted by the Obama administration’s failure to include drilling 50 miles off the coast of Virginia in the five-year lease plan. Once again, rising gas prices are hurting families and small businesses due to the shortsightedness of overzealous federal regulators.”

More importantly, the unwillingness of the administration to allow domestic energy production makes for a dangerous situation as America must depend on energy sources in unstable areas of the world and pay premium prices for them... putting our national security at risk.

This is not acceptable.

Hall of Industry
The Hiroshima Prefecture Hall of Industry was gutted by the nuclear explosion. Photo by Bob Kirchman.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Today a bustling city surrounds Hiroshima's Peace Park. Photo by Bob Kirchman.

Close to the turn of the Century a number of American cities burned to the ground. In 1904 the city of Baltimore burned to the ground. San Francisco's great earthquake and the Chicago fire are more well known, but the fact remains that great disasters have affected much of the world throughout history and America has seen her share too.

Hurricane Katrina is often compared to Camille. In 1969 Hurricane Camille came inland and poured torrents of rain upon Nelson County Virginia. This severe drenching caused entire mountainsides to move and many died in the massive mudslides.

Lovingston, the county seat, was cut off from the outside world by musdslides. VDOT had recently completed a four lane bypass of US 29 around Lovingston which was quickly turned into an airstrip for rescue and relief operations. Today US 29 has been rebuilt and Nelson County is a beautiful place to visit. One can still see the scars in the mountains from the great mudslides though.

After the great fire, Chicago rebuilt herself. The early Twentieth Century saw the 'Cities Beautiful' movement recreate the centers of our great metropolises.

Our prayers are with the Japanese people at this time. We pray for their courage, strength and determination as they write the next chapter in the story of human resilience.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thinking Outside the Box...

...Inside a Pipe Organ at Ft. Meyer, Virginia

Xaver Wilhelmy is restoring this 1935 Möller Organ in place at Old Post Chapel in Ft. Meyer. We are working right next to the Arlington National Cemetary.

Here I am after a morning of removing old leather. Photo by Xaver Wilhelmy.

Cleaning under the wind chest. All the valves have been removed for restoration in the shop. Photo by Xaver Wilhelmy.

Spring buds in Arlington National Cemetary.

Murder of Innocents in Israel

The World Ignores the Massacre of the Fogel Family

The victims of a knife wielding terrorist.

Dennis Prager [click to read] in Jewish World Review.

"The human being does not have to learn to hate. It seems to come pretty naturally. Nor does the human being have to learn to murder, steal or rape. These, too, seem to be in the natural human repertoire of evils.

But the human being does have to learn to hate children and babies, and to regard the torture and murder of them as morally desirable acts. It takes years of work to undo normal protective human attitudes toward children.

That is precisely what the Nazis did and what significant parts of the Muslim world have done to the word "Jew." To them, the Jew is not just sub-human; the Jew — and his or her children — is sub-animal." -- Dennis Prager

Caroline B. Glick [click to read] in Jewish World Review.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Prayer for the People of Japan

Devastation in Northern Japan

Japanese Maple
Maple leaves open like an origami crane.

In my garden there are two Japanese maple trees. Every time I look upon them I think of the two wonderful visits to that land. Today I pray for the people of that beautiful land... as they struggle through this time of unthinkable devastation.

Last night I learned that a couple we know who lie near Narita is safe. They didn't even lose their power. Still, the news images of swaying buildings and destructive waves tells me that many lives have been devastated. Pray for the people of Japan.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thyme Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume III, Issue XI

You're Being Tracked.... Search Engine Stalkers

It is not news that the internet search engines are on a mission to know all about you, nor is it news that this information is analyzed, traded and sold. The story is about the rights of ordinary citizens in the 'information age.'

Some information is simply private. The 'other' weekly news magazine this week says: "You're being watched, your information is being sold. Get used to it."

No, thank you. Certainly most data, such as what coffee you prefer, is harmless market study; but there comes a point where the computer search engines begin to look like the telescreen from 1984. The rights of individuals cannot be ignored in this 'brave new world.'

Space Shuttle Launch from an Airplane

Here is a rare sight, the space shuttle taking off as seen from an airliner. Tuesday night I got to see the shuttle pass over Staunton thanks to a visitor we had from the Stokesville Observatory speaking to a 4H group that meets at our church. ht/Joy

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The First Celebration of Commmunion...

...on the Moon! Apollo Astonaut Remembers

Forty years ago two human beings changed history by walking on the surface of the moon. But what happened before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong exited the Lunar Module is perhaps even more amazing, if only because so few people know about it.

Apollo 11 Lifts off on its way to the moon.


Armstrong after the famous first steps on the moon.

These photos are from The Apollo Archive, one of the best collections of NASA photos I have ever seen. Click Here to enjoy many more fine photos taken by our astronauts.

Friday, March 4, 2011

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume III, Issue X

Still First in Freedom to Many in this World

The ‘other’ weekly news magazine is celebrating... er, I mean reporting that America is in decline. I say the ‘reports of her death are greatly exaggerated.’

When the thirteen colonies broke away from England in 1776 they were no world power, yet the Constitutional government they hammered out in the naiscant days of the United States was to become a light for the rest of the world.

True, we no longer possess the tallest building and the strongest economy. Our young people are woefully undereducated in the story of America’s foundations... but those foundations are still to be found, and in many cases they are amazingly strong.

Only about a third of our original citizens favored the Revolution. Another third were Tories and the rest didn’t care. The percentages haven’t changed all that much in recent years. Witness the Tea Party movement. It is substantial, yet there is still a firmly entrenched liberal faction that resists them in our halls of government. Political campaigns are largely targeted at the ‘undecided’ voters... that really don’t care enough to educate themselves and form their own opinions.

The great nation that De Toqueville observed in the Nineteenth Century was no world power, but she allowed the influence of Faith and Virtue to mold her people in ways that would serve her well in difficult days. She was not untouched by sin. Human slavery was institutionalized and events like the removal of the Cherokee Nation are dark chapters in our national conscience, but the values that are our foundations tell us that these chapters are repugnant.

In the 1860’s, our nation was almost destroyed by a vicious Civil War. We survived that period and entered the Twentieth Century. A number of our major cities burned completely to the ground in the first decade of that century. We found the will and means to rebuild them. The ‘Cities Beautiful’ Movement gave us great icons of Classical architecture. The ‘White Fleet’ circumnavigated the world.

Ordinary American boys grew up during the Depression and planted the flag on Mt. Suribachi. General Marshall led the rebuilding of the great cities of Europe.

The sixties brought new challenges as American cities burned and students questioned not only authority, but our foundations as well. Today a lot of these radicals are professors at those same universities. These elites would squander the hard-won peace and prosperity given to them by their fathers. They fail to see the tempering effects of Faith and Virtue. Professing belief in the innate goodness of man, they seek to emasculate America in the mistaken belief that that will allow for the evolution of world societies. The failures of National Socialism and Communism remain unheeded by these thinkers. Still, the Tea Party movement underscores the fact that there is a large group of Americans who have not bought in to their ideas.

These are the leaders of the ‘leaderless movement.’ They are the ones who will look to Faith and Virtue for the perilous days ahead.

The hands planting the flag on Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima.