Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Belgian Pavilion from the 1939 Fair

How it Ended Up at Virginia Union University

Belgian Pavilion
The Carillon of the Belgian Pavilion from the 1939 New York World's Fair. You can see it from interstate 95 driving through Richmond.

Constructed of native Belgian materials and designed by Henri van de Velde, the pavilion is a fine example of Art Nouveau architecture. My Mother used to point it out as we drove through Richmond. You could see the tower from the highway.

The exterior of the pavilion featured two large sandstone relief sculptures by Oscar Jespers and Henry Puvrez depicting Belgians at work and the Belgian Congo. These works were impressive in their own right.

But how did this significant piece of international architetural history end up in Richmond? The answer has to do largely with the situation in Europe. By the time the fair closed, Germany had occupied Belgium and the Belgian government was in exile. The original plan to ship the building and its 35 bell carillon back home was no longer possible. The Belgian government in exile decided to seek a fitting home for the building at an American institute of higher learning and Virginia Union University won the honor.

The President of the University, Dr. John Ellison, led the successful effort to raise the funds needed to move the building and the rest is history. The building housed a gymnasium, laboratories and the library. Today it houses athletic offices and a fitness center.

Sandstone relief by Oscar Jespers and Henry Puvrez
Sandstone Relief by Oscar Jespers and Henry Puvrez depicting life in the Belgian Congo.

Sandstone relief by Oscar Jespers and Henry Puvrez
Sandstone Relief by Oscar Jespers and Henry Puvrez of Belgians at Work.

Hiking Elliott's Knob

Augusta's Tallest Mountain Up Close

Fire Tower
The fire tower on top of Elliott's Knob

You can hike to the top of Elliott's Knob from four different directions. I've done it from the old Parkersburg Turnpike South along the ridge. I've come North along the ridge too. I've even come up the trail on the Western face but the trail most people prefer is the one through Falls Hollow. I've done that one more than once.

Here are Pictures [click to view] of the hike up Fall's Hollow. The portion from Virginia Route 42 through Falls Hollow is fairly moderate in difficulty but the trek up the road to the top can be pretty strenuous.

Elliott's Knob
Ice on Elliott's Knob.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Elliott's Knob in Winter

Augusta's Highest Point as Seen from Staunton

Elliotts Knob
Snow still covers Elliott's Knob and outlines the road to the top.

Friday, February 26, 2010

How Bureaucracy Works [Illustrated]

When One Ruling Literally Punches Out Another

Photo by MadBrad.

Historic District Lighting [click to read] from The Real Revo. Finding a way to provide energy efficient, government compliant lighting to an already highly regulated Historic District.

Here Phil has even more examples! The Government Option [click to read] tells it all. Just wait until the government is prescribing your meds!

Winter in Europe

Snow Fell on the Continent as Well

17th December Paris
Paris, France on December 17, 2009. Photo by Nicolas Barcet. Creative Commons License.

Ede, Netherlands on December 21, 2009. Photo by Rasbak. Creative Commons License.

January 7, 2010 Great Britian
January 7th, 2010 NASA photo shows Great Britian covered with a blanket of snow.

How did Freedom Do at the Summit?

Forget Obama vs Republicans, Here's the Real Issue

This Article [click to read] in the Christian Science Monitor makes things clear.

"The issue of the freedom to choose one’s health insurance, treatments, and providers didn’t receive the national attention it deserves. Yet, everyone’s healthcare freedom of choice would be greatly altered through the kind of national health reform put forward by Obama and Democrats."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson

A Lesson in Faith and Leadership

Reverend Peterson

A Man Alone [click to read] by Andrew Klavan in City Journal.

Tiger, Mr. President, here's a spiritual leader who's message you really should consider.

Caleb Leibowitz's Lesson in Prayer

What the 'Prayer Bomber' Can Teach Us

The Prayer Bomber
Caleb Leibowitz

The Gift of the Prayer Bomber [click to read] in Jewish World Review. This young man's respectful desire to honor his Creator should inspire us all to do likewise.

Theatre of the Absurd...

Two Obama Voters on an Escalator


Yankee Phil [click to read] offers this instructive little video. Also you should check out "Gun Safety for Dummies" [click to read] to see why you should exercise caution when "professional" journalists set up photo ops in your shop. The message that goes out may be contrary to that which you actually want to publish.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Real Estate Assessments

New Bill Would Level the Playing Field for Homeowners

By Victoria Cobb

One of the biggest aggravations – and financial hardships – local governments place on taxpaying families is the assessments on their property. Not only are local property tax rates often much too high, the assessments are as well, resulting in a double infliction of financial pain.

Of course, by law, localities must allow homeowners an appeals process if a homeowner thinks the assessment is too high. But, as usual in Virginia, we have laws to remedy a problem that are nothing more than window dressing. In fact, Virginia’s assessment appeals process is counterproductive to a fair appeal. It’s almost like an IRS appeal where you are guilty until proven innocent. In the case of an assessment appeal, you must prove the assessor wrong – he or she has no burden to prove your property is valued at fair market value. It is such a stacked system that most aggrieved families don’t even attempt to appeal and end up paying more than they should of their hard-earned income in local property taxes. [Been there, done that]

Now, we have a chance to reform this overly slanted playing field in favor of the government to a level playing field through legislation patroned by Delegate Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach), HB 570 [click to read]. It passed the House and will be voted on in the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday!

According to the bill’s fiscal impact statement: This bill “would shift the burden of proof from the taxpayer to the assessor when the taxpayer appeals the assessment of real property to a Board of Equalization or to a circuit court, and would remove the presumption that the assessor’s valuation of real property is correct. The assessor would have the burden of proving that the property in question is valued at its fair market value or that the assessment is uniform in its application, or that the assessment is otherwise valid or legal.” Currently, in all such cases, the taxpayer has the burden of proving that the property in question is valued at more than its fair market value – and is “required to produce substantial evidence that the valuation determined by the assessor is erroneous and was not arrived at in accordance with generally accepted appraisal practice in order to receive relief.”

Please contact members of the committee and ask them to report this bill to the floor so that taxpayers, homeowners and families finally can receive a bit of tax fairness.

ACTION: Contact your Senator and ask them to pass HB 570!

Update: Augusta County Weighs In [click to read]. ht/SWAC Girl

The Road Less Travelled

In Virginia the Best Scenery is On Narrow Roads

Calfpasture River
Calfpasture River.

Sunset behind House Mountain in Rockbridge County.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter in the Woods

Laurel Run Trail is a Little Known Jewel

Laurel Run
Laurel Run as seen from Goshen Pass.

On Saturday I attended the memorial service for one of our church's WWII veterans who had just passed away. He was a man with an amazing life. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a very young man and had to eat "a lot of bananas" to meet the weight requirement of 120 pounds! He served as a navigator in the Pacific and his scrapbook was full of pictures of places like Iwo Jima. He couldn't pull out the book without emotion. It was a priviledge when he shared these memories.

In the great war he saw a lot of suffering and devastation. He came home from the war with a renewed faith in G-d and a compassion for others that kept him volunteering at the local food bank well into his eighties!

A sharp color guard from Ft. Lee presented his lovely wife with the flag and we headed to a nice luncheon reception for friends and family.

"So, I'll bet you haven't done much hiking lately" said a friend of mine, a wildlife biologist with Game and Inland Fisheries, as we assembled for lunch. I filled him in on my last hike and assured him I was still getting out some, even with the big snows.

Sunday dawned one of those beautiful days that beckons you to come enjoy the splendor of woods. With the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Drive still snowbound I was itching for an after church adventure but wanted to avoid the crowds at places like Rockfish Gap. I headed to the Southern end of Little North Mountain, looking for my hike.

The Wildlife Management Area is a good bet but many of my favorite pulloffs were not plowed out so I found myself in Goshen Pass, staring at the nicely flowing Maury River at an overlook when a man walked up carrying a Kayak paddle. He introduced himself as "Flip" and asked me if I'd ever been up Laurel Run? No, I hadn't, and his advice led me into one of the most beautiful places I'd ever seen.

It looked like a trout stream out of a magazine. A beautiful little run flowing over rocky terrain through rhododendron awaited me. I wandered up the road beside the stream and soaked it in. A little waterfall tucked in the rhododendron splashed merrily.

The green rhododendron made a wonderful contrast to the white snow. On the way out I met Flip who said "this place is beautiful in the Springtime too." I intend to bring my wife back to see the flowers.

Laurel Run
Laurel Run.

Laurel Run

Laurel Run
A young hemlock contrasts the Winter trees.

Laurel Run
Rocks along the trail.

Laurel Run

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

THYME Magazine, Volume II, Issue VIII
Volume II, Issue VIII

The latest issue of TIME carries the cover headline "Why Washington is Frozen." Of course TIME still does not quite get the fact that that is how the Founding Fathers designed things to work. Their design to maintain a representative republic is holding on by a thread even in the face of one party rule.

CPAC had its best ever attendance, many young faces are in the crowd. The MSM is actually having to treat them as news as there is too much momentum for them to ignore. They look at the differences of opinion in a few areas as "evidence" that the movement is "splintered." Actually it is evidence of a healthy movement. Glenn Beck WANTS people to discuss, dissect, disagree with and generally wrestle with his ideas. Bill Bennett brings a different perspective to the table. Here in all its glory is the diversity so many claim to desire.

Just one year ago the MSM claimed that the Conservative movement had no voice. Today you can hear an entire chorus... with harmony, melody and contrasting notes. The pundits pronounced the movement dead. They forgot to check for a pulse though!

The MSM would do well to stop spewing analysis for a bit and read some history.

The People Have Spoken...

Here's the 14th and E Street traffic camera looking down Pennsylvania Avenue. It shows thousands of Americans, upset with Washington, heading down Pennsylvania Avenue. ht/Michelle Malkin

The Creator has Spoken...

Frozen DC
Here's the camera looking at the big snow storm that shut down Washington!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Where are the Snows of Yesteryear?

A Snowy Walk on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Snowy Parkway
The Parkway, headed toward Humpback Rocks.

The days are growing longer, so when I finished up the day's projects a little early the mountains were calling. The Skyline Drive and the Parkway have been closed since the big January snow so a walk to the William J. Carter Farm was in order.

The Parkway had not been plowed and there were only a few other hearty souls out for a walk... a group of young people from Ohio. They walked a little way down the frozen Parkway but turned back. They were really not prepared for anything more. A lady in a big SUV drove up to the unplowed Parkway... "My GPS says this is the way to Wintergreen? Can you tell me how to get to Wintergreen? I'm in a hurry and I have to meet people there..."

I assured her that her GPS was telling her the right information but on the wrong day. The snow had closed the road and she'd have to take US 250 East to the bottom of the mountain then follow 151 to Nellysford and then go up the mountain again. A kid in the back of the SUV said "can't you just go through that gate?" I assured the youngster that it probably wouldn't be wise, given the size of some drifts I'd seen. Besides, the Park Service takes a dim view of gate crashers... and yes, they can make a federal case of it.

Now I was alone. The snow wasn't too deep but it broke through when you walked. It was a good workout! The isolation was splendid! You could see the old Howardsville Turnpike off to the side of the Parkway and you could imagine what it was like to live in these mountains long ago.

The William J. Carter Farm had been visited by someone on snowshoes a while ago. I went up on the porch of the house where there is always something going on in the Summer. It was quite a contrast. No music, no quilting, and no smoke from the chimney.

I stayed on the porch and enjoyed the solitude for a while. The landscape was covered with snow and all was silent save for an occasional airplane. I thought of that family of eleven being here far from other folks on a snowy day long ago. Cherished handmade toys would help them pass the hours. Story telling by the fire would open worlds of imagination and memory. Had I stepped into their world... a stranger passing through, my tales would connect them to the wider world. There was no internet in 1890! And there was no smoke from the chimney, no family eager for the news of the outside world. There was just their wonderful little house, its walls full of stories it could not tell. The shadows were getting long and it was time to start back.

Snowy Parkway
Milepost Five is the last one before the Visitors' Center.

Visitors' Center
The Visitors' Center.

The William J. Carter Farm

Mountain Farm at Humpback Rocks

Carter House
The log house. Eleven people once lived in this small dwelling.

The chimney.

Chicken Coop
The Chicken House.

In warmer weather this porch is a center of activity.

'Plunder Shed'
The 'plunder shed.'

Humpback Mountain
The log house and Humpback Rocks in the distance.

Augusta Stone Church

In Fort Defiance

Augusta Stone Church
The Augusta Stone Church today. Originally there were two doors on the front of the building [men and women entered and sat separately].

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

His Neighbors Didn't Like Rockets Either

Dr Robert Goddard, Father of American Rocketry

Goddard's Rocket
Dr. Robert Goddard with his rocket.

In 1919 he published a scientific paper entitled ''A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes" in which he described a liquid propulsion system for rockets that could allow us to reach the Moon. The New York Times published an editorial suggesting that Dr. Goddard was '...either playing a joke or was ignorant of elementary physics if he thought that a rocket could work in the vacuum of space.' Yes, the media really does keep us enlightened.

On March 16, 1926, Goddard tested an actual rocket at his Aunt Effie's farm in Auburn Massachussetts. Eventually the neighbors opposition forced him to go to Roswell, New Mexico where he continued his experiments. Goddard, though he held some 200 patents in rocket technology, received little recognition for his work... in the United States.

In Germany, Dr. Wernher von Braun read Goddard's paper and developed the V2 program that became the basis for the American and Russian space efforts. Von Braun, now working for the American missle agency, said of Goddard: ''Don't you know about your own rocket pioneer? Dr. Goddard was ahead of us all.''

Today the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland is named in his honor.

Here's an Interesting Article [click to read] on Dr. Goddard from the New York Times.

Augusta's Rocket Pioneers

Here is a history from SWAC Girl

Part 1 ... October Sky
Part 2 ... Who is VAST?
Part 3 ... What is agri-tourism?
Part 4 ... Francis Chester
Part 5 ... Launch location -- Croft Field
Part 6 ... How it began ... anonymous complaint
Part 7 ... "It's only a formality"
Part 8 ... VAST prepares for BZA meeting
Part 9 ... VAST presents case to BZA meeting
Part 10 ... VAST denied Special Use Permit
Part 11 ... Augusta County denies BZA hearing tapes
Part 12 ... The legal case begins
Part 14 ... Dreams of space

PNOVS National Veteran's Center

Helping to Create a Vision for Veteran Services

Depasquale Delph Gentilhomme Group Architects asked me to illustrate the new center for Premier Network of Veteran Services. Photo by E. Strong.

"Dear Bob,

I wanted to thank you again for the amazing job you did bringing PNOVS National Veteran’s Center to life. You have captured the spirit and intent of our vision beautifully. Thank you for your passion and great work!"

PNOVS Center
Depasquale Delph Gentilhomme Group, Illustration by Bob Kirchman.

Some projects just grab you. PNOVS [click to read] was one of those... an opportunity to put some substance to the gratitude we feel for our troops.

Richmond, Virginia

Brick and Brownstone on Franklin Street

This house just caught my eye as I was walking to an appointment.


Seen in a Parking Lot in Short Pump, Virginia

Use caution!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Government Healthcare Eugenics

Joseph DeJarnette's Lesson for Today

DeJarnette Sanitarium
The DeJarnette Sanitarium is an empty shell today.

If government controlled healthcare does not give you second thoughts, take a trip back in history to the establishment of Western State Hospital. Indeed it could be argued that in its early days under Dr. Francis T. Stribling, the institution delivered quality care and even went so far as to teach the patients skills so that they effectively created a sheltered community. Their farm provided food and workshops inside the hospital allowed residents to learn and work in trades. The Nineteenth Century Western State would no doubt impress us as being a forward thinking and caring environment.

But all that would change as a new idea came out of the Academy, the 'science' of Eugenics. This social philosophy gained support in the Universities during the 1920's. Eugenics, rooted in a Darwinian view of man, taught that certain portions of humanity were 'undesirable' and should be discouraged from reproducing themselves. Follow the writings of Adolph Hitler from the same period and a disturbing similarity appears.

Eugenics left the classroom and became the policy of the State of Virginia in the 1930's. It had strong supporters such as Dr. Walter A. Plecker, registrar, Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics, 1912-46, Dr. Harvey E. Jordan, dean of medicine, University of Virginia, and Dr. Joseph S. DeJarnette who became the director of Western State Hospital from 1906-43. Western State became a warehouse and DeJarnette created a new and seperate sanitarium for treating middle-class patients [shown above]. The poor and minorities were deprived of the most basic rights and thousands endured forced sterilizations.

In the infamous case of Carrie Buck, DeJarnette tetified before the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Virginia’s sterilization policy. His testimony convinced the court to uphold the Racial Integrity Law of 1924. Ms. Buck, had sued to prevent a sterilization.

In all, 8300 people were sterilized by government decree. It was said that DeJarnette ran the hospital 'like a dictator.' Indeed, his career seems reminiscent of that of a dictator in Europe intent on perfecting the Master Race.

1. History of Western State and DeJarnette Center [click to read] from the News Virginian.

2. Western State Reinvented [click to read] from NBC 29.

3. Phil Writes More [click to read] on the history of Virginia Eugenics.

The frightening question: "How could decent people do such horrible things?" can be asked of Nazis... and Virginians, to a degree as well. When respectable people in the academy present a theory as some sort of step forward and it becomes widely accepted as something "good," though it contradicts such core concepts as Imagio Deo, who among us is equipped to recognize it and stand against it?

The Snows of Yesteryear

American Frontier Culture Museum

American Farm
The American Farm rests under a mantle of snow.

Rail Fence
Sunlight streaks across the snow by the octagonal barn.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thank You!

Your Sacrifice is Not in Vain, Nor is it Forgotten

Thank You!

This Thank You from SWAC Girl [click to read] is right on the mark. Today I have the priviledge of working on a project for PNOVS in Richmond [click to read]. Just another way to say 'Thank You!'

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

THYME Magazine, Volume II, Issue VII
Volume II, Issue VII

Polar Bear populations are increasing!

Climate Science, the Real Snow Job

The East Anglia Emails [click to read] show a clear and disturbing bit of 'Climate Science' abuse that has already been well documented in the Blogosphere. 'Climate Science' is continually reducing itself to the level of Alchemy and Spontaneous Generation Theory. Recasting 'Global Warming' as 'Climate Change' isn't helping. Americans are waking up and seeing the 'Snake Oil' salesmen of climate science for who they really are.

Now Phil Jones of the East Anglia Climate Research Unit has 'Lost His Religion' [click to read] according to Yankee Phil. Algore is in hiding, hoping not to see his shadow and the Church of Global Warming is in crisis.

Michelle Malkin Has More [click to read].

And more snow is falling in Virginia today! But lest we forget the full wonder of the Winter of 2009 and 2010, THYME has prepared a special section [see below] that starts with the 'October Surprise' snow in the Blue Ridge Mountains and chronicles the Winter right up to and including the snows of Apocolyptic proportions.

'Augusta Al' still hasn't come out.

The Winter of 2009 - 2010

Special Section [click to read] begins today. Watch for future installments.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow Hits Every State

Even Hawaii Has Some White Stuff on Mountains

Snow Removal
The Valley is still digging out as snow falls in Texas and Florida!

All 50 States Have Snow [click to read] according to this report.

Snowy oak leaves.

THYME's 'Woman of the Year' -- A Clear Voice!

Governor Palin Speaks Straight on Foreign Policy

THYME Magazine, Vol. I Issue XVIII
THYME's 'Woman of the Year.'

Carolyn B. Glick [click to read] in Jewish World Review points out why a lot of people who are dismissing Palin need to take another look. The elitist view that excludes her from serious consideration is shutting the door on one of the best friends those who seek real peace in the Middle East really have.

"National security, that's the one place where you've got to call it like it is."

"We need a foreign policy that distinguishes America's friends from her enemies and recognizes the true nature of the threats that we face." -- Governor Sarah Palin, in her Tea Party Convention speech

"Palin's future in politics is unknowable. But what is clear enough is that today hers is the strongest single American voice opposing Obama's foreign policy and the loudest advocate for supporting Israel and denying Iran nuclear weapons." -- Carolyn B. Glick

Add that to her already stated mission to make America energy independent and you have a pretty solid hand to play in the resolving of the big issues we face in the all too immediate future.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The 'Gore Effect'

More Documented than 'Global Warming'

'Augusta Al' doesn't want to see his shadow.

Yankee Phil Has the Data [click to read].

Snowball Fight
Snowball fight, Crozet Virginia.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Coming Ice Age...

These Icicles are Getting Pretty Long

Over 2 feet and growing...

...and twisting as the prevailing wind directs.

This one goes all the way to the snow on the shrubbery.

They are best viewed from inside, while enjoying a hot beverage.