Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fall Color Unfolding

Brilliant Maples Show their Colors

Last week this tree was still green...

...but what a difference a week makes!

Oak leaves.

The view from Raven's Roost.

Skyline Drive
Skyline Drive...

View of Rock Mountain
...and the view from an overlook.

Is Socialism Cool in Charlottesville?

Meet Some of Tom Perriello's Supporters Who Think it is

November is coming.

Americans for Prosperity made a creative point in a creative way yesterday in Charlottesville.

"Yesterday, Barack Obama came to Charlottesville to campaign for his liberal sidekick, Tom Perriello. AFP decided to greet his supporters waiting in line by offering them free "Socialism Isn't Cool" bumper stickers. The response we got told us a lot about who is secretly supporting Tom Perriello. Watch this video...and see for yourself!" -- Ben Marchi, AFP

Americans for Prosperity held a rally of their own in Lee Park. They were visited by This 'Tolerant' Individual [click to watch]. Rightside Virginia provided the video [caution: 'rough' man using 'rough' language]

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Different Way of Seeing the World

The Unique Vision of Dr. Temple Grandin Phd.

Temple Grandin.

A Milestone Monday Feature

This weekend my lovely wife, who is trained in special education brought home a movie... “Its about a special ed. kid.” she said. I steeled myself for "dry documentary narrative," but was pleasantly surprised. It was an HBO movie called Temple Grandin and her story proved to be inspirational beyond measure.

The story begins with young Temple as she visits her Aunt’s ranch during a Summer in high school. Using animations of Ms. Grandin’s own sketches and special effects of heightened sensory experiences, the film effectively transports you into the world of a young woman with severe autism. As you might imagine, middle and high school were a terrible time for her. She was teased unmercifully by her peers but had supportive adults who encouraged her to harness her unique way of seeing things.

Born in Boston Massachusetts on August 29, 1947, young Temple was diagnosed with autism at age four. At the time there was not a lot of understanding of the condition but with speech therapy she began to talk. Her family and early teachers were instrumental in developing in her the ability to communicate and encouraged her as she struggled through her school years. The film does a superb job of portraying the patient persistance of her Mother, who worked tirelessly with young Temple to build language skills.

In middle school the other children would tease her and call her “tape recorder,” a reference to her often repeating something over and over,but she made it to high school. At Hampshire Country School she lived as a boarding student. She found solace in the company of horses and became an accomplished rider. Her observation skills made her excel at science and her unique ability to process information led her to develop a ‘hug machine’ at age 18 which she used therapeutically during her school years.

No doubt, the mentorship of people like Mr. Carlock, her science teacher, made a great difference. [Carlock’s status is ‘elevated’ to‘Dr. Carlock’ in the HBO movie]. Her years following high school are nothing short of a miracle!

Graduating from Hampshire Country School, a boarding school for gifted children in Ridge, New Hampshire, in 1966, Grandin then earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce in 1970, a master's degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975, and a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989.

Her study of the behavior of cattle and other herd animals led to her pioneer work in the design of humane cattle handling facilities. The HBO movie does a wonderful job of integrating Dr. Grandin’s own sketches and working drawings into the film to show how her photographic mind processed information to produce the designs. Today over half the cattle processed in the USA are taken through facilities designed by Dr. Grandin. Her skillful observations have been applied to reduce stress in the animals and calm them by allowing their instinctive behavior to play out as they make their way through the enclosures.

Observing that herd animals often move in a circular pattern, Grandin incorporated curving chutes and gradual narrowing in her designs. She taught the drivers in feed lots and slaughterhouses to treat animals with respect and allow their natural inclinations to draw them along.

Today Dr. Grandin is a professor at Colorado State University. Her pioneer work in animal science would be amazing enough, but Grandin’s advocacy for the autistic, drawn from her own painful experience, are her crowning achievement. Today Temple Grandin is a highly regarded lecturer on the subject and has published many books and articles.

Her own Web Site [click to visit] will provide even more background on her amazing life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume II, Issue XLV

Party Poopers
Primaries Prove Voters Want New Blood'

The 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] is calling new candidates like Christine O'Donnell 'party crashers,' but they ignore the fact that the Lisa Murkowskis and Mike Castles of the 'old guard' are 'party poopers.' Their removal through the primary system simply speaks of a system that isn't as broken as some of us had thought it to be.

People want real change in Washington. Christine O'Donnell offers that hope.

The fact that O'donnell won her primary against an established incumbent should tell us everything we need to know. O'donnell brought fresh ideas to the table. Most voters are feeling left out of the process by Beltway elites who vote after reading five minute briefings from aides.

The newcomers understand the Constitution and representative government. They have real-life experiences. They are more than ready to govern!

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Rookie Season [click to read] by Emily Belz in World Magazine

"A surprising number of doctors and businessmen are setting aside their stethoscopes and spreadsheets to run for Congress—and they’re running well !"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Riding Railroading's Romantic Beginnings

Wind Power on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad

Sailcar Outing
AEolus sails down the Baltimore and Ohio tracks. From the Collections of the B&O Railroad Museum, used with permission.

A recent CSX Transportation radio spot invites canines in cars to "ride the wind, doggies!" It is a reference to the open roads created by CSX trains taking freight off the highways and a doggie's desire to ride in a car with his head sticking out of the open window. Railroading's early days briefly offered another opportunity to "ride the wind" as a unique experiment in motive power took place on America's first operating rail line.

In the early days of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the motive power was provided by horses. The carriages were pulled along the tracks by fine animals selected for this purpose. The building that housed stables and a blacksmith shop in Ellicott's Mills still stands. But horsepower would soon become a standard instead of a literal fact. Peter Cooper's small locomotive with its upright boiler would define the future of railroading. Still, there was a brief period in railroad history where passengers could literally ride the wind.

Evan Thomas of Baltimore constructed an experimental wicker car with a sail which he named the "AEolus." When there was enough wind blowing in direction to make it functional it was operated on the tracks between Baltimore and Ellicott's Mills.

The Russian Ambassador, Baron de Krudner came to observe the operationof the experimental car and actually handled the sail on the trip. He was presented by the President of the railroad with a model of the car. This led to an exchange of American engineers who helped construct Russia's rail system.

The demonstration of Cooper's steam locomotive set the direction for railroad operation. The Fourth Annual Report of the B&O Railroad in 1830 states:

"Experience with regard to the celerity of the conveyance of passengers during the preceeding four months on the first 13 miles of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, is of the most cheerful and convincing character. The practicability of maintaining a speed of 10 miles per hour with horses has been exhibited. With proper relays,this rate of traveling may be continued through any length of railway, the ascent and descents of which shall not exceed about 30 feet per mile.

Within the last few months, the improvements to locomotive steam engines have been such as to insure their general use on all railways of suitable gradation, and where fuel is cheap." [1.]

Wood and coal would fuel the first boilers. Riding the train could be a dirty experience as smoke and cinders wreaked havoc on the wardrobes of female travellers. Clean coal was used and promoted by the New York Central in this little rhyme:

Says Phoebe Snow
about to go
upon a trip to Buffalo
"My gown stays white
from morn till night
Upon the Road of Anthracite"

The modern railroad saw the use of diesel and electric power. Welded rails and modern track alignment would finally create the illusion of a smooth and effortless glide down the tracks.

21st Century railroads would like to harness the energy of wind farms to power their catenaries [the overhead wires providing power to locomotives], but even now, as during the Nineteenth Century, the winds remain as fickle as they are romantic.

1. The early motive power of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad By Joseph Snowden Bell, p. 5.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Tower of Babel in Genesis 11

Rabbi Daniel Lapin Says it is a Message for Today

1And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.

4And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

7Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

8So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
-- Genesis 11:1-8

Rabbi Daniel Lapin was on Glenn Beck's show today with a profound observation of how there is nothing new under the sun. The struggle for alternative ways of organizing human society is an age-old conflict. If it concerns human affairs, it is probably covered by scripture.

In fact the struggle is further defined in the passage. The conflict is between Abraham, who fears and follows G-d, and Nimrod, who represents human efforts to surpass the need for G-d [sound familiar]? Here is where Rabbi Lapin delves deeper and shows us that the narrative begins with the materials list rather than the architectural program. Indeed the bricks make a statement -- especially in a region blessed with abundant stone.

Bricks are made by man. they are all the same and rocks are made by G-d. Each stone is a unique individual. Socialists seek a collective salvation ['Liberation Theology' would be an example]. Rabbi Lapin pointed out that socialist societies always seek to build blocks of public housing that all look the same. Everyone moves in unison and individuality and creativity are stifled.

The interesting thing here is that individuality is preserved by the scattering of languages. Today the modern world uses tools like social networks to create new forms of unison. One universal translating tool is known by the name 'Babelfish.' 'Friends' become blocks entering your Facebook page. Of course, these networks can be a great tool for creative individuals to communicate... I just used Facebook to communicate with my partner in creating a mural. I also communicated with a photographer to get a CD of her images. I think social networks can be great. Still, there is a sense that tells me they may be used or misused, as every connecting technology has been in the history of mankind.

Our city has many fine buildings built of brick, but our Western State hospital, the site of Eugenics being practiced in our community, is a series of brick buildings. When I was a child in Baltimore, the Projects were an unending series of brick buildings housing low income individuals -- all seemingly created from the same set of plans.

But this, it should be repeated, is not about 'good' or 'bad' tehnology. It is primarily a call to look at how we perceive the structure of our lives in community. Do we look to the Creator who made each of us for the means to live together, or do we seek to create a 'Tower of Power' to supercede the need for communication with the Divine?

Le Corbusier's vision for Paris

Seward Park is typical of American Urban Renewal Projects.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin's Website [click to visit].

One byproduct of such planning is that the places people live become more separated from nature. An article in the Richmond Times Dispatch [click to read] Perscribes an intresting antidote: "In fact, the Japanese have a name for exposure to greenery -- "Shinrin-yoku," roughly translating as taking in the forest atmosphere or forest-bathing. We think this is a great prescription for overall good health and should be taken often."


Industrial Visionary Alfred Huger Moses

Jewish Innovator's Part in Building an Alabama Industry

The town of Shefffield Alabama began as a vision of Alfred Moses.

A new Milestone Monday feature

This morning's Jewish World Review carried This Story [click to read] about a little known pioneer of industry in Alabama, Alfred Huger Moses. He was born in 1840, the oldest son of Levy and Adeline Moses of Charleston, South Carolina. He graduated from the College of Charleston at age 20 and moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he apprenticed in a law office. The year was 1960. The next year, war began and he became the clerk of the Confederate District Court in Montgomery and joined the Alabama Rebels volunteer militia company.

Along with his brothers Mordecai and Henry, Alfred became an important player in Montgomery's real estate market. Mordecai Moses was elected mayor of Montgomery in 1875. He later served as president of the Montgomery Gas and Electric Light Company. In 1887, Montgomery's first "skyscraper." the Moses Building, was financed by the three brothers.

In 1880 coal and iron ore were being discovered in Northern Alabama. The railroad junction of Birmingham was booming. Alfred envisioned a new town that would surpass Birmingham as a manufacturing center. "Alfred Moses envisioned building a city that would surpass Birmingham. In 1883, Moses toured some mines near Florence, Alabama. Viewing the rolling hills across the Tennessee River from Florence, Moses thought he found the ideal spot for a new city, which he named Sheffield after the great steel producing city in England." -- American Jewish Historical Society.

The town's beginnings were anything but smooth. Bank failures and economic uncertainties delayed the actual construction of the town until 1885. In 1887 Sheffield was a booming industrial city. In 1891 the town's industry failed and the family's fortunes were lost. " Alfred Moses had miscalculated the willingness of railroads to link Sheffield with major cities and had overestimated the region's iron ore supply. When the market price for iron dropped below $12 per ton, less than the cost for Sheffield's foundries to produce and deliver it, the town's furnaces were banked and most of its residents departed. Moses and his family moved to St. Louis and lived there for another thirty years in greatly reduced circumstances, his dreams destroyed by the boom and bust cycle of the Gilded Age." -- American Jewish Historical Society.

Alfed's children became successful enterpenuers in a number of fields. His mills in Sheffield were opened again in 1901, failed in 1907 and were then purchased by United States Steel who operated them until 1929 when the Great Depression shuttered them for good.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Public Service as a Holy Calling

William Wiberforce and the Abolition of Slavery

William Wilberforce (1759-1833)
William Wilberforce (1759-1833).

A Milestone Monday Feature

Born to priveledge and prone to enjoy the pleasures his status afforded, William Wilberforce would have seemed an unlikely candidate for world changing reformer but G-d in his wisdom had bigger plans for the young dandy. He prepared himself for a life of politics while studying at St John's College, Cambridge.

Then, as now, religion was something considered good 'but not in excess.' Still Wilberforce found himself spiritually hungry and found faith. He sought out the council of John Newton, former slaver turned clergyman. Wilberforce was ready to forsake his place in Parliament to serve G-d but Newton convinced him that his service in Parliament could indeed be a great service to his Creator!

Wilberforce became convinced of two great missions: "the abolition of slavery and the reformation of manners." That is to say reform of society's priorities and treatment of people.

Wilberforce labored for almost half a century to end slavery in the British possessions. He pressed himself to exhaustion and stressed himself to the detriment of his health, but eventually he prevailed. The movie "Amazing Grace" tells of his life and gives a broader picture of the man. He was concerned about mistreatment of animals, healthcare and a host of issues that press mankind still.

His work is far from finished. Human Trafficking [click to read] is an issue that modern day persons desiring to follow the lead of Wilberforce must step up to address.

Life's Railway to Heaven

By M.E. Abbey--Words, and Charlie D. Tillman--Music

Rock Tunnel
Buckingham Branch RR GP40 BB6 entering Claudius Crozet's Rock Tunnel in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Life is like a mountain railroad, with an engineer that's brave;
We must make the run successful, from the cradle to the grave;
Watch the curves, the fills, the tunnels; never falter, never quail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail.

Bless'd Savior, Thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach that blissful shore;
Where the angels wait to join us
In Thy praise forevermore.

You will roll up grades of trial; you will cross the bridge of strife;
See that Christ is your Conductor on this lightning train of life;
Always mindful of obstruction, do your duty, never fail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail.

Bless'd Savior, Thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach that blissful shore;
Where the angels wait to join us
In Thy praise forevermore.

You will often find obstructions; look for storms of wind and rain;
On a fill, or curve, or trestle, they will almost ditch your train;
Put your trust alone in Jesus; never falter, never fail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail.

Bless'd Savior, Thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach that blissful shore;
Where the angels wait to join us
In Thy praise forevermore.

As you roll across the trestle, spanning Jordan's swelling tide,
You behold the Union Depot into which your train will glide;
There you'll meet the Superintendent, God the Father, God the Son,
With the hearty, joyous, plaudit, "Weary pilgrim, welcome home!"

Bless'd Savior, Thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach that blissful shore;
Where the angels wait to join us
In Thy praise forevermore.

This old spiritual has been relegated to a funeral hymn by many music directors. It would seem to me that it is more of a message for us to consider on the main line of life.

Christmas at Union Station
Union Station in Washington DC.

Friday, October 22, 2010

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume II, Issue XLIV

Cover: Ellicott's Mills in miniature as created by Bob Kirchman in 1971/1972 at age 20. It was refurbished and corrected to reflect current research for the B&O Museum's 'Roads to Rails' exhibit last year.

Remembering our Roots

The 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] presents: "How to Restore the American Dream." If the American Dream is merely about home ownership and material security, we're down for the count. In the late seventies the government sought to make home ownership available to all. In 2007 we got the bill for it.

But if we see the American dream as something more... those desires that drove people to our shores in the first place, we're ready for a renaissance.

The Pilgrims, the Anabaptists and Moravians were drawn to this land by the promise of freedom to worship and live without interference from hostile government interference. Indeed they preferred the risk and hardship it entailed to the relative safety of servitude.

By 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville observed an amazing young nation taking shape and wrote:

"I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests--and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning--and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution--and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!"

Though many would seek to obfuscate this heritage, a serious study of history shows that our nation perservered and grew, often against impossible odds, as her founders labored and prayed, trusting in Divine Providence.

The Free Market Did NOT Cause the Great Depression


Great Myths of the Great Depression [Click to Read] by Lawrence W. Reed

"President Herbert Hoover is mistakenly presented in standard history texts as a laissez-faire president, but he signed into law so many costly and foolish bills that one of Franklin Roosevelt’s top aides later said that “practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs that Hoover started.”

"Americans voted for Franlin Roosevelt in 1932, expecting him to adhere to the Democratic Party platform, which called for less government spending and regulation." -- Lawrence W. Reed

The really frightening thing about history is how it repeats itself.


The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure [click to read].

Required Reading:


In light of the President's recent assertion that 'America is not a Christian Nation' I would like to offer Alvin Schmidt's book Under the Influence, How Christianity Changed the World. There are many legitimate arguments to be made about how Faith and Government should function together but a look at the principles that our Nation was founded upon will show a clear Judeo-Christian influence.

"If no other consideration had convinced me of the value of the Christian life, the Christlike work which the Church of all denominations in America has done during the last 35 years for the elevation of the black man would have made me a Christian." -- Booker T. Washington in 'Up from Slavery' (1901)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NPR 'Rewards' Juan Williams for Honesty

Commentator Fired for Remarks Made on O'Reilly Factor

Engine Cowling

Last time I flew out of Dulles, it was the guy wearing a "72 Virgins Dating Service" tee shirt that got my attention. When Juan Williams says he's sometimes frightened by the sight of passengers in Islamic dress on an airplane, I think a lot of us can identify with that. Think of our parents in the days after Pearl Harbor. A Japanese person walking around Honolulu might have drawn some attention.

Certainly you might express such a sentiment without impuning ALL people in Islamic garb [or ALL Japanese]. if balding German men had destroyed the World Trade Center, I'd EXPECT you to be checking me out when I got on your airplane.

Still, NPR said Juan Williams' comments "undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR." That's the same NPR that ran a segment entitled: "How to Speak 'Tea Bagger.'" ht/RedState

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Ride Through History on the BBRR

Buckingham Branch Railroad Follows Historic Path

Original Blue Ridge Tunnel
Claudius Crozet's Original Blue Ridge Tunnel. Library of Congress Image.

The Virginia Central Railroad was a major feat of engineering in its day as Claudius Crozet built a series of four tunnels under the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1856. Today the crews that operate the Buckingham Branch Railroad carry on the tradition.

We're riding on BB6, a GP40 diesel-electric locomotive, out of The Flats. Our crew, Don and Zane, are making the run across the mountain to Charlottesville. A number of businesses along the track depend on the railroad for bulk shipments.

We roll through Staunton and make our way to Transit Mix Concrete to deliver a car. Although much of a railroad's operation is computerized, the process of making up trains and taking them apart is still a mixture of chess game, choreography and hard work on the part of the train crew.

Switches must be unlocked and thrown, hand brakes set and unset and safety measures attended to. It looks like fun on a balmy october day as Zane moves about performing these tasks, but you have to imagine what it is like when he's doing the same job in last Winter's big snow or driving rain. A railroad man's job was tough in the Nineteenth Century and this part of it hasn't changed.

It takes a bit of leverage to throw a switch on a good day, so think of what it must be like when snow is piling up around you. We back into the first siding. It has tight curves that make for slow going. We've left most of our cars on the main line and are pushing the cement car into place. Then we need to return and couple up those we've left. We pull forward and back the entire train onto the Transit Mix siding to clear the track for a Westbound CSX train. The switch must be opened for the main line and locked before the track is considered clear.

Then you wait. Safe operation depends on constant communication and a permitting system to ensure that no Eastbound train tries to share a track with a Westbound. There are work trains to be accounted for too. A long line of empty coal cars passes. When the track is cleared we begin again. Our next stop is Augusta Coop. We will be bringing them another car from Charlottesville, so we drop one car for them on their siding. We'll put it in the fertilizer pit area later when we return.

Now we make our way out to Fishersville. We roll through Waynesboro and Basic City. We start climbing the mountain and enter the almost mile-long Blue Ridge Tunnel. This is a parallel tunnel to Crozet's original Blue Ridge Tunnel that was built in 1942 for larger wartime rail cars. We emerge at Afton and head down seven miles of descending grade that will take us to the town of Crozet.

The train moves through a series of tight curves where the track follows the original route, You can imagine what it must have been like to cut that grade through the stone by hand. We move through this section under 25 miles per hour. The Rock tunnel is next. Here is an uncased tunnel that was built by Crozet. It looks about the same as it did in the Nineteenth Century.

We pass through open cuts where the Greenwood tunnel and another tunnel have been bypassed. Then its on through Crozet. We pass the now defunct Westvaco wood lot in Ivy. "This would be a great place for a business," Don says. "Good luck on that, this is Albemarle County," I reply. When I lived in Crozet, some of my neighbors worked for Westvaco. There were the Morton's Frozen Foods plant and Acme Visible Records plant in the town itself. Both are shuttered now as well.

We enter Charlottesville where the train must crawl through town at 10 miles per hour and cannot blow her horn at grade crossings. I muse to Don about UVA students who cross streets [and railroad tracks] without looking: "What do you do about them," I ask. "You have to be ready to stop" is his answer. You are allowed to sound the horn in an emergency.

We switch cars in the Charlottesville yard by the fading evening light. There is a little preschool by the entrance to the yards and it gives me great pleasure to sit in a locomotive cab and wave to the kids. The teachers hold up some of the little guys to get a better look. I wave some more as we pass the school several times. I remember in my youth the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad had a track near our house. I liked to watch that train.

It is dark as we crawl back out of Charlottesville. Don spots a grey fox sitting on the track near the University of Virginia. He runs off and we spot a hole near the track. Later I spot an owl flying overhead as we run through Albemarle County. Deer are everywhere.

We return to Brand, just East of Staunton, where we shuffle around the other car we've picked up for Augusta Coop and push it into their siding. It's around 9:30pm when we return to the flats. There is paperwork to do for the crew. I pick up Don's bag of required operating manuals -- it is heavy. I'm grateful to have seen a part of the culture that built this country and to have shared it with the men who still live it.

BB6 Leaves the flats and heads through Staunton.

Don driving BB6
Don driving BB6.

Augusta Coop
Augusta Coop.

Rolling through Brand, heading East.


In the Charlottesville Yard.

Powering up BB7
Powering up BB7 for the return trip.

Blue Ridge Tunnel
Inside the Blue Ridge Tunnel.

Brand Siding
Back at Brand.

More Photos [click to view].

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Plein Air Art Show at Miller School

A Great Gallery Created from an Old Shop Building

The brick walls created a wonderful space for art and discussion.

When my daughter, who helped organize the event, pointed out that these are lotus; I changed the title to "Lotus Clouds."

This was a truely wonderful time for artists to share their work and it was organized by my daughter and Sharon Kennedy, the art teacher at Miller School. I plan to attend next year's event and invite more of my friends. Some of the Miller students participated along with local professional and amateur artists and photographers.

Detail of a canvas by Chris Ross.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Prayer Meeting that Touched the World

Moravians Prayed Around the Clock for 100 Years

The village of Herrnhut in Saxony.

A Milestone Monday Feature

The Moravian Brethren Church was born in the 1720's when Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf gave refuge to persecuted Hussites from Moravia and Bohemia. The village of Herrnhut, Saxony, now a part of Germany, was built by them.

Count Zinzendorf started a round-the-clock prayer meeting in 1727. It lasted one hundred years. People in Herrnhut signed up to pray for an hour a day.

What G-d did as a result of that prayer meeting is amazing. In an era when travel was difficult and dangerous the Moravians became a major force in reaching the world with the Gospel. Their ministry took them to many parts of the world. Moravians settled in the new world in Pennsylvania. The cities of Bethlehem and Nazareth are Moravian settlements. Count Zinzendorf secured a large tract of land in North Carolina where the Moravians established Bethabara. From here they began outreach to the Native Americans around them.

In 1753, Moravians from North Carolina travelled into the Cherokee Nation, which extended into North Georgia and Alabama from Western North Carolina. The nonacquisitive Moravians eventually developed a long standing ministry among the Cherokee. Since unmarried Moravian men and women lived in communal houses, one house for men and another for women, they may have been philosphically closer to a long house people than other Europeans. The New Georgia Encyclopedia states of them:

"Generally, the accomplishments of the Moravians lay in the fact that their missions not only opened their doors to all visitors, including African slaves from nearby Cherokee plantations, but also functioned as model farms for European agricultural techniques. Particularly, the Spring Place Mission served as an exemplar for other missionary enterprises to emulate."

The Moravians certainly were lovers of innovation in agriculture and craftsmanship. Visit the restored Moravian settlement in Salem, North Carolina today and you will see some of the first water pipes in America -- hollowed logs with metal couplings -- that carry water inside the Single Brothers' House.

First Annual Rust-Bucket Roll-In

At Jimmy Anderson's Market, Staunton

Rust Bucket Roll In
A classic Corvette was one of the cars in the show.

More Pctures [click to view] of the show.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Old Main at Miller School

One of Albemarle County's Architectural Treasures

Old Main
Looking up at Old Main.

Old Main
Dining hall window.

Old Main
The front door.

Old Main
The staircase.

Monet Moment at Miller School

Plein Air Painting Around the Campus

Monet Moment at Miller School
I paint architecture all the time, so I let it be just a reflection in the Miller School pond for a change. I call the painting 'Cloud Lillies."

The morning light put a rainbow in the pond fountain spray.

It sort of feels like you're at Giverney.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Staunton's Twin Mountains

Betsy Bell and Mary Gray at Evening

The evening sky over the two mountains.

Mural at Staunton Alliance Church

The Journey Around the World Continues

Today the Andes Mountains and a lake were finished behind the Bolivian girl.

Mizuki from Japan and Minda from Mindanao [the largest island in the Philippines].

Ting Ting from China.

"Life Will Get Better" Hang in There

We Need to Remember How Tough Youth Can Be


Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns and I probably might not see eye to eye on a lot of issues, but last night at a City Council meeting, Mr. Burns shared his personal experience as a gay teenager dealing with bullying. He shared in response to a recent group of teen suicides and his twofold plea needs to be heard.

First of all, he pleaded for the kids who feel excluded and persecuted to hang in there: "Life will get better." Offering his own life as proof, Burns encouraged youths to look beyond the painful present. Then he asked for the adults around these kids to be sensitive and encouraging to them.

One of the cruel facts of adolescence is that some kids seem to shoot into adulthood while others take a bit longer. Some thirteen year olds are shaving and singing bass while kids the same age are still waiting for that growth spurt. Dr. James Dobson talks about the terror of communal showers after middle and high school gym class. In some of his earlier writings he pleaded with schools to provide private showers to avoid the problem. Kids can be cruel. I know. I went to an all boys high school in the mid sixties. The bullying could be merciless. I saw it from both ends. Usually the tough guys who were bigger would harass the ones they percieved as weaker. 'Lord of the Flies' was more than an academic excercise for us.

I got bullied by some guys early in my high school career. One guy was at me constantly, a tough cowboy type who finally pushed me too far in the lunch line one day. I rared back and punched him for all I was worth. He threw me over a table. [I wish I had a video of it]. We became good friends in the week of detention that followed. My senior year found me high enough in the food chain to actually enjoy high school for a change. That's how our Dads wanted things to work out.

Back then adults pretty much took a hands-off approach to bullying and things usually worked themselves out as everybody matured -- or it seemed like they did. Gradually we learned to appreciate each other as unique individuals. Some of the tough guys even got me to draw pictures for them. We learned to like things about each other.

But somehow that metamorphosis isn't happening for a lot of kids today. Bullying has gone viral in cyberspace and some kids never get past their peers' judgement. Teen suicide is epidemic.

If you believe in the concept of imago dei, that each individual is made in the image of G-d, this is simply not acceptable. Also, if you study how Jesus related to the Samarian woman at the well it becomes clear that he might not have approved of everything she did, but he valued her as a person.

That is the challenge before us. We must create a culture of respect that extends beyond those we normally associate with. Common courtesy should be prerequisite to the discussions of differences which we should be able to have. As adults who work with adolescents, we need to first model it and then demand it. If we believe Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are G-d given rights, we can do no less.