Monday, September 30, 2013

The Summit of Stony Man in Shenandoah

Taking in the View from the Top of Stony Man Mountain

Sunlight breaks through the clouds...

viewtop hikers enjoy the view across Page County.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Thomas Jefferson's 'Other' House

Poplar Grove was His Place of Retreat from Public Life

While he was President, Thomas Jefferson designed and built this "other home" near Lynchburg as a "retreat for rest and writing."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue XV

A 'Best of THYMEs' Feature...

Rethinking College (and Education)

The 'other' weekly news magazine's U. S. Edition presents The Class of 2025 [click to read]. They ponder what they will have learned... and how they will pay for it! Clearly changes are needed. The average US student graduates with $26,000 in college debt, with total college debt around one trillion dollars. Unfortunately the job market often presents a hostile reality, the field they have prepared five years to enter isn't hiring. TIME's Amanda Ripley looks at new trends, such as online learning and how the way we learn is already changing in a Previous Article [click to read].

The rise in online learning and for-profit colleges is challenging the traditional academy. Ostensibly this is the underlying tension behind recent events at Charlottesville's University of Virginia, where popular President Teresa Sullivan was forced to resign and then quickly reinstated.

College costs are rising at a rate outpacing the economy at large. At the same time many are questioning its value, even as it is being touted as "being as essential now as high school was in the 'Fifties." Many young men are foregoing college and entering fields such as technology, finding that to offer a more rapid path to a paycheck.

My Father became an engineer in an era where Engineering schools did not bother to teach Literature. He struggled in high school, and framed a letter from a high school adviser stating bluntly that he should pursue a field other than Engineering. Undeterred, Dad enrolled in Junior College, then transferred to Notre Dame. He worked for Wright Aviation before taking a job at the Martin Company's Middle River Plant in Baltimore. He framed the letter.

Dad worked on the seaplanes that were used in WWII, then as Middle River closed down, he started his own test lab. He opened it in one of those buildings with spaces for contractors that had a garage door and an office. His neighbors were plumbers and HVAC companies. He hired a lot of his old colleagues from Martin. Then he was hired by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, where he wrote the procedures for testing spacecraft.

Though his education did not include great literature, Dad was a Renaissance man who built his own great library. He read the classics for the pure joy of learning, and was as knowledgeable about literature as many who teach it. When I was young he would read to me from great volumes such as the works of Rudyard Kipling. What magical moments those bedtime stories would become! Little did Dad know he was innoculating me to survive industrialized education.

My point? Learning can be more pragmatic, learning should be lifelong. More people need to read thick wonderful books to their kids. Making young minds cram great literature for exams may leave a bad taste and leaves no room for rumination. Dad often let me work alongside him doing projects. He taught me how to work, how to design a greenhouse, and most importantly; Dad taught me how to teach others.

I was the right-brained child who struggled in school. Dad apprenticed me in the skills I needed to eventually overcome that. It is my sincere hope that Apprenticeship will experience a Renaissance as we seek to develop the G-d-given gifts of the generations to follow. Will we again find deep satisfaction in training our own replacements? It is my sincere hope that industry, the professions, and most importantly gifted individuals will step up to the challenge!

The Lawn of the University of Virginia originally opened to the surrounding community and countryside. Photos and rendering overlay by Bob Kirchman.


The Place of Faith in Education

A Unique Perspective on the Issue from CIVITAS


"Education is only adequate and worthy when it is itself religious… There is no possibility of neutrality… To be neutral concerning G-d is the same thing as to ignore Him… If children are brought up to have an understanding of life in which, in fact, there is no reference to G-d, you cannot correct the effect of that by speaking about G-d for a certain period of the day. Therefore our ideal for the children of our country is the ideal for truly religious education." -- William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942.

Here is a very interesting report from CIVITAS [1.], on The Place of Faith in Schools [click to read] by Professor David Conway. It adds a new dimension to the debate now raging in America between those who would impose a strictly secular criteria and those who consider Faith an essential component of learning.

"[A] nation which draws into itself continuously, and not merely in its first beginnings, the inspiration of a religious faith and a religious purpose will increase its own vitality… Our own nation… has been inspired by a not ignoble notion of national duty to aid the oppressed – the persecuted Vaudois, the suffering slave, the oppressed nationality – and it has been most... characteristically national when it has most felt such inspiration…

We offend against the essence of the [English] nation if we emphasise its secularity, or regard it as merely an earthly unit for earthly purposes. Its tradition began its life at the breast of Christianity; and its development in time, through the centuries… has not been utterly way from its nursing mother… [I]n England our national tradition has been opposed to the idea of a merely secular society for secular purposes standing over against a separate religious society for religious purposes. Our practice has been in the main that of the single society, which if national is also religious, making public profession of Christianity in its solemn acts, and recognising religious instruction as part of its scheme of education." -- Ernest Barker, Cambridge Philosopher

Professor Conway  Concludes: "All would stand to benefit from such committed forms of religious education in the country’s state-funded schools, not simply because it would be likely to improve the educational performance, behaviour and well-being of the nation’s schoolchildren. They would also all benefit because, I believe, only by continuing to provide it can this country be assured of remaining the independent and united liberal polity that it has for so long been and from whose continuing to be such all its diverse inhabitants would derive benefit, even those who do not share that faith or any other."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Colonel Robert Lewis Howard

The Greatest Hero America Never Knew

Robert L. Howard from the Robert L. Howard Tribute Site.

A Milestone Monday Feature

"The name Robert Lewis Howard belongs beside George Washington, John Paul Jones, Chesty Puller, Alvin York, and Audie Murphy, to name a few of the greatest" --  David Feherty

His grandchildren knew him as a gentle gardener. Most Americans never knew him. As America sought to forget the Vietnam War, she also forgot the brave and noble service of men like Robert Howard. Only when another soldier entered his presence did his loved ones see him stiffen to the posture a great man assumes in the position of other great men.

With eight Purple Hearts, the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross and multiple Silver and Bronze Stars, Howard became the most decorated soldier in our nation's history. He even surpassed WWII hero Audie Murphy according to the records.

The year was 1956 when the young seventeen year-old from Opelika, Alabama first enlisted in the Army. He would serve for 36 years, retiring as a full Colonel in 1992. Serving with the Green Berets in Vietnam, he was wounded fourteen times during his combat time there. 

He got to be in a couple of John Wayne movies, making a parachute jump in The Longest Day and playing an airborne instructor in The Green Berets.

His daughter Missy describes him in this manner: "He was a gardener, a gentle man with massive hands and a velvet voice who worked on his roses and never once spoke of what he did in the war. “He could make anything grow.” In that respect he was like so many of the heroes we grew up surrounded by.

The Greatest Hero America Never Knew [click to read]
The Robert L.Howard Tribute Site [click to read]

Thursday, September 19, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue XIV

Can Google Solve Death?

That is what the 'other' weekly news magazine Is Asking [click to read] this week. Indeed Google Immortality Research [click to read] is but the latest in a long history of man's attempts to live forever. Ponce de Leon is reputed to have searched for the "Fountain of Youth." Adam bit into the forbidden fruit on the promise that he would then be able to partake of the tree of life and 'live forever.' -- Genesis 3:22

More recently, some very rich men have posed the question: "When you're worth billions, you can buy your way out of just about anything. Well, except for death of course?" --Caroline Moss

Moss writes about Tech Billionaires Determined to Buy Their Way Out of Death [click to read].

It reminds me a bit of the Biblical Nimrod, who sought to build a tower to Heaven [1.] "And 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. -- Genesis 11:4 So, what really is the difference between Nimrod's Tower and the Avatar Dmitry Itskov [click to read] intends to create to 'contain' his holographic preservation of his brain.

Of course, our oldest source of wisdom has something to say about this:

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, G-d!
    How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
If only you, G-d, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
Search me, G-d, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

-- Psalm 139

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Age of Miracles is Not Past

Angus Buchan's Amazing True Story of Faith

The true story behind the movie 'Faith Like Potatoes.'

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, prison reform 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.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11 Remembered

Twelve Years Ago Our World Was Changed Forever

Our Flag will be flying today.

Monday, September 9, 2013

George Müller, Robber of the Cruel Steets

His Simple Faith Gave Hope to Street Children

George Müller changed the way those around him saw the plight of orphans.

THYME Magazine Special Edition

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue XIII

A 'Best of THYMEs' Feature... 

Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)
Alan Jackson

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out in pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin' what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell
you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you teaching a class full of innocent children
Or driving down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty 'cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you loved her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?

Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Or go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns?

Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Did you stand in line and give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell
you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?

Lower Manhattan, New York, New York. Photo by Detective Greg Smedinger
Arlington, Virginia.
Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue XII

It's Time to Pay Attention!

The 'other' weekly news magazine this week headlines: It's Time to Pay College Athletes [click to read] in their U. S. Edition. The International Editions [click to read], interestingly enough, feature Russian PM Vladimir Putin and his dreams of reincarnated empire. Yes, we think it is time to pay attention! As the President attempts to convince us that we need to attack Syria, he makes a weak case for a 'feel good' moment for his image as a world leader.

The Syrian moderates, who might have been in our interest to support are already defeated. The rebels we would be assisting are Al-Qaeda affiliates, no friends of the free world, nor advocates of peace. Sadly, the President seems to have twisted enough arms in the Senate and in Congress that he may just be able to commit the exact crime he so eagerly accused George W. Bush of committing in attacking Iraq.

The two wars are not the same. Iraq was in our nation's best interest, based on the best intelligence available at the time. Many in Congress who later ran a campaign against Bush's intervention agreed then that Iraq's likely possession of weapons of mass destruction was a serious problem. They voted for Bush's request for military action based on the dangers presented by weapons of mass destruction. Ironically, these weapons may have 'disappeared' to Syria in a prelude to the American attack. Initially the Iraq war kept Al-Qaeda elements busy defending their interests in Iraq, likely preventing them from following up on their September 11 attack on the United States. Assertion of subsequent mismanagement of the war in no way diminishes the validity of the initial operation.

The short critique here is that the President is proposing to engage us in a useless attack on Syria to 'send them a message.' He should instead just pick up the phone. This attack will accomplish nothing and only serve to incite a possible attack on Israel in retaliation. Israel, to their credit, will likely handle such an attack with a swift and appropriate response while taking pains to let it be known they are eager to build peace if it is possible. The problem is that the United States will have been the agent of destabilizing in the region. Regime change, though not the President's stated goal, might just happen. In that case, Syrian weapons could find their way into even more unstable hands than they are in now.

Then there is the whole issue of Iran, moving ever closer to possessing nuclear weapons. The bigger picture here is that a weak and bumbling American policy only serves to encourage the ambitions of such regimes.

The Middle East is a dangerous place right now. Adult leadership is needed more than ever. Binyamin Netanyahu is a key player right now. We need to listen to him. Congress must act to overrule the President. Weekly news magazines need to forget trying to bolster their sales and force-feed the information to Americans that they must publish to be considered 'relevant' in the rest of the world.

Israel and Stuff [click to read]
Real News from Israel ht/Phil

What Israeli Leaders are Learning [click to read]
Why I Cannot Support the Resolution [click to read] 
(analysis from Joel Rosenberg)

Who Are We Helping in Syria [click to view]
from Glenn Beck (warning: Extreme Graphic Violence)

“Until Saturday, Obama’s Middle East policies were generally regarded by the Arab world as confused and incoherent, As of Saturday, he will be perceived as one of the weakest presidents in American history. That scent of weakness has emphatically reached Iran… Khamenei and his advisers recognize that the likelihood of this administration using military force against a country with Iran’s military capability are very low, if not nonexistent. And they’re not the only ones who realize this. The same conclusions are being drawn by Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet colleagues, who will doubtless have been watching the Rose Garden speech, will have internalized what they had long suspected: that Washington will not be the place from which good news will emanate about thwarting Iran’s nuclear drive.” -- The Times of Israel

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

PM Netanyahu's Greetings for Rosh Hashana 5774

Mr. Netanyahu's Greeting to the People of the World

Shana Tova! Happy New Year! 

"North is 90 Miles Southeast of Due West"

South Carolina Geography Lesson with Bill Cosby

Asking for directions in South Carolina could get tricky!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Driving Rainstorm on Skyline Drive

Impressions of a Summer Storm...

Pouring rain distorts the view of the Drive...

...and that of the trees...

IMG_3283 seen through the windshield.

Summer Storm in Rockfish Gap

Thunderstorm on the Road Over the Mountain

The wall of rain is seen ahead on the mountain...

...where visibility decreases as drivers enter...

...the dark, rainy cloud.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Howard Anthony and the Heathkit Story

Surplus Electronic Parts Changed a Company's Path

Howard Anthony transformed a purchase of surplus electronic parts into a legendary American institution.

A Milestone Monday Feature:

As a child, one activity my Dad introduced me to was building Heathkits. Dad was a NASA engineer and he had built his own high fidelity music system in the fifties. Heathkits were a uniquely American phenomenom in a time when Americans were proud of their ability to make things. Some company history may be gleaned from the Heathkit catalogue:

"When Edward Bayard Heath founded the Heath Aeroplane Company during the early 1900's, little did he realize what would eventually evolve from his small "airplane trading post" as it was commonly called. Before he died, Mr. Heath was able to see the fruition of his early dreams. In 1926, he produced an airplane in kit form—the famous Heath "Parasol." For years this light aircraft was a favorite in the flying fraternity. Mr. Heath was killed during a test flight in 1931, marking a tragic end to a brilliant career. From that point through World War II, the Heath Company remained in the aircraft and replacement part business."

After the second World War, the Heath Company branched into what would be its greatest creative glory. In 1935 an ambitious engineer named Howard Anthony purchased the company. Buying a large stock of surplus wartime electronic parts, Anthony designed and "mail order marketed" an oscilloscope for $39.50.

"Mr. Anthony based the success of his idea on the premise that anyone, regardless of technical knowledge or skills, could assemble a kit himself, and save up to 50% over comparable factory-built models. All that would be required were a few simple hand tools and some spare time."

"The key to the kit-builder's, and consequently Mr. Anthony's, success, was the instruction manual. Its contents still guide the Heath Company today. It contains simple, non-technical instructions and large "exploded" diagrams that take the builder through each and every him exactly what to do and how to do it."

Mr. Anthony's designers would create a new kit and then the all-important instruction manual would be written. The first draft would be printed out and then the designers would pull some of the ladies off of the packing line to build the new kits. These women would then, quite literally, rewrite the manual.

Heathkit instructions were a wonderfully simple progression of check-off directions accompanied by clean and easy to interpret drawings of the part you were assembling. Whenever one of the women building the kit became confused, the designers would carefully note the instructions and diagrams she did not understand and work with her to make it more user friendly. The result was a set of instructions that allowed virtually anyone to build a complex piece of equipment -- one piece at a time.

If your completed device did not function, all was not lost. The instructions included basic troubleshooting procedures, also tested and refined by the ladies in the packing department. As a last resort, you could in some cases send your assembly back to Heath for analysis. I remember once Dad actually did this.

The trouble shooter at Heath isolated the problem -- a faulty component -- and wrote us a nice note. He or she even complimented my soldering ability!

Diversifying the Product Line

Initially the Heathkit line produced items such as the oscilloscope, of interest primarlily to electronics buffs. The product line expanded to include radios and home entertainment products. By the late 'sixties you could even build a color television! Heath offered a small computer. The kit came with the step-by-step check off instructions for building the device. Anyone could build a pc using them.

The operating instructions, written by computer geeks, proved to be another matter altgether. Skipping the process of using line workers to smooth out the manual, their first very 'computerese' operating instructions baffled many.

Advances in solid state electronics gradually eliminated the need to hand solder components into assemblies and the company was sold in the 'eighties. What remains, interestingly enough, is a company that prodces educational materials.

Heath Educational Systems says on their web site:

"Our educational and training materials are developed with a proven philosophy of learning and integrate visual, auditory, and hands-on exercises. We call it 'The Heathkit Approach to Learning'."

What is even more fascinating is the influence of Heathkit on another legend of the electronics industry, Steve Jobs. The founder of Apple Computer had this to say about Heathkit in an April, 1995 Computerworld article:

"Heathkits were really great. Heathkits were these products that you would buy in kit form. You actually paid more money for them than if you just went and bought the finished product if it was available. These Heathkits would come with these detailed manuals about how to put this thing together and all the parts would be laid out in a certain way and color coded. You'd actually build this thing yourself. I would say that this gave one several things. It gave one an understanding of what was inside a finished product and how it worked because it would include a theory of operation but maybe even more importantly it gave one the sense that one could build the things that one saw around oneself in the universe. These things were not mysteries anymore. I mean you looked at a television set you would think that "I haven't built one of those but I could. There's one ofthose in the Heathkit catalog and I've built two other Heathkits so I could build that." Things became much more clear that they were the results of human creation not these magical things that just appeared in one's environment that one had no knowledge of their interiors. It gave a tremendous level of self-confidence, that through exploration and learning one could understand seemingly very complex things in one's environment. My childhood was very fortunate in that way."