Archive for July, 2007

“Oh Gawd, It *is* a Blog Post”

Last Thursday, I saw the movie Transformers with a friend.  As we walked out, I started to share what I thought was an interesting observation about Optimus Prime and his acceptable level of casualties.

“Is this a blog post?” my friend interrupted.

“No,” I assured him and I started citing examples from WWII and all the doctors who died from radiation sickness trying to master X-rays.

“Oh gawd,” he groaned, “It *is* a blog post!”

Well, it turns out to be a blog post afterall– but definitely not in the way he expected.  🙂    

July 31, 2007 at 12:30 am 2 comments


On Saturday, I accompanied Sean and his parents to visit Jamestown (we went to the State Park recreation– not the National Park Site).  It was good timing– May of 2007 was the 400th anniversary of England’s first permanent colony in the New World.  There is a big todo about this particular bragging right– Plymouth often fills that role in people’s minds… but Plymouth was settled 13 years later.  I prepped for our journey be reading two Jamestown articles in the May 2007 issue of National Geographic.  The author of one of those articles was a native of Massachussetts.  When he interviewed locals about the Jamestown anniversary, his subjects were skeptical, “Why?  Are you from Plymouth?!?” 

You know…there are things I forget about history.  You should have heard me and Larry bantering on and feeding each other misconceptions when we stopped by Valley Forge a few years ago.  You should also have seen our synchronized, stupified hush once we started reading the real details.

I felt a similiar pause of ignorance when I read about how drastically the colonists changed this land.  It is actually not unlike the red vines in War of the Worlds.  The colonists struggled to survive in this new environment so they converted it to what they were used to.  The planted their own plants (granted not as scary as the red vines).  They brought their own lifestock (horses, cattle, pigs).  And some things that seem so natural in the ecosystem now came from Europe.  Nightcrawlers!  Honeybees!  I was surprised and at the same time I felt I should have known better. 

Another thing about these colonists.  Bear Grylls and/or Les Stroud would have much to frown upon.  I know what the colonists did was brave and took courage that I would never have (Heck, I dillydally about moving 150 miles away).  But, with my running water, my heat and, most importantly, my internet, my spoiled self still questions the will of the colonists.  Let’s overlook the fact that they banked too much on trading with the Indians and they didn’t plan on growing their own food (Solid plan there, fellas).  The thing that struck me the most was the account that during “The Starving Time” the colonists were too scared of Powhatan hostility to leave their fort to look for food.  80% of people died that winter and get this– some people dug their own graves, laid down in them and waited to die.  What?!?  If you are already acquiescing to death and you still have enough energy to dig a grave, is there that much harm of going outside and try to find some food? Bah!

Speaking of which, it sounds like John Smith was the Bear Grylls/Les Stroud of the day.  In a previous winter (he was back in England during The Starving Time) he, as crazy as it sounds, actually went on a mission to find food for the colonists.  Good for him.

By the way– did you know that John Smith did not marry Pocahontas?  She married a different Englishman by the name of John Rolfe.  So convinced was I that she married John Smith that when I first read the name of her husband, I thought, “Oh, I guess he went by two names.”

That was my explanation.  John Smith was John Smith and John Rolfe.  It couldn’t possibly be that I was wrong.  🙂

One final note– Jamestown was privately funded.  It wasn’t a government venture– it was investors.  They formed the “Virginia Company” and had hoped to strike it rich with gold and silver.  I like the example that you don’t need a federal government to fund discovery.  Though an example without people eating their dead may be a little more uplifting. 

Most of my pictures are actually from the ferry ride across the James River.  You can pretend they are related to my paragraphs above:

Seagulls– Native or did they come from Europe?

Sean’s Dad at a Jamestown Church – Thinking about digging his own grave?

Top of my Ferry – This woman did *not* marry John Smith

Me — Well fed, covered in sunblock, near an automobile, with sunglasses to protect my eyes from UVA rays and a fancy schmacy digital camera… still judging the colonists

July 31, 2007 at 12:14 am 3 comments

links for 2007-07-27

July 27, 2007 at 12:27 pm 1 comment

Tried and True Times Two

Well if one worries about spoilers from a movie from 1989, one should not read any further.  

Near the end of Steel Magnolias, M’Lynn  (Sally Field) talks about the death of her daughter, Shelby (Julia Roberts).  When the doctors removed Shelby’s life support, Shelby’s father left the room and Shelby’s husband left the room as well.  But M’Lynn stayed with her daughter and held her hand until the very end.  She was the only one who stayed even though “Men are supposed to be made out of steel or something.” (See where the movie gets part of its title?)

On Sunday when it came time to paint the ceiling of the upstairs hallway, I found out who my “Steel Magnolia” was.  Sean didn’t participate in any of the house projects this past week and this one no different– he watched TV.  My mother had given me ample notice that she had no interest in ceiling painting, plus she was weary from four solid days of dedicated work.  She stayed downstairs and read a book. 

It needed to be done, so armed with my roller, my white can of paint, my hiking headlamp (really good to help see missed spots) and an eccletic set of dropclothes, I commenced the chore.  It wasn’t long before I realized I wasn’t alone.  Who was with me?  Jimmie!  He curled up on one of the dropclothes and watched.   His support did not falter– He stayed upstairs the entire time.  And amazingly enough, he never once got in the way.  When I needed to stand in his spot, he took a few steps down the stairs and just waited until my work in that area was done.

Even though he’s just a dog, I appreciated his moral support. 

And where was Henry the Beagle?  Cowering downstairs.  There wasn’t a single aspect of this operation, ranging from rollers to dropclothes, that did not terrify him.  I guess I know which dog will not protect me in the face of danger.

While I am on the subject, I do have to highlight my mother and her contributions this past week.  There were things that were not fun, but she did them cheerfully.  Sometimes we were listening to her CD (Avril Lavigne) but even when we were listening to my CDs, she didn’t complain.  Her expertise and work ethic were valuable, but more so was her company.  That is a trend with my mother– I can really count on her company. 

Here’s a quick example from college.  I loved the Kids in the Hall and I really, really, really wanted to see their movie Brain Candy when it came out.  Alas, I couldn’t find a single person to go with me.   Finally, my mother agreed to accompany me.  There was a scene in the movie my mother found so disgusting she gagged— and she STILL stayed for the rest of the film and she still continues to go to movies with me to this day (though she routinely reminds me about the Kids in the Hall debacle).

I think more contemporary evidence surfaces when you look at geocaching.  My mother has accompanied me on more geocaches than any other person– even the young, adventurous whipper-snappers like Stacy.  Mom’ll tromp through the woods, dodge thorny bushes and when we get close, she’ll point out suspicious piles of sticks or leaves. 

All this stuff– helping me with home repairs, braving gag-inducing movies and finding pieces of tupperware in the woods– she does this, at least in part, for me.

And I very much appreciate it.

(Apparently I show that appreciation by making her remove wallpaper, coercing her to gag-inducing movies and dragging her out into the middle of the woods).

July 24, 2007 at 11:42 pm 8 comments

links for 2007-07-24

  • Man vs. Wild (Born Survivor in U.K.) is facing claims of being faked. I actually don’t care if someone helped him build his raft. The show is informative, it’s entertaining. And as long as Bear keeps battling hypothermia and having to take off all his clothes, I’ll be sure to watch.  🙂

    (tags: manvswild beargrylls)

July 24, 2007 at 12:21 pm 6 comments

Bicentennial Needlepoint of Virginia

Tonight is Mom’s last night in Blacksburg.   Instead of working on house projects, I took her to Ben and Jerry’s (she accepts ice cream as payment for services rendered), a drive around campus and then I took her to the relatively new Inn at the Virginia Tech.  In particular, I took her to the needlepoint that is on display there at the conference center. 

The needlepoint was presented to Virginia Tech in 1975 and was done in honor of the 1976 bicentennial.  There are 104 separate squares in the piece representing different cities and counties in Virginia.  Some squares are very elaborate while others are a little less decorative.  Overall, there are more than two million stitches in the piece and some squares took 195 man hours to complete.  It is pretty neat to look at:

Bicentennial Needlepoint

My current county presents a mystery.  Here is a shot of its square:

Montgomery County’s Square

On the upper left– a church.  Bottom left– old Virginia Tech logo.  Bottom right– U.S. flag.  So what’s the thing in the upper right?  Here’s a closer look at it:

What the?

I pulled up the Montgomery County Seal for guidance.  I’m thinking it is supposed to be a rifle?

Seal of Montgomery County Virginia.  Upper Left – Deer, Bottom Left – Church, Bottom Right – Burruss Hall (Va. Tech), Upper Right– Rifle

And before I part, here’s a shot of Roanoke County’s square:

Roanoke County Square

The Roanoke Veterans would be pleased to see that the Roanoke Star is depicted as Red, White and Blue here.

July 23, 2007 at 8:53 pm 4 comments

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July 22, 2007 at 12:18 pm 3 comments

Brushes With Harry Potter

My mother and I have been pretty sequestered this week.  We’ve been removing wallpaper, painting ceilings, painting window trims, washing windows, disassembling an old toilet, draining a waterbed, breaking a storm window (Whoops), repairing the molding Jimmie chewed when he got stuck in the bathroom, and on and on.  We work during that day and in the evenings I catch up with work (last night I was up till 3 AM finishing up some projects).  As you can tell, we’ve been quite busy and so far, we have only been leaving the property for meals and supplies.

Despite the brevity of our outings and us not targetting books, we’ve still encountered Harry Potter enthusiasm!  This morning we got coffee and breakfast at Easy Chair and all the workers were talking about how late they were up and lamenting their lack of sleep.  It seemed odd so many workers had such little sleep….even in a college town.  It turns out last night Easy Chair had a Harry Potter Release Party that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

Less subtle– for lunch we picked up sandwiches at Jimmy John’s and then walked over to Dairy Queen so I could treat my hardworking mother to a chocolate malt.  My mother hesistated when she saw a handwritten sign on the door.

“Oh!  Are they closed?!?” she asked.

They were open– the sign’s black sharpie letters implored guests not to share Harry Potter spoilers inside the shop.  And in case your memory failed you in the presence of the great Blizzard, another sign on the cash register reminded you:

No Harry Potter Book Spoilers at Dairy Queen

Luckily for the Dairy Queen staff, the only spoilers we have are the likes of “What was behind the wallpaper in the master bathroom.”  Thrilling stuff, I know.

July 21, 2007 at 10:46 pm 3 comments

Playing God

Last weekend I did some yard work.  One of my first tasks was chopping down a small walnut tree that had taken root in some ground cover near the street.  I used a small ax and at first I marveled at the exercise I was getting with each swing.  Suddenly I thought, “This is so weird.  I love trees.”

I do love trees and I especially love trees that are growing where they shouldn’t be– on top of rocks, clinging desperately to a steep incline, still growing after storm damage or a fall.  It is those trees, the peculiar or peculiarly placed that catch my attention on hikes.  But in my yard, this industrious tree who managed to find a spot of free sun was not rewarded.

Later I moved into the backyard where my well covered body ruthlessly yanked down poison ivy vines from trees.  But, I let the beloved Virginia Creeper remain.  At one point, I delicately untangled a poison ivy vine so as to not to disturb the Virginia Creeper on the same host.

Then I got out the weed wacker and without remorse I swung that thing around and devoured everything in its path…. until I got to the wild raspberry bushes.  I remembered how delicious they were last summer and spared them…at least until they bear fruit.

When it was all done, I sat down and drank my Gatorade Rain Berry (my new favorite flavor) and looked upon my creation.   I reflected on the items I condemned, the items I smote and the items I saved.  That afternoon I wasn’t doing work, afterall.  I was playing God.

Well, as luck would have it, I happen to have another Playing God story to share!

My last two years of college I roomed with a dear friend of mine.  This man is intelligent and funny and there are many things about him that I admire… but, like most of us– he has a vice.  He chews his fingernails.  I certainly would notice the gnawing, but it never really bothered me all that much until one idle day when we were heating up a frozen pizza.

Now— we were in college.  So let me lay down some groundwork here.  At that time, our diet consisted solely of frozen pizza, Wendy’s and on special occassions, we would fast all day for a giant gluttonous feast at Texas Steakhouse. 

So this frozen pizza venture was not a new one.  My roommate got the pizza out of the freezer as he had done hundreds of times.  He unwrapped the pizza, as he had done hundreds of times.  He started to rearrange the pepperoni so they were evenly distributed, just like all the other times before.

But this particular day, I thought about his nailbiting.  I could see his fingers firmly rooted in his mouth and him biting away.  And then I could picture his finger tips glistening in the light with fresh saliva.  And then I watched as those same fingers with ragged nubs for nails were picking up the pepperoni I would be eating in 8-12 minutes.

I grew so disgusted and so outraged that I couldn’t hold it in.  I exploded.  I’m not sure of my initial statements, but I know exactly how my ejaculation ended:

“YOU SHOULDN’T PLAY GOD WITH THE PEPPERONI!” I screamed and stormed off.  I left the poor guy perplexed and with a handful of pepperoni.

And that, my friends, was the *only* explanation, he got for my outburst for many, many years–  some kind of heightened sensitivity to blasphemy via frozen foods. 

Just a couple of years ago, I did enlighten him to the true story behind my statement.  I’m not sure, but I think the explanation actually made me look less crazy.  😉

July 21, 2007 at 7:43 pm 2 comments

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July 21, 2007 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

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