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Clockwise, from top left: Blackfriar's Theater in Staunton, VA, home of the American Shakespeare Center; National Cathedral in Guatemala City; church near Volin, SD; engraved stellae at ruins of Copan, Honduras; folk musicians in La Paz, Bolivia.

Culture and Travel montage shadow

Culture-related pages:

Travel photos

Religious blogs & sites

Local drama & music

Other Web links


My favorite movies

  1. Casablanca
  2. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  3. Raising Arizona
  4. Fargo
  5. Shawshank Redemption
  6. Field of Dreams
  7. Bull Durham
  8. Fiddler on the Roof
  9. Patton
  10. Bananas
  11. Fort Apache: The Bronx
  12. Broadcast News

December 26, 2018 [LINK / comment]

A brief review of travels in 2018 (and before...)

In preparation for a summary of travels that Jacqueline and/or I have taken over the past year, I have thoroughly revised the Chronological photo gallery pages, with consistent formatting from 2014 up to date. Whereas before each yearly page grouped photos geographically, now they are strictly sequenced according to time (which they really should have been all along), with one or more "batches" for each month. Part of the problem is my own inconsistency in blogging about travels in a timely fashion. It was 15 months ago (July 1, 2017: "North of the border: trip to Canada & the Midwest") that I began the laborious process of catching up with the chronicles of my adventures. In the next few days, I will do likewise about the trip to the southwest that I took with my father in 2014, completing the task of consistent formatting photo gallery pages going back at least to 2012. It was in 2008 that I first purchased a high-quality digital camera (a Nikon D40), and in 2013 I purchased a camera with a 50x optical zoom lens, the Canon PowerShot SX-50. My photos prior to 2008 are of mixed quality, some scanned from prints made from my old Pentax K-1000 film camera and others being still images from my Canon video camera. Many of the latter are barely worth archiving, frankly.

What follows are brief summaries of each of our significant trips this year, beginning with a link and headline for each of the four travel-related blog posts that I made in 2018. (Jacqueline's travels to Peru are not included.) Clicking on those respective links will take you to more detailed descriptions of the things we saw and did.

August 9, 2018: "Highlights from a few "recent" day trips"

On March 23 we drove to Highland County, even though it was a week after the annual Maple Festival. Our hopes that some of the vendors might still be hanging around proved to be in vain. On March 26 we drove to Charlottesville to buy concert tickets, and played tourist / shoppers for a day. Of special interest was the Robert E. Lee statue near downtown, the center of violent political clashes the previous August. The statue had been covered with a black tarp for several months, as the City Council wanted to remove the statue, but a state court ruled that such a move was illegal. Police had put yellow "keep out" tape surrounding the statue.

Robert E. Lee equestrian statue in Charlottesville

Robert E. Lee equestrian statue in Charlottesville. (March 26)

On May 26 Jacqueline, her family, and I visited Washington, D.C. and Arlington National Cemetery for the first time in years, paying homage to John and Jacqueline Kennedy's gravesite. On June 10 we went to Manassas battlefield, another symbol of lingering Civil War divisions. It was much appreciated by Jacqueline's brother Roberto, who is fascinated by U.S. Civil War history.

John and Jacqueline Kennedy gravesite

John and Jacqueline Kennedy gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. (May 26)

Finally, on August 4 we went on a "random" day trip to Brownsburg and Goshen, in Rockbridge County. It was a beautiful sunny day, following days of heavy rain that had caused many area rivers to flood.

Goshen Pass, Maury River

The Maury River passing through the Goshen Pass. (Aug. 4)

August 23, 2018: "Weekend trip to Annapolis"

Annapolis is a place that we had been meaning to visit for many years, and finally we got around to actually doing it. The weather was uncertain as we left Staunton, but the skies eventually brightened, and it turned out to be a big success. We feasted on steamed hard-shell crabs at Cantler's Riverside Inn, and the next day took a boat tour of the Annapolis harbor, walked the streets of the city, and briefly visited the U.S. Naval Academy campus before returning home. It was an intense but very rewarding weekend!

Annapolis montage

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The tower above the Maryland State House (south side), the Government House, U.S. Naval Academy Main Chapel, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, boats at dock, the Annapolis Federal House, and in center, quaint townhouses on Fleet Street. (August 18-19)

September 25, 2018: "Day trip to West Virginia"

For years I had been meaning to visit Dolly Sods, a wilderness area in West Virginia that was recommended by a former house mate of mine in grad school. It was a rugged uphill climb along gravel roads to get there, and Jacqueline was less than enthuasistic. But she did enjoy visiting Seneca Rocks afterwards, even though we didn't have much time left.

Goshen Pass, Maury River

Seneca Rocks, during our second stop there in the late afternoon. (Sept. 19)

October 25, 2018: "'Innings' and outings in October"

Jacqueline had the day off on October 25 and was anxious to get out and see something different. (My interest in birds often bores her, and I promised to keep that to an absolute minimum that day.) After scrutinizing the various maps we have I hit upon the perfect destination: the White Oak Lavender Farm, located in Rockingham County a few miles southeast of Harrisonburg.

White Oak Lavender Farm

The main building of the White Oak Lavender Farm. (Oct. 4)

Finally, we drove up to the Blue Ridge on October 21, hoping to see some fall foliage, but it had not yet reached peak color. We stopped in the village of Love, hoping to eat lunch, but they were closed, so we ended up a Blue Mountain Brewery, which was just wonderful.

Twenty Minute Cliff

Twenty Minute Cliff, on the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Oct. 21)

To see additional photos, please visit the Chronological photo gallery (2018-BEST) page, which has 20 photos, and if you are really interested, see the Chronological photo gallery (2018) page, which has over 100.

December 7, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Much, much more music!

Since my last solo musical show three months ago, I have cut back somewhat on appearances at the Queen City Brewing open mic nights. Instead of roughly three weeks per month, it's been more like twice a month this fall. I have also spent a bit less time learning new material, trying instead to polish the songs I already know, but I have not stopped entirely. Far from it! (I may have been at the September 19 open mic event, but if so, I didn't write it down.)

Here is what I have played at recent open mic events, beginning with October 10. This was soon after the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and I thought a song about excessive drinking in college would be appropriate, hence "Chug All Night," a little-known early Eagles tune. But the big "hit" of the evening for me was "Hummingbird," marking the departure of hummingbirds who head south every October -- or most of them, anyway! (See below.) The other four songs (which I had played in public before) went OK, although I wish I could have played the harmonica (denoted by the # symbol) more cleanly on "Gypsy Forest."

A week later, on October 17, I played three new (for me) songs, indicated with asterisks as in the list above. They all went surprisingly well. "Mr. Powell" is about John Wesley Powell, the first explorer to navigate the rapids of the Colorado River in its entirety, in 1869. I learned it a long time ago, but made some "final corrections" before doing it in public for the first time. "Under the Bridge" is one hell of a cool song from the nineties, and really impressed the bartender, Kyle. smile

On October 31 (Halloween!), there weren't many musicians present, so we each had to do a few extra songs. This time I had two new songs, both by Chicago. I did passably on the first three "encore" songs, but for the final song, I gave up on Jethro Tull's "Living In the Past" after flubbing the intro. That hasn't happened to me in a long time. So, I played Carole King's "It's Too Late" instead, and that went just fine.

Two weeks later, on November 14, I played three new songs (two by Chicago) and did "Hummingbird" again, in recognition of the surprise visit of a Rufous Hummingbird to the home of a local bird club member. (See November 10.) My friend from the bird club, Peter Van Acker, was in attendance, appropriately enough. The first song I played, "The Last Resort," called attention to the disastrous wildfires that killed perhaps a hundred or more people in California. It's all about ruining the wilderness with vacation and retirement residences, and of the consequent risks to the environment. I had just learned that song a couple days earlier, and managed to pull it off very well, I thought. My final song, "Elected," was of course a tribute to the congressional midterm elections that had just happened.

November 28 was frigid, and I had trepidations about heading out to play music, but I'm glad I did. I played four brand-new songs of very distinct genres, and the audience was very friendly and appreciative. I really wowed them with the first three songs, and Fritz Horisk kindly complimented me on "Wichita Lineman." For the fourth one I gave them fair warning of a slight change of pace, and to my surprise, some of the "older" folks were singing along! For the "encore" song, I did "Under the Bridge" again, but should have played the intro more cleanly. Also, I kind of messed up the chords on the final part of that song. Nevertheless, it was for the most part an excellent night, and Craig Austin's percussion added a lot. My set list:

( # ) = with harmonica

Chicago! Chicago! Etc.

As you might have noticed, I played five songs by Chicago, the first time I have covered that particular group. Not surprisingly, given that the band relies heavily on brass instruments, I used the harmonica in all five songs. I'm working on one other Chicago song, "Beginnings," but it will take a lot more practice before it's ready for public consumption!

I have also been learning more songs by Carole King and Joe Walsh, among others. A couple months ago I was working on Doobie Brothers and Three Dog Night but then set those aside. Maybe I'll get back to them soon...

Major world languages

Language 2002
Chinese * 874 # 1,213
Spanish * 322 329
English * 341 328
Arabic ? 221
Hindi 366 # 182
Bengali 207 181
Portuguese 176 178
Russian * 167 144
Japanese 125 122
German 100 90

# : 2004 data for Chinese pertained only to Mandarin speakers, whereas data for Hindi speakers were defined more broadly.
Asterisks (*) denote the official languages of the United Nations, which also includes French (68 million speakers).

SOURCE: The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 & 2012

I speak Spanish, some Portuguese, and have dabbled in German, French, Italian, Russian, Catalan, and Quechua.

Major world religions

Religion 2002
Christians 2,038 2,281
Muslims 1,226 1,553
Hindus 828 943
Chinese folk 389 454
Buddhists 364 463
Sikhs 24 24
Jews 14 15
Local, other 32 379
Non-religious 925 798

The obvious discontinuities in the last two lines of data are of uncertain origin.

SOURCE: The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 & 2012

I belong to the Episcopal Church and am annoyed at the recent polarization. According to a Theology quiz, I scored as a "Classical Liberal."

Ten Commandments

  1. Worship ONE God only
  2. No graven images
  3. No taking God's name in vain
  4. Keep Sabbath day holy
  5. Honor parents
  6. No stealing
  7. No murder
  8. No adultery
  9. No bearing false witness
  10. No coveting what others have

Seven deadly sins

  1. Pride
  2. Covetousness
  3. Lust
  4. Anger
  5. Gluttony
  6. Envy
  7. Sloth

Proverbs 6: 16-19

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies,
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Romans 12: 17, 21

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.

Serenity Prayer

Reinhold Niebuhr was a leading theologian of the mid-20th Century, and often wrote about foreign policy from a "Christian realist" perspective. From

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.