Friday, December 31, 2010

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

A guy in Clemson, South Carolina, got himself hit by an SUV after he darted into traffic trying to create a real-life version of the video game Frogger. When he gets out of the hospital, he might want to try this version instead. Good grief!

Tough Loss

We are on the eve of the New Year, and like a lot of Vol fans I am smarting from UT's loss to North Carolina in the Music City Bowl in Nashville last night. Both teams played well, and it was an enjoyable football game to watch until the wheels fell off the bus for UT at the very end of the game. With such a young team, the Vols have struggled with penalties all season, and penalties, along with an interception late in the game, did them in last night. Tyler Bray's anguish as the game ended was palpable.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Meteor Showers in 2011

Click here for information about meteor showers in 2011.

Restaurant Review -- Subs and Such, Alcoa, Tennessee

Subs and Such restaurant, 245 South Calderwood Street (across from Midland Plaza), in Alcoa, has been my favorite sandwich shop for almost twenty years, and I'm surprised I've never done much more here than mention the place, so I want to give them a plug. During the five years I lived in Nashville, I learned that steamed deli sandwiches are hard to come by in that fair city. There was one place, Paradise Ridge Grill, which is now closed, that had a steamer, but you had to tell them to steam it, steam it again, and then steam the heck out of it to get a steamed deli sandwich like they make 'em here in East Tennessee. Since I ate at Subs and Such on a weekly basis for about nine years before moving to Nashville, it is the Blount County eatery I missed most while I lived in Middle Tennessee, and I have been patronizing them regularly again since I returned to Maryville in 2007.
I have recently been on a quest to find my favorite Maryville/Alcoa chicken salad sandwich since the Palace Cafe under the Palace Theater closed. (In my opinion, the Palace had the best chicken salad in town until the cafe shut its doors.) I usually get an Italian sub or some other meat and cheese sub at Subs and Such, and had never tried their chicken salad sandwich until someone recently suggested it. I now deem Subs and Such to have the best chicken salad sandwich in town. They'll ask you if you want the bread warmed. The answer is "yes."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

Sarah sings the classic song.

The Cumberland River

Sherry's mom lives on a bluff high above the Cumberland River on the west side of Nashville off of Charlotte Avenue. When we were there the weekend before last, I climbed down the stairs to the river to take these snapshots. It was a windy day, and I could hear her flag snapping in the wind, so I took a picture of it as well.
I took this looking upstream, toward downtown.

Straight across the river is a sod farm that was inundated by the flood in May. The bank on the other side the river was underwater.

This is the view downstream from Gram's house.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Another Stroll in the Neighborhood

On Sunday, Sarah and I took another walk around our neighborhood. Above is a wind chime Sherry got for Christmas. Below is Sarah standing in Faye Street just up the road from our house.

Above is Sarah with Everett Hills Baptist Church in the background, and below is our house, which we were ready to get back to by the time our stroll was over. Brrrr!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

More Snow

We got more snow overnight, and it is blowing sideways out there right now. My friend Johnny may drive up from Atlanta today, and we were talking about going up to one of Laura and Stew's cabins, Sunset Ridge, up in Pigeon Forge. It isn't supposed to get above 30 here in Maryville today, and the road in front of the house is covered in snow. The conditions are only supposed to go downhill from here.

Sarah Loses Fourth Tooth

Sarah lost her fourth baby tooth yesterday. (She lost her first one back in the spring on the weekend of the Great Flood of 2010 in Nashville.) That child's going to have to go on a diet of soup and mush if she loses any more teeth before she grows some new ones back in.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Blowing Rock

I've spent a few Christmas nights in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, where my mom used to live. The wind howls in those mountains on a snowy winter night!

Some More Christmas Photos

We bought Jake, an avid angler, a new rod and reel for Christmas.

Joey's been working out, and we got him a Shake Weight, a product advertised on television. In addition to the one we ordered, they shipped us a second one, which we had to mail back and which they billed us double for. They refunded our money, but it was an inconvenience. We also strongly suspect that they sent us two hoping we would find someone else on our Christmas list to give the extra one to in order to to avoid the inconvenience of sending it back. Joey liked the gift, but I wouldn't do business with that company again.

Sherry found this cool little cardboard buck model for Jake.

I'm not sure what sort of strange device Sherry put our children into, but they seem unaffected by it.

Sarah got a new gaming system, the Nintendo DS, to replace her Leapster, which she has enjoyed. She's been playing the Nintendo DS constantly since she opened it.

Playing in the Snow

Sarah and I just got back inside after playing a bit in the snow. Unlike the dry, powdery snow from last week, this is a good wet snow, and we were able to build this snowman. I'm glad we got a picture of him because he collapsed as soon as we went back inside. Either that red hat didn't have any magic in it, or Sarah's dad's snowman building skills aren't what they used to be.
I just love this dogwood tree, which is just outside our front door between our house and our neighbor's house.

This is the front of our home on the hill on this snowy Christmas Day. Merry Christmas!

Some Christmas Pictures

Joey's big present this year was an I-pod.
Fortunately, Sauron didn't get the ring he wanted this year.

Grams got us a Kindle.

Sarah was very pleased with her Pillow Pet. (The child is a sucker for advertising.)

White Maryville Christmas

Snow is falling this Christmas morning in Maryville, as this photograph taken in our back yard shows. We cooked a ham, sweet potato casserole, brocolli, deviled eggs and pecan pie for our Christmas dinner yesterday. The kids opened most of their presents yesterday, as was Sherry's family's tradition when she was growing up, and Mom came over and spent the night last night so she could see what Santa brought Sarah overnight. We had a group of carolers stop by yesterday evening, which was quite nice, especially since they also brought cookies!

Sherry and the boys have already hit the road to meet Jake and Joey's dad in Cookeville. It is snowing in Nashville, too, so they decided it would be prudent to get on the road as soon as possible. I salute the road workers who are spending Christmas Day away from their families so that families like ours who need to can travel.

Friday, December 24, 2010


My Aunt Joan sent my mother an e-mail about a figure of speech called a paraprosdokian. The e-mail defined it as a figure of speech in which "the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way which causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part." I found the same text here. Examples of paraprosdokians:

I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.

War doesn't determine who is right, but who is left.

A modest man, with very much to be modest about. - Winston Churchill on Clement Atlee

Searching for paraprosdokians online led me to this list of rhetorical terms from the University of Kentucky.

Destin Considering Red Light Cameras

Nothing says "Welcome to the beach!" like red light cameras.

Geocaching Amateur Interorbital Alliance

I wrote about geocaching a few months ago, and I just discovered that a group called the Geocaching Amateur Interorbital Alliance launched a geocache into (or very nearly into) space via balloon from Fayetteville, North Carolina. When the balloon burst, the group was able to track the geocache to Plymouth, North Carolina, where it landed. (Via Neatorama)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thomas Sharp "Bigfoot" Spencer

I am rereading Tennessee -- A Short History by Robert E. Corlew. It was the textbook for my Tennessee history class when I was in college, and since I've recently read biographies of Jackson, Polk and Houston, I thought it would be a good idea to read the textbook as an overview of the history of our state.

One of the first Europeans to begin the settlement of Tennessee was a long hunter named Thomas Sharp Spencer, who was nicknamed "Bigfoot." My paternal grandmother was a Spencer, and my parents gave me her maiden name as my middle name. Sherry and I gave it to Sarah as her middle name. I have passed the historical marker pictured above in Crab Orchard many times, and have wondered about Bigfoot Spencer, to whom I strongly suspect I am related.

In a footnote Corlew states,

Contemporaries told of his tremendous physical strength. One remarked, "He was the stoutest man I ever saw. Indeed, he was a Hercules -- stronger than two common men." Still another told how he lifted an antagonist by the seat of his trousers and threw him over an eight-foot tall fence. The man, somewhat humbled but nonplussed, simply arose from the dust and, while Big Foot glared, exclaimed, "Mr. Spencer, if you will be kind enough to pitch my horse over, I will be riding."

I found more about Bigfoot Spencer here, here and here. Spencer, Tennessee, the seat of Van Buren County, is named for him. According to Grandmother, my fourth great-grandfather was William Spencer, who lived from 1798 to 1878. Bigfoot came to Tennessee in 1776, so I'm within a generation of putting this genealogical puzzle together.

MORE: Judge Samuel Spencer of North Carolina

Home with the Kids

Sherry and I are both off work through the holiday weekend, and we're hanging out at the house with the kids. Sherry made us sausage balls for brunch, and we're all full and happy. The meteorologists are forecasting a possibility of a white Christmas for East Tennessee, which would be nice. We've got a big, ol' ham to bake tomorrow, so we won't go hungry.

What Happens to Misfit Reindeer?

Sorry, but they become reindeer sausage.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Gift from General Sherman

Although it is dated December 25, 1864, the Library of Congress says this transcript of a telegram from General William Tecumseh Sherman to President Lincoln was taken on December 22, 1864. Sherman wrote,

His Excellency
Presd. Lincoln

I beg leave to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.
W.T. Sherman
Major Genl

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sugar Mountain

A friend of Mom's sent her this picture from the ski resort on Sugar Mountain, North Carolina. I'm not a skier myself, but I have been up to Sugar Mountain a couple of times with friends who are. Mom used to live in Blowing Rock, and Laura used to live in Seven Devils, though we called it Eight Devils when she lived there. I also used to have a bunch of friends that lived in Boone and Blowing Rock, so I know the North Carolina High Country pretty well.

R.I.P. Alma Garrett

I was saddened to read in the Daily Times this morning that Alma Garrett of Roy's Record Shop has died after a fall on Saturday. I bought one of my acoustic guitars from Roy, but Alma was usually the one who waited on me when I went to the store to buy strings or CD's. She always knew to expect me the day a new Jimmy Buffett album was released. She was a lively, sweet lady, and our community will miss her.

Winter Solstice

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, which means our days start getting longer beginning tomorrow. Also, there was a lunar eclipse last night, which is the first time a lunar eclipse coincided with the winter solstice in almost 500 years. The photograph of Stonehenge is from the summer solstice on June 21, 2010, from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day.

All She Wants for Christmas . . . .

Sarah was up extra early this morning with her loose tooth hanging on by a thread. It came out a few minutes later. Now she's missing both of her two upper front teeth, so she can wish you Merry Cwithmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Infinite Bacon

Just when you think you've seen everything, someone (via The Daily Bacon) makes a Möbius strip of bacon. To infinity (and the cardiologist) and beyond!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Road Trip

We drove to Nashville yesterday morning to celebrate an early Christmas with Sherry's family and to pick up Joey and Jake, who will be with us through Christmas Day. We met for lunch at Jim N' Nick's Bar-B-Q, where I had their delicious Brunswick Stew, and afterwards we went to Sherry's mom's house to exchange gifts and to visit a bit. We rented a room last night in the Airport Nashville Radisson so that the kids (and grown-ups) could enjoy their pool, pictured above, and hot tub.

I've been in the hotel's business center this morning allowing Sherry and the kids to sleep, since I wake up very early and am not a quiet man. When they wake up, we're going to drive back to East Tennessee, where we will celebrate another early Christmas at Mom's for Laura and Stewart and Grace, who will be traveling to Stew's hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, for further festivities with his family. I've never been, but in Edmonton a white Christmas is pretty much guaranteed, which should be pleasing to La.

Message from the Gulf Coast

My friend Randy likes to torment me from the Gulf of Mexico when he knows we've been freezing up here in Tennessee. He took this photograph from his condo and sent it saying how much he loves the weather in December. I'm about ready for a dose of the beach after last week!

Happy 90th Birthday Little Jimmy Dickens!

Little Jimmy Dickens of the Grand Ole Opry is ninety years old today.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cryovolcanoes on One of Saturn's Moons?

The Cassini spacecraft, which is pestering Saturn, has transmitted information to Earth the leads scientists in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California to believe that there could be cryovolcanoes on Saturn's moon Titan.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Wright Brothers Day!

Title 36, section 143(b) of the United States Code states,

Wright Brothers Day commemorates the first successful flights in a heavier than air, mechanically propelled airplane, that were made by Orville and Wilbur Wright on December 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

UPDATE: Subsection (c) of the aforementioned statute requests that the President issue a proclamation of Wright Brothers Day each year, and President Obama has complied.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Pizza Burger

Behold the Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Pizza Burger. I found it on, which has complete instructions and pictures. I am particularly impressed by the bacon dreamcatcher. This is far beyond the Pizza Burger they used to sell at Sam and Andy's on the Strip in Knoxville. It looks like the perfect Man v. Food challenge.

Report from Sherry

Sherry got her car out of the driveway, and she just called a few minutes ago to let me know she'd made it to work at the hospital without incident. When I was outside warming up her car and getting the ice off of the windows I heard plenty of sirens in the distance, so I suspect not everyone has been as fortunate out on the roads this morning.

Christmas Boong

Here's Sarah decked out in the Christmas dress her mama bought her last weekend.

Iced in on the Hill

Much of East Tennessee is covered in ice this morning, and Everett Hill in Maryville is no exception. I submit these photos of the icicles on our house as evidence. Blount County and Alcoa had already announced that their school systems would be closed today when I woke up, but Maryville planned to open two hours late, at 10:00 a.m. WBIR announced a few minutes ago that Maryville decided to close schools after all, and we received a robocall from the school system shortly thereafter. County government follows Maryville City, so I'll be staying home with Sarah today. At this point, the physicians for whom Sherry works plan to open their offices at 10:00 a.m. With the ice on our driveway, which is on a steep slope, I'll be surprised if she can get it up to the street, especially since she is parked on the slope.

Our cat Molly, a confirmed doofus, wanted out this morning, and she slipped on the ice on the front porch, much to my amusement. The poor beast quickly made it back into the house without further embarrassment.

Boston Tea Party

The Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773. One of the participants in the destruction of the offending tea was George Hewes, who described his involvement,

It was now evening, and I immediately dressed myself in the costume of an Indian, equipped with a small hatchet, which I and my associates denominated the tomahawk, with which, and a club, after having painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired to Griffin's wharf, where the ships lay that contained the tea. When I first appeared in the street after being thus disguised, I fell in with many who were dressed, equipped and painted as I was, and who fell in with me and marched in order to the place of our destination.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Battle of Nashville

The Battle of Nashville took place on December 15 and 16, 1864, during the American Civil War. The Tennessee Capitol Building can be seen in this photograph, from this website full of information about the battle.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Back to School for Sarah

Although many school systems in East Tennessee are closed today, the Maryville system is open, so today will be a normal school and work day for us. The temperature outside our kitchen window is 17 degrees, and it will be frigid today. Metro Nashville schools are closed, so Joey and Jake have another day to enjoy the snow.

Battle of Bean Station

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Bean Station, which took place in nearby Grainger County, Tennessee, and began on December 14, 1863. Confederate General James Longstreet had been repelled from Knoxville after failing to capture Fort Sanders, and Union soldiers under Brigadier General J.M. Shackleford pursued him. The two forces fought near Bean Station, but news of Union reinforcements en route from Rutledge caused Longstreet to withdraw. The photograph is from the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, and it shows the graves of unknown Confederate soldiers who died in the fighting.
You can learn more about Bean Station here.
UPDATE (from my cousin, Jim): Steve, regarding your blog today (see, I DO read it), I am researching this, but either my great, great grandfather or my great, great uncle died in this battle. They were brothers and one died at Bean Station and the other died at Shiloh. You would also be kinfolks as they were Spencers. Interesting that you would post that as I never would have been aware otherwise.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Glad I Don't Live There

Take a look at a few photographs of life in Siberia via Dark Roasted Blend. No wonder being exiled to Siberia is so feared. This looks like Mordor.

A Walk in the Snow

Sarah wanted to go outside into the frigid temperatures this morning to explore the winter wonderland of our neighborhood. The road was a sheet of ice.


I just found a recipe for Mulligatawny on The Ungormet. describes it as a "Classic Anglo-Indian soup." I've been looking for some new soup recipes, and the cool name goes a long way to selling me on this dish, though its meaning, "pepper water," is rather drab.

Vintage Boy Scout Merit Badges

The Boy Scouts have created a Historical Merit Badge program to celebrate the 100th anniversary of scouting. The four vintage badges are for carpentry, pathfinding, signalling and tracking, and scouts have to work from .pdf files of the original merit badge handbooks.

Schools Closed

The Maryville City School system, as well as the Alcoa and Blount County systems, are closed today because of the snow. County government follows the Maryville system, so the justice center and courthouse will be closed, too. From our deck, it looks like we have about an inch here so far. Many neighboring school systems are closed in East Tennessee as well. Even UT is opening two hours late, which is practically unheard of. Snowbird is flying in Middle Tennessee, and there is a long list of school closings there, including the Metro Nashville system, which means Jake and Joey will be sleeping in this morning.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Snow

The snow is picking up, and it is beginning to cover the streets and houses as the sun sets. Brrrr!