Monday, February 28, 2011

Just Another Day on Mars

This is an image from NASA's Opportunity rover from the Santa Maria crater on Mars. You can see part of the rover and its shadow in the lower part of the picture. It has been rolling around our neighboring planet for seven years now.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lunch at the Loveless

Sherry and Sarah are in Nashville visiting the boys and Grams this weekend. When I talked to Sherry this morning she said their plan was to have lunch at the Loveless Cafe for Grams' and Mark's birthdays, which were this week. We used to live within ten minutes of the Loveless, but I've never eaten any meal but breakfast there.

Sarah's School to Close

The Maryville school board voted this week to close Sarah's school, the Fort Craig School of Dynamic Learning, after the 2011-2012 school year. Sarah will attend second grade at Fort Craig next year. We expect she will most likely attend third grade at John Sevier Elementary School, and fourth grade at the new Coulter Grove Intermediate School, which the system plans to open in fall 2012. Like most parents with children at Fort Craig, we have been delighted with Sarah's experience there, and we are proud of how much she has learned at Fort Craig in kindergarten and first grade.

NY Pie in Nashville

I read this week on the Tennessean website that West Nashville has a new New York style pizza restaurant, NY Pie. I take issue the comments in the Tennessean article that there is a dearth of good pizza in Bellevue. Our family particularly likes hometown favorites like Sir Pizza and Pizza Perfect, but I'm sure we'll try a NY Pie to see what all the fuss is about, especially since they are conveniently located on Charlotte Pike, not too far from Sherry's mom's house. There's always room in the neighborhood for another good pizza place.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Closed Account

Today I closed the checking account that served as my general operating account when I was still in private practice. I left it open for the past couple of years to process attorney fees I earned before I entered government service, but for the past year or so the only payments that have gone into it are a from a couple of former clients who are paying their bills at $20.00 or so a month, so the account has outlived its usefulness. When I closed it, the lady at the bank commented that I opened the account in Nashville, which I did when I left the law firm I had been working with to operate a solo practice in 2003. Although I love what I do now, I must admit I feel a bit of sadness associated with giving up that one last vestige of private practice.


For Valentine's Day and our anniversary Sherry bought us tickets to go see Spamalot at the Tennessee Theater in May. I wonder if they will let me bring my two empty halves of coconut into the theater. I probably need to get her to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail a couple of times in between now and show time so she'll have some idea of what is going on. I'm one of those people who can quote the movie verbatim, something I'm liable to do with increasing frequency as we get closer to May.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Discovery's Final Launch

We just watched the final launch of space shuttle Discovery on television, and I still feel the same sense of pride and wonder I had as a child growing up during the Apollo era, though space flight has become routine. Sherry and I made Sarah watch it on pain of no computer games for the night, and she grudgingly obeyed. The only wonder she experienced was wondering why we were making her watch this boring event.

Marbury v. Madison

On February 24, 1803, the United States Supreme Court decided Marbury v. Madison. Chief Justice John Marshall's opinion in the case asserted for the first time that the federal judiciary held the power to declare a law unconstitutional. He wrote, "It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is." The copy of the document shown above shows damage from the Capitol fire in 1898.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Remember the Alamo!

On February 23, 1836, the Siege of the Alamo began. The fort fell on March 6, 1936. On the second day of the battle, William Barrett Travis wrote a letter to the people of Texas. It began,

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna — I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man — The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken — I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls — I shall never surrender or retreat.

The bravery of the garrison that fell at the Alamo became a rallying cry, "Remember the Alamo," and the Texans under Sam Houston, a former Maryvillian, defeated the Mexican army under Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto to gain Texan independence from Mexico.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

George Washington's Birthday

George Washington was born on this day in 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Out of the Hollar

We had quite a nice visit to Cozy Creek yesterday. It was chilly enough to warrant a fire, and we ended up with a roaring blaze in the fire pit in the back yard. Jeffrey, a friendly Sevier County neighbor, joined us as we were gathering sticks and branches to make a fire. He went missing for a few minutes, and about the time we had a small fire going he showed back up with his pickup truck full of split wood and dry kindling. That's some mountain hospitality! We soon had a mighty fire, and it burned brightly into the evening.

We're back home now, and I've stowed away all of our gear from the overnight trip. I view this as the last winter trip to the mountains of the season. I saw daffodil blooms in Wears Valley on the way home this morning.

Happy Presidents' Day

Interestingly, although we celebrate the holiday as Presidents' Day, section 6103, title 5 of the United States Code declares "Washington's Birthday, the third Monday in February" to be a public holiday. Because Abraham Lincoln's birthday is February 12 and George Washington's is February 22, the holiday is often called Presidents' Day as a way of honoring and remembering both great men.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Merry Wives of Windsor at Clarence Brown Theater

Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor is to be staged at the Clarence Brown Theater beginning next week. It is one of the few Shakespeare plays I didn't read in Professor Phillips' Law and Literature class over at the George C. Taylor College of Knowledge, as the good professor used to call the UT Law School. I've been meaning to take Sarah to see a play, and this seems like a good opportunity, so I've dusted off my Complete Works of Shakespeare so that I can read the play before we go see it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Heading for the Hollar

We have been busy recently with last weekend's trip to Sevierville followed by a very full work week, so after having done our Saturday morning duties we are having a restful afternoon at the homestead. La and Stew and Grace are up in Pigeon Forge painting the deck at Sunset Ridge, and we plan to meet up with Laura and Grace tomorrow at Cozy Creek, pictured above, in Gatlinburg.
Mom said she may drop by here this afternoon, or she may come spend part of the day with us up at Cozy Creek tomorrow. Les and Fraz may come up tomorrow as well, and our friend Johnny plans to drive up from Atlanta either today or tomorrow, so there seems to be a general movement afoot to get back up into the mountains and enjoy the wonderful weather and the long weekend.


It is a rare event when anyone is awake before me in the morning, but when I woke up about 5:00 a.m. I heard Sarah quietly singing to herself in her room. She was quiet when I got out of bed, but she joined me in the office shortly after I came up here. Sherry rented her a Megamind Wii game, and I suspect the child woke up this morning excited about playing the new game, which she is doing now.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fox Fur Nebula

The Color Orange

A documentary, The Color Orange: The Condredge Holloway Story, premiered last night in Knoxville at the Tennessee Theater, and from what I can tell from the news reports, the place was packed with University of Tennessee football luminaries. The documentary, narrated by country music star Kenny Chesney of Powell, tells the story of the first black starting quarterback in the Southeastern Conference, who led the Vols to three bowl games from 1972 to -74. I was nine in 1972, and I remember drawing pictures of Condredge with crayons and wearing an orange jersey with his number 7 on it as a kid. Condredge's mother worked in the same building as my father, and they were acquaintances. The documentary airs on ESPN Sunday night at 8:00 p.m.

UPDATE: More here from the News Sentinel.

Heading for the Three-Day Weekend

It occurred to me yesterday morning about this time that we have a long holiday weekend to look forward to as we wind down the work week. My sister Laura sent me an e-mail yesterday saying she and my niece are driving up to La's Cozy Creek cabin in Gatlinburg to spend the night Sunday, and I think we'll join them. The weather this week has been splendid, and it is supposed to continue to be warm and mostly sunny through the weekend and into next week. Bring it on!

1956 Cadillac Concept Car

This is a 1956 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, which once languished beneath a tarp at a General Motors salvage yard for thirty years. It was restored and is expected to bring $500,000 to $750,000 at auction next month. For more information visit Autoblog.

What do you say? Is it the new Bluesmobile or what?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Week of Nice Weather

Yesterday it was sunny and around 60 degrees here in Maryville, and it is supposed to be nice throughout the week, which is a welcome relief from the cold, snowy weather we've had so far this winter. We enjoyed the snow we got, but I'm ready for spring to arrive. I noticed daffodils starting to come up in our yard, which is heartening.

Saint Valentine Kneeling in Supplication

By David Teniers (III) (1638–1685)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today is Saint Valentine's Day, and it is also the ninth anniversary of my marriage to my lovely and wonderful wife, Sherry. To quote Winston Churchill, “My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me."

Water Park Visit

We arrived at Wilderness at the Smokies about 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, which is four hours before check-in. The place was packed, but they checked us into our room, which was conveniently located on the fourth floor directly above the entrance to the water park. (The last time we were there we were at the opposite end of the complex from the water park.) Sarah was delighted to find out that she is now tall enough to ride all the rides she wasn't allowed to ride last year. It was a sunny day outside, and the water park, which is covered by a what looks like a greenhouse, was warm and busy.

I picked up a Super Granddaddy Sandwich from our local Kenjo. Sherry has a rule about not eating a sandwich from anywhere that gasoline is sold, so I brought her some sandwich fixin's from the house. As I suspected, the three teenaged boys had no such compunction. We brought a crock pot and made Santa Fe Soup for supper. Fortunately, I browned the hamburger and onion at home that morning, because we learned the next mornings that the two-burner stove in the unit did not work when I tried to cook bacon and eggs for breakfast. I was very disappointed, because I had specifically asked about the stove when I booked the unit.

The water park opens at 9:00 a.m. on Sundays, and I expected the kids would want to play in the water park for an hour or two before Sherry had to drive the boys back to meet Mark in Cookeville. The boys, having cruised the condo complex on foot for several hours Saturday evening, decided they'd rather sleep in. Accordingly, I loaded Sarah and a bunch of luggage in the car, and we headed back to Maryville while Sherry and the guys slept in.

Sherry later reported that as they were loading out there was a knock at the door. She thought it was housekeeping, but instead she opened the door and found eight teenage girls looking for the boys. They were still madly texting back and forth as Sherry drove them west on I-40.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Trip to Sevierville

The boys are in town this weekend, and we're going up to Wilderness at the Smokies, a condo complex in Sevierville that features an indoor water park. Sherry and Sarah are going to work a pet adoption event organized by the Blount County Animal Shelter this morning, and we'll probably hit Sevierville Road around lunchtime. Laura and Grace are heading up to the mountains as well, and we'll get together either in Sevierville or at Laura's Sunset Ridge cabin in Pigeon Forge.

Lincoln's Birthday

President Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809. Learn more about him at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Joy in Egypt

I came home for lunch today and turned the television on CNN to see throngs of joyous people in Cairo celebrating the departure of Hosni Mubarak from power after holding its reins for three decades. I started following the story shortly after the protests in Tunisia that dislodged the leader of that country from power, and there has been a lot of coverage of the Egyptian protests online and in the mainstream media.

One of the analysts on CNN made the comment that revolutions often eat their children, and he cited the example of the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the Iranian Revolution, which became bloody affairs. At the moment, however, with scenes of people dancing in the streets of Cairo, it is hard not to be happy for them.

Partial Eclipse from Holland

This photograph of a partial solar eclipse taken from the Netherlands is from Earth Science Picture of the Day.

A Visit to Cades Cove

Sarah and I went up into the mountains last Sunday so that Sherry, who had a strep infection, could have some quiet time with us out of the house. First we stopped up at the Wye in Townsend, and then we drove on up to Cades Cove. It was a cold day, and it was cloudy and dreary as we drove into the cove.

I took this photo to show the fields that have been burned by the National Park Service in an effort to control the growth of grasses and other plants in Cades Cove. They call it a "controlled burn."
By the time we got to the gift shop and the structures around Cable Mill, the weather had improved considerably.

Sarah wanted me to take a picture of her standing next to this cage, which is for catching the wild boar that roam the Smokies. In my many years of visiting these mountains, I have only encountered boar a couple of times. The first time was on Gregory's Bald, and the second time was from the safety of my car up on the Dragon (Highway 129). Boar are ugly and foul-tempered beasts, and should be avoided if one comes upon them in the woods.
We were disappointed to find that the water wheel on Cable Mill was not functioning. They had the sluice dammed up.

We had a nice visit to the mountains, and made it back home in time for lunch.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spaghetti Casserole

The Ungourmet has a recipe for this spaghetti casserole.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

British Invasion

The Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time on February 9, 1964. I was six months old. The photo shows the band arriving at JFK Airport two days earlier.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Orion Nebula

This is an image of the Orion Nebula from the European Southern Observatory. The ESO reports,

This ethereal-looking image of the Orion Nebula was captured using the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory, Chile. This nebula is much more than just a pretty face, offering astronomers a close-up view of a massive star-forming region to help advance our understanding of stellar birth and evolution.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Appetizers from Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q

I found these Birmingham, Alabama, Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q Pork Hot Links with Pimiento Cheese appetizers on Eat. Drink. Smile., a Nashville food blog. We eat at Jim 'N Nick's in Nashville frequently because it is minutes from Sherry's mom's house on the west side of town. I can vouch for the pimiento cheese, because I've had a burger they serve with their pimiento cheese on it. I think I just gained five pounds thinking about it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Visit to the Wye

I'd hazard to say that Sarah's favorite place in the Smokies is the Wye in Townsend, at least for a day trip. She wanted to get out of the house this morning, and I thought it would be a good idea to give Sherry a quiet house for a couple of hours, so I loaded Sarah into the car and drove us up there.
For those readers who ain't from around here, the Wye is the confluence of the Little River and the Middle Prong of the Little River, and it is a popular swimming hole in the warm months of the year. We confined ourselves to rock hopping today, and it was the first time Sarah and I did some serious river rock hopping. She did well for her first time out, and she was quite adventuresome.

You just can't find this anywhere else, and I'm very happy that Sarah is growing up with the mountains in her backyard, as I did. I feel a bit of the wonder of my childhood every time I go up into the mountains, and today was no exception. We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful and peaceful place.
In the summer, this area (above) will be covered with sunbathers.

This view is looking upstream at the Middle Prong from its confluence with the Little River.

President Reagan's 100th Birthday

President Ronald Reagan would be 100 years old today were he still alive. He became President during my senior year in high school, and I was a college and law school student during his two terms in office, so he was the first President of my adult life. He brought humor and optimism to his important job, and helped the nation feel good about itself again.

Another Weekend of Quarantine

Sherry was diagnosed with strep on Friday, and she's been going through Kleenex like nobody's business. I went out and bought groceries, and she and Sarah went to the video store. We've otherwise stayed in this weekend.

We watched The Social Network, the movie about the creation of Facebook, yesterday, and it was a rather dark and depressing movie. It is told through depositions. Apparently the makers of the film have never had to sit through a deposition before. There are exceptions, but they are rarely entertaining.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Flight of the Conchords

Several weeks ago Sherry rented some episodes of the Flight of the Conchords series produced by HBO. The Flight of the Conchords is a comedy and musical team consisting of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, pictured above. I found it a bit like watching Monte Python the first time. It takes you a while to catch on, but they are really funny after you do.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Wife Ain't Right

Oh nooooooooo!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today is the Chinese New Year, which begins the Year of the Rabbit.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day!

This is the famous groundhog, Punxsutawny Phil, from his official website. Bring on the spring!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Scary Clowns

I'm pretty sure this will give me nightmares.