Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Sarah starts fourth grade this morning at Coulter Grove Intermediate School here in Maryville after a single year at John Sevier Elementary School due to the closure of Fort Craig School of Dynamic Learning. She is looking forward to her first day, changing classes and having a locker. The school mascot is the hawk.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

North Sentinel Island

If she hasn't already heard of them, my mom will be interested in the story of the denizens of North Sentinel Island.  People have lived on the island for some 65,000 years, and they have had very little contact with the outside world.  At this point, we've pretty much figured out to leave them alone.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Samford School of Law

On July 29, 1847, the Cumberland School of Law was established in Lebanon, Tennessee, just east of Nashville.  It is the eleventh oldest law school in the country, and it is still in existence as part of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.  At the time of its establishment, Tennessean James K. Polk was President.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Vintage Photographs

This is a photograph of Knoxville in 1905 on Gay Street looking north from Clinch.

Here are a couple on their honeymoon, also in 1905, in St. Augustine, Florida.

This is a river packet landing at Memphis in 1910.  There are a lot more vintage photographs from all over the United States here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Porpoise Galaxy

For my sister Leslie, the beach-girl Parrot-Head, I submit the Porpoise Galaxy as viewed via the Hubble Space Telescope.  (Via NASA)

Goblin Shark

There are demon space aliens in the vasty deep places on this planet.  This one is a goblin shark, which can grow to between 10 and 13 feet long.  There are more scary sea creatures at io9.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Apollo 15

On July 26, 1971, I was almost eight years of age, and like most Americans I watched a Saturn V rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying the three Apollo 15 astronauts, David Scott, James Irwin and Alfred Worden, to the moon.  It was the fourth Apollo moon landing, and the first time astronauts used the Lunar Roving Machine, popularly known as the "Moon Buggy."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Desk Safari

These folks came up with an entertaining meme.  You use your computer to match someone else's head to an animal body on the desktop of your computer.  (Via Laughing Squid)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Scary Waterspout

This waterspout developed near Tampa, Florida, on July 8.  I've only seen a waterspout once in my life, down in Key West.  I viewed it from Mallory Square, but it was far enough out to sea to not be intimidating.  I hope this one wasn't a Sharknado.  (Via Neatorama)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Braceless Boong

Sarah had her braces removed last week, and she is celebrating her new smile.  She's had brackets since February 2012, and is now able to enjoy chewing gum and eating raw broccoli again, hopefully not at the same time.  She now has a retainer, which is almost invisible and which she cannot remove and lose.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Birthday Present

My birthday is coming up at the end of August, and this is what I want.  (Via Miss Cellania)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Back in the U.S.A.

Joey has been in Haiti this week on a mission trip, and he helped his church group build this house there.  Joey is in the front row wearing khakis and a blue shirt.  It has been a hot week here in Tennessee, so it must be blazing hot down in the Caribbean, especially in long pants and long sleeves.

Sherry and Sarah have gone to Nashville to receive him when he returns to Tennessee, while I hold down the fort here at home in Maryville.  My sister Laura's spouse and child are traveling this weekend, too, and she's going to bring her pressure washer over so I can use it to clean our deck.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Nashville and Cotton Candy

I knew that Nashville is the home of Goo Goo Clusters, but I didn't know that a Nashvillian invented cotton candy in 1897.  The Nashville Scene's Bites blog has the story.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


The symbol for infinity is a lemniscate.  I don't think I'll be able to work that into a conversation any time soon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, Disneyland

Walt Disney opened Disneyland on July 17, 1955.  We enjoyed our visit there during Sarah's spring break this year.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Daniel Spencer

My Grandmother Ogle was born a Spencer.  I wonder if I am kin to Daniel Spencer, who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Monday, July 15, 2013


My stepson Joey flew out of Nashville yesterday for the island of Hispaniola to spend the week doing mission work in Haiti.  It will be quite an adventure for the young man, and we are proud that he is spending a week of his summer vacation in service to his fellow human beings.  No doubt he will return with memories that will last a lifetime.

Spiral Galaxy NGC 6384

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Breakfast in Townsend

Sherry, Sarah and I went up to Townsend to have breakfast.  We got up there after 8:00 a.m. and were surprised to find the first three places we checked closed during the peak of tourist season.  We noticed cars in the parking lot of AJ's Hearth and Kettle Restaurant, and filled our bellies there before heading up to the Wye to do a bit of rock-hopping.

I've frequented the Great Smoky Mountains National Park since my family moved to Knoxville when I was in second grade, and have had much vicarious pleasure watching my child's joy as she has explored and enjoyed the same spots I have loved all my life, the Wye being among them.  She was probably about three the first time we took her up there, and she used to love to use plastic shovels and buckets to make "Mud City" with river dirt and rocks.  As she's grown older, she's taken to rock-hopping, which I've always loved, though it is harder on me at my age than it once was.  Today we got to see a lad of about her age land a decent trout, much to his father and his younger brother's delight.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Recent Reading

I typically read non-fiction, but in my ongoing quest for self-improvement I convinced myself that I should read some novels, and/or enjoy some in audiobook form in the car and on my exercise bike.  I started with Leo Tolstoy's Death of Ivan Iyich, which I struggled to read in Russian in my third year of Russian classes at UT.  It was even more depressing in English because I could understand it better.

My next choice was For Whom the Bell Tolls by Earnest Hemingway.  I have seen the old "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke written in the voices of various speakers and writers, and the Hemingway version answers, "To die, alone, in the rain."  Again, depressingly, the protagonist dies at the end, and it is not clear whether he takes his own life or is killed by enemy troops.  I guess Hemingway answered that question with his own suicide by shotgun.

I have enjoyed some of John Steinbeck's non-fiction and Cannery Row via audiobook, and I chose The Red Pony and The Winter of Our Discontent.  I only just learned that The Red Pony is actually four stories, which explains my confusion when I got to the end and didn't really feel like I had gotten the point of the story.  I just finished the audiobook version of The Winter of Our Discontent, which kept my attention, but I was horrified at the end when the protagonist almost commits suicide by razor blade.

I guess I feel about novels the way I feel about movies, which is to say that I don't particularly like to entertain myself with unpleasantness.  I used to love horror movies as a teenager, but I have no desire at my age to put myself through such torment.  Similarly, I prefer to read an old-fashioned story with a happy ending.  We just got back from the library, where I happily chose some historical non-fiction.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Why Do They Call It Root Beer?

My lovely wife is quite convinced that I can answer almost every question she tenders to me, and I consider it quite a compliment.  She stumps me from time to time, however.  This occurred recently when she asked me how root beer got its name.  It is because it was originally flavored with Sassafras root. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

North Carolina/Tennessee War Hero Mitchell W. Stout

In Loudon County there is a bridge on Interstate 75 over the Tennessee River named to honor  Sargent Mitchell W. Stout, who was decorated posthumously with a Medal of Honor.  He died in Vietnam just after he reached his twentieth birthday.  His citation for the medal reads, in pertinent part,

Displaying great courage, Sgt. Stout ran to the grenade, picked it up, and started out of the bunker. As he reached the door, the grenade exploded. By holding the grenade close to his body and shielding its blast, he protected his fellow soldiers in the bunker from further injury or death. Sgt. Stout's conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action, at the cost of his own life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit and the U.S. Army.

Sargent Stout was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, and he is buried in Concord, Knox County, Tennessee.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Brothers Horwitz

Neatorama recently ran a short biography of Moe Howard of the Three Stooges.  I was impressed by this photograph of Larry, Moe and Curly out of character and looking quite dapper.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Flooding in Boone, North Carolina

My cousin Jon took this photograph of Highway 321 in Boone, North Carolina, yesterday.  There will be a lot of water coming down from the mountains in the coming days.  I suspect Wilson Creek gorge is treacherous. 

Restaurant Review -- Flaherty's Irish Pub, Maryville, Tennessee

I recently dined at Flaherty's Irish Pub, which is at 1720 West Broadway Avenue here in Maryville.  They are in the building that formerly housed the Sun Up Diner and then the Roaming Gnome, and they have decorated it consistent with their Irish pub theme.  I had the Bangers and Mash, and the English breakfast sausage was juicy and tasty, accompanied with creamy mashed potatoes garnished with green onion.  They also serve corned beef and cabbage, which looked good, and shepherd's pie, which is an old favorite of mine from my penurious college days.  The menu also features a variety of salads, sandwiches and entrees, so if your dining companions don't favor Irish fare, there are plenty of other options.  I give them a thumbs up.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review -- The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

I first became aware of Dr. Temple Grandin, who was diagnosed with autism in childhood, via a magazine article and was interested in how she has studied the way she thinks and has used what she knows about her own manner of using her brain to excel.  I saw her on C-SPAN's Book TV recently, and when I was in the library recently I checked out her latest book, The Autistic Brain:  Thinking Across the Spectrum, which she co-authored with Richard Panek.

In the book, which I enjoyed in audiobook form, Dr. Grandin discusses autism in its many forms using stories and observations from her own fascinating life and the lives of other people.  She posits that there are at least three different types of thinkers.  She classifies herself as a picture thinker because she is able to recall and access information in picture form.  She is a consultant to the cattle industry, and is able to visualize how various operations take place as if watching a movie.  She is therefore able to watch the movie and visualize potential problems with the operation before they occur.

There are also word/fact thinkers, who retain information via factual information in word form.  Writers fall into this category.  Finally, there are pattern thinkers, like master chess players, mathematicians and musicians.

I have contemplated the way my own brain processes information over the years, and this book gave me some new ways of looking at the subject.  I have known since at least college that I retain information best, and I think most people do, when I receive it in several different forms.  You hear the professor lecture.  You read the book.  You take notes.  You see images.  You read back over the notes, and hopefully by the time you take the test, or argue your court case, you can recall the information you need. 

I was the guy everyone borrowed notes from in law school because I paraphrased in my own words everything the professor said and wrote it down.  While many students in the class would have two to four pages of notes, I had fifteen to twenty.  The creative aspect of putting it in my own words made it easier to access later, especially because I studied my notes before tests.  I also took the same copious notes from the reading materials.  The same process has served me well as an attorney over the years.

I am obviously a word/fact thinker, but I also access information visually the way Dr. Grandin does.  She described imaging the word "stop" by pulling up pictures in her mind of things like specific stop signs and stop lights.  She described the same thing with "train," and I found myself conjuring up images of specific trains I have seen.  Probably my least strong suite would be pattern thinking, because I detest math, but reasoning by analogy is something a lawyer does in every case, which seems to be a version of pattern thinking.

I have a relative with an autism diagnosis, and I suspect he is a pattern thinker.  You can name any given date in history and within seconds he can calculate the day of the week on which it fell.  I have always wondered if he would be interested in astronomy, though I'm not sure how that would even fit into all of this.

Dr. Grandin's main point in her book is that everyone's brain is different, and although people with autistic brains have challenges that others don't have, they can also have strengths that should be developed.  Knowing one's weaknesses and addressing them is certainly important, but playing to one's strengths is good advice for everybody.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bad Week on the Gulf Coast

Two teenaged girls in Panama City Beach were parasailing and came loose from the boat that was towing them.  They flew wildly, hitting a building and landing in a parking lot.  From the last I read they were both still in the hospital down there.  More.

Also, we just got out before a deluge hit down there.  In fact, there was a thunderstorm with impressive lightening as we were leaving the coast before dawn last Saturday.  They've been hit with the same weather system that has been delivering rain here all week, so I'm glad we didn't plan our vacation for a week later.  On Monday, a waterspout came onto land in Seagrove Beach, where we stay.  The storm washed a sailboat to shore on Grayton Beach, and the owner is trying to figure out how to get it back afloat.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Smaug -- Richest Fictional Character

Forbes magazine rates Smaug the dragon as the richest fictional character of all time at 62 billion dollars.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

Today is Independence Day, the day on which citizens of the United States celebrate our nation's birth in 1776.  I make it a point to read the Declaration of Independence each year.  It is written in the form of an indictment of George III.  If you would like to read it, you can do so here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Independence Declared

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to adopt a Declaration of Independence.  John Adams believed that Independence Day would be celebrated on July 2; however, the document itself was adopted two days later, on July 4, which became the day we celebrate our independence.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Battle of San Juan Hill

On July 1, 1898, Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders charged up Kettle Hill in the San Juan heights in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.  The fame Roosevelt won during this battle fueled a political career that propelled him to the White House.