Archive for August, 2008

Charleston’s Battery

August 11, 2008
George at The Battery, June 22, 2008.

George at The Battery, June 22, 2008.

After attending church service at St. Michael’s in Charleston, Betsy and I drove down to White Point Gardens, also known as The Battery.  White Point Gardens sits at the southernmost point of the Charleston peninsula, where the Cooper and Ashley rivers meet and flow into Charleston Harbor.  Originally opened in 1837 as a public park, the Battery was fortified during the Civil War to protect the city against Union troops.

The Battery is one of the best spots in the city for strolling.  There are live oaks draped with Spanish moss, pleasant ocean breezes, and lovely views of Charleston Harbor.  The Battery is also home to some of the city’s most lavish residences.

We were able to find a parking spot and walked along the seawall and then through the garden.  We then walked along South Battery and Meeting Streets before heading back to the car.

To see more of our walking tour of The Battery, click HERE.

Memories of China

August 10, 2008

We watched the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics Friday night.  I think we can all agree that they were very impressive.

I was interested in seeing them because I’ve been to Beijing several times.  I taught in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China, on four separate occasions, and visited Beijing at least once on each trip.

The first time I went to China was in 1987, when the above picture of Tiananmen Square was taken.  China had been ‘open’ for several years by then, but foreigners were still relatively rare.  I managed to attract quite a bit of attention wherever I went.

There were still relatively few automobiles in China at that time — the black bicycle was the usual mode of transportation for most people.  Most older people wore dark Mao suits, and although young people wore white shirts there really wasn’t a great deal of color in the clothes ordinary people wore.

My most recent trip to China was in 1994 – 1995 and by that time things had really changed, at least in the cities.  There were many more automobiles on the roads, but they were still outnumbered by the bicycles.  But now the bicycles were every color under the rainbow.  The clothing of the ordinary citizens, especially the children, was also very colorful.

The announcers Friday night commented several times on the politeness of the Chinese.  I found the average Chinese to be very friendly and considerate on each of my trips, and I have many wonderful memories of China and the Chinese people.

Patriots Point

August 9, 2008

On our anniversary trip in June Betsy and I spent a couple of days in Charleston, South Carolina.  We quickly learned that we could have spent a couple of weeks in Charleston and still not have seen everything we wanted to see.  But at least we have a good excuse to go back.

One of the places we got to see, but not visit, was Patriots Point, a naval and maritime museum in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, on Charleston Harbor.  Patriots Point is a hands on museum dealing with military units from World War II through the Vietnam War.  It’s possible to tour four warships (an aircraft carrier, destroyer, coast guard cutter, and submarine) as well as a full scale model of a navy advance tactical support base.

Patriots Point got its start in 1975 with the arrival of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown.  I visited Patriots Point in 1988, but there have been many exhibits added since then.

We only had the opportunity to see enough of Patriots Point to want to go back.  To see our pictures click HERE.

A Dying Hen

August 8, 2008

I’ve mentioned several times that Betsy and I have sempervivum (hens and chicks) in our yard.  Sempervivum are hardy alpine succulents, which come in many forms and colors, green through brown, yellow, orange, pink and red.  Hens and chicks need to be planted in full sun to get the most color; out of full sun they all tend to have a similar green color.  Because we have many trees around the house, we have mostly greens, but there is enough sun for us to enjoy some of the colors as well.

The mature rosettes of hens can be from half an inch to 6 inches in diameter.  Each hen sends out numerous offsets (the chicks) and in this way form compact carpets of plants within a season or two.  Sempervivum are very easy to grow and they grow well under many different conditions.  We have sempervivum in rock gardens and in places where other plants won’t grow.

There is only one problem with sempervivum — they are monocarpic.  That is, each rosette can only flower once and then dies.  The dead hen leaves a hole in a clump, but the hole is usually quickly filled by the chicks.

The hen above will die out in a few days.  Fortunately there are already many chicks ready to take her place.

Betsy’s Birds

August 7, 2008

Betsy likes birds.  (I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’m not going to go there!!!)

Three years ago Betsy got a couple of hummingbird feeders and was delighted when three or four hummingbirds started coming around to partake of the nectar she put into the feeders.  She would sit and watch them flit around nearly every day.  She got to the point where she could recognize different birds by the sound they made.

Last year we had some trouble with ‘critters’ getting into the hummingbird feeders so we got a different type that we could hang from the eaves of the house.  After we got those new feeders we saw a few hummingbirds, but not as many as the year before.

This year started out pretty dismally as far as hummingbirds were concerned.  We went for many weeks without seeing any.  Fortunately some bluebirds built a nest behind the house, and Betsy spent several afternoons watching the parents feed the baby bluebirds.  But three weeks ago the bluebird family moved out.

Fortunately the hummingbirds have now returned (see the picture above).  It seems to us that they came around later this year, but now we have at least four coming to the three feeders we can see from our living room.  The only thing I can’t understand is how they know when we have a camera with us.  As soon as they spot a camera they flee from the scene!

Double Trouble

August 6, 2008

I can’t seem to do anything the easy way.

As I mentioned earlier I had surgery on Monday to repair a hernia. My doctor said I had a hernia, the CT scan showed a hernia, the surgeon said I had a hernia.

So what happened in the operating room on Monday? The surgeon discovered that I had a DOUBLE hernia. I honestly thought one hernia would be enough, but evidently not — I had a indirect Inguinal Hernia (that’s the one we knew about) and an even larger direct Inguinal Hernia.

As a result of this surprise the surgery took longer than expected, but I was still able to go home late Monday afternoon. I went back to the surgeon yesterday morning and he said everything looked good. It’s just too bad things didn’t feel as good as they looked! I didn’t do a lot of moving around yesterday and when I did move it was nice and slow. But the surgeon said that Tuesday would be the worst day, so I’m hoping today is much better.

A Family Reunion

August 5, 2008

In July Betsy and I went to her hometown, Big Stone Gap, Virginia, for a Bruce/Cummings family reunion.  Betsy is related to the Bruces and Cummings through her mother.

Betsy knew some of her cousins as a little girl, but she had not seen most of them for years.  Of course, there were many other family members that she didn’t know at all.  So the reunion gave her a good excuse to go back to Big Stone Gap and the opportunity to get re-acquainted with people she hadn’t seen in years.

Betsy is very interested in family history, as is her cousin Ellen who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Betsy and Ellen spent quite a bit of time exchanging information on the Bruce family.

Not only did Betsy get to meet people, we were able to enjoy the beautiful southwest Virginia countryside.  We think we live in a beautiful area here on the Plateau, but those mountains around Big Stone Gap are also very beautiful.  All in all it was a wonderful weekend.

To see more of our weekend, click HERE.

I Wish I Wasn’t Here!!!

August 4, 2008

It looks as if I’m going to be spending most of the day today at the Cumberland Medical Center (picture above).  I’ll be having surgery to repair a hernia.  Doesn’t that sound like fun!?!

If everything goes right it should be same-day surgery, and I will be home by late afternoon.  Everything should be just fine, but I can’t help but wish I was spending the day just about anyplace else.

Actually I suppose I shouldn’t complain.  It’s good that there is a medical center and surgeons right here in Crossville to do the needed surgery.  Things could definitely be much worse, but I still wish I wasn’t here!

St. Michael’s Church

August 3, 2008

On Sunday, June 22, 2008, Betsy and I worshipped at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, in Charleston, South Carolina. St. Michael’s is the oldest church building in the City of Charleston, standing on the site of the first Anglican Church built south of Virginia. In the 1680’s a small wooden church, the first in the new town of Charles Town, was built on the present site of St. Michael’s. By 1727 that church, St. Philip’s, was too small for the congregation and a new church was built on a new site.

By 1751 the new St. Philip’s was too small for the increasing population, and a new church was authorized by the General Assembly of the Province, to be built on the old site and to be known as St. Michael’s. The cornerstone was laid in 1752 and in 1761 the church was opened for services. Except of the addition of the sacristy in 1883, the structure of the building has changed very little.

The interior of the church is also like it was when built. The pulpit and pews are original, as is the organ case, although a new organ was installed in the case in 1994.

George Washington worshipped at St. Michael’s on May 8, 1791 and Robert E. Lee worshipped there in the fall of 1861, They both sat in Pew No. 43, originally known as “The Governor’s Pew”. Unfortunately we didn’t know which pew they had used until we read material from the church after we got back home.

The service when we were there was well-attended by people of all ages. The rector gave a wonderful sermon and we enjoyed the service a great deal. I’d like to go back just to have an opportunity to sit in Pew No. 43!

To see more of St. Michael’s click HERE.

I used to like Woody Woodpecker

August 2, 2008

I used to like Woody Woodpecker.  I remember Woody Woodpecker cartoons when I was growing up and I thoroughly enjoyed them.  No matter what the odds, Woody always came out on top.

Then we moved to the Glade and I became acquainted with Pileated woodpeckers.  Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpecker in most of North America.  Much of the reference material I read said that Pileated Woodpeckers are nearly as large as crows.  I think they grow even larger here in the Glade!

For the first few months we owned our house we were only able to come up here on the weekends.  We tried to get up here every weekend, but that wasn’t always possible.  One weekend we noticed that our wood house had some extra holes in it.  The woodpeckers had struck.

Pileated Woodpecker pairs stay together on their territory all year round.  They also tend to revisit their ‘drilling sites’.  So our problem was to find a way to discourage the woodpeckers from pecking on our house.

We did some internet research and found it was said that mirrors or bright strips of metal would keep the birds away.  There were definitely some disadvantages (such as the Homeowner’s Association) with either of those ideas.

We finally hit upon wind chimes as our anti-woodpecker weapon.  We now have several wind chimes around the house and they seem to be doing the job.  But yesterday I saw the character in the picture above at a big tree behind our house.  I’m going to keep my eye on him to make sure he doesn’t get any closer!