Sunday, April 29, 2007

Photo of the Day - April 30, 2007 - My Dad

This is a picture I took of my dad at the Gator Bowl, the one where Clemson got waxed by Pitt. Dad was a good egg to go down with me, diehard Tarheel fan that he was. Though I have many many pictures of him, this one just captures something about the essence of his person the best of all to me. Today, April 30, 2007, would have been my dad's 77th birthday. I know dad would have loved to have known and spoiled all his grandchildren, seen the first grandchild get married this summer, watch his sons hack around the golf course as they got older, paint his roses and camelias, agonize through a few more decades of Tarheel sports, and even go on long photo expeditions with his nature boy son. I so looked forward to moving back to Carolina after two years in Vancouver to be closer to Mom and Dad. Dad died unespectedly and suddenly while we were visiting Columbia just before we moved here to Greensboro. I think of the line in Mr. Bojangles..."After twenty years he still grieves...." Dad, I love you. I see you in my dreams. I miss you everyday. You were a good dad. You always supported me, even my wild haired schemes. I miss our long talks about life. Thank you for loving me.

In memory - Curtis Claunch Gillespie, Jr., b. April 30, 1930, d June 26, 1989.

You can see more pictures of Curtis Gillespie and his gang here.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Photo of the Day - April 28, 2007 - Hanging Rock Sunset

Taken from Hanging Rock Proper, Looking NW through pass or saddle between Cook's Wall and Moore's Knob. We are fortunate to have such a beautiful place so close!

See more pictures of Hanging Rock and other wonderful places here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Photo of the Day - April 27, 2007 - Pond at Guilford Macintosh Park

I took this while cruising around the county one day. I had never been to this park in SE Guilford County, so I thought I'd check it out. Nice place! When I was younger I loved nothing more than just heading out on long all day exploratory drives or bike rides, where there was no pressure to get anywhere by any certain time, and you could take time to soak in the scenery, talk with the local folks, and see places afresh. Marriage, children employment and such kind of squeeze that out over time. But I am back into my cruising mode! I hope to build up my bike riding strength where I can take off for whole day and just explore, with camera on board! And I hope to do more driving outings as well, so as to go a little farther afield. It's good for perspective. Hey, if you get the chance you should check out Guilford Macintosh Park. It's pretty cool.


Check out my other photos on Flickr here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Photo of the Day - April 26, 2007 - Clancey

Clancey was a great dog, and a great pal. I lived near lots of lakes and ponds and we would go on very long walks together - and he would almost always have a swim. I took this picture of him after one of his swims in Forrest Lake. Irish Setters aren't the smartest dogs in the yard, but Clancey knew me, and I knew him, and we had a blast together. I think of him every day, and it's been 27 years since he died of cancer at a young ten years old.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Photo of the Day - April 25, 2007 - Pine (for Laurie)

I often tell folks up here in the Piedmont of NC about how, growing up, I always saw the sky through the limbs and needles of pine trees. For me, feeling at home (speaking of this life), means seeing the sky this way. It's just in my bones. So, in order to convey what I meant when I said that, this past Thanksgiving I went into my brother's front yard and took some pictures looking straight up. This is how I grew up seeing the Carolina blue sky. I took this one pressed against a trunk of a shortleaf pine - my brother has loblolly, short leaf and long leaf pines in his front yard.

You can see another example here.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Just Say No to Religious Litmus Tests

One of the few very specific things that Christians are commanded to do when they gather is to pray. These prayers are multi faceted and include praying for “kings and all who are in high positions.” These prayers are not just for the personal well being of the king, but for the well being of the people – “so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.”

The kings that were to be so honored and prayed for were not Sunday School teachers. They were not duly elected officials. Many of them were despots. Nevertheless...

Even if a monarch or an elected official wants to do good, it is no easy task. There are so many temptations facing those who are in power. Most of these temptations involve increasing one’s power, dealing with political extortion, seeking to favor one group over another. It’s not easy being in charge. There is no doubt that power is corrupting for most people.

The Bible was written in non-democratic times. So there is little to say about who Christians should vote for or elect if they have the chance. I have been somewhat disturbed of late by things purportedly said regarding Fred Thompson and Barach Obama and Mitt Romney. Fred Thompson is not, it seems, an especially vibrant Christian, so we should not vote for him. Barach Obama may be a secret Muslim extremist, so we cannot vote for him. Mitt Romney is a Mormon, so we cannot vote for him.

I am an evangelical Christian, one of those “bible believing” types. But it is not at all clear to me that we are more or less better served by public officials who are evangelical Christians like me.

OK, I admit that one’s deepest values will be reflected to some degree in the decisions one makes. This is true of everyone. Everyone. No exceptions. So, for me, I do want to see in my leaders basic broad values that will translate into policies that are in the public good as I understand that.

Nevertheless, there should be no religious litmus test. Is the person a good politician – that is, can he or she work with others, compromise when needed, and get things done? Can the person represent us well publicly? Has the person displayed a fundamental honesty and integrity? Does he or she seem to desire and seek the good of all of those under their charge and not their own good, or not the good of a special few? Is the candidate subject to political extortion by special interests, whether those special interests are corporations, large non profit groups, unions, or whatever.

I have seen two kinds of assumptions that bother me. First there is the assumption already addressed that a man or woman would not be a good president because of a purported lack of religious affiliation or practice. But then there is also the opposite dynamic at work. There is the idea that if a person is a Christian, say an evangelical Christian, that he or she would not be fit for office because of theocratic tendencies. It is silly to suggest that because one may have certain beliefs as a Christian that that translates into some sort of incipient theocratic impulse, or that because there is a kind of exclusivity in one’s religious beliefs (and there is in all religions, perhaps most especially in those who say there is not), there will be an inability to seek the broader public good politically.

So, I am comfortable neither with the political prejudice that some evangelicals tend to have towards non Christians or non evangelicals, nor with the prejudice that many non Christians or liberal Christians have toward evangelical Christians.

I want to see clearly defined intentions and ideals, yet an ability to accept something rather then nothing. I want to see honesty and basic integrity. I want to see an ability to respect and work with one’s political opponents. I want to see a track record of working toward the common good. I want to see an ability to articulate well not only one’s personal policy goals, but also our common local or state or national aspirations. I want to see an ability to resist the power brokers behind the scenes. I want to see an indifference regarding personal power. I would much rather vote for an atheist with these attributes than a Christian without them. I would hope that others would rather vote for a Christian with them than an atheist without them.

Right now, for me, there is one candidate or potential candidate in each major party that seems to have what I want to see. I guess time will tell if either of them is nominated.

Photo of the Day - April 24, 2007 - Pink Zinnia

Ahh, the weather brings anticipation...As a kid I enjoyed planting zinnias, collecting their seeds, mixing them up in a Dixie cup, storing them over the winter, and planting them the next spring. I've always had a fondness for this easy to grow and varied summer flower - and the birds and butterflies like it too! So, what would you call the color of this one? It's sort of pink, but not exactly.

Please feel free to explore my Flickr photos here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Photo of the Day - April 23, 2007 - Nanny's Garden

This was taken of my grandmother Nanny's backyard in the early 1950's. I canned it from a slide. I grew up working in Nanny's yard, and learned gardening pretty much from her. But I was not yet born when this picture was taken. By the time I was old enough to appreciate things the garden/yard had matured and was even more beautiful - with Azalea, Dogwood, Camellia, Lily, Hydrangea, Tea Olive, Eleagnus, Boxwood (the real kind) and much more! And, by the way, the Loblolly Pines in this creek bottom were/are the largest in Columbia - well over 120 feet - maybe taller - approaching the size of the world record Loblolly's in Congaree Swamp. No kidding. They were amazing. I could lie in the grass and look up at them all day! Many present owners are cutting them down because of the straw on the roofs and fear that the trees will fall on the houses. Plus the new owners generally have no clue about what they have inherited with these yards and gardens. Makes me sad. But Nanny's garden lives in my memory as clear as day. I can 'see" every plant, every footpath. And I can "see" Nanny out pruning as if it were yesterday She was a classy lady! About the house in the background...if you look across the bridge you can see a large area of ground covered by straw. The owners of that house planted a huge shrubbery maze there - it was incredible. As little kids we would run around and get lost in it. Over time, as the dogwoods and other plants matured, in the Spring and Summer when the leaves were all out, you couldn't even see that house.

Please feel free to explore my Flickr photos here.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Photo of the Day - April 21, 2007 - Hiking in Shining Rock

I took this of my friend Bill Marshall on Shining Rock Trail January 1977. I love the tunnel effect of this picture. That weekend had the coldest weather I had ever experienced in the South. It was minus ten F in Asheville, and we camped at the saddle near the top of Shining Rock at 5500 feet. It was beautiful beyond words that weekend, the sun, the snow, the shadows. But it was exhausting. The crust was just hard enough to take almost your full weight before your foot crashed through, so it was like taking the stairs to the top!

See my Flickr collection here.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Photo of the Day - April 20, 2007 - The Perfect Tree

Post Oak (Quercus stellata), 1000 Block, N. Elm Street, East Side

When I was growing up I lived about two miles from Forest Lake Shopping Center, one of the very first shopping centers in Columbia, SC. I used to ride my bike there all the time. A convenience store sold at the shoppign center sold ICEE's, and that was always a draw in the summer. On the back side of Forest Lake Shopping Center there was a creek that entered into Gills Creek on the far side of the property, and over the creek a nice little walking/biking bridge connecting the Center to the neighborhood behind. Just on the other side of the bridge, and near a lovely grassy field, stood a gigantic old oak tree. I would either sit down against the base of the tree between the large roots, or hoist myself up to the first limb and just sit there and enjoy the ICEE and the day. I still remember that great old tree, though sadly someone eventually cut it down to make room for a new house.

As is typical of post oaks, it was squatty, quite wider in spread than it was tall, with limbs that came straight out from the trunk, the lowest limb maybe eight feet up from the ground. If my memory serves me correctly it would have been about four feet in diameter with a limb spread of 60-70 feet. I miss that old tree.

Along the way I learned that it was a post oak. I can’t say why really but the post oak has become my favorite oak tree, and I happy that they are all over Greensboro.

Even if you don’t know much about trees, you’ve walked under post oaks many times, and it’s not hard for me to help you know when you’re looking up at one.

The post oak is in the white oak family. Among other things this means that the leaves are smooth edged – no pointy bristle tips. Post oak leaves tend to be somewhat dark and glossy-green on top and lighter and somewhat hairy on the undersides. Often the leaf veins are quite prominent. In comparison to other oaks, post oak limbs tend to come straight out from the trunk. They also tend to be crowded (which makes them good climbing trees).

But the single biggest giveaway of the post oak is the shape of the leaf. After I finish typing this I will do a little web search until I find and provide a good link or two for some pictures of post oak trees and leaves. But for now let me just say that the post oak leaf is shaped very much like a Maltese cross. It is quite unique and distinctive in this way. There is no other leaf like it. As to size, we’re talking maybe 4-6 inches long and 3-4 inches wide. Post oak leaves have a habit of not wanting to fall off the tree in the fall, so often post oaks in winter have a fair number of brown hanger-on leaves. As to fall color, well, the post oak isn’t much in that department. Sometimes with the right soil conditions there is a decent show of red. There is often better color in the Spring. As the little leaves unfurl in the Spring they tend to be reddish in color, and this adds to the diverse color palate of early Spring trees.

The post oak trunk tends towards a ruddy brownish-gray color, and is somewhat vertically fissured, occasionally also horizontally fissured leaving a blocked appearance, the more so the older the tree gets.

So, why is it called a post oak? Given its craggy and somewhat scraggly appearance, and tendency toward breadth rather than height, it certainly isn’t because of shape. Well, apparently, according to my tree books, the wood is very dense and hard, and decomposes very slowly, and was thus used by our pioneer ancestors for fence posts, and later for railroad ties. It could have been called “railroad tie oak,” but that doesn’t sound very good. I like “cross oak,” named after the shape of the leaf, but then, I would like that.

There are a whole bunch of post oaks near my office at Bessemer and Elm Street. There are quite a few lining North Elm on the right side as one heads out of downtown, and there are many throughout Fisher Park neighborhood. There is a HUGE post oak in a back yard on the corner of Bessemer and Cherry or Olive. I am thankful that in my own neighborhood of North Hills there is quite a nice post oak right at the corner of Beaconwood and Ropley, and since the post oak is my favorite oak tree, that nice specimen gives me a smile as I walk around the neighborhood.

According to the Guilford County Treasure Tree program, our largest post oak is on the property of Aycock School, coming in at 84 feet in height, 50 inches in diameter, with a spread of 84.5 feet. Here is a link with pretty decent pictures:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Photo of the Day - April 18, 2007 - Corduroy Sleeping in the Sun

This is a picture of our five year old male cat Corduroy. I took it on one of those very cold early April days. He found a place by the glass back door to sleep in the sun. I had to get down to floor level and right up close for this. Oddly, the sound of the camera didn't even cause him to stir, even as close as I was. We're pretty tight, surrounded as we are....

Please feel free to explore my Flickr photostream here.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Photo of the Day - April, 19, 2007 - Trail in Fisher Park, Greensboro

Fisher Park is right next door to downtown Greensboro. Indeed, way back in the early 1800's, when it was decided to relocate the county courthouse to the geographical center of the county, that geographical center was in a low lying boggy area just a little north of present downtown. It was in the area which is now Fisher Park, about two blocks from my office!

I missed posting Tuesday because a big tree in the area went down and knocked out power and phone service.

Please come and visit my pictures here. First thing you'll see is my cat!

Monday, April 16, 2007

My Top Ten Opening Guitar Riffs

1. A Hard Days Night – The Beatles

Well, it’s just a chord, not a riff, but what a chord! Is it not the best beginning of any song in rock music history! Sometimes I play it over and over and over – "Twang”…..rewind….”Twang”….rewind…..”Twang.” Amazing!

2. Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix

It’s hard not to list Jimi Hendrix for song after song if you’re talking about guitar, but I love the opening to Purple Haze in particular - rock guitar in its essence. There is such an unusual and creative dissonance in the riff - I don’t know if Hendrix made these notes/chords up from scratch or what.

3. Statesboro Blues – The Allman Brothers

The Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East is my favorite live album of all time (sorry Peter Frampton). They were so tight, so together, at the pinnacle of their game. I love the energy that begins this song. The entire song highlights Duane Allman’s brilliance on electric slide guitar.

4. Paranoid – Black Sabbath

Some folks give the nod for best Black Sabbath opening riff to Iron Man, which is quite memorable indeed. Plus the mid-song lead on Paranoid is one of the great ones. But there is so much energy in this opening riff to Paranoid that it gets into my head, and into my top ten. For people who want to razz me for liking Black Sabbath, well, they actually had something interesting to say, if you listen, and what a unique sound.

5. Heartbreaker – Led Zeppelin

I almost put the longer mid song riff in my list of top ten best lead guitar solos, but decided I’d go with Stairway to Heaven there, and put Heartbreaker here in best opening riffs. Jimmy page could play guitar just about every which-a-way. If this opening riff won’t wake you up I don’t know what will!

6. Angels of the Silences – Counting Crows

Like A Hard Days Night this song starts with a very unusual chord, but then breaks into a super energized frenetic song, one of my very favorite Counting Crows songs. I am not sure which of their guitarists plays primary on this intro – but I like it!

7. Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple

This may be one of the most fun and recognizable song openings in the history of rock music, as each instrument comes in, each in turn. But the opening few bars laid down by Ritchie Blackmore stand out as perhaps the most famous opening guitar riff ever. I mean, what is not to love?

8. Tell Mama – Savoy Brown

Savoy Brown was maybe my favorite band for a couple of years in high school. OK, so that’s a little quirky. I just liked them, what can I say? Their singers came and went but Ken Simmonds was always there with his special brand of Brit Blues electric guitar. I am not sure which guitarist played the opening riff for Tell Mama, but it always makes me smile!

9. Pride and Joy – Stevie Ray Vaughan

OK, so I like blues, and Texas blues maybe the best. This is a great opening riff. My daughter said it made her think of some rich lady stepping out of a fancy car. Not sure where she got that. But is fitting that the song makes me think of one of my children, as I have tended as a father to “translate” these lyrics away from the romantic aspect to the joy of children (some lines ignored of course)…”Well you’ve heard about love givin sight to the blind, my baby’s love cause the sun to shine, She’s my sweet little thang....she’s my pride and joy.”

10. Reeling in the Years – Steely Dan

Also a song with a great extended lead, the whole mood and feel of the song is set up in the opening riff by Denny Dias. He pretty much repeats the same themes in the longer solo. The song and the opening riff has a pop feel compared to some on this list. I loved this record when it came out and still do!

Photo of the Day - April 16, 2007, Fisher Park, Greensboro

This picture was taken late in the afternoon on Friday April 13, 2007. Fisher Park is a great city park, my favorite, and to be so close to downtown Greensboro at that!

Please feel free to explore my photographs here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Photo of the Day, April 15, 2007, Birch Catkins

I took this picture this Spring as the Birch trees in our backyard were "blooming" forth their catkins and young leaves. The storms this weekend have made a huge number of them drop and I guess we'll see what impact that that cold snap had. I love catkins!

You are cordinally invited to explore my photostream here.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Photo of the Day, April 14, 2007, Badlands

I took this photo with a telephoto lens while hiking around the rim of the Badlands region of South Dakota. The telephoto creates somewhat of a flattened effect for the distant ridges, but I still like it. It makes for a good illustration of biblical prophetic foreshortening! I love pictures that are more about texture, and I love subtle coloration. I have been asked about the color. Well, I applied no color restoration to the scan of the slide. I remember it as pinkish, but this pink really stands out! This is what a 25 year old slide stored in the dark has to say about the color! I trust that better than my memory. It is amazing how well slides hold their color! I would love to go back someday and spend several days backpacking down in the canyons themselves!

You are cordinally invited to explore my photostream here.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Photo of the Day, April 13, 2007, Rhine River

I find this picture peaceful. I took it on a very very cold morning in early April 1978. It is taken from along the river in a beautiful village called Bacharach, Germany. I had camped right by the shore of the Rhine, sleeping under the stars, and my sleeping bag was not quite enough for the cold. But awakening to this view was worth the trouble. I hope you enjoy it.

You are cordinally invited to explore my photostream here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Photo of the Day, April 12, 2007, Kimesville

Kimesville, NC, Dam - at the Guilford-Alamance County Border

I would imagine that most of us have never visited Kimesville, a tiny community in the southeast sector of our county, just inside Alamance County. There is much beauty yet around us if we can but wisely plan how we develop our rural areas. I would love to see pictures that you have of the beautiful spaces and places here at our doorstep.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Photo of the Day, April 11, 2007, Reflection

The Former JP Building, Reflected, Greensboro, NC, taken January 2007

You are cordinally invited to explore my photostream here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Photo of the Day - April 10, 2007, NC Mountain Dawn

There were nine of us camping on a saddle between two peaks, east of Asheville I think. Over night the wind whipped up so hard it blew over our tents. Our body weight kept the tents from blowing away. Since we were awake anyway, a friend Sherb and I got up before dawn and basically ran up one of the the peaks, about a mile away, to try to get there before the sun came up. We almost made it. Because we were racing against time I did not set up my tripod, and because it was so cold my hands were barely able to move. To top it off, it was so windy I could hardly stand still! The clouds were flying by and the light was changing almost like flipping a light switch on and off. I just clicked away and got a couple of decent shots. That's about it. A nineteen year old kid trying to grab a moment on film. I realize now the imperfections of the shot photographically speaking. But such a scene - and for North Carolina at that! I have always loved it, and it has a great memory attached. The other guy, well, he has become a REAL photographer - Sherb Naulty who lives in NJ. He has a web page, URL same as his name. He does awesome work. You should look him up!

You are cordinally invited to explore my photostream here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Photo of the Day, April 9, 2007, Redbud

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis L.) Greensboro NC

About this picture...well, it was early Spring here in NC, a couple of weeks ago, and many flowers were opening up, and I decided that after two years I would start to learn how to use my new fangled camera, so I went outside and started trying to capture some shots. I broke my telephoto lens a month ago, and was using the 28-80mm Nikon lens. The Redbud in our front yard was in full bloom, and the big bumble bees were everywhere. The aroma was amazing. I wish I could capture that - maybe that's the next invention! I tried to focus in on one clump of bud/flowers - but I am still learning the camera settings and haven't got the DOF figured out! (How I miss the manual SLR!). At least I can still focus! This particular Redbud took a direct lightning hit last summer. It took half the tree down, but the other half lived!

About Redbuds in general

Drive down any interstate highway in the piedmont of North Carolina in early March, and you will see splashes of light purple here and there along the tree line, giving the heart a sense of added hope that Spring is coming. This dash of purple is from one of our more humble native trees, the red bud. Why it’s not called the purple bud is a mystery. Not even the bud itself is red, but some see the color as reddish purple, and perhaps growing in different soils it looks more red than purple. But around here both bud and flower are light purple, or at best purplish pink.

The Redbud is actually a member of the bean family. As early spring flower turns to fruit, and as the summer progresses, thick dark bean pods about 3 inches long hang heavily from the red bud limbs, and providing another source of food for a few birds such as bobwhites and cardinals, and some mammals such as deer and squirrels, though the red bud fruit is generally not a food favorite. Bees however love the nectar of the flowers. The bean pods persist often well into winter hanging and rattling in the winter wind well after the leaves have fallen.

In our early forests, Redbuds, along with Dogwoods and Ironwoods and Sourwoods, would have found their place under the great canopy trees of oak and chestnut and hickory and tulip poplar, taking what sun they could get, and offering another level of habitat for animals and visual beauty for human visitors.

The Redbud makes for an excellent garden tree. It’s leaf is sort of a rounded heart shape, about as wide as tall, three to five inches across. The tree tends toward a bushy appearance with multiple branches, though it can be pruned to one or two primary trunks. It’s a bit of a gangly tree, no two looking just alike, thus lending character to the suburban yard. It grows fairly slowly and reaches a maximum height of 20-30 feet at most.

In the fall the large Redbud leaves turn yellow and tend to fall from the tree all at once, making for easy care.

You are cordinally invited to explore my photostream here.