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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Downtown

This is the best picture I have taken to date of downtown Greensboro. Funny, the title of this post just made me think of Petula Clark. Yes, I'm that old :-)

"When you're alone and life is making you lonely you can always go, downtown"...etc

More Downtown.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Letter from My Garndmother Nanny, October 1975, from Columbia to Clemson



I was in my attic a couple of weeks ago looking for something for a yard sale and came across a big box of letters - hundreds if not thousands of letters from family and friends from about 1975 to 1979. I miss real letters. E-mail, text, voice mail, cell phones just don't match the intimacy and permanency of a handwritten letter.

"Nanny" was my grandmother on my dad's side (older, younger, younger still). I was closer to her than my own parents for most of my high school and college years. I normally visited her every Sunday. She gave the best back rubs on planet earth!

It's funny in a way that she tried so hard to teach me good handwriting skills yet hers was barely legible! I always chuckle about that. She tried. Handwriting was the only thing I ever made a "C" in!

Here is the translation - a little slice of life from 1975.

Dearest Joe:

I sure do miss you this weekend - I thought maybe you would come dropping in for a few minutes & give me a big hug. Understood you had a date Sat. afternoon- Hope it was fun- It was really a beautiful day and fun to be out in the yard a while in the afternoon- listened to the game over radio for a while, then went to the laundry about 4 30.

How are things going with you at school? is it hard (your studies)? Got home a little early and saw my new neighbors, the Wesson's (the ones I introduced you to) had a fire in the grill out back- raised the window and asked if they were cold, and they said no, come on over, we have a half (over)

bushel of oysters we are going to roast and asked me to join them- Charlie said he surely was glad to meet you, and hoped he could get to know you and see you more- the oysters were delicious, he roasted them like they do in Charleston, cracked them open, and Sue (his wife) had made a salad and we ate oysters right out of the shell - dipped them in butter and lemon juice and I sho' did like them - staid over there until 8:30 - began to get cold, & came home. It was fun.

Am enclosing a little check for something you want to do, or something to eat, like a steak, maybe - I love you & miss you a lot.

See you soon, I hope - a big hug and a kiss, Nanny

Ettamae sends her love

Friday, September 26, 2008

Quiet Amidst the Din


I stumbled across the cemetery behind the Greensboro Historical Museum several years ago when it was in much disrepair. It was and remains my favorite place in downtown Greensboro. There are some very interesting old trees in the cemetery including, as if meant to make this SC boy happy, a long leaf pine, a short leaf pine, an American holly, an even two palmetto trees!

As many know the building that was first used by First Presbyterian Church in the early 1800's was later used as a hospital for confederate wounded. There are many stories floating in the air in that special place.

It has recently been upgraded or repaired, including the planting of many beautiful flowers and ground covers. It is a lovely place, a "secret garden," complete with brick wall.

From the Museum's web site:

The earliest sections of the museum building were first home to the First Presbyterian Church, and the church still owns and maintains a historic cemetery that is part of the museum site. The first burials were in 1831 and the last was in 1926. Here lie some of the major figures of early Greensboro and the state of North Carolina, including former Governor John Motley Morehead. Here too lie veterans of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. In recent years volunteers have added many unusual plants to the cemetery grounds. A listing of grave plots and plants is available for museum visitors.

More pictures of Old Presbyterian Cemetery and Downtown Greensboro.

It's Time to Fish or Cut Bait

Wednesday I wrote a piece called I'm So Tired. It was about my frustration over the inability of our elected officials to compromise in order to make progress on the issues that face us. It was about the delight I sense from politicians and bloggers (oh, yes, especially) as they revel and take joy in the supposed failures of the other party or other party's nominee. It seems that bloggers and pundits are as purely partisan as our elected officials. Events of the last two days pretty much prove the point.

In fact, the President, the Democratic Leadership, and the Republican Leadership each and all have legitimate concerns. There was no bipartisan deal sunk by McCain because there was no bipartisan deal that included House Republicans. But there must be a bipartisan deal or there won't be a deal. McCain has some leverage with a sector of the Congress that impacts this matter in a big way. I think he is trying to help a bipartisan deal happen. I have no idea why people cannot give him the benefit of the doubt. It may be that Obama's roll is less crucial right now, unless perhaps it would be to persuade his party leaders to listen to the House Republicans.

All the cynical dishonest slander about McCain's motives is just that. The smug criticism that a President needs to be able to "multi-task" and deal with more than one thing is silly, as if the debate were a matter of national security. It is just a dig, maybe aimed at McCain's age. There is often great virtue in uni-tasking, in not being all over the place.

Several debates will happen whether this one does or not. The timing for this one is bad. It would be good if their purpose were to join hands and show us that even now in the midst of a election campaign two candidates can suspend their arguing and show common cause. They will probably do the debate because it would be political suicide for McCain not to; I just think it's a bad idea.

The people of America are unsure and divided over the best course of action. There are strong and divergent opinions. Each party has a legitimate concern. Bipartisan legislation cannot pass if it is not bipartisan. The Republicans have to be on board.

I don't know if the debate should go on tonight or not. Personally I think it is not wise. If they focus on foreign policy then it would seem disconnected from the most pressing matter. If they focus on the bailout (causes of the problem, disagreements about solutions, etc), then it would seem that they would doing what folks are accusing McCain of doing, that is,of politicizing the debate (as if it isn't already - what a laugh). It would be like talking about an extremely delicate matter to the press and public while it is still being negotiated. I think the debate should wait a week. Unless a real deal is reached - very soon - maybe even I type. Otherwise, to me anyway, the debate just seems unseemly.

Now is the time for our elected representatives not only to defend their partisan base and their precious political principles, but also to compromise and reach a deal before it is too late to matter.

If they cannot do it we should vote all the bums out - each and every one of them - and start over. Fish (come up with compromise legislation now), or cut bait (as in, go home, for good).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Fifteen Year Anniversary Covenant Fellowship

This past Sunday marked the fifteen year anniversary of Covenant Fellowship Church. We didn't do anything (I don't anybody even thought about it!). But in fact we had held our first Sunday morning worship service on September 19, 1993, fifteen years and two days before.

Starting a church is not unlike starting a business in that you cannot really know, no matter how good your plan, if it will succeed. In our case we decided not to receive outside funding as do most church plants, so we were going forward on an even more sink-or-swim basis. It makes me rather happy to remember that we didn't cost the Presbytery or Synod anything.

When we started I didn't know if there would be enough people or giving for me to receive a full salary, so I was prepared to work part time if needed. Thankfully we had a "free" place to meet in the living room of our "Founding Parents" Dwight and Susan Thomas. Well, it was free to us anyway. Meeting there for 18 months took a toll on the house and probably cost them a lot of money. They live in Chapel Hill now. We miss them.

We knew also that there were so many distinctive aspects to our church model that many might find it just too quirky. For example we had a meal every Sunday (and still do). We had a longer meeting than average with diverse elements, including a longer than average sermon and an open-to-the-floor sharing time.

Perhaps our biggest distinctive was our emphasis on intergenerational corporate life and worship. The Thomas's and I had come out of church situations where people were grouped out according to age, gender, marital status and so forth, and we wanted to have more of an "extended family" atmosphere.

The Thomas's and I had also had come out of frenetic hyper active church environments where people were so encouraged to be committed to church activities that they could not possibly have time or energy for their neighbors or workmates or community ministries and organizations. There was in the Evangelical Church Sub Culture at the time a sort of running assumption that being spiritual meant being really busy at church. We didn't like that. We wanted a more leisurely pace. We wanted folks to have more time to get to know their neighbors and be a part of the greater Greensboro community, and the only way to do that was to make our work very simple. We had a Sunday meeting and weeknight small group gathering. We also have a youth gathering now but that's about it.

I don't know why eating a meal together makes is seem Amish or cultish (!), but to many who would call me in those days, once I mentioned the meal it was like, "OK, thanks. Bye." I mean, personally, I like to eat, and it's nice not going home starving. We still have our every Sunday meal. People naturally get to know each other when eating. That's why we do it.

Oh, and we didn't have or plan to have a building, not that that made us extra cool or spiritual (it has certainly impacted our numbers in a negative manner over time), but we just didn't want to be getting all caught up in all that. I have many colleagues in churches that are mortgaged to the max, and who spend hours and hours a week dealing with facility issues. We don't. It's nice. We have been meeting at Bur-Mil Park Clubhouse for about twelve years now. It seems to work well for us both. They are great folks out there.

We never really had any goal as far as growth. What we do on Sunday wouldn't work if we were very big, and the couple of times we started to get to the point where we had to start thinking about a new meeting place or even spinning off a daughter church, things just sort of took care of themselves.

We are not a small church by the standards of national averages, but we are a small church compared to what a lot of people think are the national averages. If we got bigger that would be cool. We know how to do things better now, even with more people [so come by, any time :-)], but once you see and understand and embrace that you are a small church, it is very freeing. It really impacts your motives. It means that our folks (and our pastor) can be involved in many different things in the community without having to think about how it does or does not grow the church or the church budget. And it impacts how we do what we do on Sunday in a very positive way. No dog and pony show to impress - just trying to be the church.

So, given all these quirky characteristics the odds were stacked against us. Any number of things could have caused us to fail. It wasn't because we were so clever or smart that we didn't, but because God (we believe) simply wanted the work to exist and go on, and go on it did, for fifteen years now. It's really quite amazing to think of all the lives that have intersected with us along the way.

I just wanted to take a few minutes to give thanks publicly. A lot of people have been good to us, such as the folks at Greensboro College when we met there, and the folks at Bur-Mil now, and the folks at the Rhino Times who let us barter advertising for paper delivery, and all you bloggers who put up with me. It's a long list really, and we are grateful for the community in having us, and hope we offer back good things along the way.

So, happy fifteen years to us! And thanks be to God for His goodness.

Joel

Center City Park and Beyond, Downtown Greensboro


I have 30 New Pictures of Downtown Greensboro, including several from the Old Presbyterian Cemetery behind the Greensboro Historical Museum, posted on my Flickr Site. Come on by!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Don't Think It's a Stunt

Right after I posted "I'm So Tired" I clicked on Drudge Report and saw the headline about McCain suspending his campaign until a bipartisan agreement is reached on the bail out legislation.

I know, I know, you think me naive and stupid, but I don't think this is a stunt. I think it's McCain being McCain, and I think it's the right thing do to.

Fact is, what happens this week or next will have more far reaching consequences on the American people and the American way of life than whoever wins the election. This matter, simply put, is more important. I applaud McCain, and I hope Obama joins him. They will get to debate plenty enough in due time.

I understand Obama's supporters taking this as a stunt and it does not bother me that he does. The way things are I would be wary too. I just don't think it is. The President's proposal is dead in the water. This is time for a a bipartisan compromise where each side sacrifices some of its principles and where each side gets some of what it wants.

McCain says...

I am calling on the President to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem.


I think it is a good idea. Give Obama the election for all I care. This is simply massively significant and important, more so even than the election.

I'm So Tired

Ideologues on the right and left feed the worst in our civic selves. Neither the ideological left nor the ideological right represent the American people.

When it comes down to it I don't think that it is really principle per se that keeps our congress from working together and addressing problems in a pragmatic manner which gives neither side all it wants but gives both sides something. So what is it? Pride? Power? Money?

The US Congress disgusts me.

I want a pragmatic solution oriented compromise-able Congress with a pragmatic solution oriented compromise-able President.

I can't think of any issue where a pragmatic working spirit of compromise would not bring progress as compared to where we are today on that issue. I wish a spirit of consensus could sweep over our national leadership, and the party system would crumble. It just does not work. It isn't essential to our form of government or our constitution but it is entrenched. It really pretty much totally sucks.

Bill Clinton was a pragmatist. He loved Bill Clinton, and his self love drove him to do many things that were in our national interest. I think George Bush was or would have been a pragmatist. But his presidency got hijacked by the neo-cons who brought out the worse side of Bush, and using him they tried to impose their ideology upon a country they did not represent. Had Bush started out with a Democratic congress I think he would have been a much better president.

We can blame our problems on the military-industrial complex, on Wall Street, on corporate greed, on unions, on special interests, lobbyists, or whatever. Eventually we get what we want and deserve. We have power that we won't use.

Right now, as I see things, the American people are dividing out as usual, falling behind their guy or gal, pushing for their party's vision as opposed to the other party's vision, enjoying media and blogging slander of the opponent, and pretty much just supporting and continuing the pattern that does not and will not work.

Until the American people themselves reject the system as it stands things will not get better.

It's time for another American Revolution, a revolution against the two party system, a rejection of the status quo, a rejection which will be evidenced by a massive turnover of our elected representatives.

Until then I just pray for divided government, whoever is President. Divided government in the form we are familiar may not get much done but it does force us toward the middle.

I think Obama is going to win. The left will over reach, the right will win back the House, and we'll pay the same old game all over again.

John Lennon comes to mind:

I'm so tired....

Tulip Poplar Leaf - Fisher Park, Greensboro


Liriodendron tulipifera

I may have posted this before but I saw a yellow Tulip Poplar leaf today and it may me think of this picture. Is this a beautiful day in Greensboro or what!

To learn more about the great tree that produces these beautiful fall leaves, read here.

Tulip Poplar leaves begin to turn earlier than about any other tree. Other "early turners" are the red leafed sourwood, black gum, and persimmon. Speaking of persimmon...they are dropping their fruit now. Few things in life can beat a good persimmon pie...

Joel

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Picture Dedicated to Teachers: My Favorite Physics Class

This is a picture of the favorite of the many Physics classes I taught over a span of five years at Brookland Cayce High School, outside of Columbia SC in the mid 1980's. These were seniors, graduating class of 1986 I think.

Notice the 80's clothes and hairdo's!

This picture has been on my Flickr site for a couple of years. Today there was a comment that reads as follows:

I bet you say that to all your physic classes.

Bill Reynolds - the one in the Dodgers shirt in case you have forgotten.
Your class was the reason I went into engineering. Thanks for that.

Hope things are going well.

In fact, this was my favorite class. They were smart, hard working, funny, and a joy to teach. I had a "planning period" 5th period, right after many of them as seniors were done for the day, and we would often play "Risk." Wow, those were some awesome risk games! We would save the game and pick up next time until somebody won.

I used my engineering physics text book from Clemson as our class guide. I'm glad it helped!

If you haven't done so lately, thank a teacher today. I promise you that they get far to little thanks for the time and love they invest.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bill Marshall in Congaree Swamp


One of the most amazing places in the United States - and close to us. To know that Bill and I and a hundred other young people had a small part in its preservation this amazing place is truly gratifying.

Congaree Swamp National Park (US Gov Site) and
Congaree Swamp National Park (ColumbiaSouthCarolina.com) and
Congaree Swamp national Park, (Wikipedia Site)and
Congaree Swamp national Park. (Friends of Congaree Swamp)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Downtown Greensboro from the Guilford Building Roof


I had a few minutes on the roof of my office building Thursday. I look forward to going back up there again in when the sun is lower, but it was fun, and I have a batch of new pictures. See Downtown Greensboro.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Have Seen the Enemy - And, Yes, It Is Us Too

I have had several conversations in the last few days trying to understand the current financial crisis and its relationship to the housing crisis of the last year or more. It is clear to me that aspects of this issue are simply beyond my understanding at this time, but I am trying. Given the Congress' decision to adjourn it seems it may be beyond its understanding as well.

It seems that a part of the problem lies with an earnest desire on the part of well meaning folks to see more and more people own their own homes. But beyond that it just seems that banks and mortgage companies pushed too hard, and handed out too many risky loans, and that when this problem became such that could impact everyone in a significant manner, there was no adequate watchdog, whether that watchdog be the media or the government.

And from what I can tell it seems like the government simply has to establish some regulatory boundaries or set up some tripwires so that we can all know when we're close to the edge of such a crisis again.

Having said all that, what has been on my mind the last few days is the role that American home buyers have played in this crisis. It seems everyone is pointing his or her finger at the congress, the President, the regulatory agencies, the bank executives, and all sorts of other nefarious people and entitries, but to some degree we should also be pointing our fingers at ourselves.

There being so many people who give lip service to Jesus, or who don't really believe in Him as Son of God, yet like to quote the Sermon on the Mount as their personal ethic, try this on for size: "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

Without countless ordinary american people signing on to risky and presumptuous loans we would not be in this mess. And to blame the whole thing on the government or on corporate executives is a failure to accept personal responsibility.

Years ago when we were trying to move so as to keep our kids in the NW Guilford school district (we eneded up being able to without moving due to a grandfatehr clause), I talked to various banks and lending institutions. I was appalled, APPALLED, at the loans that these banks were happy to extend to me. It would have been foolhardy in the extreme for me to take on one of those loans, and it was foolhardy for them to offer them to me. Oh yeah, they had all their little tricks of variable rates and such to draw me in. And sure, I could have done it, and then had no money for anything else.

In my own opinion a fair amount of greed and presumption on the part of the American people has also driven us into this crisis. The greed is the craving for bigger and better - in this case housing. The presumption is the idea that house prices would forever appreciate.

I know, some of the peopel defaulting are first time homeowners just trying to own a house. In many cases family crisis, job loss, and divorce has excerbated the problem on the personal level. Many people have defaulted on perfecrtly resonable loans due to such circumstances.

And I can hardly fault peopel for wanting to own their own home (though the merits of home ownership may be overrated).

But way too many risky loans were peddled to people who had no business accepting them - lower income people AND higher income people alike. In the latter case, in my judgment, greed, the need to say that one lives in such and such a neighborhood, covetousness for bigger and better, drove people into outright foolish financial committments.

I keep wondering, "Why weren't bells ringing or red flags waving?"

So before we chastise George Bush, Barney Frank, Barack Obama, John McCain or whomever else, maybe we should all as citizens take a deep breath and look at ourselves. We're over extended. Our personal debt is too high. In too many cases we have bought what we don't need with money we don't have. What is it it that has driven so many of us into risky, unwise, and in all too many cases, downright foolish financial decisions? Do we the people bear no blame?

I think we do.

And Then It Hit Me - I Don't Believe in Forced Wealth Distribution

I was reading the news about Joe Biden's argument that paying more taxes is an act of patriotism, which I suppose it could be the case if it were voluntary, when it hit me, I don't believe in using the tax code to distribute wealth, except perhaps to care for the poorest and neediest among us.

I thought Biden's wording was telling:

"We want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people," Biden said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" (from Yahoo News).

Yeah, that's right, TAKE MONEY. It sounds like stealing.

I am a middle class American. I am struggling financially. I have raised five children on one salary (until now - my wife who has worked hard day after day for years caring for our children and homeschooling has just this season gotent a job outside the home) and it has been no walk in the park We have had big medical bills. We deal with debt. We live in a small house. But I'm doing OK, and by the standards of the world as a whole, I am rich.

But I do not believe that someone who makes over $250,000 owes me a penny, and to take money from them to give it to me would be little more than stealing as far as I am concerned.

I just don't think this is right. It's like there is this undercurrent assumption that people who make over $250,000 in income have somehow sinned, and now they have to be punished. I would rather see those people spend their money how they see fit, legally of course.

So this was kind of an "aha" moment for me. Thank you Joe Biden.

Center Pointe , As Reflected off Bank of America Building

I love all the cool reflections off the various buildings in downtown Greensboro. They change according to the time of day and light. I kind of dig taking seeing what odd abstraction I can get out these reflections.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Mary, and We Miss You Rachel

Today is my little sister Mary's birthday. Mary is not only my blood sister, she is my sister in Christ, a bond which goes beyond the natural bonds of family and blood. Mary was the first of the Gillespie family to become a Christian even though she was the youngest. I persecuted her terribly for two or three years, until God decided to call me to Himself. Now I am so thankful that He chose to establish a beachhead in our family through Mary, and thankful that she was a good witness to Christ even during my family's darker days. And she's a good sis. I'm thankful for her.

Happy birthday Sis!

By God's providence Mary and her husband Sandy's first child Rachel was born on Mary's birthday - on September 16th, 1984. It has at times seemed a cruel providence as Rachel was struck down by an overwhelming bacterial infection and died at the age of 2 1/2 years old, on Feb 9, 1987. For a long time it was really painful and hard to acknowledge Mary's birthday. Now it provides a chance to remember Rachel, my parent's first grandchild.

Happy Birthday Rachel. We miss you.

I like this picture taken the summer before Rachel's death not in spite of its slight out of focus misty quality but because of it.

Please take the time if you have not before to look at a set of pictures that follows Rachel's young life. We don't want to forget her, or the world to forget her either.

In Memory of Rachel Elizabeth Johnson

Monday, September 15, 2008

Don't Get Fooled Again

OK, I'm shallow. I confess. So there, it's out. I like CSI Miami.

And the new season starts next Monday. The Closer ends this week and CSI Miami begins next week. Life can be good.

So, I was writing about great rock organ solo's over at mylifemyjourney, and "Don't Get Fooled Again" was on my mind, which got me thinking about CSI Miami, and wondering whether Horatio was really dead. I mean, he couldn't be, right? He's the show.

And that got me thinking about David Caruso's schtick, which got me to thinking about two super You Tube clips my good friend Sam sent me this summer. If you haven't watched these, well, you should.

The first is Caruso at his, well, at his one liner sunglassy best.

And Jim Carrey's Late Show take on David Caruso is priceless.

Younger Evangelicals - The World Watches and Waits

I originally entitled this piece "Younger Evangelicals Are Stupid." I don't really believe that. I just wrote it to get attention.

In fact I think that Younger Evangelicals are just as intelligent as Older Evangelicals, though that may not be saying a whole lot, as anti-intellectual as American Evangelicalism has been the last fifty years.

Truth be told I pity the generation of Evangelical Christians that have had to grow up in and have had to bear with so much of the nonsense of my generation of Baby Boomer Evangelical Christians.

Younger Evangelicals have rebelled against Baby Boomer Evangelicals and their antics. Younger Evangelicals are WAY more hip and TOTALLY more emotionally authentic.

Though I do not think that Younger Evangelicals are less intelligent, I do worry that they may be even less informed, as hard as that is to imagine. I am certain that they drink more Starbucks, and are WAY better at rattling off all the different kinds of lattes and such. I am sure they even own more iPhones.

Some Younger Evangelicals have rebelled into a more Biblically solid foundation than their Baby Boomer parent's Evangelicalism. For this I can only give thanks. Indeed, a shout out to RUF and many other such organizations that have made that possible.

All too many Younger Evangelicals have developed mere slicker versions of Baby Boomer Mega Churches. Yet, Others, seeing the shallowness of Baby Boomer Evangelicalism, and with a yearning for the transcendent, have run into the waiting arms of Emergent Church Gurus (such as have been mentioned in many recent political articles loving the attention as they tend to do). There Younger Evangelicals have come to reverence the old paths, well, minus the content thereof. One chuckles at the whole notion of "Emergent Church," as if there did not exist a church already. From what did this Emergent Church emerge? The hubris drips...

But into the waiting arms of Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones and Brian McClaren all too many of these Younger Evangelicals have run. There they have embraced a form of Biblical Christianity without its, well, content. Not having received a greater or deeper foundation from Baby Boomer Evangelicals, they really just don't know better.

And the big question of the day is whom will they vote for? They're undecided. The world awaits, breathless.

The Guilford Building at S Elm and Washington Greensboro


I'm sitting here in my office on the left side in the picture, facing north, fifth floor, toward the back. Wave!

Check out more Downtown Greensboro and Guilford Building pictures.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Letter from Daddy Fall 1975 Columbia to Clemson



This is an interesting insight into daily life circa early fall 1975 I think. "Harry" was my roommate 1975-1976 (Harry Lancaster, who now lives in Charlotte). I have no idea who the black quarterback would be in 1975. Steve Fuller started that year as a freshman.

I will do some research on the other football schedules and verify the year.

My dad owned a business called "Gillespie Cleaners," hence the letterhead.

See my Flickr Photostream.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Window Washing


Cleaning the Bank of America building, N. Elm and Friendly Ave, Greensboro, NC. Looks kind of fun. See more at Downtown Greensboro.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Buck Up Obama

A few thoughts on pigs and lipstick...

But first...

I thought Obama did very well on Bill O'Reilly. I thought O'Reilly did very well also. It was a good interview. I don't agree with Obama on too many things, but I like him very much. Actually I like all four of the candidates, even Joe Biden, whose foreign policy in the 80's would have led to our ruin (in my view), but for whom I have always had an odd affection.

The problem with Obama's skin isn't that it is too dark but that it is too thin. He needs to buck up. He has been given a virtual free pass in the mainstream media, most of which drools over him liked he is a pop star/messiah, and he needs to be able to stand the heat without pulling out the "offended" card so often. Give me a break.

I do NOT think Obama made his lipstick comments with Sarah Palin in mind, though I would bet anything that in the back of his mind, after he said it (or even as he was saying it), it was like "s***, I'm screwed." I would like to have seen his BP and pulse right then! What did bother me was the rapt happiness of the audience. I believe they were connecting the dots as the words came out.

I can't believe that this has been all over the media. It's a kindergarten circus out there.

All for now.

Old Security Van Lines Building along RR Tracks


A block or so west of S. Elm. It's kind of cool back in there. Downtown Greensboro.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Nathanael GREENe Keeping Watch Over GREENe Street, downtown GREENsboro

Still looking out for us after all these years....

Check out my new Downtown Greensboro set.

We've also just started a new Flickr group called "Downtown Greensboro" to which any one with a Flickr account can add pictures of our downtown. Please contribute. If you have a Flickr account you can do a group search on "Downtown Greensboro" and there you will find it! Join up and contribute!

This group is for pictures taken of or from downtown Greensboro, NC. I am defining downtown as bordered by Lee Street on the south, Martin Luther King and King street on the southeast, Spring Street and Freeman Mill on the west, Fisher and Murrow on the north, and Murrow on the west. Maybe there is a better definition.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Center City Park - A Different View


City Center Park as reflected off the Bank of America Building, N Elm and Friendly, Downtown Greensboro, NC, Sept 4, 2008.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Moved by McCain

I will confess that I had grown weary of the McCain POW war hero story. It just always seemed like a patriotism one-upmanship thing to me. I was glad when Fred Thompson (I think it was him) acknowledged that being a POW does not qualify one to be president. I was glad to hear that said. But all in all my reaction had "OK, do we have to hear that story again!"

Last night in listening to McCain I think I finally got it. Frankly I was moved, to tears, as he talked about being thankful for his sufferings for what they taught him. And to get a feel for the thousands of acts of kindness, courage, encouragement, support, love, real and true love, POW to POW gave me another insight to McCain's heart. But mostly it was understanding how the event changed the man.

It seems McCain had a kind of conversion (not necessarily a religious one though it may have been, I don't know), a personal transformation that reached into the core of his person as he walked through his suffering. He learned through suffering. He learned a lot about himself, his pride, has selfishness, his cockiness, his independent spirit. And he ultimately survived and avoided suicide or death by withering away because he was loved and served and encouraged by his fellow prisoners. He was a broken man physically and otherwise, but not just in the sense that he finally gave in to the torture and said things his torturers told him to say. No, it was deeper, a deeper kind of being broken.

I understand now John McCain's motivation, his gratitude, his desire to give back, to give of himself in public service. I am reminded of Tom Hank's character in saving Private Ryan and those haunting words at the end, "Earn this." Of course no man could possibly earn such a thing, and I am brought to tears every time I watch the grown up Private Ryan at the end of that movie weighted down by that terrible burden.

I don't think McCain carries that sort of dreadful burden. His I think is more a burden of gratitude, of service, of giving back, of wanting to make better the country that provided the men who loved him and served him and kept him alive. The narrative makes sense to me now. His "America first" makes sense to me now - not merelty some patriotic blather but a deeply ingrained perspective forged in his sufferings.

It doesn't mean that all of his quirks left him, or that he had no more pride to deal with. But it is very easy to read pride into a man bucking the system than one playing by its rules when it isnlt really there.

And I really don't think McCain gives a lick about party. He just fits better in one than the other.

Calling education THE civil rights issue of the 21st century I think is profound and spot on. I agreed with every single word he said on that subject.

I also thought is was deeply thought provoking to speak of how our present approaches to a multitude of issues were formed under a different set of assumptions and rules, and that we have to adjust to the new world we find ourselves in - adjust and change in almost every area of government. I think that that is a profound thought which I have not heard articulated in this campaign and which I think is correct. The old guy, the grey haired one, he seems to be the one most in tune with today, and how we must adjust and change to address creativelty the new world in which we find ourselves - that new "flat" earth we now walk upon.

All in all I was most moved in both conventions by John McCain. I look forward to voting for him.

Flags, Real and Reflected, Downtown Greensboro



As reflected off First Citizen's Bank (I think), Green Street side, Thursday afternoon, September 4.

Can anyone tell me the name of the building on the corner of Friendly and Elm, kitty corner to Central City Park? I have lots of cool reflection pictures off that building and I am not downtown and can't remember which building it is.

See my new downtown pictures here - LOTS more being processed.

Joel


For more new downtown pictures go to my Flickr photostream.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Future of Journalism

I found this working through a pile of papers. So all of you across the street at the Greensboro N&R, here's your competition! Madeline and Abigail obviously had fun with this. It looks best on large. Now why did we get her that old type writer?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

September Songs

Can you believe that September is here? I love September, so I am glad – fall in the air, lots of critters about (birds, butterflies, spiders, and other bugs mostly), late season flowers in bloom (especially the wildflowers), the pennant race in baseball, the beginning of football season, getting outside more, and a new year (since we tend to live by the school year, September first feels like New Year's day to me). It’s a great month all in all.

Hey, here's a question. If you can think of ANY song with the word September in the lyrics or title I'd like to know it. I have a short list but know there must be a LOT more of them out there. Send 'em on!

To My Friend Jeffrey

Jeffrey Sykes who writes the excellent blog A Priori Concepts dropped a challenging existential/religious/philosophical question on us today. In his words:

Open Question:

What is the life lesson I am supposed to learn from a life full of instances where my greatest successes are tinged with intense failures and life’s most pleasant experiences are colored with the pain of significant loss or impending devastation?

I’m open to all interpretations.

I would normally try to answer such a question by an appeal to Genesis 3:15-19, the book of Ecclesiastes, and Psalms like Psalm 73. I think I will try to do that, maybe later. But for now I thought I would offer a larger answer (given my propensity to ask the same questions - you know, like every other day), an essay, written to myself really, and dealing with much the same stuff, particularly in the middle and end. It is entitled The Creation Mandate. It is a Christian reflection about the meaning and the frustration of work. I would be interested in its applicability to your (or anyone else's) situation.

Hope this helps,

Joel

Spam Reaches Deeper

Ed Cone addressed comment spam on his site last week. I've been getting a ton of it on my Word Press blogs. Even the spam filter program can't stop it all. Well, to clarify, it does push into a "moderate" category, so at least it doesn't hit the public view. It hasn't happened yet in Blogger.

Facebook has been hit hard by spam in the last few weeks with phony Wall messages being sent out in the name of some person to others on their friend list. Usually the message points the reader to a not very nice web site.

And today I got comment spammed for the first time on my Flickr site. Under a lovely picture of a sweet child was this comment. And by the way, cristian202005 is an empty account - phony - I looked it up. I don't know how they stop individuals or companies from creating phony accounts and then posting comments like this. Maybe they should purge all accounts that have no pictures.

Joel

view profile

cristian202005 says:

Acura ,
Alfa Romeo,
AMC,
Aston Martin,
Auburn, Audi,
Austin,
Austin Healey,
Beck,
Bentley,
BMW,
Bugatti,
Buick,
Cadillac,
Chevrolet,
Chrysler,
Citroen,
Cord,
Daewoo,
Daihatsu,
Datsun,
DeLorean,
DeSoto,
DeTomaso,
Dodge,
Eagle,
Edsel,
Factory Five Racing,
Ferrari,
Fiat,
Ford,
Geo,
GMC,
Honda,
Hummer,
Hyundai,
Infiniti,
International Harvester,
Isuzu,
Jaguar,
Jeep,
Kia,
Lamborghini,
Lancia,
Land Rover,
Lexus,
Lincoln,
Lotus,
Maserati,
Maybach,
Mazda,
Mercedes-Benz,
Mercury,
MG,
Mini,
Mitsubishi,
Nash,
Nissan,
Oldsmobile,
Opel,
Other Makes,
Packard,
Peugeot,
Plymouth,
Pontiac,
Porsche,
Qvale,
Renault,
Replica & Kit Makes,
Rolls-Royce,
Saab, Saleen,
Saturn,
Scion,
Shelby,
Smart,
Spyker,
Studebaker,
Subaru,
Suzuki,
Toyota,
Triumph,
Volkswagen,
Volvo,
Willys

And the Dumb-Ass of the Year Award Goes to...

Me.

Have you ever done something so stupid that you felt like you had to tell everyone first before they found out otherwise? You know, that way you get to put your own spin on the thing...:-)

So, my daughter Anna, the track whiz, well, she has this little neighborhood lawn mowing business going. She has always been a very hard worker and is very tidy about mowing and weed eating and such. Anyway, she has gone off to college now, but the problem is, the grass around here is still growing. So, how can she keep her customers? I offered to mow this one man's yard for her and send her the money until mowing season stops. Good old dad.

The nice man from down the street dropped by Friday on his way to the beach and gave me the thirty bucks to send to Anna, plus some tomatoes and cucumbers from his garden. He also invited me to help myself to anything that was ripe while I was mowing.

So, Monday morning I took off down the street pushing the mower. Anna always listened to her iPod while mowing which would make it impossible for her to hear us calling, so I thought I would take mine with me. Led Zeppelin IV came to mind as good lawn mowing music, and I had just turned on the iPod as I pushed the mower into the guy's driveway. "Hey hey mama said the way you move..." You get the picture. So I cranked the Honda mower up and started mowing.

The guy had nice grass. Really nice grass. Our mower is stuck on "mulch"mode for some reason and I had to go over parts of the lawn several times. I like mowing. I used to do it a lot before Anna took over. She doesn't like it when I mow. The lines are all weird. She does perfect lines.

Anyway, I got to the guy's backyard - more long lush grass. I am about half way through with the back yard when I remember what the man said about the vegetables. I looked around...no vegetables. Hmmm. I looked next door. Mucho vegetables!

I was mowing the wrong yard!

My heart sank. I knew I would have to cancel my lunch appointment. I was trying to think how I could explain away what would be a very long mowing job to my wife. I was also worried the folks might show up and shoot me. I had the thought - for real - am I senile? I thought about just leaving - just getting out of there - but then I said to myself, "I've gone this far I may as well do a good job."

So, I finished. Then I went next door and mowed the yard I was supposed to mow. Finally I got home. There was no way around it. I had to tell my wife. She tried not to laugh because I can be very sensitive about being laughed at. But my 11 year old couldn't contain herself. I'll exact my revenge. In time.

Later in the day I'm just finishing mowing my own yard and I look down the street and see a car in THAT driveway. Thinking there's no time like the present I marched down to apologize. I mean the guy had REALLY nice grass, and I've had a run in or two in my day with Lawn Nazi's, kind of like Anna but way bigger with a few Bud's for the heat, so I was a little worried the guy might just kick my butt right there on the spot. Or call the cops.

I walked up the drive way. There was a little girl looking at me from behind the glass door in that "never talk to strangers" kind of way that makes you feel like a total, well, you know. I said "Can you get your dad" and then I heard a voice from the garage.

The guy came out and I introduced myself. We shook hands. He seemed young enough to be my son. I told him that I had come down to offer an apology, and he was like, "OK....?" probably wondering what in the world had I done. I told him the story. He seemed worried at first not knowing where it was all going, but then at the punch line he laughed and was very gracious.

He said he had just gotten back from Virginia Beach and was tired and had been thinking about how he had to mow the grass and all, and when he drive up, there it was, all mowed. He even said I did a good job (which I need to tell Anna), but then he may have only been trying to make me feel better. He offered to pay me. "No," I said, "I can't accept any money. I'm just sorry it happened." He offered to have us down for a cookout and then we commenced to talking about deep sea fishing about which I know nothing whatsoever.

I had to go. We shook hands. I told him I'd see him around. I said, "You don't HAVE to tell all the neighbors if you don't want to." He laughed.

I'm just waiting for warning posters to start showing up in the neighborhood with the picture of a man pushing a lawn mower - "Beware of the Lawnmower Bandit." Then I'll have to move for sure. Maybe to SC. Ahh, a silver lining....

Rebekah on Hike up Moore's Knob Trail



This is one of my favorite pictures I have taken in a long while. As I often say, if you press the shutter button enough times some of the pictures are bound to come out looking good. In this shot the green tint is natural - not photo-shopped or anything. It was the way the sun was filtering through the leaves at that moment, With her green shirt set off by the dark tree trunk behind her for contrast, it makes for a cool study in green. It was a lucky shot. I think I might photo-shop it a tad to lessen the shadow on her face.

You can see more pictures of our Sunday August 31 hike up to Moore's Knob, plus a few new shots of downtown Greensboro, on my Flickr Photostream.

Perkins Follow Up

Given some of the feedback (comments and e-mails) to my post Developers, Perkins, and Our Shared Environment, I do sense a need to clarify and elaborate.

I have not talked to Robbie Perkins in years, mostly because we travel in different circles (you think?). When I did know him he was only ever nice to me, as was his wife. In fact, I liked the Perkins family very much. Robbie always carried himself in a gentlemanly demeanor. I thought of him as a gracious person and a good and decent man. I would suppose that those qualities have a significant role in his electability.

I wrote what I did about his comments regarding water runoff because I wanted to illustrate the "mindset" of developers, a mindset which has always mystified me somewhat.

And truth be told I have gotten more and more disenchanted with the power which the "developer" class yields in local decisions. There does seem to be a quintessential good old boy network ("boy" being used loosely of course) going on here. When otherwise good and decent men and women are drawn into making back door deals and decisions which impact the public good, who work the system and take advantage of poorly written laws that give them undue power, who use their wealth to "help" like minded folk get elected, and who use their influence on city and county councils to advance their industry if not their own companies, then no matter how good their motives may be what you have is an incipient corruption. I think it has gone well beyond incipient. But I would not myself call Mr. Perkins a sleaze ball as did one commenter. I don't think that way about him.

I think her is just being a developer, a developer mixed up in local politics. It's a bad combination.

I am interested in reading more about Protest Petition issue as brought to my attention by triadwatch. The TREBIC cartel does concern me, and it seems cartel is not an inappropriate designation.

Election Watch: Experience Isn't the Issue

Well, not for me anyway. We have had great presidents with little experience and terrible presidents with lots of experience, and lots of mediocre presidents of both kinds. Thus I don't think either side will ultimately win the "experience" argument.

I'm more experienced than her
.

She is more experienced than him.

To me they all sound like school children.

Washington has its own built in machinery. There are career politicians and diplomats and bureaucrats abounding. The place practically runs itself. I think what is more important is intelligence, values, judgment, and of course one's political philosophy.

Where these folks actually stand on the issues, and to what degree any of them will be able to put together the kind of bipartisan coalitions needed to tackle the very real problems we face together is more important to me.

Truth be told I think many people I know are experienced and smart and creative enough to be president. I think if you dropped me down up into the White House I would be a decent president. Well, except that I need my sleep. All those 3:00AM calls would really start to wear me down.