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D.C. Road Trip – Part 3 – Not in D.C.

March 8, 2017

I’m going to admit some things in this blog that could be used against me. Just warning you.

Getting out of D.C. during their early rush hour was… curse-filled. We followed our GPS for an hour right on to Hwy 29. It will be news to you as it was to us, that 29 is more a dirt road and back roads than freeway, but it was a pretty drive through some pretty land. Very pretty.

We’d had a snafu about rooms prior to leaving, so we switched from an Extended Stay America right across the street from Liberty University to a Microtel. As it turned out, while Extended Stay was indeed across the street, it required a very round-about way to get there. Microtel wasn’t too far, but it was brand new, wonderfully clean, and micro-small, but good enough. :0)

We rolled through Liberty University to track down my daughter’s friend. It took awhile because Liberty is a large, maze-like college with wonderful students who gave great daylight direction, but unfortunately, it was night. “The big golf ball building” doesn’t look like a golf ball in the dark.

Here’s the admission part: I don’t like school. Has to do with the fidgety thing I explained two posts ago. It’s funny, me being an educational professional (specializing in micro-learning). I’m not an auditory learner, so classrooms drive me nuts. My degrees are all in lab-related courses. That colors my review of Liberty.Image result for liberty university

It’s a great school. They have a strong academic curriculum, several colleges, and an amazing campus. And a mazing campus. It got a bit smaller as we wandered around, but I could never get a feel for the logic of the layout.

I was also impressed with the technology of the school, all of which will serve my daughter well. I’d hate to have her so far away, but it’s a good place. As we toured the school, our tour guides answered questions that aligned with what I’m looking for her. Strong academics, good spirit and teachings, maybe a bit more entertainment than necessary, but I didn’t see a single student who didn’t love it, and I embarrassed my daughter by asking many people.

Some people might think a college started by Jerry Falwell would be a super-strict, legalistic place. First, that would suggest they fell for a stereotype perpetrated by political donkeys. I’ve seen Falwell speak with love, compassion and tenderness, only for the same speech to characterized as mean, narrow-minded and harsh by the media. he’s been gone for a long time, suggesting our media went off the rails also a long time ago.

When I visit my son’s school, PCC, it makes me feel like teaching again. Liberty doesn’t have that effect, but my daughter isn’t me and has her own needs and wants. They have a strong International Government Studies degree right up her ally (ahem).

The drive home was uneventful if long, and the night ended with the best thing about a long road trip: Sleeping in your own bed.

DC RoadTrip – Part 2

March 7, 2017

That first day we walked 13 miles. Now I know why another name for legs is “stumps,” because that’s what they felt like. My calf muscles were as tight as an overstrung harp and the bottom of my feet felt like bruised blisters.  As previously posted, we visited the mall. Now it was time for the museums.

I love museums. History and I are buds. The parts that weren’t aching were all a-tingle about visiting the Smithsonian.

The American History Museum

I expected to be wowed.

I wasn’t.

Where was the American History? History should be chronological. Truthfully, the exhibit I remember was the First Ladies Dress Collection. I’m sure there was more. There must have been. Lunch for three, $53. For salad and sandwiches.

Air and Space Museum

OK, but the Air and Space Museum would make up for it. There it was: The Star Ship Enterprise, next to the Deathstar. Only it wasn’t the Deathstar, it was the Teledyne Satellite. OK, that’s all cool. I started looking around. There was space stuff; just like the ones at Kennedy Space Center, only smaller.

I’ll be honest, this was a great museum, if I’d had more time to dig into some of the exhibits. I love space exploration, and though it was small, it was rich in stuff I already knew.

Let me take a moment to reflect on what I pondered then. I am blessed. Pampered. Privileged.  I’ve been to major museums across the country. Kennedy Space Center, DisneyWorld, SeaWorld, Science Centers of several states, the Grand Canyon, Redwoods, Carlsbad Caverns, Mammoth Caves, and so much more. Each museum was filled with kids on field trips. Most were interesting in chasing their friends around, but a few were happily geeking out.  So was I.  Don’t think I wasn’t impressed and loving it, but the joy and amazement were absent.

The Smithsonian

I really liked the Smithsonian Museum about the Smithsonian. That was great, as was the 3D map.


The Museum of Natural History

This was the one I was waiting for. I wish I had hours to wander and that the running kids would let me get closer. The Elephant at the entrance was spectacular. The Ocean was my favorite section. There was some good stuff crammed in here. The Mammals were also fun (a mother pointed at the Rhino and said, “that’s the largest living mammal, kids!”  I shook my head at her and mouthed “Elephant – on land.” She frowned. “Second largest, kids.”  “Hippo” I mouthed. She gathered up her kids and moved off. I was just trying to help. And we’d even seen a baby blue whale hanging in the air not too far away; the adult dwarfing the land mammals.  Oh well.

Somewhere a kid whined, “Where are the dinosaurs?!”  I silently agreed with him.

The Smithsonian museums are hurting for space. When we finally got there, my inner little boy squealed at the T-Rex tail wrapping around the exhibit wall. I limp to see it. Another juvenile.  It was only two feet higher than me. I sighed and turned to see the Triceratops, my favorite dinosaur. It too was a baby. I remembered being astonished at the Rocky Mountain Museum in Montana at the vast size of the Trike. I’d had no idea they were that big. I’d thought they were, well, this big.

Still cool, don’t get me wrong. Some beautiful photography exhibits and Elephant Discovery stations had great views of the elephant downstairs, and examples of ivory horrors. There were also some gem and crystal exhibits.

Art Museums

As mentioned before, there were a lot of field trips going on. Down the street, a new African American Museum has opened. As I wandered the halls and rooms of pictures, I also saw scads of black children. Looking at a sea of painted white people. Even the characters of history who should have been people of color were white. As much as I loved the art, this fact saddened me. If there is an African American art museum, I wish they’d integrate it into these. I’ve seen some amazing black art that could have a room of a dozen of their own. The only black painter exhibit had no paintings of people. I’d like to see a greater presence of black scientists, artists, mathematicians, and national heroes integrated into the appropriate museums and not as separate exhibits.

Capital Building and The Library of Congress

We hobbled down to the best view of the Capital Building. Beautiful architecture. Then my wife said, let’s go around to the back. I wanted to, I really did. I’d hoped by this time my legs would have been numb. She insisted and I’m so glad she did.Image result for library of congress

We walked the mile around (ouch ouch ouch), and came face to face with not only the backside of Congress, but the Supreme Court and the Jefferson Building, Library of Congress! We couldn’t get into court, but I was all a-tingle again about entering the Library of Congress. After security we hit the information desk. I asked how to look up my book. “You can’t.” But it’s here! “You can look at the library card, but you can’t see the book.” That’s OK, I’ve seen the book, I just want to see that card that says it’s here. They gave me directions, but first we hit Jefferson’s Awesome Library (not it’s real name, but it should be). Then looked out over the reading room from the lookout.  We then looked at Indian documents. OK, cool.

Then my daughter called. She was done meeting with the Congressmen and would meet us out front. So I didn’t get to see my book’s card, but I did see the Guttenberg Bible.


As we approached the back of Congress, off in the distance, we saw protesters in their natural environment!  I warned my people not to feed them, because they might follow us home. I prepared my list of questions for them (if I could get an article out of this, I could write the trip off on next year’s taxes), and stealthily moved closer. Then we realized it was another field trip. Sigh. No protesters. At all. That was on my list. Once I found out Trump had spoken at Congress the night before, I was expecting some wildlife. No such luck.

Now it was time to go get the car, brave rush hour traffic and get down to Lynchburg, three hours away. That’s tomorrow’s post.

D.C. Road Trip – Part 1

March 6, 2017

Roadtrip. This word strikes horror in my heart. Anyone who sits near me at church knows I fidget. A lot. The idea of being cooped up in a car for 12 hours…. Brrrrrr.

But my daughter had a CAP event where she got to meet with Congressmen and staffers, and I’d never been to D.C. and we could check out a possible college on the way back, so roadtrip it was. I’m going to break this post over a couple of days, because there is so much to discuss.

The Car (or My Kid’s Favorite Ride at Disneyworld is the Bus)

We rented a car so we don’t put the miles on ours. I always rent economy cars, because A) I’m cheap, and B) I’ve never actually gotten an economy car. They’re always out and I’m upgraded for free to a medium car. Except this time. We were upgraded to a Luxury SUV that still got 30 miles to the gallon.

I loved this car. There were more buttons and gadgets and icons than I ever learned how to us. This thing not only had the rear camera, it had proximity alarms and blind-spot warnings. Sure, sure, for some of you that’s nothing new, but my car doesn’t even have automatic locks. It also had seat warmers for back and butt. More on this later.

I still hate driving, but this thing at least made it a party. The trip was just five days. One day driving, two in the Capital, one in Lynchburg, VA at Liberty University, and the last driving back.

The drive up was smooth, fidgety and bad for my temper. The next day, driving to drop off my daughter in the outskirts of D.C. (two miles on the map; many more than that in actuality), with onramps and exits within feet of each other on opposite sides of four lanes… well, let me just say there is incontrovertible proof of God’s existence, in that the car doesn’t have a scratch on it. I don’t take spoken navigation well, and driving a car the size of a battleship with the power to push it (yes, 110 MPH feels just like 60 MPH), I too often prayed, gunned it, and hoped people had good brakes. My faith was weak, as hunched shoulders waiting for impact indicated, but God was there, not put off my cursing (my wife was), and saw us through alive.

The Hotel

I booked our motel online. We exited at Chrystal City, which is beautiful, shiny and new. And drove through to ever reclining environs. We found our motel, parked the ship in economy parking, swallowed hard for bravery and got out to check in. Very nice attendants. The clerk was an older lady, probably gripping a sawed-off under the counter, and greeted me warmly. I confirmed it was a non-smoking room, because my wife can’t handle the smell. The clerk giggled. I kid you not. Once we got the room, I understood. It didn’t smell like smoke, it had a unique smell all its own. But it was large, plenty of space, weathered, but really just fine. Really.

The Subway

They don’t call it the subway, they call it the Metro. But “Metro” refers to the bus as well as the subway. So when we were at Rite-Aid, we asked the nice Muslim lady if there was a subway station nearby. She smiled sweetly as she translated our words into her own language, then pumped her head and gave us directions. It was easy walking distance from our motel! To make sure we knew where it was, we carefully followed her directions… to a Subway. The restaurant, not the station.

For the station, we took a bus.  We bought our day passes, entered like lost sheep and descended into the bowels of DC. They were very clean bowels, and it was huge. I felt like I was in a forced-perspective movie set. The Blue Line came in, we boarded, everyone was nice, no one smelled, and it was an enjoyable experience.

The MallImage result for D.C. Mall

We stepped from the station into Arctic air and buildings all around. Fortunately, my wife has been there before and she guided us to the Washington Memorial.

It was nice. Shorter than I expected. I did a 360 and realized there was a huge city surrounding the Mall. You scoff, but movies don’t show that.

We stopped into the WWII memorial being built. It was also very nice.

We walked along the reflecting pool, which didn’t reflect anything, was dirty and had lots of floaties. No way an octopus would fit in there. Between this and the fact that the museums were a mile away, Night at the Museum II has a lot of ‘splainin’ to do!

Lynette pointed through a break in the trees. There was the White House! With buildings flanking it. Big interesting buildings (again, nothing I ever pictured. In my mind’s eye, the White House floats in empty space). I’d hoped to get closer, but the opportunity didn’t present itself.

We limped along and made it to the Lincoln Memorial. The first thing I notices was dozens of people taking selfies (I hate selfies). And then all the steps. I have a bad leg. Steps aren’t fun. Didn’t matter, no way I’d miss this, even as I wondered where the handicapped access was.

LM is amazing. Flat out amazing. It is the best memorial, best marble sculpture, and most touching monument ever made. It seemed to shimmer. If I was whisked back to Orlando at that moment, the trip would have been worth it. Angels didn’t sing, but my history-loving soul was singing a silent opera. Flat out, WOW! I read every word of the Gettysburg Address.Image result for lincoln memorial

Too soon, I stepped back out to the front portico and looked over the mall and surroundings. That sound you heard was a hundred books I’ve read realigning in my head.

If I was a city mouse, this would be the city for me. Fortunately, I’m a country mouse trapped in the suburbs.

At the other end of the mall was the Capital Building. I marveled at the designer’s ability to carve out a vast space and beat back the bustling city all around.

Next Post – The Smithsonian, the Capital Building and the Library of Congress.

February 22, 2017

I have posted some thoughtless things on Facebook. Bumpersticker Politics, Driveby Sniping, Brainbypass Commenting.

Donald Trump changed all that.

I don’t like him, think he’s all that’s wrong with Narcissistic America, and I did everything I could to make sure neither Clinton nor Trump won the election. Feel the power—NOT.

I called both of them things on Facebook, many of which weren’t true about Trump (all were true about Clinton). Things like racist and misogynist. Neither of which I think are true any longer.

Let me back up a bit. I’d changed my ways re: President Obama because I didn’t like the name calling so many of my FBF (Facebook Friends; not to be confused with RLF; Real-life Friend, although there is a lot of overlap) were engaged in.  So I purposed to refer to him as President Obama, or at worst simply Obama. Respect the office if not who holds it.

Then, after the election (I still pinch myself every morning to see if it’s all a bad dream), I saw posts of fear and outrage, many getting the facts wrong.

Then the whole immigration thing happened and Facebook went even crazier. Having done a little research, I’ve been concerned about how much immigration is happening. I’ve got nothing against controlled immigration, a lot against illegal immigration, and not nearly enough knowledge to have an informed opinion on the immigration pause. That didn’t stop everyone else from posting about it, but it stopped me.

Meanwhile, FBF who castigate people protesting abortion for sharing their opinion passionately, are suddenly protesting… okay, I’m not sure what they’re protesting… but they’re doing it passionately, and suddenly it’s alright to share their opinion loudly.

Here’s the thing: There’s enough wrong about Trump that you don’t have to make things up.

The man is a communications nightmare. I can’t listen to him or watch him. He’s his own favorite subject and speaks really badly about everything. But he isn’t racist for wanting to stop illegal immigration; and the criminals he spoke about as rapists and murderers are from the illegal immigrant criminal subset, not all Mexicans and not even all illegal aliens.  He speaks badly about a subset of black people who commit heinous crimes, not all of them. He said some awful things a long time ago about what celebrities can do to women. That makes him crude and gross, and saying what most male celebrities know to be true. Was he misogynist because he said it, did it or thought it? Because I don’t see anyone boycotting movies. He hires people of color and women to key roles. A racist and misogynist wouldn’t do that.

All of that to say I have been convicted to only make thoughtful or funny posts on Facebook. If I don’t have enough information, I won’t post. If it would hurt someone’s feelings without presenting the hope of the gospel at the same time, then I won’t post it.

It’s really tempting to take on the FBF who do. I did that once and he blocked me before I could block him. Posting wisely is easy. Commenting wisely takes some effort.

So, naturally I’m proud of myself for this conviction. Then at church last Sunday our really terrific pastor commented on the same thing (-ish). But I was doing it already!  Pride fizzles out like a balloon. Now no one will believe I reached that conclusion independently.

I also know in this post, I’ve probably ticked off a lot of readers (I have more now, and some of them are foodies! I love foodies!), using the words “illegal immigrant” and “illegal aliens.”  I use them for accuracy, not rancor. I strive for that because I’m a writer, and while I adore fiction, I love the truth. (FWIW, I like the idea of a guest worker program, and yes I understand food will become more expensive, but I eat a lot of processed food (sorry foodies!), so maybe fake food won’t be effected.

Make lasagna, not war!

A new phrase that discribes me

February 12, 2017

You’ve heard of Attention Span. Welcome to Interest Span.

I have a severely truncated span of interest. We drove by a remote control aircraft airport yesterday and saw an RC plane swooping through the sky. It looked fun. For maybe ten minutes. Once you got it off the ground and into the air, maybe a turn or two and I’d be bored speechless.

Boats and jet-skis: Fun for about ten minutes. Power away from the dock, get up to speed, a turn or two and YAWN.

It’s a problem. A serious problem.

Used to be movies could hold my interest span, but now only a few can (we’re finishing up Castle on DVDs from NetFlix. They’re 45 minutes long. If I’m in the mood for Castle, sure; if not, Facebook while watching helps).

I do like to cook if I’m rested and my feet don’t hurt.

A good book can hold my interest for hours.

Dancing, concerts, sports… Snoozeville (I fell asleep at a Van Halen concert, just sayin’).

I’m okay with individuals in person. Groups, not so much unless I’m in front of them. Individuals on phones? Please, Lord, no! (Exception with family on the West Coast; I don’t get to see them, so phone calls are OK; especially when I’m driving and on a headset).

Eating always holds my interest, hence the gut.

We’ve got a trip to Washington DC coming up, and I do look forward to that (just not the drive there. Or back.). Museums are terrific and designed for people like me. You get bored with an exhibit, you move on to the next one. It’s like tricking my Interest Span. Normally when we go on vacation, I look for local museums. Lynette likes nature walks and hiking. Me, not so much. Nature is pretty, but better viewed over book pages from a comfy lawn chair. Or IMAX.

How long is your Interest Span?


Generalizations will Getcha

February 4, 2017

In psychology, generalization is taking a specific instance and applying it to larger instances. Classically, the little boy made to fear white bunnies generalized his fear to be afraid of Santa Claus and other old men with white beards. Or the woman abused by one man and presuming all men are pigs (doesn’t mean she isn’t right, just that she generalized to that conclusion).

Good things can be generalized, too. The state of the universe is one of chaos. Everything God created in order has been subject to the chaos of entropy. So it is with gravity and so it is with human beings.

In America, and by its influence in Europe and Australia, we have established order. So much so that we take it for granted and are horrified when the chaos of terrorism or crime disrupt our order.

And we generalize that the love of order is shared by everybody. Human rights are nifty; everyone wants them. But the truth of the matter is that in large parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America, the order of well-intentioned freedom is not just unwanted, it’s reviled.

In America, 98.9% of the people who live here would never even conceive of killing someone. Yes, I made up the percentage, but overall, even atheists don’t want to kill (except for those who are outraged that I might suggest you need God to behave morally. That’s a different conversation, though.)

This whole immigration thing… I have no opinion one way or the other on the specifics of the Executive Order, but I do believe we should be re-evaluating our immigration policy. We need to look at resource consumption, economics, crime, etc. etc. and make intelligent decisions. We also have to realize that huge areas of the world do not believe as we do. At all. And we need to consider that.

We as a culture have changed in the last hundred years. There was a time when immigrants could come here and stake their own claim, living apart from everyone else. That isn’t true today. The people who come here today have to integrate to some degree. We do need to ask the question if their belief structure makes them good candidates. I believe many who would come here are. They’re educated, and willing to adapt.

At work, an Indian co-worker admitted it was difficult his first year here. He was of a higher caste and a caste-less society is very odd to him. He was conditioned to ignore and not hear someone he considered of a lower caste. He adapted; he’s concerned about people he knows who haven’t.

Maybe we should ask the questions.

Politics Suck, But….

January 24, 2017

I seem to say this a lot. “I didn’t vote for Trump; I don’t like his public persona at all; I’m not endorsing the man, but maybe the concept.”

So if you are marcher, more power to you, gotta love that first amendment. Knock yourself out.

Having said all that, let me say this is a unique experiment long overdue.

The Donald isn’t a politician. The last non-politician did pretty well (Ike the military man, for the history-challenged).

Politicians have a thing for red tape and foot dragging. They’re about what they say, not what they do. Government is supposed to be Of the People, For the People, BY THE PEOPLE.

It’s true, government has gotten more complex and law certainly needs a real lawyer, but is that true for politicians?  I don’t know the answer, but it seems at the executive level, which relies on staff for the mechanics, the answer would be no.

Might a career politician be conditioned to wait for the slow wheels of process, whereas a businessman would demand speed? I know everywhere I worked, the boss said mush and we mushed, even though the boss didn’t really know how to do it. Might a career politician succumb to narrow thinking, whereas a non-politician may think outside the box?

For example, while I don’t want a wall between us and Mexico, what if the “wall” was an 1,800 mile resort with no windows on our side? Every few miles there would be a fortified border gate for walk-throughs, and every 50 miles a car gate.  Different sections could be different demographics, and managing them would be farmed out to bidders who get a percentage of the profits while the rest go to the treasury. Guests would be from anywhere, the US, Mexico, other countries… and there you have an out-of-the-box solution that pays for itself.

Another aspect of non-politicians in the cabinet would be not just innovative thinkers but possible solutionists.

There’s a narrative in America that business is evil, despite the vast majority of workers, you know, working at one. When people who don’t know what they’re doing create laws and regulations on an industry, companies learn to dance around them. Wouldn’t such a dancer know how to take the stupid out for businesses and people?  Remove the hoops and replace with common sense regulation. We absolutely need regulations, just not choking regulations.

I sincerely hope Trump is a great president (yes, I’m gagging a bit), and that the system keeps any excesses in check. Some think he’ll get anything he wants from a Republican Congress, but he won’t. They want to get reelected. No freedoms will be curtailed; racism is still illegal.

If you can’t support the guy, support the system, stay involved, protest if that’s your bent and you think it will help, but pray things work for the better. By the People. Remember it.