Growing Up In Grandin Court, Passing Remarks

Sadly, Jean Wood Eavey passed away yesterday, Wednesday December 17, 2014. Jean was determined to pay a visit to the Reunion at the Grandin Court Rec Center in November, and she made it. But her time was short.

As one of the seniors of the Grandin Court group, Jean enjoyed her reunion with old friends, and made a number of new ones. So glad that she was able to attend.

Nancy Wood Phelan posted a memorial to her sister Jean in today’s Roanoke Times. It was a remembering of growing up as the little sister, and very touching. I still have warm memories of Nancy and the Lee Wood family next door on Montvale.

We are aging, and will follow Jean in time. Let’s remember to remember those who were so important to us, who were, and are, a part of our being. They helped us be who we are, and will always be a part of our lives.

Rest in peace Jean.


Life, The Big Bang Theory, Or An Experiment Gone Wrong ?

Scientists studying the universe tell us that the universe is growing. They can tell by the red-shift in the color spectrum. By reversing the projector of time, the universe was at one time extremely small, contained in what is called a singularity. In effect, the entire total of existence was only a spot, just a point, which exploded into the universe as we now see it. That was billions of earth years ago.

The expansion is not slowing, as the laws of physics would expect due to the loss of energy as it expands. Instead, it is growing at a faster rate, at almost the speed of light. Something is driving the expansion, some invisible force that has not been discovered as yet. Perhaps there is another reason: not a mysterious force, but by the direct action of a “creator”.

Let’s imagine. Perhaps: In an experiment exploring “singularity” far away in a laboratory beyond the limits of our imagination, a tiny bit of energy was squeezed into an infinitely small space, and allowed to evolve as it would. That bit of energy could not be contained in the singularity condition; the laws of physics would not allow that. It exploded into what is now our universe. So far we are in compliance with current science.

This new universe was pristine, sanitary, free of any infection, including any life forms. Pure physics. Observing this new condition as it emerged, the experimenter wondered what would happen it was inoculated with some form of life, a single cell creature without a brain, or of a sense of destiny, conscience, morals. It would be a grand experiment in evolution to see what would happen over time, to see what would develop. Simple gene coding along a spiral of amino acids would do. Only it must be confined to a small and isolated place so that it could not escape into the real existence.

After a long time, nothing had changed. The system was static, the same as it was when set up, and no new life forms had emerged. Drat that. Maybe a small nudge would have an effect, just a minor tweak of the genetic codes, here and there. The creator tampered, and things began to happen. Single cells divided, and those divided again. Evolution started with interesting changes reacting to the environment. Another tweak or two, and life forms began to expand.

“I’ll change the environment again and see what develops,” said the experimenter to no one. Life forms changed even faster, into what appeared to be slightly intelligent beings. It was a successful experiment. Did the experimenter get an “A” on it? No. No grade. That was not to be. No grade for this unfinished experiment. A reprimand perhaps. Would the experiment be abandoned? No. The creator went on to other projects, like black holes, and super novae, and other more interesting experiments, but returned to the first project.

Ah, said the experimenter. I’ll infuse learning, the ability to reason.” And that infection was introduced to the mix. All was well for eons, until the growth of new beings erupted from Eden, over-filled the site, and learned how to escape out of the confines.

It was a problem. This new life form had emerged into the universe and was expanding beyond the limits the experimenter had set. It was hostile, to itself and to its neighbors, its home and possibly to the rest of existence. It could not be eradicated: that was against the universal laws of life. How to protect from what had become a serious threat? The answer was to isolate that experiment gone bad from the rest of existence.

The experimenter isolated the badly infected life forms on a tiny insignificant planet, on an outer thread of a far away minor spiral galaxy. That should isolate the infection from the rest of the universe, and be protection from spreading further. Problem fixed. Only it didn’t stay fixed for long.

The spread if this gone-wrong life-form experiment as it leaked out of confinement, had the real possibility of infecting the entire peaceful universe. In pure panic, the other galaxies choose to run away as fast as possible. Ergo, the “red-shift” effect we see today.

So, life and the Earth as we know it is really an experiment that went badly wrong. The universe is trying to keep well away from possible infection.

Or not. At least this is one possible explanation of the origin of life on Earth: Mankind created by accident, isolated, and abandoned by the creator when the experiment went bad. Its just as good an explanation as any other I’ve heard so far.

Be careful what you wish for?

Writing Is Not Easy

Posting to a blog is fairly easy: just type what comes to mind in chain-of-thought style. You only need an good idea to fill out the rest of the page. On the other hand, a short story is difficult. Condensing the story to a few hundred words and keeping it together, is a challenge. A novel, on the other hand, is really hard. I admire authors who can put together a long story that keeps me interested.

Not only do you need a plot, really more than one, you have to invent and develop characters that come alive on the page. They have to be believable. They have to engender feelings: either the reader likes them or hates them, but they must be real.

Novels require development of scenes and descriptive passages into which they place the action. That can take hours of writing and rewriting. Usually, it requires a personal knowledge of the scenes to come across well. The exception is the fantasy world that some writers are able to create from whole cloth.

But the hardest to get down on paper is the personal experience that entails real emotions, a personal trip through life that the reader can relate to. The emotions can get pretty strong when relating personal things. I admire Beth Macy for her work, for the many articles she had produced, and for her best seller book “Factory Man”.

Years ago, a dream I had was so real that I woke MR and spent the next four hours relating the story. It was complete, with characters, names, addresses, phone numbers, and other details that I had no to reason to know, like the license numbers of a taxi in London, and addresses of houses in Berlin. I wrote a manuscript, just an outline of a mystery novel based on a contemporary event, which was left hanging when I lent it to a friend.

She was a college literary professor. It was lost in a move and the copy I had on the computer was fried when the hard drive crashed. I tried to reproduce the plot threads and characters, but they just don’t seem alive. Somehow the inspiration that started the story faded into the foggy mists of yesterday. It was a thriller, and had plot twists that would keep the reader flipping pages. Intrigues in DC, office scenes in Crystal City, secret trips to Europe, escapes across the Bavarian Alps, and dark houses behind the Berlin wall. Strange romances, spies, and car chases, all happen to the lead character. The Lockerbie crash was a kicker.

So, maybe one day I will recall the details, get it on paper and present it to you for review and critique. But don’t stay up late waiting.


Dobby Is At It Again

All homes have a elf. Get used to it. Some are nice, pleasant and helpful; most are mischievous, impish, and tricky. Ours is referred to as “Dobby” for lack of a better name, from the Harry Potter series. He makes himself known from time to time with pranks and tricks, probably from boredom when we are away.

For instance, the new microwave oven won’t work for MR. Nothing she or I can do will make it nuke anything. Until she is not around, and then it works for me. Sometimes, like today. Except for oatmeal, or rewarming coffee. Frustrating.

Then there is the clothes dryer, which left clothes damp after two cycles. A burned our heating element? Nope, just because. After tinkering around for an hour or so, it works fine. And then the dryer at Laura’s, which quit when the drum drive belt broke. No particular wear showing that would cause the break.

A week ago I noticed something wet under MR’s car. It was not the AC condensate that appears to drip out after a hot day on the road. It looked like transmission fluid, slightly pink, and about two ounces on the garage floor. I checked all the fluid levels and they were up to full. Where did the oil come from? Perhaps from the power steering reservoir, but it was also up to snuff.

Drove it five hours to NC: no leaks. Until we were getting ready to return to H’Ville. There was oil running across the garage floor, more this time. More checks and the fluid levels still OK.

Back in VA, down to Roanoke, and back to H’Ville and no leaks. All fluids, including the power steering, shows full. Until this morning, when it was dry. No fluid at all. And none on the floor. Where did it go? Dobby at it again? Refilled the reservoir and drove it about 25 miles, and no visible leaks or loss of fluid. I’m thinking of spying on Dobby tonight to see what he is doing to the car.

Frank’s lawn mower wouldn’t start. Even boosting the battery from the truck didn’t work. The engine just would not turn over. Was it a bad starter? I hauled it to the garage to get it checked out, and as I was pushing it from the truck, something popped. I cranked it over, and BROOOOM. Dobby at it again. At least Frank is happy.

Toilet seat loose. Tighten. Loose. Tighten. Loose again. RE-Tighten with under-the-breath curse at Dobby. Now it stays tight.

Of course, there are the normal lost car keys, missing tools, clippers that mysteriously move from one place to another behind a crate, books that are hidden under the bed, and lap-tops that jump cAPS loCK up and dOwn on its own. Try working an on-line crossword puzzle with Dobby messing with the keyboard. The car keys somehow show up in the exact place I was looking for them, only hours later.

And the new TV screen that has started to flicker, usually from start up, and sometime all evening. It’s like the horizontal sync has gone crazy. Gives me a headache. After one or two well aimed threats, Dobby fixed it, and it is now working fine. For now at least.

I’ll give Dobby this: his hi-jenks are more a bother than real trouble. They are simple to resolve most of the time. I can fix most of his tricks, but I am a bit worried about the power steering thing. If MR was to lose power steering on the way to Roanoke, she would probably end up in the ditch, if she was lucky. For that reason, I’m taking to car to have it exorcised. Maybe a spell to protect it from more of Dobby’s pranks.

Tonight the TV started to go bonkers. Again. My head is hurting, and MR is not happy that Wheel and Jeopardy are a mess. Maybe I can find something to amuse Dobby, so he will give us a break.

I wonder if Dobby had anything to do with the election outcome yesterday?


Growing Up In Grandin Court : Reunion Nov 2, 2014

A BIG “Thanks” goes out to Dottie Reynolds, Suzi (Reynolds) and Charles Kessler, Ed and Virginia Webber, Harry and Virginia Francis, and many others, who brought together almost 70 alumni of the Grandin Court Community at the Rec Center yesterday. It was an amazing afternoon of renewing old friendships, sharing stories of adventures, misadventures, and pictures of growing up in Grandin Court.

We met some new folks who came into the family by marriage, and a few by birth. And, we greeted many whom we hold in high esteem: Tom Hudson, Preston Perkins, Alwyn Mottesherd, Freddy Preston, Bob Price and Arthur Price, Helen Cassell, Jean Wood, and others, more than I can name. We even had a few newcomers who moved to the community recently. And brothers Dave (and Barbara), and Bobby, who rode his Harley all the way from Tuscalusa.

All in all, a truly wonderful afternoon of reliving old times, and sharing memories.

Thank you all for coming. Thank you, Suzi, for pushing us old guys to make it happen.

See you next year?


Mystery Amendment To Virginia’s Constitution = Re-Visited

A few days ago I posted comments about the ballot provision on an amendment to Article X, Taxation and Finance section of the Virginia Constitution that would provide for exemption from property taxes for survivors of military killed in action. The Virginia constitution already provides for that exemption, so why the new wording?

My interpretation of the new wording may have been off center: the wording is so convoluted that it is not easy to understand. It looks like the original wording has been edited by changing one word, from “section” to “subdivision” and by adding a new subdivision “b”. That’s where it gets confusing. I interpreted the new wording to exclude exemptions for those veterans who were permanently and totally disabled, in place of the current wording which now extends the exemption to them. I was wrong, apparently.

After numerous readings and long discussions with others, it seems that the new wording does not change much. One change that I can make out, other than the minor word change in Subdivision (a), is the addition of Subdivision “b” which seems to reiterate the wording in the current law with some expansion to specify that the exemption applies “… regardless of whether the spouse was killed in action prior to the effective date of this subdivision, but the exemption shall not be applicable for any period of time prior to the effective date.” Clearly confusing.

There is almost zero change in the provisions of the current law, and the new wording seems to only add verbage without making it clearer or easier to interpret. I can only wonder why the author has offered this amendment. Why did the legislature agreed to post it on the ballot? Apparently, the author didn’t know that the Constitution already provided for the tax exemptions, according to a recent article in the Roanoke Times. If that is true what was the real reason for the amendment?

I still think the proposal should be turned down, at least until the meaning is made clear and the change is for the better, which in this case it is not.

Read the pamphlet before you vote.

The Sky Is Falling, The Sky Is Falling = NOT

The first of this year’s snowfall is covering the ground and trees with about an inch of the white stuff, creating what MR calls a winter wonderland. She loves the view from our dining room windows over the back yard, a lawn ringed by trees, now highlighted with snow.

Flakes are drifting down from the heavy clouds, covering the limbs and the fallen leaves that I haven’t raked up. The snow looks better than the leaf covered lawn, which I will have to rake when the snow departs.

Snows in Grandin Court were a reason to celebrate, with sledding, snowmen and igloo building, and snowball fights. It took more than a few inches to close schools, but we could walk to school through the woods or along the sidewalks. A few bucks were made by shoveling the driveways and sidewalks of the neighbors. It was a race to the best customers, who paid a dollar or more. Prayers at night were often for snow, even if it meant cold feet and hands, runny noses, and all.

Today, this white landscape beauty is overshadowed by the coming reality that travel will be tricky until the roads are cleared, schools will be closed, and the heating bill will be a shocker next month.

Anticipating the problems we will be facing is part of our hard-wired psyche, and the small fears that we will be unable to cope is part of the strategy of sermons and political ads. Create imaginary situations to instill fear, use a small fact, blow it up to gigantic proportions, add ridiculous possibilities, repeat it in unending frantic messages, and you can get folks to go the way you want. It works every time.

The story of Chicken Little crying “The sky is falling” is a good example, one that most people have forgotten, apparently. The “Falling Sky” strategy is dependent on people not taking time to think rationally, to research the sources, to check other information that gives a different viewpoint. With all the internet resources at hand, unless one takes time to look for the information, the lazy way out is to accept the screams as truth and hunker down.

We gave up a lot of our civil rights, our freedoms in the name of “national security,” after 9/11. We were frightened, we were shocked, and willing to let someone else make the decisions for us. We allowed the hawks to take emergency measures that were “necessary” to protect us from the unknown. The sky didn’t fall but we still have not recovered our civil rights under the emergency provision. We may never get them back in total.

Let’s get our collective heads out of the sand and make our way forward with some confidence that we can cope with the unknown, as we always have. Let’s make some rational decisions and get our country back on a reasonable path to sanity. The Sky is not Falling.

So be it.