31 March, 2013

Palm Sunday



Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, but because of a sore throat, 5-year-old Johnny stayed home from church with a sitter. When his family returned home, they were carrying several palm fronds. Johnny, of course, asked what they were for.

"People held them over Jesus's head as he walked by," his father told him.

"Wouldn't you know it," Johnny fumed, "the one Sunday I don't go, and he shows up."
Author Unknown   

30 March, 2013

Tree

Almost every day I photograph this tree near my office window - always from the same angle and about the same time of day. This is my favorite image from the past week.
TGB   

Copyright © 2013 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.
For the 2012 collection of images, click here.
For the 2013 collection of images, click here.

29 March, 2013

{essential truths} Peaches

It doesn't matter if you're
the ripest, juiciest peach in the world.
The will always be someone who hates peaches.



28 March, 2013

{this memory} 76

This is the story behind last Monday's {this moment}.

I was a very young child when this "official" photo was taken. It is my father's birthday, and he's cutting the cake in the wardroom of the USS Minos. He was captain.

So what are my memories? I am reminded that my father grew up so poor that he never had a birthday cake until my mother made him one early in their marriage. In spite of that humble beginning, he enlisted in the Navy and managed to rise to the level of senior officer, very unusual. Although his education was minimal (no college), he obviously was quite intelligent. He was also an officer and a gentleman of the first order. I don't think I ever heard him raise his voice or offer a hurtful word.

On some military web sites, I posted queries asking anyone who served under my father to contact me. I heard from only one. He said he didn't really know my father since he was seaman and my father was the captain, but what he remembered was that it was a happy ship and crew. Of course. It was a nice compliment to know the crew liked and respected him.

I am filled with wonderful memories and am a most fortunate man.
TGB

27 March, 2013

Dependencies

In Deep Space Nine "Jadzia Dax is a joined Trill. Though she appears to be a young woman, Jadzia lives in symbiosis with a wise and long-lived creature, known as a symbiont, named Dax. The two share a single, conscious mind, and her personality is a blending of the characteristics of both the host and the symbiont."

I'm not sure why this popped into awareness, but I am reminded of a brief relationship I had a couple of decades ago. No, it was not with a symbiont.

I was in Italy on college business, exploring the possibility of a relationship between Utica College and the University of Chieti. Nothing came of it, but we were well received and had a robust discussion.

My Italian is minimal, so I had been assigned a simultaneous translator for the day. Wherever I went, there she was - always hovering near my shoulder where she would whisper into my ear, in English, all that had been said in Italian - and as it was being said. What a remarkable skill!

I was then and I remain amazed at the dependency that developed, that I felt for her. It was as if the two of us had become one, and your dialogue through a translator became as perfectly natural as if I were the one speaking Italian.

I loved it. It was like great sex - where you're given just what you need at the exact moment you need it. Wow! No wonder the memory of that experience has remained with me for over 20 years.

Have any of you had similar experiences?
TGB  


26 March, 2013

Mighty Finn - Update #12

This was where we left off; I was swinging.
I haven't done much this lately
due to all the stormy weather.

I thought you'd like to see me at daycare. It's really nice.

It might look like I'm being punished,
but it's just another fun area at daycare.

One of my Christmass presents was Elmo.
He likes to laugh and is very ticklish.

I know I look like I'm sleeping, and I am, sort of.
Actually I just had some minor surgery for a hernia.
No problem; I didn't even spend the night.

On of my favorite things to do at home
is remove books from the bookcase.
Then I can crawl though it like it's a tunnel.

Hey - video! I love drawers.
Grandpa even set up six for me to play with in his coffee table.

Then mommy bought me these new shoes.
If the truth be told, I'd rather be barefoot.

Anyway - here's the big news. I'm walking now.
Mommy says I'm a toddler.
Don't let the video make you dizzy.

See you next month.

25 March, 2013

{this moment} 76

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past - sometimes a place with many moments - but somewhere along my life's Journey over which I wish to linger a bit and savor each memory it evokes. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.
{this moment}
Copyright © 2013 Thomas G. Brown

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see.
TGB

{

24 March, 2013

Sunday School

The Sunday School teacher was describing that when Lot's wife looked back at Sodom, she turned into a pillar of salt. Young Bobby interrupted. "My mommy looked back once while she was driving," he announced, "and she turned into a telephone pole."

Another Sunday School teacher said to her children, "We have been learning about how powerful the kings and queens were in Biblical times, but there is a higher power. Who can tell me what it is?" Tommy blurted out, "I know, Aces."

After explaining the commandment to honor your father and mother, a Sunday School teacher asked her class if there was a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters. One boy, the oldest in his family, immediately answered, "Thou shalt not kill."

Lot again ... A father was reading Bible stories to his young son. He read, "The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt." His ever curious son asked, "What happened to the flea?"

Authors Unknown   

23 March, 2013

Tree

Almost every day I photograph this tree near my office window - always from the same angle and about the same time of day. This is my favorite image from the past week.
TGB   

Copyright © 2013 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.
For the 2012 collection of images, click here.
For the 2013 collection of images, click here.

22 March, 2013

My Wayward Shoelaces

A good friend posted to Facebook the video I've attached below. It's a trailer for the film The Importance of Tying Your Own Shoes.

This is a description of the film:
"When his girlfriend Lisa eventually gets fed up and chucks him out onto the street, Alex is forced to look for a job in order to survive. All of a sudden, he finds himself working as an assistant to a troop of ... [people with intelectual disabilities] at a group living facility with inflexible routines, endless courses in how to tie your shoelaces, and, above all, lots of very bored individuals.

Following a disastrous start with muddled schedules, angry reprimands from his boss, and an emergency visit from the fire department, Alex gradually starts to tune in to the warm and charming individuals around him. Beneath their handicaps and medication, they are bounding with energy, full of dreams, fun-loving spirit, and unexpected talent.

Alex and his new friends face an uphill battle as they struggle to overcome preconceived notions, angry and anxious families, and a prejudiced environment in order to achieve their goal – to take part in the national hit TV show 'The Talent Hunt.' This feisty bunch has tied their last shoelace!"


It looks to be a wonderful film, a "deeply moving and uplifting comedy with plenty of heart and soul," but that's not really want I'm thinking about. Sort of, though.

What is it about shoelaces? Why are they so symbolic? As an individual with some physical challenges, dressing is the one activity where I can get the most frustrated. Normally I do fine and manage the buttons and zippers and snaps with one hand. Although I rarely wear them, I can even tie a necktie with one hand. Sometimes, though, I need help getting a sweater positioned properly or fastening an recalcitrant button. Those occasions don't bother me much, but shoes ...

Most days my sneakers are already tied, and I just slip them on or off. Occasionally, one or the other needs re-tying, and it is the one thing for which I most dislike requesting help. If I am at work, my shoe will probably go untied, but I don't even like asking for help with laces at home. I do, of course, because it is the one thing I can simply camnnot do by myself.

As you might imagine, I have given this quite a bit of thought, but I remain uncertain about why this one act is the most emotionally problematic for me. Any ideas?
TGB   




21 March, 2013

20 March, 2013

Perfect Moments

My wife has been out of town for the past week, and my younger daughter and I make our dinner decisions on a day-to-day basis. A few nights ago that meant Chinese take-out. After enjoying my meal, I turned to the dreaded fortune cookie with its inevitably trite message. It wasn't though; it was good advice. "If you wait too long for the perfect moment, the perfect moment with pass you by."

Perfect moments. It's been a favorite concept that I have explored in several posts over the past few years. The one that came immediately to mind was poem I wrote 15 months ago when I participated in a "30 poems in 30 days" challenge. On Day 12, the challenge was to write a poem about doing something for the last time. What emerged from my pen was sadness over the day that will surely come - all the more reason to live in the present which was, of course, the message of my fortune cookie. Very good advice, indeed.
TGB   

The Last Time

          The day will burst upon my soul
          as if a thousand suns
          and leave behind a trail of tears
          to blind me for a while.

          To gain and keep a healing peace
          I must remember all
          the perfect moments deep and pure,
          the smiles so often shared.

          Yet all too soon the day shall come,
          the last time we shall gaze
          into each other’s eyes and speak
          without a word or sound.

          A final kiss, a last embrace
          and all that will remain
          are dreams that paint what might have been
          to cherish for all time.




19 March, 2013

Finn-ally Swinging

Of all the stories and poems I read my daughters, this was my favorite. I hope my grandson Finn enjoys it too.
TGB   

THE SWING
by R. L. Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!


I love these kicking legs!!

18 March, 2013

{picture perfect} Chincoteague

Assateague Light, Built 1867
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Virginia

Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

17 March, 2013

The Sermon's Closing Words


A preacher was just completing a temperance sermon. With great emotion, he said, "If I had all the beer in the world, I'd take it and throw it into the river!"

With even greater emphasis he said, "And if I had all the wine in the world, I'd take it and throw it into the river!"

And then finally, he said, "And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I'd take it and throw it into the river!"

He sat down.

The song leader then stood very cautiously and announced with a smile, "For our closing song today, let us sing Hymn #365 - "Shall We Gather at the River."
Author Unknown   

16 March, 2013

Tree

Almost every day I photograph this tree near my office window - always from the same angle and about the same time of day. This is my favorite image from the past week.
TGB   

Copyright © 2013 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.
For the 2012 collection of images, click here.
For the 2013 collection of images, click here.

15 March, 2013

Show Me The Money

In this year's State of the Union address, President Obama said:

"Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy -- every dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. ... Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race."

That got my attention; I'm a neuroscientist after all. It's enough to make me rethink my retirement in 2014! Well, okay, not quite enough, but understanding how only three pounds of a substance with firm jello-like consistency can do all the remarkable things our brains do is a real challenge. Of course, those three pounds do contain 100 billion neurons with untold numbers of interconnections. Complex indeed. We are a long way from understanding even its most basic functions like memory - making progress, but a long way from the goal. President Obama, show me the money.

When I was a young student, I memorized some lines from Inherit the Wind, a play very loosely based the famous Scopes “Monkey Trial” in Tennessee in the Year of our Lord 1925. John Scopes was a high school biology teacher who had dared - according to the legend - to present Darwin’s theory in class when the State's Butler Act made it illegal to teach evolution in public schools. Scopes was willingly prosecuted so that the ACLU could test the law's constitutionality.

Modernism versus Fundamentalism. Wow. Big stakes. About the only way to set the stage any grander would be to bring in some well-known legal eagles. Oh, that’s right. William Jennings Bryan, a three time democratic candidate for president, led the prosecution, and Clarence Darrow, a nationally known defense attorney, argued for Scopes. The media were eating this up.

So there we have it, and Scopes was ultimately convicted and fined - although after appeal, the conviction was set aside on a technicality. It’s a great story and went in directions the ACLU had not intended. Bryan, by the way, died in his sleep five days after the trial, and many have argued it was from the stress of the trial - that and the heat of mid-July in the South.

Here’s why I am thinking about it. I can remember those lines a half century later, and I can remember all these details about the trial. Yet I can’t remember the context. For example, what grade was I in? My sense is that I was in grade school, but that's illogical. I was out of grade school by the time the wonderful film with Spencer Tracy was released and the play became a Broadway hit. Plus, that’s a pretty heavy topic for grade school. It's true that I was in a lot of plays and musicals in high school, but I have no recollection of doing this one. Nor do I remember being an understudy. Hmph.

Yet I remember those lines.

“Realizing that I may prejudice the case of my client, I must say that 'Right' has no meaning to me whatsoever. 'Truth' has meaning - but only as a direction. One of the peculiar imbecilities of our time is the rigid grid of morality we place on human behavior so that every act of man must be measured on some arbitrary latitude of right and longitude of wrong, in exact minutes, seconds, degrees.” Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera - to quote the King of Siam in another memorable movie role. That's my memory of the speech anyway. I guess I should get a script sometime and see how accurately I remember it.

Memory is certainly a funny thing, isn’t it? It can be selective, incomplete, accurate, and absent - all at the same time. I think we’re probably a long way from understanding how it works or why it works the way it does. Mr. President, show me the money.
TGB    


Not the original Spencer Tracy film.

14 March, 2013

{essential truths} Swing

The secret of life is in knowing
just when to jump off the swing.


13 March, 2013

The Thought That Counts?

Well, I tried to do something really special. I should at least get some credit for that.

My former job as Vice-President for Academic Affairs required me to be in New York City once or twice a year - which meant a most pleasant train trip on the banks of the Hudson River. I always stayed a Lubin House, a large townhouse owned by Syracuse University on East 61st Street just off Fifth Avenue. Great location and an easy walk to the Plaza, Tiffany, FAO Schwartz, and a host of other temptations.

Every trip found me in the toy store where I would buy each of my daughters a stuffed animal, and I would look in the other high-end stores for a modest but nice gift for my wife. On this particular trip in the mid-1990s, I decided to buy my wife a scarf, and I was ready to spend more than usual.

Throwing caution to the wind, I went into Bergdorf-Goodman and found a nice sales associate to help me. I explained what I wanted, and I was shown a wide array of beautiful scarves. I found one I liked. A quick look at the price tag - $195, a lot but not much above what I had budgeted for. I signed and headed back to my room.

Once back, I began to reorganize my suitcase to accommodate the stuffed animals and the scarf. That's when I looked at the sales receipt. Gulp - not $195 but $495. I had misread the dot-matrix printed price, confusing the 4 with a 1, and hadn't really looked at the charge slip. I know - shame on me.

I brought the scarf home to my wife thinking "boy, I hope she loves this scarf!" Well, she did, but she also didn't think she could bring herself to wear a $500 scarf. To her credit she shipped it back it to the store for a full refund, but if the truth be told, I would not have minded if she kept it.

My girls loved their stuffies, and I learned my lesson. I hope I got some credit. It is the thought that counts, isn't it?
TGB   


12 March, 2013

{poetically plagiarized} 18: Nienow

          Ode to the Belt Sander & 
                    This Cocobolo Sapwood

The belt kicks on with a whir & the whir
licks the end grain of the offcut with a hint

of hesitation. A small wind of ochre dust
sweeps off the belt before the belt comes back

to where it was. The whole room swells
with the scent of cinnamon & desire.

How imprecise the smell of desire.

The wood takes on a sheen, a gloss
the grain can live behind without worry

of being forgotten. A single knot blinks
out of the small block and becomes

the eye of a hummingbird, its beak
bending around the edge of the wood,

its small song captured in the annular rings.
To think, this block was tossed in

with the scraps. That the bird
could have been lost. Or burned.

by Matthew Nienow  

11 March, 2013

{picture perfect} Saint Petersburg

Street lamp
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Copyright © 2005 Thomas G. Brown


10 March, 2013

Missionary


A new missionary recruit went to Venezuela for the first time. He was struggling with the language and didn't understand a whole lot of what was going on. Intending to visit one of the local churches, he got lost but eventually got back on track and found the place.

Having arrived late, the church was already packed. The only pew left was the one on the front row. So as not to make a fool of himself, he decided to pick someone out of the crowd to imitate. He chose to follow the man sitting next to him on the front pew.

As they sang, the man clapped his hands, so the missionary recruit clapped too. When the man stood up to pray, the missionary recruit stood up too. When the man sat down, he sat down. When the man held the cup and bread for the Lord's Supper, he held the cup and bread. During the preaching, the recruit didn't understand a thing. He just sat there and tried to look just like that man in the front pew.

Then he perceived that the preacher was giving announcements. People clapped, so he looked to see if the man was clapping. He was, and so the recruit clapped too. Then the preacher said some words that he didn't understand and he saw the man next to him stand up. So he stood up too. Suddenly a hush fell over the entire congregation. A few people gasped. He looked around and saw that nobody else was standing. So he sat down.

After the service concluded, the preacher stood at the door shaking the hands of those who were leaving. When the missionary recruit stretched out his hand to greet the preacher, the preacher said, in English: "I take it you don't speak Spanish."

The missionary recruit replied: "No, I don't. It's that obvious?"

"Well, yes," said the preacher, "I announced that the Acosta family had a newborn baby boy and would the proud father please stand up."
Author Unknown   

09 March, 2013

Tree

Almost every day I photograph this tree near my office window - always from the same angle and about the same time of day. This is my favorite image from the past week.
TGB   

Copyright © 2013 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.
For the 2012 collection of images, click here.
For the 2013 collection of images, click here.

08 March, 2013

07 March, 2013

{this memory} 75


This is the story behind last Monday's {this moment}.

That's a lot of snow. The image isn't from this year with a less than normal snowfall (65 inches). We average almost 80 inches. Nor is it from last winter which was very dry (about 40 inches). It's from the winter of 2010-2011 when we had over 120 inches of snow. That fence is four feet tall. It's worse, by the way, north of here or west of here where Lake Ontario drops more of the famous "lake effect" snow.

I grew up in Virginia Beach and was out of school once for a week because of an inch of snow. No plows - you just waited for it to melt. Then, I lived in Maine for four years before coming here.
What is odd is that where I lived averaged only about 65 inches (that's less than here), but it never melted. Once it started falling in November, the ground remained covered until Easter. Brrr.

In this image I see all sorts of winters past - surrounded with the warmth of family and friends.

I am filled with wonderful memories and am a most fortunate man.
TGB


06 March, 2013

Free At Last

One of the many FaceBook pages I frequent - does it make sense to say I seldom, because that would be more like it - posted a question. The page called Dusty Old Thing asked who remembered when they first learned to ride a bicycle. This image (right) was posted with the query.

I do - at least in some sense, but it isn't that video tape played back kind of recollection. Nor is it the flashbulb kind - like remembering all the details of where, how, and when I learned of JFK's assassination, Challenger'a destruction, or 911.

It was a joyous day. I remember the rush. I remember the sense of freedom.

I had been riding a bike for a while but with small training wheels extending on either side of the rear wheel. They gradually get bent as you lean left or right, but thank goodness they do. As they bend while you ride, you are spending more and more time with them up off the ground. You are two-wheeling. You are gaining more and more confidence. (My behavior modification students should note this is shaping, however accidental.)

I don't remember that part of it - too mundane, I suppose. What I recall is a discussion about whether I was ready for the training wheels finally to be removed. I remember my father - tools in hand - taking them off and then holding the bike as I got on. Off I went - like the wind. Just try to stop me.
TGB   

By the way, that wasn't my last bike.
You can read about that one here - It's A Wonderful Bike.


05 March, 2013

Food, Glorious Food

The limo picked us up first, then the other three couples, and we headed west. The destination? Turning Stone Resort Casino where we had dinner reservations for eight at Wildflowers in The Lodge.

Yum. I savored the following seven or so courses although I'm not sure I completed any of them in their entirety.

Wine: Silverado 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Amuse-bouche: Potato and Halibut Croquette

Breads: Assorted Fresh Warm Rolls with Butter

Cheese and Fruit Appetizer: Black Sheep Farm Camembert with Pomegranate Reduction, Pomegranate Pudding, Cashew Feuilletine, and Cashew Nut Bread

Wildflowers Salad:
Roasted Beets, Compressed Pear,
Aqua Vita Farms Arugula,
Sprout Creek Farm Goat Cheese,
Horseradish Cream, Blis Elixir




Intermezzo: Pear Sorbet




Entrée: Wild turkey Confit
with Sweet Potato Risotto
and Cranberry Gastrique


Espresso.

Dessert: Chocolate Truffle of Chocolate Mousse and Milk Chocolate Chip within a Thin Chocolate Shell surrounded by Blueberries and Raspberries and smothered by a Hot Chocolate Sauce (sorry - busy drooling and forgot to photograph)


Chef's Final Serving (gift):
Hot Chocolate
with a Chocolate Chip Cookie
and a Chocolate Honeycomb Candy
(all miniature)


Then the chef sent us off with a
gift-wrapped miniature pound cake
- just in case.



After almost four hours, we managed to find our way back to the limo for the ride home, and we even managed to get home in spite of all the decadence. In case your wondering, the entire evening for all eight of us - limo and food - was paid for by an old friend. Thanks, Beba. And thanks to Chef Zmigrodski too.
TGB

04 March, 2013

{this moment} 75

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past - sometimes a place with many moments - but somewhere along my life's Journey over which I wish to linger a bit and savor each memory it evokes. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.
{this moment}
Copyright © 2013 Thomas G. Brown

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see.
TGB

03 March, 2013

Eve

One day in the Garden of Eden, Eve called out to God. "Lord, I have a problem!"

"What's the problem, Eve?"

"Lord, I know you created me and provided this beautiful garden
and all of these wonderful animals and that hilarious comedic
snake, but I'm just not happy."

"Why is that, Eve?" came the reply from above.

"Lord, I am lonely, and I'm sick to death of apples."

"Well, Eve, in that case, I have a solution. I shall create a man for you."

"What's a man, Lord?"

"This man will be a flawed creature, with many bad traits. He'll lie, cheat, and be vain. All in all, he'll give you a hard time, but he'll be bigger, faster, and will like to hunt and kill things. He will look silly when he's aroused, but since you've been complaining, I'll create him in such a way that he will satisfy your physical needs. He will be witless and will revel in childish things like fighting and kicking a ball about. He won't too smart, so he'll also need your advice to think properly."

"Sounds great." says Eve with a raised eyebrow. "What's the catch, Lord?"

"Well ... you can have him on one condition."

"What's that, Lord?"

"As I said, he'll be proud, arrogant, and self-admiring ... so you'll have to let him believe that I made him first. Just remember though, it's our little secret ... you know, woman to woman."
Author Unknown   

02 March, 2013

Tree

Almost every day I photograph this tree near my office window - always from the same angle and about the same time of day. This is my favorite image from the past week.
TGB   

Copyright © 2013 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.
For the 2012 collection of images, click here.
For the 2013 collection of images, click here.

01 March, 2013

Humorous? Or Sexist?


I came across this image on some buried FaceBook page a while ago. It made me chuckle - although not out loud. It has to be really hysterical for me to do that when I'm alone. So, I downloaded it thinking I would share it with others at some point.

That 'some point' never seemed to come, and I realized I was reluctant to post it because the punch line is perhaps sexist.

So what do you think? Is it funny, and I just need to get over my concerns? Is it sexist and should never see the light of day? Somewhere in between? I suppose there is a continuum along which we might judge how offensive something is. Where do we draw the line? And when should we feel it incumbent on us to challenge the humor?

What say you?
TGB