31 October, 2013

I Remember Chocolate

Lately I've been asked it in hallways and via various friends' status updates. It was a simple request but one that I had a bit of trouble fulfilling confidently. You might think such memories would be indelible.

"Tell me what your favorite Halloween candy was when you were a kid." Oh, dear. I replied, "I’m not sure I could tell you, but it’s unlikely to have changed." What I did know for sure was that it's not going to be just one favorite candy.

So to be properly responsive all I had to do was think of what I enjoy today. Ah ... if only it were that easy. It isn't. Surely my tastes have changed somewhat, and I don't eat much candy anymore. Chocolate covered nuts have always been a favorite though and remain so. Peanuts, almonds, whatever. Delicious clusters. Yum. I do, however, tend toward the darker chocolates today; that is surely a change.

Okay, what do I remember? I seem to remember that I often received a small box of Hershey bars at Christmas. If I got those year after year, then surely that must have been a favorite. It also has the ring of truth since I still enjoy Hershey products - especially the regular bars with almonds. One memory, of course, triggers another, and I can remember also enjoying a Mr. Goodbar which, let's face it, is just a Hershey bar loaded with peanuts. After all, we southern boys do love our peanuts. And ... who doesn't enjoy a Kiss every so often.

I guess we need a story here. In my senior year of high school I participated in an exchange program with another US high school. Two or three dozen of us spent a week going to Hershey High School in Hershey, Pennsylvania and living with families there. A month or two later the students from our host families traveled to Virginia Beach for a week of attending our classes.

My Hershey experience, however, was extended because I began dating a young lady from there. I went back more than a few times to see her in her home on Chocolate Avenue with its Hershey kiss-shaped street lights and the scent of chocolate in the air. During our exchange visit we even had a VIP tour of the factory - not the pretend tour they offer today but one where we actually stood beside a huge vat of molten chocolate. There was a row of these vats, each a couple of feet deep and maybe eight feet wide and 80 feet long. Holy Willa Wonka. I was partial to Hershey's long before this sweet experience though.

One of the students who participated was Skip Reese whose family created those wonderful peanut butter cups. I love those - then and now. Who doesn't? The Reeses, by the way, eventually sold their company to the Hershey Corporation.

Other remembered favorites (and still favorites) are Dots, Raisinettes, Goobers, Heath Bar, Baby Ruth, Oh Henry! bar, peanut M&Ms, and licorice. In the past, Milk Duds, Tootsie Rolls, caramel cubes, and Sugar Daddys were frequent treats. Chocolate, however, seems to be the dominant note in most of my cravings while the colleague whose question started all of this salivating reminiscence enjoys caramel as the dominant note.

Then it gets complicated. I recall I used to enjoy Butterfingers too, but in the late 1970s many of us began to boycott Nestlé because of their involvement with selling infant formula in Africa (long story). Nestlé products still leave a bad taste in my mouth.

I was worried though. Was I forgetting something important? Just in case, I stopped by a drug store to look at the candy selection. There they were. Life Savers. How could I have forgotten Life Savers? An American icon since 1912. I went through a lot of Topps bubble gum too as I collected all those baseball cards in my Little League days. Oh my, would those be valuable today! IF ONLY they had been kept. Sigh.

Happy Halloween.
Two weeks from today it will be all over but the tooth decay.

What candy did you enjoy as a child?

30 October, 2013

Ju-ju Amiss

Thursday - a day just like any other, only different - at least until I got out of bed. Things went downhill fast.

First, I had misread the clock. 5:40, not 6:40. Too late. I'm up too early and can't go back to sleep. It's now days later, and I still want that hour back. I don't sleep well to begin with, and to lose an hour is a travesty.

Well, okay ... now I'm up and dressed, so I proceed downstairs where I prepare to make a cup of cappuccino. As I pick up a small glass canister with a fine powder in it, it slips. One bounce on the granite counter is all it needs to shatter - spreading glass and powder over what seems like everywhere. Sigh.

I clean up the mess as best I can - which is to say not up to my wife's standards, but then again, some of it has invaded her briefcase. Oh, dear.

Then with new determination to turn the day around, I manage to produce that cup of cappuccino which I now take into the media room where I can sip and check my email while the morning news plays in the background. Finally! Nope, not finally. With about a quarter cup left, I manage to dump it on my pants leg. Will it ever end?

Finally I make it into my office. I putter a bit and then head off to my first lecture. Normally I take a bottle of tap water with me to class, but the day had been so miserable so far that I decide to treat myself to a bottle of iced tea from the nearby vending machine. Did you guess? I put in my $1.50, which it greedily took, and nada. Nothing. Zilch. Zippo. No bottle birthing from the machine. Arrrgghhh!!!

There's a Mary Chapin Carpenter song that begins:

          Well, I woke up this morning stumbled out of my rack
          I opened up the paper to the page in the back
          It only took a minute for my finger to find
          My daily dose of destiny, under my sign
          My eyes just about popped out of my head
          It said "the stars are stacked against you girl, get back in bed"

I'd say "been there, done that" except I don't remember getting any warning that I should get back in bed. I think I'll look more closely in the future.

Have a nice day.

28 October, 2013

Feel 'Em

The month is almost over. If you're not aware by now, you're probably not going to be. Let me, however, make one last plea for you to feel your boobies, and did you know research shows that "feeling your boobies" is just as effective at identifying changes or lumps as doing a formal self-breast exam. Yep.

It's true that I don't want cancer to steal second base, but you're beautiful anyway. This is much more than that. It's about life. Feel Your Boobies® is a call to action to remind you about a habit that can increase your chances of early detection and potentially save your life.

Do it now.
There is no better time.

27 October, 2013

Not Welcome

An impoverished old man applied for membership in a wealthy church. The pastor tried to put him off with all kinds of evasive remarks.

The old man became aware that he was not welcome there and finally told the pastor that he would pray about it. After several days he returned. "Well," asked the pastor, "Did the Lord give you a message?"

"Yes, sir, He did," was the old man's answer. "He told me it wasn't any use. He said, "I've been trying to get in that same church myself for ten years, and they won't let me in either."
Author Unknown   

26 October, 2013


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.

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.

25 October, 2013

Poetically Swinging

I often savored the smiles on my mother's and daughter's faces while they were swinging. I just love swings, and over the past few years I've offered nearly a dozen posts with similar references. What follows is one of my favorites. The poem is at the end.

Happy Birthday. Happy Feet. Happy New Year. Happy Hour. They're all good, and they're all important - but not as much as Happy Place. Do you have a happy place? I hope so - although multiple happy places would be better.

Each time I've been in the hospital (no small number as my friends and family will tell you) the staff asks me how I cope with stress or manage pain. My response is always been the same: I close my eyes and go to my happy place. It works and works well. So if you don't have one, it's time to develop one. You never know when you might need it - even if it's only to help you relax a little.

Just do it. Mind over matter and all that sort of thing. It's free, and it'll be good for you. You'll be glad you did.

One of my favorites follows although it's not my most powerful.

I imagine peaceful moments on a porch swing.

     No time limits.
     No intrusions.
     No world.
     Just those I love.
     Sometimes speaking.
     Sometimes silently swinging.
     Simply being.
     Simply simple serenity.


24 October, 2013

{this memory} 94

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

Takes my breath away. Just thinking about it will bring a tear to my eye. Sometimes I feel like my heart is going to explode - it's so filled with love. What love? Well, the love this grandfather (larger hand) hand feels for his grandson (smaller hand).

I cannot look at this image without it all flooding back. What will his life hold? How much of it will I get to witness? Can I keep him safe until I go? Will I have the chance to teach him what makes a life truly fulfilling and what is really important? I want to wrap him forever in my arms and surround him with boundless love.

I am a fortunate man. Life's been good to me so far.

23 October, 2013

Musing About Disability, II

Minority Report
Missing Extremities
Those are not necessary reading prior to reading what follows, but they will offer you a greater context. The image is of the conductor to the LGB train that runs around my Christmas tree - at least after the dog welcomed him home.

Part two of my recent musing about disability.

I know what it feels like to be absolutely unable to meet all of your needs, to be totally dependent upon others. Let me offer you two examples.

About 20 years ago on the occasion of my first major infection, there were very real problems. That infection had been so extreme that part of my body’s reaction to it significantly reduced peripheral blood flow with the consequence that much of the skin, if not all of the skin, on my hands and feet and knees died. As the old, now dead, skin peeled away, it left my new skin or baby skin exposed. That skin that was not yet tough and was quite tender. For a month at least after getting home from the hospital, I could not walk, I could not kneel, I could not hold a book in my hands.

And I recall one occasion when I was lying in bed, and no one was there. I needed to use the toilet. I waited. I waited. I could wait no longer for assistance. I slithered out of bed, for lack of a better term since I could not crawl on my knees, I sat on my butt and just sort of rocked back and forth and inched my way toward the bathroom. Somehow I managed to pull myself up onto the toilet without any handicap bars to pull against. And with just one arm. I put it all in reverse and somehow got back into bed. I don’t like that feeling of helplessness, but I know had the situation been much worse I would’ve simply had to soil myself.

Just over a year ago following another serious infection, I had been on a respirator for a few weeks. I’m was glad that was behind me, but there had, of course, been significant atrophy from the weeks of lying in drug induced slumber. I recall the first time I tried to stand. There was insufficient strength, and I could not do it without others. I could not get out of the bed without others. If I were sitting in a chair, I could not stand up without assistance. Even once I was home, sitting in a comfortable chair, I could not get out of that chair without assistance.

I know what it feels like to be helpless. I’m not sure I would cope well with being fully dependent upon another, and loss of independence is not some place I wish to be. I did have a major advantage, however, because I knew it was temporary.

I knew there would be an end, and that is why I have so much admiration for those individuals with significant challenges who are dependent on others for so many basic needs. They somehow manage to live life, to enjoy life, to laugh, to love in spite of the knowledge that it will never get easier. For many, it has always been that way; their challenges have been there since the beginning. They are remarkable individuals.

So I know what it feels like to be helpless. I know I don’t want to be that way, and I don’t see myself that way. It may be why I feel reluctant to describe my challenges or why I minimize them – because by comparison to others, they just seem small. I still have most of my independence, and there is very little for which I am dependent upon others. Where I do need help, there is much interdependence – at least in the sense that both sides are willing, voluntary participants. It is not yet a necessary interdependence, thank goodness.

22 October, 2013

Best Meals II

"Someone asked me for my top five best meals. Okay, but meals away from home. By 'away from home' I'm excluding anything with family because those are always the best. So here they are in no particular order."

After I posted that in Best Meals, someone else asked my why five. To be honest, I almost did just four and omitted the Regency Room, but five seemed more traditional. Giving it further thought, I have another six - any one of which could have easily replaced the Regency Room. So let's do that, and we have - ta-da - a top ten list. Enjoy.

These are just places I've been to that were exceptionally special in terms of atmosphere, flavors, and service. Again, in no particular order.

Frasca. Boulder, Colorado. They describe themselves as a neighborhood restaurant inspired by the cuisine and culture of Fruili, Italy. Oh my, was this place simply sublime.

Fruition. Denver, Colorado. Small, intimate neighborhood restaurant located in Denver's historic district. Sophisticated comfort food paired with an eclectic wine list and impeccable service. Yes indeed.

The Horned Dorset Inn. Leonardsville, New York. The quintessential destination for memorable fine dining and lodging in Central New York State. Classical French cuisine that would make Julia Child proud and sensitive service are the hallmarks of this countryside hostelry. We've done a lot of anniversaries here. Always perfect.

Palladio. Barboursville, Virginia - at the vineyard. They write "Northern Italian in inspiration, yet creatively indebted to the most seasonal and local resources of the earth and sea, Palladio offers ... the promise only the finest food and wine can extend -- calling one, recurringly, to the beauty of this world." Not a bit of misrepresentation there. What an adventure.

Wildflowers. Verona, New York - at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino. Small - seats just 65. Traditional continental cuisine prepared to your exact preference. Our local favorite.

The Oakroom. Louisville, Kentucky - in the Seelbach Hilton Hotel. Lots of oak and lots of fabric. Originally opened in 1907, The Oakroom sets the standard for fine dining in Kentucky and is Kentucky’s only AAA Five Diamond Restaurant. Every aspect of our meal was wonderful.


21 October, 2013

{this moment} 94

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple moment along my life's Journey - but one over which I wish to linger and savor each treasured aspect of the memories it evokes. If you are moved or intrigued by my {this moment}, please leave a comment. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.

{this moment}

{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.

20 October, 2013

Taking It With You

A wealthy preacher who had been faithful to God his whole life was visited by an angel one night. The angel said, "God sent me to let you know that you're going to die in two days, but don't worry. You are certainly welcome in heaven."

The preacher said, "That's great, but listen. I know God has this rule that we can't take anything with us, but do you think he could bend it for me? I'd really like to bring something with me."

The angel said, "Well, I'll ask, but I can't promise anything." The next night, the angel returned and said, "God told me to tell you that he'll allow you to bring a single suitcase filled with whatever you want to bring along."

The preacher was excited but couldn't decide what to bring. He thought of bringing along all of his money, but he wasn't sure what kind of currency they took in heaven. He decided instead to trade all of his money for gold - since gold was good anywhere. So he bought a whole bunch of bars of gold with all of his money and stuck it in the suitcase. The next day he died and found himself before the Pearly Gates with the suitcase by his side. Saint Peter stopped him and said, "Sorry, but you can't bring anything in here." The preacher said, "An angel told me that God said it was okay."

Peter said, "Well, if it's okay with God, then go ahead through, but out of curiosity, what do you have in there?" The preacher laid down the suitcase and opened it up - showing Saint Peter all of the bars of gold.

Peter gave s the preacher a funny look and said, "That's what you brought? Pavement?"
Author Unknown   

19 October, 2013


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.

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.

18 October, 2013

Best Meals

Someone asked me for my top five best meals. Okay, but meals away from home. By "away from home" I'm excluding anything with family because those are always the best. So here they are in no particular order.

Spiaggia in Chicago
Not "fine" dining but simply "finest" dining. This is an experience I've enjoyed three times. Wow! is about all I can say. Impeccable. It's also one of the few places I've ever eaten that I had to adjust my choices based on price. Be careful. Considered by many to be the best Italian restaurant in the USA.

Victoria and Albert's in Orlando
Yeah, I know it's in Walt Disney World Resort, the Grand Floridian to be exact, but there is nothing Mickey Mouse about this place. I've been here three times also. Modern American cuisine and for me, the best restaurant in Florida. Also quite pricey.

Trattoria Omero in Florence
Sigh. This was the subject of my post {this memory} 46. Just one visit so far, but of all five of these, this is the one to which I most want to return. Traditional Tuscan cuisine. More affordable than the first two, but then there is the airfare. Just exquisite.

B and B Ristorante in Las Vegas
Mario Batali's place. So,"exquisite Italian food and a casual elegance." I even recorded what my wife and I ate on our one visit, and I can still taste it. Pricey? Of course, it's the Venetian after all.

Amuse-bouche:    Garbanzo beans sautéed in pesto and served on garlic crostini
Bevande:    Civita – limited herself to acqua minerale piatta
                          Thom – Cantine Martinelli 2005 Montefalco Rosso
Pane:    Pane di Altamura con olio di oliva e aceto balsamico
Antipasti:    Civita - Prosciutto di Parma "Galloni 30 Mesi" with Black Pepper "Fett'unta"
                           Thom - B&B Affettati Misti
Primi:    Civita - Spaghettini with Spicy Budding Chives, Sweet Garlic, and One-Pound Lobster
                    Thom - Goat Cheese Tortelloni with Dried Orange and Wild Fennel
Dolci e Formaggi:    Civita - Honey Yogurt Semifreddo
(China Ranch Dates & Toasted Walnuts with Wild Turkey "American Honey")
                                        Thom – Three Cheeses: Brescianelle Stagionata, Pecorino Grand Old Man, Blu del Moncenisio
Caffè:    Civita – cappuccino    Thom – espresso (doppio)

Regency Room at the Colonial Williamsburg Inn
Elegant setting, but this is the oldest of these memories. Classic American cuisine with traditional European roots. Other than loving it, what I recall most is that it was the most I had ever spent on a meal (up to that time). Worth every penny as I enjoyed the evening with wife and daughters.

17 October, 2013

Poetically Single

A couple of years ago I participated in a "30 poems in 30 days" challenge. One day the challenge was to write a poem that includes at least three words that end with -gle. Since it seemed a silly prompt, I went with a silly genre - the limerick. If you offend easily, you might prefer to skip this one.

          With ladies whenever he’d mingle,
          He’d feel himself starting to tingle
               In regions that dangle
               With nary a jangle,
          And that’s when he wished he were single.


15 October, 2013

Cancer Sucks

The month is half over.
Have you checked yet?
It's not about boobs, you know; it's about life.
Image by cath tittle

14 October, 2013

{picture perfect} Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey (c. 1273)
Looking eastward.
Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
Digital photograph
Copyright © 2005 Thomas G. Brown

13 October, 2013

Come In

A Jehovah's Witness knocked on the front door of a home and heard a faint, high pitched, "Come In." When he tried the door and found it locked, he went around to the back door.

He knocked again and heard again the high pitched "Come In." As he entered the kitchen a large, mean, snarling Doberman met him.

He plastered himself against the wall, called out for help, and again heard the "Come In." He slid down the wall to the living room and found a parrot in a cage.

He said, "For Pete's sake, is that all you can say -- Come In?" The parrot laughed and said "Sic Him!"
Author Unknown   

12 October, 2013


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.

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.

11 October, 2013

Poetically Syllabic

The poetry challenge was to write a poem that included three words with four syllables or more. Now there's a challenge into which I can sink my Funk & Wagonalls. So I did - well, not exactly a Funk & Wagonalls. I don't own of those, but you get the idea.

To be honest, I did coin a word or two for this effort, but only because you're worth it. Although they're not in Funk & Wagonalls, they ought to be. Still, you'll have to guess their meaning. Enjoy.


multisyllabic words 
spew brontidean morphemes, 
like volcanos erupting,
belching pyroclastic flow, and
carom about the convolutions of 
ultracrepidarian minds 
until even the semi-literate
become skilled philosophunculists.


10 October, 2013

09 October, 2013

To Die For

Well actually that should be "To Die From." I came across some statistics that gave me pause - mostly because the methodology was unclear. So ... I wasn't sure what they meant. For instance, lightning. Does that mean your odds of being struck are 1 in 10,000 or for every 10,000 people who die, one death is attributed to lightning. I don't know.

Being fatally attacked by a shark: less than 1 in 264,000,000
Not worth worrying about, but if it still bothers you, don't go in the water; after all, it's not like it's going to rain sharks. Wait ...

Dying in an earthquake: 1 in 97,807
Unlikely but perhaps worth a thought - if you're in one of those "zones."

Being struck by lightning: 1 in 10,000
Still not too worried.

Dying in a plane crash: 1 in 7,178
Nope, doesn't bother me, although I prefer the train - but not out of fear.

Dying in a fire: 1 in 1,344
Sounds like a terrible way to go.

Drowning: 1 in 1,103
This does scare me. I can't swim, but I do like boating.

Dying in a car accident: 1 in 98
Now we're talking. Driving or riding isn't safe, and the drive to the airport is much more dangerous than the flight.

Dying from cancer: 1 in 7

What I'd really like to know is whether I need to fear being killed by aliens. If so, I'm going take making that aluminum foil hat much more seriously.

08 October, 2013

Are You A Leg Man?

We're a week into October, and October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year is the 29th anniversary of the campaign. You can feel the mood building as ribbons, slogans, bumper stickers, PSAs, and all manner of FaceBook Interest pages, Status Updates, and Comments become increasingly difficult to avoid. I hope all this awareness raising continues to save lives - just as I am certain it has saved many so far.

It also means that it is time for The Question. It’s a simple question usually posed in jest by women, and I hear it in late September or October – sometimes directed to me, more often to others. “Are you a leg man or are you a breast man?” And if it’s October, we’re not talking about chicken.

If you think you must answer, I think it's important to have chosen wisely.

I generally try to evade tactfully by suggesting that I’m not really either - a leg man or a breast man - and that I like both equally well. It is Woman – the whole package – that I like. Yet this year, and for reasons unknown to me, I'm going to offer an answer.

So … leg or breast? If indeed I must choose, there is, of course, an answer, but first I need to emphasize that what I care most about is that someone is alive. I want to be clear that breasts and legs are not what makes a woman a woman, not what makes a woman beautiful, not what creates a woman's allure. At the same time, I don’t want to suggest I’m not capable of savoring the remarkable aspects of either body part. In my mind, both are examples of God’s work at its finest, but the choice for me is a matter of proximity and a matter of language.

The Leg has the advantage of being able to work its magic at quite a distance, but too many times have I heard a leg described as well-turned. Really? Like a table leg or a bedpost just coming out of a lathe?! Or one hears it’s long or muscular or straight or toned – none of which are particularly inspiring adjectives to me. The Breast, however, is an entirely different matter.

The Breast is most inspiring when near, and for me close always trumps distance. And the language! Breasts are soft or warm or nurturing or inviting or any of a host of adjectives that make one want to touch. Finally, since our society seems to prefer it remain hidden, the breast commands the full attention of my imagination. Not so for the lowly leg.

So if inquiring minds want to know and it remains a forced choice, then I’m going to have to say I’m a breast man. I will always, however, take instant notice when a leg of distinction reveals itself to me.

Although it’s fun to play with the question, in answering I have probably offended or disappointed some. The reality is there are other traits much more important to me - foremost among them, eyes and intellect. These are and always will be where the real magic begins.

But first ... we need to be alive.
And it's October.


07 October, 2013

Birthday Wishes

I cannot allow today to pass without honoring my father, Harold Clifford Brown. Today is his birthday, and if he were still living, he would be 104.

My father died in 1975, and although he rarely spoke of his childhood or his career, I have been able to reconstruct much of it. He was just 66 when he died. I was 27, fresh out of graduate school, and had barely finished my first semester at Utica College, my first job - important only in the sense that we never had a chance to be "adults" together. I am diminished by that.

My father was born in 1909 in the very small town of Crossville in southeast Illinois and not far west of the Wabash River. He was abandoned as an infant by his father. Somehow my grandmother ended up in the even smaller town of Naylor in eastern Missouri, barely ten miles north of Arkansas, where she remarried and had three more children. My sense is there was no real attachment between the new husband and my father, and my father may have been the proverbial unwanted stepchild. He never spoke of these things.

He was schooled and graduated from high school in Naylor. Although he had the opportunity to go to college on a baseball athletic scholarship, he enlisted in the navy in 1927 five months after being graduated from high school. He had signed his papers months earlier but had to wait until he turned 18 in October. Although the Great Depression was a couple of years off, he had grown up very poor. He never had a bicycle, and my mother tells me when she baked him a birthday cake soon after they married, he admitted it was the first birthday cake he had ever had. His family needed money, and he regularly sent half of his pay home to help raise his two half brothers and one half sister.

After basic training, he went to Norfolk for further training as a Machinist Mate and then to New London for submarine school. He reported to Pearl Harbor in 1929 and served there aboard three different submarines, all tiny by today's standards with officers and crew totaling only 30-40 (versus 150 today).

In 1938 he shifted to the surface navy and was assigned to the battleship USS Pennsylvania aboard which he served for two years in Pearl Harbor before returning to the Navy Yard in Norfolk to help "fit out" a brand new ship, the USS Raven, as Engineering Officer. By this time, he had worked his way up from Seaman Apprentice to become a commissioned officer.

The Raven was a minesweeper and part of Operation Torch - the British-American invasion of French North Africa in November of 1942. Think Casablanca. He was there but saw neither Bogart nor Bergman. Operation Torch wasn't smooth sailing by any standard, and many died.

He retuned to Norfolk and for the next six months worked convoy protection up and down the east coast and even as far south as Panama. In August of 1943, he was sent to the Pacific theater where he saw action in the Marshall Islands, Saipan, and Guam as Materiel and Operations Officer for a flotilla of landing craft. Still in the Pacific, he received his first command position - the USS Mink. He was a lieutenant at this point, and after assisting with the occupation of Japan, he brought the Mink back to Norfolk.

After a tour of shore duty, he joined the cruiser USS Portsmouth as Main Propulsion Officer. I have the actual official naval message he received aboard telling him of my birth. He then commanded the USS Krishna and the USS Minos, both amphibious ships stationed in Little Creek, VA.

His last command was a reserve training center, and he retired as a Commander in 1958 after serving 30 years, two months, and 27 days and with two dozen decorations and awards. I was nine.

I have no idea how many times my mother must have seen him off as he went back to sea, sometimes in harm's way. She tells me that once the good-bye was said he would never look back as he walked down the pier to board his ship. Navy custom supposedly suggested that to do so would be bad luck. I can't argue; he always came home in spite of some close calls with Japanese torpedoes in the Pacific.

He was an officer and a gentleman, and I often think of and am thankful for his service to our country. More importantly though, I am thankful for his love. He was a good man. There has never been a day when I doubted that love or that he was proud of me, and I am thankful for everything he taught me through his words and his deeds. As I stand here today only one year younger than he when he died, I can only hope that he would still proud of me and that I have lived up to the example he set.

Happy birthday, Daddy. You are deeply missed.

06 October, 2013

An Irish Priest In Texas

Father O'Malley rose from his bed one morning. It was a fine spring day in his new Texas mission parish. He walked to the window of his bedroom to get a deep breath of the beautiful day outside when he noticed there was a jackass lying dead in the middle of his front lawn.

He promptly called the local police station and heard "Good morning. This is Sergeant Jones. How might I help you?"

"And the best of the day t' yerself. This is Father O'Malley at St. Ann's Catholic Church. There's a jackass lying dead in me front lawn, and would ye be so kind as to send a couple o' yer' lads to take care of the matter?"

Sergeant Jones, considering himself to be quite a wit, replied with a smirk, "Well now, Father, ... it was always my impression that you people took care of the last rites!"

There was dead silence on the line for a long moment. Father O'Malley then replied: "Aye, 'tis certainly true, but we are also obliged to notify the next of kin first ... which is the reason for me call."
Author Unknown   

05 October, 2013


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.

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.

04 October, 2013

Mighty Finn - Update #19

Hey, fans. Boy has it been a busy time. Holy cow, no pun intended.

A quick visit to the Colorado Railroad Museum was fun.

Guess what? Back on the plane - but not New York
or England or Guatemala this time. Hong Kong, baby!

We went to the highest bar in the world.
On top of the Ritz-Carlton. Wow - 116th floor!

Back on the ground - my moo alarm is going off.
They're not actually holy cows - just wild cows in Hong Kong.
Some want them relocated, others don't.

More food - this time a gastropub, The Pawn.
Much closer to street level.

We went to see the Tian Tan Buddha statue.
I liked it better when it was called the Big Buddha.
Why not? 34 meters high!

And here I am at one of the happiest places on Earth.
Look at that face!

You guessed it - Hong Kong Disneyland. And I'm happy.

I played a little music. Mommy said very little.

I took just a short break but had some weird dream that ...

I was in a spinning teacup.

If that wasn't enough, then I realize I really am in a spinning teacup!

Lots of things for little folks like me.

Well, that's about it for now. Check back next month - who knows where we'll have visited.

03 October, 2013

{picture perfect} Jupiter

Jupiter Light
First Lighted in 1860
Jupiter, Florida

See: Does Size Matter?
Digital photograph
Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

02 October, 2013

The Boobie Ultimatum

It's October and the official beginning of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Every month, of course, should be that month, but it's this one that leads me to reflect a bit about good friends and loved ones who have faced that courageous fight. Some were successful, but some were not.

I recall a stranger from Chicago who wanted to purchase some pins I had collected. As a fundraiser, each fall the Hard Rock Café issues a new guitar pin commemorating Pink October. At that time I had every one from the first year forward - a complete collection. She purchased it from me and then told me how much it meant to her since she was - so far - a survivor. I shared with her that I was a cancer survivor as well.

I think of a faculty colleague who received her diagnosis decades ago and is still amazing me with her intellect and ability to ask the tough questions at just the right time. There is another colleague whose diagnosis is much more recent, and so far she seems to be winning her battles, physical and psychological.

It's hard also not to remember one of my wife's aunts who received her diagnosis many years ago and is no longer living. She kept it a secret and refused treatment for reasons never stated and, therefore, for reasons never to be understood. I think implicitly we all assumed she feared the treatment would leave her less of a woman in her husband's eyes. It would not have, and the result, of course, was that for many years he had no wife at all and their children no mother. I don't know if her children have ever resolved the conflict they must feel.

I think mostly about a friend of over 40 years who was diagnosed within the last three years. She chose to fight, however, and appears to have the upper hand, but it has been a brutal struggle. By her side the entire time was a loving husband who cared only that she remain alive. This is a couple I was very close to years ago but had drifted away from - stupid carelessness on my part. Her husband cared for her enough to contact me at a time when the support of others was perhaps most important to her. I telephoned and made sure to visit the next time I was in that area. She sounded and looked wonderful to me, but I know something about battles such as these and how important attitudes are. I saw her again recently, and she's winning. Our time together makes it seem as though I was never gone, but it will be difficult for me to thank him enough for pushing me to renew that which I had let fall into disrepair but more importantly for giving her the support she needed. It was surely instrumental in her decision to fight and choose life.

Cancer is such a scourge. The least we can do is get it out in the open since we are still so barbaric in our treatments for it. We cut it out, we burn it out with radiation, or we poison the body with sickening toxins and hope only the cancer cells die. The real key, of course, is to find it early. That's when our chances are best, and that's why I salute efforts like the Feel Your Boobies Foundation who sponsors the "Are You Doing It?” Reminder Campaign, an annual effort focused on utilizing unexpected and unconventional methods to remind young women to conduct breast self-examinations.

It's October.

Choose life.


01 October, 2013

Enduring Values

I do find resonance in the remarks that follow. They are now almost 30 years old but have somehow remained current. They have certainly remained inspirational and powerful, and he characterizes what are, for me, enduring values.

As I survey the carnage that is American politics today, I am left to wonder where have all the leaders gone?

Excerpt from the Keynote Address by Mario Cuomo at the 1984 Democratic National Convention.

"We Democrats still have a dream. We still believe in this nation's future, and this is our answer to the question. This is our credo:

We believe in only the government we need, but we insist on all the government we need. We believe in a government that is characterized by fairness and reasonableness, a reasonableness that goes beyond labels, that doesn't distort or promise to do things that we know we can't do. We believe in a government strong enough to use words like 'love' and 'compassion' and smart enough to convert our noblest aspirations into practical realities.

We believe in encouraging the talented, but we believe that while survival of the fittest may be a good working description of the process of evolution, a government of humans should elevate itself to a higher order. Our government should be able to rise to the level where it can fill the gaps that are left by chance or by a wisdom we don't fully understand. We would rather have laws written by the patron of this great city, the man called the 'world's most sincere Democrat,' St. Francis of Assisi, than laws written by Darwin.

We believe, as Democrats, that a society as blessed as ours, the most affluent democracy in the world's history, one that can spend trillions on instruments of destruction, ought to be able to help the middle class in its struggle, ought to be able to find work for all who can do it, room at the table, shelter for the homeless, care for the elderly and infirm, and hope for the destitute. And we proclaim as loudly as we can the utter insanity of nuclear proliferation and the need for a nuclear freeze, if only to affirm the simple truth that peace is better than war because life is better than death.

We believe in firm but fair law and order. We believe proudly in the union movement. We believe in privacy for people, openness by government. We believe in civil rights, and we believe in human rights.

We believe in a single fundamental idea that describes better than most textbooks and any speech that I could write what a proper government should be: the idea of family, mutuality, the sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all, feeling one another's pain, sharing one another's blessings -- reasonably, honestly, fairly, without respect to race, or sex, or geography, or political affiliation.

We believe we must be the family of America, recognizing that at the heart of the matter we are bound one to another: that the problems of a retired school teacher in Duluth are our problems; that the future of the child in Buffalo is our future; that the struggle of a disabled man in Boston to survive and live decently is our struggle; that the hunger of a woman in Little Rock is our hunger; that the failure anywhere to provide what reasonably we might, to avoid pain, is our failure."