Sunday, August 31, 2008

Walnut and Cognac

I once participated in a special celebration where bottles of 100 year-old Louis XIII cognac were served. In the moments leading up to opening the bottles of brandy which cost $1,600 each, I thought about the century in which this beverage fermented slowly, quietly, and in darkness. I pondered notable human events that occurred during that time span as this brandy matured in an oak barrel somewhere in France. I wondered about the grape harvest and workers who started the process long ago.

We each were given an engraved, stemmed glass before the expensive bottles were opened. Each of us received less than two ounces. After the toast was said, I sniffed inside the glass and slowly wet my tongue as I savored the taste. I, like everyone, sipped slowly to extend the experience as long as possible.

I experience equal exhilaration when I mill logs from mature trees that grow for 50, 75, or 100 years or more. Logs from special trees are often brought to me for conversion into planks or beams.

A couple of weeks ago I milled logs from a 100 year-old walnut tree into wide boards and thick beams. As the saw blade cut into the logs, aroma from the sawdust filled the workspace. This milling created in me thoughts similar to the ones I processed when the cognac was consumed. This tree grew slowly, quietly, in sunlight and in darkness, in storms and in calm to reach this maturity of excellent wood that will be used to build fine furniture, book shelves, or tables which can be useful to people for another hundred or more years.

The milling of this special tree was as exhilarating as the celebration when the hundred-year-old cognac was served.
See the pictures below and have a good week!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bill Moyers Journal

I record a late night show using EyeTV on an Imac and view the recorded program the next day. Bill Moyers Journal aires at 11 PM each Friday on PBS in my viewing area. If you're not watching this show, you probably should. Current national affairs and reports are discussed with reputable people. Last week was another hour of Mr. Moyers talking with Andrew Bacevich who is a Boston University professor, a retired army colonel, West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran, and father of a son who was killed in Iraq.

Mr. Bacevich presented views about our nations dependance on cheap consumer goods, our undisciplined use of credit, the need to heal ourselves instead of imposing our culture on other countries, and how wrong it is to return the same troops to war zones again and again.
Ninety-nine percent of U. S. citizens live as if there's no war and make little sacrifice toward the war effort.

I urge you to find an hour to watch Mr. Moyers' discussion with this man. Read a sample of hundreds of comments by viewers of this show.

Click here to see the link and view the interview.

Watch Bill Moyers Journal weekly.

Have a good week!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Price

"The price of freedom is visible here"  is the inscription under the electronic signage at the entrance to the Salisbury Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Members from Chapter 638 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart were there on July 5 to serve watermelon to veterans who are hospitalized in the facility.  Junior ROTC cadets helped cut and serve the melons.  Our chapter bought 30 watermelons, chilled them with ice, and served slices to veterans and the hospital staff. A pavilion on the hospital grounds was used for the event. Room service was provided to vets who were unable to leave their room.

This is an annual event for our chapter.  See pictures below and click to enlarge them.

Have a good week and enjoy your freedom!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lifetime Impact

"You are the reason I quit high school", said a 70 year-old man to an 80 year-old. 

This confrontation occurred three years ago when the younger man encountered his former 10th grade teacher in a chance meeting while shopping.

This story was told to me this week while drinking coffee with friends at a local diner.  One friend, the man whose age was 70, related this story about his dropout experience in 1951 at Old Town School in Forsyth County of North Carolina. He was a 16-year-old tenth grader at the time.  One day he entered science class late with an explanatory note from his father and an acknowledgment signature by the school's principal.  The other students had already begun a test. The teacher admitted the late student and sternly ordered him to an empty seat in the back of the class and said, "You will receive a zero on the test".

The student sat idly through the period, finished the day, and never returned to school. He became a dropout and lived with that designation from that day forward.  The student grew, married, was drafted, served in the army, was honorably discharged, worked a career in a factory job, retired, and is comfortable.

The science teacher, who also coached girls' basketball, quit teaching after a few years, married, became a salesman, retired, and is comfortable.

When the former student told the former teacher, who was accompanied by his wife and a grandchild, that the classroom experience was the main reason behind his dropout decision, the teacher apologized profusely.  The teacher remembered the student but not the incident. The student carried that memory throughout his life.

I think there is a profound lesson in this story.  Here's the lesson: an action by a teacher that is viewed as unjust, unfair, or unreasonable by a student can affect the student for a lifetime.

I hope I never have such a negative impact on a life.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

There Will Be Blood

It seemed as though fifteen minutes passed before the first word was spoken. The movie began by showing a story about early mining, difficult labor, and physical injury to bring oil from the ground in southern California around 1898.

When words began, they were profound and started a journey which brought oil, land, power, family, and religion into conflict.  Ultimate tests of these entities ensued.  Blood flowed outside of arteries and veins. 

This movie is based on Upton Sinclair's 1927 book entitled Oil.

The score consisted mostly of string instruments and added much drama to the words, characters, and confrontations.

I was fixated by the way the movie explained and showed the rationale of decisions made between people who possessed money and power or religion and family.

Further insight into this thought provoking movie can be gained by clicking here.

Have a good week!