Monthly Archives: November 2011

Days of the Week

When I was a kid in elementary school, before the earth had a chance to cool from its creation, we used to sing a little song about the days of the week.  Remember, this was before the video games, so this was considered high art and exceptional entertainment.

The song, as I recall it, went like this:

Today’s Monday, today’s Monday, Monday washday,
Everybody happy? Well, I should say!

Today’s Tuesday, today’s Tuesday, Tuesday string beans, Monday washday,
Everybody happy? Well, I should say!

As you can see, this is an accretional song (that’s not the actual name for it: I can’t think of the actual name. It’s like “The Twelve Days of Christmas where the singer(s) keep(s) (<==I hope you know what I mean here. There’s no good way to cover all the bases. I’m trying to indicate “singers sing” and “singer sings” at the same time, indicating I do have a knowledge of basic subject-verb agreement for the verb “to sing.) adding things to each verse. Wait, my friend Wikipedia tells me that it’s a “cumulative” song. I like accretional better. You call it what you like). That’s part of the raging entertainment value of singing it.

As I remember it, the rest of the days were:

Wednesday, soup
Thursday, roast beef
Friday, fish
Saturday, fun day
Sunday, church

One year we made up appropriate hand gestures for each day which our teacher hated for some reason, so we had to do them under our desks.

I was thinking about this song recently with all the publicity and hype about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I think both are media constructs to make money and oversimplify complex phenomena (i.e., the economy and the behavior of consumers), but we could add a few to the week after Thanksgiving.

After Black Friday we could have either Red or White Saturday. Either color in this case has no particular symbolism or meaning. It’s just a contrasting color to black.

Sunday could be Church Attendance Day. That just seems to fit in nicely.

Tuesday could be No Shopping Tuesday, which I know would not be good for the economy, which, if you will remember, is a media construct. Or something.

Wednesday would be Take a Nice Quiet Walk Wednesday because it alliterates and quiet walks are good things during the holiday season, especially when we’ve had the kind of weather we have had.

Thursday could be Fun Day because I like the sound of it and everyone needs a little fun in their lives.

Those are my ideas for days after Thanksgiving. I hope you have some of your own and you will share them with us.


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Working Backwards

My weekly copy of The New Yorker arrived Saturday, and I started reading it the way I always do: I looked through it and read the cartoons.  Then, during the week, I read some of the articles. Some of them are quite lengthy, and others are on subjects I don’t care about, but usually I can find several insightful and well-written entries. That’s why I get the magazine.  That and the cartoons.

It occurred to me that I am reading the New Yorker the same way I read the (long defunct) Washington Daily News, a tabloid-sized six-day-a-week newspaper. There might have been a Sunday edition, but I can’t remember. The Wikipedia article doesn’t say one way or another: I do remember color comics on Sundays but I’m not sure the paper was the News. It might have been the Post that my dad went somewhere (I never knew where) to get Sunday mornings.

We got the paper from about 1953 in Fairfax until 1962 when we moved. It cost 5 cents a day, home delivered, and had some pretty good writers. But I was there for the comics. They were located at the back of the paper, so I read the paper from back to front. (I know, that accounts for a lot.)

I’ve noticed this tendency to “work backwards” among choir directors as they teach a new piece to their choirs. I don’t mean that we sing the anthem backwards, but rather, we work on the last section, and then the next-to-last section, and so on until we get to the beginning and the choir members are just about crazy to sing the anthem through from front to back. Without stopping. Which doesn’t happen often when we’re learning a piece. There’s a lot of stopping and starting, but when we have it learned, we run through it from front to back without stopping and it’s glorious. Sometimes.

So here’s a Jeopardy category: Things That May Be Done Backwards. The answer: The New Yorker, the Washington Daily News, and any given choral anthem. I’ll take that for $600, Alex.

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So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

To steal a line from that terrific series, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Or maybe that’s the title of the fourth book in the trilogy. Yes, I did say trilogy.

I said I wouldn’t write over the four-day weekend, but I was noticing that I have been at this five days a week for six months. I was going to try to last a year, but, frankly, friends, I’m tired and there are so many demands on my time these days I find it hard to find the time or energy to write even a short piece. It’s a pity because I love to write and I love to hear from my blogistas.

I’ll try to write something occasionally or post what’s going on on Facebook, so do not despair. The sun is shining somewhere, largely because it always shines and it is the Earth that spins as it orbits the sun. I know you will miss that kind of profundity, but try to carry on.  Each of you without a doubt is kind, handsome or beautiful, intelligent, discerning and above average. Thank you for reading and I’ll see you around the monkey house.

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A Diatribe about Thanksgiving

Now, normally no one would expect a diatribe about Thanksgiving.  The form is more given to tirades on, oh, say. incredibly terrible color printers. But I digress. Here’s the scoop on Thanksgiving. It’s not what you think it is…

I don’t know if you think a lot about the English Puritans or as they were known as in this country, the Pilgrims, also called the Fun Bunch. Quite possibly your memories of them are associated with the story of the first Thanksgiving, which by the way did not occur at Plimouth Plantation in 1621 but rather in Virginia in 1619, before the Pilgrims even set sail for the New World. On September 16, 1619, a group of 38 English colonists headed by Captain John Woodlief sailed from England aboard the Margaret. They landed at Berkeley Hundred 10 weeks later. The settlers were sent by the London Company; it owned thousands of acres in the area, and had settled and supported Berkeley Plantation. 

In the company’s instructions to the settlers — instructions to be opened upon reaching Virginia–was this sentence: 
We ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God. 
The settlers held that Thanksgiving at Berkeley Hundred on December 4, 1619
Anyhow, another way you might know something about the Pilgrims is that you read, somewhere and sometime, Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, a story of sin, guilt and redemption set in Puritan times but unfortunately (and that word really pertains here) written about 200 years later in the 1840’s, the Romantic Period.  You might not have read it and I don’t blame you if you haven’t.  It is the worst book ever inflicted on innocent sixteen-year-olds in this country, fit only for English majors and people lacking a real love interest in their lives.  If it is your favorite book and you read it once a week and have towels, tea sets and fork handles with images of the main characters on them, I’m sorry, but I’m just sayin’.
Anyhow, whatever you believe about Thanksgiving and its origins (I hope it’s the True Virginia Version), I hope you have a great holiday.  I am continually thankful for my family, for my faith, and for the freedoms we enjoy bought at a tremendous price by the sacrifice of millions of men and women. And I’m thankful for you, blogistas and your taking your time to read these screeds. I’m taking the next four days off as a holiday but I’ll be back Monday with more random observations.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


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Calling in Sick

Hello, friends,

Yesterday I went to the doctor for a sinus infection and a continuing sciatic nerve pain problem.  He gave me an antibiotic and got me in to see a physical therapist tomorrow at 10 AM.

As a result, I don’t feel like writing, which tells you how bad I feel. I’ll pick it up again when I feel better.

I hope each of you is well.

Lt. Dan


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Twilight Time

Here’s another song for your enjoyment. It was originally done by The Three Suns in 1944 and made popular by Les Brown and His Band of Renown in 1945 as an instrumental on the B-side of “Sentimental Journey” with vocals by Doris Day. Most boomers, though, know it from the version by the Platters in 1958.

Heavenly shades of night are falling
It’s twilight time
Out of the mist your voice is calling
It’s twilight time
When purple colored curtains
Mark the end of the day
I hear you my dear at twilight time

I was thinking about “Twilight Time” and twilight this past weekend when I was curious about the time of sunrise.  When I looked that up, I came across a reference to not one but three types of twilight.  Apparently there is a civil twilight, a nautical twilight and an astronomical twilight. Who knew?

Deepening shadows gather splendor
As day is done
Fingers of night will soon surrender
The setting sun
I count the moments darling
Till you’re here with me
Together at last at twilight time

According to Wikipedia (from which I have egregiously taken most of the material for this post), twilight is the time between dawn and sunrise or between sunset and dusk, during which sunlight scattering in the upper atmosphere illuminates the lower atmosphere, and the surface of the earth is neither completely lit nor completely dark. The sun itself is not directly visible because it is below the horizon.

Here in the after-glow of day
We keep our rendezvous beneath the blue
Here in the sweet and same old way
I fall in love again as I did then

Morning civil twilight begins when the geometric center of the sun is 6° below the horizon (civil dawn) and ends at sunrise. Evening civil twilight begins at sunset and ends when the geometric center of the sun reaches 6° below the horizon (civil dusk).

The brightest stars appear during the civil twilight, as well as planets, such as Venus, which is known as the “morning star” or “evening star.” During this period there is enough light from the sun that artificial sources of light may not be needed to carry on outdoor activities. This concept is sometimes enshrined in laws, for example, when drivers of automobiles must turn on their headlights; when pilots may exercise the rights to fly aircraft; or if the crime of burglary is to be treated as nighttime burglary, which carries stiffer penalties in some jurisdictions. A fixed period (most commonly 30 minutes after sunset or before sunrise) is typically used in such statutes, rather than how many degrees the sun is below the horizon. Civil twilight can also be described as the limit at which twilight illumination is sufficient, under clear weather conditions, for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished; at the beginning of morning civil twilight, or end of evening civil twilight, the horizon is clearly defined and the brightest stars are visible under clear atmospheric conditions.

Deep in the dark your kiss will thrill me
Like days of old
Lighting the spark of love that fills me
With dreams untold
Each day I pray for evening just
To be with you
Together at last at twilight time

Nautical twilight is the time when the center of the sun is between 6° and 12° below the horizon. In general, nautical twilight ends when navigation via the horizon at sea is no longer possible.

During nautical twilight, sailors can take reliable star sightings of well-known stars, using a visible horizon for reference. The end of this period in the evening, or its beginning in the morning, is also the time at which traces of illumination near the sunset or sunrise point of the horizon are very difficult, if not impossible, to discern (this often being referred to as “first light” before civil dawn and “nightfall” after civil dusk). At the beginning of nautical twilight in the morning (nautical dawn), or at the end of nautical twilight in the evening (nautical dusk)—under good atmospheric conditions and in the absence of other illumination—general outlines of ground objects may be distinguishable, but detailed outdoor operations are not possible, and the horizon is indistinct.
Astronomical twilight is the time when the center of the sun is between 12° and 18° below the horizon. From the end of astronomical twilight in the evening to the beginning of astronomical twilight in the morning, the sky (away from urban light pollution) is dark enough for all astronomical observations.

For anyone who lives on Mars, twilight is longer than on Earth, lasting for up to two hours before sunrise or after sunset. Dust high in the atmosphere scatters light to the night side of the planet. Similar twilights are seen on Earth following major volcanic eruptions.

Dusk, dawn, twilight, whatever, I hope you enjoy at least one of these marvels of nature today!

Here’s a link to the Platters’ version of “Twilight Time”:

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Random Thoughts

I know, these postings consist primarily of random thoughts, but I have some observations that are not necessarily related to each other or to anything else, for that matter.  Here goes:

I noticed some differences between the Atlanta area (Atlanta is further south). We drove on some really nice four-lane parkways.  Ron said the roads were built with the expectation that “if they built it, they will come,” i.e., that development would follow the roads. It didn’t. Other than a few isolated strip shopping centers, the area we were driving through was undeveloped. Imagine someone building a road around here and no one came. Can’t do it? Neither can I.

The Atlanta area also has fewer deciduous trees and more conifers. The result is that there were fewer leaves in the treescape and on the ground.  When I got back to D.C. I was struck by the number of deciduous trees and the amount of leaves on the ground. I’ve heard people talk about gathering up their leaves and having their yards perfectly clean of leaves.  Ten minutes later they couldn’t tell a rake or a blower had ever been near the yard. The leaves look like multi-colored carpets.

Atlanta has traffic, but nothing like we have.  I caught the familiar “traffic and weather on the eights” from WTOP-FM (and their glass-enclosed nerve center) and, three minutes after I got on 28 South, came upon the backup to an accident. Welcome home, Dan.

Ron and I were talking about eating on the road. I asked him how he tried to eat nutritiously while he was out on a flight.  He said it was a challenge–when he started flying for Delta, the only food at airports consisted of hot dogs and pizza. Now, of course, there are many, many more choices (not necessarily healthy ones, though). He said he had gotten bitten by airport and roadside food so much that he made and took a sandwich on trips. It is a known quantity and less expensive. Our family almost never ate at restaurants and my mother always packed a meal for us on trips to visit relatives (aka “vacation”). I used to be frustrated by what I saw as my parents’ excessive, uh, thriftiness (and was reminded of it when I paid a ball park price for a deli sandwich at the airport), but now see the wisdom of what they were doing. They didn’t have a choice, financially, but intuitively did something good.

Here’s a bonus New Yorker cartoon that includes a reference to sandwiches:

As you can see, we as humans do well with sandwiches.  Not so much with playing well with others and having an exoskeleton.

(This rather long space has been brought to you by my inability to figure out the formatting to reduce the long space. It’s part of the price for including a New Yorker cartoon.)

This past week I reached the age sung about by the Beatles a long time ago, “When I’m 64.” I wanted to thank everyone who sent birthday greetings on Facebook (nearly as many greetings as friends) and give a special shout-out to the wonderful ladies of the Joy Class at our church, many of whom thoughtfully sent me birthday cards. I run hard copies of this blog every week for them, and they are exceptionally kind and appreciative about what I write. Their class is a model of a Christian small group, and the ministries they do collectively and individually are numerous and meaningful. They will not be happy that I have praised them like this because humility is also their strong suit, but they deserve notice. Thank you for all you are and do, ladies. You are indeed walking the walk and talking the talk.

Well, I think I have all the random observations out of my system…at least until Monday. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Homeward Bound

Yet another Simon and Garfunkel song seems appropriate here, with certain word changes:

I’m sittin’ at the airport station, got a ticket for my destination, mmmm,
Suitcase and guitar are safely stowed
And I know soon it will be time to go–

Homeward bound, I wish I was, homeward bound,
Home with my thoughts escaping, home where my music’s playing,
Home, where my love lies waiting, silently for me…

The part about the guitar is a poetic fiction–ain’t no way I’m going to check any of my guitars without a $400 air travel case, which would be worth more than half the guitars I own. And then I’m not at the “airport station”:  I’m 35,000 feet up on Delta Flight 1125 from Atlanta to Dulles about 40 minutes out.

My bro Ron got me to the airport about 10:20 this morning, and I was through checking my bag and experiencing security by 10:30. I had time to get a sandwich, eat it and sit at the gate and read some until we started boarding about 11:50.  Hartsfield is a big honkin’ airport but Ron told me which way to go and my gate was on A Concourse so I didn’t have to ride the Love Train very far. (“The Love Train” is my name for the little concourse tram thingie that shuttles people between concourses, from the O’Jay’s song of the same name:

People all over the world (everybody)
Join hands (join)
Start a love train, love train
People all over the world (all the world, now)
Join hands (love ride)
Start a love train (love ride), love train

I heard  “Love Train” the other day and it sounds like as good an idea as the day it came out.  And yes, I do think music can change the world for the better.)

So I am “homeward bound.” I had a great trip and a wonderful visit with my brother and sister-in-law, but I am glad to be going back to where I live. The people and the places there make it where I belong.


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Going Home

Packing up my winter clothes and wishing I was home,
Going home…

Discerning readers will recognize that line from the Paul Simon song,”The Boxer.” I’m no boxer but I am going home today.

I’m writing this from my brother Ron’s house near Atlanta.  We have had a terrific couple of days visiting, having wonderful meals, going to guitar shops and bookstores, taking naps and playing on the computer. This has been a much-needed break for me, and I appreciate everything Ron and Sherry have done to make it happen. I hope this will become an annual tradition.

So, we’ll see how today’s trip goes. It’s raining hard here, and that should affect travel. I didn’t bring an umbrella, so I’ll have to pick one up on the way to the airport.

Yesterday was my birthday (“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?”) and I want to thank everyone who sent birthday greetings.  A number of these came via Facebook, which is one great way to keep up with what’s going on in other people’s lives. Thanks to all of you, my friends.

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Travel Is Sometimes a Blessing

I’m writing this from about 28,000 feet aboard Delta flight 1093 to Atlanta to visit my brother Ron.  Now, Ron, who was a pilot for Delta for 27 years until his retirement in 2004, likes to say “Travel is a curse,” and he certainly traveled enough as a member of a flight crew to have enough bad travel experiences to be convinced of the veracity of his saying.
Sometimes, though, travel can be a blessing.  So far into this trip (about half an hour into a two-hour flight) everything has gone swimmingly.  I left for the airport fours hours ahead because I was having to travel in rush hour traffic and one never knows when there might be an accident. It took 45 minutes to get to long-term parking (normally it takes half an hour); I got a shuttle bus immediately, checked my bag and got in the security line at 7:30. That took half an hour and I was at the gate by 8:00. I got something to eat and waited for boarding to begin around 10:00.
During the flight, I was seated next to an attractive,  nicely dressed  lady and found out she was a psychologist. The blessing part came when I told her I had taught English in high school. It turns out her first husband was a professor at Belhaven College in Jackson,  Mississippi. The Southern writer Eudora Welty loved the college and lived many years in a house across the street from the campus.  My seatmate knew her, one of the icons of American literature! She said Miss Welty was genuine and unpretentious and made people from all walks of life feel comfortable.  And of course, she was an amazing writer.
Sometimes, when we’re just going along, doing something ordinary, like traveling on an aircraft, magic happens.  It happened to me today, and I am still in awe of talking to someone who knew Eudora Welty.  Travel today was indeed a blessing.

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