Monthly Archives: August 2013

An Opportunity for the Community

Members of the Manassas Chorale will sing at Sunday evening's benefit concert.

Members of the Manassas Chorale will sing at Sunday evening’s benefit concert.

I wanted to make you Faithful Readers aware of an opportunity for anyone who has a heart.

Over 70 local musicians will combine forces for a benefit concert on this Sunday evening to benefit the Rancourt family, which includes two little girls with serious medical conditions.

The concert will take place at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary at Manassas Baptist Church and feature violin and piano solos, vocal solos, a clarinet duet and selections by the Manassas Chorale and Sanctuary Choir, accompanied by a chamber orchestra.

Manassas residents Jacques and Emily Rancourt adopted Lily Grace and Mackenzie Ty from China last year.

Lily has heart problems and Mackenzie’s untreated ear infections before her adoption have resulted in several surgeries. The couple’s fifth daughter, Addy Hope, was stillborn on May 6.

Musicians include  singers Bill Lacy and Jerry Pankey; clarinetists Catlin Beare and Danielle Frazelle;  violinists Laura Giz Frazelle and Samantha Kline; and pianists Patricia Parker, Tuyet-Minh Tran, Madelyn Kline and Matthew Wampler.

In addition, the Manassas Chorale will combine with the Sanctuary Choir from Manassas Baptiust Church for two anthems.

An offering will be taken to help defray the family’s considerable medical expenses.

For more information about the benefit concert or to learn how to make a donation, email Becky Verner at or call 703-361-2146, extension 291.

Manassas Baptist Church is located at the corner of Sudley and Stonewall roads in Manassas.

I’ll be singing for this, and while I’m a garden variety choral musician, the other musicians involved are phenomenal. I hope to see you there, and I hope you support this family which has been through so much.

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Looping the Loop

A much earlier version of pneumatic transport, circa 1870.

A much earlier version of pneumatic transport, circa 1870.

Actually, Elon Musk’s proposal for a “hyperloop” (a high-speed pneumatically powered ‘train’ that would enable passengers to travel from Los Angles to San Francisco in 30 minutes or from New York City to Beijing, China in two hours) isn’t the first time such a system has been proposed. The first operating railroad subway in the United States ran from 1870 until 1873 in New York City between two stations, one on Warren Street, and one on Murray Street.  The pneumatic power was supplied by a large fan. The system ran for three years and closed for lack of ridership. Most people, it turns out, did not enjoy the sensation of riding inside a large vacuum cleaner hose. (Insert your own suction joke here.) The tunnel for the system still exists.

There was also a pneumatic system tested about the same time in England, the Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway. It ran for about a year starting in 1864 for a distance of 600 yards. The Railway may have a been a demonstration line for a similar railway between Whitehall and Waterloo, but it was never built. The remains of the Crystal Palace tunnel were discovered recently in the Crystal Palace Gardens.

Pneumatic systems were common and quite extensive in major cities in the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries. They were used to carry not only mail and other paper items but also cargo and, as in these cases, people. No word on whether animals were ever transported by pneumatics historically although there are such systems in use today.

Anyhow, here’s a link to more information on the hyperloop system. I just wonder how much the fare will be and if there will be snacks and drinks en route. Bon appetit!

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Jumping to Conclusions

Jumping to Conclusions

It has occurred to me recently that I jump to conclusions entirely too often. I like to figure things out and, given a set of circumstances, it’s interesting and instructive to try to reach some plausible conclusions. But too often when I do, the conclusions are wrong.

Let’s take the last time I had to put my Mazda wagon into the shop as an example. I knew that when you take a car to a mechanic with a problem, you don’t diagnose the cause, no matter how much you think you know about cars. The Mazda was missing under a load, and rather than tell my men at the auto repair shop what was causing it (coulda been a lot of things, really), I simply reported that it was missing. They ran computer codes on the car and came up with nothing from that. Their surmise was that I had gotten some bad gas (and I had eaten Mexican the day before…sorry, couldn’t resist) and they put in some additives to combat the problem, telling me to run the gas in the tank down to let the additives work, and then get some gas that was a known good quantity.

A couple of days later, the “check engine” light came on. And went off. And came on. I tried tightening the gas cap and nearly twisted the threads off, but the light came on. What’s worse, it started flashing. I called the repair shop and the owner’s daughter, who is the receptionist, told me to bring it in ASAP because the engine could stop dead at any time. I drove it right over.

Long story short, the engine codes showed a burned out spark plug coil. I didn’t know that spark plugs had coils. Apparently, when many (most, really) car engines went to fuel injection, the coil moved from the, well, coil which serviced all the plugs to an individual coil for each plug. Sounds personal and cozy, doesn’t it? I thought so.

So, they replaced the coil and the Mazda again has the smoothly running brute of an engine I have come to expect.

What are the “takeaways,” as people like to call them nowadays, in this?  First, as I wrote earlier, don’t jump to conclusions. Second, I (and other people) don’t know as much as we think we do. Third, even experts can be wrong for a while, but they (or someone else) usually figures it out.

I’m going to do better at keeping an open mind, not jumping to conclusion, being sure of what I do and don’t know, and realize that in so many areas, I am decidedly not an expert. Although sometimes I do figure things out, such as recently when I figured out how to remove all the Facebook contacts that kept showing up on my iPhone. Really, though, that wasn’t a matter of using logic and knowledge as it was continuing to press buttons until I achieved the desired outcome. I’m good at that, at least.

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Poem of the Week: A Sort of Song


In silence

Sound lingers

An underflow of air

An insistent susurration of traffic





A melodic line

Spins out

Voices pure

In unison

In harmony

Organized, energetic

A welling stream

Of meaning and beauty

Amid chaos and noise

Arcing down

To silence.

–Dan Verner

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Six Thousand Years of Civilization Has Come to This, I Fear


RIDE ‘EM, COWB–uh, cowmonkey!

I’m thinking that civilization as we know it (more or less) dates back about six thousand years to the Mesopotamian region (and other places such as the Nile and Yellow River valleys). Farmers and hunters who gathered there were able to produce a surplus of food there which led to counting, writing, record-keeping, government, laws and, oh yes, taxes. But enough of the history lesson.

I was listening to all-news radio from the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center (read all about it at and they announced, very seriously, that the Frederick Keys minor league baseball team in Frederick, Maryland, is going to feature a cowboy monkey rodeo show before the game this Saturday night. ( For a look at a cowboy monkey rodeo, check this out:

Now, I’m of a certain age, and have never heard of this sort of thing which in these parts are usually staged in conjunction with a county fair or anything else. I have heard of (and in some cases actually witnessed) tractor pulls, mud bogs, demolition derbies, racing pigs, diving mules, and other entertainment oddments I can’t think of right now (jello wrestling, anyone?) in conjunction with county fairs.

Turns out a cowboy monkey rodeo involves little monkeys dressed in little cowboy outfits riding little dogs herding (presumably) little sheep [I hope–probably not too many rams in the flock, and especially not Dodge Rams. (Sorry, simply couldn’t resist, although judging from the logos on some of the monkeys’ uniforms, they are sponsored by Dodge Ram. What do you know?)]

I would walk across the street to see this, but I wouldn’t pay a fair admission price (or even an unfair one. You know. Oh, the hits just keep on coming!).  I have to

wonder, though, what our six thousand year departed ancestors would think of such a thing. No doubt if a cowboy monkey rodeo came to town they would watch respectfully and then when it was over eat the monkeys, keep the dogs and raise the sheep for wool and meat. Now that’s civilization  (except for the part about eating the monkeys, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to the contrary). If this sort of thing appeals to you, by all means go see it. Just be early to get a good seat. They might run out of monkey.

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A Biscuit City Special: A Song about Gordon Lightfoot

Gordo, back in the day.

Gordo back in the day.

Faithful Readers may or may not know that the title of this effort comes from a rather obscure Gordon Lightfoot song (obscure unless you are a GL fantatic. Who, me?), “Biscuit City,” which was on his Salute! album (c. 1983). It’s about a state of mind, according to Gordo, not an actual place, so you can go there any time you want (just point your browser at <– shameless self-promotion, the best kind!).

Anyhow, my friend, writer, poet, librarian and funny lady Leigh Giza posted this video link on Facebook, a song by the Krayolas called “Gordon Lightfoot.” Enjoy, and thank you, Leigh!

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We’re Baaaack!

Keep Calm We're Back

Actually, truth be known, we didn’t go much of anywhere. I can’t speak for the entire Biscuit City staff: I don’t know what they did or where they went, and I don’t want to. Becky and I were close to home most of the time. I did some painting and fixup work at the church and helped out with the annual (26th year) summer music camp that Becky and some very talented people stage at the church. We both taught at the State Summer Music and Worship Arts Camp at Eagle Eyrie, outside Lynchburg, VA, and attended a “destination wedding ” in Charlottesville late in the month. All in all, it was a somewhat busy month, but a gratifying one as well.

In other news, which I’ve shared on my novel blog, Wings of the Morning: A Novel Series about an American Hero, I finished the first draft of the second novel, On Eagle Wings Upborne, and am working on having the beta version out to my readers this week. I’d also like to start on the third novel, which has the working title of On Wings of the Wind.

I still don’t have a publisher, but I’m continuing to work on that. Thanks to all those who have been encouraging and complimentary about my foray into the world of extended fiction. Hang on: something’s comin’!

In the meantime, I plan to blog on Biscuit City Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and on my devotional blog, Preaching to the Choir ( Tuesdays and Thursdays, with a post on the novel blog  ( once a week.

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