Saturday, December 12, 2015

Beautiful Theories

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”
--Richard Feynman

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Josh and Gwen were married at St George's, Metis Beach, Quebec, with about fifty guests from the US, Canada, Australia, and England. The celebrant was Rev Malcom Evans, assisted by Dr James DeBoe; Emma Dillon was flower girl, and Daniel Rees the bell ringer.

Reception at Jardins de Metis.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Tank Museum

Josh and I took the opportunity to go to the American Armored Foundation tank museum in Danville on Run Day, which is when they have a couple of vehicles power up and drive around the display area. (One was an APC and the other was a self propelled gun, not true tanks, but we got the idea). Not as many WW2 tanks as I had hoped for, but they had a number of interesting things. Items of note:

  • PzKpfw IV
  • tiny Dingo II scout car
  • slightly larger Ferret scout car
  • M1917 Six Ton Special light tank
  • Honest John missile, presumably without the 20kt nuclear warhead
  • Mk 41 15cm Nebelwerfer (it werfs nebels!)
They also had a variety of uniforms, unit badges, posters, paintings, and other memorabilia. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tangier Island

Diana wanted to see Tangier Island, so we drove across the Bay Bridge Tunnel and up the Eastern Shore to Onancock, a tiny little village on the Bay. We took the ferry, which is a converted oyster boat, which makes one round trip a day, to the island. We passed quite a few osprey nests on the channel markers; once we were away from land, there were a few fish, plus passing boats and the occasional small island.
The island is pretty much as described in Wikipedia, There's a house which has been converted to a museum on the history of the island and some of the notable residents (or servicemen who signed up and left the island), The main thing is that in one day, you probably can't see absolutely everything; but you can easily walk around the island and see a representative sample of everything. For instance, you can visit one seafood restaurant rather than all of them--but "seafood" is the only kind of restaurant you'll find, except for Spanky's ice cream parlor. Take bug spray and sunglasses and comfortable walking shoes and spend a day.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Great Dismal Swamp

Joshua, Diana and I went to the Great Dismal Swamp today. The auto tour road is closed on Sundays, so we walked a mile or so to the Underground Railroad Pavilion and back. ("Underground" is not the same as "underworld"). The Pavilion talks about the maroons ("escaped slave") and how they survived in the swamp--mainly by hunting, surreptitious trading with loggers, and stealing from local farms. 

There are bears and bobcats in the swamp, but we only saw dragonflies and butterflies.

We did, however, see a couple of pines which had been stripped of their bark for their whole height. We suspect that this was due to the Great Swamp Bear, a reclusive species of 40ft tall ursines. During the day, they stay submerged in Lake Drummond, with only their adorable black noses protruding above water. They feed on alligators, giant mutant catfish, and canoes ("crunchy on the outside, chewy in the center!"). In the evening, they slip from their aquatic refuge and roam the woods. They strop their claws on the pines, removing the bark and sometimes breaking the tree in half when they get caught up in some particularly contentious philosophical point, or when strands of fiberglass are stuck in their teeth.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Writer's Time

"The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book."
--Samuel Johnson

Friday, May 15, 2015


Several members of the Conversation Group -- Kathy, Sangjae, Eunhye and her husband Chowan, Gulcerin, and I--took a trip to the Fort Story lighthouse, and climbed to the top. Steep spiral stairs, then a ladder to get to the platform where the beacon was. After that we went to the First Landing Cross, the Seashore State Park on Shore Drive, and then the other end of Seashore off 64th Street, and on to the Broad Bay beach. Just hanging out, having a good time with friends.

First Strawberry

The strawberry plants froze at 15° this winter, then drowned this spring, but didn't seem bothered by it. That tulip-eating squirrel nearly got the first ripe strawberry this morning, but I armed for battle, drove off the foul beast, and rescued the treasure.

Friday, May 8, 2015


First day out with the kayak, as the weather this spring has cooler than usual. Just north of us, where the river widens out, there were a dozen or so little terns. Every now and again I'd hear a "plop!" and turn around to see one of them had just dived into the water nearby. One of them had claimed the top of one of the channel marker pilings, and another one was bringing her the minnows he caught. At the tip of the island on the other side of the river, a Canada goose has a nest. In the shallows a little farther along were some empty oyster shells, which I'm guessing were the work of an otter or something similar.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


"Publish and be damned!"
--the Duke of Wellington, to a blackmailer

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Josh and Gwen called to say "I asked her, and she said yes!"

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Urge to Save Humanity

"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule."
--H L Mencken

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Plans Change

Sometimes your plans change abruptly. We became aware on Friday of a homeless woman with a two week old infant and nowhere to stay--other than "in a storage pod with fourteen people", which is what it had been. So we brought them to our house and fed them and got her stuff from where she'd been staying and did the other things that seemed needful--such as taking all the wine and brandy extract and such out of the cabinets and fridge. Kid had a wheeze, so Diana took mom and baby to CHKD Hospital, where they stayed over. It looks like they'll stay over tonight, too, although that may  (or may not) be more because the hospital wants Child Protective Services to get involbed than because it's medically needful.
The point of this is that we weren't planning on doing any of this as of breakfast on Friday, and what we had been planning was abandoned without a trace.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Now reading the Elder Edda. Seems appropriate as we're watching Doom Snow approach from the west.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Frozen Pipe

In January 2014, we had a night or two at 16°F and had a pipe pull away from a fitting, but not actually freeze. This year we had a night or two around 10° . The weather started warming this morning and behold, in early afternoon there was the sound of  running water. The copper water line near the back porch faucet had suffered a small split, but the ice that had caused it also plugged it, until the ice melted.
I figured the plumbing profession would already have its hands full with people who needed them more urgently, so I slithered under the house and found the break was about where I expected. I went to the hardware store, got silicone tape and a pipe clamp and an insulation tube, crawled back under, and wrapped and wrapped and wrapped the leak, and then put more tape on. The first fews yards of tape didn't entirely seal it but got it down to a slow drip, and it's possible the rest of the tape may have staunched that as well. I'll need to have it "really fixed" at some point but in the meantime, we could turn our water back on with less than $10 materials and about an hour's worth of work.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ice and Snow

11°F this morning and the Lynnhaven is River is frozen from shore to shore. On the ground, the top layer of snow has melted and refrozen into a 3" thick layer of ice. Once you break out a few blocks of ice and pitch them aside, you find powder snow underneath.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Charleston SC

We had decided to take a mid-winter mini-vacation, somewhere warmer than Virginia Beach, but a bit less expensive than Costa Rica. Diana picked Charleston SC. Given that the Lynnhaven River was frozen the morning that we left, we were glad to go.

Outline, which I'll fill in later

  • drive to Charleston
  • Vendue hotel
  • Tour the istoric district
  • Manigault House, with the most unexpected thing of today. At the top of the main spiral stair, there's a big 4ft wide door which looks as if it ought to lead to the master bedroom or the drawing room, but there's only a little broom closet, 18" deep. But if you squeeze into the closet and look up and right, that's a hidden stairway to the children's room on the third floor.
  • Charleston Museum
  • King Street boutique district (I suspect "boutique" comes from a combination of "buy" and the "EEK" you emit when you see the price) and the Market, which was mostly empty by the time we got there--after 5pm. 
  • Jazz at the High Cotton restaurant
  • Went to Fort Sumter, which turns out to have been pretty much completely destroyed by the Union siege during the Civil War, and again during the Martian invasion of 1891. 
  • Watched dolphins from the fantail on the ferry ride back. 
  • Walked 438 miles around the historic district of Charleston. 
  • Had barbecue at Stckyfingers. 
  • Waited patiently for 14 hours 47 minutes as Diana shopped at The Trunk, which I would describe as a "secondhand shop" except I suspect it's called something else when a used dress still costs $640 and a scarf $198--neither item came home with us despite being "on sale, 5% off" as the clerk helpfully pointed out.
  • Took another stroll through the Market.
  • Went to SNOB (Slightly North Of Broad) where Diana had flounder with fennel and gold rice and I had lemon chess pie with diamond dust.
  • Set part of the hotel wall on fire but the flickering light makes it hard to sleep so I'll probably douse it shortly.
  • Drive around the south end of Old Town and see churches--First Scots Presbyterian, St Michaels and others. We'd have done more but it was 25° not counting wind chill--too cold to spend much time walking around
  • Patriot's Point, with Yorktown and the Medal of Honor Museum
  • Drive home, up Rt41 to Rt501 and 38
  • Snow at the Virginia border

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Year of the Sheep

Gwen points out that it's Chinese New Year, and we are entering the Year of the Sheep.
Menacing "baa".

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Supply and Demand

"Politicians build their careers on voters’ ignorance about supply and demand curves."

--Glenn Reynolds

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gradual and Silent

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.
- James Madison

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Soursop / Guanabana

I had nectar of guanabana (also known as soursop, gaviola, etc). The Wikipedia article says "The flavour has been described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus flavour notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavour reminiscent of coconut or banana." As far as I could tell, though, there wasn't much taste difference between that and pear. A hint of citrus, perhaps. But it's a New Thing which has been tried.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Gell-Mann Amnesia

   Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward--reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
   In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story--and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
-- Michael Crichton