Thursday, April 30, 2009

Musings on Movement

As I was just climbing the stairs from my garage to my second floor apartment I reflected that I rarely go up stairs one at a time. Often I'm in a hurry, and going up (and sometimes down) stairs two at a time is convenient. But unless I am stuck behind other people (and usually impatient about it, ;-)) I always go up a set of stairs two at a time. I've just gotten so used to it that it is a deeply ingrained habit...


Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I mentioned recently on my Facebook page that I am listening to (unabridged of course, like fullscreen DVDs, I avoid abridged audio books like the plague--I want to see or hear the entire product, ;-)) an audio book of The Silmarillion. I procured it before my recent vacation and listened to it on both the trip down to Tennessee and the trip back. I've read the volume several times, but never listened to it before. I am really enjoying hearing correct pronounciations (some words I've apparently been mispronouncing for years), a great English accent, and amazing storytelling ability. It is refreshing to once again immerse myself in the worlds of Tolkien and remember what an awesome author he was. He truly could spin a masterful tale.

The first volume of the Silmarillion, the Ainulindalë, tells "the tale of the Music of the Ainur and the creation of Arda." It isn't an allegory by any means, but some parts of it are analagous to the real world. The divine being Ilúvatar is very similar to God (somewhat like Lewis' 'Emperor over the Sea' in the worlds of Narnia) and the main personal force of evil is Melkor, who becomes known as Morgoth Bauglir or 'Black Enemy,' a rough analogue to Satan. For he was of the greatest of the Ainur, very similar to angels, before he rebelled against Ilúvatar. At one point he was trying to introduce his own themes in the to the heavenly"music of the Ainur" and after he failed to take control, Ilúvatar said the following to him:

"And thou Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined."
-JRR Tolkien, The Silmarillion, Ainulindalë, p 17, First American Edition
When I look at that paragraph I see something akin to what God could actually have told Satan ere he fell. Satan may think that he is in control (of anything), but in reality God is in control of all things, as revealed when Joseph spoke to his brothers in Genesis 50:20:

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
God didn't merely use what his brothers did to bring about a good end, but he meant it for good.

All this to say that I am truly enjoying experiencing the Silmarillion yet again, in a new way. Next I'm going to listen to an audio reading of The Children of Húrin, which though it is a dark and depressing tale, is nevertheless epic Tolkien and a grand tale in the tradition of European tales like Beowulf.

I love how we can find things that point to God in many different places. It doesn't mean pantheism is true, or that everything has bits of God in it, or that everything is okay because you can "find God there," but He has been gracious enough to provide us with many examples of His love and character that we can see all around us.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I don't always sing hymns, but sometimes I run across them and they are really good. I was just looking at someone's status message on Gmail and saw the following line "Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart..." I immediately started singing silently to myself. I love this hymn, partly because I like "older language" that is more complex and uses richer words than today's slang.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.


Monday, April 27, 2009

New Settlement

Tonight I played Settlers of Catan with two of my nephews. I went over to my sister's place for a bit and happened to look at the work being done on Chase's room. I noticed that he was trying to assemble a hand-created board for Settlers. He asked if I would play a game with him--using my game.

It turned out to be a fun evening. I did get to play a game a short time before my vacation. It was Easter when I took it over to the place where I go to Bible Study some Friday evenings and several of us played. I don't get to play the game often enough, but when I do I really enjoy it. One of these days I need to get one of the expansions, even if it is just so the game will hold together better with the border pieces, ;-).


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Home at last

I am home...but I'm feeling rather lazy. I've just been surfing the internet for the past hour or two, catching up on things, but I don't feel like being very productive. At the very least I know that I need to unpack my car, and I suppose that I'll do that soon. My apartment could even stand to be cleaned, and I have time, but not the greatest inclination, ;-).

What I really want to do is get back to work...but I'm not scheduled to go in until Monday. Who knows, I might just visit the Creation Museum tomorrow, a day early... ;-)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Leaving the Mountains

We are leaving the Smokies today. Vacation isn't quite over, but we're transitioning to a campground further north in Tennessee at Norris Dam State Park. I will miss the national park itself, but much of Pigeon Forge I won't miss. I don't know about others, but I didn't come here for mini-golf or go karts...I came to relax and enjoy the scenery. I think I'd rather drive through Vegas than Pigeon Forge, it is so built up and blatantly commercial. Now don't get me wrong, that isn't inherently a bad thing (I'm a huge fan of capitalism), but I just personally prefer to enjoy the wild. When I want something like this I'll go to Las Vegas or Times Square, NYC, which aren't billed as beautiful nature, ;-). Gatlinburg is at least better because of the narrow canyon. The buildings are closer to the road, designed for foot traffic, and many of them ascetically more pleasing, built in a European mountain theme. Oh well. I'm sure I'll be back at some point in the future, but if I am I'll be back to enjoy the park again. That is what you can't find elsewhere.

I doubt I'll have an active internet connection until I get home. The campground we are going to is part of the Tennessee State Park system, which is nice, but doesn't feature wireless internet. That is fine with me, I don't need internet access when camping, it has just been nice to have so that I can post pictures and blog posts like this (and perhaps check some e-mail, but don't tell anyone that, ;-)).


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Roaring Fork Loop through the Smokies

Today we drove on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail through the Smokies. This was the one section of the park I'd yet to visit (with the exception of driving through to the North Carolina entrance which my parents did before I arrived and didn't want to repeat). The loop actually starts in Gatlinburg, but winds beautifully through a chunk of the northern part of the National Park. There were several buildings, but the main focus of the day was on the scenery, unlike Cades Cove that really focused on the buildings. So the pictures below are mainly flowers and other scenery.

While we were hiking up to Grotto Falls I happened to look down and see this tiny evergreen branch laying next to a rock. It looked like an interesting tableau, so I grabbed a few shots from different angles. I think that this was the one that turned out the best. I wish that there had been a bit more color, or richer tones in the shot...but I think it still turned out well. The only thing that I moved was the angle of the camera.

I don't know what leaves made these shadows, but they were on the former lands of the Ogle farm, one of the first stops along the loop today. My dad and I hiked the entire loop through the farm, but my mom stayed back because the first part (actually the last since we accidentally went backwards) was pretty muddy. But this trail was a great place for photos, including some great flower shots.

My dad pointed out this flower, but I had fun with the angle. I think that the shadow and the green leaves lend some interesting points to the scene. I wish that the flower had been a bit more lively, but at least the color is still intact, ;-).

I have some more purple flowers, but for the sake of variety here is a white one. I have another version of this shot that focuses in on the fern you can seen in the background, but I don't think that it works as well as this one. I like the blurry background and how you can barely see the other green there, but at least it is there. I'm not sure if I took this horizontally or vertically...but I think that it could work as either. I'm leaning towards trying it as a background on my computer.

The last picture from our first stop is some fungi found on a log. I took several pictures after my dad pointed them out, but this was the first and honestly the best (unless I crop some of the others down). The lines are pretty cool, looking somewhat like tree rings. There were literally dozens upon dozens of these things growing on several different logs in the vicinity.

This shot was taken against the background of a crumbling stump, just visible as the red coloring behind the green plants. I don't know why, but again I like the first shot of this series over all of the other ones that I took in case this one didn't turn out. I find it slightly frustrating that a shot can look great on the tiny LCD screen and you don't realize the flaw until it is displayed on the computer. But, at least it is better than not even having a clue until you paid for the film to be developed!

We'll be at a state park campground tomorrow night, so I'm sure that I won't have internet access. I should remember to come back here once I get home, but that won't likely be until sometime Sunday. I'll be home on Saturday but will be busy that evening. I don't even know yet if I'm working on Sunday or not... As always, thanks for reading, and please leave a comment if you like what you read or the pictures that you see. Thanks!


Scenic Dollywood

These were some of the largest windchimes that I've ever seen, just outside a blacksmith's shop in the Craftsmen area of Dollywood (no, I refuse to call it Craftsperson even if somebody else does). I'm happy the shot turned out as well as it did because I only took one from this perspective.

Dollywood has a historic steam engine for which they've laid out a section of track and an interesting route. The train goes through some natural woods on the property, and while you do see some behind the scenes areas several other natural areas are decorated with replicas of historic buildings or scenes like a hobos campfire, a mountain still, etc... The engine came from Alaska and is known as "Klondike Katie."

At one point the engineer blew the whistle for a couple of minutes, releasing me smoke than normal. As my part of the train came past the area where he'd started I grabbed this (and a couple of other shots) of the sun coming through the smoke.

I have been trying to get pictures of the Dogwood trees ever since I've arrived in the area, but this is one of my favorites. I like the juxtaposition of the white flowers against the red leaves of the other tree.


PS This has been fun posting more often. I really need to get back in this habit when I get back from vacation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fun with Cameras and Fire!

Okay, so I happen to think that cameras are nearly always fun (though some around me don't agree, most either agree or have learned to grin and bear it). Tonight I decided to spare others and take some pictures of myself, with the benefit of a small tripod and time delay. I sent the camera for a longer exposure, relying on the campfire to illuminate the scene. I took a whole series, but I think this one turned out the best. And you have to admit, adding cameras and fire together (so long as no cameras are being destroyed) is guaranteed to be fun! :-)



Today we're going to Dollywood. I'm not sure exactly what to expect, but from what I've head it should be a fun day. I am continuing my pattern of getting into places for free though. When I went to Chicago last I got into the three museums I visited for free (Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry) because of my work at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The Museum Center gives each employee a complimentary membership, and the membership is reciprocal with ASTC and a network of children's museums around the country. I also got into Columbus' COSI when I visited there for my birthday this year.

This trip will be my first time getting into some place because of my work at the Creation Museum. The Creation Museum and Dollywood have a reciprocal arrangement with employees for admission.

It should be a fun day. Sadly on my last trip to Kings Island I discovered that while I really enjoyed roller coasters my inner ear does not. I loved the thrill, but became nauseous after a couple of rides, :(. I wish that I hated the rides or that I could handle them...but no, I get the worst case scenario, wanting to go, but being unable if I want to enjoy the rest of the day. With that in mind I doubt I'll go on any of the actual roller coasters today (my dad has much the same reaction as I do, without the enjoyment, so we wouldn't all be going regardless), but some of the other rides look interesting.

Ah, working for museums is not only very enjoyable, but has great benefits as well! :-)


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cades Cove

We spent most of the day inside the park again. We drove through Townsend, TN to get to Cades Cove, which houses many well preserved buildings from the days when park land was privately owned. The first picture is from lunch, at a picnic area just outside the entrance to Cades Cove.

Sadly Bob had visited nearly all (if not all) of the buildings that we saw today. Most of the free surfaces were covered with graffiti. I understand when settlers carved their names into Chimney Rock, and those carvings are now historic. But carving your name into a historic building in a National Park is simply childish and also ruins some good pictures!

I'll leave some nice scenery shots without too much commentary. I'll hopefully post more pictures later on Facebook or via Picasa where I can tie comments directly to them.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Vacation in the Smokies

I'm currently on vacation in the Smokies with my parents. We are in a campground just outside Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Today we drove into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We drove to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park and my dad and I hiked up to the summit. Sadly it was cloudy up there so I didn't get any good distance shots, but here are some of my favourites from the day. We did make it into North Carolina for part of the day, which was cool because I'd never been in that state before. Now I think there are only 13 states I haven't visited. Alaska and Hawaii. Louisana (the only one of the lower 48 west of the Mississippi I haven't been to), New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut), Delaware, and the South-east (South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida). Wait, that is 14, :(.


I have gotten several good panoramics so far, including a couple of vertical shots. Here is one of the forest and one showing the twists on one of the roads (and in the background you can see some beautiful clouds).

I love the shots that show the trademark clouds and "smoke" of the Smokies... I loved the scenes from the Last of the Mohicans that were filmed here...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I really need to organize my pictures. I use Picasa to view them, so I suppose I should use it to tag and organize them as well. I have some pictures of the Creation Museum grounds like this one that I'd like to organize with other similar ones. And now that it is earnestly spring I'd like to take even more pictures of the grounds.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sleep? What's that?

Well I'm certainly going to get more sleep tonight than I did two nights ago.  I was working an Overnight at the Creation Museum (our first such one actually) and I ended up not sleeping at all.  Instead I spent much of the night getting work done.  It was a great time, even if I was up for more than twenty four hours.  If you'd like to read more check out the Creation Museum blog (which I wrote) or even Ken Ham's blog.