Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bible Trivia - 1/24/2009

Question: How many of the Ten Commandments begin with the words “Thou shalt not...”?

Answer: 7. (Exodus 20:1-17)

Comments: The Ten commandments consist of seven negative and three positive commands. The first negative ordinance is described in the second commandment:

"You shall have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:3, NASB)

In the broader Mosaic law, there are 613 mitzvot ("commandments"). These are comprised of 245 positive and 365 negative directives.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - Inauguration Edition

News & Notes from Saturday-Wednesday, January 17th-21st, 2009

So that my trip to the Inauguration can be read in one post, I have compiled all pertinent "In Eckleburg's Eyes" entries that relate here. For regular readers, there is no new material.

News & Notes from Saturday, January 17th, 2009

-For the third consecutive Saturday, I embarked on a road trip. This time I would not be returning the same day.

-Before leaving town, JTH and I met PAT and CM at Buddy’s Bar-B-Q to celebrate PAT’s birthday. No, we were not being cheap. PAT selected the restaurant as he was to eat with his family at Outback Steakhouse later in the night and did not wish to spoil his appetite.

-Both PAT and CM are well. CM has straightened her hair and it looks great (not that it didn’t before). PAT shared a recent addition to his philosophy of life: When life treats you like a urinal, remember urinals still get cake. PAT is not only growing older, but clearly wiser as well.

-After getting my oil changed at Valvoline and purchasing warmer clothes at Wal-Mart, JTH and I hit the interstate to begin our trip to Washington, DC. This sentence was to show my responsibility. Are you impressed?

-While most smart southerners travel south during the winter, JTH and I ventured north to Washington, DC. Then again, we have never been accused of being smart. JTH had not been to the nation’s capitol since 1994 while I last visited DC in 2006. Having been rushed on recent trips, we decided to take our time and enjoy the journey. This entailed the poor planning you would expect from such a statement.

-En route we listened to the comedy stylings of Dane Cook. We began with his CD “Vicious Cycle”. We have discovered that the secret to long road trip is listening to comedians en route. We found it ironic that we were listening to DC on the way to DC. Well, I did anyway.

-JTH was hungry when we hit the road, just before 5 pm. We decided to wait to eat on the road. This wait proved longer than we expected. We tried stopping in Wytheville, Virginia for food but every place the Garmin directed us to was nonexistent. Evidently, if you want to open a restaurant Wytheville, Virginia is not the place to do so.

-The detour through Wytheville was not for naught. JTH spotted a Goodwill. He learned first hand that I brake for Goodwills. I was very proud of the driving maneuver that landed us (literally) in the parking lot and took years off of JTH’s life. While there, we asked for suggestions of local eateries. The employees recommended Shoney’s and Applebees. Really? In fact, all three times we asked locals to eat on this trip, they suggested Applebees! Rejecting food we could eat in Knoxville, we decided to continue on our journey.

-The stop also inspired us. We (read: I) decided to stop at every Goodwill and Wal-Mart on the way. Some observations: Every Goodwill we frequented in Virginia (and there were many): paperback books sold for 75¢, hardbacks for $1, and t-shirts were $3.50. In regards to Wal-Mart, Barack Obama merchandise and thermal clothing increased exponentially the further north we got.

-At a Wal-Mart, I bought gloves. I always feel like Darth Vader when I wear gloves. Signs I am a nerd...

-We stopped in Blacksburg looking for food but only found a Country Cookin. We walked in, noticed that it was essentially a Shoney’s and then proceeded to walk directly out the door! We did not want to eat at a chain. I had planned to stop in Roanoke but missed my exit(s) on the interstate. We later learned it was far off I-81.

-By 10 pm, we had gotten far less particular regarding food. Remember, JTH was already hungry when we left. We gladly ate at a Ruby Tuesday in Lexington, Virginia. We enjoyed our meal and our waitress, Samantha.

-We then continued the short distance to Lexington, where Robert E. Lee died and Stonewall Jackson lived. I found the weekend hotel rates too high so we drove a little further down I-81. We wound up spending the night in room 220 of the Days Inn in Raphine, Virginia (located at 584 Oakland Circle). Fortunately Days Inn still uses the same codes from when I worked there over a decade ago and we secured a room for $49.95.

-We got what we paid for. The heat did not seem to work and JTH contemplated switching rooms. When we woke up, neither of us had any covers on. It turns out the heating unit was just extremely slow. We did get this lovely note from Housekeeping.

-We watched Juno on television and went to bed as we were both tired. According to MapQuest, we traveled 325.1 miles on this day.

News & Notes from Sunday, January 18th, 2009

-JTH and I woke up Sunday morning to find it snowing outside. The parking lot of the Day Inn had already accumulated powder. I had not driven in snow in some time, which was evident as I skidded out of the parking lot. Thankfully, after we merged onto the interstate, we did not encounter snow the rest of the day.

-Our first stop of the day came after 44 miles on the road. We visited a shopping center called Harrisonburg Crossing in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It was built in 2003 on the site of what was once the Dunham-Bush factory. In said shopping center, we frequented a Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, and a Circuit City. Circuit City announced on January 16th that all locations were closing. Liquidators have already taken over as the store was no longer accepting Circuit City credit cards. Everything in the store was 20% off with the cashiers calculating discounts with a calculator. We were among the many vultures who stopped.

–We also drove downtown as we kept seeing signs for a Visitor’s Center. We thought we could pick up a map. Not only did we pick up a map but we were asked to stay for a free two-hour musical performance from 1:00 pm-3:00pm. The local group Nonesuch was playing in the Hardesty-Higgins House to promote the release of their new CD. They were described on the website as follows: “Join us while the music of Nonesuch grafts an English Morris dance tune onto a 14th century Italian tune, works a Native American Flute into a medieval mummers song, introduces a rare Irish song with fiddle, mandolin, and cowbell and then pumps it up on bass and djembe, and even throws in a popular Macedonian folk tune for good measure.” We respectfully declined the folk offering.

-Before leaving Harrisonburg, we naturally stopped at their Goodwill as well.

-We made a similar stop at Woodstock Square in Woodstock, Virginia. As the day continued we continued stopping at Goodwills and Wal-Marts. This was the most disturbing site of the day. Who would buy briefs (aka "tighty-whities") from a Goodwill?

-Our search for local cuisine came up short again and on Sunday night we wound up dining at an Applebees in Front Royal, Virginia. It was, however, the nicest Applebees facility I have ever been to. The menu was also slightly different from Tennessee franchises. They offered Pepsi products instead of Coke and like most out of state locations did not serve potato skins. To switch things up, I ordered the house sirloin. JTH and I watched the Arizona Cardinals win the NFC Championship game on the televisions that were mounted throughout the restaurant and chatted with our waitress Brenda E. Among other tidbits, she noted that she had served time in jail for driving on a suspended license. Naturally, we liked her.

-While there, we also discovered that the closest Metro to DC runs through Vienna, Virginia, approximately 48 miles up the interstate.

-We spent the night in room 133 of the Super 8 in Manassas, Virginia. Manassas is where the first major land battle of the American Civil War was fought in 1861. As you can see, the top amenity featured on the inn’s sign was for “interior corridors”. When interior corridors are your key selling point...

-We were greeted by a duo that reminded us both of Harold & Kumar. They scoffed when I asked if their were rooms available for the following night.

-Among the unique aspects of the Super 8 was that our interior corridor did not have a Coke machine, but rather a Red Bull Energy Drink machine. Either JTH really liked this or did not. I am not sure. We walked across the place and found a Coke machine. It was the first time I have ever drank a Mr. Pibb from a bottle.

-We had a relaxing evening as we hung out while watching the Starrcade: The Essential Collection DVD. It had been released the previous Tuesday (January 13th) and we had picked it up at a Wal-Mart earlier in the day. It was a nice, relaxing Sunday night.

News & Notes from Monday, January 19th, 2009

-As is virtually always the case, I woke up significantly earlier than JTH on Monday morning. I used the time to explore Manassas. I drove and came across a magnificent site: McKay Used Books! The store is located in a strip mall on 8389 Sudley Road in Manassas. It was completely serendipitous. It was like I was drawn there. It is like a gift...

-The store was smaller and pricier than its Tennessee counterparts but was still worth the stop.

-Once JTH awoke, I picked him up at the hotel and we began driving to the DC area. When we realized what a predicament we were in the previous night in regards to lodging, we called JTH’s old girlfriend LMM, who lives in Alexandria, to see if we could crash at her place. We got no response. So we just headed to her house, located at 41 Rosemont Avenue. We parked the car, caught the nearby Metro and assumed we could either catch her at work or she would call us back later in the day. You know what they say about assumptions...

-LMM’s townhouse is located very close to the massive George Washington Masonic Memorial (which was a great landmark) and more importantly to the King Street Metro Station terminal. An employee graciously helped us properly purchase day passes.

-The Metro passes actually had Barack Obama’s face on them! This would be a trend.

-We exited the Metro near Ford’s Theatre, where Abraham Lincoln was shot on April 14th, 1865. We were immediately inundated by street vendors. If Barack Obama’s face could be emblazoned on an item, it was made. My favorites: condoms, foam fingers, a basketball cleverly marketed as the “inaugural ball” (which was not worth the $15 it was selling for), magnets, peppermints, etc. I cannot guarantee that Barack will stimulate the national economy but he certainly has done wonders for the local market. Just in money made off the Metro alone they should be sitting pretty for awhile.

-I cannot adequately describe the mass of humanity engulfing the city, mostly covered in Barack paraphernalia. New York City had nothing on this. It was a racial rainbow and we, Caucasian males, were in the extreme minority. Frankly, the diversity is what church should look like.

-We looked for a place to eat. We originally decided to try the ESPN Zone. After being seated, we were not served for a significant period of time. Also being unimpressed with the limited menu, we walked out and eventually ate at Ollie’s Trolley, a local hamburger joint which opened in 1978. The seasoned burgers were voted best in town and were billed as having 26 herbs and spices. I would rate them as good, but not great. After our experience at the ESPN Zone, we were glad just to have a meal.

-We then decided to find the National Geographic Society Museum, where LMM works. Despite carrying my GPS, this proved ridiculously difficult. The Garmin (which JTH has affectionately named “Delores”) did not adapt to us being on foot and we spent literally hours trying to navigate the masses. We made a completely unnecessary large rectangle around the building and passed the American Red Cross headquarters so often that it felt like it was mocking us. Sadly, this photo of the Washington Monument represents about how close we got to historic landmarks on this day.

-In the midst of this debacle, we made a great purchase at Barnes & Noble. We entered in part to get a respite from the cold but JTH found an Insight Pocket Map of Washington, DC. It included a pop up map that JTH took great pleasure in unveiling throughout the trip. The map helped on two levels: First (and most obviously) we knew where we were going. Second, it made us look like the idiots we were. People gravitated to help us. It would be only the second best purchase on the day. (That, my friends is called foreshadowing.)

-Even after we had the map, we managed to walk past the White House without seeing it! I did stop to photograph this statue of Andrew Jackson. It was built by Clark Mills in 1853 and rests in Lafayette Park on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 16th. It depicts Jackson shortly after the Battle of New Orleans. Jackson was the first of three presidents from Tennessee.

-We eventually found the National Geographic Society Museum. Unfortunately due to its proximity to the Inaugural festivities, it was closed until Wednesday! Our epic quest for LMM had all been for nothing.

-Undaunted, we proceeded onward. Since JTH had never seen the dinosaur exhibit, we headed to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. En route we made the purchase of the day. We had once again wrongly assumed we would spend much of the day indoors so we did not bring gloves. So we bought some from a vendor. These were not just any ordinary gloves. These were “Limited Edition Hands 4 Change”! You will note they have Barack Obama’s face in the middle and the doubling of the number 4 represents his status as the 44th president. Genius! Had nothing else happened on the trip, it would have been worth the effort just to purchase these bad boys.

-We made our way into the museum and JTH got to see the aforementioned dinosaur exhibit. I remembered the layout of the building as I have been there numerous times. This time was different. The place was so crowded that we could not read signs indicating what we were viewing. It was amazing and frankly, annoying.

-JTH had also never seen another of the museum’s primary attractions, the Hope Diamond, a large, 45.52-carat, blueish diamond, famous for allegedly being cursed. This was the mass of humanity that surrounded it. JTH, like many who manipulated their way to the front, was letdown.

-While at the Museum, we also watched an IMAX movie at the Johnson IMAX Theater. JTH had never seen an IMAX movie. For $8.50 we watched the 4:50 pm showing of Deep Sea 3D. The forty minute documentary features various sea creatures and was narrated by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. We were given 3D glasses to properly view the movie. JTH was not overly impressed with the film, but if nothing else, we were glad to be out of the cold for awhile. The Smithsonian was closing for the day as we exited the theater.

-We headed back on the Metro to return to our car. The UT hoodie I wore all day identified our origins and started conversations. On the way back, we chatted with some tourists who had driven all the way from Mobile, Alabama. They could not believe we had not secured lodging. To be honest, we were a little worried ourselves.

-After our day in downtown DC, JTH and I took the Metro back to King Street. Since we were parked in her neighborhood, we felt we had nothing to loose by knocking on LMM’s door. We took off our gloves and beanies to try to appear less intimidating in case her roommate answered the door. She did.

-Angela Green (AJG) opened the door (I cannot accurately say she greeted us). She was startled by our presence. After some discussion and properly identifying ourselves more than once, we were admitted. Thankfully, LMM was home!

-It was great to see LMM. We sat with her on her bedroom floor and caught up as it had been some time since we had seen her. She invited us to her wedding, on June 20th in Tennessee. Though her family is from Ohio, her parents recently bought a vacation home on Norris Lake so she still has ties to the area. Her fiancé is a missionary to southeast Asia named Ryan. The California native is currently living in Austin, Texas. LMM had been packing all day to move there the following week, hence she did not receive our phone calls. She will work there for the time being but the couple plans on heading back to the mission field in 2010. Her eyes lit up as she talked about and to Ryan in our presence. We were happy that she was so happy.

-Regarding lodging, her roommate opposed allowing visitors to stay in the home. She would not even permit Ryan to stay there when he visited. Amazingly, LMM called neighbors from down the street. They were away (like many smart locals) and LMM had a key to their home. After LMM vouched for us, they agreed to let us use their home which was within walking distance of the Metro. We were pleased. With JTH involved I could honestly say we would leave their home cleaner than when we arrived. Sadly, I am unaccustomed to prayers being answered sd quickly.

-LMM wished to buy her neighbors groceries as they would also be providing Ryan with lodging soon when he came to help LMM move. We thought the least we could do was pay for the groceries. So LMM directed us to a Wal-Mart across Alexandria. The Wal-Mart (not Super Wal-Mart) did not carry the skim milk the neighbors liked so we headed to a close Giant Food Supermarket. The ubiquitous Barack Obama was there as well in the form of this cake!

-In addition to the groceries, I left our hosts a box of Kellogg's Hannah Montana Cereal for good measure. Despite the fact that they appeared excessively healthy, I felt they would appreciate the gift. Who wouldn’t want a box of Hannah Montana Cereal?

-We then headed back to 110 Rosemont Avenue where we would be spending the night. Having not eaten, I had bought some wraps and deviled eggs at the Giant Food Supermarket. They were terrible! I highly don’t recommend them.

-With that, we were in for the night, at least until 4 am when the Metro reopened as part of its special Inauguration hours.

-Finally, Monday was my mother’s birthday. I missed seeing you Mom!

News & Notes from Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

-On Tuesday, I attended the Presidential inauguration in Washington, DC.

-On Tuesday morning, JTH and I awoke at 4 am to take the Metro to downtown DC. The Metro was open earlier and stayed open later on this day to accommodate the throng of people who descended upon DC for the event. We left our car parked on LMM’s street. She worried that it might get towed. I was confident. Every police officer in the area was downtown for the Inauguration.

-I wore many layers as we would be standing in seemingly subarctic temperatures throughout the day. I wore thermal underwear, a Barack Obama t-shirt, a grey hoodie, and the coat I had bought for the trip. I was also decked out in my Obama beanie and of course my Hands 4 Change. (Note: I have no idea what I was going for in this photo. It was taken just after we woke up so I was not fully cognizant.)

-We were pleased that the Metro was relatively uncrowded when we boarded. We had bought passes for the day on the previous day in case many were in line. We exited at the Metro terminal closest to the street we were assigned to go through Security. We were to be situated in the Purple Section. (See Map.)

-When we arrived, we walked outside. This is a photo of a man awaiting the festivities in a tree. Despite the layers of clothing, and utilizing both hand and foot warmers, we were cold. The best analogy I have is that of walking into a walk-in freezer with a fan blowing all of the cool air directly on you. Remember Leonardo DiCaprio’s death in Titanic? Pansy!

-By the way, the feet warmers which were beneath our thermal socks proved virtually useless.

-Our ticket said our gate would not open until 9 am so after standing aimlessly in the cold for some time, we went back into the unheated Metro to at least avoid the wind for awhile. Buses continually arrived, all full, carting a seemingly endless stream of people into the city.

-One celebrity got out as camera light bulbs flashed frantically. It was on the opposite side of the Metro so we could not identify the person. We also saw a man wearing a jacket labeled “secret agent” and brandishing a machine gun in plain sight. We suspected his presence was intended to send a message. (This photo was taken as JTH made me laugh in the Metro station.)

-We left early to have plenty of time to get to 1st Street where we were to pass through a security checkpoint. For a little over three hours we were cramped together on the street with the Purple gate in sight. The mass of humanity was so thick that I could not even get the phone out to take a photo. Over the course of three hours we traveled the distance of a Ford SUV. We know because one was sitting there.

-The heightened secuirty was obvious. The street was monitored by security cameras reminiscent of the film Eagle Eye. Armed military personnel stood atop all of the buildings near us.

-We began to get alarmed by the delay so JTH texted ALK who was watching on television to see if the place was full or if anything bad had happened. ALK’s mother felt we were asking foolish questions. I would like to note that ALK asked us if it was cold!

-As time passed, ambulances tried to get through the crowded street where we were standing. Three got stuck. It reminded me of something that would happen in Grand Theft Auto. You would think that after the first one failed, they would have stopped. Fool me once... We were amazed that they did not use some of the closed streets as emergency lanes.

-We were on First Street throughout most of the Inauguration. We saw very little. We learned the following day that UT President John Petersen was one of the many who had tickets but was not admitted. I guess we were in good company.

-No one was arrested all day and the people we were around were disappointed but happy to be there. In truth, we experienced the bulk of the Inauguration about as much as we otherwise would have. The crowd was the site to see. Many around us had campaigned for Obama. All I could say was that I voted for him. JTH could not even say that. (He abstained.)

-We bonded with many around us. We stood next to a guy who was on the Vanderbilt soccer team when it disbanded. He transferred back home to the University of Georgia. They do not have a soccer team. A couple from Montana who had been to all recent inaugurations were also amazed by the event. This Inauguration was different.

-After standing for hours, we reboarded the Metro and headed back to our car, which, thankfully, was where we had parked it. We also picked up LMM’s book case which we agreed to take back to Tennessee so LMM would not have to sell it. In addition to all of the souvenirs, we would now also be transporting a massive book case home.

-After getting securing LMM’s book shelf in the XTerra, JTH and I began the first leg of the trip back to Tennessee.

-We stopped in Crozet, Virginia, when we saw a sign for King Family Vineyards. There, we purchased a King Family Vineyards blanket for ALK, whose last name is King. She is not interested in politics in the least so this proved to be a good souvenir for her. Plus, she is always cold.

-Exhausted, we decided to stay in Lexington, Virginia. After driving by the VMI campus and the Stonewall Jackson House (whom my grandmother insisted I was related to though how I cannot tell you), we decided to eat at The Patisserie. The big draw for us was that it had parking.

-The Patisserie is a local bakery located at 107 N. Main Street in downtown Lexington. There is no menu per se. Meals are prepared throughout the day and heated when ordered. It was a very froufrou place. To make matters worse, I ordered quiche! I could not have appeared more effeminate. At least, JTH ordered the manly beef stroganoff. The food was good and would have been better had we come earlier. It honestly felt like we were eating leftovers.

-We drove back towards I-81 and stayed in room 118 of the Super 8 in Lexington. We watched Hardy Candy, a disturbing independent movie starring Ellen Page. The movie tells the story of a confrontation between a sexual predator (Patrick Wilson) and the 14-year-old girl (Page) he attempts to ensnare. The film held my attention but I was exhausted. It took every ounce of my will to stay awake until the end of the movie, but I was asleep almost the moment the film was over.

-It had been a long day. We were glad we had made the trip but we were equally glad the Washington, DC, leg of the trip had been completed.

News & Notes from Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

-On Wednesday, JTH and I returned home from Washington, DC.

-Before leaving Lexington, Virginia, we decided to eat at the nearby Country Cookin restaurant. Though we had avoided the franchise throughout the trip, we assumed it would have good breakfast as it closely resembled a Shoney’s. We were correct. The potatoes did not match Shoney’s but the eggs were superior. They also had mixed fruit jelly which was excellent.

-As we had done on the way to DC, we listened to comedy CDs on the ride home which we bought en route. We began with Pauly Shore’s first Comedy album, “The Future of America”, from 1991. I had bought the CD for 99¢ at McKay Used Books in Manassas. I overpaid. How was this guy ever popular? I am not sure I smiled during his routine, much less laughed.

-After enduring Pauly Shore, we listened to a Comedy Sampler produced by Comedy Central called “Double Chunk”. The two CD set was released in 2006 and was very entertaining.

-We bought the CD at an FYE in Roanoke, Virginia, one of two major detours we took on the day. We also drove through Bristol, Tennessee (where we saw the Bristol Motor Speedway in addition to the worst Goodwill we visited) on the way to Mr. K’s Used Books in Johnson City. The trip went relatively smoothly. Much of the route was picturesque with the small town landscape being covered in snow.

-We arrived in Knoxville in time to meet ALK at Applebees as has become a tradition when we return from a road trip. We hope to soon take her with us soon.

-AFH was our waitress. She was on day 17 of a twenty-one day fast and doing well. It was the first time I had seen her since her religious renewal.

-The trip was great but we were both glad to be home.

-Wednesday was also CEH's 31st birthday. Happy birthday, Chuckie!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Word of the Day - 1/23/2009


A ramus is a branch, as of a plant, vein, bone, etc.

Isaiah prophecied that hope would come to Israel from a ramus of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David and an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5-6, Luke 3:32). Some refer to this passage as the "Tree of Jesse".

"Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit." (Isaiah 11:1, NASB)

Note: This "Jesse Tree", attributed to Girolamo Genga (1476-1551), rests in the National Gallery in London.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/23/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

-I spent Thursday recovering from the trip to DC. At 1 pm, I was exhausted and laid down for a nap. When I woke up, it was past 5 pm. I guess I was more tired than I thought.

-On Thursday night, I took my mother, DLNV, to Aubrey’s for her birthday that I had missed on Monday. My father was out of town on a job interview.

-While there, I attempted to teach my mother to text. I had her text the always affable ALK. She informed ALK that it was her first text. She attempted to tell her that she should feel honored. She hit the 6 button twice instead of three times. The result was that she told ALK she should feel “goosed”.