Archive for November, 2009

Invitation: MCSD New School Administration Buiilding Open House

November 29, 2009


Taj Mahal, photographed by David Castor from the banks of the Yamuna River, at Agra, India. It is a mausoleum built as a memorial to the third wife of Shah Jahan between 1631 and 1652
The wags who tried unsuccessfully to derail the recent school bond issue, used the millions dedicated to the building of the Muscogee County School District’s new administration building as an example of wasteful spending, and  referred to it as a Taj Mahal.  Well, it certainly is not that ornate or expensive, but it is nice. And, thankfully, it is not totally plain. It does have some style to it. And why not? Who wants a completely utilitarian, architecturally sterile city. Not me. 
If you want to come, you can, Monday, November 30th. Here is the schedule:
4:00 to 5:00 PM  – Reception in the Main Lobby
5:00 to 5:30 PM – Dedication Ceremony in the Main Lobby
4:00 to 7:00 PM – Self guided Tour of the Muscogee County Public Education Center
Now that is truly a plain, unimaginative name.  You would have thought they could come up with something that would be more inspirational than that. But, I heard there is a reason they didn’t. After all, I’m told, after all of the Taj Mahal jokes, they thought a truly plain name would be better. 

Cool Cruise – Part 5: Facts about Halifax

November 23, 2009

Little did I know what an interesting and charming place Halifax, Nova Scotia would be.  Besides knowing the name, I was ignorant about the place, which made it all the more entertaining when the Carnival Triumph slid into Halifax Harbor.

Georges Island, Halifax Harbor, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

As we passed an island that had a lighthouse and lighthouse keepers house, it appeared to have no people.  I had to look it up on Wikipedia after I got back to Columbus, Georgia, my home town, to learn about it. Indeed, there is no one on Georges island.  The lighthouse has been automated since the 1970’s. The Canadian government is working on turning it into a tourist attraction. After all, it has a historical fort, from which a shot was never fired in anger.

Noon cannon firing for tourists at Fort George, Halifax, NS

Only having a few hours to explore Halifax, we took a tour of the city on a London double-decker bus.  We saw a beautiful, clean town.  We stopped at a fort that is open to the puiblic, Fort George, which dates back to the 1700’s. A cannon is fired at noon every day for the tourists.  Halifax has never been attacked. But it had the two forts in case France, or, later, the United States decided to do it.  The Fort is now a park.  

We got off the bus at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.   If  you ever get to Halifax, don’t miss it.  you’ll learn a lot about the area’s history. Not only does it have a Titanic exhibit – survivors of the sinking were taken to Halifax, and a lot of those whose drowned bodies were recovered are buried in a Halifax cemetary – but it has have exhibits that explain that Halifax was a very important port in both World War I and II. Because it is a protected harbor that was safe from German submarines, it was the staging area for the convoys that took supplies to the United Kingdom in both wars.

Entrance to Halifax explosion of 1917 in Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, NS

The French also used the harbor in World War I, which led to a colossal disaster. It was and still is the largest accidental man-made explosion in the world. I learned about it while visiting the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. On December 6, 1917, SS Mont-Blac, a French cargo ship loaded with explosives destined to France, collided with the empty Norwegian SS Imo. The Mont-Blanc caught on fire, drifted close to shore, and exploded, destroying structures , killing 2,000 people and injuring 8,000. The explosion caused a tsunami in the harbor and a pressure air wave that demolished more buildings, grounded ships and carried fragments from the Mont Blanc for miles. I had never heard of it before.

1930 Snipe, a racing sailboat similiar to one I owned and raced, though this one is a lot older

I found the racing sailboat exhibit especially interesting because it sported a 1930 Snipe. I owned and raced a couple of Snipes for a number of years.  One was destroyed by a tornado at Lake Harding, which is north of Columbus,  on a Christmas day in the 1970’s. But that’s another story. Back to Halifax.

Having a 3-year-old friend who loves Thomas the Train, I found the exhibit about Canada’s answer to Thomas interesting.  The television program about Theodore the Tugboat was produced in Halifax and aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Kids love it, and still enjoy the re-runs and DVDs.  The actual real Theodore the Tugboat used for the show was docked nearby.  The model used for the annimated show, which is shown in the inset, is displayed in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Theodore the Tugboat docked near the Museum of the Atlantic, and (inset) the actual model that was used in making the annimated TV show, which is displayed in the museum, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax is the largest Canadian city east of Montreal and is the capital of Nova Scotia. Like Columbus, the economy gets a boost from the military; however it’s the Canadian Navy not Army, and Halifax is home of Canada’s Atlantic fleet. The Canadian Navy is not very large, only 33 ships. And though there are less than ten-thousand people employed by the naval base, Halifax’s economy is stronger than Columbus‘, with the median household income of more than $55 thousand.  Columbus has a median household income of almost $40 thousand. Halifax is a very busy port, the fourth busiest in Canada, and there are a lot of government service jobs there since it is the province’s capital. 

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada as seen from the Carnival Triumph cruise ship's dock All in all, we enjoyed Halifax. For one thing, we found a great Irish pub there where we had wonderful seafood chowder for lunch. Being the last stop, that should end this series of posts, but the trip back to New York had a little excitement. That will be the Cool Cruise finale. Don't miss it, and tell your friends to tune in!

Seeking Happiness? Try Volunteering

November 19, 2009

When charities most need money, they get less.  When the stock market goes south in recessions, so does philanthropical giving.  However, as reported in Time magazine by Nancy Gibbs, there is a bright side to this. She writes, “Americans may have less money – charitable giving in current dollars dropped for the first time in 20 years in 2008 – but about a million more people volunteered their time to a cause.”   She goes on to point out that the 8 of the 10 happiest states in the counrty also come in first in the top 10 for volunteering. She says money can buy comfort, but not contentment, that happiness correlates more with our connections and causes than with how much money we have.

Don deRoche, Red Cross Disaster Chair, holding the Dan Reed Rotary Service Above Self Trophy

That brings me to a man who must have discovered that a long time ago, because he has been giving a lot of his time to the Red Cross over the years.  Don deRoche is a retired Army major and civil service worker, who is now the Diasaster Chairman for the Red Cross in the Columbus area.  When disaster hits, he goes to the scene, determines what aid is needed and reports it to the Red Cross, which then goes to work supplying disaster relief. He does it for nothing but the satisfaction  of helping people when things go  very bad for them.

And he doesn’t do it just in our area.  Recently he went to Macon when a tornado struck there, and he went to Atlanta when flooding caused a lot of hardship for a lot of people.

There were tears in his eyes when he went up to accept the Rotary Club of Columbus’ Dan Reed Rotary Service Above Self Award.  The former Infantry combat veteran who served in the Vietnam War is passionate about helping people laid low by disasters.  He said that he went out to the site of a home that had been destroyed in Columbus a few nights ago. The resident of that destroyed home had no money to take a taxi to get to a shelter for the night. deRoche said that he reached into his own pocket and gave the man taxi fare, explaining that the Red Cross doesn’t give aid in that form.  He said that he was happy to do it. The club gives the award to one person each  year who has perfomed outstanding service for the Columbus community.  Club President Bob Jones said, “Columbus needs more people like Don deRoche.”  The world needs more people like Don deRoche.

Maybe you are thinking, do you practice what you preach?  Well, I do some volunteer work for some causes I support, but I am certainly not in the league with Don deRoche. Maybe I should do more. Maybe I will. It does provide satisfaction because I think Nancy Gibbs got it right when she said connections and causes correlate more with happiness than our net worth.

Cool Cruise – Part 5: Saint John, New Brunswick, Where the River Flows Both Ways

November 16, 2009

As our ship eased into Saint John Harbor, I thought, that quaint little scene is what I expected to see in coastal Canada in the fall. 

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Saint John Harbor, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

There were actually some pretty autumn leaves.  Our cruise was billed as an autumn leaves New England and Canada  affair, but we didn’t see hardly any of those until we got to Saint John.

I was looking forward to getting off the cold cruise ship – the 105, 509  ton Carnival Triumph has no heating system, which I learned after I got on the ship – and getting on a warm bus to tour Saint John.  The bus was warm, but we got out a few times, and the high that day in October was around 42 degrees, and it was drizzling.

The high tides there are the big tourist attraction.  The tides on the Bay of Fundy are among the highest in the world. The power of those tides is graphically demonstrated at the Reversing Rapid Falls.  The flow of the river reverses for a  few miles when the tides change.  It was really cold and wet when our bus stopped there, but shutter bugs like me hopped off to get a few shots. We didn’t  tarry, though.

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Reversal Falls Rapids on the Saint John River which feeds the Bay of Fundy, home of some of the highest tides in the world. That's an Irving family paper mill in the background.

All in all, Saint John is pretty small, a little more than 120,000 people in the metropolitan area.  That’s the second largest in New Brunswick. The city, with a little more than 68,000, is the largest.   It is the 6th largest port in Canada.   And it is the home of the late industrialist K.C. Irving, whose company is the largest single landholder in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Maine.   His company uses a lot of timber for its paper mills. His  three sons now operate the business, valued at between $7 – $9 billion.

As we say farewell to Saint John, we get ready to say hello to Halifax, Nova Scotia, a very different place.

(This website has some interesting pictures of Saint John and the Bay of Fundy)

The Tradition Started with Armistice Day

November 11, 2009
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National Infantry Museum on Veterans Day, November 11, 2009

A lot of folks showed up on this Veterans Day at the National Infantry Museum.  The fact that 280 members and guests of the Rotary Club of Columbus held their weekly meeting there today certainly contributed to the heavy volume. 

Rotary Club of Columbus meeting at the National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GAThe program for the Rotarians was to tour the museum.  Since I had already done it about four times, I decided to concentrate on a new exhibit that just popped up in the lobby.  It contained artifacts from World War One. 

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Matt Young demonstrates U.S. Army World War I gas mask

Matt Young, educational director for the museum, and Jack Reed, weapon’s curator supplied most of the artifacts from their own collection.  The light machine guns –  the British Lewis  and the French Chauchat – were furnished by the Army.

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French and British World War I light machine guns

Young Fort Benning soldiers found the exhibit especially interesting since they could compare the weapons, gas masks, toilet and mess kits, and other accoutrements of war used in World War I with what they use today. 

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Matt Young shows young Fort Benning soldier trainees how World War I weapons and equipment differ from what they use

Matt, who is a very enthusiastic teacher of history using museum props – previously he was director of education for the National Civil War Naval  Museum, where he often wore Civil War uniforms – was continuing his tradition of making history live by wearing a World War 1 Uniform.  He told me that this one-day exhibit was so appropriate because it represents Armistice Day, the forerunner of Veterans Day.  Armistice Day celebrates the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. It was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. 

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Jack Reed wearing World War I Scottish uniform

As I surveyed the exhibit I had to reflect on the colossal carnage of that  war.  It just about wiped out a generation of Europe’s young men.  The United States did not lose a generation to it, because our country was only in it for a year.  But, it did cost more than 116,000 American lives.

(I took all of the pictures but the one of the Rotary Club meeting. Jim Cawthorne of Camera1 took that one. Thanks, Jim.)

David Rothchild Was an Excellent Role Model for Columbus

November 11, 2009

I was saddened to hear that Columbus businessman and community leader David Rothchild had died. He valiantly fought a long battle with cancer.  I can remember when he came back from treatment at the Mayo Clinic and was honored by the Rotary Club of Columbus for his contributions to the community. Among those contributions were his years as a member of the Muscogee County School District School Board. When he spoke to the club his spirits were high and his sense of humor intact even though he had been through extensive surgery and chemotherapy.  He said that was he doing fine even if he did “look like hell.”  The audience laughed a loving laugh.

He was a caring man, not only for his dear wife Barbara and his family, but for his community.  I have always liked and respected him and Barbara.  We lost a true contributor to his community.  I agree with Rabbi Tom Friedman, who recently retired as Rabbi of Temple Israel, who told the Ledger-Enquirer,  “He was a gentle soul with incredible integrity.”

Cool Cruise – Part 4: Hello, Portland!

November 8, 2009

Finally, as promised, Portland, Maine!


Portland, Maine Harbor

Like Boston, entering a historic New England city by sea is a good way to do it.  It was the way that English Naval Captain Christopher Levett arrived in 1623 to settle the Portland area. His ship would probably fit in a dining room of the Carnival Triumph,  the cruise ship I was on. 

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Portland, once a busy port for sailing ships, still has some of them, but they are for sightseeing cruises

Like so many old cities in the United States, the old downtown area, now called the Old Port section, with its art college and art colony,  entertainment venues and many restaurants is the city’s main tourist attraction.  Also like many cities, a modern mall in another area of town is the main shopping center.  Our tour bus didn’t go there. It’s the historic stuff that pulls in the tourists. 

When you get into the names of historically significant Portland natives, number one would have to be Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the most popular poet in the world during the middle and late 1800’s.  His poems include The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and Hiawatha. He is the only American represented with a bust in the Poet’s Corner of London’s Westminster Abbey.  Buried in that corner are the great English writers  including Chaucer, Dickens, Elliot, and Wordsworth. 

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Portland Head Light Lighthouse

Probably the biggest tourist attraction in the Portland area is the Portland Head Light Lighthouse. This New England icon was built at President George Washington’s insistence.  Using whale oil as fuel, it was first lit in 1790.  It attracts more than  a million visitors a year.  The one negative is that it has no public restrooms with plumbing, only a long row of porta-potties.  Come on, folks,  restrooms don’t cost that much. 

Part of the attraction for taking a New England-Canadian cruise in October was to see the turning leaves in all of their glory.  We saw very few that would make you want to start humming “Autumn Leaves.”  In fact, you really don’t have to leave Georgia to see beautiful turning leaves.

Now, on to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada.

Cool Cruise – Part 3: You Have to Fly 500 MPH to Get to a Cruise Ship that Goes 25 Miles MPH

November 2, 2009

In my last post on our “Autumn leaves” cruise up the coast of New England and Canada, I said we would go to Portland, Maine next, and we will, in our next post, after a little side trip on the joys of getting to the ship which is about a thousand miles from where I live.

Flying to and from New York was mercifully not long.  On the flight to, I sat next to a woman with a baby boy in her arms and her other son, who was about five, in the middle seat. I thought, oh no, little kids are walking germ dispensers. (I did end up with a cold when I got back, but who knows where I got it.) Fortunately the kids were well behaved. The one in her lap was quite content because she hugged and kissed him just about all the way. The other kid was busy coloring most of the time.  I made a point of not talking to them because I figured I had best leave well enough alone. As we were landing, I did strike up a conversation, enough to learn that she was a native New Yorker who lived in Atlanta and was bringing her kids to visit relatives.  Mom and the kids got all excited when New York City, her home town, came into view,  with Mom pointing to the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks. “Look, there’s the Statue of Liberty,” she exclaimed to her two Atlanta boys. “See it?”  The five-year-old had a hard time zeroing in on it so I joined her in pointing it out.  He finally saw it.  They got almost as excited as I did. I’ve been to the Big Apple a few times before, but it had been a while.  NY from Delta lMG_0010_edited-1

Our Delta from Atlanta to New York was about 30 minutes late leaving, which made me anxious that we would literally miss the boat, the cruise ship Carnival Triumph. However, we got a tail wind and the pilot said he would notch up the plane’s speed to make up for lost time.  We arrived at LaGuardia five minutes early.

On the way back, I sat in a row with two ladies, one of whom should have paid for two seats, because she was that large.  Both middle arm rests had to be left down in order for her to slop over into the seat next to her. I was scrunched up for the entire flight. Such is life in the cheap seats.  

The bright side was the ride through downtown Manhattan to get to Pier 88 where the mega-ship Triumph was waiting.  I started singing the George M. Cohan classic show tune “Give My Regards to Broadway” when our bus crept down 42nd Street.  Remember the line ” tell all the gang on 42nd Street that I will be there?”  Everyone, all cruise bound like I, was enjoying the ride and in a good mood so nobody seemed to mind.  We even rode by Times Square where it looked like a million people were milling around. Intreped

Once we got to the docks, we got a brief glimpse of the aircraft carrier Intrepid floating museum, which is docked near the pier where the Triumph waited.  Maybe I’ll go back to see that some time. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go to Warner Robbins to see the Air Force Museum there first.  That’s only a hundred miles away, and I have never been there.

But I digress. I promise to do the Portland thing next.