October 13, 2019

Songs of America is a marvelous new book by Joh Meacham and Tim McGraw.   The subtitle is “Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation”.  You may think this “dynamic duo” is mis-matched but the book’s eight chapters speak to an American era — such as the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the civil rights movement — and tie in songs that represent that period, from “The Liberty Song,” (a little known pre-Revolutionary War song written in 1768 by founding father John Dickinson) to “Yankee Doodle Dandy,”  “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” The tunes, often in support or protest of a movement, give shape to the way that music tells the history of America as much as wars, economic instability and social agitation do.  The chapters are as follows:









Meacham provides the history of each era while McGraw furnishes information on specific songs very popular in each time period.  This provides an intersection between history and music which, in my opinion, really works.

These inserts by McGraw are “breakout” boxes that make us remember the time a historical situation in which they were popular.  McGraw wrote about the songs that inspired and moved him. Many of the tunes he knew; others, especially from the 1700s and 1800s, he researched as he picked which ones to dive into. “When I first started writing the sidebars, the first text I got back from Jon was ‘Look, Tim, don’t try to be a history writer,’” he laughs.  

The remarkable speed with which the project came together didn’t allow time for an audio accompaniment. However, the pair are touting it through a six-city theater tour that kicked off Monday in New York and runs through June 24 in Raleigh, N.C.  They discuss the chapters and then McGraw performs songs discussed in the text. They have also added in some of McGraw’s tunes that address themes in the book. “‘If You’re Reading This’ is the showstopper,” Meacham says.

Though McGraw performs some of his songs, they were intentionally left out of the book. “I wanted it to be more voyeuristic in my approach to looking at this,” he says. “I wanted it to come from being a musician point of view, but not from a successful artist point of view. I wanted to [show how] this music impacted me as a musician and as a history buff.”

I’m sure you know these guys, but if not, given below are their pictures. 

The book is two hundred and thirty-four (234) pages in length and provides an “easy read” for those of you needing to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  If you have ever read a book by Jon Meacham you know he uses numerous references and publishes those references.  This book is no different with thirty -four (34) pages of notes and reference material given.   

The book costs $30.00 U.S. and in my opinion is a must read.  Really good book if you enjoy history and/or music.


I think EVERY city, town, municipality, etc. has an obligation to provide its citizens with “stuff to do”.  A reason to go downtown whether that reason be dining, a waterfront event or a specific festival.  Roaming the streets is really not that interesting unless that “roaming” is associated with an event.  The movers and shakers in Chattanooga, Tennessee recognize that fact and constantly look for events to attract people to the downtown area.  Well, we have a new one.

Take a look at this news release:

“What separates the inaugural Chattanooga MotorCar Festival from other car shows that roll through Chattanooga?

Chattanooga MotorCar Festival is the only car event to offer a Concourse, a Rallye and time trials on a closed circuit — not to mention multiple family activities.

It all takes place in downtown Chattanooga’s West Village and on the riverfront when the first MotorCar Festival, presented by DeFoor Brothers and sponsored by Volkswagen of America, takes place Friday-Saturday, Oct. 11-12.

Hundreds of exotic, significant, one-of-a-kind cars — some from as far back as the early 1900s — are rolling into town Thursday to compete in the time trials and/or be shown in the Concours on the grounds of the Westin Hotel.

Of the 120 cars accepted for the Concourse, expect to see a 1928 Isotta Fraschini 8A Super Sprinto, a 1966 McLaren M1B Can-Am race car, a rare 1952 Porsche 356A 1500 Super America Roadster and Wayne Carini’s Moal Speedway Special.”


* What: Chattanooga MotorCar Festival

* Where: West Village and Riverfront Parkway

* When: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11; 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12

* Admission: $35 one-day pass, $55 two-day pass, $145 two-day VIP Package, ages 15 and younger are free but their admission to events will match the ticket level of their accompanying adult

* For more information:

My wife and I did go but preceded that event with a wonderful dinner at La Paloma.  If you love Italian and Spanish food, if you love tapas, if you love good wine—go to La Paloma.

Given below are several digital photographs from that “street scene”.

For the event, the streets around West Village and Riverfront Parkway were blocked off to through traffic.  Only foot-traffic was tolerated. This, of course, allowed participants to walk freely to the stage, the restaurants and other venues within the area. 

You can get an idea of the various entities within the West Village from the street signs above.  This is representative of a very few places you can go from the center point of the area.

The band was truly great and local. Priacilla and Little Ricky.  I have no idea as to how they got their name but they were really good and played music we all knew and could sing to if nuged just a little.  When we sat down at La Paloma they were playing Margueritaville. No rap, no heavy metal, etc. just good music.

You really need to visit Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The event above is only a small portion of what’s available.  Great place to live and visit.

Willamette Damn It

October 12, 2019

This past week my wife and I visited the Willamette Valley in the state of Oregon.  (By the way, it’s Will-am-met or as the locals say—Willamette Damn It.)  We had never been to Oregon but by the end of the very first day we knew we had selected one of the most beautiful states in the U.S for our visit.  The time of year was excellent also.  Weather was beautiful; mid-sixties, clear blue skies, fluffy white clouds.  You get the picture.

 Let’s do some homework first then we will take a pictorial trip into the Willamette Valley wine country.  The map you see below is courtesy of the Willamette Valley Wine Association and indicates the length and width of the wine-growing area within the valley itself.


The Willamette Valley is a one hundred and fifty (150) -mile long valley in Oregon. A state, as you know, located in the Pacific Northwest. The Willamette River flows the entire length of the valley, and is surrounded by mountains on three sides – the Cascade Range to the east, the Oregon Coast Range to the west, and the Calapooya Mountains to the south.  The geography; i.e. mountains protecting the valley below, etc. is the main reason wine-growing is possible and plentiful.  We were told the winds blowing west to east from the coast provide much-needed moisture during dryer seasons. 

The valley is synonymous with the cultural and political heart of Oregon, and is home to approximately seventy (70%) percent of its populationincluding the six largest cities in the state: Portland, Eugene, Salem, Gresham, Hillsboro and Beaverton.   Eight of Oregon’s top ten most populated cities, and sixteen (16) of its top twenty (20) – are located in the Willamette Valley.

The valley’s numerous waterways, particularly the Willamette River, are vital to the economy of Oregon, as they continuously deposit highly fertile alluvial soils across its broad, flat plain. From observation, we noticed the soil being as black as pitch indicating a very desirable condition for growing just about anything.   A massively productive agricultural area, the valley was widely publicized in the 1820s as a “promised land of flowing milk and honey”. Throughout the 19th century it was the destination of choice for the oxen-drawn wagon-trains of emigrants who made the perilous journey along the Oregon Trail.

Today the valley is often considered synonymous with “Oregon Wine Country”, as it contains more than nineteen thousand (19,000) acres of vineyards and over five hundred wineries.  The climate of the Willamette Valley is Mediterranean with oceanic features. This climate is characterized by very dry and mostly cloudless summers, ranging from warm to occasionally very hot, followed by cool, rainy, and consistently cloudy winters. The precipitation pattern is distinctly Mediterranean, with little to no rainfall occurring during the summer months and over half of annual precipitation falling between November and February.  In other words, ideal for agriculture including wine-growing.  We also noticed the acre after acre of hazelnut trees. 


Now that we know a little bit about the geography and location, let’s take a digital tour of the valley, the vineyards, and a few of the wineries.  As mentioned, there are over five hundred so obviously we only toured those being more prominent and having wine-tasting facilities.  Apparently, there is a considerable difference between the grapes, consequently the wine, grown in the valley as opposed to the hills surrounding the valley.  You will notice the rolling countryside and the acres of vines planted.  In the higher elevations, it was harvest time.  In the valley, the harvest had already been completed. When I talk about hills, the elevations are generally under one thousand feet but that certainly does make a difference in the quality and type of grapes grown. 

 One issue this year was the number of pickers available for harvest.  They are paid by the bucket which I thought was very interesting although I do not know how else that could be done.  In every case, the harvesting was accomplished by hand and no automatic equipment was used.  The picking is contracted using companies responsible for hiring temporary workers—mostly Hispanic.  When the harvest is completed, they move on to other areas of our country. 

The most beautiful vineyards were at elevation and not on the valley floor.  For this reason, most of the pictures I took are in the hills.  Let’s take a look.  You will notice the rolling countryside and neatly planted rows of vineyards.


There were some non-paved roads in the higher elevations requiring four-wheel drive.  This really surprised me but that’s just the way it is.  Notice the gently sloping elevation changes.  All of the vines are accessible even though the elevation changes.

The picture below is one of the most beautiful landscapes we came across.  I have no idea as to what flowers these were. 

As mentioned earlier, the harvest in the valley was complete but not in the hills.  You can see the grapes ready for picking and just hanging on the vines.

As you can see, the grapes are very accessible so a picker could move very quickly and fill a bucket in quick time.


The wineries were absolutely striking in design and size.  I have no idea as to how much investment was necessary to bring about the overall facilities.  One thing that did surprise us was the recent construction of the largest wineries.  These facilities were not decades old but fairly new.  We are now going to look at three wineries that we thought were absolutely beautiful inside and out.  In each case, of course, we were introduced to the wine produced by these facilities.  Great tasting and fabulous.  On one case, the wine was so good we joined their wine club.  Let’s take a look.

One thing that was striking—the landscaping leading up to all of the facilities. Immaculate, well-planned and well-maintained.

The digital above shows the “wine store”. Please note, not only wine but “T” shirts and other clothing as well as cork-screws, wine containers, etc. 

The next three photos show a grotto area used for parties, dinners and wine tasting.  The construction was fascinating.  Notice the very careful placement of the individual stones lining the room.  All walls and ceiling were lined with these flat stones.

The second winery we visited was quite different in design from the first but spacious—very spacious.  The staff was planning a wedding reception during our brief visit so the place was buzzing with anticipation of the event.

Third and last winery I will show you is below.  This winery was started some years ago by immigrants from Iran.  When the Shaw was disposed they traveled to the United States to start a new life.  We met one of the owners and discussed with him the  history of their travels and how they found Oregon to settle.  Fascinating story. 

This is the tasting room below

The wall hanging shown below is an actual Persian carpet brought from Iran during their exit from that country.


The object below is, believe it or not, a wine press from years ago.  This is how they used to do it.   How long would it take to press the grapes using that device?  The picture following the hand-cranked wine press shows the storage units and associated plumbing now used in modern-day wine making.  Big difference.

You can see wine making is big business in today’s world and it takes a huge investment in equipment and manpower to maintain the industry.


I can definitely recommend to you a visit to Oregon and the Willamette Valley.  Marvelous time but be sure to check the weather and go during the proper season.

The 18 September 2019 edition of the Wall Street Journal published a Journal Report entitled “Cybersecurity”.   They provide an incredible overview of cyber security with a test relative to how much we know about passwords.  I’m going to give you the test and to save time and “ink” the answers.  I have to say I was somewhat blown away with several of the answers. Here we go.

  1. How often do hacking-related data breaches leverage stolen or weak passwords?
    1. 10% of the time
    1. 27% of the time
    1. 63% of the time
    1. 81% of the time
      1. Answer “d”
  2. Common words and phrases are safe for passwords as long as they
    1. Are easy for you to remember
    1. At least 12 characters long and include a number and a punctuation mark
    1. Are in a language other than English
    1. None of the above:  they are not ever safe
      1. Answer “d”
  3. If you are struggling to come up with a secure password you should:
    1. Use a password generator
    1. Use your favorite song
    1. Use a pattern of keys such as ASDFG on your keyboard
    1. Ask a stranger for his wife’s date of birth
      1. Answer “a”
  4. Should you use a password manager?
    1. Yes, they are secure
    1. No, one password can be used to access all of your other passwords
    1. No, often they represent a backdoor scam to collect your passwords.
    1. No, they are for lazy people who can’t manage their own passwords
      1. Answer “a”
  5. It’s a bad idea to write passwords down because
    1. You could lose your scrap of paper
    1. Someone could find your passwords
    1. Alexa can read your writing
    1. Go ahead and write them down, it’s OK.
      1. Answer “d”
  6. Which of the following is a password once used by the magician, Teller of the duo Penn & Teller, and is it strong enough?
    1. PennStateOfMind
    1. Telleraboutit
    1. Tellereverythingyoufeel
    1. MofoKnows666
      1. Answer “d”
  7. You can use the password for more than account.  True or false?
    1. True
    1. False
    1. True, but only if you have strong passwords
    1. True, but only if you use it for passwords that are not important
      1. Answer “d”
  8. Who is considered a father of computer passwords?
    1. Fernando Corbato
    1. Alan Turing
    1. Bill Gates
    1. Ada Lovelace
      1. Answer “a”
  9. Which of the following passwords is the very best?
    1. Ilovecats
    1. EyeLuvKatzs3MeatPlatter
    1. iloveKatz123
    1. EyeLoveKatzs3MeatPlatter!WithAllPastrami
      1. Answer “b”
  10. How much longer does it take to crack a 12-character password drawn from uppercase and lowercase letters, the 10 digits and 10 symbols verses one with just 6 lowercase letters?
    1. 62 times longer
    1. 62,000 times longer
    1. 62 million times longer
    1. 62 trillion times longer
      1. Answer “d”
  11. On average, how many on-line accounts do people have that require passwords?
    1. 3
    1. 9
    1. 23
    1. 400
      1. Answer “c”
  12. What is the most common way Americans keep track of their passwords?
    1. Writing them down on paper
    1. Memorizing them
    1. Saving them on their Internet browser
    1. Using a password manager
  13. How many hours each year do employees spend resetting their passwords?
    1. About 2 hours
    1. Roughly 3 hours
    1. Around 18 hours
    1. More than 24 hours
      1. Answer “c”


September 1, 2019

Two weeks ago, the LST-325 visited Chattanooga and docked at the John Ross Landing on the Tennessee River. The LST-325 is the last fully operational World War II Landing Ship Tank (LST).  It sails each summer with a crew of approximately forty-five volunteers who sleep and eat on board while sailing twenty-four (24) hours per day at the rate of eight to ten miles per hour. Not fast but it does get there.


The idea for an LST, short for “Landing Ship, Tank”, came about after the Dunkirk evacuation demonstrated a dire need for large seafaring transports for large vehicles. The first attempt at building such ships was accomplished by converting three tankers from Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela.  These vessels were outfitted with bay doors and were used during the Operation Torch landings in Algeria in 1942. Meanwhile, experts from both Britain and the United States’ navies started putting together requirements for new LST designs.  In 1941, the name LST was born with preliminary specifications detailing each requirement for the entire structure. Within a few days, John Niedermair of the US Navy Bureau of Ships completed the first sketch of the design. It called for a large ballast system that could be filled with sea water to give the ship a deep draft for seafaring, or emptied so that the ship could sail very close to beaches where they would unload their cargo. The design was accepted by the US Navy, then sent for approval with the Royal Navy on 5 November 1941. Almost immediately, the Royal Navy accepted the design and asked for two hundred (200) to be built for Britain under the Lend-Lease program. The first LST keel was laid down at Newport News, Virginia and first production of an LST set sail four months later in Oct 1942. From the very first moment, the construction program for LSTs took a very high priority. In some instances, even heavy industry plants inland such as steel yards were converted for LST construction.

The first action that saw LSTs in service was the Solomon Islands Campaign in June of 1943.   Almost immediately, they were used in the Sicily landings in the Mediterranean. Although slow and unwieldy, they were tough enough to absorb a tremendous damage. In fact, despite being a valuable target for carrying large amounts of cargo, only twenty-six (26) were lost in action; of the twenty-six (26), only thirteen (13) were actually sunk by enemy fire. While almost every landing operation employed LSTs, they were versatile enough to serve in other roles. Some were converted to become repair ships, others into floating barracks for two hundred (200) officers and men, while thirty-eight (38) LSTs were converted into hospital ships. In Jun 1944, converted LST hospital ships brought 41,035 wounded men from the Normandy beaches in the first couple days of the invasion.

LSTs were very involved with the invasion of Western Europe during WWII.  You can see the various routes taken by LSTs in Operation Overlord.

After the war, hundreds of LSTs were scrapped or sunk, with a few sold to civilian organizations.  Most of the remainder were mothballed. 1,051 LSTs were constructed during WW2, six hundred and seventy (670) of which were built by five (5) major inland locations, with the largest being Evansville, Indiana, United States. Of the LSTs exported from the US, Britain was the largest customer with one hundred and thirteen (113) LSTs in service during WW2.


Let’s take a tour of the 325 and see just what this vessel is about.

I was very surprised at the size of this ship.  I suppose I thought it would be similar to the Higgins Boats used as landing craft during the Normandy invasion.  LSTs can carry up to three hundred (300) people.

My wife and I decided to go early to avoid the lines and the heat.  We arrived about 9:30 in the morning.  Happy we did.  Take a look.

In 2014 the LST 325 visited Chattanooga and over twenty thousand (20,000) people toured the vessel.

It’s difficult to get an idea as to the length and overall size by looking at the pictures above.  A model inside will give you a much better idea as to physical dimensions.

Another indicator, JPEGs of the internal compartments.

As you can see, it is HUGE.

The control room is typical mid-1940s with all systems being analog.

Today this seems antiquated but back then it was state-of-the art.  Now take a look at the radio room.

Once again, all analog—no digital whatsoever.

The enlisted men’s quarters are very interesting. On my tallest day, I’m about 5’-8” but the length of the bunks must have been shorter than that.  I have no idea as to how anyone could get a good night’s sleep and fully “stretch out”.

There was a helipad for helicopter landings.  This surprised me greatly.

Another big surprise, and I don’t know why, was the size of the wench and the anchors.

You cannot have a battle ship without defensive equipment.  The machine gun below is just one of several on the vessel.

CONCLUSIONS:  As always, things change with improving technology.  Virtually nothing is analog any more but digital.  GPS has removed much of the effort relative to navigation and the accuracy is remarkable, down to the inch in some cases.  War, unfortunately, has not changed.  It’s always we kill you, before you kill us.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Regardless as to the medium of expression, all parents hope their children will display some level of creativity.  The big challenge for every parent—how to foster creativity.  Cultivating a child’s creative side can provide rich and long-lasting rewards which correlates with greater professional success later in life.  In any discipline, creativity is all about generating unique, innovative ideas.  Well, there are things a parent can and must do to bring forth creativity.  Let’s take a look.

  • MAKE READING A RITUAL—There is a critical level of literacy that must be reached in order to be creative in every field of endeavor.   If you have substandard reading ability, or if you do not enjoy reading, it is almost impossible to accumulate the necessary knowledge for success.  For the most part, people get creative ideas through reading.
  • LET FREEDOM RING--For most children, it is necessary to give them the freedom to pursue their own interest, even if those methodologies seem unorthodox.  This freedom comes with independence, which is a critical element.  Now, all of this freedom and independence must be within the bounds of safety for the child, but they must experiment on their own.
  • ENCOURAGE GROUP CREATIVITY-– It has been proven that collaboration plays a big role in creativity.  People working “solo” have a limited range of ideas.  Everyone needs access to differing perspectives to plant the seeds of creative insights in many cases.  There is an old saying—if you think you’re the smartest person in the room you need to change rooms.
  • WHAT NOT TO DO-– Pressuring your child to get straight “A’s” probably is NOT the best strategy.  Great grades will not necessarily bring forth creativity.  History is replete with individuals having mediocre grades yet producing genius later in life.  Ever hear of a guy named Einstein?  It is also very important for a parent to refrain from pushing their children in specializing in an interest too early.  Burnout at fifteen is not that uncommon. 
  • AVOID AN ABUNDANCE OF RULES-– This might be a tough one but it has been proven that too many rules stifles, or can stifle, creativity.   When there are too many rules a child tends to follow the lead of the adult giving the rules.  They do not think for themselves.  Parents should not try to shield their children from grown-up arguments. Airing intellectual disagreements at dinner can be greatly beneficial.
  • STROKE CURIOSITY—Above all, make sure your child keeps searching for exciting new pursuits and avenues of interest.  Teaching curiosity is teaching a child to wonder about things they may have not considered before.  This results in open-ended questions.  Promote that as a parent.

My wife and I have three children, six grandchildren and one great grandchild.  Promoting creativity is NOT an easy task for a parent or grandparent.  It takes time, effort and sustained attention.

Archimedes declared “Eureka I’ve found it”.  Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith of the “A-Team” said, “I love it when a plan comes together”. Boo-yah is a cry of success used by the Army. Well, down here in the South we call the act of discovery a Jubilation T. Cornpone moment.  Okay, have you ever made the statement: “I thought of that some months ago” only to lament the fact that you did not act appropriately and give your idea wings?  We all have. Let’s take a look at several “serendipity” moments that resulted in great discoveries being brought to commercialization.

  • Legend has it that Archimedes was about to bathe when he discovered that an object’s buoyancy force equals the weight of the fluid it displaces. Thrilled, he ran naked through Syracuse shouting “Eureka”.
  • According to biographers, Paul McCartney composed this melody in a dream at the Wimpole Street of then-girlfriend Jane Asher.  Upon waking, he rushed to a piano and played the tune to avoid forgetting it.  The tune was Yesterday.
  • Riding a streetcar in Bern, Switzerland, Einstein was struck by the sight of the city’s medieval clock tower—and was inspired to devise his elegant special theory of relativity: time can beat at different rates throughout the universe, depending on how fast you move.
  • We can all thank Josephine Knight Dickson for those ubiquitous adhesive bandages later known as Band-Aids.  She often cut and burned herself while cooking.  So, in 1920 these events prompted her husband, Earle, a Johnson cotton buyer, and Thomas Anderson to develop a prototype so Josephine could dress her wounds unaided.
  • At the tender age of fourteen (14) Philo Farnsworth was plowing a potato field when he suddenly realized how television could work.  The back-and-forth motion of the till inspired him to imagine how an electron beam could scan images line by line—the basis for almost all TVs until LCD and plasma screens.
  • 3M scientist Spencer Silver just could not interest the company in his low-tack, pressure-sensitive adhesive.  Then colleague Arthur Fry found an application—at choir practice. Coating the sticky stuff on paper, Fry reasoned, he could create stay-put paper in his hymnal as a bookmark.
  • GoPro visionary Nick Woodman invented his wrist-strap-mounted, 35-millimeter camera while trying to capture his passion surfing on film. He turned it into a business that, at its height, was worth eleven (11) billion dollars.
  • The quickie oven (microwave) was born while engineer Percy Spencer was working on magnetrons for military radar sets.  When a candy bar in his pocket melted near various radar components, Spencer realized microwaves could penetrate the exterior of a food and cook it from inside out-unlike old-school ovens that cook from the outside in.
  • In 1905, eleven (11) year old Frank Epperson of Oakland, California mixed sugary soda power with water and left it out on a cold winter’s night.  The concoction froze-and proved delicious when he licked it off the wooden stirrer. Epperson, who died in 1983, dubbed his accidental treat the Epsicle and later patented it.  He sold the rights in 1925.
  • One day in 1941, George de Mestral took his dog for a walk in the Swiss woods.  When returning, he noticed burrs stuck to his pants–which refused to be removed. Under a microscope, de Mestral saw that the burrs had tiny hooks that attached themselves to thread loops in his pants.  Sensing a business opportunity, he connected with a Lyon fabric manufacturing firm and named the product with portmanteau of “velvet” and “crochet”—French for hook.
  • At the height of WWII, a mechanical engineer named Richard James was trying to devise springs that could keep sensitive ship equipment steady at sea.  After accidentally knocking spring samples from a shelf, he watched in astonishment as the springs gracefully “walked” down instead of falling. Teaming with his wife, Betty, James developed a plan for the wonderful novelty toy Slinky.

All of these “inventions” were waiting to happen but just depended upon creative minds to bring them into fruition.  This is the manner in which creativity works.  Suddenly with great flashes of brilliance.

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