Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."

31.3.09

[Moblog] Cupcakery-STL

Before departing the Gateway City for the west, we stopped by the
original Cupcakery (founded by our friend Meredith's sister Ericka a
year before Meredith opened her Knoxville store).

The Italian cream cake cupcake was delicious! Shelby prefers the
cakewich, Jarrett the Gold Rush. Sophie, unfortunately, slept through
it all.

30.3.09

On the Move

Elvis has left the building -- and the Great State of Tennessee!

We spent our final day in Oak Ridge packing, painting, cleaning and packing some more. Shelby had a final performance in ORCBA's Cinderella, and Shane had to learn the hard way that Home Depot's paint computer is not terribly accurate when matching samples....

Our house was left in beautiful condition -- truly "move-in ready" for our still-to-be-found buyer -- and our pets (2 cats & 4 chinchillas) plus a half-ton of stuff the movers couldn't fit or wouldn't take were loaded into our Montero & 4' x 8' U-Haul trailer.

Rather than leaving around noon as planned, we did not pull out of our driveway until 4:40pm EDT yesterday (Monday). The good news is that "45mph Speed Limit" emblazoned on the U-Haul trailer's fender is only "recommended" (the brochure even says this) and we made it to St. Louis before midnight CDT. The view from our room (at the pet-friendly, car-plus-trailer-accommodating, Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch):


Today, we'll hang out for the morning -- swim a bit in the 8th floor pool, get breakfast, go to the top of the Gateway Arch (a Facebook "Bucket List" item), and stop by the original Cupcakery to replicate a previous blog post. Then we drive across Missouri and most of Kansas -- with a planned arrival in Colorado Springs by lunchtime tomorrow!

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26.3.09

[Moblog] Improvization

We are fully packed (325 boxes/crates/cartons later) and ready for the driver to load our household goods tomorrow. However, we forgot to leave out a corkscrew.....

No worries. A 1/4" drill bit and cordless drill is practically the *same* thing. Just a little bit messier....

Kudos to K-ville friend Desiree for the FABULOUS Masciarelli, which we are enjoying with dear friends from Virginia who drove 550 miles to surprise Shelby before we leave on Monday. Video coming soon....

22.3.09

A Decade Apart

Shelby's pal Jake from her "Baby Hui" (1997-1999 in Hawai'i) spent a couple days with us while his mom attended a conference in Nashville. Though Shelby was feeling a bit under the weather this afternoon, she indulged a "now-and-then" photo.

Sophie Eats

Sophie loves her rice cereal. But when the box proved to not be as tasty as what's inside of it, she thought the camera looked a lot tastier....

21.3.09

60 Years Ago: Secret No More

The city of Oak Ridge, founded solely as the site for enriching the fuel of the world's first nuclear weapons during the Manhattan Project of World War II, was a cloistered community where residents had to wear identification badges outside of their homes and visitors needed security clearances.

All of that changed sixty years ago, on March 19th 1949, when the "Secret City" of Oak Ridge was opened to the world at a "ribbon burning" hosted by Vice President of the United States Alben Barkley. Today's commemoration featured the contemporary peers of the dignitaries from that day (with the exception of VPOTUS): Gerald Boyd, Manager of the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge Office, for John Franklin, the 1949 Manager of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission's Oak Ridge Operations; Dr. Thom Mason, Director of ORNL, for C. Nelson Rucker, the 1949 Director of X-10; Mayor Tom Beehan, for 1949 Town Council Chair W.A. Swanson; and Rev. Mark Walton, 2009 Pastor of Glenwood Baptist Church, who delivered the same invocation as Rev. Roy Arbuckle, the 1949 Pastor of Glenwood Baptist Church.


In the 1949 "ribbon burning", following remarks by Fred Ford (the 1949 U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Director of Community Affairs), George Felbeck (who led the K-25 gaseous diffusion purification plant for Carbide) made a 13-word telephone call to the operators at the Graphite Reactor in X-10 (ten miles away in Bethel Valley, today's Oak Ridge National Lab) to initiate the energy pulse that would burn the ribbon and officially open the Secret City to the world. While the 10,000 onlookers on that day had to wait nearly three minutes for the capacitors to charge and the ribbon to burn, today (after city historian Bill Wilcox's identical call), we only had to wait about 40 seconds:





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20.3.09

AMSE and Neighbors

Today I took the older kids (two plus visiting friend Jake, who was Shelby's Baby Hui pal way back when in the 1990s) to the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge. AMSE is the best museum deal we've found, with a family membership for only $35 and several pages of reciprocal museum listings worldwide.

This week is the 60th anniversary of both the founding of AMSE as well as the "opening" of Oak Ridge, so admission was just a quarter (yep, $0.25) per person.

Jake showed how to levitate (with the help of a floor-to-ceiling mirror), while (below) Shelby tried the Van der Graaf generator and Jarrett worked in the Y-12 style glove box.


After a quick stop at the Razzleberry Ice Cream Lab, we walked down the hill for a "farewell party". Dozens of neighbors and friends came to wish us safe travels -- a bittersweet evening!

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19.3.09

Civil War: Western Theater


We spent our St. Patrick's Day driving from Hammond, Louisiana (north shore of Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans) to Nashville. Along the way we stopped at two historic sites: the Vicksburg National Military Park on the east bank of the Mississippi River, and Shiloh National Military Park in southwestern Tennessee.

Vicksburg is significant because it was the culmination of then-Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's campaign in the Western Theater. On July 4th, 1863 (the day after the Battle of Gettysburg a thousand miles to the northeast ended), CSA Lt. Gen. Pemberton surrendered to Grant's Army of the Tennessee -- thereby freeing the Mississippi River for Union commerce and splitting the Confederacy in half. It's important to note that, though the Union had an impenetrable naval blockade of the CSA during the war, the CSA's command of the Mississippi prevented many Union goods from reaching their European markets -- a riverine blockade.

Vicksburg also features the raised timbers of the USS CAIRO, one of seven City-class ironclads that was sunk by what would today be called an IED: an electrically-switched, command-activated floating mine. The port bow in the above photo shows the damage to her hull; she sunk in less than 12 minutes.


Finally, shortly before sunset, we reached Shiloh in southwestern Tennessee. This battle marked the beginning of Grant's ascendancy in the Union Army, where his Army of Western Tennessee became simply known as the Army of the Tennessee. Pinned against the Tennessee River and Owl Creek Swamp, Confederate General Johnston sought to push Grant's forces into the swamps. But fierce fighting in the "Hornet's Nest" (the far side of Duncan's Field in the photo above, across the Sunken Road at the far edge of the field -- we're looking from the Confederate lines near Ruggle's Batteries) slowed the Confederate advance to allow Grant to reform his lines.

After Johnston fell in the first day's fighting, his second-in-command, Maj. Gen. Beauregard, halted the advance at dark -- content to finish Grant off the following April morning (note that this was in 1862, full year before the seige at Vicksburg). However, Union General Buell's Army of the Ohio linked up to reinforce Grant's position -- and allowed the Union to stage a counterattack at dawn, forcing a haphazard retreat by the CSA forces back into Mississippi.

So many end results are the consequence of narrowly-decided actions at the razor's edge. Had Johnston not fallen, had Beauregard kept his advance, had Stonewall Jackson not fallen to friendly fire at Chancellorsville a year later, had Longstreet heeded Hood's advice at Gettysburg to flank Meade's lines at Gettysburg -- had any of these events occurred, and we could still be a nation divided.

Addenda: With this trip, Renee has tied me with 49 states visited. So I need to see North Dakota before she gets to Maine.... Shelby is at 46, Jarrett at 44, and Sophie (after our move to CO at the end of this month) will be at 15. Our "electoral maps" (h/t to tdaxp) follow:




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18.3.09

[Moblog] Nashville Rendez-vous

Dear friend Subhashini & son Jake (from our Hawai'i "Baby Hui" in
1998-99) arrived in Nashville this morning. We met them at the
airport and are now catching up at the Vanderbilt U. Starbucks - at
the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace (a trail we spent *many*
miles riding yesterday).

16.3.09

[Moblog] N'awlins

We arrived in the French Quarter just before the bells of Basilica St
Louis King of France struck six. Before dinner (and a "haunted"
tour), we are stopping by the legendary Cafe du
Monde for beignets and cafe au lait.

15.3.09

[Moblog] Space Camp

Our first stop on our spring break roadtrip is Huntsville, Alabama - not only the future home of my employer, but also home of U.S. Space Camp.

Shelby, Jarrett and Sophie are dwarfed in Space Shuttle Park, beneath the PATHFINDER.

Tomorrow, we'll head to New Orleans for beignets and cafe au lait at Café du Mond (plus an after-sunset "Haunted Tour"). We'll then spend Tuesday walking the terrain of two Civil War battlefields: Vicksburg, MS (the CSA's last fortress on the Mississippi River, which fell the day after Gettysburg) and Shiloh, TN (the bloodiest single-day of the war before Antietam).

11.3.09

Civilian Control of Nuclear Weapons

Oak Ridge National Laboratory's "History Room" is a veritable treasure trove of insights into the early days of the Cold War and the transition from the Manhattan Project to a civilian-led Atomic Energy Commission. Since 60% of the entire Manhattan Project budget was spent here in east Tennessee, it's a fitting and appropriate role for the lab (formerly known as "X-10") to play.

Last year a retired lab chemist named Ellison Taylor passed away at the age of 94. The executors of his estate provided the History Room with a box of his personal papers. Buried within his research notes was a carbon copy of a letter dated 18 March 1946, signed by fifteen Division-level managers from X-10 (including future Laboratory Director Alvin Weinberg, who would later chair a commission for President Kennedy that sowed the seeds for increased transparency in government).

This letter was addressed to Sen. Brian McMahon, Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Atomic Energy and author of the forthcoming Atomic Energy Act of 1946. At issue was the manner by which nuclear weapons research would be managed within the federal government.

On the one hand, MG Leslie Groves deftly left the Manhattan Project to a swift and favorable conclusion of World War II. The "establishment" logic, embodied in the Vandenberg Amendment to the proposed Atomic Energy Act, which would have created a governing military board with "veto" authority over the proceedings of the Atomic Energy Commission.

The scientists had work
ed side-by-side with soldiers for more than four years. Their opinion was that "... that military control would ... increase immeasurably the very dangers that we wish to avoid."

This paragraph summarizes the civilian scientists' sentiment for "The Army Way":
The delays produced by the army system of compartmentalization, denying the research men on the atomic energy project access to facts that are necessary for their work, the procrastination in releasing results of highest value to the medical and biological sciences though these results are of no military importance, show that it is only detrimental to place the power of censorship into the hands of persons who are in no position to judge the facts.
The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 was passed -- without the Vandenberg Amendment. And civilian control of our nuclear arsenal, a model complementary to our nation's civilian control of its military forces, was assured.


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10.3.09

Bailin' Out

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Slainte!

1.3.09

First Meal

Sophie has been staring intently at us when we've been eating lately -- particularly if I am eating a cookie. This made us think that she was ready for some solid food herself. After all, she is a striking young lady of five months (heck, that's almost half a year!).

So, with a small bowl of rice cereal, a little bit of formula, an oversized plastic-lined bib and a rubber-coated spoon, we gave the Sophiebean her first solid meal.

Since more ended up on her chin than in her mouth, perhaps it's still too soon....

[Moblog] Pump It Up

One of Jarrett's classmates had her birthday party at "Pump It Up", with several industrial-size inflatable slides and obstacle courses. Though the kids were told to "do something silly" for the photo, they were so worn out after 90 minutes of non-stop play that the most they could muster was a smirk.