Menu   Email

a different azimuth
the website of john neel

my journal

"A man can only do what he can do.  But if he does that each day, he can sleep at night, and do it again the next day." ~ Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, 21 March, 2018: Spring Snow

Yeah.  It snowed today.  I woke up , ready to go to the winery to pick up the welcome bag wine, and looked outside to check the weather.  The neighborhood was covered.  I think we got about five to six inches...that's what it looked like to me.  A few of my friends who know my dislike for snow played around with me on Facebook, which I enjoyed.  It was good to hear from Jessica, the first Deb from the Old Dominion Cotillion who adopted me.  Great young Lady!

The winery was closed, so I didn't have to do that, but I did take Cooper out for a walk.  He loves the snow and it was fun watching him tunnel through it.  He would run, dip his nose, and plow ahead until he surfaced, and then pounce around like a crazy dog.  I haven't laughed so hard in a long while.  I took forever to get him calmed down enough to do his business.  Clean up back in the house took about an hour.

I went for a haircut at Chung's Barbershop after the girls got home.  Mistake.  The guy spoke no English and the instructions to "leave my hair longer and leave my beard alone" were lost in translation.  The cut he gave me looks good, but I want more hair than this.  I miss Bucks.  I will have to find an English speaking barber before my next cut...if there is a next cut...ever.   Maybe I'll go with Kim to her Stylist.

Tonight we went to eat at Bonefish Grill...again.  Not my favorite place.  I need to get a steak next time.  Their other dishes are just too foo-foo for me.  "Foo-foo" is a technical man-term meaning 'fancy," but not in a good way.  I made do with a lot of hot sauce on  the Blackened Shrimp Tacos, but I won't get that again.

Tomorrow is full.  I have to go to Blenheim Winery to get the wine, then to Richmond to pick up Heather and Buck.  Ed comes in at 1930 to the C'ville Airport.  Then we're all meeting at South Street Brewery for drinks.  Friday shouldn't be rushed for me, but Kim, Kelly, and Elise are super busy.  After that, I'm not sure of my time-line.



Sunday, 18 March, 2018: Dad-Daughter Time and The Tree

Yesterday, I picked up my suit and put it on after I got back to the house.  I think I look pretty damn handsome in it.  Elise and Kim said, sweetly, that they agreed.

Elise and I went to see Red Sparrow in the afternoon, a really good movie with Jennifer Lawrence.  It is a movie that will keep you guessing until the very end, and then, still you aren't sure.  I hope they make sequels.  I hardly ever say that, but I want more of the story.  More of Jennifer Lawrence would be OK too.

After the movie, I was supposed to go to Lex for the last home water polo game, but the movie was longer than I expected and we didn't get out until after the game had started.  We went to the Airport to get Andy, so the main  players in this wedding are all closed in.  We did Bangers and Mash at Jay and Kelly's for St. Patrick's Day after Andy landed.  They were drinking, but I wasn't so, bored and with nothing to read and my phone going dead, I had Kim bring me home; she went back.

They all came back to the house, well after midnight, and woke me up because Elise was having a small meltdown about her Grandmother not being at her wedding.  They were very close friends.  I knew this pouring of emotions  was coming because she had been talking about how she didn't want her grandparents mentioned during the wedding and we talked about them all the way home from the movie.  It was good for her to cry a little.  Alcohol is good for that.  We are all good now, I think.

I got up this morning and walked to The Tree for a photo shoot.  I took my digital and my Mamiya RZ-67.   was able to stay off of the guys property and frame the shot just as I had pictured it driving by day after day.  I was just in time.  It has already begun to bud, though from the distance I took the shot, you can't tell.  The time of day was perfect.  I was there just after sunup, so the side of the tree facing my camera was illuminated by the first rays of light and the shadows ran away behind it toward the path.  My shadow was in the bottom of the photo, but easily cropped out.  I may keep it.

E-mailing with Vicki about why this tree interests me so, I told her:

"I'm not sure what catches my eye.  Maybe it is shape, but it isn't symmetry.  Maybe it is age, but it isn't always health.  Perhaps, and I think this most probable, it is my appreciation of what the tree must have "seen" in its life.  Trees also say "Family" to me...or, more specifically, "Posterity."  I like that I have a son, and he has a son, who will take the Neel Family Name into the future...seedlings.

Old struggling trees captivate me...especially now that I'm in my mid sixties, have lots of white hair, and the end of my life approaches. That's when I think of Burning and an old tree in Spring sprouting what buds it can."


16 March, 2018: Getting Ready

Elise and Andy's big day is coming on fast.  Elise's dress came in yesterday.  I tried to get her to put it on so I could take photos, No Deal.  My people are not being supportive of my photography.

My suit should be ready for pickup today.  I bought a nice navy blue suit, just for the wedding.  Kim talked me into a pink tie for the day, but I doubt that I'll wear that again...not my style.   I bought a nice maroon for when I wear the suit again.  Kim also bought me some navy and pink argyle socks.  I think this is silly, but, OK, I can do this for my daughter.  She seems very excited about the pink stuff.

Cooper and I had a good long walk yesterday.  The weather was breezy, but warm, probably the warmest day of the month, so I wore a t-shirt and shorts.  It was so nice to get out without a sweatshirt or jacket.

We had dinner at Jonathon and Kelly's house last night.  It was good to have the whole Family around the table for a change.


14 March, 2018: Pi Day

Stephen Hawking died today.  If he had to go, I guess going on Pi Day, was poetic.  Maybe I can ENDEX on the 82nd's Birthday or something.

I drove to a dental appointment in Buena Vista this morning.  Kim and I will be keeping our dentist thee because we love them.  Best dental team ever.  They finished my cleaning in no time, so I went to the car wash and washed Bess, then took COL Hutchings back his twenty dollars, then picked up Rebecca for lunch.  I took her to foothill Mama's for BBQ.   It was good to catch up and I may have asked too many questions about VMI for my perceived state of mind.  I guess I still care...a little.

I was back home in time for the girls to go shopping and to take Cooper for a favorite thing!


12 March, 2018: Marines

Kim is home, just ahead of the predicted snow storm.  We didn't get shit.  It flurried a bit, but didn't stick.  This is one time I wanted a nice snow.  There is this tree across the highway that has my photographer's attention.  It is huge, beautifully shaped, and standing alone in a big field, actually someone's yard.  I see photographs of it in my minds eye during the four seasons.  I just need the right conditions and correct vantage point.  I sure don't want Highway 29, one of the most unhappiest of places, in the photo.  No Snow, No what I'm thinking.  Soon, it will be budding and time for the "Spring" photo.  The Snow quadrant may have to wait till next Winter.

The wedding looms ahead in less than two weeks.  I'm really looking forward to Elise's day. The planning is going well, a few hiccups, but well.  Elise and Cooper drive in tomorrow.  She, Kim, Kelly, and Emily just had a girl's weekend in Charleston for her final dress fitting. Today, she and Cooper are in New port news at Femms and Fidos for his pre-wedding grooming.  Of course, Cooper will be in the wedding.

While they were in Charleston, I drove up to Dwyn's to give her her coffee cup, which she left in the Appartement le Miz, and to pick up my Turk Cezve coffee maker.  After a steak and egg breakfast, we went to the Marine Corps Museum, a great place to visit.  I loved the exhibits, especially the aircraft.  They had a F4 Corsair!  I love that plane...Baa Baa Black Sheep, What!

On the way back, I hit Spotsylvania Battlefield, and then went for a recon of Lake Anna State park.  Goot thing I did. I'm looking for a secluded cabin to rent for about four days, for hiking, boating, swimming, and WRITING.  The cabin area of Lake Anna is too crowded, mixed in with the RV sites.  James River and Douthat look more promising.  I'll check them out this Spring.



7 March, 2018: Farewell

Kim, Jay, and I drove to Lex yesterday afternoon for my farewell from the Commandant's Staff.  We all met in Moody Hall for drinks and food.  Thought I didn't want to do it, it was really nice of them to go to the trouble.  They gave me my clock from VMI, which will be forever set at 5:05,and a really nice Ek knife, made in Richmond.  Perfect. 

The L-Train, Gary, The Hutch, Eric, and the Commandant, Bill, had kind words to say, and then they turned the floor over to me.  These people are the best of the best and a great team.  I have worked with no finer people in my life, and I will sorely miss them.

Today I took a walk around Preddy Creek Trail Park, a slightly confusing network of trails on the ridges above Preddy Creek.  When I checked it out on-line, I knew I would need a map, so I printed one out and took it with me.  It came in handy or I might still be out there. I certainly would have walked farther than I did, and i was pretty tired by the end of my hike.  The trails are easily defined and marked, but there are no directional signs telling you which way to go. Yeah, Take a Map.

This time of year, it is pretty barren out there, but once the leaves come out, it is going to be a spectacular place to go.  It's mostly secondary hardwood forest, with a few pines here and there.  Even this time of year there were wrens and warblers in the trees. I caught a fleeting flashes of yellow throughout the park. I love the quiet in this park.

I only saw two people there the entire afternoon, one young lady with her dog, who were leaving, and a gentleman about my age down by the creek with his dog.  This is going to be one of my favorite places to go, year-round, next trip being when Cooper is here while Elise and Andy go on their honeymoon.


1 March, 2018: Home to Cold, Rain, and Wind

The ride home was easy, but boring.  I expected to follw Kim home, but she got up before me and left as I took Cooper for a last walk.  I was on the road by 7 o'clock, about an hour and a half behind her.  My trip was pretty uneventful until I got to NC.  I stopped at Bentonville Battlefield State park and walked the ground.  I had been there before and it was as I remembered it, not much to see but one canon, a few monuments, and eroded Union trenches.  You really have to know the story to appreciate it.  The battle is a great study in how Audacity can be used as an advantage.  At this battle, twenty-thousand Confederates attacked sixty-thousand Union and came very close to whipping them.

There is a small cemetery of unknown soldiers and a large marker over the mass grave near the visitor's center, a stark reminder of the 4,133 casualties of this battle just a few weeks before the surrender.

Though I don't miss the pollen, I sure miss the Spring weather in Georgia.  It is cold and rainy here, and for the next three days we're supposed to get 50 MPH winds.  So, I'm inside.  I've been doing the Honey-do-List.  I repaired the leaky toilet flap downstairs, re-wired the perfectly fine hall lighting fixture to find out it was only the bulb, and I called VMI Human Resources about an issue.

AND...I've been working on this page, editing and figuring out problems. How I miss my editor and proofreader Sylvia.


26 February, 2018:  Heading to Charlottesville

Kim and Elise are on their way home from Minnesota and Bridal Shower things.  Cooper and I have taken a walk every morning, but have pretty much stayed inside.  The ground is yellow with pollen out there and I'm covered with it after our walk.  My sinuses are stopped up and my eyes are itchy.  I'm  managing it with Visine Maximum, a Neilmed Neti Pot, and frequent showers.  Cooper seems OK with lounging around.  We're enjoying Turner Classic Movies.

Kim and I will head home tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to being among my things again.  I have missed my guitar.  I should have brought it with me, but I thought I'd be traveling and doing mostly photography things.

I'm going to miss the warm weather; it is still in the 50s in Charlottesville, but maybe I'll get a respite from this pine pollen.

March is going to be Busy!


23 February, 2018: Batchin It with Coop

The girls left for Minnesota this morning for Bridal Shower stuff.  Cooper and I will begin traveling again tomorrow.  The pollen is killing me.


21 February, 2018: The Web Site

 On the 7th, I took Cooper to see Fort Pulaski.  It is a great site, very well-maintained and beautiful.  Cooper was very well-behaved and fun for the entire crowd; everyone adored him.  Our trip was a great history lesson and a very good example of why we have to invest in military technology and how we should never let our military fall behind.

When I began working on another web site, a responsive site that would work well across different browsers and platform.  My old site looked OK on laptops and desktops, but wouldn't size for mobile devices.

I had a lot to learn.

Instead of starting from scratch, I downloaded a template from Expression Web and adjusted from there.  Once I got a straw man built, I uploaded it.  It wouldn't load on my phone.

I did a live text session with iPage Technical Support and they had the issue.  My site up right away.  Then I began working in earnest to get all the content loaded, robbing words and photos from my previous sites.

This morning, I tried to load them with Filezilla and could not connect.  I tried so many times that my Host blackballed my IP address.  Now I had a real problem.  I had to do another live session with technical support to fix it.  That took about an hour.  They were great.

Now I'm tweaking, learning as I go...making sure it all fits.  Building a site is like a puzzle where the pieces don't fit.  Sorting out problems and figuring out what you are doing wrong is whi I like it so much.  Editing will be a breeze and should take place in a short while.

Elise got home Monday afternoon and is here now, a little ill.  Kim is driving here today.


6 February, 2018: Fort James Jackson

After our walk today, Cooper and i headed off for another day trip, this time to Fort James Jackson on the Savannah River.  Built in 1809 and re-furbished in 1845, it served in the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

The drive was much shorter today, and cooper slept most of the way.  Once there, I confirmed that he was welcome and we had the place, mostly to ourselves.  There was a bus load of school kids, but the left a little after we arrived.  I let Cooper sniff around and smell everything s I looked the place over.  It was really well maintained and beautiful in its own way.  Certainly it presented some great views, overlooking the river as it does.

There was a nice breeze, which was welcome as the day got warmer, and Cooper seemed to relish in it.  It picked up as we got closer to the river and almost blew my cap off when we stepped out on the pier.  The location, day, and breeze were so niche I found myself wishing I had brought a picnic lunch for the both of us.  I should have,

Hopefully, I will have my National Park Pass by tomorrow so we can go to Fort Pulaski.  If not, I want to go back to Forsyth Park to take photos of the fountain or down to River Street.


15 February, 2018: Driftwood Beach

After I washed and detailed Bess for the last two days, I took Cooper to Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island this morning.  Big Mistake! Now the backseat is full of sand and nasty.  It shouldn't take much time to fix, so, it was worth it. 

Cooper had a blast and took off after a bird in the water about 200 yards down the beach.  Luckily, the bird flew toward me to bring Cooper back my way.  I put him back in the harness, but I did not scold him.  He was having the best time..

Jekyll Island is great.  It was not crowded at all, I assume because it is the off season, and I just hit it on then first hot day of winter.  There were a lot of folks my age, all friendly, and all seemed to be dog lovers.  Cooper had to greet everyone, of course.

As we walked the beach, looking for cool driftwood to photo, the bugs got pretty thick, little black biting things that were the worst part.  We learned to walk closer to the water, which, of course "Mr. Water Dog preferred."  The bugs were less intrusive there.

The drive to and from was easy, and I may go back with Kim, once she gets here.  I'll never go without Cooper, if I have him.  If a dog could smile, he'd would have been smiling from ear-to-ear while he was running in the surf.


13 February, 2018: Such a Novice

OK, "my first Lemon Tree," must have been a little fungus.  As quickly as it was there, it shriveled up and died.  I knew it was about five days early to be a tree, but I thought maybe I was just lucky.  This could be harder than I think. 

Meanwhile, Cooper and I have been training (read: Playing).  He'll do anything I ask for a snack, so today, I took the ball thrower out to the park and tossed him a few long-ones..  Just as he got back, ball in mouth, I showed him a snack and said,"Drop."  Then I had him sit and I gave him the snack.  The very next time I came back, I showed the snack, he dropped, and then sat.  Smart boy.  We did this a few time, about five, and he never missed a lick.

Once back at the house, I continued cleaning the inside of my car while he watched.  He went back in the house, and came back seconds later with his big fluffy ball and dropped it at my feet.  I did as he has trained me and gave him all my attention.  Once he was finished with his rousing game of Keep Away, he curled up on his sleeping mat, which he considers Home Base where I can't mess with him, and I was able to finish detailing Bess.

The weather for the last three days has been dreary.  Today, the weather is wet and in the 50s, so we're staying close to the house. Tomorrow it should be warm enough to finish the car, maybe even waxing it, and Friday, it should be in the 80s and we plan on going to Jekyll Island for some sun, surf, and sand....and hopefully a few photos. 


11 February, 2018: Savannah...Again...but not complaining

I'm in Savannah again, watching Cooper while Elise is in the field, Sunday Night through Thursday, then while she goes to Charlottesville for wedding planning, until she and Kim come back here.  I will head back home on the 27th.

I got up at 2:30AM Saturday Morning, unable to sleep, and drove in, arriving a little before noon.  That's the way to do it.  The traffic didn't get heavy until I got to Columbia, and, still, it wasn't as bad as usual.

Once I got here, I took Copper out for a walk, even before unpacking the car.  I took him down to the lake and let him run around and play with a young Aussiedoodle names Raya.  They had a great time.  Not much is more fun than watching to Doodles play together.

It was hot out, almost 80 degrees, and humid as only the deep South can be.  I should have worn shorts.  By the time we got home, I was soaking wet.  It was good to get outside though; I have been huddled up in the house in Virginia, refusing to go out in the weather.  I don't do Cold weather well, but love Hot and Humid.

I brought all my cameras with me, hoping to go on short trips around the Savannah area after Elise and Andy leave.  I think my first trip will be to the ocean so Cooper can play on the beach, maybe Jekyll Island.  Elise says that is the best, dog friendly beach.  

A must, this time, has to be Ft. Pulaski.  I have planned to visit every trip and have either been rained out or had my plans changed by family stuff.  I have two whole weeks this time, with good weather in the forecast, and have a list of Cooper allowed activities to do.

One of my to do things during retirement is to grow things.  Right now, all I have ever grown has been my jade plant, Bob.  I rescued him from death and he is flourishing.  Two weeks ago, I planted seeds to grow my own lemon trees.  The first seedling came up yesterday.  I'm calling them "The Babies" and treating them a bit like that.  

I brought them along and have them upstairs in a south facing window ledge.  I'll replant what comes up, once I get back to Charlottesville.  I hope to have them mature by autumn, to go with a couple of potted Japanese maples that I'll buy this spring.  I also want to pot some plants like Marigolds, Lavender, and Citronella that repel mosquitos.    I want to make it nice out on the back patio, something like the screened back porch in Lex.

I'm almost done with Whole 30.  Thursday, I get to begin adding things back.  I'm not going to do that by the book.  I'm adding cereal and almond milk, bean sprouts, and wheat bread, and soup.  And chocolate.  I'll also begin running and working out tomorrow.  I lost 14 pounds so far and hope to get under 210lbs by Thursday...and continue to get more fit, stronger, and to get below 200, back to pre-VMI weight.  195lbs would be perfect.


My beard and hair are getting long.  I am staying up later and sleeping in later too.  I'm getting things done that I haven't had the time to do in the past.

1 February, 2018: "Nothing to do Today but Smile~ from Paul Simon

Today is my first day of Retirement.  I got nothing to do today but smile.  Now begins the new journey, armed with my books, cameras, telescope, and computers, and an adventurous spirit.

Tuesday, I went to VMI to sort out a few last things, then made the rounds to tell the Staff goodbye.  I spent a little time with a few of my favorite cadets, but missed a lot of others that I would have liked to have seen.   There will be other opportunities, I'm sure.  When I got home, I had a package from  Kim's uncle Ed, a professional photographer, who sent me his Mamiya 6 with lenses.  It is an amazing gift which I will put to good use.

Tuesday night we met at Jay and Kelly's for Movie night, watching "Get Out," which was good, but the best thing was that it was a preview of things like that yet to come.

I didn't go to work Wednesday, so, really, yesterday was like the unofficial start of my Retirement.  I called it "Pre-retirement Activities Day, "and spent the day playing hide-and-seek with Emily, packing up my uniforms, repairing my camera back-pack, and preparing this site to publish.

Today has been spent moving the uniforms up to the attic, scanning some photos as I try to glean down my stockpile if pictures, and arranging all my new camera Kit.

Kim and I are on our way, in a few minutes, go do Game Night with Jonathon and Kelly.


2018    2017    2016    2015    2014    2013    2012   2011    2010    Older