All posts tagged: DJB Random Thoughts

Top Posts of 2016 (The “Whatever Else Tickles My Fancy” Edition)

As promised yesterday, I’m back with the top posts on More to Come… from 2016 that don’t relate to family and friends.  What I’m calling the “Whatever Else Tickles My Fancy” edition. In a year when I took my sabbatical in Rome and Maine, many of the top posts are from those trips. If my day job doesn’t work out, I may have a future as a travel writer! As was the case with yesterday’s top ten, I’ll list them in the order they appeared during the year. I left for Rome in early March, and Time Off was my post to set the stage for my sabbatical. I had a number of nice comments from friends and colleagues with well wishes.  I also got to showcase my cool “What Would DJB Do?” mug! My first post from the American Academy came on March 10th, and was entitled Looking Back, Looking Forward.  After that, I was posting 3-4 times per week for the remainder of the six weeks we were in Italy. Claire joined us …

A Good Measure of a Life

Last week I was fortunate to join the most remarkable retirement celebration I’ve ever attended.  Paul Herman, the Head of the Lower School at St. Albans here in Washington (where my son is an alum), was celebrated for 44 years of service.  There are many wonderful things I can share about Paul, but I’ll stick to one example.  Each day he stands outside the school and greets every student by name, gives them a firm handshake, looks them in the eye, and offers up an encouraging word (or a reminder to tuck in a shirt tail).  If he doesn’t remember a name after the first week, he pays the student a dollar.  Suffice it to say he rarely has to pay.  Candice and I hadn’t seen Mr. Herman in at least four years, but as we were next in the receiving line he looked up and said, “Great, here come the Browns” and gave us a warm greeting.  He has an amazing gift to make people feel included and welcome. The center nave of Washington …

Remembering Oklahoma City

Twenty years ago today, an unspeakable horror took place at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Five years ago, I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial, erected to memorialize the lives lost, and wrote this post about that place and the need for remembrance. In his recent series about Why Old Places Matter?, my  colleague Tom Mayes wrote about the importance of memory.  He quotes Randall Mason in noting that “Memory is an essential part of consciousness….”  Tom adds, “Memory contributes to the sense of continuity. Memory also gives people identity—both individual identity and a collective identity.” No place demonstrates that better than the Oklahoma City National Memorial. At the 20th anniversary of the events of April 19, 1995, this memorial continues to help us to remember, while also helping us to regain the consciousness we need as humans. More to come… DJB

Tut Taylor, R.I.P.

This week we lost the third member of the Aereoplane Band when “The Flatpickin’ Dobro Man” Tut Taylor passed away at age 91. Taylor, along with the late Vassar Clements, Norman Blake, and Randy Scruggs made up the Aereoplane Band that helped the late John Hartford record his ground-breaking album Aereo-Plain – which I once highlighted as my favorite album of all time.  (And yes, the name of the album is spelled differently from the title cut.  Hey, it was the 70s.)  I heard Tut play with Hartford’s band (Earl Scruggs opened for Hartford, if you can believe that) about 40 years ago, and I most recently heard him at MerleFest, where he was a mainstay. Much has been written about Taylor’s unique style of playing the Dobro with a flatpick, as opposed to the finger picks used by every well-known Dobro player from Uncle Josh Graves to Jerry Douglas.  Tut Taylor was unique, and his bluesy style fit well with the fiddling of Vassar Clements and the stellar guitar work of Norman Blake.  This …

Let’s Play Two!

“It’s a beautiful day, let’s play two.” Did any words sum up the joy and optimism of sports better than the simple mantra of “Mr. Cub” – Ernie Banks – who passed away yesterday? Banks was playing in the “friendly confines of Wrigley Field” for the first major league baseball game I ever saw in person, against the eventual world-champion St. Louis Cardinals in 1964. The Cubs of my youth  were awful.  Heck, the Cubs of my entire life (and several other lifetimes) have been pretty much awful. But Banks was eternally optimistic about the club’s chances.  As President Obama said when presenting Banks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, Ernie’s cheer and optimism that the Cubs would go all the way was “… serious belief. That is something that even a White Sox fan like me can respect.” Banks was the original power-hitting shortstop and one of the first African-American stars in the major leagues. If ever there is a case to be made for asterisks in the record book, it is …

Observations from Home (The Year-End Edition)

When posting while on travel, I’ll often string together several unrelated thoughts and title them Observations From the Road  (see, for instance, the Jeez, Montana is a Big State edition from this summer.) So, I have two or three unrelated items that have been rattling around in my head while at home for the Christmas break, and have decided to title this post Observations from Home (The Year-End Edition). Here are my observations – take ’em or leave ’em. We would never have a family picture if it weren’t for John Thorne – When we were assembling our group of pictures for 2014, I commented to Candice that we didn’t have one that included all four of us. Then I realized that our friend John Thorne hadn’t been with us when he had his camera and all four of us were in the same room.  Luckily (with three days to spare!) we now have our 2014 family photo.  John came up to us at church this morning and asked if he could take a family …

Family, Friends, Food (Or How Candice and I Spent a Wonderful Weekend With Our Daughter)

For the second weekend in a row, we’ve enjoyed time at college with one of the twins and are the richer for the experience. I had appointments that took me to Los Angeles for two days late last week. Candice joined me so that as work wrapped up, we could take the short drive east to Claremont for a visit with Claire and her friends. Claire’s friends are much like her – sharp, inquisitive, interested in others, outgoing, and easy to be around. When we arrived on Friday evening, we stopped by Claire’s senior dorm suite and then headed to The Junction for an evening of small plates, laughter, and conversation with her suite-mates. These three young women all come from the west coast (California and Oregon) and have bonded over swimming, academics, and their shared optimism for life. We have known two of these young ladies for three years now, and have enjoyed getting to know the third over the course of this year. They all seem to be taking in everything the college …

A Weekend (and More) of Celebration

  A pre-July 4th visit to Mount Rushmore, the annual craziness that is the Takoma Park July 4th parade, our traditional Independence Day picnic at the wonderful Franklin Knolls pool, Claire returns after six weeks in Vienna, Andrew knocks it out of the park with a National Anthem, Dad turns 89, and two days with dear friends to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary and an 80th birthday…I can’t imagine a better July 4th weekend (and a bit more). My celebration of things Americana began last week.  While on a work trip, a colleague and I took a short detour in the Black Hills of South Dakota to visit Mt. Rushmore. It was my first trip there, and the monument is as awe-inspiring as advertised. I took the expected pictures of the monument — from the front, with the state flags, and from the perspective down at the sculptor’s studio. Then I did something out of character — and took my very first selfie.  I was actually pretty pleased that I knew how to do it …

Roskilde Cathedral: Visiting a World Heritage Site

  One of our more delightful days in Denmark was spent traveling by train to the city of Roskilde. We had told Andrew we wanted to see a bit of the countryside outside of Copenhagen during our visit, and he suggested we take a short 30-minute train ride and see this World Heritage Site.  It was a great suggestion. We exited the train station and were immediately drawn into the historic core of this Viking-era city, which features a wonderful plaza and historic cemetery just steps away from the commuter train. We headed down the commercial center of the city towards the cathedral.  In the U.S., this would be considered a classic Main Street community – one in which the Main Street was doing very well.  Andrew and Claire headed off to explore stores, as Candice and I took a more leisurely stroll. After a walk of several blocks, we came to the Cathedral square.  (Blog interruption:  I’m proud to say that once we exited the taxi at Dulles Airport to begin our trip, we …

No No-No, But Still A Special Night

Well, that was a pretty special way to end Round One. Justin Verlander twirls a gem in the last game of the 2013 Division Series that included massive blow-outs, improbable walk-off wins, and one of the best days of baseball ever. Verlander must salivate when he can close out a series against the Oakland A’s.  For this year’s elimination game, he throws a no-hitter through 6 2/3’s innings, only to see it broken up by Yoenis Céspedes. (I mention Yoenis Céspedes just because I love writing “Yoenis Céspedes”…with apologies to Gail Collins.) But Verlander’s classic – supported by a surprise dinger from the injured Miguel Cabrera who, with only one home run in September, showed up in time in October to help the Tigers win the series – was just the latest in a good round of games. As the Nats learned last year, momentum can change quickly in these short five-game series.  Oakland looked like everything was going its way this year, until it didn’t.  Ditto for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were rolling until …