Tuesday, May 27, 2008

memorial day

Another Memorial Day has past here in the Lansdale area. And I still don't understand why the small towns -- namely, Lansdale and Hatfield -- don't combine their efforts.
Instead of having "competing" parades and ceremonies on the same day at basically the same time, why not combine your efforts, have a BIG parade and ceremony, and alternate -- one year based in Hatfield, the next year based in Lansdale. Other area towns could also join in, and really have parades and ceremonies that would draw the crowds, maybe with a town picnic or other event incorporated.
But no, they insist on each having their own, and then wonder why the number of people participating and attending are smaller each year.
Come on, COOPERATE. And give our veterans, present service people and those who made the ultimate sacrifice a salute worthy of the name.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

ahh, vermont

I know, with the outrageously high gasoline prices that we’re being
gouged with, you’d have to be crazy to take any kind of road trip.
Well, mark me guilty as charged.
Last week I headed up to my favorite spot — Vermont — for several
But hey, I had a good reason. Last autumn when my sister and I spent
several days there, she fell in love with an antique sewing machine.
Her husband decided to buy it as a Christmas present for her, but,
given Vermont weather, they wisely agreed that it could “winter” right
where it was.
The maple sugar producers who were selling the sewing machine had no
objections, since they would be closed for most of the winter. But with
the spring thaw, it was time to retrieve the beauty.
And what better excuse for us to head north once more, even though this
was for a shorter trip.
Yes, it was painful when we had to stop at a gas pump. An Explorer does
love to “eat” and has a fairly large gas tank, but we did seem to
get fairly good gas mileage.
And the relative peace of northcentral Vermont was worth the price of
You could still spot some snow on the tops of the mountains, and even
the road that crosses Smuggler’s Notch had not yet been opened for the
My favorite pizza place, with a real wood-burning oven, never
disappoints; the small family-run winery had several great selections; the
antiques place that holds special meaning called to me with a terrific
Jersey photo from the 1940s (the cows, not the state); and the gallery I
sometimes fall prey to once again had two items I couldn’t leave
Of course all of this had to be packed into the Explorer that now was
also bearing the elaborately detailed, antique Singer sewing machine.
Thank goodness we had packed light.
I always love meeting new folks in Vermont. For some reason, they just
seem more friendly and down to earth than many people in this region.
I encountered one store clerk in a small village who, after asking
where we were from, had actually recently visited a friend down here in
Lansdale and was still reeling from the overwhelming number of cars and
At another stop, a man about to get into his Ford pickup wanted to
know, “How’s that Ford treatin’ ya?”
And I then was regaled with tales of his 167,000 miles on the truck —
still with its original battery and shocks, thank you very much.
“Maybe I’ll get new shocks this summer, before winter,” he mused.
The best of all? The “official” greeter at a small visitors center
in Waitsfield — a black and white cat named Yoda, sporting an extra
toe on each paw.
She strolled out to the car, accompanied us inside and then
“helped” as we signed the visitors book.
“She’s our greeter,” said the woman behind the desk. “She loves
to make sure everyone feels welcome.”
And that we did.
In fact, I’d love to see the kitty again — if I can only figure out
a way to motor up there without using any gasoline.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Oh, no... not the electric map!

There has been some very sad news reported by The Associated Press out of Gettysburg.
Apparently the Electric Map, which so many of us as school children viewed and tried to figure out what the heck it was showing, is being eliminated.
It's not high-tech enough, it seems.
If you were a kid and were lucky enough to be on a field trip to Gettysburg, surely you experienced this. It was right up there with the Cyclorama, which suffered its own problems.
But the map ... the wonderful map!
Heck, maybe you'd even like to buy it!
Anyway, here's the AP article, for your enjoyment:

Gettysburg park pulls plug on huge electric Civil War map
Associated Press Writer
GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- For decades, visitors willing to shell out a few extra dollars at Gettysburg National Military Park could be entertained — or bored — watching an electric light display showing troop movements in that pivotal Civil War battle.
With the opening of a new museum and visitor center that offers a bigger "wow" factor for the park's nearly 2 million yearly visitors, the National Park Service has decided that its 1960s-era electric battlefield map has outlived its usefulness.
As patrons of the new $103 million facility learn about the battle by immersing themselves in some new technology, the old center stands vacant, awaiting demolition next year. Before that happens, the 30-by-30-foot electric map inside it — embedded with more than 625 colored lights — will be dismantled and placed in storage.
At least a few people who believe the map still has educational value are urging the park service to find a way to keep the lights on.
One regular park visitor has created a Web site devoted to the cause of preserving it, www.savetheelectricmap.com. Jon DeKeles, 51, of Post Falls, Idaho, said he only learned of the map's pending demise during a visit in late March, and he started the site when he returned home.
"Does everything have to be multimedia, high-tech in this world?" DeKeles said. "I haven't met anybody who hasn't said the map was informative and gave a great overview."
Emily Rosensteel O'Neil, the daughter of map creator Joseph L. Rosensteel, would also like to see the map get a new home.
The Rosensteel family built the original visitor center in 1921 to house and display battle artifacts the family had collected over the years. After graduating college in the 1930s, Joseph L. Rosensteel conceived the idea of using lights on a military-style relief map to illustrate the three-day battle; the electric map debuted in 1939.
That map, which was displayed near the museum entrance, was replaced with a larger version installed in the floor of a 500-seat auditorium in 1963, a year before Rosensteel died of cancer.
"The electric map is an artifact in and of itself," said O'Neil, 67, a retired teacher who lives in Guilford, Conn. "It was my father's masterpiece."
But from the earliest planning stages for the new museum, park officials had envisioned using newer technology to give visitors a more vivid picture of how the battle unfolded, just as the electric map attempted to do, said park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon.
The park service had never formally surveyed patrons about the electric map, but received mixed reviews from those who did comment on it, Lawhon said.
"We do know that for the majority of our visitors, and especially our younger visitors, that it was not very engaging," Lawhon said. "We were concerned about a missed opportunity for students that came through Gettysburg on what can sometimes be their one and only visit."
The new building, which opened April 14, features two film theaters that can also accommodate live performances and lectures, video and audio presentations scattered throughout the museum, and some computerized interactive exhibits.
On a Friday during the visitor center's last week of operation, about 80 people took in the map's noontime show — less than one-fifth of the auditorium's capacity. Admission was $3 for children 6 to 12 years and $4 for visitors 13 and older.
The auditorium has a boxing-match style layout, with the map surrounded on all sides by rows of folding metal seats. A portrait of Rosensteel hangs on the map's west side.
An automated recording summarizes the battle in a 30-minute program.
"Welcome to Gettysburg National Military Park. You are located at the center of one of the most famous battlefields in the world, enacted on a stage of 20,000 acres during the first three days of July 1863," a disembodied male voice intones by way of introduction.
The map's blue lights represent Union troops, and orange lights depict the Confederate Army. The auditorium lights dim at the appropriate places in the narration to simulate each day's sunset, and red lights representing campfires illuminate. The narrator's voice provides the only soundtrack — no music or sound effects.
Afterward, several fifth-graders on a field trip from Plainfield Elementary School in Carlisle gave the show a thumbs-up, including 11-year-old Lauren Baker.
"When you read a book, it's not as easy to understand as if you're looking at it and someone's saying it to you," she said.
Ten-year-old Taejon Branch didn't share his classmates' enthusiasm.
"I thought it was boring," Taejon said. "All it did was just show lights."
Plainfield teacher Patricia Crouse has led annual trips to Gettysburg for 27 years, and always included the electric map on the itinerary. Crouse said she understands that the new museum can't accommodate the map, but thinks it could still operate in a different home.
"I think it has a place in history," Crouse said. "As a child, I've been here. I've seen it for 40 years — it's part of my life."
The National Park Service has not ruled out resurrecting the map in the future.
It is also willing to turn it over to any government agency or nonprofit group that would use it for educational purposes, Lawhon said.
"We haven't had any really serious interest," she said, "but we have gotten a couple nibbles."
On the Net:
Gettysburg National Military Park: http://www.nps.gov/gett/
Save The Electric Map: http://www.savetheelectricmap.com/

Monday, May 5, 2008

Eight Belles

I used to watch the Kentucky Derby. I gave that up after seeing one too many tragedy occur, and Barbaro certainly cured me of any interest in this inhumane sport.
And now Eight Belles.
No, I'm not an expert on horse racing. I'm just someone who loves animals, got my first pony when I was 3 and had a horse until well after I was out of college.
They are magnificent, loving creatures. But the horse-racing industry -- well, there's just nothing positive that I can think of to say.
We mourn these animals when something horrific like this happens at a major race like the Derby, but don't fool yourself into believing this is the only place tragedy occurs.
Eight Belles paid the price for having the heart of a champion beating within her.
How many more will have to suffer until something is done?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

ah, chad & jeremy

Revisiting your youth can be great.
And with so many singers from the 1960s and ’70s hitting the road
again these days, there are plenty of opportunities for baby boomers to
make that trip down memory lane.
But sometimes — heck, quite often — that trip can be downright
You know you’ve seen them — those guys from decades ago who think
they can still fit into the same tight leather pants that they wore in
their heyday.
Or perhaps they don’t seem to realize that the mop of hair that set
the girls to screaming has long since made a far retreat.
And then there are those who think they can still hit the same notes as
when they were 18 or 20 or even 25.
But we know all too painfully that they can’t.
If you’ve ever watched some of those reunion shows on PBS, you may
find yourself a bit confused as to who these people even are; sometimes
you’re lucky if one original member of the band is still among those
But I can say with no reservations that that certainly was not the case
at the Sellersville Theater last Saturday night, when I was treated
— quite literally — to a concert by one of my long-ago favorites,
Chad & Jeremy.
OK, I know most of you are saying, “Who?”
But if you were a teen in the late ’60s and loved everything
“British Invasion,” you’ll know who I mean.
My daughter bought the tickets a few months ago as my birthday present
and even agreed to go along to the concert. Pretty brave, since she
wasn’t sure what she was getting into.
Truth be told, neither did I. I had visions of two old men creeping
onto the stage, their raspy voices barely able to produce a sound.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Of course, Chad & Jeremy weren’t
exactly hard rockers, so it’s probably been easier for them to retain
their trademark sounds on such early songs as “Yesterday’s Gone,”
“Willow Weep For Me” and “A Summer Song.”
But their easy banter, light-hearted approach to the evening and
obvious talent — just listen and watch as Chad plays the guitar or piano
— all combined seamlessly for quite the entertaining evening.
And they included some of their later tunes and even some new ones
planned for release this year.
It was just a great evening all around, and the theater is a perfect
venue. If I don’t have to head to Philly for a concert, I’m all for
So I guess it was an appropriate birthday gift. My daughter gave me a
ticket that let me step back in time, so to speak.
And I wasn’t a bit disappointed.