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"It seems to me what you lose in mystery, you gain in awe."
Sir Francis Crick

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives."
--William James

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If any of the photo links are broken, you can find the public photo gallery here

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Concert Poll and Writer's Almanac

I added a couple of new links today. Check out the Writer's Almanac for some inspiration and American history. I listen to it almost every weekday on WNCW. I also added a link to the Brown family blog. They have 4 boys and somehow make it! Great family and our friends at Freedom Fellowship.

Speaking of WNCW, I made contact with the ARC (the amateur radio program)director yesterday and we are working towards getting me trained to run the airwaves up there soon. I can't wait. I keep thinking about what will be my first tune on the air. It's down to Robbie Robertson, Derek Trucks, Bill Frisell, Miles Davis or Bob Marley. Maybe that will be my new poll once the summer concerts poll is done. Someone really likes Rush too (I see you smilin'). We should be getting our tickets for the Rush show in Charlotte soon. Miles is so ready! The Alison Kraus and Robert Plant spring tour has started and I have been eying some of the set lists. I am holding back listening to the recordings because I want to be surprised in Asheville. That same day we have a golf tourney with the men at Freedom PLUS, wouldn't ya know it, Miles next graduation is the same day! There is always a convergence of some sort on the really good Saturdays. I will somehow juggle it. My Men's group is forming a team and I can't leave them hanging all day. Maybe I can miss a few holes since the karate academy is just down the road from the course. Got to start planning that now!
Well, it's been too cool for the last week of April this week but I think we have avoided the bitter cold snap like we had last April that killed all the young peach buds here in the Upstate. So, my fingers are crossed for some good peaches this summer!

Well, off to work.

See ya!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Miles' Yellow Belt: Photos

Here's some photos from Miles Karate graduation to Yellow Belt. I also put some pix from one of Dylan's baseball games on that album too. Enjoy! Happy Monday (it's still raining here!)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday, more rain

Not sure about you but the Upstate has gotten some much needed rain in the past 2 days, some of it all at once too. We had wind, hail and horizontal rain this weekend. I had to get out the shovel and make a path for the water during the downpour that was getting trapped in our backyard by the currents. It was wet!

Saturday before the rain was a lot of fun working with the Friends of McCall group at Camp McCall. We completed a really cool Frisbee golf course and built a shelter (with roof) for the new archery range. I have to admit Camp McCall is looking good. And as always, they feed you like a man. We had ham, biscuits, fried okra, black-eyed peas, and tater salad for lunch. I enjoyed getting to work with old staffers and other Lad Dads. I'm also looking forward to this summer's camps. The boys will be glad to see a miniature version of the drain pipe for the boys in the shallow end of Lake Chilly Water. The man's version is about 150 feet of pure adrenaline drop to the water. The climb up the hill to the start keeps me from doing it more than a few times each year.
Plus, our friends from Alice Drive may be in the same cabin with Miles when he is there by himself at Crusader camp this summer. He's psyched for that too!

Well, gotta start looking at Monday. It was a very cool day at church. We had our neighbors (across the street) Linda and Barry, join us for church. It has been a long time for them since they went to church and they had good things to say about Freedom. That is something cool!

See ya!

Friday, April 25, 2008

It's Open: Dillard's Ice Cream

One of the true joys of our life in Greer is eating Ice Cream from Dillard's Orchard in Greer. They are closed in the winter but opened last Friday for the season. Tonight after dinner, the family is making the first-of-the-season run for some great ICE CREAM. There is a very short list of things in life above ice cream. My favorites are the coconut or black cherry. It's a great family place and we are looking forward to it! Yes, it deserves capital letters!

Tomorrow Miles get his first "real" belt in Karate. He has graduation for his Yellow belt at 10am. I am unfortunately not going to be there as I will be up in the mountains at Camp McCall in Pickens county. We are having a Dad's work day there this weekend. Miles has been there twice with me (Dad and Lad) and gets to go by himself for a whole week this summer. This will be Dylan's first summer at McCall and he has been looking forward to his first time ever since Miles went the first year. It's something I committed to a while back. Miles is okay with me missing the graduation for a good reason and told me not to worry since he will have Mom take pictures and video. It was a difficult decision but it will be cool to show Miles and Dylan the work we do once they get back to camp. Plus, Tricia is having some kind of women's vitamins/make-up party here tomorrow, so it's good I will be a long way from home :-)

On Sunday, our friends from church, Mia and Scott Wolfe, are coming over after church to grill some steaks and hang out. They have a son who is 11 and another who is 5, so Miles and Dylan should have fun playing too. Keller will have lots of boys to chase him in the yard. Well, back to work, have a great weekend!

See ya!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Silent Tsunami

Did you hear about the hunger crisis?

The world hunger crisis is all over the news this week. In just three years, the price of staple foods like wheat, corn and rice has almost doubled. If we don't do something soon, hundreds of thousands of people face starvation and a hundred million more could fall into extreme poverty.

I just took action with the ONE Campaign and you can too, here:

ONE: Silent Tsunami

It only takes a few seconds and it will make a difference!

Thanks, Mark

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spring Fever

Wow! I have been really enjoying all the Wanee music from the comforts of my office desk. There are a ton of soundboards surfacing and the music sounds so good. It's such a whirlwind while you are there and just a pure treat to be able to relive at a slower pace.

Dylan had a great game last night. He got 1 hit and scored. He also made a fantastic fielding play by running down a kid who is also in Tricia's 1st grade class. He fielded the ball between 3rd and 2nd and then tagged the kid going to 3rd. It was great!

My Susan Tedeschi show is now on the Trader's Den if you are interested.
Susan T. 2008-04-19

Keller and I have had some great morning walks this week. The spring is full blossom up here in the hills and this reminds me why I put up with the brutal SC summers! April and May in the Carolinas is hard to beat. Speaking of Keller, I have started letting him in during the day to hang with me in the office while I work. It was so funny to look at Shadow's stare of disbelief. Keller was in the office with me and Shadow on the other side of the closed office glass pane door. If looks could kill! Of course Keller recognized what was going on...he rolled over and stretched with a big old smile. He was saying "yeah, I know this is your normal spot but tough luck today buddy". It was all I could do to keep from laughing.

See ya!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Susan Tedeschi Band

Happy Sunday morning to everyone.

We had a blast last night outside with Susan Tedeschi and new band, downtown Greenville, SC. The weather held up perfectly and the band rocked. She now has Matt Slocum from the Peacemakers on keys along with Ted, Tyler and Ron Holloway. The Peace Center ampitheatre was a great spot for Susan and she had the audience captured from the start. My recording turned out pretty good and I am working on it. A couple of warts here and there but very enjoyable.

Tricia and I had a great time on a date night with our friends walking around downtown, eating good food, checking out the art showcases and enjoying a couple of Sweetwaters. Our friends Belinda and Tim Ferguson joined us for the show too. Our friends very impressed and had nothing but high comments for Mrs. T.

Also, I uploaded Alex Leary's great recording of Oteil and Peacemakers at the Wanee 2008 Mushroom stage. It was a smokin' show with the one and only Larry McCray guesting on guitar for a funky breakdown.

Check it out here: Oteil at Wanee 2008

See ya!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Saturday: Spring Fling, Artisphere

It's Saturday and lots going on 'round here.

-Miles and I are going out to run some errands (Costco, gotta love it) and hit the great Horizon records yard sale (read that as very cheap and FREE music at a great independent record store in Greenville)

-Crestview is having their Spring Fling to raise money for the new playground equipment, it's a spring carnival of sorts and we are helping out and the boys have their ride wristbands ready for action

-Date night tonight! Tricia and I are heading downtown Greenville to hopefully see Susan Tedeschi in the Peace Center ampitheatre with friends Brian and Kelly Thomas. I say hopefully because it looks like more rain (it's raining now).

-In between all that fun, I am hoping to get to church softball practice at 3pm.

Busy Saturday! I have actually put some stuff off until Sunday afternoon (post nap, of course) Weekends should be 5 days and work weeks 2 days, don't ya think?

Hey, Miles' teacher showed his Camp Greenville pictures to his class using their large screen computer (it's a projector type learning tool hooked to a laptop,etc). He was stoked about that and I thought it was pretty cool of Mrs. Rowland too.

Tomorrow, I am speaking to our church about Alongside Africa, keep me in your prayers and thoughts for clarity and focus.

See ya!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wanee 2008

Well, as you can see, I survived another round of Wanee. This year's festival was another great gem in the book of rock for me. We all missed Gregg but we made the best lemonade we could given the lemons on hand. Highlights for me were Levon Helm and his band (something I thought I might never see/hear), the Mule's full set on Friday, Tinsley Ellis on the Mushroom stage, moe (rocked), the Wanee Family Jam on Saturday night was a great showcase of some of my favorite styles of music with the Allman Brothers Band as the house band led by the capable Warren Haynes. Lots of guests but the basic core remained the ABB without Gregg.

My new favorites were the Greyboy Allstars. I was doing a mighty fine Suwanee River dance around 7pm Saturday night at the Mushroom stage. But, glad it wasn't captured on film too :-) The weather cooperated with a light rain on Saturday afternoon that cooled the night just right.

Derek and Susan's midnight set was another classic with them pulling out a "Hey Jude" cover and the double whammy of "Anyday" and "The Weight" as an encore. A full horn section christened the "Swamp Honkies" put the sound over the top.

Here's a link for the show: SSR Wanee 2008 Live Music Archive

This week I have been trying to clear my head and listen to all the music I captured, some in parts, some in whole. There were tons of tapers and it should be a matter of time before we have it all patched together. In the meantime, enjoy some of my photos below... See ya!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Camp Greenville, Hornsby and Skaggs Review

Well, I survived 3 days and 2 nights with a 150 or so 4th graders. We had a blast up in the mountains on the border of SC and NC. The camp staff were great fun teachers and the kids really did learn about the environment from canoeing, using a compass and map, digging in the stream for invertebrates, learning about erosion and just having fun in the woods. Night time in the cabins was fairly painless -> what do you expect eight 4th grade boys to do in the woods at night :-) but I was glad to sleep in my own bed next to Tricia last night. Miles even got to square dance on Tuesday night. I hope Dylan gets the chance to take this trip in a few years. I got the boys in my cabin up early for a walk down to Pretty Place on Tuesday morning but the fog was way too thick. I did get the chance to head back that afternoon with some adults and we could see downtown Greenville (about 60 miles). It was a real treat. I should have some pictures soon as I dropped Miles' resusable camera off at Walgreens last night. As the camp nurse, I was in charge of a large box of prescription meds along with 1 other nurse. Nobody was airvac'd so we think we did a great job!!!

Tricia and I had such a great evening last Saturday night with Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs at the Peace Center in Greenville. Skaggs' band, Kentucky Thunder, backed the two. My recording from up close in front of the left stack turned out super! If you are interested in a copy, drop me a line. I didn't know too much about Skaggs before the show but came away a fan. Those boys in Kentucky Thunder are top notch pickers and singers. Tricia and I are very familar with Hornsby, having seen him over 10 times and owning everything in print. It was different to hear some of his tunes in a bluegrass vein but then again we have heard hints of this collaboration for a few years at Hornsby's shows. We got more than hints on Saturday. "The Way It Is" with Skaggs singing lead was totally reinvented and came across very well. Hornsby's jazz influences were noticed throughout the 2+ hour set, with him trading licks with the band and Skaggs. If you have a chance to see this tour, get a ticket. The sold out audience at the Peace Center would definitely agree with me on that one!

Today, I am heading down to Florida for the 2008 Wanee festival. I will definitely miss not seeing the Allman Brothers Band as I have written already but look forward to seeing new bands and old friends down under the mossy oaks. The weather looks hot and partly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms. I pray we don't get the soaking we got last year after the festival ended. But, that's the chance you take and I'm ready to take it!

On the Dylan front, he got a solid hit at his first at bat on Tuesday at the first game of the season. He was stranded on 1st after that. He has reminded me several times that his team is "0 and 1 Daddy and we could be 0 and 2 if we lose again". Regardless, he does admit to having a lot of fun if you ask him ;-)

See ya!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Off to Camp

Miles and I will be gone Monday to Wednesday up to Camp Greenville. I am excited and Miles is way beyond excited. He was a whirlwind of questions during the packing today. It's going to be a great preamble to him going off to Camp McCall by himself (with other boys of course) this summer. I will be one of the camp nurses and an adult chaperone the other.

I will try to post some when I get back before I head to Florida for the Wanee festival.

By the way, did you notice that "the" Anne Rice left a comment on my blog Friday night? I am honored and amazed at the same time. Taking the book with me to camp.

See ya!

Friday, April 4, 2008


I am glad it's raining. We need it and it's washing away the pollen that surely would be coating everything right now. Dylan's 1st baseball game has been canceled already, it was the jamboree type Saturday and they already called it off because of the rain today and the expected downpours tomorrow. Dylan handled it pretty good. His practice was called off last night too because of rain, which is funny because he told his teacher that he was tired today because he had baseball practice late last night. Tuesday, Thursday, the nights get confusing, I am sure...

I started a new accountability group today with a group of men from Freedom. It's something I have missed- Bible study and Life discussions with other Christian men. It's a heck of fight these days (as if being a Christian man was ever easy) and we need the armor of brotherhood. I look forward to my Friday mornings with the group. Judging from the discussions and openness today, they are too.

I am heading up to Spindale to the best darn radio station in the land tomorrow to help out with answering phones for their spring fund drive. It's a blast to get to hang with the DJs in the studio and meet all the great staff and other fans of WNCW. Support your local NPR and Public TV, a great country deserves it!

Miles is scheduled to get his yellow belt in karate later this month. He is coming along great with Team Hurricane. It's made a HUGE difference in his push-ups and is improving his focus. Dylan got to join the class today and he feels like he is on the way to his Black Belt (wink, wink). We plan to give it a shot for Dylan later this year, AFTER baseball.

Tomorrow night will be special date for me and Tricia. We are seeing Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs at the Peace Center here in Greenville. It should be a treat to hear them with Kentucky Thunder, Ricky's great bluegrass/vocal ensemble. I am also hoping to get a chance to get down to Horizon Records after my WNCW duties to hear Tyler Ramsey. His new CD has a vote for Top 10 for 2008. Here's a link to his MySpace page: Tyler Ramsey
If that doesn't remind you of Neil Young, then rewind :-)

Miles and I are pumped about the Camp Greenville trip next week. I am the camp nurse for 1 day and chaperone for the other. It's an environmental science camp up in the mountains. Then, I am off to Florida on Thursday for the Wanee 2008 festival. So, in other words...I am on Vacation!!! Yahoo!

I am reading the 2nd Anne Rice book about the early life of Jesus: Christ The Lord: The Road to Cana. It's so intriguing and enjoyable. Her scenery details are what makes her fiction come alive and I am enjoying this ride. Yes, the Anne Rice of vampire lore is now writing fictional history about the early life of Jesus. You should check it out. The first book was something I couldn't stop reading. That's my only complaint, it's less than 500 pages and I am only half through but I can already tell I won't want this one to end. Check it out! The library rocks!!!

See ya!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Gmail now allows Custom Time for Sending: Cool!

Smoking Ban Upheld: No April Fool's Joke Here

The South Carolina Supreme Court sided with common sense yesterday in their ruling allowing local municipalities to enforce no smoking ordinances: Greenville News article

I will be honest, I didn't see this coming but I am relieved. Listen, I am a once-smoker. I grew up in a family of smokers (mostly the males, we are hard-headed) but I also really enjoy going to see music or have a drink without smelling like an ashtray. Smoking sucks! It's just a fact of life and it's about time that SC figures out that not forcing someone to suck someone's second hand smoke does NOT infringe on the personal rights of the smoker at the same time. The argument has weakened as business in large cities continue despite smoking bans, and in some cases business has improved after the smoking ban. After all, the dollar is the driver! Tricia and I are looking forward to getting the chance to enjoy more nightlife without the limitation of smoking venues.

The next thing we really need to tackle is the ridiculously low cigarette tax that South Carolina continues. It's our special way of protecting the rights of the tobacco farmers (wink, wink) but then again we still haven't figured out how North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky can still operate state governments and raise cigarette taxes at the same time (wink, wink). The courageous law makers in Columbia (again:wink, wink) are still trying to wrestle their way through the hurdle of raising cigarette taxes (the lowest in the nation and unchanged since 1977) and funding Medicaid at the same time. It's really a test of common sense. Hopefully, they can figure it out and maintain what's left of pride in the outcome.

On that note, here's a letter I wrote to my home town newspaper, The Item, a few years ago:
See ya!

Cigarette Tax MUST be increased

It’s a shame that South Carolina continues to remain at the very bottom of the list among all 50 states in terms of cigarette taxes. We hear far too often how South Carolina ranks at the bottom of almost every list ranking states in terms of health or education. Fortunately, there is something that can be done about this particular shameful ranking.

The Surgeon General (June 2006) just released another report about secondhand smoke. And guess what? The study indicates that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke! This study and numerous others before clearly indicate that cigarette smoke is dangerous to our health. There is a direct link between cigarette smoking and chronic illness like asthma and coronary artery disease. Here in Sumter, we live in the stroke belt with one of the highest incidences of cardiovascular disease in the country. As a community, we should be working to do all that we can to reverse the trends and get South Carolina out of the cellar.

One simple way to help our community is to demand a reasonable increase in the current embarrassing rate of seven cents per pack. The national high is $2.46 (Rhode Island) but the national average is closer to 95 cents per pack ( The old excuse about hurting our farmers with an increase in cigarette taxes is no longer valid. Tennessee and North Carolina have both recently raised their cigarette tax rates. If North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia can raise their rates and still support a tobacco economy, we can too.

Raising the cigarette tax will also help reduce teenage smoking. Thankfully, South Carolina recently closed the enforcement gap and made cigarette possession by minors against the law. Studies have shown that the higher the cigarette tax, the lower the chance that teenagers in the state will take up smoking. If they can’t buy them or smoke them in public, they might not start smoking.

I should point out that I smoked for almost 10 years from the time I was 14 until I was in the Army. One night on TDY, I found myself trying to smoke a cigarette on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand. I soon found myself choking from a mix of city pollution and cigarette smoke. I made a vow to never put myself in that “suffocating while awake” feeling ever again. I quit in 1995. Many of my family have smoked and some continue to feed that awful addiction. So, I know firsthand how hard it can be to stop. But, if we continue to make it easy and cheap to buy, how can we honestly say we are helping to stop others from starting? Funny, a recent survey in South Carolina even showed something like 70% of smokers supported an increase in the cigarette tax. Even smokers know it’s shamefully low.

Even as nonsmokers we can no longer stand by on the sidelines and say we are not affected. All of us are affected by the illness caused by cigarette smoke. If you work and pay Medicaid taxes, then you are paying for the care of many people who smoke and have to seek treatment for their chronic illnesses. Don’t think about this as about taxes, consider this to be about paying for what is used. It’s like pre-paid insurance. If smokers with no healthcare insurance go to the hospital to seek treatment for problems caused or made worse by cigarette smoke, who do you think picks up the tab when they do not pay for their care? Even those with Medicaid coverage are still causing the healthcare providers to lose money. Every Medicaid patient treated, whether in the hospital or in a doctor’s office, is a direct loss (in terms of money used to treat and money received for treatment). Medicaid reimbursements have gone down every year. No wonder doctors do not want to accept any more Medicaid patients. If these smokers or the family members of smokers have no doctor, where do they go? The emergency room of the local hospital is the only option, which only leads to more overcrowding and longer waits.

If we demand that any increase in cigarette taxes be 100% dedicated to healthcare and anti-smoking education we can do something about the Medicaid funding crisis we are facing in South Carolina. Every year, we leave millions on the table because we refuse to fully fund Medicaid. Did you know that the federal government will match our Medicaid funding dollar for dollar plus 69% (FY2006) for every dollar we fund to Medicaid? That’s like having someone put $1.69 in your savings account for every $1 you contribute. Think about the millions of dollars we could put into the healthcare system for our most poor and vulnerable if we simply raise the cigarette tax to a more reasonable rate.

Increasing the cigarette tax faces serious opposition in Columbia. But, not all of our local politicians in Columbia are against a common sense approach to cigarette taxes. Our very own Rep. Murrell Smith should be highly commended and supported for his commitment to raising the cigarette tax. It takes courage and strength to stand up for what is really right for the community.

So, please join me in demanding a common sense approach to cigarette taxes in South Carolina. Write or call our senators and representatives and let them know you care about the health of all South Carolinians and support a reasonable cigarette “use” tax. Demand that all additional monies be dedicated to healthcare and antismoking education. Also, be sure to support smoke-free restaurants and businesses in Sumter.

We can make a difference; but, sitting by and waiting for someone else to do something about it is exactly what the tobacco lobby wants us to do. Our children deserve better than that. South Carolina should be proud of all that we have to offer: plenty of sunshine, beautiful beaches, lakes and mountains, great communities and friendly people. Let’s take “the lowest price on a pack of cigarettes” off that list.

Mark H. Johnson