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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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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Oops, Go Tigers

I was too hard my Tigers. They have not lost the last 2 games, we beat Ga Tech @ home last Sunday. We are up on the Hokies right now; but a long way to go.
Go Tigers!!!!
See ya!

Sent from my mobile device

Mark H. Johnson 

Basketball Blues

Sitting here watching the Clemson basketball team struggle to stay in the game with Virginia Tech. The Hokies are taking it to them right now and it's not pretty.  Hopefully, we won't lose 3 in a row but they better do something different really fast...

I mentioned earlier that I had re-established some family relationships and that I would write about that here.  Around Christmas, I created a Myspace account so I could see if my half-sisters were still on MySpace as I had no luck finding them via email or cellphone.  It had been since the summer of 2007 since I had any contact via MySpace or email with any of my 4 half-sisters.  I did find Ashley, my youngest half sister on MySpace.  It took a few weeks for her to reply and I was wondering if this wasn't going to be the route to connect.  She did contact me after the delay and mentioned she wasn't using MySpace as much anymore.  I can understand that.  We have been emailing each other just about everyday and it feels good to be communicating with her.  We owe it to our Dad to keep in touch with each other.  Hopefully, the remainder of the group will get in contact as well.  I am working on that too.  

Speaking of family, my Uncle Leonard has had some heart trouble after his recent shoulder surgery.  He had a heart catherization yesterday in Columbia after having chest pains.  This would be complicated enough for any man; but, Leonard has been crippled from polio for most of his life.  Say a prayer for Uncle Leonard and Aunt Susie, especially her as she has to work hard during his shoulder surgery recovery.  He had a stent placed yesterday.  He has a long road to recovery.  

We are ramping up the Africa 2009 mission trip.  I am speaking to the church and leading an informational meeting in February. It looks like we may be in Botswana in late August, early September.  Another team from Alice Drive may be there as well and that would be awesome to join the two churches on the same trip.  I would be great for Old Naledi Fellowship to benefit from the synergy of both churches on the same mission too.  I am getting excited about the opportunities and the chance to return to Africa.  

Back to the game, not a great 1/2 half for Clemson.  The 2nd half isn't starting much better.  I can't watch and write at the same time.  I guess I will work on my tax return prep instead.

See ya!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Loving this rain and cool temps. Reminds me of Washington State.  A long way away from the hot, muggy days of July and August.  I will enjoy it while it last.  Keller is camped out in the garage being a good boy.  A new locker in the garage is helping him do just that and not have anything to get into out there.  I think he is slowly learning his lesson, hard to learn, hard to learn.  

Of course, Shadow is right here on some throne or other in his usual regal manner.  My grass in the backyard is getting a lot of slow rain and I am seeing green out there.  Hope it gets a good start before it gets too hot.  The straw also has helped a good bit too.  Fingers are crossed that we won't have a completely full yard of red clay back there in the summer.  

I am getting some roses and cedar trees next week when I head to Sumter to teach ACLS at Tuomey for Saturday.  Miles and Dylan are going to ride down with me to hang out with Nana and GrandDaddy Pete.  Tricia gets some Tricia time too.  

Not too much going on around the home this week, just working and keeping the throttle on turtle speed. Big weekend fun planned.  We are having a Super Bowl party with church friends on Sunday and I am going to see the Drive By Truckers in Asheville with my cousin, Chad on Saturday night.  Should be fun.  I gotta run now, maybe more later tonight.  I want to write about some family connections I have re-established later...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Bad

Tricia reminded me that I forget to mention anything on my last post about Miles' award ceremony on Friday.  Mainly the part about me totally forgetting to go until it was too late and not telling her to go and take the camera.  I was at my Friday morning men's group and then left and went to the store before going home.  I got a message from Tricia about her having the camera at school but never made the connection until it was too late.  I had to let Miles know that I didn't miss it intentionally and got him a pack of Tic Tacs and gum as a reward.

Well, to top it off, I left him at church today after the service and told him to ride with his Mom because he forgot his Bible in the atrium.  He found his Bible first but in the duration, his Mom left thinking he was with me.  Cliff called me at home and let me know Miles was still at the school where our church meets.  So, twice in a week.  I am swinging for the fence and feeling the whiff of the ball go by my face at the same time.  

Miles is now watching his Harry Potter movie he bought used at Horizon Records and then we are going to shoot the BB gun in the backyard.  Can't forget that!  

See ya!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wrap Up

Well, the Tigers fell flat in the 2nd half against UNC and the streak continues.  I went to bed about 1/2 way through the 2nd half.  Not fun to watch that kind of beat down.  Hopefully, we can bounce back against Ga Tech at home tomorrow.

Tomorrow I am speaking to Freedom Fellowship about the mission in Botswana, say a prayer for me and the church.  I have a small powerpoint presentation to show them as well.  Should be fun!

Miles and Dylan got report cards this week.  Dylan got straight A's, perfect attendance and the highest advanced reader award in his class.  It was the Dylan award show this week.  Miles did good with A's, 1 B and 1 C (84 in math).  That C in math is an improvement and directly related to a low test score when he was sick with strep throat.  He also got the highest advanced reader award in his class too.  I think the math will be a solid B or A next quarter.  

Here's some pictures from his birthday party that I pulled off my blackberry.  It was the only camera we had, or so we thought.  We later found Tricia's camera after the party was over.  

We are going to work on that BB gun action tomorrow.  Got some cans ready for target practice.

I am going to New Spring tomorrow night for the 6pm service. I think that is cool I can do that and still be at Freedom since we only have morning service @ Freedom.  Hope to watch that Clemson game too.  

Working on small jobs around the house today and then we are heading out for some shopping errands and to see Free Planet Radio at the Bohemian Cafe for their Tower of Song taping, free show!!!  

Later tonight, Tricia and I are going out for some coffee and relaxing while we have a young lady from church hang out with Miles and Dylan.  Yes, that qualifies as a real date when  you pay for childcare!

We are thinking of going to DC for spring break this year.  Our plans were for Orlando but it looks like Hilton Grande messed up our reservation dates and we want to see DC with the boys.  Working on an Orioles and Yankees game at Camden Yard too!  That will be a fun trip and the right time to see DC before it gets hot and muggy.  There is so much to see and learn on that trip and the boys are the right age too.  

Well, gotta get back to the home improvements.  See ya!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Here We Go Again?

Watching Clemson play basketball at Chapel Hill vs UNC right now. Believe it or not, Clemson has never, never, never, ever won at Chapel Hill in basketball. We came so close in the 3 games last year, including a double overtime loss. Maybe this year? So far, we are up by 5 in the 1st half. I don't want to jinx the Tigers; so, I won't make any predictions. But, look who is President, so anything can happen, right?

Tomorrow I am having breakfast with Cliff to talk about me speaking to Freedom about the church in Botswana. I worked on a powerpoint tonight to get the ideas rolling. So, say a prayer for words of wisdom and clarity for a brother this week. Our church is now sponsoring Old Naledi in Botswana and we are planning to work on a mission in 2009 to the church with a small group. Please begin praying about that mission too. Don't forget to check out the website over here: and check out what's going on with the church over there.

We cancelled our Netflix membership today, much to the chagrin of Miles. We were keeping the movies way too long and not watching many. It wasn't worth the money and we are trying to trim the budget. We are thinking about using the Redbox DVD rental down at Bloom. Anybody have any experience with that system? Maybe Ingles movie store will be the solution for us. I just refuse to go back to Blockbuster. There has to be a better way. I do think Netflix has a great system and more movies than you will find anywhere. They deliver fast and never had any problems, it just wasn't worth it to us.

Got a game to watch, See ya!

Check out this video from Derek Trucks talking about Barack Obama:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes, We Will

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive ... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

January 20th, 2009

President of the United States of America,

Barack Hussein Obama

Monday, January 19, 2009

We Survived the Slopes

We made it back from our trip to Boone, NC with the youth group from Freedom Fellowship.  Miles had a blast hanging with the older kids.  I was in a room with a guy in his mid-20's, Ben Able.  We shared this room with 4 guys under 8th grade, including Miles.  We stayed at the Comfort Inn along with several other church groups and we all got together each night (Saturday and Sunday) on the campus of Appalachian State College for the StudentLife event that included a rocking worship group called Fee lead by  Steve Fee.  Miles really got into that part!  Lots of skits and multimedia presentations going overboard.  It was well run and the speaker both nights was Stuart Hall from Atlanta. He had the kids engaged and laughing.  Good message about loving one another just as we love God because that was his commandment (John 13:34).  One of my favorite verses and one I used on my thank you cards for my sponsors on last year's Africa mission.  

Speaking of the Africa mission, I am speaking to the congregation at Freedom this Sunday.  I am going to tell them about Old Naledi Baptist and what Freedom's sponsorship is helping make happen there in Botswana.  I have been away from Freedom for the last 3 Sundays because of one thing or another, it will be good to be back with my family at Freedom.  I am also planning to go to the 6pm service (just started) for New Spring this Sunday as well.  I don't think Tricia is going to make too many of those since Sunday is a prep day for the school week.  I have invited some of my buddies from my Friday morning group to go with me.  Hopefully, that will happen.

Wow, I got off track, didn't I?  Oh well, back to the ski trip.  Miles did fair and about as expected on the skis (Saturday) and the snowboard (Sunday).  He gave it a shot and although he didn't look very good, I think he enjoyed some of it (I hope) and we will try again another day.  On Sunday, I rented the snowboard package and paid for a private 1 hr lesson for him to get the full experience.  I think we may go back to skis or ski blades on the next trip.  All told, Miles handled the frustration of the new and unnatural experience of skis and boarding very well.  He hung out in the lodge with the group that was not skiing and rested.  I tried not to push him too hard, just wanted him to get a 1st experience of the whole snow sports thing.  I, on the other hand, think I did pretty good. Although the slopes were packed with folks both days making the runs challenging, this was the best snow conditions I have experienced on the East coast ever!  There was fresh snow mixed with some granular man-made stuff.  We got some snow and ice mix on Sunday and then the snow really started coming down on Sunday night.  We are expected to get a little dusting tonight here in Blue Ridge.  Tricia and Dylan got a little yesterday morning before church.  Tricia is watching for school closings or delays right now. Nothing for Greenville yet!

We are closing on our refinancing of the mortgage tomorrow.  That should make a good difference in the monthly bills.  We are starting a new financial class with Freedom in February.  It's Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace. Can't wait to get that started and get more focus on our bills.  Maybe a bailout is coming my way too!  Ha ha!  

Tomorrow will also be the one of the better days in our country's history.  I look forward to our next administration and the pomp and circumstance for 1 day will be worthy.  I am personally glad that Bush will now go back to Texas and we can begin a new chapter.  Enough said.  Obama has his hands full and I continue to pray for his wisdom and guidance to be blessed by God's own hand.  

Our Clemson Tigers put up a great fight against Wake Forest on Saturday; but, never could get the game rolling their way.  Glad to see Wake ranked #1 today by the polls.  Makes us look a little better and that shows in the fact that we remain the same rank this week, despite the 1 loss.  We head up to Chapel Hill this week to play where we have never won.  Maybe it will all be different this year?  Sooner or later the streak has to end, right?  Coach Purnell has another great time and it could be getting close.  We will see on Wednesday night on prime time TV.  Go Tigers!

Well, I am beat and ready for a long sleep.  Thanks for reading as always!  See ya!

Friday, January 16, 2009

1 cross-eyed makes 11

I really cracked up myself and the boys at the party yesterday.  We only had 1 candle and since Miles was 11, I had everyone sing Happy Birthday with their eyes crossed to make it look like 11. Ain't Life Grand!

Boy, it's cold here today.  Shadow did a fast U turn this morning when I was heading out for the men's group.  He got a blast and said "no, thank you.  I will stay inside."  It was a funny sight.  Not even time to put the paw up to test the air like he sometimes does.  It was a reflexive turn the other way.  I understand, my lumbar pillow in the car was frozen solid.

Hope we get some snow for the ski trip.  See ya!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Diggin' in the Spurs, Happy Birthday Miles

What a week, it's been a complete blur of activity.  Working offsite really makes it hard to catch up the next week and we have been pedal to the metal.  2 nights of karate, piano, school, work...and then today is Miles 11th birthday.  Hard to believe my little monkey man is 11 and heading to middle school next year.  We are celebrating tonight with 4 of his buddies from school and the neighbor, Calvin.  I was brave enough to take all 6 boys with me to see Bedtime Stories. Great movie for pre-teen boys, we laughed at all the silly jokes and gross fun from Adam Sandler and crew.  We had some pizza and cookie cake with cupcakes before the movie.  Mom stayed home and relaxed.  

We started the day with Miles getting his very first Ipod, a 8gb Orange nano.  It was not what he expected for breakfast, I can assure you!  Later, he was more than pumped to get his very first BB and pellet rifle.  On the way to the movies he said "I never thought I would get a BB gun, that's awesome.  I didn't think Mommy would buy one for me."  I had to laugh and say "you think your Mom bought that?"  He laughed and said "yeah, I guess it wasn't her".  We all know Firemarshal Bill would not stand for that safety violation.  Miles and I are going to have us a little class on gun ownership once we get back from skiing this weekend!  Yes, we are heading out for a ski trip with the church youth tomorrow afternoon, another thing on the list pushing me to warp speed today.  I think we are packed for the most part and ready to roll, oh yeah, I have another day of work still.  Ugh!  Miles and Dylan are off from school on Friday and Monday, Tricia on Monday.  Tricia has a partial work day tomorrow and is going to take most of the overnight guests home on the way to work, thank you God!  I plan to get some donuts for the Indians on the way home from my men's group.  

I haven't been to the men's group since 2 weeks prior to Christmas.  I am looking forward to picking back up in the book of Job with Scott, Jack, Mark and Allan.  It's a great place to decompress for a few minutes before the weekend starts with brothers who understand the pace we keep or try to...  

Miles also got an alarm clock from us like his Mom's that projects the time on the ceiling.  We wanted to update his alarm for the school mornings and he was very excited about the new one.  He was also stoked to get Madden 2009 for the Wii from Grandma and some money and gift cards.  That will all have to wait until next weekend.  

The ski trip is part of a youth retreat and should involve several youth groups with some worship time and 2 full days on the slopes.  It's going to be very COLD in the NC mountains but I am looking forward to my first East Coast downhill (ice) skiing since the 1980's.  I know it won't be as close to paradise as the West Coast but it will be fun to hit the slopes, hopefully not with the back of my head or butt too often!!!  Well, I exhausted and need to get off to bed and settle down the Guitar Hero marathon upstairs.  

See ya!

How do you like that picture of me and Miles on the first night home from the hospital back in 1998?  We were both exhausted, it's amazing how much he still looks like the same kid, just MUCH bigger!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Down Don't Bother Me

Full day today from sunup to sunset.  Put in a long 10 hours looking at the screens and taking calls. I have a new site to train, this time in the warm South!  It's in Conyers, GA.  Just down the road.  Got the rental booked and the hotel.  Hope to have chance to catch up with some old friends like Ruth M. down in ATL while down there.  Tricia and I are going to her wedding (finally!) in July, should be fun.  Ruth and I went to Clemson together and survived :-)

Today, the Derek Trucks Band released their 6th studio album, Already Free.  If you know me, you know I like music.  If you know me, you know I really like the Derek Trucks Band.  I think I have seen them close to 50 times since 2001, including a show in Frankfurt, Germany in 2007. That doesn't count about 15 Allman Brothers Band shows with Derek on lead guitar; but, who's counting.  Anyway, I got an advance copy of this album from a to-remain-undisclosed source back in October.  It's a classic from start to finish, their best effort since Soul Serenade or the first CD.  It's really that good and Derek recorded and produced it in his own backyard down in Jacksonville, FLA.  I ordered 1 copy from the ABB merchandisers and then I found out that Best Buy had an exclusive deal for 9.99 and 3 extra studio tracks...well, you know me.  My pastor and good buddy (and Derek fan too I might add), Cliff, is getting my other copy but not the signed book.  Sorry Cliff.  The 3 extra tracks are good, one an swampy raga instrumental called "Swamp Raga" (how did you guess?).  "Sweet Inspiration" with Susan Tedeschi (Derek's wife and mother of his two kids) and Mike in full gospel effect really gives me the goose pimples every time I hear it.  This CD holds up to many repeat listenings.  The powerful opener, "Down In The Flood", a Bob Dylan tune, gets a mighty working and was the tune they played on Conan O'Brien show last week: watch here.  And the album just gets better from there and you go on a mighty ride all the way until the ghostly gospel of "Already Free" that features just Mike and Derek with some foot stomping percussion by Derek's brother Duane and Bobby Tis (his guitar tech).  Susan just about breaks your heart every time on "Back Where I Started" or maybe it's Derek playing the sarod. Kofi's brother, Oteil on bass (he is the ABB bassist and his band The Peacemakers (gospel funk and rock)) shows up too.  

Check out this video of the making of the album here.
Includes some cool shots of Derek at home with the family fishing and hanging out in his new studio.  

It's really that good (have I mentioned that it's a great CD?) and although we are only in the 2nd week of 2009, I can stand on my soapbox and shout to the world "this is the album of the year"!!!  Get it now and make your day and tomorrow brighter!  Geez, enough already (free)!!!

See ya!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday Morning

Hope you had a good weekend, we sure did!  Nice chilly walk with Keller this morning, he had some ice on his chest after swimming in the creek; but, nothing like Wisconsin, Thank you God!  Glad to be back in the saddle for a work here at home. I have another trip coming up soon to Georgia, near Atlanta.  I have a meeting to set the dates for that trip later this week. 

Really enjoyed some Rush on my walk this morning.  Amazing how music moves you after some time of not hearing a tune you have heard so many times.  It's like hearing the music for the 1st time and the "rush" comes back (pun intended).  Miles and I have really enjoyed watching the Rush DVD set he got for Christmas that showcases their last big tour.  Like I wrote, one of the best productions they have done in their 35 years as a group.  Looking forward to what's next.  

Well, gotta ton of work to get to, hope you have a great week whoever you are reading this!  

See ya!

Top Concert Omission

Somehow, I forgot to mention the incredible concert Miles and I saw last February in Durham at Duke University.  The Bill Frisell Quartet playing a score to the pictures of Disfarmer's Depression era families of the Midwest.  This was a full media immersion unlike anything I have experienced.  I guess I will put that one at the very top for its unique approach and the way it still resonates.  It was a true pleasure to see one of my favorite guitar heroes in such an intimate setting too.  Here's some of blog entries from that show:  Disfarmer at Duke and here

See ya!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Johnson Family

Today, we skipped church as we had to get down to West Columbia to visit with my Dad's family for post-Christmas get together.  Lots of good food and just a good time sitting around and catching up with relatives and extended family members.  My Uncle Leonard and Aunt Suzie were the hosts and we greatly appreciate their hospitality.  Thanks to Aunt Suzie for putting my camera in a safe place until my sister can pick it up for me.  I must be getting old, had it packed and ready to go and walked out with the salad bowl alone.  Uncle Leonard is having some major shoulder surgery soon and since he has been a parapelgic due to polio since a young child, this will be a difficult recovery period with only 1 arm to use.  Please pray for Leonard and Suzie during this time and send your healing thoughts their way.  

I also got a chance to catch up with my Uncle Harold and talk about a fishing trip soon with Tricia and the boys.  We missed his daughter, Lindsey at the Clemson game yesterday due to some miscommunication.  Uncle Harold also owns a very successful landscaping and feed store and I will be getting some Abraham Darby roses for a new rose bed very soon.  I found these roses at Buchart Gardens up in Victoria, British Columbia way back in the early 1990's and the scent still attracts me and sends me back out West.  Looking forward to working on building the rose bed soon.  Uncle Harold talked a lot about getting a pontoon boat for his ever-increasing trips to the lake.  That is a fun trip and the boys would love to get out on the water and fish and chase gators. Hope that happens soon!

Watching UNC and Wake Forest play basketball while working on the laundry and getting the boys ready for school tomorrow.  Keller is in his cage sleeping and Shadow is roaming the neighborhood.  It's good to be back and ready for a full week at home and at work.  I have a lot to catch up on from being out and onsite last week.  This is a nice end to a full weekend of family fun and some awesome Clemson basketball.  Life is Good!

This week ahead will find a new Derek Trucks CD on the store shelves and Miles celebrating his 11th birthday.  We are planning a pizza party with a trip to the movies and then a sleepover for Miles and some of his buddies.  Then we head North for a snow ski trip on Friday with the Freedom Fellowship youth.  It's going to be a fast and fun week!  

See ya!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tiger Basketball, Football Playoffs, Home from the frozen North

Man, I can't tell you how much fun we had today at the Clemson game today with the boys.  The Tigers beat the NC State Wolfpack in a game that had a tight first half; but, saw the Tigers put it away late.  Booker scored almost 1/2 of the Tigers' points.  He is something special to watch and literally carried the team today. They have a tough match next week vs. the undefeated Wake Forest Demon Deacons at home.  Too bad Miles and I will be skiing (well, maybe not too bad...). Miles and Dylan had a great time at the game, the action is so much faster than football and the excitement was top notch today.  Perfect day in Tigertown that was wrapped up with a ride over to roller coaster road!!!  

Watching Carolina and Arizona play their playoff game right now.  Glad I am not there in the pouring rain.  Really surprised that Arizona beat Atlanta last week.  Hopefully, the Panthers won't be the same victims this week.

Glad to be home and hanging out with the family today.  Tricia and I had a great walk this morning in the woods with Keller and even had a nice walk yesterday when they got home from school.  It's a true simple pleasure of life to walk in the woods with family and the dog.  Great way for us to debrief from the week and talk about the weekend.  

We are heading to Lexington, SC tomorrow for a family lunch with my the Johnson family at my Uncle Leonard's place.  It's something we are trying to do each year after Christmas and it's a great way to catch up with everyone after all the hussle and bussle of Christmas.  My sister, Amy, won't be there as she just had gall bladder surgery yesterday.  She seems to be doing okay other than feeling a little sore.  Get well soon Aunt Amy!  

Well, time to focus on the football game and get the boys in the bed for the long day tomorrow.  

See ya!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Homeward Bound

Like Paul Simon and with a little warmer weather on my mind. Clemson BB game with the family tomorrow!! See ya.
on Blackberry

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sitting Around Waiting On An Airplane

Sitting around the airport in Detroit, waiting on a short flight to Appleton, Wisconsin to work this week. It's 26F here and gonna be a lot colder in Wisconsin. Got some duckies at Wally World last night, hope they serve the purpose, really all I could find in my size. It's not easy having big feet.
Just had a lunch at Chili's in the airport and then watched a really cool water fountain sculptor in the airport concourse that had me hypnotized for few minutes while I sipped my post lunch latte from Starburst [sic]. It's so easy to people watch in airports, you see the weird side and the busy side. Stress and frustration seem to be the order of the day. I have a few hours on the delay, so I stroll around in a leisure pace. I think that makes those in a hurry even more stressed when we don't get to the left of the moving sidewalk fast enough or don't full speed climb the escalators. Speaking of hypnotizing, the tunnel from the main concourse to the smaller terminals here in Detroit is illuminated and made into art with lights and music. Really cool distraction while you glide along on the moving sidewalks. Hopefully, you look down in time to jump off…

Yesterday was our 13th wedding anniversary and Tricia's birthday. Unfortunately, Tricia and the boys had to go back to school/work. Tricia did get some flowers from some guy named "Honey" delivered to the school. She was pleasantly surprised by his thoughtfulness and willingness to show his love in silly ways like flowers. He must be a nice guy and a lucky guy too. Maybe I need to take lessons from him… Whatever, I am a lucky man blessed with a kind woman who is a true friend and a great mother to my boys. Love that girl.

After going downtown to work on some paperwork for our home refinancing, we took the boys (who entertained the mortgage company secretary with their knowledge and overall "coolness") downtown for dinner at Smoke on the Water. We had a great meal and then a nice stroll (there's that word again) across the sky bridge. Miles took a couple of pictures of the happy couple in celebratory poses. He even ran the length of the bridge to show he could do it. It was a fun night with a light drizzle starting as we headed back home. Just hanging around the park, the four of us had a good time just goofing and soaking up some Greenville.

On the flight from Greenville to Detroit, I started reading a book that I gave to Tricia on Christmas 1998, ten years ago. Conversations with God. So far, I am staying with it, it does take you for a ride and is a challenge to follow and understand, as the author suffers the same during his conversation with God. I tried to pick it up a few years ago; but, I guess I wasn't ready for that teacher yet. The teacher does appear when you are ready to experience what needs to be taught. I stole that line from the book! I think "The Shack" got me in the frame of mind to open myself to what I need to "re-member" from this book. It might take a few readings and I am interested in the books that follow. Funny just listening connection…Bob Dylan's "Trying to Get To Heaven Before They Close The Door" is in my ears from my Ipod right now. I get it, sometimes you can get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right…
See ya!

on Blackberry

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Discovery Place, Grandparents from Ohio visit

Today we got up early and drove Tricia's parents to the airport in Charlotte so they could travel down to Orlando to visit Disney World with Tricia's sister and family. They are going to have a very busy week, Tricia's sister has two young boys under 4 and one of them has been sick already before traveling down to Florida. Say a few extra prayers for the whole family this week. Just keep smiling Kathy!

After dropping the in laws at the curb, we headed towards Pineville to waste some time at the mall before our 1230 reservations at Discovery Place. During the delay, we hung out at Barnes and Noble where I had some coffee and read the paper while the rest of the family browsed the books, one of their all time favorite activities. Before getting lunch at Jason's Deli, we hit Best Buy and got the entire Wii Fit package. Tricia is going to use the Wii Fit as her Wellness Benefit with my work since spouses are now covered. I should recover 70% of the purchase thanks to work. A good deal and we all benefit.

Discovery Place is a science and education museum in uptown Charlotte. Today was the last day for the Pompeii exhibit and I made reservations since I knew we would be driving Frank and Kathy to the airport today. I have to admit this was a great idea on my part if I do write so myself. The entire family was impressed with the exhibit. Some recreations and videos but that complimented the vast array of artifacts. My favorite part were the plaster cast figures that were created when archeologists poured plaster into the large open spaces they encountered during their digs. That was cool. The weird part was seeing everyone use the audio devices you could rent that read or discussed exhibit items. It looked everyone was walking around talking on the telephone and looking at ancient Roman life at the same time. A collision of time and space. I think Miles and Dylan enjoyed the exhibit and mentioned it several times. They got a big laugh out of the nude statues as well. Boys can't help it, we have to laugh.

After about 1 1/2 hours in the Pompeii exhibit, we spent another 45 minutes in the main science hall. Dylan enjoyed the Circus science expo and Miles went around the room with max attention deficit, touching everything. I think Dylan's favorite was the building blocks area. He and Mom made a tall sky scraper like the ones we saw driving into Uptown Charlotte. One of the funniest moments was when Dylan and I went into the rain forest expo and Dylan saw a door on the side of a cave and said "look, a door!" I went around the front of the "cave" and said "I think you might not want to do that". Dylan walked around to the glass and saw the VERY large python snake laying just on the other side of the "door". He and I got a big laugh out of that.

It was a very busy day but an exciting day for the whole family. We are going to miss spending time with the grandparents, it was a great visit. Very mellow and just hanging around the house. Miles and Dylan got schooled by Grandma in the art of Jacks. Just think, they had fun without using video games, how did kids survive in the days gone by? We talked to the Edwards and they are now in Orlando after a long day of air travel. Glad we had a good visit with them here at home and plan to repeat that next year at this time if possible for all.

I am flying out to Wisconsin on Tuesday for work in Appleton. It's gonna be COLD! But, tomorrow is another great day! Although the kids go back to school and Tricia back to work, it is also our 13th wedding anniversary and Tricia's birthday. After school and work, we have to head downtown Greenville to sign some paperwork for our home refinance package (6.5% down to 5% fixed on a 30year loan, thank you!) and then out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary and Tricia's birthday. I will fly out Tuesday at lunch and get back on Friday. Should be a fast week. Here's some photos from my Blackberry taken at Discovery Place.

See ya!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Top Shows of 2008, Clemson Bowl loss

As promised, I wanted to take a few minutes to write about the concert fun from 2008.  If you know me, I live for LIVE music and 2008 was a good year; not the best year for music, but a solid year.  

Before I dive in, just a few words about the Tiger's performance today in the Gator Bowl vs. Nebraska.  I thought the defense was the hero of the game and turned in an incredible spirited effort.  The offense on the other hand, hmmm.  Did they show up in the 2nd half?  Not until the last series in a do or die, and...well, they died.  Not one 1st down in the 2nd half until the last series.  You can't leave a defense on the field like that and expect a win, no matter how good they really can be.  Bowers and the rest of the defense line really showed what they have and will be offering next year.  This was the end of the James Davis era.  Sorry to not get a win for him and I'm almost hoping that Spiller goes to the NFL.  His unsportsman-like conduct call in the 2nd half for throwing the football at the defensive player from Nebraska was warranted to a point and not a good way to reflect on the Clemson team.  Cullen Harper didn't have his best game, leaving the pocket too early, too often and that last series failed in part due to his inability to avoid a sack.  But, overall, I am proud of this team and how they rallied after Bowden's departure and if nothing else, they gave them Gamecocks a fine defeathering in the Valley.  Lots of fun this year and lots of heartburn.  But, the season is done and I look forward to the Swinney era.  Go Tigers!

Now, let's talk about the concert fun of 2008!

#5 Allman Brothers and Phil Lesh, Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre, Charlotte, October
Two of my favorites and the Allmans came out with all cylinders blazing.  A shorter set for them but really glad to see and hear Gregg in such great form after his recent Hep C treatment setback.  The good thing about shorter ABB sets, the drums don't go on forever.  :-)  Nice to see Phil with his new band, it had been since Dylan was born since my last Phil show.  I became a Larry Campbell fan this night and seeing Phil is like catching up with an old buddy.  

#4 Marc Cohn, The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC  1/20/08
This was a birthday present for Tricia and just an incredible night of music, intimate and spirited.  I think he came back for 3 encores.  Just a perfect night in Asheville for the two of us.

#3 Rush, Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre, Charlotte, NC, July
Miles got his first Rush show and I got to see almost the same set list from the 2007 tour but I tell you this was not the same show.  This was near the end of the tour, 2007 near the start and the difference was more than tangible.  The band was dialed in and had a ferocious spirit and focus.  It was almost too good.  Can't wait for the next tour!  Miles had nothing but smiles and we enjoyed hanging with my good buddy, Matt at the show.  

#2 Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Asheville Civic Center, June
Although the Civic Center is not the best place for music, it has a great ambiance.  This collaboration giving us the full Raising Sand experience along with T. Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller as support was one of the best shows I have seen in a long time.  Tricia and I had such a good time at this show.  She came away thinking "that Robert Plant guy can really sing" .  There versions of "The Battle of Evermore" and "Down To The River To Pray" were goose bump inspiring.  Really, this is one I hope to see a DVD of the tour or a live album or something.  I would like to relive this one again, soon.

#1 Christmas Jam, 12/12/08, Asheville Civic Center
This was the first night of the 20th anniversary for the Christmas Jam which has raised close to 1 million dollars for Habitat for Humanity.  Any night I get to see Govt Mule, Derek Trucks Band and the Allmans has got to be good.  Through in a bunch of guests including John Paul Jones from Led Zep and it's close to concert nirvana for me.  The show started at 7pm and we walked away from the Allman Brothers set at 420am.  This night will be one for the books.  I could have done the 2nd night but I was more than satisfied by what we received on night #1.  Thank you Warren for a Real Good Time!

Honorable Mentions:
Greyboy Allstars, Wanee Festival, April (man, I danced a hole in my shoes during this set)
Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby, Peace Center, April
Susan Tedeschi Band, Peace Center Ampitheatre, April
Wanee Family Jam at the Wanee Festival, April (April was a good month for concerts :-) )
Derek Trucks Band, Spirit Square, Uptown, Charlotte, November (with Miles)
The Blind Boys of Alabama with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Isothermal Community College 
North Mississippi Allstars, The Handlebar, May
Yonder Mountain String Band, The Handlebar
James McMurty, The Handlebar

Biggest surprise of the year:
Steep Canyon Rangers, Peace Center Bluegrass Festival
This was hands down the best bluegrass I have seen ever.  These guys are tight and fast with locked down vocals and stage presence.  Can't wait to see them again.  I'm a fan!

The concert that made me feel the oldest:
Avett Brothers, Peace Center
Tricia and I felt a little out of place at times during this show.  Were we too old to get this screaming and thrashing?  One minute it was a thrashing bluegrass folk concert, the next it was some of the best acoustic folk you will hear any where.  A great act but I just don't get some of their more energetic tunes.  They have tons of talent and a fanatic following of young folks. Like I said, I like these guys and their more mellow stuff a lot but just don't' get the rest of it. That's okay cause I doubt I will pay to see them again and can pick and choose what tunes to listen to when I am ready.

Lots of great free shows at the Bohemian Cafe for the WNCW Tower of Song show tapings.  My favorites would be Tyler Ramsey back in the spring and the masterful Jerry Douglas playing to a PACKED house.  The North MI Allstars were great there too as was hometown boy, Edwin McCain.  Still pinch myself that we get such great free shows there and often too!

So, as I wrote about these concerts, I got to thinking about my previous judgement about the year in review.  This was a great year for Live music on my part.  I have really taken advantage of living in the Upstate and The Handlebar and The Bohemian are homes away from home for me, gotta love the smoke free places that support music and good times.  I made some great recordings and a couple of not so great but the Sony PCM-D5o continues to be the best digital recorder I have ever had.  I am blessed and I look forward to more concert fun in the new year.  Here's to the fun and the music to be experienced!

See ya!