Independence Day

03 Jul

Independence DayI was chatting with a friend this morning and he mentioned that he has been trying to convince his co-workers this week that we are not celebrating the 4th of July: we are celebrating INDEPENDENCE DAY. He makes an excellent point.

This holiday is not about BBQs and boat rides. It’s not about fireworks displays. It’s not about getting a day off work and a long weekend. It is about a time when our nation stood up on its hind legs and said, “We’ve had enough, England. We’re tired of over taxation. We’re tired of big government telling us what we can and cannot do, think and believe. We’re tired of Aristocrats looking down their noses at us and treating us as mindless rabble. We’re tired of being exploited and lied to.”

And we did something about it.  A nation of farmers and shopkeepers took up arms and went toe-to-toe with the British military … and beat them.  But not without significant loss of life and damage to property. In so doing, we earned the right to think for ourselves, to govern ourselves.

THAT is what the celebration held on July 4th is all about, and we would do well to remember Independence Day so we do not once again become dependent, which leads to subjugation.

By all means: fire up the grill, invite friends and family, and touch off some fireworks.  But as you celebrate, remember that the celebration is not about burgers on the grill or booming starfires in the sky – it’s about freedom.


Editorial Quick Tags

01 Jul

tag flag pinWhile you are writing, it is generally best not to break your stride by stopping to puzzle out or fix some inconsistency or fill in a blank spot or detail.  Keep writing so you stay in the groove, but toss in a tag so you can easily find the trouble spot later.  When doing a read-through of a completed manuscript, you may want to tag problems rather than stopping to fix them so you can stay in the story.  Editors sometimes use tags, along with pages of notes on those tags, to flag areas that need rewriting or revision.

Editorial tags need to be unique so they can be easily searched for when it is time to deal with them. Common tags are TK or TC, which mean “to come” and are used to mark gaps in the text where something else is needed.  These are letter combinations that do not occur in words, so they should not provide false hits in your search.

I tend to like <<NOTE>> because it is visually catchy as well as easily searched for.  I can amend NOTE with a quick comment on what needs fixing and still be able to find them by searching for “<<NOTE”.  Others might be <<EXPLAIN>>, <<SHORTEN>>, <<NEED PHOTO>> or <<UNCLEAR>>. You might think you’d have to start keeping a list of tags you’ve used, but you don’t because you can just search for “<<” and pull them all up.

When doing blog posts or magazine articles, I use this same trick to mark photo placements: <<<MyPhoto140625.jpg 300 Left>>> which gives me the title, width in pixels and the alignment. I learned this from a magazine that accepted text and photos through e-mail but needed to format and assemble the articles for print in their own system.

Tags have a variety of uses in both the writing and initial editing phase of your manuscript..  I hope this helps you out as you write.



29 Jun
Calvin S. Metcalf on amazable      A preschooler had just finished her first week ever of Vacation Bible School.  Apparently it had been a good experience.  When asked, she told her mother “Vacation Bible School was amazable.”  Now adults may smile at the use of such a word, but to a child caught up in the excitement of learning about God it was a beautiful way to express it.  She probably said more than she understood.  Nonetheless, she found a way to describe a profound happening in her young life.  How long has it been since you had an “amazable” event in your life?  How long has it been since you needed to invent a word to describe something that ordinary words do not cover?
     From time to time it is good to have an “amazable” experience.  It is imperative that we have some blessed events come our way lest we become morbidly pessimistic.  Life is filled with too many complicated issues.  There is often mystery without meaning, problems without solutions, and heartache without comfort.  Tragedy, sorrow, and death can take their toll upon us.  As we move closer and closer to our final destiny we need some “amazable” things to cheer us on our way.  It is not easy being human.  Without some unexplainable joy overtaking us on the journey we could easily give up in hopeless despair.
     Sometimes we may miss that which is “amazable.”  We turn a corner and there is God as big as life.  If we fail to celebrate and share such an encounter it may have little or no effect upon us.  The small light that shines into the darkness of our despair is better than no light at all.  The more we focus upon it the brighter it glows to dispel the black that may surround us. 
     Friends who come our way in times of need may not overwhelm us, yet they are “amazable” in the way they can help heal our hurts.  Sin may overtake us and guilt may unmercifully whip us, but grace is God’s “amazable” reaction.  He forgives the repentant and encourages the wayward to sin no more. 
     Love is an “amazable” ingredient of life.  The capacity to care and to be cared for are often unexplainable, undeserved, and “amazable.”  Being alive is “amazable” when we consider the fragile nature of our existence.  Let us, therefore, never get too old to look through childish eyes and discover that which is “amazable.”



Gallery of Upcycling Ideas

28 Jun

Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.

The first recorded use of the term upcycling was by Reiner Pilz of Pilz GmbH in an article by Thornton Kay of Salvo in 1994.[1]

We talked about the impending EU Demolition Waste Streams directive. “Recycling,” he said, “I call it downcycling. They smash bricks, they smash everything. What we need is upcycling- where old products are given more value, not less.”

Since then, “upcycling” has become one of those trendy phrases you see all over the internet. Upcycling differs from recycling in that the product in question is not broken down into component materials. Upcycling differs from reusing in that while it reuses a product in (basically) in its original form, this is done in a way that adds value to the piece beyond what it had originally. Using the air cleaner housing of an old car as a container for plants may be clever, but it is not increasing the value of the air cleaner housing, unless you do something unique to it. 

upcycling a pianoOne item commonly seen recently is the Baby Grand Bookshelf. You may question whether the bookcase has more monetary value than a Baby Grand piano, but points out that moving a piano can cost hundreds of dollars. Offering a now unwanted Baby Grand for little or no cost to a friend or relative who wants one may prove mutually beneficial, even after said friends pays for the move. However if said piano has a cracked soundboard offering it, even for free, will be a dud deal because the cost of moving it and restoring it will be higher than the cost of a new one. In that case, turning it into something other than a piano may be the perfect way to salvage a large part of a beautiful piece of casegoods, save the the cost of having it moved out, and keep it out of the landfill or junk yard.

Read the rest


Seeking the History of the Screened Porch

26 Jun

Anyone who has experienced one has to admit that a screened porch is a wonderful addition to any house. A screened porch offers the breezes, scents, sounds, and sights of being outdoors – but without the bugs and the blazing sun. In rural areas – before air conditioning became rampant – many people used a screened porch as a bunk room on particularly sweltering summer nights.

Screened Porch 2


Victorian home with a sleeping porch on the second floor. Usually built off a bedroom, the sleeping porch was screened in on three sides for maximum air circulation.

But like so many brilliant architectural adaptations, the screened porch has been shoved aside by more modern innovations and changes in lifestyle. Conversion to a year-round sunroom or blown out into a larger deck or patio that offers a full open-air atmosphere, the screened porch is fast becoming a nostalgic memory.

Have you ever wondered who first thought of enclosing a porch with window screening? Let’s have a seat in the Wayback Whensday machine and see what we can find out.


Taking Time For Reading

26 Jun
reading dog

Credit: Armstrong Library

Good writers are avid readers.

I don’t have any statistics from scientific studies to throw at you, but based on what I know about the talented writers I’ve encountered, I stand by that statement. For most of us, a penchant for writing was the fruit which grew from our love of reading when we were young. We admired our favorite author’s ability to take us to other places, times, and situations, and we wanted to do this too. So we began crafting stories of our own.

Whether we did so consciously or not, we emulated our literary mentors. As we read their work, we began to dissect their stories, to see how they created the illusions. Like studying a magic act, we wanted to discover the slight-of-word that made it all believable.

Most of us still enjoy reading. Unfortunately, many now do not spend much time reading great novels. We’re spending so much time reading as research, or for education, or as part of our marketing efforts that the great masters lay on a shelf gathering dust. The library is thinking of closing our account because our card has not been used in such a long time. This is a shame.   Read the rest of this entry »


A Right Fine Settn Porch

24 Jun

senset from the porchThere are few things I find more enjoyable than the simple pleasure of sitting on a proper porch with my beloved and a glass of cold lemonade on a warm summer evening. This evening is one such.

Temperatures during the day had gotten up into the mid 80s, but as the sun slides down behind English Mountain across the valley from us the temperature eases. The sky splashed with pink, rose, mauve and vermilion slowly deepens into amethyst, violet and plum. A few bright stars burn through the gauzy haze of high, thin clouds which provide a canvass for the setting sun to paint upon.

To the south the multiple ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains slowly disappear into the dusk. A Chuck Wills Widow sits in the top of a tree across the hard-road, a hundred feet or so downhill from us, and serenades us with his gentle melody. Crickets chip, cicadas thrum, tree frogs trill.

A flying beetle thumps determinedly against the glass of the porch light. It looks like a June bug, but it’s the wrong time for June bugs, unless he’s a confused June bug. I switch the light off to save him from endangering his well being (and annoying us) and so we can get a clearer view now that the sky is dark.   Read the rest of this entry »

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22 Jun
Calvin S. Metcalf on Jacob's Well     It did not matter that she was a Samaritan, or a half-breed, as most Jews would have called her.  It did not matter that she was a woman of ill repute who came to draw water at a less conspicuous time.  It did not matter to Jesus that conversation with the likes of her would raise the eyebrows of the respected citizens of that area.  She had hoped to get her water and go home without seeing or talking with anyone.  Her sin had caused her to hide in the shadows of life.  Her lifestyle could not stand the scrutiny of the public eye.  She was already the topic of town talk.
     As Jesus sat on the rim of Jacob’s well He saw hurt, guilt and shame written on her face.  He initiated a conversation with a request “Woman, give me a drink of water.”  She was startled to hear a man who appeared to be a Jewish teacher even talk to her in a public place.  Her response was briskly stated.  “How is that you, being a Jew, would dare ask water of me, seeing I  am a Samaritan?”  The cultural climate of that day was much too prejudiced for that kind of interaction.  The years had created barriers of dislike between the two classes of people.  A Samaritan woman could well be suspicious of a Jewish male who would make such a request.  His intentions could be inappropriate.
     Jesus, knowing who He was, had nothing to prove or nothing to hide.  “If only you knew who was asking you for a drink you would seek from Him a water which would quench your thirst forever” was Jesus response to her surprised comment.  “Give me this water!” she insisted.  “Then I won’t have to come to this place of public gossip ever again.” 
     At this point Jesus wanted to talk about husbands.  She wanted to talk about the best place to worship.  Jesus explained that a time was coming and had arrived when the place of worship would be less important that the spirit and truth of worship.  This prophet soon turned Messianic in the woman’s mind and she hurried into the village to announce her discovery.  As a result of her uninhibited testimony, many believed.  
     Have you encountered a “Jacob’s well” lately where the water of “good-news grace” has washed away your bitterness, guilt and shame?  Has Messiah helped you overcome the negative ways in which some folk describe you?  Have you tasted the water that quenches your thirst for God?  Come let us drink together of the Water of life.

MoonPies in the Smokies Festival

17 Jun

moonpie logoOn May 26th, 2012 approximately 3,000 people braved the 92° temperatures to attend the First Annual MoonPie in the Smokies Festival, held in Newport Tennessee at the A&I Fairgrounds and sponsored by Pepsi, the Cocke County Partnership, Chattanooga Bakery and 92.3 WNPC radio.

In many respects it was your typical country fair: there were food, drink and memorabilia vendors, there was a car show, there was a cornhole tournament, there were inflatable bouncy things for the kids to play in, there was a giant sand pile to dig in, the fire department sent a pumper truck to spray water in an area where folks could go to cool off.  The local grammar school kids put on a musical comedy called The Unknown Salesman honoring Mr. Earl Mitchell Sr. inventor of the iconic Southern snack; the MoonPie, which featured – naturally – dancing MoonPies: the MoonPiettes.  But the guests of honor were The World’s Largest MoonPie, Anna Pratt; granddaughter of Mr. Mitchel, and Ron Dickson author of The Great MoonPie Handbook.

Moonpie & RD ColaMs. Pratt lives in Gatlinburg TN but frequently comes to Newport to put flowers on the grave of her grandfather (Mitchell) who is buried in Union Cemetery. When asked if her grandfather had received any royalties from his invention she replied, “Not a penny.” But his creation has spread joy across the South for generations; every self-respecting Southerner knows that a MoonPie and an RC Cola is the greatest snack on the planet.  Read the rest of this entry »


Recycling Yard Waste Into Something Useful

16 Jun

recycling yard wasteUnless you rent an apartment, you probably have a yard to maintain. That means grass to mow, bushes and trees to tend, maybe flowers or a vegetable garden to maintain. A yard of any size will produce a fair bit of yard waste. What do you do with all the trimmings, clippings and cuttings?

Municipal Disposal of Yard Waste

If you live in a city, you can probably put your yard waste into special biodegradable bags and the city will pick it up for composting. This may be the easiest solution, but if you are also buying fertilizer for your yard, it’s not the best solution. 


You can easily compost your yard waste and kitchen scraps (fruit and vegetable) to make a nutrition-rich soil additive to fertilize your plants. And it costs you nothing!

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