Thursday, October 15, 2009

On(line) to Grafton: A Civil War Journal

For the last few months I've been scanning documents from the Pocahontas County Historical Society's archives. I'm still working my way through the William T. Price family collection. The oldest material I've worked with is from the 1840's, and it does give a glimpse of our local area at that time--not an easy or comfortable time and place.

This week, Reverend Price's Civil War journal, which he published in 1901 as "On to Grafton," is "serialized" on our Pocahontas County History web site. Rev. Price was a Virginian, and like most of the people in this area, approved of secession. Here's what he had to say about "The Cause" on his second day out on the Grafton campaign:

Early in the afternoon I reached Huttonsville in Randolph County where I found the people much excited and worried, and wearied to the verge of exhaustion by attention to soldiers a day or two before. Some persons seemed very desponding of the final outcome....I tried to cheer them up by saying to them that the cause of Virginia is a just one, such as the God of Hosts would approve. We might be slain in battle but never conquered....The question then was whether we should sustain the usurption of power and draw the sword against our friends, or whether it should be resisted and stand on the defensive. If let alone no blood would be shed, but if assailed then battle for all that is near and dear to the noble heart.

Moreover in my table and fireside conversations I tried to impress the minds of all that the question now is whether Virginia shall have the privilege of self government and regulate our taxes according as our interests and social institutions require, or whether we are to have our laws made for us, and enforced by rulers, whose popularity at home is in direct proportion to their hatred of us and abuse of our social and political institutions.

As a seminary trained minister, Rev. Price's opinion on which side the Lord of Hosts would approve must have carried some weight. I find myself anachronistically despondent reading (and transcribing) all the pre-battle puffing up. I want to tell them, "No! Don't! Just stay home--it's going to be worse than you can even imagine." There is, of course, no talk of slavery at all. It appears that it was not considered polite to mention it. Rev. Price and all the other writers of this time use the word "servant" when they must talk of people owned as chattel. It's a nicer word, and it's in the Bible, so it must be OK.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Writing Skills Resources

Sometimes a blog can be a handy online filing cabinet for things like this: 50 Free Resources That Will Improve Your Writing Skills. It's a list of links, most of which point to further lists, sometimes of advice, sometimes of still more links.

I'm particularly impressed by the scope of "writing tips." These include English grammar, advertising copy, student term papers, Web pages, writing prompts, rhymes, and famous writers on writing.

My favorites are the "tools," like Wordcounter, which points out your most frequently used words. I tend to think of some dandy five-dollar word, and then use it over and over again in the same document.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Physics for Fido

How to Teach Physics to Your Dog by Chad Orzel--This is chapter 3, "Schrodinger's Dog." It's wonderful.

I can't tell you exactly how I came upon this--I know I started at Sherry Chandler's blog, followed a link, and another link...and there I was, reading Orzel's bitter complaint about a New York Times movie reviewer who proudly displays his ignorance of physics. A physicist and college professor, Dr. Orzel is often irritated by The Innumeracy of Intellectuals. Sadly, indifference to math is not limited the the intelligentsia. Adult basic education students, school children, and college freshmen all use a smug tone to tell me they "are no good at math," meaning "Get out of my face with that stuff, I can't be bothered." In contrast, people who can't read well generally try to cover up and fake it. I don't get it, but the reason I often end up teaching math to the unwilling is the scarcity of teachers willing and able to take on those classes.

I'm looking forward to reading the whole canine physics course--we never got to quantum mechanics in my undergraduate physics class, because the physics department thought it was "too hard for biologists." I wish I'd had Dr. Orzel!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Purple Peppers

Our garden had mixed success this year, but one crop I was very pleased with was the Black Hungarian Peppers I ordered from Seed Savers Exchange. I've tried several times to start peppers from seed, but this is the first year I had anything to harvest. The peppers start out a dark, eggplant shade, but turn red when they're ripe.

They're good-flavored mildly hot peppers, but the thing I liked best about them was the way the plants looked as they were growing. The seedlings are nearly black (leaves and all; sorry I didn't think to take a picture last spring!), and the even the blossoms have that purple pigment.

Check out those black anthers!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

One Teacup at a Time

We're living in the new house now, still doing finish work, and still moving in, a little at a time. I don't have any interesting progress photos to share, as the changes are incremental and unspectacular, but I felt the need to break blog silence anyway.

I had thought when the walls were painted, the floor covering laid down, and the cabinets installed that most of my finish work would be done. There were just a few doors to install and paint. We bought pre-hung masonite doors, and installation took one day. They were already white, so how long could it take to get a little off-white, washable semigloss paint on them? Turns out, a really long time.

Our house only has four rooms, so how did I end up with eleven doors to paint? Well, there's the front door and the back door, the cellar door, the bathroom door, the bedroom door, and the office door. Then, there's the pantry door, the double doors in the bedroom closet, the office closet door....

The "pre-primed" masonite doors didn't take paint well, so two coats of primer were required, followed by two coats of semigloss. Eleven doors, painted four times each. The doors started out one shade of off-white, the door frames a different white. The primer was a greyish white, and the final coat a pale, pale yellow. ("Mesa Beige," actually. The naming of paint must be an interesting industry.) I still catch myself humming "A Whiter Shade of Pale."

Now, we've moved in the kitchen, the bedroom, and the part of my office contents required to keep working, and I'm chipping away at the rest. We're turning the old house into a workshop, so I'm trying to decide where stuff "belongs" before I move it over here, and trying to not leave wreckage behind. The TV, china cabinet, and the parrots are still in the old house, along with most of my books, our home-canned goods, and my grandma's china collection. It feels like we're moving one teacup at a time.