All posts by

Roads and Rails Museum in Frederick MD creates a Rama world

I visited the little “Road and Rails” Museum in Frederick, MD today, on East Street (MD 85 which you get on from I-270 4 miles east of the main US 15 turnoff for Gettysburg, PA).  There is a parking lot behind the building, hard to see.

The main layout is an 850-square-foot space (the size of a one-bedroom apartment) with an interior.  On the south end there is a huge volcano peak. There is farmland, suburbs (one little mountain), a big city, then a northern mountain section with a range that runs south-north with a couple more rails on top.  On the east side there is an “old west” canyon;  on the west side there are circuses and othr roadside attractions. There is one small town on the NW corner.

Imagine if you went to live in this community as a Lilliputian for your afterlife.




The layout reminds me of Choo-Choo Barn in Strasburg, OA and Roadside America, on I-78 west of Reading PA.

(Posted: Friday, May 26, 2017 at 5:15 PM EDT)

Below: Fort Dietrick


Why do my two lead characters (Sal and Randy) meet “by chance” in the first chapter of my novel?

Some more notes about the opening chapters of “Angel’s Brother”.

One obvious question would be, why is each major character (Randy, about 40, and the college student Sal) there, at the Auschwitz-Berkenau site on a late spring morning?

This has to be a weekday.  Keep in mind then when I visited the site in 1999, on a Tuesday, there were relatively few tourists walking around the grounds (unlike the situation at some other Holocaust sites, as in the film “Austerlitz”).

Sal would have just finished his junior year of college back in Dallas, and could have been “asked” to go through the ROTC program.

Randy had expected to go to something like the Monroe Institute (in Virginia) for “remote viewing” training at the end of his school year teaching high school history.  (That session now occurs in the middle of the novel.)

Instead he is asked to go, as part of his interim intelligence duties, by himself to Krakow, taking the night train east (as I did) from Berlin, where he may get a chance to spot Sal on the train first in the morning.

Sal is just beginning to grasp his unusual powers as an “angel” (that will be covered in chapter 3) but he has already encountered the old Russian codger Lurku, who was apparently the first to discover the unusual radioactive waste products, associated with a novel biological weapon, in the Lagoda area near the Finnish border.  Sal would be in a position to know that the origin of the material may be alien, and not part even of Russia’s own nuclear arsenal, which is supposed to be accounting for all of its nuclear waste as part of a global nuclear security program (the NTI effort in the US). Lurku is a homosexual, who could have been endangered by the anti-gay laws, but his knowledge makes him too valuable.

Sal seems to be testing Randy’s chemistry with him.  Already Sal suspects he could draw Randy out of his stable marriage and shell job if he wanted.  It seems to be Sal’s decision whether Randy ought to be sent to NW Russia through St. Petersburg to meet Lurku.  It’s risky.

When Randy takes the same back across the Finnish border, the Russians give chase (Chapter 4).  Randy out races them, and then one of the Russian cars crashes before reaching the first town (where there was an assassination).  Finland is not part of NATO (it is a partner for peace), so it is easier for Russia to make a move into Finland than into the Balkans (which were once Soviet republics but are now part of NATO).  While the events of the novel progress in future chapters, there is an enormous international controversy, but the US and NATO don’t respond to the incident.

(Posted: Thursday, May 25 2017 at 11:30 PM EDT)

Gatlinburg TN recovery videos (not by me, yet)

I need to get down to this area to see it for myself, but it does look like Gatlinburg TN and Pigeon Forge TN have made robust recoveries from the November 2017 fires.  Gatlinburg reopened on Dec. 9, 2016.  A lot of volunteerism was involved, even though this was “other people’s fault” (CNN story ).

Here are a few videos:




4  (best)

5 (Pigeon Forge)

I drove through Gatlinburg (down 441 on from the pass through the Smokies, 5000+ feet elevation)  in the evening of July 16, 2013 on the way to Oak Ridge, to take the energy facility tour.  The town was very crowded and I didn’t stop for pictures.


(Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 8:45 PM EDT)

Taste of Arlington (VA) bigger than ever, but charges admission, leading to lines to get in

The “Taste of Arlington” (Virginia) was bigger than ever, but charged $15 admission.  Tickets were issued for alcohol, but food could be bought with cash.  Food concessions were cheaper than at many festivals (offsetting the admission).

This event was perhaps “Gay pride for dogs” (or maybe Straight pride for dogs).  I never saw so many dogs at an event, who would be more interested in each other than in all the people (although they did want the food — as a dog onetime begged me for some hamburger at Gay Pride in DC).    Some of DC’s gay community (Cobalt, Town, Freddie’s, etc.) did seem to be around. I didn’t see an HRC pavilion, which might have been a good idea.

The area started farther south on Wilson Blvd than in the past, that is, just past where the Ballston Quarter is being re-constructed. It extended almost to Virginia Square.




There was a climbing pole and some basket-court games.  The MLB Washington Nationals (who won today in Atlanta, breaking a 4-gane losing streak) had a major pavilion and advertised their new Visa card.

Something bizarre happened when I got the wristband wrapped on. “I’ll watch out for the hair”, the salesperson said, dispassionately, almost as if a character in “Twin Peaks”.  That’s never been said even at Town.  Last time was an “iv-critic” back in 1998 in the hospital in Minneapolis after surgery for my broken hip accident.

(Posted: Sunday, May 21, 2017 at 6:30 PM EDT)


“Make America Great Again!”

Today I visited the I-81 corridor NE of Harrisburg PA.

There are coal slag heaps around Mt. Carmel PA, toward Centralia, the town abandoned because of an anthracite fire burning since 1928.  There is a municipal center building in Centralia that is abandoned.  There is a “Coal House” store outside of Centralia, E of Ashburn (which has a “Mineshaft” bar).

Hazelton was the site of a major immigration law dispute in 2006, whether landlords are responsible for knowing the legality of their tenants.

There is an ICE detention center purporting to be in Leesport, but actually it is closer to Reading, off 220, and a bit hard to get the iPhone to find easily.  A prison is across the street.  I’ll comment more on this soon on the “News” blog.

(Posted: Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 11:15 PM EDT)

Cato Institute holds forum on teaching controversial subjects in public schools

The Cato Institute hosted a discussion “Teaching Kids Controversy: Education, Pluralism and Hot Topics” on May 15, 2017.  I was out of town, but I’ll link to the video as if I had been there.  Valerie Strauss, from the Washington Post, moderates. The link for the video is here.

Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post moderated.

Various ideas like “privileged topics” and the idea that most teachers are not really prepared to teach controversy were presented.

But in science, facts have to be taught, but so could opposing interpretations of facts, as was mentioned with climate change.

(Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at 11:30 PM EDT)

Field trip to areas in North Carolina affected by Hurricane Matthew

Sunday, I visited the areas of eastern North Carolina affected by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

Particularly hard hit was Princeville, on the banks of the Tar River, 20 miles from Rocky Mount, across the river from Tarboro.

The entire area seems to be poor with many buildings in poor shape, probably unrepaired foundation damage. There are not a lot of small road businesses around in rural areas of the coastal plain.

Kinston was also hard hit.




(Posted: Monday, May 15, 2017 at 11:45 PM EDT)


Working videos leading to a “DADT III” short film

Here are my first cuts at a “Unified DADT Video” started March 4.

They will address the question of moral compass from the perspective of someone who is different, and will track to the introduction and first three chapters of my DADT-III book (2014), more perspective. There is more background here.

This content will change with time.

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

Video 4 (workshop and backyard baseball)

Here is the template for Part 1, pretty much along the lines of Chapter 1 of the DADT III book.

(Posted: Friday, May 12, 2017 at 2:30 PM EDT)