(A multi-day omnibus)
3d July: Blake Family Reunion in New Market, TN. Guesstimate, 65 people in attendance, all descended from John Blake of South Carolina in some way, 6 or 7 generations back from me. Food, and the fun coincidence of discovering that a cousin of mine (Paul Blake) is a game designer who works for a company that licenses plush Monty Python toys. "Oh, ThinkGeek sells those," I said. Some fun boggling ;)
Plentiful food and delicious babies, or the other way around. A very different kind of atmosphere than the reunion I'll be at in August. At the Blake reunion, not that everyone actually knows their identifier offhand, everyone at the Blake reunion who is a blood-line descendant (rather than married in) has a numeric code associated which indicates their place in the tree. There's also a formal "business meeting" aspect to the gathering (for the announcement of births and deaths), a signing book, nametags, etc. Some very interesting folks there, but in truth I don't know many of them except by sight. Talking w/ Paul, his wife Diane, and Sharon Blake (widow of Cleland Blake) was excellent -- best choice in seating I could have made, with 10-month-old Emily Blake presiding from the head of the table, too.
However, no fireworks, after there were apparently some complaints from milquetoast complaining types from the church on whose grounds the reunion annually takes place. I suspect this means my dad did not clean up the mess after he brought them in my stead last time. (And today might have been bad for it, anyhow; at least as the reunion was getting started, there was a funeral underway elsewhere on the church grounds.)This is too bad, because kids should have a chance to learn that fireworks are a fun, reasonable, appropriate thing to use, but they need to be respected -- careful of fingers, eyes, other people, flammable surroundings, and with plenty of water on hand. Thorough cleanup afterward, too, esp. at a place like the old Caledonian Presbyterian church in New Market. I don't want every kid to grow up to be complacent about idiot laws restricting their use, just like I don't want them to grow up thinking that guns contain their own malice aforethought.
Did some yard work, which felt good.
Fireworks in Knoxville -- quite a good show, esp. considering that some of the best views of the show (right by the bridge on which sits a city fire truck) are from completely uncrowded spots. Took some pictures -- I'm happy with how good some of them came out, even with my 4-year-old, AA-powered pocket cam. Show was only 19 minutes long; I wonder if it's because I just read (thanks to Ruthy Scotty pointing out the article) that fireworks shows are tending to be shorter, or because it's the case, that it seemed shorter than the two other times I've seen the city's display.
Afterward, we touched off just two fireworks: 1 was a plastic finned rocket (nice height, but the "burst" was pretty anemic), and the other was a "Color Me America" 20-shot square cake, perhaps 6 inches on a side, which was *excellent.*
5th July: Oak Ridge, TN. We visited the Museum of Energy at Oak Ridge -- well worth seeing. Replica of Little Boy, as well as (and this is the highlight) historical displays about the creation of Oak Ridge as a secret city ("Secret City" is a tag on all sorts of things around town). Many of the exhibits, as I remembered from the last time I was there more than 20 years ago, are oriented toward kids, but that's fine. I wish there was some higher-level content as well, and that some of the displays were better labeled, but I found no shortage of things to look at. Life inside the city during the war must have been very strange -- residents were pretty much there for the duration, and only after the war was its presence allowed on maps, etc. Interesting to see that even in this Federal microcosm, state segregation laws were in effect for housing and employment.
One of my favorite things: part of the museum (reached by descending an outside staircase from the 2d floor) is a reconstructed "Flat Top" (type B-1) house, one of the pre-fab housing types that filled up the city as it boomed to 75,000 residents. It's small, but seems to be a livable little unit. Says the sign outside, it's actually based on a plan from the TVA (gub'mint run amok), which had built similar ones for workers during dam construction in N. Carolina.
Later that day, we stopped for Korean food at a place I'll give a happy 2.5 stars, called Kaya.
On the way back, we stopped at the Fireworks Supermarket on exit 407 for a few sundries, incl. another "Color Me America," because that (it turns out -- oh happy day) is the "free gift" that a promotional sticker gets.
Brief stop at Bush Beans's new visitor center; the "country store" pretensions aside (plastic, sterile, overpriced), the small walk-through museum attached is free and well-done; historical exhibits about the company, but also about the modern history of canning, showing how certain labor-intensive jobs have been made easier, etc.
But the real destination was the Tennessee Museum of Aviation in Sevierville. If I had more of an aviation background, I'd like this place even better, but even in my state of ignorance I find the planes and other artifacts worth several hours of fascination. Migs (17 and 21), a few helicopters (incl. a Bell 222, which I would like to have for myself, thanks), jet cockpits which you can sit in, a Mustang (no Spitfires at the moment), a replica Wright Brothers glider ... worth the $12-13 (less for older, younger folks). No comparison to the StratComm museum near Omaha, or the Smithsonian's Air & Space museum, but that's OK. As a regional museum goes, this is a real winner.
Today is a work in progress. Working on Slashdot; later, will do some yard work. Talked w/ B&N rep. about the Nook I've got to play with, finally figured out where something I downloaded to the device disappeared to. I'm slow to the whole e-Book world, but am fairly impressed with the thing.