Monday, April 23, 2007

This past weekend I sneaked back to my "nourishing mother," Hampden-Sydney, for a great afternoon and evening of meetings and dinners. Hampden-Sydney, founded in 1775, is America's 10th oldest college or university, and if you've ever heard of it [few have; it's too small and tucked away in the middle of nowhere], it's most likely because it's one of the few all-male schools in the country. Here is a nice article from a few weeks ago by the Richmond T-D on its status, including a list of notable alums, including Stephen Colbert but unbelievably missing US President William Henry Harrison, Hampden-Sydney Class of 1791. Harrison? Yes, that one. The guy who died of pneumonia after his inauguration...'Ole Tippecanoe' himself.

I serve on the board of the Wilson Center for Leadership, a program that I was a part of as a student that seeks to prepare young men for a career in public service leadership. Originally called the James Madison Leadership Program [after the US president and HSC co-founder], it's been renamed after Lt. Gen Sam Wilson, the president of HSC during my years and one of the greatest public servants still alive today. "Why that's a bold claim," you say to yourself. Indeed. But it's also true. Here's a link to a couple of biographies and newspaper articles on this fascinating man, who at the age of 84 still teaches, writes, consults and advises leaders across the world. Here is an excellent article on General Wilson written by Joe Galloway, esteemed reporter and author of the best-seller We were soldiers once...and young. General Sam, as he's known to his students, enlisted at the age of 16 in the US Army during WW2, and served with distinction with the famous Merrill's Marauders in Burma. He then rapidly rose through the ranks, moving from private to 3 star general in his 30 years. He also worked clandestinely for the CIA, including a stint as the station chief in Moscow during the Cold War. Some of the stories he told in the course I took with him entitled 'National Intelligence' are still technically classified, including his work to steal a Russian jet from a Russian air force base outside of Moscow [he speaks flawless Russian, and said that it "came in handy" when he was at the base impersonating a Russian general]. He later rose to head the Defense Intelligence Agency and commanded the famed 82 Airborne. I got to know him through his class but also from church; he taught a Sunday school class at College Church and invited us back to his home each week for an amazing Sunday brunch. Of my time at HSC, my best memories are mostly centered around being with General Sam. And now I get to sit on this board with him, so I can continue to stay in contact. It really is a win-win.

Here are some pictures of HSC's beautiful red brick campus, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

A view of Morton Hall, where I worked on my Political Science and Public Service degrees. The bell tower in the foreground is used to start and end classes; legend has it that you must streak it before you graduate...

Cushing Hall, my dorm my first year there. This is America's oldest dorm still in continuous use, as it was built in 1820. I lived on the right side of this picture, third window up from the ground on the front. At one point most of the college was located in here in the four passages. An interesting design note is that it's actually four separate buildings of four rooms on four floors, ie you can't walk from one end of the building to another but rather must exit and enter each of the four passages.

More pictures will be posted soon!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A great weekend

We had a fabulous weekend here in sunny Cville. This is more of a teaser post; more details will be emerging soon.

In other news, it's great to see that Ad Homonym and the E-pony are back in action after some short breaks.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What do April SNOW showers bring?

Spring Break finally arrived, after one agonizing day of school at the beginning of the week (thanks to snow days). There were a couple really nice days where we enjoyed eating dinner on our deck and running to the park. Then - the snow interrupted spring break again-

It was raining Friday night as we came home, and the weather forecast said something about snow, but we never actually thought it would snow in April the day before Easter!

Bailey brought her dinosaur out to play.

For Easter, Bailey, Uncle Steef, and Aunt Beeekah went to to visit Max.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

An evening with David Sedaris

Last night we went to see author David Sedaris, who was speaking at the CHS Performing Arts Center. The Mrs. Colonel gave me a pair of tickets for Christmas, and I decided it would only be fair to choose her as my date for the evening.

Sedaris, who by the way is much shorter than you'd think in real life, read mostly from notes all evening as he shared 3-4 stories and a random collection of his diary entries over the past few years. There was a definite French-theme to his work, as 3 of his stories took place during his time living in France. My particular favorite was his reading of his immortal 'Jesus Shaves,' the story of his beginning French class's attempt [en francais] to explain Easter to a Muslim woman.

I've been a big fan of Sedaris for many years, despite the fact that he and I would disagree on almost every political, social, economic, etc topic there is. It takes a big man to like someone who is his antithesis, and I am that big man.

At the end of the night he promised to stay around and sign books for 'as long as it takes,' and unfortunately everyone believed him and stayed in line. It took us an hour to get to him as we shuffled a few feet every 5-10 minutes. The frustrating part of waiting was the disorganization of the line; it didn't form as much as it was birthed from people gathering around him. Thus even though we [stupidly] went to the back of the line at the beginning, lots of others hung around the sides of the line as the event ended and then slowly absorbed themselves in front of us. There was nothing to be done once it happened, but it was still frustrating and added at least 30 minutes to the wait.

But the wait, as so rarely is the case, was worth it. Sedaris, keenly aware of the large line and the dedication each person had to wait in it, made each person feel welcomed and special. As we got closer and closer we could see that instead of an assembly-line procession of signing, he took the time to engage each person with a mini conversation, asking people "And who are you?" and "Where are you from?" Though annoying as anything when you are standing in a never-ending glob waiting to get to him, once you're there it's pretty cool. He engaged in genuine conversation with each person, with frequent questions and lots of laughter. He's definitely the life of the party, even when you have to pay and then wait in a line to be around him.

And what, pray tell, did we talk about with this world-famous author whom we'd waiting for an hour to meet? Not much of substance, but it was still fun. The Mrs. Colonel started us off with 2 of the 3 phrases she knew in Japanese [he's been living in Tokyo for the past three months]. He saw her bet and he raised her some other phrases. I then mentioned that I had used his material in my classes at the high school, and he smiled. He then followed that up a couple of sneezes, wiping his hands on the table cloth before signing our books. Continuing his Japanese theme, he drew a picture of a turtle with the Japanese word for turtle above it on one book, and then a pumpkin [and why not?] on the other. All in all we were at the table for all of 2-3 minutes, but it was still pretty cool.

In addition, there were many of Cville's most famous citizens in the crowd, including Little Cletus and Devilwoman.

All in all, it was a great night. Was it worth our time? Yep. Was it a great present? Absolutely.