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Sunday, August 28, 2011
Irene visits Charm City
       When Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. went forth this morning in search of bagels their way was immediately blocked by a large tree that had snapped off during the night right next door to their condo. Somehow they managed to sleep through the whole thing (including the raucous hurricane party that some students were throwing somewhere in the vicinity). Except for cancellation of a doubleheader between the Orioles and the Yankees yesterday Irene turned out to be pretty much of a non-event around here.

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The tree next door was old and rotten and should have been removed long ago.

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That's Uncle Jack's condo building looming over everything in the background.

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A JHU student's car was in the wrong place at the wrong time last night.

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Plastic walls at the library extension will need a little work tomorrow.

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The wind was still gusting this morning. The campus is littered with small branches and leaves.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:53 PM

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Thursday, August 25, 2011
Braving the Storm
       Uncle Jack ran across this old piece in the archives and thought it might be appropriate to run it again in view of current events:

                                                                                                                              Braving the Storm

       Uncle Jack is not by nature a gloomy person. His outlook on life is basically cheerful even though he realizes full well that he could be run over by a fish truck at any time. “Every cloud has a silver lining” he insists. “It is always darkest before the dawn.” Platitudes like these are the basic building blocks from which his serenity is formed.
       Nevertheless from time to time Uncle Jack does experience feelings of acute anxiety, usually brought on by sharp twinges in the vicinity of his liver, or by learning that scientists somewhere have discovered that another of his vices is carcinogenic.
       Uncle Jack almost never suffers insomnia. Actually he finds it far more difficult to stay awake than to fall asleep. The majority of his waking hours could be accurately described as euphoric. His basically optimistic weltanschauung (he uses words like that whenever he can so that the pain of his high school education will not have been endured in vain) has made it possible for him to live contentedly on the Outer Banks for many years.
       A pessimist, Uncle Jack firmly believes, could not possibly live on the Outer Banks because there is too much to worry about. Take the melting polar ice caps, for example, which he did not learn about until three days after he sold his house in Pittsburgh 26 years ago. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” a friend asked him. “Surely you know that the polar ice caps are melting?”
       Uncle Jack could not simply dismiss this peculiar warning as the ravings of a lunatic because it came from a Nobel Prize-winning scientist he used to play bridge with (which should give you some idea of the lofty circles Uncle Jack traveled in before he escaped to the Outer Banks for good).
       What his friend was trying to tell him was that global warming is making the oceans rise and in a million years, give or take a couple of millennia, the Outer Banks will be completely under water. Needless to tell you this friend had a low opinion of local real estate as a long-term investment .
       If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack does not spend a whole lot of time worrying about the melting polar ice caps but he has to confess that this is the time of year he does think a little bit about hurricanes once in a while. He has had just enough experience with hurricanes to make him wonder what he should do when the next one comes along, as it surely will.
       Uncle Jack’s first hurricane was Ginger back in September 1970 which was a feeble little blow as hurricanes go, with maximum winds that never quite reached 100 miles per hour but he will never forget that night as long as he lives. For one thing it was the only time he ever saw rain come right through the walls (not the windows---the walls!) of his house. Even so he was better off than his friends whose sliding glass doors facing the ocean blew out at 3 a.m. and let the wind and rain redecorate their apartment for two hours.
              What worries Uncle Jack most is that there are probably a hundred times as many people on the Outer Banks in the hurricane season now than there were in 1970 and there are still only two bridges. He can only hope that if a storm does come our way this season that every visitor and every resident will take it seriously. If you want to know the truth Uncle Jack has never heard a hurricane joke that he thought was funny..
       On the bright side he also remembers that wonderful old saying “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good..” This is especially true if you happen to be a roofer.

posted by Uncle Jack at 11:02 AM

Comments [1]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Earthquake vs. Hurricane
       Uncle Jack decided yesterday afternoon that all things considered he likes hurricanes more than he does earthquakes. That doesn't mean he actually likes hurricanes because he knows firsthand how much misery they can cause but if he had to make a choice he would rather cope with a hurricane than an earthquake.
       Up until yesterday afternoon he hadn't had any firsthand experience with earthquakes but now that he has he feels qualified to form an opinion. He knows that his children in California who have lived through many an earthquake will find it amusing but he has to confess to a few moments of sheer terror when his condo building started doing the rhumba yesterday. It only lasted a few seconds but he can't remember a time in his life when he felt so abjectly helpless in the face of a natural phenomenon. What is the appropriate thing to do when one is on the seventh floor of a concrete and steel building that starts swaying like a stalk of sea oats in the breeze? It was all over before he had to decide but the experience did leave him a bit shaken. After a whole day to think about it he still doesn't have an answer.
       Hurricane anxiety is something else. From Ginger in 1970 to Isabel in 2005 he has experienced many a cyclonic disturbance while hunkered down in various Nags Head houses but never with a sense of imminent destruction. Even with Jim Cantore screaming into the wind like a latter day Jeremiah he remained fairly relaxed in the comfort of his living room, even when the cable mercifully went out.
       With Irene apparently on a course to collide with the Outer Banks by this weekend Uncle Jack feels more nervous about it from a distance than he would if he were there. Watching the Weather Channel from Baltimore will be nerve-wracking he is sure. Possibly even worse than watching the Orioles play the Yankees which they will be doing this weekend.
       Anyway he has his fingers crossed that Irene will be kind to our new $36 million beach and to his rental cottage as well. He envies all his readers who will be there to watch it firsthand. He should probably mention that his cottage is available after mid-September for folks who might want to visit Nags Head post-Irene to check things out. Google Uncle Jack's Beach Cottage for further info about availability and rates.

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Work continues at a rapid pace on the new JHU library building. Many bricklayers are now employed in covering up this insulation.

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Meanwhile a short distance away site preparation is well underway for a new 12-story building. Stay tuned.

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Today is moving-in day at the JHU dorms. These parent-operated SUV's are waiting to move in closer to unload.

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Discovered in Greenmout Cemetery the other day---the final resting place of Gen. Benjamin Huger, the Confederate officer who defended Roanoke Island during the Civil War. Fort Huger at the north end of the island was named for him.

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After several days of rain the flowers in nearby Sherwood Gardens are bursting with color.

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posted by Uncle Jack at 11:52 AM

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Another week of sightseeing
       Uncle Jack's daughter Emily from California paid her annual visit to Charm City last week and like all her visits it stimulated a round of exploration of historic places in the area. These included Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point works, once the largest steel mill in the world; North Point where a ragtag army of Baltimoreans repelled a much larger force of British troops during the war of 1812; Greenmount Cemetery in the heart of Baltimore where many of the city's most illustrious movers and shakers of times past are buried; and Evergreen House, the 48 room mansion occupied by two generations of the Garrett family and now a museum operated by Johns Hopkins University where Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are docents. Oh yes, and also the Museum of Industry which preserves the memory of Baltimore as a manufacturing city which it once was but is no more. The whirlwind week also included a return trip to Annapolis which we had visited the week before. (There is enough to see and do in Annapolis to justify several more trips. Stay tuned).

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The chapel in Greenmount Cemetery which covers several square blocks of the city. It is so large that visitors are allowed to drive their cars inside.

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The Garrett family plot. Relatively modest considering their enormous wealth, much of it derived from the B & O Railroad.

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The first Robert Garrett emigrated from Ireland in 1793 and was one of the founders of the B & O along with Johns Hopkins who is buried nearby. This is the grave of one of his grandsons who also headed the railroad.

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Mary Elizabeth was his granddaughter. She gave most of her fortune to help found Johns Hopkins Medical School with the understanding that it would admit women on the same basis as men

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Johns Hopkins' modest grave. His Quaker beliefs did not permit of ostentation even in death.

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The Booth family plot. John Wilkes Booth is here but without a stone to mark his grave.

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View of downtown Baltimore from the Museum of Industry which occupies a former canning factory.

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A few of the many abandoned buildings at Sparrows Point which once employed 30,000 workers but is now nearly moribund.

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One of the most important events in American history took place here. If the Brits had succeeded in capturing Baltimore they may have won the war of 1812.

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A mysterious abandoned Veterans' hospital occupies North Point now. The area is a developer's dream so something is bound to happen here one day.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:30 PM

Comments [3]

Friday, August 5, 2011
       Mrs. U.J.'s brother Jeff has been visiting this week from Southern California which largely accounts for the recent lack of new entries in this space. After dazzling him with the multiple delights of Charm City (including an impressive son et lumiere show of thunder and lightning Monday night, a rarity in Southern California) we took advantage of relatively cool weather (high of 90F) yeaterday to visit Annapolis.
       Since our move to Baltimore a couple of years ago many locals have extolled the charm of our state capital and we can now report that they did not exaggerate. Annapolis is a gem and it explains why so many Maryland politicians have worked so
hard to find employment there over the past couple of centuries.
       The narrow streets around the state house and in the harbor are utterly charming and eminently walkable. There is so much to see that additional trips will be required, perhaps when Uncle Jack's daughter Emily comes to town this week for her annual visit. The Naval Academy which abuts the historical section is worth a day of exploration in its own right. As a former Naval Person Uncle Jack found much more to explore than time permitted.


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The State House dome is getting a much-needed workover. This is the oldest state capitol in the nation that is still in use.

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Scaffolding fans should really dig this picture.

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View of the capitol from the front. Or is it the back.

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The Governor's Mansion. The infamous Spiro Agnew once lived here. It's now occupied by a democrat named Martin O'Malley, much to the dismay of Tea Party fanatics.

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One of the hundreds of charming old houses in the vicinity of the state house.

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This former inn on Cornhill street, now a private residence, is over 300 years old. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and a host of other dignitaries stayed here at one time or another.

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The other side of Cornhill street, looking toward the harbor. All of these houses date to the 18th or very early 19th centuries.

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The Thurgood Marshall memorial near the State House.

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View of the harbor from the Naval Academy's visitor center.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:59 AM

Comments [2]

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After retiring in 2005 after 35 years as owner/operator of Yellowhouse Gallery and Annex on the Beach Road in Nags Head, Uncle Jack, accompanied by Mrs. Uncle Jack (a.k.a. Susan), commenced to travel extensively. This blog is a chronicle of their ramblings around the U.S. (in their redoubtable Mini Cooper convertible) as well as visits to England, Ireland, France, Italy, and Malta, interspersed with lengthy stays in South Nags Head and Baltimore between trips. He took a lot of pictures along the way, many of which are posted along with each blog entry.
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