Penn Station is a madhouse this time of day. Plenty of people dashing about; Most of them going in one direction and looking in another.

Not much time between trains here. Just enough to ave a Nathan’s hot dog & some fries. I’ll have more time between trains when I return on Sun. Plenty of time to sample exotic foods like Dunkin’ Doughnuts, etc.

The train pulled out 2 min late. This is my favouite part of the trip; Rolling up the Hudson enroute to Albany. Unfortunately, my Flip video recorder is packed in my bag. Will have it handy on the way back. The light should be better then, anyway.

Nothing to do now but sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. Oh yeah, add strangling the loud mouth across the aisle to that list.

On my way North via Amtrak. My brother Jim was returning from NYC & we were in the same station @ the same time but he couldn’t get down to my platform.We’re just 2 trains that passed in the night.

Waiting to finish switching engines so we can get rolling again. I want to hit the Cafe’ Car as soon as I can.Breakfast was a good while ago.

More from NYC in about 3.5 hours.

I will be blogging on the road today thru Sunday as I attend what is likely to be the last reunion of the 290th Combat Engineers in Albany, NY. This World War II Veterans group was founded – in part – by my late father and I can still remember the early planning and organisational meetings. These yearly gatherings have been taking place for over five decades and the ranks have thinned over time; alarmingly so in recent years.

So, before lights out, there will be this one last muster. My father traveled to the early reunions by train and it is only appropriate that I travel – in his place – to this one via Amtrak.

If your old soldier has faded away, why not consider doing something for the ones still in uniform. Become a Soldier’s Angel by visiting to learn more.

I had the great privilege to grow up in the ’50s & ’60s. Sure, the threat of nuclear annihilation at any moment was a pain in the rear and the Cuban Missile Crisis gave one pause but still, there was some real exciting stuff going on like Sputnik, Explorer 1 and the Mercury programme. Those early satellite launches were more the stuff of morning newspapers and the six o’clock news than live coverage. But with the advent of the Mercury manned launches, live coverage quickly became the norm.

So where does my mother fit into space flight? Well, she was the one to wake me and my brother up early in the morning so we could all huddle around our black and white TV to watch the launch preparations and hear that the launch had been scrubbed because a tube blew out in some equipment in some suddenly important tracking station on some island that we had never heard of. Delayed launches and non-launches were the order of the day back in those times and we often left for school with the count-down holding at T minus 2 hours or something like that.

Fortunately, we didn’t always miss the launch when it finally got around to happening. Educational TV was starting to pick up steam and soon, every classroom in DuPont Elementary school had access to a TV. This accessibility was brought home on Nov. 22, 1963 when our principal’s voice came over the PA system asking the teachers to turn on their TVs because there was something going on. Thus, we were able to watch that defining moment in television news when Walter Cronkite informed the nation that JFK had died in Dallas’ Parkland Hospital at 1:00 PM, CST.

Throughout the ’60s, Mom was our pre-launch alarm clock and we were able to watch most of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo launches; either at home or at school.. In 1969, we gathered around whatever dodgy black and white TV that my uncle had managed to find for us in Norfolk, VA and held our collective breath as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren became the first men to land on the moon. Mom had us put out the American flag while she set about making peanut butter cookies for that evening’s moon-walk.

My mother was responsible for my ongoing fascination with space flight even if she didn’t quite understand all the technical bits. Nonetheless, she eagerly looked at every photo and listened to every detail of the pilgrimage my wife and I made to Cape Canaveral.

My mother departed this planet for places unknown on Feb. 20th of this year; The 50th anniversary of John Glen’s flight in Friendship 7. Scott Carpenter’s famous voice-over “- God-speed, John Glen” – came to mind this morning as I watched the launch of a Delta IV Heavy rocket for the National Reconnaissance Office on my tablet; Technology that would have totally astounded my mother. As the rocket rose from the launch pad, I said to myself:”Thanks, Mom”.

Let us now praise famous men. Today it’s my brother’s turn as he turns 54 around Noon, EST. I’ve known Jim Tench Parsons all his life and I cannot speak greater praise of anyone than I do now for him. Jim Parsons is an avid ham radio operator – W4JTP – a walking encylopaedia when it comes to sports and/or beer, an amazing font of trivia, an amazing freelance writer, and a dyed-in-the wool fan of the Virginia Tech Hokies . He’s got three degrees from that fine institution and if you cut him, he will bleed burnt orange and Chicago maroon. Like his brother before him, he believes that The National Lampoon was the pinnacle of American literature and that the world ended – as we know it – when the Firesign  Theatre broke up.

But most of all, I want to tell of the great help and support he was during our late mother’s last months. No doubt he groaned inwardly whenever I asked “Do you have time for a chat?”, but he more or less cheerfully listened to my account of conditions at our mother’s house in Hopewell, gave advice, did research and was always ready to juggle his schedule so that we both had a respite from our familial duties. In short, I could not ask for better support from anyone.

I just wish that I was half the writer that he is.

Jim took more than his share of grief as a kid from his older brother and has yet to put arsenic in the bottle of single-malt that he bestows on me every Christmas. One or two of those bottles do look a bit dodgy, though. Nonetheless, he persevered though it all and I am – mostly – sorry for these, my misdoings.

I’m both glad and proud to be his brother and I wish him a very happy birthday and the prospect of many more to follow. His life partner, Bob the Cat, will no doubt agree and gift Jim a hair-ball or two in commemoration of this day.

Happy Birthday, JT!

. . . to everything else. This is one of those tales that I think are simply amazing and it all begins with Crossing The Appomattox.

I have a friend and former colleague who now lives in Austin, Texas. We first met way, way back in the 1970’s. I took a job as a computer operator at an automotive parts distributor in Chamblee, Georgia. A lady named Daisy Thorpe  told me of the guy who had run the show in the past but had moved on to better things. This fellow stopped by his old workplace one day for a quick visit and Daisy introduced me to Loren Wilson. I think we shook hands and that was about it. Nothing monumental about anything.

Fast forward about 8 years to the mid-1980’s. By that time, I was working as a programmer/analyst for The Michie Company – a Legal Publisher in Charlottesville, VA. I was on a business trip to California to begin taking delivery of a much-anticipated editorial automation system. Michie was bringing a new guy on to take charge of the project and he would be joining us out in California. Long story short, the guy’s name was Loren Wilson. Over the next few months and years, we discovered that we knew some of the same people in Atlanta and lived in subdivisions built by the same man. Loren and I worked together for the next 15 years or so until he retired to Austin because of medical issues.

Fast forward again to Monday of this week and my tale of Crossing The Appomattox. Loren & I had kept in touch over the years and I had sent him an e-mail telling of The Parsons’ Rant. He decided to drop by & happened to read the Appomattox story. Two days later, Loren sent me an e-mail containing a link to a collection of photos taken between 1947 & 1957. The bulk of the photos were of the Hercules Powder Company plant in Hopewell, VA. My father worked for Hercules as did my mother – that’s where they met – other family members and some of our neighbours.

It was a treat to look through those old photos. I had worked at Hercules in the summer during my college years and I saw buildings that I had worked in and a familiar face or two. My mother was an industrial nurse at Hercules and there was this one photo showing one of her successors sitting behind the same desk and probably in the same chair as she had. I passed the link on to my brother who had also done summer work at Hercules and had a few of his own tales to tell.

He looked through the collection and noted that a number of the pictures were taken by “N. O. Howard” – better known as “Norm Howard”.  Mr. Howard was a ham radio operator and a figure in the Hopewell Boy Scout leadership who lived about two blocks from our house. His son was one of two passengers involved in the boating accident on the Appomattox River that took the life of my uncle so many years ago. If I had never met Loren Wilson, I probably would never have known about the photos and who took some of them.

And now you know the rest of the story.

I can claim with almost near certainty that I have never influenced or inspired anyone. However, today I may claim a (very) wee bit of reflected glory.

It all started with an issue of “My Summer Weekly Reader” back in the (very) distant days of my youth. This particular issue had a story about a kid who was an Amateur Radio Operator a.k.a. a HAM radio operator. Being fascinated with all things “radio”, I caught the bug but never got further than being a Short Wave Listener (SWL). A most of it was because I could never tell a dot from a dash whilst listening to Morse Code. Either that or because my brain could never process the information fast enough. Thus, I wound up being a spectator.

My kid brother – Jim – most always wanted to do what his big brother – me – was doing and therefore caught the HAM radio bug from me. He earned his Novice licence when he was in the 8th grade and through a combination of patience, perseverance, and hard work climbed the ladder of HAM Radio success and now has the highest grade of licence issued by the FCC.

If you have been paying any kind of attention to the newscasts, we are days away from the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titantic. GR100MGY is a  special event radio station licenced by OFCOM in the UK and set up in birthplace of Jack Phillips, the senior wireless officcer on the Titanic. On April 10th, my brother was able bust a pileup of competing radio enthusiasts and contact GR100MGY the first time he called the station over the air. He accomplished this feat on the 15 metre radio band using CW (Morse Code) which was only fitting considering that the Titanic was the first ship to use the “new” emergency distress code of SOS (Everything in that bygone era was done over the air via Morse Code.)

Needless to say, his older brother is quite proud of him and will take just a tiny bit of credit for starting him on this path.

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