Wednesday, July 26, 2017

LOST With Elizabeth - Introduction

I've periodically blogged in the past about TV shows, usually roping in my kids or wacky inspiration to help make things interesting. Sometimes it works (I watch Knight Rider with William when he's sick), sometimes I run out of energy (Magnum Monday), and sometimes plans change (Three's Company Thursday).

Well, the newest idea is introducing my daughter Elizabeth to LOST. I have a hard time classifying it as the best TV show of all time but it's pretty darn entertaining and I knew if I could get her to make it past the first couple of episodes, she'd be hooked. She likes that kind of brain game stuff and always seems bent towards the supernatural. So watching it with her seemed like the best thing to do.

What I didn't plan on was turning it into a regular blog post idea. The questions at the end of each disc are great and just about perfect for a solid 20 minute discussion of the show and where she thinks it will go. I also didn't plan on how hard it would be to keep my mouth shut as she answers the questions.

Anyway, what I'm aiming for is a regular series of questions and answers. The disc will provide the questions and she will provide the answers. I'm also going back to each set of questions every time to re-visit all of them to see if she wants to change her mind on any of her answers.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - July 15, 1977

Two different entries for today. The first is yet another visit to see Dr. Cho. Thankfully this time it was just a well baby check and not another ear infection.

The second is more interesting in that it shows a side of my father I never really saw. He had his hunting license issued. The California Hunting License cost him $10 and expired June 30, 1978. Only the Deer Tag line has a number printed. The Bear Tag line is blank and there are no pheasant or duck stamps on the reverse side. While some sellers and researchers have left the personal information on their online photos, I've redacted my dad's just to play it safe.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - July 1977

Forty years ago, I sat for another photo session. This time I was sporting a fancy shirt that zippered up the front and had embroidery on the chest (there was a barn, car, house, and two trees). In addition to the typical head shot, my parents put me down with some props. A bucket and sunglasses, along with a tropical backdrop and what looks like brown carpet, made for a great beach scene. The shot also shows my matching shorts and cute little boots. Less impressive is the third shot where I'm sitting on a stool in front of a dark wood panel. But it looks like I made up for it with a smile and a tug on my ear.

As icing on the cake, I have two additional photos from July 1977. The first shows me in the bathtub playing with my rubber duck. Not sure that I remember it clearly but I want to say the duck still lived under our bathroom sink when I grew too old for baths. The second shot is just a candid one of me holding something in my hand.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Prince That Lived In King George, Virginia

For local historians, the Tayloe family has an important role in the early history of King George County. But did you know they had ties to one of the most famous impostors of the 20th century?

An early settler to the Northern Neck, the Tayloe family had ties to other major families like the Lees and Taliaferros and they held land in several counties. One of those pieces of land was Powhatan Farm in King George. As the land was divided over several generations, Powhatan Farm came to be held by Bladen Tasker Tayloe. Falling on hard times in April 1935, Bladen sold Powhatan Farm at public auction to John W. Walters from New York. Mr. Walters would eventually sell the farm in 1955 to the current owners, the Guest family.

While the Guest family may have real royal connections, there was a Russian Prince living at the farm before they purchased it. Prince Michael Alexandrovitch Dmitry Obelensky Romanoff. Don't worry if you've never heard of him. I only knew him from Miracle on 34th Street (1947) when the Doctor is trying to argue his case that Kris Kringle isn't a danger to society and he says:

"Why there are thousands of people walking around with similar delusions, living perfectly normal lives in every other respect. A famous example is that fellow — I can't think of his name — but for years he’s insisted he’s a Russian prince. He owns a famous restaurant in Hollywood and is a highly respected citizen."

That's right, Prince Michael Alexandrovitch Dmitry Obelensky Romanoff, or Prince Mike if you prefer, was an imposter.

Prince Mike went by countless aliases, false names, and false titles. He claimed to be everything from a Count to a Captain and a Vanderbilt to a Rockefeller. In the end, or really the beginning, he was Harry Gerguson. In 1935, with Mr. Walters as the new owner of Powhatan Farm, Prince Mike came to take charge of the farm. Using the alias John William Adams, and posing as a professor from Yale, Prince Mike took over managing the farm. Reportedly in ruins, he kicked out the sheep living in the house and made repairs, built roads, and cleared fields.

Prince Mike was apparently isolating himself so that he, acting as the Yale Professor, could write "The Philosophy of History." Despite his isolation, he did make friends; a horse named Betty and a cat named, of all things, Gerguson. He was friendly with the Tayloe family as well, even gifting them a small puppy that would end up bearing his name.

From Return to Powhatan by Roberta Love Tayloe

His self-imposed isolation only lasted a year. He made a trip to Richmond to see a show and was identified by a society reporter as Prince Mike. He would leave King George in an old, junky car and would turn up in Hollywood a few years later sporting a wad of cash, a fancy car, and a new restaurant.

Prince Mike would become Hollywood royalty after opening his restaurant. Here are a few names from the very long list of Hollywood types he associated with; Charlie Chaplin, James Cagney, Jack Benny, Barbara Stanwyck, Clark Gable, and David Niven. Prince Mike reportedly only came back to the Fredericksburg area once shortly after his re-birth in Hollywood as a restaurateur. He would eventually die in September of 1971, nearly a decade after closing his famous restaurant.

One parting ironic twist. Prince Mike's early childhood was nearly a mirror to that seen in Boys Town (1938) staring Mickey Rooney. As an orphan and runaway and petty criminal, Prince Mike needed a father figure in his life to set him on the right track. While he wouldn't find it until he left King George, both Prince Mike and Mickey Rooney would follow the same path, this time in real life, as they served as pallbearers for Errol Flynn in 1959.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

OPINION - The Newest Stoplight To Avoid

Welcome to your newest form of torture, the stoplight at Dahlgren Road and Caledon Road (Routes 206 and 218 respectively). Before you yell at me and tell me that the light is a necessary evil, I will forewarn you that I only agree that some improvement was necessary there. However, I feel a traffic light is not one of them.

Traffic circles get a lot of negative press, and even more than normal here in King George. But before you shove those fingers in your ears and start yelling "LA! LA! LA!" let me remind you that the science is there to prove traffic circles work at not only moving traffic faster through the intersection but also doing it more safely than a typical stoplight.

Before we continue debating the pros and cons of lights and signs and circles, let's take a moment to look at a potential solution. VDOT has installed the stoplight and we all know they’re not likely to remove it anytime soon. Maybe we can find a solution that will make some of you happy. Or at least less upset at driving through yet another stoplight on your daily commute. With nearly 10,000 employees, Dahlgren is the host to our area’s primary employers. Factor in Potomac Elementary School during the school year, limited capacity on local roads, and it's a recipe for a commuter's nightmare.

What I propose is an alternative route to Dahlgren. My proposal is based on a few assumptions so let's get those out of the way first. I'm assuming that most of the traffic comes from the Fredericksburg area. I'm assuming that most of the traffic is going to Dahlgren's Main Gate. I'm assuming that we are all driving the speed limit because, well, we all know that’s the right thing to do.

To measure my distances, I used two points; Sealston Elementary School and the Dahlgren Post Office. I measured various routes using main roads and secondary roads, counted the stoplights, and even compare distances that are two lanes versus four lanes. Below is the end result of what I found.

Route Used
Total Distance
Number of Stoplights
2 Lanes vs. 4 Lanes
Route 3 to Route 206
19.6 miles
7 (Sealston, Hopyard, Post Office, KGMS, St. Paul's, WaWa, PES)
11.0 miles vs. 8.6 miles
Route 3 to 603 to Route 218 to Route 206
20.7 miles
4 (Sealston, St. Paul's, WaWa, PES)
20.7 miles vs. 0 miles
Route 3 to Route 205 to Highway 301 to Route 206
20.7 miles
10 (Sealston, Hopyard, Post Office, KGMS, KGHS, KGES, Rankins, Hillcrest, WaWa, PES)
4.2 miles* vs. 16.5 miles
Route 3 to Route 206 to 611 to Highway 301 to Route 206
21.8 miles
7 (Sealston, Hopyard, Post Office, KGMS, Hillcrest, WaWa, PES)
7.4 miles vs. 14.4 miles
Route 3 to Route 301 to Route 206
22.8 miles
11 (Sealston, Hopyard, Post Office, KGMS, KGHS, KGES, Tractor Supply, Rankins, Hillcrest, WaWa, PES)
2.9 miles* vs. 19.9 miles
Route 3 to 694 to Route 218 to Route 206
23.2 miles
4 (Sealston, St. Paul's, WaWa, PES)
18.4 miles vs. 4.8 miles

*The distance from St. Anthony’s Road to Tinsbloom Lane, where Route 3 goes to two lanes, is approximately 1.1 miles.

It’s pretty easy to see that the shortest distance is the tried and true Route 206 (#1). But when you look at #2 and #3, you’ll see the distance is only another mile further. For the fewest traffic lights, you’ll need to use #2 or #6. For the longest distance on four lane roads, #3 and #5 are your best bet while #2 has only two lane roads.

After crunching way more numbers and datasets than I expected, after learning more about the differences between geometric mean and harmonic mean, I finally stopped my circular calculations and decided to arrive at a ground-breaking opinion.

I say ground-breaking because I’m going to disagree with my own data as well as my own attempt at weighting the different routes based on these factors. In other words, I’m going to go with my gut. And my gut says, use option #3 (Route 3 to Route 205 to Highway 301 to Route 206). I feel like this gives you the best option to drop off your kids at all the different schools, it allows you to safely make left-hand turns, and it gives you the best combination of faster roads and shorter distances.

Distance (miles)
4 Lane %
Stoplight Time (seconds)

*To determine the best 2 vs. 4 Ratio, I subtracted the 4 lane distance in miles from the 2 lane distance in miles. This would give the routes with more 4 lane mileage a lower number, which would better align them with the other scores.
** The Stoplight Time is based on an average of 70 seconds per cycle. I then divided each cycle in half (35 seconds) and multiplied by the number of lights on the route.
***The Mean and the Average only differed by a small amount in the Distance and the Total columns. Because the difference was so small, I felt it wasn’t important enough to include this math in the chart.