A Christmas Treat—2016

This is not a difficult rummaging act. The following pictures were taken Friday and today at the US Botanic Garden located at the foot of the US Capitol.

Tracy and I are fortunate to have been named honorary grandparents (though we go by Uncle Andy and Aunt Tracy) of the son of friends. His name is Henry and he is six–as of this writing. In our capacity, we get to take him places from time to time. We’ve been to Christmas Lights at the National Zoo, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, football with his parents, etc.

This Christmas–last Friday, the 23rd–we took him to Botanic Garden, a wonderful indoor, heated conservatory, which is decked out with a Christmas special each year. This year, the garden featured national parks and historic places, with models of the places made of all natural materials and with toy trains chugging through most of them.

Following is a collection of images from Friday’s visit and a return visit I made early this morning, before the crowds arrived. Although the order of the displays seemed fairly random in the garden, the images below track from east to west. The work people have done on this project is pretty amazing. I hope you can see that through this selection of images.

And please take this posting as a Christmas greeting from Tracy and from me, Merry Christmas.

The view from the garden. The Capitol christmas tree is always more attractive than the White House tree. But in this case, the view is affected by preparation of viewing stands for the presidential inauguration on January 20.

Before entry into the train exhibit, visitors are treated to views of US government institutions, the Capitol building and the Supreme Court.

The budding photographer captures a typical scene, this of the Capitol building and a detail below.

The United States Supreme Court
The Gateway Arch–essentially entering in the middle of the country, but hey. It was welcoming.
Henry marveling at the views early on.
Three guesses!
Mount Vernon.
Monticello, Virginia
The Martin Luther King home.


  • Freedom House in Florida


Freedom Tower in Florida–had been used in helping escaping Cuban refugees.
A detail of the tower’s peak.
Both Tracy and I totally missed this one with Henry. All we saw was him going inside this tunnel. Today, I saw what it was, a car loaded up with luggage heading, I presume, west. Such was this exhibit, impossible to see all in one passage. From here, we move to Western scenes!
Mount something or other.
A view of the Grand Canyon, a genuine work of art in bark. (added in second edition of this post).

About the below three scenes, my Marine Corps friend—and Vietnam War company commander—Joe, who lives in Colorado and travels to see family in the region modeled in the below, offered the following amplification: 1st photo: amazingly these dwellings still exist throughout the SW generally running from Chaco Canyon, NM, to SW Colorado to central west Utah (Freemont west of Richfield). Next two are common dwellings of Hopi in central Arizona that are occupied homes.

Cliff Dwelling monument.
Cliff Dwelling detail, one.
Cliff dwelling detail two.
The Old Faithful Inn in Yosemite. I waited and waited for the geyser to pop (it does) but I felt I’d lingered too long.
Percy–Henry identified this particular pal of Thomas the Tank Engine–in Alaska
Percy enters Totem Park in Sitka
Totems in Sitka National Historical Park
Top of a totem

Off to Hawaii and the Iolani Palace and the detail that follows.

And a last treat: who knew? Banana trees have most spectacular blossoms.
Merry Christmas! From Tracy and Henry and me!

Merry Christmas!!!








Reflections on Marine Corps Time and Leadership

Just thought I would share with my handful of readers something I might call “A Season of Marines.” It is something I shared with others at work in November.

For me, this fall has been a kind of season for Marines, which typically is highlighted only by the marking of the Marine Corps birthday on November 10th, when Marines (present and past) wish one another “Happy Birthday” as though all Marines were actually born that day. Email rings light up everywhere, and Marines look out for other Marines with whom to exchange greetings.  So it was on the birthday and again during a Veteran’s Day celebration I attended a couple of days after.  During that day, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps spoke of his rebirth into the Marine Corps after having failed in college and lost a full scholarship in the bargain. Sgt Major Green expressed his gratitude for the service of those, including past and present Marines, who continue to serve the nation in other ways around the world.

In addition, I was closely involved with the reunion of Marines who together attended basic Marine officer training in 1966 in Quantico, Virginia. 184 of us attended that five-month program, which taught us to be Marine leaders and infantry officers, although the majority of us went into other assignments.  Some of us, like me, would go directly into infantry assignments and service in Vietnam. Others would go to specialized schools, artillery, armor, and air–and eventually Vietnam.

Our gathering–there were about 50 attendees–were honored to have as a keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Ron Christmas, the heroic leader of a company of Marines in the battle to retake Hue in 1968 and the force behind the establishment of the Marine Corps Heritage Museum in Quantico.

General Christmas decided to tell us of how he now teaches leadership at that course we all attended 50 years ago. He offered a simple list of attributes of effective leadership, easy to capture and, in typical Marine fashion, equipped with a simple mnemonic, “The six Cs of Leadership.” One need not be a Marine leader to apply these because I think they apply in all relationships at all times and for all generations.

Competence–become the very best at your craft while understanding we all have capabilities and limitations and that some limitations we cannot overcome; we must get help with those and ensure those limitations never hurt those we are blessed to lead.

Candor–be totally honest with yourself, those we lead, our superiors, our contemporaries, and, most importantly, the American people. Marines need not be “politically correct,” but they must be correct.

Courage–two types: physical and moral. The latter is the most difficult and challenging. It comes down to integrity–doing what is right in the face of pressure to do what is wrong or to do nothing when one sees wrong being done.

Compassion–honestly caring for those you lead. Discipline is the exercise of compassion based on caring.

Consistency–be consistent in leadership style. Those you lead should not have to guess who you will be one day to the next or from one person to another.

Commitment–define in the Marine Corps by its motto, “Semper Fidelis.” Being always faithful to your God, your country, your Corps, and most especially to your fellow Marines.

These may be easy to read and easy to remember, but of course, they are not that easy to live.  But the effort is well worth it.  The loyalty of those one leads will be forever returned.