My oh my – how the time does fly…

Here we are staring spring in the face already. A month has flown by nearly unnoticed as things have sped up to the point that I am displaying both a red and a blue shift depending on your vantage point.

We have survived yet another Battle of Hampton Roads weekend – and, at year 4 – it seems that we almost know what we’re doing! It was a whirlwind of fun – seeing old friends, making new ones and having a truly fun time whilst actually learning something! I had a great time with our speakers and guests – I had a meeting with James McPherson, Craig Symonds and Harold Holzer to go over themes for the exhibition. They could have made it feel like my doctoral comps all over again – but instead it was a blast! I got to take them out onto the deck of the full-size Monitor replica and it was fun to watch their reactions.

I think everyone who has been out there gets goosebumps. It’s pretty phenomenal.

So that was fun! The weekend is always great for catching up with folks we haven’t seen in a year, too. Bill (who is triply related to folks from the Monitor‘s crew and builders) was so much fun to hang out with and Francis and his wife brought many fine goodies to loan to us for the exhibit. Steve & Sylvia came all the way from California and we had a great time discussing all things ironclad and looking at pictures of Steve’s RC replicas – which he’ll be bringing out east next year for the grand opening.

Bob from National Ge0graphic brought freebies for us as well as an incredible Jim Gurney painting that will hopefully come to stay with us someday, someway. Bob Holland brought us some paintings to display as well – and some prints for us to sell. Very nice indeed!

We were able to display a brand new model of the CSS Patrick Henry made by Ozzy Raines. She’s absolutely beautiful – his work is exquisite. The MOC wants her – and I offered to arm-wrestle Dr. Coski for it – but he declined…

We also had a new member of the staff show up just in time for the weekend. Gunner Wood – fresh from Tennessee (and the Guru compound) made his appearance – along with his gun and pipe – and delighted all of the guests who were fortunate enough to meet him. We are looking for an appropriate berth for him in the new exhibition as he is – of course – a model of naval fortitude.

Well – I’m telecommuting at the moment – so work calls. But rather than continue to let you all think I fell off the face of the earth – I thought I’d resurface, if only for a moment…..


I’m sitting somewhere in Gainesville, Florida at the moment – watching Ricky Martin gyrate on the telly and wondering exactly why any restaurant would sell wine in a pitcher…but am very glad they did.

Tomorrow should be interesting. We’re going to a warehouse where the forward section of the casemate of the CSS Virginia is taking shape. I should be home before dinner.

I’m very excited – but nervous – about seeing it. This is going to be one of the signature parts of the exhibition and I figure if I’m completely blown away by it – our visitors will be as well.

Guru, Ms. Dallydo – I want this to be so freakin’ awesome so that when y’all make a road trip down my way – you’ll be bowled over by the wonder of it all. Raven72d – I want it to be absolutely accurate for you – so when you see it (and you have to, you know….the trains come this way and Stoneman hasn’t raided them in many a year…)you know that it’s…well…perfect.

Dublingirl will need to wear her Zouave sleeves when she visits so that it can be populated with those who have appropriate attire (and she simply must bring the family).

It has to be right for all of you.

So I’m nervous.

But these guys aren’t just good – they’re the best at what they do. If you want a gigantic piece of an ironclad recreated in your gallery – or living room for that matter – they can do it.

I’ll keep all y’all posted…..


I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the road lately doing lectures about the ickle cheesebox and what a long, strange, awesome trip it’s been.

It started back in January – I was invited – along with our CEO – to speak at the ‘Marine Art and History Fortnight’ at the New York Yacht Club. The folks there were absolutely wonderful and so were the accomodations! John and I gave our presentation in the legendary Model Room, which has recently been renovated and was exquisite in the extreme. A model of the USS Monitor hung on the wall along with dozens of others – evoking brilliant yacht races of years past. The spirit of the America herself was there as well. I cannot thank the folks there enough – but big huzzahs go to Commodore Hinman, Dr. McKay and Lindsay the wonderful curator of the club!

I was also treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of Christie’s auction house by Marie and Gregg – the marine curators there. I had been fortunate enough to be able to purchase a collection for the Museum (ok – I didn’t pay for it…..)thanks to the folks at Christie’s (we’ll do a press release soon!) and since we were going to be in the neighborhood…we stopped by! Marie and Gregg took us to The Sea Grill for lunch and then treated us to a visit with our new collection (which was being shipped out the next day) and with the incredible Peale painting of George Washington.

I also spent some quality time looking for the Naked Cowboy (he wasn’t there) and the new Belle & Sebastian single (it wasn’t out in the states yet…) and drinking lots of coffee.

I spent the rest of the week haunting areas of Manhattan that I never would have imagined I could have gained entry to – if you’d asked me 5 years ago I would have told you you were crazy!

And yet I found myself at the Century Club having lunch with some of the most wonderful people – and a tour of the building given by one of the members in our company. The weight of history hung heavy in those rooms. The leather chairs, the writing desks tucked away here and there. The quiet of the library…it was truly breathtaking.

New York was followed closely upon by a trip to Portland, Maine. In fact, I met some of my colleagues at LaGuardia to continue on to points north. One Lazy Lobster and a few pints of Shipyard Ale later and I was ready to head home!

This past week I’ve given two presentations on….what else? More on those later. But I thought I’d take a few minutes to catch up.

It’s been waaaay too long.


It’s been a week of Oyster Wars and sleeplessness – of wounded Confederates and intense design charrettes.

It’s been a really awful, wonderful time.

But I’ll recount the wonderful.

We (and I mean that in the institutional sense because the Apprentice School and Hampton Roads Crane and Rigging did all the work) placed the replica turret on top of the replica Monitor this week as well as began filming for the battle film (hence the wounded….and I understand that they wounded some Union dudes too, so it’s all fair in cinematography and war…).

We began the long and wonderfully rich experience of reinterpreting thousands of years of maritime history with some really incredible, creative people. It felt like a doctoral exam – but much more fun.

We drank a toast to the Immortal Memory last night with several old friends – yes, nearly a month late – but no less heartfelt.

And I sang of the Oyster Wars once again today with one of my favourite old salts during a conference presentation.

And now – I really need to sleep. But it was glorious fun……


I’ve not been around in ages – and am only now stopping for air briefly before I dive back in.

Two things – you need to look here to see some of what’s going on in my life.

And then you can go to my new survey because I thought I’d play along with Andrew


Well…if you haven’t already heard, there is no feline in the ordnance.

Having just recently attempted to squash Moby into a cat carrier, I concede that the theorem I had postulated awhile back is in fact true.

Cats will expand to exceed the available space when placed in the vicinity of a cat carrier.

Hence, Francis Butts is no longer in trouble with PETA.



Well, I survived the weekend.

Actually – it was wonderful! We had hundreds of people at the museum for four days – there were boat trips, bus trips, candlelight tours, receptions, reenactors, horses, big booming guns, lectures galore and really really good food.

We kicked off officially with a reception and then an absolutely brilliant lecture on Richmond in 1862 by Jack Davis from Virginia Tech. He is the epitome of what a history professor should be and I could listen to him for hours. Saturday began with Craig Symonds from the Naval Academy doing a marvelous lecture about Joseph Johnston. Craig is also one of those college professors you wish you’d had. His delivery is effortless, tinged with humor and altogether riveting. Then Harold Holzer from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and one of the premier Lincoln scholars in the country doing an illustrated history of the evolving imagery of McClellan and Lee. I’ve heard Harold lecture several times and he’s always fascinating (and full of such interesting information that it becomes fodder for many a dinnertime discussion) – but this had to be the best yet (which is saying a lot!). His hour was over far too soon and I’m even more anxious than ever to read his new book.

We then had a panel discussion with John Quarstein and Joe Gutierrez taking the side of the Confederacy (and Joe and John are always a treat) and Stephen Sears and Craig Symonds taking the side of the Union as they discussed joint operations of Armies and Navies during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. These panels are always lively and we were not disappointed! Joe and John are absolutely two of my favourite people to work with (I actually used to work for Joe long ago) and the two of them together are a force of nature. I had the pleasure of working with Stephen Sears a couple of years ago when he came to the museum to review the work we’d done so far with the upcoming exhibition. He doesn’t do a lot of public speaking so we were thrilled that he agreed to come to our event! He was absolutely brilliant and a wonderful speaker- and I do hope he’ll come visit again. His books are wonderful, by the way – they draw you in and they make the past come alive quite vibrantly.

Then John Broadwater from NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary gave a presentation on the 30th anniversay of the sanctuary and a history of how it had come into being. He showed some really cool underwater photos that I hadn’t seen before along with some killer 3D animations that I have now begged for him to let me borrow. John always gives a great presentation and this was no exception.

We ended Saturday with a lovely reception at our CEO’s house on the James River – looking out on the waters that were home to the Monitor in 1862 and talking to old and new friends.

Sunday morning started with Chief Justice Frank Williams discussing Lincoln’s evolving role of commander-in-chief. If you ever have a chance to hear him, do try. He has never failed to deliver a juicy and interesting talk and he is such a delightful person.

Then it was time for my lecture – Life on Board the Monitor. Based on the audience response (and there were about 150 or more of them) they seemed to like it and lots of folks talked to me afterwards and said they really liked it. I got to meet a lot of new folks afterwards and made some great contacts, whom I’ve already been emailing back and forth with today.

My good friend Jeff Johnston gave the final lecture of the day. It was on the Confederate and Union Navies on the James in 1862. No matter how many times I hear Jeff speak I always learn new stuff. He is without a doubt the world’s leading expert on the construction of the Monitor and knows tons of stuff on every other naval aspect of the Civil War. It was an awesome way to end the symposium!

Then we all trooped outside for the keel laying of the replica of the Monitor/… I think I’ll save that for another day as I’ve been working 12-14 hour days for the past week and I think I’m going to bed now.

Anyway – it was fun – and I am constantly amazed that I get paid for this.

Before I forget – Best of luck to dublingirl this coming weekend as she has a gigantic museum event as well – KidVention 2005. Perhaps she and I will both get some needed rest soon. But I’ve always maintained that in the museum world – March is the cruellest month. It’s obvious T.S. Eliot never worked in a museum….



This week has been a wild ride already and there’s still a few days to go.

Saturday I was at Ye Olde Boat Museum bright and early to watch the ‘keel’ of the replica Monitor come in from the shipyard.

I timed my commute perfectly and met the 18 ton wonder at a stoplight and preceded it down the road to it’s penultimate resting place.

Here it is coming into the park.

I know, I know…It’s not *technically* a keel – but how do you describe the first part of a ship replica that is really classified as a piece of architecture?

So a keel it is!

I’ve been on the radio, television and in newspapers and magazines this week, promoting this weekend’s events. It’s been a lot of fun and the best part is that – so far – there have been no more clowns.

But today was an unexpected treat – see, I’m finally back in the office on a semi-regular basis and my friend Sara orchestrated a humongous ‘welcome back’ party that I never in a million years would have expected.

There was Hello Kitty stuff everywhere – including a custom made Hello Kitty cake. Balloons! Punch! and a wonderful card that I will absolutely treasure.

I only hope that I can make all of them proud of me one day.

Right now – I just have to make it through the weekend

thanks Sara!!!!



It had to be a clown.

My goddaughter Clare – who, at age seven, is wiser than most people many times her age – has reminded me on numerous occasions that:

“Clowns Eat Children.”

and yet, there I was – trapped in a television studio with a clown. And while I have not been classified as a child for several years, I believe that clowns are rather omnivorous and feast on many things, including maritime historians.

I had to sit next to it. I had to actually talk to it. And then – to make matters worse – my segment had to follow it.

It slouched its way to the interview couch.

It juggled.

It…clowned. And I was defenseless against it. Had I known…had I had but an inkling I could have combatted it with my fire-eating skills. But no.

History vs. Clown. Film at 11.

I emailed my colleagues and told them that this wasn’t in my job description…that I would need years of therapy and that it would come out of their department budget…but still, the fact remains that today I had to share a television studio with a clown.

I really really really don’t like clowns.

Now as clowns go – this one was not the worst sort. I mean, it’s not like it was a birthday party clown. But still…

Did I mention that this one had a severed hand in its back pocket?

OK OK – it was a plastic severed hand. But still….there’s just something wrong with that.

The things I have to do for my job….I swear….


yow. sorry to everyone who must think I’ve fallen off the face of the earth. I’ve been in overdrive, in and out of town, and having massive computer issues.

Today one of my computers made an ominous grinding sound, and another has decided to randomly turn itself on and off.

I think it’s possessed – and not by a virus, either. I mean possessed and in need of an exorcism.

Well, this can’t be much of an entry as I have to be up at a completely ungodly hour to be on television promoting the upcoming Battle of Hampton Roads Weekend. I’ve also been totally insane because I’m trying to put together a presentation for said weekend whilst in the midst of writing my dissertation. What fun.

Not a lot to say otherwise. Other than farewell to Hunter S. Thompson (who I began reading more decades ago than I care to remember, and well before I should have been allowed to…), Sandra Dee (who was more than ‘Tammy’ and ‘Gidget’ and ‘Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee…’) and now Dr. Gene Scott (who kept many night owls company through the years).