In Loving Memory
Philip Ambler Burns
June 16, 1957 – November 12, 2015

My dear son Philip.


Each of God’s creatures possesses a shining light within. Some are destined to shine forth upon a hilltop where all can see and many will follow. Some illuminate the valleys to guide and benefit those close to them. And some pass through storms and difficulties that, for a time, hide their lights under a bushel, as the saying goes. But these lights, too, burn just as brightly as all the rest.

In his lifetime, Philip passed through each of these phases, always with brightness undiminished. For those who have known him only in recent years, I would like to characterize his ways in earlier as well as later times.

Philip was a conscientious worker who devoted himself fully to responsibilities ranging from his education through his professional duties, and through countless worthy self-initiated projects, to the love and care of those dearest to him, in particular his dear wife Crystal.

He obtained a good education in Civil Engineering and, while still in school, he accepted part-time employment with an engineering firm, both for the experience and to save money for the future. In this role, his courage stunned us all as he was routinely lowered into deep boreholes, making sure that they had not collapsed before concrete was poured. And, inspecting construction projects underway, this man in his early twenties summoned the courage when necessary to tell hard-bitten, experienced supervisors when they had not done the job properly, and would have to tear it out and start again.

He detested being idle. One of his ground-breaking publications, PB’s Quick Index to Bird Nesting, was born during the period when he was seeking full-time employment after graduation. He took the financial risk of printing 10,000 copies, all of which were sold. Other book-related projects included a jointly authored guide to used-book dealers in the mid-Atlantic region, and his business Outdoor Books East, promoting and selling books about outdoor environments and activities. This business produced a spectacular catalog in which he personally summarized the contents of each of the several hundred books in stock.

rick3 cy     rick3_0001cy

Among Philip’s many hobbies, wildlife photography was particularly noteworthy. Not only did he achieve a high level of photographic art, but he also displayed his usual astonishing courage to gain the best vantage points. Taking pictures of eagles from a mountain ridge accessible only by canoe on a stream with raging rapids. Pictures of rattlesnakes up close, from the midst of their den where the creatures seemed to hide under every rock. And pictures of bats leaving their cave on a remote mountain top in the darkness of night. These pictures we still have as reminders of his work.

Bat1 copy          Humbird1 copy


During his nineteen years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philip designed and determined capacities for numerous flood-control projects. Not relying solely on the hydraulic models in common use, on his own initiative he created more accurate mathematical models to make these determinations. Later, it was repeatedly demonstrated that his own calculations produced more accurate and safer designs than did the usual models.

Following an early retirement from the Corps, Philip continued to seek beneficial projects for his attention. The greatest achievement of his retirement years was loving and marrying Crystal, and his devoted efforts to improve her prospects for a good life after he was gone. Not only did he encourage and instruct, but he willingly entered bankruptcy while making sure that she would be provided for through the rest of her life.

In recent years, I enjoyed frequent phone calls from Philip, always beginning with a friendly, specially intoned “Hello, Dad…” that I now deeply miss. These phone calls afforded wonderful opportunities for mutual understanding, particularly as I reminded him of the many worthy accomplishments that he could be proud of, and as I got his understanding for various actions by his parents in the early years – actions that he did not understand at the time, but finally recognized as being based on our love and caring for him.

As I reflect on Philip’s life, some of the photos that come most to mind are these:

        3Sons(color)PBdtl     Philip with Roald 6a

Jim Burns, Philip’s father


Our country is undergoing a painful reassessment of attitudes regarding its Civil War, which concluded slightly over 150 years ago.  Focus is particularly on the continued display of the Confederate battle flag and on the honoring of Confederate heroes through monuments and by naming schools and other institutions after them.

Pertinent issues, on which there is much disagreement, include the attitudes and purposes for which the war was undertaken. I believe it is appropriate and helpful to examine whatever reliable evidence we have concerning these matters.

One piece of such evidence is the following letter, written by one educated Southerner to another just before the War began. The letter was published in 2013 in the book Gale Hill: The Story of an Old Virginia Home, by Jasper Burns.

This letter was written by William W. Minor of Gale Hill, Albemarle County, Va., to Prof. John Barbee Minor of the University of Virginia, on February 16, 1861 – just two months before Virginia seceded from the Union and the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter took place:

Dear John,

…I shd. like especially to have seen & talked with you in these “piping times of” war, (for it is so near war that, I am almost afraid it will be the next thing we hear of) for I confess that I feel if possible more drawn toward my friends in the prospect of war (& especially of Civil war) than in ordinary times, when we can afford to differ & quarrel about politics as much as we please, & there are no bones broken & no blood is shed however high the words may rage, – but in times like these, when the “irrepressible conflict” of black Republicanism is at our very doors, it does appear to me that all the calls of patriotism & friendship & kindred too, should unite us John, & all true Virginians against the aggressive policy of our Northern enemies, who have defrauded us of our property, our equal rights under the Constitution, & who are preparing (so far as we can see) to coerce us to submit to them as our superiors, unless we speedily humble ourselves to their unjust & unrighteous demands. I do trust & hope John that you & I & all my other friends will be united in our opposition to the policy Demands of these truce-breakers (our Northern enemies) who even deny in the last remedy of the oppressed & downtrodden, – the right of self-defense: altho at present not able to take the field for the rights of my country, I do hope that my back will soon be well enough to enable me to shoulder my musket & join you, if need be, in the shock of battle, against the invaders of the rights of Virginia & the South…

Sincerely yr. friend,

Wm. W. Minor


William W. Minor


John B. Minor


Quinn’s letter off base

In his letter of October 10, Bob Quinn expresses his disagreement with an earlier letter by Richard White titled “We don’t need to support Republicans.”

Much of Quinn’s letter is devoted to his own opinions as they clash with those of White, a subject that’s not really disputable, and to his own personal background, which is clearly commendable. He does make three points, however, that can be weighed because well-known facts are involved.

He points out that the national debt has doubled under President Obama. Close enough, but White’s letter didn’t deal with who is responsible for the debt. He requested merely that presidential candidates be required to answer questions about the debt during their campaign debates.

He claims that White’s estimate of sea level rise, 7 inches, is false and that the correct figure would be in fractions of an inch. White’s letter clearly referred to his estimate as “during the 20th century.” In that context, the best data I could find comes close to White’s estimate. Rises in fractions of an inch apply only to averages for single years. Incidentally, yearly data since 1992 show a substantially faster rate of sea-level rise than during the 20th century overall.

Finally, concerning Quinn’s claim that the vote recount in 2000 was not stopped: On December 12, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped it by ruling that the recount could not be completed in time for a “safe harbor” date, and that a lower court’s requirement for the recount was unconstitutional. Perhaps the recount continued informally, but not in any legally valid sense.

Jim Burns    

The letter above was published in the Waynesboro, Virginia News Virginian on October 12, 2015. Text of the October 10 letter by Bob Quinn follows. Readers may note that the title on Quinn’s letter preempts a title that could well have been used by me to describe Quinn’s letter. 

Writer’s rage ignores facts, decency

Richard White’s letter in Thursday’s paper is so full of inaccuracies it could have come from the White House.

Where to begin? In attack­ing Republicans, he first laments the outrageous na­tional debt that has doubled under Barack Obama. Talk­ing about climate change, he claimed that sea levels have risen 7 inches. False. The best scientific measure­ments are in fractions of an inch

The vote count in 2000 was not stopped, it went on until every hanging chad had been examined as reporters hung on watching till the end but their liberal editors did not report that, preferring to let the big lie of cheating remain in play.

His most egregious slan­der, however, is categoriz­ing the conservative voters of 2013 as “religious bigots and gun nuts.” How far have we fallen when America’s Christians can be called big­ots and gun owners “nuts” implying mental illness.

I spring from an intact Christian home trained in honesty, respect, charity and reverence for God, my par­ents have been married 70 years this month and remain faithful worshipers.

As for myself, I took firearms training in the U.S. Marine Corps and put my life on the line in Vietnam to preserve his right to his opinions. Keeping a firearm in my home for self-defense (getting too old to fight or run) endangers nobody but prospective burglars. I have no criminal record nor any problem with mental illness except deep annoyance at Richard White’s miserable ignorance.

He has swallowed the pathetic lies of the left with little or no thought and is in­fecting all around him with his slander and hateful rage.

                                                                                                          BOB QUINN

Finding a Balance on the Second Amendment (Expanded)

This post has been expanded to include the Lilly letter of May 11, 2015.

 In a Letter to the Editor dated May 11, Curt Lilly explained to us his view of the goals and implications of the Second Amendment. I believe the key part of his message is this: “The Second Amendment did not say that citizens could only have weapons that were inferior to [those of] the police or armed forces. By definition, they would need weapons that were just as potent to have any chance of wrestling the government back from despots and their co-conspirators.”

In an earlier letter, I pointed out danger in that interpretation. It places no limits on the power of the weaponry that can be placed in the hands of law-abiding citizens and of criminals and terrorists, too. There are nuclear weapons in existence today that could be manufactured privately and sold openly, needing only the protection of the Second Amendment as the letter-writer has interpreted it.

Modern weaponry has enormous power, far beyond anything that the founding fathers could ever have imagined. Those who speak of the Second Amendment as outdated are concerned that it does not rationally reflect and consider this fact.

So how do we support the Second Amendment? I believe we need to work on updating it – building in a rational response to the power of modern weaponry – before the letter-writer and his colleagues lead our nation into the status of an armed camp that would be unacceptable to most people. So unacceptable, perhaps, that it could weaken support for the Second Amendment itself.

Regrettably, the letter-writer lowered the tone of discourse by questioning the patriotic credentials of those who disagree, and invoking the old saw of “love it or leave it.” I have paid dues as a World War II veteran, a reservist through the Korean conflict, and a civilian serving his country on the front lines in Vietnam. I’ve had a lot of travel abroad. I have no intention of leaving the United States.

                                                                                        JIM BURNS

The letter above was published in the Waynesboro, Virginia News Virginian on May 20, 2015. Text of the May 11 letter by Curt Lilly follows.

Amendment has two goals

In an earlier letter, a writer suggested that armor-piercing bullets should be banned. The reason for the Second Amendment was twofold — first, it provided personal protection; sec­ond, it armed the citizenry in case the people had to take back the govern­ment from rulers that violated the Constitution. The Second Amendment did not say that citizens could only have weapons that were inferior to the police or armed forces. By definition, they would need weapons that were just as potent to have any chance of wrestling the government back from despots and their co-conspirators.

The writer called it an “outdated amendment.” Liberals would like you to think you can just brush the Consti­tution under the rug with statements like this, but that’s not how it works. In our government, you follow the procedure laid out in the Constitution to amend it. That keeps people like this guy from changing the whole basis for our government willy-nilly. Changing the Constitution is hard and time-con­suming — by design.

The writer also claimed that a major­ity of NRA [National Rifle Association] members approve of a three-week waiting period. He never backs up these outrageous statements with evidence, and I doubt that a legitimate poll with these results exists. He also said that walking the streets of the United States is more dangerous than all but a “few” nations. This is complete absurdity; obviously, he has not trav­eled to other countries.

Instead of trying to destroy our Constitution and making false claims about our country to make us feel guilty or bad — or making us do without fossil fuels (in his other earlier letters), water, electricity and personal freedom — I suggest he do something much easier: Quit trying to ruin our country. Go find a communist or socialist nation with the limits you love so much and move there.

                                                                                       CURT LILLY


The book titled Enamel Art: An Appreciation, by Jim Burns, was published on August 23, 2015.  It is based on all fourteen posts of the series on ENAMEL AND METAL ARTS in this blog.   The text has been revised.  There are well over 100 color illustrations, and many of them have been enhanced.


Details of the book can be viewed on the Amazon website at Enamel Art, or at the Author’s Page where other books by the same author are also listed.

Views of the front and back covers:

rl CV 1 a back text flat Rt

rl LgPrint CV 1 a back text bkup1 flat Lft



Vietnam66 Finished CoverThe book titled Vietnam ’66: A Personal Experience of the War, by Jim Burns, contains the complete text and illustrations of the Vietnam postings on this blog.  The illustrations are presented in color.  The book is available in paperback and Kindle editions.  The Kindle edition was temporarily withdrawn and revised to clear up format problems that had developed in the conversion to e-book.


Details of the book can be viewed on the Amazon website at Vietnam ’66, or at Vietnam ’66 Kindle, or at the Author’s Page, where other books by the same author are also listed.

ABOUT REVIEWS OF THIS BOOK: The Amazon website indicates that this book received two unfavorable reviews.  The first review was based on format problems with the original Kindle edition.  Those problems were promptly addressed and have been cleared up in the current Kindle edition.

The second reviewer wrote “Did not find it to my liking.” I cannot do anything to correct this. He didn’t describe what he liked, or what I had done that he disliked.  As the French say, “Chacun à son goût” (Everyone to his taste.)


A Grand Finale: Enamel Masterworks

Throughout this series, I have made it clear that I am not a master of these arts, and that my experience with enameling was limited to a brief “career” spanning the years 1983 to 1988. I would like to end the series with examples of true masterworks and other notable enamels,  from both long ago and the more recent past.

With these examples, I would like to make the reader aware of the very long history of the art form, the high level of skill and talent devoted to it through the ages, the brilliance and beauty it can attain, the diversity of techniques, and the durability of the pieces created.  

Note: Numbers in parentheses shown beside pictures refer to the Photo Credits list at the end of this posting.

*        *          *

The leading role in this posting goes without question to one of the oldest known enamel works, a dagger from the Mycenaean period in Greece, 15th Century B.C., decorated with cloisonné enameling. This was the era that, in the belief of many, somewhat later saw the Trojan War and such heroes as Achilles, Odysseus, Hector, and Aeneas.

The durability of enamel is immediately apparent – a fresh surface seemingly from the recent past, contrasting with the severely corroded blade that shows the weathering of well over three millennia.

0 Enam Clois Dagger, Myc15CntBC Mus of Athens(0)

The Holy Crown of Hungary (also known as the Crown of Saint Stephen) features one of the best known collections of enamel masterworks in the world. It was the coronation crown used by the Kingdom of Hungary through most of its existence; more than fifty kings have been crowned with it since the 12th century, up to the last in 1916.

1 ok SZENTK~1b(1)

The enamels on the Holy Crown are mainly or altogether Byzantine work, presumed to have been made in Constantinople in the 1070s. The crown has probably been remodeled, and it uses elements of different origins. The date assigned to the present configuration of the Holy Crown varies, but is most commonly put around the late 12th century.

The cross was knocked crooked in the 17th century when the crown was damaged, possibly by the top of the iron chest housing it being hastily closed without the crown having been placed in it properly. The cross has since been left in this slanted position.

Following are details of two enamels on the crown, the Greek (1a) and the Latin (1b) Pantokrators. “Christ Pantokrator,” or “Christ the Almighty,” is one of the first images developed in the early Christian Church, and remains as a central icon of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Greek enamel is mounted on the front of the crown, and the Latin at the top of the crown, where the bent cross can be seen from center to left center.

1a ok The_Greek Pantokrator_(1a)

1b ok The Latin Pantokrator_on the_top_of_the Holy_Crown(1b)

A much older piece, known as the Staffordshire Moorlands Pan, is of enameled bronze. It dates from Roman Britain in the 2nd Century AD, and was found in a very well preserved condition with intact enamel inlays. It is inscribed with the name Aelius Draco and the names of four forts on Hadrian’s Wall: MAIS (Bowness-on-Solway), COGGABATA (Drumburgh), VXELODVNVM (Stanwix), and CAMMOGLANNA (Castlesteads).

2 ok Staffordshire Moorlands_Pan_(1284837406)(2)

The shoulder-clasp below is from the 7th century AD Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo, U.K. It is classified as Migration Period Art, denoting the artwork of the Germanic peoples during the period of about 300-900 AD.

3 ok Sutton Hoo Shoulder Clasp2 RobRoy(3)

A champlevé casket, believed to be of North German origin during the period 1100 to 1150 A.D., is shown below.

4 ok Champleve Enamel_Casket, perhaps_1100-1150 AD, perhaps North_German, gilded copper and enamel Cleveland Museum of_Art DSC08540(4)

Other early enamels include:

Saint George slaying the Dragon, a Georgian cloisonné enamel on gold, 15th Century, inscribed in ancient Georgian and Greek

5 ok St_George,_Georgia_(15th_c)1(5)

Temple Pendant (Kolt) with Two Birds, a 12th Century Ukrainian piece for a woman’s headdress, designed to hang at her temples

6 ok Ukr kolt temple pendant 12C(6)

By the 14th century, the cloisonné technique had spread to China, where it is still in common use. The Chinese applied it to much larger vessels, such as bowls and vases, than had previously been done elsewhere. The bowl shown here, using nine colors of enamel, was made during the Ming Dynasty, 1368 to 1644.

7 ok 1280px Ming Cloisonne  bowl(7)

The following plate, The Adoration of Psyche by Pierre Courteys, 1560, is an example of the grisaille technique, previously discussed. Color was added using the limoges technique, which has not yet been described in this series. Finely ground enamel was mixed with oil to form a paste that could be manipulated much in the fashion of an oil paint, achieving subtle gradations of color and shade.

8 ok 136207 -004-553A02A9(8)

The next piece is a “vinaigrette” by an anonymous Swiss artist, dated about 1805. Vinaigrettes, also known as smelling salt containers, had become fashionable in about 1800. They were small containers fitted with a pierced inner lid that contained sponges drenched with scent or perfume. Typical cloisonné patterns can be seen on top and around the middle of the piece. Elsewhere, the delicate flower paintings suggest the use of the limoges technique.


The artist’s skill can best be appreciated with the information that the diameter of the piece is 1.1 inch.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Russia played a prominent role in enamel art. By far the best-known name in Russian enamels was the House of Fabergé. This firm was commissioned by two successive Tsars, Alexander III and Nicholas II, to make artworks as gifts to their empresses and, in the case of Nicholas, to his mother as well.

Carl Fabergé had freedom of design provided that the artwork was based on an Easter egg, and that there was a hidden surprise within the egg. This practice started in 1885 and became a tradition lasting until the Bolsheviks nationalized the House in 1918 and the Fabergé family fled.

Fifty-four Imperial eggs were completed, of which 42 have survived.

Illustrated here are four that are particularly noteworthy for their creative use of enamels, particularly in the grisaille and limoges techniques, in combination with highly decorative metalwork.

10 ok Grisaille CATHER~1 Fab1914(10)   11 ok Gatchina Fab1901(11)

12 ok Peterthegreategg(12)   13 ok Romanov Tercentenary_Egg-2(13)

The final piece in this series was made using a technique not previously mentioned, known as plique-à-jour (“letting in daylight”). All or nearly all the enamels used in such a piece are transparent or translucent.

14 ok Thesmar Cup with Poppies(14)

In this particular piece, Cup with Poppies, made in 1903 by the French artist André Fernand Thesmar, cloisonné wires were assembled on a temporary base to form cells that were then filled with layers of enamel and fired.

In an alternative plique-à-jour procedure, pockets similar to those of the champlevé technique, but piercing the entire metal sheet, are created by any suitable means – etching, drilling, sawing, etc. A temporary backing plate is then attached.

In both the above cases, the temporary base or backing plate serves as a floor to hold the enamel in place during packing and firing. Afterward, it is removed and discarded. Depending on the shape and needs of the piece, the temporary item may be of metal to which enamel does not adhere, or of mica, so that it is easily removed by tapping. Or other means of removal, such as by a mordant or by abrasion, may be employed.

The final effect is that of a miniature stained-glass window. This technique is laborious and slow, and it has a high failure rate. Many pieces have not survived because of their extreme fragility. The technique originated in the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century A.D.

Photo Credits

(0) Dagger with cloisonné enamel, Mycenaean, 15th Century B.C. Museum of Athens.

(1) Crown of the king of Hungary at the Dome hall of the Parliament building, Budapest, Northern Hungary. Including (1a) The Greek Pantokrator on the Hungarian Holy Crown, and (1b) The Latin Pantokrator on the top of the Holy Crown.

(2) Staffordshire Moorlands Pan (1284837406) by Portable Antiquities Scheme from London, England. Photo by Dominic Coyne, Young Graduates for Museums and Galleries programme, August 2007.

(3) Sutton Hoo Shoulder Clasp. Rob Roy. From the 7th century Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo.  British Museum.

(4) Champlevé Enamel Casket, perhaps 1100-1150, perhaps North German, Gilded copper and enamel.  Cleveland Museum of Art.

(5) St. George slaying the dragon. Georgian, 15th Century. Georgian State Museum of Fine Arts.

(6) Temple Pendant (Kolt) with Two Birds. Ukrainian, 12th Century. Walters Art Museum.

(7) Ming Dynasty cloisonné enamel bowl. Royal Museum, Edinburgh. Photo by P. Schemp

(8) Plate depicting the adoration of Psyche, by Pierre Courteys, 1560. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photograph by Beesnest McClain. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, William Randolph Hearst Collection, 48.2.4

(9) Vinaigrette. Swiss, anonymous, about 1805. Walters Art Museum.

(10) Catherine the Great, Fabergé Easter Egg 1914. Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens.

(11) Gatchina Palace, Fabergé Easter Egg 1901. Walters Art Museum.

(12) Peter the Great, Fabergé Easter Egg 1903. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

(13) Romanov Tercentenary, Fabergé Easter Egg 1913. Kremlin Armoury.

(14) Cup with Poppies, by André Fernand Thesmar, 1903. Walters Art Museum.