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  • Archive for the 'Personal Narrative' Category

    SWOT, One Year On

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 15th April 2014 (All posts by )

    A year ago I was dispassionately composing my analysis. Today, when I left the Sprint campus and drove east on 115th Street to turn north on Nall toward I-435, there were TV news vans with telescoping antennae lining the street at the entrance to the Jewish Community Center.

    Coincidentally the number of dead is identical. There are, however, no (physically) injured survivors, and the motivation for the attack was similar only in that it was intended to draw attention to a cause. I fear that the perpetrator is cunning enough to succeed in that; his previous notoriety was due to legally forcing some radio stations to briefly carry Nazi ads during an election campaign season. Much has been made of the gentile – and indeed seriously committed Christian – identity of the victims, but I believe that was unimportant to him. What mattered was that he seize a mechanism for dissemination of conspiracy theories, and now, given the administrative blockheadedness of the American justice system and the puerile conventions of American journalism, we are all too likely to be subjected to many hours and tens of thousands of words of exceptionally vicious, totalitarian propaganda, varying portions of which will be heard by tens of millions of people. This guy knew exactly what he was doing.

    I could tell that from the video snippets of his arrest, just as I could tell, hours before it was officially confirmed, that he would turn out to have come from rural Missouri (Aurora is nearly a 3-hour drive from Overland Park; he had to have cased both facilities beforehand) and would turn out to be a southerner with prior Klan involvement. It was completely obvious from his accent, his tone of voice, and his attitude on camera. He is now operating inside the American institutional OODA loop. Our entirely proper determination to grant a scrupulously fair trial – when we’re not piling on the charges in order to ram a plea bargain through, that is – will be roughly equivalent to giving him not airtime for advertisements, but his own highly rated nationwide radio network.

    Fortunately, he is also sufficiently sui generis that copycat attacks are unlikely, at least in the immediate future. Should an American Dolchstoßlegende catch on, however, things may deteriorate sharply. The general case is to scapegoat a relatively small, easily-identified minority: it was the “1%,” or twenty-five guys on Wall Street, or the Koch brothers – or George Soros, or Obama/Pelosi/Reid, or the leftist academics on their Long March through the institutions – or (of course) Jews, or Latino immigrants or Asians stealing our jobs. If we just expropriate, or deport, or exterminate them, and everyone like them, the story goes, our country will be purified, and Utopia ensue. The ideology may be Nazi or Communist; either will do in a pinch, as Hayek wrote nearly three-quarters of a century ago: its adherents are uncertain, and know only that they hate Western liberal civilization.

    Just to make things more complicated, tolerance can definitely be taken too far. Interviews with the perpetrator’s neighbors in Lawrence County, Missouri, immediately elicit idiotic postmodernist comments to the effect that he seemed like a nice enough guy but had some opinions that they didn’t agree with. Great. Your assigned reading is here, you nitwits.

    So when blood ran in the streets of my city, did I follow my own advice in the ostensibly-uplifting conclusion to my analysis of a year ago, and immediately redouble my efforts on whatever it is I was supposed to be doing? Well, it was a Sunday, so there was somewhat less of that, although I tend to devise more projects for my spare time than I could possibly execute anyway. But in the event, whatever it may say about me, I felt tremendously violated, as though the murders had occurred in my driveway rather than six miles away. And what I actually did was drink rather more cheap boxed red wine than usual and break down a couple of times. I don’t have any particular aversion to weeping, but I don’t need to do so very often. Turns out I needed to on Sunday evening. The question of how I will react should much larger-scale events occur in even closer proximity remains unanswered.

    The problem, of course, is that this kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen here … which is a rather hypocritical sentiment in light of the actual statistics on violent death locally. A couple-three people a week get murdered in this town, three-quarters of them in an area covering only one-tenth of the municipality of KC, Mo., and a tiny fraction of the area of the entire MSA. Assuming that the said area (34 mi²) has the same population density as zip code 64130 (of which it largely consists), a moment with a calculator establishes that the homicide rate in question – the southwestern boundary of that area reaches to within two miles of my house – is nearly 80 per 100,000 per year, making it one of the most dangerous places in the Western world, and also as dangerous as Iraq before the Surge, which the media thoughtfully informed us at the time was the Worst Thing Ever. Gallivanting off to Haïti is all very well, but perhaps I should find a more local ministry to volunteer with while I’m at it.

    But it really isn’t supposed to happen here, and not just because Overland Park is a world away from the East Side. Side-by-side, indeed inextricably mixed, with the ongoing mayhem five minutes’ drive from my doorstep is a deep reservoir of peace and contentment. God damn it, we just want to listen to jazz and eat barbecue. In its best moments, there is no gentler place on Earth. The lives of those taken on Sunday bear witness to that.

    “The new thing — the thing which we had not known — the thing we have learned now and should never forget, is this: that a society of self-governing men is more powerful, more enduring, more creative than any other kind of society, however disciplined, however centralized.” – Harry S. Truman, Radio Report to the American People on the Potsdam Conference, 9 August 1945

    “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now.” – Harry S. Truman, to reporters, 13 April 1945

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, History, Judaism, Law Enforcement, National Security, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Quotations, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA | 3 Comments »

    On Ice

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 28th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Just this week and thanks to gaining a new book-publishing client, I was able to complete the purchase of a new refrigerator-freezer. Oh, the old one was staggering along OK, still keeping the refrigerated foods cold and the frozen food frozen … but there were so many dissatisfactions with it, including the fact that it had such deep shelves that in cleaning it out we discovered an embarrassingly large number of jars of condiments whose best-if-sold-by-date were well into the previous decade … not to mention a couple of Rubbermaid containers with leftovers in them that we had quite forgotten about. Well, out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes. Truly, I don’t like to waste leftovers, but in this case, we had a good clean-out and as of now are resolved to do better, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die. The new and larger refrigerator-freezer has relatively shallow and many adjustable shelves in its various compartments; so that we dearly hope that the buried-at-the-back-of-a-deep-shelf-and-totally-forgotten-about syndrome will be banished entirely.

    Anyway – enough of my failings as a thrifty housekeeper; the thing that I was marveling on this afternoon was that the new refrigerator-freezer has an automatic ice-maker. Better than that – an automatic ice-maker and ice-water dispenser in the door, and a small light which winks on when depressing the lever which administers ice (in cubes or crushed) and ice-water and then gradually dims once released. And if all that is a small luxury compared to the previous refrigerator-freezer, it is a huge luxury compared to the electric ice-box that made my Granny Jessie’s work and food-storage capabilities somewhat lighter than those of her own mother. It’s monumental, even – and no one thinks anything of it today, unless the electricity goes off.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Business, Customer Service, India, Personal Narrative, USA | 9 Comments »

    La Vie en Rose-Colored Postcards

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st March 2014 (All posts by )

    The SS Majestic – when getting there was luxurious

    My Grandpa Jim, who was short, energetic, and as a young man, fabulously charming, emigrated from Five-Mile-Town, County Armagh in 1910. Sometime over the next few years, he fetched up in Southern California. Having been trained as something of a specialist – a professional estate gardener, he took employment with an old-moneyed California family and spent the following five decades as their old family retainer, keeping the grounds of their estate up to par.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Personal Narrative, Photos | 11 Comments »

    Letter From The Past

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 13th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Last Friday I was the MC for our first Midwest Business and Markets Conference. It was a great day, and Zen went over it pretty well in this post.

    The day before, Thursday the 6th, I had a few hours to kill so I worked out and walked all around the Union League Club of Chicago. The place is like a museum.

    Of greatest interest to me was the library.

    It is an old school room, where they are still using the Dewey Decimal System. It reminded me of days long gone, when I used to have to go to the library in my hometown of Rockford, IL or at school at U of I and use the Dewey system to find out where texts were that I needed.

    The ULCC library isn’t that large, so I just strolled around looking at all of the books and magazines. They have a giant signed book collection of the people who have spoken there, as well as many rare volumes under plexiglass. There were a couple of old guys who were sleeping in the soft leather chairs. It was QUIET in there and the only audible sounds were guys pecking away at their keyboards and the turning of pages.

    I sort of enjoyed this quiet, as my life doesn’t afford much quiet time with work and kids and wife and farm and all the rest.

    After a while I grabbed an unusual volume (to me), and below you can see the title page:

    Basically, this offers a prayer (or a few) for every day of the year, including holidays and other special events. The book was printed in the thirties, and had a calendar for the prayers extrapolated out to 2013.

    Some of the prayers were interesting to me, as I don’t really know squat about the Episcopalian religion. I also read a few Psalms. It brought back a few memories as when I was a child I was raised Baptist and we were forced to memorize many of the Psalms (in the King James Version).

    The books in the library could be checked out by ULCC members and they used the old school cards in the front of the book, stamped with the date it needed to be returned. The prayer book had been checked out a total of once, in 1993. That may have been the last time it was touched, besides to be moved or cleaned.

    Most importantly, when I opened the volume, a note fell out into my lap.

    Watch over our child, O Lord, as her days increase; bless and guide her wherever she may be.
    Give us, her parents, the wisdom to teach her the realities of life.
    Strengthen her when she stands for what she believes in; comfort her when she is discouraged or sorrowful; raise her up if she falls in trying to grow; and in her heart may your peace which passeth understanding abide all the days of her life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    After reading some of the prayers and Psalms, I carefully folded the letter, placed it back in the book and put the book back on the shelf.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Personal Narrative, Religion | 16 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman, “Purim & My Bangladeshi Friend”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 9th January 2014 (All posts by )

    Our good friend Seth Barrett Tillman has an excellent article, part personal narrative, part meditation on the basis of conflict between Arabs and Jews, based on thoughts on the book of Esther.

    The article, “Purim & My Bangladeshi Friend” may be found by clicking here.

    On the Jewish holiday of Purim the practice is to read the book of Esther. Purim is on March 15-16 in 2014. It is not a widespread practice, but I know Catholics who read the book of Esther on Purim, and I read it last year for the first time. If you have never read it, you should. It is only about 6,000 words, the length of a long article, not a book. You can find it here.

    As Seth notes, while the story is one of survival for the Jews, it also shows the sorrow and disgrace suffered by every defeated people at the hands of their conquerors.

    Every year at Purim, my co-religionists and I read Esther. The story, as customarily explained to children, is that Esther won a contest . . . something akin to the modern beauty pageant. The prize was that she was made queen – the wife of the Persian emperor. As a result, by pleading to her husband on behalf of her brethren, she was well-situated to save the Jewish community from the nefarious Haman, who actively plotted genocide against the Jews. Esther’s courage thwarts Haman and the community is saved, although it remained in exile. The story is presented as one with a happy ending.
     
    But, that is the story as it is told to our children.
     
    By contrast, an adult, who considered Esther, would understand that the story of Purim is also an intensely sad story.

    Highly recommended. RTWT.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Morality and Philosphy, Personal Narrative, Religion | 2 Comments »

    Adding Up the Old Year, Looking Towards the New

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 2nd January 2014 (All posts by )

    In a meditation that I posted about this time last year – just as we came down to Christmas and the last frantic dash to the end of the year – I laid out the things that I wanted to do, or ought to do during 2013. Time to take stock and look at which ones I did manage … and those that I shall have to try harder to do in 2014.

    #1 – I was resolved to change my main bank account from Bank of America to a Texas institution. Check. Actually accomplished this the first week of the new year, and it went quite painlessly, changing the automatic deposit from DFAS and the automatic payment to the mortgage company. Check.

    #2 – Finish and publish The Quivera Trail in time for launching in November, 2013. Done and check. Also begin on the next book, or at least the research. I had thought it would be tentatively entitled The Golden Road, starring young Fredi Steinmetz and the usual cast of characters historical and created … half-check. Started research, but was detoured into writing another picaresque adventure, Lone Star Sons, which will be a short and adventurous bagatelle and a re-working of the Lone Ranger, as a historical adventure in 1840s Texas – which I am posting, chapter by chapter at the book blog and website, here. Lone Star Sons will be my November 2015 book … but I will be well along in writing The Golden Road by then.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Current Events, Personal Narrative, USA | 15 Comments »

    Christmas Day

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Merry Christmas to all. My youngest daughter drove 8 hours from Tucson and my oldest son 9 hours from San Francisco yesterday to be with the family Christmas Eve. We were all at my younger son’s house for their annual party but he had to work at the fire house. Today we will assemble at various houses and one restaurant for dinner. All are healthy and happy.

    My best to all.

    I have research subjects for this morning. My daughter-in-law wanted to know the value of the tetra drachma I had given my middle daughter as a birthday gift this year. I bought it from a workman at Ephesus a few years ago. It is the most perfect Attic Owl I’ve ever seen. I had it mounted in a necklace. This morning I’ve been researching the subject. What would a tetra drachma buy in 500 BC ?

    My son-in-law and I discussed the question of extra-terrestrial life last evening. I’m doing some research on Archea and extremophiles today. Lots to do on Christmas Day before dinner time.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Holidays, Personal Narrative | 6 Comments »

    Archive Post – Very, Very Bad Toys

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Ran across this little account of the Very Worst Toys Ever, and began to chortle. (It’s an oft-repeated article, apparently – this version is from earlier this year.) Not so much at the toys themselves, although my brother JP, sister Pippy and I were actually given at least one of the deadly worst and a couple of the others mentioned in subsequent comments.

    We, of course, emerged un-maimed, although Dad probably regretted to the end of his days that he didn’t give either one of us the atomic energy lab. Probably couldn’t afford it, as he was only a poor graduate student on the GI bill, round and about the time it was on the market. We did have loving and generous grandparents, though; how we didn’t ever get BB rifles like all the other neighborhood kids is a mystery. Mom probably put her foot down about that, believing that yes, you could put out an eye with them. Well, so could you with a ‘wrist rocket’. We had a pair of them, a sort of bent-metal sling-shot with a bottom end that braced against your wrist so that you could sling a bit of gravel at practically ballistic speeds. But they weren’t toys- we had them to chase the blue jays away from the house where they tormented the cats and dogs unmercifully. As far as I know, Dad was the only one of us who ever actually hit a blue-jay with a wrist-rocket impelled missile. Square in the butt, actually. It let out an enormous squawk and vacated the premises henceforth and forthwith and at a good speed.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in North America, Personal Narrative, Society | 30 Comments »

    Medical Panic?

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th November 2013 (All posts by )

    Visited the orthopedist today with someone who recently decided, in part because of uncertainty about the future of the medical system, to go ahead with elective joint-replacement surgery. The orthopedist said that he had three other patients today who want to do the same thing and expressed the same reason. His surgical schedule is booked into January. I suspect we will start to hear many more such anecdotes.

    Posted in Medicine, Obama, Personal Narrative | 10 Comments »

    You Can’t Keep Your Plan

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 5th November 2013 (All posts by )

    We just re-upped our health insurance for the employees of our small company. The price increase was breathtakingly astounding. The increase will be coming right out of the profit sharing. There isn’t really anything we can do.

    Our policy is so good that we are forced to pay a one thousand dollar a month tax on it. Thanks.

    It took Blue Cross a very long time to get us a quote because of the insane maze of new regulations. Due to this and time constraints, we basically had no choice besides sign up and take the increase, or cut everyone loose to the disastrous healthcare.gov site and give them a stipend of some sort – but we actually like our employees so no dice on that.

    Besides, we have employees in two states – Illinois and Wisconsin. Wisconsin deferred to the federal plan, Illinois did a mixture. I am sure that will go very well. So that would create another issue we would need to address – how to stipend who so our employees are treated fairly.

    All of our employees received a card from Blue Cross saying that their current plan will expire. And this is true. The new plan is similar, but not exact.

    We have absolutely no idea what will happen next year, since our Blue Cross person said that the plan that we just signed up on will not be available when that rolls around.

    Our employees are furious at the Obama administration for this debacle. Here’s hoping this will change some votes.

    Posted in Current Events, Obama, Personal Narrative | 14 Comments »

    On Being an IT Project Manager

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 23rd October 2013 (All posts by )

    My profession is much in the news at the moment, so I thought I would pass along such insights as I have from my career, mostly from a multibillion-dollar debacle which I and several thousand others worked on for a few years around the turn of the millennium. I will not name my employer, not that anyone with a passing familiarity with me doesn’t know who it is; nor will I name the project, although knowing the employer and the general timeframe will give you that pretty quickly too.
    We spent, I believe, $4 billion, and garnered a total of 4,000 customers over the lifetime of the product, which was not aimed at large organizations which would be likely to spend millions on it, but at consumers and small businesses which would spend thousands on it, and that amount spread out over a period of several years. From an economic transparency standpoint, therefore, it would have been better to select 4,000 people at random around the country and cut them checks for $1 million apiece. Also much faster. But that wouldn’t have kept me and lots of others employed, learning whatever it is we learn from a colossally failed project.
    So, a few things to keep in mind about a certain spectacularly problematic and topical IT effort:

    • Large numbers of reasonably bright and very hard-working people, who have up until that point been creating significant wealth, can unite in a complete flop. Past performance is no guarantee, and all that. Because even reasonably bright, hard-working people can suffer from failures of imagination, tendencies to wishful thinking, and cultural failure in general.
    • Morale has got to be rock-bottom for anybody with any degree of self-awareness working on this thing. My relevant moment was around the end of ’99 when it was announced, with great fanfare, at a large (200+ in attendance) meeting to review progress and next steps, that we had gotten a single order through the system. It had taken various people eight hours to finish the order. As of that date, we were projecting that we would be doing 1,600 orders a day in eight months. To get an idea of our actual peak rate, note the abovementioned cumulative figure of 4,000 over the multi-year lifespan of the project.
    • Root cause analysis is all very well, but there are probably at least three or four fundamental problems, any one of which would have crippled the effort. As you may infer from the previous bullet point, back-office systems was one of them on that project. Others which were equally problematic included exposure to the software upgrade schedule of an irreplaceable vendor who was not at all beholden to us to produce anything by any particular date, and physical access to certain of our competitors’ facilities, which they were legally required to allow us into exactly two (2) days per year. See also “cultural failure,” above; most of us were residing and working in what is one of the most livable cities in the world in many ways, but Silicon Valley it ain’t.
    • Not to overlook the obvious, there is a significant danger that the well-advertised difficulties of the website in question will become a smokescreen for the fundamental contradictions of the legislation itself. The overall program cannot work unless large numbers of people act in a counter-incentived (possibly not a word, but I’m groping for something analogous to “counterintuitive”) fashion which might politely be termed “selfless” – and do so in the near future. What we seem likely to hear, however, is that it would have worked if only certain IT architectural decisions had been better made.

    This thing would be a case study for the next couple of decades if it weren’t going to be overshadowed by physically calamitous events, which I frankly expect. In another decade, Gen-X managers and Millennial line workers, inspired by Boomers, all of them much better at things than they are now, “will be in a position to guide the nation, and perhaps the world, across several painful thresholds,” to quote a relevant passage from Strauss and Howe. But getting there is going to be a matter of selection pressures, with plenty of casualties. The day will come when we long for a challenge as easy as reorganizing health care with a deadline a few weeks away.

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Commiserations, Current Events, Customer Service, Health Care, Internet, Law, Medicine, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Systems Analysis, Tech, USA | 6 Comments »

    The Little Things

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 3rd October 2013 (All posts by )

    Since the government is in a partial shutdown, I decided to very carefully keep track of the things that I miss. I have also been keen to keep tabs on my wife, to see if she has noticed anything in her circle that is closed, altered, inconveniences her, etc. She really hasn’t said anything as of yet (I am not asking or prompting, just listening to hear how her day is, waiting for her to say “such and so was closed”, or something of that nature).

    The one thing so far that I have been blocked on is the NOAA radar website that I visit every day, to get some weather news. I am in the HVAC industry and as such it is important that I keep up on the weather. The NOAA site now redirects here, with an ominous message.

    Of course, this is bullsh1t, as even though I don’t know how these things work, I imagine that the federal government pays its server fees far in advance, and this is just plain old punishment for the “regular folks”, just like closing the national parks is punishment for those who have planned vacations. The amount of money needed to keep our parks and websites like NOAA open is so tiny it is almost laughable when compared to the enormous benefits and waste that the government is involved in and it is simply a stick in the eye to us.

    So that is it so far – one website down that has affected me so far. And it isn’t like there aren’t any other places where I can get the weather.

    Posted in Big Government, Personal Narrative, Politics | 19 Comments »

    Archive Post – Military Rites, Practices & Legends: BX & Commissary Privileges

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st October 2013 (All posts by )

    (An archive post from [gasp] 2004, wherein I attempted to explain and demystify certain military practices and establishments to a strictly civilian readership. I was reminded of this series, as one of the chief effects of the fed-gov shut-down is that just about all of the military commissaries at stateside bases will be closed from about midday today. The resulting effect on the retiree and active duty population at stateside bases probably will be rather minor, especially for those bases in or near larger cities, since Walmart, Target, Costco, Sam’s Club and local grocery chains provide alternative sources.)

    The main attraction of these privileges – access to the military base Commissary and Exchange – lies mostly in the fact that such access is forbidden to the usual run of civilians, and so they tend to think of them as vast Aladdin’s caves of riches and materiel things, to which they do not have the magic key! Alas, while I am fairly sure that the gold-plated bases in the military pantheon probably are pretty well stocked with the luxury goods, and may very well resemble Aladdin’s cave, at the ordinary level they are as Cpl. Blondie observed “full of stuff you don’t need.”
    When I was giving the school-kiddy tours at Mather AFB, to kids who had never been on a military base before, I would have the school-bus driver take a circuitous loop around the base, and point out the various establishments: “A base is just like a city or a town– this is the Headquarters building, it’s like the Mayor’s office and the City Hall, over there is the housing area, where everyone lives with their families. There is even an elementary school for the kids. That is our grocery store, only we call it the commissary. We even have our own gas station… this is the Exchange, it is just like a small department store, with a little bit of everything…”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Current Events, Customer Service, Military Affairs, Personal Finance, Personal Narrative, Taxes | 10 Comments »

    Possible South Florida Meetup, Saturday 28 September

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 25th September 2013 (All posts by )

    La Vallée-de-Jacmel, Haïti


    If all goes well, I will be arriving at MIA on American 1665 from Port-au-Prince at 3:35 PM local time this Saturday. The plan, such as it is, is that I call Jonathan once I am through customs. I somewhat inappropriately made reservations for lodging much closer to FLL, just because I like the place (Villa Europa in Hollywood) and haven’t had the chance to stay there in a while. So anyway, southern Floridians interested in a probable wide-ranging and somewhat ethanol-assisted discussion (#civilsociety #crisisof2020 #statefailure #younameit) are encouraged to contact Jonathan and … figure something out. Hey, I have people for that.

    Posted in Americas, Announcements, Blogging, Civil Society, Latin America, Personal Narrative, Predictions, Schedules, Transportation | 4 Comments »

    A Week in Michigan

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th August 2013 (All posts by )

    grandbeach_web

    When my sister and I were very young, I was 10 and she was 7, we used to go on vacation to a small village on the lake in Michigan. It is named Grand Beach. It’s a delightful place across the lake from Chicago. Shortly after the war, we began to spend more time there in the summer. I vaguely remember the first time but the month we spent there in 1948 is one of my fondest memories of childhood. My parents, along with another family, the Coyles, rented a good sized house for the month of August through Labor Day weekend. The house is still there although no longer rented by the owners.

    Thirty years ago, my wife Jill and I, plus our three year old daughter Claire, spent a week at Grand Beach with my sister’s family. My sister, Patty, and her husband rented the same cottage last year and this year I joined them for the week. The weather was delightful and we all had a nice time. It gave me a chance to know my nephew Jimmy’s children and my niece, Caroline, joined us for a few days. Jimmy’ wife, Holly, was there and had her hands full with the small kids. The women were also on vacation so we ate most of our meals out. When we were there 30 years ago, Claire hid under a bed with Patty’s dog. Jill was frantic looking for her until someone heard scuffling under the bed. We didn’t have any crises like that, at least.

    The village is entered from a frontage road that runs along the railroad tracks. The gate is a large white painted arch that pierces a white fence along the road. In 1948, there was less foliage and I used to help the village policeman, who drove an ancient Model A Ford, retrieve the mail when the train passed and the mail pouch was tossed from the mail car. This was usually about dusk. There was a hook by the side of the tracks which was supposed to catch the mail pouch but they usually missed and I had a good time searching for the pouch along the tracks.

    grand beach road

    The entry road passes the golf course where I first played golf at age 9 and then the playground, seen here. The entire road is lined with white painted cement pillars that were there in 1948. They may have been there in the 1930s.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Personal Narrative, Photos | 6 Comments »

    Give Me Land, Lots of Land…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd August 2013 (All posts by )

    And the starry sky above, don’t fence me in. So goes the old pop song – but I’m not asking for lots o’land, just some small bits of it for which I will pay. Not too much will I pay, though – since I am not one of the economic or political aristocracy, for whom corners are cut and favors rendered. But I do have a point and I am getting to it, round-about.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 8 Comments »

    Counting the Blessings

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Among the blessing that is about biggest in my inventory of them – aside from finishing out my final military tour in Texas, which I didn’t much like at the time, since it was third on my list of choices. Dammit, the personnel who dictated broadcaster assignments were supposed to turn themselves inside out, giving retiring broadcasting personnel their first choice of a final assignment location since they could then do things like buy a house and work up local connections to facilitate the post-retirement second career which the customary long stretches of overseas/remote duty tours usually didn’t allow an opportunity to do. It turned out for the best, although I certainly didn’t see it so at the time. The main thing is that not only am I now glad that I am retired and long past being recalled to active duty (like they couldn’t get enough military broadcaster talent that they have to recall a slightly overweight lady of certain age) but I am glad that Blondie is also long past recall. And that she didn’t sign up for Reserve duty, either.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Christianity, Conservatism, National Security, Personal Narrative | 5 Comments »

    Wasp Stings and Social Media

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 24th July 2013 (All posts by )

    We had a problem at the farm yesterday.

    I got home a bit early and decided to clean up a deck that had become overgrown with weeds. We had wooden lawn furniture on it. I moved the furniture out of there and cleaned up the area. Later, my kids were playing on that deck and all of a sudden my youngest came screaming into the house in all sorts of pain. She had received three wasp stings on her ankle. The wasps were swarming. I have no idea how I didn’t get stung that whole time.

    This morning we saw the wasp nest embedded in the underside of one of the wooden tables and took care of it.

    When my youngest was in agony we instantly grabbed our phones and went online and to facebook, to find a cure of some sort. We should have had some sort of sting medicine in the place but didn’t.

    Just like when our dog got skunked, we found an instant solution – it was a paste of baking soda and something else. It worked pretty well.

    I am blown away at how much information is available at one’s fingertips. A lot of people know a lot about a lot of things.

    Posted in Internet, Personal Narrative | 12 Comments »

    History Friday – Plundered

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th April 2013 (All posts by )

    A number of summers ago, when I was still stationed in Spain, I packed up my daughter, and a tent and all the necessary gear, and did a long looping camping tour of the southern part of Spain, down through the Extremadura, and to the rock of Gib al Tarik, and a long leisurely drive along the Golden Coast. I had driven from Sevilla, past the sherry-manufacturies around Jerez La Frontera (on a Sunday, so they were closed, although the Harvey’s people should have given me a freebie on general principals, I had sipped enough of their stuff, over the years), made a pit stop at the Rota naval base for laundry and groceries. I had driven into Gibraltar, done a tour of the historic gun galleries, seen the famous Gibraltar apes, and then waited in the long customs line to come back into Spain. We had even stopped at the Most Disgusting Public Loo on the face of the earth, at a gas station outside of San Roque, before following the road signs along the coastal road towards Malaga and Motril, and our turn-off, the road that climbed steadily higher into the mountains, the tall mountains that guarded the fortress city of Granada, and the fragile fairy-tale pavilions of the Alhambra.
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    Posted in Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, History, Islam, Personal Narrative, Terrorism | 8 Comments »

    Christo Anesti! – Eastertime in Greece

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 31st March 2013 (All posts by )

    (This piece was part of a much longer essay about life in Greece when I was stationed at Hellenikon AB in the early 1980s. I posted it originally on The Daily Brief, and also rewrote much later to include in a collection of pieces about travel, people and history for Kindle.)

    Christmas in Greece barely rates, in intensity it falls somewhere between Arbor Day or Valentines’ Day in the United States: A holiday for sure, but nothing much to make an enormous fuss over, and not for more than a day or two. But Greek Orthodox Easter, in Greece – now that is a major, major holiday. The devout enter into increasingly rigorous fasts during Lent, businesses and government offices for a couple of weeks, everyone goes to their home village, an elaborate feast is prepared for Easter Sunday, the bakeries prepare a special circular pastry adorned with red-dyed eggs, everyone gets new clothes, spring is coming after a soggy, miserable winter never pictured in the tourist brochures. Oh, it’s a major holiday blowout, all right. From Thursday of Holy Week on, AFRTS-Radio conforms to local custom, of only airing increasingly somber music. By Good Friday and Saturday, we are down to gloomy classical pieces, while outside the base, the streets are nearly deserted, traffic down to a trickle and all the shops and storefronts with their iron shutters and grilles drawn down.
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    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Europe, History, Holidays, Personal Narrative, Recipes, Religion | 3 Comments »

    Truth, Fiction, Whatever

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th March 2013 (All posts by )

    I was at a Passover seder tonight. One of the other guests was someone who is pleasant enough but who I sometimes find a bit annoying. He was wearing a sweatshirt with a dopey anti-corporate slogan on it, and he used the phrase “the Republicans” a couple of times. I don’t remember how the conversation got there but someone said something about Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban. My fellow guest may have defended Bloomberg: the soda ban had been struck down so why be upset about it; Fox News had exaggerated the importance of the issue; Bloomberg had the right idea. Something like that. Maybe he didn’t actually defend Bloomberg, I don’t remember. I didn’t feel like arguing with him. So I said something like, Did you know that Bloomberg has banned Pop Rocks? I said this forcefully and with a straight face. This got a rise out of people. Someone asked if I was serious. I said yes. Then I told them that Bloomberg had also banned haircuts for dogs. Someone mentioned P____’s dog — she pampers it and recently had its hair cut (do you realize how much dog haircuts cost, etc.). Someone asked me how I knew these things about Bloomberg. I said I have sources in NY. I think I had a few people there believing me for a while. Because how do you know it isn’t true?

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 19 Comments »

    Archive – Imagination and Will

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 16th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Sometime around the middle of the time my daughter and I lived in Athens, the Greek television network broadcast the whole series of Jewel in the Crown, and like public broadcasting in many places— strictly rationing their available funds— they did as they usually did with many worthy imported programs. Which is to say, not dubbed into Greek— which was expensive and time-consuming— but with Greek subtitles merely supered over the scenes. My English neighbor, Kyria Penny and I very much wanted to watch this miniseries, which had been played up in the English and American entertainment media, and so she gave me a standing invitation to come over to hers and Georgios’s apartment every Tuesday evening, so we could all watch it, and extract the maximum enjoyment thereby. We could perhaps also make headway with our explanation to Kyrie Georgios on why Sergeant Perron was a gentleman, although an enlisted man, but Colonel Merrick emphatically was not.
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    Posted in Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, History, Human Behavior, Lit Crit, Personal Narrative | 5 Comments »

    Looking Ahead to 2013

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th December 2012 (All posts by )

    I’m still fighting the remnants of the Cold From Hell (possibly complicated by an allergy to blowing cedar pollen which hits a lot of people around here) but at least I am starting to feel a little more in the Christmas spirit. Not much more, but at least I can enjoy the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College Cambridge on the radio, and a week ago I was inspired to go ahead and sort out the last of the Christmas presents that I wanted to give to some people I am fond of. So, all that is sorted. Our Christmas dinner is sorted also. Blondie will be out doing deliveries for Edible Arrangements until the last minute, so practically everything to do with Christmas was done over the weekend.
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    Posted in Anglosphere, Personal Narrative, Tea Party | 10 Comments »

    That Old Holiday Feeling

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th December 2012 (All posts by )

    Blondie and I hit Sam’s Club last weekend for some holiday oddities and endities, and as we were heading out to the parking lot, Blondie remarked that everyone seemed rather … subdued. I couldn’t really see that the other customers were any more depressed than usual, wheeling around great trollies piled full of case-lots and mass quantities than any other Sunday, as I am still trying to throw the Cold From Hell – now in it’s third week of making me sound as if I am about to hack up half a lung. But that is just me – good thing I work at home, the commute is a short stagger to my desk, where I do the absolute minimum necessary for the current project, and another stagger back to to bed, take some Tylenol, suck on a cough drop and go back to sleep for several hours. The cats like this program, by the way – a warm human to curl up close to, on these faintly chill December days. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Holidays, Personal Narrative, Politics, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    History Friday – The Pilgrim Road

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th December 2012 (All posts by )

    We took a road trip, my daughter and I, in the summer of 1990. We lived then on the northern outskirts of Zaragoza, in an urbanization by the main road towards Logrono, so one summer day we packed the tent and our sleeping bags, and a little gas camp stove in the trunk of the Very Elderly Volvo, and went north, along the long, red-clay valley of the Ebro, where is grown the finest red wine in Spain, north and away from the ancient city of the Pilar, where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. James in the forum that the Romans built, and the shops along the ancient cardo –now called the Calle Alfonso – sell dark chocolate-dipped dried fruits, and the wind blows the trees into gnarled shapes bending to the south.
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    Posted in History, Personal Narrative | 2 Comments »