The story is now an old one.
In Western societies, there is now a tremendous disconnect between the traditional political and business elites and the citizenry. The populations of the West now find themselves ruled by a transnational elite who see tradition, loyalty, and patriotism as primitive, and whose promoters within academia, nonprofits, government bodies, labour unions, NGOs, and the media teach that nations, citizenship, borders, and law defined by elected parliaments are irksome problems to be overcome.
I cannot say exactly when I saw these symptoms first arise in the United States. But more than a decade ago, I was clerking in a federal courthouse. It was a good gig. I was glad to have it. The public—litigants, lawyers, jurors, witnesses,** and visitors—went through the front entrance with a security check. Court officials and employees (including judicial law clerks) went through a back entrance, also, with a security check. One day, early in my tenure, I was going through the security check, and an older man went around me and bypassed screening. The security officer waved him through. After I went through security, I asked the security officer:
Archive for the 'Personal Narrative' Category
At the store they offer plain, vanilla and chocolate soy milk. Chocolate is the only flavor that’s any good IMO. Other customers seem to agree as chocolate is always in short supply and sometimes sold out by the time I get to the store. It seems obvious they should stock more chocolate but they never do.
I complained a couple of times to guys in the dairy department and once to a manager. They didn’t understand what the problem was so I stopped complaining. When they have chocolate on the shelf I load up.
Today I took two cartons of chocolate and couldn’t reach a third. One of the stock guys climbed up on the shelf and got it for me. He good-naturedly said that it’s great stuff, it flies off the shelves. I thanked him and mildly suggested the store should stock more chocolate because it’s the most popular flavor. He said that, on the contrary, people who like chocolate should be more considerate and leave some for the other customers. He added that there is a God upstairs and He is watching. I believe this man missed his calling. He could have been a successful bioethicist.
Seth Barrett Tillman counts his winnings from an astute Brexit prediction.
See also this brief related post by Seth.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 29th May 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I don’t remember much of the Second World War although I was alive for all of it. I can remember being taught some of the WWII songs, like “Don’t Fence Me In” and “Mairzy Doats.”
Most of the friends and relatives of military age went in and most returned after it was over. Not all did and the man in Bud Kerrison’s squadron who sent me the medals in the photo, was shot down and killed before I received them.
Here, I am saluting Bud Kerrison before he went overseas. He had completed bombardier training. He served in the North African Theater and flew 50 missions, from June 1943 to January, 1944. He served in The 301st Bomb Group, 352nd Squadron.
His B 17 was named by the pilot, “Spirit of Phyllis” after his girlfriend or wife and also after an earlier plane that had crash landed in England, named “Phyllis.”
There is “Phyllis” after the crash landing in England.
When the war ended, the guys all came home and my parents had parties for them.
That is one of the parties in 1946. My father is behind the bar and Bud Kerrison is also behind the bar with Pat Neary who would later marry a friend of Bud’s named Frank Flanagan. Frank stayed in Chicago after that although his father had been Chief of Detectives in Philadelphia. Pat’s father was an Inspector in the Chicago PD so they were a police family. I have previously recounted the story of Frank.
Well, we all get old. Bud did too and is gone now.
There he is with his kids who are now all grown. I would love to have been able to take him up in a B 17 as I did my son for a birthday present a few years ago.
There’s Joe in what had been Bud’s “office” as Dana Andrews described in in the pivotal scene of “The Best Years of Our Lives. “
Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 27th May 2016 (All posts by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach)
Today I drove through the gate at the nearby Marine Corps base. The young Lance Corporal who was faithfully executing his General Orders at the gate checked my ID card, saluted smartly, and wished me a “happy holiday weekend.” I’m not sure I can have that, frankly, for the similar reason that a devout Christian may think it strange to be wished a “Happy Easter.” It just doesn’t make sense when you examine what those holidays are about.
To me Memorial Day is intensely personal. I’ve had varying levels of a relationship with 15 Marines and Sailors who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Most of these men lost their lives in combat, but some lost their lives training for combat, too. Their deaths are still tragic–they were undertaking essentially the same tasks, doing dangerous work, and for the same ultimate goal.
Their names are:
Most of these guys are aviators. One was a UH-1 crew chief that I flew in combat with on dozens of occasions. I overflew over the wreckage which contained the remains of two of the pilots back in July, 2010. One of the 15 was a tank officer. Two were infantry officers. One was a special operations officer. One was a C2 officer. One of them was my “On-Wing” going through flight school (which means that he was the pilot who taught me how to fly).
15 irreplaceable lives.
I think about these men every day, but especially so on Memorial Day.
I hate this holiday–every second of it. I hope you hate it too. Happy Memorial Day–my ass.
Semper Fi, gents. Til Valhalla.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 8th April 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
We are living an age when any reference to women runs the risk of violating the “victimhood” rights of feminist women.
What is “Victimhood?” It was explained by two sociologists in 2014.
We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.
The “Honor Culture” requires that one avenge insults to preserve honor. The law and third parties are avoided and this culture is typical of areas where law and authority is mostly absent. A classic example is the American West in the Age of the Frontier. As law and authority became available, the culture gradually changed to one of The Culture of Dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling. Lawyers have made this culture ubiquitous, even in war.
Now, we have a new phenomenon.
As a promised follow-up to the original posting, I’ll be conspicuously attired in something resembling this (but without the hood). Well, and pants, shoes, etc. Also, there is a slight chance that I will actually talk my way into the tour of what I am calling Pierce the Younger, but it is to end at 4 PM tomorrow.
NB: Sunday afternoon is likely to be wet. I am investigating the availability of some kind of water-repellent device, ideally collapsible for easy transport and storage.
After 240 years of relative quiescence, at 4:53 PM local time on Tuesday 12 January 2010 the Enriquillo fault system ruptured near 18°27’ N, 72°32’ W in an M 7.0 earthquake, followed by numerous aftershocks, mostly westward of the mainshock hypocenter. Institutional functionality, or the lack thereof, in Haiti prior to the earthquake was such that there was no local seismometer network in place, so nuances of slip in the 2010 earthquake involving several associated faults have had to be inferred from kinematic models.
The Enriquillo fault itself forms the boundary between the Gonâve Microplate and the Caribbean Plate, but seismic activity along it is driven by collision with, and subduction of, the North American Plate. The entire fault system may have begun a new cycle of large earthquakes similar to those of the 18th century, in which case there will be several more such events with significant effects in Haiti and the Dominican Republic through, very roughly, 2080.
Around half the entire US population donated money for Haitian earthquake relief in 2010. I may not have been among them, but as initially recounted in this forum in April of 2011, I was drawn into restoration work in a computer lab and fixed-wireless network in Petit-Goâve, and have subsequently assisted in similar efforts in Musac (Mizak), La Vallée-de-Jacmel. Paging through the visa section of my passport, I now find an astonishing number of red ENTRÉE and blue SORTIE stamps from the Ministere de l’Interieur et des Collectivites Territoriales / Direction de l’Immigration. My God, I’ve been down there 16 times. What was I thinking?
Something like this …
Posted in Americas, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Ebola, Elections, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Latin America, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Religion, Society, Systems Analysis, USA | 4 Comments »
Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 28th February 2016 (All posts by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach)
I commented in this post about the consumerist fog that in which I was living as a middle-rank American military officer, and my desire to “fix” or improve my situation by taking command of my finances.
How did we do it?
It was simple, but not easy.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ginny on 23rd February 2016 (All posts by Ginny)
I like both Haidt and Foster’s remarks. This is a comment that got out of hand.
I would observe that it isn’t like we didn’t know – that we hadn’t been warned. Victimization is of course, more common in a culture of feelings than of thought, of sentimentality than sense. It is old in close knit communities where others can be expected to sympathize (think of the power of the younger, weaker child over an older, stronger sibling in making a case to a parent). I suspect that in the past it has more often characterized a small, closely knit group and the wielders of the power were probably more often women (think especially mothers). The boldness with which women project the claim today probably comes from an assurance that counters the value of the claim itself; we are out of the closet in terms of competitive will but we’ve lost the skill to wield it subtly. As a comment observes, this 21st century feminization of American culture enriches Oprah. But on the founders’ ships, embarking on an adventure in itself signaling virtue, it might have been more powerful if the leaders hadn’t been so aware of human nature and condemned it so clearly.
Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 17th February 2016 (All posts by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach)
I’ve posted on Chicago Boyz and other blogs before, but it was a long time ago. Most of it was my work on the Clausewitz Roundtable. I’ve commented here and there, too. I’m happy to count Zen Pundit and Lexington Green as close blog-friends of many years.
I’m back. Some has changed, but not much. I’m still an active-duty US Marine Corps Officer. I’m a major now, not a captain. I’ve been to the sand box a few more times since I last posted an actual blog here. I’ve deployed more than most for my time in service, but less than some. I’m not complaining, just saying.
One thing did happen on my last deployment, in the end of 2014. Toward the end of deployments it’s not uncommon for things to slow down–lots of waiting for things to happen. So you have time to think. In that thinking I started to really question what the hell it is that I’m doing. Why am I fighting? What is it for? I suppose it’s connected to the fact that I was rounding out my fourth deployment to Afghanistan, and doing my small part to assist the Marine Corps with the turnover of Helmand Province to the Afghan National Army 215th Corps. I had deployed to Afghanistan in 2004, 2010, 2012-2013, and then 2014. Throw in an Iraq deployment, some time at sea with the Navy, and some other exercises, and you start to see the makings of a military career in early 21st century America. In any case, I was leading a unit and had a good amount of responsibility. But why? Why had the US come here, made the decisions it did, and why was it now trying to leave? And likewise, why was my Marine Corps doing the same thing? And me? Why was I a part of that?
I have no real regrets about the service rendered for my country. The cost has certainly been steep, personally, though. The family, with each deployment, goes through a great deal of stress, and after about three such deployments, they get harder, not easier, for the family and the soldier to handle. I’ve also lost more friends than I care to count (I can count them out for you, I just don’t want to). There are other costs which are borne, too. But the remuneration has been decent, I suppose. We always managed to be somewhat comfortable. Maybe that was the problem…the comfort?
Part of the expression of gratitude the country has for its military is the pay. For an officer, especially, the pay is quite good. I’m not going to tell you the amount of pay and allowances–that’s publicly available elsewhere. But suffice to say that the military has been quite shielded from the fears and losses of the great recession. Enlisted men and women do well, too, and can occasionally do very well when it comes times for reenlistment in specific occupational fields. Expenses have always been reasonably less than income, on average. There’s been no pressure from the economic environment to really think about my family’s financial situation today, let along 10 or 20 years from now. Yet something just wasn’t right. I didn’t feel out of control, but I didn’t feel like I was in charge, either. I had a bit of a feeling of being adrift. The military side of things was very much in control of the situation–I always knew precisely how many people were under my charge, their individual strengths and weaknesses, their state of training and discipline, and their morale. I knew the capabilities of my equipment. I always strove to understand the mission, to lead with vigor, and to “own” my position. I was good at that. But personally and financially? I barely had a financial or a personal life. That had to change.
So I decided to get a handle on things. I started to track every penny–even the pennies I don’t see because they’re “pre-tax” and given to the government for safe keeping until I claim my share back at tax time. I located all of my accounts. I found all of the debts, the interest rates, the amount of interest I was paying. I started tracking expenses, and then cutting them. I’ll be honest–the wife wasn’t exactly thrilled by me looking at things with such magnification. I started to read up on personal finance, investing, and life-planning in general. I read blogs and books, listened to podcasts, and talked with others about how to really order finances these days. And I began to radically alter our financial course. We paid all our debts, we bought a house (so, in actuality, we have one mortgage now). We’ve rented out our basement to a tenant. And we now save about 40% of all our pre-tax income. We’re not where I want to be yet, but we’re getting there. I’m not leaving anything to chance any longer, unless it’s a calculated chance intentionally taken. Every expense is now deliberately taken.
I also decided to look for some hobbies. Being a military man has a way of becoming an all-encompassing experience. Your friends are basically military colleagues. Your work is military work. Military people know about “mandatory fun”–those obligatory nights spent with comrades and often with superiors. Your wardrobe is decided for you. Where you live is decided. My task was to carve out a bit of this life and make it mine. I had to get new friends and do new things with different groups of people. That would add richness to my life. I’ve done that, and I’m still doing that.
I’ve been working on the above things–redirecting our financial life and reordering how I spend time–for a bit over a year now. The changes have been pretty dramatic. Looking back, I realize that up until I took command of my life I was living in a bit of a fog. With all of the turmoil of military life, the American people do much to make finances reasonably tranquil. This financial tranquility is both a blessing and a curse. You’re never really forced to grapple with the default decisions the consumerist economy makes for you. Nor are you forced to grapple with the reality that politics is not really national. It’s local. Your political power begins with you and those you immediately affect. You need to reclaim that power for yourself. Take charge of the fruits of your labor. Own your day to the extent you can. If you want to descend into the cesspool of national politics, fine–but do it intentionally. In fact, live your life intentionally. A life, intentionally lived, taken to the logical extreme, is the very definition of freedom. That is why I fight, happily, for my country.
I’ll be blogging about my financial journey here, as well as on other things as I see fit.
Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Blogging, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Commiserations, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, Iraq, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Personal Finance, Personal Narrative, Politics | 16 Comments »
Taking pen in hand … or actually, the computer keyboard … to while away a few minutes of leisure between wrapping up today’s work. (Yes, I am a small business owner and independent author; weekends and holidays are normal working days for me, although those hours and days are of my own choice, which makes up for quite a lot. And also, the commute is short.)
I was working away on graphic adornments for the next book in the Luna City Chronicles, and an editing job which I had thought to finish by mid-month, but these things happen. Anyway, I was diverted upon coming out to start cooking supper, to note that Blondie is also working away on her own stuff for upcoming events; for aural wallpaper, she had an old TV show on streaming video as she works. She has been going through various old shows in recent weeks. Last week it was the original Thundercats, the week before that it was McGyver. But this week it’s The X-Files … a show which she finds nostalgically amusing, but which I began to find so repellant that I stopped watching after a certain point. Was it the episode with the murderously incestuous hillbilly clan with the armless, legless mother, or the one where an oh-so-secret US Army unit machine-gunned to death a whole group of human-alien hybrid offspring? Memory does not serve up an exact date at this point, but that was where I decided that The X-Files just was not my cuppa any longer. Not for dealing out spine-chilling bits of horror in weekly episodes – the creepy guy who could slither through AC ducts, the primitive humans living in the wilds of New Jersey, the life insurance salesman who could foresee the death of his potential clients … for sheer story-telling expertise and creepy thrills, right up there with The Twilight Zone, or Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Likely, The X-Files still is, among certain aficionados.
Read the rest of this entry »
My daughter was nearly ten years old, in that Christmastime of 1990. I was stationed at Zaragoza AB, in the Ebro River Valley of Spain, which was serving as one of the staging bases in Europe for the build-up to the First Gulf War … the effort to liberate Kuwait, which Saddam Hussein seemed to believe that he had a perfect right to occupy, loot and exterminate those opposing him in that small matter. But this is not about that war, particularly – only as it affected those of us located far along the haft of the military spear towards the sharp and pointy end.
Zaragoza was a long-established US base in Spain by then – sufficiently long enough to have grown up a second generation of children born to American servicemen and their Spanish wives. It was sufficiently well-established to have a fairly modern on-base school, which housed the elementary classes in one wing, and the high school in the other. My daughter started there in kindergarten, the very week that we arrived, in 1985, to the day that we departed, six years later, when she started the sixth grade. It was a safe posting, especially considered after my previous assignment to Athens, Greece, where terrorism aimed at American personnel and at the base generally was accepted grimly as an ongoing part of life, like hurricanes along the southern coasts. Read the rest of this entry »
I was half-heartedly working on a post about zero interest rates but my heart wasn’t even half in it. So I picked up these kayak-rolling videos from my dealer.
Last year I attended a rolling class put on by the couple who produced the videos. They are fun people and outstanding instructors. They travel and give rolling clinics around the world. I recommend them highly if you are into this kind of thing, which not everyone is.
I saw a young, able-bodied guy begging today at a major intersection with the sign, “Hungry Vegan”. Don’t know how that’s working out for him. Maybe he’s working the irony angle.
At least he’s not at the other big intersection that has the guy without a nose and (on the other side of the crossroad) the guy with the horribly bent lower leg. Tough competition.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th October 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I’m tired of doom and gloom so I thought I would post something a bit different. Sailing !
In 1981, I sailed my 40 foot sailboat to Hawaii in the Transpacific Yacht Race. That year some large yachts had what were called “Sat Nav ” receivers aboard to track a system of satellites that required continuous tracking and took quite a bit of electrical power. It is now called “Transit” or “navSat”
Thousands of warships, freighters and private watercraft used Transit from 1967 until 1991. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union started launching their own satellite navigation system Parus (military) / Tsikada (civilian), that is still in use today besides the next generation GLONASS. Some Soviet warships were equipped with Motorola NavSat receivers.
My small sailboat could not use such a system. It drew about an amp an hour, far too great a drain on my battery. For that reason I used a sextant and sight tables like these, which are published for the latitudes to be sailed.
That volume is published for latitudes 15 degrees to 30 degrees, which are the ones we most sailed. Hawaii is at about 20 degrees north and Los Angeles is 35 degrees north. The sight tables provide a set of observations that can be compared with an annual book called a “Nautical Almanac.” As it happens, the Nautical Almanac for 1981 is used for training and is still in print.
The third component, besides the sextant, of course, is a star finder, like like this one, to aid with navigational stars.
The whole system is called Celestial Navigation.
The first thing one needs is an accurate clock. This is the reason why sailing ships need a chronometer in the 18th century.
Harrison solved the precision problems with his much smaller H4 chronometer design in 1761. H4 looked much like a large five-inch (12 cm) diameter pocket watch. In 1761, Harrison submitted H4 for the £20,000 longitude prize. His design used a fast-beating balance wheel controlled by a temperature-compensated spiral spring. These features remained in use until stable electronic oscillators allowed very accurate portable timepieces to be made at affordable cost. In 1767, the Board of Longitude published a description of his work in The Principles of Mr. Harrison’s time-keeper.
My oldest daughter just got diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Maybe it really isn’t called that, but she had a strong reaction on the test. She was feeling sore in her joints and they decided to give her the test. We will be having her re-tested to be sure, but are already taking appropriate steps with her diet.
I have had a discussion over the years with my better half that the whole celiac thing is overblown and that most of it is b.s. So this is a funny diagnosis in a goofy sort of way. My wife and I pretty much eat anything and everything and had passed that along to our kids. There are literally only four or five things I don’t like to eat and my wife is the same way. Protein, starch, vegetables, fruit, all in moderation. A balanced diet. Seems to work for us.
A friend of mine on Facebook posted something interesting about some research that is proving that most people when they are lied to about what they are eating and given placebos, feel “better” or “worse” depending on what they THINK they are eating. I completely believe this. One doctor (or so he said he was one) provided this comment, that to me, became the quote of the day:
In my practice I frequently see people who have NOTHING WRONG WITH THEM but who have a strong need to assume the role of a patient with some kind of diagnosis. I encourage them to go see “alternative medicine” practitioners. Indeed, the great benefit of alternative medicine is to provide the “worried well” with a pantomime theater of treatment.
While my daughter’s diagnosis could be true, I still believe that the vast majority of people who are going “gluten free” are doing so out of misinformation or wanting to be part of a fad. Just for kicks, my wife and I are getting tested as well. We hear that it is hereditary. But we both feel fine. Maybe we need to get our chakras in order and everything will be OK.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th September 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
When we originally planned to go to Brussels, we were going to take the the Eurostar to Brussels, which is rather cheap and takes only two hours. However, a Eurostar train was stranded in June by rioting “migrants” in Calais.
Anarchy erupted in the French port yesterday as striking workers started fires blocking both ferry and train routes.
As ferry workers shut the port gates, trapping some lorry drivers inside, monstrous queues built up around the train entrace, as passengers and truckers became desperate to get to Britain. The queues still haven’t dissipated.
Madness continued after strikers, protesting feared job cuts, also made it onto the tracks setting more tyres alight.
Both Eurotunnel and Eurostar suspended their services due to the disruption.
After reading that, and at the invitation of our friends, we decided to take the older surface ferry to Dunkirk. The riots were a combination of rioting migrants and rioting French workers who were complaining about the migrants.
This was much more peaceful and gave us the opportunity to see the site of the 1940 evacuation of the British Army.
Our return from Brussels was via Calais but also by surface ferry. The reason was interesting.
This is an enormous wine market, the size of a Costco or WalMart in the states. It turns out that Britain taxes the sale of wine so heavily that most middle class wine lovers travel to France to buy wine and bring it home on the ferry in their cars. Our hosts assured us that this is legal and one wonders what the British government thinks about the incentives they have created. That wine store was one of three or four we saw in the area.
Here is a sign in the wine store offering to pay the fare for the ferry round trip if wine is ordered online and picked up at the store by the buyer. Since the ferry fare is about 100 pounds, this is a huge promotion, although one our friends were unaware of until I called it to their attention. They bought a year’s supply of wine and loaded it into the VW camper van we were using. The cost was around a thousand pounds and, unfortunately, the offer required advance online purchase so they did not get the deal.
We then drove on to Calais, passing migrant camps by the road.
Here is a migrant shanty town seen through the car window in passing. The camps are walled off from the highway by new high fences along the motorway to the Calais ferry terminal. The fences are tall and topped with razor wire.
Here is the fence along the motorway which seems intended to keep the migrants from trying to break into trucks (lorries) on the highway.
In the Calais terminal, we did see some people who looked like migrants although they could have been legal residents waiting for the ferry.
These small groups were walking through the parked trucks and cars waiting for the ferry. I did not see them enter a car of truck. When we reached Dover again, our friends took us to the train station and we took the train to London. It was an enjoyable and informative trip. We spent another four days in London and flew home on the 21st.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 13th September 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
We spent today at Ypres an the huge military cemeteries from the battles of the Ypres Salient.
This was an early battle of WWI and the “first battle of Ypres” occurred at the end of “The Race to the Channel.” I have read a bit about the First World War but it really comes home when you are standing the place that consumed the British youth in 1914 to 1918. The First Battle ended the Race to the Sea and began the trench warfare of the next four years.
We visited the “Sanctuary Wood Museum today, and I took some photos of the trenches which were preserved all these years by then owner of the small cafe where we had a beer.
These trenches are the originals preserved by the property owner who probably has cleaned out debris over the years. The owners of the cafe are the children of the original owners of the property who preserved these relics. Their museum has many objects no doubt excavated from the fields around.
Recent highway construction, which has now been suspended, has bodies buried in a trench during the war, which are preserved.
The bodies of 21 German soldiers entombed in a perfectly preserved World War One shelter have been discovered 94 years after they were killed.
The men were part of a larger group of 34 who were buried alive when a huge Allied shell exploded above the tunnel in 1918, causing it to cave in.
Thirteen bodies were recovered from the underground shelter, but the remaining men had to be left under a mountain of mud as it was too dangerous to retrieve them.
Nearly a century later, French archaeologists stumbled upon the mass grave on the former Western Front in eastern France during excavation work for a road building project.
The road building has been suspended for now but every construction project in this area uncovered evidence of war dead. Today we visited an enormous memorial for the war dead whose bodies were never recovered. It is called the Menin Gate Memorial and the names of 54,000 dead are posted on the walls representing most of the dead from the Ypres Salient who could not be identified.
The sheer number of dead whose bodies were destroyed, or lost, is staggering.
The city of Ypres (pronounced by our hosts as “eep” has been rebuilt as it was destroyed in the war.
The cathedral was rebuilt from a stump of the tower. The bottom 20 feet to so was protected by rubble and is in better shape. The entire city was rebuilt completely.
The city is surrounded by British war cemeteries of which there are about 150, each with about 500 to 1,000 graves.
One grave that particularly interested me was that of Sir William Osler’s only son who was killed by shrapnel while serving as an artillery officer in 1917. His fathers friends had tried to save him and his last words, reflecting many young men who were wounded, “Surely this (wound) will get me home. ” His last words.
Today, we arrived at Brussels and will do some touring tomorrow of the Waterloo Battlefield. We passed on the road one of Wellington’s battle fields from the 18th century.
The TV tonight is all about the “refugees” which we saw a few of today in Brussels.
Recently I went to Oregon for the first time. In my past work as a consultant and during vacations I’d been to 48 states – but not Oregon or Hawaii. We started out in Portland and traveled around most of the state and it was a good time, with a lot of odd insights.
The architecture in Portland was spectacular. I am a fan of the “Dwell” type house; a modern look with lots of glass. Portland had many older houses (Victorians) along with a lot of great new construction, especially in the downtown area.
Oregon in general had many older cars, often in pristine condition. I saw a lot of older pickup trucks off the main roads, still working hard for their owners. Not sure why but generally it must be that they don’t salt their roads.
(I meant to post another chapter of this yesterday – but spent all day at a book event in a mall, and came back exhausted and suffering from an allergic reaction to dust, possibly mold in the AC ducts, and exposure to a LOT of people)
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 close 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 music, 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.
Read the rest of this entry »
“Miso kilo, parakhalo,” which means “Half a kilo, please” was the single most useful phrase I learned. Every neighborhood in Athens had its own farmer’s market on a certain day of the week: in Sourmena, it was on Saturday, in Glyphada on Thursday, but in Ano Glyphada, where we lived in a second-floor apartment set in Kyria Venetia’s garden of citrus and olive trees, our market was on Tuesday mornings. Very early in the day, around 5AM, a two-block stretch of road would blocked off, and the venders would set up their small tables, covered with faded canvas awnings, all along the sidewalks, each offering their own produce specialty: piles of seasonal fruit and vegetables, eggs, mounds of lemons and fresh-cut herbs.
Read the rest of this entry »
My then pre-K aged daughter Blondie and I lived in Athens from March 1983 to September 1985. It was a follow-on assignment to Hellenikon Air Base (now closed) to a year that I spent at Sondrestrom, Greenland, forty miles north of the Arctic Circle. All during that year of separation, I had promised her that we would go to Athens together, and live in a house on a hill, with lemon and olive trees all around and a view of the sea, and we would be happy.
We did, and we were, and these are the things I learned and remember.
Athens is a large and mostly modern city, 7/8th of it built up since 1945, with smog to rival Los Angeles and sheer noise to equal New York. All the neat old historic buildings are buried among the modern construction like one of those party favor balls made of crepe, which you unwind to find various little toys hidden in the layers. The park in the heart of the city is the Zappeion garden, lush and green, with a pond of ducks and a tiny children’s’ library. The Zappeion is full of cats, at which we used to marvel, as they were all so fat and tame. One afternoon when my daughter and I were walking back to catch our bus to the suburbs, we kept noticing the cats slinking out of the bushes by the dozen, looking expectantly at us. A young couple came into the gardens by one of the gates from Vassilias Amelia Avenue, staggering under the weight of three or four plastic shopping bags in each hand, and the cats gathered purposefully. The young couple set down the bags, took out can openers and began opening cans of cat food. They did this every other day, or so: the young man was English and worked nearby. He and his girlfriend came to feed the cats every day or so, having taken it over from an elderly Greek lady some years before, and the local ASPCA chapter (composed mostly of other expat English) worked to trap and neuter as many as possible. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ginny on 6th July 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
Or, the accurate but revealing title, How Moments Lead to Life Time Prejudice, Unmoved by Research
I loved literature classes. My general fecklessness led to reading 17th century prose on night duty at the mental hospital when I was 20, absorbing little. My choices were seldom sensible – at first I had the excuse of being 17, of hitting college when the world changed fast – but still, I matured slowly. Few I knew experimented with drugs, but we successfully screwed up our lives without them. Simply put, my judgement was lousy in men, jobs, and energy/time management. But I loved going to class (not, mind you, always doing the work – I often hadn’t read the assignment). But in the hot world of adolescence, especially in the sixties, the cool calm of walking into a classroom ordered my days, gave me a separate peace – quiet, cool and cerebral. It challenged my mind as the world outside my emotions.
That’s why I keep distance. My friend describes my teaching as cool – well, yes. I address students by their last names. I’m not their friend nor entertainer; I don’t want to offer me but the work – deep and textured and lovely. That’s where our eyes focus – on the text. So, that old model persists. Harvey Mansfield’s address notes that formality has its place, signals respect.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ginny on 29th June 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
David Foster writes of the “reset” button. I wanted to thank him in a comment, but it lengthened. And as he begins with the mistranslation, I should begin with an apology: I still know no Czech. But a memory from the eighties came so powerfully, I wanted to share it.
In those years, we hosted various musical and academic visitors. My language incompetence was a difficulty: fluent English wasn’t always an aid in getting those visas. Often a scholar or musical group was substituted for the requested one; visa granting was erratic and subject to bureaucratic whims.
But I remember vividly a group sent to a conference, around 1983 or so. One of the local Czechs, a family dedicated to the language (the father had taught Czech at A&M, his brother at UT), invited them to visit their farm. The folk singers were given tea and cake; sitting in the farm’s front yard, with grasshopper pumps near the house and broad land and skies behind that, they chatted. But then, they stood and began singing acapella with deep and strong voices an old hymn – one they knew well, but never sang at concerts, they said. The resonance came from their hearts. I didn’t know the language and decades have come between. Perhaps it was this one (or this) . If not, the simplicity and clarity were similar. It was a breathtaking moment.