Archive for the 'Personal Narrative' Category
Posted by Lexington Green on 9th January 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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 »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 2nd January 2014 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
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.
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Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Current Events, Personal Narrative, USA | 15 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th December 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
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.
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Posted in Deep Thoughts, Holidays, Personal Narrative | 6 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th December 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
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.
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Posted in North America, Personal Narrative, Society | 30 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 20th November 2013 (All posts by Jonathan)
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 »
Posted by Dan from Madison on 5th November 2013 (All posts by Dan from Madison)
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 »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 23rd October 2013 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
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 »
Posted by Dan from Madison on 3rd October 2013 (All posts by Dan from Madison)
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 »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st October 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
(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…”
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Posted in Business, Current Events, Customer Service, Military Affairs, Personal Finance, Personal Narrative, Taxes | 10 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 25th September 2013 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
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 »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th August 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
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.
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.
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Posted in Chicagoania, Personal Narrative, Photos | 6 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd August 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
… 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.
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Posted in Personal Narrative | 8 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th August 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
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.
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Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Christianity, Conservatism, National Security, Personal Narrative | 5 Comments »
Posted by Dan from Madison on 24th July 2013 (All posts by Dan from Madison)
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 »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th April 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
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 »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 31st March 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
(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 »
Posted by Jonathan on 26th March 2013 (All posts by Jonathan)
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 »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 16th January 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
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 »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th December 2012 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
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 »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th December 2012 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
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 »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th December 2012 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
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 »
Posted by Dan from Madison on 7th December 2012 (All posts by Dan from Madison)
Sgt. Mom’s post from a few days ago reminded me of an incident I had some 8 or 9 years ago. It turned me into a proud gun owner quickly afterward. I have since moved from the place where this event happened.
Like Sgt. Mom, I lived in suburbia in a pretty quiet neighborhood. This area isn’t as social as Sgt. Mom’s group – we would wave here and there to people we knew, but there was a general malaise as far as neighborhood associations and the like went.
It was 4am and my doorbell started ringing over and over and over. I grabbed the baseball bat I kept in my bedroom for just such an occasion, told my wife to call 911 and slowly walked downstairs. I checked the back door first and there didn’t appear to be anyone out there so I slowly went to the front door, all the time the doorbell constantly ringing. I peeked through the glass pane on the side of the door and there was a guy ringing the doorbell with his nose.
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Posted in Crime and Punishment, Personal Narrative | 70 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 2nd December 2012 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
“On the afternoon of December 2, 1942, the Atomic Age began inside an enormous tent on a squash court under the stands of the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field. There, headed by Italian scientist Enrico Fermi, the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction was engineered. The result—sustainable nuclear energy—led to creation of the atomic bomb and nuclear power plants—two of the twentieth century’s most powerful and controversial achievements.”
I was there halfway between then and now. I am a by-product of the Manhattan Project, being the son of a onetime rifleman in an infantry platoon who was on a troopship in the Pacific on August 6, 1945, in transit for Operation Downfall. He went to the Philippines instead, and never heard a shot fired in anger. I did not matriculate at Chicago to repay a debt – which is fortunate, because as things went, the University spent a good deal of money on me for (so far) no return whatsoever.
Earlier today I went to a lecture, “Talking Tolkien: War and J.R.R. Tolkien,” in the appropriately subterranean research center of the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. It was given by Janet Brennan Croft of the University of Oklahoma, who has a book out that I suppose I will buy, to add to the same shelf containing the Hobbit, the trilogy, the Silmarillion, the Letters, and Tolkien and the Great War (all of which were referenced at some point in her talk).
I didn’t hear all that much that was new, but I didn’t expect to. It was well worth going, however; I suppose the biggest “delta” was about how his writing changed after he had children and especially when two of them served in the military in WWII. She also pointed out that all the heroic leaders in the trilogy lead from the front, while the villainous leaders are far in the rear, the equivalent of the “chateau generals.”
Another insight was how much the “black breath” and Frodo’s melancholia resemble PTSD. In combination with her remarks about parent-child relationships, this caused me to ask a question about what turns out to be Letter #74, written to Stanley Unwin on 29 June 1944, which includes the sentence: “I have at the moment another son, a much damaged soldier, at Trinity trying to do some work and recover a shadow of his old health.” – a reference to his son Michael, who was pretty severely PTSD’d for a while. So out of slightly morbid curiosity, I asked if she knew anything more about that episode. She did not but said that there are probably more letters, unpublished, that would have details, and perhaps they will eventually see the light of day.
Scripture reading in church this morning was Isaiah 2:1-5. Verse 4 is of course poignant in light of today’s anniversary. If we really are entering the Crisis of 2020, those swords won’t be beaten into plowshares any time soon. Indeed, some future analog of December 2nd, 1942, presumably involving nanomachinery rather than tons of graphite blocks and lumps of enriched uranium, will happen in a laboratory somewhere in the world in another decade or so.
Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Chicagoania, History, Military Affairs, Personal Narrative, Religion, Science, War and Peace | 4 Comments »
Posted by Telegram from Innisfree on 31st October 2012 (All posts by Telegram from Innisfree)
The wife and I moved to Ireland a year or so ago.
I found academic work here. So we moved.
Today, the wife is walking the children home from school.
They pass by a lamppost dated “1911.” Douglas, who is 9,
asks “who was king then?”
“Edward VII”, she replies. Douglas thinks for a moment and says,
“George V was his son. And king during the First World
War.” “Excellent!” she cheers him on, and “Who were his sons?”
“Edward VIII and George VI.” “Fantastic!” she exclaims, “And
who is George VI father to?”
Douglas yells happily back …
“Our current Queen!!”
There you have it … I name him after an outstanding American …
and he grows up to be a Tory (while living in Ireland!).
Where did I go wrong?
Posted in Anglosphere, History, Ireland, Personal Narrative | 2 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th October 2012 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
(From the archives of the Daily Brief – a meditation on living in the borderlands. Business is suddenly jumping for the Tiny Publishing Bidness, and I suddenly have a lot of editing to do and a short time to do it in. I honestly don’t have anything else to say about the debate last night that the other guyz haven’t already said.)
It’s part of the tourist attraction for San Antonio, besides the Riverwalk and the Alamo. Even though this part of South Texas is still a good few hours drive from the actual physical border between Mexico and the United States, the River City is still closer to it than most of the rest of the continental states. It falls well within that ambiguous and fluid zone where people on both sides of it have shifted back and forth so many times that it would be hard to pin down a consistent attitude about it all. This is a place where a fourth or fifth-generation descendent of German Hill-Country immigrants may speak perfectly colloquial Spanish and collect Diego Riviera paintings…. And the grandson of a semi-literate Mexican handyman who came here in the early 1920ies looking for a bit of a break from the unrest south of the border, may have a doctoral degree and a fine series of fine academic initials after his name. And the fact that the original settlers of Hispanic San Antonio were from the Canary Islands, and all non-Hispanic whites are usually referred to as “Anglos”, no matter what their ethnic origin might be, just adds a certain surreality to the whole place. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, Diversions, Immigration, North America, Personal Narrative, Society, Urban Issues, USA | 4 Comments »