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  • Archive for the 'Personal Narrative' Category

    Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 21st September 2014 (All posts by )

    Cold and misty morning, I heard a warning borne in the air
    About an age of power where no one had an hour to spare …
    – Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression, Part 1

    Imagine that you just stepped out of a time machine into the mid-1930s with a case of partial historical amnesia. From your reading of history, you can still remember that the nation has been beset with economic difficulties for several years that will continue for several more. You also clearly remember that this is followed by participation in a global war, but you cannot recall just when it starts or who it’s with. A few days of newspapers and radio broadcasts, however, apprise you of obvious precursors to that conflict and various candidates for both allies and enemies.

    As mentioned several times in this forum, I adhere to a historical model, consisting either of a four-part cycle of generational temperaments (Strauss and Howe), or a related but simpler system dynamic/generational flow (Xenakis). That model posits the above scenario as a description of our current situation and a prediction of its near future: a tremendous national trial, currently consisting mostly of failing domestic institutions, is underway. It will somehow transform into a geopolitical military phase and reach a crescendo early in the next decade. It cannot be avoided, only confronted.

    Nor will it be a low-intensity conflict like the so-called “wars” of recent decades, which have had US casualty counts comparable to those of ordinary garrison duty a generation ago. Xenakis has coined the descriptive, and thoroughly alarming, term genocidal crisis war for these events. Some earlier instances in American history have killed >1% of the entire population and much larger portions of easily identifiable subsets of it. Any early-21st-century event of this type is overwhelmingly likely to kill millions of people in this country, many if not most of them noncombatants. And besides its stupendous quantitative aspect, the psychological effect will be such that the survivors (including young children) remain dedicated, for the rest of their lives, to preventing such a thing from ever happening again.

    I will nonetheless argue that no matter how firmly convinced we may be that an utterly desperate struggle, with plenty of attendant disasters, is inevitable and imminent, we must avoid both individual panic and collective overreaction.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Current Events, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, International Affairs, Islam, Latin America, Leftism, Media, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy, Predictions, Religion, Rhetoric, Science, Systems Analysis, Tech, The Press, USA, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    By Way of Explanation

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 18th August 2014 (All posts by )

    Everyone has these two visions when they hold their child for the first time. The first is your child as an adult saying “I want to thank the Nobel Committee for this award.” The other is “You want fries with that?”
    – Robin Williams

    I suppose I should say something here, because this quote turns out to be a bit on the poignant side. Readers already aware of some portion of the following detail may be excused for skipping this one; I have alluded to various portions of it in posts and comments on different blogs over the years, and I tend to feel like I’ve worn friends and acquaintances out with it in conversation. It’s that worst of topics, my autobiography.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Human Behavior, Personal Narrative, Tradeoffs | 9 Comments »

    Indonesia’s New President is a Fan of Metal

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th July 2014 (All posts by )

    I’ve had a long relationship with heavy metal. I remember being a kid for a show at the Aragon Ballroom back in 1986 – I think it was Yngwie Malmsteen (who is often known as Yngwie “F@cking” Malmsteen for his reputation as being a jerk) and we waited outside all day for a general admission show. At that time the Uptown neighborhood was dangerous and populated at all hours by drunks and bums. Some of the more clever fans had stolen lawn chairs along the way so they’d have something to sit on during the long hours of waiting. We watched the minutes click by oh so slowly at a big bank across the street. And of course everyone in line was drinking or smoking or doing something else to pass the time. Many people passed out not once but twice in line, shook themselves off, and went back to what they were doing (one guy in a big mud puddle). Later a kid had a limo drop him off in front of the venue and walked out towards the line. That was a big mistake as the entire crowd was jeering him as one. A few homeless people came by asking for change and someone had the idea to toss a quarter at them and soon the whole line was hurling their change in a shower. Towards the end they installed barricades to segment the crowd so that the entire line of a couple thousand people wouldn’t all surge forward at once when they began letting people into the venue. At that point you were penned in like veal in a cage packed next to other leather jacketed rowdy and drunk fans. The grizzled Chicago street cops eyed the crowd with disdain… you could tell that if they had their way this whole bunch of bums and idiots would get taken into custody…

    Over the years I don’t go to as many metal shows as I used to and won’t spend all day in line, obviously. But I still feel affection towards the music and the no-compromise attitude of those that have stuck with it regardless of the fact that it gets no radio airplay, little iTunes action, and is on the fringes of the “general” entertainment landscape. Of all the genres of music, metal can live on because it doesn’t need any of these things, just fans who are dedicated, and these fans revel in the fact that they are outsiders.

    Indonesia just elected a new president, a “man of the people” named Joko Widodo who took on the establishment tied to the former dictator. I am astonished to see that he is apparently a fan of metal, and even a fan of bands like Lamb of God, whom Dan saw recently in Madison and described their show as “insane and sonic”. All of this comes from this Noisey article (Noisey is part of the awesome Vice media empire). It is unthinkable that a US presidential candidate would ever admit to being a fan of metal, especially the non-cartoony metal bands like Lamb of God. Lyrics are NSFW (if you can understand them). Here is a clip

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Music, Personal Narrative | 2 Comments »

    Archive: An Acute Shortage of Care

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th July 2014 (All posts by )

    (It’s been a rough and work-filled weekend from me, as regards providing good bloggy ice cream. I am wrapping up a couple of finished projects for Watercress clients, prepping for three more – from repeat clients no less, so they are entitled to an extra ration of care) and hand-holding a poet, coming down to getting her first book launched. I tell you, I am in two minds about publishing poets after this; a temperamental and high-maintenance variety of author … anyway, this rant dates from 2006, and was one of my more biting ones, written at the time of the last Israeli-Palestine conflict, or possibly the one before that. Yeah, I took sides. This explains how and why that came about.)

    So, one of NPR’s news shows had another story, banging on (yet again) about the plight of the poor, pitiful, persecuted Palestinians, now that the money tap looks to be severely constricted; no money, no jobs, no mama no papa no Uncle Sam, yadda, yadda yadda. (It’s sort of like an insistent parent insisting that a stubborn child eat a helping of fried liver and onions, with a lovely side helping of filboid studge. You will feel sorry for these people, the international press, a certain segment of the intellectual and political elite insist— you must! You simply must! It’s good for you!) I briefly felt a pang, but upon brief consideration, I wrote it off to the effect of the green salsa on a breakfast taco from a divey little place along the Austin Highway. (Lovely tacos, by the way, and the green salsa is nuclear fission in a plastic cup. Name of Divey Little Place available upon request, but really, you can’t miss it. It’s painted two shades of orange, with navy blue trim.)

    It may have been a pang of regret, barely perceptible, for the nice, sympathetic person I used to be. I used to feel sorry for the Palestinians, in a distant sort of way, the same way I feel about the Tibetans, and the Armenians, and the Kurds, and the Chechens (well, once upon a time, say before the Beslan school atrocity) and the poor starving Biafrans and Somalis, and whoever the international press was holding the current pity party for. Really, I used to be a nice person. I really did feel kindly, and well-disposed to those parties, and I wished them well, since all of them (and more) being victims of historical misfortune.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Civil Society, History, Israel, Middle East, Personal Narrative, Terrorism | 10 Comments »

    For the 4th – Sgt. Mom’s Most Memorable

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th July 2014 (All posts by )

    (From my archives – my most memorable 4th of July ever!)

    The flags are out, like it’s 4th of July every day, like the pictures I saw of the glorious, Bicentennial 4th of 1976… which I actually sort of missed. Not the date itself, just all the hoopla. The 200th anniversary of our nation, celebrations up the wazoo, and I missed every one of them because I spent the summer in England, doing that cheap-student-charter-BritRail-Pass-Youth-Hostel thing. I lived at home and worked parttime, and finished at Cal State Northridge with a BA and enough money left over to spend the summer traveling. I didn’t go alone, either. My brother JP and my sister Pippy were bored with the prospect of another summer in Tujunga, California. I assume our parents thought the world in 1976 was a much safer place than now, or I was responsible enough at 22 to be at large in a foreign country in charge of a 20 and a 16 year old.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, History, Humor, Miscellaneous, Personal Narrative | 9 Comments »

    Circumnavigating Key Biscayne

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd June 2014 (All posts by )

    A few weeks ago I paddled around Key Biscayne, one of Miami’s barrier islands, with a buddy of mine. We traveled clockwise on the map (click the preceding link) from Crandon Marina. The weather was unusually good and we had a great time. Here are some photos.

    Circumnavigating Key Biscayne by Kayak
    Departing Crandon Marina.
     
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative, Photos | 8 Comments »

    Green Acres is the Place to Be…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th May 2014 (All posts by )

    Yes – I like this place very much. Although there is probably altogether too much traffic on weekends.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Customer Service, Diversions, Entrepreneurship, North America, Personal Narrative, Photos | 7 Comments »

    History Friday – At the Inn of the Golden-Something-or-Other

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

    (For a Friday, a little change from the usual – a post about traveling, history, and an insufficient command of French … but an appreciation for good food and small country inns. This is included my ebook “Travels With Blondie.”)

    I have been flipping over the pages of my battered Hallwag Euro-Guide, attempting to reconstruct my hopscotch itinerary on little back roads across France, at the wheel of the VEV in the early autumn of 1985. I avoided the big cities, before and after Paris, and the major highways. For a foreign driver, Paris was a nerve-wracking, impenetrable urban jungle, a tangle of streets and roundabouts, and the major highways were toll-roads and expensive; much less fraught to follow the little-trafficked country roads from town to town to town. We ghosted along those two-lane country roads as much as a bright orange Volvo sedan can be said to ghost, the trunk and the back seat packed with mine and my daughter’s luggage, a basket of books, a large bottle of Metaxa brandy (a departing gift from Kyria Paniyioti, our Athens landlord) and two boxes of china and kitchen gadgets purchased from that holiest of holies of French kitchenware shops, Dehillerin in the Rue Coquilliere.

    From Chartres and the wondrous cathedral, I went more or less south towards the Loire; the most direct way would been a secondary road to Chateaudun, and an even more secondary road directly from there to Blois, through a green countryside lightly touched with autumn gold, where the fields of wheat and silage had been already mown down to stubble. The road wound through gentle ranges of hills, and stands of enormous trees. Here at a turn of the road was a dainty and Disney-perfect chateau, with a wall and a terrace and a steep-sloped blue-slate roof trimmed with pepper-pot turrets, an enchanting dollhouse of a chateau, set among its’ own shady green grove. There was no historic marker, no sign of habitation, nothing to welcome the sightseer, and then the road went around a bend and it was out of sight, as fleeting as a vision.
    Blois was set on hills, a charming small town of antique buildings, none more than two or three stories tall, and I seemed to come into it very abruptly late in the afternoon. Suddenly there were buildings replacing the fields on either side. At the first corner, I turned left, followed the signpost pointing to the town center; might as well find a place to spend the night. As soon as I turned the corner and thought this, I spotted the little hotel, fronting right on the narrow sidewalk. It had two Michelin stars, which was good enough for me (plain, clean, comfortable and cheap) and was called the Golden… well, the golden something or other. I didn’t recognise the French word; truth to tell, I didn’t recognize most of them, just the words for foods and cooking, mostly, and could pronounce rather fewer.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Architecture, Diversions, Europe, History, Personal Narrative, Recipes, Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

    It Is Great, Until It Isn’t

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 25th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Living in Madison, I associate with a larger than typical number of lefties, liberals, and others who lean to the left of the political spectrum. Oddly, being a leftist seems to be associated with anti-science and other oddities.

    When at parties and having discussions with locals, I always stay out of politics. I always shift the subject. Most of the people I deal with are extremely nice, good folks, but they are true believers, and nothing I say will do anything but make situations uncomfortable. But one subject I never hold back is not getting your kids vaccinated. My wife always cringes if it comes up because she knows the bazooka is coming out.

    I use the big words too, like “bullshit”, “nonsense” and interesting catch phrases like “have you ever seen a child with whooping cough?” or “I hope your kids don’t get measles because mine won’t”. It does fall on deaf ears, but with the anti-vaccers (is that a word?) I don’t care.

    Separately, my wife, while not a squishy leftist, does have a soft spot for marketing buzzwords like “organic”, “natural” etc. She typically spends more money than need be to offer food choices to my kids that are pesticide free, purchases “safer” chemicals and does other things like that – things that I offer to you are probably nonsensical. However, I have chosen not to “die on that hill”. Besides denting my wallet a bit, I don’t think that it is harming anything, so I let it go. I don’t have many complaints about my wife and I am probably way ahead of most husbands in that department (she puts up with me so that pretty much overrides any of my tiny complaints).

    But. Lice. Several years ago, both of my children got lice from school. Fortunately (?) I lost my hair a long time ago so was not in the loop, but my wife was mortified. I will never forget the moment – she said (and I am almost quoting) “get down to Walgreens and get the nastiest, strongest chemical you can find and get back here and help me with this”. I almost fell over and stumbled out to the car in a daze, wondering how my wife could have made such a radical change in the five minutes since my kids came home from school.

    But I did learn something. When the excrement hits the air conditioning, people want this crap solved. Now.

    Back to the anti vaccination folks.

    Everything is great and works until it doesn’t. Today I note this story about a famous anti-vaccination group, the Amish. Funny how one’s religion doesn’t seem that important when your kids contract a terrible disease. All of a sudden, vaccines look pretty good.

    More than 135 people crowded into a local woodworking business Thursday where nurses used up every available dose of vaccine — and then ordered 300 doses more, said Pam Palm, a spokeswoman for the Knox County, Ohio, Health Department.
     
    “Not getting immunizations has been the way the Amish have felt in the past, but they certainly have responded in this situation,” Palm said.
     
    The outbreak was detected this week when four unvaccinated Amish community members showed evidence of measles infection following a March trip to the Philippines to offer humanitarian aid to typhoon victims. More than 20,000 people have caught measles in the Philippines and at least 50 have died in a severe ongoing outbreak.
     

    I think this might be a good example of stated preferences vs. revealed preferences. Revealed in a most uncomfortable manner. I assume most of my left leaning friends here in the Madison area would do the exact same thing in the circumstances.

    My wife, while succumbing to some of the marketing for organic and natural products, thankfully didn’t fall for the vaccine scares that were prevalent when our children were born.

    I think if anyone were going to a third world place that was under duress (like the typhoon ravaged Philippines) that they would be REQUIRED to get boosters for measles, cholera, and whatever else I could think of. And why wouldn’t you anyways? But I guess that is my Midwestern common sense sneaking through again, and heck, what do I know.

    I do know this. Kids with measles = parents getting measles vaccines for everyone.

    Posted in Leftism, Medicine, Personal Narrative, Politics | 16 Comments »

    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.
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    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.

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    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.
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    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…”
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    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.

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    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.
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    Posted in Personal Narrative | 8 Comments »