Poppy Day

The local VFW held a Poppy Day today, and while I buy a poppy along with hundreds of other morning commuters, I also always stop to talk to the veterans who are selling them. Around our area, they are always World War II vets, and they are going away too fast, lost to illness, injury, and time. My dad is still among those living, and I think of him and the fact that I may live long enough to hear that the last WWII veteran has passed away someday. Most of the time, my conversation with these men is limited to my saying thank-you for what they have done, and I genuinely think that they appreciate hearing it. This morning, the man I bought my poppy from took a moment to tell me that the day he left home to report for basic, he stepped off the same train platform I was standing on. I choked up a bit. I am not sufficiently eloquent to do justice to them, but this poem is pretty good:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead.
Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved and now we lie,
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw,
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us, who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
In Flanders Fields.

-John McCrae

“a veritable liner of the skies”

At the risk of sounding macabre, the coverage of the Airbus A380 launch leaves me feeling queasy. Not being an engineer myself, I will let others expound on the safety and wisdom of flying this machine, but the gushing pronouncements surrounding it still seem frightfully similar to Ismay’s “even God Himself could not sink this ship” regarding the Titanic.

Personally, I would not be comfortable flying on the A380, given the outsize dimensions, and I am an adrenaline junkie. In-flight turbulence does not bother me, I have skydived multiple times, raced my motorcycle up to silly speeds, about the only lunatic activity I haven’t tried is B.A.S.E. jumping. But this airplane gives me the heebie-jeebies (technical term).

I hope it flies as well as it inspires hyperbolic copy.

Addendum: A thought that I just shared with Jonathan: Seeing as how the airplane has never actually flown in real life yet, I hope that the designers used computers with Name-Brand chipsets in them.

Last Night

I went to see a discussion between Abner Mikva and Arthur Schlessinger, hosted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. In spite of his age and accompanying frailty, Schlessinger wove some interesting tales, and was generally entertaining. The group assembled here was a wide-ranging one to say the least, from a few who looked as if they hadn’t had a bath lately, right on up to Christie Hefner and Bill Marovitz, two of Chicago’s glitterati.

Anyone who recognizes the four preceding attendants can imagine the tone of the discussion; let’s just say it was fairly partisan Demo-speak, not surprising. I was taken aback, however, at the behaviour of much of the audience. Schlessinger deftly picked up Mikva’s leads, and proceeded to administer a light, verbal spanking to Bush and The NeoCons, accompanied by a steady chorus of tsks, sighs, and harrumphs from this head-bobbing peanut gallery. At one point, Schlessinger touched on the Bush Lied subject, refuting the very idea that he had lied, adding, “I don’t think he is capable of lying,” which brought about a raft of chortles from the all-knowing, intellectually superior audience. They nearly choked on their pretzels when the next words out of his mouth were that he views Bush as a man of integrity. This clearly was not a line the audience was expecting.

The evening then proceeded to a Q & A session, where the audience competed to see who could insert their nose the furthest into Professor Schlessinger’s hindquarters while still being able to ask a puffball question. Through some miscalculation, the microphone got passed to a man who challenged Schlessinger on his notion that the U.S. incurred no damage to its standing or interests by pulling out of Vietnam in the way we did, and the same would go for Iraq if we were to just up and leave. Heads spun round to find the rabble-rouser, and looks of horror were all over the audience. To his credit, Schlessinger responded rather graciously, basically agreeing to disagree.

I walked out of the Millennium Knickerbocker hotel thinking to myself, “Where have the adults in this world gone?” The people upstairs had conducted themselves at roughly the level of my kids’ grade-school assemblies, maybe less respectfully. Here before them sat a man who had rubbed elbows with more than a handful of U.S. Presidents, had witnessed and written about 80-plus years of the most dynamic world history, and all they could do was snicker, roll eyes, feign aggrievement, and then jockey to line up for a book-signing. They deserved to be at an Oprah taping.


The U.S. farmer is a most productive enterprise, and this year is another good example. A second consecutive season of record corn production (over 11 billion bushels) has stretched storage capacity infrastructure through the Midwest. Here’s a picture of one thing you can do with a 3 million bushel pile of harvested corn:

Ski Iowa