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  • Archive for the 'Personal Narrative' Category

    Snowpocalypse Now

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th February 2021 (All posts by )

    Well, my fellow Texas, what have we learned from this disastrous week just passed? Quite a lot, actually – and many of us were reminded anew of those old habits acquired from having lived for a few years in places where winters are reliably ice-cold frozen, dark, snow-packed and last for months. The Army retiree ahead of us in the line to get into the grocery store on Wednesday reminisced with the Daughter Unit and I about such winters spent in less temperate climes, and we racked our collective memories about what had happened to the ice scrapers that we all were certain we had come to Texas with at least two decades ago. (I was sure that mine was somewhere in the trunk of the Very Elderly Volvo, which was sold ten years ago. Possibly the young motorhead who bought the VEV discovered the ice scraper – well, at least now he knows what it was for.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Just Unbelievable, Personal Narrative, Texas, Urban Issues | 43 Comments »

    Degrees of Toxicity

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th February 2021 (All posts by )

    The Daughter Unit clued me in this week to a humongous ruckus which brewed among Air Force contributors to military-oriented discussion boards on Reddit – a ruckus which involves the current Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force – which for the laymen audience, means the very tippy-top enlisted, that singular and exemplary senior NCO who supposedly sits at the right hand of the highest military commanders in the land, to keep them appraised of the interests of the enlisted men and women. The Daughter Unit keeps track of this military ‘gen on a more regular basis than I do, as my two-decades long service was a good while ago, and I walked away from it all and constructed another life and long-term interests in writing, book-blogging and publishing. I will confess to some sentimental feelings for my service, as it provided me with a lot of fun, foreign travel, a decent paycheck and benefits (to include the pension and retirement benefits), a chance to hang out with some amazing people (as well as a soupcon of psychos, amiable freaks and the severely mal-adjusted), and a kind of mental grounding, even a rough sympathy when it comes to people who work for a living and get their hands dirty and their fingernails broken. But enough about me, and my not-particularly-rewarding career as an enlisted minion, toiling away in the bowels of the mighty military public affairs machine some two- or three-decades past.

    The office of the Chief Master Sergeant of any service is a huge thing, in all the military forces: the name of the current Chief-Master-Whatever is one of the things military recruits to whatever branch are expected to know and recite on demand when in Basic Training. General officers there are, in legions, and the multi-stars roost en masse like grackles in the highest levels of command – but there is only one Chief Enlisted, for all four (five counting the Coast Guard) military services. This one – CMSAF JoAnne Bass – is the first female to take up that exalted office for any of the services. I wish her the best luck in the world. When I began serving, there weren’t but a bare half-dozen of female senior enlisteds in the Air Force, and a fair number of the junior enlisted that I served with were the first or second females in certain traditionally male specialties which had just been opened to females. Unfortunately, as things are shaping up in the first months of her tour of duty, Chief Bass had better buckle in, as it looks like it’s going to be a bumpy flight. She put her foot wrong, straight off the bat, when a young NCO (innocently, or perhaps not so innocently) inquired on the CMSAF’s FB page as to how her last name was pronounced – like the fish or the musical instrument?    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Conservatism, Current Events, History, Human Behavior, Military Affairs, National Security, Personal Narrative, Predictions, Trump, War and Peace | 30 Comments »

    Amazon and Me

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th January 2021 (All posts by )

    I have to confess to a lot of dissonance with the current conduct of Amazon.com – being that I have a huuuuge number of books up there on Amazon, buy an equally huuge number of books from them, and as an indy author among many, went into enthusiastically providing content for their launch of the Kindle e-reader early on. The Kindle was seen (correctly, in my humble opinion) as a means to economically route around the whole indigestible bolus of providing print copies of books to interested readers through traditional publishing, a means which involved discounts to a distributor, print costs, shipping costs, storage costs, return discounts and return charges … it cut out that whole cycle of shipping and accounting for concrete (in the metaphorical sense, not the literal) copies of printed books, in favor of … wheee! Text files downloaded to a reader device! Instanter! No shipping or warehouse fees, no dependency on the eccentric whims or availability of a local bookstore! No return fees, for possibly and eventually a sullen little trickle of royalties three or four months after the original sale! Freedom! Our books, straight to the reader! I did a talk early on, to a book club in a small town in South Texas, where there was nothing much for 170 miles in any direction for any but perhaps small religious bookstores, now that drug stores and the like no longer even have the wire racks of paperbacks stocked by small distributers the way that they used to do. I think that most of the readers at that event bought the Adelsverein Trilogy on their Kindles – all that they needed to do was order the book, go outside (remember, this is at least a decade ago) and bam! They had their book! Was the 21st century great, or what?!! Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Capitalism, Customer Service, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy | 26 Comments »

    Smashing the State

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 9th January 2021 (All posts by )

    There won’t be any surprises in this one for anyone who knows me at all well, but I’ll try to at least make it entertaining.

    My very first lasting memory of a news event with political content took place on the afternoon of Sunday 21 January 1968. A B-52 with four hydrogen bombs aboard took off from Thule AFB and crashed somewhere in the Arctic, location unknown.
    Ten days later, the Tet Offensive began.
    Nine weeks and one day after that, Dr King was assassinated.
    Nine weeks less one day after that, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.
    Twelve weeks to the day after that, I first saw real human blood shed live on television via cameras above the intersection of Michigan and Balbo as the Chicago police attacked demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention.

    I was eight years old.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Big Government, Book Notes, Chicagoania, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Libertarianism, Management, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA | 42 Comments »

    In the Field

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 8th September 2020 (All posts by )

    Sometimes, long after first reading a book or watching a movie and enjoying it very much, I have come back to re-reading or watching, and then wondering what I had ever seen in that in the first place. So it was with the original M*A*S*H book and especially with the movie. I originally read the book in college and thought, “Eww, funny but gross and obscene, with their awful practical jokes and nonexistent sexual morals.” Then I re-read after having been in the military myself for a couple of years, and thought, “Yep, my people!”

    The movie went through pretty much the same evolution with me, all but one element – and that was when I began honestly wondering why the ostensible heroes had such a hate on for Major Burns and the nurse Major Houlihan. Why did those two deserve such awful, disrespectful treatment? In the movie they seemed competent and agreeable enough initially. In the book it was clear that Major Burns was an incompetent surgeon with delusions of adequacy, and that Major Houlihan was Regular Army; that being the sole reason for the animus. But upon second viewing of the movie, it seemed like Duke Forrest, Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre were just bullying assholes selecting a random target for abuse for the amusement of the audience. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Film, History, Holidays, Korea, Medicine, Middle East, Military Affairs, Personal Narrative, War and Peace | 30 Comments »

    Reopening — II (Theory)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 17th August 2020 (All posts by )

    That’s all very well in practice, but how does it work in theory?

    — old University of Chicago joke

    I expect this blog’s readership to demand the theoretical considerations, so here’s a (non-exhaustive) compilation, beginning with a setup anecdote:

    In December of 2007 I was briefly—very briefly, as the work was interrupted by a blizzard—involved in rebuilding in Greensburg, Kansas, which had been practically erased from the map seven months earlier by an immense tornado. I had driven through a couple of months after the event and stumbled into a photo-op for Sen. Pat Roberts, who was doing a ribbon-cutting of sorts in a brand new convenience store. The devastation was more impressive than his speech; indeed, people who worked both New Orleans after Katrina and Greensburg after the tornado typically remarked that, allowing for scale, Greensburg was worse.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Boyd/Osinga Roundtable, Civil Society, COVID-19, Human Behavior, Organizational Analysis, Personal Narrative, Systems Analysis, USA | 2 Comments »

    Reopening — I (Practice)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 17th August 2020 (All posts by )

    For most Americans, the great day of realization of the seriousness of the COVID-19 threat—or more precisely, the seriousness of the official reaction to it—was Thursday, March 12th, when they woke to the news that the previous evening, the National Basketball Association had postponed an OKC Thunder-Utah Jazz game after a player’s test result came back positive, and then quickly canceled the remainder of the season. I was less concerned with the NBA, but coincidentally, also on Thursday the 12th, was informed that a certain institution of higher education that we all know and love was moving to remote learning for undergraduate and graduate classes for its entire Spring Quarter of 2020. Simultaneously, nearly all students were ordered to plan to vacate their on-campus housing by 5 PM CDT on Sunday, March 22nd.

    I had also just returned home from a severely truncated trip to Italy which had gotten no farther than New York City. Had the Italy leg been undertaken, I would have been on one of the last flights out of that country before it was locked down entirely, and would have been a strong candidate for two weeks of quarantine upon arrival in the US. I was therefore necessarily concerned with pandemic response, and on the day after my return home, sent an e-mail to several leaders and volunteers in my church with a general offer of expertise and recommendations to pursue several of the items discussed below, especially a communications plan.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, Management, Personal Narrative, Religion, Society, USA | 8 Comments »

    Reason #564 To Be Glad …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th August 2020 (All posts by )

    …That I am my own independent publisher, with the Tiny Publishing Bidness, and only wasted a couple of months and a lot of postage, in 2007 or so, trying to get an agent interested in my first two novels. Because that was the way to break into traditional publishing; get an agent, who would present your work to the traditional publishing houses. Another book blogger at the time advised trying it for a year, and then going independent, as there were sufficient small companies doing publish-on-demand, some of them for rather reasonable fees. I did have an interested agent in New York, who was referred to me by another milblogger back then, and although the agent reluctantly declined to offer me his services, he was jolly complimentary and encouraging, and provided some good insights. One of the unspoken insights that I took away from this exchange, and drew from all the other letters saying “Thanks, but no thanks” from various literary agencies was that it was all a terribly insular world, the world of the established agencies and big publishers, all of whom seemed to be based in about half a square mile of real estate in New York. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Diversions, Entrepreneurship, Leftism, Marketing, Personal Narrative | 32 Comments »

    Ephemeral Amusements

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th July 2020 (All posts by )

    The Daughter Unit was a little over two years old when we went to live in Greece, and almost kindergarten age when we left, and during that period we lived in a second-floor apartment in suburban Athens and hardly ever watched television. (I had a television set, but it was 110v, and Greece was a 220v country, and anyway, I was almost never at home in the evenings, the exception being when we went to our neighbors to watch Jewel in the Crown when it aired with subtitles on Greek TV.) This was at a time before wide-spread adoption of video players, before cable, way before streaming video. It was, in bald point of fact, rather like the three to five broadcast channels available when I was growing up. So, no, I didn’t miss TV much, and nor did the Daughter Unit, because we had books.

    Heaps and heaps of books; my parents took the opportunity of the Daughter Unit being a military dependent and entitled to have her personal items shipped to Greece gratis to include almost all of the kid-lit that Mom had accumulated for my brothers and sister and I. (Mom and Dad were in the process of moving into a travel trailer parked on the building site of their eventual retirement home, and so took every opportunity to down-size what they didn’t need or want. Like … that part of the personal library.) Off that shipment went to Athens, augmented with new books that I bought through an English mail-order service which offered lovely catalogs aimed mostly at expatriates whiling away the decades in locations devoid of English-language bookstores, and a children’s bookstore in what passed for a mall in Voula or Vouliagmeni, which featured Greek, English and I think German and French-language books. It was a small place, barely one twenty-foot square room in size, with each wall dedicated to a language. I am pretty certain that I bought the Daughter Unit’s favorite comic book series there; the Asterix and Obelix books.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Diversions, Humor, Personal Narrative | 4 Comments »

    Just for Fun: My Own Bicentennial 4th of July

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th July 2020 (All posts by )

    (From my archives, and included in this book – 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 Personal Narrative | 4 Comments »

    Saying “No”

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I lifted a graphic from last weekend’s Powerline Week in Pictures, and posted it on my Facebook feed (where I post only anodyne stuff and things to do with my books, home improvements, and social schedule) which pretty much sums up how I’m feeling this week. Kermit the Frog stares out a rain-drop-misted window, and says, “Sounds Like Thunder Outside – But With the Way 2020 is Going, It Could Be Godzilla.”

    Even before one could draw a breath of relief that the Chinese Commie Crud had not ravaged the US population anything like the 1918 Spanish Flu did, and that life was returning to something like normal, what with businesses slowly reopening – here came the stomping behemoth of violent protests and race-riots, in the wake of the death (possibly caused by drugs rather than the apparent mistreatment) of a long-time violent criminal of color at the hands of a white police officer.

    This entire brutal and grotesque encounter was on video and understandably condemned as unacceptable overreaction on the part of the officer by just about every reasonable person of any color who watched it. Serious concerns regarding the militarization of police have been raised for at least a decade among thoughtful citizens, what with so many instances of police barging into houses in no-knock and full SWAT mode (often the wrong house, and opening fire indiscriminately), of abusing civil forfeiture statutes and traffic fines as a means of making budget. This concern was exacerbated by resentment during the Chinese Commie Crud lockdown enforcing social distancing – like pursuing a solitary paddle-boarder, all alone on the ocean, and going all-out on parents tossing a softball in a park with their kid. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Capitalism, Civil Society, Conservatism, COVID-19, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Just Unbelievable, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Media, Personal Narrative, Society, Urban Issues | 63 Comments »

    Hitting a Limit

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 29th May 2020 (All posts by )

    I’ve always considered myself to be a fairly tolerant person; my name isn’t Karen and I don’t feel any particular need to speak to the manager. In this I take after the maternal grandmother; the one who never made scenes upon receiving bad or abusive customer service. The paternal grandmother would and did, although in Granny Dodie’s defense, she didn’t take umbrage over small and inadvertent offenses and usually got some kind of satisfaction or apology from indulging in recreational Karenism. Granny Jessie would gather up her dignity, depart the scene of the offense quietly … and then never, ever return. No threats, no other complaint, no talk with the manager. Granny Jessie was just gone and relentless in determination to never darken that door again. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Media, Personal Narrative, Politics, USA | 26 Comments »

    Lament for a Mall

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 28th April 2020 (All posts by )

    Malls were the latest, trendiest, most oh-there thing in retail development about the time that I was in high school and college. There were a couple of them that I went to, early on, and they were … OK. A nice diversion if one was in the mood or purse for retail therapy. Most of them were enclosed, two or three levels, almost always expensively decorated, adorned with plantings, sometimes with dabs of architectural creativity here and there. All of that made sense in places where the weather was bitterly cold for at least half the year or boiling-hot for three-quarters of it – still does, in the upper mid-west and mountain west, especially in snowy winters. It was, however, a serious and time-burning excursion to go to the mall; finding a place to park nearest an entrance, walking … and walking, and walking, and carrying whatever you had purchased. If there was a nice and varied selection of shops, not wall to wall big chain outlets, exactly the same as every other mall – so much the better.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Current Events, Personal Narrative, Society, Style, Urban Issues | 40 Comments »

    Covid-19 Weekend Update/Random Thoughts

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 21st March 2020 (All posts by )

    This morning I went on a long hike up at Devil’s Lake State Park. It was chilly, but there was no wind, which made it absolutely wonderful. I took the “hard” way, meaning I went up and down the bluffs twice as I made my way around the lake. The photo above is from the west bluff. There was hardly anyone there, which was eerie and peaceful, as this is Wisconsin’s most popular state park and I have never seen it so devoid of people. You could hear the ice heaving and breaking on the shore, and I heard some interesting birds making calls that I don’t typically get to hear. The migration is in full swing. During this time I prayed, meditated and got my workout in. I am very glad I did it after a long week.

    During the drive back, I noticed that a lot of farmers were spreading. The cycle of life continues here behind the cheddar curtain.

    So, some random Covid thoughts. I have enjoyed Governor Cuomo bitching and griping for help over the past week. What a whiner. Hey Cuomo – who has run New York for the past, ever? Maybe you should look in the mirror before you start playing politics. Same goes for Lori Lightfoot. Hopeless.

    My Illinois facility will remain open during the “stay at home” order issued by Gov. Pritzker as HVAC is an “essential business”. While I typically loathe anything this man does, he did a nice job with the presser yesterday, I will admit. Contrast that with Lori Lightfoot, who bitched and whined about the lack of federal response. There is one bit of hilarity in Pritzker’s “stay at home” order (yes, I read the whole thing). Can you tell me which one of these things is different from the other?

    Section 12 (h)
    Definition of Critical Trades
    Building and Construction Tradesmen and Tradeswomen, and other trades including but not limited to plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses and Operations.

    Oh yea, he kept the pot shops open too.

    I am refreshed and pleasantly surprised by the State of Wisconsin coming forward with a united front and saying that there will be no “stay at home” order (otherwise known as government overreach). At least for now.

    I stopped at a convenience store on the way home and picked up a dozen eggs. They were $1.49 and there were plenty of them.

    Well, that’s about all I got. Hope everyone had half as good a day as I did. Let me know what you are seeing/feeling in your neck of the woods.

    Posted in COVID-19, Current Events, Personal Narrative | 33 Comments »

    Sh*t Just Got Real

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th March 2020 (All posts by )

    I had been half-expecting that San Antonio would cancel or delay the yearly Fiesta; this was made official Friday morning: put off the celebrations until November. Fiesta San Antonio was originally focused on Sam Houston’s victory at San Jacinto – which took place in April of 1836. (Lot of other events being cancelled as well.) Since Wednesday, I had been getting emails from various companies who I do business with, at least enough business for them to have my email: Costco, Sam’s, Petco, Frost Bank, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the Texas author’s group (who have put off the Wimberly book event from June until November)the senior center in Bulverde who hosts a fall craft fair, Lowe’s and Home Depot – I think. All had pretty much the same message: “Aware of the Covid-19 thing, taking every precaution – deep-cleaning, sanitizing, encouraging sick employees to stay home, those who can to work remotely, concern but doing what we can, customers encouraged to wash hands, self-quarantine if feeling ill …” I wonder now if there wasn’t a degree of coordination going on, or if all the corporate public relations departments simultaneously came to the same conclusion. Reasoning? I rather thought the city and the Fiesta Commission would have to do something of the sort, after reading of Disneyland closing, and the LDS temporarily suspending meetings at every level. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, Media, Personal Narrative | 47 Comments »

    Archive Post: The Camilla-Collector’s Garden

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th December 2019 (All posts by )

    (To scattered and distracted this week to come up with cutting commentary on the current political developments; what with decorating the house for Christmas, prepping for the next three market events, and working on the next Luna City installment, and the Civil War novel – so herewith, another post from out of the past – this one again from 2004.)

    In an upscale neighborhood halfway between Redwood House, and Granny Jessie and Grandpa Jim’s tiny white house on South Lotus, there was a magical place tucked into a dell of huge native California live oak trees. Looking back, we— my brother JP, my sister Pippy and I— seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time there, in those lovely leisurely days when mothers were expected to stay at home with children, but not to spend every waking minute ferrying them frenetically from scheduled amusements, playdates and lessons, with barely time for a snatched meal from drive-through or take-out. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Diversions, History, Personal Narrative | 1 Comment »

    A Memoir of Thanksgiving

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th November 2019 (All posts by )

    (I ran this early piece of mine about our family Thanksgiving traditions to earth in the text of my first book, intending to post it for today.)

    The menu was unvaryingly traditional, no matter if the table was laid out in the screened porch at Granny Jessie’s, or set up in Granny Dodie’s dining room and living room. Both of our grandmothers followed pretty much the same recipes for the turkey and bread stuffing, the giblet gravy and mashed potatoes with plenty of milk and butter whipped in. Both of them preferred opening a can of jellied cranberry sauce and letting it schlorp out onto a cut-glass plate, the ripples from the can unashamedly displayed to the world; at Christmas, Mom went as far as making cranberry sauce from a bag of sour fresh cranberries boiled together with sugar, but as far as the grandmothers were concerned, there was a reason that God had invented canned cranberry sauce technology.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 15 Comments »

    Suburban Sophistication

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th November 2019 (All posts by )

    (Another of my long-ago archive posts, from 2005 – the California that once was, and that I remember when I think of growing up there.)

    When JP and Pip and Sander and I were all growing up, the contiguous suburb of Sunland and Tujunga, untouched by the 210 Freeway was a terribly blue-collar, gloriously low-rent sort of rural suburb. It was if anything, an extension of the San Fernando Valley, and not the wealthier part of it either. It was particularly unscathed by any sort of higher cultural offerings, and the main drag of Foothill Boulevard was attended on either side by a straggle of small storefront businesses, a drive-in theater, a discouraged local grocery store, a used car lot, the usual fast food burger or pizza places, a place with an enormous concrete chicken in front which advertised something called “broast” chicken, Laundromats, and a great variety of very drab little bars. There were no bookstores, unless you counted the little Christian bookstore across from the library and fire station.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Culture, Deep Thoughts, Miscellaneous, Personal Narrative, Reruns | 9 Comments »

    Oranges and Honey

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th November 2019 (All posts by )

    (An archive post, from 11 years ago; a memoir of a California long-gone.)

    I have a shoebox full of vintage postcards, collected in the Thirties by the invalid young son of Grandpa Jim’s employer. Among my favorite cards are those of places I knew, like the Devil’s Gate Dam, on the nebulous border between La Crescenta and Pasadena, with a Model-A Ford on the roadway atop the dam, and Mt. Wilson topped with snow in the background, and a view of the Arroyo Vista hotel, still a landmark in the days when Mom was driving us to Pasadena to visit the grandparents, but half a century past its Roaring Twenties prime.
    My very favorite is a view again of Mt. Wilson and the San Bernardino range, edged with snow against a turquoise blue sky, and acres of orange groves covering the entire plain below, even up to the foothills. From the mountain peaks and ridges, an expert could deduce where that particular vista had been taken down for 3-penny posterity. The citrus groves were long gone from Pasadena when I was a child, nibbled away by suburbia, but pockets of hold-outs still held sway in back yards; Grannie Jessie and Grandpa Jim had an enormous lemon tree in their front yard, and a smaller orange tree along the driveway, shading the only place where JP and I were allowed to dig, and make mud pies amid the sweet scent of orange blossoms and the still-sweet moldy smell of the windfalls.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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

    Ayiti Pa Nimewo Yo

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 26th October 2019 (All posts by )

    I. Departure

    Our transportation to Aéroport International Toussaint Louverture was a decrepit Honda Civic with no working inside door handles, no exhaust system, and a barely functional starter. The guesthouse driver poured a liter of water into the radiator immediately before starting the engine so that it would not overheat, even though the drive was only 3 kilometers. Our luggage proved too big for the trunk, so most of the team’s belongings were wedged in beneath the open trunk lid, which was not secured by so much as a single bungee cord. Threading through the remnants of at least a dozen barricades on Avenue Gerard Téodart half an hour before sunrise, we high-centered on some rubble and dragged a sizable rock for several hundred meters before the driver backed the car up to dislodge it. After we made the turn onto Boulevard Toussaint Louverture, there were no more barricades, thanks to the proximity of a MINUSTAH logistics base and a Police Nationale d’Haïti station. There were pedestrians, of course—Port-au-Prince is very much a city that never sleeps—but not many, and few vehicles thanks to severely interrupted fuel deliveries, which had nearly stranded us altogether. One of the team members riding in the back seat later told me that the gas gauge was on “E.”

    What is happening when a Third World country loses a key component of its energy supply, and what might be the lessons to learn for those apprehensive over a significant breakdown of logistics in the US?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Latin America, North America, Personal Narrative, Society, Systems Analysis, Transportation | 24 Comments »

    A Boon to Sick People

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th September 2019 (All posts by )

    Home delivery – the latest trend to hit retail and grocery outlets – is a boon to sick people. I say this as someone who caught the current flu last Thursday. Here I was, innocently going about my usual routine, although I did note than on Thursday morning during the ritual Walking of The Doggles, that I was sniffing and sneezing; as if something had gotten caught in my sinuses. Innocently, it all seemed to pass; at mid-day my daughter and I went up to Bergheim in the Hill Country to meet with a small book club who had done me the honor of choosing the first of the Adelsverein Trilogy as their book selection of the month. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Dogs, Entrepreneurship, Miscellaneous, Personal Narrative | 3 Comments »

    Mice in a Maze

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 18th June 2019 (All posts by )

    Arnade, Chris. Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America. Penguin Publishing Group, 2019.

    Chris Arnade certainly seems to have been called, and may well have been chosen, to help mitigate one of the great divisions of our time. Dignity complements, among others, Charles Murray’s Coming Apart with interviews and photos from what Murray would call “Fishtown,” or rather its extreme margin, whose inhabitants are simultaneously transient and rooted, strategizing to survive in ways often incomprehensible to the more cognitively gifted and emotionally stable. Learning to extend compassion and respect rather than mere pity (in its more negative variant), glib political “solutions,” and outright contempt is a challenge far too few Americans are willing to undertake. Matthew 22:14 seems unnervingly relevant in this context, and while the church as it is depicted among the people Dignity portrays is an overwhelmingly positive influence, more “front row” believers might take a moment to consider just how much better than the vast majority of us Arnade, a secular liberal, has done at reaching out to desperate communities. My advice to them is to buy and read this book, pray over it, maybe lend it out to others for discussion, and—without reinventing the wheel—do the Tocquevillian thing and organize/volunteer, with an eye to Luke 15. Because if the parables in that chapter aren’t about “back row” people, they don’t mean a damned thing.

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    Posted in Big Government, Biography, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Society, Current Events, Education, Human Behavior, Libertarianism, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society, Trump, USA | 31 Comments »

    A Conversation in the Check-out Line

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th May 2019 (All posts by )

    Last weekend, I was at the local HEB … the nice new one on Bulverde Road and 1604, the one newly-built and opened last spring to serve a rapidly expanding population along that crossroads. When I bought the home that I live in now and probably forever, there was nothing much out that way but a gas station and a large plant nursery. Now – all kinds of commercial enterprises. We like that particular HEB, by the way. It’s a longer drive to get to, then the one nearer the neighborhood, which we term “the podunk HEB.” One is better for a slightly more upscale and very much wider collection of groceries and household stuff, the other is more convenient, just around the corner, and where we are more likely to encounter neighbors.
    At any rate, I was in the check-out line; an early Sunday afternoon, with all my purchases laid out on the belt, and a very much younger woman with a toddler in the seat of her cart, and a pretty full basket of comestibles in the basket, next in line after me. The toddler; a boy, about a year old, and with a short haircut of his dark hair. She was about mid-twenties and Hispanic, with purple-dyed hair. She reached up to the top row of the rack where impulse purchases are arrayed, books and magazines mostly, in a last attempt to get shoppers to make that one last purchase and picked out a small book. She laid it down on the belt, and said to me,
    “I can’t resist books.”
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    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Personal Narrative, Texas | 9 Comments »

    Self-Organizing Community

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th April 2019 (All posts by )

    I was reminded this week, upon reading the vapid blatherings of Alexandria Occasional-Cortex, the freshman dunce of the House of Representatives, of an acrimonious exchange some years ago on the now-defunct Open Salon website. Ms. O-C Full Stop had opined that the Tea Party was racist, reactionary and funded by the Koch brothers. Yes, that old canard comes around yet once more. And I know that it is indeed a canard in the mouths of progressive fools because I was involved almost from the very beginning in a big-city local Tea Party chapter.
    A little history to explain this: Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Leftism, Obama, Personal Narrative, Tea Party | 11 Comments »

    A Nice Derangement of Education

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 2nd April 2019 (All posts by )

    (So – I am working up a post about communities, and self-organization. But in the meantime, a comment on another blog revived this memory of a bruising encounter with the education establishment.)

    My slightly younger brother, JP and I have always counted ourselves fortunate that we got through primary school in the happy baby-boom years of the very early 1960ies, before a hitherto solid and well-established education system suddenly lost all confidence in itself and began whoring after strange gods, fads and theories. We both were taught the old phonics way, carefully sounding out the letters and the sounds, until… oh! There was that flash of understanding, at unraveling a new word, and another and another. We read confidently and omnivorously from the second grade on, and were only a little scarred from the infliction of the “New Math” on our otherwise happy little souls. It seemed like one semester I was memorizing the times tables and the “gozintas” (two gozinta four two times) and wrestling with very, very long division, and suddenly it was all about prime numbers and sectors and points on a line, and what was all that in aid of?

    I really would have rather gone on with word problems, thank you very much, rather than calculus for the elementary school set. It was at least useful, working out how much paint or carpet to cover an area, or how what time a train going so fast would get to the next city. Thanks to the “New Math” I wound up working out how to figure what was 70% off of $15,000 when I was forty-three. Got to love those educational fads. You spend the rest of your life making up for having them inflicted on you. Pippy’s elementary education was far more adversely affected; she caught the “whole word” reading thing in the neck. While she did successfully negotiate the second grade and learned to read on schedule, she never enjoyed it as much, or read as much as JP and I did routinely.
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    Posted in Diversions, Education, Personal Narrative | 23 Comments »