Saturday, October 31, 2009

Young British Soldier now and then

An anonymous British soldier wrote this and posted it on the internet. As I wrote yesterday, the technology of war has changed but not the cost.

Please use the link provided below to allow you to read the entire piece.  Because it is a graphic, I can't make it entirely legible otherwise.

A “gimpy” is a general purpose machine gun.

Over a century after the British first tried to bring their version of civilization to the various tribes and cultures that have never quite achieved nation status; they and we are engaged in the same process. That we call it “nation building” instead of colonialism makes little difference. We’re trying to import western style government and social structures into a place that does not understand or want them. The national government in Kabul is regarded by the tribes in rural Afghanistan as corrupt and sectarian as opposed to Islamic in nature. The Taliban, who previously held national power until driven from supremacy by the early months of the current US incursion, are Islamic fundamentalists and control much of the hinterlands by means of popular support or by means of threats to and attacks upon the populace in the tribal areas. Support for equal rights for women, education for women, land reform, and even freedom of religion, was initially voiced by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan which took power in 1978. This pro-Soviet government was not popular with the U.S., which under the Carter administration began a program of destabilization. Nor was it popular with the tribes in the rural provinces. The tribal leaders preferred Sharia law to secular law, and had then, as now, no interest in land reform, education for women, or any equality of women under law or culture. In December of 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan under a dubious support treaty’s authority. Afghanistan has been essentially without government beyond Kabul since then. The tribes still prefer the culture and social structure that allows an Islamic state akin in nature to those of the Caliphate.

There is little any western nation or western agencies can do to change the nature of Afghanistan. We’re pouring money and lives into a vast political and military sink hole. It is time to bring our troops and those of our few remaining allies home. Afghanistan will either stand on its own or fail. The odds are that it will fail, becoming another failed nation like Somalia, Haiti, Sudan, and soon, Iraq. We can’t rescue these states and we can’t prevent their descent into pits of inhumanity and constant conflict.

Kipling voiced the Tommies’ knowledge of a reality their political bosses failed to grasp in the Anglo-Afghani wars. This anonymous Tommy voices that same failure and disconnect in today’s war.

I’ll keep looking to see if I can find similar understanding in the writings of the men and women who make up our armed forces. Certainly there is a disconnect between the bulk of the populace and the war that is still Bush/Cheney’s for a few weeks longer. Obama has the chance to disengage from our current war with Afghanistan, one that will bring us nothing but lost lives and more debt. Or he can decide to engage in futile nation building and expend the lives of our troops to no real end, in a failing state that’s population does not want us there. I’ve made my opinion known to the White House. All of you should as well. I’ll make it easy for you to do so:

So that you can see how well the anonymous soldier understood Kipling, here’s the original.

The Young British Soldier - Rudyard Kipling

When the 'arf-made recruity goes out to the East

'E acts like a babe an' 'e drinks like a beast,

An' 'e wonders because 'e is frequent deceased

Ere 'e's fit for to serve as a soldier.

Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,

Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,

Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,

So-oldier ~OF~ the Queen!

Now all you recruities what's drafted to-day,

You shut up your rag-box an' 'ark to my lay,

An' I'll sing you a soldier as far as I may:

A soldier what's fit for a soldier.

Fit, fit, fit for a soldier . . .

First mind you steer clear o' the grog-sellers' huts,

For they sell you Fixed Bay'nets that rots out your guts --

Ay, drink that 'ud eat the live steel from your butts --

An' it's bad for the young British soldier.

Bad, bad, bad for the soldier . . .

When the cholera comes -- as it will past a doubt --

Keep out of the wet and don't go on the shout,

For the sickness gets in as the liquor dies out,

An' it crumples the young British soldier.

Crum-, crum-, crumples the soldier . . .

But the worst o' your foes is the sun over'ead:

You ~must~ wear your 'elmet for all that is said:

If 'e finds you uncovered 'e'll knock you down dead,

An' you'll die like a fool of a soldier.

Fool, fool, fool of a soldier . . .

If you're cast for fatigue by a sergeant unkind,

Don't grouse like a woman nor crack on nor blind;

Be handy and civil, and then you will find

That it's beer for the young British soldier.

Beer, beer, beer for the soldier . . .

Now, if you must marry, take care she is old --

A troop-sergeant's widow's the nicest I'm told,

For beauty won't help if your rations is cold,

Nor love ain't enough for a soldier.

'Nough, 'nough, 'nough for a soldier . . .

If the wife should go wrong with a comrade, be loath

To shoot when you catch 'em -- you'll swing, on my oath! --

Make 'im take 'er and keep 'er: that's Hell for them both,

An' you're shut o' the curse of a soldier.

Curse, curse, curse of a soldier . . .

When first under fire an' you're wishful to duck,

Don't look nor take 'eed at the man that is struck,

Be thankful you're livin', and trust to your luck

And march to your front like a soldier.

Front, front, front like a soldier . . .

When 'arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch,

Don't call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch;

She's human as you are -- you treat her as sich,

An' she'll fight for the young British soldier.

Fight, fight, fight for the soldier . . .

When shakin' their bustles like ladies so fine,

The guns o' the enemy wheel into line,

Shoot low at the limbers an' don't mind the shine,

For noise never startles the soldier.

Start-, start-, startles the soldier . . .

If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,

Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:

So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,

And wait for supports like a soldier.

Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,

And the women come out to cut up what remains,

Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

Go, go, go like a soldier,

Go, go, go like a soldier,

Go, go, go like a soldier,

So-oldier ~of~ the Queen!

A Martini, in this instance, describes a service rifle used by the British Army.

The forecast rains arrived at 1000 today. The temperature has fallen 8 degrees F since 0730. It should bottom out around 40 F. We’re scheduled to go dancing tonight. That always fills me with trepidation although I generally have fun when all is said and done. I suppose it is as much fear of embarrassing myself by missing or failing to properly execute the instruction calls, or to learn them rapidly enough. I still have the social skills of a musician who played for others to dance rather than those that would allow me to become a good dancer.

I’m a bit concerned about the trip back tomorrow. With I-40 closed and traffic detouring to I-26 > I-81, it may be that truckers will choose to run the TN 81>TN 107. US 11 E route that is a shorter but much narrower 2 lane stretch that would route them through the Nolichucky Gorge at its narrowest and most curvy portion of TN 81. A semi driver overturned on that stretch the other night, and was killed. I’d bet excessive speed was a primary factor. The teen ager ejected from the car noted earlier this week died. A memorial was up by the road Thursday. No lessons learned.

And last, also in lessons not learned, I’ve been complaining about color in my photos. Today I finally noticed an incorrect setting that somehow has been escaping my notice.

Friday, October 30, 2009

How can I keep from Kipling, or “how the general got his stars.”

Yesterday’s news broadcast showed a view of Kabul, dusty, primitive in nature, lots of damaged buildings, desert and mountains in the distance. Save for changes in the means of transportation and the introduction of more deadly weaponry, it would not be that different today to soldiers from the days Rudyard Kipling wrote about. Many of them would recognize the places where their great-great-grandchildren are fighting today.

Kipling wrote this about one of two incidents, quite similar in nature, which occurred in 1879 & 1880. See the link below for more information about the event caused in large part by poorly planned and executed troop movements. As is the case today, moving troops from garrison to other locations was dangerous to men and costly in terms of equipment.

Ford O' Kabul River

Kabul town's by Kabul river --

Blow the bugle, draw the sword --

There I lef' my mate for ever,

Wet an' drippin' by the ford.

Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,

Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!

There's the river up and brimmin', an' there's 'arf a squadron swimmin'

'Cross the ford o' Kabul river in the dark.

Kabul town's a blasted place --

Blow the bugle, draw the sword --

'Strewth I sha'n't forget 'is face

Wet an' drippin' by the ford!

Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,

Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!

Keep the crossing-stakes beside you, an' they will surely guide you

'Cross the ford o' Kabul river in the dark.

Kabul town is sun and dust --

Blow the bugle, draw the sword --

I'd ha' sooner drownded fust

'Stead of 'im beside the ford.

Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,

Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!

You can 'ear the 'orses threshin', you can 'ear the men a-splashin',

'Cross the ford o' Kabul river in the dark.

Kabul town was ours to take --

Blow the bugle, draw the sword --

I'd ha' left it for 'is sake --

'Im that left me by the ford.

Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,

Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!

It's none so bloomin' dry there; ain't you never comin' nigh there,

'Cross the ford o' Kabul river in the dark?

Kabul town'll go to hell --

Blow the bugle, draw the sword --

'Fore I see him 'live an' well --

'Im the best beside the ford.

Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,

Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!

Gawd 'elp 'em if they blunder, for their boots'll pull 'em under,

By the ford o' Kabul river in the dark.

Turn your 'orse from Kabul town --

Blow the bugle, draw the sword --

'Im an' 'arf my troop is down,

Down an' drownded by the ford.

Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,

Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!

There's the river low an' fallin', but it ain't no use o' callin'

'Cross the ford o' Kabul river in the dark.

Ford o' Kabul River

the river disaster of the 10th Hussars 31 March 1879

by Garen Ewing

The 46 troopers and 13 horses killed in attempting an unmarked crossing of a river died not in Kabul but actually just two miles from Jalalabad, which in itself is about 70 miles east of Kabul as the crow flies. Poetic license granted, the poem still addresses the problem of soldiers today as well as then, An anonymous British officer stationed at Jalalabad wrote,” that the British light (?) horseman is still overweighted with his own multifarious and complicated accoutrements, that, once submerged, he has small chance of coming up again?".

So too, today’s trooper laden with body armor, water, food, ammunition & weapon, first aid and communications gear, and mission specific items plus those things soldier add for their own purposes.

The British are still fighting in Afghanistan, playing their role in NATO, paying their cost, as always the case, in the lives and limbs of soldiers.

There is a history of British poetry about war in Afghanistan and the tradition continues in the words and thoughts of Sergeant David Stenhouse, 44

Three of his works can be found below:

The Hidden Killer

"The chaos and confusion that occurs straight after the blast, your comrades will have to act quickly; they will have to react fast. The smell of burnt flesh and the horrific pain at first sight, you will have to hang onto your life brave soldier, now begins the fight."

Stand And Fight

"Twenty-two brave men lost their lives within the month of July, yet our blood-stained flag still blows in the desert sky. Is it time we were leaving the Afghanistan plains, before more of our men are so cruelly slain? But no we are British, and we will stand and fight, hunting down the Insurgent day and night."

Suicide Bomber

"To him this is a Holy War, and you the infidel must pay, if you don't recognise and eliminate him, he's going to blow you away."

In the days leading up to Veterans’ Day, I’m going to search for more battlefield poetry penned by the troops who pulled duty there. I will focus on Afghanistan more than Iraq because of the longer history of warfare in Afghanistan and neighboring states. I’d also encourage anyone reading this blog to do your own searches and either post or forward to me anything you turn up that seems germane to the topic.

We took delivery of $140 worth of firewood this morning. Wonder what that looks like?

The stack is 16 feet long, 4 feet high and about 2 feet wide. There will be none of it left by spring. Depending upon how much of our remaining ash I can manage to split by hand, cut to length, and re-split, then stack, we may need another order of this size.
The smell of wood smoke is evident now in the mornings when we walk. The houses that use wood as their sole source of heat are firing up their stoves for warmth before the sun crests the ridges to the east. Currently that happens about 0930. First light is about 0630 with dawn at 0753 this morning.
I’ve reset my secondary watch to standard time today. Before we leave for Jonesborough Saturday evening I’ll reset all the clocks in the house and my primary watch.

The creek is interesting today as fallen leaves blanket the edge of the gravel banks along the channel. We went back to Middle Creek this afternoon so that Gloria could take some more photos of the area.

We’ve reached the peak for leaf color now and the trees will rapidly become uniformly brown before becoming bare.

Dinner will be baked butternut squash and grilled pork steaks

Thursday, October 29, 2009

the logo’s the thing in which to catch the money of the mob.

Cassi Creek by S Lenon 29-Oct-09 11:31

Cassi Creek in the style of French impressionism

We used to call this wasted film and might never have selected it for printing. Hang a label from a known painter on it and it somehow gains relative value for a portion of the population. Then it might become possible to print this, number/sign this and sell it to people who think they know about art.

This is sort of like the inanity that happens to a pair of ripped and torn jeans, stained by working in dirty, greasy job sites. They are of no value to anyone but the owner and unacceptable for sale or resale. Change the label from what it was to that of a fashion house, and suddenly those same jeans can be sold for hundreds of dollars to people who think fashion matters.

We all know people who will wear anything with the right label on it regardless of how poorly made the item may be. It matters not that it makes them look ridiculous, or that it appears to have been designed by someone who hates women. Many women actually seem to worry about fashion as if it mattered to anyone beyond the industry. Very little of the women’s clothing products I have ever seen is concerned with function.

Of course, there is an entire segment of women’s clothing that is entirely about function. Function defines form quite nicely in this segment. Perhaps women are designing much of this segment. That brings to mind another topic for another day.Whoever is designing the high end of this segment, please continue. It often proofs out as some of the best clothing ever designed since the dawn of history.

Men are somewhat less guilty of this as men’s fashions rarely change that much. Business wear is decided upon by men who are impressed more by how much something cost than if it is comfortable and well made. Men’s fashions are somewhat more determined by function than are women’s.

Among the worst offenders are the manufacturers of women’s shoes. Women will buy shoes that provide absolutely no protection for their feet. They buy shoes that are going to distort and damage the bones and joints in their feet and ankles. They buy shoes that force them to walk with their foot in an un-natural shape. And to add insult to injury, they will buy them in sizes that they know are too small. Watch any woman who comes to work in high-heeled shoes. The moment she is behind her desk, the shoes come off. Why buy and wear something that is too small, that will hurt every minute it is worn, that is going to damage your feet forever?

Fetishism must play some part in design. Many men seem to have at least a moderate fetish concerning women’s high-heeled shoes. I don’t. That may explain some of the designers and their designs but it doesn’t explain why women are willing to let men dictate that they should wear shoes that are bad for them. Even in situations where power resides with women, such as with dominatrixes, the dominatrix if usually depicted as wearing high heeled shoes or boots. I’m at a loss to explain this.

My clothing is essentially defined by function. I don’t work in the business world so I don’t wear suits and ties. In fact, I don’t own a suit. I do own a few sports jackets and blazers. But I rarely wear them. I own one pair of shoes which could be defined as dress or business style men’s shoes. I bought them to wear when we were married. I bought them with future use for dancing in mind. For other purposes, their soles are too thin to wear out of doors and too slick for any other surface than a dance floor. They’re well made and will last years more. The rest of my shoes are either boot-like in construction or very light with soles designed for protection. Lately, Keen and Merrill are the brands I like for shoes.

As for pants and shirts, I want pockets, comfortable fit, and durability. Canvas, chambray, twill, and denim all reside in my closet. If you look at labels you’ll find no fashion houses. No Hilger, Polo, Armani, no designer’s names will appear on my clothing.
The labels in my closet include L.L. Bean, Orvis,Cabelas Marmot, Ex-Officio, and on an older down jacket, The North Face. My fly rods are TFO’ a moderately priced but excellent line with a few Orvis rods in the mix. Gloria’s are the same. Our waders & wading boots are in the same price range as are our fly reels. These are all labels that purport to value function over form, and generally do so.

If I am honest, I must admit that I would not consider buying a fly rod from K-mart or Wal-Mart. I wouldn’t buy waders or reels from them. There’s a reason. I’ve bought such things from them before and watched it fail due to poor construction and poor design. I’ve also bought clothing from both stores and it often lasts long enough to wash but never long enough to count upon it. So over the years, I’ve found it more cost effective to buy fewer but better items from reputable sellers and manufacturers who don’t import the most cheaply made products they can find. It costs more per item, but I have them long enough to wear them out. I’m glad that is the case. I’d hate to think I might be label conscious.

When I created this blog, I promised random musings. This is about as close as I’ve come to stream of consciousness writing in some time. Perhaps tomorrow’s post will be of better intellectual nature. Perhaps I’ll do an organ recital. Most of you wouldn’t enjoy that as much as I would. So, tune in again tomorrow and maybe we’ll catch up to Moose and Squirrel on the road to Frostbite Falls, where none of the children are above average and no one knows what the women look like under all that down clothing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

oatmeal breakfast of lumberjacks

Lumberjacks probably inhale a lot more than just some oatmeal. By noon, I wish I’d had some eggs, bacon, and the stray sausage or two.

Yesterday’s fog was replaced by blue skies and great color on the hillside.

We had a total rainfall of 0.82 in yesterday. That brought the creek up a bit and added some volume to the water music we are treated to as it slides over rocks and logs going downstream. Notice, too, the great reds and yellows that define the branches over the creek.

Cassi Creek, unless the water flow is very high, does not reach the Nolichucky River. It appears to vanish from its bed between Casi Church – actually spelled that way on the sign - and the point where Liberty Hill road intersects Little Cassi Creek Road. This is one reason that it is not stocked by the state. Another is the low flow rate apparent during the first two summers we spent here. I’d rather it not be stocked so that the native trout (brookies) have a chance to reproduce and keep the stream as much like it was in the 19th century as possible.

Last night was one of those nights when the television programming was worthless. Reality television and other such anesthesia inducing programming was all that was broadcast. In an effort to clear a DVR performance error caused by last week’s power outage, I managed to break the connector of a monster cable tying the cable input filter/surge suppressor to the DVR. After I’d been screwing around with that for over half an hour Gloria reminded me that we might have some spare cables in the back room. We found one and hooked it up. I can’t see much difference in the cable feed quality, Gloria says she can. So I figured we’d have to buy another cable, not a cheap product, next trip to town. But our neighbor, Mike, rescued us. He worked for ComCast previously and had tools and parts to rebuild the cable. We’ll feed it back through the small holes and into the video complex cable snake’s nest tonight. The upshot was that I forgot to set up the oatmeal we normally have on Wednesday.

I made some this morning, stovetop, pan, water, simmer. We both like it better when we fix it in the slow cooker. The flavors from added spices have time to blend in to the overall complexity. The texture is preferable when slow cooked, too.

This morning, after walking with Mike and Loki, I began to relocate some or the potential fire wood left for us by the tree trimmers. There is an old decrepit concrete block enclosure that once defined a spring that issued from that point. That’s the spring that our other neighbor has water rights for. Of course the spring flow is too low to use reliably and the water is not potable. The trimmers dropped large branches and small trunk sections all around this structure. My goal, today, was to move as much of the smaller wood as I could without resorting to a chain saw, further onto our property. I dragged and carried about 1/7th of what is actually there to be cut, split, and stacked. Fortunately, I’ll have time when it is colder to work on this wood.

For reference, the log with the black markings on the cut face is about 1foot in diameter and four feet long. The other picture shows several tree segments of 5-8 inches thick by 12-15 feet long propped up on a 35 foot tree.

This is the partially covered spring enclosure. It has not been maintained or cleaned, as one would have to do to make use of any water produced by this spring. The tree trunks in back exceed 20 feet in length and will have to be cut in order to move them. There is another large pile of branches and trunk segments waiting for us about half way up our property toward the valley head, beside the road. It will take a full day for me to cut and move that down to the house. Three years ago a 16 inch chain saw seemed big enough for most tasks. We learn as we go. I need to have some chains sharpened next month. At least, if I cut this wood up I can keep the length short enough to fit into the stove. This wood will help with 2011’s heating costs.

I’m still waiting for our across the street neighbor to present us any proof of his claim to our land. He’s had multiple opportunities to do so and has not offered either proof or verbal claim to us. He’s been complaining to Gloria’s friend Teresa who lives downstream from him on that side of the road. But he’s made no attempt to talk to us in person or by phone. If I were in his position, claiming disputed land, I’d have proffered hard copy proof to back up the claim at the earliest opportunity or I’d have acknowledged that I was wrong and apologized. I don’t know what to expect from him.

Tomorrow we’ll grocery shop and I’ll get cash for some firewood to use this coming winter. Delivery is set for Friday morning.

Saturday is the Halloween contra dance in Jonesborough. We just found out the restaurant we want to use for dinner won’t be open due to another festival taking place in town. We also made reservations at a restaurant in Asheville l Jerusalem Garden CafĂ©, for dinner Sunday night before seeing Leonard Cohen at the Thomas Wolf Auditorium. Big musical event in a medium-sized venue – 2400 seats. Should be fantastic.

The traffic to Asheville and back will be much heavier this trip. A landslide closed I-40 south of us and all traffic is being diverted up I-26 to I-81. The road will be filled with tractor-trailer rigs. The THP has promised to add extra enforcement to aid in keeping traffic flowing safely. I hope so.

Dinner tonight is simple and fast to prepare. We’re having hot dogs and baked beans. Lumberjack fare to blunt our hunger, tea to slake our thirst.

I’ve posted many pictures of our back yard – The Cherokee National Forest. Our front yard, though much smaller, is also pleasing to the eye.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

watching the clouds roll down watching the fog roll in

This morning began with the sound of rain on a metal roof, the usual pains that remind me I’m alive, and the reluctance to roll out of a warm bed with Gloria at my side. Nothing new, nothing unusual, nothing spectacular. Medicated, computers booted, coffee aroma filling the house, things look much like expected. At 0700 it is still far too dark to hike to the mail box for the newspaper without man-made light. A headlamp, not necessary to avoid trees and cars, but essential for avoiding evidence that the neighbor’s dogs have run loose overnight, reveals a fine mist in the 51 F air. The dog needs to be drained and emptied and I want to get back inside where the coffee promises temporary rejuvenation. The greater my desire to return to the house, the greater Loki’s desire to sniff every square meter of ground, in order to discover what the falling barometer and high humidity have released or freshened for her olfactory pleasure. We finally reach an agreement, which is that I finally refused to allow her any more time to wander. Cold, hungry, and in need of caffeination trumps a dog’s freedom to explore any morning. By now it should be apparent that I am not an animal rights advocate. I abhor the abuse of animals by humans. Chaining dogs outside alone as a status symbol is a despicable behavior and should be terminated when ever found. But to my mind, “PETA” is a misspelled small loaf of bread, best served with meat.

The Wundermap feed was squirrely this morning, no local or personal weather stations denoted, including ours. But the radar feed is still working well and a large shield of moderate rain is overhead and stretches back toward Knoxville. The day will be rainy and cloudy. From 0.04 in daily total at 0730 we now have 0.12 in total at 1330.

It’s always easy to defer exercise on rainy mornings. I have adequate wet weather gear, that’s not the problem. My major concerns are taking the dog out in rain for most of an hour there and back, and the very real danger of being hit by one of my neighbors who will be driving too fast for conditions in good weather, not to mention the real time conditions. The need for exercise and a slack rain window won out today.

The walk down valley and back up was made in mist and drizzle. Conversation was sparse.

When we reached Horse Creek Road on the way back up, the wider nature of the valley offered a stunning reward for all the aches and pains amplified by walking in this weather.

The upper valley walls were shrouded in clouds and the image changed minute by minute as clouds poured over ridges and into feeder creek canyons and gorges before rolling downhill to the point where temperature and wind defined the cloud base at about 130 feet AGL.

I stood by Mike’s mailbox and snapped a series of images at no particular interval for about 20 minutes. I like the upper portion of this image, the luminous quality above the distant ridges as if a lamp were burning within the cloud. I also like the backlit trees in silhouette along the middle ridge.

I’ll try something new at this point.

The link above should take the reader to “Flickr” for the complete slide show. If the slide show doesn’t start, the set to look at is “fog on the mountain.”  Select slide show.  If any of these speak to you, feel free to use them.

I hope you enjoy this bit of my morning. This blog has caused me to change how I consider reporting things. I am not a heavy graphics user, preferring text input to visual most of the time. However the focus on Cassi Creek and its seasons cannot be separated from visual imagery if I am to do it justice. I am fully capable of appreciating visual beauty but am equally capable of forming my own visuals from someone else’s words.

In part, I think this preference for text input goes back to my early schooling. For those of you too young to recall film strips, they were a teaching device consisting of a long string of images on film which were projected upon a white screen. Invariably they had pictures followed by text. Easily absorbed, right? Apparently not. The lesson plans called for each screen full of text to be read to the class by a teacher or another student. I came to dread film strips for the interminable delay they represented. Today, film strips are antiques, replaced by overhead projections stills and an endless aggregation of power point presentations... To make things worse, the power point slides have introduced “bulleting’ – a symbol by each salient point of text as if you would not be able to recognize what the presenter chose to relate.

Give me the syllabus, the speech, the operator’s manual, instruction sheet, construction guidelines, or the book. I promise to read it. I promise to do my best to absorb and understand it. If I can’t, I’ll ask for help. But please don’t bore me with bullet points, talking points, or any of the current methods we use to disguise the fact that however important the information we are trying to convey, many of the people will not listening to us, the presenters. The intended audience will be busily multi-tasking. Or more accurately, they will be checking their e-mail, responding to e-mails, reading or sending text messages or IM’s, playing games, listening to MP3’s, checking stock quotes, sports scores, etc. In point of fact, they will be trying to do many things at once, a mental impossibility. They are lying to their selves and to us by pretending that they are “working harder, smarter, longer, more efficiently, more accurately, and more intelligently.

 Bull! Their efficiency is markedly decreased from that of a person doing only one thing. Their accuracy is decreased as well. They are working longer hours, and often harder, trying to do the job of two or more people so the company can save money. More intelligently? Not a chance. They’ve allowed someone to convince them that it is necessary to do their job and someone else’s and to work more hours for less pay, to work while on vacation, or even at funerals. Multi-tasking? They have to be spoon-fed every bit of information because they can no longer pick it out and absorb it without help; multi-tasking. They seem to be shrouded in a fog of their own making, minds clouded by inability to focus well without external guidance. Show them a filmstrip. They’re never going to read the op manual.

Yesterday, I wrote about an auto accident involving three teen-aged girls. More fog evident, the fog inherent in inter-personal communications. I heard it from Gloria. She heard it from a friend. The friend heard it from the neighbor’s child, who heard it from who knows where.

The actual event is not as deadly.

Sun Photo by Phil Gentry

Emergency personnel treat accident victims at the scene of a Monday afternoon collision of a bread truck and a sub-compact sedan near the intersection of the Erwin Highway (Tennessee Highway 107) and Chuckey Pike. The teenage driver of the heavily damaged car, shown at right, was flown to Johnson City Medical Center for treatment of serious injuries. She was listed in critical condition this morning.

Published: 10:05 AM, 10/27/2009 Last updated: 11:31 AM, 10/27/2009

The driver apparently was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from her vehicle – never a good thing. The passenger was treated and released by a local hospital.

So in no fewer than four links, most likely five or six, the story was twisted and the number involved inflated and the lethality inserted. Bear in mind that anyone ejected from a vehicle may be at grave risk of dying later if not at the scene. But as of now, all we see is a badly distorted example of human created fog concerning an all too common example of human stupidity.

Seatbelts, like vaccines, seem to really ignite the stupid in some people. Despite the reality, that seatbelts save lives every day, a percentage of the populace regard them as “government intrusion” and refuse to wear them. Such stupidity can, and does, injure or kill others when the “free citizen” loses control of his vehicle and hits someone else. Ask any accident investigator.

Just as deeply in the idiot pool are the millions of our fellow citizens who will not vaccinate their children for childhood diseases or take the H1N1 influenza vaccine for one of more of various foolish reasons. There is a belief among some Tennessee citizens that the “Obama vaccine” is part of a conspiracy to spread socialism. Don’t ask me how that is supposed to work; we’re watching the very shallow end of the gene pool. I personally hope that rumor spreads, preferably before next year. In my opinion, anyone who fails to vaccinate their children or who believes that a vaccine will cause someone to become a socialist is of no real potential anyway. We have long histories of vaccination as a preventative measure that has worked for small pox and polio. We know that vaccination does not cause autism despite the popular myth clung to by parents of autistic kids. We know that anti-viral vaccination does not affect political affiliation. If there are people that lost in a fog or their or someone else’s making, they are never going to hear the foghorn and find secure harbor. I’m willing to leave them in the fog and sail on without them.

Gloria went to Greeneville this afternoon and brought back Chinese carryout for dinner.

The rain continues to fall upon the metal roof,  we are warm and dry, the dog is happily sleeping, and inside our home, there is no fog.

Monday, October 26, 2009

what grows up comes down

Monday always dawns too early. Still, once up, medicated, and in possession of coffee, the outlook for a day spent with Gloria is always good. It may be rainy and gray outside. When she smiles… well, I once wrote that she lit up an airline terminal on a stormy December day. I don’t mind waking up before she does. The reward is always there.

The tree-trimmers were back today. They took down several trees on the disputed piece of land and stacked the wood so that we can cut it and drag it to a better storage area. They did the same on the area along the road at the upper end of the property. They don’t have to do it. They can chip it all if they choose. We’re quite appreciative. That’s wood for next winter. I need to move it before the neighbor tries to claim it.

I talked with one of the long-time valley residents this morning. His father used to own the land on both sides of the road where we now live. He knows the history of the houses and lots, including the history of the house across the road. He recalls a previous resident allowing water rights to his one of his extended family but recalls no property transfer. I think this is going to become somewhat more complicated before it ends. The neighbor wants to live as if it were1900 and he was wealthy land owner. Gloria thinks differently. I hope she’s right.

This is the local analog of Alsace-Lorraine, the disputed land and how little wood is actually involved. Just as with nations, small things and tiny parcels of land spark conflicts.

Twenty five feet eastward, flows Cassi Creek, water low, audibly pleasurable, and decorated with the colors of autumn. Those orange-red leaves were not prominent yesterday. I suspect that this week is the peak color period. It will be an interesting drive to Asheville.

The trimmers had a good day to work today. There was no wind, the temperature stayed around 65 F and it was clear most of the day. It is interesting to watch the bucket operator maneuver the hydraulic arm and bucket around hot wires, sharp ends of broken branches, and other obstacles. This is essentially the same type arm used on the space shuttles and space station. Consider all these difficulties, factor in wind, the natural harmonic oscillation in the arm, and add a chain saw in one hand and heavy, unwieldy branches in the other.

Cassi Road is narrow at best. At the point pictured, it is hard for two vehicles to pass without one clipping the fence or mailbox or without the other risking its tires to broken glass thrown by neighbors or from other vehicles. And just at this choke point, the neighbor’s dogs like to run into the road to chase particular trucks. The speed limit on this road is 30 MPH and very few people obey it. Nor do they seem to believe that the rules of the road require them to drive entirely within one lane.

Three high school girls were killed in a traffic accident today when they pulled out in front of a truck on highway 107, to our west, but east of Greeneville. Take your pick of which particular distraction resulted in the final loss of awareness needed when driving a car. Was it food or drink, alcohol, talking or texting on a cell phone, changing a CD or an MP3? Was it applying makeup, brushing hair, changing clothes? Take one from column "A" and as many as you like from column "B". Your guess is as good as mine. From what I heard they had already skipped school today. Not a great beginning and a tragic end.

If pattern holds true, the school will bring in grief counselors, students who did not know them, or who barely knew them, will wax hysterical and add their contribution to the pile of flowers, candles, stuffed toys, and other detritus that has become the norm for mourning people we really don’t know and never would have. There will be a cross by the highway instead of what there should be, as sign demanding drivers pay attention to driving. There will be a prayer vigil/candlelight memorial. If there is a football game this weekend, someone will pray for the departed and violate the 1st amendment knowingly and willfully. After all, just as the laws of physics don’t apply to teen agers behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, neither does the 1st amendment’s separation clause apply to those bent upon theocracy.

And it is all, the wreck, the memorial, the prayer, the pile, skipping school, all so absolutely unnecessary. Odds are these girls have skipped school before. That would have been an excellent time to clip their wings, remove their auto privileges. It may be inconvenient for them or their parents. But they might be alive tonight. Rather than providing grief counselors who will soothe the anguished brows of those who knew them not; the school should herd everyone into the gymnasium and show them a day of auto wrecks, ER footage of the young and stupid paying for their stupidity. This is a teachable moment. For a brief time the myth of invincibility has chinks in it. Rip them wider and teach them that they can be hurt, can be killed, and can be too stupid to survive.

But we won’t do it. It won’t happen. And tomorrow, when Mike and I walk, we’ll watch the same cars drive too fast, not paying attention, passing far too closely to us. It’s a just matter of time until the next wreck takes place and there’s a collection jar on the counter in some quick stop, with a picture of a dead teen and a plea for help with medical and funeral expenses.

Monday dawned far too early for me. My day has been wonderful.

For others the day is not so good.

Dinner tonight is chicken thighs baked in an Indian butter/tomato sauce, potato dumplings in buttermilk, and rice.

Gloria has found a jewelry design course at ETSU to audit next semester. She’s excited. That means lots of smiles. Yes, my day is good.

Rhododendron from the front yard, today, 1530

Sunday, October 25, 2009

what did you learn in school today?

Today is another brilliant autumn day. Slept in until 0840 and felt like I could have slept longer. 
We’d planned on buckwheat pancakes for breakfast but decided against them when I didn’t wake up as early as planned.
We went out for a short ride this afternoon.


We drove by an old mill site on Middle Creek and Gloria got some good images using my cell phone’s built-in camera. She has a good eye for composition.

I’ve started re-reading John Barth’s “Giles Goat-Boy.” I read this when I was just beginning junior high school. I recall the overt political concerns in the book but imagine that there’s a lot I failed to pick up on due to my age and relative inexperience compared to the target audience. It will be essentially a new read. I’m finding that Barth’s view of colleges of Education seem to match mine. While I’m quite appreciative of how important good teachers are, I don’t think colleges of “Education “produce that many.

I have a minor in education despite my degree being in a discipline that is based in physical and biological sciences. Where I studied, there were so many complaints from potential allied health students (lab, imaging, respiratory therapy, physical therapy) about the foreign language requirement that the college of arts and sciences chose to rid itself of the allied health students by granting them to the Ed school’s quest for numerical presence. The result was no language requirement, something I could have benefitted from studying. Instead a slate of education courses was loaded onto students who had absolutely no interest in ever teaching children of any age. The slate included Ed Psych, production of A-V media materials – flannel boards, rubber cement, construction paper, and other fun projects. The class on testing and evaluation resulted in a final which violated every tenet taught over the semester. They were classes that my classmates and I found boring, a waste of our time and money. It got to be even less tolerable when the Ed School shifted a required course from days to two nights/week. Many of us worked and had other concerns as well. Six hours of night class guaranteed that the students would not be willing students. The powers chose a new Ed School graduate to teach the class. She never gained control of the class. We completed all her assignments, but in manner that let her know we had no interest in the course material. And in 30+ years in clinical lab, nothing from my Ed courses was ever necessary.

We were required to take a class in lesson planning. One of my finer collegiate moments took place when I set up my charts and photographs demonstrating how to perform curettage and a subsequent dark field microscopic exam to diagnose syphilis from an open penile lesion. Once the professor, a mild-mannered man who had refused to believe my complaints that his class had no benefit for me, realized what I was going to display before all the nice little girls who wanted to teach children reading and writing; he quickly stopped me. I was all but ejected from the class but did receive an A for the semester.

It was apparent to me in those classes that the college of Education had no grounding in reality. Already, the philosophy of how and what to teach was being taken in wrong direction by “educators” who never entered a classroom, who had little grasp of any core subject matter but lots of hours in theory proposed countless thesis and dissertations that stressed the creation self esteem as more important than teaching core curricula. My opinion in the matter is that self esteem comes from learning the curriculum.

At the same time the theories on education were changing to eliminate tracking students based upon academic capability, to include mainstreaming developmentally delayed students, and to lower the expectations for academic achievement so that those students on the upper end of the “bell curve” were no longer challenged. The belief that all children want to learn is idiotic. The belief that every parent’s little spawn are equally intelligent is sheer stupidity. Yet we have schools today which teach as if both those beliefs are factual and indisputable.

When I entered university first, I had some hope of becoming a history teacher. That lasted through my first class session in “orientation to education.” When tasked to write a four year plan for my university career, I wrote that I realized I was not suited to being a classroom teacher and would change my enrollment and major. It seemed an honest and practical answer. It was true. And it was returned as unacceptable. I was directed to hand in the assignment as if I were happy to become another student being stuffed with faulty information and programmed to parrot philosophies and practices I believed to be either incorrect or of no value to students at any level. I refused and ultimately took an incomplete for the course rather than a “dropped at own request.”

To this day, it amazes me that there was so little academic honesty in that College of Education that they not only refused to accept an honest and potentially life-saving paper. I might have shot someone’s little darling if required to teach children who had neither desire nor ability to learn, particularly after my turn in VietNam. Rather, the authorities, those who had written the papers from which sprang the misconceptions that have damaged our schools so badly, demanded that I begin a career in education by lying about my intentions and my beliefs.

I can’t tell you what the driving force in today’s education schools is. I know that there has been a call for excellence in core subjects. I know that our dropout rate is frighteningly high, our students poorly ranked in core curricula knowledge against most industrialized nations. I still here of schools where students are not graded for academic performance because it might damage their self esteem.

I know, too, that we have spawned at least one, perhaps two, minority generations who feel that education is a “white “value. And I know that many white students have no interest in education.

Yet we have some students who do want to learn, who value education, if not for itself, at least for what it can bring them later. Normally, I find no good in greed. But in this case, I can see using it to encourage learning.

I have hope that we will see a reversal in how we try to teach and who we try to teach. But like the Hebrews wandering the desert until the generation who had been slaves died, I’m afraid we will be wandering a long time yet until we have purged our school systems of those “educators” who think that teaching self esteem is more important than teaching basic education- reading, writing, spelling, mathematics. We need far fewer, if any, “educators” and a whole lot more teachers.

I’d not planned on discussing the state of education or my educational history at all. Blame it on Barth’s book and his commentary on universities, colleges, and educators.

Notice the greatly decreased water level and flow rate. Picture 1030 today.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

watching for widow makers

The wind has decreased markedly. The high temperature for the day, 66.38 F was recorded at midnight. It has been dropping slowly and steadily since then. Currently, we are at 54.32 F and should bottom out tonight at 36 F. I suspect that I will plug in one lamp in the well filter enclosure tonight in case it drops below expected. We’ve had 0.09 inches of rain since midnight, just enough to keep things wet.

It’s has been overcast with intermittent drizzle all day. Tomorrow is predicted to be sunny.

The woods now contain fewer “widow makers”. Many broken and dead branches have been blown to the ground. But the risk is still high as yesterday’s winds may have created some that haven’t fallen yet. So any trip near trees requires careful attention to the overhead.

I’ve seasoned a piece of top sirloin with garam masala to fix for tonight’s dinner. I’ll cut some sweet potatoes into wedges, coat them with olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and chili powder, and then bake them to serve with the steak.

I slept in until 0815 this morning. The dog didn’t demand I take her out any earlier. Those two days each week when I don’t have something scheduled really are welcome.

I just finished “The Jew Store,” by Stella Suberman. It’s a very interesting book. Her parents, immigrants from Russia to New York packed up their family and moved to Union City TN in the 1920’s to open a dry goods store. They became the only Jews in a southern town. Once I began reading the book, I discovered that her family lived one county east of the county my great aunt and uncle –from my maternal line, lived in. While I became a familiar with NW Tennessee only via family visits to Tiptonville, I was able to recognize some of the types of people they had to deal with. My mother’s aunt and uncle were upper crust folks in their town and county. My earliest memories of Tiptonville place it squarely in the “Old South.” Everyone I met referred to my aunt and uncle as “Miz Alice and Mr. Warner. I can recall seeing black citizens, mostly sharecroppers and domestics, step off the sidewalk when they neared my relatives. In many cases, the only real difference in the small towns that Mrs. Suberman knew and knows, and the one I knew was the newer technology. Everything else was pretty much untouched. That includes the restaurant at Reelfoot Lake.

My mother, an RN, who grew up in the boot heel of Missouri and escaped to St. Louis via an Army Nurse Cadet Corps scholarship, offered her by Jewish Hospital of St. Louis during WWII; left bigotry and racism that permeated the region behind her for the reality nursing demanded. That my biological father was first generation of a Russian Jewish family that settled in St. Louis, leads me into the book from another direction. My two grandmothers were all too similar to Mrs. Suberman’s aunt and many other women of that era. Bigotry and religious fervor tied into identity and too much concern about what outsiders might think have destroyed many families. Fortunately, my mother’s father showed the wisdom and compassion that Mrs. Suberman’s father displayed in her book.

My mother is a very strong woman. I’m grateful to her for teaching me early on that bigotry and exclusionary religious fervor have no place in our world. She taught me a lot more, as well but that’s another tale. She’s an exemplar of Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation."

Suffice it to say that this book took me more deeply into both sides of my heritage than I anticipated.

The hillside behind the house has a lot more yellow on display than yesterday. Despite the winds of yesterday there are still lots of leaves remaining on the trees.

The creek is at ca. the same depth and flow rate as yesterday. The image below is from about 1130 this morning.

Gloria’s trout pool is still full of good sized rainbow trout. They seemed to have found good places to hole up and escape being washed downstream by the last high water. It is amazing how big a fish can hide under an undercut bank.

The contrasting yellow back dropped by the dark gray-green of the hemlocks is a very pleasing view from the back deck or the office windows.

There are many squirrels, rabbits, and other small game this year to keep the dog busy sniffing every inch of the property she is allowed to reach. We try to keep her from crossing the creek during low water periods. There are too many free-running and feral dog packs that she need not encounter. She seems to know not to try crossing the creek in high water. She did it once and then took nearly an hour with me watching her from the opposite bank to find a place she felt suitable to cross. Still, we keep her from the creek as much as possible.

We often have hunting dogs turning up in the yard looking for food. They’ve been turned loose in North Carolina during bear hunts but often manage to get lost and wander here following bears. If they have collars with phone numbers we try to notify the owners to retrieve them. These are expensive dogs worth thousands in breeding fees. Many of them wear radio tracking collars with GPS units to ensure their safe return.

We hear tales of hikers on the Appalachian Trail removing the dogs’ collars and destroying them. As we understand it these are anti-hunting people. Regardless of one’s position about hunting, the dogs have no say in the matter. They are simply bred and trained to do what dogs have always done. It is cruel and unconscionable to prevent a dog’s retrieval or to cause it to become lost because of one’s personal views. I dislike using dogs to hunt bear. So I don’t. I also dislike creating stray dogs. Apparently these hikers have no problem causing a dog to become lost.

One of the dogs across the street was hit while chasing a truck today. The saga continues.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Stop whistling, that’s enough wind

We awoke today to the sound of wind. Not just any wind, but a wind that roars down the valley and wakes you from a sound sleep. It gains velocity as it falls from the headwall where it spills over into Tennessee from North Carolina; funneling into a steep narrow valley that compresses it, warms it, and accelerates it toward us. Just before it descends upon us, it meets the family compound valley upstream of us. It encounters a slight leveling and widening space there, which is just enough to cause the mass of air to deflect upward a bit so that the higher velocity core is about 30-50 feet above our house as it flies by. Then, downstream of us, the valley widens and the air mass drops closer to ground level. It’s simple micro-climatology, found in every mountain valley. It cools us on hot nights and is welcome. On days like today, driven by cold fronts and steep pressure gradients, it sends limbs flying, blows the tops off trees, and downs huge trees, blocking roads, dropping power lines, and blowing transformers.

I had the alarm set for 0631 today. There was no wind noise when I hit the snooze button. At 0715 our anemometer was showing a 15 mph gust. Loki and I set off down valley to meet Mike at 0930. By then, the trees were pitching and tossing wildly and there was a steady whine from the power, phone, and cable wires as the wind tore past them. It is really impressive to watch the trees in such wind. Some of these trees reach 100 feet in height. It takes tremendous amounts of force to move them, and they require incredible amounts of strength to withstand the wind. The sound of such winds in the dark of night is capable of raising the hair on the back of your neck. It’s a sound o f immense power, of branches rubbing against trees, branches falling in the dark, a rushing, tearing, lonesome sound. The sight of huge trees moving against a dark, cloudy sky brings up primeval unease. It should.

The dog was most unhappy with the wind – she doesn’t like windy weather at all- and tried to keep tightly by my side. The wind gusts were at 30 – 35 MPH by the time we hit our halfway point and turned back up hill. The difficulty from the elevation gain on the road back was compounded by gusts that literally were blowing us back a step if they hit us when we had one foot raised. We were back at the driveway by 1020 and I noticed a branch in the road up valley. I put the dog in and went up to photograph it and move it. This is on the stretch above our driveway, not yet trimmed.

Note that this is dead, blow down. Looking up valley (south

I went inside to show the photo to Gloria. At that point, the power went out of service. After shutting the computers down, and calling the outage in to the power company; I went out to look for any obvious blown transformers, downed wires, or other possible causes. Up valley, perhaps ten feet from the previous blow down, was the entire top of a poplar tree.

View is down valley toward our driveway on right. This completely blocked the road until we dragged it off to one side. It will need to be cut up with a chain saw. I won’t approach it again until the wind is no longer likely to blow other pieces of tree onto us. The interval between moving and photographing the first branch and this falling was no more than ten minutes. Had I been standing under it when it was blown off the tree, about 50 feet above, I’d have been seriously injured.

Power was returned to service about 2 hours later. The wind is still blowing at 10-15 MPH, gusting to 20. We’ve had one power flicker since. I’m hoping that the wind will subside a bit.

It’s a beautiful day, clouds over the mountains against blue sky and brilliant hillsides.

View over our roof, eastern valley wall color increasing daily

Looking down valley toward our drive on right. The tall tree on left was partially trimmed yesterday. Immediately after this photo was taken we watched another branch blow off. I suspect it will be taken down next week. If it blows over, it will drop the power lines (upper left)

In light of yesterday’s conflict with our neighbor, we pulled our copy of our property deed to review. There was a note that “water rights” from a spring on our property had been “sold to neighbor across the road a long time ago but were not in use” as of our closing date. We had no problem with that. We still wouldn’t if not for his behavior. However, he no longer uses the spring for drinking water – it is not safe or continual in nature. He currently has county water piped in. So our position is that no property possession was conveyed with water usage rights. We’ve printed that page of our closing documents, along with a copy of the survey. We think we have legal possession. The title search we paid for at closing found no conflicts in the last 33 years.

In fact, we closed on this property 3 years ago today.

This is the view from the northwest corner of our property looking up valley (south). Our driveway is about 25 meters past the leftward bend visible above. This is part of the property our neighbor has claimed is his.

Dinner tonight will be Posole. To the ample amount left over from the other night, I’ll add chicken stock, more hominy, and cilantro. I’ve removed some sirloin from the freezer for tomorrow night.

Stand by for more “Adventures from Moose Byte Scrawls.”


Thursday, October 22, 2009

so you think you can write

The Washington Post is holding a contest to allow one person to work as a pundit/columnist for 13 weeks. Ca. 4800 people, including me, have entered this contest. Between 21 & 30 October the contestants will be winnowed down to ten finalists. These ten will be handed various challenges to complete. They will be evaluated and judged by the professionals at the paper and by reader feedback.

I can’t say whether or not I will become a finalist in this contest. However, should I be so fortunate, I will be appealing to each of you and, asking you to appeal to anyone you think might be willing to join in the process; to evaluate my submissions in comparison to the others and then offer your honest feedback. As I understand it, I won’t have access to individual feedback so honesty is always encouraged. Stay tuned for further updates.

Today is an absolutely brilliant autumn day. An absolutely beautiful sky streaked by contrails and high Cirrus clouds.

The hillside across the road has continued to increase in color. The reds, oranges, and yellows are about at peak beauty today. We don’t have to drive into the mountains for fall leaf viewing; we’re already there, albeit in the lower reaches. There is, sometime, a problem seeing the forest for the trees. That takes only a short walk to remedy.

The Washington County Power Board is having trees along Cassi Road trimmed back in hopes of limiting or preventing power interruptions this winter and next year. Gloria and I have spent a bit of time talking with the trimming crew yesterday and today. It’s fascinating to watch them work. The risk of injury and death working around power lines is high. Their tools and equipment can injure them badly in a moment’s carelessness. They have been telling us about some of the people who complicate their jobs.

Many people will not control or confine their dogs when the trimmers arrive. Others will threaten them if they set foot on the property. Some don’t want to allow their trees to be trimmed.

They are exposed to spiders, told us tales of hand-sized aggressive spiders that actually follow them down trees. They encounter bees, hornets, & wasps. They run into snakes, venomous and non-venomous. They encounter toxic plants. They earn their money.

They also see a lot while working. They told us that they could probably point out every house where something illegal was taking place. They figure this out by matching traffic to the calendar. I have no desire to know anymore about their observations. I have little doubt that they are correct in their assumptions. They told us about seeing dogs chained and left with no food or water. They recognized that our neighbor’s dogs were under-fed. All-in-all they had a fair amount of knowledge to impart that I had not planned on acquiring.

The most unusual and problematic thing they told us concerns our neighbor across the road. He is our closest neighbor in proximity but our least trusted or desirable neighbor. When we first moved in and walked over to meet him, he told us that he grew up in the house he lives in. We rapidly discovered that this was not true – other neighbors who have lived here all their lives told us that he did not grow up here and that his house is not handed down from his grandmother as he told us.

His dogs run loose, were not properly vaccinated until we complained about them to animal control. His dogs, over the years, have carried off many items such as door mats and driveway lights, easily identified as ours but not returned until I went over and demanded them back. He’s been a bad neighbor in many ways. When requested to dial back volume at a party he hosted, the request was delivered at 0130, he had the band up the volume. His response to me, that I had been invited, was neither correct nor acceptable. He and his son have repeatedly dropped all manner of trash into the creek; have tried to dispose of brush cut on his property by throwing it onto ours. In short, he is not a good neighbor and shows no likelihood of becoming one.

The tree trimmers told us today that he had stopped them trimming and cutting on the downstream section of our property. He apparently told them our property is his. I had a copy of the survey readily available and showed it to the trimmers and then walked them down to the lower corner of our property. I asked them to go ahead as they had planned, to trim and cut as they needed to. We also gave them permission to dump chipped wood into a ditch that parallels the road on our side. That may actually kill some of the knotweed we want to get rid of. If our neighbor, Greg, interferes again, the next step will be to let the county sheriff’s deputy deal with Greg. With anyone else, I’d try to negotiate some calm and reasonable path. There’s no point in wasting breath on Greg. They’ll be back to trim again on Monday. We’ll see what happens. My best guess is that Greg’s stupidity and boorishness will be on full display.

We’re now into the season of baseball playoffs, the World Series, and myriad football games; each one bound to run overtime and delay anything in the television broadcast schedule that might actually be intellectually interesting. With numerous sports channels, I fail to understand why the broadcast networks feel compelled to air professional athletic competitions at college or adult level. One thing’s for certain, I’d be happy to skew the Neilson ratings now.

The usual creek shot water down still more.

Trimmer crew not working on the upper portion of our property that Greg claimed was his. I’ll take some more photos of this stretch tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bring the food leave the problems.

Last night’s dinner was simple. Tuna loin marinated in Dijon mustard, sesame oil, wasabi, garlic; then seared. It was served sliced on sushi rice with slice cucumbers pickled in ginger and sushi vinegar.

We used our new grill pan to sear the tuna. We were both struck by the translucence of the tuna under the halogen lamps in the new range hood. The old one would never have provided such a play of light and food for our enjoyment.


A good part of serving food properly is understanding how it appeals visually. This was just a serendipitous, rapidly transient image that we were able to capture. Photo by Gloria. 20 Oct 09 ca 1840

Tonight’s dinner will be an adaptation of Posole, a Mexican stew or thick soup using hominy as a base. To yellow hominy, I’ve added mustard greens for color and nutrition, a small piece of pork sirloin, lots of spices, seasonings and the remnants of a bottle or vermouth that somehow found its way into our kitchen. This collection of food stuffs has been quietly, happily simmering in the crock pot since 0800 this morning. As a result, the house smells good and dinner will be eagerly anticipated.

Gloria came in from class with her nearly-completed humming bird project. She’s quite pleased with the outcome to date. Only cosmetic treatment of the frame remains to be done. Then, we hang it in the foyer. This is her 4th project since she began working in stained glass. I’m quite impressed with it. You can see more of her photographs of this and of the birds she lures to her camera at:

 Dinner, Mexican in origin if not actuality, brings us to the day’s concern.

CNN is running a quasi-documentary on “Latinos in the U.S. tonight. Every other word broadcast today has been concerned with something or someone Latino.

At an early age I became aware of a huge and basic discrepancy in the nations of the New World. Those nations which use English as a business and common language, which had no official religion, were highly industrialized, and, by the time I came along, had social safety net programs, good public health programs, and excellent public schools for all children, and good infrastructure. The primary religion, professed by the citizenry was the protestant offshoot of Christianity. Those nations using Spanish or Portuguese, having Roman Catholicism as the official and dominant religion were less industrialized and less well off economically. Their public infrastructure, public schools, and social structure suffered badly in comparison to ours.

What was the cause of this discrepancy between North America – Canada and the United States- and Latin America? Look at which nations in Europe founded and controlled which incipient nations. England  settled the eastern portions of North America other than the part that became Spanish Florida and those bits of land claimed by the Dutch and by the French. The Dutch lost all colonies here by 1674. The French hopes for colonies in North America were done by 1687. That left England and Spain to contest for the New World.

England was concerned with the quest for furs, for gold, for the North West Passage, for monetary returns to the Crown and to investment companies such as HBC (Here Before Christ), resulting in colonies that were to become economically feasible, self-sustaining, and politically viable.

Spain wanted to loot the new colonies, to establish suzerainties for 2nd and 3rd sons, and to “Christianize the natives.”

England ruled the new colonies for growth and for continued return. England had already undergone the Protestant reformation. As strongly as the new protestant churches watched and controlled the subjects of England, they were not at all the vampire which was the Roman Catholic Church in Spain and the Spanish Colonies. The Church of England had no designs upon the Native Americans. There was no plan among the Quakers to convert the savages, no Puritans planning prayer campaigns. The Spanish Church controlled every aspect of Spanish life at home and abroad. The priests who went out with conquering armies were more akin to commissars of the Soviet Army than to chaplains.

The Spanish royalty had no concern for self-sustaining colonies as long as gold and slaves flowed back to Spain. Once the natives were forcibly converted – with some inclusion of local religions to ease the transition – they were often worked to death under threat of excommunication and damnation. The governors, the Dons, who managed the new colonies made no moves on their own but needed instruction from Spain in nearly all matters. There was no program of education established, any descendant of the ruling class returned to Spain for school. The natives were encouraged to reproduce carelessly and often existed at a starvation level since all produce, grain, anything that could be sold for gold was, or was shipped back to Spain. The countries, by the time they revolted and threw off Spanish rule, were already established as impoverished oligarchies. They were as much subjects of Rome as they were independent states.

The English colonies were granted somewhat more self-governance. As in England, local rule applied when possible although the crown still had all authority not assigned to an individual. Universities were established which still exist today. While we employed slavery throughout this nation, while we nearly wiped out our Native Americans, we managed to forge a far stronger and more stable nation than any, to date, in central or South America. If we can avoid the rapidly swelling Latino populace’s refusal to become acculturated citizens of the U.S. rather than allowing them to overlay the nation with the flaws of Latin America as created by the Spanish church, then we can remain the nation we intend to be. If we allow our nation to become North Mexico, the entire New World will suffer and the lead among nations will likely shift back to Asia once again. The Spanish empire is gone for good; the torn shroud it was buried in is not plan for a modern nation.

As always, this material is strictly my opinion, whether right or wrong in content and in nature. I have no personal animosity toward Latinos. My family includes Latinos, legal immigrants and native born citizens of the U.S.; and they are industrious and highly intelligent individuals, whom I think highly of.

I do have considerable animosity toward what the Spanish Church made of Latin America, and what its Italian parent would make of the U.S. if it were allowed. Note that my animosity is directed toward an institution rather than individuals.

As for me, I’m happy to have been born into a nation that was established byEngland, after the Protestant Reformation. For me, it is a good thing that Henry VIII was not satisfied with one wife.

Today's creek images:

By now, you may recognize these parts of Cassi Creek that I've been including.  Feel free to write your own captions if you need them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2009 left bank right bank bad bank

The sun continues to shine upon us (the virtuous) and the non-virtuous. Of course, opinions as to our virtue and virtuosity may vary depending upon who is voicing said opinion.

Trees continue to change color and outbuildings continue to decay. (Looking west across Cassi Road, 0.1 mile south of our driveway)

The creek continues to drop – notice the narrower channel and higher exposure of rocks on the east (viewer’s right and stream’s right) bank.

The descriptive terms, 'right bank' and 'left bank', always apply from the perspective of looking downstream, in the direction the current is going.

La Rive Gauche de La Seine (the left bank of the Seine – but it sounds so much more exotic and interesting in French) is known for fostering artists, philosophers, playwrights, poets, and expatriates. It reminds of the 1920’s, of Pablo Picasso, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, Henri Matisse, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was a place for Bohemians and still retains the cachet. La Rive Droit, the right bank, developed a reputation for elegance, for glamour, for wealth and other than sight-seeing probably would attract me less than the left bank where I ever lucky enough to visit Paris.

The mention of Paris brings to mind a trial which took place in October 1927. The defendant, Shalom Schwartz bard may be a distant cousin of mine. My cousin Leonard told me that his, Leonard’s, father claimed that the relationship existed. One letter difference in the last name, Schwartzbard or Schwartzburd, is really not a significant difference when one considers that many Jews in the Pale were just acquiring last names and that the translation from Yiddish to other languages could have been hampered by a lack of vowels in use. The tale is interesting. It deals with pogroms, with revolution in multiple countries, with anti-Semitism in the Pale, in Eastern Europe, and in France. It deals with assassination and with high profile trials. Good places to begin are linked below.

I hope that my cousin Leonard is correct. I’d be happy to be able to verify familial ties with Sholom Schwartzbard.

Bad banks can be undercut. They can be unstable, too porous, and too slick to climb. They can be choked with weeds, with willows or alder. They can vanish under your feet as you try to climb them. Bad banks are dangerous. They can kill you before you know it is happening.

Bad banks, les banques du mauvais, are a problem not limited to hydrology, to flow mechanics, to creeks and rivers.

Banks, the ones we trust with our money can become killers, too. Today, the rivers and streams of our lives have become riddled with bad banks and financial houses. We’re all in danger of things sliding out from beneath our feet before we know it is happening.

The deregulation of the American financial industry, the long term goal of the GOP’s financial base, came within a hair’s breadth of collapsing the world’s economy. The Reagan – greed is good – policies were continued under Bush II. From a balanced budget with a surplus at the end of the Clinton years, Bush II and Cheney spent more than any other administration and ran up the biggest deficit in history. Two wars, no-bid sweetheart deals for Halliburton, Black Water, energy policies formulated in secret meetings with oil company executives, and continued deregulation of banks and financial houses coupled with immense tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy and the encouragement of off shoring and outsourcing every possible job; have led the nation to unemployment greater than 10% of the workforce, ever increasing numbers of bankruptcies due to loss of jobs, homes, healthcare, and savings. The actual number of unemployed citizens exceeds 10% but is not calculatable because there is no way to track how many people have exhausted all unemployment benefits and are no longer recorded as unemployed.

The Bush administration encouraged and allowed the financial industry to discard nearly every regulation put into effect by the Roosevelt administration to prevent financial houses and banks from engaging, ever again, in practices that brought about the Great Depression. The result is now known as the “Great Recession.” Given the number of people who have lost homes, jobs, savings, and all hope of recovery since December 2007, only the rapid infusion of billions of dollars into insolvent financial houses and banks prevented this becoming the “Reagan- Bush not-so-great depression.” We’ve all been subjected to 20 years of trickle down economic policy. What finally trickled down is not gold.

The Bush administration was caught completely off guard as their vaunted “free market” collapsed around them. They bailed out banks and insurance companies using tax payer funds, sky-rocketing the national debt; but laid neither constraints nor restraints upon those firms receiving bail-outs. Those corporations then paid out billions of dollars in bonuses to the very executives that put them into near collapse. While they were rewarded, by the tax payers, millions of citizens lost every bit of their savings, their future, and their retirement funds. In less civilized times those executives would have been lynched, faced the Guillotine, been thrown to the mob. While I understand the need for rule of law in any nation that hopes to remain a nation, I can easily understand the rage that must have driven the mob in the French Revolution. I can understand how easy it would be to haul the men who essentially looted the national treasury into the streets and to let the mob render them limb from limb. I can picture myself taking my place in the firing squad that would deal with the CEOs in question, or tripping the lever to open the gallows floor beneath them. The men who did this, the Reagan-Bush free-marketers, the irresponsible CEOs, the regulators who failed to apply what few regulations were left in place to stop such practices, are guilty of destroying the lives of millions. But even worse, they have no remorse for their part in such destruction.   They are like the anti-Semitic Ukranian Petlura. They have destroyed the lives of people as surely as if they had initiated a pogrom; merely because they can.

They’ve managed to remain on the job, they’ve scammed more taxpayer money for their companies, and they are not using it as intended, to help the middle class recover. They are hoarding it for their companies, starting the whole risky trading practice all over again, and the bastards are already getting ready to pay out billions of dollars in yearend bonuses to the same people who wrecked the global economy this time last year.

It is time to publish their names, phone numbers, cell numbers, fax numbers, addresses, and any other data that might help the mob locate them. They should be hounded from their jobs, without separation pay, without bonuses, their credit should be revoked, bank accounts – particularly the big off-shore one – seized, they should not be able to sleep at night for the din of people standing outside their homes, calling them the names they’ve earned for their selves. The penalties they deserve should make prison look desirable.

The Obama administration immediately had to dump more billions into these firms to cover their debts. The question of bonuses was raised last February, with no action from the White House or Congress. The regulations that were removed by Reagan’s and Bush’s administrations need to be put back into effect immediately. We cannot tolerate financial piracy of this magnitude. The pay and bonus policy of executives vs. that of employees and line workers needs to be studied and corrected. No corporation executive is worth that much money, particularly for destroying the company. The administration needs to find its balls and stop these thieves and pirates, today, now! If they don’t this nation may not survive long enough to vote them out of office in 2012.

Shall we consider again, who is virtuous and what constitutes virtue?

Do we need another Sholom Schwartzbard, today?

If one should appear, would he be acquitted?