Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Short Hiatus

Hi –

I think I’m going to take a short break from this blog.  Ten days, to be exact.  I haven’t had any real time-off from my promise to write and post something on a daily basis over the past six years.  To be truthful, I’m feeling the returns do not justify the energy input, if you know what I mean.  Yes, I’ve trained myself to write daily.  Yes, I’ve written some weird, funny, cool, interesting stuff (at least to my reckoning), stuff that I’m even proud to have as my legacy of sorts to any future internet archaeologist (or my children).  But I have a lot on my plate right now.  A lot.  From work and finances to what I want to be when I grow up.  How I need to live my life to where I see myself and my family in five years.  Daily trials – Patch’s nightmares are still an issue.  Every week something else goes wrong with the house.  The wife’s new job, while a blessing, is also taxing in the amount of time she’s now spending on the road.  So, lots to do and think about and reflect on over the next ten days.

Have a great final third of May and a safe and awesome Memorial Day weekend all!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


… per multas tribulationes oportet nos intrare in regnum Dei ...

Something in today’s readings that caught my attention and froze me today, possibly in answer to a childish cry, why must things be so difficult.

 Also, strangely enough, found the nail they handed out to us all on Ash Wednesday, and ugly metal thing I hadn’t seen in at least ten, maybe more, weeks.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tolkien Time

Found this at the local library by chance and seized on it.

For her tenth birthday I’m buying Little One the best bound version of The Hobbit that I can find.  These CD lectures on Tolkien, his art and craft, body of work and meaning is only fueling my excitement.

Oh, and I went back to that library today and what did I see – again, by chance – in the Books for Sale bin?  The Hobbit, a weather-beaten, gnarled copy retailing for fifty cents.  Needless to say I seized on that, too, and will read it a month before Little One’s birthday, because it’s been close to forty years since I’ve read the prelude to The Lord of the Rings and I just know I will be plied with dozens, scores, and hundreds of questions.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Over the course of three years or so I’ve read a little over twenty books on the Civil War and maybe about ten books on World War II.  One thing that has been cemented beyond the shadow of a doubt in all my readings of all the battles is that the side that wins is more often than not the side that messes things up the least.

In other words, the side that’s less incompetent than the other side.

SNAFU is SOP when it comes to warfare, and SOP is often FUBAR.

Just something that I, as an unwilling and unwitting student of pop culture, has never been truly aware of in my forty-plus years of life on this fallen, war-filled world.

Thank God for the good guys who are less incompetent than the bad guys.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


On the morning of 18 May 1940, just eight days after Churchill had become prime minister and while the Germans were threatening to encircle the BEF in northern France, Randolph Churchill visited his father.  The prime minister, who was shaving, told him to read the paper until he had finished.  But then he suddenly said, ‘I think I see my way through,’ and returned to scraping away.  His astounded son replied: ‘Do you mean that we can avoid defeat? . . . or beat the bastards?’

Churchill put down his razor and turned around.  ‘Of course I mean we can beat them.’

‘Well, I’m all for it, but I don’t see how you can do it.’

His father dried his face before saying with great intensity: ‘I shall drag the United States in.’

* * * * *

Wavell, a taciturn and intelligent man who loved poetry, did not inspire Churchill’s confidence.  The pugnacious prime minister wanted fire-eaters, especially in the Middle East where the Italians were vulnerable.  Churchill was also impatient.  He underestimated the ‘quartermaster’s nightmare’ of desert warfare.  Wavell, who feared the prime minister’s interference in his planning, did not tell him that he was preparing a counter-attack, codenamed Operation Compass.  He told Anthony Eden, then on a visit to Egypt, only when asked to send badly needed weapons to help the Greeks.  Churchill, when he heard of Wavell’s plan on Eden’s return to London, claimed to have ‘purred like six cats.’  He immediately urged Wavell to launch his attack as soon as possible, and certainly within the month.

(Selections from Antony Beevor’s The Second World War, pages 101 and 150 respectively in my paperback edition.)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Patch's Nightmares

Ah, Patch is having a bad spell of nightmares this past week, and we’re all suffering for it.

What terrifies a five – almost six – year old in the cozy comfort of her bedroom, the only bedroom she’s ever had in her entire life, painted her favorite color (pink) and decorated with her favorite cartoon character (Sophia the First)?

A week or so ago, she woke us up, terrified that the “meat men” were going to get her.  To be honest, this kinda spooked me, as I was going through an insomniac phase myself at the time and spent most of the early morning hours in the basement watching alien abduction-themed movies and shows on youtube.

Then, we clarified that “meat men” actually meant “mean men,” in Patch’s parlance.  Whew, that makes a lot more (saner) sense.

So she has these ill-defined, vague nightmares – well, being only five-point-eight years old perhaps she lacks the ability to accurately convey the specifics of her night traumas – that result in her being afraid of her room.  Her room.  Forget the bright night light on when she sleeps, or the door ajar onto a well-lit hallway.  She actually wants to sleep down on the first level, on the couch, in the living room which has all the windows and opens up into the dining room.  A much vaster, darker, formless space than her room.

I try letting her sleep with the light on.  (I’d tiptoe into her room and turn off the lights when I go to bed.)  I try putting gentle, fun ideas in her head (swimming in the town pool this summer, Legends of Oz movie she recently saw, trip down to Nana’s this summer, etc.).  I try doing deep breathing with her. 

Nothing helps.  Early in the week she’s start freaking out twenty minutes after bedtime.  Now she panics when I mention the phrase, “time for bed.”  And every night this week – and a dozen or so times going back a month or so – she creeps into my room at 3 am, whimpering about a terrible nightmare she’s had.

What do I do?  What do we do?

I am baffled. 

Fortunately, the wife is back from her week-long business trip, so we’ll discuss options over the weekend. 

I will post an update in a week or so regardless.

Ad Orientem

Probably the main reason the Latin Mass appeals to me, in 33,856 bytes ...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I'm Warning You: I'll Do It!

If you turn me down once more, I’ll join the French Foreign Legion
Bet you, they would welcome me with open arms

First you love me, yes, then you love me, no
I don’t know where I stand

Do we march together down the aisle
Or do I march that desert sand?

If you think I won’t find romance in the French Foreign Legion
Think about that uniform with all its charm

Just one more time, are you gonna be mine or au revoir cheri
It’s the French Foreign Legion for me.

Now, if you think I won’t find romance in the French Foreign Legion
Think about that uniform with all its charm

Just one more time, are you gonna be mine or au revoir cheri
It’s the French Foreign Legion for me!

“French Foreign Legion,” sung by Frank Sinatra

[I’ve listened to it on the commute to work every morning this week, FWIW …]

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What If ?

Does the government have anyone on the payroll whose main job is to go around asking, “What if … ?”

Man, I would love a job like that.  It would almost make the Monday morning commute worthwhile.

Take the space shuttle program, for instance.  Obama is looking for things to cut, and space exploration, even of the low-earth-orbit kind, is not high on his Fundamental Transformation list.  Unless you count eliminating it as a fundamental transformation, which he went ahead and did.  No more space shuttle launches.  The final one happened in July of 2011, almost three years ago.

Now, we have a stake in this massive orbiting contraption called the International Space Station.  A quick google tells me US investment in the ISS is to the tune of $75 billion, though this seems understated to me.  Wikipedia quotes some such authority as stating the ISS is the “single most expensive thing ever built.”  The two main ways to bring astronauts to the station were via the Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz rockets.

Let’s go back in time some couple of years.  I’m simplifying and guessing the timeline, but NASA goes to the President (Bush, most likely, or Obama, and maybe he had the unpleasant task of appeasing Congress) saying, do you want to continue the Space Shuttle missions or move on to develop the next generation in shuttle technology?  Perhaps the demise of the shuttle was put into motion before our current president was sworn into office.  Maybe, though it’s hard to tell as he likes to point blame to his predecessor(s) for bad news.  But still he’s the guy who was at the wheel when the program was allowed to go belly-up.

Did anyone, anywhere, in government ever clear his or her throat and ask a WHAT IF? question at any point in the timeline of the shuttle’s shut down?  Such as

What if the US and Russia wind up on opposite sides of some global conflict?

Yeah?  So?

Well, it seems Russia is responding to our punishing them for the whole Ukraine/Crimea thing via economic sanctions by banning US astronauts from using the Soyuz to go to the International Space Station.

Okay tough guys.  Now what do we do?

I’m serious.  What do we do?

Because I sure as hell would’ve asked a whole bunch of WHAT IF? questions long before we ever got to this one.

[Note: upon further research, quickly and stealthily between workday tasks, I see that in 2004 Bush charged NASA with the next-generation manned space exploration program, and they came up with Project Constellation.  The Shuttle was expected to retire in 2010.  Obama’s 2011 budget, released in February of 2010, contained no funding for Constellation.]

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ear Food

OK, slow news day …

Saw a video of some congressional oligarch (unaware he was on camera despite sitting adjacent to another oligarch pontificating into a microphone) pick his ear, examine the findings, and put it in his mouth!

Truth be told, I didn’t watch the whole thing in its thirty second entirety; things like that gross me out to no end and I don’t actively seek them out.

But beneath the video travesty, buried in the numerous comments to the blog post, was the funniest thing I read in a long time.  So funny I kept chuckling about it all day throughout the day –

How do we know the congressman doesn’t pack his ear full of cottage cheese every morning so he has something to snack on throughout the day?

[I actually stifled a laugh so loud at work typing this that the person in front of me glanced backwards as if to say “This is work!  There’ll be no laughing here!”]

Monday, May 12, 2014

Book Review: A Stillness at Appomattox

Just finished up Bruce Catton’s A Stillness at Appomattox.  It was, if my count is correct, the 22nd book I’ve read over the past three years concerning the American Civil War.  Go figure.  Anyway, what did I think of it?

Well, let me answer that by way of this.  Of those 22 or so books, what would I put in my Top Five?


How ’bout –

5. Gods and Generals (1996) and The Last Full Measure (1998) by Jeff Shaara (tie)

4. Manhunt (2006) by James L. Swanson (about the last 12 days of J. W. Booth’s life)

3. The Red Badge of Courage (1895) by Stephen Crane (the 1951 movie is highly recommended, too!)

2. Tried By War (2008) by James McPherson

And finally (you knew it was coming)

1. A Stillness at Appomattox (1953) by Bruce Catton

I am looking forward to reading, over the next few years, the three or four (can’t remember the exact amount he published) of the books he’s written on this terrible, tragic, and ultimately redemptive war.

Note 1: I actually commit sacrilege by omitting The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara in favor of his son’s two works of historical Civil War fiction.  No agenda; just my gut feeling.  Enjoyed all of them.  Elder Shaara’s book would be number 6 or 7. 

Note 2: Some one-volume histories, like Harry Hansen’s Civil War: A History and John Keegan’s The American Civil War I exempted from consideration because they need a re-read now that I have a basic platform of knowledge to draw upon.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

[My first teevee mother ...]

Saturday, May 10, 2014


On one of the forums I frequent with some regularity I spotted this post: “Homeless man gets a home”. 

My first thought was, “Homeless man gets manless  home.”

This tickled me to no end on a long, dull, assembly-line workaday afternoon.  Careful observers caught me softly giggling under my breath.

I need a real vacation.

Ten days in a Carthusian cell, practicing the Art of Silence and meditating, my sole companion whatever book the hermit before me left in his cave.

Or, perhaps, a cruise to Alaska.  Though the wife would never agree to that.

It’s overdue.  About thirteen years overdue …

Friday, May 9, 2014

Possible Future Change of Direction

I’m finishing up the phenomenally excellent and exceptional Civil War history A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton (and will pick up anything else written by him that I come across) and expect to hit WW2 in a few days.  I posted my reading plan a few days ago.  Over the past two years I’ve been reading a lot on the great global conflict, in addition to watching History and Military Channel documentaries and TCM movies concerning the subject.  So much so that now hot summer weather and warm summer nights seem interwoven with the Allied fight against the Germans and the Japanese, the suffering and heroism of millions over the span of a half-dozen years, the great good and evil personalities that molded our planet’s history those seven decades ago.

Anyway, that reading should take me up to September, Labor Day or even my birthday, when the days are still bright and the leaves are still tree-bound but a wonderful cool crispness overtakes the air.
The perennial Hopper question: What to read, what to read …

I assume I’ll be all warred out.  I find the subject endlessly fascinating but one that quickly wears on my spirit.

So most likely I’ll be looking for a change of pace.  Something different.  New and exciting.  Something 180 degrees from Civil Wars and World Wars, or, better still, completely perpendicular to it.

What to read, what to read …

I’m burnt out on science and math.  My towers of SF paperbacks stacked about, mute and silent.  No interest in alternate religions or philosophies.

Then, an idea hit me last night as I was dozing off to sleep.


The germ must have been planted in my subconscious earlier in the week.  Watching a boring ballgame, the girls in bed and the wife still out and about in the Big Apple, I thumbed through an anthology of Tennyson, my favorite poet.  Turned midway through to his Idylls of the King, one of my favorite “epic” poems.  Read about a half-dozen tiny-typed pages and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  (The Mets lost by the way.)

In addition to the old Tennyson compendium, I have dusty tomes holding the works of Keats, Byron, Shelley, Browning, Longfellow, and Whitman.  All but the Whitman are older than me.  Most I found at library book sales, treasuries of Western Civilization bought for a buck or two.  All have at least five or six hundred pages and most contain the entire poet’s oeuvre. 

Why not pick one this September and read it through, front to back, slowly, thoughtfully, meditatively, instead of skimming through and re-reading only the ten percent or so of each that I’m familiar with?

Why not?

I’ll think about it.  I could do the Tennyson, ’cuz he’s my fave, or I could start with Byron and work my way up chronologically.  Or I could pick one at random, say, have Patch pick one out for me.

I dunno.  Have to give it some thought.

But a lot can happen in the next four months …

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Cosmologist's Hymn

O Father, Source of life adored,
Creation’s Author and its Lord!
The universe doth well proclaim
Thine everlasting praise and Name.

The word was spoken and ’twas done:
The planets, stars and mighty suns
Fell from thy fingers into space,
Each taking its appointed place.

The galaxies in bright array
Began to dance upon their way
Through regions of uncharted space
In beauty, majesty and grace.

From age to age their dance goes on
In harmony of wordless song
Which “music of the spheres” we call,
That can delight and yet enthrall.

This orb of splendor points to thee
Who art Essential Unity,
Who know not origin nor end,
Whose mystery doth mind transcend.

And while with breathless awe we see
This vast creation’s praise of thee,
We join our voices to adore
Thine endless wisdom evermore.

A hymn taken from yesterday’s Magnificat that I found especially appealing, noting my past interests in astronomy and cosmology.  

N.B. We Catholics worship the Creator, and respect the Creation.  That’s the order.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bill Murray

Bill Murray came to my office today.

Well, not the Bill Murray.  Just a Bill Murray. 

Officially he worked for one of our IT companies, here to troubleshoot a thousand dollar printer that should be printing but wasn’t.  (Turns out it was the wiring to the jack where the T1 cable went.)

He was the perfect blend of Carl Spackler and Peter Venkmann, with just a hint of Phil Connors for added spice.  It was all there in his “performance” as he went here and there, checking out the inner guts of the printer, climbing into the ceiling, testing wiring and whatnot: the droll one-liners, the faux put-downs, the Vegas lounge singer, the transparently phony best-friend-ever persona. 

Don’t get me wrong; I love Bill Murray.  This guy was very funny.  He sang, he quipped, he threatened to “take us all outside” for, I guess, a beating.  He called us the “cool kids” because we had a better printer than the sales department.  He advised us “not to miss me when I’m gone.”  There were a couple of “don’t try this at home” type warnings for our, and our printer’s, benefit.

After a while it got kinda wearisome, though, but like any good comedian worth his comedic salt, he knew when to get off the stage.  “Thanks,” he said as he sauntered through the door, “I’ll be here all week!  Try the venison!”

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Q: What’s the opposite of diversity?

A: University.

(Might be an old joke but it’s new to me…)

The wife graduated from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.  I went there for three semesters around the time the pyramids were constructed.  She has a somewhat positive vibe when she looks back upon her time there, particularly certain individuals in the athletic department who mentored her, and I am unambiguously ambivalent about my amoral eighteen months there.

Anyhoo, in light of the faculty and student protests against having Condoleezza Rice speak at the university’s upcoming commencement ceremony, a.k.a. The Left’s Suppression of Any and All Dialogue with Opposing Views, we decided to compose a letter to send off to the alma mater for the 1.375ths graduate between the two of us.  I may or may not post it here once it’s completed.  Also, when they come a-callin’ for money (which they periodically do to my wife), we have another reason – besides five years in the Obama Economy – to deny them any hard-earned Hopper money.

Can’t wait for the “college bubble to burst.”  Can’t come soon enough with Little One about to enter double-digits and Patch an election cycle behind her.

Lit on Deck

I think I’m itching to get into WW2 again.  Watched a special this past weekend on one of the History or Military Channels on “The Man Who Never Was.”  This was the British black-op program to deceive the Germans regarding actual Allied invasions in the near future.  British secret service obtained a corpse (of a man who died a natural death) and created a fake English officer from scratch who ostensibly drowns in the Mediterranean carrying top secret documents of the “actual” landing sites and dates.  The Germans swallowed it whole. 

Anyway, I have had a bunch of thick WW2 histories piling up over the past two years eyeballing me from the Great and Imposing Shelf of Immanent Reads behind me.  Think I’ll spend the nonfiction part of my summer reading delving my way through them:

The Second World War (2012), by Antony Beevor

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (2013), by Rick Atkinson

Crusade in Europe (1948), by Ike himself

Would also like to read something about the war in eastern Europe, the grim affair between the Germans and Russians.  Beevor wrote a couple of books on that subject; if I like his writing in The Second World War I might pick up one of them.  (That phase of the war always brings to my mind the old adage, “why can’t they both lose?”)

I’d also like to read up a bit about the war in the Pacific, but that might have to await a future summer.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Spring Day Commune

Ah, it was a cool early Saturday morning, particularly – no, exceptionally – clear and crisp.  The air felt lighter, and instead of breathing in the new season, it breathed me in.  The wife and girls back home were frantically preparing for a family obligation while I, already freshly showered and in my Sunday Bests, motored off to run a few quick errands.

I pulled into a shady spot at the library parking lot.  Rolled down the windows, reclined the driver’s seat by twenty degrees.  The library would not open until ten o’clock this glorious morning, and I had the empty parking lot to myself for forty minutes.

I opened A Stillness at Appomattox, and as if stepping through some weird spacetime portal I was on those Virginian fields, convoying with the Army of the Potomac as it rushed feverishly to beat – unsuccessfully – Robert E. Lee and his forces to a sleepy crossroads town called Spotsylvania.  And a few pages after that, poor old General John Sedgwick of Grant’s Sixth Corps, known affectionately as “Uncle John” to his troops, was tragically killed by a sniper’s bullet, shot below the left eye, after bragging to his flinching subordinates that those Confederate sharpshooters hidden in the faraway trees “couldn’t hit an elephant from this distance.”

I put the book down and studied the blue cloudless sky, fragmented and framed by budding tree leaves, and appreciated ever the more this spring day commune. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Saddle Up There, Frodo, Pilgrim!

Trivia tidbit of the day:

Two authors John Wayne enjoyed reading –

Winston Churchill, and J. R. R. Tolkien.

[Taken from John J. Miller’s forthcoming review of Scott Eyman’s John Wayne: The Life and the Legend …]

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mental Health Day

* * * * * * *

“Time flies like an arrow,

and fruit flies like a banana.”

Just a random thought to ponder.