6.19.2022 – happy the man and

happy the man and
happy he alone who can
call today his own

Adapted from, Happy the Man by John Dryden (1631-1700)

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.

Of late, I have been reading a lot of Civil War history and Grant out in the West and the battle of Shiloh in Tennessee.

While I was reading I was reminded of my families visit to the battlefield in what must have been the spring of 1976.

Once my brother Paul got married and moved to the Washington DC area in 1969, our family spring vacation trips were to Washington and all the memorials and museums and other sights along the way.

But in 1976 (I think) my brother Paul had a short term assignment to the west coast and my Dad decided we would go south instead.

I am not sure of all we saw but we went to the Land between the Lakes in Tennessee and the Shiloh Battlefield.

My Mom always got us some new clothes for our spring trips and this year she bought me, Pete and Stevie and Al matching spring navy blue windbreakers with MICHIGAN in gold letters across the back.

Everywhere we went, at all the diners we stopped at and such, folks would say, “Y’all from Michigan are you??” and we would smile and nod and wonder how did they figure that out?

Anyway part of the Shiloh Battlefield connects with the Tennessee River at a point named Pittsburgh Landing.

This is where boats that supplied the Union Army under US Grant were able to dock and where much of the Union Army ran and hid after the first day of battle.

Today it is a parking lot and overlook of the river where you can park and look over the river and the read the plaques that describe the scene in April, 1862.

We drove around the park and pulled over at Pittsburgh Landing and parked.

There was one other car already parked there.

Outside the car was a little family of a young man and his wife with the wife holding an infant baby wrapped in a blanket.

The man and the woman looked none too happy and it turned out the young man had locked his keys in the car.

He was able to get a coat hanger from the Park Rangers and was trying to work the hanger into driver door but as I remember it, the doors had metal frames and he couldn’t work the hanger past the frame.

My Dad walked up to car, my Mom of course had engaged the young Mom in conversation about diapers and bottles and that the baby bag was IN THE CAR, and Dad looked over the situation.

The car was a hatch back and he noticed one window, one of the back windows that pivoted out on a hinge horizontally, was open just a tiny bit.

The young man pointed out that the window had a latch that let you open the window but he couldn’t get his hand in nor was his hanger long enough to reach the locks.

The young man looked at my Dad and said he didn’t know what else he could do but break the back window.

Maybe a bit drastic but the baby was beginning to fuss and the young wife was beginning to fuss as well.

But my Dad said to hang on and he called us boys over.

“See if you can reach in there”, he said to us with our skinny little arms and hands.

I don’t know which one did it, but one of us could reach in and at least open the latch so the window opened about two more inches.

This got the young man excited but it turned out even with the window open wider he couldn’t get anything unlocked.

“I am just going to break it”, he said.

But my Dad said to hang on and he went to out car and came back with a screwdriver.

My Dad always had a tool or two in the glove compartment of the car.

“Maybe we can detach the window from the latch”, my Dad said.

The young man got the plan right away but he could not get his hands inside the window with the screw driver and get the screwdriver on the screw heads that held the latch plate to the glass of the window and get any torque to turn the screws.

Us kids tried also with no luck.

But my Dad was a Dentist and was used to working with his hands in small spaces.

I can see it in my mind as he took the screwdriver and reached in through the gap and it seems with just his fingers got that screwdriver in place and exerted enough pressure to be able to turn the screws out of the plate.

As soon as the first screw turned us boys all cheered.

My Dad kept at it and removed four screws, took the latch plate off the glass, open that back window wide and reached over the drivers seat and unlocked the door.

“There you go,” he said with this big grin.

The young mom bursts into tears and hugs my Mom.

The young man looked like he wanted to burst into tears and shook my Dad’s hand over and over.

Us kids were all thrilled to have been there, to have helped and to have witnessed ‘Pater triumphans.

My Dad, he just looked happy.

Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour

One of the many times my Dad had his hour.

6.14.2022 – just another straw

just another straw
is always sunrise somewhere
still holds, reveals much

A graffiti-covered trail in Yosemite national park on Sunday. Photograph: AP

I have never been to Yosemite and most likely, I have to admit, I will never get there.

But I get pleasure knowing it is there.

I know its a manipulated moment in time, but after years of seeing it, I can still stare in wonder at Ansel Adams photograph, “Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park.”

Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park Ansel Adams (American, 1902–1984) about 1937 Photograph, gelatin silver print *The Lane Collection *© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust *Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

It was dismay.

It was with grave misgivings.

It was with sadness that hit my core when I read that someone had visited Yosemite and had to leave a record of their visit with spray paint.

Stupid I know.

Misplaced and maybe over reacting.

But hear me out.

I can spit in any direction and hit more problems with this world than can be collected in an encyclopedia.

Climate, politics, human rights, civility, guns, housing, wages, food and almost any other story that appears on any front page, and it becomes quite the pile of straw on the camels’ back.

I saw a story on NBC news last night about abandoned disabled people in Ukraine that if it didn’t break your heart and drive you to your knees to beg forgiveness from God for being part of the population of a world that allows this to happen then I don’t know what to say to you.

There is enough, too much, we can agree I think.

And Yosemite National Park got tagged.

Why is this the straw that seems to break my back?

I would say it goes to state of mind.

Yosemite is not easy to get to.

I don’t think it is the type of place you say, “Hey lets go spend a day …” but more of the place where you might say, “Let’s plan …” and you make the trip.

According to the National Parks Website, reservations are needed during peak hours.

Once at the park and the decision is made to hike the Yosemite Falls Trail, visitors are advised that:

  • Start your hike early; this trail can become very hot mid-day in the summer. By starting as early as possible, you will be able to hike during the cooler part of the day. The upper portion of the trail is exposed, receiving no shade until late afternoon or early evening.
  • Avoid becoming dehydrated or experiencing heat exhaustion. Drink plenty and drink often; pace yourself; rest in the shade; eat salty snacks.
  • Sprained ankles and knee injuries are common on this trail. There are many areas of loose sand mixed with rocky terrain, which makes for slippery footing.
  • Stay on the trail; there are numerous steep drop-offs and ledges off-trail.
  • Know your limits. Pre-existing medical conditions can be easily exacerbated on the steep ascent.
  • Do not swim or wade in the creek above the waterfall.

The Parks Website states, If you make the one-mile, 1,000 foot climb (via dozens of switchbacks) to Columbia Rock, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Sentinel Rock. From there, it is worth the time and energy to hike another 0.5 miles (0.8 km) (some of which is actually downhill!) to get a stunning view of Upper Yosemite Fall. Depending on the season, you may even feel the mist from the fall, which may be welcome respite after the tough climb.

I am assuming that some one read all this, knew all this, packed up there gear, maybe a lunch, water, good shoes and then made sure they had at least two cans or colors of spray paint all ready for the hike.

Who thinks this?

Who plans this?

Why?

What does that say about us?

Can you hear them going over their supplies?

Granola Bars?

Check!

Water?

Check!

Spray Paint?

Check!

As I have already admitted, in today’s news about the climate, politics, human rights, civility, guns, housing, wages, food and almost any other story that appears on any front page, there is plenty to get me going.

As I said, I saw a story on NBC news last night about abandoned disabled people in Ukraine that if it didn’t break your heart and drive you to your news to beg forgiveness from God for being part of the population of a world that allows this to happen then I don’t know what to say to you.

But the story of man’s inhumanity to themselves is as old as Caine and Able.

To willfully damage Yosemite with malice aforethought?

John Muir was the man who set up some of the first boundaries of what became Yosemite National Park and camped their with Theodore Roosevelt that led to lots of parks and preservation of wild areas for the benefit of all of us (Though I have to point out it was Mr. Lincoln who signed a bill on June 30, 1864, granting Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias to the State of California “for public use, resort and recreation,” the two tracts “shall be inalienable for all time“).

Mr. Muir once said, “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising.

It is always sunrise somewhere.

It is always a new day.

But this place, once the sun comes up, reveals a place I don’t recognize anymore.

Just one more straw.

6.12.2022 – festina lente

festina lente
make haste slowly in long run
but eat everyday

Festina Lente, in the latin, or ‘make haste slowly’ or ‘more haste, less speed.’

It has been adopted as a motto numerous times, particularly by the emperors Augustus and Titus, the Medicis and appears over and over in literature.

To combine the two concepts a logo of an anchor and a dolphin together was been devised.

According to Wikipedia, “The meaning of the phrase is that activities should be performed with a proper balance of urgency and diligence. If tasks are rushed too quickly then mistakes are made and good long-term results are not achieved. Work is best done in a state of flow in which one is fully engaged by the task and there is no sense of time passing.”

I am reminded of this phrase, ‘festina lente’, as I watch this country and this government deal with the problems of high inflation, high cost of food, high cost of housing, high cost of fuel, high human cost of guns, lack of baby formula, and any number of the current crisis’s that are today’s news.

Festina lente is the watchword from history for today.

Responses to these problems should be performed with a proper balance of urgency and diligence.

If tasks are rushed too quickly then mistakes are made and good long-term results are not achieved.

We can all agree on that, right?

I am reminded of a time in the history of the United States called the Great Depression.

The people of America finally got so fed up with the festina lente attitude of the Government in Washington that in one if the great electoral upheavals of all time, they voted in Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.

President Roosevelt appointed social worker, Harry Hopkins as the Secretary of Commerce and in that role, the day after the inauguration in March of 1933, Mr. Hopkins started spending money to provide relief in the form of food and housing.

He was told he couldn’t do that.

He was told that such a program could not work.

He was told that giving out money that way would not succeed in the long run.

Mr. Hopkins replied, “People don’t eat in the long run, they eat every day.”

6.10.2022 – day age we live in

day age we live in
you’re entitled to hate them
you know what I mean?

“And I think that the day and age that we live in now, it’s just so negative that you see it in everything. Sport, politics, whatever it is, it’s like if you disagree with someone you just feel that you’re entitled to like hate them and talk bad about them and just bash their decision, when everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, you know what I mean?”

PGA Golfer Justin Thomas commenting on the pro golfers who opted to play in the new Saudi backed golf league … and about life in the United States in general.

Back in the day, I think there were just as many opinions and just as many thoughts but if you wanted to express them to the world at large you wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper or called AM talk radio.

Since few people read editorials and fewer people listened to AM talk radio, the opinions were muffled.

Today, all anyone has to do is voice their opinion on social media and their opinions are amplified beyond the wildest imaginations.

Of all the emotions available, it seems that giving into rage, giving into hate, are the most embraced by social media.

I don’t watch the Simpson’s often but I saw the one where Homer went on a work’s outing to the local minor league baseball team and was warned by his wife to not make a drunken fool of himself.

Homer replied that he ‘ … had a ticket! A ticket which gives me the right … no … the OBLIGATION to make a drunken fool of myself.’

As Mr. Thomas said, today we feel ‘entitled to hate.’

The only thing that is left is for when we are obligated to hate.

Sounds stupid until it is remembered that this was not beyond anyone’s wildest imagination and in the book, 1984, by George Orwell, every day all the employee’s gather in the lunch room for the required ’10 minute hate.’

It’s the day and age that we live in now.

You know what I mean?

6.8.2022 – has nearly worried

has nearly worried
the life out of me at times
I should be sorry

Sometime history can come alive for me and I have to talk about it.

I have been fighting my way through the Civil War campaigns of Ulysses S. Grant this summer.

I started Chattanooga and have worked backwards in time through Vicksburg and am now in the middle of the Shiloh campaign.

In my reading, I came across a minor character by the name of Col. Thomas Worthington, of the 46th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

By all accounts the Colonel, a graduate of West Point in 1827, was a perfect pest of a person.

General Sherman especially found the man to be beyond belief and took pains to describe him in ways so that others would understand how unbelievably bad the feller was.

The accounts in the books I was reading were so overwhelming in both their statements on the man’s inability and the total agreement of all the authors that the man was useless and his own worst enemy that I had to stop for a minute.

Could this Colonel Worthington have been such a jerk?

Or, after the passage of time, when history revealed that General’s Grant and Sherman were great officers, that it became open season on anyone who didn’t recognize their virtue at the time and everyone is just jam piling on poor Colonel Worthington.

I had never heard of the guy to be honest and I thought could he really have been so bad?

So I searched him out.

With the wonder that can be the World Wide Web, I found copies of two letters about the Colonel that were written back in 1864.

The first one is hand written and states simply:

“Today I verbally told Col Worthington that I did not think him now fit for a Colonel; and now upon his urgent request, I put it in writing.”

The note is on letter paper printed with the heading, EXECUTIVE MANSION, Washington.

It is dated, March 31, 1864.

It is signed, A. Lincoln.

Okay.

So maybe the Colonel was unwell and was requesting permission for sick leave and that is what Mr. Lincoln meant when he told him he was ‘not fit for a Colonel.”

Yeah, maybe.

The Colonel came back later to see Mr. Lincoln a few months later and this time, the President tried send him off to someone else.

The other letter is actually a transcription of a telegram:

It is dated: (Recd Cipher – 6:30pm) City Point, 3:10pm August 29, 1864.

It is addressed to:

His Excellency., A Lincoln, President of the US.

It states:

Your dispatch of 1.40 p.m. in relation to permitting Col. Worthington to come here is received.

I should be very sorry to see the Colonel. He has nearly worried the life out of me at times when I could not prevent an interview.

It is signed, US Grant, LT General.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I can imagine Mr. Lincoln laughing as he sent off his message to the General.

I can hear him say, “Grant will love this.”

It took the General less than 2 hours to get the telegram from the President, think about it and dictate his reply and get the reply encoded and say, nope, not me, don’t send him here.

That those two guys took time out from the Civil War to play guess who’s coming to dinner made me laugh.

It made them a little more real.

All respect to Colonel Thomas Worthington, but if Abraham Lincoln and US Grant felt this way I have to feel that the verdict of history has been just.

Colonel, you must have been one world record of a pest.

6.1.2021 – insecurity

insecurity
flatlining pay are every
day reality

From the paragraph:

In fact, for millions of people in Britain, 2022’s growing sense of disaster is another chapter in a story that goes back at least 10 years – to rules and regulations that turned the welfare state into a mess of trapdoors and tripwires, to the hacking back of benefits, to the dire treatment of disabled people and to a new world of work where chronic insecurity and flatlining pay are an everyday reality.

In the article, The decade that broke Britain: the disastrous decisions that left millions in a cost of living crisis by John Harris.

What struck me is the thought that I have been focused on the Covid years of late and all the issues it has caused.

This article (based in Britain but a lot of applies here) made me realize how long, going back to the the Housing Market crash of 2009 and the first time I got fired by the same company.

Talk about insecurity.

Back in 2009 the company I was working for called me into the office on a Tuesday and I was told my job had been eliminated and that my last day would be Friday.

In the next sentence, I was told that the company was creating a new corporate department and that I was wanted to be on that team and I was offered the same job I was doing but if I wanted it, I would be doing that same job in Atlanta.

So off to Atlanta we dragged all the kids and that chapter of our life started.

Then in 2020, I got call to be in a meeting on a Tuesday and once again I was told that my job had been eliminated and my last day would again be Friday.

The first time it happened, I felt it was the current economic climate.

The 2nd time it was pure spite and meanness and people who I worked with turning out to pretty small people.

If you read this blog, you will know this turned out okay for me but do I have trust in my job, any job?

Do I jump any time I get a note to be in a meeting?

Is my insecurity part of my every day reality?

BOY HOWDY!

5.30.2022 – piece of cloth, a sound

piece of cloth, a sound
make something not cloth nor sound
totems of love, hate

Adapted from the passage:

A flag is a piece of cloth and a word is a sound,
But we make them something neither cloth nor a sound,
Totems of love and hate

From the poem, John Brown’s Body by Stephen Vincent Benét.

According to Wikipedia

, John Brown’s Body (1928) is an epic American poem written by Stephen Vincent Benét. Its title references the radical abolitionist John Brown, who raided the federal armory at Harpers Ferry in Virginia in October 1859. He was captured and hanged later that year. Benét’s poem covers the history of the American Civil War. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1929.

The photo is of my Great Great Grand Fathers grave.

When he was 18, he joined the 16th Michigan Volunteer Infantry and later fought in Virginia and wounded in action at the Battle of Gaines Mill on June 27, 1862.

Here is a larger extract from the poem.

One cannot balance tragedy in the scales
Unless one weighs it with the tragic heart.
The other man’s tragedy was the greater one
Since the blind fury tore the huger heart,
But this man’s tragedy is the more pitiful.
Thus the Eastern board and the two defended kings.
But why is the game so ordered, what crowns the kings?
They are cities of streets and houses like other cities.
Baltimore might be taken, and war go on,
Atlanta will be taken and war go on,
Why should these two near cities be otherwise?
We do not fight for the real but for shadows we make.
A flag is a piece of cloth and a word is a sound,
But we make them something neither cloth nor a sound,
Totems of love and hate, black sorcery-stones,
So with these cities.

Even today, We do not fight for the real but for shadows we make.

A flag is a piece of cloth and a word is a sound.

But we make them something neither cloth nor a sound, Totems of love and hate.

4.19.2022 – then, even before

then, even before
I was six, books began
to happen to me

Adapted from this passage in the book, The Big Sea, An Autobiography by Langston Hughes.

In Topeka, as a small child, my mother took me with her to the little vine-covered library on the grounds of the Capitol.

There I first fell in love with librarians, and I have been in love with them ever since- those very nice women who help you find wonderful books!

The silence inside the library, the big chairs, and long tables, and the fact that the library was always there and didn’t seem to have a mortgage on it, or any sort of insecurity about it – all of that made me love it.

And right then, even before I was six, books began to happen to me, so that after a while, there came a time when I believed in books more than in people – which, of course, was wrong.

That was why, when I went to Africa, I threw all the books into the sea.

The silence inside the library, the big chairs, and long tables, and the fact that the library was always there and didn’t seem to have a mortgage on it, or any sort of insecurity about it – all of that made me love it.

Not any sort of insecurity about it.

I’ll pass over any discussion about working at a library and being aware of tax-payer funding and other such insecurities to focus on the magic and wonderfulness of that line, ‘[didn’t have] any sort of insecurity about it.’

Mr. Bono sings, “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

Sometimes what you are looking for is right under your nose.

A place with out any sort of insecurity about it would check a lot of boxes on anyone’s search form.

My motto,
As I live and learn,
is:
Dig And Be Dug
In Return.

  • Langston Hughes

4.9.2022 – this done each man be

this done each man be
allowed return to their homes
not to be disturbed

I have long been fascinated by the United States Civil War.

Fascinated by the romance of it.

Fascinated by the accounts of battles that read along the lines of, “Our losses were small. 30 killed and 300 wounded.”

I watch the news and see what 30 killed look like today.

How was any less 160 years ago.

More and more (not or less) takes the romance out of it.

Today, April 9th, is the anniversary of the surrender of Confederate forces at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

When asked for terms of surrender, General US (the initials famous for Unconditional Surrender or pretty much, ‘You admit we won and you have to take what comes’) Grant wrote in his own hand:

APPOMATTOX C. H., VA.,

Ap 9th, 1865.

GEN. R. E. LEE,
Comd'g C. S. A.

GEN: In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.

Very respectfully,

U. S. GRANT,
Lt. Gen.

And that was that.

After 4 years of doing there best to kill each other, Grant told the other side to:

Give their paroles.

Give up their arms.

Go home.

Did Grant include a warning or a threat?

Nope.

He included a promise.

A promise that once they gave their parole, gave up their arms and got home they would not to be disturbed by United States authority.

He handed it the other General who, after a sort discussion of plow horses, signed it and said,  “. . . that this would have a happy effect upon his army.”

Grant signed it.

End of negotitions.

End of a war.

2.25.2022- basic math you can’t

basic math you can’t
tell the future because you
can’t tell the future

I enjoyed the article this morning, ‘A really bad deal’: Michigan awards GM $1bn in incentives for new electric cars.

I enjoyed because of what the reporter, a Mr. Tom Perkins of the Guardian, did.

He did the math.

He did the the very basic math.

GM and the State of Michigan have announced a deal that gives GM $1 Billion dollars in tax incentives over 20 years, — that is 9 zeros – $1,000,000,000 — to build a plant in the State that will create 3,200 jobs that will in around $55,000 a year.

Mr. Perkins divided that 1 billion by 3,200 to show that each job will cost State and Local entities $312,000 in lost tax revenues.

Mr. Perkins then figured state and local tax revenue at $4,600 per job over 20 years and came up with $300 Million in revenue.

Leaving the State of Michigan and local towns a $700 Million short fall.

I thought that the basic math employed by Mr. Perkins to be refreshing, simple and to the point.

This announcement, and I am sure the planning of the announcement went through several drafts and plenty of hard work in producing a memo that, used wonderful words explaining the wonderful benefits of this wonderful deal.

So long as no one did the basic math.

As Mark Twain wrote in The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg, “There is nothing in the world like a persuasive speech to fuddle the mental apparatus and upset the convictions and debauch the emotions of an audience not practiced in the tricks and delusions of oratory.”

To be sure, Mr. Perkins, admits that each job will have an impact as each worker needs banks, gas stations and pizza places.

But Mr. Perkins writes, “The state also claimed the direct and indirect jobs created by the project will generate $29bn in new income over 20 years, or the equivalent of 29,000 jobs paying $50,000 annually. Economists from across the ideological spectrum who reviewed the analysis said that level of job creation is highly unlikely and pointed to a US Commerce Department report that labels such claims “suspicious”.”

Mr. Perkins quotes Michael LaFaive, fiscal policy director with the right-leaning Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Forecasting 20 years of economic impacts is nearly impossible, LaFaive said, and the MEDC’s (Michigan Economic Development Corporation) job projection “strains credulity”.

“They can’t tell the future because they can’t tell the future,” he said.

Oddly enough, after writing this, I remembered that the ‘Verse of the Day’ for yesterday was:

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV) For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I am okay with some one knowing the future and I am okay that it is NOT the folks running the State of Michigan.

PS: I went searching online for what for me would be the perfect image of the GM building in Detroit. I did not want that silly logo on that silly ReCen. I wanted the old General Motors Building in downtown Detroit over by the Fisher Theater. And I wanted to show the sign, GENERAL MOTORS and I wanted it a night to show the sign how it looked with its glowing red letters. I grew up in a Ford family and GM was kind of a shadowy evil empire. In my mind, that huge, multi winged building looming in the haze that always seemed to be around Detroit with those glowing red letters, was the twin of the Castle of the Wicked Witch of the West. If she drove a car, she would drive a GM product. NEVERTHELESS, my search turned up empty. If anyone can find a photo of the old GM Building AT NIGHT with the sign in red letters, please let me know.