Category Archives: Culture

Afghanistan

Afghanistan-the land in which Doctor Watson served and was wounded by a Jezail bullet- efore he met and was befriended by Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories were written in the late 19th century. Various retellings are placed in the early 21st century without creating any literate anomalies.

Trying to understand Afghanistan is a complicated issue. I will share my perspective, but I will try to be as brief as possible. However, being brief means bypassing a lot of facts. We’re at the point that America has invested more than enough to allow the Afghans to manage their own affairs, but that is not yet happening.

I served in Southwest Asia. I had troops in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, and Kuwait, and tried to make sure that I spent time with as many of my people as possible wherever they were stationed. I got to see Afghanistan, up close and personal. For the record, the Afghans I met were warm, friendly, and gracious. They were wonderful hosts, sharing many things with us—as an affecianado, I proclaim their bread as the finest in the world.

In attempting to let the Afghans govern themselves there are complicating issues:

  1. Afghanistan is not a country in the same way that we define a country. Individuals identify with their families, with the extended family being part of a tribe. Tribes often live in proximity, such as in a single village. What happens in their village is important; what happens in Kabul or Kandahar, etc. is not. Therefore, there is not a national identity as we understand it.
  2. As with many others in that part of the world, they are Muslims, but with somewhat of a different style. They’re use of Inshallah—“If God Wills It”—is a bit different. If someone has a winter coat and it’s spring, he may trade the coat for something else. He does not think of needing it next winter. If he needs a coat next winter, Inshallah—God will provide.
  3. When renting an apartment, applying for a license or an account, or whatever, paying the agent to expedite the process is not viewed as a bribe; instead, it is viewed in the same way Americans view tips. Before you feel too smug, much of the rest of the civilized world views the American practice of tipping as, well, bribery.
  4. When American Special Forces first arrived in Afghanistan, they used the local militias as allies against the Taliban. These militias were organized, they were well armed, and they were effective. Eventually, Hamad Karzai created a coalition to enable him to form a government and be appointed (not elected) president. He recruited the most powerful men, who just happened to be the warlords who headed the various militias. As a result of the coalition, many warlords became provincial governors, cabinet ministers, and other powerful officials.

After I retired and hung up my uniform, I worked as an analyst for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While there, we conducted a study on corruption in Afghanistan. If you want to read some fascinating issues, check out https://www.sigar.mil. SIGAR is the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

America provided money and materials without monitoring what it was used for. Much of it was not used as intended. Today, Swiss banks are holding much more wealth than they did before America tried to rebuild Afghanistan.

To keep this short, I skipped over so much. Joint Forces Quarterly published an article that we wrote about some of the Afghanistan issues. It can be accessed at https://ndupress.ndu.edu/JFQ/Joint-Force-Quarterly-75/Article/577577/dealing-with-corruption-hard-lessons-learned-in-afghanistan/

Those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it. In any case, I wish the Afghan people well and ask God to generously bless them.

Korean Priorities

South Korea: We'll Kill Kim Jong Un If We Have to

It’s very difficult to find anything in the news that is either uplifting or just plain fun. After much searching, I finally found something worth sharing.

The Wall Street Journal reports that North Korea is willing to reopen negotiations under certain conditions. It’s important to emphasize this is North Korea, which refers to itself as “Korea” as opposed to South Korea, which refers to itself as “The Republic of Samsung.”

What does North Korea want? While they have an autocratic government, they are often pragmatic. They want sanctions relaxed.

Their main priorities are changes to allow them to import fuel, fine suits, and premium liquor.

As you may have seen, Kim Jung Un, the North Korean leader has recently lost a lot of weight, raising questions as to the state of his health. Some are concerned that this is evidence that he has some underlying health crisis. I believe that he may not have serious health problems.

Kim Jung Un may, in fact, have adopted a more healthy lifestyle with a better diet and regular workouts in his private gym. This is how he lost the weight.

Now that he’s buff (relatively speaking), he wants to get some spiffy new suits that don’t look like oversized bags. He then plans to fuel up the limo, cruise Pyongyang, pick up chicks, and ply them with (premium) liquor.

Foreshadowing

Just like Nostradamus, one of the great philosophers of the 20th century prophetically wrote, foretelling today’s reality. Pete Townsend, lead guitarist for The Who wrote Substitute back in the mid-1960’s.

The lyrics explain how nothing is as it appears:

I’m a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young, but I’m just backdated, yeah

I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth . . .

Interestingly, in 1966, one line- “I look all white but my dad was black” had to be modified in the version released in the United States. You’d think that in the 55 years since, we’d have sorted all that out. Not quite.

So, today, we have all kinds of people claiming all sorts of things. Skeptics and cynics believe that such are questionable.

Or are they?

All I can add to the discussion is another verse:

And now you dare to look me in the eye
Those crocodile tears are what you cry
It’s a genuine problem, you won’t try
To work it out at all you just pass it by, pass it by

Great song. I’m not sure the reality is quite as zippy as the song.

Only Following Orders

See the source image
Clawmarks in the walls of Auschwitz gas chamber.

The State of Arizona is once again proving that nothing in this day and age is out of bounds.

In their efforts to resume capital punishment, Arizona is planning on using cyanide gas to execute those under the sentence of death. The most famous use of cyanide gas was by the Nazis in their effort to eliminate Jews, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, the handicapped, and anyone else. This was more efficient than the guillotine, starvation or individual gunshots to the head.

The Nazi system was simple. After stealing people’s valuables and stripping them naked, force them into the gas chamber, and drop in the Zyklon B. Ignore the screams and the fingernail marks on the walls as they desperately tried to escape.

The last use of cyanide for an execution in Arizona was similarly gruesome. The condemned took 18 minutes to die, struggling, gagging, and coughing the entire time.

Don’t worry, though, if you are called upon to witness an execution in Arizona. Since the gas chamber hasn’t been used in over twenty years, they checked the seals and even held a candle near them to look for leaks. Nineteenth century safety checks for a 20th century process.

If you want to read more, Newsweek has an article, “Arizona Prepares to Use Auschwitz Gas Zyklon B on Death Row Inmates.” https://www.newsweek.com/auschwitz-gas-zyklon-b-arizona-death-row-inmates-1596402

Pants On Fire

Huey Long ends epic Senate filibuster, June 13, 1935 ...
Huey P. Long—Master Politician

Among the many old jokes I recall is this one:

Q: How do you know when politicians are lying?
A: Their lips are moving.

When I was a child, I remember my father asking–usually during election season–“Why would anyone spend millions and millions of dollars on a campaign in order to be elected to a job that pays far less than that?” Good question. Unfortunately, the only logical answers are based on the idea that there is remuneration in other ways.

We’ve long accepted that politicians will say or do anything to further their ambitions. And why do they do this? For power and money. In fairness, power and money are inherently attractive to most human beings. However, some lack the opportunity. Some are unwilling to sacrifice their morals and ethics. Some go into politics.

Demagogues make it clear which is the most attractive. Genghis Khan, Joseph Stalin, and Adolph Hitler did not worry about money. None of them whipped out their wallet when they wanted something–they just told their lackeys to get it and armies marched in to take it. Like energy and matter being converted from one to another, the same is true of money and power. Money buys power. Power controls money.

There is a lesson from about 100 years ago. Someone asked notorious gangster Willy Sutton why he robbed banks. Willy’s replied, “That’s where the money is!” Today the money and power is in politics and the modern day Willies know it.

The Samaritan

I have been seeing news articles about people who stepped into an emergency situation and rendered assistance. The headlines describe them as Samaritans, referring to the story in the New Testament of the Good Samaritan. Luke relates the parable Jesus told in which a man had been beaten, stripped and left for dead. A priest and a Levite passed him by while a Samaritan treated his wounds and took him to an inn and paid for his care.

There are several important issues that are not obvious as to the significance of the Good Samaritan. Over 500 years earlier, Samaria had become the capital of the Northern Kingdom when Israel was split. The Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom first, removed many of the Israelites and largely repopulated the area with Gentiles. The Israelis in the Northern Kingdom intermarried and adopted many of the ways of the Gentiles, including their religious practices.

Some years later, the Southern Kingdom was also conquered by the Assyrians, and its people carried off, but 70 years after being conquered, a contingent of 43,000 Jews were allowed to return. These people had maintained their commitment to God, whom they worshiped in captivity and whom they continued to worship when they returned to their homeland. They hated the Samaritans because the Samaritans had chosen to view the Gentile idols as either co-equal with God, or as replacing him.

Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. Hence the “Good Samaritan” would have been seen as a contradiction of terms during Jesus’ time.

The other significant detail is that the priest and Levite passed the injured man without aiding him. This was not merely hubris. Priests and Levites served in the temple, but anyone who touched a dead or dying person, would be ritually unclean. This meant they could not enter the temple until they had been ritually cleansed, which took seven days.

We don’t know the thoughts of the hypothetical priest and the Levite, but it is not unlikely that Jesus’ listeners would see them as choosing their duty to God over their duty to mankind.

The story of the Good Samaritan was a parable–a story–intended to teach. It was not a historical fact, so if it was intended to teach, it’s good to uncover the hidden wisdom as well as that which is obvious.

Shhh! They’re Listening!

Blogging is the only social media in which I engage. Why? As far as I can tell, neither Mark Zuckerberg nor Jeff Bezos follow my blog.

I’m sure that they’re fine people who would be interesting neighbors. Imagine a neighborhood block party with Bezos showing up in an Amazon truck loaded with goodies for everyone. Heck, he might even do a Blue Origin spaceship flyby for entertainment.

On the other hand, it’s creepy knowing that their companies seem to watch every single thing we do. If they made a movie about their data gathering, it could be called, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Last Week, and Last Night When You Closed the Blinds and Turned Off the Lights in Your Bedroom. It’s, like I said, creepy.

I don’t have any big secrets. The biggest secrets I have are the ones I keep from myself, like, “Where did I leave my car keys?” or “Why did I just walk into this room?” Nevertheless, if someday I did have a secret (like suddenly realizing that I was wearing one black sock and one Navy blue one), I don’t want Jeff and Mark blabbing it all over the internet.

The best way I can explain my aversion is to compare social media sites to the 81 year-old Homeowners’ Association President named Karen. She’s constantly peering through her window on the lookout for serious violations of the deed restrictions and covenants–things like having the wrong color curtains or a non-standard garbage can. She never sleeps, lest a violation occur, strapping on her night-vision goggles promptly at sunset to make sure standards are maintained under any circumstances.

It makes you wonder what juicy tidbits Jeff and Mark know about HER?

Another Side of History

The Road to Freedom Tour Guide App

Today’s blog is inspired by The Virginian Pilot, April 18, 2021. “New Virginia Travel Map and App Offer a Tour into the Black Experience During the Civil War Era,” by Denise M. Watson

Virginia has a lot of history tied to the Civil War and has faced harsh and not unwarranted criticism over monuments to those honoring the Confederacy. The state of Virginia, along with Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia have had “Civil War Trails” for many years. They make for an interesting trip that I recommend, even if you make a side trip to a few sites while traveling through the area.

We all know (or most of us, at least) that there are at least two sides to every story. Those in the South who subscribe to the theory of The Lost Cause are only comfortable with the honoring of those who wore the Confederate uniform. There needs to be a counterpoint to the tales of Lee, Jackson, Pickett.

Over the last few years, the Civil War Trail has added sites that are significant to African American History. Eighty-eight sites are highlighted as “The Road to Freedom” tour, which you can access as a phone app, online app, or printed map. The timing is coincidental with current events but is nevertheless long over due. The African American side of the story is a more compelling, if not yet polished, story than the one that reflects the traditional White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant viewpoint.

A small example–Mary Peake taught enslaved people in violation of the laws of the time. One place she taught was under a large oak tree, under which she read the Emancipation Proclamation. The tree, known for many years as the Emancipation Oak is still alive and at the entrance to what it is now Hampton University. You have the chance to stand under that very tree, but probably never heard about it before.

At Fort Monroe, another site where Mary Peake taught, enslaved people sought freedom. General Benjamin Butler made a decision. We do not know if it was shrewd or just dumb luck. Southerners demanded their “property” be returned. He decided that if slaves were property, they were contraband and would not be returned. This started the first of many freedmen’s camps.

Although it’s not (yet) on the Road to Freedom Trail, there is a cemetery near my home, which is identified as “Unknown and Known Afro-Union Soldiers*.” Not quite the cachet that accompanies most military sited. Although overlooked for many years, these men were veterans, having worn the cloth of our country. They went into harm’s way, with the risk of death–either in battle or if they were captured.

Unknown & Known Afro-Union Civil War Soldiers Memorial Grave Site with American Flags

There’s more to history than what you were taught in high school. Check out https://www.battlefields.org/visit/mobile-apps/road-to-freedom-tour-guide

We Interrupt Breaking News for the Cicadapocolypse

Yes, I believe that the media–in its quest to sell more advertising–deals in sensationalism. Really! Yes, I do!

With a slight cooling in politics, there’s no way that what’s happening in Washington, DC will interest people enough to actually ask their doctor about the latest drug being pushed by Big Pharma. Do the people with the most disposable income really care about the latest coupling-decoupling of twenty-something celebrities?

Does anyone really care about which celebrity came out as gay or bi or whatever? If they’re a good actor or a good musician, people are more interested in what they do on the stage or in the studio rather than in the bedroom.

But there is ONE story that has been repeated in news cycle after news cycle:

  • The Cicada Invasion is coming!
  • Soon, there will be Cicadas everywhere!
  • There are going to be Cicadas all over the place!
  • Get ready for the Cicadas!
  • Look out! A Cicada invasion is on the way!
  • Get ready for the Cicadapocolypse?
Look out! A cicada invasion is on the way! | Local News ...

When Cicadas emerge, they mate, lay eggs, and die. They can’t eat–they lack a mouth, The large quantity of their eggs may cause a twig to fall, but that’s about the most damage they can cause. Like politicians, they are noisy. Unlike politicians, they are essentially harmless.

Salut!

Today’s kerfuffle concerns Vice President Harris’s failure to return the salute of the Marines as she boarded Air Force Two. There’s a reason for that, she’s not in the chain of command. Not only is she not required to salute, but by the letter of the law, she is not entitled to salute.

Ronald Reagan started the Presidential saluting tradition. The President is the Commander-In-Chief of the US Military because the military is subordinate to civilian leadership. The President is a civilian, but he is in–and at the top of–the chain of command. The Vice-President, on the other hand, is not in any way in the chain of command.

Saluting has an interesting history. It is believed that it was originally to indicate that the person saluting was no threat. Some believe it was to show an open hand without a weapon, while others believe it was to raise the visor on a knight’s helmet, making the knight’s identity known. It probably has elements of each.

My experience is with the Navy, which has had a few different rules than the other branches, so others may have slightly different experiences. Some of these practices may have changed. Nevertheless, a salute is a gesture shared among those members of the military who are in good standing. If a Sailor is arrested and is a prisoner held in the brig, they are not permitted to salute because they are not in good standing. Enlisted or junior officers salute officers senior to them, but they are honoring the rank, not the individual. (Just for fun, enlisted members have been known to space themselves out when they see an officer so the officer has to return a salute to each of them, rather than a single salute.)

The Navy traditionally only salutes when covered (wearing a uniform hat). They remove their cover indoors, so while other branches salute indoors, the tradition was that Sailors did not. When the others saluted indoors, a Sailor would remain at attention until the salutes were rendered and returned.

Until about ten years ago, one did not salute unless in uniform. At that time, for morning or evening colors (raising the flag in the morning and lowering it in the evening), service members and veterans were permitted to salute even if not in uniform. You may see some veterans on television salute during the National Anthem.

One final bit of Navy saluting trivia–Sailors are permitted to salute with the left hand, “if the right hand is occupied.” In practical terms, this is usually limited to a boatswain mate who is piping an event with his right hand. They then salute with the left.

So, the vice-president did not salute the Marines or return their salutes. She’s not supposed to and she doesn’t.

Start Your Own Business!

Have you ever wanted to start your own business and make a ton of money? I know how!

I probably should make this one of those Have your credit card ready! deals, but, hey, we’re all friends, right?

The quickest way to start a business and get rich is to start an insurance company.

You’ve probably noticed that in addition to AllState, State Farm, and The Crimson Permanent Assurance, every day it seems like another insurance company is bombarding us with ads. There are so many that they’ve run out of good names. There’s the General, Elephant, and Lemonade. Lemonade? What kind of names are those for insurance companies?

The motto, “You’re in good hands,” has given way to an Emu, Flo and friends, and who knows what else–although I confess, I did like the cavemen.

If you add in the thousands of automobile extended warranty companies, it’s possible that YOU are the only person on the planet that does not have their own insurance company.

Hawai’i

Visiting Molokai, Hawaii's forgotten island
Molokai, Hawai’i

I’ve noticed lately that more frequently there’s an additional character in the name of our 50th state. I don’t have any problem with that–not that the Hawai’ians should care about my opinion.

It’s kind of like how, in Spanish, the question is not “What is your name?” but “How do you call yourself?” It just seems civil to defer to the owner of a name as to how it is spelled or pronounced.

However, I’m a curious person and did a little digging. Here’s what I found.

What looks like a single open quote mark is an okina, the 8th consonant of the Hawai’ian alphabet. It indicates a glottal stop, such as what we use when we say “uh-oh.” The Hawai’ians view the addition of the okina as a spelling correction and not a name change. The effort has been going on for years, but seems to be gaining traction of late.

One suggestion, though. It might be wise to update computer spell checkers. That will cause the transition to be much faster.

Historic Lessons

Oldest Human Blood Cells Found in Prehistoric Caveman

Throughout history, mankind has advanced in knowledge and capabilities, which, when viewed in retrospect is seen a good thing. Overall, people view progress as better than stagnation.

People once relied on hunting and gathering to feed themselves, but this gave way to agriculture. With people staying in one place to farm, towns developed to provide a market and other services. Bartering was clumsy and inefficient, so money became the means of exchange.

Clubs were replaced by swords and spears made of bronze and then iron. Archers were no match for firearms. Trains were more efficient than horses for long distance travel; aircraft replaced trains. The telegraph replaced messengers and was, in turn replaced by radio and eventually the Internet.

While we say that the only constant is change, there is a second constant–resistance to change. At every major change, there were those who were so invested in the old ways that they unsuccessfully fought progress. The buggy whip makers, no doubt, were not huge fans of automobiles.

Today’s buggy whip makers include the fossil fuels industry. Coal was once the main fuel for generating electricity. Its smoke and soot were tolerated because there were no real alternatives. Already, some electrical power producers have found that switching to solar and wind power make economic sense and are reaping its benefits. Others are desperate to keep mining and using coal.

Progress is inevitable. We should have learned that year, if not centuries ago. We would do better to accept where the future is headed and adapt. We can choose to do so today or be forced to in the not-too-distant future.

Add Some Excitement to Your Life

Now that no one’s invading the Capitol or such, it’s gotten a bit boring. Here are a few ideas on how to spice things back up:

Telephone
  1. Walk through a crowded place with your cellphone to your ear saying things like, “No, you need to make the hole at least 6 feet deep so animals don’t drag his bones all over the place. Right. Don’t worry about the blood once he’s in there.” Subtly watch people to see their reaction. If they act like they heard you, smile at them, nod, and keep walking.
  2. Walk up to a business building with a l-o-n-g tape measure and a clipboard at lunchtime. Roll out the tape on the sidewalk in front of the building and jot random numbers on the clipboard. If anybody (especially someone eh either comes out of the building or is headed into it) asks what you’re doing, reply, “Nothing. Just checking.” (Businesses are less likely to have someone run out with a firearm than private homes.)
  3. When you get a robocall, wait until the person on the other end starts to make their pitch. As soon as you can interrupt, act like you didn’t hear what they said and tell them you’ve been waiting for their call so that you could coordinate the bank robbery with them. Keep them on the line as long as possible. Deny that you’re a plant from the FBI.
  4. Another fun interaction with telemarketers is to interrupt before they can get to the third syllable of their pitch and start a sales pitch of your own. My father used to say something like this, “In sales, you need to impress the customer with your knowledge. That’s why YOU need the Encyclopedia Britannica. A lifetime subscription is a modest investment for your future success, and I can help you right now. First, I need your name and credit card information . . .”
  5. Don’t call me.

How Will History Treat 2020?

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody | Fall, Book ...
This is historically accurate and funny as hell.

I continue to wonder how the year 2020 AD (or 2020 CE, if you’re politically correct) will be recorded in the history books. This may be far more complex than you might imagine.

The reason–most history books are about the same size. No matter how much history there is, it has to fit into a standard book.

Part of this is due to the fact that many history books are intended to be used as textbooks and there’s only so much that can be taught in a semester. There are exceptions, such as the 10 volume Abraham Lincoln: A History written by John Nicolay and John Hay, his secretaries during his presidency, but such exceptions are rare.

My history book collection includes A History of the United States Navy by John R. Spears, published in 1908. It predates both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars but is about the standard one and a half inches thick and 334 pages. A lot of what is prominent in that book, such as the details of the Spanish American War or the importance of the Dahlgren gun is either absent or barely mentioned in modern history books.

So how will 2020 be covered in the future? The COVID-19 pandemic, like the Spanish Influenza of 1918 may get a paragraph, if covered at all. Today’s political scandals will likely be treated as briefly as the Teapot Dome Scandal or Boss Tweed. Donald Trump may be as obscure a president as Millard Filmore or John Tyler.

It’s probably just as well.

Background Check

Mo Brooks et al. that are talking to each other: Representative Mo Brooks is not the first lawmaker to try to use the tallying process to challenge the results of a bitter election loss.
Huey Long statue, center, with Congressman Mo Brooks.

Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt wrote in the New York Times about Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama. Without any evidence and following the president’s lead, he claims that election results in five states were illegitimate and proposes challenging the results.

I’ll leave the legal issues to others, but I found it hilarious that the photo-op was staged so that it prominently featured Louisiana politician Huey P. Long. Long was hardly the image of an honest politician. He was, to put it nicely, a flim-flam man, although he did so in such a way that Louisiana benefited and everyone was entertained by his performance.

In the definitive biography Huey Long by T. Harry Williams, Chapter 1 begins:

The story seems to good to be true–but people who should know swear it is true. The first time that Huey P. Long campaigned in rural, Latin, Catholic south Louisiana, the local boss who had him in charge said at the beginning of the tour: “Huey, you ought to remember one thing in your speeches today. You’re from North Louisiana, but now you’re in South Louisiana. And we got a lot of Catholic voters down here.” “I know,” Huey answered. And throughout the day in every small town Long would begin by saying: “When I was a boy, I would get up at six o’clock in the morning on Sunday, and I would hitch our old horse up to the buggy and I would take my Catholic grandparents to mass. I would bring them home, and at ten o’clock I would hitch the old horse up again and I would take my Baptist grandparents to church.” The effect of the anecdote on the audience was obvious, and on the way back to Baton Rouge that night the local leader said admiringly: “Why, Huey, you’ve been holding out on us. I didn’t know you had any Catholic grandparents.” “Don’t be a damn fool,” replied Huey. “We didn’t even have a horse.”

Explain the Mask Thing to Me

As of today, 15,805,055 Americans have been infected with the coronavirus and 296,481 have died.

I choose to wear a mask, wash my hands, avoid going out and when I do, I maintain social distance. Based on the clinical trials and the upcoming FDA approval, I will get vaccinated.

Other people have different responses. I could list them with the most common counterargument to each, but that would be pointless. Bottom Line–none of us likes someone else telling us what to do.

What I don’t understand is how or why masks are seen as a political statement–whether you’re for them or against them. What does any politician or political party gain if people do or don’t choose to wear masks?

Perception > Reality

People in Marketing know that perception is more important than reality. Because of this phenomenon, people will prefer one brand over the others even when there is no perceptible difference between them. For example, a classic case was when a company test marketed three detergents, one in a yellow box, one in an orange box, and one in a red box. Customers reported that the detergent in the yellow box didn’t adequately clean their clothes. The red was too harsh and ruined their clothes. However, the detergent in the orange box cleaned their clothes without ruining them.

As you’ve probably guessed, all three boxes contained the same detergent.

Perception is very important. Marie Antoinette may have been clueless and lived in luxury, but she never said that if the peasants had no bread, “let them eat cake.” In fact, on the platform of the guillotine, she stepped on the executioner’s foot and apologized, saying, “I am sorry sir, I did not mean to put it there.” The real quotation does not get anywhere near the mileage of the cake story.

Politicians, celebrities, and other highly visible people who are in the spotlight try to avoid perception problems. Many have aides who try to steer them clear of statements and actions that are bad optics.

Only time will tell whether a recent event will become another “let them eat cake” legend. I’m speaking, of course, of the new White House Tennis Pavilion.

The White House, has had movie theaters, swimming pools, running tracks, bowling alleys, and–yes–tennis courts, so this is not something new. However the timing is a problem. With well over 15 million COVID-19 cases in the US, 293,931 ending in death, and 12 percent unemployment, the perception might well be a problem.

If you’re young enough, check the history books in 40 years to see how it turns out.

Frustration.com

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been playing with computers since 1969. In those 50+ years, the technology grew fast. Given that I have not focused totally on computers, my understanding of them is less today than it was some years ago.

These days, I’m less concerned about the hardware and software, but totally befuddled by the content.

17 Best images about Harry potter characters on Pinterest ...

Social media is totally out of control. News sites reports are almost as bad, even if (especially if?) they are accurately reporting what’s going on. There are claims and counterclaims, or are they hoaxes and counterhoaxes? In any cases, it’s painful.

I recently saw a news video with Rudy Giuliani. I swear that he was sitting next to Rita Skeeter from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

So I find myself trying to find something online that doesn’t make me twitch. So far, especially since I don’t follow sports, the only safe sites I’ve found are:

  • The National Weather Service
  • Wunderground (also weather)
  • Ebay
  • Amazon

I’m sure many other people who are staying home to avoid the pandemic are similarly affected. In fact, many people are probably Christmas shopping online.

Some of the people who are prominently featured in the current brouhaha are reported to dislike Amazon. I wonder if they realize how much Amazon is benefiting from the situation.

The Other Thanksgiving Thing

Thanksgiving. The day in which we spend three hours preparing for dinner, twenty minutes for everybody to eat, and then three hours to clean up.

But wait, as they say on television, there’s more.

In my house, after Thanksgiving dinner is over and the guests (we always used to have guests) have left, the other tradition to kick off the Holiday Season is observed.

When no one is looking, I go down into the basement, to the far corner which was once the fruit cellar. Many of you may never seen a traditional fruit cellar. There are shelves, which originally held the Mason jars of home-canned fruits and vegetables. Underneath, is a small section where no concrete floor exists. Instead, there is a 3′ x 3′ patch of soil that was once used to store home-grown potatoes and carrots in the fall so they would remain fresh over the winter.

No one ever thinks to reach behind the patch of soil, which is just as well, because it is a perfect hiding place. I get down on my knees and prop the flashlight just right so I can see under the shelf. In the very back, where no one ever looks, is the target of my search.

I reach back and wrap my fingers around it and pull it out into the light. I unwrap the multiple layers of ancient cloth, then tin foil (Yes, tin, not modern aluminum) until its multicolored splendor is visible.

It is THE fruitcake that my family has been passing from one to another for generations untold. When my great grandmother gave it to me, she pulled me and whispered that her grandmother swore that it dates back to the days of King Arthur. If looking at it doesn’t convince you, the smell should, even though all fruitcakes smell the same.

I turn it over in my hands and ponder, “To whom should I gift it to this Christmas?”