Some Thoughts on the Damage to Notre Dame de Paris

Well, to paraphrase, since this is a PG-rated blog, “nagdabbit!” Followed by, boy I hope this was not arson. Then, medieval churches’ greatest enemy strikes again. Then I cried.

I’ve only seen the outside of Notre Dame. The line was so long, and the day so hot, that I opted to go to the Roman site under the church rather than stand in line for two hours in the sun. I’ve seen a number of other Gothic cathedrals, and didn’t feel the need to get heat-stress just to view this one along with thousands of strangers. (I got heat stress the next day, after going back to the Louvre. It was near 100 F on the city streets, with a hot wind and dust swirling from the park near the museum.)

One of the single greatest causes of, ahm, unplanned urban renewal in the pre-modern era was fire. Without pumps that could move water and apply constant pressure to it, the only thing to do was 1. bucket-brigade, 2. tear down buildings closest to the fire to keep it from spreading, 3. pray, 4. all of the above. Some of the earliest building requirements, such as a tile or slate roof, or covering the facade with plaster to cover and protect beams, or “cover fire hours,” (curfews) came from those fires. Multi-storey houses often kept ladders under the eves of the first floor, along with buckets, in case the fire tocsin rang in the night. Certain church bells would be designated as the fire bell, and when that note sounded, everyone stopped what they were doing and hurried to fight the fire. Continue reading


The Last Raider goes West

Lt. Colonel Richard “Dick” Cole has gone West. At the young age of 103, the last Doolittle Raider slipped the surly bonds and went to rejoin his fellow raiders. Time to turn over the last cup.

The Doolittle Raiders’ goblets, and the bottle of brandy. An era has passed. Used under Creative Commons fair use. Click photo for link to original. Photo by Raymond Cunningham of the cups, kept at the US Air Force Academy.

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Feast of the Annunciation

Last Monday, March 25, was the Feast of the Annunciation for Roman Catholics and Episcopalians. It marks the day when, according to Christian tradition, the angel Gabriel approached a young woman named Mary with an invitation. “Hail, most highly favored one” the angel said, and explained that the Lord had chosen her to bear His son.

The topic is very, very popular in religious art. Continue reading

Environment or Army Corps of Engineers: The Floods of 2019

As usual, people are not waiting for the disaster to finish happening before blaming someone for it. In this case, it is the h-ll and high water swamping the Missouri River watershed. Some have pointed at anthropogenic climate change and are saying that humanity (OK, the free market system and fossil fuels) are to blame. Others suggest that the Army Corps of Engineers is at fault.

I don’t believe the climate change argument, at least the human-caused aspect, because if you look at the terrible floods of the 1920s on the Mississippi and Missouri River watersheds, we were still in the tail end of the effects of the Little Ice Age in terms of temperatures and precipitation patterns. Continue reading

Haman’s Hats

Today is the feast of Purim. It’s not one of the major holy days in the Jewish calendar, and is sometimes more for children than adults. It is the one time of the year in some Jewish traditions when children are encouraged to participate in worship, making noises and hissing whenever Haman’s name is mentioned.

In some families, a three-cornered pastry called “Hamantaschen” or Haman’s Hat (literally Haman’s purse/pocket) are made. We did that for years, until it became next to impossible to find good poppy-seed filling. Solo brand changed their recipe and, well, no. Plus when I was flying, poppy seeds were off the menu. Now, at Redquarters, we make our own filling and cookies. It is a lot of work, but they are so good. Continue reading