D-Day plus 75

Grandpa Carl’s first visit to France began with the emergency bail-out signal. His plane had been hit by flack and the pilots could not keep it in the air (it was sort of on fire.) Windy, loud, dark, and dangerous was his impression of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He landed in a hedgerow, upside-down. Not the best way to begin an all expenses paid walking tour of western Europe.

He said he was lucky – he wasn’t in one of the gliders or in a tank. Tanks attracted unwanted attention. Continue reading


Taking It as It Is

It took me four hours of language lessons, plus slogging through a grammar book, to finally realize why I was fighting the Czech lessons: I wasn’t accepting the pattern. Once I stopped banging my head against that metaphorical wall and just started absorbing the language as it is, the problems eased a little. Not entirely, but a little. Continue reading

Too Much History and Too Many Flavors

I believe it was a commenter at According to Hoyt, a woman from Romania, who observed that you don’t want to live where a lot of history happens. The more I read about certain parts of the world, the more her words ring true. Central and Eastern Europe have a lot of history, and the historians, populists, and general population all interpret that history in all sorts of ways, sometimes at odds with each other and their neighbors. Continue reading

“Liebe Goldene Konfirmanten:” A meditation on faith

The organ-tour group happened to time our arrival in Leipzig to coincide with the start of Bach Week. We tried out two of the organs in Bach’s home church, paid our respects to his grave, bought Bach stuff from his museum, and discovered the mall that happens to have a train-station built into it. (Anyone who has seen the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof knows what I mean.) We also attended worship at St. Thomas, Bach’s church.

In addition to having a Bach choir there to sing part of the service and kick off Bach Week, the day also served to honor people’s confirmations, especially those who had been members of the church for 50 years or more – the Golden Confirmands. Continue reading

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

Small Self-Disciplines

“How did you get away with those pants?”

“Because the boss is gone and I’ve been avoiding [assistant manager] all day. Besides, who cares, right?”

I noticed. The first speaker was the only individual working behind the counter who was not wearing crisp, tidy khakis with a brown belt. The speaker wore grey, mid-calf-length pants, no belt, company shirt very loosely tucked with one shirt-tail in the process of escaping. The individual handed me my change and turned away to resume chatting. I counted the coins and bills twice. 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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