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.

Continue reading

How Do You Define a “Western”

I was at a “pops” concert this past weekend that was all music about the American West, either tone poems, cowboy poetry set to music, or themes from TV and films. Which was a wonderful break from everything else going on in my world, and got me thinking about what exactly is a western?

This ties in a little with the fuss about a new slogan for the University of Wyoming, and the university deciding to stand their ground and not bow to political correctness. There’s a stereotype of a “western,” that seems to include 1. only Anglo-Saxons, 2. horses, 3. cattle and cowboys, 4. women are saints or sinners (the harlot with a heart of gold…), 5. abuse of non-White people, 6. Indians shown as Red Savages and 7. farmers are the victims (if there are any farmers around). So Zorro, the Cisco Kid, and a lot of other movies and TV shows are not Westerns. Continue reading

Sneaking up on Thirty Years

1989. Thirty years ago.

I really, really have trouble accepting that thirty years have passed since Tiananmen Square, Hungary opening its border with Austria, the Berlin Wall opening, Vaclav Havel and the Czechoslovaks peacefully ousting the Communists, and the Romanians not-so-peacefully ousting Ceausescu.

I do remember being absolutely stunned and feeling the entire world reel. Because the very thought of Germany not being divided, of people able to pass easily through Berlin… It wasn’t possible. There had always been a Warsaw Pact and an Iron Curtain, and there always would be. Because that’s just how the world was. Continue reading