Sunday, March 31, 2013


With moving, packing and unpacking, you look at items that you have perhaps gone years without really seeing. Some have been in boxes, some just hung on the wall and you didn't look at them. Books, a card, a ticket to a Twins or Royals game. A Playbill from Broadway, a photo of a walk across the Golden Gate bridge, a wedding, things that trigger memories as vivid as yesterday.

Several boxes have been uncovered containing old pictures, and we have to confess that we don't know what to do with them. In Kansas City, we had a huge basement and a huge attic to just set aside the things we didn't want to see and use daily, but that we couldn't bear to throw or give away. Now, there is no basement (if there were, it would be full of water given the water table) and the attic is...well, just an attic. Besides, it gets hot in Kansas City, but it gets really hot in Virginia.

Uncovered a picture taken of me when I was about eight years old. Buzz cut hair, old tee shirt, quite a ragamuffin look. I also opened a high school annual. Both of these show why I tend to wear my hair a bit full on the sides! Ears. The high school annual reveals a black and white picture of the basketball team and the way the flash photo was taken shows ten or twelve boys lined up with various expressions and blobs of bright white attached to the sides of their heads. Their ears are bright semaphors, bobbing out there to catch the eye. As one of our teammates said of another, "If you stuck an egg beater up his ass he'd fly."

One of the pictures we found is of, apparently, my paternal grandmother's parents from Sweden. It is the typical somber, sepia-toned picture of the late 1800's, my copy has hung on the wall for many years and is extremely well-preserved, being in the neighborhood of 150 years old. Striking, and accentuated by the hair style, are...yep, I come by them honestly.

The great-grandparents' picture is one of those that you see daily, but that doesn't exactly register as an observance or a conscious act, like, "Oh, there are the great-grandparents again." However, when we were in Sweden, we put a bouquet of flowers on their graves in the little churchyard. The church where my grandmother was confirmed. And then we went to a buffet dinner served at some relatives' house, an older generation who did not speak English. Their children were quite proficient in English which was handy since all I could say was "Tak su micket," which is probably spelled wrong but got across the message, "Thanks so much," but didn't carry the message when I needed to use the bathroom.

Right there on their wall in Skurup, Sweden was the same oval picture in the same frame as the one back home, ears and all, and it turned out that the people in the picture were their great-grandparents, also.

My high-school friend and Brazillian correspondent, Gerry, has been writing about his recent discovery of genealogical information, most of which was not even a hint for most of this life. He also has been recounting (and he writes well, so it is enjoyable as well as informative) stories about his grandparents, and especially about his grandfather, Stanley Pilakowski. Since I knew a lot of the people in the stories, it has been immensely enjoyable.

Gerry has posed the question about the way that generation, the ones born in the 19th century, had a taciturn, distant, un-engaging emotional detachment. As a child, and Gerry was always quite verbal, I think, this had to be almost a rejection, and it is one that I can identify with since my paternal grandfather (the only one I knew as the other grandparents were long dead by the time I arrived) was very quiet. I remember yammering on to him and receiving one syllable answers.

His thesis, that emotional detachment was necessary to maintain your sanity and balance when so many family members died--it was almost routine--has a lot of logic. I remember "visiting the cemeteries" with my mother, who gathered flowers from her large garden, prepared arrangements and placed them on the graves of family members and others in several cemeteries every Memorial Day, or as she often called it, Decoration Day. One cemetery was just a couple of miles from the farm, on a hill overlooking the valley, called the "Lingle Cemetery" after the people who lived nearby and who cared for it for decades. There were so many headstones marking the deaths of little ones, children taken by one disease or another, and I remember thinking at the time that it had to be devastating to lose those little people who had unique personalities and were loved and cared for by someone.

The book I recently read about President Garfield mentions how emotionally distraught he became over the death of his young son. Earlier generations were not immune to the losses, but they may have insulated themselves. I think the somber expressions on the faces in the old photos reinforces our impressions of that distant, unemotional side.

I'm not sure I buy into the conclusions that people are shaped by their cultures to the extent that many have believed. Certain family characteristics are either shaped, squashed, accentuated or brightened by cultures, but I am a firm believer that people are "born that way." When I took psych courses in college, it was fashionable to believe that nurture overcame nature. Personal experience has led me to the conclusion that nurture can influence, but nature wins. Seems that is one of the fundamental differences between political liberals and conservatives and a central theme for those who believe that everyone can be rehabilitated.

Science and observation can explain why the shape and size of the ears are passed down by genetics, but how about personalities, criminal behavior and a sense of humor?  Or the sound of a laugh! The epicanthal fold is a "family" characteristic among most Asians. An average IQ that is one standard deviation (or more) higher that the average of the general population is a characteristic of Jews. Where does the "nature" end?

What are we going to do with the pictures? I hope we find a good place for them as they remind me of the people we were, the people we knew, the experiences we had. Someone said that when an old man dies, it is like burning down a library. The pictures go with him, but we will keep a few for a while.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cyprus II

The dust has settled a bit, and there are more facts revealed. While my friend Gerry has been reading Pat Buchanan and admitting that the experience did not give him apoplexy, I actually read a column by Paul Krugman and agreed with him...until his typical "...That's what's the matter with Republicans..." drivel at the end. So, we have both confessed.

I was pleased that Krugman evidently thought the subject of Cyprus and its potential actions were important enough to talk about, despite the fact that the Cypriot (yeah, that's what you call them) economy is about the size of a good sized city in the US.

Here's the scoop, as far as I have been able to figure it out with the help of a lot of stuff, certainly with Krugman's assistance:

We have heard about the rogue nations who offer scoundrels and politicians (I hear Will Rogers saying, "I just repeated myself") a repository for their ill-gotten gains. Come, ye, all criminals, money launderers and political thieves (whoops, there I go again) and deposit in our banks. Cayman Islands, Panama, some others and now Cyprus. Their deposits far exceeded what you would expect for an economy of that size.

The real estate market over-heated at the same time, and no one has exactly placed the blame on the irresponsible banking system, but it appears likely. Such banking activity is a de-stabilizing force for all the other economies in the world, and since Cyprus is a member of the European Economic Union, it was even worse. The Euro currency was threatened. And, like all normal wastrels, the government of Cyprus wanted the EU to bail them out, and the EU, led by Germany, was reluctant to do so.

So, the scheme that got my blood going was hatched--just take a bunch of money from whoever was silly enough to deposit in a Cypriot bank and believe the idea of a government guarantee of those deposits. Of course I have heard of taxes, inflation and other ways of reducing the wealth of the public, but this was blatant and a bad, bad precedent.

The people of Cyprus thought it was a bad idea, as well, and eventually a deal was cut that retained the confiscation provision, but in a different form and in a manner that did not involve the insured depositors. This is good.

Meanwhile, the economy of Cyprus is in a bad way with the largest segment, banking, weakened and real estate in a tailspin.

Perhaps the lesson will be that rogue nations do not have the latitude to mess with legitimate economies (yes, I know Russian crooks were the biggest depositors and that economy can hardly be ranked as one of the most "legitimate") and that the police actions will come swifter and more decisive when politicians run amok.

I still have a question, though--how did Cyprus get accepted into the EU in the first place?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Shoot, I barely know where Cyprus is, and if I had to navigate an aircraft to it, we would be in trouble because my knowledge is only general.

Understandably, I didn't really get too interested in the unrest there recently...until I read an article that described why the people of Cyprus are upset. The government is in dire financial condition, and the European Union has been trying to figure out a way to solve that dilemma. The Cypriots (is that what you call them?) want a bail out, ala Greece. The rest of Europe said "Wait a minute."

Here's what they came up with, and what the new president is doing: the European leaders asked the President to confiscate/steal/whatever about 10% of the money that people and businesses have on deposit with all the banks in Cyprus.

Have you ever heard of anything like that? How dangerous. Imagine if our President were to simply say that the government was going to proceed to close all the banks and when they reopen, we would have 10% less money than when they closed.

Dangerous precedent.

I am going to find out more about this, and if it turns out to be different than what is described, and I hope it is, I will let you know.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Travel and the Internet

I have to go to California in a couple of weeks. I spent hours yesterday, finding the best way to get there (could take two days, 14 hours, three planes) and got it arranged for about 8 hours, two planes. Same on the way back. Lots of early mornings and late nights, though.

So, today, thought it would be simple to get a car in both places. Well, finally got a car for total of $134 for two days in San Francisco and a car for total of $89 for four days in San Diego. And spent a lot of time doing it.

Linda remarked, "That's what you get when the internet replaces an industry." It's a good thing my time isn't worth much.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Honestly, this could be our house.

Trying something new, hope it works, adding a picture.


For those of you who are having problems posting, it may be due to not signing on to a gmail account and it may have something to do with your security settings.

Thanks for the efforts, anyway.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

President Garfield Assassination

My first ebook, Destiny of the Republic turned out to describe a President who was reluctantly nominated and yet made an impact despite his very short term in office.

Garfield was, by all accounts, an outstanding individual. The irony was that the bullet wound was likely not lethal--his doctors killed him by constantly sticking their fingers and dirty instruments in his wound. Despite exposure to the teachings of Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery and a true disciple of antiseptic practice, Garfield's doctors didn't believe in germs.

He died of infections throughout his body introduced by the doctors, but lingered for over two months.

The book had a reasonable balance between the ugly physical conditions of the White House and medicine at the time and the story of a remarkable man. I was left yearning for more about him, just as the country was left yearning for more of James Garfield who seemed to have a calming, healing influence on the country. Such a presence and the unifying effect was apparently much needed at that time, so soon after the Civil War.

Thanks to Gerry for the recommendation.