Saturday, March 15, 2014


On the whereabouts of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, why were there no cell phone transmissions? Especially if it kept on flying for hours?

None of the news I have read refers to cell phones at all. I know you would not have the power to reach a cell phone tower from the middle of the Indian Ocean, but some of the claims and theories indicate it was over land some of the time.

Just a thought that I had heard nothing about.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Music Biz

A friend who has been connected with the music business most of his life sent me this. He had to get a real job, though--financing real estate. Refer to my "Irony" post.

While this is not exactly the Hunter S. Thompson quotation (see below), it is a fair reproduction. The last sentence, "There's also..." is an addition and it was originally about the TV business.

Michael McNamara Actually this is a misquote from "Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the '80s" (1988). The real quote: "The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason. Which is more or less true. For the most part, they are dirty little animals with huge brains and no pulse." The "negative side" tag was also invented. But its interesting how this can be applied easily to so many other industries, no?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Putin and Hillary

Bob Gates' book, Duty, has been largely quoted out of context and misinterpreted by the press. It must be frustrating and you wonder if they read it or just "speed read" it.. If you are an ultraconservative, you will not like his good relationship and approval of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He didn't like everything they did, (he was liberal in the criticism of HIS OWN ERRORS!), he didn't like the Obama White House staff, but generally he acknowledged good things, pointed out the errors.

Same with President Bush. The liberals will not like his portrayal of an honest, efficient and capable man. Nor will they approve of his high regard for Condi Rice.

Gates can't catch a break when it comes to Veeps, though. The press appropriately picked up on his assessment of Joe Biden, "...wrong on every foreign policy issue for four decades." He was not at all a fan of the positions of Dick Cheney and points out what a hard-liner he was, but also points out that Cheney was virtually always over ruled by President Bush.

I had breakfast with Dick Cheney long before he was Vice President and I thought that, in person, he was the Messiah. If he had told me that it was time to move to South America and drink some Kool Aid, I would probably have done so. Mesmerizing, the most powerful, almost hypnotic person I have ever encountered in person.

If a Republican running for office had compared Putin to Hitler at a critical time in a touchy crisis, their campaign would have been finished. The press would never let up. But with Hillary? Just fine. Not a problem. Remember Romney's comment (again, in a closed room) that there were 49% of the people who would not vote for him?

We have to admit, her assessment is pretty spot on--Hitler did blow smoke up Chamberlain's skirt. A lot. And we have a similar situation, as Putin is more like a Mafia don than a modern Western head of state. And Putin seems to have Obama pretty well sized up, sort of like Hitler and Chamberlain. I am remembering one of Churchill's biting observations about Chamberlain. "I was following an empty car, it stopped and Neville Chamberlain got out."

The timing of Hillary's comment was awful. Still, when listening to the news, there is no mention of the underlying issues, the mistreatment of "historical minorities" in EU countries. Crimea is 58% ethnic Russian. The rest of the eastern part of Ukraine, less than 20%, but still a pretty big "minority."

Caution: the "minorities" in the US are not like the minorities in central Europe. In many of those instances, the minorities are the productive few.


Jerry D sent this in regard to the Condi Rice thing:

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."

Bertrand Russell

Condoleezza Rice

I'm not going to reprint the whole article, but just learned that the FACULTY at Rutgers University has passed a resolution imploring the university's Board of Governors "to rescind its misguided decision" to invite Condoleezza Rice as its commencement speaker.

They said she does not "embody moral authority and exemplary citizenship."

Now, I guess I would not be so surprised at something this outlandish from students, but the faculty? Led by such "experts" on this subject as chemistry and French professors, they said it would be ok to have a president or former president, but not her.

So far, the Board of Governors is standing its ground.

If I were a New Jersey taxpayer, would I want my tax dollar paying these salaries?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Spoiler alert--this involves politics and economics. My opinions, so watch out!


The EU has offered partnership to the Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia and we should examine why they would do something that stupid elsewhere, but let's just talk about Ukraine. Because that is where they are killing people.

One of the driving forces, and probably the main one, is old and typically ignored by the US and some of the other "nation builders" and world powers. Ethnicity. The eastern part of Ukraine is ethnically Russian and Russian is the first language of those citizens. These "historical minorities" exist all over Europe, and seem to create problems in a lot of places, like Greece, Slovakia and Romania where historical minorities are routinely abused by the majorities.

The rest of Ukraine, the majority, had Russian stuffed down their throats by the Soviets and have long-standing, serious resentments.

When protests forced the resignation of Ukranian president Yanukovic, the first move by the new powers was to revoke the law that gave historical minorities (the Russians in this case) some official rights to their language. This revocation came one day after Yanukovic's resignation.

So why is the EU involved? A couple of things--first, the EU has stood by without interference as historical minorities have rights removed. For example, use of the Hungarian language by minorities in Slovakia and Moldova MAY result in fines of €5,000, or about one year's salary. The EU says such laws are "within the EU rules." Do we now see why the Russian minority in Ukraine is worried? And then there is natural gas.


About 20% of EU natural gas is piped through Ukraine from Russia. Some EU countries are more affected than others, but long-term conflict could interrupt that flow and throw the fragile EU economy into a very, very bad tailspin. These are the things that create world-wide recessions.


From what I have read, the only solution would involve backing off from the barricades. And the only way that may happen is for the EU to withdraw its offer of partnership to Ukraine. That would allow, perhaps, the Russian minority to see a way out. Let's hope cooler heads prevail. Don't expect the US administration to understand much about this, so I don't know where the solution will come from.

Monday, March 3, 2014


My guess that the first time I actually named irony was when I read, and someone helped me understand, "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry. If you remember, the young married couple had no money, but wanted so much to give each other a meaningful gift at Christmas.

She had beautiful hair that reached below her knees, so he bought her a set of combs that she coveted. She, ironically, had sold her hair to buy him a platinum chain for the heirloom watch he carried. (Now you remember?) He had sold the watch to buy the combs.

We hear this word misused a lot, but I came upon a true irony recently as I was reflecting on my enjoyment of symphonic music. I decided to track down Tom Lewis, the immensely talented conductor of the Sioux City orchestra who had introduced me to so many of the pieces I enjoy so much. He now lives in North Carolina, but has retired from conducting--you see, he is nearly deaf.

How ironic.

Saturday, March 1, 2014



I don't think I ever was acquainted with anyone else who homesteaded. Probably only knew a few who stepped barefoot on a snake, but that's a later story.

Frank and Ada moved into the Clark house, about a half mile west of our place. It wasn't that far, a bit more than half mile, especially when riding a tall, registered American Saddlebred mare such as the one my mother was riding that stormy Sunday afternoon.

So now we have three semi-related stories, and I will take them in their chronological order, not that it is important to do so. Just arbitrarily starting with Homesteading.


Homesteading was pretty well completed in my part of Nebraska and east of there by the early 1880's. Grandpa Sam, my paternal great grandfather, bought the place that is still in the family in 1884, one year after it was homesteaded, but Nance county was late to the party because it had been designated an Indian reservation. Genoa was founded in 1857, mostly to serve the Indian population and the surrounding areas, but the settlers had been kept at bay for many years.

Finally, the Pawnee tribe was packed up and sent to Oklahoma where they eventually had land either stripped by the Oklahoma land rush or land that had oil under it. The beautiful territory that is southeastern Oklahoma is still mostly "Indian land." But the farm land around Genoa was deemed too valuable for them to remain.

The homesteading spread west, and young men, mostly, sought their fortune in the wide open spaces of Wyoming and Montana. Jerry and Pat had a picture on their wall that we took on the "Jones Place," an abandoned homestead barn in the Powder River country of Montana. This homesteading persisted into the 20th century, although  the Depression and drought of the mid-1930's brought a practical end to "farming" and small ranching in Wyoming.

Somewhere in the 1920's, somewhere in Wyoming, Frank Pickett homesteaded. Since I found his stories to be absolutely fascinating, he related all of this to me and now, half a century later, the stories come back to me.

He was born in the early 1890's, served in the Great War, survived the flu that claimed more American soldiers' lives than enemy activity and decided to make his fortune in Wyoming. They battled dry land, harsh weather and the impracticality of trying to make a living on 160 acres in Wyoming versus 160 acres in Iowa or Illinois. A "quarter" was just not going to cut it economically. Plus, there were infestations of locusts and plentiful pack rats which he told me he would shoot with his pistol for sport...inside the house. The houses were nothing more than lean-to shacks, bachelor quarters, so it isn't quite like it sounds. Without telephones or electricity and without cars or tractors, it was a throwback to an earlier time.

After working all week, they would "do chores" early (always a cow, maybe some hogs), saddle up and meet with neighbor men to ride for hours to a dance. Dance into the wee hours, saddle up and ride back the rest of the night to work all day the next day.

Not long after the place was homesteaded, the reality set in and Frank left Wyoming. I didn't know what he did for many years after that, but he was retired from the post office by the time I first knew him about 1960.

He taught me to play cribbage (he must have been a terrible teacher because I am a terrible cribbage player), took me to my first round of golf, (ditto on the poor teacher thing) and told me lots of good stories.


Flying Glory was a tall, beautiful, athletic bay mare with a colt. The American Saddlebred is known as the "peacock of horses" because of their regal bearing and ability to perform showy gaits. She had two colts when we owned her, the names forgotten now, and the oldest one perished in quick sand after we sold it. A real shame.

She was my mother's horse, and a fine animal.

I mentioned that Frank and Ada lived in the Clark place west of us, and the event that is, again, vivid in my memory happened on a spring Sunday. I know it was a Sunday because no work was being done in the middle of the day, just chores.

Before Frank and Ada, that place was owned by Jim and Grace Clark and, after their passing, by their sons, Jim and Tracy. I don't think I ever knew old Jim, but I remember Grace cruising past our house on her way to St. Edward to teach, driving her Model T Ford. Young Jim, on the other hand, was quite a modern man with the latest cars (he owned a Hudson) and a Jeep that he had put together after WWII after buying it surplus, still packed in cosmoline.

Brother Tracy was the horseman, always buying and rehabbing horses with behavior problems who eventually became an equine veterinary professor at Iowa State. Jim was good with horses, also, and that Sunday was breaking a young buckskin. The colt was skittish and with a storm brewing dark in the afternoon sky, my mother volunteered to ride back with him to calm the colt. They took off, and just as they reached Jim's driveway, the rain was approaching from the hills to the southwest. My mother turned for home, Flying Glory was not happy to be away from her colt that was still in the barn at home, and when the first big cold drops hit her rump, she took off.

My mother was an accomplished if unenthusiastic horsewoman, but there was no way that she could rein in that mare on her way back to the barn and her colt. By this time, the rain was coming down pretty good with a few hail stones thrown in and that mare was flattened out with her ears pinned back, just like her name, "Flying Glory." We, my dad, my brother, the hired man and me were all standing in the alleyway of the barn with the doors slid wide open. The horse and my mother came into the driveway, through the mud and into that alleyway going way too fast. Glory sat down on her hindquarters and since her hooves were wet, slid on the polished planks the entire length of the alleyway, finally crashing into the wall at the end. It was a miracle she didn't fall because if she had, it would have most certainly caused serious injury to my mother and probably the horse.

She stood up, my mother still on board, walked to the door where her colt was nickering and waited for someone to get that stupid saddle off! A traumatic injury avoided, to horse and rider, the event is now recorded only in my memory as everyone else is gone.


Somebody thought it was a good idea to insulate the Clark house, and that it would furthermore be a good idea to use local products. That is apparently how the Clark house came to be insulated with ground up corn cobs blown into the exterior walls.

Like so many good intentions, this one was fraught with unintended consequences as the cobs had some corn on them, the corn was a banquet-in-waiting for mice and the mice were just the ticket for snakes. Eventually, there were snakes everywhere--Ada opened her cupboard one time just to have one tumble out in front of her.

To be fair, they were just bull snakes, harmless and beneficial, but for someone like myself, they were still snakes and I just don't like 'em.

Frank complained about the snakes a bit, but Ada was in my camp and they eventually moved from the house because of the snakes. During their stay, however, Frank told me about getting up to go to the bathroom and, while walking barefoot across the floor stepping on one of the snakes. Well, at that point, for me, further progress toward the bathroom would have been pointless. Also, I would have devised a way to never get out of bed in the dark ever again!

So many of these details reside in my brain. No wonder there isn't room to remember what I had for breakfast or the name of someone I met recently. The more recent memories get bumped and these old ones just stay in their original places. Maybe I will dredge up some memories of my horse, "Klinker." Until then.