Monday, September 29, 2014


When my father-in-law, Joe, participated in track and field and football at Louisiana State University in the 1920s after World War I, athletes received no scholarships from the university and even had to buy their own uniforms.

Joe was quite an athlete and participated in the Inter-Allied Games in 1919 in Pershing Stadium, outside Paris, which were scheduled in lieu of Olympic Games at the end of WWI.

Why the university waited until Joe was in his 80s to induct him into the Hall of Fame, I can't say except for a guess that he was old and perhaps not long for the world, and they hoped for a legacy to the Athletic Department when he departed this life.

Since Joe's usual dress was farmer-casual khaki, and his most comfortable footwear was slip-on rubber galoshes, Tom bought him a new sports jacket and new shoes for the big event, which took place on the field at halftime in LSU stadium. When we met Joe at the stadium that evening, he was wearing his new sports jacket, a nice pair of slacks, and his rubber galoshes. Some concessions he would make, but concession only went so far. I don't believe he ever wore the shoes, because they were like new when we cleared out his house after he died at the age of 91.

Before the game, we had dinner with the other inductees, the chancellor, the athletic director, and other luminaries of the university. When Joe was introduced to the chancellor, he said, "Chancellor? What's that?" In his day, they were called presidents. We watched the game from the athletic director's VIP box which is indeed a fine spot to view a football game. Extended family were allotted tickets to the game in regular seating in the nosebleed section.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


From Informed Comment:
On a 36-month schedule for “destroying” ISIS, the president is already ceding his war to the next president, as was done to him by George W. Bush. That next president may well be Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state as Iraq War 2.0 sputtered to its conclusion. Notably, it was her husband whose administration kept the original Iraq War of 1990-1991 alive via no-fly zones and sanctions. Call that a pedigree of sorts when it comes to fighting in Iraq until hell freezes over.

If there is a summary lesson here, perhaps it’s that there is evidently no hole that can’t be dug deeper. How could it be more obvious, after more than two decades of empty declarations of victory in Iraq, that genuine “success,” however defined, is impossible? The only way to win is not to play. Otherwise, you’re just a sucker at the geopolitical equivalent of a carnival ringtoss game with a fist full of quarters to trade for a cheap stuffed animal.
In his televised address on Wednesday, September 10, 2014, President Obama said, "Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy." and, "...we will not get dragged into another ground war."  Whatever the label for the present war, it is now Obama's war. I thought it right that the US helped to rescue the Yazidis from the mountain where they were trapped and that we provide assistance and military equipment to the Kurds, who seem to me the sanest people in the territory, but we should stop there. Is anyone thinking through to possible consequences of bombing in Iraq and now in Syria?

What will happen if a pilot is shot down and captured by ISIL, and the worst happens? Surely there will be cries for further escalation. Turkey has taken in over 1 million refugees. Are we willing to welcome refugees from Syria and Iraq whose homes are destroyed by our bombs or who flee from their homes for fear of being bombed? While it's true that we created a number of the problems in Iraq, I don't see how bombing, killing, and wounding more Iraqis will solve them. ISIL is a brutal organization, but what is the end game? How will we know when ISIL is defeated?  What if ISIL is not destroyed in 36 months?

Iraq, as a country, was cobbled together by British colonial powers after WWI.  Kurds and Shi'ites tried to break away at the time, but the colonial powers quelled the revolt.  Sunni/Shi'ite divisions go further back than the colonial period.  Despite past interventions by Western powers, we cannot now fix the troubles in the Middle East.  In Iraq, the center will not hold, no matter how many bombs we drop, but the destruction proceeds, and who knows how or when it will all end?  We can be certain the end will not come before more innocents are killed, wounded, or driven from their homes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Tom Aswell, who writes at Louisiana Voice, has done excellent investigative reporting on the Jindal administration time and again, all the while putting big media in Louisiana to shame.
Former Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) Secretary Bruce Greenstein has been indicted by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office on nine counts of perjury stemming from a lengthy investigation of his involvement in the awarding of a $183 million contract to a company for which he once worked.

Greenstein is accused in four counts of lying under oath to the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee during his confirmation hearings of June 8 and June 17, 2011 and five counts of lying to an East Baton Rouge Parish Grand Jury on June 3 of this year.
With all the shenanigans of the Jindal administration, it’s hard for me to believe that nothing illegal took place, and the governor was completely out of the loop. He’s certainly run roughshod over Louisiana law and had to pull back several times when his policies were declared unconstitutional.

Of course, there must be proof of illegal activity (innocent until proven guilty), and justice must take its sometimes slow course, but, if I were Kristy Nichols, Commissioner of Administration, or anyone in Jindal’s inner circle, I’d be a bit worried. If I were Kathy Kliebert, Secretary of The Department of Health and Hospitals, I’d be worried. Since Jindal doesn’t brook disagreement, would he even pay attention to legal advice that was not to his liking?
As legal setbacks begin to mount for Gov. Bobby Jindal with the indictment of a former Jindal cabinet member coupled with an attorney general’s opinion that recently announced changes to state employee group health plans are most probably illegal, one political observer intimated to LouisianaVoice that Jindal’s political career “may be coming unraveled” even as he remains fixated on the White House.

The attorney general’s office on Tuesday (Sept. 23) released a legal opinion that could signal a devastating blow to the administration’s plans to overhaul health benefit plans offered through the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) to some 230,000 state employees, retirees and dependents.
Two stories in the same day, one of alleged criminality by a former member of Jindal's administration and another of possible gross mismanagement of changes to the Office of Group Benefits health plan, which will affect 230,000 state workers and retirees. It's about time the Jindal maladministration was brought up short!  Jindal and his inner circle must be reeling.  Then again, perhaps Jindal is too busy chasing his dream to become president to notice and will leave the troubles to be addressed by his staff.

Voters who prefer Republican governance, might want to have a look at the destruction wreaked by the Jindal maladministration and his enablers in the Louisiana State Legislature to see untrammeled, extremist conservative  governance in practice.  Would you want Jindal to be your president?

Friday, September 12, 2014

DIANA - FEBRUARY 21, 1997 - SEPTEMBER 12, 2014

Diana with St Francis

Today we made the difficult decision that Diana's quality of life had deteriorated to the point where it was time to let her go. She was still eating but not enough to keep her weight. Her usual weight varied between 30 and 34 pounds, and she was down to 22 pounds.  She had only one eye, but her eyesight in the eye was very poor.  She was deaf, with severe arthritis, and failing kidney function.  She'd take her medications for arthritis and kidney function only concealed in a piece of hot dog, and she was refusing the hot dog, so she was no longer getting relief from arthritis pain from the anti-inflammatory.
Our kind veterinarian, Dr Scott, at Ridgefield Animal Hospital agreed we were not making the wrong decision, that Diana had only a short while to live, and it was unlikely that she would have good days, along with bad days, as had been the case a few weeks ago.

Diana was with us for 17½ years, a good long run for a dog friend, and we are thankful for all the years together.  She was my companion on my walks until a couple of months ago, and I will very much miss our walkies together, but I have been missing her already.

Last Friday, I expressed my grief publicly on Facebook.  For me, Diana's life with us was pretty much over then.  Here's the picture I posted and what I said:

Tom and Diana in her better days
We are watching our dog Diana, who is 17 years old, deteriorate slowly. It's painful and depressing to see our once lively companion in such a sad way. She sleeps most of the time, but she still eats, drinks, and potties outside. She's losing weight because she eats much less than when she was healthier. Diana is deaf, has only one eye, and is nearly blind in the one. She has severe arthritis, but we give her anti-inflammatory medication every day, and she doesn't seem to be in pain. She's also on medication for failing kidney function.

Our benchmarks are if she stops eating, or can't get up, or can't walk, then it's time. Also, the weight loss is a concern. Most likely, we will pay a visit next week to one of our wonderful and compassionate veterinarians for an opinion about her weight.

Diana is in love with Tom at the moment. On the days when he works at the boat museum, she is obviously depressed, doesn't eat, and sleeps most of the day until he comes home in the late afternoon. On the days he's home, she eats better and follows him around wherever he goes until she decides it's time for a nap.
Tom and I are both at peace with the decision, though we know there will be sad times ahead. We will spread her ashes in our yard and garden, which has become a virtual pet cemetery for our dog, Rusty, and the several cats who have shared our lives over the years, but, this time, Tom wanted to be spared the burial.

St Francis, Diana, and azealeas
Rest in peace, Diana.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


September Midday Mass

The tall old priest entered the half-lit sacristy,
fresh from his usual Tuesday morning studies.
The fair-haired acolyte with the bad complexion
was ready, vested, standing in the dimness
quietly. The old priest noticed he was sniffing
and his eyes were red. A failed romance,
he thought; but keeping his own rule on chit-chat
in the sacristy, vested silently.
The old familiar motions and the prayers
displaced whatever thoughts he might have had;
the only dialogue to break the stillness was
the rote exchange of formal preparation.

Then, in one motion as he slipped his hand
beneath the pale green veil, the other hand
upon the burse, he lifted vested vessels,
turned and followed in the sniffing server’s
wake. Eyes lowered to the holy burden
in his hand, he failed to notice that
the chapel for this midday feria —
on other days like this with one or two
at most — was full of worshippers; until
he raised his eyes, and saw the pews were filled —
but undeterred began the liturgy:
the lessons and the gospel from last Sunday,
his sermon brief, but pointed, on the texts.
It wasn’t till the acolyte began
the people’s prayers, and choked out words of planes
that brought a city’s towers down, and crashed
into the Pentagon, and plowed a field
in Pennsylvania, that the old priest knew
this was no ordinary Tuesday in
September —
not ordinary time at all,
that day he missed the towers’ fall.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
March 8, 2008


I took the photo the other evening at dusk. Ever since I saw the first pictures of asperatus clouds, I've watched the sky, hoping to see the formations. The clouds in the picture are not as dramatic as some pictures I've seen, but I believe they may qualify as asperatus.

Asperatus clouds resemble waves in the sea.  The clouds do not produce storms, but they tend to form near thunderstorm clouds. On the left in the photo near the tree is the top of a thunderstorm cloud. 
Undulatus asperatus (or alternately, asperatus) is a cloud formation, proposed in 2009 as a separate cloud classification by the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society.

The clouds are most closely related to undulatus clouds. Although they appear dark and storm-like, they tend to dissipate without a storm forming.

As of June 2009 the Royal Meteorological Society is gathering evidence of the type of weather patterns in which undulatus asperatus clouds appear, so as to study how they form and decide whether they are distinct from other undulatus clouds.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


A friend or family member must have recommended Disney's Saving Mr. Banks to me, because I doubt I would have selected it on Netflix on the basis of reviews.  Whoever it was, I'm sorry to give the movie a thumbs-down rating.  The flashback scenes from Helen Goff's (P L Travers' given name) childhood in Australia, with Colin Farrell in the role of her alcoholic father and Annie Rose Buckley as Helen, were the one redeeming quality of the film, but, as written, that part of the story of Helen's early life is entirely predictable.  The lovely scenery in Australia provided a stark contrast to the ugliness of Hollywood, where Travers, played by Emma Thompson, travels to supervise and edit the final version of the script for the Disney version of her Mary Poppins tale.

Thompson is excellent in her portrayal of Travers as written in the Disney script, a prim, dour, unreasonable, domineering spinster, but I wonder why an actor of Thompson's stature agreed to play the role, which is a travesty of the real-life character of the author.  During her life, Travers had intense relationships with both men and women, thus she was hardly the prim spinster as portrayed in the movie.  Though it's true Travers' personality was prickly, she led an unconventional life for a woman of her time.  The author died at the age of 96, estranged from her adopted son and grandchildren.  According to her grandchildren, Travers "died loving no one and with no one loving her." Alas.

Although Tom Hanks performance received good reviews from some critics, I cringed when I watched his labored, cartoonish, mugging, grimacing portrayal of Walt Disney.  Before writing, I searched on YouTube for videos of Disney's introductions to his TV show, wondering if he could possibly be that amateurish.  He was not, but was rather a better, smoother performer than Hanks' character in the film. Sadly, Paul Giamatti wasted his considerable talent in his role as Travers' chauffeur while she was in LA. 

Each time the movie switched from Travers' childhood in Australia back to her time in Hollywood, I couldn't help but think, "This is loathsome," and that is not often my opinion about films I have chosen to see.   I rated the movie two stars for the scenes in Australia from Traver's early life.

The psychologizing at the end of the film which suggests that Mr Banks was a stand-in for Travers' father and that the writer experienced a therapeutic cartharsis as she watched the Disney movie, with the result that her alcoholic father was redeemed in her eyes, is pure nonsense.  Travers disliked the film intensely, objected to the sweetening of the character of Mary Poppins, and refused to give Disney the rights to any of the other Mary Poppins books.

Monday, September 8, 2014


The mushrooms have been cut  because the lawn had to be mown, alas. The mushroom above is about 4 inches in diameter and the curled mushroom below is about 8 inches.  Though the two don't look much alike, they were growing fairly close to each other. They grew inches in diameter by the day.

The stems and undersides of the mushrooms are pictured below.  I think they may be the same species at different stages of growth.


“We are going to have to find effective partners on the ground to push back against ISIL,” Obama said, using the government’s acronym for the Islamic State and referring specifically to its sanctuary in Syria. “The moderate coalition there is one that we can work with. We have experience working with many of them. They have been, to some degree, outgunned and outmanned, and that’s why it’s important for us to work with our friends and allies to support them more effectively.
Who the hell are the moderates in Syria that will be trustworthy allies, Mr President? Good luck with finding them and keeping them as allies.

Oh wait! We can relax now. The CIA is on the case.
There are indications that the hard work to build such a force is already underway, overseen by the CIA, despite remarks by Obama last month disparaging the moderate U.S.-backed Syrian opposition as “doctors, farmers, pharmacists, and so forth.”
Where's an eye-roll emoticon when you need one? 

To intervene in Syria would be escalation on a scale that I would not want to see. We've not been asked. We'd be fighting ISIL, but would that mean Assad suddenly becomes our ally?  Before the rapid territorial advances of ISIL in Syria, we wanted Assad out. In today's speak, we were for Assad before we were against him. Are we once again to be for him? I can't keep up.

If we are going to be in a state of perpetual war, we need to reinstitute the draft, with everyone of suitable age eligible for call to duty, and no exemptions except for those with physical or mental disabilities.


Yesterday morning, my first laugh from the Sunday paper came not from the comics but rather from news of Gov. Jindal, who has not decided whether he's running for president, but is up there in Iowa and New Hampshire acting a lot like a candidate.
Stratham, N.H. — On a Saturday afternoon edging toward Louisiana hot, Gov. Bobby Jindal climbed onto a farm trailer in front of a weathered barn and spoke about party unity and the American dream to a couple hundred Republicans scattered across the grass by a cornfield.
Bobby Jindal in a farm trailer. Ha ha.

Oh wait!
This was no crowd of yokels...
All right, then. Jindal will have to work hard to stay on message - I should rather say "on messages" - different messages for different groups in the various states, because, so far as I can tell, he has no core principles but is a reed in the wind that goes with the wind wherever it blows.
In each of the last two national elections, a Christian-right candidate has scored a surprising success in Iowa only to crash and burn in New Hampshire, where independents as well as registered Republicans can vote in the primary.
Watch your step, Govna. It's is a minefield up there.