Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thinking About War

I ear-read (Carol's term for audiobook listening) The Iliad a couple weeks ago.   It occurred to me then that all war is about wealth, be it money, property, power or combinations thereof.  Back then though the kings were warriors.  They went to battle along with the troops, suffered wounds, killed, and were killed.  All for wealth and power.

If you've never read The Iliad, I recommend it.  Though it seems endless when you first get into it, it is a compelling narrative of the cruelty, stupidity, and overall cost of war.  It is also a chronicle of monumental egos, manipulative gods, and the general irrationality of men.

There are probably as many translations of The Iliad as there are recordings of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.  The one I listened to was by Caroline Alexander.

Here's the gist of the poem as my old brain has processed it - with apologies to Homer.

The Achaeans (Greeks) are almost a decade into a war with Troy,  nominally over the abduction of Helen, wife of Menelaus, King Agamemnon's brother.  During this time Agamemnon and the Achaeans take a side trip to sack Chryse.  King A. claims beautiful Chryseis, the daughter of Chryses, a priest of Apollo, as his prize, while Achilles claims equally stunning Briseis and promptly falls in love with her.

When Chryseis' dad tells Apollo about this, the big guy drops a plague on the Achaeans.  Agamemnon consults a prophet and finds out that it's the priest's doing, so he returns Chryseis to her dad.  Desiring a gorgeous prize fit for a king, Agamemnon then demands Briseis from Achilles, who relents but gets really pissy and returns to his tent refusing to fight anymore.

Without Achilles the Achaeans are getting the crap kicked out of them.  Turns out the head God, Zeus, decided to make the Trojan warrior Hector invincible ... until Achilles got over his hissy fit, at which time Hector was toast.  There's more but I don't want to spoil the ending.

It is evident in this story that, other than as warriors, the principles: have the intelligence of pocket lint, egos  as enormous as DT's, and no clear idea why the war is happening.

 "All war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal."  claims John Steinbeck.  It was true then and it's true now, we just have bigger spears.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Coffee and Cropdusting on a Bayou Morning

Welcome to a Cajun Country morning.

Our son's home just outside Patterson Louisiana (The Cypress Capital of the World) lies on three beautiful acres about a hundred feet from Bayou Teche, the meandering waterway made famous by James Lee Burke's novels.

As bayous go, it is rather long - 125 miles.  It begins in Port Barre, about 25 miles north of Lafayette. From there it flows southwest about 5 miles before making a looping turn east to snake its way toward Breaux Bridge.  If you want to take a scenic ride, LA31 tracks the bayou from halfway around that looping turn, almost to New Iberia.  At New Iberia The Teche turns east southeast, accompanied by LA182 - The Old Spanish Trail - until it empties into the Atchafalaya River about 5 miles from the house.

We spend mornings at the house sitting on the screened porch  in back with the view of the Teche you see above.

 Most of yesterday morning a crop duster worked the many acres of sugarcane across 182 in front of the house.  The plane made its turns over the Teche not many feet above the cypress at the edge of the bayou. Though I'm not in love with the thought of the toxic stuff that emanates from the many nozzles under its belly when it sprays the field, the maneuvers as it blanketed the cane field fascinated me.

I watched every time it flew over the roof dipped its wing for the hard turn above the Teche. Then I hurried to the corner of the house to watch the plane drop so close that its landing wheels nearly touched the tips of the cane as it turned on the spray.  At the end of its return pass, the plane accelerated and climbed sharply to clear the trees in the front yard then leveled off for its 180 over the Teche and began its descent for the next round.

The work was repetitive, much like mowing hay in a field, only with the extra parameters of altitude and wind.  One wonders if it's possible to zone out, to let body memory take over as in mowing hay, while the mind goes elsewhere. Perhaps the pilot imagines doing strafing runs against a sugarcane army.

I tried to get a picture of the plane as it passed overhead because it looked kind of old.  Here's the best one I could get -

Not good but it was clear enough for me to do a little research on the craft.  

Here's Grumman's photo - it's an  Ag-cat G-164B.

With it's maiden flight in 1957, it was the first plane developed specifically for agricultural use.  That made the machine flying overhead 60 years old.  

Time to get some breakfast.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Not Even Close

The past couple weeks have not been my best.  It all started when Carol and I bought a comfy old, heavy reclining chair from a neighbor.  He and his son moved it into my utility trailer, and I hauled it to our place and backed it into Carol’s garage (it’s the one attached to the house.)  I managed to wrestle it down the trailer ramp and, using a short board, got it up the single step into the hallway at the top of our basement stairs. 

One would be correct to say it went downhill from there.
First: Carol left for a meeting.
Second: I reasoned that if a ramp worked to get the recliner up one step, a longer ramp would work to get it down the basement stairs. 
Third: I actually had a plank long enough.
Fourth: I decided I could do it alone.
Fifth and probably most significant: It weighs nearly 100 pounds – I weigh 185.
Twenty-four or so hours after the event (the recliner is in place in the TV room downstairs) I was at my doctor in intense pain with a swollen left ankle.  X-rays (no breaks), pain meds, and finally an antibiotic to handle an infection that was spreading up my leg, and it seems that I’ll live to be stupid again. 
While in pain and before my visit to the doc, I tried for some sympathy from my elder daughter so I called and admitted the recliner saga.  “You are in great shape for a seventy-five year old but you have a fourteen year old brain!” was her response.  Next I tried my loving wife.  “Dumbest thing I ever did,” I moaned.  “No, it isn’t,” was her response.
When I related that last exchange to my doctor and friend, he laughed and added “It’s probably not in the top ten.”   
So as I get back to what passes for normal in my body, I can’t help but ponder former missteps.  I’m not able to come up with even as many as five, no chance for ten.  That’s probably a function of selective memory and that some of them were so … whatever, that I have self-prescribed amnesia. 
Here are a few that I remember:
-       Borrowing my brother’s customized ’51 Ford and flipping it down a hillside while tuning the radio.
-       Hunting for cobras one night in Pakistan while plotting the tiny orbit of Polaris to locate true north. My weapon was a five-foot copper grounding rod.
-       Overindulging one night and throwing up my removable bridge along with whatever else then flushing it down the toilet.  My dentist installed a permanent bridge, making that my most expensive drunk ever.

There are more coming to mind so maybe I would be able to come up with ten, but it’s probably better to leave them buried.   
By the way, that expensive permanent bridge that I got forty-five years ago fell out last week.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Walk in the Woods

Thirty or so years ago Carol and I would venture out as soon as winter showed signs of lifting its blanket to let spring in. We called these our Cabin Fever Hikes. Most times we'd end up trekking through a foot of snow up on the Shawangunk Ridge. Once we drove out Route 55 near Pawling and hiked several miles around Nuclear Lake (look it up) in melting snow. Since our legs don't tolerate that kind of activity very well now, we fly to Florida for a week or two instead.

Yesterday, we ventured out on a very warm Easter Sunday, to Ferncliff Forest Preserve and Wildlife Refuge, just north of Rhinebeck. The mostly deciduous trees this early spring day were bare of leaves, with only tiny varicolored buds heralding the promise of change while the scattering of conifers watched.

A distinct advantage of this barrenness is the view of the Hudson River from the top of the trail. In summer one would likely have to climb the fire tower to see it.
Other signs of spring peek through the packed soil of the trail, only lightly used this early in the season. I suspect they will not survive the summer intact, but with deep and hearty roots they'll be back to greet spring hikers.
The two hundred acre preserve is open year round for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. even in the near ninety degree heat the walk was pleasant. The trail we took (the yellow loop trail to the tower) had some steep ascents and descents, the second could be a bit of an issue for someone with bad knees so a stout walking stick would be a great asset.

Along our way I spotted a few intriguing rock formations but declined to photograph them. I thought immediately of my talented friend Ruthie and how she could make a work of art out of those formations while my photos would somehow not have that perfect angle, perfect lighting ... so I didn't take any. Maybe when we go back for our next hike.

Anyway it's a great place to spend a couple hours and it's free! I recommend i

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Accidental President - or a case of the DT's

Truth is he tossed his hat in the ring as an ego trip, something he takes on a daily basis, but because of the clown car of GOP candidates that vied with him, and because the die-hard republican voters were weary of bending over and getting screwed by their representatives, he won the primary.  Meanwhile, the democratic in-crowd  hoisted their chosen candidate to the top in spite of the warning signs they should have seen in the popularity of her primary opponent. 

So the final run for the roses was between the petulant child-man who incited anger, racism, and misogyny in his constituency, and the woman with more experience at the top levels of government than probably any candidate in history.  

Her experience was a mixed blessing because, through judicious spinning of events opponents could accuse her of everything from ineptness to treason.  She was also the woman who gave her philandering husband a pass rather than castrating him.  Even with those handicaps she garnered about three million more votes than her opponent, but candidates win by getting the most electoral votes. 

So she lost, probably because her campaign ignored a few states that were normally in her party's pocket, while the man-child did not, but whether or not that factored into the result is at this point irrelevant.  What matters is he now occupies the White House.

What matters even more is his party controls both houses of Congress.

What matters most perhaps is his puppet masters - The Steves, Bannon and Miller.  None of the three have even a nodding acquaintance with the truth.  Nor do they care.

It is an unfortunate fact (not and alt-fact) that a lie told repeatedly without being called out, soon becomes believed, becomes a truth.  It is imperative that anytime Tweety and his handlers make a public statement, it is refuted if untrue (almost a certainty.)

So fasten your seat belts journalists, columnists, tweeters, and don't let the lies stand.

Now the next chore:

How do we get back to a semblance of democracy in our country?  First by making the 2018 election count.  Every member of the House of Representatives is up for reelection.  Many will return to their seats due to gerrymandered districts that insure their party has the voting majority.

We must have those districts redrawn based solely on population - the intent of the constitutional directive establishing the legislature. Without that change, a fair election of our representation is not possible.  Push your state governments to undo that wrong.  In New York it apparently takes a constitutional amendment.  Right now the state legislature draws the congressional districts after the national census determines the portion of the 450 representatives the state is allotted based population.

Whatever party is in power in the state controls the redrawing of the congressional districts.  Can anyone guess how that works out?

Okay folks, while we endure and fight the DT's, Let's also think about that.

If I keep grumbling to myself about the latest lies and the need to resist, I'll never get this posted.  I'll be back sooner than a month next time.

Bye for now.  Resist the lies but with forethought not anger.  I know that's hard but anger they can fight, reason they can't.