John Wayne

John Wayne was and is an American hero and movie start. At least to a large number of people. Now I do remember some liberal-minded teachers from my high school days who felt he was over-rated as an actor compared to others. I think they did not like his gung-ho pro-American war movies and took it out on his acting. Compared to many other actors, he was larger than life and he entertained. He still does. I came across this article written by someone who had been a driver for John Wayne. It describes him as a very nice man who did not like to hurt or embarrass others. You can read the story here.

Spies Come In From the Cold

John Le Carre wrote the ultimate spy novel, “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold”, many years ago. It is considered to be based on the group of Cambridge-educated men who were friends that went on to be spies for Russia within the British government. The amount of information and secrets they shared with Russia was huge and devastating. The story of the men and their clique at university is fascinating. A recent book has come out about the most well-known of the group, Kim Philby. The title is called, “ A Spy Among Friends”. To read about the background, find it here.

New Favorite Phrase

What is the difference between a cat and a comma?

One has claws at the end of its paws while the other
has a pause at the end of a clause...

Fiddler on the Roof

Fascinating story today from the son of Joseph Stein. Stein was the playwright who put together Fiddler on the Roof. It has been around 50 years since it was brought to Broadway and became a success. A success well-deserved since I am a big fan of Fiddler and its music. I doubt I would have been a favorite of Mr. Stein’s being he was a fan of Communism and Stalinism. He did put together some great comedy, plays, and music though. Read about it here.

Hall of Fame Day

Bob is a big lover of baseball. I, of course, picked up a lot of it from him and especially during the days that Tony LaRussa managed the Oakland A’s. Tony and his wife were clients of mine and they loved cats just like we do. We often competed on how many cats we both had in our families. Today, we watched Tony get the recognition he deserved as a baseball manager when he was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (a beautiful area of the country). For a little more of a read on the induction, check here.

Vicksburg's Fallen

There was a beautiful cemetery at the Vicksburg battlefield that held many of the fallen from that period of the war. The fallen were laid out amongst trees under rows of white headstones. Very quiet and solemn, along the Mississippi River. The cemetery is next to the Cairo Exhibit. I was able to get a number of photos from there, one showing the headstones while a hawk was taking off above them. Not as close as I would like but interesting.

Thayer's Approach at Vicksburg

Much to our surprise while traveling through Vicksburg and visiting the historical battlefield there was seeing the monument and stop for Thayer’s Approach. General John Thayer on the Union side had a critical piece and attack during the Vicksburg siege. His men had to attack the Confederate entrenchments up a steep slope. The following picture gives a description of the attack.
Thayer’s Approach

Tug of War

Ryan was having fun tonight and almost 15 months old he is getting pretty playful. He enjoys a bit of silliness. David caught him in this picture having a back and forth tug-of-war with Dervish’s frisbee toy. I understand it was quite hilarious to watch.

Eleven Best Monty Python Moments

I am sure everyone who is a Monty Python fan has their best moment of the group, maybe more than one. Here is a compilation of someone’s top eleven moments. I have enjoyed pretty much all of them though I have to say I am particularly fond of The Cheese Shop skit since I am a big lover of cheese and would truly hate having someone keep telling me they are out of all my favorite cheeses.

Outdoing Monty Python

There is always someone in the world who has to take Monty Python humor beyond the its limits. Example: the person who built a fart machine formed into the shape of buttocks and aimed toward France from Britain. Well, they have fought a lot of wars over the centuries between the two countries so I guess the animosity could still be smoldering. Read about it here.

Popsicle Boy

A kid with some pretty blue eyes which I think he inherited from Grandpa seems to enjoy his popsicles just like Grandpa does. He is a cutie, the little one I mean. Happy


Brandolini's Law

So, from now on, it will be referred to the Brandolini’s law (a.k.a. the Bullshit Asymmetry Principle) which states that:

“The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”

‘Nuff Said.

Five Bloodiest Battles in History

Interesting read on what they consider the 5 bloodiest battles in history. The number one top bloodiest was the Battle of Stalingrad.
Read about it, the numbers, and the other four here.

As the lead in paragraph states from this article in Military History online---

“Much of a soldier’s life is spent awaiting and preparing for war. When the moment to take action does come, it is usually bloody, confusing, and over quickly. Often, combat will be on a small scale; a skirmish, a probing patrol, an accidental clash with the enemy in the darkness. At other times, fear will destroy an army, causing men to flee from the perceived threat of death before severe casualties have been sustained by either side. And, finally, there is the battle that surpasses the normal expectations of war in its scale of death and destruction. These are the days where neither side is prepared to surrender, or – as is so often the case – a general’s strategy is such that it leaves the enemy no escape, left to the mercy of the victors.”

A Union General and His Love Story

Love and War do often have story lines together and they are not all fiction. A number are real life experiences that would most likely be great films if properly treated. I came across and example just recently about the death of Union General James McPherson. General McPherson was considered one of the best generals of the North during the Civil War. Certainly General Sherman thought so, along with others. McPherson met and fell in love with the daughter of a Southern sympathizer from Baltimore. War and duty kept the two apart and from marrying. Sherman had actually at one point asked McPherson to delay his wedding due to expected heavy campaigning to and around Atlanta. It was during this campaign that McPherson was killed. Emily Hoffman, his fiancé, was left without her love and lived a much longer life, dying unmarried. To read about this story, click here.

Is It a Pre-War World?

There is a lot of speculation during this 100th anniversary year of the start of World War I that events in the world have many similarities now to that distant year. Do they? As in many instances, yes in a number of ways, and no in so many other essential matters. Walter Russell Mead is one of the best writers and foreign policy analysts out there. You can read his thoughts here.

An Unbroken Hero

Recently, an amazing man and a hero out of World War II passed away. The man is Louis Zamparini and he died at the age of 97. He was a pilot in World War II who survived his planed crashing in the Pacific war theatre followed by many days afloat in the ocean trying to make land. He was then captured by the Japanese and with that, survived a brutal incarceration by the Japanese through to the end of the war. Mr. Zamparini was the central focus of the best selling book, Unbroken. For a moving summary of his exploits and character, it can be found here from the Weekly Standard.

A Letter From D-Day

This summer is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion during World War II. A recent article in Commentary published the letter home to his parents from a soldier who was preparing to attach the beaches. The amazing courage of our citizen soldiers is beyond understanding yet so appreciated. The soldier survived the war. It is a tribute when one of his extended family finds this letter and shares it with all of us here. The original link was broken so a related link was substituted.

Pickett's Charge

It has been said that the long slow slide to the end of the Confederacy started at Gettysburg, especially at Pickett’s Charge. What did Longstreet feel in giving the order to his soldiers that came from General Lee? In the end, how did his men feel about going into battle where a death sentence was common. A great summary description can be found here.
The Union view toward where Pickett’s charge began and the field traversed in between.

Petersburg to Appomattox

After traveling in Mississippi and seeing the amazing Vicksburg Civil War battlefield, I find I have to keep posting these amazing summaries of Civil War battles or campaigns. They are well-written and fascinating. Here is one describing the stage of war from Petersburg to Appomattox and how it became a war of attrition. Lee was cagey and desperate, but he did not have the resolve and resources to beat Grant in the long run. Read about this period here.
Part of the Petersburg battlefield, near the Crater.

Are We Going Down That Path?

There is going to be endless speculation of whether 2014 closely resembles 1914 enough in turmoil to where we end in a major world conflict. Will it happen? Anyone’s guess and here is another article speculating on the topic.

The Dread Signal

June 28 was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo. It was the spark that light the fuse for World War I (sorry for the cliche). Yet, it is apt. Many leaders of countries were “itching” to show their importance and demonstrate they should not be taken for granted. Others were drawn in by holding to their word of support of another if attacked. It was a conflagration that was inevitable in many ways and yet not if rational people stepped back and re-thought the consequences. Here is a short summary of what the start of Armegeddon meant.

Congrats to Cat Video Festival

It looks like my good friend Karen and her sidekick “cats” got good publicity and recognition from the local media. May the New Orleans cat video festival live on for a number of years. Check out the nice article.

Why Are We Always Hungry

As a person who struggles with her weight, too much of it, and trying to control what I eat, here is an interesting article proposing why we are always hungry. Here is one of their key questions:

“But what if we’ve confused cause and effect? What if it’s not overeating that causes us to get fat, but the process of getting fatter that causes us to overeat?”


Science Getting It Wrong

There have been a number of recent articles, this one in particular, about whether “peer review” is working as currently established and that a number of studies don’t hold up to the light of day. Many study results have been questioned and the results de-bunked. A recent scientific publishing company had to withdraw about 45 or more papers from their publications due to poor science. After having been through a grant review of research proposals, we need to do better than what this paper describes and be much more critical of the scientific methods used by some researchers. The study design or methods don’t hold water and should not be funded.

Ruining Country

Well, I couldn’t have said it better. This article does a nice job of explaining why I think Obama is ruining the country. The tipping point is getting closer and I don’t know if we can recover. It all feels rotten underneath the surface and a “lollipop-like” facade of sugar sweetness above the surface. A sweet and tart mix that does not work and will turn sour before long.

Iraq Falling Apart

Why is Iraq quickly disintegrating into a failed state and breaking into different competing regions when it was more on the road to a country that held democratic elections? One good article and opinion is found here. Our current foreign policy lacks good leadership and understanding of the region. We do not have a President who truly knows what he is doing and really is more a poster person for the Presidency than a substantive individual. Whatever makes him political points are all that matters. The rest of us and the world can go hang.

More Pasternak History

Here is some more detail about the new book on Boris Pasternak and his history with the CIA. There is a small piece in the CIA’s museum dedicated to their role in bringing his book, Dr. Zhivago, to light and the rest of the world. It is interesting history. There is an under story here too, in that Pasternak had a lover/mistress who was likely the model for Lara in Dr. Zhivago. They both had an interesting life together. Many of these artistic people live a life in a far distant pane of existence than I do or would probably care to. Happy
The article and review of the books on Pasternak can be found here.

The Fourth

This fourth of July was observed more quietly and with more work catching up than usual. No fireworks viewing on our end. We were still in jet lag and wanting to go to bed early. It was a day of spending time with David, Renee, and the boys here at our house BBQing chicken and hot dogs for lunch. We had a wonderfully sweet watermelon Bob got at a produce stand on the way home from the airport. Renee made a nice cheese and fruit tray to snack from. Our interlude of family time and away from tasks was short-lived yet so very nice to have.

A Single Democrat

Here is a photo of one of the grabbier, aggressive “Democrats” of the group. This one made sure it got plenty of the bread from dinner the night before.

The Democrats

One should be able to detect that I am not a fan of the modern Democratic Party and what they stand for. I am very anti- when it comes down to it. Our friend Tim has labeled the six masked critters who come begging for handouts, “The Democrats”. How apt. They are looking for free dry pet kibble. I must admit they are cute to view but I am sure not too friendly if you got close. They stay hidden in the trees and shrubs until they can skulk out and grab their goodies.
BTW, we were headed home from the South today. Our plane trip was good and all on time.

Natchez on the Mississippi

After Vicksburg, we were off to the south to visit the city of Natchez along the Mississippi. We were able to drive the Natchez Trace in part on the way. It is a historical route from the late 1700s to early 1800s route from Nashville, TN to Natchez in Mississippi that Native Americans took, frontiersmen, commerce people, to move into the Spanish owned territory along the Mississippi. The road is beautiful in that it is limited access and highlights the natural aspects of the area geography and plant life. We did get to see one yearling deer along the road as we went.
Our destination was Natchez. The city has a big visitor’s center with a lot of information about the area. Natchez eventually went for the South in the Civil War though from their explanations, many of the business people at that time came from the North and had roots there. They did not favor secession. The city now is a tourist destination and it appears a big spot for many to have a travel destination wedding. It is also a center of antebellum homes that people can tour. We just viewed the outside. A lot of history to be found here.
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