Monday, May 30, 2016

For Memorial Day


I'm spending a quiet Memorial Day NOT going to Costco to pick up some food item or other that I've run out of (and consequently NOT chatting with my Costco buddies). I appreciate the fact that Costco closes on holidays in order to give their employees time to spend those holidays at home with their families.

Instead, I've been catching up on some of my internet reading, those articles and opinion columns I've opened in separate tabs in the morning to read later when I have a few minutes to rub together. Normally, that means very late at night when I'm beyond sleepy, and I end up just scanning the columns and deciding that I don't want to take the time to read most of them after all. Sometimes I fall asleep sitting in front of the computer, and one time when I woke up from this, both of my hands were asleep from having dozed off with my face cupped in my hands.

So it's a treat to be able to read when I'm actually awake. Which brings me to today's reading...

The Library of Law and Liberty yesterday reprinted a Memorial Day column from 2013 by Richard Reinsch, called, With the Old Breed. It's Reinsch's take on Eugene Sledge’s book of the same name. Reinsch explains, "I’ve been reading With the Old Breed, Eugene Sledge’s classic account of his experiences in the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Many have come to know his story from the successful 2010 HBO Series The Pacific that relied in part on his diary of these two battles." 

I've mentioned before that I don't have much family connection to World War II. My dad was too young to enlist, and his dad had fought in World War I. By WWII, he was stateside training the troops until after the war, when he was sent to Europe to do Graves Registration work for a couple years. Still, my heart seeks out stories that highlight America's greatness, and World War II was about the last time when that greatness shone brightly throughout our nation. Not only did good menand good women as wellvolunteer to fight against the wickedness and evil that threatened to take over the world, but on the home front, individuals, corporations, and even Hollywood and the news media supported our war efforts. Dissenters were relatively few and far between.

Not so now. And stories like the one told by Eugene Sledge only serve to highlight the changes that have occurred in America since then. 

In his opening, Reinsch includes a quote from the book:


The narrative “Sledgehammer” provides is compelling, horrific, and fascinating. A member of the famous 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, he describes the landing on Peleliu:
Huge geysers of water rose around the amtracs ahead of us as they approached the reef. The beach was now marked along its length by a continuous sheet of flame backed by a thick wall of smoke. It seemed as though a huge volcano had erupted from the sea, and rather than heading for an island, we were being drawn into the vortex of a flaming abyss. For many it was to be oblivion.

The accounts of the island battles are appalling. There is little redeeming value, Sledge concludes, from these sojourns into hell. But the “Old Breed” must abide, he says.

And who are the Old Breed for Sledge? At one level, this was simply the nickname given to the First Marine Division that had served in the earliest engagements of the Pacific campaign at Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester. That much is true. Their lineage is great, stretching back to World War I.  Sledge is proud of being a part of this unit of men, and it comes blaring through the text. No punches are pulled in his description of the fighting.

One more quote from Reinsch:

Sledge is at turns bitter at his training officers in boot camp and in later preparatory phases. Camp was humiliating and physically exhaustive. Failure at a task led to a visit from the screaming instructor. You operated without requisite sleep. However, in a footnote he criticizes those who now critique the Marines for being too extreme, too inhumane in their training. Sledge knows that in the mud of combat, the discipline and the supports such training gives your will are all that a Marine possesses. It comforted him, he reports, that the man in his foxhole, and in surrounding foxholes, had received the same treatment.

That men enduredand continue to endure—such training and then willingly engage in overwhelmingly dangerous battle on our behalf is both humbling and impressive beyond measure. Those who paid the ultimate price deserve daily the remembrance and honor they receive each year on Memorial Day.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Reading The Little Prince

When I was in sixth grade, in San Diego, we were required to take Spanish. We learned the basics, like:

Hola, Paco. ¿Como estas?

Muy bien. ¿Y tu?

Estoy bien, gracias.

I was pretty good at it, but I resented having to learn it, so I was determined to hate Spanish.

At the end of that year, they handed out questionnaires to the students who got an 'A' in Spanish (yes, I liked getting A's, even if I had to speak Spanish to get them), asking us to choose a language preference for junior high for a new program they were starting. Instead of waiting until high school to teach languages, besides sixth-grade Spanish, they were going to start in seventh grade and needed to know how many kids wanted which languages. We were to rank in order our preference for Spanish, German, or French. I picked French first, German second, and Spanish last.

After all the votes were tallied, there wasn't enough interest for a German class, so the kids who picked German got their second choice. Everyone else got their first. We ended up with two Spanish classes and one French class, and I was thrilled not to have to take Spanish ever again.

In seventh grade, I learned the basics of French, like:

Bonjour, Guy. Ça va?

Pas mal. Et toi?

Ça va bien, merci.
 
Our teacher started us, the first two weeks, with nothing but memorization and repetition. We were not allowed to see written French until the third week, and when we did, it blew our minds. So many letters to say so little! Like the word for water, pronounced "oh," is spelled eau. It took a while, but eventually we got the hang of spelling and pronouncing.

I studied French all three years of junior high, and at the end of ninth grade, my dad retired from the Navy, and we moved to Montana where they didn't have the special program that started languages in seventh grade. So I took Senior (fourth-year) French when I was a sophomore and had to go my junior and senior years without it. Then I took a full year of it my first year of college. By the end of that year, I was mostly thinking in French and spoke it fairly fluently for someone who learned it in school.

Sometime during all that studying, though probably not in the first year, one of our teachers mentioned Le Petit Prince - The Little Prince - a classic children's book that I think we read in class. I loved it.


A long time later, after I was married and had little kids, I saw the book, in French, in the bookstore, and I bought it to refresh my skills. It was every bit as wonderful as I remembered. Even the French words seemed to make it more charming. In the first chapter the author talks about a book he read as a child, about the wildlife in the virgin forest. The phrase for wildlife is animaux sauvages, which is literally, "savage animals." I just love it!

In the evenings, I would sit both kids on my lap and "read" the book to them, translating from the French with only the occasional help from the French-English dictionary. I loved reading the story, and they loved hearing it.

Eventually, I found the book in English, and I bought that one too.


It made things easier when I needed help with my translations. I simply had to flip to the page with the fox picture to see that apprivoiser means "to tame."

Time went by, and the books got packed in boxes for all our various moves, only to be pulled out again whenever I came across them. I always went for the French version and read at least the first few chapters to make sure I still could. I hadn't realized how well-ingrained in my mind those chapters became.

Last week, in my nightly Bible reading, I finished reading it all the way through. After the close of Revelation, I went to my bookcase shelf with all my Bible-studying books, looking for a topical book to do before I start my next time through the Bible again. I selected one that has a workbook to go with it, and when I pulled the two books out, The Little Prince, in English, was tucked inside the cover of the workbook as though I hadn't paid attention when I had put it away. I'm not sure where the French one is.

I brought The Little Prince to work to show to one of the guys I had mentioned it to not too long ago, and I made it available to anyone in our group who might want some light reading at lunchtime, but there were no takers. So I picked it up to read over lunch myself.

It's not the same. It's in English.

I keep hearing the French in my head as I read it. The dedication page ends with, "To Leon Werth when he was a little boy," but I hear, "À Léon Werth, quand il était un petit garçon." In the first chapter, the picture book called "True Stories" is "Histoires Vécues." The boa constrictor is un serpent boa. And in the second chapter, the little prince demands over and over, "Dessine-moi un mouton."Finally, I put the book down. I couldn't read any further for all the French interruptions.

One of these days, I'm going to have to go hunting for that familiar, beloved white cover. And then I'll sit down in a cozy spot with a nice cup of hot tea and the blue-covered translation on the table beside me, and I'll start reading. And the characters and the drawings and the words - en français - will come to life for me once again.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What's That Word?

There's gotta be a term for when you go to YouTube (or the internet) and start watching videos (or reading articles), and there's another related video (or article) that catches your eye. So you click on that one, and then another one, and another, until you've gone from the political to the heartwarming to learning how to make fire from a 2-liter bottle of soda, and you look at the clock and see that two or three hours have passed without your having accomplished anything.

But I don't know what that word is. Or even if there is one.

But anyway, I did it again today.

It started when I was checking my twitter feed. Somebody had a link to Brit Hume describing the motivations of the Tea Party, which he nailed. Then when I tried to reply to one of the comments, YouTube made me log in, which put me at the YouTube Home page, where there were a bunch of "Recommended" videos, along with the merely "Popular" ones.

They recommended a video of a dog whose military owner came home from deployment, and that led to a brother surprising his sister at her graduation, and then the Ellen Show where a military family got to Skype with Dad, who was still deployed. After that one, I found a British reunion of a Royal Navy dad and his daughter, right after his daughter got finished singing before the Queen. I love the way the girl runs to her father. And then Toby Keith had a reunion on stage for a military wife and her returning husband. Those reunion videos always make me cry.

I didn't want to keep getting up for Kleenex (no, I wasn't smart enough to bring the Kleenex box to my desk), so I moved on to other things.

This one, on the material properties of fire ants in large quantities, was fascinating and creepy at the same time. I'm not sure why this was in the Recommended list for me, unless it was because a few months ago I spent part of a Saturday doing this same endless rabbit trail through YouTube but with science-y, survival-type videos.

On the Popular list, today anyway, is this short video of why relativity isn't always relative, or something. I'm a little surprised whenever I see science stuff listed as popular, because most people don't admit to liking science.

And then I noticed for the first time (yes, I realize everybody else in the world who is internet savvy knew this years ago) that I have a YouTube Playlist, which is all the videos I've "Liked." Most of them are songs, so then I had to find some more songs because some of my newer favorites weren't there. Like Big Daddy Weave's Redeemed and The Only Name (Yours Will Be), The Afters' Broken Hallelujah, and Hillsong United's Oceans. And I just now noticed that I need to add Mandisa's Overcomer.

So that's been much of my day, and I still don't have any term for the YouTube (or internet) wanderings, beyond "rabbit trail." I guess I'll have to go with that one for now, unless you've got a better one.

Earthquake!

California was struck by a 5.1 magnitude earthquake last night a little after 9:00 pm. The epicenter was in La Habra.

Twitchy has a round-up of photos of the damage around Los Angeles, and my favorite is this one.

 

I live in Oceanside (It's at the bottom of the map at the USGS link, above), about 100 miles away from the epicenter as the crow flies. At the time of the earthquake, I was at my desk unwinding with some mindless computer games, and I felt an odd sensation of movement without actually moving.

My desk chair wasn't rolling. None of my stuff was moving. The blinds weren't swaying. So I told myself it was probably just some unconscious muscle twitching in my leg making the chair feel as though it was making the slightest of motions.

About a half hour later, I checked my Twitter feed and saw tweets about an earthquake. Aha! I hadn't imagined it after all. The preliminary reports had it as 5.4, but by this morning it was classified as 5.1.

After last night's confusion followed by my incorrect conclusion, I decided it was time to get an earthquake detector at home. I've used them at work for years.

I don't go in for anything elaborate, though that's certainly an option. This lady developed an earthquake detector that uses actual electronics and complicated hardware that requires soldering and other things that seem to be beyond me, or at least beyond my desire to attempt it. And this store in Port Townsend, Washington, sells an earthquake detector that draws in sand. Here's what it looks like (the sand tracing is after an earthquake in Olympia, Washington in 2001):



The physics behind this type of detector is similar to a Foucault Pendulum, which is used to demonstrate the rotation of the earth. But while the Foucault Pendulum swings, an earthquake detector works by not swinging. If there's not an earthquake, the ground is still, and so is the pendulum. When an earthquake hits, the table that the pendulum holder is resting on moves with the earth, but the pendulum bob remains stationary in spatial terms. To our eyes, however, because we're also moving with the earth, the pendulum bob appears to sway.

Back in the late 1980's I worked in Irvine, close to Newport Beach. The building I worked in was huge, and my group's cubicles were out in the middle of the floor away from the stability of the walls. When heavy people walked by, or when people wheeled heavily laden carts down the nearby aisles, the floor would bounce and make us wonder if it was an earthquake. So I installed my first earthquake detector on my desk, looping the pocket clip of a hot pink highlighter over a rubber band and taping the top of the rubber band to the underside of my desk's overhead cabinet. Then, whenever we felt the floor moving, we'd check the detector. If it wasn't swaying, that told us the floor was moving up and down to somebody's footsteps or cart. But if it swayed, we were having an earthquake. This came in handy after the April 7, 1989, Newport Beach earthquake (we didn't need the detector for the actual quake, because pieces of the ceiling tiles were falling, and besides I was under the desk). The aftershocks were much smaller, and my detector was put to good use.

Well, now I'm ready for the next earthquake that happens while I'm at home. I've got my detector installed in a corner of my desk, and it's stopped swaying after the initial installation. Here is what will keep me from doubting my senses when an earthquake hits somewhere far enough away from here:


It's simple enough that anyone can make one.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Unidentified War Dead

This hits a little closer to home for me than most WWII stories, but not because I have any family members like these.

The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday on the continuing failure of the U.S. government to identify the remains recovered from the battle of Tarawa 70 years ago. The article opens this way:

In September 1943, Tech. Sgt. Harry Arnold Carlsen wrote a letter to his mother and ailing father in suburban Chicago. The Marine told his parents he wouldn't be home for Christmas but was hopeful he'd visit them the next year.

"I would like to see you and dad once more," he wrote.

Carlsen still hasn't made it home.

About two months after writing to his parents for the final time, the 31-year-old died in a battle with Japanese forces on a Pacific atoll called Tarawa, part of the present-day nation of Kiribati. In west suburban Brookfield, where Carlsen grew up, the news arrived in a grim telegram sent two days before Christmas.

Carlsen is among tens of thousands of Americans who fought in World War II whose remains have never been identified. At Tarawa alone, where more than 1,100 U.S. troops died, upward of 500 service members were never found. Another 90 or so sets of remains still haven't been identified.

But a historian who once worked for the Department of Defense said Carlsen is a "most likely" match for a body cataloged decades ago as "Schofield Mausoleum No. 1: X-82" and buried as an unknown in a Hawaii military cemetery.

"I'd bet my house, your house and every house down the block that it is Tech. Sgt. Carlsen," said the historian, Rick Stone, a former chief of police in Wichita, Kan.

Carlsen's grand-nephew, Ed Spellman, has pushed without success to have the government exhume X-82's grave and test the DNA against a sample submitted by the Marine's family. He has been discouraged as bureaucrat after bureaucrat politely noted his request without seeming to act on it.

My dad didn't serve in World War II. He turned 15 about halfway between VE Day and VJ Day. His dad, though, was career Army. Born (as far as the Army knew) in 1900, Grandpa was a Major in his 40s by the end of WWII, and he spent the war stateside, training troops.

After the war, Grandpa was assigned to Graves Registration in France, and he was able to bring the family with him. From 1946 to 1948, they lived in three different cities: Paris, Fontainebleau, and Strasbourg. My dad was free to explore on his own much of the time, while Grandpa worked at identifying the remains of our war dead so their families could get the closure Tech. Sgt. Carlsen's family has yet to be given.

When the remains in the Tomb of the Unknown from the Vietnam War were identified in 1998, then-Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen announced at the opening of the grave, "We disturb this hallowed ground with profound reluctance, and we take this step only because of our abiding commitment to account for every warrior who fought and died to preserve the freedoms we cherish."

Apparently, that abiding commitment doesn't yet extend to the thousands of World War II dead who have not been identified. My grandfather would be ashamed.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Message to All Women (and All Men)

A friend tagged me on Facebook for this video. Made me cry...



There's another one for men:



It's interesting that the comments on the women's video are overwhelmingly positive, with many saying they listen to this every day (sometimes multiple times a day). But the comments on the men's video are largely negative, with a lot of the negative comments being from Christian men who see the affirming statements as being too self-focused and therefore satanic in origin. It makes me wonder if those men don't have an ache to be loved, or if maybe their strongest ache is to be right.

I'm with the women (surprise!). God didn't make me so I could spend my time beating myself up. No, we're not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to, but at the same time I don't believe we should think less of ourselves either.

God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, loves me so much that He thought I was worth dying for so He could have a relationship with me. He loves you that much too. These videos remind us that, though we see our flaws and doubts and sins written large in our lives, because of the saving blood of Jesus covering our sins, God sees past them to the beauty and strength (and all the rest) that He gave us when were fearfully and wonderfully made.

I'll be watching the women's video quite a bit, because I still need it.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Conversion Decision Part 3

It's a given that I need to get a lot of my slides scanned, but what about the photos? In the back of my three-ring binder with the slides in sleeves are some black-and-white photos. The snapshot-sized photos have sleeves of their own, and three 8 x 10 prints are loose. None of either size are dated or labeled.

As near as I can tell, all the snapshots were taken sometime between mid-1981 and early 1984, but I'm leaning toward the '81 - '82 timeframe. The pictures were all developed together, with rounded corners. There are half a dozen photos of the white-water canoeing trip we (my then-husband and I, and possibly his youngest sister) took up to the Kern River when we were taking some safety-oriented canoeing classes through, I think, the Red Cross. That puts us in California, either pre-mid-1978 or post-July 1981. Between those dates, we were in Spokane, Washington.

The other photos from that roll of film include two shots of our cat, Quackenbush. We acquired him and his best-buddy, Wickersham, when they were teeny-tiny kittens in Spokane. So the pictures had to be after we returned to California in 1981.

There's a picture of me when I was 24 or 25:


There's a picture of my husband and another of him and his sister talking, but I haven't asked for their permission to publish those photos. Quackenbush doesn't care if I post his picture:


He wasn't a very smart cat, so he had to get by on his looks, which he did just fine. See how he's wearing his flea collar? It worked great in Spokane, where the fleas die down during the winter. In California, though, which has year-round flea season, the collar didn't do anything. And nobody had invented Advantage or its like at that time. And the fleas liked me better than they liked the cats. Aaarrrrgggghhh!!!!

OK. Enough whining.

The 8 x 10 photos were from the photography class I took when we were still new to Spokane. This is the class that first taught me about the Rule of Thirds. Part of the class was working in the darkroom to develop film and make prints. We only used B&W for the darkroom portion of the class. When it was time to use color film, our instructor had us use slide film. We had an assignment to choose a tree, any tree, and take a whole role of slide film of that tree from different angles and times of day. The second assignment was to take a whole role of slides of one person, and of course I picked my husband for that. We had to include at least one double-exposure shot.

One of the requirements of the photography class was that we had to have a 35mm camera. All I had was the Kodak Instamatic I got for my birthday one year in late grade school. It took the 126 cartridges. But my husband had an old Argus C3 manual camera that used 35mm film, and you had to use a separate light meter and then set the aperture and shutter speed accordingly. That's the camera I used for class, and the instructor kept telling the other students (who all had SLR cameras), "If she can do this with that C3, you should be able to do it too!"

Here are the three 8 x 10 shots that I developed. First is Wickersham:


He's the smart one. The white patch on his chest extended all the way up to his chin, and he had a good-sized black dot in the white just behind the jawline. Whenever he slept with his head upside-down, the black dot would show. Very cute!

This is an old concrete bridge over the river in Riverfront Park:


I had hoped it would be more contrasty for the black-and-white film, but it wasn't.

This was one of my night shots, also in Riverfront Park:


I had thought that since I have the printer/copier/scanner, I could scan the photos myself and just concentrate on sending slides to the scanning company. But after I scanned all these photos, I checked the properties on the files, and they were all scanned at 200 dpi. ScanDiego will scan them at 4000 dpi. So I'm going to have to factor into my decision-making any photos I might want to blow up and frame.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Conversion Decisions Part 2

The first step in getting my slides converted into digital format was to find the darned things. I went to the shed and looked at every one of the boxes in there. At times like this, I'm thrilled that I'm organized just enough to use a Magic Marker on the side and end of every box to record the box's contents. My slides were not in there.

In the garage, where all my boxes of books that I can't fit in my house are stacked in three six-high stacks and all the other boxes that didn't fit in the shed are piled, I hunted some more and finally found the box marked, "Photos/Slides Japanese Plates.' Inside the box was all of this:


Perfect!

Out of respect for my back (that's a different story), I waited for my daughter to come home and bring the box in the house.

Back when we were taking our pictures as slides, we had a Bell & Howell slide cube projector, not a Carousel projector like everyone else, and the brown fake-wood-looking box had the cubes with all the slides from our big bicycle trip through Europe in 1983, plus a few cubes with slides from other trips.

I was able to make a good light box by using my computer and opening my Nook application to a book with two nearly blank pages together. By holding the slides up to the monitor, it was easy to see what they were.

After looking through all those cubed-up slides (which I had labeled with the date, location, and subject), I pulled out the photo album to the left of the fake-wood box. I opened it up, and it looked like this inside:


Ick! I'm SO glad there were no photos inside the "magnetic" pages. There was just one loose black-and-white photo, complete with photo-album-induced discoloration:


I remember making this little guy but not where or when it happened, though I have this vague sense that it might have been at Mt. Palomar and that it was before we had kids. It was a week when it had snowed in the mountains, with a pretty low-elevation snow line, so that weekend we drove up to the mountains to play in the snow. Of course, by then almost all of the snow had melted. We found one turnout on the north side of the mountain where there was still a patch of slushy snow, so that's where we stopped. We were barely able to form three regular-sized snowballs, and we stacked them on top of each other, set them on the asphalt curb, and found some acorn tops and twigs to give him personality. He's a charmer, isn't he?

After throwing the photo album in the trash, I turned to the blue binder full of slide sleeves. There were more slides from the Europe trip (all properly labeled), plus the Grand Canyon trip with the youngest sister-in-law before she got married, several shots of my nephew (who just turned 34) when he was 22 months old and I visited my sister and her then-small family in the Panhandle of Texas, and photos from the hot-air and helium balloon festival of 1981. I even have pictures of when the Greenpeace balloon got away from its handlers before it was completely filled with hot air, and it ascended (but not enough) and the basket hit the roof of some grandstands, tipping out the guy inside the basket, who was injured. The story made the local TV news that night, but I wasn't able to find a link to it for this post. Apparently 1981 was a very long time before the internet came on the scene. Anyway, I really love a lot of the balloon pictures.

The problem with most of the slides in the sleeves is that, other than the bicycle trip photos, the slides aren't labeled. I had put stick-on labels on the sleeves themselves for the first picture in a series, for example, "Grand Canyon 1st Day 11/81." I'm afraid to choose 500 of my favorites, send them in, and then get them back and not know what they are from. So my decision-making process has just become a bigger production than it already was. I found some clear return-address labels (1/2" x 1-3/4") in my supplies, and I'm printing two slide labels on each, at 6.5 pt. font, and cutting them in half lengthwise.


It's going to be a while before I get this done.