Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Maroc My Socks Off

Jess in the Sahara

I regret that I have little wanderlust.  I am happiest at home.  Give me a warm fire, cocoa and a dog or two on my lap and I'll spend hours reading about the great adventurers and the hardship they've overcome.  I admire those compelled to explore, just don't make me go.

My buddy Finnian's sister Jess was born to be at home in the world.  Jess lives in Portland, Oregon with her family when not attending college in Minnesota.  This semester she is studying in Morocco  preparing to becoming the 21st century's Gertrude Bell, and having the time of her life.  Her mother however....

You may follow Jess's adventures here.  


Monday, February 25, 2013

Liz Day

By the authority invested in me I banish throughout the kingdom on this day all bad thoughts, occurrences of inclement weather, school tests, homework curfews and assigned bedtimes.  Today is Liz Day, decreed in honor of the birth, 13 years ago of  the world's next superstar of stage and screen, my granddaughter Liz, the Princess formerly known as Paige.   

I'm finding it hard to accept that my retirement plan is now a teen.     

Mrs. T asked her to make a wish for her big day. In response, Liz informed her, that just to let them know she was willing and able to arrive early, her application to Julliard had been mailed. Acceptance was her wish.  A jump to college from 7th grade hardly sounds unreasonable.

Please,  will each of you join me in a rousing rendition of HB2U?


Love you teen darling!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Another one bites the dust

There is much lament and gnashing of teeth amongst the clothing blogger-boys about how our favorite shops have either become ghosts of their former selves or simply no longer exist.  Many of our earliest and favorite haberdasheries exist now only in memory.   Impermanence is the nature of things American.  Stores open, and in a generation or two they are replaced, often by something inferior.  We accept our lot like sheep.

The good folks of Bishop's Stortford, a town of almost 35,00 in East Hertfordshire are faced with a shop closing that trumps all.  Tissimans Men's Clothing, the world oldest tailor and men's clothing shop is closing at the end of the month. OPENED IN 1601 AD, and operating continuously since,  first trading as Slators then changing names to Tissiman's 150 odd years ago,  found they could compete successfully with every competitor for over 400 years that came their way except the internet. A perfectly sad commentary on the 21st. century.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Raising the flag

Raising the flag by Joe Rosenthal, Associated Press Photo

On this date 1945, 5 US Marines and a Navy corpsman raised the American flag on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, prefecture of Tokyo, Japan.  It was the first scrap of Japanese homeland captured by Americans during World War II.

The photo was taken during a second flag raising.  The details of the how and why of 2 flag raisings make interesting reading.  You may find it here.


Friday, February 22, 2013

edward gorey

Today would be the birthday of author and illustrator Edward Gorey, perhaps best known in the US for drawing the opening credits for PBS Masterpiece Mystery.  Gorey was what was once described as an "oddball".  Something of a recluse tall, thin, heavily bearded Gorey never married. He lived alone with 6 cats on Cape Cod and was a man of regular habits. He had breakfast and lunch at the same restaurant most every day, rarely missed a performance of the New York City Ballet, worked all morning on any of the 100 or so projects he constantly juggled then spent afternoons watching soap operas or the X-Files. A lifelong polymath, he was a voracious and wide ranging reader, but he also went to the movies, every night.

His signature drawing style, considered by some Gothic was usually tinged with  horror but often with a wink.  Gorey says he was too squeamish to become properly morbid, and hated having his work described as macabre.

I admire Gorey as much as an author as an illustrator.  Gorey published over 90 books and illustrated 60 others during his lifetime.  He wrote the books first, most barely a few pages in length, then drew.  I find the words pitch perfect.

Alexander Theroux, one of Gorey's few close friends, wrote a 2001 monograph The Strange Case of Edward Gorey, something of a biography and explanation of Gorey's work.  I suggest that you avoid having friends like Mr. Theroux.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

One in 70 million

Texas parents Tressa and Manuel Montalvo Jr.  hoped for a little brother or sister for their 2-year-old son, Memphis.  On Valentine's Day their wish came true as  Tressa, in a 1 in 70,000,000 shot, gave birth to 2 sets of identical twins, sons Ace, Blaine, Cash and Dylan at The Woman's Hospital of Texas in Houston . 

The boys are not quadruplets since Ace and Blaine shared one placenta and Cash and Dylan shared another.  All or doing well.  Natch, dad still wanting a daughter is hoping for more.

What a wondrous world.  We wish them much happiness.


Monday, February 18, 2013

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

"But the truth is, that when a Library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn't anger me." Mark Twain

Introduced as the sidekick in Adventures of  Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn's story was finally told on this date in 1885 with the American release of  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, perhaps the most frequently banned book in America.  Twain saw the book as a sequel to Tom Sawyer, with a serious twist. 

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a first person narrative told by Huck, set in mid 1840's Missouri, of his helping his friend Jim, a fugitive slave, escape slave holding Missouri to freedom in Ohio.  As an adolescent, Huck is able to see and speak of the injustices of slavery where adults can't, or won't.   

As Twain described Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:  "a sound heart is a surer guide than an ill-trained conscience, he goes on to describe the novel as ...a book of mine where a sound heart and deformed conscience  come into collision and the conscience suffers defeat."

Only 20 years earlier, on this same date, Jefferson Davis was named provisional President of the Confederate States of America, leading to the American Civil War or as was long anticipated in antebellum America, the continuation of the English Civil War on American soil.  Either way the Cavaliers lost.


Sunday, February 17, 2013


"I should have fought until I was the last man alive."

If you ever want to really confound the grandkids turn on an old wild west/wagon train/Indian movie.  The first time we did we got stink eye for our trouble along with "they are doing what  to whom". Our explanations left them believing we were soon on our way to the home. We've come a long way in America during the past 50 years, mercifully we no longer shoot natives for entertainment. 

Today marks the anniversary of the 1909 death of Geronimo, the last Apache leader to be captured by the US Army. Geronimo died as a prisoner of war, in custody at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, 

Raiding was a way of life for his band of Apaches.  They made enemies easily while they raided and fought the Mexican army, the Navajo and Comanche tribes, and  when the Mexican/American war ended in 1848 the US.   Geronimo's father in law, Cochise surrendered his tribe to the US in 1871, and were moved to an Apache Reservation in Arizona.  Geronimo and his followers held out until 1886 before surrendering.  His tribe spent 27 years as prisoners before being forcibly moved onto the Arizona reservation.  Geronimo remained in custody for the rest of his life.  

His 1905 autobiography is a pretty good read.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Egg Custard

To get a jump on Spring my bride and I have redoubled our efforts at the gym and have been paying attention to calorie our input/output ratio.  One of us is also a keen eyed WW point counter.  Sometimes however you just need a break

I try to surprise my bride periodically, mostly just to see if I still can.  Yesterday, I surprised by making Baked Custard  (from The New Family Cookbook for People with Diabetes) for dessert.  I only screwed once, it was a big screw up, but I overcame it.  I think it was a hit.  It's incredibly easy to make, and you have all the ingredients at hand.  Here's how to make it.

Makes 3 cups (6 servings)

3 large eggs, slightly beaten or 3/4 cup egg substitute --this were I went wrong
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups fat free milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of ground cinnamon

Preheat over to 325 F

In a large bowl combine eggs, sugar, salt and nutmeg.  Slowly stir in milk and vanilla.

Pour 1/2 cup of custard into each of 6  5 oz. custard cups. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Set filled custard cups on a shallow pan.  Pour about 1 inch of hot water in the pan around the custard cups.

Bake on center rack of the over for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean.

Serve hot, warm, cold......
per serving: 82 calories/3 gm of fat/ 6gm of protein/ 8 gm of carbs

Do as I say, not as I did.
To keep it healthy I used egg substitute and powdered milk.  Where I went wrong was not looking at the fake egg carton.  I used egg whites only.  For custard you need yolks. I knew that then, I know that now.  The second batch turned out much better.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

happy st. valentines day

Our 3 buddies presented Mrs. T and I with this marvelous Valentine Card along with smiles as wide as the ocean.  We share those wishes and smiles with you along with our wishes for a happy St. Valentines Day. We're glad you are here.

Toad and Mrs. T

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


One of the great difficulties facing history teachers is how to place events in context.  Certainly wars are easy enough, but what do you do with clusters of events happening simultaneously?  It's a subject that has interested me for a long time, and is likely to become an irregular series on these pages.

For American's, living in a nation with few reminders of the distant past, events which occurred 100 years ago happened in the dark ages.  Any North American event prior to the American Revolution in 1776, is almost pre-history, as is much of European history.

Consider Galileo Galilei. Kids from Catholic schools may be familiar with his dance before the Spanish Inquisition (which began on this date in 1633) in which he was invited to defend his heretical belief that the earth revolved around the sun. The Church taught that Earth was the center of the universe. Under pressure, Galileo recanted, apologized to the church and was placed under house arrest.  Eventually, he was forgiven by the Vatican (in 2008).

Would it surprise you to learn that by the time of Galileo's trial, the city of St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest European established,continuously occupied city in what is now the US was already 67 years old?  St. Augustine was founded on this date by Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1566.

Only 3 years after Galileo's trial, Harvard University was founded.



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Laissez le bon temps rouler- redux

I was surprised by those who wrote asking about Mardi Gras. I presumed everyone knew, but in Protestant Europe it's now mostly celebrated in the abeyance.

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) or Carnival is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. A late winter celebration is as old as religion, and has been observed everywhere throughout the western world at one time or another. In ancient Rome it was Saturn's feast, a time of debauchery. Since, it has been alternately a celebration of the coming of Spring, or a religious festival.

The Church of Rome, put paid to Saturn's feast, and gradually turned the bacchanalia to something better able to serve their needs.  In once predominately Catholic countries, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and their territories, communal parties were held to to empty the larder of forbidden meat, eggs and butter before the severe Lenten fast. Pancake Day celebrations are the last vestige of this old tradition.

The first Mardi Gras celebration in the new world was held in Point Mardi Gras, in what is now Alabama in 1699. Mobile has been celebrating Mardi Gras annually since 1703. As the capital of French America bounced around the gulf coast from Mobile west to New Orleans, the festival followed. Little excuse was necessary to have a party in seaport towns.

Let the good times roll.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Museum

If you don't already might I suggest you sign up for the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Object of the Day email, and each day you will be amazed, enlightened, surprised and more learned about one of the treasures resting at the museum which fascinates someone in the museum world.

The photo above is of a small (43x47cm- 17x18.5 in) 18th century silk Chinese robe. Most likely the robe, with it's auspicious symbols, was used to cover a temple statue of a royal person.

My home state of Missouri had a morally conservative US Senator (John Ashcroft), who after losing a reelection bid to a dead man became US Attorney General in the second Bush administration. He objected to being photographed in the Department of Justice building's Great Hall, below the statues "Spirit of Justice" and "Majesty of Law" because the female statue had a wardrobe malfunction.

During his tenure as chief justice officer in the US, the female statue was draped in fabric.  A statue robe would have been so much more flattering.

Enjoy your Monday.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My dotage

As soon as I came across this photo on Tumblr I knew I had to post it.  It represents my children's worst fear, dad finally over the edge, and they need to intervene.  I have the outfit, including the matching deerstalker, for now I lack only the Pennsylvania high wheeler.

Should you ever find me riding off into the sunset, smile and give me a wave, I'll be heading off to a better place.  "Til then, if you are in the frozen north take care of yourself, and know I'm kinda jealous.  On the other hand, my middle bonus kid is in NOLA, beignets sound more appealing.


Saturday, February 9, 2013


The Atlantic photo

Most of you are more willing than I to pack off to Nepal, join an expedition and climb Mt. Everest. Hell no I won't go, but for you penny pinching explorers I understand they do a land office business in Kathmandu selling used trail and mountain gear.

I was perfectly willing to sit in the comfort of one of our several screening rooms and watch PBS or NatGeo documentaries of you risking life and limb, until I saw a Telegraph story of a 4 billion pixel photograph of Everest.  The photo, in stunning detail, is a masterfully melded collage of 477 photos taken during last year's spring climbing season.

Conquering Everest doesn't look intimidating in the photos.  Click on the link above, the pix are stunning.


Friday, February 8, 2013

The CSA is Born

SHELBY FOOTE: Before the war, it was said "the United States are." Grammatically, it was spoken that way and thought of as a collection of independent states. And after the war, it was always "the United States is," as we say to day without being self-conscious at all. And that's sums up what the war accomplished. It made us an "is."

After the federal elections of 1860 and a month prior to Abraham Lincoln's inauguration, representatives of seven southern states met on February 4, 1861 in Montgomery Alabama to plan their state's secession from the United States, forming the Provisional Confederate States Congress, charged with drafting a new constitution, creating a flag and electing Jefferson Davis as provisional president. On February 8, 1861 representatives of the provisional congress ratified the new constitution and the Confederate States of America came into being. And the rest is history.

If you are interested in Civil War history, you may enjoy  The Fall of The House of Dixie by Bruce Levine.  Dr. Levine approaches the war not battle by battle, but instead offers an explanation of how the southern cause collapsed from the inside. An approach I had hardly considered.

Also, on another February 8, this time 1820, a child was born, one who would later become one of the principal military destroyers of the Confederate States of America, William T. Sherman.

He and his family now lie buried up the street from mine.

And finally: did anyone notice that the city of Memphis, Tennessee getting a jump before state laws prevented it, on Wednesday, formally renamed 3 city parks that formerly honored Confederate Civil War heroes?


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The King is Dead

Dateline: Sandringham, February 6, 1952

King George VI, the man who saved the UK from Nazi annihilation, has died at Sandringham, his country estate.  His majesty spent the previous day hunting with Lord Fermoy, afterwards playing with his grandchildren Charles and Anne before dining with his daughter Margaret.  The king later died in his sleep.  

News of the events at Sandringham were slow to reach the new queen. Elizabeth and her husband Phillip were vacationing at a game resort in Kenya, then one of the remotest parts of the world, during a tour of the Commonwealth.  

Granville Roberts, a reporter for The East African Standard, was covering the royal tour when he heard the news of the King's death via Reuters, and informed the queen's private secretary, who then alerted Phillip's. Assured the news was accurate, the Prince was informed, and it was he who informed the Queen.  

The first photo of the Queen

Arrangements to return to London were quickly made.  The bulk of the queen's luggage had already been sent along to her next planned stop on the tour, including the customary mourning outfit, that all royals and heads of state travel with.  The queen's floral dresses wouldn't do upon arrival in London.

 During an unscheduled landing due to weather in north Africa, arrangements were made to meet the plane in London with the appropriate clothing for the Queen and Prince.  Once properly attired, the Queen and Prince Phillip emerged to assume their new lives.

The King is Dead, God save the Queen.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Chuck Lorre #6

It's been a year since we last visited with Chuck Lorre's, creator of such television hits as Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. At the end of each of his programs, buried at the end of the credits, Chuck includes what he calls a Vanity Card. It's a short paragraph or two of what is currently on his mind. Some are pueril, others poignant, some sad, most incredibly funny.  Unless you have the ability to pause your television most flash by too quickly to read.  That is why I'm here.

Regular readers here may recall we left off at #374.  All may be found here.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

SB Trivia

A bit of Super Bowl trivia.

Many of you may believe that you remember watching Super Bowls I and II between Green Bay and somebody.  What you have forgotten is that the games were then known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game.  My personal savior at the time, Mr. Broadway Joe Namath was the MVP of the first Super Bowl, later backdated and renamed Super Bowl III.

Enjoy the game tomorrow, may your team win.  Let me know how it turns out.

Happy Birthday Betty P.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hail Columbia

It feels like we have more "do you remember what you were doing" moments than we once did.  Perhaps its the ubiquity of cameras, or simply better communications systems, but the emotional impact of news events that once would have been forgotten quickly tend to stick around.  Today marks the 10th anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia, and its memory is still fresh.

It is widely believed that the fate of the 7 crew members was sealed within seconds of liftoff, when a piece of foam rubber insulation tore off a fuel tank and struck the left wing panel opening a small hole.  Upon reentry  hot gasses seeped into the hole, ultimately expanding and tearing the shuttle apart.

NASA rescue teams recovered some 84,000 pieces of the shuttle which blew apart over Texas.  The pieces are preserved at the Columbia Preservation and Research Office at the Kennedy Space Complex, which is reserved for scientific researchers.

The usual boy reaction, whenever watching replays of Columbia's final minutes, or any tragedy is WOW, and is probably derived from video gaming.  It's not until you consciously remind yourself that you're watching 7 people die that the impact hits home.

Rest in Peace Explorers.