Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Monday, 31 December 2007

The Cadaver Wagon

Gainesville, Florida

We spent the weekend with Bruce and Felica in Peachtree City. They are great hosts. Bruce is an ex-Navy SEAL and former Navy Captain who spent a lot of years in Vietnam. Bruce says we are the only “liberals” he knows. He seems to enjoy arguing with us about politics. Bruce quit smoking 11 days before our visit. He’s also lost 40 pounds. I’m glad for him.

The RV is ready today at 7:30 am. The Ford service guy, Rick, is not busy for a change so we spend 15 minutes shooting the breeze with him. The new transmission is guaranteed for three years or 75,000 miles. I thank Rick for keeping the RV plugged in so that the food in the refrigerator didn’t spoil.

Rick tells me about the cadaver wagon parked next to the RV. It’s packed with bodies and body parts. He has also had to keep this plugged in to prevent spoilage. Rick is not quite sure where the cadavers are being delivered or how they will be used. There are some indications that cadavers donated to medical schools in California, Texas, and Louisiana have been siphoned off into the lucrative market for body parts, with some of the heads ending up at plastic surgery workshops and some of the torsos being blown up on military proving grounds

2007 has been an interesting year. We started the year down in Mexico and then wandered past the Salton Sea and the Joshua Tree National Park in California. We hit Sedona and Roswell and saw some little black hairy pigs in the snow that they call javelinas.

After that trip, we spent a month in Europe, took a cruise to places like Greece, Turkey and Croatia and then made a 15,000 mile, four-month trip to Alaska. That gave us the chance to see wildlife (bears, whales, moose, mountain goats, chipmunks, puffins, seals, eagles, caribou and buffalo) and many glaciers, rivers, lakes and mountains. We caught and ate a lot of salmon and halibut.

Mrs. Phred and I agree to hope that 2008 will be another no-problem travel year. We will spend January and February hunkered down in Sarasota to avoid the worst of the ice and snow. On March 2 we leave to go places we’ve never been and see things we’ve never seen.

Apropos of nothing, here is a Queen video. It's a shame that Freddie Mercury died so young. He had vast talent. But who wants to live forever?

Touch my world with your fingertips
And we can have forever
And we can love forever
Forever is our today

Friday, 28 December 2007

-Simpsons & South Park Quotes

Wake Forest, North Carolina

Today is the anniversary of the wedding of our son and daughter-in-law. We have agreed to watch the kids so they can have a rare night out. South in the morning on to Atlanta.

Bart: Aren't we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know... the birth of Santa.

Bart: What's Santa's Little Helper doing to that dog? Looks like he's trying to jump over, but he can't quite make it.

Bart: I smell a museum.
Homer: Yeah, good things don't end with 'eum,' they end with 'mania' or 'teria.'

Homer: I'm not a bad guy! I work hard, and I love my kids. So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I'm going to Hell?

Lisa: Do we have any food that wasn't brutally slaughtered?
Homer: Well, I think the veal died of loneliness.

Cartman: Too bad drinking scotch isn't a paying job or Kenny's dad would be a millionaire.

Mr. Garrison: A haiku is just like a normal American poem except it doesn't rhyme and it's totally stupid.

Mr. Garrison: Genetic engineering is a way to fix God's horrible mistakes, like German people.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Bubbe and Zaza Come to Town

Wake Forest, North Carolina

We have arrived at our destination and have been greeted by our six grandchildren and a chocolate Lab named "Nole". Like Mrs. Phred and myself, my son and daughter-in-law met at Florida State University, home of the Seminoles.

I'm working under a home school chart that shows six Latin verb tenses (I shall have...future perfect tense) and ten declensions of Latin nouns. All the children learn these and learn to play the piano. How well they play depends on their ages. I have no idea what a declension is. Maybe they will explain to me when they wake up.

I let Nole out this morning at 5AM and he disappeared into the woods. It was (imperfect tense) an anxious hour wandering the woods shouting "Nole" in my pajamas in the freezing dark before he returned.

Tonight is (present tense) Christmas Eve, our 41st anniversary, a full moon and the night that the ancient Hawaiians would have (pluperfect tense?) celebrated Hōku (mid-winter).

Bubbe is a traditional name for a Jewish grandmother. A Zada is a grandfather, but it has been (past tense) corrupted in this household to "Zaza" due to an inability of the eldest to properly articulate "Zada". Here's Bubbe.

Happy Hōku.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Traveling Light

Nag's Head, North Carolina

The RV mothership needed a new transmission so we left it in Gainesville and headed North in the Toyota escape pod. The trunk is full of presents and the back seat has our traveling togs.

After the strokes, I remember the neurologist asking me what season it was. "That question has no science based answer.", I responded. So then he asked me to count backwards from 100 by sevens. Try it.

For example, today is the winter solstice, which marks both the beginning and middle of winter. For the Egyptians, the winter solstice was mid-winter. The Celtic countries usually noted November 1st as the beginning of winter. However, the Jewish and Persians calendars both indicate the winter solstice as the beginning of winter. The Hawaiians celebrate the full moon on the night of Hoku closest to the solstice as midwinter. Recently, many US calendars have treated the winter solstice as the first day of astronomical winter. I'm going to call it as I see it. Winter starts November 7th and ends February 6th. End of discussion.

We looked around New Bern, North Carolina, as a place to possibly buy a home. We didn't get a good feeling, but it was a pretty little historic town. The people were very friendly. A lot of them just walked up to us and started chatting. There's nothing wrong with New Bern. It has some neat old historic homes that woould be fun to rehab. It's just that we want to travel fot 12 months in 2008, so why buy a non-mobile home?

On the drive today we stopped in the tiny town of Bath, North Carolina, home and place of death of Blackbeard the pirate. We found a restaurant called "Words and Wine" on down the road and had lunch, wine and bought a book on mutinies. My sandwich was tuna fish laced with horseradish...very interesting. I left my USB cable in the RV so any pictures will be posted later.

We are listening to the big Atlantic waves crash just over the sand dunes in a motel at Nag's Head..

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best
wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wished."

Saturday, 8 December 2007

In Search of Blue Agave

The blue agave heart weighs between 40 and 220 pounds. One way to prepare them for fermentation is to bake the hearts or piñas in an oven for 24 hours, converting the plants starches to fermentable sugars. More modern techniques involve shredding the heart of the plant and cooking the pulp in a giant pressure cooker

Ninety percent of the tequila exported to the gringos in the US is not made from 100% blue agave. It is inferior product diluted with alcohol made from other grains such as corn.

Last week I saw an old Marlon Brando western. He wears a sombrero in a small Mexican town and drinks a disgusting green jar of pulque while talking to a villain with horrible facial scars. Pulque is to tequila as beer is to single malt scotch.

Mrs. Phred is tied up in a tennis tournament today. At noon I track her down. She's only played two of five matctes. I tell her I am wanting to search for a decent margarita. She nods approval.

At the Target department store, I buy four large margarita glasses, a metal drink shaker and a holographic blinking window Menorah for the RV (an impulse purchase). I look for a plastic dashboard Jesus with a bobbing head, but they must be sold out (it is Christmas). I pick up 10 fresh limes at the grocery store. At the liquor store I get a bag of ice, a high-end bottle of orange liqueur and a $50 bottle of tequila made from 100% blue agave tequila.

I wet one of the new glasses and line the rim with salt.

My first glass is:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1/4 cup blue agave tequila

My second glass uses 1/2 cup tequila...I like it better...

This is the best margarita I've had since last New Year's Eve in Mesilla, New Mexico on the border at the Double Eagle Saloon...I've been hopefully drinking bad margaritas ever since.. now I need to get a blender and try frozen margaritas....

I was worried this year about the blue agave because of a decline in the Mexican Fruit Bat population. They fertilize the agave like bumblebees...however, now I know that the clever Mexicans analyze the DNA of the real blue agave and produce thousands of plants from a single cell...without the help of fruit bats...

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

But if we do, I'll still love you

My little brother, David, sent me an e-mail today. It was the first time. He says he has enjoyed my blog. We have a four-year age difference.

David lives in the desert on the edge of the Great Salt Lake. He is a poker dealer at a casino and drives a black Corvette very fast on the empty desert highways.

You may remember the beagle, Snoopy, from the Charlie Brown comic strip. Snoopy has a homeless brother beagle that lives in the desert, looks a little disoriented, wears a beat up hat and talks to saguaros. I think of Snoopy and his brother sometimes when I consider my own brother (right).

I remember a day in 1954 when we loaded into our father’s new Cadillac and drove out on Waters avenue in Tampa to see Bud and Juanita. Juanita was a Seminole Indian who was breastfeeding her tenth child. I remember the baby was about three and talking.

Bud and Juanita lived in a lonely patch of palmettos that has since turned into a highly industrialized area on a six- lane highway. They had prepared a feast of turkey, sausage and other delicacies. I remember a small puppy that ate scraps until its belly dragged on the ground. In the south we refer to an temporarily extended abdomen from overeating as “puppy belly”.

Bud was a carpenter who also raised turkeys to eat. David and I discovered that turkey excrement was in the form of hard little brown balls, perfect for our slingshots. We filled our pockets with turkey shit.

My brother did something to outrage me and locked himself in the Cadillac, rolling down the power windows from time to time to spit in my face. Then he rolled one window all the way down and captured my neck by quickly raising the window. He spared my life, so eventually we made peace and used the Cadillac’s power windows to slice watermelon. Our father was very irritated.

In 1966, David came to our wedding in Miami. My Jewish mother-in-law, who may have had too much to drink, asked me in a very loud stage whisper, "Have you been circumcised?"

After a moment's panicked thought, I pointed to my brother and said, "No. But my brother has." All eyes turned to him.

That was not my only gaffe at the wedding dinner. Asked to make a toast to the bride, I fell back on this old standby:
Here's to you
and here's to me
and may we never disagree.
But if we do, piss on you.

In that way of all history revisionists, we now agree that the last line was actually:

But if we do, I'll still love you.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Hydrogenated Coal: The Tipping Point

World demand for oil is projected to increase from 31 billion barrels today to about 42 billion barrels a year by 2030.

In comparison, German oil consumption was 46 million barrels a year in 1938 and 71 million barrels a year in 1943. By 1943, about 50% of Germany’s needs for diesel and gasoline were supplied by the production of synthetic fuel, primarily hydrogenated coal.

In 1929, Standard Oil entered into cartel agreements with I. G. Farben. Standard Oil engineers developed synthetic gasoline production processes in America and transferred these processes to I. G. Farben in Germany.

Hydrogenation of coal allowed a synthetic gasoline with an octane reading of 60 to 72. With the aid of lead tetraethyl, the octane reading could be raised to 87. Standard Oil supplied I.G. Farben with the formula for lead tetraethyl, allowing synthfuels to be used in aircraft engines requiring more power and higher compression ratios.

At the time of the invasion of Iraq, the price of a barrel of oil was $30. Recently, the price has approached $100. Oil is an important input for nearly everything produced by the global economy. My best estimate is that global price levels inflate 15% for every 100% increase in oil prices. Double digit inflation will return in the next few years despite the best efforts of central banks.

The good news is that now we have reached a price point where hydrogenated coal is economically competitive with oil and will soon place an effective cap on oil prices and consumption.

Ethanol from corn is a truly bad idea. It is simply the result of pandering to agribusiness and requires an input of 1 unit of energy for every 1.3 units of energy output. The collateral damage is a huge spike in food prices, including milk and meat. You can't eat coal or feed it to pigs.

The US Air Force is currently using increasing amounts of synthetic fuel. They plan to be running all their jets on pure synthfuel from coal by 2011. Synthetic fuel from coal costs $45 to $60 per barrel, making it a bargain in comparison to traditional oil.

Octane is not an issue with jet fuel, heating oil or diesel. These fuels are heavier than gasoline and rely instead on cetane ratings which measure energy content. Europe has already gone largely diesel and the US will soon follow. The recent increase in oil prices makes liquified hydrogenated coal a sure winner in the 21st century.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Ken and Rudyard

I had a friend named Ken West who was a US Marine. I met him in High School. Ken was a track star, football player and scholar. Ken hung out with the popular people.

Ken sought me out after learning that I had made the high score on a placement exam. He was curious and invited me to some parties with the beautiful people.

Ken joined the Marines after High School and came home from Vietnam with heroin and alcohol problems. Ken liked to recite Kipling in bars in a loud voice. He liked to get in your face and into your personal space when he was drinking. He lifted weights in the Marines and came back pumped and strung out at the same time.

Ken went to school on the GI bill in Tallahasse. I met him again in a laundromat. I was starving and down to 135 pounds. Ken took me into his house and fed me things like cheap turkey neck soup and introduced me to Mrs. Phred. We experimented with drugs and once he was rushed to a hospital with jagged shards of a beer bottle in his neck. He got too close and too loud with a stranger in a bar.

Ken passed away twelve years ago in Morgan City, Louisiana. His employer called me to help dispose of his body. He was a "best friend". A friend will help you move. A best friend will help you move bodies. If you have to move your best friend's body, you are generally on your own.

I bought a toolkit for Ken in 1972. He was down on his luck again and needed the toolkit, $500 and money for a ticket to England to work on Bell helicopters. He was fired from that job after hitting a factory representative in the head with a wine bottle at a reception. Eventually, he was deported from England as an undesirable character after being arrested following a fight in a pub. He gave me the toolkit as partial payment for the loan. It had everything you might need to repair a helicopter.

Ken joined the US Marines in 1960. I ran into him again at the University in Tallahassee in 1965 and became his roommate for a time. He took me to a cast party in November, 1965 where I met Carol. Carol’s date and Ken went home alone that night.

In 1968, after graduation from Florida State University with a degree in International Affairs, he went to Viet Nam again, this time as a civilian F-4C mechanic. He came back a year later with his alcoholism in full bloom and a nasty heroin habit.

Ken's girlfriend died of a heroin overdose. Her family held Ken responsible. It didn't matter. He was hitting bottom. He lost his driver's license permanently for multiple DUI offenses.

When my son went to Florida State, Ken burst into his room in the dorm after claiming to be his grandfather. My son, also Ken, regarded this as highly amusing but his roommates retreated behind locked doors. Ken the son is named after Ken the friend. The elder Ken was living in a cardboard box at the time with lots of red facial hair.

Over the years, as our lives became more stable, he would drop by to visit us about once a year and borrow money. He took to using our address permanently to receive mail and used us as a document repository. Once a year I would help him with taxes. Sometimes we would drink together, but I stopped doing that after we got in a drunken fistfight one day and I bit off a piece of his ear. He often lived in a cardboard box and sometimes worked on a tugboat.

In 1996, I got a call from Morgan City, Louisiana. Ken had died in his sleep. His employer, a tugboat company, asked me for help disposing of the remains. Over the years, the toolbox always brings back memories of Ken when I need a wrench.

So what was it about Kipling that appealed to Ken?

Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India in 1865. At the age of six, Kipling's parents placed him in an English foster home in Southsea. He received many 'traditional English beatings' which he described in several of his works including his autobiography. He attended the United Services College in North Devon, which trained students for entry into military academies. Kipling wanted a military career but his poor eyesight and poor results at the college ended his hopes of entering the army. Kipling returned to India when he was seventeen and worked as a journalist for the Civil and Military Gazette and became an assistant editor and overseas editor. These seven years in India greatly influenced his later works.

Kipling married Caroline Starr Balestier and moved with her to Vermont in 1892. They returned to England after the death of their daughter and settled in Sussex. Kipling is said to have been dominated by Caroline, who had trouble accepting aspects of his character and his views. He lost his son, John, in the 'Great War' and suffered, perhaps as a result, from depression in his later years. Kipling died of a haemorrhage in London in 1936. He is buried in the 'poet's corner' of Westminster Abbey.

Kipling was the first Englishman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature 'in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration, which characterise the creations of this world-famous author'.

Kipling was best known during his lifetime as a poet. His poem 'Gunga Din' is his best known work but he was also a prolific author of adult and children's books. His works included: The Jungle Book, Kim, The Second Jungle Book, The Seven Seas, Captains Courageous, The Day's Work, Stalky and Co, Just So Stories, Traffics and Discoveries, Puck of Pook's Hill, Actions and Reactions, Debits and Credits,Thy Servant a Dog and Limits and Renewals. 'Kim' later inspired the popular children's pastime, Kim's Game.

The Jungle Book stories are probably Kipling's most famous prose. They were published in 1894 while Kipling was living in Vermont. The best-known of the stories are the three centering about an abandoned 'man cub', Mowgli, who is raised by wolves in the jungles of India. Another famous story is 'Rikki-Tikki-Tavi', about a mongoose who defends humans against cobras.

Gunga Din

You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

The last line of Kipling's poem, Gunga Din, has become part of our shared language even for those who have never heard of Kipling or his poetry.

Thomas Atkins

Kipling wrote a series of poems, The Barrack Room Ballads, about an English soldier named 'Thomas Atkins' serving in India. In 1815, a British War Office publication gave an example of how to fill out forms using the name Private Thomas Atkins. This generic name is now roughly equivalent to the names 'Johnny Reb' and 'Billy Yank' used during the US Civil War. Thomas Atkins was the genesis of the term 'Tommy' commonly used to refer to British soldiers.

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?'
But it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes' when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes' when the drums begin to roll.

Gunga Din was an Indian water carrier for English soldiers in the late 19th century. Kipling describes Gunga Din though Atkins' eyes. Gunga Din is beaten and abused by Atkins and the other soldiers that he serves and treated with contempt because of his skin colour
Then we wopped 'im 'cause 'e couldn't serve us all.
Atkins eventually comes to deeply respect the courage of Gunga Din. However, even Atkins' praise, by today's standards, seems insensitive:

An' for all 'is dirty 'ide,
'E was white, clear white, inside
When 'e went to tend the wounded under fire!

Finally, Gunga Din brings Atkins water after Atkins has been wounded and lies bleeding. The water is given in the thick of battle. Gunga Din is then himself 'drilled' by a bullet. His last words to Atkins before he dies are:

I 'ope you liked your drink', sez Gunga Din.
So I'll meet 'im later on
At the place where 'e is gone --
Where it's always double drill and no canteen;
'E'll be squattin' on the coals
Givin' drink to poor damned souls,
An' I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I've belted you and flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Gunga Din: The Movie

'Gunga Din' was shot in the California desert by RKO pictures in 1939.

The film portrays three British sergeants (played by Victor MacLagden, Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr). Sam Jaffe stars as Gunga Din. Gunga Din wants to become a 'first class soldier' and bugler. The English soldiers are surrounded by murderous Indian 'Thugees' (a real sect of violent rebels, from whom the word 'thug' derives) who apparently derive nothing but pleasure from strangling and killing their victims. The film is decidedly pro-British which is unsurprising considering the events of 1939 in the Pacific and the fact that Britain was still subjugating the Indian people at that time.

Eventually Gunga Din climbs a steeple and blows his bugle to warn the British of a Thugee attack. Gunga Din is killed in the process. Much of Kipling's poem is read at Gunga Din's burial ceremony.

The Story of Muhammad Din

Kipling wrote an early short story which quietly demonstrates his compassion for the natives of the Indian colony and his distaste for the attitudes held by of his peers. The story is about a young servant boy named Iman Din and his son Muhammad Din. In the story, young Muhammad is discovered looking around in the 'Sahib's' room and later doing engages in minor mischief in the 'Sahib's' garden. Both of these events cause Muhammad great shame. Muhammad then catches a fever and dies. The attending English doctor observes, 'they have no stamina, these brats.'

Kipling and the Critics

George Orwell criticised Kipling for a variety of reasons, including bad poetry.

Kipling's romantic ideas about England and the Empire might not have mattered if he could have held them without having the class-prejudices which at that time went with them. If one examines his best and most representative work, his soldier poems, especially Barrack-Room Ballads, one notices that what more than anything else spoils them is an underlying air of patronage. Kipling idealises the army officer, especially the junior officer, and that to an idiotic extent, but the private soldier, though lovable and romantic, has to be a comic. He is always made to speak in a sort of stylized Cockney, not very broad but with all the aitches and final 'g's' carefully omitted.

George Orwell was another Englishman who was also born in India. Orwell's 1942 essay on Kipling describes Kipling as a 'good bad poet'. Orwell observes that Kipling's work has outlived several generations of now largely forgotten 'pansy leftist' critics. Orwell states that calling Kipling a 'Fascist' is unjustified, but:
It is no use claiming, for instance, that when Kipling describes a British soldier beating a nigger with a cleaning rod in order to get money out of him, he is acting merely as a reporter and does not necessarily approve what he describes. There is not the slightest sign anywhere in Kipling's work that he disapproves of that kind of conduct - on the contrary, there is a definite strain of sadism in him, over and above the brutality which a writer of that type has to have. Kipling is a jingo Imperialist, he is morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting. It is better to start by admitting that, and then to try to find out why it is that he survives while the refined people who have sniggered at him seem to wear so badly.
Orwell observes that a recitation of a Kipling poem in a British pub in 1942 would draw some interest, while a recitation of Shakespeare would be most unwelcome. Orwell described Kipling's poetry as 'a shameful pleasure, like the taste for cheap sweets that some people secretly carry into middle life'.

Encouraging American Imperialism

The words in 'White Man's Burden', which was released in 1899, highlight Kipling's 'noblesse oblige' attitudes and show an unapologetic belief in racial and class superiority. This poem was intended to encourage Americans to proceed with the US-Philippine War which eventually placed Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba, and the Philippines under American control during the first American Imperialist expansion. Future American president Theodore Roosevelt read the poem and said that he considered it 'rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansion point of view.'

Take up the White Man's burden
Send forth the best ye breed
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness On fluttered folk and wild
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child

A Man of His Times

Kipling's attitudes seem jarring and offensive to many after more than a hundred years. However he was a man of his times who could and did speak out against establishment injustices. Kipling shows a deep compassion and keen appreciation for the cost of war and the consequences to the ordinary soldier of incompetent 'amateur' senior officers in works like Stellenbosh.

Kipling's poem 'The Last of The Light Brigade' describes a few elderly British soldiers starving and neglected by their government while 30 million people and school children recite the past glories of the 'light brigade'.

There were 30 million English who talked of England's might,
There were 20 broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

Kipling's Public

In 1995, the BBC conducted a poll over a period of several weeks to discover the 'Nation's Favourite Poem'. The poem 'If' by Kipling was determined to be Britain's favourite.

If you can dream, but not make dreams your master,
If you can think, but not make thoughts your aim
If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken,
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build them up with worn out tools.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute,
With sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Then yours is the world, and all that's in it,
And, which is more, you'll be a man my son.

Kipling's Legacy of Poetry

If Kipling had only produced his prose, he would probably have faded into obscurity. Kipling's poetry works, including 'Gunga Din', will live on to document the excesses of class and racial attitudes of 19th century Britain and British Imperialism. Kipling's poetry has earned for him equal measures of both lasting fame and infamy.

Ken could be insensitive, too. He told me about getting drunk and riding a public bus in Japan. He mimicked an atomic bomb coming down and big explosion for the benefit of the Japanese passengers. I think he regretted it. Once when I was in Japan and asked to have my flight suits washed, the maids washed them with fiberglass curtains which left me with stressful itches. I have no love for them.

I burned Ken's documents a few years after his death.

I can still hear him:

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?'
But it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes' when the drums begin to roll,

1 George Orwell, 'Critical Essays', 1942

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Bone Valley

Peace River, Florida

We rent a canoe in Arcadia for a ten mile paddle down the Peace River. I ask Mrs. Phred to sit in front and let me do all the paddling. This is an effective strategism which eliminates any harsh words about who should be paddling on which side.

The river, unlike most in Florida, doesn’t have an Indian name such as Withlacootchee. Curious about this, I Google and find out it was named River of Peace by the Spanish in the 15th century.

The first five miles is lined with weekend cabins, mostly vacant. There are a surprising number of “no trespassing” and “private property” signs. This is probably the result of the usually heavy canoe traffic and people stopping to picnic in inappropriate places.

A number of the paddlers have shovels and screens to search for fossils and prehistoric shark teeth. The Megalodons swam here during the Pleistocene. The teeth are up to seven inches long. They may have reached lengths of fifty feet.

The river runs though an area of Florida known as Bone Valley. It is a huge area of phosphate deposits and fossils that fuel agriculture around the world.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Amelia Found!

Sarasota, Florida

I have various “bots” searching out news on Amelia Earhart which I monitor continuously. Today the truth was finally revealed.

Impeccable sources report that Amelia has been discovered by the FBI. She has been operating a chicken farm in North Carolina staffed with illegal immigrants.

I went online today and found a canoe ride that goes ten miles down the Peace River. It’s rated one of Florida’s best rivers. It’s over in Arcadia, about an hour away. We plan to do it tomorrow.

The high temperature finally dropped below 80 F today for the first time. Winter is on the way. We’re waiting for a part from Emporia, Kansas…waiting to move on.

This place offers some nice features. We play doubles tennis in the morning, lift weights, read books, hang out in the hot tub and swim laps in the big pool. Nice, but it can’t compete with new places.

Sometimes Phred thought about the economy and sometimes he thought about butterflies. “I like thinking about butterflies better than thinking about the economy”, he once said. “They’re cute and you can watch them flutter around and land on flowers. You can’t say that about the economy.”

On the 1st, I took Mrs. Phred to "our" restaurant on St. Armand's Circle for her birthday.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007


Mile Marker 123

We spent a little too long escaping the storm, chatting with neighbors.

You never really know when you wake up in the morning if it will be the last time.

Whenever they have a fatality on the US 1 two lane choke point out of the Keys, traffic stops dead for about five hours while they investigate and clear the scene.

The accident must have happened about a minute ahead. The big rock hauler is trashed. The other vehicle is completely disintegrated, parts strewn for 200 yards along the highway. The fire rescue people walk along the roadside for 500 yards in all directions making sure that they have not overlooked any bodies or parts.

We see the helicopters evacuating dead victims.

The last time we left the Keys there was also a fatal accident that stopped all traffic in and out. Since we were stopped by a restaurant, we had conch fritters while we waited.

John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park

Key Largo, Florida

We move north to mile marker 102 in the Keys. This is where Bogart and Edward G. Robinson filmed Key Largo 1948. Like them, we wait for the hurricane and the boat ride.

Frank McCloud: He knows what he wants. Don't you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Sure.
James Temple: What's that?
Frank McCloud: Tell him, Rocco.
Johnny Rocco: Well, I want uh ...
Frank McCloud: He wants more, don't you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Yeah. That's it. More. That's right! I want more!
James Temple: Will you ever get enough?
Frank McCloud: Will you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Well, I never have. No, I guess I won't.

I agree with Rocco. I want more: more sensory stimulation, more experiences, more life. One of the films goofs was a character murdered by Rocco as the hurricane approaches who then helped to push his own body overboard. Now the movies have continuity directors.

This is one of the best State parks in the US. It’s the only state park in the US that has been awarded two gold medals. They have a shallow area you can snorkel that has authentic looking Spanish cannons and anchors. They also have a dive shop, kayak rentals, glass bottom boat trips and snorkeling trips to the reef about four miles out in the big coral reef preserve.

We are parked in a good spot, backed up to some mature red mangrove trees. We have water, electric and a grill. We’re parked on big flat concrete slab and swept with cool breezes from the Atlantic. We’re very close to the water. Seabirds wander past.

I signed up for a dive trip today but the 40 MPH winds make it look very doubtful. Noel is bearing down and the other divers are canceling left and right. The two lane choke point out of the Keys is about 30 miles north.