Archive for September, 2017


Early this summer, I asked one of my daughters if she would like to go to see the new movie Dunkirk. Remembering the battle of Dunkirk from my childhood when I listened to descriptions of what was happening on short wave radio, I thought she and her friend would find it interesting. We all three thought the movie was well done, but I came away with a vague feeling that something was missing. There were two long lines of soldiers stretching down the beach to the water, one pier and one big ship that came into the pier to take on evacuees. Three real Spitfires swept in and a limited number of little ships were shown leaving England and (presumably) crossing to Dunkirk.

The magnitude of the event bothered me and I kept thinking about it off and on. Using the limited sources that provide much information, I pulled together the following facts: the evacuation lasted nine days from May 27 to June 4; approximately 338,228 total soldiers were evacuated across the channel to England with 140,000 being French, Belgian and Polish, with the rest British. Again, approximately 50,000 French soldiers had to be left behind. In the air war over the beaches the British lost 177 aircraft and the Germans 240.

All of this happened because the German Generals commanding the two armies moving in on the French and Belgian coast halted their troops well short of the coast in order to pull their commands into better order.

Laying out all these facts and figures make the case that the movie makers had a tough story to tell with multiple elements and huge numbers. Selecting the air, they managed two Spitfires in several “fights”. Their two long lines of soldiers going down to the beach with a pier from which troops were taken on board a ship served to represent the hundreds of thousands in the actual operation. The scenes on the motor launch from Britain illustrated the actions of the hundreds at the time. They probably couldn’t have done a better job of telling a story spread over such a broad territory and time. Both the movie and digging out the figures above brought forth memories of the 9 days that I spent listening to every news report about those events in Belgium.


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This week has been a busy and exhausting one on the home front. It was decided to paint the aluminum siding of our added on bedroom. This involved going to the paint store on Saturday and selecting a color, which was done after backing and forthing for some time and then purchasing painting equipment that we did not think we had at home. Of course, since we did not check our “tools” before we went shopping, we had several of the things we bought. Then, home to begin what was expected to be at most a 2 day job. It is now Thursday evening and we are now both sagging in our chairs after finishing after noontime. I suspect we are not the only people who do not do a thorough job analyzing the “getting ready” tasks; sanding, stirring, cutting some plants that were close to the house, etc.

Oh well, at least we weren’t concerned about the Prez threatening the rest of the world at the United Nations.




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The Future

 Recent events, some over and some ongoing are changing the future of humankind. Two massive hurricanes were encouraged by melting Ice caps. The hurricanes received massive coverage. The first in southern Texas in an area from the coast through oil processing plants up through Houston brought in massive amounts of rain water which still has not completely run off or soaked in. (And allowed oil/gasoline prices to be raised.) There is no telling how many homes will have to be destroyed because of mold, but it appears to be rising daily.

The most recent is through the traditional route up the edge of Caribbean islands to Florida. In the process, it has pretty much destroyed living conditions on smaller islands and particularly in the Virgin Islands that we manage. As the storm turned and moved up Florida, it poured water and moved the ocean over land. It went up the coast to Charleston, SC flooding and destroying.

TV and news publications focus their attention on what will happen next. When I “steamed” up to Thule, Greenland in the early 1950’s I saw so much ice in the water and on the coast (we had to look up to see the top) that I gave no thought to it melting away. Fifty years later, on a cruise ship up the coast of Alaska, I saw what appeared to me to be similar amounts of ice. Now, our ice cover is obviously melting away and what next questions deal with that reality.

Those who don’t believe in change except as it returns us to good ole yesterday are the base of our present national administration. They don’t want any control over the use of energy and support the removal of any controls over energy production. They do not see oil and coal burning as having anything to do with causing the air pollution that is speeding up the addition of water to that currently in the oceans.

Up to this point our government has been a leader in addressing environmental issues. But now, by allowing vast corporations which exploit the environment to make their fortunes to function with little control over their actions we are complicit in environmental degradation.

I won’t be here to find out, but I look at the children across the street and wonder what they will be left to struggle with.

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Sitting here in the sunroom and watching the rain fall takes me back through some of the different weather I have lived through. When I was small in North Carolina I can remember only one snowfall and that was of short duration. There was not even enough for one snowball.

When we moved to the end of the streetcar tracks at Glen Echo, Maryland, just a couple of a miles or so from the D C line, my father and I had a winter of snow. He purchased a sled and we spent many an evening sliding down a long hill above MacArthur Boulevard. Shortly thereafter, when I moved into high school, we waited for the school bus in the small post office on the river side of both the streetcar tracks and MacArthur Boulevard. We had several big snows in those winters. There were several days when school was closed. When school reopened, It occurred to us boys that if we stayed in the post office the bus would go on without us and we could spend the day sledding.

Well, it worked once, though several girls took the streetcar, a long trip, to school. The next day, the driver, Mrs Best, sent a kid already on the bus down to tell us that if we weren’t on the bus immediately, she would bring her paddle (a large flat, wooden instrument kept by her seat) down and beat the daylights out of our fannies. There was no question in our minds that she would. That was our last free day. (It also put the onus on one of the senior girls, who could gin up different scripts, to write notes for all the boys before the bus got to school.)

One of our neighbors in Glen Echo, Roger Tory Peterson, was an ornithologist who had a long toboggan which he let us use. There was a golf course on the other side of MacArthur Blvd that had hills marching up from the river. We would drag that toboggan up the the last hill on the course, pile on and go down and up and down, finally across MacArthur Blvd and the street car tracks where we died somewhere on the circle. We did this until dark for as many days as we could manage.

The school bus took a road that cut through a different golf course. When we saw men with clubs, sometimes setting up to hit a ball, we (boys) lowered the windows and shouted out the window at them about how their posture was wrong, they were using the wrong club, etc. After months of this, the assistant principal got on the school bus one morning to tell us that he had been called about our behavior. No one said anything. He smiled and said the caller did say we did not use profanity which he was glad to hear. He then got off the bus. Winter came and for most of the rest of the year there was no one to shout at. But, we got the message and appreciated the way our principal handled the problem.

Snow and sledding and school bus rides could be a lot of fun

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What A Week

I am among millions who could not imagine that what appeared to be a relatively weak storm/hurricane could turn into a monster that would maul south Texas. The most obvious destruction was in the city of Houston, though the south coast for a 100 miles and into Louisiana was flooded. The scene even afforded the President an opportunity to fly in and talk about himself. It was the rain, 50 inches, and not the wind that caused most of the damage.

The problems here now involve money. No one has yet any idea of the cost of “rehousing” (restoring, rebuilding, moving) problems. That whole south coast area is low, and very accessible to the water thrown up by storms. Add to that the wind and the amount of physical damage done by strong storms is obviously enormous.

What will happen to the people who have little or no insurance on their houses. How will the home insurance companies manage the money outlay they have contracted for? What about the outlay on repairing public property: roads, buildings, equipment, water facilities? How will small businessmen cope with rebuilding and repair, particularly if their business areas do not rebound? When will all of the schools be able to reopen and where will the students be able to attend? How will home owners who had to work through repairing or rebuilding from the previous bad storm face going through the same process all over again?

As the ice caps continue to melt, the ocean will continue to rise. As oil pumping in the Gulf of Mexico continues, the coast line gives every evidence of continuing to sink along Texas and Louisiana. For whatever reason, the Atlantic Coast from Norfolk to Savannah is also sinking. The surface of the earth, through millions of years, has changed its shape and we are helping it. Not just helping, but speeding it along. There are scientists who are explaining what is happening, but doing something about it will cut into business profits.

And anyway, we can fix this mess! Let’s concentrate on that.


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