Monthly Archives: May 2008

Hillary and the votes

Aside from posting a link to Obama’s campaign, and openly voicing my support for Obama and the change he may well engender, I’ve not written any blog entries about the campaign this year.

My silence is ended.

The Democratic parties of Florida and Michigan, by placing dates on calendars in contradiction of national party rules, knowingly flaunted the rules they were given.    While a political solution to their intransigence is necessary and even appropriate, these two state parties are the beggars here, not the choosers.

Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign in these two states.  In Florida, many of the candidates’ names stayed on the ballot.  That primary election is tainted, though, but the lack of campaigning or organizational canvassing, both of which are indicators for future success.  We must leave it up the national Democratic party representatives to sort this one.

In Michigan, all major candidates except for Hillary took their names off the ballots. 

For Hillary to initially play by the rules (although not quite; cf. Michigan) and now want the rules changed to her advantage is a sign of monstrous hubris, arrogance, and untrustworthiness.  Her desperation is unseemly; her shiftiness, un-presidential. 

I’ve said that I’d vote for whatever Democrat got the nomination.  I’m reconsidering that now, in light of her open-faced untruthfulness and distasteful chutzpah.

New garage door clicker

I don’t know how old my garage door opener is.  The clicker died yesterday.  The button had been squishy for a while, and I guess an important little piece of metal finally broke.  That’s about the best I could figure out.

Lowe’s has now supplied me with a new clicker, at a total cost of just over $25.  Of course, I move in two weeks, so that clicker is costing me over $1.50 per day.

Notes as I near the end

Random notes from this week….

Life throws curve balls, feints, and little tricks.  I was looking forward with eagerness to being in St. Louis, and having my dear friend B.J. just a few hours away in KCMO.  Beej is moving to Denver this weekend to move up the job ladder.  The Lord giveth.  The Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Members of the Gateway Men’s Chorus are emailing with enthusiastic welcomes.  I’m humbled.  I hope I can live up to the hype.

Meanwhile, my new Macbook Pro has arrived at Webster, and the furniture for my office is due to be installed two weeks from tomorrow.

Speaking of two weeks from tomorrow, that’s my last day here at Ball State.  “And now the party’s over, the seconds fly away.”

Utilities at my new address in STL go in my name on Saturday.  Level pay for electric and gas combined each month?  $90.  I’m happy.

I had a very fun phone call with my sister Beth this week, and I talked to the niece and both nephews.  I’ve also talked to two German friends this week, one in Ohio and one in Illinois.  And I’ve had email from Malte Schmick in Muenster, Germany, about his new son.  And I talked to Alex Snyder, now stationed in Germany in the European Army band.

I continue to be concerned for my friends in Deyang, Sichuan, China, just 60 km from the capitol city of Chengdu, in the earthquake region.

Last Movie Watched: the new Indiana Jones flick, and the new Narnia flick.  I enjoyed both, but I enjoyed Narnia more.

Next year’s Italy & Greece trip is heating up.  The first three registrants enrolled yesterday.  I’ve fielded 20 more email inquiries today.  May 13, 2009 = depart for Rome.

An American Abroad

My recent trip to Europe included adult students from two other North American colleges. One of those students appeared to be the epitome of the boorish, loud, obnoxious American abroad. Cultural sensitivity, and sensitivity to the ideals of group travel – these were entirely missing, or so it seemed to all of those in my group.

I searched a few minutes ago for guidelines for traveling abroad. From the website helium.com, here’s an entry by Chris Reynolds.

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Rudeness varies from country to country and so it’s only possible to discuss some top-level issues in this article.

Moderate your dress: Check out a reputable guidebook to see what’s considered acceptable in the host nation. In many nations you should cover arms, legs, ankles or heads, and in doing so you convey a respect for your host’s culture. At the other end of the scale, don’t over-ethnicise; A sari looks great on an Indian woman, but can look downright daft on a camera-totting tourist. Avoid clothing that conveys a political or inappropriate message.

Be wary of what you photograph: Many people don’t like their photo to be taken. Many sites are considered holy or of national security and should not be photographed. Official tour guides can offer great advice on this topic.

Avoid overt nationalism: Whilst it’s fine to be proud of your nationality, others will not always feel the same. Don’t carry or wear flags (except at international sporting events), don’t have your national anthem as your ringtone and don’t insist that others speak English. Above all, don’t assume that others hold America in the same high regard as you do. Many people have political or social objections to America and may regard you simply as a cash cow. America is a wealthy nation and by shouting ‘I AM AN AMERICAN’ you will receive more attention from pickpockets, thieves and other criminals.

Currency: US Dollars and American Express are often accepted [outside of the USA], but if you pay in local currency you will often get a better price, and Visa and Mastercard are accepted in far, far, far more places. If tipping is expected, always tip in the local currency.

Learn the language: Just a few words will get you a long way. At popular tourist destinations, many people speak English, but starting a conversation in the local language conveys massive respect. Worried that you’ll get it wrong? No matter, if the person you’re speaking to can speak English then they’ll probably switch straight away. Try it. It really works.

Tourism is not a cultural exchange: You travel to experience another place. That place is probably proud of its culture, language, attractions, people… well, everything. Leave as much of your everyday life behind and use your vacation to absorb as much as possible. The British (of which I am one) have ruined the Southern Spanish coast by importing their pubs, chips and thuggery. There’s little that the individual can do to affect this, but every little counts so it’s a point worth being mindful of.

I mentioned it in my first point and I’ll say it again. Buy a reputable guidebook and read it cover to cover. Many will contain cultural pointers and basic words and phrases.

The Last Doughboy

I find my usually at odds with George Will, but his Memorial Day column is right on the spot.

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THE LAST DOUGHBOY 

Sunday, May 25, 2008; Page B07

 

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Numbers come precisely from the agile mind and nimble tongue of Frank Buckles, who seems bemused to say that 4,734,991 Americans served in the military during America’s involvement in the First World War and that 4,734,990 are gone. He is feeling fine, thank you for asking.

The eyes of the last doughboy are still sharp enough for him to be a keen reader, and his voice is still deep and strong at age 107. He must have been a fine broth of a boy when, at 16, persistence paid off and he found, in Oklahoma City, an Army recruiter who believed, or pretended to, the fibs he had unavailingly told to Marine and Navy recruiters in Kansas about being 18. He grew up on a Missouri farm, not far from where two eminent generals were born — John “Black Jack” Pershing and Omar Bradley.

“Boys in the country,” says Buckles, “read the papers,” so he was eager to get into the fight over there. He was told that the quickest way was to train for casualty retrieval and ambulance operations. Soon he was headed for England aboard the passenger ship Carpathia, which was celebrated for having, five years earlier, rescued survivors from the Titanic.

Buckles never saw combat, but “I saw the results.” He seems vague about only one thing: What was the First World War about?

Before leaving England for France, he was stationed near Winchester College, where he noticed “Buckles” among the names that boys had carved in their desks. This ignited his interest in genealogy, which led him to discover that his ancestor Robert Buckles, born in Yorkshire on May 15, 1702, arrived at age 30 in what is now West Virginia.

After Cpl. Buckles was mustered out of the Army in 1920 with $143.90 in his pocket, he went to business school in Oklahoma City for five months, then rented a typewriter for $3 a month and sent out job applications. One landed him work in the steamship business, which took him around the world — Latin America, China, Manchuria. And Germany, where, he says, in 1928 “two impressive gentlemen” told him, “We are preparing for another war.”

Behind glass in a cabinet in his small sitting room are mementos from his eventful life: a German army belt with a buckle bearing words all nations believe, “Gott Mit Uns” (God Is With Us). The tin cup from which he ate all his meals, such as they were, during the 39 months he was a prisoner of the Japanese — because he was working for a shipping company in Manila on Dec. 7, 1941.

Widowed in 1999, this man who was born during the administration of the 25th president recently voted in West Virginia’s primary to select a candidate to be the 44th. His favorite president of his lifetime? The oldest, Ronald Reagan.

Buckles is reading David McCullough‘s “1776.” That date is just 18 years more distant from his birth than today is.

This Memorial Day, Buckles will be feted back in Missouri, at the annual parade and fireworks in Kansas City. Perhaps he will journey to Bethany, to the house on whose porch he sat at age 3, 104 years ago.

He was born in February 1901, seven months before President William McKinley was assassinated. If Buckles had been born 14 months earlier, he would have lived in three centuries. He has lived through 46 percent of the nation’s life, a percentage that rises each morning when he does.

On June 28, 1914, an assassin’s bullet in Sarajevo killed the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The war that followed took more than 116,000 American lives — more than all of America’s wars after the Second World War. And in a sense, the First World War took many more American lives because it led to the Second World War and beyond.

The First World War is still taking American lives because it destroyed the Austro-Hungarian, Romanoff and Ottoman empires. A shard of the latter is called Iraq.

The 20th century’s winds of war blew billions of ordinary people hither and yon. One of them sits here in a cardigan sweater in an old wood and stone house on a rise on a 330-acre cattle farm. In this case, and probably in every case, the word “ordinary” is inappropriate.

georgewill@washpost.com

Europe, final post and pics

With this post, I wrap up the 2008 trip to Germany and the Czech Republic.

Europe, beer

Since I’ve enjoyed the bier and pivo so much this trip, I thought a little blog entry about beer would be appropriate.

I’m not a fan of darker beers, so I steered clear of braun and schwarz beers.  All of what I drank was pilsner or weissen (wheat) beers, with the exception of a couple of maibock beers (May beers, a seasonal specialty that is especially malty).

I really can’t name a favorite.  Our course I had Pilsner Urquell and the original Budvar in the Czech Republic.  I really did appreciate the Budvar, beer that is so different from its cousin, Budweiser.

(Click on thumbnails for larger shots.)

My first beer, at the airport in Berlin, was a wheat beer:

At our first group meal that night, I enjoyed a local Berlin brand, Berliner Kindl:

On Sunday, one week ago today, some of us took an optional excursion to Potsdam, where I ate a wonderful meal at the Krongut Bornstedt restaurant, brewery and distillery.  I should have had the brown beer that night, because it was better than the pilsner in my estimation.  Their pear schnapps were a hit too!

On the train back that night, our tour guide Kevin and I each had a Kindl.

We traveled to Wittenberg, where I, of course, had to check out a Wittenberger weissen:

I’ve already written in a blog about the Felsenkeller guest-house and brewery in Weimar.  Their Maibock was stupendous, as was the meal.

Here’s the lunch beer that day in Weimar.  Sadly, I can’t recall its name.  The night before, in the hotel bar, I had an Ehringsdorfer pilsner (no picture available).

Prague was a riot of beers.  There are several local brands.  I tried as many as I could.  On the last day I enjoyed a Krusovice at Vysehrad,

and then finished off the last evening at Pivovarský dùm, one of Prague’s many local brew-pubs.  Here’s the tap at the bar:

The trip was a cerevisaphile‘s dream!