Saturday, May 29, 2010

"Doing that for which we came."

My paternal grandfather was an Army surgeon who cared for the wounded in France during World War I. How cool is it that we have a candid snapshot of him playing checkers during his off hours? Even my grandmother didn't know the exact where, when or who of this photo -- she merely wrote on the back "Stuart & friend - 1918 -or 19".

He wrote the description, below, on the back of these 2 postcards, which my grandmother kept.

Began work in this hospital April 1, 1918. Receiving patients from the greatest battle in history the German western offensive directed at the junction of the English and French armies. The casualties were terrific and the wounds horrible. Men were mangled beyond comprehension. The battle started March 21 and many of these cases were wounded during the first three days, and had received no attention since. Needless to say, the infections were all of a severe nature.

Madame BrisoniƩr is in charge of this institution, there were no French physicians to

look after the patients so they called our Camp Hosp. #14 A. E. F. The French in attendance are very delightful. The patients are very brave and have much courage.

The work is the most interesting I have ever had. I feel at last that we are doing that for which we came. The reconstruction surgery holds a great amount of interest for me.

The wounds range from slight shell wounds to mangled masses of flesh and bone.

Kind of an abrupt end, but the cards aren't postmarked and were surely enclosed with a full letter.

Wherever some are destroying, others are repairing.

Wishing all a good weekend!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

More sleep would help

This is gonna be one of those How I Spent My Week entries.

Saturday, May 8:

Harley-Davidson Bike Week is beginning. It happens every May. It is not a "week." It's 3 weeks. The roaring goes on most of the night. The rest of this week will take place under a lack of sleep. But, hey, there's nothing in particular going on.....

2PM: I get some ice out of the standing freezer. I walk away, expecting the freezer door to close itself as always. 8 hours later, at bedtime, I go back in (It's in the laundry room) and there it is. Caught on a wastebasket. Wide open. Much meltwater on the floor.

The outmoded technology of the freezer, combined with my laziness has had a benefit. It's an oldie, and needs defrosting. I haven't done that in 4 years. The ice buildup is still partly intact and some stuff still frozen. This only reinforces my belief that procrastination pays.

A large turkey has started to thaw, meaning I need to move it to the fridge, meaning I need to rearrange the fridge. I salvage some important stuff, but Larry's foot-tall snowman, made from the recent rare snowfall, is now a puddle in an aluminum pan, which is genuinely upsetting. The rest -- OK, if i close the freezer everything will refreeze and I won't know what came through and what has merely refrozen. But too much of the contents were expired items that needed throwing out anyway, and I am frikkin-A going to bed and not starting a piece-by-piece assessment tonight.

Sunday, Mother's Day. My father makes a wonderful cassoulet for dinner and gives us some. He's done a lot of cooking for 40 years now. He likes it. I can't even get him to stop, but I try to reciprocate more. Then I do some long-overdue cleanup of the laundry room. Larry has heavy-duty yard and garden work on his plate.

Monday -- A major rethawing and disposal of other freezer contents. Any leftover time is devoted to editing TWO book projects. One (my novel's final event) involves rewriting. The other involves searching through a lot of books for material. You'll get the particulars on that one, within 2-3 weeks. I think. The way things are going, don't hold me to that.

And: Oh crap, I have unpaid bills!

Tuesday -- A lot of business shipping to do (People are buying stuff!! Thank you, God!) Then it's roast-the-turkey time. I make a full dinner of it and take some to the 'rents. More editing.

Wednesday -- Mom has a doctor's appointment in Conway, about a 45-min drive. While she was getting ready to go, I had perused their bookshelves and borrowed a C. S. Lewis book, to see what Lewis said about "The World's Last Night." We get onto the Bible topic while I drive. I hadn't realized that the Rapture wasn't mentioned as such in any of the apocalyptic material, only by St. Paul in a letter. "Where did he get the idea?" I muse and she immediately answers, "He was referring to Matthew, where Jesus says 'Two will be in the field, and one will be taken and one will remain.'" I love talking to her about this stuff. She and I are spiritually on so much the same page, both irritated by the same negative, punishment-oriented, simpleminded interpretations, though she's a nicer person. I attempt to read while Fox News intrudes on the blaring waiting-room TV. I despise TV being forced on everyone in waiting rooms. The world hates readers.

Thursday -- Like a Mature, Responsible Old Person, I've given in and made my appointment for the [bleeping] routine colonoscopy, so this is the day of my pre-procedure consult. I sign in and am told that the insurance company will declare anything it turns up a "pre-existing condition" because we changed insurance last August. I cancel and set a September date.

I come home, eat too many potato chips out of frustration, and we pack the items we've sold for another (yes!) big shipping day.

Friday -- After we have a wonderful breakfast of Larry's blueberry pancakes, Larry heads alone to the PO and grocery store, and I head off with Mom for a different doctor's appointment. This waiting room also has a blaring TV, but it's tuned to Cartoon Network.

Back in my chair, I sigh. All kinds of intriguing audio/video offerings are getting posted by my friends on their blogs and Facebook. Problem is, all my editing has to be done on the old soundless PC. I plug in the Mac briefly and catch some of them. The phone rings. My brother, I'm told, will arrive after midnight. We are the Guest Quarters. Nothing is ready for a guest.

I have a few guest-prep duties, but most of it falls on Larry. He does a lot of laundry and cleaning anyway, and this week - oy. Anyway, those done, it's back to WinDuhs and my word processor. I've made time this week to pointlessly argue online but not to have fun. I decide to look over drafts of unfinished blog posts for something I can give a quick going over and post without much effort.

Another Saturday, and this enormous turkey will never end. Saturday is devoted to picking it over and making turkey pot pie, then dumping as much of the carcass as will fit into the crockpot for stock. I. Am. Sick. Of. Turkey. I make two pies and take one to the parents. My brother's one-night visit ends, but he's always fun and it saved us $8.00, or whatever the postage would have been, since we could send our nephew's birthday gift back with my bro. instead of having to mail it!

I wanted to get him the Leggo Taliban Hideout, but they were out of them, so I had to settle for a different set. OK, I'm lying. There is no such Leggo set. Anyway, I love getting out of the packing as much as I love saving the 8 bucks.

Sunday -- and I do nothing but edit. And obey the head-scratching orders of 3 demanding cats. Maybe tonight we'll get some rain which will keep the motorcycles off the roads and let us sleep.

Good night.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The nerve of these liberal professors.

Paris, 1121 :
...Around the year 1120, [Peter] Abelard published a little essay on the Trinity that was to prove more damaging to him than all the knives of Heloise's avengers [....]

Abelard "has defiled the church," [Bernard of Clairvaux] wrote to a Roman cardinal, "he has infected with his own blight the minds of simple people."

[Charged in absentia], Abelard arrived the next morning for the disputation only to find that the format was that of a trial.... He declined to participate in the proceedings and appealed directly to the pope to decide the issues presented....Innocent II condemned him as a heretic, excommunicated his followers, ordered his books to be burned in Saint Peter's Square, and commanded him to retire to a monastery, there to be perpetually silent. [1]

Paris. Unknown date, 1192-1203 :

From the Chartularium universitatis Parisiansis.
Letter from Stephen, Bishop of Tournai 1192-1203, to the Pope:
The studies of sacred letters among us are fallen into the workshop of confusion, while both disciples applaud novelties alone and masters watch out for glory rather than learning. They everywhere compose new and recent summulae and commentaries, by which they attract, detain, and deceive their hearers, as if the works of the holy fathers were not still sufficient, who, we read, expounded holy scripture in the same spirit in which we believe the apostles and prophets composed it. [2]

Oxford, c.1380 :
When [John Wycliffe's] doctrine on the Eucharist appeared, the friars and monks, the orthodox theologians of the place, united with the Chancellor Berton and a few seculars to condemn the thesis. A university officer was sent into Wycliffe's lecture-room to enjoin silence upon him. There he was found, propounding to his audience the impossibility of accidents without substance, and of the other metaphysical absurdities which he alleged against Transubstantiation. He appeared to be a little taken aback at the decree, but replied that it could not shake his opinion. [3]

University of Pavia, 1433 :
On Sunday, January 22, 1433 a public examination of a candidate in law was in progress in the cathedral. At the point in the proceedings where anyone in the audience might oppose granting the degree [Professor of Rhetoric, Lorenzo] Valla rose and apparently did exactly that, no doubt with sharp comments about the ignorance and barbarous language of the legist....The presiding bishop ordered Valla's arrest for precipitating the breach of decorum. Valla fled the church with law students in hot pursuit.

In one night in February 1433 Valla wrote a slashing attack denouncing the practice and teaching of civil law and its major figures, the revered Accursio, Bartolo, and Baldo degli Ubaldi. ... His was the first of several humanist attacks on traditional legal studies. [4]

University of Padua, 1555 :
While at Padua, [Professor of civil law Matteo Gribaldi Mofa] made little secret of his religious views. He did not attend mass, probably expressed himself freely, and opened his home to ultramontane Protestant students.. He also spent his vacations at his castle in Protestant Switzerland. The Paduan bishop became suspicious and Gribaldi's concurrent [i.e, fellow professor] denounced him. [Refusing to rebut the allegations] Gribaldi left Padua on April 25 1555. The University of Tubingen in Lutheran Wurttemberg immediately hired him....Gribaldi further developed his anti-Trinitarian views and arguments for religious toleration....and he lost that position in 1557....The Catholic University of Grenoble hired him for the second time in 1559. As at Padua, fellow professors denounced him for his religious views, but academic differences may also have separated them....Gribaldi again lost his professorship and retired to his Swiss mountain home, where he died in 1564. [5]

University of Bologna, 1570 :
On October 6, 1570, the Bolognese Inquisition arrested Girolomo Cardano, first ordinary professor of medical theory at Bologna....Without the trial records of the Bolognese Inquisition (of which little survived), it is not possible to determine which ideas were found objectionable and which errors he abjured. Certainly Cardano expressed views that ecclesiastical authorities might have found offensive. He strongly endorsed astrology and prepared a horoscope for Christ. He held Christianity to be the true religion but criticized religious writers, especially in the early church, for foolish statements. He wrote a defense of Nero in which he noted that the criteria for judging historical figures were historically conditioned and often wrong. He marveled at men who willingly endured martyrdom for various religious systems, not just Christianity. At times, Cardano seemed to adopt a relativistic view toward the world's religions, and he seemed indifferent to the institutional church. [6]

Harvard, 1700 :
At last, in 1685, Increase Mather came to the rescue by consenting to assume the place [of Harvard President] temporarily, giving it such time as he could spare from his duties as minister of the Second Church of Boston. [...] This was wholesome neglect, for it left the running of the college in the hands of the two tutors, John Leverett and William Brattle, both of them able, liberal and broadminded men. Excellent teachers, sharing their enthusiasms for science with their students, they labored to make Harvard a liberal arts college abreast of the best English standards. [...] Had Mather been more observant of what was going on under his very nose and less concerned with buttressing the control of the orthodox group over the college by means of a new charter, he might have checked this liberal drift. [7]

By the later years of the decade Mather had come to worry about the direction of the college -- the liberal direction. ... [In 1700, Mather] issued his Order of the Gospel, an effort to recall to New Englanders the great charge that history had given them.[8]

Let the Churches pray for the Colledge particularly, that God may ever Bless that Society with faithful Tutors that will be true to Christ's Interest and theirs, and not Hanker after new and loose ways. This is a matter of no small concernment. For if the Fountain whose Streams should make glad the City of God, be corrupted, Posterity will be Endangered thereby. [9]

Hungary, First Obstetrical Clinic of Vienna General Hospital (teaching clinic for university medical students), 1847 :
A young Hungarian physician named [Ignaz] Semmelweis...observed how frequently puerperal fever occurred in patients attended by students who were accustomed to go directly from the autopsy room to the maternity ward, and he came to the conclusion that uterine infection is caused by matter introduced into the birth canal from outside sources, through the hands of the nurse, doctor or other attendant. He succeeded in greatly reducing the amount of puerperal fever in his maternity clinics by the simple measure of requiring all attendants to wash and disinfect their hands before examining a patient. Other doctors were strongly opposed however to the ideas of Semmelweis and his methods were never widely adopted or well-known until long after the independent work of Lister (beginning 1864) had finally brought about the general use of antiseptic techniques. [10]

At the time, diseases were attributed to many different and unrelated causes. Each case was considered unique, just as a human person is unique. Semmelweis's hypothesis, that there was only one cause, that all that mattered was cleanliness, was extreme at the time, and was largely ignored, rejected or ridiculed. He was dismissed from the hospital for political reasons and harassed by the medical community in Vienna, being eventually forced to move to Pest [11]


[1] Richard E. Rubenstein, Aristotle's Children (Harcourt, 2003), pp. 116-125.

[2] Lynn Thorndyke, translator and editor, University Records and Life in the Middle Ages (Norton, 1944, 1975), pp. 22-3.

[3] George Macaulay Trevelyan. England in the Age of Wycliffe (Longmans Green and Co., 1948), p. 298.

[4] Paul F. Grendler, The Universities of the Italian Renaissance (Johns Hopkins, 2002), pp 210-11.

[5] Grendler, pp. 187-8

[6] Grendler, pp. 188-9

[7] Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, The Puritan Oligarchy (Scribner, 1947), pp 152-3.

[8] J. David Hoeveler, Creating the American Mind: Intellect and Politics in the Colonial Colleges (Rownman & Littlefield, 2002), p. 47-9

[9] Increase Mather, Order of the Gospel Professed and Practiced by the Churches of Christ in New-England (1700, undated Kessinger reprint), p. vi

[10] Kenneth R. Burdon and Robert P. Williams, Microbiology (Macmillan, 1968),

[11] Wikipedia, s.v. "Semmelweis."

Saturday, May 08, 2010


Larry and I got married in a real church and everything, so we had to fill out the Episcopal Church's questionnaire to assure it, and incidentally, us, that we really knew each other well enough. We got a high score. But they forgot to ask the question that would have docked us a point.

Greeting Card Style. Every family has its own special-occasion traditions and, as we discovered, greeting card style was very different in our families. In his, cards are beautiful and serious. In mine, a greeting card must, always, be funny. After some adjustment to each other's card styles, we managed to meld our inherited styles nicely.

Each mom gets the appropriate card type, and I liked the one for my mother so much, thought I'd share. Click to enlarge if you like. By American Greetings, available at the nearest K-mart.

Friday, May 07, 2010

On this National Day of Prayer

...I invite you to read a piece by a conservative, born-again Baptist. Who thinks the ruling that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional is right, that Franklin Graham should not be the speaker at the Pentagon's event, and says :
The separation of church and state is a Christian idea that is to protect the church from being corrupted by Caesar. We do not need the government to tell us to pray, because that would suggest they could also tell us not to.

His blog, and the book he wrote, are both called For God's Sake, Shut Up! and he's quite thought-provoking.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A balanced life. Not.

I don't do those blog memes except on the rare occasion when the question(s) really appeal to me, but an individual question will occasionally jumpstart me on a topic.

This time, the Wednesday Random Dozen (link is to my friend Catherine's answers - she does it regularly) asked ten things I really have nothing interesting to say about, and two others that struck me. Though they rather annoyingly rub my face in my faults:

1. What room in your home best reflects your personality; and

2. How do you maintain a balanced life?

A what? A "balanced" life? That's one of those "shoulds" that nobody actually does, right? Like rotating your tires, or always tightening the #%$ing child-guard cap back onto the pill bottle even when there's no possibility of a small child around, instead of leaving the cap loose and easily removed.

Seriously, I guess most people try to balance their lives but I gave that up ages ago. I work best when I do one thing that I feel driven to do and neglect everything else, and then change course and do something else.

For a week now I have been pounding at the novel (remember my novel? That brick wall I've been beating my head against for over 4 years?). Nothing else. Kitchen's a mess. I've done no business work to speak of. Barely reading, not writing anything else. Just Total Immersion.

It's not a burst of writing enthusiasm. It's more that I want the blasted miserable thing out of my life. Done. Sunk into that great sea of self-published plankton, never to be seen again. My love/hate relationship with it is on the outs right now, and I'd really rather be saying something else than saying what it ... says. Not that I don't still like my basic world-view as depicted in this college dorm of 1973-4. But I've been there an awful long time.

Which brings me to Question One. My alleged office is where I beat on this and other projects, and appropriately enough, it reflects the Real Me to an alarming degree. It's a chaotic mess.

But part of the problem is tchotchkas. Knickknacks, doodads, thingamajigs. In decorating magazines, you see lots of interesting knickknacks on bookshelves, often in front of the books. You can tell that the space is staged and not designed for use. WHO wants to move a gift shop's worth of stuff to get out a book?

In real life, true Book People have a separate place for tchotchkas. I'd give anything to have one, but aside from a single dedicated shelf on which there's no more room, it's a dream for the future. I'd never have shelves like you see in this post, if there were any other place to put these things. I love my tchotchkas and the people who gave them to me. Each one has a story.

The little wooden Viking is a figure I've had since I was 7 years old. I think some classmate gave it to me for that birthday, but I don't really remember. I love it beyond all reason. The moose is a McDonalds toy from at least 40 years later but it seemed to be just what my Viking needed. Some cool little figures come with model railroad gear, and Larry gave me some that were "me" kind of things.

But they get shuffled into weird configurations as I try to gain access to what's behind them, and, just as each knickknack has a story, there's a story -- at least, a sequence of events -- behind the current position of each one, too. Not necessarily an interesting sequence, no matter how odd or amusing the final placement is. Things get bunched and placed inside other things and then moved off to any stable surface when the shelf behind them needs access.

But the process can create a weird version of Accidental Art.

Honest, every one of these nightmares of clutter that you see is exactly as it was, not staged for the photo. Many people would say, "I could not stand all that clutter!" I actually have a hard time with it too. I periodically organize. Then it slowly reverts to its natural state. These photos catch it at its end state in the process and a cleanup is called for. I see no permanent solution until I have the afore-mentioned tchotchka space. But I can cope with it. After all ....