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The Lost Cause

The tragedy in Charlottesville and ensuing cacophony has inspired me to offer my perspective of the history involved. The monuments in question, hundreds, even thousands of them, were erected by proponents of The Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War, a series of myths that sought to rationalize Southern suffering. The purpose of the monuments was to say, “We lost the war, but we will win the peace.” These edifices and their inscriptions were the work of local groups like the

Game of Thrones Oh My

I saw the first episode of the first season of Game of Thrones As of this writing I have finished Episode 8 of Season 2. Or is it Episode 7? At this point it doesn’t matter. I am in the middle of a raging river being carried downstream. Take your pick, excellent writing, incredibly imaginative plotting, compelling characters, stunning settings and sets (Ireland, Malta, Morocco, Iceland, Scotland, Croatia) and amazing costuming. The un-costuming is great too. Are there no over

Storm in the Desert

I note with some concern a series of stories about the Nevada rancher locked in a struggle with the U.S. Government over his payments for grazing rights. According to the stories he hasn’t paid rent on the Bureau of Land Management lands on which he has been raising cattle, cattle he sells for a profit. The Government has gotten court orders to seize his cattle and have picked up some 300 head. But the rancher is defiant and – this is the scary part – has attracted militia me

Disappeared

The four-engine plane carried 15 persons, nine crew and six passengers and nary a trace was ever found. One passenger, a Chinese-American (Chinese were not permitted to be citizens then), was reported to be carrying $US3 million for use by the Chinese government in its war with Japan. One modern researcher, Guy Noffsinger, has started a website focusing on the mystery of the Hawaii Clipper and is investigating the theory that the flight was hijacked by Japanese Naval intellig

Crimea and Czechoslovakia

The crisis in Ukraine over Crimea has launched news producers into warp drive to find analysts, commenters, commentators, talking heads, and anyone with or without knowledge of events to be interviewed. You know you are wasting your time when the interviewee says, “I only know what I see in the news.” Some of the producers will find historians to find some sort of parallel in the past and the easiest one to pick on is the Sudetenland Crisis of 1938. To recap, in 1938 Adolph H

Rokuuuuu!

I looked back and realized that I did not finish my adventure with my new Roku box. To replay, I ordered a Roku 3 to replace the Roku so I could get more channels particularly PBS. I can get all the programming that is not carried on my local station (which I still support). I also discovered that there are many more channels available than are offered in the online Roku menu, not all free, but lots more stuff. For example, Al Jazeera is available if you have the right code.

Twitter and Crimea

I learned how to follow topics with the use of hashtags. In this case #Crimea will bring up every tweet involving the crisis between Russia and Ukraine and there are thousands. The vast majority of tweets are from people who have no idea what is going on and just retweet retweets ad nauseum until there is no way of telling what is happening. They spent more time including hashtags in their tweets than they did thinking about their messages. Then there are the snarky comments

More Twitter, No More Twitter

I’m not going to quit Twitter, but I doubt that I will spend time tweeting nor will I assemble a following. I can get all the important public safety and transportation tweets, the vast majority of which do not concern me. If I need to know about something going on in the neighborhood I can look it up. I have Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family and email for more serious communication. The individual tweets I have seen so far are pretty inane. I tried to follow

Twitter

I am experimenting with Twitter. I don’t have a particular need for tweeting, but I felt compelled to learn more after an emergency in the neighborhood on a Sunday night. We wanted to know what was going on and none of the radio stations or their web sites had any coverage. I went to Twitter because I knew that the police department uses tweets. Sure enough there was enough of a blurb to help us understand that there was a robbery/homicide. Very tragic. So I signed up and sta

I don’t know, Roku?

I often consider what normal features of daily life would be incomprehensible 20 or even 10 years ago – smart phones, tablets, online shopping, etc. DVD players were the coming thing 10 years ago and now are on their way to the electronics recycling center. One thing we now can no longer do without is streaming TV. I have Roku, the little set top box that allows online access to venerable Netflix and behemoth Amazon. (Be nice, they are watching.) It allows streaming of dozens

What are you listening to?

As posted here before, I have begun to explore audio books in addition to hard copy books and e-books. In the past month or two I have tried several audio history books, one about Winston Churchill. Kudos to the actor who reads the narrative for his ability to get into character for Churchill, Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt, and French, British, and American soldiers and politicians. No wonder audio books retail for more than the hard cover versions. There is a lot of talent goin

Selling and Buying

Today I bought and I sold via Amazon.com. I tried to buy toys for my grandsons the old fashioned way, but when I got there, the toy store was gone. I walked into the mall and they don’t have a toy store there. So I drove ten miles to another store. But they had only one of the things on the list. After two hours and twenty miles all I had to show for it was some dumb Play Doh. I went online and ordered the things off the Amazon list which I should have done in the first place

What are you reading? Hearing?

I usually have two books going at once, one a work of fiction and the other some kind of history book. With the Kindle I can have three or four going at once. I’ve been nibbling at the Memoirs of Ulysses Grant for more than a year, but that doesn’t count in the two. The basic Kindle has a limitation in history since maps don’t do well and maps are pretty important. The iPad* does maps better, but it’s not as convenient as the Kindle. The iPad is prettier, but heavier. The iPa

Home Movies

I just completed a couple of desktop home movie projects, another genre of the technology revolution. I was a participant in the growth of amateur movies starting with silent Super 8, graduating to sound, then to video tape, then to digital. Now I’ve done home movies, really good quality, on my phone. How great is that? Thomas Edison gave us the motion picture, but it was a commercial and industrial mystery with little being done by the amateur. Camera equipment was expensive

A funny thing happened to me on my way to the forum

One thing I like to do is participate in online forums (fora?). These are the discussion groups. Back in the early days of the Internet, before the World Wide Web (there is a difference), academics would keep in touch with each other’s scholarship on something called Usenet Newsgroups. These are the old soc.history.war type addresses. Sadly these venues atrophied as they were taken over by trolls and bots. Trolls are posters who purposely try to hijack and redirect a discussi

What are you reading? Steve Jobs

I am reading the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson which I recommend from a number of viewpoints. First, it’s well researched and well written. Isaacson talked to dozens and probably hundreds of people and had the advantage of unlimited access to the subject himself. And Jobs was, at best, a difficult subject. Jobs picked Isaacson and then took his hands off the project. His only area of influence was the cover design and he was, reportedly, his typical butthead self

Podcasts

Yes, an entire year since the last post. Not that I haven’t had anything to write, I just haven’t written it here. Here’s hoping I do better. One thing I have discovered recently is the world of podcasts. These are web-based audio and some video shows produced by everyone from big-time mainstream Hollywood and New York entities to universities, National Public Radio, and individual academics reading their papers, down to individuals ruminating into a microphone from their kit

Another Voice

I recently published, via Amazon.com’s print-on-demand program Create Space, my historical novel Down The River. The story grew out of my family history research when I came across the murders of two of my ancestors in 1813 in an argument over slaves. I was taking writing classes through the University of California Extension in San Francisco and started playing with scene and setting and all the other techniques one needs to grasp. I landed upon the idea of telling the story

Justice?

The recent demise of Osama Bin Laden has caused many to declare that justice has been done. Even the president says this. Calling the killing of the terrorist justice is unfortunate because it equates this action with some sort of judicial process. I don’t agree. There was no judicial process so this is not really justice. Back as far as President Bush there were cries to do justice and bring terrorists to justice. A more sensible approach to the killing of terrorists is as a

Silliness Within the Sadness

The recent tragedy in Tucson didn’t bring an end to the silliness that has inspired my posts recently. First the Sheriff of Pima County blamed the shootings on the degradation of political discourse. Apparently he is more politician than law enforcement officer and couldn’t see the event as another deranged person bent on destruction. Predictably the media picked up the scent and went bonkers on the sheriff’s idea. Never mind that there is no evidence to support that. It’s al

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