Monday, October 31, 2016

Status of plans to move to Sandpoint

From a letter to a friend:

    I recently read a review of The Coldest Winter and obtained a copy from Amazon in "very good" or "like new" condition.  I've read a couple of accounts in the past of the Korean War and while they covered it well enough I suppose, they treated the part before I got there,  and I had pretty much read all that in newspapers before I enlisted in July 1952.  Chances are Halberstam's going to do the same thing.  My part wouldn't be all that interesting to an historian.  I was in what today would be termed an intelligence outfit in K8 (Kunsan).  One of my early jobs was to drive a Jeep to the nearby Air Force Base, pick up the "Secret" bombing instructions and take them back to my unit.  Korea was split up into K numbers in terms of radar responsibility and the Marine Corps had K8 and K30, maybe something else but that's all I remember.  I was at K30 (Cheju Island) when the truce was signed and North Korean soldiers had just been released from a prison there,  and while this doesn't make sense to me now, we were told they had to make their way back to North Korea on their own, but not everyone wanted to go so there were groups of them up Cheju Mountain and we could see their camp fires.  We were told that some American soldiers went up the mountain to go hunting, were killed and stripped of their clothing -- probably just boogeyman stories to keep us from wandering too far from base.  There were only 30 of us on K-30 which was an early-warning station.  Our "commanding officer" was a captain who stayed in his room doing a lot of drinking.  I came away with stories, but not the sort an historian would be interested in.  While I was at K8 or K30 (I don't remember) I received a "blanket" promotion to corporal.  We were told that we who were thus promoted shouldn't think highly of ourselves, the Marine Corps had found that too many corporals had been recently killed and so needed to promote a certain number of PFCs (serving in Korea and not back in the states) to Corporal.

Fast forwarding to 2016 in San Jacinto I have been weeding out books I'll probably never read or read again and sending them to Salvation Army.  At the same time, since I've been reading review after review from old copies of the NYROB (New York Review of Books), I've been encountering a number of books I imagine I'd like to curl up with on a cold Idaho winter night.   I don't recall what I paid for this one, but probably not much.  For reasons I don't understand, libraries are in the habit of getting rid of books after a couple of years and so for example this one sold for $17.95 new when it was first published in 2007, but a person can go to Amazon and buy a "good" copy for one cent plus shipping or $1.98 (plus shipping) in "near new" condition.  I don't recall what I paid but my copy looks "near new."  It is marked "Property of DeVry University, 81 Route 4 Paramus, NJ 07652."  It doesn't look as though anyone ever read it.

On occasion, I've checked the Amazon price of books I have and want to keep but are so beat up that I've ordered replacement copies.  When they arrive, if they are as advertised I put my old copy in a box destined for the Salvation Army.  I am very mindful of the parable about the rich man who built a lot of new barns and said to himself, "now I will take my ease and enjoy myself" (or something like that) which was followed by God saying "thou fool, thy soul will be required of thee this very evening."  With my dogs, the new animals I may get (a llama and perhaps some goats and chickens) as well as maintaining whatever property I buy which may not be in "near new" condition, I do not expect to "take my ease."  I have one daughter living in Sandpoint and another that wants to move back and may live with me for a longer or shorter period.  Her husband was killed in a logging accident leaving her with three kids, all of whom are grown now.  Her two sons have families of their own.   She has been staying with her daughter and two grandchildren, but this recently divorced daughter is apparently thinking of getting remarried; so Jana (now 54 years old) may very well want to live with me.   I was checking real estate listings in Sandpoint and saw one for $220,000 on 3.5 acres.  The main house built in 2007 is 1800 square feet but it has a nearby "manufactured home" built in the 1970s with one bathroom and two bedrooms nearby.  If I were ready to buy right now this property would work.  I could live in the house and my daughter could live in the manufactured home.  The alternative would be to get something larger and there are plenty of those up there, 2500 to 3500 square feet.

So I don't expect to be "taking my ease," but that parable could apply to someone having an incorrect view of his health.  In my case none of my recent health checks have disclosed any problems.  I recall when talking to Susan in the past about the likelihood of my outliving her she would say I shouldn't be so sure.  I might have some ailment I wasn't aware of that didn't show up in any tests which would kill me and she might outlive me.  Well, that didn't happen, but I think about that from time to time.  Assuming I'll live another ten or fifteen years is a bit like the unwarranted optimism of the rich farmer intending to take his ease. 

Hike on 10-23-16 where there are no trolls

The sky was a bit red this morning so we scurried off and got there 35 minutes before dawn.  "There" today was near the Scientology center.  They don't take kindly to trolls.*  In fact they don't take kindly to people taking photos of their property which I learned several years ago.  Their security people were polite to me but they hovered.  I don't know what they'd do to trolls.

We started on the distributary coming down out of the nearby mountain and feeding into the San Jacinto River.  There is water in this area whenever there is even a tiny bit of rain and since I don't have mud tires I won't be able to come down here in bad weather.  Maybe I'll feel like checking on the trolls when (if?) that happens.

A couple of times I had the camera up to my eye, sort of sensed something was wrong, and then Jessica hit me.  She is like a little ball of muscle and it isn't possible to ignore her when she wants attention.   At home when I'm at the computer or reading. She punches me in the arm or shoulder when she wants attention. I've never had a dog do this.  She gets up on her hind legs, hauls off and punches me with her front paws.  She can do this with considerable force.  I can't say she causes any pain but she does break up one's concentration.  Duffy on the other hand just scratches the back of my chair.  Ben when he wants attention comes over and squeezes his head up under my arm and looks up at me with a soulful expression.

We hiked down the distributary, crossed the San Jacinto River, walked for a while on the North levee and then, because it was Sunday and all farm workers had the day off, we hiked along a couple of farm service road.  The watermelon plants were in bloom (if that's what you call it) although I didn't see any little watermelons.

I haven't weighed Jessica recently, but she seems to have traded some of her puppy chubbiness for some longer legs.  She's probably not done yet.  She'll be 7 months old on November 1st.

Whenever Jessica and I have a disagreement, we negotiate.  When we were done with our hike today and back near the Jeep, Jessica found the remains of a small animal that had been recently killed.  She dearly wanted to take it home with her, but I insisted that she drop it.  She knew what I wanted her to do but she didn't want to do it.  She stalled, walked away but came back.  We stared at each other.  I went through the "drop it" motions again.  Finally she gave up and dropped it, but she wasn't happy.  She walked away as though she was going to punish me by not going home with us, but then she came back.  She wasn't going to get in the Jeep though and I couldn't make her (was her attitude) but she sidled up to the Jeep and ignored me as I picked her up and put her in the back with Ben.   That's not so bad.  I can work with that.

*no doubt politically incorrect, but I first encountered them living under the State Street overpass.  And then numbers of them followed.  A very few hardy young men would stay down on the river in past years, but recently that number has increased dramatically.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Searching for Beauty III

    I would never take the word
    Of a critic for the nature
    Of beauty or poetry.  They
    Are bureaucrats of the
    Soul making rules and
    Procedures which I must
    Become like them to overcome.

    Books in abundance are on my
    Shelves, guides to literary
    Theory, the critical path of the
    Educated imagination – and
    If educated and using a
    Language as I do then I
    Have unwillingly perhaps

    Absorbed those theories and that
    Criticism.  There was no other
    Way.  I looked out my window
    At trees being rustled and heard
    A dog bark and in the darkening
    Sky saw a shadow pass by as must
    We all however we’re called.

Searching for Beauty II


    Moore didn’t have Susan
    In mind, and whether she met
    His standards, she met mine,
    And it didn’t matter whether
    She measured up to an absolute.
    I wasn’t the only one pursuing
    Her back in those days.  She

    Was someone worth pursuing:
    her laughter, smile and quick
    Wit.  Her beauty at that time
    Though fleeting as it seems
    Now, even lost from the
    Photos I searched.  Cries
    From crows out of trees

    In unconcern, immune from
    What we think, those of us
    Who dwell below, though they
    Swoop down from time to time
    To wrest some small morsel
    That for all I know is
    Beautiful in their eyes.

Searching for Beauty I


    I’ve looked through old photos
    And very few hint at the beauty
    I lived with all those years.
    Consider also beautiful Terri
    Schiavo and then the brain
    Damage and loss of what it
    Was that had made her beautiful

    As though with one act she
    Was accelerated into old
    Age.  Michael, not going
    Through that with her
    Let her go.  He seemed
    To want her gone -- as but
    Hints were left.  Beauty

    Is still an absolute good
    Which I could see in her
    Smile and her eyes, even
    Hear in her weak voice
    Telling me things I wanted
    To hear after watching
    Over her all those years.

Freeman Dyson's review of Hastings Armageddon: 1944-1945

    I read Freeman Dyson’s reviews of Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945 by Max Hastings, and The End: Hamburg 1943 by Hans Erich Nossack.  The reviews appeared in the April 28, 2005 issue of the NYROB. 
    I couldn’t always tell whether it was Dyson speaking for himself or paraphrasing Hastings.  Dyson writes, “It is not possible to calculate the numbers of lives saved in the West and lost in the East by following and not following the Geneva rules.  The numbers certainly amount to hundreds of thousands in the West and millions in the East.”  This may be true if prisoners in the east were killed more often than in the West. 
    Dysan goes on: “A second important lesson of World War II is the fact that German soldiers consistently fought better than Britons or Americans.  Whenever they were fighting against equal numbers, the Germans always won, a fact recognized by the Allied generals, who always planned to achiever numerical superiority before attacking.”    This may not be true.  We learned in the American Civil War that defenders require fewer men than attackers.  Defenders always have the advantage, all other things being equal.  They can dig in, find the best places for defense whereas the attackers must encounter each new defensive position as experiencing it for the first time.  Americans and British during the time period Hastings refers to were on the attack whereas the Germans were on the defensive. 
    Dyson goes on “This was the main reason why the Allied advance into Germany was slow.  If the Allied soldiers had been able to fight like Germans, the war would probably have been over in 1944 and millions of lives would have been saved.
    “Hastings explains the superiority of German soldiers as a consequence of the difference between a professional army and a citizen army.  The Germans were professionals, brought up in a society that glorified soldiering, and toughened by years of fighting in Russia [“years”?  Germany invaded Russia in June 1941; so three years, but were the soldiers on the eastern front used against the British and Americans?  Not in very large numbers if I recall correctly].  The British and American soldiers were mostly amateurs, civilians who happened to be in uniform, brought up in societies that glorified freedom and material comfort, and lacking experience of warfare.  The difference between the German and Allied armies was similar to the difference between Southern and Northern armies in the American Civil War.  The Southern soldiers fought better and the Southern generals were more brilliant.  The Northern soldiers won in the end because there were more of them and they had greater industrial resources, just as the Allies did in World War II.  The leaders of the old South romanticized war and led their society to destruction, just as the leaders of Germany did eighty years later.”
    It is true that Southern armies didn’t take up defensive positions as often a they could have.  Perhaps for political reasons they felt a need to fight offensively in order to achieve victory quickly.  Also, many in the North did not understand the need to fight against the South, or at least not as long or as hard as they were doing.  General McClelland ran against Lincoln in 1864 and it was believed would have negotiated a peace with the South.   Lincoln told Grant he needed some military victories in order to win the election.
    Also, it isn’t true that Southern Generals were “more brilliant” than Northern Generals.  They were all trained at the same military academy.  They knew each other, and were it not for the Mexican War the political leaders would have no idea as to which officer was likely to make a brilliant general.  And then three of the most brilliant generals (albeit Northern), Grant, Sherman and Sheridan did not seem brilliant when they were first starting out.  As to Lee and Jackson, two generals Hastings and Dyson probably have in mind.  Many modern military historians think they are over-rated.
    Dyson goes on: “Hastings says we should take pride in the fact that our soldiers did not fight as well as Germans.  To fight like Germans, they would have had to think like Germans, glorifying war and following their leaders blindly.  The Germans have a word, Soldatentum, which means the pursuit of soldiering considered as a spiritual vocation.  Fortunately, the word cannot be translated into English.”
    I wonder if the Japanese had a word like Soldatentum.  They did have a long history of fighting.  Their soldiers had considerable experience in China and elsewhere and yet I suspect that few would say that man for man they were superior to the Marines that invaded their fortified islands.
I looked up Freeman Dyson.  Perhaps this article is relatable to his review of Hastings book:

Or perhaps not.  In reading Dyson’s review of Hasting’s book it is probably safe to save that Dyson considers the loss of life in war a bad thing, and yet in his Register interview we see that he believes we ought to be good stewards of our planet.  And it is safe to say that in earlier periods of our history our population was controlled by wars, famines and plagues.  We have eliminated the plagues and famines and Dyson would say that it would be a good thing if we could eliminate or at least reduce war in the future, the last hope for reducing the world’s population and its consequent pollution.
    No one will volunteer to reduce himself and his family, nor do we perhaps have any advocacy in the U.S. for the reduction of the size of families.  But Dyson the mathematician knows that our planet cannot withstand an unlimited increase in population.  The question I would have asked him in the interview was what he thought might become of us as a result of unending population growth.   
    I’ve suggested colonies on the moon and Mars as the means to siphon off some of our excess numbers.  Saturn’s moon Enceladus is another candidate.
    Perhaps this will all work out.  We don’t seem to be in any rush to colonize available planets and moons in our solar system, but as we increase in number, the return of plague-like disease and of famine seem likely.  War, especially if Iran or North Korea employ their atomic weapons may also contribute to the reduction in population.  The U.S. and Britain as Hastings (apparently) and Dyson applaudingly tell us have only citizen soldiers who will never want to start a war.  


Friday, October 7, 2016

Jessica at work

    She took the lid from the cod liver oil
    Behind a chair and peered out.
    She took my briefcase from long
    Ago across the room, and if I sit
    At my desk she is underneath
    Chewing on the floor.  It may
    Be true that Wordsworth and
    Byron were jealous of Keats,
    But if one isn’t competing
    For public acclaim, what
    Boots it how good Keats
    Was?  I’ve read some
    Poets I thought quite good.
    Jessica might chew the wood

    Beneath me, but I couldn’t
    Write like them.  Jessica
    Asks what good is my fine
    Health if I flee to Idaho
    To peer out from between the
    Trees.  I take everything from
    Her with a grain of salt.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Ray Monk on Russell Volume II

In the May 17, 2001 issue of the NYROB is a review of Ray Monk's Bertrand Russell: The Ghost of Madness 1921-1970.  Years ago I read Monk's biography on Wittgenstein and enjoyed it; so I was tempted by Monk's book on Russell -- until I got into the review:  Monk's first volume on Russell ends in 1921.  "Monk describes how Wittgenstein totally and finally destroyed Russell's confidence in his philosophical program, and in effect expelled him from his own Garden of Eden, which was mathematics and the philosophy of mathematics.  Wittgenstein had argued that there could be no complete foundation for human knowledge, whether in mathematics or in other domains."

I bought a used copy of Volume one, partly because I like Monk, but decided to pass on Volume II (even though a used "acceptable" copy is available for 96 cents from Amazon  The reviewer, Stuart Hampshire, writes "Monk's disillusionment and disgust pervade the last three hundred pages of the book, and many readers will feel that the long account of all the legal squabbles within the family is wearisome and excessive.  Russell knew that he had totally failed as a parent when John became estranged and finally went mad, and when his second son . . . was forbidden by his mother to speak to him after a divorce.  In Monk's family history the final horror came when Russell's granddaughter, Lucy, who was first loved and then neglected by him, burned herself alive after recording in detail the stages of her despair."

"D. H. Lawrence had told Russell that he was consumed by hatred and contempt and only passed as a man of peace.  Lawrence wrote early in the war: 'You are really the super war spirit.  What you want is to jab and strike, like the soldier with the bayonet, only you are sublimated into words. . . .  You are simply full of repressed desires, which have become savage and anti-social. . . .  As a woman said to me, who had been to one of your meetings, "It seemed so strange, with is face looking so evil, to be talking about peace and love.  He can't have meant what he said."'"

"Lawrence again: 'It is not the hatred of falsity which inspires you.  It is the hatred of people, of flesh and blood. . . .  Why don't you own it?"

In preparation for moving to Idaho (which will probably be delayed, but even so) I've been rather ruthless in getting rid of books.  There are certain subjects and writers I expect never to return to -- for different reasons, but I haven't gotten serious about the book case that contains my library of philosophy.  I don't think there is anything in there from Russell; so this volume by Monk will be the only one but Monk will be writing about Wittgenstein in it which I shall be more interested in, probably, than anything he has to say about Russell.  I'll keep the volumes I have by and about Wittgenstein.  After spending time with him I ended up with a view of his (or of my own developed after reading him) I am comfortable with: there is the truth of the Tractatus, but there is also a realm that one must pull a ladder up to -- if one chooses to do so.  In my case I choose it.  I'm not sure I could ever again associate myself with a branch of organized Christianity, but neither could I follow any particular philosopher.   The philosophers  I like best weren't looking for followers.  I make take with me to Idaho, Wittgenstein, Gadamer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche (because of the poetry), Plato, and several that have written about philosophers like Hayden White, Joel Weinsheimer, and Ray Monk.

My Irish Terrier, Jessica, chewed up a volume by Spinoza: good girl!

I've gotten rid of everything on the American Civil War and the "War on Terror."  As to the latter which I was quite worked up about for a time, I'm reminded of the Cold War while I was working for McDonnell Douglas: there were critics writing that the Military and the industries supporting them were building up the formidability of the USSR unrealistically in order to get congress to approve weapons purchases.  Yeah the USSR was out there and they were doing mischief but historians have looked back at them and now know that they weren't as tough as they and we (in the military-industrial complex) argued.  At the present time our military-industrial complex does not seem to be so much after the sorts of weapons they were looking for when I worked for MDC and Boeing.  Now it is technological sophistication, better and more sophisticated spying equipment and drones.  But will Iran or a paramilitary group like ISIS every invade the US?  No.  If I were still working for Boeing I might be working on RFPs (Requests for Proposals) asking us to bid on electronic devices used for spying on terrorist organizations, and drones for bombing them.  I'd probably enjoy working on the proposals, but I'm not interested in that sort of thing now, in retirement, as I am in training my new pup (now 6 months old) and thinking about Idaho.

Idaho though isn't thinking of me quite yet.  My son will be undergoing an operation which will delay the move -- give me a bit more time to work on maturing Jessica, weed out books, kitchen utensils, silk plants (Susan liked them, I didn't), etc.