Keeping an Eye on Things

I went to the retinologist’s office this afternoon for my bimonthly eye injection to control my condition (wet macular degeneration) and prevent further flare-ups. As a result, I’m kind of running on three cylinders this evening.

I’ll take this opportunity to do something I should have done weeks ago, which is to give a final wrap-up on our winter fundraiser.

The first item of business is that we had just one thank-you note bounce. It was sent to a donor in Alberta. So if you’re out there buried under the snowdrifts on the freezing plains, and never got an acknowledgement of your generosity, that’s the reason.

Here’s the final tally of locations for donors (right up through yesterday):

Stateside: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming

Far Abroad: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK

Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan

Australia: Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria

Falling Into Winter

Note: This post was a “sticky” feature that was published last Monday and stayed on top all week. Scroll down for more recent material, including Jews in the AfD, clips from the Brexit demo in London, Jihad for Justice in Alabama, right-wing extremist hair braids in Germany, Dr. Turley on the Danish “Gitmo”, and many others.

Winter Fundraiser 2018, Day Seven

The Baron’s Sunday Update: A Winter’s Tale

Well, here we are at the final day of our quarterly bleg. After I finish writing this update I can catch up on my sleep, and then write some more thank-you notes tomorrow.

Tip jarAfter my worried remarks the other night, y’all really stepped up to the plate: the donations came pouring in on Friday, making it one of the busiest fundraising days we’ve had for a while. Many thanks to all of you for your generosity! The week isn’t quite back to normal, but it’s getting close. And it’s now clear that we’ll be able to make it through to the spring thaw.

It didn’t hurt that WRSA posted a link to our bleg — we really appreciate that. It’s easy to tell when donors are being referred by WRSA, because the gifts come in from Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, and other deplorable states that we don’t otherwise see much traffic from.

All of this makes me ponder our peculiar business model. Most websites monetize by selling advertising, but we do it by soliciting modest gifts from our many readers. It’s a weird form of crowdfunding, but somehow it works — every quarter we receive just enough to keep on going.

It helps me maintain my enduring sense of gratitude…

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This morning’s weather-related story is going to be longer and less lighthearted than my usual tales. I’ve never actually written this material up before, and I expect it to be hard to type out.

So… for those who want to skip this part and go straight to yesterday’s donor locations, here they are in advance:

Stateside: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming

Far Abroad: New Zealand, and the UK

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The photo at the top of this update was taken in February of 2003. It shows a snow overhang outside our bedroom window here at Schloss Bodissey. The tree in the foreground is none other than the Fig Tree of Doom, which caused Dymphna so much grief two and a half years after the picture was taken.

This morning’s reminiscence was prompted not by that particular snowfall, but by my earlier account of the first fall and winter I spent here (scroll down for that story; it begins with the photo of the turtle).

That was a cold and snowy winter, and after Christmas I just hunkered down to wait it out. Since I couldn’t go outside to paint landscapes, I busied myself with what I could create indoors — mostly geometric designs and scenes from my imagination.

But late in January I got an opportunity: a major snowfall was predicted. That was before the Weather Channel, but the radio and the newspaper were in agreement that we would see about eight inches (21 cm) of dry snow.

So I stocked up for the occasion. I made sure I had plenty of coffee, beer, and other necessities so that I could sit it out. In those days the house was heated by a woodstove, and I had an ample supply of firewood, so it didn’t matter all that much if the electricity went out. And I didn’t have any reason to go out, so I would be able to spend a delightful few days looking out the kitchen window at all that lovely snow — and painting a picture of it.

When I woke up that morning, the snow was right on schedule — three or four inches of it on the ground. I set up my easel in the middle of the kitchen floor (this place has a large farm kitchen, and in those days I possessed virtually no furniture) and started a composition based on what I could see out the window, and the area immediately inside it.

Snow in the city gets ugly pretty quickly, what with all the salt and sand from the roads, soot, and vehicle exhaust. But out here in the middle of nowhere it stays pristine for a long time if the temperature remains low. Tracks from birds, deer, dogs, squirrels, and raccoons. And maybe my own when I walk out into the middle of a flat space to stick a yardstick in the accumulation. But nothing to make it look nasty — I knew I would be able to take my time and make that painting look just right.

When I moved out here from the city I deliberately didn’t get a phone, because I didn’t want anyone bothering me. I also used general delivery for an address that first year, to assure my isolation. The postmistress was puzzled, but she let me do it, and forwarded my mail out here to the RFD box.

I expected to have a wonderful few days, working on my painting and enjoying a snowfall in a way that I hadn’t had a chance to since I was a kid.

Ah, but the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley…

When I had last been to see my parents, just after New Year’s, my father had been suffering from some sort of stomach bug. A low-grade fever and some pain in his lower tract: most likely the flu, my mother said.

Late that snowy morning, as the blizzard was tapering off to flurries with about seven inches already on the ground, I heard a rumbling on the driveway, and then a banging on the front door. It was my neighbor Jimmy Mawyer, who had driven down the driveway through the woods in his four-wheel-drive pickup.

When I opened the door Jimmy said, “Your mother called the post office. Your father has cancer. He’s in the hospital, and she says wants you to come home as soon as possible.”

So it wasn’t the flu after all.

Jimmy and I discussed the logistics of how I could get out of there. I had an old rear-wheel drive station wagon (a 1971 AMC Hornet, for the car buffs among you). I could have filled up the deck with cinderblocks or something, but still, it was going to be rough getting out of there.

I had parked facing out, so Jimmy backed up his truck to just in front of the car while I packed a bag with my necessities. He hooked a chain onto the frame behind the front bumper, and when I was ready, he had me let out the clutch while he pulled me down the driveway. I kept gunning it to try and keep from fishtailing, and we somehow made it to the road without whacking me into any trees. He stopped on a straight stretch, unhitched the chain, and wished me the best of luck. Then I set out for Maryland.

The most direct route out of here goes up and down some major hills before crossing a creek. When conditions were slick — and especially in a rear-wheel drive vehicle — I used to take what I called “the flat route”, a roundabout way that stuck to the ridgelines and avoided steep gradients and sharp curves. It added about ten miles to the trip, but it made it possible to get out. The road hadn’t been plowed yet; all I had were the tracks of the four-wheelers to help me out.

My memory of that trip is of a blurry nightmare. I remember that I came across a fellow motorist who had slid into the ditch about a mile from my driveway. It was on a slight downhill grade, so I eased off the gas and touched the brake very lightly as the car coasted to a stop. I got out and helped him push his car out of the ditch, and then got back in the station wagon and started down that hill oh so carefully, and then up the other side.

When I arrived at the main road, it had been plowed, so conditions were better. But there was still a packed sheet of glaze on the pavement, so it was nerve-wracking. You go thirty miles an hour and do your very best to keep from ever touching the brake.

The most frightening moment was when I was still on the two-lane state road, before I got to the major highway. As I rounded a bend I saw a big dog walking across the road in front of me. It took all of my willpower to leave the brake alone, accelerate to bring my center of gravity forward as I swerved, and remember the mantra: “Turn in the direction of the skid.”

Somehow I got past that dog without wrecking or ending up sideways in a ditch. After that it was easier — I got to the main highway, and although it was in bad shape, it was better than anything I’d been on before. As I went further north the snow got deeper, and the plows had left larger snowbanks on either side. The snowfall had ceased soon after I left the house, and I remember the sky clearing at sunset as I crossed the Potomac.

A trip that should have taken three hours took almost eight. I arrived at my parents’ house after dark, parked on the street, and trudged through the drifts to embrace my distraught mother.

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I stayed at my mother’s for several days and went to see my father in the hospital a few times before returning to Virginia to keep the pipes from freezing (they did freeze once during that period, but fortunately it wasn’t serious). I kept driving back and forth to Maryland every few days as my father’s condition worsened.

He had a galloping form of abdominal cancer, and it was just over three weeks from the day he was diagnosed until the day he died. He seemed resigned to his fate — his own father had died of cancer, and it was what he had always feared. He was a few years younger than I am now, and otherwise in good health. But it was his time.

He was in terrible pain for the last couple of weeks. In those days they didn’t give cancer patients opiates, so all he got was Demerol, which barely even touched the pain of what was eating away at his bowel.

I had been a few days at my mother’s house for the death vigil when the call came in at three o’clock in the morning — doesn’t it always happen at that time? — that my father had died. The following night it snowed again, this time a foot (31 cm) of the stuff. But it warmed up afterwards, and we were able to shovel the cars out and arrange the memorial service a few days later.

That winter was a rough patch for me. I was in my late twenties, so it wasn’t as bad as it would have been in, say, my teens. But, still… I hadn’t expected to lose my daddy so soon, and it was hard.

The following spring, when the weather was warm and beautiful, we carried his ashes up to Yankeeland and interred them in the family plot. As a side effect of that trip, I met Dymphna, and you all know how that turned out. But we’ll leave that for another story in another fundraiser.

There was so much snow that winter that I had no trouble finishing the painting. It turned out fairly well. When I look at now — I never attempted to sell it — a bittersweet aura hangs over it, the memory of a time that had promised to be one thing, but turned into something else.

Many years ago a good friend of mine wrote a song that included this lyric:

Jesus said it came to pass.
He didn’t say it came to stay.

I guess I’ll leave it at that.

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That’s it for our winter fundraiser. We’ll be back in the early spring to do it all over again, except the weather will probably be nicer. A big thank-you goes out to everyone who participated.

Dymphna’s Saturday Update: Nor’easter or Plain Ol’ Blizzard?

Okay, y’all, we’re rounding the curve and headed for the end of this Quarterly Fundraiser.

If you’re reading this and haven’t yet donated, please do so. Think of it as your contribution to the pushback against Ugly and Loathsome Events. We can’t prevent them yet, but we can squish ’em some. But not without your generous help. (You can use this new link.)

As long as our donors continue their largesse, we continue to avoid ads on our pages. All the majors and many of the minors are chock-a-block with scripts and moving ads now. They make my eyes jump, and Ad Block has become of limited help. On my laptop I’ve taken to using a piece of card stock to cover the ones that are distractions.

Save us from this awful fate!

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To paraphrase the Middle English round: Winter is icumen in.

All the birds have fled, but the shortest day of the year isn’t quite here yet. You can sure enough feel its cold breath on your neck, though.

Every year people predict that this here particular winter will be the worst. There are indeed some “worst” ones, but like real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. Some years we get buried repeatedly; other years we never even need our road plowed.

When I lived in North Carolina we called those rare winter storms with a foot of snow and lots of wind a “blizzard”. But when I moved to New England the term “nor’easter” was the usual designation for the white-outs into which only a fool or someone with a life-or-death situation would venture out into with his rear-wheel-drive car. Chains helped a little.

I was a snow newbie back then, so the New England designation intrigued me. In the days before the internet, the reference sections in libraries were a good place to learn. I intuited that the frenzies of snow must have something to do with the Canadian cold weather systems endemic to the area (they made for wonderful New England summers to my southern-parched soul) but it wasn’t until I read about — and remembered again — the Gulf Stream, which hugs the eastern coast and makes its way around the world, that nor’easters finally made sense. They are born of the clash between extremes of weather systems created by those two factors: the cold jet stream pushing down from Canada meets the warm waters of the Gulf Stream hugging the eastern seaboard. It makes you wonder what god the Greeks would have assigned to such titanic clashes.

Having lived through some fearsome winters, the nor’easters seemed to me to be winter hurricanes, but of course, they weren’t, not really. Hurricanes smashed houses, ripped up thousands of trees, and disappeared small towns and barrier islands. They caused the Spanish to abandon the colonization of Western Florida. Hurricanes carry their victims out to sea; nor’easters and blizzards bury them in snow. The frozen stuff is wicked, but hurricanes are evil. The Florida panhandle will be years recovering from Michael’s devastation this year. They’ll probably retire his name. And Sandy wrecked the coast along New York, not to mention the long-term damage from Katrina in 2005. New Orleans is below sea level to begin with, so that whole area is still affected more than a decade later.

The Wikipedia entry provides the simple explanation for us non-meteorologists:

Nor’easters develop in response to the sharp contrast in the warm Gulf Stream ocean current coming up from the tropical Atlantic and the cold air masses coming down from Canada. When the very cold and dry air rushes southward and meets up with the warm Gulf stream current, which is often near 70 °F (21 °C) even in mid-winter, intense low pressure develops.

In the upper atmosphere, the strong winds of the jet stream remove and replace rising air from the Atlantic more rapidly than the Atlantic air is replaced at lower levels; this and the Coriolis force help develop a strong storm. The storm tracks northeast along the East Coast, normally from North Carolina to Long Island, then moves toward the area east of Cape Cod. Counterclockwise winds around the low-pressure system blow the moist air over land. The relatively warm, moist air meets cold air coming southward from Canada. The low increases the surrounding pressure difference, which causes the very different air masses to collide at a faster speed. When the difference in temperature of the air masses is larger, so is the storm’s instability, turbulence, and thus severity.

The nor’easters taking the East Coast track usually indicates the presence of a high-pressure area in the vicinity of Nova Scotia. Sometimes a nor’easter will move slightly inland and bring rain to the cities on the coastal plain (New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc.) and snow in New England (Boston northward). It can move slightly offshore, bringing a wet snow south of Boston to Richmond, Virginia, or even parts of the Carolinas. Such a storm will rapidly intensify, tracking northward and following the topography of the East Coast, sometimes continuing to grow stronger during its entire existence. A nor’easter usually reaches its peak intensity while off the Canadian coast. The storm then reaches Arctic areas, and can reach intensities equal to that of a weak hurricane. It then meanders throughout the North Atlantic and can last for several weeks.

North America is a huge continent. There is no “safe space” from weather extremes. Generally, in Virginia we get weather from the west, though hurricanes are an exception; they can come up from the Gulf inland (not usually so bad, though Camille was a mortal exception) or more commonly the Atlantic versions that barrel up the coast. Not having lived through the spring and summer tornadoes of the Midwest, I’ve no great desire to experience the real thing. We have an occasional one in the summer here, but they are more likely to be short-lived, narrow micro-bursts rather than the Kansas-sized monsters that ride over the plains. Don’t you wonder how native Indians survived them? It’s not as though they had tornado cellars.

Europe is more fortunate in its climate. Snow and rain, yes, but few disasters. I always thought that might be the case, and the wiki entry above agrees:

In Europe, similar weather systems with such severity are hardly possible; the moisture content of the clouds is usually not high enough to cause flooding or heavy snow, though NE winds can be strong.

So… is Europe a meteorological safe space?? Will our snowflakes move there?

I’d say my interest in weather phenomena was a function of getting older, but the myriad ways the winds blow has always fascinated me. However, it’s much more interesting to read about events rather than live through them. Definitely a spectator sport.

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Lots of donations blew in yesterday. The B keeps careful track of their origins:

Stateside: California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, and Virginia

Far Abroad: Hungary, New Zealand, and the UK

Canada: Newfoundland, and Ontario

Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, and Victoria

He’ll be back for the final update tomorrow.

The Baron’s Friday Update: All the Leaves Are Brown

We’ve hit a rough patch in the fundraiser.

This has happened from time to time in the past, and we’ve always weathered them before — things eventually pick up.

It’s like the snow we had on Wednesday (or the snow that’s predicted for Sunday): for a while it’s a real blizzard, and then without warning it all fades out, with just a flake or two drifting by.

The ebb and flow of donations is a stochastic process. It’s not easy to determine what causes the sudden shifts.

Maybe we should call it “Schrödinger’s Tip Jar”…?

Continue reading

Another Updated Locations List of Donors to the Fundraiser

More snail-mail donations have come in since I last posted a list of places for people who contributed to the recent fundraiser. One of those was from Wisconsin, and another from New Brunswick, and those places hadn’t appeared on the list before. Here’s the updated roster:

Stateside: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming

Far Abroad: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK

Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Ontario, and Saskatchewan

Australia: Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia

There have also been donations from Wales and Scotland (but not Ulster). I haven’t broken up the UK (yet), so those don’t show.

An Updated Locations List for Donors to the Fundraiser

Dymphna and I have been cranking out the thank-you notes to people who donated during last week’s fundraiser. A donor from WYOMING wrote back to let us know that his state didn’t appear in the list of locations. He asked us to post a revised list that includes WYOMING, so here goes:

Stateside: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming

Far Abroad: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK

Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Ontario, and Saskatchewan

Australia: Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia

It seems that our Wyoming donor — who has been kindly giving to Gates of Vienna for a number of years —previously lived in other states (also way out West), and I had inadvertently picked up one of those states from the record of an earlier donation.

ALSO: My email to another long-time donor bounced this morning. The server at the other end notified me that it would keep trying for 72 hours, and it did; then three days later the final bounce message came in.

So if you’re a long-time (12 years!) donor who lives in Alberta and didn’t get a thank-you note, that may be the reason. I’ve used the same email address every time, but for some reason it didn’t work this time.

Taking a Breather

Most of you already know that we just wrapped up our summer fundraiser. As promised, here is the final tally of places from which donations came:

Stateside: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington

Far Abroad: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK

Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Ontario, and Saskatchewan

Australia: Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia

The amount was a little thinner than usual, but we’ll definitely have enough to squeeze by for another three months. And the number of gifts was considerably higher than it normally is, with a lot of first-time donors in addition to the usual suspects. There were just lots of modest donations, and those add up. The turnout pleased me, because it means we have a robust, distributed funding base.

Anyway, now I can relax for a few hours, and maybe catch up on my sleep…

Dymphna and I are very grateful to you all for your generosity, both the recidivists and the first-timers.

Pennies From Heaven, For a Whole Week

This post was first posted on July 30 and was a “sticky” feature for a week. Scroll down for more recent posts, including death threats for a Dutch Muslim mayor, the latest repression of the Copts in Egypt, coverage of Tommy Robinson by the Hungarian media, “cuddly justice” in Germany, a report on Muslims in northeastern India who are being made stateless, and last night’s news feed.

Summer Fundraiser 2018, Day Seven

Dymphna’s Sunday Update: What Is Love’s Worth?

Okay, y’all. Time to step up to the plate and hit one out of the park. Inflation will be here any minute (or so they tell us), so might as well part with your denarii while they’re still meaningful, right? That’s one way of looking at twisting your arm.

[Here’s the new direct PayPal link.]

Tip jarAs we come to the final day of the Summer Fundraiser, it’s good to see a mixture of new people among the old faithfuls (and some not so old, just enduring contributors). Our golden oldies’ contributions are heartening, and the newbies encourage us to believe that despite the Baron’s decrepitude, we’re still putting subjects and predicates together in a way that’s meaningful. Me? I’m Gates of Vienna emeritus.

I am also encouraged that our reach remains global. Two people in Virginia wielding keyboards on a less-than-speedy connection can still find Aussies and Kiwis and Eastern Europeans, plus the more ‘usual’ folk who’ve always come here. When we begin seeing new donors from New York City (as we have this time) we know we’re hitting all the right notes.

Or maybe they’re saying, “All right, shut up already.”

I will make a promise to all our donors: when any given quarter meets the previous quarter’s goal (plus inflation), we’ll quit at that point. I’ve realized it doesn’t need to be a whole week if our goals have been met. And yes, the B has spreadsheets galore to show me comparisons from previous quarters any way you care to slice it. He’s the numbers guy. But successful or not (and we always have been so far), when it’s over it’s over. We close up our sideshow and get back to whatever atrocity awaits all of us.

[But before we close entirely, it is always my great pleasure to send Vlad Tepes our quarterly tithe. The subject line is “Funny Munny” and I always admonish him not to spend it all in one place. Yeah, he thinks I’m real amusing… The funniest part is that he never remembers that we’re in the process of our quarterly, so the PayPal donation always surprises him. I like dependable people, and Vlad is definitely that, in more ways than I could name.]

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The song I chose for my final Fundraiser update has a back story. Be patient; the nuances are complicated.

When I was five years old, I went to live in a girls’ “home”. St. Mary’s Orphanage was set up after the Influenza Epidemic of 1918, but by the time I arrived generations later, it had long since morphed into an institution for girls whose parents couldn’t keep them for one reason or another. It was the end of May when I got to St. Mary’s and it would be five years before I went home for good in August of the year I magically turned ten. Ten is the legal age for being a latchkey kid.

Yes, it was a long, long time, but it was the best my mother could do in the circumstances. As an immigrant, she wasn’t entitled to welfare. As a middle-class Irish woman, I don’t know if she could have borne the (self-inflicted) humiliation, but the law precluded her having to make that choice. And by the time she put me in Saint Mary’s we’d been through nightmares of temporary placements.

Back then, Florida had a small Catholic population at somewhat less than two percent. The nuns and priests were mostly from Ireland: what American would live in Florida’s climate and what Irish clergy/nuns could resist the temptation of living in America? So they came and suffered. Thus the majority of professed religious people I knew growing up sounded more or less like my mother. The few times I heard an American accent coming from one of them, I was certain they weren’t kosher.

St. Mary’s was part of the city parish which served Catholics mostly of Italian descent, and, during the week, working people who dropped in for daily Mass on their lunch hour. There was a school going all the way to 12th grade for the whole parish not just St. Mary’s, and a church with the number of priests needed for a full regimen of Masses, plus a rectory to house the priests. The teaching nuns from the school lived at St. Mary’s and took their turns raising us while they were at it. This whole plant took up a square block.

When I was six, a Dublin-born priest came to live at the rectory. I thought of Father Doyle as quite elderly, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. When you’re six, most adults look old. At any rate, he took a particular shine to me because I was so obviously Irish to the bone — to the freckle, that is, many of which dotted my face and arms. Like my mother, Father Doyle was Dublin-born-and-bred. Like my mother, he enjoyed making me laugh — I was usually searching for a reason to laugh. I was a perfect audience.

Father Doyle found out my weakness for Waldorf salad, so he’d have the rectory housekeeper fix it for me. Oh, heaven! The nuns, of course, didn’t approve of this “special” relationship, but a priest outranks a nun, so there you go: Waldorf salad on Wednesdays after school. And Saint Valentine’s Day cards with little girls with freckles on the front. [No, there wasn’t any funny stuff. Just a lonely old man homesick and longing for home but unable to afford the fare, so I was the substitute.]

The good father liked American popular music, though he was a better listener than performer, but his lack of talent wasn’t an impediment. He’d often sing along with the Big Girls (any girl over the age of ten was officially a Big Girl). Back then, genres weren’t so rigid as they are now; “country” music and “pop” were played on the same stations. One song he used to sing to me was “If I Had a Nickel”. He only ever sang the first few lines, since they were the most entertaining.

One cold, overcast morning — January 18th, to be precise — the nuns told us in chapel that Father Doyle had died in his sleep during the night. I was inconsolable for days. Not all the threats of punishments could quell my tears. No threats they could devise compared with my utterly bereft sense of loss. Children are resilient and eventually I quieted, but I never forgot Father Doyle. Every January 18th I recall our brief friendship, healing on both sides. He was only forty-seven when he died, and it would be many years before I considered that “too young”.

The first two lines of his song stayed with me, too, but it wasn’t until the advent of YouTube that I found the song, in its earliest versions:

If you read the comments on that song, you’ll notice that many people came looking for it because they remembered its fragments the same way: a song their father or grandfather sang, one they thought had been made up especially for them. It is a child’s song, I think, because of its simplicity.

I’ll bet each of my children remember that song. I sang it to them as babies — it makes a good lullaby. Maybe that’s why some of them became musicians?

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Saturday’s denarii arrived from:

Stateside: Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia

Far Abroad: New Zealand, Sweden, and the UK

Canada: British Columbia and Ontario

That’s it for the Summer Fundraiser! Sometime tomorrow the Baron will include an overall summary in the wrap-up post.

Summer Fundraiser 2017, Day Five

The Baron’s Saturday Update: I shoulda learned to play them drums

This was supposed to be Dymphna’s update, but she’s feeling poorly this morning, so I’m filling in. Part of the reason for her indisposition is Tommy Robinson’s situation — since she suffers from PTSD, Tommy’s suffering resonates with her to the point that her symptoms flare up.

For today’s money-themed video, I’m using the one she would have posted herself if she were well enough. But before I get to that, I’ll recapitulate what we’re doing here for readers who had to work all week and are just checking in for the first time this weekend.

This is our quarterly effort to wheedle you into donating money to help keep this site alive for three more months. Inflation is a scourge: what began as “Pennies from Heaven” on Monday became dollars by midweek, and they’re now twenties, as can be seen from the graphic at the top of this post. What will the image be tomorrow…?

[An aside: During the reign of Hussein it was announced that Andrew Jackson’s gloomy mug was to be removed from the twenty-dollar bill and replaced with the face of some politically correct chick of color — Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Maya Angelou, somebody like that. Does anyone know what became of that innovation? Obviously Mr. Trump will not be replacing Mr. Jackson anytime soon. But maybe The Donald was able to put the brakes on the Modern Multicultural $20 Bill.]

Anyway, your job is to drop a Trump or two (or six! Live dangerously) into the tip cup on our sidebar. Or, if you prefer, you can use this new direct PayPal link.

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A Report From the Dead Letter Office

We’ve only had one additional thank-you note bounce since our recent fundraiser. This one was sent to a repeat (recidivist?) donor in Alberta.

I know that Alberta is in the heart of the Frozen North, but I don’t think emails are delivered by dogsled, even up there. So who knows what went wrong?

Anyway, if you’re in Alberta, and didn’t get a bread-and-butter note this time, it’s because something is amiss in the Intertubes.

Everywhere But Antarctica

…Well, that’s what it feels like when I see all those diverse geographical locales in the PayPal notices as they come in.

During the recent fundraiser, donors came from the following places*:

Stateside: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington

Near Abroad: Canada and the Dominican Republic

Far Abroad: Austria, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK

Canada: Alberta, Newfoundland, Ontario, and Saskatchewan

Australia: Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, and Victoria

Many thanks to all who donated. We’ll be back sometime in the long, hot summer.

* Note: I haven’t collected all the snail-mail yet, so some places may be missing from the list.

Did I Miss the Fundraiser?

This post was a “sticky” feature that was first published on April 2 and was on top for a week. Scroll down for more recent posts, including the first part of an essay on the AfD by Hans-Peter Raddatz, a fake ID scam at the Nigerian embassy in Rome, Viktor Orbán’s election victory in Hungary, a thwarted terror attack in Berlin, a Russian report on Malmö, and Algerians busted for gang-rape in Prague.

Spring Fundraiser 2018, Day Seven

Update from the Baron: Gratitude

This is the final update for this week-long fundraiser. Tomorrow morning I’ll take this post off “sticky”, and it will gradually scroll down the page and into the archives of oblivion.

Tip jarAt the end of this quarterly bleg, I feel a profound sense of gratitude. Gratitude that it’s over at last — Fundraising Week is a grueling, sleep-deprived time — but more than that, I’m profoundly grateful that so many readers have shown up to indicate their generosity by hitting the tip cup on our sidebar.

[If you haven’t yet made that cup clink yet, there’s still time! It’s just to the left of me here; you can’t miss it.]

Our theme this week has been Virtue, and since last Monday we have discussed various virtues, in our own idiosyncratic meandering fashion.

Gratitude is a virtue, to my mind. Or more fully: maintaining a sense of gratitude as one’s basic approach to this veil of tears we were born into. Remembering that every moment is a gift from the Lord, in all its glory and fullness.

It’s difficult to maintain a sense of gratitude on a routine, quotidian basis. I know I struggled with it for decades, but mostly failed. What changed my attitude fully and finally, however, was the onset of wet macular degeneration in my left eye, which happened just over five years ago.

Those first few weeks were horrible. I had to fashion a makeshift patch to put over the left lens of my glasses, to keep the ugly, animated blob in the middle of my vision from interfering with my work and my daily routine. Reading anything, but especially the printed page, became a nightmare if my left eye remained uncovered.

It’s my habit to make coffee using our espresso machine when I first wake up in the morning. Normally I’m by myself when I do it, which is good, because I love mornings, and being able to enjoy the quiet smell of coffee and the light through the kitchen window gets my day off to a good start.

During that grim time in March and April of 2013, I noticed that my eye wasn’t bothering me much during the coffee-making ritual. I didn’t wear the patch then, because I didn’t have to read anything. And I could just kind of drink in the colors of things, and the reflections from the window, and the pleasure of executing the small tasks involved with making coffee happen.

And I was content.

A calm settled over me, and I was grateful for what I had, what was in front of me. Not angry that my field of vision would go SPROING! whenever I turned to look at something complex or patterned. Not resentful that ill-fortune had sabotaged my eyes.

Just glad that I could still see the early green of spring peeping through the window, and watch the reflections dance on the water in the pitcher in front of me.

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Attention Donors!

Well, two of you to be precise. Our thank-you notes have bounced:

A new donor from New Jersey, whose email address as shown on PayPal rebounded back to us.

The second is a long-time donor from New Zealand, whose email address has always worked before. But this time it boomeranged. [Do they have boomerangs in NZ or is that just an OZ phenomenon?]

Gentlemen, if you would please get in touch with us…

A Week Passes Like Nothing…

We had a Gilbert Shelton week for our quarterly fundraiser, which means we covered the “humor” topic pretty well — there are a lot of laughs in the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Fat Freddy’s Cat.

I wonder what we’ll do next quarter — maybe contact Robin Williams or Jonathan Winters via the Ouija board? Jeff Foxworthy videos on YouTube?

Anyway, here’s the complete list of places, as of late evening on Monday:

Stateside: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming

Near Abroad: Dominican Republic

Far Abroad: Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK

Canada: British Columbia, Newfoundland, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Yukon

Australia: Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, and Victoria

Many thanks to everybody who chipped in. We’ll see y’all again in the early spring — probably when the daffodils are blooming (at least here in Central Virginia).

Bracket Creep Fundraising

Early Winter Fundraiser 2017, Day Six

Today is the final day of our quarterly fundraising week. For those who have been tardy about clinking the tip cup, there are still 24 hours left! After that, your carriage will turn into a pumpkin drawn by voles.

On my good days — which come and go — cooking and gardening are my favorite activities. With December coming in, my time outside is more limited, though I’m still planting spring bulbs. The skunks don’t eat bulbs, thank Heavens, but the voles sure do. So one of the things I do is bury each one with bone meal (for the bulb) and a healthy dose of cayenne powder in the hole to discourage the voles. Doesn’t hurt the bulb, but it sure does cause the voles some pain. Liberal sprinklings of powdered coyote urine also make them feel unwelcome.

As for cooking, it is the one thing I can do with almost no effort. I’ve been the supper cook in my house since I was ten years old: my mother worked, so I cooked. It was a matter of self-defense, because otherwise she’d come home and fix poached eggs. It wasn’t long before I was doing the weekly shopping. It was a long, hot haul from the grocery store to home.

The B claims I can take a pickle and a glass of water and make a meal for six. Okay, that’s hyperbole, but it’s also the reason why I chose this cartoon: I like to celebrate unlikely food. In this episode, Fat Freddy’s Cat knows darn well his Furry Friends don’t like mouses — he’s releasing them for his own future dining entertainment.

[Remember the late B. Kliban’s cats? My favorite was the one who did the BB King imitation, here. After reading the legalese on that site, it seems one daren’t quote it directly, but that’s still one of my favorite little ditties on cats’ favorite food. It must be the juxtaposition of the lyrics with that BB King-esque blues guitar.]

Tip jarThese quarterly fundraisers are much on my mind when I make my grocery list. How well we do in a given quarter decides the menus for the coming three months. But I’m used to that: being married to a starving artist taught me to make do. In fact, one of our first arguments was in a grocery store: living on very little (I was job-hunting then) meant watching every penny. So we came to the crucial moment of deciding whether to classify parmesan cheese as a necessity or a luxury. The Baron thought it was something we could live without, while I made the case for: “What is the point of living without parmesan for flavor?” Neither of us can remember who won that ‘discussion’. Probably moi — the B is ever a pushover for women’s wantings. Smart man.

I love the things Americans often consider the nasty bits — you know… those tasty entrails. For years I didn’t cook tongue or kidneys or sweetbreads because family members would flee. Now I cook ’em when I can get em’ while still maintaining a standard diet for the Baron and assorted relatives/friends. I love braunschweiger, and I know the difference between it and liverwurst; no one else will eat either one. Oh, well — more for me. Chicken foot broth, anyone? Actually, I prefer to combine the feet with the stripped carcass of the chicken; it makes for a more deeply-flavored broth. I’ve never had prairie oysters, but I’ll bet they make good eating, too.

It was too cold today to work outside so I stayed by the stove, making oxtail soup and pondering this post, this fundraiser… Pondering is a by-product of food preparation in my experience. When the broth was done, I removed the bone and gristle, skimmed the fat for other uses, and made a beef vegetable soup, roasting the vegetables first.

As long as I remove the bones and gristle, the Baron likes it just fine. I saved half the broth to make sweet and sour cabbage later this week. That’s one dish the B really likes, and it’s always better the next day. Once a guest of ours said, with tears in his eyes, that the sweet and sour cabbage I’d served for supper was as good as his Bubbe’s. I was touched by his declaration but made him promise never to tell her that; what grandmother could forgive such a betrayal?

Of late, the flavors of Indian foods don’t appeal as they once did. I’m returning to the comfort food of my childhood, which means that oxymoron, Irish cuisine — or what passed for middle-class food in Ireland when my mother was growing up. Back then, “Irish food” was cabbage, ham, lamb stew, beef brisket. Or shepherd’s pie [these days, I cut the starch by blending mashed potatoes with pureed cauliflower]. We seldom had roasts; they were too expensive. But my mother could wax eloquent on the size of the roast in her childhood. Or her mother’s recipe for trifle.

One time her youngest brother, my Irish immigrant uncle who lived with us for a while when he first came to America (my mother was his sponsor), brought home a steak and asked me to prepare it. I cooked it the same way I did every other piece of beef: braised in a thickened broth. In other words, a flatter version of stew. Ummm…it wasn’t a culinary hit; I’d committed the sin of “ruining a nice bit of beef”. To his credit, my uncle ate it anyway and the next day he came home with another steak and showed me how to prepare it properly. My first taste of rare beef! Who knew such a bloody thing could be so good?

Though she was an indifferent cook, my mother took to American foods with gusto. We could (and did) get buckets of fresh shrimp for ten cents a pound. And she loved collard greens with fatback. Grits with eggs and bacon on Sunday mornings. The point of ketchup was lost on her, though. Since it was decidedly American she’d buy a bottle…and after a year or so in the Florida heat it would gum up and turn dark so we’d throw it away and she’d buy a fresh bottle. To this day I’ve never figured it out either; I only use ketchup to make the red seafood sauce the Baron likes. The commercial kind has way too much sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

It must be hard for families today to maintain supper routines. Often both parents work, the kids have sports activities, everyone is connected to a device of some kind. I hope (and literally pray) that children are learning the loving routines involved in breaking bread together every day. Those habits are the mortar that will cement their lives as they grow up and look back fondly at the family of their young years.

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Saturday’s generosity came in from:

Stateside: Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Texas

Near Abroad: Dominican Republic

Far Abroad: The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK

Canada: Ontario

Australia: New South Wales

The Baron will post a wrap-up of the week (featuring a full list of the places donors came from) sometime tomorrow.

Saturday’s update from the Baron:

Continuing with the Furry Freak Brothers theme, the image at the top is the famous poster of Freewheelin’ Franklin with his big fat doobie.

In my senior year in college there was a guy in our dorm who was a dead ringer for Franklin, right down to the hair and hat. But his schnozz wasn’t quite as big as the Freaker’s.

Those were the days. Sigh…

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After long acquaintance with the New Testament, especially the Gospels, it becomes clear that some of the parables that Jesus told must have been quite humorous to an audience immersed in the language and context of first-century Judea. For example, consider the Parable of the Unjust Judge, as told in Luke 18:2-8 (New International Version):

“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

The widow and the judge were probably both recognizable character types in the context of the time. Widows had very limited rights under Jewish law in those days; that’s why the judge didn’t have to rule in her favor. So she would have been portrayed as pushy and loud-mouthed, and the judge was probably vain, pompous, and haughty.

Who knows what facial expressions and hand gestures Jesus used to mime this story? Did he put on the voices of each character in turn?

It was probably quite a hoot for those who heard it; that’s one of the reasons it was remembered and passed down. But it had to migrate from the original Aramaic into spoken and then written Greek, losing its original flavor in the process. And we English-speakers get yet another translation.

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An Old Chaos of the Sun

This is my report on the geographical distribution of donors in last week’s fundraiser. I was supposed to post it on Monday, but things kept coming up and it got delayed. Which is a good thing, because a few latecomers straggled in, allowing me to add a locale or two to this list (one of them was Indonesia, I think):

Stateside: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming

Far Abroad: Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK

Canada: British Columbia, Newfoundland, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan

Australia: Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and Western Australia

[Thank you also to the mystery donor from Illinois. You know who you are, but I don’t.]

[By the way — there were an unusual number of donations from New Zealand this time. I don’t know why — NZ is actually less culturally enriched than most of the rest of the West outside of the Iron Curtain — but something seems to be stirring among the Kiwis.]

Many thanks to everyone who made the tip cup ring last week. There were so many of you — lots of modest donations. That’s a truly distributed source of funding, which is the best kind. I mean, it would be nice if someone dropped ten grand on us (what a dream!), but just think what would happen if we did something that annoyed that particular donor, and he declined any further donations — it would be a painful setback for us.

As it is, we see some variations in the stochastic flow of contributions — when times are tough, the gifts are smaller and/or less frequent — but overall, there is a resilient base that we can generally rely on. It’s still a little nerve-wracking, living from quarter to quarter like this, but not like it was in the early days, before we got used to the process.

We’ll see you next quarter for another week of the same. Sometime after most of the leaves have dropped in the Northern Hemisphere, and when spring is in full bloom Down Under. More jokes, more humor — that’s what Dymphna wants.

Here’s your final exam question:

What does the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akhbar” mean?

A.   “My actions have nothing to do with Islam.”
B.   “I have become alienated due to economic exclusion and the institutional racism of the West.”
C.   “The Holocaust is a myth, and Hitler should have finished the job.”
D.   “Die, infidel!”
E.   All of the above.
 

Here Comes the Sun

Note: This post was a “sticky” feature for Fundraising Week, and was at the top throughout that time. Newer items from Monday through Sunday, including Sunday night’s news feed, are posted below it.

Summer Fundraiser 2017, Day Seven

Update from Dymphna: And Then They Rested — Day Seven

Each fundraiser has its own rhythm and rhyme. This one took a while to get going but then the jokes (and donations) started coming in at a good clip. The donations are crucial to our ongoing project here, but I now realize that laughter is indeed good medicine. I’ve even gone looking for jokes this week, just for the fun of it. From now on the theme of our Quarterlies will be jokes. More than ever do we need laughter to keep going.

Tip jarThe Baron keeps a careful log/graph of donations through each and every quarter going all the way back to the first Fundraiser in 2008. There was one year — I forget which — where we simply missed a quarter entirely. We simply forgot to ask for money, and yes, that inattention on our part did indeed pinch; the consequence was a period of beans but no ammo. We didn’t make that mistake again.

Sometimes events push these fundraisers early or late: who wants to compete with a presidential election or Christmas The Winter Gala Season?? But mostly we’re on time if a little breathless. Even then, y’all inevitably come through, for which we remain most grateful. When you’re depending on the largesse of donors, nothing ever becomes routine or taken for granted.

For those of you who’ve been procrastinating, there’s the tip cup on the sidebar to the left of my words. And for our readers who not only subscribe but give extra during the Fundraisers, you are atop the pyramid for sure, up there with those genius DNA folks.

Now for my joke, especially for the Baron and serendipitously sent in by Col. Bunny. [I was considering doing one on virgins, given the Aztec image the Baron chose for this post. Maybe next time.]

A fellow consults his rabbi.

“Rabbi,” he says, “my cow is useless. She won’t show any interest in the bull.”

“Give me an example,” says the rabbi.

“Well, if the bull approaches her, she moves away to the left. And if he approaches her again, she moves away to the right. This goes on forever.”

“Hmm,” says the rabbi. “Is your cow from Minsk, by any chance?”

“Why, yes,” says the farmer. “How did you know?”

“My wife is from Minsk,” says the rabbi.

Heh. That’s my Bleg gift to the Baron. Better than a bag of cashews; jokes don’t cause weight gain.

Thanks to all you generous readers, including the ones who are bypassing PayPal to send their donations by snail mail. You have to go out of your way to do that… and, yes, you lurking IRS employee, the mail donations go down on our income, you gummint busybody.

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