From the Dragonfly’s Diary: Storm Stories — The Winter of 1957-1958

Photo by Pachydiplax

The winter of 1957-1958 was an eventful one for my family living in a western suburb of Baltimore. To a 13 year old, the 8” snowstorm in early December was an opportunity to make some money shoveling snow off sidewalks and driveways. The snow also closed schools for several days, which disappointed my mother for sure, having seven children to watch over. It was good practice for what was yet to come in the months ahead.

The next major snowfall began on Saturday February 15 and continued until the 17th dropping up to 22” in some areas. Temperatures fell to just above zero and the wind picked up causing drifts that closed major roads, kept businesses from opening and children home from school. None of this would have affected the family but for the fuel oil tank running dry.

The lack of fuel for the furnace resulted in the entire clan sleeping in the living room in front of the fireplace for five nights. It wasn’t that bad, we had electricity that allowed my mother to cook hot meals that we ate in front of the fire and television to hopefully keep seven children occupied.  The telephone worked also, I don’t recall the phone ever not working as a result of snow. Fuel oil would be delivered as soon as the truck could make it down our road, after the snowplow cleared the road, whenever that would be.

On Monday, I learned how to install chains on a car’s tires and I learned that even with chains sometimes the snow on the ground is too deep to drive in.  Later that day, I walked with my father and a neighbor, each of us pulling a sled, the mile and a half to the nearest store at Catonsville Junction. We returned with basics like milk and bread for several neighbors in addition to food for our own needs. One sled carried several cases of beer and a couple fifths of whiskey purchased at the bar across the street from the grocer.

Despite being snowed in, there were many things to do, like splitting logs to burn in the fireplace or sledding on the hilly part of Rockwell Ave. just two blocks away. There was money to be made shoveling snow and going back to the store for other people in the neighborhood. Finally, on Friday, a snowplow went down our street. The fuel oil company couldn’t get to us until Saturday. Friday night my father brought home an empty 55-gallon drum. It was filled with fuel the next day, in addition to the 500 gallons in the tank that fed the furnace. We were set now, or so we thought.

Over the next month it snowed enough to where there were 12” of snow on the ground, then on 19th of March, a slow moving nor’easter  began dumping an additional 24 to 30 inches of heavy wet snow over the Baltimore-Washington region. Of course we were prepared with plenty of food and fuel oil, except for one thing: The snow had knocked down power lines and we were without electricity.

Once again, the family was huddled around the fireplace, only this time we were cooking over the fire too. The snow that had begun falling on Wednesday stopped on Friday. The snowplow came by and the paper man was able to deliver the evening newspaper. There was an article about President Eisenhower leaving the White House to spend time at Camp David, the Presidential retreat in Frederick, Maryland. After reading that story, my father called Western Union and sent a telegram to the President: “Dear Mr. President, seeing how the Whitehouse will be empty this weekend, would you mind if my wife and I and our 7 children who have been without heat and electricity for 4 days moved in to thaw out and take hot baths?”

Obviously, the Western Union operator contacted someone at the Baltimore Sun Newspaper because the following day a small article about my father’s telegram appeared on the last page of the Baltimore Evening Sun. The one thing that I have remembered about this time, the thing that has allowed me to pinpoint the exact dates was the headline on the front page of the March 22nd edition of the evening paper: “Mike Todd Killed in Plane Crash” (To those of you who have never heard of Mike Todd, he was a movie producer, the inventor of the Todd-AO wide screen projection system and at the time was married to Elizabeth Taylor.)

The winter of 1957-1958 will always be one of my most memorable, a reminder to respect the powerful forces of nature with a lesson in being prepared.


The Watering Hole: November 30, 2010 – Nothing New

So American Diplomats know how to read newspapers? What is the hullabaloo about their assessments of German politicians? I could have told them that and some..

Angela Merkel: The non-stick chancellor? Well she knows how to dodge a bullet, that’s for sure.

Guido Westerwelle: Arrogant? Incompetent? Well he has the job not for his skills but for arithmetics. The leader of the smaller coalition party always gets the job.

Horst Seehofer: Being a member of the CSU (Christian Social Union) in Bavaria will get you there. No matter if your a bit dim.

Wolfgang Schäuble: The angry old man. You should have seen him rip into his press secretary in a presser, that was on tv. Not so secret really.

If the State Department would just call me I could give them all they need to know and so could most of my fellow Germans. The news may be that the US is using it’s diplomatic corps for massive spying. But if we didn’t know that, we had already suspected it. Neither is the fact that most Arab countries are concerned about Iran’s nuclear program really news. Suffice it to say Iran is Persia and not Arabia, they never have trusted each other. So, whichever way you look at it, the leaks may be embarrassing, but they do not add significant new insight. Much more interesting is this: Wikileaks announced to publish secret papers from a big American Bank next:

“We have one related to a bank coming up, that’s a megaleak. It’s not as big a scale as the Iraq material, but it’s either tens or hundreds of thousands of documents depending on how you define it,” Assange said in the interview posted on the Forbes website.

He declined to identify the bank, describing it only as a major U.S. bank that is still in existence.

Asked what he wanted to be the result of the disclosure, he replied: “I’m not sure. It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume.” (read more)

When they target the politicians’ owners, now that could be interesting!

For more on the diplomatic cables and the European take, read: Der Spiegel and  The Guardian.

This is our open thread. Add your thoughts!


Watering Hole: November November 29, 2010 – Consumerism and Stuff

This year’s season of consumerism began on Black Friday, November 26.  The message is that the more me consume, the happier we will be.  Not so.  Sure, we were shopping for other people on Black Friday, but what does it say about our society when stores open at midnight and people stay up all night and wait in line for other stores that open at 4:00 am?

So this is where we are heading.

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Sunday Roast: Rebooting the American Dream, Chapter Two

This week’s Sunday Roast is Chapter Two of Thom Hartmann’s book, Rebooting the American Dream: 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country.

I’m going to make this short and sweet this week, since I had a long and snowy drive home from the coast this weekend, so here’s a little something to chew on:

“You Americans are such suckers,” he said. “You think that the rules for taxes that apply to rich people also apply to working people, but they don’t. When working peoples’ taxes go up, their pay goes up. When their taxes go down, their pay goes down. It may take a year or two or three to all even out, but it always works this way—look at any country in Europe. And that rule on taxes is the opposite of how it works for rich people!”

Teabaggers might want to take note about how they’ve been played like the proverbial fiddle by the right-wing in the tax debate.  Srsly, we’ll totally understand if you manage to see the light and switch sides.  My open arms are standing at the ready…and I won’t even say “I told you so.”

Read the rest of Chapter Two for even more information.

See parts one and two HERE and HERE.

This is our daily open thread, so feel free to bang your heads on the wall.

The Watering Hole: November 27 – Life Support

Granddaughter's Winter Plantings
Photo by WaltTheMan

Here in northern Florida, traditional Summer plants are getting a bit piqued. These are two of the impatiens that Granddaughter planted as seeds when she was here in February on my Prius. They were a bit lustier just a month ago but are now showing the ravages of time. Bringing them indoors would do nothing to improve their lot as the shortening day is also sapping their existence. This is much like human existence, as special support (warmer days) has extended their time on Earth.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

Oh, it’s Music Night and it’s Black Friday.

I find it bizarre that the country’s retail industry would use a term traditionally fraught with angst as a positive entity. To retailers, of course, it’s the shopping day that pushes them from being in the red to being in the black — profits instead of losses. For the rest of us, it may call up images of famine, riot and death (sorry, I’m a grim sort these days). If nothing else, it gives us a kick off for Music Night. Help us celebrate commercial culture!

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The Watering Hole: November 26 – North Korea

What the heck do we do about this rogue nation?

Up to now we and the South have tried to placate the North by paying bribes in order to continue to protect South Korea, particularly the city of Seoul, a prosperous city of over 10 million people. China, the Norths only ally, has also tried to placate the North Korean dynists, but has yet to capture their ear.

Bombing the shit out of the North would be a simple task except for the fact that over 50 years of inaction has allowed them to put in place artillery and missile sites in place that could easily level Seoul and areas immediately south before the job was even 5% done. Nuclear weapons are not even an option because of the proximity of all of South Korea to any nuclear fallout.

Each time the North is assisted by food stuffs and the basic needs of life, they invest the funds and services freed-up to the production of even more weapons (Including nuclear production facilities.)

All I ask for is a rational and safe resolution of this self-perpetuating problem that does not imperil the survival of South Korea and its people.

Simple task? I am open to suggestions.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: November 25 – Roasted Turkey

Roasted Turkey

Just in time for Thanksgiving holiday, a jury in Texas provided this nation with roast turkey for the holidays, Tom Delay. His first name is actually ironic in a sense. Toms are usually the biggest turkeys of them all.

It seems that he was either careless or foolish in handling certain funds.

How well the roasting is carried out will be based on initial sentencing as well as a thread of appeals that many lawyers can truly be thankful for. One hope is that he will end up somewhat like the our friend above. One item, it is certain that he will not be provided a holiday pardon by Barack Obama.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Hammer Got Nailed

A Texas jury just convicted Tom “The Hammer” DeLay “on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.”

DeLay faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge.

Although President Obama pardoned two turkeys for Thanksgiving, it is reported that DeLay wasn’t one of them.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, November 24, 2010: Hump Day: Checked Baggage

On this day before Thanksgiving, tens of thousands of Americans take to the air to fly across the country to be with their families. Tens of thousands of Americans will have their “baggage” checked as a result of a new security screening directive under President Obama. They will be given a choice, to be sure; a choice between being irradiated and allowing a total stranger in a separate room to view them as if they were naked, or allow a total stranger to essentially feel them up in public.

So, how does this square with the 4th Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures? Is it not unreasonable to subject every single passenger, without so much as a hint that anything might be amiss, to such a degrading search of their genatilia? Or does the fact that one person in all of avaition history hid explosives in his underwear suddenly make it reasonable to inspect everyone’s underwear?

But, would not explosive-sniffing dogs be less invasive? Of course they would. But that’s not the point. The point is to get everyone to submit to more and more degrading searches, to get everyone to submit to the government’s power and authority over the most private parts of our bodies. It makes no difference that this edict came down from the Obama Administration, than if it had been ordered under Bush, except that if Bush had ordered this, there would have been a far greater outcry from the Left.

But these searches are constitutional because we don’t have a constitutional right to travel. Flying is a privilege, and to enjoy that privilege, the government can subject us to any kind of search it wants. For those of us who wondered at how German Jews could continually acquiesce to more and more degradations under Nazi Germany, we now share the same experience.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: November 23, War Games

North Korea shot dozens of rounds of artillery onto a populated South Korean island near their disputed western border today, military officials said, setting buildings on fire and prompting South Korea to return fire and scramble fighter jets. (read more)

It is more or less business as usual up to now, WW3 is not yet around the corner. The trouble seems obvious: The US are backing the South, China is backing the North and both China and the US are economically far too interdependent to really make a move there. I don’t believe for a minute there is real danger from the alleged NK nuke program. But we all know the Koreans in the North are suffering badly under whichever Kim is currently munching popcorn and watching porn as their beloved “leader”. Again, for the sake of economic interests millions are suffering.

(You can tell I’m seething, can’t you?)

The second bit of not so new, but new to me news that got my goat this morning was Murdoch’s plans to get out a cheap iPAD newspaper:

Rupert Murdoch is a professed believer in the healing power of the iPad. “We’ll have young people reading newspapers,” Rupert Murdoch said during a recent earnings call. “It’s a real game changer in the presentation of news.” The paper will be available only as paid content, at an as yet undetermined price. ( source: Newser)

Now the deal is all but fixed. The publication will be called “The Daily” and cost 99¢ per week. I consider shelving my decision to buy an iPAD indefinitely. But, honestly, why are progressive media always coming in second when it comes to get out the message? We all know the manipulative ways of Murdoch “news”-media, why hand the field to him? I do think progressive media are far too complacent and too busy feeling superior to the great unwashed. This brand of intellectual arrogance has caused trouble before.

This is our Open Thread. Feel free to comment on this, or anything else that’s on your mind.


Check in Early

In recognition of the impending holiday seasons, I have the following comment to make:

TSA officials have recently announced that pilots will be allowed to bypass security checks at the airports. This only seems reasonable as a pilot is capable of turning his aircraft into a missile or to simply dive the craft into the ground.

This makes me wonder what the TSA will do if about 150 terrorists could each consume a full meal of Boston Baked or Bush’s Best Barbecue Beans and fart on schedule on cue from a ring leader and the methane ignited from a single flame. The flame might not be even required as other passengers might attempt to exit the craft via escape chutes at 30,000 feet!.

The TSA does everything it can to hoist a 95 year old grandmother (With a Hoyer Lift?) from her wheel chair and check out her shoes or rubberized socks for explosives. In more recent times the process involves body scans or pat downs, but they still do not scan cargo for potential explosives. Next in line is a search of body cavities. When will they begin relying on water-boarding – which would give a whole new meaning to ‘boarding pass’?

Why do these people have to go as far as they do? To get their thrills? The process is far less invasive in Israel where security against terror if a far more intense concern.

Priorities are being misdirected by an organization that emulates the Keystone Kops!

Watering Hole – November 22, 2010 – Point of View

Yes, it’s Monday, again.  This week is not a particularly happy week for turkeys.

The middle class and the poor can look at life as a glass half full or a glass half empty.  The rich look at life as a glass spilling over into their own private ocean.

Poverty tells many stories.  The truth is all in one’s point of view.

This is our open thread.  What’s your point of view?  Pick a topic and Speak Up!