Tamara de Lempicka Inspired

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Reflections of Online Teaching

Susan,

I am so completely with you on your reflections. There are issues that are limiting by their very nature. As a visual artist I have spent years teaching students to “look through their tool”, to see the work clearly, to be so comfortable with your tool that it becomes transparent, and then your image will truly be successful.

This is easier when the tool is a pencil or a brush, it gets a little harder when it’s a computer with system and application software. (Easy is a relative term, I’m good with a pencil, horrible with watercolor, great with Photoshop.)

The point is to be so comfortable with the tool that creative energy is not diverted from the true purpose… making an image!

I’m a little disappointed that when I see something I can’t just click in my head and the image is saved. No, I have to find my camera, load the film, set the dials, develop the film, and finally make the print. Oh yeah, and then there are all those decisions I have to make on lens, shutter, aperature, etc.

There is a lot of crap that suddenly comes between my vision and the final print. So, now we have digital and even more crap, the final image seems to be pushed further and further away.

This is all true. What is also true is that it is different. A digital image is immediately available for correction or editing. Digital cameras are in everyone’s hands. Images present themselves everyday, and everyone now has a camera. Running out of film is no longer an excuse (mostly). There are dozens of significant differences.

So on-line teaching may be the same thing. It doesn’t give the same face-to-face experience. We don’t see the “aha” moment that makes it all worthwhile. My (your) passion may not come through as easily, and spontaneous teachable moments harder to capitalize.

It may take a few semesters to fully understand the benefits. Access to more students? Consistent education that can be fine tuned? Flexibility for student and faculty? A longer teaching life? Better and more current resources?

Is everything new better? No, but everything new and tested should be!

I think it takes an educator to embrace the change, with the understanding of what is lost. And then assess the importance of that which is lost.

I am hopeful!

(Ha! And then be clever enough to do all this writing in Notes, because Canvas is crashing every two minutes.)

(Written in 2015)

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Testing Some Ideas

The first idea that I would like to ponder is “nature versus nuture.”. This is an idea that has gone through vast swings in popularity. Since the 1990s, with advanced studies in genetics, the importance of nature has increased. The idea of “tabla rasa”, or “blank slate” has been more the standard concept for the last 300 years. Several philosophers have suggested that humans have no instincts at all, unique among animals, and that everything we known or become, is based upon nurturing. Doctors become doctors because of training, kings become kings, and criminals become criminals, all based upon experience entirely.

The idea that there might be a genetic propensity was completely dismissed. There is a very good history of the argument of “nature vs. nuture” in Wikipedia, with decent references to current studies.

I have not partaken of any advanced studies in this area, but I have “noticed” some things in my life that have given me some questions.

I do not like swimming, hated being in the water, yet I am a natural sailor, and understand the concept without training. The training I did have only improved my natural abilities.

I’m very good at needlework, any type of sewing by hand. It just seems very natural, comfortable, and the products are strong, durable, and functionable.

Ancient weapons are more comfortable than modern, although I am an expert marksman. Edged weapons most natural, archery the next most natural. Practically there are two “sighting” systems in archery. One is based upon placing the tip of the arrow on a point of ground in front of you, then adjusting the arc of the shot until the arrows hit the target. The other in “instinctual”, where you just shoot your best shot. I can do both, but I almost entirely use the instinctual method.

I have never been comfortable with horses, and they seem to know that.

I have always been comfortable with dogs, and they seem to know that.

I’m very comfortable with “linear mechanics”, simple systems of cogs, shafts, levers. Being a watchmaker is not beyond my abilities. While I understand “programming”, it is not comfortable. I was trained in quite complex digital cryptography, but it was hard work and not natural.

I can see and think with three dimensional accuracy. I was not great in algebra or trigonometry, but a complete whiz at geometry. Even my math teachers saw this as a little odd.

While I believe humans are mostly social, I have always been comfortable by being alone, or mostly on the edge of crowds. Sailing alone around the world presented challenges, but not because of isolation. Backpacking alone was not fearful, except for accidents.

Part of my interest in genealogy was looking at the known experiences of my direct line ancestors. I don’t know enough now to draw any firm conclusions, but I always think about the possibilities.

DNA tells me that I am 64% Scandinavian. The waters are too cold to encourage swimming, but sailing and boating have long traditions. Is this too general to make a conclusion?

Vikings did ride horses on occasion, but they are not known as horse mounted warriors. Axe, sword, spear, and archery were their weapons of choice.

Nature is very dependent on survival. Organisms with natural abilities to a successful survival continue to breed more organisms that survive. Definitely training can assist with increased survival. But can training alone give the best percentage rates?

I do believe the actual process is “hand in hand”, both are important. Particularly when one experience fails slightly. To deny either is foolish, to support one concept excessively is also foolish. In today’s culture we give more credibility to training and not enough to instinct.

I would encourage people to simply look at skills that seem “natural”, and ask the question, “What was the source of this skill?”

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Strange Beginings

Much of my reading history began at “Lane’s Hole in the Wall”, a store that was a collection of used items, either found or purchased. There was an auction hall right next door, so I suspect in the beginning that many items just drifted in from about 25 feet.

You could buy or trade just about anything at Lane’s. Later, I learned that he had one of the largest collections of WWII Japanese weapons in the Western States. He walked with a limp, so he might have been a veteran, or maybe from a motorcycle accident, or maybe both.

I wanted to buy a sword, but they were always too expensive for a thirteen year old. But Lane would certainly sell sharp edged weapons to kids. To pass the time after looking at bayonets and swords, I would look at his collection of used paperbacks. They were always less than a dollar each so I could buy several.

I had no knowledge of writers, so I purchased by genre and the cover design.

This was my first introduction to science fiction. I picked Robert Heinlien. I liked him so much that I went back to get every Heinlien book that he had. I did that with at least 12 other science fiction authors. One day I found a novel by Henry Miller. The cover said it was banned in many cities. I read it, it was racy, and I bought every Henry Miller book that Lane had. They were all published by Grove Press. I found out that the only bookstore that carried Grove Press in the East Bay was Cody’s Books in Berkeley. Three blocks from the Berkeley campus on Telegraph.

Naturally that placed a thirteen year old on the streets of Berkeley during the early 1960s. Probably the most exciting environment in the whole country. I remember I was a veteran of the Telegraph community when I heard about a new neighborhood in San Francisco at the corner of Haight and Ashbury. Ha! Newbies! Anyway they didn’t have bookstores, just poster shops.

My last two authors that I obsessed with were Jack Kerouac and Alan Watts. I rotated paperbacks in my back pocket with the titles facing out so people could read, “The Way of Zen” one week then, “On the Road” the next week. Oh yes, I also read them several times.

That was probably the place of my beginning, “Lane’s Hole in the Wall”. And yes, he finally sold me a sword made in Toledo, Spain for five dollars.

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Cleaning up Language 2

‘At the end of the day”, or it’s even more inane second cousin “In this day and age” is clearly my number three and number four most irritating phrases.

Both suffer from the position that the speaker implies, namely, that the speaker has superior knowledge that trumps any refutation of their argument. I’m using the classic definition of “argument”, not that there is an actual confrontation.

It could be two friends who have a slightly different take on a subject. After a few minutes of give and take, one person makes the statement, “at the end of the day, blah, blah, blah.” End of the discussion. This is a classic denial of any arguments, or compilation of arguments, because when it is all added up it is meaningless. I win!

The only thing I can think of is to counter with an even more disrespectful response, “But in this day and age, blah, blah, blah!”

Gosh, I hope this hasn’t actually happened, because if I would have overheard this, I might have run away screaming as if my hair was on fire. maybe my beard, because I don’t have much hair left.

Both statements area last ditch efforts to “win” the argument with a wise and knowledgeable “last word.” The problem is that they are rarely coupled with actual facts that support the premise. “At the end of day…” is a compressed statement that suggests, dozens or even hundreds, of facts that have been looked at, assessed, and rejected. This vaguely works when the individual who states this has some credibility, and it is a very lazy way to sum up an argument. Make a list, provide assessments, like the old math adage, ‘show the work’.

“In this day and age…” has the same problems, it vaguely works when the speaker has great credibility, with appropriate knowledge. But it also has a back-handed quality that insults the other party. It is actually saying, “I know more than you about this, so you should stop talking.” The unfortunate thing is that the speaker may actually know more on the subject, but telling the individual to cease arguing is not the most productive way to have a discussion.

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos of average citizens having discussions with authority figures. When the authority figure runs out of reasonable arguments, one or both of these statements are used. It is like everyone has been trained from a standard script.

To me, it’s like nails on a chalkboard.

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Cleaning Up Language

1st- “It was a miracle!”

So overused. “NES” the normal Hebrew word for miracles. The word actually means “banner” or signal. In Ancient Hebrew it is not the same word for miracles as Biblical Hebrew. Using NES is not wrong, but it isn’t direct, it references the miracle, it is mostly evidence.

In Biblical Hebrew, the word miracle is “mophyet”, from the root word of ‘bright’ or ‘wonderous’.

We need to put the word “miracle” into the spiritual context. It is not a word to describe the results of successful baking, or a successful car repair. It is a word connected to traditional issues in the world of faith.

Technically a miracle is based on eight principals

Healing disease…The deaf hear…The blind see…The mute speak…The lame walk…The lepers are clean…The demons are banished…The dead become alive

Again, all these things are only temporary. Only the miracle of salvation is permanent.

The forgiveness of sins can be said to be the greatest of miracles, the gift of everlasting life.

Basically, using the word “miracle” references the absolute impossibility of an act, without divine action. So many folks use “miracle” to describe acts that are possible, but only very remotely. It needs to be completely impossible.

(with thanks to Galen Peterson)

2nd- “It was meant to be!”

It would seem to be a very faithful response, but in a practical sense it is most often the exact opposite. A faithful response is understanding that your own reasoning is not relevant to the reality. When this statement is made, the first thing that should be considered is “according to who?”.

We are generally so self serving that it is tempting to place all statements in that context. I think that is unfortunate because it is so cynical. We are capable of higher thoughts. But it is reasonable to look through the filter of “self-serving”, particularly when we are justifying some action that could be G-D given, when it is really your own desires.

“It is meant to be” can only be true when the individual making the statement has been elevated to prophet status. This might have happened, but it is not a position that is self-defined. Being a prophet is not generally a choice. It fact, most individuals actively refused the position initially. And by the way, being a prophet does not give the individual a “golden pass” to being a good person.

There might be even more examples of individuals that were seriously flawed that performed for G-D’s will, and still had the same character as before.

There are so many ways that I find problematic in living a life of faith. The number one issue is to presume to absolutely know G-D’s will. The next is to help G-D without first asking “What can I do?”. And finally, “To give judgement,” based upon your own understanding.

Obviously they are all connected, and having a “humble nature,” is a safeguard for all things.

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Yes, this is Weird

Why does this happen late at night? Because you can’t see so well, dummy.

Well, I can hear twice as well at night to compensate.

About thirty years ago we lived in a house that had a central hallway that was a straight shot from the left outside wall, all the way to the right outside wall. It was a very wide house, from master bedroom, past a bathroom, two bedrooms, the living room, all the way to the kitchen. You could peek out the bedroom and see all the way down to the kitchen. We had a hanging basket of fruit and vegetables right there next to the door going to the garage.

Our garage was secure, no cars, just full of junk. But the yard was not secure. The side door to the side yard was the only serious issue of rot when we bought the house. We had been meaning to fix it. I was afraid it would come apart in my hands if I tried to open the door. I would be left holding a brass knob in my hand, a plank attached, and piles of door parts at my feet. It was on my list to do.

One night, quite late, I woke up. Sherry still asleep, Zach sleeping soundly for a change, but I heard something. It sounded like it was coming from the garage,this wasn’t the best of neighborhoods, the county patrolled, the backyard ended with a drop down down to railroad tracks, and the bay beyond. It was a nice view, but sometimes during dinner, the Southern Pacific dining cars would go by slow, and we could watch them eating, while they were watching us eating. Sometimes we would lift a glass.

The point being, is that anyone could drive by the front yard, and anyone could walk the tracks next to the bay, and then come up through our yard. Before I put up a fence, we had fishermen, and duck hunters with shotguns, regularly cut through our yard to get to the bay. Like I said, not secure, they would walk right by the rotten side door to the garage.

All this went through my head seconds after I heard the sound that woke me up. Now this is important, “Was the sound real, or was it in my dream?” My choice was to take a peek down the long hallway and see if I could see anything.

It was summer, it was hot, I wasn’t wearing pjs. I had seen enough TV shows to know that I should peek while I was laying on the floor, nobody is watching down that low. I looked, and just then I heard another sound, not a super loud sound, but it was coming from the kitchen or garage, I couldn’t tell. I recoiled backwards to consider my next steps.

I was young and foolish, I woke Sherry up, had her grab Zach, while I grabbed my semi-automatic that I used while going backpacking in the wilderness. I was armed. I quickly got down, spread eagled on the floor, looking down into the kitchen. It was dark, very dark, I couldn’t even tell if the door was open to the garage, but then I saw movement. Very distinct movement.

I said in a very loud and authoritative voice, “Freeze! don’t move an inch”. To my surprise, he didn’t move anymore. He was frozen, I was frozen. It was clear that we had a stand off. He was dressed like a ninja, all in black, I couldn’t see if he was armed. I was armed, and laying naked on the rug. Who was going to move first?

A few seconds passed. Maybe a few minutes. Finally, I worked to my knees, telling him again not to move or I will shoot. I moved to the next door opening to a bathroom. I could see a little better, but still not enough, so I went down to the next door opening. Now I could see the fruit basket slightly swaying. Was that the movement I saw? Did it start by brushing up against the garage door? I moved very cautiously forward.

Finally I hit the living room area where there was a light switch. I could now see him, and he could see all of me. Except there was nobody. I flipped the safety back on, and lowered my weapon. The basket was still swinging very slightly. I opened the door to the garage and turned on the lights, it was still full of junk, and the rotten garage side door still in one piece.

The only thing that came to mind is that the cat had gone berserk and jumped into the basket looking for something to eat. She had never done that, but it was possible. The second noise I heard was when she jumped out. I couldn’t see at the time, Nissai is a black ninja cat.

Okay, I do not share this often. I have friends and relatives that assume I have weapons, it is just politically not correct to suggest that there might be a time when I might use the weapon.

That was more than thirty years ago. That’s a long cycle. I’m staying up late, looking at my genealogy database in my recliner, with my back to the window with the air-conditioner. That’s important because it’s winter and I should have removed it, so that I could shut the window. There’s a draft, and I can hear outside real well. Everything is dark except the one room where I’m sitting.

We had a crew here, painting the house. This side of the house is almost three stories tall, so there are several long ladders leaning against the house, leading to the roof. During the day I could actually listen to one of the painters breathing heavily as he was stretching out with his brush, right outside the window behind my chair.

But this is not the daytime, this breathing was sometime around 1:00 am, no moon, and very dark, except the one dim reading light, and my iPad screen. Outside it was zero visibility. Then I heard the sound. It was a breathing sound but not regular like a sleeper. My dog and my cat both make breathing sounds while sleeping. The cat was in my lap, and the dog was downstairs, and besides, this was behind me, outside the window, perhaps standing on the ladder. At ONE in the morning!

Okay, that’s the first thought, you don’t get up and run like your hair is on fire. You test the hypothesis. “Is the ladder still there?” It was there at sundown. “Could he see inside?” Oh yes, most certainly. “Can you still hear the sounds?” Yes, but faintly. “If I move do the sounds stop?” No they don’t. It’s a power recliner, if I hit the switch, it will make a noise and he will see me getting ready to stand up. Their breathing was still soft, but irregular, almost as if he was busy doing something with his eyes closed. Gross!

Yep, too busy to notice that I had gotten up out of the chair. I hit the lights in the dining room, knowing it will light up the whole side area, including the ladder. Then I could race to the back doors leading to the deck, and I could go out and see him before he has even gone down the ladder. So, I did catch him in the act. He was not up the ladder, he was right below it, and that was his bad luck. He wasn’t alone.

It’s still pretty dark but I could still see the tangled up bodies right below the window, and I was right about the odd breathing patterns. Suddenly they could see my outline above them and they scattered in different directions to the street. It was darker there, so I couldn’t get a description, but I could hear their hoofs as they clattered towards the creek.

Maybe I saw just a shadow of some antlers, but this time I didn’t yell “Freeze!”

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We Make It So Easy!

There was a moment there, when I first heard it, that I felt that I had been asleep, or inattentive for some time. Like a Rip Van Winkel, deep asleep, while bowling is all around him.

But then I woke up, and this new thing was being said, and I wanted to act like I knew what was going on, as if I was on the ground floor, or in the group that originated the word. It was one of those “short cut” words, packed with meanings that everyone understands, a word that came out of nowhere, but it was meant to be a help.

Or was it? As I get older I ponder these things. How does packing a word with just the right things so that everyone will agree that it is accurate make it helpful? The word that mysteriously appeared while I was sleeping is “Karen”.

It’s not a new word, it’s a perfectly good name, held by a lot of friends of mine, now, suddenly it is a shortcut to be used to define a particularly obnoxious, probably odious, creature of the political right. Yep, basically a political label. In the same basic category as “jap” during WWII. It’s a way to describe a person without getting into the specific details. Helpful in a sad, mean spirited sort of way.

It is defended by people because initially it is funny. Long after the funny is gone it will still sting as a rebuke, like most “short cut” words. Labels are also short cuts, but it’s easier to drop them when the excuses get long and tedious.

There are still a few negative short-cut names floating around. They are no longer amusing, but they appear useful. Like my own name John. As a child I was tortured by the rhyme “Johnny Pawny”, why that was the choice I was never sure, but the police knew what a John was. He was a sad, sex starved, customer of sexual favors. The women had other labels, but the customer was a John. Somehow it also got applied to the hapless victim, the famous John Doe. Short cuts!

The playground didn’t torment me with the phrase for a toilet. At least that “short cut” I could understand. The first successful wall mounted water flushing toilet was invented by John Crapper. So naturally, when nature calls you went to the John and took a crap, or left a crap load.

I digress…

Now, how long will the Karen’s of our culture suffer with this label. I dunno. People like their “short cuts”, it doesn’t challenge their thinking, so change comes fairly slowly.

I am reminded that when a young lady was cute, it originally meant “knock-kneed”. It only took about thirty years for the use to change. There is a bit of passion with this “Karen” label, it might take longer.

Perhaps if we act as if we have been asleep, and simply asked the users of the word to explain what they mean in longhand.

It’s a thought.

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My Connection to The Stooges

Okay, so the biggest connection is that I married my wife. Her mother was born in Pittsburgh, but her grandmother Jennie, was born in Yurburg, Lithuania. A sad story, because in 1941 the Nazis, along was some local Lithuanians, murdered all of the Jews that had lived in Yurburg. Jennie, Esther, and Meyer had made it to the US. Taube did not make it and perished,but one of her six children, her daughter Esther did make it,

Jennie was my wife’s grandmother, her brother Meyer settled in Ohio. Meyer married Lillie and had three daughters, the eldest daughter was Doris. It had long been rumored that Doris was somehow connected to the Three Stooges. I could not see how.

Doris married to Norman Howard so that was the connection, except there was nothing. Then I found that Norman’s real last name was Horowitz. Ah ha! The last names of Stooges was also Horowitz!. Things began to fall into place. Norman’s father was BJ Horowitz, and he had four brothers. Three of the brothers were Moe Horwitz, Shemp Horwitz, and Curly Horwitz. Larry Fine was the third Stooge, and Shemp had replaced Curly for a time.

BJ’s father was Solomon Horwitz, and he had escaped from Lithuania as well. I saw that he was born in Kaunas, the regional town that had a prison, where the Jews that had survived the first days of the invasion had been taken.

1,000 Jewish citizens were murdered the first day of the invasion, in the woods, in the cemetery, on the streets. Another 1,000, (the rest of the families of Yurburg), were taken to Kaunas and placed in the prison. If Solomon had stayed, he would have been placed there with his other relatives. Within a few months all of the prisoners were murdered as well.

They say that comedy comes from pain. The Pazer and the Horwitz families know about great pain.

I’m glad that I am related to the Stooges, even if it is only through marriage. But my children have a direct connection, they need to celebrate.

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Dracula

No, not the Hollywood version, the historical guy! Vlad the Impaler “Tepes”, “Dracula, Prince of Wallachia “. Yep, he was a relative, not a direct line grandfather, he was an 8th cousin, 18 times removed, not a close relative but still a blood relative.

Speaking of blood, he did not drink it, nor did he have hollow fangs to suck the blood out of young women’s necks. He just had lots of 12 foot poles sharpened at both ends. One end went into the ground, one end went into the person, then the whole thing was pulled upright, and the person looked like a popsicle, slowly sinking on the pole. Sometimes it took days to die of blood loss, or organ damage. The pole wasn’t so sharp that it acted like a spear. It was rounded enough to just shove organs to one side as gravity did the rest.

Impaling was made into a fine art in his kingdom. There was a time when an invading Turkish army passed by a valley where 20,000 of Vlad’s victims were impaled. The generals decided not to invade the country, saying if Vlad would do this to his own people, then what would he do to an invading army? Okay, that might not be true.

Another famous story is about a jeweled, gold cup that was available at a public well. Anyone thirsty didn’t have to drink from the bucket, or a ladle. They could freely use the cup. When a traveler asked how come the cup hasn’t been stolen, they were told that stealing was a death penalty by impaling. The cup was never stolen in Vlad’s reign.

Decades later Vlad is turned into a Count that sleeps in a coffin. It was scary when I was a kid. I would have been more scared if I had known about the historical character.

One story that appears to be true is that Vlad had a dinner party that he throwing for his royal telatives and the power elite. They gathered outside at long dinner tables, being served by the castle staff. Midway through the dinner, at least a dozen condemned criminals were led out and impaled, completely surrounding the dinner guests.

Vlad commanded that the guests stay, saying it was the price of their privilege. Quite a dinner party!

Vlad is too interesting to not write about, just because he isn’t a grandfather, sometimes cousins make the grade.

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Follow the Truth

Yes, that is a good thing. But how do we know it is the truth? So many things seem to on the basis of “a consensus of opinion”. Well, what if my opinion is different? Am I knowledgeable enough to have an opinion? Is my difference just a gut reaction to a collective mindset?

Truth can be a squirmy thing, with a mind of its own. It doesn’t take it’s existence on the basis of a group of people agreeing or disagreeing. It doesn’t care that not one single person understands. I used to think, truth is patient in a way, or perhaps I’m just putting a conduct that totally foreign to its essence, truth just “is”. Embrace it or ignore it, it doesn’t matter. It just has consequences. /

Hah! I’m reminded of a small town in New Mexico that was nothing special, they had no claim to fame, nothing particular about the town. This was also during the explosion of radio and the various offerings the networks placed on air. The nation was totally thrilled with a new game show that everyone enjoyed, it was “Truth, or Consequences”.

Yep, that’s right this small town of Hot Springs, NM changed their name to win a radio contest based upon a desire by Ralph Edwards, the host, to have a city called Truth or Consequences. In May of 1950, the town changed its name. Edwards visited the town in May, every year, for the next fifty years. It’s called Fiesta Week. Later the radio show became a television show.

The truth was discovered, but everyone was thrilled to observe the consequences.

Last week, I was faced with my own “truth or consequences”. I admit that I have a passion for genealogy. It’s mostly harmless, I’m waiting for a grandchild or great grandchild to take interest. Mostly my immediate family just smile and nod their heads politely. Hey, my Uncle Ben colleceted buttons when he was older. He just looked at your shirt, reached up and ripped one off if it was interesting. Older people need a hobby.

Anyway, I got a message on my Ancestry program about a new hint concerning my great great grandmother, she is not that far away in the timeline, yet a pivotal person that led to future connections to thousands of interesting people. People that I have written about, people who I spent some time doing additional research. So I clicked on the hint, and about 8,000 interesting people vanished from my database. Poof!

Reflecting about it, I wondered about the proof of the truth. Why should I except this “hint”? It was one silly piece of data, that had huge consequences, but was it the truth? It really was from left field, the individual was the father of the child that led to thousands. Now the thousands were only connected to the step-father. The child, and me,were on the other side of the genetic gap. This was the consequence!

The new father had no history, it was impossible to find a connection that he had ancestors. I did find several references that he was the real father of the child, so I did find the “truth”, but it left a bitter taste. Oh well.

Then I happened to look at a backup database that had more individuals, but was undeveloped. I sometimes looked at it to get additional information. I went to the break in the line, and sure enough it was there all along. The step-dad was there, the real father was there, the genetic gap was there. What was also there is that the mother of the child, the wife of both the step-father and wife of the blood father was also from the same family line. It seems that she was a cousin of the step-father.

The result, or consequence, was that the 8,000 missing individuals in the database were suddenly back! Not only that but somehow one generation closer. Initially I never traced her background, because the given hints came from the step-father.

Embrace the truth, it may lead to great consequences!

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A Wise Saying

There is an old Jewish saying, “the death of one man, is the death of a nation!”

Well, no truer statement can be made as I have learned so painfully in the last few minutes. I have been known to collect interesting stories based upon my internet research of my family tree. I’ve told many folks that the records of royalty can be much more trusted than the earlier records of commoners. Who double and triple checks farmers? Well, I do!

Yet, the danger is that one little error in the bloodline that leads to royalty can wipe out the same connection to the whole family. Poof!, they still exist, but they are no longer connected. I have been very careful to only research grandparents, not uncles or cousins. I wanted a solid paternal/maternal connection. It’s difficult when so many people have multiple wives or husbands, you can’t just assume that the one you pick is the right one. I’ve done pretty good, and I have lost several generations of people when I discovered that I picked the wrong marriage (or consort).

But this one was bad. I got a new hint from Ancestry. A new connection was found. I looked at the data. It seemed pretty conclusive that a new birth father was found for Catherine Bergmann, an important grandmother in my line. She was important because her father, Johann Bergmann lead to the Hammersteins, which led to al the royalty that I found. Hahaha, thousands of them!

The problem is that apparently Johann Bergmann is now proven to be her step-father, no actual blood relation! Catherine’s blood father was another poor German father with no records. Hahaha, he might be connected somehow to the same bloodlines, but I’ll never know.

With one stroke of a keyboard, hundreds, thousands, of individuals disappeared from my record. Hundreds of hours of interesting research now belong to her step-fathers line, but not hers, or mine.

I’m just amazed about the ups and downs of genealogy.

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Black Friday Thoughts

I’m trying hard to wrap my mind around the day after Thanksgiving being called Black Friday. Clearly, this isn’t a thing where “Black is bad!”, but it also isn’t “Black is beautiful”. It’s just the day after a national holiday to celebrate giving thanks, but somehow, it’s gotten known as the start of shopping season. Okay, so maybe it’s a way to keep your company “in the black”. Perhaps shopping for Christmas, but maybe just shopping for shopping sake.

It’s not widely known, or even remembered, that President Franklyn Roosevelt actually changed the date of Thanksgiving. It had been on the first Thursday by one president, and the fourth Thursday by most presidents. In 1939 FDR changed it to the third Thursday for federal employees, but half the states still celebrated on the fourth Thursday. Confusion reigned for two years, but finally Congress passed a law saying that President can’t change the date, and mostly it was going to be on the last Thursday of the month, so long as it wasn’t later than the 28th of the month,

Why was it changed? The National Retailers lobby. Apparently it was thought to increase sales, perhaps by having two Black Fridays before December comes around. When you want out of a Depression you will try anything. Who knew that a war was coming?

Now that the virus is keeping people out of the stores, there is a big on-line shopping push. This has been going on a few years before the virus, I remember back in the day, before the dot.coms, that selling things online was verboten. Two big problems, no one trusted credit card numbers on the internet. It was the height of stupidity to use a credit card. They even created credit cards with limited cash, cash that you would deposit just before using the card, for only the internet purchase.

The other reason was that most of the early users of the internet wanted to keep it pure of commercial purposes. If you tried to sell something you got swamped with bogus emails, crashing your system. They finally created the dot.com domain so that the purists could have .edu, .gov, and .org to themselves. How soon we forget, or never knew!

I’m still not in the shopping mood. Isn’t isn’t until three days before Christmas that I realize that I’m missing some joy, and then, the terror hits that I do not have enough time. I never learn, it’s the same every year. Perhaps this year….

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Last Road Story

Willys

The last road story is up on Terrorhousemag.com. In December I have two more in the pipeline, and one more story rattling around my frontal lobes.

It’s an interesting process, words… Words that want to become. To push Michelangelo’s metaphor yet again, “the figure within”, or better, “the words that need forming”.

https://terrorhousemag.com/road-part-3/

An easy link.

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Tribute to Hodja 2

The girls were fighting, there were doors slamming. My peace was being disturbed. My wife didn’t seem to mind, she went on with her morning as if nothing was wrong. I glared at the stairs leading down to the landing. I would have to go down those stairs, then up another set of stairs to the girl’s bedrooms. It took a lot of energy to bring peace.

“Girls! Come up her right now!” It was better to have younger legs moving up and down stairs.

When they presented themselves, I asked the older one to explain the problem without being interrupted.

She described a very long and detailed issue with the shared bathroom. It was full of disappointment and extra work.

“You are right! I can see the merit in your response!”

Then the younger one responded with her long and detailed issue. It was full of disappointment and lack of respect.

“You are right! I can see the merit in your response!”

At this point my wife looked up from her work, and said…

“That isn’t fair! You can’t sit there in an attempt to resolve a conflict by agreeing with both parties!”

I looked at her in amazement..

“You are right, also! I can see the merit in your response!”

“What was that terrible noise late last night? I almost got out of bed to investigate?”, my wife asked.

“Oh, it was nothing, my jacket slipped down the stairs.”

“That can’t be! A jacket doesn’t make that much noise!”, she argued.

“It does if you’re wearing it!”

It was late one night, the wind was blowing, and lots of noise was coming from around the outside of the house. My wife was in bed, snuggled under quilts, while I was up stairs reading, and listening to the storm.

It was then that I thought I heard something on the front porch, and maybe even the front door creak open.

I went over to the landing to look down at the foyer. It was a bad feature of our house that there was no light switch upstairs to turn on the light downstairs. I looked in the very dim light and thought I saw something standing by the closet.

“Freeze!” I said, not loudly, because I dint want my wife to wake up and get in the middle of this. Apparently he had heard me, because he froze. no movement!

I pondered my next step, do I wait until he moves? Do I say freeze again? Do I walk down the stairs? Can he see that I’m only pretending to have a weapon in my hand?

I slowly reached into my pocket to get my pocket knife, and slowly pulled out the blade. The stand-off maintained, he didn’t move, and neither did I.

Minutes passed, perhaps it was hours. In my tension, I discovered my legs tightening up. I would have to move soon. Then, I thought I saw a shoulder move slightly!

In my desperation, I flung the pocket knife with all my strength, coupled with a wild yell!

My wife came out of the bedroom, and turned on the lights in the foyer. There was my jacket, hanging on the closet door, with my pocket knife sticking in the shoulder.

“Thank G-d!” I declared.

“Why are you thanking G-d?”, she asked.

“Well, just imagine what would have happened if I was wearing it?”

I’m sitting on the back deck, enjoying the afternoon sun, looking at the wonder of G-D’s creation. The giant oak tree that had split several years ago, has repaired itself, at a small shoot that had sprouted from the left stump, was now a sturdy tree several stories high. The tree seems heathy although it has been years since I’ve seen acorns falling.

I mused about G-D’s design that the mighty oak bore such small acorns, while the spindly, and lowly vine grew such great pumpkins!

The wind blew softly, and I could hear the leaves tremble. Just then, a single acorn fell and hit my head.

I looked around, amazed, and at first, confused. Then I laughed, and thanked the Lord. I was reminded that if I had designed the world, the great pumpkin would have surely smashed my head.

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Auðr the Deep-Minded

By now I’ve gotten used to finding my great grandparents with additional naming devices. Harald “Bluetooth”, Alfred “The Great”, Godefroi “The Captive”, Harald “Hard Ruler”, Charles III “The Simple”, Æthelred “the Unready”, and even Eystein “The Fart”.

But now I have Auðr “the Deep-Minded”. Wow! She must have been something in addition to being my 38th great grandmother.

What did she do to earn this sobriquet? According to Wikipedia a tremendous amount.

First she was the second daughter of a Norwegian hersir, a military leader of a hundred men. She also married well, to Olaf “The White”, son of King Ingjald, who had named himself “King of Dublin”. After Olaf was killed in battle, Aud took her son Thorstein to the Hebrides, later he became a warrior with many raids into Scotland. After Thorstein was killed in battle, Aud decided to secretly build a huge knarr longboat. Aud knew that she didn’t have UCB of a chance to hold on to any of the territories that her son had conquered.

So she loaded up the longboat with the surviving family, servants, warriors, and slaves, and secretly sailed into the North Atlantic with her at the helm. Sailing with twenty crew and a dozen prisoner/slaves, she set sail for Breiðafjörður in Iceland.

There she made free-men of the prisoners/slaves, only requiring that they accept the free land being offered. Unlike most early Icelandic settlers, Aud was a baptized Christian and is commonly credited with bringing Christianity to Iceland. Aud erected crosses where she could pray on a prominent hill within her lands, now known as Krossholar.

Clearly, my 38th grandmother earned the title of “deep-minded” as she become one of the earliest settlers of Iceland, and gave leadership and safety to her family.

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Tribute to Hodja

So I’m constantly losing the channel changer, the clicker, or the remote. My wife misplaces her hearing aide. She has a built in GPS, but it has no beep. Fine, it’s lost in the house. How does that help? At least it’s not in the parking lot at the swimming pool.

The remote/clicker/changer is obviously in the house, it has no GPS. It probably is in the canyons of the chair, or couch. It might also be with the spoons, or single socks, wherever that is. I’m hoping it’s not on a shelf, or random horizontal space that is free.

I’m on the back patio, looking at random horizontal spaces. My wife asks why am I looking there?

I reply, “There’s better light out here!”

My wife asks me if I want to walk the dog? I immediately put that through my want/don’t want filter. Apparently I hadn’t thought about it at all. Was she picking up on a signal that I actually wanted to do this? Or, was this a clever way for her to ask me to do this? I punted.

“He’s asleep under the pool table.”

Just then he barks at the back kitchen door, not once, but several times!

“He is not asleep, he’s outside on the patio!”

“Who do you believe? Your husband, or your dog?”

My wife asks me if I want to take a drive with her, to pick up some presents for the grandkids. I say sure, I’d like to spend some time with you. We get on ours coats, and head to the car.

My wife decides to drive and gets behind the wheel. I crawl up on the hood on the right side, facing her, wearing my warmest jacket.

My wife says are you mad? “Why don’t you get in the passenger seat, or at least in the back seat?”

“If I get in the backseat I will only be seeing the back of your head, coming or going. That’s not helpful in being together. If I get in the passenger seat, there will be the temptation to turn your head towards me, and that means taking your eyes off the road. That would be too dangerous for both of us. Out here on the hood we can still see each other face-to-face.”

“And I wore my warmest jacket!”

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Runic Alphabet

Feeling a little Nordic!
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Missing Teeth

(Another short story heading for Terror House Magazine)

I know this is going to sound weird. This is why I’m doing this in my journal. I do this for several reasons. I do it long hand because I don’t trust electronic snoops, I do it because I tend to aimlessly wander, if I’m trying to talk to someone, and I do it to organize my thoughts, because my brain tends to follow “bright shiny objects.”

I recently had two molars removed on the right lower jaw. This is important because two teeth in a row leaves a huge gap. Another issue is that the upper right molars have nothing to keep them in their place. Apparently over time, gravity goes into effect, and they drop down, and possibly out. I don’t like the chain reaction type of thing.

The main purpose of this journal entry is the tracking of my reaction to food!

Rip out two molars and suddenly food becomes a big deal. Right now if I’m not careful, something could slip over, and I’m compressing food between stitched up gums, and descending upper right molars. Even my food choices are changed. Soft mushy foods. Foods that do not have small seeds. Are they concerned that a blackberry bush will germinate in one or more of my tooth sockets?

So I decided to log my concerns about changes in my diet, based upon the change of my missing teeth. My dentist tells me that I could go for partial dentures. And then I’m back to normal. But how long will it take to get used to the hardware? And what if it gets loose and I choke on it?

I have too many fears. They asked me if I wanted implants, I wasn’t sure but apparently they wanted to know right away after the extraction, but later I could decide to go for the denture. Fine, I’d like the option.

I had the idea of a built in bridge, I already have one on the other side. The dentist said it wouldn’t work, there isn’t two teeth to anchor it. Can’t use an implant post, because it doesn’t move. It is drilled into the bone of the jaw. Teeth move around a bit, and if you tie it to a post it will just crack.

I feel like I’m learning too much about dentistry. I just want to eat the foods that I want.

It’s been a few weeks now, I’ve been to the dentist a couple of times, and the stitches come out in three weeks, it seems like a long time, but he says it looks fine, and try to eat the normal stuff.

I’m trying, but it’s different. Obviously I’m still reluctant to bite down hard on the right side, so I’m “chewing my cud” on the left. Food pretty much tastes the same, I guess no nerves have been damaged, but it certainly isn’t normal.

It’s been another few weeks and I have realized something. Ever define for yourself “comfort food”? Well, I have apparently lost mine. This isn’t a huge deal, I can still taste, but food that used to meet some sort of emotional need just doesn’t do it anymore. How can I go to the doctor or dentist to complain about the loss of “comfort food”? They would say it’s psychological. Maybe it is!

I have long suspected that food is somehow disconnected to the brain and logical sequencing. How many times have I gotten up, walked to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and then “woke up” wondering what I was looking for? Most of the it was “comfort food”. Hah! I still do it, but now I can’t find what I want.

I have recently used online shopping to try to find my missing comfort food. The old standbys are there, but I have no interest. The beef stew, the chili, the bleu cheese dressing… they all seem to have the same value. They probably taste the same. But they are not emotionally fulfilling. So maybe I need to experiment with some new food. What about jackfruit?

My online shopping cart list was getting longer, with dozens of odd choices. My personal shopper was commenting on the delivery that he never knew these things were available. I changed online grocery stores.

The new store had new, even more exotic food choices. Still the same story, it was food, but nothing was “comfort food”.

I had my last appointment for the stitches, and I thought I would just ask the dentist an innocent question about “comfort food”. His eyes widened a bit, but said nothing, except that it looked healed.

I asked why it took so long for the tissue to heal, my open heart surgery was good to go in a couple of weeks. He replied that the gums were not the issue, it was building up the bone in the jaw, for the possible implants later.

“Oh, okay. So the bone in my jaw is better?”

“Yeah, the bone dust implants seem to have done the trick.”

Wait… implants? Bone dust? I don’t remember bone dust. I was pretty loopy from the gas, but I don’t remember being cut open to scrape my bones.

“Bone dust? Hmm. Where did that come from?”

The dentist was quiet but the dental assistant seemed to take pleasure in announcing…

“Cadavers, they have a bone cadaver bank!”

Now I was quiet, very quiet. Why hadn’t I thought this through? Now I have “corpse mouth”. I can’t even undo this.

I left the dentist, and now I’m home with the internet. I have spent hours researching. Over and over the same two words seem to come up. “Cellular memory”, something that maybe even has DNA connections. Transplanted material that somehow has a subtle effect on the host body.

Great, it’s hopeless. I’ve lost my “comfort food”, and I have no chance to find the donor corpse in order to find the new “comfort food”.

I’ve hated Lima beans since I was little, maybe now I like them? Maybe I hate Fava beans. Ha! Hannibal Lecter loved Fava beans as a side dish. Wait…

Suddenly, I noticed just now, as I wrote the name Hannibal, my mouth started to salivate. Oh oh….

“Comfort food?”

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On Veterans Day

There is no point in me re-writing what has already been done so well. I give full credit to Julia Gusse and repost this excellent article.

By Julia R. Gusse

Every individual who has ever served in the U.S. military has taken an oath to support and “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic… So help me God.”

But with this oath, there was no expiration date.  And many veterans take this oath as seriously as the day they enlisted (10, 20, 40, 50 or 75 years ago).  I have met veterans throughout the country that are still committed and “serving.”

A few years ago I attended a Veterans Day event. Along with being thanked for my service, a fellow veteran handed me a little wallet-
size card with the “Veterans Creed” which reads as follows:

I am a United States military veteran.
I mastered the weapons, tools, and techniques of war and security and I make no apology for the proficiency.
I became a leader by my willingness to both serve and subordinate myself to my superiors’, the mission and the needs of my team.
Foremost among first responders, I earned the ribbons of a volunteer, endeavor, defender, warrior, rescuer, problem-solver, and model citizen.
I am the visible conscience of a nation with regard to the costs of war and freedom’s true price.
I do not fail to support another vet who crosses my path with any need, large or small; he or she may have wounds or hardships that few others would understand.
I am part of the eternal flame of memory, of my brother and sister veterans who died in service to our country.
Honor, courage, and commitment define me to this day. I maintain my readiness, health, and fitness in order to serve again, should my community or nation call.
In all of the remaining moments of my life, I will be steadfast guardian of American ideals, freedoms, and history.
I am a one-percenter of the noblest order. I am… an American veteran.

I have kept this creed as a reminder of why I and so many others, veteran and non-veterans, do what we do.  There are many veterans who have committed themselves to helping our brothers and sisters in uniform and follow the creed but you do not have to be a veteran to help a veteran.

As Americans, on Memorial Day we remember those who have died in the service of our country and during Veterans Day we are to honor those who have served.  As our living veteran population grows, please make a commitment to assist and honor our veterans not only on Nov. 11 but every day of the year.

The “one-percenters” cannot do it alone and the commitment to honor and assist our veterans should be a commitment of all Americans.

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A Study in 1992

There were 47 transplant patients in a study published in 1992. There had been many unspecific reports of a condition called “cell-memory transference”. The concept that personal memories exist in cell tissue outside the normal brain tissue where memories are thought to reside.

The good news is that a whopping 79% of the studied patients felt absolutely nothing different after the transplant. They went on with their lives with the only difference that they had healthy tissues. Now, 79% of 47 patients does not make a resounding scientific fact, and 21% that feel something is different should call for a larger study. In fact, 6% of the 47 (for you math folks that’s 2.82 people) had significant feelings of change with the new transplant.

One patient was an emergency room doctor who had contracted hepatitis through his work, and required a liver transplant. He became more emotional, loved avocados, and enjoyed barbecue. None of these things were obvious before the surgery. Later he found that he had the liver of a young women who loved BBQ and avocados, and cried at emotional movies.

Okay, this seems suspicious. Obviously there are more books and movies that have explored this concept. Transplanted hands that want to strangle victims, transplanted corneas that see “evil” in people, transplanted hearts that are still in love with the people that they knew. Clearly, we can fabricate stories to fit any scenario.

But even a small Sam-lying of 47 with 6% having a big reaction should generate more studies.

So, at a breakfast with friends, three of the four have cadaver bone dust in there jaws. One one asked where the bone came from, but later found out. One body but me is concerned. Was he, or she a vegetarian? Did they hate Lima beans? Fave beans? Or maybe they loved Fava beans and human flesh.

I am hoping that my “comfort food” remains the same.

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It’s All Over

Okay, maybe it’s not. Who knows, the devil is in the details. The interesting thing is the silence of friends and family. Some are sad, but don’t want to say anything in case I’m celebrating. Some are happy, but don’t want to seem so in case I’m in despair.

I suppose it is mostly a case of “do no harm”. At least in the political sense. In some ways it is my own fault in that I have been unclear where I stand politically. I have long decided that individuals do not deserve my vote. I would love for that to happen, but heroes are hard to find. It’s much better to vote for platforms. If a platform wins then good, work with it. If a platform loses, then good, work with it. For all my thoughts of survival, I’m very optimistic.

There are basically four quadrants, 1) Good candidate personally (nobody is perfect) 2) Good platform (many promises kept) 3) Bad candidate personally (its an embarrassment) 4) Bad platform (Unworkable ideas that fail). In American politics we often get a mixture. Ideally the bad candidate and bad platform never get elected. In the best of times we get the good candidate and the good platform. Unfortunately these things are subjective, but over time, the truth is found out, and the rascals are voted out. That’s why I celebrate every election, because democracy wins.

I firmly believe we get the leadership we deserve!

And I hopefully will survive, unless someone puts me on the train.

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Brigida Haraldsdotter Gille

Riseberga Abbey, Sweden

Interesting person, my 23rd great grandmother. She was born in Hordaland, Norway. We think her mother was Tora Guttormsdatter Sudreim, but this is debated. Her father was Harald IV Magnusson Gille, king of Norway. Unfortunately she was also illegitimate as Tora was her father’s long term lover.

Her first marriage was to the Swedish earl Karl Sunesson, by which she had two boys, Algot and Knut Karlsson. Sometime after 1145 Karl was losing his influence, so she married Magnus Henriksson, who was an up and coming politician. It is thought that Magnus had arranged for King Swerker of Sweden to be assassinated. Naturally, Magnus became King Magnus II of Sweden, with Brigida as his queen. The Swerkers were still miffed with Magnus, so he only reigned for one year, and was killed in a battle for the crown. The Swerkers won.

Brigida didn’t miss a beat, and looked for a third husband. She found Earl Birger Bengtsson Brosa Skänkare of Sweden, and had seven children with him, four boys and three daughters. Unfortunately, three of her sons died in three different battles, so Brigida was in grief for a considerable time.

Brigida was a survivor, born in not the best of times, but she managed to have a family, and died somewhere between 70 and a 100 years old. She is buried at the Riseberga Abbey in Sweden. Thank you great grandmother.

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Richomer

He was a Frank in service to the Emperor Gracian, also known as Flavius Richomeres, born 350, died 393. For a time he was Consul of Rome, he was also my 48th great grandfather.

How does this barbarian Frank become a Roman Consul? Well, first off, he was the son of a Frankish general named Teutomer, 310-363. Teutomer, was the Duke of Dacia Ripensis, the area in the northern Balkan peninsula, immediately south of the Middle Danube, roughly in Bulgaria. It was home to the 13th Twin Legion, also known as Legio XIII Gemina, a legion of the Imperial Roman army.

It was one of Julius Caesar‘s key units in Gaul and in the civil war, it was the legion with which he famously crossed the Rubicon on January 10, 49 BC. Emperor Julian made Teutomer the commander. Rome had felt it best to hire a barbarian to control the barbarians.

Teutomer’s son, Richomer, was trained as a Roman soldier, and eventually became head of the Imperial Bodyguards (Comes Domesticorum) of Emperor Gracien.

In 378, Emperor Gratien sends him East at the head of an army to help Co-empereur Valens fight the Goths, but the Romans are defeated at the Battle of Andrinople on 9 August 378. While Valens is killed in the battle, Richomer survived the rout and remained in the East, where he was second to Theodosius I, the new Caesar of the East. Again at the head of a Frankish and Roman army, he is ordered to march against his nephew Arbogast (possibly the son of Bauto) to quell his rebellion. Theodosius names him Master of the Militia for the East in 383, and then Consul of Rome in 384.

In 388, Theodosius sent him to the West to fight the usurper Magnus Maximus, and he defeats him at the Battle of the Save River, and forces his surrender at Aquilea, after which he executes him. After the assassination of one of the co-Emperors Valentinien II (15 May 392), Arbogast places Eugenius on the throne and Theodosius sends Richomer to fight them, but he dies shortly after his departure, leaving it to Stilichko, the Vandal general, to defeat Eugenius and Arbogast at the Battle of Frigidus on 6 September 394.

Richomer’s son was the future king of the Franks, Theodemir. He supported the usurper Emperor Jovinus (411-413) in the Roman civil war with Emporor Honorius. Jovinus was executed and his head eventually was displayed on the walls of Ravenna, and later Carthage, along with four other usurpers to the throne of Rome. In retaliation Honorius also sends a legion to capture Theodemir and his mother Ascyla, then had them executed. This pretty much guaranteed that the Franks would no longer fight for the Romans.

Theodemir’ s son Chlodégar, king of the Salian Francs at Cologne, and his brother Clovis, actively attacked the Romans, and is said to be the ancestors of the Merovingian Kings of France.

In just a few short years my 48th great grandfather, Richomer, who was a Roman Consul, produced a grandson who became King of France, my 46th great grandfather, Chlodégar.

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The Intersection

I’ve been pondering the complexities of “knowing” and “believing”. It’s oblivious to me that this is not a new concept, but sometimes it takes some research to find the shoulders of greater minds.

The closest I found was Thomas Aquinas, who spent his life studying Aristotle and blending philosophy with Christianity. He believed that faith and reason would lead to reality. Along with Albertus Magnus a rational view of the world came into view. Most people are familiar with Aristotle, even if they only know that his was employed as Alexander the Great’s tutor. Nice to know that the conqueror of the known world was led by the greatest thinker. Also, many people, particular those in religious circles, are aware of Thomas Aquinas, even though they might not be able to quote anything.

Hardly any people are aware of the importance of Albertus Magnus, apart from a few people majoring in philosophy/theology, (or attended the college in Connecticut).

Albertus Magnus, or Albert the Great, was a Dominican friar and bishop, who later became a saint. He lived 1200-1280 in and around Cologne, Germany. He was educated at the University of Padua in Italy, the second oldest college in Italy. Padua has just been founded by former students of the University at Bologna, the oldest university in Europe. Later, he was able to teach at the University of Paris, the second oldest university in Europe. It is safe to say that that Albert was very familiar with academia in the Middle Ages.

His expertise was generally Aristotle, and one of his best students was Thomas Aquinas. It is obvious that Albert had a great influence on the mind of Thomas Aquinas. Albert was the first academic to comment upon nearly all of Aristotle’s known writings. In addition, it was due to Arabic scholars that much of Aristotle was saved from destruction. Albert also wrote about the Arabic scholars Avicenna and Averroe, leading Albert to be at the center of academic debate.

According to Wikipedia, his writings included topics on logic, theology, botany, geography, astronomy, astrology, mineralogy, alchemy, zoology, physiology, phrenology, justice, law, friendship, and love. Obviously a curious and well rounded man. He outlived his famous student Thomas Aquinas.

While Albert was born very near to the death of Hildegard von Bingen, it would seem that he continued in most of the areas that Hildegard studied. He must have been aware of her work, and was obviously inspired by her depth.

Though he was a bishop and later a saint, his writing was mostly in philosophy and should be remembered as the greatest scholar of Aristotle.

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What I Know, What I believe

I know about physical mortality, I believe in spiritual immortality.

I know about free will, I believe in destiny.

I know about evil, I believe in the ultimate conquest of good.

I know about love, I believe it is attainable by everyone.

I know about science, I believe it is a gift from G-d.

I know about G-d, I believe in the existence of demons.

I know about the concept of evolving, I believe in evolution.

I know about a few concepts of time, I believe that time is truly unknowable.

I know I am sinful, I believe I am redeemed.

I know about the concept of purpose, I believe purpose is known over time.

I know about creation, I believe we can be makers.

(Starting a list of what you know, and what you believe, can be helpful.)

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I Believe

What a powerful statement! A verifying statement that determines the very existence of a thing or a thought. If you believe, it is there, if you don’t believe it isn’t there. At least that is one concept that is out there.

For example, there are two people arguing, one person makes a statement of fact, the other person hears that statement, processes the discrete pieces of information, and declares that he doesn’t believe. Now we have two people with two radically different ideas of reality. Theoretically there is only one reality, the question before us is whether realty is based upon an agreement with humans, in other words, that reality is based upon someone “believing”.

In many cases, this might be appear to be true. Humans can create potential realities that are described using language. The world is flat and the oceans fall off at the edge, descending into the Great Void. If one person hears this, and believes, then, it becomes a fact for him, and he will not sail too far lest he fall off the edge. If a person does not believe, he will sail, and no edge will appear.

Reality can appear to be created by “not believing”. Conversely, we can believe that gravity does exist by watching an apple fall from a tree. Because we believe it is real. Clearly stated this way, it is obvious that reality is independent of any humans “belief”. So where can we accurately use the word “believe”? I believe it is proper until we know! Just believing does not make it reality, but it is a preliminary stage to “knowing”.

A safe concept is to carefully observe reality, then declare that you believe that is exists. You are simply agreeing that you are observing correctly, and you can use that information in understanding more complicated realities. Knowledge is built upon correct observations. We don’t create the realities, we simply observe the facts.

Unfortunately the very word “believe” has the implication that “existence” is dependent upon a personal decision. This is the great dilemma in determining realty.

The silliest statement I can think of is “I believe in gravity” or “I believe in Light”. Yet we have an opinion whether we believe in evolution or “The Big Bang Theory”. In truth, both of these concepts are in the process of knowing. Some people are already there, they know! Some people are in the process so technically they “believe”. Some people do not believe, so they are comfortable in the denying of the existence. Reality is still reality, but are we in agreement?

The only way this is acceptable is by using the term “believe” until we know it is fact. We can’t allow a “belief” to remain as a static state. With careful observation, and repeated evidence, a belief transcends into a fact, and hopefully that expresses reality.

Does “false information” exist? Technically, if it is false, it does not exist, but only if we are correctly observing. Incorrect observation creates “false information”. And I believe (haha!) there exists a multitude of false information.

One last piece of information about “believe”, and that is being meaningful. Reality can often be perceived by humans as devoid of meaning. Believing is very often passionate, giving it great meaning. The solution to this is to be in awe of reality. Give great meaning, passionate meaning to the truth of realty. Unfortunately too many people develop so much passion in “believing” that they cannot accept the next step into “knowing” if it goes against a preconception.

We are complicated and ego-centric. Too many of us believe that we creat realities. There was only one moment of creation for everything. I know this!

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Worst Day in History

Norwegian Seed Vault

Time does exist, it may also be theoretical, but the reality of linear time is apparent to all. While “value” may be highly subjective, there has been some attempt to define the “worst day in history”. This could be seen as the birth of an evil dictator, a catastrophic meteor, the first use of atomic weapons, the election (or loss) of a presidency, or biting the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

In general, it is more than the event itself, but the linear consequences that follow the event, so pinning the “worst day” is very difficult. What part of the linear process is the crucial “point of no return?”

There are a couple of YouTube videos that suggest that 536 AD is the worst year to be alive in our history. More specifically, the early part of 536, due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland, North America, or El Salvador. We don’t know which or how many. In either case, it was the consequences that brutalized the world.

The amount of volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere created a “nuclear winter” for the summer of 536 AD around the globe. Creating famine and hardship for plants, animals and humans. Medieval scholar Michael McCormick, in 2018 nominated 536 AD as the beginning of massive changes around the world, including a mysterious “fog”.

There were Visigoths in Spain from 600-800 AD. They weren’t indigenous, they came from Romania, because they were being pressured by Huns coming from the East. The Huns left the East because of famine in the Tundra. It was a cascading effect of the volcanic “fog” that created Hungary. And yes, certainly Attila had something to do with the success of the Huns, but leaders rise due to challenges, or their people perish.

This is just one example, more and more historians are attributing the climate change starting in 536 to the end of cultures in various parts of the planet.

So today we have bunkers to survive the initial nuclear blast, but can we survive two or three years of ash in the sky, blocking out the rays of the sun? How do we regain our plant life? What happens to our seed crop? Every farmer knows to put aside seed to plant new crops. A bad harvest may require dipping into the seed crop to provide food. Two or three bad harvests will eliminate the seed crop and the “shortage” of food will become permanent.

Never fear, there is a secure bunker in Norway. In 2008, the Norwegians finished construction of the Arctic Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It has been filled with seeds of every kind of plant. It is super secret, no visitors, and it will be the place to go in order to replenish the seed crop for the worlds farmers.

I hope they have enough.

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COVID Events

This could have happened in any case. But perhaps some AI has figured out that I would be interested. The older one gets, often there is less outdoor activity. Less activity outside often increases activity inside. With technology, increased indoor activity often means YouTube videos.

This is a long introduction to the last YouTube video that popped up in my social media feed. The title of “What if We Built the Deepest Bunker” definitely stopped my scrolling to other potential videos. This was something that I actually knew about! I watched with interest.

I wondering about the potential percentage of knowledgable people in the US about bunkers, and I’m guessing it is pretty small. I believe the standard US veteran percentage is about 1% that has served in the military. I’m guessing that the percentage of US military that has served in underground bunkers of any kind, is way less than 1% of the military. The number of veterans that served in hardened, substantial, bunkers is way less than that.

I spent nearly two years of my life serving in what was considered the underground Pentagon, in the Blue Ridge mountains of Pennsylvania. In the 1970s it was super secret. Later on, in the 1990s I believe it was deactivated, and even offered tours to the public. Local residents, who had known about the bunker had lined up first for the tours. Then 9-11 occurred, and it was activated once more, but in a reduced role. It was no longer super secret, but it was a super example of the Cold War, a Dr. Strangelove facility.

It can be found on the internet by researching Raven Rock, but doing so might place you on a “watch list”. Reading this blog might also place you on a watch list. I’m too old to worry much about it. Most of what I experienced has either been lost to time, or things have been changed. But I still remember being underground, safe from nuclear attack, and being at the center of a future wartime command center.

Three things come to mind. 1) There were offices for most of the important areas of the Pentagon, but they were 95% empty. Lots and lots of fully functional areas gathering dust. But since a lot of dust is shed skin cells, with no people, not much dust. 2) Most of the higher ups of the government/military had living quarters allocated. Not everyone could make it underground, but higher management had room for their families. 3) As a member of low ranking staff, there were no facilities for my family. In the multiple test alerts, where I had to be at my post with fifteen minutes of an alert, I knew that I would be safe, while my family was being vaporized outside the bunker. This was a burden throughout my time at this post.

The practical things of living underground? There were only a few exercises where we were required to stay multiple days underground. Usually we worked ten hour days, six days on, and two days off. The weekends were occasionally mid-week. Lots of down-time on the swing and grave shift hours when the higher ranking staff were not around. Hours and hours of walking empty halls, servicing empty offices.

The lasting memories is of multi-storied buildings, built in caves dug out of solid rock, lots and lots of bats, intense security, blast doors as large as a two lane road, a couple of lakes with fresh water, radiation showers with changing rooms with thousands of uniforms, pallets of food lining the interior access roads. Just a few of the memories.

The main thing I learned was that survival required lots of effort and planning. I grew more confident that leaders have put the effort, time and money to guarantee that this country will survive. The question will always be, at what cost?

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Language is Compressed Evolution

Sometimes a person reads a book and the ideas are so foreign that it takes hours of re-reading a paragraph, and in the end you still are unsure of the intent or the direction. It is as unsettling as sand beneath your feet.

If the opposite occurs, if the words on the page are so familiar that you know exactly what the next sentence will be, or the next paragraph, or G-d forbid the next chapter, then you might as well stop reading. You have already written this book, and it is boring, and a waste of time.

The sweet spot of language/literature/communication is when you follow the linear progression, and the concept of the individual pieces of data are understood, but the gestalt of that data is a brand new thought, or a familiar thought that you haven’t yet expressed. This is the glorious power of transferred information, whether is is acting, story telling, literature, or artwork.

My latest example of this, is a book first published in 1998, written by Leonard Shlain, titled, “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess”. It had me absolutely hooked in the first twelve pages. What is important is that I am not saying that I agree with his premise. I am not even certain of the boundaries of his premise. But I am completely enthralled with the problem, and the willingness to study the issue.

As I understand the problem, Shlain points out that women lost equality in the social structure, due to the development of written communication. He brings in a number of concepts that show a linear path to this conclusion. It is definitely worth reading more to verify what he believes.

One concept that he brings out, is the evolutionary development of the “opposable thumb”. It’s an old, yet compelling, discussion. Familiar, but not boring. Then he writes about the evolutionary development of “the heel”. I had never heard anyone write about this! It would be in the literature, but it hasn’t been in general discussion.

Two developments, due to environmental changes, the connectivity of the tree canopy disappeared. This forced some tree-based mammals to descend to the ground, and begin to walk. The grasping nature of the hind limbs, evolved into having a simple, hard, heel. Instead of four hands, they had two hands and two feet. This heel gave the former tree dwellers the ability to stand upright, and walk, and even run.

When the amazing hands no longer were forced to engage in limb grasping for climbing, they developed fine motor skills that allowed for tool making. This created larger brains in the mammal, but that was problematic for birthing. The evolutionary response was to make the pelvis wider in women, which made her walk different. If the brain size continues to grow then the women’s walk would become a “waddle”, so the brain size remained stable but certain developed areas became added later, after getting through the birth canal.

Al this makes perfect sense, even if all the dots hadn’t been connected. Evolution is marvelous and works amazingly. But it takes hundreds of thousand years, even millions of years.

At some point, when communication became strong enough, information important to the survival of the species, could be passed in less than a generation. That which depended upon a million years of experience, could be applied in less that a week. Communication compresses evolution!

Can’t wait for Chapter Two! Thank you Clay for recommending this author.

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Diestler Homes

Poking around Google Earth, I started a search for old residences of Diestler’s, at least the addresses that I could remember. This led to a general search of my photo file and the results where interesting.

This is by far the oldest Diestler home. A farmhouse that was in Prussia, now in Poland. Destroyed in WWII, it had “Diestler“ carved above the door, Built approximately late 1780s. Combination barn and home.

I tried to find where my father was born, but the 18 room farmhouse was moved from the acreage and I don’t know what direction. It was near Fingal, ND.

In the same way, all the known addresses of his home in Fargo have been torn down or flooded away. The Red River was not very controlled.

This is the “stoop” of the wartime housing. Our apartment is the door on the left.

In 1953 the family final bought their first house for $12,500, unfortunately it was haunted.

This photo was from 1958? The photo above that from Google Earth. Don’t know if it’s still haunted.

The family then moved to a duplex, with my brother living in the front apartment.

My parents then retired and moved in a cottage behind my brother’s house in Tacoma, WA

My first apartment after moving out was a small two bedroom upstairs corner unit.

Just before being drafted, I shared a home with Obert.

My first apartment after the military was in Point Richmond, a very small, very narrow studio.

Behind The Hotel Mac
First floor two bedroom behind the tree

A nice but windy rental…

The first purchased home
Extremely hot in the summer…

And that ends the previous home record…

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Some doors are one way…

If only we knew for certain that all choices can be undone without penalty. I can help with that statement, that all choices come with a penalty. The problem is the size of the penalty. For example, you are walking down a path, and you reach a fork in the road. You ponder which fork to take. From your vantage point you are aware that you have little information on which path will lead you in the right direction.

You observe the classic piece of data that one path is lightly used, the other path shows more wear. Briefly, you consider the old poem of choosing the lesser worn path. But this poem is not life, that was just literature. But then you measure the cost. You can easily retrace your steps should the path be not to your liking, so you enter the path least taken.

All is well until you look backward and you have lost sight of the fork in the road. You continue onward because you can still turn around. Many more paths converge from either side. This makes it harder to go backwards, but you can see the right path to take should you turn around, by following your footsteps. The tracking class you took really helps in this regard.

Eventually the path leads to a steep, long decline. The impact is that if you decide to turn backwards then it will take much more energy, and time, to get back to the fork in the road. The penalty of your choice is increasing. On top of everything else, it is beginning to rain, and the rain will erase all traces of your footsteps. Continuing now is a commitment to walking through the door, with no turning back.

This was not the thought when You first chose the lesser path. This is the important maxim to remember when facing a choice. You may try something without a full commitment, just to see if it is worthy, but if it begins to only make promises, and the path turns into a one-way choice, then back up!

I will hold to my maxim by following my choice. By choosing the road most followed, or by choosing the road least followed. What I will not do is let the road chose for me.

This is especially true in the coming elections. Some choices are one-way.

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A Solemn Day

Today is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement that comes after the ten Days of Awe, starting with Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year. Obviously if you are Jewish you would already know this. For the first thirty years of my life I was only vaguely of the terms, and mostly ignorant of the true meanings.

For the last forty years of my life I have learned and applied much of what I have learned. That doesn’t make me Jewish, but I believe it brings me closer to G-d, with a better relationship.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the concept of reverence, and how that it is expressed in the world. We can see examples of reverence by people bowing, or by people not turning their backs to the object of reverence. It is important to note that if you see an example of reverence, it doesn’t not mean that you are being reverent. Reverence is a personal choice that manifests itself in an action. Witnessing the action doesn’t somehow transfer reverence to you.

In fact, simply coping the act of others being reverent doesn’t not mean that you are actually reverent. It must be your choice, your action.

The discussion then centered on G-D’s name. In scripture it is written that G-d shared his name as “I AM”, and in Hebrew this was written using four consonants, “YHWH”. It is also described as the Tetragrammaton. How this word is pronounced has filled volumes of books. From early on it became a tradition to never say the name, out of reverence. The name was written, but if someone would read aloud, that reader would replace the name with Adonai, LORD, or HaShem (the name). This was an act of personal reverence.

When Scripture was translated into Latin, the Y was changed to the letter “I” or later, “J”. This is why we see the Hebrew word “Yeshua” written first in Greek as “Iesous” and then in Latin as “Iesus”, and finally in English as Jesus. Even though the “I” was pronounced with a “J” sound, so it still sounded like Jesus.

As far as the Tetragrammaton, this was not quite as simple. Without the necessary vowel sounds, the word could sound vastly different. There is much evidence that the word YHWH was pronounced “Yahweh”, an in some translations this is how it is rendered. It is still not pronounced aloud, but often replaced with Adoni, by the speaker. Again, this was a personal act of reverence by the speaker.

Later translations used the “J” instead of “Y”, and choose slightly different vowel sounds, so “Yahweh” became “JoHoVaH”, or Jehovah. And for some reason this was okay to vocalize, but hopeful said with reverence.

At some point the Hebrew scribes decide that “YHWH” sound not be written, o out of reverence it was replaced with the words that were used vocally when the scrolls were read. YHWH became Adonai, or LORD, or even many of the other names that were used in the oral tradition. This was done out of reverence, but logically it was only the reverence of the scribe. This replacement took the action of reverence out of my hands. I could still have a general feeling of reverence, but it is much less personal.

In the same way, I can write God, and the capital “G” implies the name with accompanying reverence. But when I type “G-d” that gives the same message, but adds the active act of reverence by the author. The reader of “G-d” is not expressing the act of reverence by simply reading “G-d”.

As you can see, this discussion with my friend covered some fine nuances. But it did help me to focus my acts of reverence as an active choice. That I can “coast” on the acts of reverence of others. That I can become more knowledgeable of Scripture, but I must also make it an action of faith.

Glad to finally be in a new year.

Shalom!

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What Films Can Do!

All this sequestering has upped my cinematic experiences. I have a tendency to select action films. Action plus historical fact is a guaranteed winner for me. As far as genres, it is only a very narrow slice of what is possible, and I recently took the time to ponder that fact. What is possible in films?

The first thing that comes to mind is Warhol’s film of the Empire State Building. I haven’t seen it, and I’m told that individuals who have seen it, wear a badge of honor. It reflects their hipness to sit through eight hours and five minutes of a silent, black & white shot of the Empire State Building, from 5:00 pm until 3:00 am. Okay, the badge doesn’t really exist, but the mindset is real.

It is a movie with time as the focus. Years later Boyhood was filmed, taking twelve years to film, the same cast ages without makeup. Again, in simple terms it was a film about time, with people passing through instead of a building.

For most of history of cinema, the content of films mimics literature, the media it basically replaced. There is a storyline, filled with characters, locations, and some dialogue. The linear development stretches all the back to stories around the campfire. It is well known, scripted, choreographed, and performed from generation to generation in some dimly lit cavern.

Then it is written down, and read aloud. Then literacy increases, and more words are added, the story is embellished because it can be. Eventually it goes back to theater, and sets are created, standards are met, music is added. In the final expression it is recorded in film. And for the most part it is almost like the story, almost like the book, almost like the play. And yet film can be so much more.

In the same way, I often realize that websites are almost like books or magazines, click and the page turns. I suppose that makes it familiar and comfortable, but the internet can be so much more.

So, what examples do we have of movies stretching the limits of what is possible? At first thought one might say the use of special effects. This is naturally tied to the development of technology. Hanging small models of flying saucers from fishing poles might pass in the early 1950s, but today it is comical, and it really doesn’t change the story, it just makes it more believable. Except for the noisy explosion of rockets in deep space. It’s flashy in space, but it’s actually deadly silent. At some point filmmakers tested audiences, and noisy lasers built the necessary drama.

I suppose that the examples of avant garde genre is the current standard of “pushing the envelope”. I’m thinking of “My Dinner with Andre”, or the 2001 film version of “Waiting for Godot”. Hmm, the play was better.

Some of my favorite movies in this genre are:

1. Un Chien Andalou, 1929, with Salvatore Dali and Luis Brunel, famous for the razored eyeball scene

2. Anemic Cinema, 1926 by Marcel DuChamp

3. Destino, 1946 by Salvatore Dali and Walt Disney

4. Spellbound, 1945 by Alfred Hitchcock

5. El Topo 1970, & The Holy Mountain 1973, by Alejandro Jadorowsky (very weird)

6. Eraserhead 1977, by David Lynch

7. Koyaanisqatsi 1984, by Godfrey Reggio

8. Being John Malkovich, 1999, by Spike Jonze

9. A Field in England 2013 by Ben Wheatley

10. You, the Living 2007 by Roy Andersson

And several more that slip my name memory. And today I’m adding…

11. I’m Thinking of Ending Things 2020, by Charlie Kaufman

Truly, very few directors push the boundaries of what films can do.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things
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Who are you voting for?

There are few direct questions that gives me more grief. Immediately my brain goes to “Why?” And my mental answer is always the same. It goes through the filter, “Is this person so confused that they are seeking clarity from me?” Hmm, the tone of the question isn’t right. That isn’t it. “Is this person trying to engage me in a political discussion in order to convince me to vote for their candidate?” Hmm, have I signaled that I’m confused and need education. Nope!

Okay, maybe this person is just looking for minds that think alike. Possible, so I might respond. “I believe completely in the principle of the secret ballot in order to preserve our rights!” A better question is to ask what principles I support.”

At that point they generally walk away.

I elect representatives, in order to make the decisions that I would make if I was in attendance. The representatives have made statements to me about platforms that I have strong opinions about. I don’t elect personalities. It’s not about the individual. I re-elect a representative based upon the “actions”, or the ability to govern. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they represented me, but lost. Generally, so long as they haven’t given up, I give them another chance. It is still based upon the platform.

No one has asked the more accurate question. Not “Who did you vote for?”, but “What did you vote for?”

My response is still, “It’s a secret.”

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I am old enough

I am old enough to remember the Free Speech Movement, not from the newscasts of NBC, CBS, and ABC (the only main sources), I know it because I caught a bus and walked up University Avenue. I didn’t have a driver’s license.

Over the next few years I went from a back row observer in demonstrations, to an active, front line member. I placed my body on the train tracks, I surrounded buses filled with drafted young men, pleading for them to get off the bus. They were heading to be cannon fodder in Vietnam Nam.

I was tear gassed dozens of times,I was trapped in the entryway of a store, then pressed by bodies who were being beaten by baton wielding police. Eventually I was pushed through a plate glass window. I was there during People’s Park riots.

I was a monitor on the San Francisco Peace March, I rode backwards on a scooter, shouting through a megaphone, “Keep to the curb!” I know about peaceful demonstrations, I know about violent demonstrations where lives were lost.

These were the formative years of my life.

The Vietnam War was still on, I was finally drafted. I was in the bus this time. Some of my acquaintances were outside the bus in Oakland, pleading for us to get out of the bus, “Do not let yourself to be cannon fodder!”, they shouted.

I was flown up to Ft.Lewis, Washington for basic training. I lasted two weeks before I got an honorable discharge. Then I enlisted for three years in the regular army. This counted as a re-enlistment, so I got additional “professional” pay.

I spent almost 15 months in training. I had secret, top secret, and top secret crypto clearances. I was stationed for a year in the underground Pentagon in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was also stationed on the DMZ in South Korea. This was during a mini shooting war. I heard bullets come my way, I sent bullets their way. One early morning, around 3am, I got a classified message that the Vietnam War was over. The peace accord was signed in Paris. Six months later I left the army.

Both events were shaping in very positive ways. Both events left their scars.

I used to know stuff, the older I get, the less I know. Some things still seem to ring true. There are honorable people in the world, and they are diverse. There are misled people in the world, and they are equally diverse. They are evil people in the world, not in huge numbers, but at times they have great influence. This is the way of the world.

Another truth, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

To the extent that it is possible, I choose to be under a corrupt system that still gives me the freedom to protest. In this way I can still influence change. The Vietnam War ended!

And I gave my oath to defend that system against those who would attack by violence. That oath is still active.

I am not conflicted.

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Nuremberg Chronicle Map

Mentioned in a birthday gift from a good friend. Thank you Peter.

Also known as The Liber Chronicarum, of Hartmann Schedel, printed in Nuremberg by Anton Koberger in 1493. A complete history of the world from creation to the publication date. Famous as one of the most illustrated of all German books (printed before Gutenberg). Interesting, because many of the illustrated cities were adapted the same woodcut. Nuremberg was the largest city in the Holy Roman Empire, and the only city that had a two page illustrated spread in the book. The book also had a detailed map that illustrated “a parliament of monsters”, a collection of creatures believed to inhabit distant lands of the known world.

The book had well over a thousand woodcuts that were produced by the Michael Wolgemut Workshop of artists, which included Albrecht Durer. None of the artists signed their name, but Durer is suspected of helping to create many of the woodcuts. Albrecht Durer lived on the same street as Anton Koberger, the printer of the book, who was also Durer’s godfather.

The Sciapodes (Shadow Feet)

They were each owners of one very large foot and leg, while also being very nimble. In the summertime, while lying on their backs, they protected themselves against the sun by the shade of their single foot.

Six Handed Man

Said to have lived in India. Mentioned in the Histories of Alexander the Great, with some stories that were later deemed written by an author named Pseudo-Calliisthenes.

The Cynocephali

Dog-headed men of the mountains, possibly Ethiopia, perhaps based upon baboons. Solinus writes of the dog-headed Semeans who were ruled by a canine king. They communicated by barking, and used their claws skillfully to hunt birds. according to the Greek historian Ctesias, they numbered 120,000.

Alexander’s Bearded Women

A species of women with beards extending to their breasts, but whose heads are bald. Again this was part of the legends of Alexander’s travels. ‘

“Shun a woman with a beard as you would a pestilence.” -Pliny

The Blemmyes

In Lybia, there lived creatures “born headless and have mouths, and eyes”, writes Schedel. The Blemmyes were a real nomadic Nubian tribal kingdom described by Strabo as a peaceful race.in 700 bc. Later, they became factionalized as headless cannibals. Shakespeare mentions them in Othello.

The Panotii

In Sicily lived people whose ears were so large that they cover their whole body. The ears reach to their feet and they use them as blankets to keep warm. When frightened, they use them to fly away.

(Adapted from “The Phantom Atlas”, by Edward Brooke Hitching, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2018)

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The Ignorance of My Youth

This could be a very long blog post. I will limit it to a very short subject.

There was a time, when I was first introduced to Medieval Art, probably in high school. I was impressed by most, and some seemed almost stencil-like. As if there was a formula of neck length, head shape, and lip formation. A lot of the portraits looked like they were all family members. And most of the royals did intermarry. Very few actually painted the truth. And when they did, I remembered them.

Federico Montefeltro was one that I remember. Not his name, nor the name of the artist, I remember how odd he looked in that hat. And when I saw his wife, I just had to laugh. Two very homely people had found each other.

Battista Sforza and Federico Montefeltro

Time passed, I was now teaching art appreciation at the college level. I still made sure to present the two images, but this time I mentioned the artists name, Piero della Francesca, 1415-1492. The students looked at the images that were in the textbook, but there was no back story about the people, just their names. Wanting to be better informed, since I was making fun of their image, I finally did some research.

Federico was Duke of Urbino from 1474-1482 (Lord of Urbino from 1444). Urbino was a small duchy that was given to the Papal States by Pepin the Short, Charlemagne’s father. By the 1200s it had become connected to the House of Montefeltro, becoming famous under Federico’s reign. Later, it was also ruled by Caesar Borgia, and even the Medici’s. In general, Urbino fell into the camp that favored the Holy Roman Emperor over the Pope, after the Montefeltros left, it swung over to the Papacy.

During Federicos reign his court was the model of what a court should be. It attracted the thinkers, the artists, and the writers of the time. The only product that Urbino exported was their military. When Federico committed his troops to a side, the opponent sued for peace. For years Urbino never lost, so in the end, they no longer had to fight. Several times the opponents had tried to offer more money for Federico to switch sides. He never did, and his reputation increased. Eventually, the sons and daughters of European royalty came to study at his court.

I came to respect Federico, even if he looked a little odd. Then, I learned that he had lost his right eye in a jousting match. He not only lost his eye, but much of the right side of his face. When Francesca painted his portrait, that was the reason for the stark profile.

I felt a little ashamed of my ignorance.

Then I read about the bridge of Federico’s nose. I had made fun of that as well. It seems that he had a typical Classic Roman nose, even after his jousting accident. But with only one eye, during battle he had difficulty responding quickly to attacks coming from the right. Federico had his surgeons remove the bone and flesh bridge, so that his left eye could see better to the right.

I felt even more shame.

The likelihood is that there are hundreds, or thousands, of half-truths about individuals in the present, or in the past, that falsely justifies our “judgement”. I know this now, because I’m old.

(The hat is still a trip.)

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William I

My 25th great grandfather is William the Bastard, or William the Conqueror, as he was known later. That month of October in 1066, I had four great grandfathers fighting for the right to be king of England. Three that were ancestors from my mother’s side, and one from my father’s side. Dad’s side won.

I have always been attracted to “turning points” or “history hinges”. Sometimes the world is changed by one individual. Certainly everyone makes a difference, but in some cases it is radically modified, and cascades throughout the following years.

England was always a target for invasion. It has been referred to as the “anglo-saxon” nation, but that was only after the two different Germanic tribes, the Angles, and the Saxons, took to their boats and invaded the lands.

The land already had Britons, Picts, Celts, and Romans with developed roads, villages and towns. The Anglo-Saxons intermarried with most, and established various kingdoms that slowly became England. The Vikings also came to raid, and to settle. So, being invaded by the Normans under William was perfectly normal, but the change was dramatic.

William was a descendant of Rollo, a Viking who had raided the French coast of Normandy. He asked permission from the French king to settle the land if he agreed to defend against further Viking raids. In time, William Longsword, was made Duke of Normandy and the title was passed down to Robert I and even to William, although his legitimacy was an issue. Perhaps invading England was the motivation to remove “the Bastard” from his name.

William spoke French, not German or English. For centuries afterwards all the English kings spoke French, some never even learned English. The Normans immediately placed Norman lords over the lands that were conquered. They even sent for Norman royals back home in order to fill positions in the new country. Customs were changed forever. The world changed.

History will always have the debate of whether change is for the better. Harold Godwinsson was the last English king, but even he was the descendant of foreign invaders. Harold was also my 25th great grandfather. His kingship ended at Hastings in October of 1066, with an arrow in his throat.

William, the Conqueror
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The End

There was a beginning, there was most certainly a middle, it only makes sense that there is an end. I just never thought I would recognize it. I thought it would come like a thief in the night. That it would steal its way in, on padded silent feet, and I would taken in quiet surprise.

Or perhaps it would be in my half-sleep. The dreams where I go back to work, but everything is unfamiliar, brand new equipment is everywhere, but it’s all a sham, only for show. The cables are all disconnected, and mice have made nests in the corners of the desks. And I’m allowed a quick scan of the upper shelves, where I find the service cap of a first class Army uniform, with neatly drawn letters on masking tape fixed to the bill, identifying the owner. The owner is me! I have forgotten it all these years. And only now, at the conclusion of my thoughts, I have this old memory to process before everything fades. Only this time it’s not fading to consciousness, it’s fading to discharge. The circuits are shutting down, the electric synapses dim. It is the End.

But instead, there is this clear certainty, almost cold logic. No time to get ready, it is here, in sudden ferocity, with professionals stepping in to do their jobs, without direction from me. I am in the last moments, only along for the ride, fully alert but not in charge, not directing the next action. It’s now out of my hands.

It’s so surreal that I fail to communicate what is happening. When I close my eyes I still recognize what is happening all around me. I’m not sleeping, I’m not even resting. I’m registering events, moment to moment, proving my existence to myself, and then with almost a shout, it’s the beginning.

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Newsflash

I have some very stressing news. I just read a news article that I trust very much. It reports on trends based upon hard data, and it seems absolutely reliable. The hard data calculates (with a 98% accuracy) that within 100 years, over 7 billion people will die. That’s a seven with nine zeros behind it.

Fortunately, they don’t think it will happen all at once. Some are calculating that 170 thousand per year, but multiplied by 100 does not quite add up. By my calculation, 7 billion divided by 100 is 70 million per year on average. That’s a huge discrepancy, so I suspect some agency is trying to soften the data.

If the general public was made aware of the truth, I would think that some dramatic changes would be made. 7,000,000,000,000 is a staggering sum. 70,000,000 is also unimaginable, but the hard data suggests that almost 191,000 people will die every day for the next 100 years. Every day!

Of course this is an average, some days it might be less, but some days it could be as much as 400,000. World-wide, the brunt will be on Chins and India, but the US, Russia, and Europe are not far behind. It will be a world wide pandemic, affecting everyone.

The only thing that I can remotely think as similar is when God told Moses that 625,000 Hebrews will die before going to the Promised Land. That was 99.99 percent of the entire nation that left Egypt, everyone except Joshua and Caleb. Not even Moses was saved.

I’m not 100% sure that I will survive this event. I do plan to make things as right as I can. The data is pretty bleak for anyone reading this, so I suggest that you do the same.

(Math corrected from first post, haha)

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I Grew a Flower

The more I think about it, I have come to the original source of most of our woes on this planet. That’s a bold statement, so it should be “thoughtfully” thought about.

I was thinking about Robert Heinlien’s book “Stranger in a Strange Land”, it’s a classic book that shought be revisited now and again. It particular I was thinking about a character in the book that was called a “Fair Witness”. This was a person that was trained to assist in legal trails and the making of contracts. An example was how the “Fair Witness” would describe things. The lawyer would ask “What color is that house on the hill?”, the “Fair Witness” would respond, “The color I see reflected is based upon the daylight from our sun, but I only see that from the side facing me. I do not know what colors are being reflected on the backside of the house.”

Is takes thoughtful work to tell the truth, “I grew a flower!” Really? Or did you plant a seed, and then tend the flower that grew? Most people will say that it’s the same thing, we only like the first sentence because it’s simpler and shorter. I think it leads to sloppy, ego-centric thinking. Extend that same concept outwards and you have a real mess of half-truths, with your own ego in the middle of it all.

I long for “Fair Witness” training.

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Terror House Magazine

Terror House Magazine is published on-line by a division of Terror House Press, based in Sheridan, Wyoming and Tirana, Albania. A combination that is international and certainly unusual. The magazine was founded in 2018 in Budapest, Hungary by author and journalist Matt Forney, Terror House’s mission is to publish outsider literary fiction, literary nonfiction, and cultural criticism/analysis. It’s published mission statement is, “follow in the tradition established by trailblazers such as Fluland, Loompanics Unlimited, and Feral House, publishing works that are too edgy, unusual, or honest to be released elsewhere. We stand against both the stultifying Beigeism of major New York publishing houses and the hysterical cliquishness of the “alt-lit” community. Both groups seek to crush literature by promoting an endless stream of hack immigrant coming-of-age stories and sterilized Iowa Writers Workshop pieces from pampered white trust-funders. Terror House Magazine seeks to cultivate the Charles Bukowskis, Louis-Ferdinand Célines, and Philip K. Dicks of the 21st century: bold, audacious writers who depict human life in all its ugliness and comedy.”

Well…

I was encouraged to submit a story here, and since I have never done so, I decided a rejection from Terror House might be some sort of literary badge. Instead, I was published. So I immediately sent another. They published that one as well. I sent a third, thinking surely this was a mistake. They published that one. I think a fourth was also accepted, maybe a fifth.

They would like to expand and produce a typical paper product, but for now they are still collecting authors. They keep an author page, and it is quite interesting.

My poet/author friend Lucy encouraged me to investigate Terror House, and I’m thankful to the extreme.

http://www.terrorhousemag.com

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Trees Wearing Pants

You never know what you are going to find in a Google search. I once put that title in three different search engines, and I got nothing, zip, zero. Not even a literary reference. I suppose you are thinking that would be the expected result.

I was checking because it was something that I had nibbling in my brain since I was 15 or 16. That’s a lot of nibbling over time. I wanted to know if this nibble had repeated anywhere that could be found in the net. Nope, it appeared unique to me.

Well, I thought I would pop it in one more time, and this time an artist based in New York popped up. He had lovely photos of trees in pants. I was inspired to write the following letter.

Peter,

It was probably in 1966 in the SF Bay Area. My best friend and I had a habit of going to the local mall after hours to sing at the top of our voices, what is now called “classic rock”. Lots of Simon and Garfunkel, maybe even Jefferson Airplane. It sounded great, the music bouncing from one window display to another. It was an outdoor mall with a half dozen planter boxes, each with two fully grown trees to provide the shoppers with shade.

With no “mind altering” apart from rock and roll, I began to see these trees as fallen giants from the clouds. They plummeted head first into the soft ground, buried up to their waist. You could see the trunk, and then the crotch, and then the legs disappearing up to the leaves. Never saw a foot, but sometimes the tree took a bend, and it looked like a knee. My friend just nodded, but I know I failed to communicate what I saw.

Fast forward 35 years and I’m teaching photography at a community college. I have used this example in a lesson plan teaching the taking a picture of a concept is a far better way to describe your vision. Naturally, the students asked to see my “trees with pants”. Of course I didn’t’ have them.

So, I made it a priority. I asked for donations of Levi’s, big Levi’s because I wasn’t sure what type of tree I would find. Students gifted me with several pair. I already had a large roll of Velcro hook and tape. In less than a day I had my pants, now I just had to find my tree.

I decided to utilize a walking trail near my house, it was a paved trail, a disused railroad, with lots of mature trees on either side. My idea was to place the pants, and a title card, then a notebook for comments. I would leave it up for a few days then uninstall “the installation”.

Everything worked well, I even hung around as a bystander to engage in any conversation that occurred. That probably was not the best idea. Some people were offended. “If they wanted to see art they go to a museum”, “did they have permission?” ‘This was public property and that was like graffiti on a BART train. I quickly turned to drive the fifteen minutes to home.

I went through several hours of contemplation, then went back, and took the pants off the tree. The label was still there, but not the notebook.

It wasn’t important to show people who didn’t want to see, so I took a lot of pictures, of that tree and others. Then I stopped thinking about the giants that fell from the sky. If I had to describe it, I could show the photos.
The only item of note is that my college aged daughter brought a small potted tree that was mostly dead. She took a weekend, sewed a small pair of Levi’s and gave it to me for Christmas. I still treasure it. I think this was 2004.

So I write this to let you know that while we may not have exactly the same vision, you should know that you are not alone. I completely understand the ins and outs of trees in pants.

Making art whenever I can,

John
http://www.johndiestler.com

johndies1

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Writing Prompt- City in the Sky

Someone I know had the grace to encourage writing by constructing a small phrase that may have a cascade effect. A few words that opens a gate for a torrent of words. Of course I only know her by the words she has given, but I like what I’ve read. Her second prompt stopped me in my tracks. 2) City in the Sky. Wow!

It is a widely known theory that communication is largely based upon common understanding. Speaking the same language is 99% of the issue. Have the same context and meaning is farther down the list, “City in the Sky” has such wonderful classic contexts ranging from St. Augustine to the Wizard of Oz. And throw in interpretations of clouds and you have thousands of potential words.

But I didn’t go there. Instead I went, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

About 15 years ago I purchased a new digital camera. Better resolution, better walk-around lens, so I made a small trip to San Francisco to test it out. At some point I took this shot that had the intersection of three distinct architectural styles. I redrew it a bit in PhotoShop and it made a nice image that sold a few times.

But something about it caused me to start thinking. I was thinking about the negative space. I went back to the city a few weeks later. I made a bee-line for the financial district, and quickly took shots from the middle of intersections. At the very least I stopped in the crosswalk and took vertical shots of the streets between buildings.

That created a ten year project of a half dozen cities. San Francisco, Portland, Boston, Chicago, NYC, and Seattle.

The writing prompt has reminded me to continue with what I have started.

Three different buildings
Interest in the negative space
The buildings create an upside down sky building
Sky skyscrapers
Sky skyscraper

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The New Normal

I’ve been moving around on this sphere for over a half century, so that has given me some perspectives. Some things I have seen, and some things I am seeing again. That is as it should be. But there are some new things. The cycles are longer for some things. You have to do some research to dig back in the past to find when some things last made their presence known.

When was the last time we used the phrase, “the new normal”. I certainly don’t remember it from any historical texts. I’m thinking that, “keeping up with the Jones’ is not exactly the same thing. Or “have lemons? Make lemonade!”

Something tells me that “the new normal” comes out of counseling or recovery ministry. It does beg the question “what is normal”.

Theoretically there is no judgement there. Normal is equilibrium, action and thought that is unique to the individual, and not the result of outside influence. So, this “new normal” is not normal. I had a whole life planned based upon my past and the general sense of past history. The “new normal” has me masked and living in a bubble. A strong Darwinian sense is the only motivator. It’s possible it won’t be enough.

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I Think Gestalt


I think what I love about poetry,
Is the spaces it creates.

Not only the scenery,
With the wild descriptions,
And the subtext messages.

But also the gaps of the story,
Filled in by the reader.

It is a sort of joint project,
The poet providing a phrase of context,
And the reader remembering the unsaid words.

In the end, the poem is true gestalt, more than the
sum of its parts.

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Rod McKuen- Stanyan Street

www.youtube.com/watch

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After a Time

After a time, a very long time of muteness, a word was made. It was a very good word, or so it thought of itself. Perhaps it thought too highly, because the word left to go search for the best ear, in order for it to be heard. Not any ear, but the very best ear.

This brought up all sorts of judgement, categories, assessment, and labels. None of these things were natural, and certainly none of these things had anything to do with the word, except that the word felt it was justified.

The word travel the length and breadth of the land in search of an ear. It received many hints that the best ear lived just over the hill in a river valley, not far off. The word immediately went in search of the home. There was a fine home perched on a small hill, this must be the place! This word knocked on the door and waited patiently. While waiting, the word practiced being the word, and felt it would be heard correctly. But no one answered the door.

A neighbor walked by and said that the ear had left on a long trip, searching for a perfect word.

A small story for my small grandkids, but it is still true today. There are words in search of a proper venue, and there are thousands of venues scrolling past us on digital highways. Maybe there is a perfect match somewhere.

The best thing we can do is to freeze the word in time by writing or recording, and then placing it somewhere safe and accessible. Perhaps in time it may be found, or a least discovered in a concentrated search.

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Leonard Cohen- Famous Blue Raincoat

www.youtube.com/watch

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Leonard Cohen- Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye

www.youtube.com/watch

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Leonard Cohen- Is This What You Wanted?

www.youtube.com/watch

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Leonard Cohen- Anthem

www.youtube.com/watch

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Family Art

www.youtube.com/watch

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Hollywood Art

www.youtube.com/watch

Check paxvox.com for some great music.

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I’m a Big Fan

I’m a big fan of Annie Dillard. I read most of her work in the 1980s, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” and “Teaching a Stone to Talk”, to name a few. I really was fond of her short stories, never quite sure that she was just fortunate to document some interesting people, or that she just brought out their interesting sides. And of course, as a writer she could have simply invented the entire character.

One particular short story was abou a man, I think living alone in a cabin, that had found an interesting stone on one of his walks, (it may have been down by the river). He brought the stone back to his house and put it on his mantle. Then he studied the stone, the more he pondered, the idea began to take shape that he would begin a process of teaching the stone to talk.

Each time he would take ten minutes to vocalize sounds and syllables, building up to words and sentences. He was at it for quite awhile. The story stuck with me for years. I’m not sure the person was real, or that he really tried to teach a stone to speak. The idea of it delighted me. I was thirty.

Now, forty years later, I have other thoughts. I still appreciate the unique “out of the box” thinking, but it comes through a filter. The dedication, or discipline, to start a process of teaching a stone to talk without considering the possibility of success is admirable. Assuming that the stone wants to communicate with us is slightly egocentric. It seems to me now, that the stone is an unwilling participant. In protest, I might not speak as well.

The next thought I have is on whether the stone is already communicating, but we are not going to listen until it speaks our language. More ego-centric concerns.

This morning I followed a thread. I would like to describe thread to you. I have a tool box, filled with files, chisels, implements to shape objects. I had left the toolbox in torrential rain, and now I paid the price. Everything had soaked in water for days and was now fully in the process of rust. The first part of the thread is that I really liked these tools and had used each one in various projects. So I patiently cleaned and re-oiled each one. I haven’t found a new toolbox yet.

The second part of the thread is that I thought about how I had used these tools in the past. The list went on for a while, but I lingered over how I had used these tools to sculpt small pieces of soapstone.

The third part of the thread was my recent study of the Second Commandment, “thou shall not have graven images of anything above the earth, on the earth, or in the sea.” Well, that seems specific. In fact, there has not been one example of a Jewish statue found it antiquity. Lots of Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Assyrian, Canaanite… but nothing in Israel.

Clearly statues of people can become idols, but so can some animals/objects. And forty years after the commandment was given, God told Moses to put a “fiery serpent” on a staff for all to see, and to cure them of snakebite. I’m pretty sure this was a graven image, so did God change his mind?

This thread challenged my self identity. I had always thought of myself as a maker of graven images. Sometimes using only my hands with clay, mostly using stone with hand tools.

The fourth part of the thread is going to the front porch to find that chunk of soapstone that had been there for at least five years. There it was, hiding under the table. So then, I carry it to the back porch where all my resurrected tools are waiting, and I prepare to make something.

My process is to look very carefully at the stone, turning it around several times in my hands. I’m looking for any cracks or veins that stand out. How solid is this piece, how stable? Then, I ponder about what figure is hidden within the stone? The famous Michelangelo statement. what is the stone saying to me?

This is when the thread comes back to Dillard’s teaching the stone to talk.

So, I start to use the tools to begin shaping something. I’m really not sure what it might be. I’m making some very general reductions, I’ve determined a base, and now I’m beginning to rough out an object, nothing defined, not man, women or boy. Not plant or animal. So far, just an object connected to a base. I’m using s small hammer, a saw, and a “pointing” chisel. Tapping the chisel gently removes small chunks. Filing or carving, creates tons of dust and takes a long time to rough out an object.

I’ve got about an hour into the project, and I was just about to chip off a small piece that would give the final edge to help define the future object. One small tap, and the piece broke off, then the entire cube of soapstone also fractured right down the middle, creating two almost equal pieces. The stone had spoken, I was not going to have enough real estate to make any of the future objects I was contemplating.

The stone had communicated with some finality. I didn’t like it, and at first I was a little miffed that I had not seen the “flaw” that created the fracture. That is some more ego-centric based thought. It was a flaw because it foiled my predetermined plan to make something. It wasn’t a flaw to the stone, it was just a line of fracture should there come a time when the stone was turning into dust. Very natural.

The final thread was to revisit Annie Dillard and her story of stones that refused to talk. But maybe I just heard one this morning.

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“I don’t understand!”

“Well, I’m not surprised. Did you perhaps take any theoretical physics classes? Do you have a vague understanding of ‘string theory’? Are you at least aware of the electrical activity of your physical brain?”

“Yes, of course. I know about synapses and maybe a little about dementia. I’m not so sure about psychosis, and perhaps what I’m experiencing right now.”

“Okay then, one more time. You’re dead, or at least your body has died. This isn’t heaven, or even purgatory. Maybe they both exist, but for right now, this is what you have. The essence of who you were was a collection of electrical charges that continued outside your physical body, and found itself in the electro-mechanical properties of what we might call the ‘fifth dimension’, not the group you might remember, but a couple of dimensions up from the three dimensional world that you knew so well.”

“Umm, how do you know this?”

“Great question, I don’t know. We don’t have books, and no internet, I wish I knew what that was like. Everything so far seems to be a thought download from others, who have been here longer. In a way, it’s like an ‘oral tradition’, except we don’t really speak, or hear. You might notice that my lip memory is a little out of sync from the thoughts that I’m communicating to you. I’ve been here long enough that I’ve forgotten some physical controls.

You are going to meet some people that don’t even bother with lips or ears. In fact, some go all the way, becoming glowing balls of electrical light.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen that on the way here, in fact, I was surrounded by them at first. They seemed to know me.”

“Sure, they were your direct ancestral family. Electrical DNA is still a thing. It’s a lot easier to connect, or maintain connection. Close friends somehow make the connection as well, so some of those that greeted you might have been friends from the past. It’s a bit of a shock, so maybe… well, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t understand. Haha, “walk towards the light,” and all that!”

“Umm. No one said walk towards the light. I just remember going in for a procedure, then waking up here.”

“Well, everybody is different. Oh, by the way, I’m your great grandfather, mother’s side, call me Michael.”

“Really? Damn, no one knows anything about you. You left a wife and six kids two years after you came over. People think you went to Canada and were eaten by wolves.”

“Almost true, I was looking for work, for several months, I got drunk and joined the Canadian Army, went to France and got gassed. Then I was here.”

“So, you’ve been here awhile?”

“Well, time is more of a ‘fourth dimension’ thing. As eternal creatures, we begin to restructure our thoughts about time. It’s accurate enough to say that I’ve been here awhile. It’s nice to know that I’m still remembered.”

“Not in a good way!”

“Your great grandmother is here, and she seems fine with me. Of course she has more experience with my electrical essence.”

“Are your flaws also recorded?”

‘“Every thought and deed is recorded. It is what it is.”

“Okay, okay, so just tell me. What’s next? What am I supposed to do? Where do I go? Am I waiting for something? Is there like… a judgement or something?”

“Dunno, maybe. So far, I’ve only noticed one thing.”

“Well, tell me! I want to know!”

“Um, well… sometimes you can see some people slowly fade. I mean their image fades. Doesn’t seem to matter if they have kept their body image or the ‘ball of light’, they just seem to slowly discharge, then ‘poof’, they are gone. I’ve seen it myself, hundreds of times, maybe more. Again, it’s just something I know, counting is not the answer. It isn’t true because of numbers.”

“Well, we aren’t exactly solid anyhow, transparent is more accurate. But you say that we can get more transparent, and then we are gone? Do we go somewhere else?”

“Well, if we are eternal, then yeah, we probably go somewhere else, but no one has come back to explain it. It just happens.”

“It happens to everyone?”

“Well, yes and no. Again, time is a slippery thing here. But I’ve been told that Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle still hang out, and they don’t seem any the worse for wear. Then again, others seem barely visible.”

“This can’t be happening, there must be some rational structure. There has to be reasons for things. Tell me what most people who have been here a while, what do they think?”

“Okay, okay. There are theories, but only theories. It seems that our electromechanical connection in this fifth dimension is connected to the electromechanical structure back there in the third dimension. Not sure how that works, but it seems to be true.”

“Tell me more.”

“Back there we were created as a unique person, our physical bodies created electromechanical impulses that extend here. When we left there, that gave us only our electromechanical essence here, but not maintained by our physical body because that was buried or cremated. Are you following this?”

“Yes, of course. Wait, so what is our connection back ‘there’, if we have no physical body?”

“Exactly… good question. Memories! Other people’s memories, which are still electromechanical and somehow sustain that connection to those of us that haven’t faded.”

“Wait…so you are saying, because my family remembers me then I get to be who I was, here in this place?”

“Well, it’s a theory.”

“And I suppose, if you somehow managed to write a book, or get discovered as a long lost poet, then you don’t fade away?”

“Yes, it does explain why some people seemed to fade, and then mysteriously come back stronger, only to fade again. Can’t really be sure because we can’t know what is going on back there? It’s all conjecture.”

“So, souls are connected, and if you are forgotten there, you disappear here?

‘“Yep, pretty much it. Except, the Electromechanical DNA factor changes things, sorta. Who we are here, is based upon the person we were from our existence… and the electromechanical essence created by others who only read about us is based upon their memories. Something gets lost.”

“This is getting weird. I am who I am!”

“Careful there, only one essence can actually say that…”

“God, are you talking about God? Is he here? Can we go see him?”

“Umm, maybe. No one seems to know. It seems reasonable.”

“This just got weirder. Are you telling me that we can tell when we are forgotten? And we can tell the difference between the family remembering us and when someone else just reads a book, or sees a movie about us.”

“That wasn’t so hard, it’s taken others a lot more time to get this, if we had a better sense of time in the first place.”

“So, our purpose here is only to wait, and watch until we fade away, and then we move on to some other place. Unless we are recreated as a fictional memory, then we are stuck here until media itself disappears back there?”

“Well, maybe. It’s hard to say. Physics in the fifth dimension doesn’t seem to be an exact science.

I can’t say for sure, but I get the feeling that maybe someone in my own family never knew of my existence, except in the sense that I must have existed because DNA got passed along. Then, suddenly, old records popped up, maybe a photo or two. Then I get mentioned at some family dinners. And here I feel more like me, like the person that I remember. I’ve been told that the fictional electromechanical essences know that their real essence is gone, but they don’t have any memory of it.”

“At least that’s the sense of the last download I remember. See that? I can explain this so much better with the new technology of your time. Download is so much more accurate than how this was explained to me. We talked about “essence letters” back then, potentially very confusing. What language were they in? Was it paper or parchment?

“Can I take a nap?”

“Always.”

(From a partially awake dream)

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The Orders

Teutonic Knight, Wilhelm von Ütgenbach, Herr zu Ehrenstein. My 18th great grandfather, and his grandfather, Teutonic Knight, Gerlach von Ütgenbach und Ehrenstein. My 20th great grandfather,

Teutonic Knight, Gottfried III, von und zu der Heess. My 17th great grandfather

They belonged to a crusading military order, officially named the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, founded as a military order c. 1192 in Acre, Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Teutonic Order was formed to aid Christians on their pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to establish hospitals. Its members have commonly been known as the Teutonic Knights, having a small voluntary and mercenary military membership, serving as a crusading military order for protection of Christians in the Holy Land and the Baltics during the Middle Ages.

It is also true that there were many other reasons for a noble house to join an order beyond the stated “protecting pilgrims”. While it is important to always be aware of changing motivations, it is also cynical to believe that the founding reasons weren’t sincere. Within a very short time there were more than a dozen military orders that a noble family could pick from in order to assist in their need for piety in action. Basically, there had been two lines for the male children to follow, there were the succession lines, princes that would succeed their fathers, perhaps two or three in number. Then there wer male children that were dedicated to the Church, to become priests or bishops, or perhaps scholars. The creation of military orders was a third option. You could still utilize your military training, but do it in the service of the Church, and the Grandmaster of the order.

The most famous of the Orders is probably the Templar’s, or the Order of the Temple, as they took residence on the Temple Mount after the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099. Much has been written about the First Crusade, but there is no doubt that the timing was just about right for the Crusaders, the main fighting force they expected was busy somewhere else putting down rebellion.

Actually, the first Crusade is really in two parts, the first part was composed primarily of peasants, women, children, and a few militia that set off for thr a Holy Land under the guidance of Peter the Hermit. They couldn’t wait for the organized military, they would go, and conquer the county because “God wills it”. Along the way they would terrorize local communities, commit atrocities, pogroms against Jews, pillaging villages for food, etc. The Byzantine Empire was between them and the Holy Land and they did not respect the Empire. The Empire was Greek Orthodox, and that was barely a Christian. The city was closed to the horde, so they moved on into Seljuk Muslim countryside. Within weeks they were either slaughtered, or captured, and sold into slavery. Not one of the People’s Crusade made it anywhere near Jerusalem, anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 people went missing.

The official part of the First Crusade is sometimes called the Prince’s Crusade, because it was led by five princes from the noble houses in Europe. This was the premier fighting force of knights trained to do battle. They were also political to the extent that the Byzantine Empire received and supported them. They were intended to win back the lands that the Empire had lost. This was not something that the princes ended up doing, treaty or no treaty.

The reality of fighting in the Holy Land became very evident. There was a need to provide protection for Christian pilgrims. As the numbers of pilgrimages increased the local authorities did not see them as helpful tourists. The Muslims had taken Jerusalem from the Byzantines, and they were not giving it back. A few churches had remained occupied throughout the Muslim takeover, but this increase in pilgrimages was seen as a threat.

The five top military orders in terms of power and influence were: the Templar’s, the Hospitaliers, the Teutonic Order, the Order of Santiago, and the Order of the Sepulcher. Most had centers of operational control, most had established hospitals for pilgrimage and Crusaders, some were also fully trained as medical doctors. All were heavily armored and supported by their families and home countries, some orders became very wealthy with donations in cash and land.

Overtime, the pressure and temptation of wealth and power overwhelmed the primary mission of the orders. And of course, eventually they lost all that they had gained by losing territory. Jerusalem fell, and they retreated to Antioch and Acca. Antioch fell, and they were pushed out of Acca. They went to Cypress in order to reorganize for another attempt at Jerusalem. They were pushed out of Cypress, and the Hospitaliers went to Malta. The Templar’s became advisors to most of the kings in Europe, and abandoned any attempt of protecting pilgrims. They had become financial bankers to royalty, using the wealth that had been donated for a different cause. Eventually, Philip IV of France, with the Pope’s blessing, attacked the leadership throughout his country on one day, trying capture the control and wealth of the order. They mostly succeeded, although there are still rumors of Hidden Templar Treasure. While other counties did not arrest and execute Templar’s, their power was broken.

The Teutonic Knights were the only order that simply moved to a different location, and continued the fight against pagans, they went North, to the Baltic area. The local Christian kings were under constant attack from various groups. The Teutonic Knights came in with their experience in the Holy Land and made a difference. Within two hundred years most had converted to Christianity. The Teutonic Knights had also nearly wiped out the pagan Prussians. When the Prussians had captured a knight they generally threw him, and his horse into a bonfire, armor and all.

After years of conflict, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania were all Christian and the Teutonic Knights lost their mission. The kings withdrew there support and the order reformed to do charitable work. This is true today with almost all of the orders that still remain. Only the Templar’s are missing completely.

My three great grandfathers had taken a vow to be in the service of the Grand Master, and the Order. They had families, they had property, but they also had a religious commitment to serve the Church with their sword.

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I am pondering

This is always a potentially dangerous start. On this blog it could be literally anything. This thought is about numbers, and how we use them to find an edge to a concept. My daughter just gave us a lot of plums from her tree. Yes, she owns a tree. They bought a house, it came with land, and the land had a tree. For the first time in her life she owns fruit from a tree. She gave us a lot of plums. Okay, she gave us 22 plums, ( I just ate two, so that means 20).

I point this out because when it was just a “lot of plums” it was a thought of a generous amount. Suddenly, when it was 22 it had edges, a finite amount that was going to quickly decrease. It is still good to number things, to find the “edges” of concepts.

I have been researching and writing about great grandparents. Because we exist we have grandparents. Because of biology we each have the same number of grandparents. Because of biology it’s a factor of two. I only know of one example where a earthly human only has one parent. Thousands of people only know of one parent. Hundreds of thousands do not know any of their grandparent, but they had to exist.

I have tried to be aware of my grandparents and great grandparents. To the extent that it is knowable, I want to find their names, and maybe a little about their story. So far, if the databases are correct, I have a total of 4,264 great grand parent names, going back over 2,000 years. That sounds like a lot.

But here is the problem. If you only consider me, the one individual, I have 8 great grandparents that were alive in the early 1900s. That seems possible, 8 out of millions of folks in the world. But if you take just one persons ancestors back 40 generations, how many people is that? According to the math, it took 1,099,511,627,776 people to create me.

40 generations means about 1500 years ago approximately. Apparently, just to create me (or you),there were 1,099,511,627,776 people in the year 500. Of course they were also busy creating a number of other people, all of whom are my cousins. But the point is that the planet did not have that many people at that time, so… I know I’m obviously missing something fairly important. One that stands out is that I only know of about 3,000 of the 1,099,511,627,776 possible great grandparents.

Biology is a fact. Numbers related to biology should also be a fact. There must be a logical reason for the discrepancy. Even if I have hundreds of great grandparents that are doubling up, or cousins marrying cousins, it doesn’t change the numbers that much. I have searched articles about this and none have answered my question to the extent that I understand, numbers have proven that I am dense.

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Is it the Person? Or is it Fear?

I have the pondered the point of writing this. Do I expect that I will change minds? Sadly, no I don’t. Primarily because on the basis of WordPress analytics I have approximately 7.5 readers per week, and three of them repeat every other day. I am not an influencer, nor am I ever likely to go viral.

So I generally write history for history sake. I wouldn’t be able to sit at history’s feet and not comment on these historic times.

First thing, I do not play well with others. I am on Facebook, and periodically i get a request from a Facebook friend to make a comment, then cut and paste a certain paragraph and pass it on. An electronic version of a chain letter. I didn’t do it with stamps, and I’m not doing it with the internet.

Recently it has been suggested that I “take a knee” in support of the current protests around the country. Ha, I’m a child of the Sixties, raised near Berkeley. I protested from the time I was 14 or 15, from Free Speech, People’s Park and the San Francisco Vietnam Peace March. I have some experience. I will not take a knee.

There are reasons to protest, sometimes it helps to change things, most times it only changes the protester. That can go well, or it can south.

One of the things I learned in the Army (I was drafted, but later I re-enlisted) is to salute the uniform. You can disagree with the man, even hate the man, but you respect the uniform and the concept ot military authority.

But sometimes you protest the injustice given to an individual. JFK, RFK, or MLK being murdered. You feel like you know them, it seems personal, and they rightfully become martyrs, and icons/examples for senseless injustice. Were they perfect? Not at all, but they were not so imperfect…

The individual that has risen to heroic levels in this current crisis is anything but heroic. He was a violent man, convicted in a court of law for breaking into a home, holding a gun to the belly of a pregnant woman, while his friends looted the home. This was the primary of his offenses, which are lengthy, but the sum total paints the picture of a man that should never be a role model. Nevertheless, what happened to him was unjust.

Can we say his crimes were the result of his social condition? That’s a slippery road, some people had things much worse and lived better lives. We need to improve conditions. Having an ordered life, a strong family, with well paid jobs reduces crime.

For me, i back up and don’t go down the road I don’t know. I know about the reactions that the Police have been exhibiting for years. There are many factors, it is a stressful job, their lives are at risk, there are people who wish them harm. But the numbers do not support that it is rising. Yet their reaction seems to tell me they think otherwise. Enforce better training, reduce the fear.

I can support the protest that brings light to the injustice caused by unsupported fear. And action based upon solid facts and evidence will make a change. In this case, not the man, or the senseless greed and revenge.

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Brunehilde der Wisigothen

Or better known as Brunnhilda of the Visigoths. I am stepping out from my usual story telling to include this tale of the wife of my 40th great uncle, not grandfather, Sigebert I, King of Austrasia.

For some of us the name Brunnhilda brings up the cartoon of Broomhilda, certainly a clever use of the name. The green skinned witch dressed in black is a far cry from the tall, blonde, pigtailed, armor bearing shield maiden. The operatic Brunnhilda of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, a cycle of four German language epic music dramas. Wagner appears to have used an old German fable that may have been based on an older Norse fable called, the Völsunga saga and some Eddic poems.

There are many versions of the tale, in most of them Sigebert, or Sigurd/Siegfried, is a “go between” for a suitor that wants to marry Brunnhilda. Unfortunately, the suitor does not have the strength to penetrate the shield wall (or the wall of flames) around Brunnhilda’s tower. So Sigurd/Siegbert/Siegfried changes shape into the suitor, gains entry into the tower and takes away Brunnhilda’s virginity. As a reward she gives him her belt and a ring.

Later in the tale, Brunnhilda marries the suitor thinking that he had gotten through the flames, and Sigurd had married another Queen. So the two Queens were arguing one day about whose husband was stronger or braver. Brunnhilda claims her husband crashed through the wall of flames to take her virginity. The other Queen says that it was actually her husband that did that, and produces the belt, and the ring to prove it. Brunnhilda gets angry and plots to have Sigebert/Sigurd/Siegfried murdered. Once that is done she laughs, then commits suicide. At least that is how it ends in several versions.

The interesting part is that it seems to be based upon real real characters in history. Sigebert I was King of Austrasia about the time of Attila the Hun’s invasion of Europe. In fact some sagas have Brunnhilda the daughter of Attila. Brunnhilda did have a sister, Queen Galswintha, but Fredegund, mistress of Chilperic I of Neustria, had her murdered so that she could become Queen. It almost sounds like another opera. Fredegund goes on to have Sigebert killed and Brunnhilda imprisoned. Eventually Brunnhilda escapes for a time.

She continued to rule the kingdom, but it was no longer the handsome couple in charge, with everybody happy. Her subjects began to resent her harsh rule, and they were happy that Fredegurd’s son, Clotaire II, captured Brunnhilda, who was now 70 years old. He tortured her for days, then had four horses rip her apart, and dragged her body parts throughout the city. Clotaire II ruined the Merovingian Dynasty and paved the way for the Carolingian Mayors of the Palace to take over.

So ends the wife of my 40th great uncle, and legendary shield maiden of the opera.

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Another attempt at Terror

Snick!

There was a satisfying weight in his hands. Weight meant significance, weight implied power and meaning. He had hold of a chunk of steel with power and meaning, and weight!

The folding knife with its six inch tanto styled blade was very sharp. The blade itself was nearly 1/4 thick so that the overall weight in his hand was substantial. The technical advantage, besides the strength, was that the blade had a natural desire to drop from between the slabs of G10 scales that made up of the handle. It didn’t of course, that would be foolish and dangerous. Four fingers would be sliced off in a millisecond. No, the blade remained in the handle. But it wanted to come out.

The young man thought the weight would be a comfort in his hand, but not at the bottom of his jacket pocket. On his last assignment he carried a knife with a long enough blade, but with a thin stiletto steel. It had an assisted opening mechanism which flipped the blade out quickly if he kept his fingers out of the way. It was only a very quick movement to change the grip to an upward slash at the jugular, and then withdraw in order for three quick stabs to the armpit. The gentleman made not a sound and slipped to the ground, crumpled like old newspaper. The other businessman on the subway platform barely noticed.

It was a simply job, in and out. For some reason, a reason backed by lots of money, for some reason, someone did not want the gentleman to attend this morning’s business meeting. Or perhaps a husband needed him to stop visiting his wife on Tuesdays. In any case, the job was standard, the young man had gotten it down pat and disappeared namelessly into the crowd.

Edged weapons were the tools of professionals. Most folks think the choice would be a gun, a revolver. The movies always have some long slide automatic spewing evidence as shell casings all over the room. And the sound that it makes turns every head even with the bulky silencers. The young man had entertained using a revolver that kept its shells intact, but the awkward length of the silencered barrel didn’t feel right for a quick move. He even considered a smaller .22 style derringer like some of the Mafia hit men of old. Still too noisy. He was committed to the edged weapons.

The sameness of the jobs allowed him to consider the finer subtleties. How many ways to get at a close enough range? What was the arc necessary considering his height? Was there power enough if his arm was fully extended? Did the noise of the assisted mechanism alert the target? It was good to look at the details.

Over time he obsessed with two concerns. Some rumors that potential targets were beginning to wear body armor. Not the bulky plate armor, but slim, form fitting, Kevlar based fabric. It would take penetrating power to defeat that, and his slim stiletto might be defected at some point. He still had his first jugular slash but the chest penetration for insurance might not happen. And there was still the sound to consider.

The stilettos sound was small, but sharp. It could almost be like a ball point pen click. Who would notice a random click, even if it was close? It was insignificant, and death would soon follow this insignificant sound. It began to seem unfair, like the click of a trigger when hunting. It was the click that could be heard, because the blast of the bullet came after the round had caused the death. At least this was his thought process.

He considered that the click should have more of an ominous sound. His targets should register the sound as ominous, not like a pen click. Not enough to be able to move or deflect the strike, but at least ominous enough to ponder, “What was that?”

He looked at the heavy tanto styled blade in his hands. He performed the gravity drop flip to open the blade. There was a satisfying “snick” as the blade locked open. Now that was an ominous sound! It carried weight, like the weight in his hand. It was remarkable, it was significant. It had the ability to freeze men in their tracks if they knew what it might mean. It sounded as dangerous as the sliding action of a shotgun loading a shell. Of course, most people would only hear “dangerous”, and still not move. There wouldn’t be time to move anyway, the slash is less than a second after the “snick”.

This idea began to please the young man. The idea that his target’s brain would be considering “danger” just milliseconds before his slash seemed fitting. Most of his targets were thinking about a hot cup of coffee, or how late the train is running. Wouldn’t it be better to go out by an edge, and actually be on edge. The concept brought a rare smile to his face. The same individual that warned him about the Kevlar defense fabric had suggested this heavy tanto blade. If he wasn’t his competitor he would have to thank him the next time he sees him.

Up ahead on the platform he can see his next target, briefcase in his left hand, folded newspaper in his right, reading a column. He would approach from the front, slash the jugular on the left, then penetrate the chest wall in the right armpit, just under the upraised arm.

As he moved from the wall, heading for the target, he was momentarily paralyzed by fear, not physically paralyzed because his legs kept swinging, he was paralyzed mentally because he heard the sound, and he knew what it meant.

“Snick!”

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Chlotilde of Burgundy

My 43rd great grandmother, and wife of Clovis I, King of the Franks. Chlotilde was a Christian, but she married Clovis who was a very vigorous pagan. The Salian Franks were primarily pagan at this time, but a few were being baptized as Aryan Christians by Bishop Ulfilas. The pagan belief system was based upon sacred oak trees, rituals, a pantheon of various gods, later writers would give them the names of the Roman gods, but they were uniquely German. One of the major aspects was that they practiced polygamy. I suspect that one of the conditions of marriage was that Clovis would not have multiple wives.

The important issue was that the almost all of the Christian leadership in Europe was Aryan, and when Clovis was baptized he followed the Nicaean Creed, which was Catholic, and followed the Pope in Rome. This meant that Clovis’ descendants would also be what became as traditional Catholics, and led to the Pope to eventually declaring Charlemagne as the Holy Roman Emporer. This was a bit irritating to the Eastern Orthodox Church because they technically already had a Holy Roman Emporer it was contentious for a thousand years. The Aryan Christians were eventually declared heretical and disappeared.

Chlotilde was a remarkable woman, and did not give up on her desire to have her husband come to faith. By her action the future of Europe changed, the future of the Church changed. Sometimes it comes to one individual.

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Stephen, Count of Blois

His full name is Étienne Henri ‘Stephen’ II, Count of Blois, de Champagne and de Meaux. And he was my 28th great grandfather.

This is yet another sad tale, which ends with Stephen dying in battle, a thousand miles from home. He was a Crusader.

I’ve always known that the common view of Crusaders,and the Crusades have been bad, they have been shown in a bad light. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve been able trace where this came from. The first sources of negativity were individuals that distrusted Roman Catholics, particularly the Pope.

The Crusades were called and presented by the Pope. There are those who cannot make the distinction between things that are “proper”, if they are voiced by someone that they do not agree with. As far back as Gibbons, who disliked the papacy, the Crusades, and Crusaders were subjected to questions of greed, power, and social injustice. So much of this has been portrayed in books and movies that the truth can barely be discerned. Most probably because certain individuals, particularly leaders, failed in major ethical ways. Case closed.

Yet there were thousands of individuals that left their comfortable homes, and lives, with no idea of power and wealth. They were committed to the idea that followers of Christ should be able to follow in Christ’s footsteps without danger, harassment, or death. This was a form of piety that had taken hold in Western Christianity, and it was a grass roots movement.

Throughout France, Spain and England, people were on pilgrimage, visiting various cathedrals through Europe. Yes, visiting relics were a goal, but not the base reason. It may have been the belief that time was short, the year 1000 was approaching. It was time to put their faith to the test. This was not something “planned” by religious leaders.

The truth is that pilgrims were in danger, and making a military decision is one method to change things. Making treaties also works, and for the most part, that was the lasting solution. The movie “Kingdom of Heaven” does a fair job of presenting multiple agendas for the Crusades, and the types of people that were on Crusade. Naturally the hero seems to be one of the few reasonable ones.

Examples of the misuse of force are rampant. On the first Crusade, long before the Crusaders left Europe, the leaders allowed murder and carnage on Jewish communities that they passed by. It was absolutely horrific genocide. We should know this. But what is often not written is that the Emporer Frederick Barbarossa was in charge of the Third Crusade. He made the decision to order his Crusaders not to attack Jewish settlements. Frederick met with the Chief Rabbi to work out the solution for a safe transit.

As a younger man, Frederick had been on an earlier Crusade, and knew what needed to be done. At one point a Crusader had fallen ill and had taken refuge in a local monastery to recover. While there, he was robbed and killed. Frederick was charged to go back to bring justice. He was very successful, and the Byzantine Empire made sure that the rest of their journey was safe.

As to Stephen, he had a very successful home, typical of a medieval count. He had eleven children, one of them destined to be a future King of England. It took a great deal of his personal wealth to support his pilgrimage, he was not in it for the money or the fame.

Actually his commitment to the Crusade was over. The rest of his companions were already taking ships to go back home. A sandstorm had delayed his journey to the port of Acca, it was at this time that he heard about an army sent from Eqypt to attack the Latin Kingdoms. Stephen had survived his Crusade but volunteered to help.

He met the opposing force at Ramleh, a place on the road to Jerusalem. There had been a lopsided victory for the Crusaders the year before. The Eygptian forces had beaten the first two formations. It was only when King Baldwin had led his reserve heavy Calvary that things changed, but many knights were lost. The next year the same forces met, this time it was 20,000 plus Egyptians meeting about thousand Crusaders. It was a disaster with most of the Crusaders wiped out.

King Baldwin and about 200 knights had taken refuge in the only tower in the city of Ramleh. Late that night he escaped with just a few of his men. Stephen was left in charge of the remainder. In the morning the full force of the Egyptians charged the tower, it came down to furious hand to hand fighting and Stephen was one of the very last. It is said that he had fought so valiantly, and so well, that if he surrendered his life would be spared. He didn’t surrender.

So my 28th great grandfather died at Ramleh, after he had already survived his sworn Crusade. He didn’t return to his home, and he didn’t find fortune. But he is remembered.

Two Hundred Knights Attack Twenty Thousand Saracens. Illustration by Gustave Doré(1877)
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Latest renderings

I have been looking at ancient sculpture, recognizing that most were painted realistically afterwards. Thinking that rendering in color might bring something more to the Stone.

Calpurnia
Pompey
Julia Caesar, Pompey’s wife and Julius Caesar’s daughter
Julius Caesar
Julius’s mother
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Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix

Most commonly know as simply “Sulla”. So much has been written about Rome, the Republic and the Empire. Fortunately there are a lot of surviving documents written during and soon after the events being described. Unfortunately, the documents written about specific characters generally fall into two camps, 1) “they were the best for Rome”, 2) “they were the worst for Rome”. I suppose things haven’t changed much.

My 68th great grandfather owned the word “dictator”. I think it was first applied to him. For centuries Rome was a republic, dedicated to the concept that good government was made by having a concensus opinion developed by representatives. It still is a sound idea. Of course their choices of representatives excluded a bunch of folk. They did have plenty of wealthy families having senator seats, and of course the military, and the great landholders. The common folk? Not so much.

Was Sulla really my great grandfather? Who knows, he was someone’s. I have reason to believe the data that led to him. I didn’t know where it would lead. After hours of clicking the button that said. “He was the son of…”, I would come to the end of the line. Then I would back up to another great grandfather, and click more buttons. The data wasn’t there for some lines. This particular line led to Rome, and considering that thousands have studied Roman lineage, and that hundreds of Roman writers have written about their heritage, well, the data seems better than average, so yeah, Sulla seems to be my great grandfather.

So what do I know about Sulla, more than that he was a dictator? I’ve seen him portrayed in movies, he seemed pretty harsh. But then, here is a man that went against everything that he society held dear. He seized control! He had a better plan for government, he would make the decisions, it would be done his way. Was he egotistical? Or was he responding to incompetence?

In either case, his actions set the stage for future leaders. You could take control, it was possible to undo structure. It could lead to Empires with an Emperor. In fact there is no doubt that years later Julius Caesar would say, “if Sulla can do it, so can I!”

I suppose every strong man that overthrows democracy can look to Sulla as the inspiration, because it started with him. We had lots of experiences with warlords and kings, but they generally came from a history of chaos and anarchy. This was different. The government might have been broken, but the structure to recover was there.

There are several books written about the person of Sulla. Now that I have this curious connection I am inspired to develop a Kindle account.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix
“The Dictator“
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This is a Sad Tale

There was a people that were displaced, and finding it hard to make their way in the world. In the east there were hordes of men on horseback that were killing and enslaving the survivors. Each year they seemed to be pressing valley by valley, forcing people to flee West into the lands of the hated Romans.

There wasn’t a specific reason for the hate, except that the Romans were filled with themselves as the rulers of the world. And that they looked down on the people, calling them barbaric. They sat on one side of the Great River, in their log forts, traded small amounts, but kept the people from rich lands, and safety from the real barbarians in the East.

One of the only methods of gaining entry was to sell your fighting skills in their army. That way you could get a small piece of land secured on the other side of the river, to raise your family.

You fought, bled, and died for Rome, but she did not honor you. Many of the mercenaries rose in the ranks, became generals commanding legions, but not Roman legions. One such general was my 47th great grandfather Theodemir, who was King of the Franks, living in Gaul. He fought for Rome, and the many political factions in the Senate. His father was a Roman Consul, Flavius Richomeres, leader of Rome. But Richomeres had married Ascyla of the Franks, his mother. There was bare recognition of his barbarian wife and child.

When Flavius Richomeres died, Ascyla went north to live with her son. As King of the Franks, Theodemir worked hard to get as many of his people on the safe side of the river, away from the barbarians of the East. Factions in Rome were not happy about this. Eventually Theodemir aligned himself with Senators that fell out of favor, and an army was sent to Gaul to punish the Franks. The memory of lost Roman legions fighting in the Teutoburg Forest came back to them, Emperor Varus had led three Legions to their deaths 400 years earlier. Rome still remembered this. Theodemir was captured, shackled, and brought to Rome, along with his family, and his mother, the widow of the former Consul of Rome.

The friends in the Senate were quiet, they were barbarians after all. The entire family was executed by sword August 14, 414. My 47th great grandfather and my 48th great grandmother gave their lives to Rome, but they were not honored.

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Count Godefroi I, the Captive

Godfrey I (died 1002), called “the Prisoner” or “the Captive” ( le Captif), sometimes the Old (le Vieux), was the count of Bidgau and Methingau from 959. and the sovereign count of Verdun in 963 to his death. He was also my 32nd great grandfather.

It seems that a few of my relatives have earned a sobriquet, a nickname. Some were interesting twists “Barefot” was actually “Bareleg” because he had taken to wearing kilts. “Bluetooth”, because he had a dead tooth root, or that he loved blueberries, perhaps both. Some even had the phrase “the Great”, although that appears to have come later in their time. I don’t exactly see a friend actually say, “Oh, look, here comes “the Great!”.

Then there are the very misleading ones, “the Unready”, which apparently was because he took bad advice. Or even “Hardrada” because his advice was hard. Worse yet, “the Simple”, lets hope that he wasn’t also vicious.

This relative of mine was apparently called “the Captive” or “the Prisoner”. To his face!

The whole cultural to the royals at this time was war and military showmanship. And this was not about going around the countryside “righting wrongs” and freeing damsels in distress. In fact, I’ve read at least a dozen times when my relatives were being carted off as booty. From both sides! The royal Houses basically tried to keep their power by having enough children to marry with political advantages.

And when that didn’t work they simply attacked.

The spiritual leader at the time, the Pope, was constantly trying to put out fires. He was beseeched from all sides to end the senseless fighting. Well, technically, he was only beseeched by the losing side. He didn’t have much power, apart from ex-communicating, but the Pope did that quite often. Sometimes it worked.

Much has been written about the reasons for the Crusades, unfortunately, much has been poorly researched, and they target other agendas. But one thing was apparently correct. The Pope saw that asking the royal Houses to go fight in a distant place would keep them from fighting each other in their own countries. Unfortunately they fought each other in the distant lands as well.

My 32nd great grandfather apparently was on the losing side of at least three conflicts in order to earn the sub-title “the Captive”. It was lucky that he wasn’t killed. It’s true that battles were very bloody, but unless it was in the heat of a battle, or being drowned by running away, most royals survived the battles.

There was good reason for this. Royals either had money, or they could raise money, and soldiers were not paid a salary, they took their wages in loot or ransoms, provided they won.

Another thing I learned is that the development of better armor extended lives. Better armor meant encasing the whole body in steel, and it was very difficult to recognize who was who on the battlefield, so there was lots of flags around to let people know who to fight. Should you stray from the flags you could always be known for the emblem on your shield, if you lost your shield then your cloak had the same emblems, and perhaps the crest on your helmet had your symbol.

The picture that I am painting is that the two sides would face each other as different sides in a conflict. Yes, there might have been significant “reasons” for the conflict… but one thing is for certain. Over there, under the colorful flags, were people that if I can capture, would set me up for life, and I wouldn’t have to fight these wars anymore. Kill or wound anyone getting in the way, but head for the colorful royals and make them your prisoner.

Another painful reality is that the price desired was always more than what was available, so you had to keep your prisoners until the sum was raised.

My great grandfather was captured three times and spent a total of fifteen years in three different dungeons. Perhaps some treated him better than others.

I don’t know if my great grandfather was a good man, losing doesn’t mean that you were bad, it’s just that it was bad for you. Walking around around with the nickname or “the Captive”, not only reminded you that you picked the losing side, but it also meant that your family, your house, and your lands, had to raise lots of money to return you to your castle on the the hill.

That’s a life long burden.

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Latest Sketchbook work…

Ragnar Sigurdsson
My 34th great grandfather
Vseslav Bryachislavich, the Sorcerer of Kiev.
My 26th great grandfather.
Saint Olga Elena Prekrasa
My 29th great-grandmother.
Fulk V, King in Jerusalem.
My 26th great grandfather.
Bertrade Montfort.
My 25th great grandmother.
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Dusk

Dusk brings quiet. The noise of work slows, even the birds seem to shelter in place. We are still sheltering in place. One early evening, after about a month of sheltering, I heard what appeared to be a coyote. It seemed very close, close enough to upset my dog, so he barked. I’ve heard them before in the neighborhood, so it’s not unusual, but this was close. Then dusk took over and it was quiet.

The next day, about the same time, a few minutes after sunset, I heard the same clear call, two or three times, then it was quiet again. The following day it was the repeated. Now I had figured that a local dog had learned the howl, that’s why it was so close, and now a few other dogs were answering the call. My dog just barked.

This has been going on for about a month, same time, same duration. There have been times when I thought maybe it’s not a dog, or a coyote. It was too plaintiff, there was a subtle ache to the timbre.

This evening we took a short walk through the neighborhood at dusk. The dog needed his walk, we had gotten about two blocks from home when I heard the first howl, I had learned the voice, I recognized the pitch and volume. It came from the house directly across the street from where I was standing. It came from the back porch that I could see. It came from the man standing on the porch, the local neighbor.

His howl was promptly answered by yet another neighbor three or four houses down, and yet another neighbor two or three streets away. For two or three minutes I was surrounded by howls from every corner of the compass, and then dusk took over and it was quiet again. My wife howled softly.

The shelter in place does keep you safe, but it also brings stress.

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Fulk, King in Jerusalem

He was my 24th great grandfather, also known as Fulk the Younger. He was the Count of Anjou (as Fulk V) from 1109 to 1129 and the King of Jerusalem from 1131 to his death. During his reign, the Kingdom of Jerusalem reached its largest territorial extent.

Yes, my great grandfather was a Crusader, not only the but so were more than two dozen great grandfathers as far as I can tell. At this point I think it is important to rank a little bit. It certainly not politically correct to support Crusaders. Not only were they vicious killers, but they went to a country to murder the inhabitants and set up their own kingdoms. And they didn’t really discriminate, if you didn’t speak French, German, English, Italian, Spanish you were potentially slaughtered. Thousands of Greeks, Jews and native born Christians were victims. This is not in all cases, but it happened. I recall reading about the fall of Jerusalem, where the Crusaders killed so many that the blood ran in the streets and collected in the lower parts of the city, where it was up to the horses knees.

Yes, I’m glad this was in the past.

So the rule for critical thinking is not to judge historical individuals out of their own times. That’s pretty hard unless you make the effort to study the times.

In Christian history there was a period of “going on a pilgrimage”. We have that in English literature with Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. And even bigger pilgrimage was going on the Camino de Santiago, the road to Saint James Cathedral in Compostela. This makes for some interesting reading. There is even a current movie about a father undertaking this journey. It may have started earlier but written records began appearing around 1000. Traveling to visit the grave of Saint James was an act of piety.

It didn’t take long that hundreds of pilgrim were heading to the Holy Alan day. There had been dozens of monks that had made the trip, but now there were crowds going. It didn’t take long before the local authorities began to abuse these wayfarers.

The first crusades were from 1096-1099, the first was often called the People’s Crusade. Led by a French priest called Peter the Hermit, it was mostly comprised of the poor or Europe. With few actual soldiers they passed through Germany, committed many massacres, largely anti-Jewish, and when the Emperor at Constantinople got rid of them they were set upon by the Seljuk Turks and they were massacred, all 60,000, miles before they got to the Holy Land.

The Princes Crusade was the second part of the first crusade. It was better led by five bales leaders of Europe, Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse; the Italo-Normans Bohemond of Taranto and his nephew Tancred; the brothers Godfrey of Bouillon and Baldwin who led forces from Lotharingia and Germany.

The total amount of people attacking was well over 100,000. By chance the main Seljuk army was busy somewhere else, so they were successful and set up at least four principalities, the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Tripoli

The intention was to rule the Holy Land and provide protection to pilgrims.

According to Wikipedia…”The causes of the First Crusade are widely debated among historians. While the relative weight or importance of the various factors may be the subject of ongoing disputes, it is clear that the First Crusade came about from a combination of factors earlier in the 11th century in both Europe and the Near East. In Western Europe, Jerusalem was increasingly seen as worthy of penitential pilgrimages. The Seljuk hold on Jerusalem was weak, and the group lost the city to the Fatimids, and returning pilgrims, such as the Great German Pilgrimage of 1064–1065, reported difficulties and the oppression of Christians. The Byzantine need for military support coincided with an increase in the willingness of the western European warrior class to accept papal military command. Western Christians wanted a more effective church and demonstrated an increased piety. From 1000 there was an increasing number of pilgrimages to the Holy Land using safer routes through Hungary. The knighthood and aristocracy developed new devotional and penitential practises that created a fertile ground for crusading recruitment.

The motivation of the Crusaders is unknown. There may have been a spiritual dimension seeking absolution through warfare. At one time historian Georges Duby‘s theory that crusades offered economic and social opportunity for younger, aristoctaic landless sons was popular amongst historians but this was challenged because it does not account for the wider kinship groups in Germany and Southern France. Gesta Francorum talks about the opportunity for plunder and “great booty”. Adventure was another explanation including the enjoyment of warfare. As was the fact that many crusaders had no choice as they obliged to follow their feudal lords.”

There are many scholars that have quietly written about the positive aspects of the Crusades, but I’ll leave that to your own research. Back to my 24th great grandfather.

Fulk was born at Angers, between 1089 and 1092, the son of Count Fulk IV of Anjou and Bertrade de Montfort. I have already written about how Bertrade deserted Fulk in 1092 for Philip I, who she bigamously.

He became count of Anjou upon his father’s death in 1109. In the next year, he married Ermengarde of Maine, cementing Angevin control over the County of Maine. We don’t know if he got a divorce from Bertrade.

Fulk went on crusade in 1119 or 1120, and became attached to the Knights Templar (Orderic Vitalis). He returned, late in 1121, after which he began to subsidize the Templars, maintaining two knights in the Holy Land for a year. Much later, Henry arranged for his daughter Matilda to marry Fulk’s son Geoffrey of Anjou, which she did in 1127 or 1128.

Baldwin II had no male heirs but had already designated his daughter Melisende to succeed him. Baldwin II wanted to safeguard his daughter’s inheritance by marrying her to a powerful lord. Fulk was a wealthy crusader and experienced military commander, and a widower. His experience in the field would prove invaluable in a frontier state always in the grip of war.

However, Fulk held out for better terms than mere consort of the Queen; he wanted to be king alongside Melisende. Baldwin II, reflecting on Fulk’s fortune and military exploits, acquiesced. Fulk abdicated his county seat of Anjou to his son Geoffrey and left for Jerusalem, where he married Melisende on 2 June 1129. Later Baldwin II bolstered Melisende’s position in the kingdom by making her sole guardian of her son by Fulk, Baldwin III, born in 1130.

Fulk and Melisende became joint rulers of Jerusalem in 1131 with Baldwin II’s death. From the start Fulk assumed sole control of the government, excluding Melisende altogether. He favored fellow countrymen from Anjou to the native nobility. The other crusader states to the north feared that Fulk would attempt to impose the suzerainty of Jerusalem over them, as Baldwin II had done; but as Fulk was far less powerful than his deceased father-in-law, the northern states rejected his authority. Melisende’s sister Alice of Antioch, exiled from the Principality by Baldwin II, took control of Antioch once more after the death of her father. She allied with Pons of Tripoli and Joscelin II of Edessa to prevent Fulk from marching north in 1132; Fulk and Pons fought a brief battle before peace was made and Alice was exiled again.

In Jerusalem as well, Fulk was resented by the second generation of Jerusalem Christians who had grown up there since the First Crusade. These “natives” focused on Melisende’s cousin, the popular Hugh II of Le Puiset, count of Jaffa, who was devotedly loyal to the Queen. Fulk saw Hugh as a rival, and it did not help matters when Hugh’s own stepson accused him of disloyalty. In 1134, in order to expose Hugh, Fulk accused him of infidelity with Melisende. Hugh rebelled in protest. Hugh secured himself to Jaffa, and allied himself with the Muslims of Ascalon. He was able to defeat the army set against him by Fulk, but this situation could not hold. The Patriarch interceded in the conflict, perhaps at the behest of Melisende. Fulk agreed to peace and Hugh was exiled from the kingdom for three years, a lenient sentence.

However, an assassination attempt was made against Hugh. Fulk, or his supporters, were commonly believed responsible, though direct proof never surfaced. The scandal was all that was needed for the queen’s party to take over the government in what amounted to a palace coup. Author and historian Bernard Hamilton wrote that Fulk’s supporters “went in terror of their lives” in the palace. Contemporary author and historian William of Tyre wrote of Fulk “he never attempted to take the initiative, even in trivial matters, without (Melisende’s) consent”. The result was that Melisende held direct and unquestioned control over the government from 1136 onwards. Sometime before 1136 Fulk reconciled with his wife, and a second son, Amalric was born.

Securing the borders

Jerusalem’s northern border was of great concern. Fulk had been appointed regent of the Principality of Antioch by Baldwin II. As regent he had Raymond of Poitou marry the infant Constance of Antioch, daughter of Bohemund II and Alice of Antioch, and niece to Melisende. However, the greatest concern during Fulk’s reign was the rise of Atabeg Zengi of Mosul.

In 1137 Fulk was defeated in battle near Baarin but allied with Mu’in ad-Din Unur, the vizier of Damascus. Damascus was also threatened by Zengi. Fulk captured the fort of Banias, to the north of Lake Tiberias and thus secured the northern frontier.

Fulk also strengthened the kingdom’s southern border. His butler Paganus built the fortress of Kerak to the east of the Dead Sea, and to help give the kingdom access to the Red Sea, Fulk had Blanchegarde, Ibelin, and other forts built in the south-west to overpower the Egyptian fortress at Ascalon. This city was a base from which the Egyptian Fatimids launched frequent raids on the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Fulk sought to neutralise this threat.

In 1137 and 1142, Byzantine emperor John II Comnenus arrived in Syria attempting to impose Byzantine control over the crusader states. John’s intention of making a pilgrimage, accompanied by his impressive army, to Jerusalem alarmed Fulk, who wrote to John pointing out that his kingdom was poor and could not support the passage of a large army. This lukewarm response dissuaded John from carrying through his intention, and he postponed his pilgrimage. John died before he could make good his proposed journey to Jerusalem.

Death

In 1143, while the king and queen were in Acre, Fulk was killed in a hunting accident.[3] His horse stumbled, fell, and Fulk’s skull was crushed by the saddle, “and his brains gushed forth from both ears and nostrils”, as William of Tyre describes. He was carried back to Acre, where he lay unconscious for three days before he died. He was buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Though their marriage started in conflict, Melisende mourned for him privately as well as publicly. Fulk was survived by his son Geoffrey of Anjou by his first wife, and Baldwin III and Amalric I by Melisende.

Legacy

According to William, Fulk was “a ruddy man, like David… faithful and gentle, affable and kind… an experienced warrior full of patience and wisdom in military affairs.” His chief fault was an inability to remember names and faces.

William of Tyre described Fulk as a capable soldier and able politician, but observed that Fulk did not adequately attend to the defense of the crusader states to the north. Ibn al-Qalanisi (who calls him al-Kund Anjur, an Arabic rendering of “Count of Anjou”) says that “he was not sound in his judgment nor was he successful in his administration.” The Zengids continued their march on the crusader states, culminating in the fall of the County of Edessa in 1144, which led to the Second Crusade (see Siege of Edessa).

Family

In 1110, Fulk married Ermengarde of Maine (died 1126), the daughter of Elias I of Maine. Their four children were:

Geoffrey V of Anjou (1113–1151), father of Henry II of England.

Sibylla of Anjou (1112–1165, Bethlehem), married in 1123 William Clito (div. 1124), married in 1134 Thierry, Count of Flanders.

Matilda of Anjou (1106–1154, Fontevrault), married William Adelin; after his death in the White Ship disaster of 1120, she became a nun and later Abbess of Fontevrault.

Elias II of Maine (died 1151)

His second wife was Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem

Baldwin III of Jerusalem

Amalric I of Jerusalem

It’s possible that this is Bertrade before she left him.
Yes, he was a Plantagenet, with future English kings in the making.
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Bertrade de Montfort

She was my 25th great grandmother, and a very interesting lady. First, she must have been extremely beautiful, and secondly she didn’t seem to mind being a bigamist. She was born in 1070, and lived to 14 February 1117.

She was the daughter of Simon I de Montfort and Agnes of Evreux. Her brother was Amaury de Montfort.

The chronicler John of Marmoutier would recount:

‘The lecherous Fulk then fell passionately in love with the sister of Amaury de Montfort, whom no good man ever praised save for her beauty.”

Bertrade and Fulk were married, and they became the parents of a son, Fulk, who became King in Jerusalem.

However, in 1092 Bertrade left her husband to go live with King Philip I of France. Philip married her on 15 May 1092, despite the fact that they both had spouses that were living. He was so enamoured of Bertrade that he refused to leave her even when threatened with excommunication. Pope Urban II did excommunicate him in 1095, and Philip was prevented from taking part in the First Crusade.

According to Orderic Vitalis, Bertrade was anxious that one of her sons succeed Philip, and sent a letter to King Henry I of England asking him to arrest her stepson Louis. Orderic also claims she sought to kill Louis, first through the arts of sorcery and then by poison. Whatever the truth of these allegations, Louis succeeded Philip regardless.. William of Malmesbury says:

“Bertrade, still young and beautiful, took the veil at Fontevraud Abbey, always charming to men, pleasing to God, and like an angel.” Philip died 29 July 1108. She lived on until 1117.

Her son from her first marriage, Fulk V of Anjou, later became King of Jerusalem iure uxoris. The dynasties founded by Fulk’s sons ruled for centuries, one of them in England (Plantagenet), the other in Jerusalem.

Children

With Fulk IV, Count of Anjou:

Fulk of Jerusalem, Count of Anjou and King of Jerusalem (1089/92–1143)[2]

With Philip I of France:

Philip of France, Count of Mantes (living in 1123)[3]

Fleury of France, Seigneur of Nangis (living in 1118)[4]

Cecile of France (died 1145), married (1) Tancred, Prince of Galilee;[5] married (2) Pons of Tripoli[

Bertrade with Philip
Perhaps after Philip died and she went to a nunnery.
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So, I’m learning a lot…

Who knew that heraldry is a thing. I mean, as a graphic designer I was certainly aware of the concept, but I treated it more like a primitive logo. Not so… it has rules, and structure, and meanings… very complicated.

Another thing I learned is the reality of tribes. In Scotland you can still speak of clans, but I don’t think modern Germany or France has a clue about tribal structure. Apparently it was almost as important as the Native Americans, if you came from the Crow nation you knew you were a Crow. People in Europe today don’t know if they are Goths, Ostrogoths, Rus, Vandals, Gepids, Visigothic, Alamanni, Heruli, Jutes, Fresii, Burgundians, Churusci, Cimbri, Suebi, Geats, Marcomanni, Salians, or the Ubii. This is just a small sampling of the tribal names that I’ve run across in reading Roman history. Google appears to have well over 100 distinct tribal names, and generally where and when they lived. I’m pretty sure they are all gone now, although a few live on in relation to the land. There are still Swabians because the countryside is Swabia, like there are Lombards because they lived in Lombardy. In fact, in other languages they do not use the word “German”, but use “Alamanni”, or a variation. I think I insulted a friend because I suggested Charlemagne wasn’t French, he was a Frank. French didn’t exist for quite a while.

So now I know that fifteen straight great grandparents were kings/queens or warlords of the Alamanni. And 22 straight great grandparents were leaders of the Herulii. I don’t think that much DNA information has survived all this time, but it means a little more to me when I read about them as historical characters. I’m partly Alamanni, but not Marcomanni. I’m partly Herulii, but not Burgundian. At least so far as I know.

Like I said, I’m learning a lot.

Rus
Wessex
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Royal Crests

These are the crests of the lines that I have recently discovered in the genealogy of my father, and my mother. It turns out there is an entire field of study in the creation and meaning of crests. I have some reading to do.

Ha! And the first thing I learned is that crests is mostly wrong. Better to say Coat of Arms, although that’s not completely right because it really refers to an actual coat with the devices. Oh well…Coat of Arms is pretty good.

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Theodoric the Great

This is a story about my 44th great grandfather. I suppose I can call him “granpoppa”. But it’s not necessarily going to be a good story. Sometimes people live in times that are “significant”, sometimes we are not just along for the ride, but we are active players in the unfolding of history.

Unfortunately, history has gotten a bad reputation. It’s all about dates and places, it’s impossible to know them all, and history keeps happening, so it just get worse. Often people will say they can only remember two dates from history. One is 1066, when William the Conqueror invaded England, and the other is the Fall of the Roman Empire in 465.

This is a story about the fall of the Roman Empire, and it is about the dates and places, but mostly it’s about people. Technically it’s about my “granpoppa”, and the people that he knew.

The big picture of the time was that this was coming near the end of a thousand year cycle of political, social, and artistic development. I don’t think that anyone knew it was coming to an end, but then we never do. The Roman Empire was enormous, it stretched from England to Egypt, from Spain through Turkey, it would be tough to manage even with today’s modern technology. The development of Roman roads was a huge step forward, but you could only travel by foot or horseback. In fact, the government had attempted to split the government into two centers, Rome and Constantinople.

Rome was the Western Empire, and it had the Vatican and the history of the Empire. Constantinople was a newer city, founded by a very forward thinking Emperor Constantine. It sat on the crossroads between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea for shipping traffic, and also between the land bridge of Europe and Asia. On paper it would seem that having two Emperors would split up the load, and provide continuity from end to end in the Empire.

The problem is always about people, their experience, and their egos. The two emperors did not always bring the same qualities to the job. The western empire had stopped providing the basic Roman soldier that was culturally linked to the Empire. They had filled the first line soldiers, and most of the leaders, with German mercenaries. It was a bad decision to trust the safety of the Empire to people that were hired hands.

So, where does my 44th great grandfather come in? Theodoric was the son of a barbarian leader. His father was influential, so much so that the Eastern Roman emperor had demanded that his son become a hostage in the city of Constantinople. Theodoric was almost a Hollywood “Star Wars” kind of epic character. Theodoric came to a very cultured city at eight years old. He was given the best care, and was taught to read and write, and exposed to history and culture.

Was he a German barbarian, or was he a citizen of the empire? Or was he given the tools to take down an empire?

It all came to a head when the western empire had a very weak and inexperienced leader. The German mercenary leader Odovacar easily dethroned the sixteen-year-old emperor Romulus Augustalus, because he could. Odovacar walked into the city unopposed. However, even if he called himself a “king”, Odovacar was always under the rule of the Eastern emperor.

This did not impress the the Emperor Zeno, he was always trying to play the German barbarians one against the other. When Theodoric went back to his home, he rose to the leadership of the Visigoths tribes. Not only that, he began to blend in the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, and other groups like the Gepids. Emperor Zeno looked for someone to bring Odovacar under control. He went so far as to order Theodoric to attack Odovacar.

At first Theodoric was defeated by Odovacar in 490, but later that year the tables were turned and Odovacar was soundly beaten. Both sides kept their armies in the field for several years. Finally, in early 493, Theodoric took the strong city of Ravenna, a place that Odovacar often went after he lost a battle. On March 15, 493, a banquet was organised in order to celebrate a treaty that would end the conflict. At this feast, Theodoric, after making a toast, killed Odoacer. The Ides of March occurs again in Roman history.

In the end, Theodoric solved his political problems with the diplomacy of a sword blow. Emperor Zeno was at first thrilled, then he realized that Theodoric was ten times the threat to the Eastern Empire.

Theodoric drew his sword and struck him on the collarbone. Along with Odoacer, Theodoric had the betrayed king’s most loyal followers and slaughtered them as well, an event which left him as the master of Italy.

Theodoric was driven to find land for his people. The Huns had pressed on them from the East, and the Western empire did not want to have barbarians living in the empire, they could fight for them, but they didn’t want to live with them.

There are some interesting ideas of why Rome fell. 1. Lead Poisoning, 2. Decline of Civic Virtue and Adoption of Christianity, 3. Military, Political and Economic Decline, and 4. Disease. That’s a lot to digest and think about.

I think Rome fell because people made decisions, sometimes good, sometimes not. My 44th great grandfather Theodoric was there at the center of it.

Theodoric the Great
Theodoric’s tomb in Ravenna, Italy
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Charlemagne

He has been known as Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, since the Norman invasion of 1066. Before that he was called Charles I, even though his grandfather was also a Charles. The leaders of the Franks were not so quick about declaring themselves kings. The previous Frankish dynasty were the Merovingian Kings, better known at the time as the “Do Nothing” kings. Perhaps the title of king had lost its luster. Charlemagne is also my 34th great grandfather.

Charlemagne’s grandfather was known as “Charles the Hammer”, it almost sounds like a pro-wrestler’s name. He was a very successful warrior. The ruling title was actually called “the Mayor of the Palace” the king might live in it, but Charles the Hammer ruled as mayor. For some reason the Carolingian dynasty also liked the family name of Pepin. Charlemagne’s father, son and uncle had that name. Maybe it sounds better in French.

So far, all of my royal ancestors have been connected through my mother’s Norwegian roots. But today I made a breakthrough, after years of collecting data on poor German farmers, and perhaps better off city burghers, I found a marriage to a minor count. A minor count can lead to a Duke, and generations of counts and dukes. I haven’t found any German kings or princes yet, but I’m sure they are there.

One of the counts had marriage connections to the Franks and suddenly I was related to Charles the Hammer, Pepin, and Charlemagne. I love the sudden explosion of data. I’ve taken it back even further than the Franks. I’ve found a direct connection to a Roman Senator of Gaul, around 300 AD. That’s 150 years before Rome fell.

So why was Charlemagne so great? Well, the first rule is that the victors get to write the history. They call Charlemagne the father of Europe. The shape of the countries in Europe has been based on the provinces of his empire. But he was also a great reformer. He actually passed laws on education and literacy, he provided guidelines on how to run a business and keep standardized records, he promoted the use of lowercase letters, he ruled for almost 50 years and he was not a “do nothing” king.

It would be somewhat of an error to think of him as French, he was Frankish, and that tribe had come from western Germany, and pushed the native Celts further west. And the Celts had pushed the Bronze Age Picts in the same manner. When the Romans came over the Alps and up from the coast, they ruled for over 600 years, creating a blended population. But the Romans rarely crossed the Danube, on the other side was barbaric Germans, dense forest, and death to their Legions. Charlemagne crossed the Danube easily and united much of even Eastern Europe.

It’s no wonder that the Pope crowned him the first Holy Roman Emperor in over 300 years. Charlemagne didn’t know it, but the Pope even expected him to rule over Constantinople. He didn’t go there.

We don’t know where he was born, but we know he died in Aachen and was placed in his tomb in Aachen Cathedral. Apparently he was entombed sitting on a throne for the first 200 years. Then they opened the tomb and laid him flat. Years later they put him in an elaborate casket where he remains. At one point they took measurements. He was between 6 foot and 6 foot 5. Above the 99 percentile of the time.

My 34th great grandfather died on Jan. 28, 814. I really do think he was great.

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Magnus Barefoot Olafsson

Magnus was the son of Olaf, and the grandson of Harald Hardrada. Harald was the famous Warrior King who fought in Italy, Sicily, Syria, Constantinople, Crimea, and Kiev. Then he went back to Norway to fight and become king. Later, he dies while trying to become king of England. His son Olaf was sixteen when his father died in 1066. When Olaf became king of Norway he was soon called Olaf the Peaceful because he mostly focused on making improvement in the country, instead of conquests.

Well, Magnus did not take after his father, Magnus most definitely took after his grandfather and was known as a military leader bent on increasing the kingdom of Norway. He was my 23rd great grandfather.

Magnus recognized his greatest strength was based upon his navy and the very seaworthy longships. While he did fuss with Sweden about some border areas, he mostly renegotiated treaties with Sweden, Denmark and Norman England. What he felt strongly about were the islands in the Irish Sea. He established a base on the Isle of Mann and set forth bringing Irish and Scottish islands into the Norwegian kingdom. There were even peace treaties that agreed that the islands were his.

One story was that a very nice chunk of land was connected to the main body by an isthmus, so technically it wasn’t an island and Magnus could not claim it. Magnus went there, sat at the helm of his boat and had his men tow him across the isthmus to the water on the other side. Technically he had “sailed” around the “island”, so he claimed it. No one argued.

Magnus could have been known as the Warrior, or as the Conqueror, but instead he was known as the Barefoot. This was a slight mistranslation, he may have been barefoot some of the time, but he was always “bare legged”. It seems that when he left Norway he was very impressed with the clothing styles of Scotland and Ireland, and took up the wearing of “kilts”.

While campaigning in Ireland, Magnus led a small party that was foraging for food for the trip back to Norway (stealing from farmers), when he was ambushed by a band of Ulaid (Ulster men). He died in the battle in 1103.

Magnus Barefoot, a stylish kilt wearing Viking, was my 23rd great grandfather.

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Blog Cruising

I was spending a little time blog cruising today, farming snippets of thought here and there. I must apologize in advance because I don’t really read for content, and certainly not carefully. When I’m “farming” I’m looking for ideas that unlock some sort of thought process. The trouble is that the idea ferments for a time, then explodes like active yeast hours later. I can’t even give credit for the fruit that I picked, because I only remember the idea, not the blog page.

So if you wrote about, “we are not in the same boat, but we maybe we are in the same storm.” , thank you for that.

I know about boats, I’ve been around them most of my life. At one point I owned four of them at once, a dinghy, a Cal20 sailboat, a Yankee30 sailboat, and a 1948 Ed Monk 41 foot power cruiser. It was nearly a navy.

We have a habit of using commonly understood objects in our analogies, and in most cases that is understandable, until it gets tiresome. “We are all in the same boat”, is meant that we are altogether, going in the same direction, and on an equal footing. Apparently no one has ever heard of “the Raft of the Medusa”, or seen the movie “Lifeboat”. The passengers are on the same vessel, but their futures are different, and their experiences can be remarkably different, like eating or being eaten.

In the past, when I have heard the phrase “We are all in the same boat”, I most always think, (but rarely say), “but your end of the boat is sinking!”

This COVID business has generated a lot of the same boat comments. Yet, some people will end up with a very nice tan as they sun themselves on the fly-bridge, while others will have ulcers on their feet as they stand in the bilge, manning the pump.

I’ve been entertained by musicians playing from their homes, bringing their music to us from their mansions. I don’t begrudge them for their wealth, “Hey, good on you!”, but don’t try to convince me that we are all in the same boat.

Some folks don’t even have boats, they are making do with floaters, and life -preservers. I’m aware that I do not have a yacht with a crew, but I’m not in a dinghy either. I’d like to think I’m in the equivalent of my long gone 30 ft Yankee sailboat. Big enough to take on the storm, small enough that I’m know ever square inch in case something goes wrong.

I know about boats, I just don’t know that much about storms.

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More Hollywood Art

Veronica Lake
Vivian Leigh
Maude Adams
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Golden Shovel

Softly we sing, We
Voice the innermost thoughts that Are
Hidden behind the furniture of our mental rooms, As
Guests relax on the sofas, Blind
To the melody that clings in the air like Vines

The world is madly Spinning
Forces are pulling Ourselves
Moving from one orbit, going Around
Yet another shiny thing, And

Not satisfied here, we spin Around
And search for other bright Objects
That attract the eyes And
The egos with Thoughts

Greedy and self-serving Not
Because we intend so, Truly
We are thoughtless in Our
Action, it’s just the nature that we Own.

(with sincere thanks to Lucy)

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