Posts Tagged With: War


When I’m home, I read the news. I probably shouldn’t because it makes me angry. So, howzit doing out there? I read where Assault Weapons have been removed from the bill to Ban Assault Weapons.  Guess the gun lobby won. Hmmm!  Why am I not surprised?

And, lets see, what was accomplished after our ten-year war with Iraq? 600,000 Iraqi civilians killed, about the same number of Iraqi children homeless; over 4,000 Americans killed with 30,000 wounded, maimed, mentally impaired. A stronger Iran, more intelligent, and highly trained terrorists with more sophisticated weaponry. Staggering cost of war of $3,000,000,000 dollars and another $3,000,000,000 in medical costs for vets yet to come; Oh, and an increased hostility to Americans around the world. Wow!  What a minus -zero accomplishment that is.

Guess we have to look at China for any good news. Washington has been tracking the Chinese Government’s stunning example of solar cooking on a large-scale. China funds parabolic sun cookers and uses carbon credit trading to encourage investors to become involved. This is not small-scale at the village level. It is a valuable resource that can significantly reduce global carbon emissions because it reduces the use of coal cookers and deforestation. It cuts fuel use by 30 to 50 per cent. Pretty nifty.

Everyone I introduce to solar cooking is awed by its ease of use. You can substitute one of the bubbly, fake aluminum windshield screens as a cooker. They work, but aren’t stable if it is windy. And, we take our fresh water for granted. Much of the world needs to pasteurize water before drinking it. Voila! The solar pasteurization kit.

The sun, it keeps on shining.


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The USS Lexington is fondly called Lady Lex around Corpus Christi, Texas. She served valiantly in WWII and served a total of 48 years. The Japanese kept broadcasting her sinking, never true. She became known as the ghost ship that came back to life.

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Here she sits in the harbor.

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She was attacked by two kamikazes. One was shot down, the other hit her island, did huge damage, killed 47 and wounded 123 men. The kamikazes were a desperate measure by the Japanese. They recruited young men do die for their country and offered the great honor of wearing a head band (hackamachi)  used by respected feudal samurai. Kamikaze means Divine Wind, a wind god said to have repelled a Mongol fleet heading toward Japan in 1281.

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The Japanese distributed these flyers to demoralize the men. You can barely read at the top, The bearer is entitled to honorable treatment as prescribed by the Geneva Convention.

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This is a very personal museum. Many letters described the attack and the subsequent sadness of burying their friends at sea.

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One survivor sent in his dog tags and a piece of shrapnel from the “Zeke” they shot down.

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The four self guided tours take you all over the ship and while I walked I had this sense of deja vu as though I’d seen this ship before. I could see men running through the hatch doors;

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water oozing up though the hatches as the ship flounders in flood mode.DSC00659 (Copy)

I see the men running, as the horrible piercing sirens go off and some sailor struggles to turn off these valves. I was running all of those WWII movies through my brain only to learn later that indeed, the Lex had been used in several movies.

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Sailors slept in hammocks like this, only 18 inches from each other.

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A later refurbishment gave much improved sleeping arrangements, but the men who used them referred to them as coffins.

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An old swabbie looked like this.

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And a modern swabbie we recognize.

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If you like models, there were rooms full of them, every size, every ship and plane.

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I preferred pictures and paintings of ships.

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Here is the Lex going through the Panama Canal with planes like toys littering her deck.DSC00705 (Copy)

As you walk into a room, a sensor starts a recording and in this spot I heard Roosevelt sadly delineate the number of ships wounded and sunk at Pearl Harbor. The casualties in men. It was about 300 men and 316 ships, if memory serves me.

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You can see the fear and dread in these young faces as they prepare for battle.

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And, the wonderful moments of relief and joy at liberty.

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Other duties than war.

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It was cold and windy and we viewed the deck last. Three football teams could play on this deck at the same time. DSC00777 (Copy)

The island, the control tower, is the highest part of the ship which from bottom to top is 19 stories high.DSC00763 (Copy)

I climbed into this wheel well and Jim took my picture.

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I liked the painted personality of the Skyhawk, the plane I crawled into. DSC00772 (Copy)

The navigation room, again gave me that deja vu. The compass on the right, with the huge compensating  ball-magnets keep the compass functioning. So, I got to massage the navigator’s balls, as they are called.

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The life rafts are now reversible, so no matter what side they fall on you can get in. But, it isn’t water proof. Brr, that’s cold.

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There was so much to see here. We spent four and one-half hours on the ship. Pricey, we thought, at $11.95 each, senior price, plus $3.50 for parking.  We also ate a delicious cafeteria style lunch on board. But, they also show two major movies wearing 3-D glasses that were absolutely stupendous and worth the price of the ticket on their own. So,  go see the Lex if it is the only thing you have time for.

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We had one day to visit Brownsville. The old town portion is just like a border town on the Mexico side. Cheap goods and people hawking as you leave their shops, or not. Small Mexican restaurants with hand written signs. The store keepers struggle with English because most of their customers speak Spanish. That is a slap-dash impression, obviously,  since we didn’t visit a great many places. But, it is colorful, and lively and fun.

Texas became a state in 1854. Our lasting impression of Texas is embodied in cowboys, gunfights, cattle drives, branding and bandits.  The Lower Rio Grande flew seven different flags, Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederacy, Republic of the Rio Grande, and United States. It’s true  history is  of revolution and war; multiple skirmishes with Mexico over  borders and control.  Visitors can visit unimpressive battlefields like Palmito Ranch and  Palo Alto, and more visually impressive Fort Brown, located on the University of Texas at Brownsville. But the whole story is told in the Brownsville Historical Association complex of a museum and the furnished house of Charles Stillwell, Brownsville’s founder.


It seems there has always been a military presence around Brownsville.

DSC00527And Guerrillas too. If armies and guerrillas weren’t fighting, the police, Texas Rangers and the Sheriffs were warring over politics and favorable positions in government.

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Almost all politics and city decisions were made at Crixell’s Bar. No women allowed, of course. And, founder, Stillwell was not unlike our modern-day CEO’s. He grabbed land, bought interests in every thriving enterprise and became wealthy beyond reason, but always wanted more, more,more while the common people grumbled, went to work and kept them going. Of course, the elites made the laws that forever kept the common people working and prevented them from making the land grabs Stillwell and the other mega-ranch owners got while opportunity was ripe.


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People worked in the silver mines, they farmed, and did all building and manual labor.

A local photographer made his living photographing the people of Brownsville. Here are some samples

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In his best clothes, he reported to the studio.

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The huge skirts and decoration mean she was a woman of means.

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This barefoot boy of color with what looks like a pipe in his hand and mouth? The photographer was known for photographing people of the streets.

The Museum had a huge section on Mexican governors and Presidents.

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Boy soldiers were not unusual in Mexican armies. Mexican women also followed their men into battles to feed and cook for them, and sew and mend and give comfort to them.

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Faces of the revolution. The strong lighting and glass makes picture-taking difficult in museums.

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This one of a kind, German built MAN automobile was built like a tank for a soon to be president who didn’t make it. After his lost bid, it was sealed behind a brick wall, never to be seen for many, many years. After that it has had two owners before the museum acquired it.

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The death photo of Zapata.

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This drawing depicts something in which I  have a small connection. A woman from my neighboring Tuolumne County claimed, “I am here because of a single white bean.”  She went on to tell her story of her grandfather being among Santa Anna”s prisoners when he ordered every tenth Texan killed. According to her, he couldn’t afford to feed all of his prisoners. The prisoners dipped into a pot of beans. If they drew a white bean, they were saved, a black bean they were shot. People doubted the story was true, even from our historical society. I never doubted for a minute. And, here,  Proof, it really happened.

It is a well done museum and very worth visiting.

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The Stillwell House next to the Museum is very richly furnished with an eye to authentic detail.

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The family history is enmeshed  with the political and economic map of the area,very well done and interesting. Do visit, there are many surprises here.

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Not far away, is a costume and childrens museum. They are near the zoo and close to Highway 77 /83 if you go. The Costume Museum is only one room, jammed full of Mexican folk clothing. They make the point, something I’ve learned from visting other countries, that various villages had a traditional dress and everyone dressed that way, everyday. The colorful clothing, the beautiful handwork, embroidery and designs were dazzling. All new stuff, beautifully done. I would loved to have seen it in a bigger room with bigger areas of separation. It only cost $2 each for us to look. The children’s museum is in the same building and she invited us to view it too.

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About each village is a small history.

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I could have spent more time here, but it is enjoyable even at 20 minutes.

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This antique piece, a wedding, a festival costume,  and day of the dead display were depicted as well.

We reported back to the Motor Home at the VFW, and enjoyed the company of “friends” for a couple of hours. Another good weather day.,

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I had an opportunity to meet Mike and Irene Boylson-Perbal from Mokelumne Hill. Irene offered a gourmet Indonesian dinner,  and since I have a connection to Indonesia, I was delighted to have such an opportunity. I’ll explain our connection, briefly. My student, Linda Djamaludin stayed with our family for a year in 1986. She is Muslim. Anytime you connect with another culture, you learn something; it changes your perspective and changes you.

My friend, Carol Gordon accompanied me and I must apologize for my out of focus pictures. My little “purse” camera does not do well without a flash-my error to have turned it off. Anyway, Carol hosted a student from South Africa the same year Linda lived with my family.

Meeting Mike and Irene for the first time, and getting to know each other, over the course of the evening, made me realize, we evolve. I’m not the same person I was in 1986. We live several lifetimes, we go out into the world, and change. We change each other and hopefully change our world to be a little better than what we found. I found that true of Mike and Irene and Carol, too. Kind of a Buddhism concept, before the afterlife.

We covered so many subjects, travel, books, politics, cultures, military, solar cooking, poverty in America and developing countries, it was an invigorating evening.  Mike is a serious and avid reader of politics and history, and philosophy.  He is retired military with a varied and applied life through two wars, WWII and Korea. He spent gobs of time in France and speaks some French and enjoyed a stellar career.

Irene is Dutch, and most of her family is from Indonesia and Belgium. As a child, her family secretly protected Jews and her father was hauled off to a Nazi prison camp and never seen again. A world traveler, she speaks many languages and her major project is spreading the word about solar cooking. She is active with Jackson Rotary and won for them the prize awarded by Rotary International for the best International Project with her solar cooking demonstrations and teachings.

While our wonderful Indonesian dinner of Nasi Goreng, Ajam Ketjap, Sajoer Lodeh and Boeboer Mango, (colored rice, Chicken in soy, beans in coconut milk, mango custard) and plain old American wine was the focus of the evening, we were all over the world instead.

Mike and Irene have hammocks from countries that grow colored cotton.  This orangey-pink hammock is not dyed.

Jewelry made from all natural products, including the tagua nut which is hard and beautiful and carveable. It is called vegetable ivory. I had never heard of it  before.

But I was most fascinated with Irene’s work with solar. She has traveled to other countries and demonstrated solar cookers. I love my solar oven and little hot-pot. I’ve gotten others to use solar ovens locally. But Irene does this in a big way.

The question she is asked most often, is:  What do you do when the sun doesn’t shine?” She introduces them to the hay basket and the rocket stove.  I knew that countries like India, African countries, Guatemala, South American countries that have pockets of deep poverty, where propane is expensive and wood becoming scarce and water in need of pasteurization can be solved with the sun. The rocket stove, an insulated pipe will cook food with very little scrap fuel. And another alternative: if you heat your food boiling hot and then cover the pan and sink it into a basket of hay and cover it over, it will continue to cook and be ready to eat when you return from work, thus using minimal fuel. Wonderful survival techniques. But even more impressive, Irene presented to her Rotary group poverty in America. At first they didn’t want to believe it. But, what does someone do who is living on the streets or in a vacant lot or in their car?  How can they cook food? Using solar. She reaches out in her own community and changes it for the better. And, there is that type of poverty in our own counties, we just don’t see it.   Mike and Irene are two fascinating people and I am thrilled to have met them, learned new things and enjoyed a wonderful evening.

We stood for a few fleeting minutes and enjoyed a lovely sunset. Carol and I hated to leave for home.

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Some days are fast-moving and adventurous. My daughter, Kris and Son Ken share a family plan for their phones since they live in the same city. While driving to work, Kris got a phone call meant for her brother’s family. The caller was asking her if she could take on an exchange student from Italy. She stopped the car and said, Yes!  Her brother had done it the year before. Why not? The woman asking explained that she had to place two boys in 24 hours or they would lose their right to exchange. Zoom, Kris had a mountain of paperwork to fill out, proof of employment. She had to take pictures of her house and family and the dogs. Fax it to Italy. They approved her and asked if she knew anyone who would take the other boy.

“My brother and his wife,” of course.   Ken said yes before he could consult with Laurie. And, just as fast, they were approved.

For Kris, as it turned out, it was her son’s birthday and they would be celebrating his birthday that day and picking up their student that night at midnight. When I get pictures, I’ll give an update.

We had an exchange student from Indonesia in 1986, that turned into a wonderful learning and exciting experience for all of us. We still keep in touch with Linda and her family. I visited them for the first time in 2004.

This is Linda with her daughter and son.

My youngest daughter was an exchange student to France in 1987. The son of one of her French sisters visited us last year.  Now she is hosting a graduate student from Brazil. I will get to meet him at Thanksgiving.

Hosting students from all over the world is such an enriching experience. Understanding other cultures is an advance toward peace between nations, which is what got the initial public exchange program going after WWII. It was named AFS, which stands for American Field Service,  an idea from soldiers who, like today, find people wonderful and endearing in  an “enemy” country. I’m sorry to say, it hasn’t stopped wars. But, I’m pleased to say, there are many, many student exchange organizations still making inroads to peace.

I’m glad my kids are spreading the tradition to their families. If you ever feel you have time to have a temporary addition to your family, having an exchange student is a wonderfully rewarding experience. In fact students report that their exchanges have been life changing events when they learn how others live.

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I’m a collectoholic. I hate throwing anything away. I’ve kept bags filled with used corks, pretty colored bits of shiny paper, magazines articles, wire, bobby pins, broken fishing poles, tool handles,  faded lumpy sleeping bags, hair curlers…if it has a shape, and a former use, it  is useable. If I give-in and throw it out, that item immediately reveals its usefulness the moment I can no longer retrieve it.  I’m honestly trying to change those old habits.  I’m regularly at war with myself over this issue and the junk often wins. Imagine my delight and validation in rediscovering Edgar Guest’s poem:


                   The Junk Box
                                                      Edgar Guest
          My father often used to say:
          “My boy, don’t throw a thing away:
          You’ll find a use for it some day.”

          So in a box he stored up things,
          Bent nails, old washers, pipes and rings,
          And bolts and nuts and rusty springs.

          Despite each blemish and each flaw,
          Some use for everything he saw;
          With things material, this was law.

          And often when he’d work to do,
          He searched the junk box through and through
          And found old stuff as good as new.

          And I have often thought since then,
          That father did the same with men;
          He knew he’d need their help again.

          It seems to me he understood
          That men, as well as iron and wood,
          May broken be and still be good.

          Despite the vices he’d display
          He never threw a man away,
          But kept him for another day.

          A human junk box is this earth
          And into it we’re tossed at birth,
          To wait the day we’ll be of worth.

          Though bent and twisted, weak of will,
          And full of flaws and lacking skill,
          Some service each can render still.

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