Minute Distinctions

 

Image result for dinosaur never forget

 

And if the meteorite had arrived ten minutes earlier, or ten minutes later, it would still no doubt have inflicted devastation, but the dinosaurs would still be here and you wouldn’t.

The time of arrival sixty-six million years ago was apparently quite important.

(h/t The Browser)

 

 

File:Atomic bomb 1945 mission map.svg

 

Reminds me of the fate of Kokura, the intended target for the second atomic bomb. Tardiness, clouds, and a faulty fuel pump conspired in its favor. The B-29 spent fifty minutes making three attempts before heading to Nagasaki.

 

 

Looney Tunes

 

 

Imagine if you could write something beautiful, only to do so you had to make each A on the keyboard a B, and each B a C. Or rather, the A a Z, and the B an E.

Why not just… Well, you see my question.

I’ve been picking up the acoustic guitar again, and have been seriously disheartened by the number of songs I want to learn that have alternate tunings. Isn’t playing the damn thing difficult enough already? I mean, yeah: I’ll see you a Drop D if it gets me the Cinnamon Girl, but DADGAD? SHEESH.

 

Scandalous!

I bought Twin 1 a guitar at a yard sale for a couple of bucks. She was particularly enamored because it’s purple, her favorite color. (I know. I choose my battles.) She’d been making noise – while making noise – that it was missing some strings, so I took her to a local music shop to buy new ones.

Now, Gentle Reader, before we continue, you must know the abiding passion of my life: it is to have others perform tasks for me. And granted, there’s a lot of competition for your indignance these days, but surely this store’s stringing fee will purchase some of it:

 

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Académie Française

 

Effective teachers motivate their students not only to learn, but to want to learn.

A best practice comes from language instruction in the French Foreign Legion. Here’s how one platoon commander encourages his recruits:

“You will learn French fast because I am not your mother.”

And then how do you create a culture of achievement?

In one episode of The Bureau, a new undercover agent asks her handler what to do if she is unable to complete an assignment. I was quite taken with the response, apparently customary in the DGSE:

“If you can’t, go home and forget the whole thing.”

 

Image result for everyone achieves more

 

 

Pretty Little Liars

 

When deep night fell, the fishermen paddled out and we watched the horizon slowly fill with little orange lights, kerosene lamps swinging from the bows of their boats. It soon looked like a whole city out there, or like a constellation of stars that had fallen lightly on the surface of the water. It was a pretty lie the fishermen were telling the fish. The fish liked to feed on nights with a full moon; the light of the lanterns drew them from the depths.

That’s Jeffrey Gettleman’s description of night fishing on Lake Kivu from his memoir, Love, Africa. I like it.*

The above marvel is also described in this literary masterpiece:

During my third month on the job, on a cloudless, moonless evening with delicate astral illumination, I discovered night fishing. I left the residence to walk down to the office, and saw that the lake was speckled with faintly glowing dots. Abdoulaye explained that the army had lifted the curfew and permitted fishermen once again to go out at night. The lights were from their canoes. I can’t remember if he said they were from actual fires built in the vessels, or from lanterns, but the resulting effect was dramatic: the blackness of the lake was an inverted sky filled with stars. Viewed from the hillside, it was as if the heavens lay above and below.

Smitten with this discovery, I spent the next few evenings seeking the best vantage for the spectacle. I found an excellent location not far from our house, on the dirt road that zigzagged down the hill to the main road by the lake. In order to get the optimal view, I tried sitting on the hood, and then on the roof, but the slope of the hill made for a precarious perch. Finally I settled on the driver’s seat. Now and then I would try to pick up a shortwave broadcast, but mostly I’d just sit in silence, sip my beer, and contemplate the parallel galaxies.

It really is the most beautiful sight. Apparently now you can go out with the fishermen as a tourist, although it sounds far preferable to regard from a hill.

 

*The description, that is. The book, yes and no. In obedience to this site’s strict No Book Reviews policy, I’ll only say that Love, Africa oddly reminds me of A Bit of a Blur by Alex James.

(Photo credit: MONUSCO / Myriam Asmani)

Signal Values

Every once in a while you see a sign that takes you quite aback.

Maybe that last one on the list wouldn’t sound so ominous if it weren’t in a building that looks like this:

I was going to write something smart-alecky about how I hoped the Commission could see its way to concluding that women are citizens too, but after looking it up I hereby endorse it: http://www.mass.gov/women/

Note: This ghastly building is into the bargain called the Government Service Center, a name whose tripartite blandness worryingly recalls Idi Amin’s State Research Bureau.

 

***

The above sign made me think of one of the more disturbing signs I’ve ever seen. I saw it seven summers ago driving from Seattle to Boston. These were the happy days before a smartphone established permanent residency in my pocket, so it’s recorded in my notebook:

 

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Canicularities

Recent assertion of the unshakeable alliance between the United States and Poland reminds me of a previous demonstration of friendship between the two countries.

It’s from Alan’s War, the memoir of an American draftee in the Second World War. (The book is a masterpiece, not least because of its beautiful illustrations.)

Alan’s armored car crew had been joined by a hungry stray dog, who wouldn’t respond to commands in a variety of languages. Then one day the driver was building a bench. He accidentally banged his finger, and cursed in Polish. The dog perked up his ears and ran over, delighted to find a compatriot.

 

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Our Ford

1. Henry Ford Is the Village Industry Preservation Society

Henry Ford will necessarily be remembered in the United States for centuries, and often, when he was talking to me, a little inquiry arose in the back of my head as to the thing for which he would be best remembered. After much consideration, I reached the conclusion that future generations would honor Ford most, not because he acquired a billion dollars by paying better wages and selling good automobiles for less than anybody else; nor because of his marvelous ability as an industrial organizer; nor because he took the first great steps to stop the waste of water power; but because he revolutionized agriculture.

I came across The New Henry Ford in the stacks of the Boston Athenaeum. It was published in 1923.

Ford had it figured out so that farmers would work for 25 days on their farms, “and have the other 340 days, except Sundays, to earn money in village industries.”

When it comes to agriculture this city boy doesn’t know his adze from his elbow, but he’s pretty sure that’s not how it is.

 

2. Anyone for Tolerance?

 

I saw this in a school a few years ago. It stopped me for a couple of reasons.

Given that Ford’s empathy for the Abrahamic faiths was, er, selective, his success seems due perhaps to some other secret:

During the months that I was in Ford’s office obtaining the material for this book, Ford often talked to me about the Jews. He gave me two leather-bound books composed of articles printed in the Independent and asked me to read them. He quickly learned that I did not share his views… “Well, read them right away,” he continued, “and then if you do not agree with me, don’t ever come to see me again.”

 

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Postscript

In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that way I learn from him.

Image result for ralph waldo emerson

 

If Ralph “Where’s” Waldo Emerson walks past my inbox, he’ll quickly learn my superiority: I receive letters from William Schaff.

 

 

Check out his site, which has many, many such masterpieces.

(Personally, I find very remarkable the steady contribution of photos from those who’ve had his art tattooed.)

If your postal life is a foolish consistency of bills and cable offers, transcend with William Schaff’s mail art. And if you’re near San Jose, know the way to his show, which closes Saturday.

 

 

Intermission

My stars, June is a-busying up. I must step out for a bit.

In the meantime, know this:

 

And, if you’re a teacher, may your June be (at least) thusly.