A nice way to stay in touch with loved ones, and a convenient way to share my opinions without having everyone just walk away...wait a minute, where are you going? I wasn't finished..

Saturday, December 11, 2010


"Animals" I think was the first thing Owen said to me when I walked in his front door. "Animals, Owen?" "Yeah, come on," walking down the hall toward his room. "Wait, I want to say Hi to Malachy and your mommy and daddy." It was Mally who I needed most to speak to, It wasn't long ago that I was his playmate, sounding board, and unconditional love benefactor, and I never want him to think either of us have outgrown the relationship.

I think he understands. Last fall one night I was caring for him at our "old" apartment. We walked to the Burger King a couple blocks away, holding hands at the crossings and talking about continuing our game of City Cousin Country Cousin when we got home, kind of an unstructured role playing that encourages his imagination in developing scenarios dialogue and characters. "Poppo", he said, "You know you're my best friend." "Well, I used to think that I was, but then you met Calvin, and he was like your best friend, and then you met Ross, and he was your best friend, and now I was starting to think Frankie is your new best friend."

"Poppo, you know how I am...when I make a new friend for a while I have to treat them special so they know I like them." Very nice of him to say, but I know I'm not as energetic at play as his newer friends, and it's not just a social stratagem that makes him happier when one of the younger guys walk in than when I do. So the trade off works, he's OK with Owen currently monopolizing my time, and I'm OK with his asking "Calvin/Ross/Frankie, do you want to play?"

When I get to their house, though and before I leave, I complement him on his good looks, dancing skill, strength, helpfulness, or academic advancement and try to ask him one or two questions about recent experiences that I think maybe no one else has asked, because I always want to be special to him as he is to me.

Sure enough it was animals Owen was talking about, and soon after his brother and parents left we had brought ten of his stuffed creatures from his closet to the living room. I organized a game of hide and seek. The hippo buried her face in the corner of of the sofa cushion and counted til fifty while Owen and I helped the others hide. Then she searched high and low til she'd found all but two, whom Owen couldn't wait for her to find and excitedly retrieved and ran to her with.

Then he pulled five little cushions from the sofa and arranged them in a large square with one resting centered on top, and this he said was breakfast, and we seated the animals around the table, but were having a little trouble keeping them all sitting up, and before he got frustrated I suggested a trip to McDonalds, where incredibly he ordered apple slices instead of his old favorite french fries. After we shared the apple slices, he cleaned the table taking one article at a time, including the caramel dip which he hadn't sampled, to the waste paper basket, built into a a cabinet in a little alcove with the top a half foot over his head. After I lifted him the first time. he stood on tip toes and tossed the remaining items into the receptacle without being able to see the large round opening but knowing where it was.

Having still an hour to kill I suggested a trip to Elgin to see Mommo and the kitties. He was pleased with the idea, and in the car mentioned "treats" a couple of times, and I tried to remember what we had in the pantry that might please him. After greeting and hugging Mommo he went in search of the kitties and asked for treats again and I realized he'd been thinking of treats for the kitties, so I got out the yellow Temptation bag and had him reach in and grab a few for each cat in turn. Laboring under the misunderstanding, I'd already asked Janett about a treat for Owen and she'd suggested a some fragements of Aldi brand tostito chips and milk served in a double shot glass of mine that we've found to be just his size. He asked for seconds on the chips and we obliged, but he hadn't finished by the time we had to leave for Dundee to reunite him with his family, so we poured the remainders into a little plastic sandwich bag which he held happily onto on our return ride.

We beat his folks home. I invited him into the house a couple times, but he preferred we stay outside and walk across the snowy lawns; he must like the feel of snow crunching under his feet, and he was amused by my concern that his feet would get cold We made a big deal of occasionally stomping our feet on the sidewalk to get the snow off our shoes. Eventually I lured him into the house on the pretext of being sure the dog, Guiness, was alright.

Stephie Mark and Malachy got home soon, and after asking Mally how he'd enjoyed the movie and whether there were any scary parts, I was ready to say good-by. They were all going to lunch so I told Stephie about the chips, and she asked me how I'd done strapping Owen into the child seat, and I admitted I'd gotten the shoulder straps on and clipped together, but hadn't been able to hook up the lower strap. Poppo, like everyone else, isn't perfect.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Random Sampling?

Did you ever notice the "next blog" caption at the top of your page? Doi you ever click on it? It's cold in our apartment this morning and the HVAC man wont get here for a couple of hours, so for diversion I clicked on it several times.
There were a couple pages featuring friends and family photographs, one hosted by a bar showing people having a good time, one by a collector showing stuff he'd found that was in a foreign language, and various other miscellany, like road trip photos.
But easily, over half the pages were sponsored by runners that talked about conditioning and events. One page's header featured the comment,"Somewhere in the world someone is training when you are not. When you race him, he will win."

I guess I'm relieved that most peoples' blogs are not sbout what's wrong with the world and how powereless we are collectively and individually. What a bummer that would be. It would be nice if there were some blogs about how Christianity, Christian faith, ethics and charity will redeem the world, but I didn't find any of those. But the running thing was curious to me. Should I infer that this subculture embodies a community of sharing and caring, or that runners are obsessive types, who when not running are thinking about running?

My brother Mike and sister in law Molly are enthusiasts, always running, biking, or skiing, and not half heartedly. Their activities seem to make them very happy and appreciative of the environment, and also more conscious of now to manage a healthy life style than I would care to be. Given our close relationship and my respect for their achievements, I hesitate to ask whether there's something narcissistic involved.

So, I don't know. Perhaps if you click tne next blog caption repeatedly, you'll find a different pattern of occurrences.

PS I continued my research and may have to coorect my statistics. My next samle contained several bycicling blogs, a few shoe(?) blogs and more family and friend blogs. Still not a lot of pessimism/hope blogs, but I found this picture. Do you think it's photo-shopped?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Korea North vs South

The only Korean I've ever know personally worked at an accounting firm with me and was pleasant and pretty and does not personify my observation that the Koreans are a fractious lot, except that her parents were 7th day Adventists and did not feel that their daughters should succumb to a western lifestyle and certainly should not feel free to choose their own husbands.
My earliest recollection of a radio newscast was about President Eisenhower agreeing to a truce settling the Korean conflict, and I remember the names of Syngman Rhee as leader of South Korea and Kim Il Sung as leader of the communist North Korea.
Later my sketchy knowledge of that episode was fleshed out slightly by fitting the conflict into the cold war strategy of containment defined by American senior diplomat George Kennan, as not fighting the Soviet Union, but opposing efforts to expand their influence.
At the end of WW II the Japanese withdrew from Korea which they had invaded and controlled from early in the 20th century. The Russians moved in and occupied the northern half and the US had moved in and occupied the southern half of the peninsula. Both the great powers installed their clients in positions of power, then withdrew. After Rhee, who had lived in the US for 33 years before returning to Korea after the war, established a South Korean state, rejecting a UN proposed peninsula wide plebiscite, an election Kim Il Sung thought he would have won, the North Koreans invaded the South in June 1950, quickly over running Seoul and pushing the South Korean forces, and a contingent of American troops into a tiny southernmost corner of the country, maybe a hundred square miles around the port city of Pusan. Being reinforced by American forces from Japan, the South Koreans held on to this enclave, while General Doug MacArthur devised and implemented a strategy of an American led invasion at Inchon, a couple hundred miles north, close to the overrun capital of Seoul.

Being counter attacked in the south by a growing United Nations force and threatened with being cut off by MacArthurs invasion force the weakened North Koreans fled back across the nominal border, the 38th parallel. MacArthur pursued them, invading the north and advancing nearly to the Yalu river, the North Korean border with China. In October of 1950 Chinese communist forces entered the conflict pushing the UN forces south and again taking the South Korean capital of Seoul in January 1951. The retreat of the American forces in the frigid winter and inhospitable mountainous terrain was disheartening and a torturous ordeal for the UN (mostly American) forces. The UN forces reorganized defenses south of Seoul and counterattacked, regaining the capital in March of 1951. The war continued for two more years, but combat was localized around the 38th parallel, each side losing thousands of soldiers in attacks on objectives providing tactical advantage, both sides using massive artillery barrages to support their infantry in the costly battles.

A truce was signed in June of 1953, but a peace treaty was never negotiated. leaving the two Koreas in a state of war for the last 57 years. Occasionally the North Koreans undertake some aggressive action, like the shelling of the islands last week.

It would seem the South has prospered during the last half century while the North has not. The South has industrialized and is a successful exporter while the North has imposed a communist style planned economy, struggling at times to feed its people, but investing heavily in its military and developing an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

But political turmoil has continued in the South. Labor unions and students often engage in violent confrontations with the elected governments. Neither side seems really content or secure. Syngman Rhee was forced to resign in 1958, after alienating most of the country with autocratic policies that approached dictatorial government. Kim Il Sung held power until his death in 1994 and was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il, who is now reportedly ill and preparing to transfer power to his son.

The US and South Korean governments are not sure of how to deal with the North Koreans, mindful of the always present possibility of a million north Korean soldiers streaming across the border. They seem to be relying on the Chinese to exert some stabilizing influence, because the Chinese strategy is to achieve economic power and prefers stability to conflict. Also, in the event of war, the Chinese have to worry about a million North Koreans streaming across their border - not combatants but unwelcome starving refugees.

Why can't we all just get along?