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Monday, February 29, 2016

The Bluebird of Happiness

     Much to her disappointment, Ann Dunn did not get to see our backyard pair of Eastern Bluebirds.  They departed just before the Dunns arrived.  Yesterday morning they reappeared, and Durelle said, "Photo-op!"  So, I slowly slipped outside, camera in hand, to see if I could be lucky enough to have them hold still for me.  Below are several pictures because the ones showing a good perspective did not show the distinguishing color and vice-versa.

     A few years ago I built a bluebird house and mounted it on a fence post.  It has been thoroughly explored but never occupied.  There is no doubt that they are Eastern Bluebirds.  While I was out there with the camera, one of our resident American Eagles made an appearance.  I never tire of watching them.

     If you look closely, you can see the pupil of his (her?) eye.  Note also the unusual crossed feet he is using to perch on that branch of the sweet gum tree.  We are located only twelve miles (as the eagle flies) from the heart of the historic district of downtown Charleston with many large commercial areas in between, so we consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to watch the variety of wildlife that we can.
     My spinal fusion surgery has finally been scheduled.  Unfortunately, it won't be until 29 March.  I will need a faster than usual recuperation to be able to get away before the 1st of July.  I still vividly remember my father's recuperation for an early version of that surgery in 1950.  In his case the devices to fuse the vertebrae were bone spacers extracted from his pelvis rather than the titanium devices in use today.  As a result, he wore a hip-to-armpit body cast for six(!) months.  I guess guys were tougher then.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Visit from the Dunns

     Today Bernie and Ann Dunn, who had been at a convention in Myrtle Beach, escaped for a day and paid us a visit in Charleston.  They are a couple with whom we have camped, eaten, and imbibed for the last decade.  It was a quick visit, but daughter Cindy was available to play tour guide in her area of expertise in downtown Charleston.  We dropped off her car at work at the Post and Courier and proceeded to the newly renamed Riley Park and the "Pineapple Fountain".

     The pineapple has been a symbol of hospitality in the area since the days of the square riggers.  As the story goes, when the ship captains returned from their global journeys, they brought back, among other things, pineapples.  So when a pineapple appeared on the gatepost of the captain's house, it meant that he was back and ready to entertain.

     After a quick, but relaxing, pause on the "Battery" with views of old Fort Sumter and a huge cargo ship coming in to pick up a hold full of BMWs, we drove over to Queen Street and the Husk.  In a city of great restaurants, Husk is one of the best.  Our lunches included: country-fried steak, shrimp and grits, southern fried chicken and bacon cheeseburgers with a side of cornbread in a real cast iron skillet.  It is amazing what attention to detail and a great waiter can do to otherwise conventional fare.

     The Dunns are both "foodies", and they understand the importance of good knives in the food business.  It was interesting, therefore, to see this truck parked in the area of several fine restaurants.

     We got back to the house at four and sent them on their way as scheduled.  Baxter, of course, slept through the whole affair.  He greeted the Dunns appropriately with a wagging golden tail, but he soon retired to his bed in front of the fireplace and contentedly dozed off.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Madeleine Zotos

     On the 28th of January, our granddaughter, Melissa Cloutier Zotos had a baby, Madeleine.  Since I was to be in Warwick, RI for the Ring Melt Ceremony on 22 Feb, Mark drove down from Nashua to pick me up after the ceremony to take me to visit our newest great granddaughter.  The trip up to New England and back was comprised of a pair of commuter flights each way.  Although I used to be a frequent flyer, this was the first time I had flown since 911.  Times have changed!  Below is a window shot at the commuter terminal at Reagan National Airport in DC.  It was not great flying weather.  Actually, all flights were on time or very close to it.

     The focus of the trip, of course, was Madeleine, so you can expect some baby pictures and some four generation pictures.  Here's the first.

     I'm the one on the left.  This was not just a photo-op pose.  She slept in my arm for over an hour.  Here's another.

     The parents are Illia and Melissa Zotos.

     Here's one with the Cloutier grandparents.

     ...and one more with the whole clan.  Of course, Grandma Heather closed her eyes.

     Madeleine is a healthy baby who will probably grow up to be a beautiful jock like her mother and have a fun-loving independent streak like her old man.  It was an honor and a pleasure to make her acquaintance.

Ring Melt Ceremony

     There is a remarkable, if not unique, tradition involving the content of West Point's class rings.  By West Point standards fifteen years are barely enough to constitute a tradition, but this one is or will be.  There is an outfit in Warwick, Rhode Island called Pease and Curran that,for a hundred years, has provided foundry and assaying services to users of precious metals.

     It is very much a niche business, but key to this tale is their ability to provide ingots of gold to the manufacturer of class rings.  Fifteen years ago a Colonel working for the Association of Graduates (AOG) suggested that the old, donated rings from previous classes could be melted into the gold for the rings of the upcoming classes.  So, each year there are donated rings that are dropped into a crucible and melted.  After the ingot is cool, a "core sample" of this ingot is set aside to be incorporated into the next year's melt, thus insuring that at least a trace of all previous rings are used in future rings.  This year 53 rings were added, bringing the total of donated rings melted into the mix to 410. 

     This is a picture of Senator Jack Reed '71 placing the ring of General John Galvin into the ceramic crucible.
     I flew up for the ceremony because one of the rings to be melted was that of my eight-semester roommate, Dick Daniel.  Dick's ring, minus the stone which will be part of a granddaughter's necklace, was added to the crucible by his daughter, Debbie.  I presented the ring from a Col. Denno '40 whose family could not be present.  After retirement Col. Denno got a Masters in journalism from Missouri and eventually got corralled into being a speech-writer for the Secretary of the Army and a number of generals.  One of those four stars was Lyman Lemnitzer who delivered the graduation speech at my graduation.  So, thinking that perhaps Col. Denno wrote that speech, I placed his ring in the crucible, took one step backward and saluted.
     After all the rings are placed into the crucible, it is taken to one of the foundry's kilns to melt the rings.  As the years go on, the gold to be used for the class rings will contain an ever-increasing number of the rings of fellow graduates who have gone before, thus providing a real, and tangible link to the "long gray line". This year there were ten rings from the class of '67 as there was a drive to get '67 gold into the class of '17 rings.  Each class now has a strong affiliation with the class that graduated fifty years earlier. In several cases the ring's owner himself placed the ring in the crucible.  In a noteworthy contribution, Greg Voight '82 donated his own ring so that its gold would make its way into the ring of his son who is a member of the class of '17.
     When all the rings are in the crucible, it is time for the actual melt.

      When the gold is melted, it is poured into a mold to become an ingot.

     In the last shot you can see the upside down crucible pouring the last drops of gold into the mold.  When the mold has cooled, a small section is removed to be added to the next year's melt.
     The 53 rings were placed on a one-page biography which was read by a cadet.  Here is a picture of Dick's ring and biography.


     Dick's ring was placed in the crucible by his daughter Debbie Husak, whose husband is an instructor at the local Naval War College.
     It was an event fraught with emotion.  In my case the weekend was made possible by classmate, Ted Bierman, and his bride, Rene, who not only provided me with room and board, but picked me up at the airport and brought me to Pease and Curran.  Thanks, guys.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Presidential Campaign Hits South Carolina

     Well, I guess it's our turn in the barrel.  At least there are fewer candidates on the tube.  (I guess we don't have tubes anymore, do we?)  Yesterday, the political junkie in the family asked if we wanted to go to John Kasich's town hall meeting/rally in Mt. Pleasant.  Feeling the need to stay somewhat involved, we agreed.  Cindy got the tickets to Finn's Brick Oven.  They were expecting 50 and got over 500.  He spoke to the crowd outside before coming in.  Fortunately we got their early enough to get seats, although we had to stand to see him.  His strong showing the night before in NH greatly increased the crowd.  He said that he beat Donald Trump 3-2 in Dixville Notch, the perennial "first in the nation community reporting".

     I don't see any slideouts, but I guess that's OK.  We took two cars because I had to go directly to PT while Durelle and Cindy had a nice Italian lunch...not in Finn's; it was way too busy.  Here's a shot of Kasich speaking.

     His line of patter was persuasive, but, more importantly, his answers were direct and non-evasive.  Plus, his interchanges with questioners was responsive, humorous, quick and clever...all indications to me of a sound native intelligence.  Cindy is a Democrat.  I'm a Republican who, in his first presidential election, voted for Nixon against JFK who had appointed me to West Point.  As a matter of fact, it was an absentee ballot that I mailed from MS to MA...I doubt it was even counted!  Nonetheless, both of us are looking for a centrist we can trust.  As a matter of fact, Cindy and her brother Mark, who is somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan, could end up voting for the same candidate this year.  That's an event that could probably cause a reversal in the direction of the earth's rotation.

     The pictures are not due to my inevitable Leica.  It wasn't even there.  Cindy's I-phone did the trick.  Thanks Cindy.  As an additional interesting side note, Cindy and I were both interviewed by a NY Times reporter.  The reference didn't appear in the print version (yet?), but it was in a campaign blog.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Tentative schedule

     Before I get started with the schedule for 2016, permit me a  few pictures.  We now have some baby pictures that are not so immediately post-partum.  First is a classic proud dad picture,

and the second is a picture of the cousins, our two great-granddaughters, Brielle and Madeleine (in the carriage).

     Saturday we met Myrt and Debra at a halfway point between us at Pawley's Island.  We had a great lunch at Perrone's.  You have never seen a greater assortment of beers.  I had a couple of my own personal brand, an ale called "old curmudgeon".  Debra is really looking forward to leaving her job on the first of May and starting a new job as the manager of the Moorings RV Resort.

     A couple hours ago I had a visit with a spinal surgeon I have seen before.  We spent some time poring over my MRI from 2014. The reason for the meeting was to ask and answer the question, "If we start now, can the pre-op, surgery, recovery, and initial PT get accomplished so that he will release me for "light duty" to include driving o/a 1 June?"  Fortunately the answer is yes.  I'll need a release from my cardiologist before surgery, but I saw him in Oct, so I hope he won't need any more tests and will issue a release quickly.  A fresh MRI is being scheduled.  Surgery should be o/a 1 March.  I learned this morning that not only was there obvious slippage between lumbar 4/5, but there is a little slippage between lumbar 3/4.  Dealing with two joints in one surgery is a little more complicated, but since they are on opposite sides of the same vertebra, it's not that big of a problem.  My quick trip to New England in two weeks should not be affected.
     So we WILL be able to have another summer on the shore of Penobscot Bay.  Even Baxter is looking forward to another year (I think).  We may not get there on 1 June, but it will be close.