Thursday, December 9, 2021

Military Paintings, Etc.

Le Rêve
Édouard Detaille

Le Rêve is a painting depicting the military - the specialty of its creator, Édouard Detaille. It shows an encampment of sleeping French soldiers that continues as far as the eye can see. The soldiers are young conscripts of the French Third Republic who are taking part in summer exercises, probably in Champagne. They are dreaming of the glory of their predecessors, and of exacting revenge following their country's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War.

This is one of my favorite paintings. Truth be told, Detaille is one of my favorite artists. Another fine example of his work is -

Vive L'Empereur
Édouard Detaille

That last one is supposed to depict the 4th Hussars at the Battle of Friedland, an event which occurred forty-one years before the artist's birth. If you look very closely you can see the Emperor Napoléon in the distance on the left. Which leads me to another favorite painting (and artist) -

Ernest Meissonier

Same battle (Friedland), but you're much closer to the Emperor now (the guy on the white horse, for those who were wondering). This is also prior to the start of the battle as you can see a unit of French heavy cavalry (12e Régiment de Cuirassiers, I believe) passing in front of the Emperor, cheering.

The Napoleonic period is one of my favorite areas of study in history. This probably dates from the time I came across a book on Waterloo in my grade school's library. So that had to be at least 55 to 60 years ago. (For those who were about to suggest it, yes, I have read Chandler's Campaigns of Napoleon.)

I like lots of detail in military paintings, don't get me wrong, I like Impressionism just not in military paintings. No doubt one of you Chanters know of one that you want me to look at which could change me mind. I'm open to that.

Anyhoo, (the more perceptive among you might realize that I'm now in the "Etc." part of the post title) I've got one week left before I attain freedom from my place of employment for three weeks. (Actually 23 days, but who's counting? Oh yeah, I am.)

Some of that will be spent at Chez Sarge just enjoying the fact of not having to go to work. Yes, time will be spent sleeping late to make up for staying up late, a specialty of mine. Games will be played on the computer, music will be listened to, no doubt some football will be watched, and no doubt some entertainment programs will be perused (but not on commercial television).

Drums will be played, the cat will be entertained, and no doubt I will read a lot.

A trip to Maryland is planned for Christmas, the new grandson demands it. Even though this has royally pissed off The WSO who wonders why we don't get out to California more often. Well, it's a long ways away and airline tickets ain't cheap. Remember, the last three times I went to California my employer paid for it.

Hhmm, I know, if she posts on the blog, that might get me out to California faster. Truth be told, I do miss the California grandkids a lot. I got to see them back in August, The Missus Herself did not. A fact she has reminded me of more than once.

I need to have a long talk with my Muse, she's been taking far too much time off lately. I seem to be lacking for topics to write on lately. I note that Uncle Skip has had that problem of late, though he is blogging more than he used to. Which I'm thankful for. But there's nothing more annoying than a loafing Muse. DAMHIK.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021


The Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus
In case you're wondering, yes, I know what yesterday was the anniversary of, you may also be wondering why I didn't post about it. Quite frankly, I'm a bit puzzled by that myself.

Yesterday, the 7th of December, 2021, marked the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The people and websites I follow on social media posted quite a few links to various articles on that event. Many pictures were posted, many expressed dismay as to the very few survivors of that attack who still remain alive.

Well, it was a long time ago. Not in historical terms, Pearl Harbor was but a moment ago in those terms, but in terms of a human life span it was over four generations ago.¹

My mother was eleven years old when aircraft from six Japanese aircraft carriers lifted off from their flight decks to begin their journey to Pearl Harbor, thus launching America's entry into World War II.

She turned 91 in October.

The anniversary of the "date which shall live in infamy" often finds me in a pensive mood. I'm in the middle of reading a biography of Bill Halsey, which follows my reading of Chester Nimitz's biography by the same author (E.B. Potter). Pearl Harbor, of course, gets a mention in both books. The Pacific War is not an area I've read a lot about, I'm rectifying that. (One could say "it's about time" but that's a story for another day.)

I should also mention at this point that Halsey gets a bad rap. There's more to the man than some historians give him credit for, just wanted to put that out there.

So what's my point here?

Well, I suppose it's to point out that nearly every day is the anniversary of some event, great or small, that people remember in one way or another. For instance, six days ago, the 2nd of December, marked the 216th anniversary of the Battle of Austerlitz. A pretty big deal, back in the day.

It was also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors as the emperors of France, Russia, and Austria were all present on the field. It is remembered as the Emperor Napoléon's greatest victory as the French were outnumbered and far from home. You can read more about it at the link under the following painting.

La bataille d'Austerlitz. 2 decembre 1805
François Gérard

What about December 8th, you might ask, what happened on this date in history? Well, lots of things, most noteworthy (to me at any rate) is that this is the anniversary of the Battle of the Falkland Islands. No, not that one, this one, in 1914.

Battle of the Falkland Islands, 1914
SMS Scharnhorst rolls over and sinks while SMS Gneisenau continues to fight.
William Lionel Wyllie
Betcha didn't know that there was more than one battle in the Falklands², betcha didn't know that Gneisenau and Scharnhorst had more than one ship named after them³. (If you did know one or both of those things, well done! You know your history.

In other news ...

I put the Christmas candles in the windows at Chez Sarge the other day. Much to my chagrin, out of nine candles, only six had operable bulbs. As it was late, I scrounged and found a couple of little dinky bulbs to tide us over until the morn.

Upon the morn, down I went to the local food emporium, which does have odd bits of hardware for sale, like light bulbs, and purchased enough to replace the old bulbs. Good and bad, I was going for uniformity.

Much to my chagrin, I hadn't noticed that they were 40-watt bulbs. Shone like the surface of the sun they did, burned with the fires of Hell they did. So obviously that wouldn't do. Back to the emporium I went and got the next lower size, 25-watts.

No. Appreciable. Difference. (As to brightness and heat.)

So what did Your Humble Scribe do next? Well, I did what I should have done in the first place, I went to a hardware store (not a grocery store) and purchased 7-watt bulbs. Bright enough and they don't give off a lot of heat, a key thing for those, like me, who don't actually wish to burn their house down.

Brought 'em home, two packs of four each, grand total of six bucks spent. Proud of myself I was, happy I was ... (You know where this is going, right?)

Much to my chagrin, they were the wrong size bulb, the screwy thing you use to install the little light givers was much too large for my wee Christmas candles. So, once again, back to the store, which I had left not fifteen minutes before.

To the querying eye of the young lass behind the counter, I held up the wrong size bulbs ($6.00 for eight of 'em) then held up the correct size bulbs ($12.00 for six of 'em, damn me and my eye for the cheap).

She said, "Wrong size?"

Nodding, with much chagrin, I gave her the wrong bulbs, with receipt, and the new bulbs.

After a quick exchange, which included me rendering shekels for the difference in price, I was on my way once more.

Now Chez Sarge is properly equipped with bulbs for its Christmas candles in the windows and my domicile can no longer be seen from outer space. Which is, I suppose, a good thing.

So another momentous event shall go down in the annals of time for this date in history.

Antiquity it ain't, but it makes for a rather classy post title doesn't it?

(Or not, YMMV.)

¹ I consider the length of a generation to be roughly twenty years. Traditionally it's defined as the amount of time it takes for a child to be born, grow up, and have children of their own. Which, as you may well gather, can vary wildly depending on the historical period in question. These days you could almost define the length of a generation as closer to 30 to 35 years. The younger generations are having kids later and later in life, much to this amateur historian's concern.
² Or Islas Malvinas if'n you prefer.
³ Gneisenau had four, as did Scharnhorst, two of which were warships for each. One in WWI, one in WWII.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Winter Wonderland (No, Not a Music Post) ...

While pondering what to write about today, a couple of ideas crossed my mind. (No, one of them wasn't "more music." Based on the number of views of those two posts over the weekend, it ain't all that popular a topic.)

One was "Hey, let's do a post about tanks!" - no, let's not. Juvat just wants to blow them up. Another was "Hey, let's bitch about the government." I think juvat feels about government much the same way he feels about tanks. Can't say I blame him.

The less said about government the better, I ain't in the mood for a rant.

So as I often do, I went searching for random pictures. As the Christmas season is upon us (come on, I played the song the other day, so it's official) I used "Christmas" as my search criteria. That opening picture really caught my eye, so I used it. I've had Christmases like that in the past. Lots of snow, and cold, real cold.

Not February sub-zero cold, but in the teens cold. Which by late December I was used to, back in the day.

I remember winters as a kid being colder and having a lot more snow. Of course, the "lot more snow" thing could have something to do with me being a lot shorter back then. It's relative. But cold, I remember it being colder when I was a kid. Not too many years ago (within the last decade) we had a Christmas day with temperatures in the 60s. Pretty damned warm for 43° North Latitude in New England.

Its not that I prefer cold weather, though honestly, my ideal temperature is around 65°, but that in the winter it should feel, ya know, like winter. At least it should feel like the winters I grew up in. Of course, if, like Beans, you are used to the more tropical venues, your winters growing up were certainly a Hell of a lot warmer than mine.

If you live in some place like Minnesota or North Dakota, you probably scoff at my idea of "cold." You shouldn't. I've seen the temperature at -40° where I grew up, and that was without a breath of wind. At those temperatures the chimney smoke goes straight up. It hurts to breathe (outside of course) and it's dangerous to be out in that weather for too long if you're not properly dressed for it. (Think layers.) But no, it wasn't like that all the time.

I've been to North Dakota, in June. On the base (Minot, why not?) I saw electrical outlets at the front of parking spaces near the headquarters building. As I recall, you could plug in your car's engine block heater. Being from a warmer clime, I had to ask what that was. When told, I was fascinated, there were a number of times when having one of those in Vermont would have been awesome. I got the impression that those were used a lot in North Dakota.

One of the reasons I moved to Rhode Island is it's warmer than Vermont. It still gets cold, but for not as long and certainly not as low as I've seen in the past. I'm not sure, but in the 22 years I've lived in Little Rhody I don't think I've ever seen the temperature get below zero. (That's Fahrenheit, I don't do metric anything, well, except for weapon calibers. Even though I lived in Asia for nearly seven years and in Germany for nearly eight, I never adopted Celsius as my go to scale. Yes, I know, I know, water boils at 212° F and freezes at 32° F, in Celsius it's 100° and 0°, much more "logical," I suppose. But hey, metric is a product of the French Revolution, it ain't, ya know, 'Merican.)

We also don't get nearly as much snow as they do further north. But we do get the occasional blizzard which can dump a foot and a half of the white stuff in my driveway. (Yes, there have been storms which dropped more snow in this area, but I didn't live here at the time.)

I also know that other areas get snow in addition to my driveway, but my driveway concerns me most. The state/town will clear the streets and highways I need to travel, but I'm responsible for my driveway. I remember the day we got hit with 17 inches of the white stuff. The Missus Herself and Your Humble Scribe ventured out to clear the deck, the walkway, and the driveway. It was a major undertaking.

After the deck and walkway were cleared (it's worth noting that due to the wind the walkway just off the deck had something like five feet of snow piled up on it), we started clearing the driveway itself. Around the cars, not a big deal (no, we don't have a garage, and don't ask ...) but when we got to the main part of the driveway, we were pretty much spent.

We just sort of stood there, leaning on our shovels, wondering if we could get done before nightfall. As we stood there, no doubt looking very pathetic, a couple of young 'uns in a pickup truck (with a snow blower in the bed of the pickup) stopped and asked if we'd like for them to clear the rest of the driveway (to include the massive pile of compacted snow pushed up by the town plow at the foot of the driveway), to which we said, "Why yes, yes, we'd like that."

One of the kids asked, "Is thirty bucks okay?"

To which I answered, "Sure, that'll be fine," as I reached for my wallet.

Once inside, watching the two young fellers cleaning out the driveway, The Missus Herself opined that thirty was a bit steep for her tastes. I pointed out that I would have gone as high as fifty rather than shovel the rest of that stuff. She thought about it for a second and said, "Yeah, you're right. Thirty works."

These days I've got a guy for that. Spend money to avoid back-breaking manual labor?

You betcha!

Monday, December 6, 2021

Oh what fun.....

 So, there I was....minding my own business a week ago last Saturday.  My phone dings and it's a text from the guests staying in the Guest House.  Apparently, the Heater/Air Conditioner isn't doing anything and is displaying a code in red.  It's in the Mid-70's, so not an emergency, but...It's expected to get cooler that night.  I walk down to the Guest House  fully expecting to use the tried and true technique used by both aircraft crew chiefs and technology folks throughout the world.

Beans, c'mon, you know this one donch'a?

Turn it off, turn it back on.  

So, I do, fully expecting the round of applause for my heroic brilliance.

Which I'm sure I'd have gotten if the AC had come back on.

So, I go and cycle the Circuit Breaker. 


Well, crap! That's why we pay for premium service from the Company.

He shows up about 30 minutes later.

Yes, Beans in spite of what I told him I tried already, he turned it off and back on then cycled the circuit breaker.  Thankfully/unthankfully (My Ego/My Guests), he had no better luck than I.

So, he calls his boss who tells him to check the wiring to the rapty-fratser or something.  After unscrewing half the screws in the western hemisphere, he peers in and discovered that some rat bastid (or is it bastid rat) had chewed through the sensor wire.

"juvat, we'll have to order a new rapty-fratser.  It's Saturday, we'll send the order today, but...nobody will read it until Monday, so you're looking at Tuesday...Wednesday at the latest. "

I convey this information to our guest, who happens to be a plumber.  He says "No problem, I deal with that supply problem all the time."

So I drive down to Lowes and buy an oscillating heater to keep them all warm if it chills off during the remainder of their visit.

Wednesday comes and goes, and we've got Guests this weekend.  Granted they're Family and it's the "Gathering of the Clan" for the Lighted Christmas Parade, but gotta make an impression, right?  So, Mrs J calls the Air Conditioner Guys.  They said they'll check on the parts status and get back to us.

Well...They do. It's a good d**n thing the forecast is warm for the weekend. Evidently, the part is off the coast of California on a container ship and isn't expected to be allowed to dock and offload till the end of the month at the earliest.

HELLUVA fine job you're doing, Mr Buttgieg!  And you want to be President?  Why? So you can make slow Joe look competent?


Let's think Happy Thoughts, juvat!

Happy Thoughts, Aye Sarge.

Mother and Daughter having a snooze in GrandDad's chair. Don't get no happier than that!

Our second annual "Gathering of the Clans" occurred this past weekend. SIL's immediate Family arrived Friday.  The juvat Clan was underrepresented as Little J and DIL won't arrive in country until Dec 29th (and they'll be jet lagged badly, so we won't see them until the 30th).  That having been said a good time was had by all and we tailgated at the FBG annual lighted Christmas Parade.  The parade had been canceled last year because of you know wu.  But the City grew a pair and went ahead with it this year.  Very nice evening, low 70's at parade start.  And this was the first viewing for SIL's family.  The parade lasted 2 hours (the longest time TxDOT will allow US87/290 to be closed, but here come the highlights.

Almost like normal.

Peace Out, y'all, We're winning. Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Seriously? More Music?

Sure, why not?

Anyhoo, that beasty in the opening photo is a "harp guitar." I first learned of these on Saturday, when Beans posted a link to a video. Yeah, okay, it's Beans, my first thought was "now what?"

Then I gave it a listen. Which led me to this -

For those who wish, here's the link Beans gave me, same guy. The musician, Jamie Dupuis, is quite talented. But that harp guitar thing, what a sound!

Apparently these instruments have been around for quite some time, since the early 19th-Century. To quote Buck, "I had no ideer."

In other news ...

Had to get a new laptop at work, nothing wrong with the old one, it's just "time" as the company defines it. Made sense when we leased our machines, now we buy them. I guess there are good and valid reasons for doing this, but it's a bit of a pain. (Especially seeing as how the new laptop isn't that much of an upgrade.)

Anyhoo, back in the day the IT folks would tell you to keep your computer logged on overnight. They'd image your hard drive to the new computer, then bring it to your desk. Then they started having us put all the files we wanted to keep in a particular folder on the old machine. When we got the new one, they'd copy it over for you.

At least now there's some semblance of sanity. You get the new machine and a cable to hook it to the old machine. There's software which figures out which files on the old machine should be switched over then you put the two machines in a dark room, put on some soft music, light a couple of candles, leave a bottle of Champagne, then give 'em some privacy. (Yes, I'm kidding.)

After 30 minutes to an hour the new machine has all the files it should need from the old machine. I did that today, hooked 'em up, fired 'em up, and forty-eight minutes later I seemed to be all set. A quick glance left me pleased with the results. But IT won't be getting my old laptop until I do a thorough check of the new one this coming week.

Oh well, progress, I suppose.

I leave you to juvat's tender mercies tomorrow. I'll be back on Tuesday.

God willing and the creek don't rise.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

A Musical Interlude

Amidst the day-to-day carping about the world around me, I like to stop every now and then and listen to the music. What music you ask? Well, something like this -

I stumbled across this song on the Tube o' You some weeks ago, and it has captivated me ever since. Not sure why, but the lyrics speak to me, the music itself has a catchy beat, and it's pleasing to my ears. Speaking of lyrics ...

Written by Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel, Taylor Hawkins & Dave Grohl
Seda, can you hear me?
Do you know my face?
Perfect like a circle
Gone without a trace
So long I have known you
Marks upon your skin
I can picture everything
Can you picture this?

Seda doesn't care, she just sits and stares
All her secrets there for the world to see

Who will stand before you
If you don't say my name?
Safe to say we will never know
We are both the same
I don't mind, I can always find you
Waiting there for me

Seda doesn't care, she just sits and stares
All her secrets there for the world to see

Seda doesn't care, she just sits and stares
Seda doesn't care, she's just dying there
Seda doesn't care, she's just lying there
All her secrets there for you and me

Different folks like different tunes, there are so many types of music in the world, and many of them intrigue and entertain me. From classical composers like Beethoven and Bach, to the folk music of various regions. All have their adherents. I'll listen to damned near anything once, if I like it, I'll listen to it for the rest of my life.

Music soothes, it helps me to think, and it helps me keep things in perspective. But my tastes are somewhat, shall we say, eclectic? (Seeing as how catfish mentioned bagpipes the other day ...)

Speaking of Shipping Up to Boston ...

Love those guys, music with an edge.

I don't care about my musicians' politics, to each his own I always say. There is too much politics in the air these days. If I had my way ...

Nah, too dark.

By the way, it's about time for this OAFS favorite!

Man, I love that one.

Be seeing you!

Man, I could use a bit o' eggnog about now, preferably "contaminated" with a bit o' bourbon.

Friday, December 3, 2021



Okay, another post with a foreign title, this one is the Anglo-Saxon name for December (and January as well). In Old English it was called "geōla" which apparently means Yule.

Languages, I find them interesting.

But yes, December, what I think of as the Christmas month (being Christian) but it is also the month of Hanukkah. There are other holidays from other cultures and religions in this month but, honestly, I don't really care. Not in my wheelhouse, not in my tradition. It's not that I dislike those holidays, it's just that I don't celebrate them so why fret over them?

When I was a kid (long, long ago) there was, to my knowledge, a single Jewish family in my home town. Well, it was the only Jewish family with a kid in my grade in school. Heck, there may have been others, I just didn't know about them and it isn't critical to my story. (You knew there was a story coming, right?)

Anyhoo, there was a Jewish girl in my class. I don't remember if she got Hanukkah off or not.  I don't think so. We thought it kind of sucked that she had a holiday and had to be in school. Yes, she did get Christmas off. Seemed odd at the time. That was pretty much my introduction to different religions/cultures when I was a kid. No big deal.

Oddly enough I knew a number of people who had big issues with Catholicism. Growing up it seemed that there weren't all that many of them. We had more Russian Orthodox when I was a kid than Catholics. At least that's how I remember it. (I think that these days they don't call themselves "Russian" Orthodox back home, just Orthodox.) Honestly, I had no idea what that meant back in the day. (Yes, I do now.)

I have learned over the years that people are much the same anywhere you go, different customs sure, some of them very bizarre to a generic westerner, but not all that different with regards to dreams and aspirations. Unless you're talking politicians, they all pretty much suck, no matter where you go. (I'm sensing a trend here in my distain for those who seek to hold power over others, because really, that's what it is, IMHO.)

Yes, I have drifted away from my point. Yes, there is a point.

Christmas is definitely my favorite time of year. I have many happy memories as a kid of this holiday. All centered around family. Parents, brothers, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Colorful lights, Christmas trees, gifts under the tree, Christmas carols, lots of good things to eat, and games, there were always board games.

My brother The Olde Vermonter and I usually got a board game for Christmas, something military-related usually. Something along these lines -

Yes, it had little plastic Fokker D-VIIs and SPAD-13s on little stands. Great fun. There were others -
  • Battle Cry, American Civil War (1961)
  • Broadside, War of 1812 naval (1962)
  • Dogfight, World War I aerial (1963)
  • Hit the Beach, World War II amphibious (1965)
  • Skirmish, American Revolution (1975)
We had the first four, the fifth came along when were older and out on our own. (If I had known about it, I would have bought it, I've always been into military board games.)

But as the uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents began to leave on the evening of Christmas Day, The Olde Vermonter and I would load up a couple of plates with Christmas goodies (grapes, crackers, cheese, nuts, various chocolate yummies and the like) and head up to the only room uncluttered with Christmas stuff in the house, my parents' bedroom.

There, on a throw rug at the foot of the bed, we'd play whatever game we got for Christmas that year and often dig out the one (or more) of the ones from previous Christmases. Good times, fondly remembered.

Another thing we did in the weeks leading up to Christmas was go to the Christmas fair at our church. We'd paint Nativity figures, attempt to build wreathes, and eat whatever goodies the church ladies had brought. In the evening we'd go upstairs to the sanctuary and watch our church's Christmas play.

My Mom and another lady always sang What Child is This? (my mother is a wonderful singer). The highlight of the play was when the three kings arrived. A classmate of mine's Dad was always one of those kings, and hearing him sing We Three Kings in his basso profondo voice was awesome. I can hear that to this day.

It was a candlelight service and that's when it felt like Christmas really began. Rather appropriate that it felt to me that Christmas was really here after a church service. I mean that is what the holiday is all about, innit?

The coming of the Lord.

Ah, such happy memories.

No doubt I shall share more of these over the coming days. From when I was a kid, to when my kids were still at home. Christmas should be centered on the Lord, surrounded by family.

It is the Way.

¹ Se mōnaþ is nemned on Leden Decembris, and on ūre geþeōde se ǣrra geōla, forðan ða mōnþas twegen syndon nemde ānum naman, ōðer se ǣrra geōla, óðer se æftera. (Olde English - translation below.)
The month is called in Latin December, and in our language geōla for two months enjoy the same name; the first one Se Ǣrra Geola [The Preceding Yule] and the other Se Æftera [The Following]. (Source)