“Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory.”

Happy 246th birthday to the United States, and happy sesquicentennial birthday to Calvin Coolidge!

This Fourth, I am drawn back to a letter by our most underrated founder, John Adams. His July 3rd, 1776 letter to Abigail Adams is known for its poor prediction that the Second of July would be the big holiday. I’ve mentioned it before, but I think it warrants another look. He laments the delay in declaring independence, then comes around to its advantages before making his slightly-off prediction about the holiday:

Philadelphia July 3d. 1776

Had a Declaration of Independency been made seven Months ago, it would have been attended with many great and glorious Effects . . . . We might before this Hour, have formed Alliances with foreign States. — We should have mastered Quebec and been in Possession of Canada …. You will perhaps wonder, how such a Declaration would have influenced our Affairs, in Canada, but if I could write with Freedom I could easily convince you, that it would, and explain to you the manner how. — Many Gentlemen in high Stations and of great Influence have been duped, by the ministerial Bubble of Commissioners to treat …. And in real, sincere Expectation of this Event, which they so fondly wished, they have been slow and languid, in promoting Measures for the Reduction of that Province. Others there are in the Colonies who really wished that our Enterprise in Canada would be defeated, that the Colonies might be brought into Danger and Distress between two Fires, and be thus induced to submit. Others really wished to defeat the Expedition to Canada, lest the Conquest of it, should elevate the Minds of the People too much to hearken to those Terms of Reconciliation which they believed would be offered Us. These jarring Views, Wishes and Designs, occasioned an opposition to many salutary Measures, which were proposed for the Support of that Expedition, and caused Obstructions, Embarrassments and studied Delays, which have finally, lost Us the Province.

All these Causes however in Conjunction would not have disappointed Us, if it had not been for a Misfortune, which could not be foreseen, and perhaps could not have been prevented, I mean the Prevalence of the small Pox among our Troops …. This fatal Pestilence compleated our Destruction. — It is a Frown of Providence upon Us, which We ought to lay to heart.

But on the other Hand, the Delay of this Declaration to this Time, has many great Advantages attending it. — The Hopes of Reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by Multitudes of honest and well meaning tho weak and mistaken People, have been gradually and at last totally extinguished. — Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act. — This will cement the Union, and avoid those Heats and perhaps Convulsions which might have been occasioned, by such a Declaration Six Months ago.

But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

We lightly mock his mistaken prediction to this day, but I’m sure he could live with it. Adams’ larger point is in the last paragraph, and he was vindicated.

Happy 112th!

As I stared into my refrigerator on this, my grandmother’s 112th birthday, I was reminded of her frugality and creativity with food.

Gram would, as many of her generation did, save every unused ingredient and unchewed morsel in the freezer for insane lengths of time. It made sense; she came of age in the starving-est time in American history (…so far) and that stinginess, that resourcefulness came in handy back in the Depression and the War and served her well up right until the end.

Thus were reheated lasagna rolls never more than a few minutes in the oven away.

Thus was frittad never more than a few eggs, some onions, and a jaunt to the garage freezer for God-only-knows-what-else away.

Thus were vegetables snuck into chocolate chip cookies, which, now that I think about it, was not merely for the sake of sneaking nutrients into children’s diets, but for the sake of stretching various foodstuffs as far as humanly possible. The sense of betrayal was never enough to keep us from eating the cookies, and yielded, as the years passed, and as I had to reduce dessert consumption anyways, to appreciation for her wisdom.

We would joke about how long ago any particular dish or ingredient was first frozen, partly because it was probably better not to know the truth, partly because it was one of the Old Girl’s trademarks. But so long as Gram made it in her kitchen and served it at her table, it was good either way.

Happy 112th birthday to Gram!

Happy 122nd!

I’ve been much worse than usual this year about updating the blog. At the speed events move these days, it feels like either I don’t have the time or I don’t make the time to comment before a day’s headline becomes yesterday’s papers. Or at least that’s the excuse I’ll make for now. But I’ll make time for the digital remembrance of my grandparents’ birthdays.

My grandfather would have turned 122 this year, which would blow my mind more if I didn’t then remember that everyone else I know, myself included, is getting older, too. No photo this year. There are so precious few photos of our ancestors compared to the avalanche of snapshots and selfies that we have today, but I was nonetheless taking too long to settle on one and decided to get to typing. I have a year to settle on one for next year.

This year marks the hundredth anniversary of his graduation from high school at age 22. I should’ve saved his graduation photo for this year. Oh well. Back then it was more acceptable to finish high school in a less-than-timely fashion, if at all, especially if your formal education was delayed by having to work to help take care of the family, or– as in some other cases back then– by a world war, or a global pandemic, and so on. But he did graduate from high school, and then from the former Armour Institute of Technology, and then MIT.

So he did OK. Because back then, what else were you going to do, aside from the best you could?

The block editor on this rinky-dink WordPress thingy is a nightmare. It has frozen and kicked me out three times in the last 15 minutes, maybe because it’s been so long that it doesn’t recognize me anymore.

Merry Christmas 2021!

Dr. Hmnahmna reminded me that I hadn’t posted yet. So here, presented with no comment other than my hope that your Christmas was and remains Merry, is this year’s digital Christmas card.

Not literally everyone; I expect there’s going to be enough of that going on economy-wide in the next year or so. I just mean everyone on the coaching staff and in the front office of, as I think Sandburg once wrote, “a certain team, from a certain Mid-western town, that starts with a ‘C,’ ends with an ‘O,’ and in the middle is ‘HICAG.’”

Fire Nagy anyway.

This is the first time in ages I’ve felt like writing about the Bears, and the first time in even more ages I’ve actually written about the Bears.

Last week’s nightmare against the Browns almost left me as hopeless as when Trestman was coaching. Almost. Idiot coach? Check. Horrible performance? Check. Losing the locker room? Perhaps. There was a shot of Nick Foles on the sideline clearly saying that Nagy’s offense wasn’t working, and there were other hints–body language, effort, postgame tweets– of the team starting to give up.

But this week, Nagy had the good sense to let Bill Lazor call the plays. Either that, or someone in the front office had the good sense to force Nagy to do it. We now have statistical proof that Lazor runs the offense ~8 times better than Nagy (47 yards on offense last week), and the passing game 185 times better than Nagy (…one net passing yard last week). Fields had great run support, had enough time to throw some midrange and long dimes, didn’t screw up on short passes a la Trubisky, and didn’t spend half the game getting slammed into the ground. This week, a crumb of hope appeared at the bottom of Pandora’s box. Granted, it was against the Lions, but there’s hope nonetheless.

And yet, Nagy must go. The Bears cannot afford to take the chance that he’ll start calling plays again. It’s happened before; last year he gave the play-calling duties to Lazor, but took them back during the offseason. That cannot be allowed to happen again. Let Lazor, or Desai, or even Pettine take over.

Maybe you let him keep his job if they win the Super Bowl this year. I was going to say “if they win a playoff game,” but given the expanded playoffs, that’s not enough progress and too great a risk of keeping him for my taste.

First day back back.

Today was the first day of classes, and the first day with all the kids back in the building. It seems strange to have to point out that those are separate things. Last year, almost all of my classes were a mix of brick-and-mortar students and on-line students. I couldn’t find a headset that sounded clear enough to the students or in the recordings, so I was anchored to my desk in front of my laptop. This arrangement was functional: the on-liners could hear me lecture, and I could interact with the live chat if necessary. But the constant view and angle were mind-numbing.

But this year, there are no on-liners. It was strange to not have to rush to set up new on-line meetings between classes, or to record every class, or to wonder whether someone was actually present. It was strange to see so many actual reactions on actual faces. Even the ones that were still masked. Even if the reactions were eye rolls, or exasperation, or simple expressions of boredom.

And sometime during my second class of the day, it clicked that I could pace up and down the central aisle, like in the Before Times. And I did for a bit. I could even teach from the other end of my classroom. And I did for a bit. It was liberating.

I even thought about putting the beat-up old lectern back in the spot it inhabited for nearly a decade prior to the lockdown, in the northeastern corner of the room, and leaning over it to yell at the kids for emphasis, and rapping the front with the Waking Stick to demand and win everyone’s rapt attention. Like in the Before Times. I didn’t stop class to set it up today, but it will be set up by the first bell tomorrow.

It’s going to be a good year.

The poor kids were stuck in their seats for an hour-and-a-half, but that’s beside the point.

“Let it begin here.”

Happy 245th birthday to the United States, and happy 149th birthday to Calvin Coolidge! I just realized I typed in the wrong number for Cal’s last two birthdays… but he wouldn’t have said anything about it anyways.

This year’s post is brief: my photo of Henry Hudson Kitson’s Minuteman statue, which stands on the Lexington Battle Green, where the war began in 1775.

The statue has come to symbolize one Captain John Parker. It’s not actually him, partly because there are no known paintings of him and partly because he was a member of the non-minuteman majority of the Massachusetts militia. But the locals say it may as well be Parker, reputed to have ordered: “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” It began there.

Happy 111th!

Roughly once out of every seven years, my grandmother’s birthday falls on Mothers’ Day. This year sees such an instance, so after the 2pm Mothers’ Day dinner, we sang “Happy Birthday” and had cake. It was good. Here’s Gram celebrating a birthday, presumably her birthday, at my late aunt’s house in the late ’90s or early double-aughts:

Can’t quite nail down the date because a] I don’t remember the year she finally let her hair go white, which looked sharp on her; and b] if it was her birthday, counting the candles wouldn’t help because after a certain point, you just use a whole buncha candles.

Anyhow, happy 111th birthday and happy 86th Mothers’ Day to “the Old Girl”!

Happy 121st!

Every year I post a digital birthday card for my grandfather– even if I apparently post nothing else the entire year–so here comes this year’s edition. This is Grampa as a young man of presently-unknown age.

Looks like it would be a high school graduation photo, but he graduated from high school at 22 and I think he was a bit younger than that here.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my niece about our ancestors, and trying to put in perspective how long ago Grampa was born, how long he lived, and how much had changed in the meantime. That was a fun conversation. Was he alive for this president, or that war, or this assassination? Were there “wall phones”? Had this been discovered? Was that person alive? How many states were there? And so on.

This got me thinking about the simplest way to explain the most drastic change in his lifetime. The best I could come up with was that when he was born, there were no planes, and taking photographs using “dust” (flash powder) was expensive enough that we have very few pictures of him before age 10. By the time he died, we had close-up photos of Neptune.

Grampa would’ve turned 121 today if he hadn’t died stopping the salt vampires from stealing our oceans.

Merry Christmas 2020!

Merry Christmas to all! May your hearts be warmed, your masks be comfy, and your sanitizer be soothing!

This year I should’ve asked Santa for the motivation to actually actually post more often. That, and to not have a pandemic.