10 Weeks a Russian – Addendum 1

A few messages have arrived telling me the photos didn’t come through well or didn’t come through at all. I’ll try to fix that, but if I can’t get the job done on WordPress and you’d still like to see the photos, send me an email (ejb240@gmail.com) and I’ll send them to you.

Some have asked for a few more interesting things that happened on the trip and about whether my family and friends had a lot of questions.

For a few weeks I was invited to make presentations to a few service clubs (Rotary, Optimist, Kiwanis); my 15 minutes of fame. As for family, they seemed happy that I’d managed to return home. My Lew Wallace H.S. Russian language students in Gary, Indiana, were very energetic with their questions and interest in the souveniers I brought home.

One of the best in my souvenier collection was a set of copies of a book titled “Kartinny Slovar,” Cartoon Dictionary, which contained what the title suggests: lots of drawings of different situations with captions in Russian. For example, a drawing of a youngster asking a policeman for directions. In that example, the caption contained a brief conversation between the two. Seeing “lessons” in a form that was almost a comic book was no small attraction for high school students.

As for other interesting things, imagine seeing former Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev walking by the displays from the World Fair held in Moscow when Nixon was President. He was by himself, without any entourage, smiling and waving to everybody; just another Muscovite out for a stroll on a pleasant August afternoon.

And the books; everywhere books. Book stores, book kiosks, sellers pushing carts loaded with books; everywhere books, and everywhere people reading books. All in Russian, of course, and all remarkably inexpensive. At a time when a hard cover book in the US was priced around ten dollars, a similar book in the USSR was two or three dollars.

And the omnipresent “babushkas,” middle aged to elderly Soviet women, who admonished anyone who threw away anything any place other than in a proper trash container and gave other directions and motherly advice without hesitation; for example, telling me it was too chilly to be without a sweater one morning.

And the streetcars, buses, and subways, where one got on board and placed the correct amount of money in the proper container without any involvement or supervision from the drivers and other staff. The Soviet public transportation Honor System. And if you didn’t have the money, no one said a word, not even the babushkas.

And the vending machines on the sidewalks dispensing “gazirovnaya voda,” the Soviet equivalent of a carbonated soft drink. There was one glass. You turned the glass upside down over a shelf in the front, pressed a button, and a spray of water rinsed the glass. You turned the glass over, inserted the coin, and a drink was dispensed. You drank it, repeated the rinsing, and replaced the glass for the next person. The waste water ran down the sidewalk to the street. It truly was 1965.

And when we checked out of a hotel and boarded our bus, the bus didn’t move until someone from the hotel appeared and gave the driver approval to depart. Our supervising professor from Indiana University (IU) told us the bus didn’t leave until the rooms were checked to make sure we didn’t take anything we shouldn’t have taken. Fortunately our IU advisors had also warned us about taking hotel souveniers and our bus always got the go-ahead sign.

If I remember any more, I’ll peck out another addendum…..


George Washington on Political Parties

From President George Washington’s Farewell Address, referring to political parties:

“However combinations or associations of the above description (of political parties) may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

Those Colonial graduates sure knew how to use the English language, and predict the possible dangers inherent in our political system…..

Study the Past….

	A postal inspector in Baltimore noticed fluid leaking from a package addressed to a 
federal judge.  Then he noticed that the fluid had burned a hole in the package.  The 
Baltimore Police Bomb Squad was summoned and the U.S. Department of Justice was 
	At the end of the day thirty-four bombs were discovered, addressed to people in 
government and industry whose work involved immigration.
	This all happened almost a hundred years ago, right after World War I, also called 
“The Great War” and “The War To End All Wars,” was over. The U.S. was rife with 
discontent, often violent, aimed at Germans, Russians, Bolsheviks (called “Bolshies”), 
anarchists, people of color – in short, anybody who didn't look or act like “an American” or speak English.
	One of the tragic results of the hatred so rampant in those days was a police strike in Boston.  Two books to read if you'd like to learn more and quite possibly once again 
realize change is never easy or quick: Dennis Lehane's novel “The Given Day” and 
Francis Russel's (non-fiction) “A City In Terror,” both readily available on Amazon 
(e-book or traditional form).
	Compare what is described in those books with what today's “angry voters” have to say. 
	The stone work at the left and right sides at the entrance to our National Archives 
building in Washington read: “Study the Past” and “The Past is Prologue.”

Learning Windows 10 DIY

Whew! What a relief! My copy of “Windows 10 FOR DUMMIES” arrived in yesterday’s Amazon package.

But wait! It weighs a little less than a 5-pound bag of sugar and sports a beefy read of 952 pages, counting the index. At my age, I’m certain it would not fit under my feet if I jumped as high as possible.

I deserve this punishment. I’ve had Windows 10 for a month and am still using the new laptop it came with – wait – it’s the other way around: the new laptop came with Windows 10. Anyway, I’m still using the new laptop as though it were my old laptop; namely, using the Windows 10 features that let you use it without using Windows 10. I’m hoping that last sentence was actually a sentence.

On to the first chapter. Sometime in April of 2016 I’ll be finished with the book and achieve entry-level capability. At my age, and I am not able to emphasize how I hate using that phrase so often, the learning curve is steep. By May of 2016 I will try to let you know how it went.


A Pledge of Silence – Wonderful Novel!

“A Pledge of Silence,” by Flora J. Solomon, is historical fiction based on the true story of nurses in the U.S. armed forces captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II.

From a small Michigan town near Ann Arbor to Manila and back, Margie Bauer survives four years of war. She treats her patients first at Sternberg Hospital in Manila, then for a time in open-air field hospitals in the jungles of Bataan, then in the caves of Corregidor, then in a Japanese prison camp.

After enduring little or no nutrition, the ever present danger, deaths of loved ones, and little news of the war or from home, Margie and the other nurses are liberated after three years. But freedom comes with a price and other battles for Margie to confront.

The story of the first U.S. military women to become prisoners of war is a story that is at once horrible but forever worth knowing about and acknowledging their sacrifices.

An entertaining and thought-provoking read – you’ll want more!

The book is available in hard copy and electronic versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Also see: http://www.apledgeofsilence.com


Joseph P. Kennedy, 1888-1969

The book, a Christmas present from younger son Ted, is The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, David Nasaw, 2012, The Penguin Group.

Mr. Nasaw furnishes us a glimpse into the inner world of one of the 20th Century’s most influential men: his struggle to overcome the handicap of being an Irish Catholic in America, his intriguing family and business lives, his politics, the parts he played before, during and after World War II, some of the popular myths about how he became one of the wealthiest men in America, and more.

It is a detailed and entertaining account of a man, his career, and most of all, his devotion to family.

It is the story of how Joseph and Rose Kennedy lost three of their four sons and two of their five daughters to war, assassination, accident, and mental illness. That they could endure such grief will always be a source of wonder to me.

It paints a picture of a bright and talented young man who made his way and his fortune in business, the stock market, the film industry, and real estate. Despite attempts to portray Kennedy as a bootlegger during Prohibition, the author states: “Not only is there no evidence of Kennedy’s being a bootlegger, but it flies in the face of everything we know about him. As an East Boston Irish Catholic outsider struggling to be allowed inside, he was willing to take financial risks, but not those associated with illegal activities such as bootlegging.” (page 80)

In a twist of irony that would make for great fun in a stage play, as the first Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission Kennedy put in place rules that, had they been in effect while he was making a great portion of his fortune in the stock market, would have made his methods illegal.

As Ambassador to the Court of St. James (Great Britain) up to and during World War II, Kennedy never stopped insisting that American participation in the war would be a waste of lives and money. He favored negotiation to avoid war, much to the indignation of those is charge; e.g., President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. He called Britain’s coming to the aid of Poland, thereby igniting World War II, one of the greatest mistakes ever made. Hardly anyone in a position of influence at the time agreed with him, then or now.

Accused of buying his son Jack’s elections to Congress and later to the Presidency, Kennedy provided his son with a wonderful opportunity to do one of the things Jack did best: defuse criticism with humor. While running for president, Jack stood before the Gridiron Club in Washington and began his speech by reaching into his suit coat pocket to withdraw a fake telegram from his father telling him not to buy one more vote than necessary. He read that his father was willing to finance his campaign, but that he would not pay for a “landslide.”

Many thanks to David Nasaw and all the authors of history whose works preserve the past, and if read and heeded, just might also help preserve the future.


Progressive (No, Not Liberal!) Republican Presidents Roosevelt and Taft

Theodore, the first Roosevelt who became President, was what was then called a “Progressive” Republican. Today he and his ideas for reform would be considered, dare I write the word, “Liberal.” He certainly would not be posting Twitter and Facebook pieces that the Tea Party would embrace.

There once was a political creature known as a “moderate” Republican. Brings to mind a line from the film “A Man for All Seasons,” when Sir Thomas More, played by Paul Scofield, asks his daughter what faith is her departing beau as they watch him ride off. A Methodist, she replies. Sir Thomas, a devout Catholic who refused to support King Henry VIII in his request to have his first marriage annulled, replies: Good. A Methodist is just a Catholic who can read. (No quotation marks because I’m not absolutely certain of the precise quotations.) Today’s Tea Party members might look upon an early 1900’s progressive Republican as a Democrat who somehow got elected.

The following observations are borrowed from the new and fine history book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, “The Bully Pulpit, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism.”

Too cheap to buy the book in printed form, I read a less expensive e-book and cannot provide page numbers for specific references.

A few examples of the reforms started by Progressive Republican President Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt and his chosen successor William Howard Taft include: federal regulatory legislation over corporations, railroads, conservation of natural resources, the food and drug industry, child labor, and women’s working conditions; direct election of senators (then elected by state legislatures); a progressive income tax; workmen’s compensation; and presidential primary elections state by state instead of nominees chosen at the national party conventions.

Surprised those reforms were on a Republican list at the turn of the 20th Century? If not for having read Doris Goodwin’s entertaining history, I would have guessed that list of reforms came from the Democrats.

The book also highlights the beginnings of what we now call “investigative journalism,” a phrase I often think of as somewhat redundant (I think of all journalism as “investigative”). But consider reading the book and you’ll find out that in-depth reporting on the major issues of the time, stories that often took months of extensive interviews and other research to produce, became an expectation.

And finally, the book also provides insights into the relationship of two men who, despite their different temperaments, had similar yearnings for social reforms. Just before the 1912 election Roosevelt said: “If the problems created by the industrial age were left unattended…,” America would eventually be “…sundered by those dreadful lines of division…” that sets the haves and the have-nots against one another.

The close friendship between Roosevelt and Taft did not survive Roosevelt’s attempt to win the Presidency again in 1912 but was rekindled some time later. In 1912, Woodrow Wilson, Democratic Governor of New Jersey, was elected with about 41% of the popular vote, as Roosevelt and Taft split the Republican vote. Roosevelt never held public office again, while Taft became Chief Justice of the United States.

The history of the Roosevelt/Taft times is fascinating for several reasons, not the least of which are the comparisons and contrasts of the national political scene then and now.

Some things never change.