Saturday, April 30, 2016

Loving a lapdog

Some dog owners spend thousands of dollars on designer doghouses; some ruin their pets' health with too many treats; some take their pals to sheepherding boot camps, or run them through agility trials every weekend. I do none of these things; I simply love to be with Grisby. I love to kiss and pet him, but while he seems to understand the point of my affection, he doesn't always appreciate getting it as much as I enjoy giving it. This often makes me feel a little Humbert Humbert-ish, especially when Grisby's sitting on my lap in the car and I have access to parts of his body that are normally inaccessible to me, like his soft piebald underbelly. Should I feel ashamed of myself?
Mikita Brottman, The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Exceptional Dogs (New York: HarperCollins), ch. 4.

Friday, April 29, 2016

One tough Czech queen

One of the few medieval leaders to leave a lasting legacy was Charles IV (1316-1378), the first king of Bohemia to rule also in Germany and as sovereign of the Holy Roman Empire. A forward thinker, the monarch went through several wives, one French, the next three German. The fourth, Elisabeth of Pomerania, entertained dinner guests by ripping chain metal to shreds and bending horseshoes with her bare hands. There was no fifth wife.
Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter: A Personal Story f Remembrance and War, 1937 – 1948 (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), p. 32.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Albright's path to enlightenment

Some people pursue enlightenment by sitting quietly and probing their inner consciousness; I make plane reservations.
Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter: A Personal Story f Remembrance and War, 1937 – 1948 (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), p. 12.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dog expands walker's experience

Of course, the best way to get to know a city is by walking, and this is true of dogs as much as humans. I get a lot more exercise since Grisby's arrival in my life; thee days, I prefer to travel by foot just for the pleasure of watching him trot along by my side. I like the way he draws my attention to things I'd never noticed before: stains on the sidewalk, discarded food, chewing gum, feathers, cigarette butts.
Mikita Brottman, The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Exceptional Dogs (New York: HarperCollins), ch. 3.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Double standard about dog love

Why is a woman's love for lapdogs considered embarrassingly sentimental when men bond so proudly with their well-built hounds? Married women admit they sleep with their dogs, and married men deny it; someone's not telling the truth, but who's lying, and why?
Mikita Brottman, The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Exceptional Dogs (New York: HarperCollins), Introduction.
Lapdogs . . . are associated with unfulfilled maternal instincts. While most people accept dogs as part of the family unit, they often feel uncomfortable in the presence of a childless woman and a dog, as if only when a dog's not really "needed" can it be loved appropriately. . . .

It's an unfair stereotype, of course—all kinds of people, inclding men, dote on their dogs—but rather than debunking it, my first impulse is to distance myself from it. I feel compelled to make it very clear that, although I love my dog to distraction, I'm not one of those women, and Grisby is't one of those dogs He's not a Chihuahua or a shih tzu; he's a tough little bulldog, too heavy to ride in a carrier or snuggle on my lap. I want to deny and disavow, to insist how different my situation is, instead of thinking about why it's so hard for a woman who buys sweter for her dog to be taken seriously.

In some ways, after all, I am one of those women.
Id., ch. 10.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Silicon Valley model

[T]he Silicon Valley process . . . was a different innovation model from Bell Labs. It was not a factory of ideas; it was a geography of ideas. It was not one concentrated and powerful machine; it was the meshing of many interlocking small parts grouped physically near enough to one another so as to make an equally powerful machine. The Valley model, in fact, was soon so productive that it became a topic of study for sociologists and business professors. They soon bestowed upon the area the title of an "innovation hub."
Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (New York: Penguin, 2012), p. 346

Friday, April 15, 2016

Competing with underlings

"The management style was, and remained  for many years, to use the lightest touch and absolutely never to compete with underlings," recalls Phil Anderson, a physicist who joined  Bell labs soon after the transistor was developed. "This was the taboo that Shockley transgressed, and was never forgiven."
Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (New York: Penguin, 2012), p. 102

Sunday, April 10, 2016

U-Boat off Jacksonville

On the evening of April 10[, 1942,] a surfaced U-boat used its deck gun to scuttle the SS Gulf-America off of Jacksonville Beach, Florida. The flaming tanker went down so close to shore that the departing U-boat captain gazed in fascination through his binoculars as thousands of tourists, their faces bathed in the red glow of the ship's fire, poured out of their hotels and restaurants to gape at the spectacle. "All the vacationers had seen an impressive special performance at Roosevelt's expense," Commander Reinhard Hardegen gleefully recorded in his log. "A burning tanker, artillery fire, the silhouette of a U-boat—how often had all of that been seen in America?"
David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999), ch. 17 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Dunkirk's significance

Britain could replace the 3,472 lost guns, the 63,879 abandoned vehicles; but the 224,686 rescued troops were irreplaceable. . . . Later, they would be the nucleus of the great Allied armies that won back the Continent. . . .

But the significance of Dunkirk went far beyond such practical considerations. The rescue electrified the people of Britain, welded them together, gave thema sense of purpose that the war had previously lacked. . . .

Some would later say that it was all clever propaganda that cranked up the country to this emotional peak. But it happened too quickly—too spontaneously—for that. This was a case where the people actually led the propagandists.
Walter Lord, The Miracle of Dunkirk (New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2012), p. 274 (copyright 1982) 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Octogenarian is reminded of teaching stoned students in the '60s

We encountered a remarkable change in the student body, particularly the new graduate students in classics, which forecasted a general shift in the culture of American youth. In the fall term of the academic year 1964-65, as I approached the spot where my Homer seminar was scheduled, I saw the students unaccountably standing outside the building as though waiting, and moreover they all seemed to be smoking the same cigarette, which they were passing around among themselves. Once we had reassembled and I began, I quickly sensed an undertone of hilarity, which in the course of the two hours occasionally broke into giggles and even laughter at what I had to think was only minimally humorous. They were stoned, of course, but I had no understanding of this. At least not then, but it rapidly became an obvious feature of more events than I would like. I began to recognize a new kind of insouciance, a marvelous disconnect, sometimes adding a wonderful long-distance focus on the material at hand, sometimes just descending into a vague pit where any understanding was threatening to be demolished. Ironically enough, it resembled what I now encounter all the time in my dotage as my friends and I carry on conversations in which we often forget the thread in the middle of speaking. The only things missing are the giggles and the munchies.
Charles Rowan Beye, My Husband and My Wives: A Gay Man's Odyssey (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), p.