Sunday, August 24, 2014

Things Change - Or, Do They?

“The abuse of the telephone for domestic purposes killed the intimacy among friends. People no longer saw one another, they no longer had any need to dress and send for the carriage, because they chatted over the telephone, in sarong and kabaai, in pajamas, almost without stirring a limb. The telephone was close at hand and it rang constantly on the back verandah. People called each other for nothing, or just for the fun of it. Young Mrs. De Hartman had an intimate friend, a young woman whom she had never seen, but whom she telephoned daily, for half an hour at a time. She sat down when she talked, so it did not tire her. And she laughed and joked with her friend, without having to dress and without moving. She did the same with other friends; she visited them by telephone. She did her shopping by telephone. In Labuwangi Eva had not been used to this endless jangling and ringing, which killed all conversation, which on the back verandah revealed only one half of a dialogue – the answer being inaudible to anyone sitting away from the instrument – in the form of incessant, one-sided jabbering.”

From “The Hidden Force” by L. Couperus, first published in 1900.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Library

Sitting in the library on deck eight forward and just slightly starboard there is very little sense of being on a ship. The propeller pods far behind and below in the muffled salt sea, the diesel engines amidships just above the keel, the turbines on top deck behind the stack could not penetrate to the library. The thick glass of the large windows could not reveal the cold, blustery, foreboding of the deep. The green carpet gives away the reality with a pattern of little gray and white propellers. But the carpet muffled any sounds that might penetrate and with the mahogany glass door bookcases and desks, it put one into a trance of solitude with the world of writing and reading.

Looking through the large rectangular portholes, one is brought back to reality. The dark gray overcast of clouds hung low and melded into the distant horizon with the gray-black sea. A soft swell and small waves with the occasional whitecap stretched out the meet the clouds. We were now on the high seas, four thousand meters from the nearest land mass below us on the ocean bottom. The only sensation is the slow side to side rolling interspersed with a sporadic shudder. The only sound is the creaking of the interior furnishings against the massive steel structure accompanied by the frequent turning of pages from the otherwise silent patrons. The only thought was contemplating how one hundred and fifty thousand tons of mostly steel could float and lumbar in such solitude over an endless expanse of grayness. The only reality was quiet contemplation and wonder.

And now there came the great chattering. It is eight-thirty and the official opening of the library - the clack of the key in the large keyhole of each upper right-hand mahogany-framed glass door. Each right-hand door was swung open perpendicular to the shelf of books and slid back into its slot. When the four and one-half such cabinets on each side of each shelf where thus swung open on one side, the librarian returned to push a little cog in each left-hand door to free it into its perpendicular position and thusly slide it back into its slot. The upper doors thus freed to allow air and hands to the volumes, by magic the lower doors, both left and right, could now be swung to attention and pushed back into their daytime resting positions. Now the books, the literary, the words, the ideas, the romances, the tragedies; now revealed from behind framed glass walls, could enlighten the day and the mind. Silent melancholy returned and the enlightenment of the soul began.

After the Storm

The overcast is a pale gray. The sea rolls with a modest swell and occasional white cap, settling back from the overnight storm. The Captain had warned us of this storm coming from America eastward across the north Atlantic in his noon advisory the day before. It hit almost exactly as he predicted, awakening me at 0045 ship time with reported gale force winds. There was a loud thud in my forward stateroom, perhaps a wave hitting the bow. More precisely, the bow hitting a wave as our flesh and steel are the foreigners in this vapid, endless landscape of gray above and below. The creaking of the ship’s furnishings against the steel skeleton and the motion felt in different sensory centers of the brain evidenced that a moderate roll was being thrust upon the steel and flesh. I would awaken to this a few more times in the night but overall sleep was at hand.

At 0630 the servants were about on deck seven. Like silent ants, they squeeged the teak deck to remove the overnight rain. First on the interior side. Then they pulled the deck chairs, void of cushions, back towards midships and swept the remaining rain into the deck gutters. The chairs were put back towards the railing and one by one the cushions were removed from the big wooden boxes and cast into the chairs followed by other servants tying them down. Then came other servants to wash the windows of the Kings Court restaurant on deck seven. Along the length of the restaurant on port and starboard are greenhouse bump outs for the lucky ones who can find a seat to watch the ocean swells pass by while eating breakfast or lunch. Every morning the servants would wash these windows with sponge and squeegee. As they were washing my window this day, it began to rain. And now, at the end of my breakfast, a second time it is raining. The windows will have to be washed again tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rockingham Castle

In 1960 my father moved back to England and I spent the summer with him that year based out of his parent's home in Kettering, Northants. One day we visited Rockingham Castle and my father told me that he was doing some work at the castle for the then Sr. Michael Culme-Seymour, the lord of the estate. I never knew what work he was doing but my father was a dealer in fine prints and rare books. Rockingham Castle was ofter frequented by Charles Dickens.

Today we visited Rockingham Caster and did the full inside and outside tour. The head tour guide was very interested in my story and he said he would pass it on to the chief archivest to see if he could find out more.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Departing on a jet plane

Departing for London this afternoon. I will be returning to New York on August 27 on board the Queen Mary 2. I will be in Woodbridge August 27-29. I will be blogging my travels and linking to Facebook.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Seeking God in Our Suffering

Wise Prophets in every age observe that God rarely finds people useful to His purposes who have not been broken by life.

Our suffering, so insidious and pervasive, so unwanted and despised, holds the franchise to unlocking closed hearts and opening barred minds. When the illusion of being in control of our lives shatters, then spiritual empty-handedness begins. That condition spurs us on to spiritual usefulness. Faith begins when spiritual self-sufficiency deflates and proves empty. Usually that takes one kind of smashing or another.

The lovely paradox here is that this is precisely where joy and hope enter. The road to joy always seems to go through sadness and suffering. It’s hard to get there any other way. A strong acquaintance with death makes Easter’s victory brighter. True resurrection joy whispers in the hearts of those stung deeply by lost loved ones. Jesus’ embrace means everything to those of us who are truly burdened, legitimately helpless, and weary.

Ironically, spiritual growth involves our personal regression to that childlike dependency Jesus talks about: to become “poor in spirit.” Then we are in Paul’s words, “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Healing and renewal come to Jesus’ people sooner or later:

“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:5

From Waiting for Morning: Seeking God in Our Suffering by Pastor James R. Kok.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Venture Capitalism and your Federal Government

What is venture capital and what is a venture capitalist? And, what does this have to do with the federal government?

Venture capital is the money that a start-up business raises to develop its product offering and bring it to market. A firm seeking venture capital is usually considered too risky to attract equity capital from the public. More likely, the risk would be too high to meet the strict SEC requirements for an offering to the public.

A venture capitalist is generally a wealthy person or a person who can syndicate capital from other wealthy persons to invest in risky start-up businesses. Why do wealthy people want to invest in risky businesses? Because the rewards can be great. Many of the venture capital deals fail but the ones that prosper can yield returns upwards of 100% or more in a few years.

Now let’s face it. Some of these deals could be viable for offerings to the general public but the wealthy venture capitalist want the early large gains for themselves. Yes, they are greedy. But greed is not a four letter word. Greed is what had made the United States a financial success. But, I digress.

The venture capitalist cashes out when the business is ready to go public. The initial public offering (IPO) is how the venture capitalist gets their money back – and usually with a handsome gain. And, the venture capitalist has an incentive in hyping the business to get the biggest possible IPO price. Once the company goes public, its stock is available to the public as an investment and to mutual funds. These investments and mutual funds can form the foundation of retirement plans in the form of IRA’s and 401K’s.

So, what does this have to do with the government? Well, your government under the authority of president Obama has become a venture capitalist. Only thing is, the government is not a wealthy person or syndicate. The government does this with your money. Yes, your government is guaranteeing loans to risky start-up businesses with your money. When Solyndra went bankrupt, President Obama chalked it off to “these things happen in the world of investment.”

Silly me, I didn’t think our government was suppose to engage in the world of risky investments. Well, actually it is not. It is doing so with your money. And, silly me again – don’t I remember the liberals in Congress (Nancy Pelosi you know who I am talking about) becoming adamant about not letting us publicans invest our Social Security funds in the “risky” stock market. The stock market is much safer than firms only able to attract venture capital funding. And, by the way – it is most likely that Nancy Pelosi and her wealthy husband have funds invested in the stock market if not also venture capital.

But we all know what is really going on here; this President is lining the pockets of his friends in high places. These are the venture capitalist who put money into Solyndra and the other high-risk startups and then used borrowing to leverage their investment. Through the use of generous donations to the Obama campaign, they got their high-risk investment guaranteed. This is really all about Obama getting elected and trying to get re-elected. If only we could get rid of these crooks without having to go through the frustrating election process.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Old Elmcroft Documents

I am scanning all of the old Elmcroft documents. This includes the original bill of sale and mortgage from when my parents bought the property in 1942 and various documents since then. The original mortgage was paid off in 1948. My parents were divorced on April 11, 1961. I also have the original decree of divorce. The house was deeded over to my mom and I have that quit claim deed. I then found a new mortgage dated December 27, 1961 for $4,500. This would correspond to the time period my brother was going off to college and I spent a year at Tilton School in New Hampshire, a private prepatory school. That was the year that I had a terrible accident on my bicycle and I was in the hospital for a few weeks. My mom arranged for me to stay a little longer in the hospital while she drove George down to Ferrum Junior College in Virginia. I can only deduce that the mortgage proceeds was to help pay for that schooling - something I never knew. I wonder if George knew that. This morgage was paid off in December 1970. Here is page one of the mortgage.