Monday, March 25, 2013


Although I'm an Episcopalian, not a Roman Catholic, I am certainly interested in what takes place at the Vatican. Habemus Papam, and he has chosen to be known as "Pope Francis". (I have seen him described as "Francis I", but this is incorrect. Only when a second pope chooses that name will it be appropriate to describe recently elected pope as "Francis I".) It is refreshing to have a pope who seems to be more concerned with the poor than with protecting the church's priests. We shall see what develops, and it is interesting that he is the first Jesuit to be elected pope. That Order is widely considered to be the most liberal of the many RC Orders. However, Pope Francis is definitely one of the more conservative Jesuits; if he were not, he would not have been elected. Once elected, a pope has considerable independence and it may well be that Francis will provide a more balanced Curia and (eventually) College of Cardinals. For an alternative view of the pope, please check out: What I do not expect to see in what remains of my lifetime is a complete liberalization of thinking at the Vatican. I believe that American observers' hope that women will be able to become priests is very unlikely. There already are a number of priests who have been married, although they are expected to remain celibate. Some of those are former Anglicans, who have become members of the so-called "Ordinariates". I believe that some widowers have also been ordained to the priesthood. In my eyes, it has always seemed strange that men expected to counsel married couples have supposedly had no sexual experience. (It is an open secret that many heterosexual and gay priests have had varying degrees of such experience, but that has not been in accordance with official doctrine.) My guess is that the rule of celibacy is more likely to be relaxed at some future date than will be the opening of women to the priesthood.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Blog: Cane, part three

My musician friend, Tom Rozum, has a song Walking Stick, about a dandy, for whom such an item is an essential part of his appearance on the street. He sings "I'd be lost without my cane". My late father made use of a "stick" in his later years. Now it's my turn to need the support of a cane. Kaiser gave me one of their thick standard metal canes, with a hard rubber handle. I still use that, notably when I am taken to church on Sundays. My neighbor, Joan McQuarrie, gives me the "friendly arm" I need for stability. Then Barbara bought two tall matching canes, like ski poles without any prongs. She also bought two walkers and a metal cane with four-pronges Next, in Colorado, she bought a metal cane with a four-pronged base, which I mainly use to walk to and from a car there. She also bought a simple walker, which I use all the time, walking several times a day from the East side of the house (kitchen, pantry, "mud room", utility room,"half bathroom", dining room. office), to the center (living room0, and on to the West side (hot tub room, dressing area, bathroom, and our bedroom). Back in Berkeley, she bought two more canes with a four-pronged base. I bought a "Hurrycane" for myself. If I haven't forgotten anything, that totals eight canes and three walkers, a consequence of not wanting to dispose of one of our homes. None of the "canes" makes use of what I call a real cane.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Blog--Cane--part two

There are many types of cane plants. Probably one of the most common is "bamboo". As a child, I recognized similar plants in the family garden. When I first visited the Far East, I was amazed at the use of canes for scaffolding and other construction purposes. It is very inexpensive, surprisingly strong, and widespread. One particular use I remember was for making structures, called "fishing stakes". I came across these when in charge of a small tug without a working compass, searchlight, or adequate chart. These were light structures in the channel between Malaysia and Sumatra, which we were navigating overnight. On each side of the channel were fishing stakes of bamboo, which we fortunately avoided hitting on a moonless night. Have you ever chewed sugar cane? I have, although nowadays I avoid more sugar than the limited amount in my diet. Blackberries and raspberries, etc. grow on a different type of cane. Then there is the cane used in furniture. It's a very of plants, but when we speak of canes, we mostly visualize the thin flexible type, such as those used in corporal punishment. Then there is another use of canes--more about this next week.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Membership cards

Apologies for missing last week's blog. Here is an extra to make up for it: A slew of "2013 Membership cards" has been arriving lately, with start-of-the-year solicitations. Originally, the idea was to renew membership first, and then receive a card when the dues had been paid. Then someone realized that sending the card with the renewal requests would not only save labor and postage, but also act as a nudge to the recipient to respond with payment of "dues". It didn't take me long to realize that these cards should find no place in my wallet. Some tell you that there'll be (say) a 10% discount on merchandise available at some gathering or at a bricks-and-mortar store. Most of them have no use whatsoever. So these "membership cards" in our household are promptly recycled. There are other ways in which "good causes" separate money from supporters, actual or potential. There are raffles. When I enter I note the "Dear Friend" (only a minor turn-off), and I realize that I'm really just supporting our beleaguered Postal Service. Although it is clearly stated that making a contribution will not affect one's chances of winning, there's the wording on the back where one notes whether one is enclosing a donation or not. I suggest that most folk believe that if there's no mark to show that a gift is enclosed, the envelope wiill not be opened. Then there are those unsolicited labels. The idea is that if you don't send some payment, you'll feel "guilty". Then there are those ghastly photos of children needing extensive facial reconstruction. These techniques, heart-rending or even subtle, are in use for one reason only---they work...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cane, part one

This is the first (and longest) of three blogs on some of the uses of a word which has many senses. I first knew this word as applying to an instrument for corporal punishment. I don't think that teachers of elementary schoolchildren eighty years ago were still telling "naughty" small children to "Hold out your hand!", but when I attended my British-style Prep School (mostly teaching boys aged between 8 and 13) the Headmaster kept a cane in his study. I can only remember one occasion when he used it on a misbehaving pupil. It was different at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth (age 13 through17). There were several users of canes with which to beat cadets. Cadet Captains, the equivalent of Prefects in a civilian school, were authorized to administer canings for disciplinary offenses. It was mainly the six House Cadet Captains who undertook the punishment. They usually limited their beatings to three or four "cuts". The two Chief Cadet Captains (much like the Head Boy at other schools) also caned other cadets for various offenses. I don't remember any cadet receiving "six of the best", but perhaps they were authorized to administer as many blows. I hated the idea of being caned, and mostly stayed out of trouble. Once the Chief Cadet Captains sentenced me to a caning for talking when I was supposed to be silent in the Mess Room (Dining Hall). I responded by saying that I always felt that the punishment should suit the crime. "Well, what would you suggest?", I was asked. "Sentence me to silence at mealtimes for a week", I said, and both agreed. I suppose most cadets were caned about half a dozen times during their eleven terms at Dartmouth. I was probably unique--and lucky--in never being caned. On one occasion I was in charge of two junior cadets at a fire drill. Some water was spilled, and at the end of the drill I ordered them to mop it up. I then left. Alas, they failed to do a good job, and this came to the attention of my House Officer. He pointed out to me that, as someone training to be in charge of seamen, this was a good opportunity to learn that it is not enough to give orders; it was important to see that they were carried out. He sentenced me to a caning, which I deserved. However, I had injured my coccyx (tailbone) playing Rugby Football, so I said that perhaps I should first obtain medical clearance. He replied that he didn't believe in postponing punishment, and that he thought I had learned my lesson (I certainly had!) "You can go" were his welcome words. There was one ritual of corporal punishment that was more serious--and painful. We called them "Official Cuts", and they were administered harshly by one of the Physical Training Instructors, Petty Officers in excellent physical shape! I think they might have been instructed to give up to twelve cuts. I can only recall one incident--perhaps the offender had been detected smoking, a Serious Crime at Dartmouth! Readers of the Hornblower or Aubrey/Maturin novels would recognize that some of the aspects of traditional naval life remained, such as the manner in which flogging was carried out. "All hands to witness punishment" applied, and the Officer in Charge would engage in dialogue with the Petty Officer, giving permission to commence punishment, and carefully counting the blows. Talk about "Man's inhumanity to Man" , as Robbie Burns once wrote! More about canes in my next blog.