Tuesday, April 16, 2013


This is a good word to describe the speeches we are hearing from North Korea these days. That country's leaders are making loud but ineffective threats against South Korea, the United States, and other countries. The USA wisely takes these threats seriously, although we well know that any act of war from North Korea would result in retaliation, which could virtually obliterate that country's future. There are some critics who believe that we should just ignore the bluster emanating from Pyongyang. The threat of war by the North Koreans, they insist, has no teeth. Even Kim Jong Un, the youthful leader of that country, they aver, would not be so foolish as to start a war of anything other than one of words. On the other hand, I would stress that we should not forget the lessons of history. WWI started because of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir presumptive to succeed the Austro-Hungarian Emperor. What began as an act of defiance by Serbia soon grew into a war involving many major powers, and resulting in millions of battlefield deaths.. It seems to me that any relatively minor incident, such as an hour's shelling of a South Korean city, could be the spark that would light a fuse leading to a far wider conflict. The United States would likely be caught up, in support of its South Korean ally. In turn, this could force China to enter the fray. Soon, we might be involved in the kind of nuclear war of which we have thankfully been free since 1945. I do not think we should, in turn, engage in 'sabre rattling', but I do think that our government is doing the right thing by showing the world that it is ready to respond to North Korea's threats

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tradesman's Entrance

The house in which I was born had four doors leading outside. There was the "front door", the main entrance. There was a side door, which lead out to an enclosed courtyard, which we would use for al fresco meals when the weather was warm enough. There was a "backdoor" which lead from the scullery into the kitchen garden. And then there was another side door, the "tradesman's entrance". This would be where deliveries from grocer, green grocer, baker, fish monger, coal merchant, etc, came into the house near the servants' quarters. In those days, to have changed the name to "tradespersons' entrance" would have been redundant. Until WWII brought some changes, women did not make deliveries to the houses in our town. About a hundred years ago, when my mother was still young, she observed a loaf of bread fall onto the road from a baker's cart. The deliveryman saw her watching, gave her a broad grin, and said to her "What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve over", as he replaced the loaf on his cart.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Four Seasons

This has nothing to do with Vivaldi's wonderful composition. I have been thinking of the weather and other "seasonal" matters. I am writing this after spending some time in Colorado. The weather was spring-like when we arrived in mid-February, with the day's high a pleasant 60 degrees Fahrenheit. During the ensuing three weeks, we enjoyed three snowfalls. In the Bay Area, snow is rare,and when it does occur, it usually merely sprinkles a little snow on Mount Tamalpais and other nearby peaks... In California, we don't make much of seasons, other than the "rainy season", which usually begins in late November and continues through April or May. It seldom rains between June 1 and mid-November. What we do experience everywhere is the variation in the length of night and day. A few years ago, we extended the period of "daylight saving time", which now begins in mid-March. I do enjoy the longer daylight hours in the evening, but I dislike having to get up in the dark again, since I usually do this at about 6:15 am, more than an hour before daylight at the start of this period. I heard someone say that we should have daylight saving throughout the year, which did occur during wartime in Britain. In those years, we had "Double Summer Time" during the summer months. One could say all we need to do is the train people to get up an hour earlier, but I think that we all realize that this simply wouldn't work!