Friday, July 26, 2019

Europe discovers the virtues of "English" measure

I've never liked the metric system, one of many bad ideas introduced to France, Europe, and the world by the French Revolution of 1789. I didn't even mind the British notion of the "stone" (I weighed 10 stone at the time; I'm considerably heavier now).

After all, who cares at what temperature water freezes and boils? All I want to know is whether the day is hot or cold, and for that, Fahrenheit is brilliant. Zero is really cold; 100 is really hot. They're also the temps at which human existence becomes a bit dodgy and it pays to pay attention to how you dress and what you're doing.

This is the summer that Europe discovers the virtues of Fahrenheit. Yesterday or the day before, on a trustworthy thermometer, Britain recorded 101 deg, Netherlands 104, Germany 107, and France (where the stupidity of Celsius got its start) 109.

Ah, Robespierre, thou shouldst be living at this hour! The thermometer you inspired may read 42.77778 deg, but in my world it's 109, and it's really, really, hot.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

John Bull hitches up his trousers -- for Sweden?


Turns out the "British" ship hijacked by Iran is owned by a Swedish company. So why isn't the Swedish navy steaming to the Gulf?

The easy solution for this kerfluffle would be for Britain to recall all the Red Ensigns it has loaned out to foreigners. I'm sure that's what a Labour government would do.

In the meantime, the US Navy ought to consider the benefits of home-porting its warships in London, so we'd be sure of having an ally in the next confrontation.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

A Rebel in the County Cork

When I was a student at King's College London (MA in War Studies, 2010), I had to write and submit "long essays" -- what in the US we called research papers. At the time, I published A Rebel in the County Cork for Amazon's new and revolutionary Kindle e-reader. Yesterday I revised and expanded it, and added it to the US Amazon store, to other Amazon stores worldwide, and to other online booksellers and subscription services.  (It may take a while to percolate through the internet.) It's about 4000 words, with notes, bibliography, and photographs. The cost is $2.99 -- hey, that's less than a cup of coffee! Blue skies -- Dan Ford

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Nike strikes the Betsy Ross flag

What a public relations triumph! Nike announced a special edition Air Max shoe for the Fourth of July holiday, only to cancel it when instructed to do so by Colin Kaepernick, who also doesn't believe in standing for the national anthem. Well, to each his own, as they say. And what I say is, I won't be buying Nikes any time soon.

It helps that my budget inclines me more toward New Balance anyhow.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Back to the future in France


On Saturday, clergy in hard hats celebrated Mass in a chapel of Notre Dame, two months after the blaze that destroyed the cathedral's roof and spire and nearly brought the whole thing down. Those who attended were all or mostly religious and cathedral workers.

Meanwhile, the Yellow Vests who have more or less brought France to a standstill every Saturday since November has mostly hung up their gilets jaunes, allowing President Macron to edge back into his (really very modest) labor reforms, which have already improved the economy somewhat. He has not, however, ventured to talk of the gasoline tax that set off the movement that for a month put upwards of a hundred thousand protesters on the streets of Paris and other cities. So that is some recompense for all the fuss and property damage.

In another wonderfully French moment, I find that the Friends of Notre Dame still haven't updated their website to take account of the fire. Certainly you can make a tax-deductible contribution, but for what? I clicked through the link entitled "The Problem" and found this rather outdated reason for helping out: "Although the recently restored western façade is radiant, the same cannot be said of the rest of the building."

Indeed.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Aujourd'hui, nous sommes tous français


Twice in my life, Notre Dame has brought tears to my eyes. The second time, of course, was yesterday, when I saw this photo online. The first was sixty-four years earlier, when I spent a few days in Paris before setting out on the road to Lyon, a story I tell at some length in Poland's Daughter: How I Met Basia, Hitchhiked to Italy, and Learned About Love, War, and Exile. Altogether, that was an enchanted time. April in Paris! Yet I remember the cathedral in black and white, perhaps because the only people at Mass that morning were widows in black, kneeling on the stone floor while a distant priest murmured in Latin. I'd been brought up in an Irish Catholic family, and I was with a Polish Catholic girl, but I think it had been some time since either of us had been inside a church. Still, Notre Dame brought tears to my eyes -- and me to my knees, as I remember, though that may only be a pretty story I told my mother afterward.

A year later, I was a draftee in the US Army and stationed at Orleans, sixty miles south of Notre Dame, so I often had occasion to visit the city for an overnight. I never again went inside the cathedral, but it was always there on the horizon, a great ship taking souls to heaven. I cannot imagine what Paris looks like this morning.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Where did Albert spend his summer vacation?

The latest American shaming ritual involves the schools and parents (but not the kids!) involved in a cheating and bribing scandal at Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and lesser colleges and universities. To me, the most astonishing aspect is not that Mom would spend $500,000 to fake up her daughters' applications, nor that a coach would accept a bogus charitable donation to fast-track a student athlete, nor even that students would submit false photos of their athletic accomplishments, but the way the FBI reacted to their cheating!

"We believe everyone charged here today had a role in fostering a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for students trying to get into these schools the right way through hard work, good grades and community service," huffed Special Agent John Bonavolonta.

Say what? Yes, I know that for some years now, rich parents have sent their kids off to build outhouses in Ghana, the better to grease their way into Phillips Exeter and Harvard. But that "community service" is now so valued that the FBI automatically adds it to intelligence and diligence?

I can see it now, the letter that Mrs. Einstein got when her son was wait-listed at MIT: "Young Albert certainly shows promise as a mathematician, but his extracurricular activities demonstrate a one-sided focus on the intellect, obliging us to put him on our list of potential students. We suggest he spend the summer in some worthwhile contribution to society, preferably in Africa or Latin America, to enhance his prospects of joining our Class of 2023 in the fall."