Category Archives: Harry’s Diary

Eye Roll Emoji

This was too good to pass up even though I have three previous posts sitting here with no text or explanation. I am very busy at my keyboard at the moment but don’t have time to work on them….yet.

But, I just got some texts about the School District and after reading them I asked if there was such a thing as an eye roll emoji.

It turns out there is.

It should save me a lot of time in the future.

“I’m good.”

Romance was thick in the Welty household yesterday. I had to call Alanna and Art and let them know that I would miss the 709 Teacher’s and staff retirement party. This was because it was the third wedding anniversary of our daughter. I found myself unexpectedly taking care of our grandsons.

The same night we got a call from our son’s significant other. She told us that the two of them were engaged. After Claudia handed the phone to me I told my soon-to-be daughter-in-law that my cheeks were cramping up because of smiling.

Our future DIL was worried about letting us know before she posted the happy news on Facebook lest we find out second hand. Our son, you see, is the master of nonchalance. When his intended asked if she should call his Mother and tell her his response was “Why would you do that?”

After hearing the news and our our son’s studied indifference Claudia texted him with the question: “Do you have anything to tell us?”

His reply: “I’m cool.”

We’ve raised another Calvin Coolidge.

I’m not surprised. In 2017 his old classmate, Annie Harala, told me her second grader’s recollection of a story that our family dusts off regularly. Coincidentally, I saw Annie and Robb’s old second grade teacher, Mrs. Lemon, at the grocery story the other day and mentioned the incident to her. Mrs. Lemon brought a bucket of lamb eyeballs to class for the children to dissect. Robb took one look at the contents and passed out. As Annie remembered it, all the kids raised their hand to tell Mrs. Lemon that Robb was on out cold on the floor.

“Oh I was trying to remember which student that was,” Mrs. Lemon replied.

I suspect that when Robb woke up, he acted as though he had intended to pass out. He is a cat person and cats are always cool.

2,590 May readers to disappoint

As of ten seconds ago 2,590 people have visited my blog so far in May. Its not as impressive a number as it my seem.

I check my blog’s stats daily and they have changed glacially over the last ten years since Lincolndemocrat’s birth. But they have changed. In all of my first full year of blogging (2007) I had 9,937 “unique visitors.” So far in the first half of 2017 I’ve had 19,794 such visitors. At year’s end I should have a four fold increase in unique visitors over my first year.

But that statistic is very misleading. Most of my “visitors” just take a quick 30 second peek in to look before flitting off to more interesting websites. My hard core readers (all of them anonymous to me) are the ones who read for an hour-long stretch or more. For years those readers have numbered 100 each month. So far in May there have been 110 hour-plus readers. I call them my “eight loyal readers.”

100 hour-plus readers, multiplied by the last 48 months would represent 4,800 “unique visitors” over 4 years. But it stands to reason many of these folk only visited once and a smaller percentage, maybe 30%, come back semi-regularly. Still, that would be 1,600 return visitors.

The point I want to make is this: I have a lot of people looking over my shoulders. In ten years I’ve heard the occasional whisper that my blog is not fair but I’ve only had a very few public attacks on the contents of my blog. When I took the School District and the Goliath Johnson Controls to court the lawyers printed out a hundred pages of my blog to submit to the court to demonstrate my unworthiness. I presume the deep pocketed legal firms defending the half billion building plan set three or four newbie attorneys to pour through my commentary for anything that would discredit me. The court wasn’t impressed so Johnston Controls’ PR man handed the printouts to a local “liberal” Rush Limbaugh who took a couple passages out of hundreds to his readers that I once said I didn’t use the “B word” and that I had the audacity to mention that our judge was an elected official.

A more serious complaint was about an unnamed friend who told me that one Red Plan school board supporter said such foolish things that they ought to be “bricked” (have some sense knocked into their head). It was suggested that this was a threat. I think I heeded that criticism and withdrew the quote but I’ve been unable to locate the offending post. It’s one of the few instances in which I made a serious change to a post.

In the last year I can’t count the number of times someone has told me either, “that’s not bloggable,” or “Don’t blog that.” Every so often someone will request that I remove something that could be traced back to them or told me that they will simply have to stop being forthcoming with me. That includes Claudia Welty, my wife. She told me years ago that I was not to blog about her and as my “eight loyal readers” can attest -I keep mentioning her.

This is a long prologue for a tiny tidbit. Despite two warnings yesterday not to blog about the teachers negotiation I’m going to mention it here. After many old posts complaining about my ill treatment three years ago during contract negotiations I sat through the first meeting of this year’s negotiations. No blood was spilled.

I had informed the Board by email that I was inviting myself to attend. No objections were sent back to me. Once there an administrator told that if I said so much as a single word at the meeting the teachers would all walk out instantly. I considered this hyperbole to drive home home the sensitivity of the meeting. Nevertheless, I abided by the injunction and said nothing although I did take copious notes. (Not good notes, just copious notes) Six hours later one of our administrators told me that the teacher negotiators told him to pass on to me that they didn’t want to see any mention of the negotiations in my blog.

Well, I’ve just mentioned it. Big deal! It was a public meeting.

I’ll risk thinner ice. After watching our top three administrators negotiate, including the Superintendent, I told them I was very satisfied with the process I’d witnessed. (read into that what you’d like) I added that unlike my previous experience, of being frozen out, this experience had put to rest the paranoia which accompanies being denied access. Let me add that I was elected to be a part of this critical process and that I have no desire to betray any confidentiality while the talks continue. I’ll also add that it is critical that the school board be represented at the negotiations and that state statute makes the Board responsible for them.

This is all very shocking, I know.

The elephant in the DFL screening room

I had a jolly good time at the screening committee. I knew several of the screeners some of whom may have been surprised to see me turn up. It was that way at my first DFL Precinct caucus which I think was 2006.

At that first caucus I joined about 30 folks in a classroom at Woodland Middle School. Eyebrows were raised there as well as DFLers know their Republicans. It was odd but comforting as well as for the first time in twenty years I actually voted in a majority on a great many issues which had become verboten for Republicans. I attended about four election cycles of DFL caucuses and the 2008 caucus was probably the highlight of my political life with its huge Barack Obama turnout. It was a heady experience being in a majority at the following District convention when Obama won handily.

Readers of my Blog know that while I rant and rave about Republicans I have fond recollections of the party of my youth. I liked Ike, a fellow Kansan. I loved National Parks so, of course, I liked Teddy, and agnostic old Abe is my all time hero. Long after Lincoln Dinners were abandoned by Dixie-saturated Republicans I was charmed to hear a DFL gathering speak of Abraham with something approaching reverence.

But it was Harry Welty, not Abraham Lincoln, who crashed the screening committee. I joked with the folks I knew and with the people I didn’t. I blamed the Republicans for electing Donald Trump. I told them I would be honored to be an endorsed Democrat on the Duluth School Board even while adding I still didn’t think endorsements for non-partisan races was necessarily the best idea.

I told the screeners that I wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but that I didn’t believe in conducting myself by (and here I licked my finger and stuck it up in the air) testing the wind. I told those new to me that I hid nothing and that everything I stood for I had put into this blog.

I also was asked to explain my ambiguous sounding answer to Question #12: Will you abide by the endorsement of the convention and cease your campaign if someone else is endorsed?

My answer: “I will follow the honorable example of DFL Governors Rolvaag, Perpich and Dayton.”

The explanation I gave to the screener was this: All three of these DFL Governors ran for the state’s highest office without the endorsement of the DFL state convention.

Of course, none of these candidates had ever been affiliated with the Republican Party. Elephants are no more useful to the DFL than they are to Ringling Brother’s, Barnum and Bailey Circus these days.

Of course, Ronald Reagan didn’t mind adding lots of jackasses to the GOP when he was President and they proved pretty useful: From Wikipedia: Continue reading

Preview or excuse not to blog……you decide

Saturday’s past, So much to blog about including:

My Saturday pitch to a DFL screening committee, friendly firing line, Party politics, three governor’s example, Being corrected, choosing a top priority, Dark Money, Trumbo, SNL, Dark Money again……….a big DNT article on Absenteeism which I have yet to read, my priority, $ or Equity or both? And, oh yes, the 25th Amendment and the imminent speech to the Saudis by President Trump, his reset, First lady uncovered hair, Islam hates us, Transactions guns to kill Shiites, Iran Nuclear Deal, Do what I do not what I say.

but I have to leave for church in five minutes and its being Sunday I will spend it with family trying not to think of …ah President Trump is being introduced by the Saudis so he can begin to speak………gotta go. Choir calls.

“No news” for me isn’t “good news” although I was hoping it would be

I’ve reading the news since waking this Saturday while also listening to NPR’s Saturday new program. Before the November election I had anticipated being able to ratchet back my fifty year old preoccupation with the news so as to spend more time researching and writing some books. But something happened on the way to the Library’s Foyer. Donald Trump!

I was worried all last year that his infantile demagoguery would get the best of America’s voters since our political system is so broken. And yet, I kept putting my faith in the prognosticators who had little doubt that Hillary Clinton would win. With my fingers crossed that she might put an end to a thirty-year RINO purging juggernaut I hoped that I could tune out the news in 2017. No such luck. Now it occupies even more of my attention especially with my new subscription to the New York Times – the best source on Donald Trump’s history imaginable. I’m even staying up past my bedtime to watch Late night television hosts skewer the Trumpsters although this doesn’t guarantee me a full night’s sleep.

And so, its been three hours of news on what should have been a sleepy Saturday morning. In two-and-a-half hours I will be interviewed by a DFL screening committee to see if I can muster their recommendation that I be considered endorsement as a DFL School Board candidate at the June 3rd convention. The first question on their 14 item questionnaire is: “why are you seeking the DFL endorsement?” My answer: “I wish to serve my fourth term on the Duluth School Board as a Democrat.”

My eight loyal readers can guess that there is a very long post hiding behind that short reply but newbies to this blog aren’t going to get it here. Its buried in posts in categories like “Republican Dogma,” “My GOP Defection,” “Lincoln,” “God’s Own Party,”
Crime and Punishment,” “Civil Rights” and many others on the list to this post’s right.

The School Board is a non-partisan office and I’ve never been a fan of politicizing it but today it seems useful for me to dive into the blender. I already have plenty of experience with a frog puree.

There are two stories from today’s reading I’d like to recommend. The first is Denfeld Graduate, Judge Mark Munger’s reminiscence about the Duluth Schools written in response to a recommendation that we saddle Denfeld students with a blue collar curriculum.

The second come’s from the NY Times, The Collapse of American Identity, which had this arresting illustration:

I highly recommend reading some of the 1200 replies to this op ed.

Lifehouse CHUMS and their alter egocentrics

I gave up trying to fall back asleep at 3 and padded downstairs to read the third chapter of Dark Money. The first two chapters gave me the background of the 800 pound gorillas of the big money movement to turn us back to the Middle Ages. They covered the Kochs and Richard Mellon Scaife. The third covered both the Olin Foundation and Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation. This book is reminding me of forty years worth of sporadic reports and tying them into a comprehensible bow. I certainly believed there was something behind Hillary Clinton’s “vast right wing conspiracy” and this book lifts the veil. The “conspiracy” is all perfectly legal or at least legalish and court rulings like Citizens’s United have vastly if I dare use that adverb, enhanced the power of the big spenders.

I dimly recalled a news story about about some rich guy, (it was Richard Mellon Scaife) putting up a sign in his neighborhood announcing the loss of his dog and wife and offering a reward for the dog. But now I know more about this bonvivant. His rich and conservative Grandfather, Andrew Mellon, was the Secretary of the Treasury for all three Republican Presidents of the 1920’s. He also was a prolific tax cheat and his grandson took up his motto, “Give tax breaks to large corporations, so that money can trickle down to the general public, in the form of extra jobs.”

This philosophy makes for an interesting contrast to last night’s fundraiser for Life House which takes care of discarded young people. Scaife and his silky ilk generally decry coddling the weak putting a much higher premium on protecting the assets of America’s aristocrats. The hundred’s of million Scaife donated to “charity” largely went to maintain his and other rich folks wealth not to the needy.

Claudia and I sat down with some of the people she has been working with at the CHUM homeless Center. Spending the last few months checking people in has been eye opening for her. Seeing someone released from a hospital near death’s door looking for a place to sleep on the floor has a way of impressing itself on the imagination. A young couple sitting next to us volunteer at Life House as I did three years ago. We were a jolly crowd. Our speaker Famous Dave of Rib fame gave a rousing talk and I learned he was half Choctaw, a much larger percentage of that tribe’s heritage than my grandson has but enough for me to some kinship with the Rib Master.

I suspect the billionaires club would consider the Rib magnate an exception to their rule. Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation financed the infamous 1994 book the “Bell Curve” which posited that blacks were intellectually inferior to white folk. Indians probably didn’t fare much better in the analysis.

There is no end to the unpleasantness emanating from Milwaukee. Its not just my old nemesis Johnson Controls, its Governor Tommy Thompson’s call to make poor people work for their welfare while Republicans happily outsourced decent factory jobs overseas. (Bill “Triangulation” Clinton latched onto both of these planks for his Presidency.) Its also the Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker, union buster extraordinaire and Koch Brother favorite. Its also a dreamscape for Secretary of Education Besty DeVos’s world of public education vouchers. I wonder where Billionaires fit on the Bell curve?

Famous Dave, who is a generous contributor to the needy, showed us pictures of his vast and messy library. He told us he reads for hours every day and gives his faithful reading credit for the half-billion-a-year enterprise he built off of a $10,000 business loan. That’s quite a contrast with our current President who can barely squeak through a teleprompter but then again, Trump inherited his start in life. I’m afraid Trump gives billionaires a bad name but the Koch’s are stoked. It was reported today that they are following up their $800 million investment in the 2016 election with a $300 million push to pass Trump’s tax decreases on the wealthy and ending the estate tax before Trump’s impeachment after which the GOP might be hard pressed to help the filthy rich.

Whew! National Teacher’s Day

Why do I lead the title of this post “Whew”? Because in a school board member’s blog National Teacher’s Day should not go unremarked on and for this school board member, seeing today’s Google’s animation was just one more of a half dozen things for me to remark upon. Its not quite the straw that will break my back but I feel its weight.

If it was national school board day it would be more like that Woody Allen snippet from his spoof on Tolstoy Love and Death:

As a certified, if not certifiable, school board member I have license to use this clip in remembrance of that other wit, Mark Twain’s, toast to school boards.

BTW – I saw this movie when I was in college and I busted a gut with this gag. Until I just googled it I hadn’t seen it since. It still a good gut buster.

My daughter, a teacher, who was just awarded her Masters degree in education a couple days ago, shared this thoughtful appraisal of the “superteacher” on Facebook.

Word has it that one of the candidates for the school board this fall comes from the ranks of teaching. I hope this teacher doesn’t find themselves falling from a pedestal and into a Woody Allen spoof come January. And today’s Trib was full of stories about the Duluth School Board which hints of an idiot’s convention. I’ll add a couple of anecdotes while I’m at it starting with my apology.

Graduation Ceremony – Harry’s Diary

Claudia and I left early Saturday for the Twin Cities with our grandsons. The occasion was the following day’s graduation ceremony for the United Theological Seminary. Claudia joined our son, Robb, as a master hers being a Master of Arts in Religious Leadership degree. Of course, our son expects to jump further ahead at the end of next year with his Doctorate.

On Saturday, in advance of the ceremony, we took the boys to the Minnesota Zoo and checked out the new traveling Australian exhibition with Wallabies and Emus galore. We wandered the Zoo for six hours before retiring to our hotel and an hour in the pool. The next morning we took the boys to the Science Museum in Minneapolis and took in the Omnimax movie about the desolation of the Southeastern Asian reefs. I couldn’t help but think about the decimation of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. I barely read the press yesterday but did note that once again President Trump has come to the rescue of polluters.

It was lovely in the Twin Cities yesterday and while Claudia practiced her graduation rigmarole with peers I walked over to a local playground with the boys for a little diversion before the ceremony began. I took dozens of grainy cellphone pics and woke up today with an urgent request from my brother in law to share them through Facebook. Its one more chore for me to add to my list of to-dos most of them related to ISD 709. A weekend away from Duluth and they are piling up.

Before I’d left for the Cities I was hit up for budgetary info on the District that I had promised and failed to give someone a couple months ago. This morning I discovered a couple of small wildfires burning in the 709’s backyard. I guess there’s no rest for the wicked. And by the way – I plan to send up a third edition of the I won’t wait for 3 years posts. Then, I’ll have to compose a response to a pretty demanding set of questions sent to me by the Denfeld parent’s group on district wide equity. Sometimes being on the Duluth School Board feels like being an electron in a lightening strike. Maybe Claudia’s study of heaven can help me come to terms with this occasional hellishness.

I’ve also ordered a couple more books to add to my list and one of them strays from my reading on the political era my grandfather George Robb was born into Its called “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” It will be a nice follow up to Karl Rove’s book on the first mega-money election for the Presidency in 1896: The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters.

Oh, and a few minutes ago Claudia handed me another book from the mail. Driven Out: The forgotten war against chinese Americans. This is yet another issue that pervaded the America of my Grandfather’s youth. America has long been a land where the Enlightenment’s principles enshrined in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution have wrestled with the messy resistance to the “Melting pot.”

I once played a bit part on Jimmy Kimmel’s show…

…which I only recalled late last night. It was back in 2004. This mention of the occasion in the News Tribune was published two years later. A local radio station asked me to show up at Mr. Birkedahl’s residence to offer commentary for Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show which got one of the local television stations to show up and live video the event so that Mr. Birkedahl could be interviewed. Jimmy didn’t seem to be very impressed.

Back then I’d never seen Kimmel’s show but knew it had the reputation of being a bawdy frat show:

A MONUMENTAL APOLOGY – A DULUTH MAN IS STACKING BLOCKS OF SNOW TO SAVE FACE WITH HIS DAUGHTER AND FULFILL A PROMISE TO HIMSELF Duluth News-Tribune – March 17, 2006 Continue reading

A little “flight” reading – The Sage of Emporia

For years I’ve wondered if William Allen White “the Sage of Emporia” ever wrote anything about his fellow Kansan, my Grandfather George Robb. Although I’ve known about him and knew the famous quote about his sagacity for years it took Doris Kearn’s wonderful history Bully Pulpit about Teddy Roosevelt and WH Taft to fill in White’s biography.

That’s because as Kearns researched the book she discovered how closely Teddy was to the many “muckrakers” (Teddy’s description) the dedicated journalists who exposed the many evils of the “Gilded Age.” Teddy was just as effusive as Donald Trump but unlike Trump he was also well informed and a friend of the press and its investigative reporters. White was one of these although, unlike so many others of this era William Allen was a country boy. He retired from the Progressive era and New York to sedate Emporia Kansas where he owned and edited the Emporia Gazette with a national reputation gained in the Roosevelt Years.

Last year, after subscribing to Newspaper.com, I found that White’s Gazette regularly covered my Grandfather’s politics after he was appointed State Auditor of Kansas. Many of the articles mentioned his being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor but I’ve found nothing that suggests the men rubbed shoulders together which was a bit of a disappointment. But last Fall I discovered White’s name in a letter sent to my Grandfather by his closes brother, Bruce, while George Robb was hospitalized after the War.

“Uncle Bruce” mentioned in his letter that he had just read William Allen White’s short book about the War, “The Martial Adventures of Henry and Me” to better understand what trench warfare had been like. Well, I had to read that. I found it online as its now in the Public Domain. I printed it out and decided this trip to Florida was the prefect time to read it through.

White wrote the book when he and the editor/owner of the Wichita Beacon were asked to check out the theater of war by the American Red Cross just after Congress declared war. White was in France during the time my Grandfather volunteered and began his training.

Its a light read and it gave me some wonderful context. I’ll mention two such items:

White writes: “‘In the English papers the list of dead begins ‘Second lieutenant, unless otherwise designated.’ And in the war zone the second lieutenants are known as ‘The suicides’ club.'” Then White proceeded to explain why. My Grandfather was a second lieutenant.

White describes meeting an English mother of two children whose husband is in recovery after losing an arm and a shoulder. He suggests somewhat indelicately that her husband should get a good education and become a typist. When she says they couldn’t afford for him to go to school White reports his reply to her: “That’s too bad–now in our country education, from the primer to the university, is absolutely free. The state does the whole business and in my state they print the school books, and more than that they give a man a professional education, too, without tuition fees–if he wants to become a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer or a chemist or a school teacher!”

As my Grandfather began his education in Kansas and became a teacher in Kansas and was chosen to be a principal in Kansas only to turn down the promotion for the trenches, I found White’s assessment of public education one hundred years ago fascinating.

Thank you’s

Years ago I attended some session during which a presenter made a good suggestion. She warned her listeners that it was easy to get discouraged and she suggested that we all collect thank yous and such. She thought that when we got down we could look in the old thank yous and remind ourselves that we weren’t such bad folks.

Until I got on the School Board in 1996 my little sunshine folder wasn’t very big. Then I started reading to classrooms.

I haven’t really looked at this box closely but last night I spread all the thank yous out on my office floor to make a little campaign video for a campaign webpage.

I don’t know if it will be ready before I fly off to Florida in a couple days to wish my Father-in-law a happy 90th birthday but it brought back a lot of nice memories. One of my thank yous was in braille.

Darwin, Einstein, Archimedes…

…Save the Earth and eat your wheaties!

That was my chant at today’s Duluth Earth Day/Science day march.

I only shouted it once but even my wife and daughter laughed.

This was my third march in a year since Trump’s election – the third in fact since Vietnam. It was a lovely day for the 1200 marchers. I took a couple of cell phone pics.

This post is about my first march since Vietnam.

The second March was January 27th’s Woman’s March.

Beezus and the code talkers

Beverly Cleary was six days shy of turning one year’s old when the United States Congress voted to go to war against Germany and join World War 1. She turned 101 two days ago and I was greatly surprised to learn of her age. Her Books about Beezus and Ramona were read to our children and, had I been a reader myself, I would no doubt have read them in grade school. She published her first children’s book in 1950 as I was finishing up my gestation. I was 41 when I published mine. The less said about that the better.

I made sure to watch all three episodes of PBS’s American Experience on the Great War Monday through Wednesday. It was an excellent series. You can watch it here.

I knew that my Grandfather’s Infantry Regiment would be highlighted and so on the second night I waited eagerly to see if the historian Dr. Jeffrey T. Sammons would be interviewed. I was not at all surprised, but delighted none-the-less, when he made his first of several appearances to talk about the role of African-American soldiers. I texted him my congratulations and he texted back that he had only a limited role in the production.

Dr. Sammons wrote The authoritative book on the Harlem Hellfighters or as he corrected the Harlem Rattlers which is what they called themselves. I’ve mentioned him a couple of times on the blog because he was commissioned to do some research on my Grandfather for a speech he delivered on Leap Day last year. (which launched my current drive to write a book about him.)

On Wednesday night I had my grandson’s over and let them watch the first few minutes of the last installment before they headed off to bed. The next morning I was able to tell my older Grandson, who has a little Choctaw inheritance, something that was new to me. The Americans found their cable telephone lines tapped into by the Germans who could listen in on their planning and thwart their plans of attack. When one American officer overheard two Choctaw troops speaking in their first language he asked them what they were doing. Both of the Choctaws froze expecting to be reprimanded. One recalled going to a school where the teachers washed children’s mouths out with soap for not speaking in English. Instead the officer put them on the telephones to confound the Germans.

I had known about “code talkers” in the Second world war but this was new. Not even the Army forgets a good idea.

singing with positivitity

Loren Martell has once again covered our latest School Board meeting in the Reader. I make a couple of his paragraphs:

Mr. Welty referenced a story in the “bygones” section of the Duluth News Tribune about the State test results from 1997. The paper apparently reported, according to member Welty, that 20 years ago “81% of Duluth’s ninth graders had reached math skills suitable for the adult world, and 87% of our ninth graders had achieved reading skills that were necessary for the adult world…So my challenge to you (addressing Tawnyea Lake, the district’s Director of Assessment, Evaluation and Performance) would be this: if you could find some reference to these test results…and see if there is some way to let us know how our ninth graders are doing by these particular measurements, I would appreciate it…”

I am doing what I can to fight the negativity. I brought my grandsons to meet the family of our new CFO, Doug Hasler, Wednesday night. They’ve been in town scouting for houses and Doug invited the Board members over for an ice cream social at the home they were staying at down on Park Point. (Ahem, Denfeld attendance area)

I sang a couple bars of Gary Indiana with Mrs. Hassler when I learned it was her hometown. They’re all Hoosiers. Then I chided her for not forcing her kids to see the Meredith Wilson musical, Music Man, that features the song.

My grandsons ate their fill of ice cream and happily played fooseball down in the basement while we Board members explained the finer points of collecting agates to Doug’s older kids.

PS. our Grandsons enjoyed the Music Man when they saw it with us and Jacob asked me to sing Till there was You a couple times before bed…….of course, he also liked me to sing him songs about people getting killed – Joe Hill, Tom Dooley, Frankie and Johnny.

Principles before Principals – The rush to war

I’m two days late mentioning the centenary of America’s entry into World War 1. For the next 20 or so months I’ll be reminding myself of my Grandfather’s service in that war. Maybe I’ll even write a book about him which will cover the subject. I just peaked into the news clippings I printed out from Newspaper.com earlier in the year and the first mention of his joining the service that I found was August 11th of 1917 in the Salina Evening Journal. Two weeks later the Topeka Daily Capital published a story that should have made the folks at Great Bend, Kansas burst their buttons with pride. The Capital reports that, “Every man on the teaching staff last year with the exception of the City Superintendent has been accepted in one of the two training camps.” Among the new volunteers was my Grandfather George S. Robb.

That had not been my Grandfather’s prewar plan. There was a short announcement in the Salina Daily Union a month earlier on June 4. “Mr.[George]Robb taught in the Iola High school the past season and will be the principal of the Great Bend high school next year.”

All the books I’ve been reading to Claudia about China must have put her travel bug into high gear. We’re still a hundred days before we fly off to China but she asked me where we ought to go next. I teased her about getting ahead of ourselves but it occurs to me that I’ve always wanted to tromp around the battlefields near Sechault, France. September of 2018 would be the hundredth anniversary of the actions at that village that led to the awarding of his Congressional Medal of Honor. That would be a sweet little trip.

Chinese Bibliophiles

Again. A weekend with plenty of thinking and very little posting. Actually on Friday I spent a couple hours writing in an attempt to tie my reading on China today with America’s Gilded Age that I’ve also been reading about. One quick take away – plutocrats were a dime a dozen in both times and places. Another take away. American Government was in shambles. Is that true of one party China today? There certainly is a lot of order in Confucian China but there is much that is also unsettled. Anyway, I spent another couple hours tinkering with Friday’s work on Saturday before shelving it. I might post a vastly shrunken post on it later.

As for the rest of Saturday. I devoted it to China.

I long ago discovered that China was the other half of world history. I have a good handle on everything else but the Chinese language makes it hard for Chinese names to take seed in my brain.

I began keeping track of my serious book reading in 1979 when I read by far the largest number of books in a single year -30 of them. I’m not sure I’ve ever read as much as ten books in subsequent years. I occasionally bought books on China but I rarely got around to reading them. I got 53 pages into “A Short History of the Chinese People.” Taking it out again Saturday to see what I had previously yellowed out with a marker I found this:

“…Wang succeeded in cornering almost all the gold in circulation both within the empire and abroad. Even faraway Rome felt the drain, Tiberius (A.D. 14-37) prohibiting the wearing of silk because it was bought with Roman gold.”

I spent a couple hours on Saturday beginning Chinese for Dummies and finally understand the tonal system of Mandarin that I had mistakenly thought was strictly pitch based as in Do-Ray-Me. Time will tell how far I much I will pick up in the 107 days before I travel east. I finished reading the Osnos book to Claudia and began a book by Frank Ching I’d bought twenty years ago but through which I’d never gotten further than the prologue. I bought it for $4.98 on a remainder pile because it looked interesting. Indeed it is. Unlike the last two books on China in the 2000’s, Ching got in on China at the opening of China immediately after Mao as a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.

His book is not about China as it is today, although that comes through, but about his research into his Chinese Ancestors who have published histories (that escaped the book burnings of the Cultural Revolution) going back to the time of the Norman Conquest of England just shy of 1000 years ago. He begins with the grave he discovered of one of his earliest ancestors Qin (Chin) Guan. As I read it I couldn’t help but wonder if he was tied in with another Chinese personage I’d once bought a book about Su Tungpo. I’d never read far into “The Gay Genius” when I bought it for ten bucks thirty years ago from Atlantic World Books on 209 E. Superior Street in Duluth. It has a glowing recommendation of Pearl S. Buck on its book jacket which probably enticed me to purchase it. Frank Ching using the pinyin system writes the poet’s name as Su Dongbo. Su was Mr. Ching’s Great Grandfather’s times 33 muse and mentor. I’ll have to traverse over 800 pages to cover both books but I’ve pushed on with Frank Ching’s largely because it will cover one family line through the last 900 years of Chinese History. Its my latest read-a-loud to Claudia.

If China is to surpass the American economy in my lifetime I owe it to my curious self to find out more about this behemoth. Its been on my radar for fifty years since I got into an argument with my Gymnastic’s coach after practice waiting for a bus home. He interfered in a debate I was having with my Sioux-Norwegian Gymnastic teammate who subsequently married a Korean woman (Or was she Chinese?) and went into the Foreign Service from which he recently retired.

Claudia and I are making a little room in a downstairs bookshelf for all these books. Her reading list includes three Amy Tan novels and Life and Death in Shanghai while mine includes The Rape of Nanking and the Sons of the Yellow Emperor about the Chinese “diaspora.” Somewhere I also have a book on the Ming Era fleet that traveled to Africa a few decades ahead of the Portuguese. And of course, there is Wild Swans which I read to Claudia a couple years ago.

The Rape of Nanking

WDIO’s reporter, Julie Kruse, called me as I was adding another two books to “my reading list.” More on the books momentarily.

Today’s ongoing story in the Trib had caught Julie’s attention and the public’s apprehension about our superintendency has too. I gave her some background info and agreed to go on record so she and a cameraman zipped down for a quick interview. I had joked with her in advance that my inclination was to be more evasive than anything else and I tried to hew to that goal on camera.

I was wearing my wolf slippers when she came to the door and holding a stack of books on China. I explained I bought them the new feet with my grandsons at the Wisconsin Dells’ Great Wolf Water Park. Then I explained that I had gathered my books on China together to prepare for a summer trip to the same. Julie asked about the title “Rape of Nanking” which didn’t exactly sound like a travel guide.

The first of the books I entered on my old webpage was the one about the 1920 election. I powered through it and then today found the goodreads website which included almost 100 reviews from readers. Most enjoyed it as much as I did although a few quibbled about the gossipy things in it. Not me. I found FDR’s attempt to hush up the seamiest actions he took as Secretary of the Navy instructive. And when author, Pietrusza, commented archly that divorce rates had tripled in the decades leading up to 1920 so that by that date 1% of marriages had been sundered I appreciated that insight on the Era which was about to plunge into the Roaring Twenties.

I also added the book by Evan Osnos about China’s Age of Ambition to the list even though I still have about 50 pages to finish. Claudia and I have been tearing through it and it has taken some darker turns in the last couple of chapters. Among my unread Chinese related books was “Ancestors” by Frank Ching. I bought it on sale twenty years ago but it looks like just the book to take me back a thousand years into Chinese History. And last night I reread the prologue to Mr. Speaker so I’ll revisit that book about America’s Gilded Age.

All of these books are fodder to help me understand why we are the way we are today. From the preface of Mr. Speaker:

“The party labels of Reed’s day may seem now as if they were stuck on backwards. At that time, the GOP was the party of active government, the Democratic party, the champion of Laissez-faire. The Republicans’s sage was Alexander Hamilton the Democrats’ Thomas Jefferson. The Republicans condemned the Democrats for their parsimony with public funds, the Democrats arraigned the Republicans for their waste and extravagance. …..and what…constituted extravagance in federal spending? …a building to house the overcrowded collection of the Library of Congress.”

As one tidbit to support this I’ll note a news story from the Gilded Age which I found online last year. It mentioned my Republican Grandfather, Thomas Robb, and his neighbors taking the Santa Fe railroad to court for overcharging them. I know whose side Donald Trump would have taken.

Yesterday in threadbare detail

Yesterday I finished a couple more chapters in my 1920 book, did my Sing thing and then attended the Clayton Jackson McGhie Dinner at Greysolon Plaza.

I learned in the book that women had the right to vote in four Eastern States until 1807, which I couldn’t recall having heard before. It was part of the background in the 1920 book which had a marvelous twenty-page chapter describing how the Woman’s voting amendment passed a couple months before the November Presidential Election.

At the Sing thing I saw a recently retired school board member. We both did a superlative job of avoiding eye contact with one another.

At CJM I sat next to a current Board member who proceeded to chat me up for the first time in three years of our serving together.

I also exchanged a big hug with my old now school board ally, Mary Cameron. We were once thick as thieves until our differences over the Red Plan clouded our former alliance. We’ve gotten over that and I couldn’t be happier about it.