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28 February 2007

a map & a (somewhat contemporary) New England sea chanty

Yankees click.

I'm gonna tell you 'bout how I love New England
It's my favorite place
I've been all around the world
but I love New England best
I might be prejudiced
But it's true
I love New England best

Well I've been to Paris and I've been to Rome
What did I do but miss my home?
Oh-oh New England!

I've been to Israel's arid plain
It's magnificent
but then so's Maine
Oh-oh New England!

Oh New England!
Oh New England!

Oh New England!
Oh New England!

-- Jonathan Richman

26 February 2007

George Thornycroft Sassoon / an original poem to GM3JZK

George Sassoon, from a Spanish-language website about Ancient Astronauts from outer space.

You may be the King of Sweden or the Emperor of Japan, but if you belong to the world community of "hams" -- amateur radio broadcasters -- you are scrupulously, exclusively known only by your radio call sign. Even in your amateur radio obituary, you are only a few digits and capital letters. And that is proudly enough for every ham.

Last March, George Sassoon, the son of the English World War One poet Seigfried Sassoon -- whose poems Vleeptron has been merrily filching every time this fucking Iraq War outrages me -- died. I learned of his passing today via an e-mail from another devoted fan of Seigfried Sassoon. His son George inherited the copyright on his father's magnificent poems, and every time I posted a Sassoon poem, I was obligated to send George Sassoon some tiny or modest sum, and I never did.

Below this poem is Wikipedia's biography of George Sassoon, and I leave it to you to Judge his Life, and I leave it you to Judge my Poem.

The very first solid-state electronic device was the Cat's Whisker diode. As early as 1920, perhaps earlier, ham radio enthusiasts discovered that the whisker of an ordinary pussycat -- shed naturally, or perhaps cruelly yanked from the pussycat's face -- had the curious and valuable property of allowing alternating current to pass in only one direction. A decade or two later, "real" diodes, of vacuum tubes/valves, were manufactured, but hams have always called all diodes "cat's whiskers."

A radio/wireless dial designed for extremely fine and sensitive tuning is called the Vernier, after its inventor. Before digital computer tuning, hams would scrape their fingertips raw with a nailfile or emery board to increase their dial-tuning sensitivity, to enhance the "feel" of dial-tuning.

Aramaic, of course, is the language Jesus spoke. Klingon is the language spoken by the Klingons. George Sassoon was fluent in them both.

73 is ham slang for "best regards."

~ ~ ~


by Bob Merkin

His signal stilled and silent now
my fingertips (scraped raw with a nailfile)
cannot tweak the Vernier dial
sensitively enough to pull him in again

in vox, he might squawk through the speaker or the cans
merrily announcing his call sign in Klingon

in code dahditdahdit
like the SETI message he knew was out there
and hoped one night to hear

rich life rich mind
that wandered down so many paths
and hoisted a few
and loved a few

this close: one wireless wave
one cat's whisker diode
one bullet one bomb
he came to never having been
as his father blew the whistle and led the charge into machine guns
and scribbled poems

dahditdahdit the sonnet of the son
GM3JZK his nomme du clef
his call sign stilled now

in fury and disorder
i filched his dad's poems so
i owe the gentleman a couple of bob
and now i can't repay
except to tweak the dial of my multiband receiver
at 04:00:00 Zulu deep and cold in winter
and think of GM3JZK
and sip cognac
did he like cognac?

~ ~ ~

George Sassoon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George Thornycroft Sassoon (born London, October 30, 1936; died March 8, 2006) was a British scientist, electronic engineer, linguist, translator and author.

Sassoon was the only child of the poet Siegfried Sassoon and Hester Sassoon née Gatty. He was born at a time when his parents' marriage was already in difficulties, and in 1947 they separated. George Sassoon thereafter spent much of his childhood with his mother on the Scottish island of Mull.

He was educated at Oundle School and King's College, Cambridge. He was noted for his prodigious linguistic ability, learning languages which included Serbo-Croat, Hebrew, Aramaic and Klingon. He investigated extra-terrestrial phenomena and helped his mother to run a sheep farm on Mull.

After his father died in 1967, Sassoon inherited and occupied his father's large country house, Heytesbury House at Heytesbury in Wiltshire. He found it much neglected and worked to restore it, and also battled unsuccessfully to stop a planned new A36 bypass from going through the park of the house. In these efforts, he sold many of his father’s papers. After a serious fire at Heytesbury House in the 1990s he moved to a smaller property in the nearby village of Sutton Veny; but spent part of the year on Mull, where he had inherited his mother's property of Ben Buie when she died in 1973.

Between 1978 and 1980, he published three books, two of which were about his theories on extraterrestrial visitations, and also spoke at conferences on alien phenomena.

Sassoon married four times -- firstly Stephanie Munro, at Inverness in 1955 (dissolved 1961); secondly Marguerite Dicks in 1961 (dissolved 1974); thirdly Susan Christian-Howard in 1975 (dissolved 1982); and lastly Alison Pulvertaft. He had a daughter by his first marriage and also two children by his third marriage, both of whom were tragically killed in a road accident in 1996.

Sassoon was something of a bon-viveur, well-known among other things for his playing of the piano-accordion. Among his other interests were cricket, the Antipodes, and amateur radio -- his call-sign was GM3JZK.

He died of cancer in 2006 and is buried on the island of Mull.

Books by Geoge Sassoon

* The Manna-Machine (1978)
* The Kabbalah Decoded (1978)
* The Radio Hacker's Codebook (1980)

External links

* Obituary at The Daily Telegraph

Categories: 1936 births | 2006 deaths | Oundle | Sassoon family | Alumni of King's College, Cambridge | Old Oundelians | Amateur radio people | English Jews | Scottish Jews

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25 February 2007

Bob sends his regrets to a high school buddy (class of 1965) who invited him to a little hometown reunion of survivors

guy from my high school class e-mailed to get me to come to a little party of high school pals (who are still alive)

Old rockin' chair's got me

duet: Hoagy Carmichael & Louis Armstrong

Old rockin' chair's got me
my cane by my side
Fetch me that gin, son
'fore I tan your hide

Can't get from this cabin
I ain't goin' nowhere
Just set me here grabbin'
at the flies round this rockin' chair

My dear old aunt Harriet
in Heaven she be
Send me sweet chariot
for the end of the trouble I see

Old rockin' chair gets it
Judgement Day is here
Chained to my rockin' chair

Old rockin' chair's got me, son
(Rocking chair got you, father)
My cane by my side
(Yes, your cane by your side)
Now fetch me a little gin son
(Ain't got no gin, father)
What? 'fore I tan your hide, now
(You're gonna tan my hide)

You know, I can't get from this old cabin
(What cabin?)
I ain't goin' nowhere
(Why ain't you goin' nowhere?)
Just sittin' me here grabbin'
At the flies round this old rockin' chair

Now you remember dear old aunt Harriet
(Aunt Harriet)
How long in Heaven she be?
(She's up in Heaven)
Send me down, send me down Sweet chariot
End of this trouble I see
(I see, Daddy)

Old rockin' chair gets it, son
(Rocking chair get it, father)
Judgement Day is here, too
(Your Judgement Day is here)
Chained to my rockin'
my old rockin' chair

23 February 2007

cockroaches and neglect for combat wounded at the crown jewel of US Army medicine

Postcard, circa World War Two, Walter Reed General Hospital, now Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington DC USA.

I will have a few things to say about this story as soon as I recover from Apoplexy.

If you are not sunfishing on the floor with Apoplexy and feel like Leaving A Comment, please begin a discussion of this business.

~ ~ ~

The Washington Post (Washington DC USA)
Sunday 18 February 2007
Page A01

Soldiers Face Neglect,
Frustration At Army's
Top Medical Facility

by Dana Priest and Anne Hull
Washington Post Staff Writers

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The common perception of Walter Reed is of a surgical hospital that shines as the crown jewel of military medicine. But 5 1/2 years of sustained combat have transformed the venerable 113-acre institution into something else entirely -- a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients. Almost 700 of them -- the majority soldiers, with some Marines -- have been released from hospital beds but still need treatment or are awaiting bureaucratic decisions before being discharged or returned to active duty.

They suffer from brain injuries, severed arms and legs, organ and back damage, and various degrees of post-traumatic stress. Their legions have grown so exponentially -- they outnumber hospital patients at Walter Reed 17 to 1 -- that they take up every available bed on post and spill into dozens of nearby hotels and apartments leased by the Army. The average stay is 10 months, but some have been stuck there for as long as two years.

Not all of the quarters are as bleak as Duncan's, but the despair of Building 18 symbolizes a larger problem in Walter Reed's treatment of the wounded, according to dozens of soldiers, family members, veterans aid groups, and current and former Walter Reed staff members interviewed by two Washington Post reporters, who spent more than four months visiting the outpatient world without the knowledge or permission of Walter Reed officials. Many agreed to be quoted by name; others said they feared Army retribution if they complained publicly.

While the hospital is a place of scrubbed-down order and daily miracles, with medical advances saving more soldiers than ever, the outpatients in the Other Walter Reed encounter a messy bureaucratic battlefield nearly as chaotic as the real battlefields they faced overseas.

On the worst days, soldiers say they feel like they are living a chapter of "Catch-22." The wounded manage other wounded. Soldiers dealing with psychological disorders of their own have been put in charge of others at risk of suicide.

Disengaged clerks, unqualified platoon sergeants and overworked case managers fumble with simple needs: feeding soldiers' families who are close to poverty, replacing a uniform ripped off by medics in the desert sand or helping a brain-damaged soldier remember his next appointment.

"We've done our duty. We fought the war. We came home wounded. Fine. But whoever the people are back here who are supposed to give us the easy transition should be doing it," said Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, 26, an amputee who lived at Walter Reed for 16 months. "We don't know what to do. The people who are supposed to know don't have the answers. It's a nonstop process of stalling."

Soldiers, family members, volunteers and caregivers who have tried to fix the system say each mishap seems trivial by itself, but the cumulative effect wears down the spirits of the wounded and can stall their recovery.

"It creates resentment and disenfranchisement," said Joe Wilson, a clinical social worker at Walter Reed. "These soldiers will withdraw and stay in their rooms. They will actively avoid the very treatment and services that are meant to be helpful."

Danny Soto, a national service officer for Disabled American Veterans who helps dozens of wounded service members each week at Walter Reed, said soldiers "get awesome medical care and their lives are being saved," but, "Then they get into the administrative part of it and they are like, 'You saved me for what?' The soldiers feel like they are not getting proper respect. This leads to anger."

This world is invisible to outsiders. Walter Reed occasionally showcases the heroism of these wounded soldiers and emphasizes that all is well under the circumstances. President Bush, former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and members of Congress have promised the best care during their regular visits to the hospital's spit-polished amputee unit, Ward 57.

"We owe them all we can give them," Bush said during his last visit, a few days before Christmas. "Not only for when they're in harm's way, but when they come home to help them adjust if they have wounds, or help them adjust after their time in service."

Along with the government promises, the American public, determined not to repeat the divisive Vietnam experience, has embraced the soldiers even as the war grows more controversial at home. Walter Reed is awash in the generosity of volunteers, businesses and celebrities who donate money, plane tickets, telephone cards and steak dinners.

Yet at a deeper level, the soldiers say they feel alone and frustrated. Seventy-five percent of the troops polled by Walter Reed last March said their experience was "stressful." Suicide attempts and unintentional overdoses from prescription drugs and alcohol, which is sold on post, are part of the narrative here.

Vera Heron spent 15 frustrating months living on post to help care for her son. "It just absolutely took forever to get anything done," Heron said. "They do the paperwork, they lose the paperwork. Then they have to redo the paperwork. You are talking about guys and girls whose lives are disrupted for the rest of their lives, and they don't put any priority on it."

Family members who speak only Spanish have had to rely on Salvadoran housekeepers, a Cuban bus driver, the Panamanian bartender and a Mexican floor cleaner for help. Walter Reed maintains a list of bilingual staffers, but they are rarely called on, according to soldiers and families and Walter Reed staff members.

Evis Morales's severely wounded son was transferred to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda for surgery shortly after she arrived at Walter Reed. She had checked into her government-paid room on post, but she slept in the lobby of the Bethesda hospital for two weeks because no one told her there is a free shuttle between the two facilities. "They just let me off the bus and said 'Bye-bye,' " recalled Morales, a Puerto Rico resident.

Morales found help after she ran out of money, when she called a hotline number and a Spanish-speaking operator happened to answer.

"If they can have Spanish-speaking recruits to convince my son to go into the Army, why can't they have Spanish-speaking translators when he's injured?" Morales asked. "It's so confusing, so disorienting."

Soldiers, wives, mothers, social workers and the heads of volunteer organizations have complained repeatedly to the military command about what one called "The Handbook No One Gets" that would explain life as an outpatient. Most soldiers polled in the March survey said they got their information from friends. Only 12 percent said any Army literature had been helpful.

"They've been behind from Day One," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), who headed the House Government Reform Committee, which investigated problems at Walter Reed and other Army facilities. "Even the stuff they've fixed has only been patched."

Among the public, Davis said, "there's vast appreciation for soldiers, but there's a lack of focus on what happens to them" when they return. "It's awful."

Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commander at Walter Reed, said in an interview last week that a major reason outpatients stay so long, a change from the days when injured soldiers were discharged as quickly as possible, is that the Army wants to be able to hang on to as many soldiers as it can, "because this is the first time this country has fought a war for so long with an all-volunteer force since the Revolution."

Acknowledging the problems with outpatient care, Weightman said Walter Reed has taken steps over the past year to improve conditions for the outpatient army, which at its peak in summer 2005 numbered nearly 900, not to mention the hundreds of family members who come to care for them. One platoon sergeant used to be in charge of 125 patients; now each one manages 30. Platoon sergeants with psychological problems are more carefully screened. And officials have increased the numbers of case managers and patient advocates to help with the complex disability benefit process, which Weightman called "one of the biggest sources of delay."

And to help steer the wounded and their families through the complicated bureaucracy, Weightman said, Walter Reed has recently begun holding twice-weekly informational meetings. "We felt we were pushing information out before, but the reality is, it was overwhelming," he said. "Is it fail-proof? No. But we've put more resources on it."

He said a 21,500-troop increase in Iraq has Walter Reed bracing for "potentially a lot more" casualties.
Bureaucratic Battles

The best known of the Army's medical centers, Walter Reed opened in 1909 with 10 patients. It has treated the wounded from every war since, and nearly one of every four service members injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The outpatients are assigned to one of five buildings attached to the post, including Building 18, just across from the front gates on Georgia Avenue. To accommodate the overflow, some are sent to nearby hotels and apartments. Living conditions range from the disrepair of Building 18 to the relative elegance of Mologne House, a hotel that opened on the post in 1998, when the typical guest was a visiting family member or a retiree on vacation.

The Pentagon has announced plans to close Walter Reed by 2011, but that hasn't stopped the flow of casualties. Three times a week, school buses painted white and fitted with stretchers and blackened windows stream down Georgia Avenue. Sirens blaring, they deliver soldiers groggy from a pain-relief cocktail at the end of their long trip from Iraq via Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Andrews Air Force Base.

Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, 43, came in on one of those buses in November 2004 and spent several weeks on the fifth floor of Walter Reed's hospital. His eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47 round. His odyssey in the Other Walter Reed has lasted more than two years, but it began when someone handed him a map of the grounds and told him to find his room across post.

A reconnaissance and land-navigation expert, Shannon was so disoriented that he couldn't even find north. Holding the map, he stumbled around outside the hospital, sliding against walls and trying to keep himself upright, he said. He asked anyone he found for directions.

Shannon had led the 2nd Infantry Division's Ghost Recon Platoon until he was felled in a gun battle in Ramadi. He liked the solitary work of a sniper; "Lone Wolf" was his call name. But he did not expect to be left alone by the Army after such serious surgery and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He had appointments during his first two weeks as an outpatient, then nothing.

"I thought, 'Shouldn't they contact me?' " he said. "I didn't understand the paperwork. I'd start calling phone numbers, asking if I had appointments. I finally ran across someone who said: 'I'm your case manager. Where have you been?'

"Well, I've been here! Jeez Louise, people, I'm your hospital patient!"

Like Shannon, many soldiers with impaired memory from brain injuries sat for weeks with no appointments and no help from the staff to arrange them. Many disappeared even longer. Some simply left for home.

One outpatient, a 57-year-old staff sergeant who had a heart attack in Afghanistan, was given 200 rooms to supervise at the end of 2005. He quickly discovered that some outpatients had left the post months earlier and would check in by phone. "We called them 'call-in patients,' " said Staff Sgt. Mike McCauley, whose dormant PTSD from Vietnam was triggered by what he saw on the job: so many young and wounded, and three bodies being carried from the hospital.

Life beyond the hospital bed is a frustrating mountain of paperwork. The typical soldier is required to file 22 documents with eight different commands -- most of them off-post -- to enter and exit the medical processing world, according to government investigators. Sixteen different information systems are used to process the forms, but few of them can communicate with one another. The Army's three personnel databases cannot read each other's files and can't interact with the separate pay system or the medical recordkeeping databases.

The disappearance of necessary forms and records is the most common reason soldiers languish at Walter Reed longer than they should, according to soldiers, family members and staffers. Sometimes the Army has no record that a soldier even served in Iraq. A combat medic who did three tours had to bring in letters and photos of herself in Iraq to show she that had been there, after a clerk couldn't find a record of her service.

Shannon, who wears an eye patch and a visible skull implant, said he had to prove he had served in Iraq when he tried to get a free uniform to replace the bloody one left behind on a medic's stretcher. When he finally tracked down the supply clerk, he discovered the problem: His name was mistakenly left off the "GWOT list" -- the list of "Global War on Terrorism" patients with priority funding from the Defense Department.

He brought his Purple Heart to the clerk to prove he was in Iraq.

Lost paperwork for new uniforms has forced some soldiers to attend their own Purple Heart ceremonies and the official birthday party for the Army in gym clothes, only to be chewed out by superiors.

The Army has tried to re-create the organization of a typical military unit at Walter Reed. Soldiers are assigned to one of two companies while they are outpatients -- the Medical Holding Company (Medhold) for active-duty soldiers and the Medical Holdover Company for Reserve and National Guard soldiers. The companies are broken into platoons that are led by platoon sergeants, the Army equivalent of a parent.

Under normal circumstances, good sergeants know everything about the soldiers under their charge: vices and talents, moods and bad habits, even family stresses.

At Walter Reed, however, outpatients have been drafted to serve as platoon sergeants and have struggled with their responsibilities. Sgt. David Thomas, a 42-year-old amputee with the Tennessee National Guard, said his platoon sergeant couldn't remember his name. "We wondered if he had mental problems," Thomas said. "Sometimes I'd wear my leg, other times I'd take my wheelchair. He would think I was a different person. We thought, 'My God, has this man lost it?' "

Civilian care coordinators and case managers are supposed to track injured soldiers and help them with appointments, but government investigators and soldiers complain that they are poorly trained and often do not understand the system.

One amputee, a senior enlisted man who asked not to be identified because he is back on active duty, said he received orders to report to a base in Germany as he sat drooling in his wheelchair in a haze of medication. "I went to Medhold many times in my wheelchair to fix it, but no one there could help me," he said.

Finally, his wife met an aide to then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, who got the erroneous paperwork corrected with one phone call. When the aide called with the news, he told the soldier, "They don't even know you exist."

"They didn't know who I was or where I was," the soldier said. "And I was in contact with my platoon sergeant every day."

The lack of accountability weighed on Shannon. He hated the isolation of the younger troops. The Army's failure to account for them each day wore on him. When a 19-year-old soldier down the hall died, Shannon knew he had to take action.

The soldier, Cpl. Jeremy Harper, returned from Iraq with PTSD after seeing three buddies die. He kept his room dark, refused his combat medals and always seemed heavily medicated, said people who knew him. According to his mother, Harper was drunkenly wandering the lobby of the Mologne House on New Year's Eve 2004, looking for a ride home to West Virginia. The next morning he was found dead in his room. An autopsy showed alcohol poisoning, she said.

"I can't understand how they could have let kids under the age of 21 have liquor," said Victoria Harper, crying. "He was supposed to be right there at Walter Reed hospital. . . . I feel that they didn't take care of him or watch him as close as they should have."

The Army posthumously awarded Harper a Bronze Star for his actions in Iraq.

Shannon viewed Harper's death as symptomatic of a larger tragedy -- the Army had broken its covenant with its troops. "Somebody didn't take care of him," he would later say. "It makes me want to cry. "

Shannon and another soldier decided to keep tabs on the brain injury ward. "I'm a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, and I take care of people," he said. The two soldiers walked the ward every day with a list of names. If a name dropped off the large white board at the nurses' station, Shannon would hound the nurses to check their files and figure out where the soldier had gone.

Sometimes the patients had been transferred to another hospital. If they had been released to one of the residences on post, Shannon and his buddy would pester the front desk managers to make sure the new charges were indeed there. "But two out of 10, when I asked where they were, they'd just say, 'They're gone,' " Shannon said.

Even after Weightman and his commanders instituted new measures to keep better track of soldiers, two young men left post one night in November and died in a high-speed car crash in Virginia. The driver was supposed to be restricted to Walter Reed because he had tested positive for illegal drugs, Weightman said.

Part of the tension at Walter Reed comes from a setting that is both military and medical. Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, the squad leader who lost one leg and the use of his other in a grenade attack, said his recovery was made more difficult by a Marine liaison officer who had never seen combat but dogged him about having his mother in his room on post. The rules allowed her to be there, but the officer said she was taking up valuable bed space.

"When you join the Marine Corps, they tell you, you can forget about your mama. 'You have no mama. We are your mama,' " Groves said. "That training works in combat. It doesn't work when you are wounded."
Frustration at Every Turn

The frustrations of an outpatient's day begin before dawn. On a dark, rain-soaked morning this winter, Sgt. Archie Benware, 53, hobbled over to his National Guard platoon office at Walter Reed. Benware had done two tours in Iraq. His head had been crushed between two 2,100-pound concrete barriers in Ramadi, and now it was dented like a tin can. His legs were stiff from knee surgery. But here he was, trying to take care of business.

At the platoon office, he scanned the white board on the wall. Six soldiers were listed as AWOL. The platoon sergeant was nowhere to be found, leaving several soldiers stranded with their requests.

Benware walked around the corner to arrange a dental appointment -- his teeth were knocked out in the accident. He was told by a case manager that another case worker, not his doctor, would have to approve the procedure.

"Goddamn it, that's unbelievable!" snapped his wife, Barb, who accompanied him because he can no longer remember all of his appointments.

Not as unbelievable as the time he received a manila envelope containing the gynecological report of a young female soldier.

Next came 7 a.m. formation, one way Walter Reed tries to keep track of hundreds of wounded. Formation is also held to maintain some discipline. Soldiers limp to the old Red Cross building in rain, ice and snow. Army regulations say they can't use umbrellas, even here. A triple amputee has mastered the art of putting on his uniform by himself and rolling in just in time. Others are so gorked out on pills that they seem on the verge of nodding off.

"Fall in!" a platoon sergeant shouted at Friday formation. The noisy room of soldiers turned silent.

An Army chaplain opened with a verse from the Bible. "Why are we here?" she asked. She talked about heroes and service to country. "We were injured in many ways."

Someone announced free tickets to hockey games, a Ravens game, a movie screening, a dinner at McCormick and Schmick's, all compliments of local businesses.

Every formation includes a safety briefing. Usually it is a warning about mixing alcohol with meds, or driving too fast, or domestic abuse. "Do not beat your spouse or children. Do not let your spouse or children beat you," a sergeant said, to laughter. This morning's briefing included a warning about black ice, a particular menace to the amputees.

Dress warm, the sergeant said. "I see some guys rolling around in their wheelchairs in 30 degrees in T-shirts."

Soldiers hate formation for its petty condescension. They gutted out a year in the desert, and now they are being treated like children.

"I'm trying to think outside the box here, maybe moving formation to Wagner Gym," the commander said, addressing concerns that formation was too far from soldiers' quarters in the cold weather. "But guess what? Those are nice wood floors. They have to be covered by a tarp. There's a tarp that's got to be rolled out over the wooden floors. Then it has to be cleaned, with 400 soldiers stepping all over it. Then it's got to be rolled up."

"Now, who thinks Wagner Gym is a good idea?"

Explaining this strange world to family members is not easy. At an orientation for new arrivals, a staff sergeant walked them through the idiosyncrasies of Army financing. He said one relative could receive a 15-day advance on the $64 per diem either in cash or as an electronic transfer: "I highly recommend that you take the cash," he said. "There's no guarantee the transfer will get to your bank." The audience yawned.

Actually, he went on, relatives can collect only 80 percent of this advance, which comes to $51.20 a day. "The cashier has no change, so we drop to $50. We give you the rest" -- the $1.20 a day -- "when you leave."

The crowd was anxious, exhausted. A child crawled on the floor. The sergeant plowed on. "You need to figure out how long your loved one is going to be an inpatient," he said, something even the doctors can't accurately predict from day to day. "Because if you sign up for the lodging advance," which is $150 a day, "and they get out the next day, you owe the government the advance back of $150 a day."

A case manager took the floor to remind everyone that soldiers are required to be in uniform most of the time, though some of the wounded are amputees or their legs are pinned together by bulky braces. "We have break-away clothing with Velcro!" she announced with a smile. "Welcome to Walter Reed!"
A Bleak Life in Building 18

"Building 18! There is a rodent infestation issue!" bellowed the commander to his troops one morning at formation. "It doesn't help when you live like a rodent! I can't believe people live like that! I was appalled by some of your rooms!"

Life in Building 18 is the bleakest homecoming for men and women whose government promised them good care in return for their sacrifices.

One case manager was so disgusted, she bought roach bombs for the rooms. Mouse traps are handed out. It doesn't help that soldiers there subsist on carry-out food because the hospital cafeteria is such a hike on cold nights. They make do with microwaves and hot plates.

Army officials say they "started an aggressive campaign to deal with the mice infestation" last October and that the problem is now at a "manageable level." They also say they will "review all outstanding work orders" in the next 30 days.

Soldiers discharged from the psychiatric ward are often assigned to Building 18. Buses and ambulances blare all night. While injured soldiers pull guard duty in the foyer, a broken garage door allows unmonitored entry from the rear. Struggling with schizophrenia, PTSD, paranoid delusional disorder and traumatic brain injury, soldiers feel especially vulnerable in that setting, just outside the post gates, on a street where drug dealers work the corner at night.

"I've been close to mortars. I've held my own pretty good," said Spec. George Romero, 25, who came back from Iraq with a psychological disorder. "But here . . . I think it has affected my ability to get over it . . . dealing with potential threats every day."

After Spec. Jeremy Duncan, 30, got out of the hospital and was assigned to Building 18, he had to navigate across the traffic of Georgia Avenue for appointments. Even after knee surgery, he had to limp back and forth on crutches and in pain. Over time, black mold invaded his room.

But Duncan would rather suffer with the mold than move to another room and share his convalescence in tight quarters with a wounded stranger. "I have mold on the walls, a hole in the shower ceiling, but . . . I don't want someone waking me up coming in."

Wilson, the clinical social worker at Walter Reed, was part of a staff team that recognized Building 18's toll on the wounded. He mapped out a plan and, in September, was given a $30,000 grant from the Commander's Initiative Account for improvements. He ordered some equipment, including a pool table and air hockey table, which have not yet arrived. A Psychiatry Department functionary held up the rest of the money because she feared that buying a lot of recreational equipment close to Christmas would trigger an audit, Wilson said.

In January, Wilson was told that the funds were no longer available and that he would have to submit a new request. "It's absurd," he said. "Seven months of work down the drain. I have nothing to show for this project. It's a great example of what we're up against."

A pool table and two flat-screen TVs were eventually donated from elsewhere.

But Wilson had had enough. Three weeks ago he turned in his resignation. "It's too difficult to get anything done with this broken-down bureaucracy," he said.

At town hall meetings, the soldiers of Building 18 keep pushing commanders to improve conditions. But some things have gotten worse. In December, a contracting dispute held up building repairs.

"I hate it," said Romero, who stays in his room all day. "There are cockroaches. The elevator doesn't work. The garage door doesn't work. Sometimes there's no heat, no water. . . . I told my platoon sergeant I want to leave. I told the town hall meeting. I talked to the doctors and medical staff. They just said you kind of got to get used to the outside world. . . . My platoon sergeant said, 'Suck it up!' "

- 30 -

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

~ ~ ~

(screen 1 of) Comments

Would someone please put these brave people on TV and let America see how much they have given. Let America see that Bush cares so much about our soldiers he lets them sleep in mouse droppings. The Dick n Bush show sent 10 BILLION dollars into a was zone and stole it now our soldiers sleep in SH*T. Thank you soldiers, Up-yours Bush and Cheney.

By ezwider420 | Feb 17, 2007 6:36:34 PM | Request Removal

Dont close Walter Reed.

By OldAtlantic | Feb 17, 2007 6:37:57 PM | Request Removal

Walter Reed is a family for these soldiers, their patients and its staff. Dont destory this family and this historic base. Building another hospital doesnt save money.

By OldAtlantic | Feb 17, 2007 6:39:25 PM | Request Removal

When John McCain tells us that there will be dire consequences if we do not prevail in Iraq, does that refer to a threat coming from over there, or from inside the United States?

By tobrien56 | Feb 17, 2007 6:42:18 PM | Request Removal

By Jingo, if we don*t keep creating more maimed veterans and letting them rot in places like this, then the Terrorists[tm] win! Support the Troops: Start More Elective Wars!

By youareidiots | Feb 17, 2007 6:48:37 PM | Request Removal

How can Bush and his allies claim to be for the troops and then propose a budget that cuts funding to the VA their health care? And this supposedly in a time of war?

By quyenthu | Feb 17, 2007 6:49:27 PM | Request Removal

Has Cheney ever visited Reed? Doubt it.

By hairguy01 | Feb 17, 2007 6:50:40 PM | Request Removal

We need to harken back to Lincoln to remind us of our responsibility: to care for him who shall have borne the battle.

By jhart | Feb 17, 2007 6:50:42 PM | Request Removal

Chalk up one more for the crooks and liars in the White House and Pentagon.

By lowdown | Feb 17, 2007 6:57:12 PM | Request Removal


By cdante959 | Feb 17, 2007 6:58:16 PM | Request Removal

There is no excuse for this!!!!! I work in a homeless shelter in Hagerstown MD that is better than this and apparently has more to offer. I hang my head in tears for what is going on there in building 18.

By Hootmom001 | Feb 17, 2007 7:06:11 PM | Request Removal

God, this is sickening. How about posting the new SecDef in Bldg 18 till the problems get cleared up? Put Cheney in there too.

By hairguy01 | Feb 17, 2007 7:16:18 PM | Request Removal

Clearly, this treasonous article does nothing but undermine domestic support for the War and Embolden[tm] the Enemy[tm]! A different approach is needed. The President should expand the CIA *black sites* initiative and set up secure, clandestine hospital-cum-interrogation centers in remote, inaccessible locations, and route all future wounded vets and Enemy Combatants[tm] there. As dual-use facilities go, these would be a slam dunk, since there doesn*t appear to be much practical distinction in how we treat the two classes of clientele, or in how we regard the issue of public transparency. Dulce et decorum est pro patria vulnerari!

By youareidiots | Feb 17, 2007 7:18:12 PM | Request Removal

I saw the article advertised on the nightly news tonight - 2/17. After reading this I am appalled at the conditions that our wounded soldiers have to endure at Walter Reed especially since we are spending billions to help, rebuild and god knows what over in Iraq, Afghanistan and every other hell hole in the world. The White House and the President should be brought to task for these conditions. We cant even give these men clean, safe, pleasant surrounds as they try to recover and rebuild their lives. I hope to see the conditions improved and will follow this story. Maria Ginter, Albany, NY

By mgxero | Feb 17, 2007 7:28:52 PM | Request Removal

Whats the deal with the FCUKING CAPS LOCK KEY. Enough already.

By robert7ii | Feb 17, 2007 7:31:41 PM | Request Removal

I remember many years ago that my dad said he would never go to a VA hospital. It appears from your article that this lack of proper treatment has permeated our military hospital system. These brave men and women deserve the best care possible. Living in the squaller you describe is unforgiveable. Why should they be expected to sacrifice further? Havent they done their duty? It brings tears to my eyes and fills me with saddness to think that these deplorable conditions only add to their trauma. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Is there anything we can do to help them? They deserve our gratitude and shouldnt have to be subjected to these conditions. Pete Svoboda Richmond, Virginia

By boda2803 | Feb 17, 2007 7:37:35 PM | Request Removal

What a sad story. It is obvious that the casualties from the Iraq war have overwhelmed the capacity of the institutions designed to care for them. And, it is another reminder that war is not a movie or a computer game.

By rkerg | Feb 17, 2007 7:42:47 PM | Request Removal

Compassionate conservatism at work. Let Walter Reed get in line--behind Halliburton, of course.

By branfo4 | Feb 17, 2007 7:43:47 PM | Request Removal

Shhh, youll embolden the enemy!

By open | Feb 17, 2007 7:47:10 PM | Request Removal

As a disabled Vet.60, I have heard GWB state many times that the Vets. will be taken care of to the end. But in the next few weeks after, cut funding for VA care, reduced spending for various programs and leaves the Vets. hanging in the breeze. Some of my peers will be heard saying, the Post is a liberal paper, and you cant believe what they print. All well and good, but if you believe only 25 of this article, Things are out of hand at Walter Reed,just like the rest of the government.

By jerryf01 | Feb 17, 2007 7:48:11 PM | Request Removal

"Catalog of Knots for Dummies" / Watch This Space / a Cry for Help to a Nebraska Topologist

Click, certainly.

Mark Brittenham
Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics
University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Hello Professor Brittenham,

Thanks very much for the knots catalog .gif

Could I impose on you to write 2 or 3 informal grafs about it for my blog

something on the order of "Catalog of Knots for Dummies" ?

VleeptronZ has a very smart readership from all over the world, but we tend to be somewhat Innocent of a lot of higher mathematics.

(So am I, but I'm nosy and I like to program math stuff.)

What makes these knots unique? what makes them objects of interest to mathematicians? How does the notational scheme work? are they useful as descriptive tools for things/phenomena in the Real World? Historically, when did interest in knots begin and how has it evolved to the present? Where will Knot Theory lead in the future?

Stuff like that. I want to post the catalog as an inherently beautiful image and a superb piece of visual representation of information, but I'd be truly appreciative if someone with expertise could take a stab about describing what it is and what it means for a non-mathematical readership.

(But please feel free to use equations.)

Bob Merkin
Northampton Massachusetts USA
News, Weather, Mozart, Sports, Extragalactic Travel, sausages, opera, PIRATES!!! & Really Big Integers. Remarkable Older Stuph:

22 February 2007

a club sandwich to DE, memoir of Baader-Meinhof Gang / Red Army Faction to Vleeptron

Postalo Vleeptron / First Day Issue
Cullinary Treasures of the USA
Club Sandwich
$7.99 with cup of soup
for U.B.

THIS JUST IN via e-mail from Berlin: Yummy!

Agence-Vleeptron Presse
's Mensch-on-the-Ground in Berlin, U.B., has been missing this popular food dish from the USA, so A-VP sends him one. A cup of soup (not shown) comes with it.

Meanwhile, he files this memoir of the Baader-Meinhof Gang / Red Army Faction, and some perspective:


just read your text about the "Baader - Meinhof Bande" that what they were mostly called in Germany.

They called themself "Rote Armee Fraktion" as you write.

By the way that some of them get free is not an act of mercy it does not matter if they still feel guilty or regret what they did. It´s just the law. Usually the maximum sentence is 15 years which can be extended to 24 years of inprisonment when it is really a "lifetime sentence". After that prisoners can only be kept if the are a permanant danger for society.

Safety Inprisonment follows after the regular time is done. This happens from time to time to serial killers.

. . .

Now to your questions.

At the height of the RAF times I was 16/17 Years old. And it scared me what I saw. Not only the the killings of the BMgang but also the news about peoples reaction. Right away calling for a death penalty and plenty of them. A lot of hatred still in them probably leftovers from the war at that time.

When Schleyer was killed it happened that whole cities were surrounded -- every road closed by police -- and everyone had to stop and was checked.

A strange feeling. That must have been what Argentines at that time felt daily. A strange fear that the agression turns back on us innocent people. The terrorists themselves must have lost ground totally. I don´t even think that their main motives were political.

More a perverted narcissm -- or why would one like one of them help to kill her own uncle.

The other thing I remember is that the so called terror did in the mind of the people only hit the upper class, so most people feared more the political consequences like a future police state. The death of M. Schleyer's driver was quickly forgotten.

Right now I can not remember more.

What I miss from Amerika...............hmm ...............oral pleasures none, except a good club sandwich, toasted, maybe.

Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch, d.h. die Beschreibung des Lebens eines seltsamen Vaganten, genannt Melchior Sternfels von Fuchsheim

image filched from
Badischen Landesbibliothek,
Karlsruhe, Deutschland

The College of William and Mary is a small private liberal-arts college in Virginia USA which dates to Colonial times. It was named for the English King William III and Queen Mary, and was founded in 1618; it is the USA's second oldest college. Originally, the college paid "rent" to the Colonial Governor of Virginia in the form of some original Latin poems by the college students each year. In the 1960s, the practice, long neglected, was resumed.

In 2002, Professor Ronald Shechter taught a course "Europe in the Age of Absolutism, 1648-1789," and his students typed A.T.S. Goodrick's 1912 English translation of the German classic picaresque novel "The Adventurous Simplicissimus," written by H.J.C. von Grimmelshausen, to create the first on-line Internet "Simplicissimus." Grimmelshausen's 1669 title is "Der Abentheurliche Simplicissimus Teutsch." Each student typed in a section of the novel and also researched and wrote some footnotes.

Professor Schechter writes: "As far as I know, this is the first nearly complete English-language version of Simplicissimus on the Internet (Goodrick himself expurgated a few chapters he considered irrelevant or obscene, so his version was also incomplete)."

When Grimmelshausen was 10 years old he was abducted to serve as a boy soldier with the army of the German state of Hesse during the Thirty Years War, the brutal military "resolution" of Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation. A great deal of "Simplicissimus" is based on his own war experiences.

"Simplicissimus" can be thought of as German literature's "Don Quixote." Here's the first three chapters. If you're starving for more, Leave A Comment, or click HERE.

If you and Grimmelshausen have bumped into one another before, Leave A Comment, let us know what you think about the fellow.

~ ~ ~

The Adventurous Simplicissimus

Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch,
d.h. die Beschreibung
des Lebens eines seltsamen Vaganten,
genannt Melchior Sternfels von Fuchsheim

a novel by
Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen
(1621 - 17 August 1676)

1912 translation (London) by A.T.S. Goodrick

~ ~ ~


Chapter i


There appeareth in these days of ours (of which many do believe that they be the last days) among the common folk, a certain disease which causeth those who do suffer from it (so soon as they have either scraped and higgled together so much that they can, besides a few pence in their pocket, wear a fool’s coat of the new fashion with a thousand bits of silk ribbon upon it, or by some trick of fortune have become known as men of parts) forthwith to give themselves out gentlemen and nobles of ancient descent. Whereas it doth often happen that their ancestors were day-labourers, carters, and porters, their cousins donkey-drivers, their brothers turnkeys and catchpolls, their sisters harlots, their mothers bawds—yea, witches even: and in a word, their whole pedigree of thirty-two quarterings as full of dirt and stain as ever was the sugar-bakers’ guild of Prague. Yea, these new sprigs of nobility be often themselves as black as if they had been born and bred in Guinea.

With such foolish folk I desire not to even myself, though ‘tis not untrue that I have often fancied I must have drawn my birth from some great lord or knight at least, as being by nature disposed to follow the nobleman's trade had I but the means and tools for it. ‘Tis true, moreover, without jesting, that my birth and upbringing can be compared to that of a prince if we overlook the one great difference in degree. How ! did not my dad (for so they call fathers in the Spessart [1]) have his own palace like any other, so fine as no king could build with his own hands, but must let that alone for ever. ‘Twas painted with lime, and in the place of unfruitful tiles, cold lead and red copper, was roofed with that straw whereupon the noble corn doth grow, and that he, my dad, might make a proper show of nobility and riches, he has his wall round his castle built, not of stone, which men do find upon the road of dig out of the earth in barren places, much less of miserable baked bricks that in a brief space can be made and burned (as other great lords be wont to do), but he did use oak, which noble and profitable tree, being such that smoked sausage and fat ham doth grow upon it, taketh for its full growth no less than a hundred years; and where is the monarch that can imitate him therein? His halls, his rooms, and his chambers did he have thoroughly blackened with smoke, and for this reason only, that ‘tis the most lasting colour in the world, and doth take longer to reach to real perfection than an artist will spend on his most excellent paintings. The tapestries were of the most delicate web in the world, wove for us by her that of old did challenge Minerva to a spinning match [2]. His windows were dedicated to St. Papyrius for no other reason than that that same paper doth take longer to come to perfection, reckoning from the sowing of the hemp of flax whereof ‘tis made, than doth the finest and clearest glass of Murano: for his trade made him apt to believe that whatever was produced with much pains was also more valuable and more costly; and what was most costly was best suited to the nobility. Instead of pages, lackeys, grooms, he had sheep, goats, and swine, which often waited upon me in the pastures till I drove them home. His armoury was well furnished with ploughs, mattocks, axes, hoes, shovels, pitchforks, and hayforks, with which weapons he daily exercised himself. The yoking of oxen was his generalship, the piling of dung his fortification, tilling of the land his campaigning, and the cleaning out of the stables his princely pastime and exercise. By this means did he conquer the whole round world so far as he could reach, and at every harvest did draw from it rich spoils. But all this I account nothing of, and am not puffed up thereby, lest any should have cause to jibe at me as at other new-fangled nobility, for I esteem myself no higher than was my dad, which had his abode in a right merry land, to wit, in the Spessart, where the wolves do howl goodnight to each other. But that I have as yet told you nought of my dad’s family, race, and name is of the sake of precious brevity, especially since there is here no question of a foundation for gentlefolks for me to swear myself into; ‘tis enough if it be known that I was born in the Spessart.

Now as my dad’s manner of living will be perceived to be truly noble, so any man of sense will easily understand that my upbringing was like and suitable thereto: and whoso thinks that is not deceived, for in my tenth year I already learned the rudiments of my dad’s princely exercises: yet as touching studies I might compare with the famous Amphistides, of whom Suidas reports that he could not count higher than five: for my dad had perchance too high a spirit, and therefore followed the use of these days, wherein many persons of quality trouble themselves not, as they say, with bookworms’ follies, but have their hirelings to do their ink-slinging for them. Yet I was a fine performer on the bagpipe, whereon I could produce most dolorous strains. But as to knowledge of things divine, none shall ever persuade me that any lad of my age in all Christendom could there beat me, for I knew nought of God or man, of Heaven or hell, of angel of devil, nor could discern between good and evil. So it may be easily understood that I, with such knowledge of theology, lived like our first parents in Paradise, which in their innocence knew nought of sickness or death or dying, and still less of the Resurrection. O noble life ! (or, as one might better say, O noodle’s life !) in which none troubles himself about medicine. And by this measure ye can estimate my proficiency in the study of jurisprudence and all other arts and sciences. Yes, I was so perfected in ignorance that I knew not that I knew nothing. So I say again, O noble life that once I led ! But my dad would not suffer me long to enjoy such bliss, but deemed it right that as being nobly born, I should nobly act and nobly live: and therefore began to train me up for higher things that gave me harder lessons.

Chapter ii


For he invested me with the highest dignity that could be found, not only in his
household, but in the whole world: namely, with the office of a shepherd: for first he did entrust me with his swine, then his goats, and then his whole flock of sheep, what I should keep and feed the same, and by means of my bagpipe (of which Strabo writeth that in Arabia its music alone doth fatten the sheep and lambs) protect them from the wolf. Then was I like David (save that he in place of the bagpipe had but a harp), which was no bad beginning for me, but a good omen in time, if I had any manner of luck, I should become a famous man: for from the beginning of the world high personages have been shepherds, as we read in the Holy Writ of Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and his sons: yea, of Moses also, which must first keep his father-in-law his sheep before he was made law-giver and ruler over six hundred thousand men in Israel.

And now may some man say that these were holy and godly men, and no Spessart peasant-lads knowing nought of God? Which I must confess: yet why should my then innocence be laid to my charge? Yet, among the heathen of old time you will find examples as many among God’s chosen folk. So among the Romans were the noble families that without a doubt were called Bubulci, Vituli, Vitellii, Caprae, and so forth, because they had to do with the cattle so named, and ‘tis like had even herded them. ‘Tis certain Romulus and Remus were shepherds, and Spartacus that made the whole Roman world to tremble. What ! was not Paris, King Priam’s son, a shepherd, and Anchises the Trojan prince, Aeneas’s father? The beautiful Endymion, of whom the chaste Luna was enamoured, was a shepherd, and so too the grisly Polypheme. Yea, the gods themselves were not ashamed of this trade: Apollo kept the kine of Admetus, King of Thessaly; Mercurius and his son Daphnis, Pan and Proteus, were all mighty shepherds: and therefore be they still called by our fantastic poets and patrons of herdsmen. Mesha, King of Moab, as we do read in II Kings, was a sheep-master; Cyrus, the great King of Persia, was not only reared by Mithridates, a shepherd, but himself did keep sheep; Gyges was first a herdsman, and then by the power of a ring became a king; and Ismael Sophi, the Persian king, did in his youth likewise herd cattle. So that Philo, the Jew, doth excellently deal with the matter in his life of Moses when he saith the shepherd’s trade is a preparation and a beginning for the ruling of men, for as men are trained and exercised for the wars in hunting, so should they that are intended for government first be reared in the gentle and kindly duty of a shepherd: all which my dad doubtless did understand: yea, to know it doth to this hour give me no little hope of my future greatness.

But to come back to my flock. Ye must know that I knew as little of wolves as of mine own ignorance, and therefore was my dad the more diligent with his lessons: and “lad,” says he, “have a care; let not the sheep run far from each other, and play thy bagpipe manfully lest the wolf come and do harm, for ‘tis a four-legged knave and a thief that eateth man and beast, and if thou beest anyways negligent he will dust thy jacket for thee.” To which I answered with like courtesy, “Daddy, tell me how a wolf looks: for such I never saw yet.” “O thou silly blockhead,” quoth he, “all thy life long wilt thou be a fool: thou art already a great looby and yet knowest not what a four-legged rogue a wolf is.” And more lessons did he give me, and at last grew angry and went away, as bethinking him that my thick wit could not comprehend his nice instruction.

Chapter iii


So I began to make such ado with my bagpipe and such noise that ‘twas enough to poison all the toads in the garden, and so methought I was safe enough from the wolf that was ever in my mind: and remembering me of my mammy (for so they do use to call their mothers in Spessart and the Vogelsberg) how she had often said the fowls would some time or other die of my singing, I fell upon the thought to sing the more, and so I sang this which I had learned from my mammy:

1. O peasant race so much despised
How greatly art thou to be priz’d?
Yea, none thy praises can excel,
If men would only mark thee well.

2. How would it with the world now stand
Had Adam never till’d the land?
With spade and hoe he dug the earth
From whom our princes have their birth.

3. Whatever earth doth bear this day
Is under thine high rule and sway,
And all that fruitful makes the land
Is guided by thy master hand.

4. The emperor whom God doth give
Us to protect, thereby doth live:
So doth the soldier: though his trade
To thy great loss and harm be made.

5. Meat for our feasts thou dost provide:
Our wine by thee too is supplied:
Thy plough can force the earth to give
That bread whereby all men must live.

6. All waste the earth and desert were
Didst thou not ply thy calling there:
Sad day shall that for all be found
When peasants cease to till the ground.

7. So hast thou right to laud and praise,
For thou dost feed us all our days.
Nature herself thee well doth love,
And God thy handiwork approve.

8. Whoever yet on earth did hear
Of peasant that the gout did fear;
That fell disease which rich men dread,
Whereby is many a noble dead.

9. From vainglory art thou free
(As in these days thou well mayst be),
And lest thou shouldst through pride have loss,
God bids thee daily bear thy cross.

10. Yea, even the soldier’s wicked will
May work thee great advantage still:
For lest thou shouldst to pride incline,
“Thy goods and house,” saith he, “are mine.”

So far and no further could I get with my song: for in a moment was I surrounded, sheep and all, by a troop of cuirassiers [3] that had lost their way in the thick wood and were brought back to their right path by my music and my calls to my flock. “Aha,” quoth I to myself, “These be the right rogues ! these be the four-legged knaves and thieves whereof thy dad did tell thee ! “ For at first I took horse and man (as did the Americans the Spanish cavalry) to be but one beast, and could not but conceive these were the wolves; and so would sound the retreat for these horrible centaurs and send them a-flying: but scarce had I blown up my bellows to that end when one of them catches me by the shoulder and swings me up so roughly upon a spare farm horse they had stolen with other booty that I must needs fall on the other side, and that too upon my dear bagpipe, which began so miserably to scream as it would move all the world to pity: which availed nought, though it spared not its last breath in the bewailing of my sad fate. To horse again I must go, it mattered not what my bagpipe did sing or say: yet what vexed me most was that the troopers said I had hurt my dear bagpipe, and therefore it had made so heathenish an outcry. So away my horse went with me at a good trot, like the “primum mobile [4],” for my dad’s farm.

Now did strange and fantastic imaginings fill my brain; for I did conceive, because I sat upon such a beast as I had never before seen, that I too should be changed into an iron man. And because such a change came not, there arose in me other foolish fantasies, for I thought these strange creatures were but there to help me drive my sheep home; for none strayed from the path, but all, with one accord, made for my dad’s farm. So I looked anxiously when my dad and mammy should come out to bid us welcome: which yet came not: for they and our Ursula, which was my dad’s only daughter, had found the back-door open and would not wait for their guests.


[1] The Spessart is a small mountain range in the southwestern Germany. It reaches its highest point in the Geiersberg at 1918 feet. Situated between the Odenwald and the Hohe Rhön, its slopes are forested with vineyards and fruit trees growing at the western foot. “Spessart, The,” The Columbia Gazetteer of the World. Ed. By Saul B. Cohen. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), vol. 3, p. 3000.

[2] Simplicissimus refers to Arachne of Greek mythology, who was an extremely accomplished weaver. Arachne challenged the goddess Athena to a weaving competition. Athena’s creation depicted the gods and goddesses, while Ariadne’s weaving showed the same gods and goddesses making love. When Athena saw the tapestry's superiority, she destroyed it in jealousy. Arachne hanged herself, but before the rope killed her, Athena took pity on her and changed the rope into a cobweb and Arachne into a spider. The “tapestries” that decorate Simplicissimus’ house are spider webs. “Arachne,” The New Encyclopedia Britannica, (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 1997), vol 1, p. 510.

[3] Cuirassiers were members of a certain kind of heavy cavalry in European armies. They wore armor called cuirasses, which consisted of a backpiece and a breastplate that covered their upper bodies. “Cuirassier” and “Cuirass,” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (Springfield, Massachusetts: G & C Merriam Company, 1976) p. 551.

[4] The Prime Mover was a part of the conceptual theory of the astronomy espoused by Aristotle and others that there is an outer sphere of the universe that it responsible for the movement of all celestial bodies. Taub, Liba Chaia. Ptolemy’s Universe (Chicago: Open Court, 1993), p. 113-122.

20 February 2007

you DON'T have a problem with this??? / lurzu everywhere but my neighborhood

click once
click twice
it gets more nice

目覚めてください !
醒来 !
English to Russian
Error: An internal server error occurred
Nobody in the entire Internet, not Klaas in Rotterdam, not Ygor in Kafe Internet Sofia, says 1 word about This Thing which has

* finite volume /
finite inside

* infinite surface /
infinite outside

I need to travel more. Obviously these things are as common as McDonalds restaurants in your neighborhoods.

I will have an Internet Relay Chat relapse, click on Undernet #pakistan and ask around.


* now talking in #Pakistan

* Topic is: Welcome to #Pakistan / Happy Birthday President Musharaf! set by MarvinOfArabia 06:22 18 Feb 2007


[SuperSexyGuy] oh yes these things are all over the place, we call them lurzu

[SuperSexyGuy] we fill them up with water in 5 minutes

[SuperSexyGuy] but have been painting outside wall since 1330 AD

[SuperSexyGuy] and still we are not finished

[BodyLikeHercules] there is lurzu on my uncles farm

[BodyLikeHercules] every summer he makes me paint the lurzu

[BodyLikeHercules] i hate him

[BodyLikeHercules] i dreamed that flying buzz saw blade cut him in half

[BodyLikeHercules] :)

[SuperSexyGuy] come visit, i will show you 3 or 4 lurzu near my city

[Droog4] you're bullshitting me, right?

[SuperSexyGuy] what means bullshitting?

[SuperSexyGuy] i get top marks in english :-)

[SuperSexyGuy] but the slang, this is always hard to understand

[SuperSexyGuy] do you live near Hollywood?


I first heard about the lurzu in a movie they showed at an Amherst College math seminar. The movie was a 1967 animated cartoon called "Infinite Acres" by the math educator Melvin Henriksen.
Maybe by now you can find it on youtube or some site like that.

I went home and told my (ex-) wife about the lurzu. She got very suspicious and unhappy :-((( like I'd told her a real creepy sick perv thing. I think the lurzu had a lot to do with how the marriage broke up.

Leave a fucking Comment. Wake the fuck up.

19 February 2007

the soldier-poets still live! (the soldier poets still die)

On several occasions Vleeptron has recycled the powerful and bitter body of poems written by British soldiers from World War One, many of whom did not make it home to England or Scotland alive -- though by miracles of mud and confusion, their battered notebooks scrawled with their poems did.

I have wondered if this monstrous Iraq War has inspired its own soldier-poets.

And if not, why not? What has happened since 1914-1918 and 2007 to have boiled away the response of poetry from soldiers in a ghastly, grotesque battlefield?

Nothing. The poetry is still there, the soldier-poets are still here, ducking their heads, praying to come home in one piece. But making certain they will at least leave their poems, their echoes of Doomed Youth, behind.


Curtis D. Bennett, of Lawrence, Kansas USA, was a military pilot and served as a captain in the Marines during the Vietnam War in 1968. Here is a newspaper essay he wrote about Memorial Day 2006. Here are two of his poems about the War in Iraq.


Abu Ghraib

Curtis D. Bennett

The photos were painfully clear,

In color, and graphically detailed,
In multi-pixel format
From across the world.
From another faraway land
In another place, and time.
They were undeniable, uncompromising,
Painful to look at, hard to accept.

Some photos showed naked men
Wearing black hoods over their heads,
Clustered in a pile on the floor,
As an American girl grinned and pointed at their genitalia,
As if she found it somewhat lacking.
Manacled hands embracing each other
Bare skin on bare skins
In a mangled group of bodies
Lying together in a jangled, confusing heap.
They lay helpless before the Americans.

One showed a prisoner like a giant moth-man
Standing on boxes with electrodes,
Attached to his fingers.
Still another terrified man,
Backed away, handcuffed,
Cringing against the wall
In total terror as excited dogs,
Eagerly strained and barked for the prize.

Most disturbing in that sinister jail
Known in Iraq as Abu Ghraib
A smiling American soldier,
Looks down at a prisoner,
Laying on the ground like a dog,
She held a leash to his neck
She stood there stoically watching
Her captured prize of Iraqi manhood
Cowering on the cold cement.
Helpless, powerless to resist,
Unable to act, unable to move,
Unable to think, defenseless
Totally submissive and subservient,
Totally at the mercy of the war.
These photos are a metaphor,
Of what America considers Iraq,
What we think of the Iraqi people,
Of our dominance, or our authority,
Of our cruelty, and our brutality,
Our inhumanity and callousness,
With total disregard for other peoples
Except ourselves and our selfish priorities,
Where the Military abuse their power,
Where the strong abuse the weak,
Where Leaders are beyond the law,
Beyond authority, beyond reproach
To unfortunate prisoners of war,
They appear to believe
They are answerable to no one.

A parallel metaphor emerges,
Of guards and prisoners,
Of leashes and hoods
Of the calloused indifference
The brutal treatment to Prisoners of War.
It is Cheney holding the Leash
Of a feckless, hooded naked Congress,
Secretary Rumsfeld dragging the leash
Of the military stumbling blindly behind,

President Bush leads the trio
Down his yellow brick road,
Paved with lies and misrepresentations,
False Fear, terror, deceit,
And fanciful, imagined enemies,
Dragging behind him the hooded,
Unseeing naked American masses
Down his deadly road
Of war and destruction,
All of us, unwilling participants in his War,
All of us -- in America
Prisoners of War.


Coming Home

Curtis D. Bennett

Inside the gray, steel womb of cargo space.
Flag covered caskets quietly lie
In rank and file, line on line in silence.
Bound together in final military formation
Flags of blood reds, cloud whites and ocean blues,
Drape and caress the dull, pewter boxes
Encasing the broken, ashen, hallowed remains
Of dead young boys and girls,
Forced to pay the ultimate price
In this foreign land with strange people,
Where brutal Death forever lurks,
Beneath the surface, around the corner
Watching with cold eyes that never sleep.

Outside, hot desert night winds
Sweep down from the northern mountains
In biting, stinging clouds of dust
Blowing and swirling the tarmac, ruffling flags.
Steel, hydraulic doors whine and close tight

Sealing the precious cargo inside.
Engines come to life and rumble the air,
The huge cargo transport trundles away
Disappearing in the darkness of the taxiway.
Moments later, re-emerging, a roaring shadow
That races and climbs sharply up and away
Into the night air to seek the stars.

Floating suspended between earth and sky
The westbound plane heads for the full moon.
Carrying its sleeping, youthful cargo home.
To the land that gave them birth,
To the parents who loved and raised then
To the government who sent them to fight,
And the politicians who killed them.
In the early morning hours, it touches down
On glistening tarmac of the sleeping base.
To taxi off and away towards the dark distant hanger
Where black hearses wait under tight security.

Once again hydraulics hum the cargo doors open.
The setting moon softly illuminates the caskets.
So quietly they lie, so well they sleep,
With no more promises to keep,
No more miles to go.

May 12, 2004


Home Come Your Sons

David Roberts

(Brize Norton 28 March 2003)

On this misty spring day
at an airfield in Oxfordshire
ten hearses wait.

Families in formal lines, bandsmen,
commanders -- the services' top brass, chaplains,
the Duke of York, the Minister of Defence,
here to do their bit, wait
and watch the sky,
searching for a sign
of a returning plane.

Then suddenly with massive roar
the huge transporter touches down.

They wait again,
and how much longer must they wait this awful apparition?

At last
unseen forces lower the huge tail door.

This is the moment.
Home come your sons --
the first to die in this sad war.

One by one,
ten coffins draped in union flags
are carried shoulder high by six young men
walking at a solemn pace.

Fine words are spoken --
words of respect and consolation.
In turn each coffin is borne
to each waiting hearse
and the band plays Handel's mournful march.

You know they did their duty --
good-hearted, keen, they had so much to give.
Yet this is their reward. It makes no sense.
You shake with grief and utter loss.
You are filled with pride
and try to comprehend
the reasons your sons died who should have lived.

Regrettably, the public also has a right to ask,
was fighting in this war a necessary task?

Was it right
that your sons went to bomb and kill
people who bore us no ill?

They were a courageous band of brothers
who went abroad
to risk the lives of others.

It must take guts to drop those bombs
on defenceless people who had no chance.

Was it really necessary to attack
the innocent people of Iraq? --
Children, half of them,
and over half malnourished.
What had they done to us
to be so punished?

Your boys didn't have to maim and kill
or break the hearts of mothers.
This is the shamefullest of wars.
They could have used their talents in a decent cause.
They could have lived,
and you could see them still.

30 March and 6 April 2003.

Copyright © 2003 David Roberts
Free use on the internet/web and small-scale, not for profit publications.
Please acknowledge source.

Personal note

I feel the deepest sympathy for those parents, relations and friends of soldiers and victims killed and injured in war, in all their grief and pain. This year has seen calamitous and totally avoidable suffering in Iraq.

When young people sign up to serve in the armed forces of their country they do so in the belief that if the worst came to the worst they might be called upon to defend their country against an enemy invader. To find that they are called upon to attack another country is a abuse of their talents and courage.

I would hope that the loss of all the innocent lives would help in some way to make a better world, but I hold the conviction that attempting to "help" a country by first killing thousands of innocent people is an outrage, totally immoral, and illegal under international law. I believe leaders who initiate such crimes should be held personally responsible and tried as war criminals. They are the ones responsible for the deaths of the innocent and defenceless people of Iraq who never planned to do us the slightest harm, and the deaths of our own innocent servicemen who had no complaint against those whose country they were sent to help take over on behalf of America.

Several parents of soldiers killed in the Iraq war have contacted the British press to say how they felt that their sons died in a bad cause or were betrayed by the British government. Clearly, I agree with them.

On 10 November 2004 I watched Channel 4 news. It showed a group of parents of soldiers killed in Iraq laying a wreath on the step of 10 Downing Street. Afterwards there was a press conference. For several seconds the camera stayed on the face of one mother who cried uncontrollably. This to my mind is the essence of what is wrong with war. It causes such immense suffering which will take years if not generations to heal.

Another mother was interviewed outside the Houses of Parliament. She said that the war was wrong. There was no need for it. The Iraqis had never threatened Britain.

See my poem Remembrance Day 2004.