Tag Archives: long-ago


When we were kids, one crucial component of Christmas, and the weeks leading up to it, was our electric trains. We would get out an enormous piece of plywood, tack green felt to it, and set up the train tracks on it. We’d put minature houses and people around, with street signs and animals and phone poles. And then we would drive the electric trains around it for hours and hours at a time.

I’m not entirely sure which year the trains went into the boxes. I don’t *think* we set them up in Nairobi, but we very well might have. If we did, then it’s been 16 years. But it could have been longer.

This afternoon, Sarah and I got the trains out of the boxes, cleared the floor in the attic/storage room, and set up one of the tracks in a little oval, and got the trains working. Some of them work better than others, and the tracks needed quite a bit of sanding/grinding/polishing before they would actually conduct any electricity, but before long, the little Rock Island and Santa Fe trains, with their Smuckers and Trident box cars, were zipping around the tracks. Sarah wasn’t really into it at first, but as soon as the trains really started working, she wanted to make bridges and mountains and all sorts of other things.

The goal is to make that room the Train Room, and set up both tracks, and possibly three tracks, if I can get all of the various bits and pieces working. I’ve got 4 engines, 3 of which seem to be working pretty well. And I think we can have ourselves a fun little train room with a little work. Most of the track segments need to be sanded, and most of the track connectors are loose and need to be either crimped tighter or replaced entirely. But I’ve wanted to do this for years and years, and finally have the chance to actually do it.

I’ll probably post some pictures in a little while.

What would be really cool was if Andy could be here to play with the trains with me this Christmas.

And no end of stilton cheese

Far and few, far and few
are the lands where the jumblies live
their heads are green, and their hands are blue
and they went to sea in a sieve

ApacheCon Europe, 2000, in London. I was there with my little person. At that time, (and again now,) our favorite book was (is) a collection of Edward Lear poems, one of which is “The Jumblies“, about a tribe of strange beings who went to sea in a sieve. And their heads are green and their hands are blue. In case you missed that bit.

Some of you may know Sander van Zoest. I actually don’t know him particular well. I’ve met him on a couple occasions, but never told him this story. You may remember that in past years he tended to have colorful hair.

Well, we were sitting in the main registration area of the conference, and Sander walked in the door. Sarah, who was 3 at the time, stood up in her chair, pointed, gape-jawed, and shouted “Look! It’s a jumbly!”

Yep, that’s the whole story. 🙂


This afternoon, we had a memorial service for Grandmère. I spoke, on behalf of my brother and sister, and myself, of course, about some of the things we remember about Grandmère. It was a celebration of her life, and many people were there who knew her and loved her, as well as some folks who were there because they knew us. Thank you, to all the folks who took off work, and who drove long distances to be there. It was very special to have you there to remember with us.


I suppose it’s not too uncommon, at a time like this, to have trouble knowing what to say, and how to remember. The last time I visited, I don’t think Grandmere knew I had been there.

I really don’t want to remember that. I want to remember her home, neat as a pin, and her delighful sunday afternoon dinners. I want to remember riding in the limo to their 50th anniversary celebration, and how they were sure that the limo was supposed to be for someone else. There are a lot of happy memories, and a good life to be thankful for.

Grandmere passed away early this morning.

Ta ta for now

Paul Winchell has died at the age of 82. Winchell was the voice of Tigger, although before that gig he was already a very successful ventriliquist on radio and TV. I remember hearing somewhere that when he was cast as Tigger, folks said it wouldn’t work, because he would always be associated with Jerry Mahoney (his dummy). Now, decades later, whenever you hear his voice, you immediately know it’s Tigger.

Tigger has been my favorite for as long as I can remember. Thanks, Paul. As you said once, Tiggers *don’t* like saying goodbye. Ta ta for now, good friend.

Woodrow Wilson and WWIII

Last night on IRC I expressed my feeling that it was President Wilson and his policies which led to the UN, and our apparent delusion that it’s enforcing peace in the world by the expedient of wearing cute blue helmets and driving white LandRovers.

And, by the way, he appears to have been the one who came up with the notion (and the terminology) that going to war makes the world “safer for democracy.”

Someone responded, to paraphrase, that the choice was either the UN or WWIII.

It occurred to me this morning, in the shower (all the best inspiration comes in the shower, like that idea about waterproof notepads to keep in the shower to write down the ideas that come in the shower!) that, if that was indeed the choice, we must have selected “C) All of the above.”

It certainly seems to me that this *is* World War III, and we’ve been engaged in it since somewhere near the end of the Cold War, and perhaps as long as since 1945. We, the United States, are the primary aggressors in this war. Our enemy is … well, it depends on your perspective. If you take the Shiny Happy John Ashcroft Is Your Friend view of the world, then the enemy is Evil, Terrorism, and the forces of Anarchy and Darkness. If you take a less enlightened, perhaps more cynical view, the enemy is economic downturns and People Not Like Us. While I’m sure that reality is somewhere between the two poles, I’m feeling particularly cynical of late.

The Cold War, for all of its evil, postponed this alarming “Pax Americana” at least a few years. Although it seemed like a good idea at first, having the US be the world’s conscience is becoming more and more troubling as we seem to have lost our own conscience somewhere back around … um … well, the Wilson administration.

Don’t make it bad

… and finally …

This one is actually related to the song. I don’t know what high school music teachers usually use as their songs to teach with. Mine used Beatles songs. And, as very few of us had heard any of these songs, he also took the opportunity to tell long pointless stories about the various chemicals under whose influence he had initially experienced these songs.

Na na na na-na-na na, na-na-na na,
Hey Jude!

Mostly, that brings to mind interminable hours spent trying to sing Hey Jude just right so that he would be satisfied. He never was.

Who has come to slay the dragon?

… continued

Who’s come to slay the dragon?
Come to watch him fall?
Making arrows out of pointed words
Giant killers at the call?
Too much fuss and bother
Too much contradiction and confusion
Peel away the mystery
Here’s a clue to some real motivation

All there really is
The two of us
And we both know why we’ve come along
Nothing to explain
It’s a part of us
To be found within a song

(Different Strings, Rush)

In highschool, I played the role of Nicola in a production of Arms and the Man, by George Bernard Shaw. It’s a story which asks the question of whether there really can be heroes in a war, and who those heroes really are. Nicola is the servant of the house, who believes that he will marry Louka, who is a servant girl. Louka was played by Yvonne, who, although I wouldn’t say was my first girlfriend, was certainly the first girl I kissed.

NICOLA. Be warned in time, Louka: mend your manners. I know the
mistress. She is so grand that she never dreams that any servant
could dare to be disrespectful to her; but if she once suspects
that you are defying her, out you go.

LOUKA. I do defy her. I will defy her. What do I care for her?

NICOLA. If you quarrel with the family, I never can marry you.
It’s the same as if you quarrelled with me!

LOUKA. You take her part against me, do you?

I can still see the fire in her eyes when she said that. I, the humble, subservient servant, content, even happy with my place. She, the much younger, feisty servant girl, but with dreams of being something more.

Louka, in turn, is in love with Sergius. And Sergius is pledged to marry Raina. Sergius is the great war hero, come back from the war with great gallant stories of leading a charge into the teeth of the enemy. Or, if we believe the tale of another man who was at the charge, his horse got spooked and charged, while Sergius tried unsuccessfully to stop its charge.

MAN. You never saw a cavalry charge, did you?

RAINA. How could I?

MAN. Ah, perhaps not–of course. Well, it’s a funny sight. It’s like slinging a handful of peas against a window pane: first one comes; then two or three close behind him; and then all the rest in a lump.

RAINA (her eyes dilating as she raises her clasped hands ecstatically). Yes, first One!–the bravest of the brave!

MAN (prosaically). Hm! you should see the poor devil pulling at his horse.

RAINA. Why should he pull at his horse?

MAN (impatient of so stupid a question). It’s running away with him, of course: do you suppose the fellow wants to get there before the others and be killed?

Sergius was played by Modupe, who went on to join his country’s army, and, as far as I can gather, served at least bravely enough to make some dangerous enemies.

We would sit back stage between scenes, and this was the song that was playing. How we could completely ignore the play when we were not on, I’m not quite sure. We would sit on the mats which were on the little side-stage, off stage right, and whisper and joke while the show went on, on the main stage.

I liked the soft boot so much that I wore them much of that school term, even when not in practice. They were soft black leather boots, with soft soles. Very comfortable. And one day, Ms. Bakhda caught Modupe and me wearing our boots, rather than shoes which she considered more appropriate for school uniform, and gave us quite a talking to. Modupe was never one to take gently to being told off, and was more than a little disgruntled at this treatment. I wonder where he is, and what he’s doing now.

I don’t remember who played ‘The Man’. He, of course, ends up winning Raina’s heart, and Sergius marries Louka. Poor Nikola.

What happened to our innocence
Did it go out of style?
Along with our naivete
No longer a child
Different eyes see different things
Different hearts beat on different strings
But there are times
For you and me, when all such things agree