Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Matilda Gone Mobile

Testing, testing, one two...

Well, looks like Matilda has gone mobile. I just installed the BlogAway app on my Android phone and am giving it a quick go. Look for more mobile blogging in the near future if this pans out.

We took this pic of Jack out at the Guilford Courthouse National Battlefield park, the weekend before thanksgiving.  Apprently it is the last pic i took with the phone. Pretty nifty huh?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Cards

Well, it is that time of year again.. time to order Christmas Cards. Except this year, it is even harder to get all five of us to look at the camera at the same time.

Here's a refresher on last year's choice, courtesy of Shutterfly:

That one is gonna be tough to beat. I know several folks that have kept it on their fridge all year long. But we'll give it the old college try.

The process of sending Christmas cards has gotten markedly easier over the past few years, with the advent of businesses such as Shutterfly and Snapfish. In fact, they even send you envelopes for the photo cards. I wish they would add a mail merge feature, where you could design a card and upload a contact list and the little buggers would be printed, stuffed, sealed, stamped and delivered. It seems like that would be a very popular turn-key service for folks as busy as we are.

We also have gotten into the habit of printing yearly photo calendars as gifts, which is remarkably easy to do once you have done it once, because you can recycle the previous year’s work. The hardest part is just finding the perfect picture of Aunt Hilda.

Shutterfly is running a great promotion right now, where you can win 50 free cards if you blog about there services. Wink.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Ladies

We got some good pics of Caroline today, while Jack is spending some quality time at Camp Sparty. While I am sure he is enjoying playing with "Activities Director" Bud, I sure am enjoying getting to hang out with my girls.

More pics to follow.

Updated 5:15pm! Album is here.

I call this one "Princess Spread Eagle" of the noble Saxapawhaw Nation

Friday, November 12, 2010

Follow Me

Are you a long-time subscriber to Waltzing Matilda? Do you consider yourself an avid consumer, of prose and poetry alike? Does our incessant wit leave you in stitches, or our adorable family bring forth a little tear? Here's you chance to be part of the official "Waltzing Matilda Fan Club."

See that little button in the right-hand side bar? The one that says "Follow"? Yeah, those are our real friends. The ones with Google accounts, that use Googel Friend Connect. Not to dis you, our faithful anonymous readership. I'm just sayin'.

Seriously, we like to know who you are. Well, I do. And Big Brother (er.. the big G) is pretty much keeping tabs anyway. So just do it. Click the Follow button.

Right here ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------>

Do it. Do it now. Get on the chopper.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Semper Fidelis

November 10th, 1775. 235 years ago today our Beloved Corps was born in Tun Tavern, Philadelphia, when at the decree of the Continental Congress, Captain Samuel Nicholas, first commandant of the Marine Corps, offered guts and glory and a small tankard of ale to those few, proud strapping young men that came to be known as America's 911 Force: The United States Marines.

Not since the Spartans has a band of warriors had such a reputation for ferocity in battle and generosity at home. A breed apart, the Marines represent a fine distillation of what can be sustained by the fruit of democracy. The Marine Corps exists for two reasons alone: Making Marines, and Winning Battles.

I have always loved the imagery and cadence in the writing of John W. Thomason, a Marine Captain in World War I with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. His book, Fix Bayonets, if some of the finest American writing (and battlefield sketches) to come out of that war, and his essay, Leathernecks, excerpted below, is a great example.

by John W. Thomason 
THEY tell the tale of an American lady of notable good works, much esteemed by the French, who, at the end of June, 1918, visited one of the field hospitals behind Degoutte's Sixth French Army.  Degoutte was fighting on the face of the Marne salient, and the 2d American Division, then in action around the Bois de Belleau, northeast of Chateau Thierry, was under his orders.  It happened that occasional casualties of the Marine Brigade of the 2d American Division, wounded toward the flank where Degoutte's own horizon-blue infantry joined on, were picked up by French stretcher-bearers and evacuated to French hospitals.  And this lady, looking down a long, crowded ward, saw on a pillow a face unlike the fiercely whiskered Gallic heads there displayed in rows.  She went to it.

"Oh," she said, "surely you are an American!"

"No, ma'am," the casualty answered.  I'm a Marine."

The men who marched up the Paris-Metz road to meet the Boche in the spring of 1918, the 5th and 6th Regiments of United States Marines, were gathered from various places.  In the big war companies, 250 strong, you could find every sort of man, from every sort of calling.  There were North-westerners with straw-colored hair that looked white against their tanned skins, and delicately spoken chaps with the stamp of the Eastern universities on them.  There were large-boned fellows from Pacific-coast lumber camps, and tall, lean Southerners who swore amazingly in gentle drawling voices.  There were husky farmers from the corn-belt, and youngsters who had sprung, as it were, to arms from the necktie counter.  And there were also a number of diverse people who ran curiously to type, with drilled shoulders and a bone-deep sunburn, and a tolerant scorn of nearly everything on earth.  Their speech was flavored with navy words, and words culled from all the folk who live on the seas and the ports where our war-ships go.  In easy hours their talk ran from the Tartar Wall beyond Peking to the Southern Islands down under Manila; from Portsmouth Navy Yard-New Hampshire and very cold-to obscure bush-whackings in the West Indies, where Cacao chiefs whimsically sanguinary, barefoot generals, with names like Charlemagne and Christophe, waged war according to the precepts of the French Revolution and the Cult of the Snake.  They drank the eau de vie of Haute-Marne, and reminisced on sake, and vino, and Bacardi Rum-strange drinks in strange cantinas at the far ends of the earth; and they spoke fondly of Milwaukee beer.  Rifles were high and holy things to them, and they knew five-inch broadside guns.  They talked patronizingly of the war, and were concerned about rations.  They were the Leathernecks, the Old Timers; collected from ship's guards and shore stations all over the earth to form the 4 th Brigade of Marines, the two rifle regiments detached from the Department of the Navy by order of the President for service with the American Expeditionary Forces.  They were the old breed of American regular, regarding the service as home and war as an occupation; and they transmitted their temper and character and view-point to the high-hearted volunteer mass which filled the ranks of the Marine Brigade.

It is a pleasure to record that they found good company in the U. S. Army.  The 2d Division (U. S. Regular was the official designation) was composed of the 9th and 23d Infantry, two old regiments with names from all of our wars on their battle-flags, the 2d Regiment of Engineers-and engineers are always good-and the 12th, 15th, and 17th Field Artillery.  It was a division distinguished by the quality of dash and animated by an especial pride of service.  It carried to a high degree esprit de corps, which some Frenchman has defined as esteeming your own corps and looking down on all the other corps.  And although it paid heavily in casualties for the things it did-in five months about 100 per cent-the 2d Division never lost its professional character.

Seven years after, across the world from France, I met a major of the American General Staff, who was on the Paris-Metz road that last week in May, 1918, and saw the Marine Brigade.  "They looked fine, coming in there," he said.  "Tall fellows, healthy and fit-they looked hard and competent.  We watched you going in, through those little tired Frenchmen, and we all felt better.  We knew something was going to happen-" and we were silent, over Chilean wine, in a place on the South Pacific, thinking of those days and those men.

There is no sight in all the pageant of war like young, trained men going up to battle.  The columns look solid and businesslike.  Each battalion is an entity, 1,200 men of one purpose.  They go on like a river that flows very deep and strong.  Uniforms are drab these days, but there are points of light on the helmets and the bayonets, and light in the quick, steady eyes and the brown young faces, greatly daring.  There is no singing-veterans know, and they do not sing much-and there is no excitement at all; they are schooled crafts-men going up to impose their will, with the tools of their trade, on another lot of fellows; and there is nothing to make a fuss about.  Battles are not salubrious places, and every file knows that a great many more are going in than will come out again-but that goes along with the job.  And they have no illusions about the job.

There is nothing particularly glorious about sweaty fellows, laden with killing tools, going along to fight.  And yet-such a column represents a great deal more than 28,000 individuals mustered into a division.  All that is behind those men is in that column too:   the old battles, long forgotten, that secured our nation-Brandywine and Trenton and Yorktown, San Jacinto and Chapultepec, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Antietam, El Caney; scores of skirmishes, far off, such as the Marines have nearly every year in which a man can be killed as dead as ever a chap in the Argonne; traditions of things endured and things accomplished, such as regiments hand down forever; and the faith of men and the love of women; and that abstract thing called patriotism, which I never heard combat soldiers mention-all this passes into the forward zone, to the point of contact, where war is girt with horrors.  Common men endure these horrors and overcome them, along with the insistent yearnings of the belly and the reasonable promptings of fear; and in this, I think, is glory.

In Charles the Second's time the English formed the first sea regiment-soldiers equipped as infantry, to serve on the sea in the fleet; to clear with musketry the enemy's decks and fighting-tops when the ship's of the line went into close action; to go ashore, and take up positions when the naval forces seized a base preliminary to land operations of the army.

Here by the way, comes the quip of old time:  "Tell it to the Marines."  They relate of Charles the Second that at Whitehall a certain sea-captain, newly returned from the Western Ocean, told the king of flying fish, a thing never heard in old England.  The king and the court were vastly amused.  But, the naval fellow persisting, the Merry Monarch beckoned to a lean, dry colonel of the sea regiment, with a seamed mahogany face, and said, in effect:  "Colonel, this tarry-breeks here makes sport with us stay-at-homes.  He tells us of a miraculous fish that forsakes its element and flies like a bird over the water."  "Sire," said the Colonel of Marines, "he tells a true thing.  I myself have often seen those fish in your Majesty's seas around Barbados-...."  "Well," decided Charles, "such evidence cannot be disputed.  And hereafter, when we hear a strange thing, we will tell it to the Marines, for the Marines go everywhere and see everything, and if they say is is so, we will believe it!"

The Continental Congress, on 10 November, 1775, authorized a corps of American Marines.  This was the first Federal armed force to be raised by the young nation, and it antedated both the Federal army and navy, which had until that time, been matters of individual commonwealths.  And since that date Marines have participated honorably in all American wars, and in some affairs, more or less interesting, where powder was burnt but which do not rate as wars.    

Captain Richard Dale's Marines served with John Paul Jones, and manned the fighting tops of his ship, the Bonhomme Richard.   The task of the Marines was to shoot down on the enemy ships, attending, in particular, to enemy officers.  When the crew of one ship boarded another, it was difficult or impossible to tell friend from foe from high above.  For that reason Marines officers adopted the peculiar device that resembled an embroidered cross so that their marksmen could tell friend from foe.  Look at any Marine officers barracks or dress hat.  You'll continue to see that same device embroidered there as a tribute to those long ago Marines who fought so gallantly some two-hundred years ago.  Marines love tradition. 

Those Marines in the fighting tops were also tasked, when possible, to drop explosive devices on the decks, or better yet through the hatches of enemy ships.  Such a device thrown from the fighting tops of the Richard set off the powder-magazine of H. M. S. Serapis. This event turned the tide of events in favor of the poor old Richard, in the fight off Flamborough Head.  There were United States Marines in Barney's naval force, formed across the Bladensburg Road, when Admiral Cockburn's people marched to burn Washington; and they stayed there until the line was turned by British regulars and they were all, including Barney, casualties;  it was the only material resistance the British met.  Marines marched to Mexico City in 1846; the red stripe on the blue trousers of officers and non-commissioned officers commemorates to this day service in that war.  Marines served in the Civil War very widely:  Marines died on Henry Hill at First Manassas  and on the fire-swept beaches in front of  Fort Fisher, and on the Mississippi around Vicksburg and Island No. 10.  Colonel Huntington's Marines took Guantanamo, landing from the U. S. S. Marblehead in 1898.  They marched to Peking in 1900, and were in the legation guard shut up there during the Boxer trouble.  Cuba knows them, and the Philippines.  They were ashore at Vera Cruz in 1914; every uneasy and volatile Wet Indian and Central American republic has become acquainted with them in a professional way, and their appearance at storm centers has always produced very presently a sweet tranquility.  The navy takes them there, and sends bluejackets and chow along always.  Every capital ship carries a guard of them.  Aboard ship, besides forming the nucleus of the ship's landing force, they man the secondary batteries, the five-inch guns; furnish guards of honor for the comings and goings of the admiral and distinguished visitors, and so forth; perform all manner of curious and annoying details; and post ship's sentries whose meticulous ideas about the enforcement of orders lacerate the souls of jolly mariners, seamen, and engineer ratings.  Normally, the strength of the corps is twenty per cent of the navy; just now there are about 19,000.  They constitute an organization within an organization, with their own commandant, who functions under the Secretary of the Navy, as a separate and distinct service like the U. S. Navy, as in the past, in time of war, the U. S. Coast Guard.  The rank and file are good enough Latinists to know what "Semper Fidelis"-which is their word-means; and any private will assure you the Marines are a corps d'elite.

In 1917, when trained Soldiers in the United States were at a premium, the Navy Department offered a Brigade of Marines for service in France; it was regarded desirable for Marine officers to have experience in large operations with the army; for it is certain that close co-operation between the army and the navy is a necessary thing in these days of far-flung battle lines.  The British distress at Gallipoli is a crying witness to this principle.  In a navy transport, therefore, U. S. S. Henderson, the 5th Regiment of Marines embarked for France in June, 1917,with the first armed American forces.  The 6th Marines followed.  The two regiments constituted the 4th Brigade, and served in the 2d Division.  U. S. Regular, until the division came home in August, 1919.  About 30,000 Marines were sent to France; some 14,000 of these were replacements to maintain the two regiments of the 4 th Brigade.  A brigade musters some 7,500 officers and men; this brigade took part in some very interesting events.

Elsewhere, I have written of the Marines in the war with Germany; how they went up, and what they did there, and how some of them came out again.  Being a Marine, I have tried to set forth simple tales without comment.  It is unnecessary to write what I think of my own people, nor would it be, perhaps, in the best taste.

And I have written of Marines in this war because they are the folks I know about myself.  Those battle-fields were very large, and a man seldom saw much or very far beyond his own unit, if he had a job in hand.  As a company officer, I always had a job.  There is no intent to overlook those very gallant gentlemen, our friends, the U. S. Army.  Their story is ours, too. 


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This is what happens...

When Daddy makes poor little Caroline's bottles for school:

How am I going to explain this excessive esprit-de-corps to the ladies at daycare? I thought we had learned our lessons with the flippers episode..

Sons and Daughters

If you haven't been listening to the Decemberists, Cousin I think you might be missing out. I had already stumbled across them a couple of years ago, specifically 2 other songs from The Crane Wife, their first "big label" album. I'm sure I found them on NPR's All Songs Considered, where they topped the charts in 2006's "Best Album of the Year" alongside no less than Regina Spektor, Tom Waits, Dylan and Neko Case (NB: NPR listeners have great taste, always a good way to find new stuff).

But as chance and life would have it, I never followed up on that find, and missed out on this gem until it popped up on my Littlest Birds station on Pandora. This may or may not be your genre, but it is tight, energetic, lilting, and just plain good. By the time the quavery lead voice and the cymbals and the music crescendo in to the last 30 seconds, I just can't help but smile. Plain old feel-good music.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jackson Standard Time

We have really been doing the Lord's work trying to get Jackson to sleep like a normal human. The first 9 months, he didn't really sleep (at all), but for a while thereafter we seemed to be on the right track, going to bed at a reasonable hour and with reasonable effort, making it through the night, waking up around 6:30 or even 7 on the occasional weekend. But then, a month or two before Caroline was born he just started waking up earlier and earlier, to the point where a couple of weeks ago he rose at a dawn best determined by, say, Newfoundland time (GMT -2:30), demanding that breakfast be served RIGHT NOW. We've tried bringing him to bed with us (Fail), leaving him in there to scream (not much better), and everything in between.

Just a week or two ago, my brilliant wife Doc had the great idea of getting a binary image clock, with a picture of a sleeping bunny tucked soundly in bed that is illuminated during the night, and then a waking playing bunny that lights up when it is "OK" to get up. We've had mild success training him to (more or less) stay quiet and lay down until the waking bunny lights up, at which point in time he proudly leaps to his feet, shouts "UP!", and starts screaming if relief doesn't promptly appear. We've already convinced him that the kitchen doesn't open until 6:30 regardless of when he gets up, but he seems happy to catch 30 minutes of Sesame Street on the couch pre-Cheerios, while Dad nods off until Elmo shows up (c'mon: I challenge you to find anyone that can actually sleep through Elmo. I am a much bigger fan of Cookie and Snuffy, myself).

But then there comes along the timeless enemy of Daylight Savings Time. Or rather, it's evil twin Eastern Standard Time. Not that one is better or worse than the other, actually - it is just the changeup that throws us for a loop. How do you explain to a toddler that 6am is now just 5am? I have no idea.

So we gave it our best shot, changed the clocks over about halfway through UNC's miraculously lucky win over FSU, and instead of getting an hour of extra sleep (or bar time) like we used to in years gone by, we all had an extra hour of afternoon.  Then off to bed to await the impending disaster, the bunny clock faithfully set for the "new" 6am. And wouldn't you know it, he popped up at 5am and started screaming, but 3 minutes later quieted down and slept (or was at least quiet) until I walked in to check on him at 6:15 - or was it 7:15? (I am already losing track). Needless to say, I was surprised, and have absolutely no expectations about Monday morning. Whatever happens, we are apparently not in charge - we're all just on Jackson Standard Time.

UPDATE: Much to our amazement (and frustration, since our alarm still went off at 5:50), intrepid young Jack slept until 6:45 this morning. Great parenting or Luck o'the Irish? We'll let you decide.

You know, writing this blog post made me wonder a bit just how important Daylight Savings Time is. I mean, I would keep it around (if I didn't have children) but only for reasons of nostalgia, not anything approaching practicality. But it is funny how much we adults have just come to accept its strangeness, almost by rote force of habit. In the Fall, we say "sweet, another hour of sleep (or bar time), and in the Spring we grumble but we know that is the penance we pay for staying at Top of the Hill until 3am instead of 2. So we go forth and don't even consider for a minute "not playing along." Ah, the innocence of youth.