Where we came from

 

**UPDATE**

I figured out after I wrote this, that the staples brand composition book is fountain pen friendly!! See photo at the bottom.

I want to take you back to a post I did about not forgetting about the value of inexpensive supplies, and leaving behind the idea of calling them junk…now I’m not here to scold anyone today.  Today I want to take you back to your roots, or in the case of many now, the roots of their parents.

First you have to set the mood right.  We are going to go to a great place that sits positioned strategically between the 1980s and 1990s (some from the 90s may have drug this habit into the 2000s with them kicking and screaming.)  We are going back to slide rules and Lisa Frank.  We are headed straight for The Breakfast Club and Full House.  Bring on The Cure and Alice in Chains do what it takes to get yourself there.  Me personally, I can set the scene fairly well by flipping on Family Matters, specifically at night, and hopping in the living room to write, thats my easy switch on the way back machine, but I have a ton of them.

Who knows what those things in my picture are?  Anyone?  See to many of us from the 80s and 90s (90s for me, however the 80s lived strong on television and my mothers music cabinet) those devices served the same purpose as a blog.

Now before we go on I have to tell you that I live by a theory concerning decades.  Here is The Ganger’s (Bledsoe’s) law of the commutation of culture: Each decade is still largely the previous decade until the fourth year of the current decade, and it gets less and less each advancing year.  For instance when FRIENDS (GREATEST SHOW EVER) premiered in 1994, that was the first truly 90s year, and when it finaled in 2004 that was truly the 90s wishing us goodbye.  When Cheers hit in 1982, it was still culturally 50% 1970s, if you do not believe me, go to Netflix, and watch the first episode of Cheers, you will understand.  I explain this theory so that you will understand why Geny Y 90s kids love the 80s, it was exposure, it was a carry over, and we had all of these things.  The true millenials think of Ed, Edd, and Eddy as their re run cartoons of yesteryear.

Before the internet and world wide web and their endless reign started there was the composition book.  How did I get back to it?  Well the story is contained in the photos, which I will photograph for you at the end of this.  The short, I was in a Staples with my Aunt Connie, specifically the staples where I used to buy my school supplies, and we were waiting an excrutiatingly long time for some copies to get made, and so I wandered the aisles.  I layed eyes upon a large and colorful pack of BIC pens, which when combined with the composition book, I first realized they would cost around five dollars, and after that I took the stroll down memory lane.

We used to get one of these every year or so, and this was no ordinary journal, journals we have in plenty, no no no the composition book was where you poured your heart out, and usually only in multi-colored pen.  This was the place to write down your angry songs, your teenage longings about the one which the adults simply could not understand that you really did love so much that it hurt.

Let us not forget the pens either.  This was a process a ritual, turning paper into a stiff crinkly parchment covered in roller ball ink, and engage your senses, there is the smell, the smell of roller ball ink that comes along with the ritual scribing of your deepest thoughts.  Have you broken one out in a while?  The complete experience will have you breaking out Alice in Chains and The Cure before you know it.  I am willing to bet that some of you still have a small stack of these things hidden away, what do yours say?  Where did you take them?

I was very glad that I ended up in that Staples with people who could not make the copy machine work, because in a sea of blackwings and field notes how else would I have been tempted to buy these just to toy with the notes of a blog entry, you see I believe smell to be the strongest sense, and the one best linked to memoryl, and rollerball ink has that distinct scent I keep bringing up.  I am glad I paid for these things, because I took a walk back to crappy songs, bad poems, angst that makes me want to hop in with Mr. Peabody to go kick my own can for being so whiny, all in all a good time.

I encourage every one who has gone down the proverbial rabbit hole with our pens, pencils, and notebooks, and go grungy with one of these just to see how it makes you feel.  I will admit I will have to search for a heavier duty brand, more like the old days, but I almost want to throw these back into my regular notebook rotation.  Grab one, BIC rollerballs, and give the old world “anablog” a try, better yet, go re read your old ones all Harriet the Spy if you still have them.

Ganger Bjorn

P.S. I tried to go for the weird look we wrote in back in the day.

Fountain pen friendly at .99 cents.

Advertisements

Gone for a bit…

The title in this case is correct, I have spent some time away.  Oddly I have gotten some more readers, which is not something I am going to argue with, welcome, and I hope what you see here makes you want to stay.  Reasons I have been gone?  I am glad you asked.  School of course always takes up a good bit of my time, but the semester has been out for a while now, I am actually finding that I need to begin preparing for a return in September, that is no easy task as I have to figure out child care for Zander.

FACT:  attempting to retain suitable infant child care, even before you factor cost, is enough to put anyone into a “dealing with beuarocracy” coma.  I am one of those people who hates having to call the bank, fix errors at the post office, deal with insurance, and the registrars office, daycare in the state of Massachusetts is a tangled nightmare of laws, rules, and stuff you are not sure about.  The daycare provided by Framingham State University is excellent, however my son was bitten by a problem child, and I may have lost some of the composure I pride myself on when I asked which child and the worker stated very simply the law did not allow her to tell me.  I wrote her an apology, she did her job very well, but that is one of those laws that I just do not quite understand.

That was all just a side note.  It has been quite a while since we go into the gear and rules.  A brief recap, at this point you have some form of a bag you are comfortable carrying for a good bit, and either in it or your pockets is a note book (and a spare) some pencils (maybe pens too) and a knife.  The Knife also makes rule #1, always have it.  I recommend of course, out of all my others, a good Swiss Army knife made by Victorinox, do not by knock off, your paying for your own security here.  In all seriousness, I used the tweezers out of mine to pull the thorns out of my son’s hand the other day, no waiting, just work.

So your new rule is going to sound familiar.  In my world we say “know your route of ingress and egress before proceeding.”  In army medic terms that means we were taught to not go after the wounded before we knew we had a way out.  It sounds rough, but the medic is a resource the entire team needs, and cannot be wasted being shot by the same guy who created your casualty.  You may have heard it as “when in doubt know your way out,” from “Zombieland.”  Mine goes deeper than that though, it is this “Rule #2 Have a plan inlcuding going in and getting out.”  In this case it refers to travel, but also the ability to lodge or travel.  This is where you ask yourself what could go catastrophically wrong with this trip, and render me unable to continue on, eat, lodge, or if am hurt.  This is the contingency phase, think up the problem, write it out and fix it.  In my story the catastrophic thing was relatively small, the possible death of a debit card, but the consequences were possibly immense.  

Here are a couple of stories to go with this.  The aforementioned travel.  The Ganger took a little trip back to Tennessee for a wedding.  My Cousin decided some time back to ask his girlfriend to marry him, she says yes, much more recently they had a very lovely wedding.  Everything was excellent, the music was superb if I do say so.

The trip is rather long, and as I took the four year old with me, rather stressful.  That is not to say it was not a good trip.  It was actually an amazingly good trip, but I am a planner.  There are too many variables in long distance, long time travel, many dangers.  Add in a kid and the risk goes up fast, The Bear intends to come out on top of everything from a car accident to an attack.  Call me paranoid, but we all made it through right?  I prepare, I follow the rules, I drive one of the safest cars in the world (Outback, 2016) and I ready myself and my tools.  We had stopped in Washington D.C. to go to the National Postal Musuem, when we left the gargage my debit card would not register when I tried to pay.  Here is where my plan came in, I do not hit the road outside of my main stomping grounds-where friends can help-without about $120 in my pocket.  I called my wife and told her I would stop and test the card as the boy and I needed some food.  I had used some of the cash to pay the garage, and I sized the situation up calmly.  I was calm, as I knew that I could provide a meal for my son and I, and if I shopped around well enough I could get us a room, or if my mileage math was right I could get us back home on about $60 with room for another meal if need be.  Whichever way it went, my son and I had the basic needs covered for that night until help could be Western Unioned, or we could go home.  That peace of mind came not from money, but from a rule that was followed to the letter.  In the end, the garage machine must have been faulty, as my card worked fine and the trip proceeded as normal.  I had given this kind of advice to a friend who lives abroad.  She did not follow it, and was not registered at the embassy when the Paris attacks occured.  The only real consequence was that she had to listen to the ganger gripe at her.

     This is just one possibility.  Most of my problems can be at least “treated” by a small amount of cash until help can be gained.  We also carry a first aid kit, maps, and my edc kit, which now includes a pay as you go phone and minutes card.  My phone failed while we were there, but again we established reliable communication, and borrowed a GPS, but if not we had maps.  Rule 2 is have a plan, so sit back and say, what’s the least that could happen and then plan for it.  

This is just kind of a comeback, we will get back to all of those things we love to do here and more.  You will notice a name change as the Ganger decided to not simply copy the title of his ancestor.  More posts to follow, after I have made some decisions how far I want to take this in some ways.  Follow on for pictures from the trip.

Ganger-Bjorn

Couple of notes, we went to the PEZ visitor center, yes just yes.  The chain on my cousin is a Grimfrost King’s chain like I recieved for father’s day, and speaking of which I got to spend mine at Fenway parl with my family and run the bases with my sons.  During my son’s birthday we played a record breaking 65 games of skeeball.

The Cold War: A New History,By John Lewis Gaddis

**REVIEW AFTER THIS LONG INTRO AND PICTURES**

This blog entry will be my first post in quite a while as I let all extra things drop off during a school semester.  As you can tell from my earlier posts, I enjoy book reviews, and since I had to do one for school this semester, I will post that here.  The book was The Cold War: A New History, By John Lewis Gaddis.  Gaddis is, in my opinion, the historian of the Cold War currently and this book should be required reading for anyone entering the modern American history or Cold War history fields.


My copy, as you will see has seen a little time in service.  I bought it for an assignment, we were told to pick a book dealing with the topics at hand; the class was U.S. history 1945 to present, and themes were plentiful, but the professor also had a list available for us.  I am a Cold War junkie, and at the top of the Cold War pile sat this gem.  Our second son was born during this semester, and the professors were all very understanding and accommodating, thank you Framingham State University.  However, you cannot stop all work for two weeks and still come out on top, so this book was my reading material while in the hospital.  Whether it is due to being an excellent work on my favorite topic, or because it is now sentimental, it will be found on my shelf.

 

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Press, 2005.

 

In The Cold War: A New History, John Lewis Gaddis has created a concise history of the Cold War for a new generation of readers, synthesizing the already available work on the Cold War into a cohesive volume, incorporating updated and newly available information, arguing the need for the Cold War and the outcome of it, becoming an introduction to the subject, and expertly organized thematically to best cover the major events and themes of the Cold War.

John Lewis Gaddis intended for the title of this monograph to serve as the statement of purpose, in that it was a to be literal new work on the subject. He did not intend to reargue the entire history of the Cold War; he has already argued more than once over the course of his career; rather he was motivated to create a concise and updated account of the Cold War. His hope would be that this work could serve as an introduction to some, an overview of the subject of the Cold War at a basic level to new readers. This edition is what it should be, weighing in at 266 pages not including notes it is a detailed, but brief introduction to the cold war that will not intimidate the new reader. With many college students being people who have no memory of the Cold War an edition written with the new generation in mind was appropriate, even necessary. Gaddis is well informed as to the needs of students studying the Cold War as he is one of the professors who specialize in teaching it.

Gaddis does not intend for this work to replace any of the existing work on the Cold War, or to disagree even with any of these works. The author believes this monograph has a place at the front of the reading line about the Cold War, and could serve as the gateway to more challenging and in-depth texts once the reader has a grasp or interest in the topic. Gaddis himself being the author of several of the books that retain relevance in the academic classroom allows him to see the need for a brief and cohesive narrative. He openly informs the reader, and other historians, he has no intention of arguing against their works, in fact, he cites the established works of other historians often, as well as his own work.[1] This drives home the point that new readers should not look for this work to occupy a particular niche, and should feel open to using it as a basis for their Cold War knowledge at the beginning of their academic career, and can appeal to the casual reader for the same purpose of creating a firm foundation of knowledge on the general subject of the Cold War. Gaddis himself believes that the topic covers such a long timeline and took place in enough varied locations, with their own political arenas and motivations that a book could be written from any angle that you can imagine, even from the viewpoint of the smallest third world participant, and it would be relevant and occupy a prominent place within the narrative. This work represents the extraordinary challenge of creating a meaningful summary longer than an encyclopedia entry under the heading “Cold War.”

One of the reasons the author gives for having written this is the simple and justifiable release of new information from the archives of the former Soviet Union and the Chinese during the Cold War period. New data must be taken into account, to ignore such resources would be academically negligent. However, the sheer amount of new information available can be compared to money flooding a market and causing inflation. The volume made available is Akin to that which has been previously written in that it can be intimidating to attempt to digest. Gaddis has applied the seasoned judgment of an expert when selectively incorporating this information into his current and concise volume. This is clearly seen when he deftly includes official Soviet Missile counts during the Eisenhower years; not overwhelming the reader, but transforming the speculative argument that Khrushchev boasted about their power into a quantifiable piece of fact.[2]

This new evidence held in context with the work previously accomplished by historians, Gaddis included makes for a subtle, but compelling argument. Gaddis combines primary sources that are placed well within context. Rather than Reagan or Khrushchev being quoted on events that are similar to the instance being described, Gaddis has provided—when possible—the thoughts of the figure on events specifically. It is very convincing to have evidence pulled from a radio address Ronald Reagan gave, or even better Khrushchev’s thoughts on the bluster shown in regards to Soviet missile capabilities. Memoirs looking back—like those of Khrushchev and George Keenan—combined with evidence recorded at the time show the professional historian at work, giving insight into the minds of leaders during the Cold War, and where we are fortunate enough to have it, a look at what they thought of those same events looking back. It is wise to remember however that Gaddis wishes you to celebrate the United States victory in this conflict and will be using the words of Soviet memoirs to cast a light that makes it appear they accepted this outcome in the end.[3] Gaddis is fair when he quotes, as he balances his optimism with evidence against United States actions, such as pointing out (despite the argument) George Keenan’s regret in hindsight of the CIA black operations conducted during the Cold War.[4]

The reader should exercise a note of caution when reading this review. The idea of Gaddis not replacing or rearguing his work or the work of others may give the false impression that this work contains no argument at all. This is untrue, and if the reader is not careful, they may miss it entirely and absorb it as presupposed fact. The argument being made is the idea that the Cold War was inevitable and having occurred the world was made a better place. The world being better for the Cold War is contingent upon whom the author believes to have won it: the United States and her allies. Part of what makes this book such an easy read is that it is celebratory of the Cold War’s outcome, the argued victory of the United States. For many the idea of American victory is not an arguable point, the dissolution of the Soviet Union is a matter of historical fact. However, academics even beginning students understand the idea of objectivity, and Gaddis’s boldly un-objective argument may be perceived as biased by some studied readers, reducing the credibility of the entire work. It should not be the case that the work is impugned by this argument, but it is not unthinkable, and one could not blame anyone who described it as biased.[5]

Gaddis believes there is no way to create a single, simple chronological narrative of the Cold War, and has chosen to organize this work thematically. However, the work flows smoothly enough that the reader almost believes there is a chronological order at work. The author believes in attempting to only be thematic or chronological would fail to encompass the magnitude of the Cold War properly. With this in mind chapters are thematic, moving chronologically, but with some overlap between them. While this sounds like it is more complicated than needed, the idea came off well and made for a surprisingly easy read. Chapter one will set the stage for the Cold War, immediately following World War II, not merely the events, but why each side had fought the Second World War as well and how this contributed to their Cold War stance. Moving forward Gaddis will address conflicts between the first and second worlds while showing the factor everyone knows about the Cold War—the threat of atomic and nuclear war—and will explain not just how close we came, but why nuclear war never came. Having established the Soviet Union as a credible enemy, the reader must be shown when we feared them enough to be concerned, particularly in the context of such an optimistic outlook on America by the author. Superpowers having been explained Gaddis chooses chapter four to explain why these great powers had difficulties controlling their “allies” in the third world, which created some of the messiest conflicts of the age. This moves rather logically and quickly as each theme is explicitly addressed within the proper context and time frame.

Whether you are someone with mild curiosity, a seasoned Cold Warrior, or a student breaking ground on the subject for the first class, this book is a must have. Allow yourself to read it once easily and caught up in the celebratory tone it sets, and then look back a second time for a critical review. Whether you agree with Gaddis’s argument or not, this books should prove invaluable for the information it contains. The concise nature, updated information, and hindsight took in the fourteen years between the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the publication of this work, as well as it’s ability to be an entrance to weightier volumes on the Cold War make it indispensable.

[1] Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Press, 2005, XI

[2] Gaddis, Cold War, 69.

[3] Gaddis, Cold War, 69.

[4] Gaddis, Cold War, 164.

[5] Greenstein, Fred I. “The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis.” Political Science Quarterly 121, no. 2 (2006): 321-322.

Brandon Bledsoe, “Hrolf The Ganger”

Savings challenges.

People have been wondering how I do things like fund a random trip by train to New York to go touring for a day and my pencil habit.  I’ll admit I don’t have a specific way…yet.  The pencils themselves came out of my allowance I had saved, and my comic habit suffered a little in exchange.  So be it.  

      First off my wife and I use the envelope system for some things and a budget on the rest.  We run a little bit of investment here and there nothing big, it really amounts to just multiple savings for the time being.  However to do things like randomly adventure it is a good idea to have a side savings, so this is what I looked and found.  The weekly savings challenge and the daily penny challenge.   

 
The weekly challenge starts at 1.00$. The increment increases by a dollar every week.  The idea is that you stuff this amount in a jar.  Now I started a new bank account, and jars (having free checking will help the bank account part.)  The amount does start to get higher, by the time you’ve done half of this you are putting 26$ in a week and it keeps growing.  The touted savings after one year is 1378.00$ which is nothing to scoff at. 

     The penny challenge is daily.  It starts at 0.01$ and doubles everyday.  This is where the envelope system and doing our allowances in cash comes in handy.  We already have a decent stash of change on hand to carry this out, but I am guessing that it will evaporate pretty quickly into those jars as the amounts go up.  I am doing the jar and bank account for this one as well.  The savings at the end of it is supposed to be 667.95$.  This is also a decent little savings.  

  However these are challenges, and these are the difficulties I see coming.

  1. Remembering to do something daily or weekly is usually a short lived challenge.
  2. Having the correct amounts on hand for your jar.  There are a lot of very odd numbers on the penny challenge.  I would advise not to be afraid of doing a small amount of rounding to make it work with whole dollars if possible or even to the next change increment I.E. Turning 1.11-1.19 all into 1.20.  
  3. Having the cash on hand as well for the weekly one, even if you use an ATM you get whole larger bills, you will have to be willing in both cases to not be afraid to inconvenience a cashier for change when you are already checking out.  
  4. Again just keeping up with it, I am putting the checklists next to my calendar so that I see them everyday.  
  5. If you use a new bank account make sure you have free checking with no minimum amount and no monthly fee as this could quickly kill your savings.

     It will be a pain and towards the middle of the weekly one the amounts may even become a challenge.  If you can pull both of these off though you will have saved 2045$ after a year. This is my plan for future adventures.  You can use it for whatever you like though, saving for a down payment, vacation, an investment (my bank asks for a 1000$ minimum to start most investment funds.). I wish you the best of luck and I hope this helps you fund and plan adventures and that it is fun along the way. 

Hrolf The Ganger

Tea with a friend.

Yesterday I told you about pencils from friends.  Today I write of tea with a friend.   

      When my friend Janet brought me a pencil on Sunday she didn’t just bring a pencil, she brought me a bag of one of my other great loves, and that was a bag of tea.   

      Tea is on that great list of things that can make any situation more enjoyable.  Whether it is simply something to share over conversation, or you are sharing it with a buddy in a war torn foreign land, there is always a place for tea.  Janet brought me a bag of “Afghani Chai” from the Boston general store.  She also brought me a very beautiful wire tea strainer. 

      I am always deeply moved when my friends are happy to have found something that they think that I would enjoy because they know of my obsessions.  It makes me wish I was better at finding little things for people on my travels.  Then I realize that I do get to share with my friends.  When they come over they are promptly served the tea or coffee of their choice made by me.  If they take an interest in the pencils they are sent home with a couple of lovelies.  Even if they are paying for a bag of pencils from my travels I stick blackwings on top of it just because it is the best I have to give.  Tea can make any situation better, but the only thing that can make tea better is the company you drink it with.  I cannot wait to serve this to Janet.  

     When I make tea, like everything else, it has a process a ritual I enjoy following.  Sometimes if there is time I enjoy breaking out the moleskine notebook tea journal and using my poor skills to fully evaluate that tea.   

     Pencils from friends are the best, but the best tea is with friends.  My most memorable cups to date.

  1. Anytime my wife and I sit quietly with a cup.
  2. Sitting with Robert Penvose on our fob being served the local brew at an Iraqi cafe.
  3. The thermos full of tea on cold army mornings.
  4. Serving cups by the half dozen to my friends when it is my turn to host tabletop game night.  
  5. Tea with the boys on poker night, there is nothing Devon cannot appreciate.
  6. My grandmothers sweet tea every time I’m home.
  7. Recreating the Iraqi brew for a professor and classmates.
  8. My constant companion of the thermos accompanying my during my current adventure called college.

The list grows. Sit down with a friend, share a cup, and don’t forget to warm the pot. 

Hrolf the ganger.  

Pencils from friends.

I am finally getting around to this, I have a friend in France.  She is the daughter of part of the church family (not excluding her from it) and she has done amazingly well after college getting to teach English in France after college.  When she was setting off I had one request.  My request was a rather tall order to fill in my mind…”I would like some pencils from France please.”  

     After that the waiting begins, however her family visited over Christmas and hinted that they had a package for me!  Not only did she come through in fine fashion, but she got me the extra gift of a very nice little pencil bag made by Elba and a staedtler stick eraser to go with them.   

       The bag’s company I think is funny only to a history nerd…French pencil bag…made by Elba? Bwahahahahahahaha.  Anyhow, the bag has already supplanted my normal locking pencil case as part of my everyday kit.  It had a nice little note in it.   

       I was ridiculously eager to translate the bottom.  In fact I was so eager that as I sat down ralphie style to decode this my brain decided to let go of it’s crude grasp of most Latin based languages and I was actually surprised when I read the translation “a bag for your pencils.”  I still love it, I have not bothered to remove the tag, I believe I will keep it where it belongs.  I wanted to thank my friend again, and tell you to read her blog as well.  Kaitlinplachy.wordpress.com.  I love that some of them aren’t even French, what they are is popular.  These (I believe) are what the children and faculty of the school she teaches at use.  The Noris is the most popular European pencil my research shows.  What my friend did was not to simply find manufactures, but she stretched out her cultural feelers and found me cultural artifacts.  That is almost intoxicating in an anthropological way.

      I even showed how special these pencils were by giving one away.  I had six of the staedtler noris.  The day I got them one of my friends (Nicole) told me that she was unsarcastically enjoying my pencil blog.  She was rewarded with one of my favorite new things.

     As people learn of your love of great graphite they will begin to surprise you with pencils.  Today another woman at church surprised me with a French pencil, bought in Boston.  It is all black and made by La Compagnie Du Kraft.  Upon looking this unique object up, I now believe they don’t sel it, they included it with a special edition of a notebook, which makes it rarer.  

     I have decided that the best pencils are not the ones that you buy as expensive treats or have some rare feature.  The best pencils are pencils from friends who wanted to give you a smile for the day.  

There are two kinds of people in history…

I have been away for a while.  I believe at is or a similar phrase are the beginnings of most of my posts.  It is true though, I was taken away by my School.  Ah yes I have completed my first year of college.  For a high school dropout who has actually realized the dream of using my military benefits to better myself (in my opinion), it is fairly amazing to be attending college and by some miracle coming out on the Dean’s list for both semesters so far.  I know that it is a very long road to be sure, but when you say a year is down, then the next three do not seem all that long.  We have had a good year here.  I am behind in posting the journal posts, but the idea is that I am not going to go back and type them all out.  What counts is that they are in the journal for my family to read, not that they end up in here, all further ones will be posted.  The idea is not to spend all my time in life rerecording, just the once will do.

I will give a brief recap.  There was a second post about camping.  There is a rather good entry espousing to my son(s) the dedication that you have show if you wish to succeed at anything.  That little gym was written at about 0300 one night when I stayed up to do homework rather than working on it while Liam was awake.

I want the boys to see that you must be prepared to sacrifice if you want to succeed.  You have to be ready to skip movies, concerts, sleep.  I managed my goals this semester, I kept my grades up and I still managed to spend time with my family.  Liam has been in daycare the few days that I am class and it has done him a world of good.  He has learned at a faster rate than he would have cooped up with me.  The baby is due in February and I had intended to take the semester off.  However my advisor has asked me to take at least one online history course and Katie believes that I should keep moving as well.  Our family has come through in fine fashion to help us get through the coming semester as I have been offered (and hopefully will get) the chance to be a student instructor in history.  That is the kind of thing that grad school applications are made of as my grades and high school drop out will only walk me so far.

Our family had a nice Christmas.  Our pajama theme was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The day before Christmas Liam became sick.  We have all had a cold, but Liam’s got worse.  I hoped he would kick it but he didn’t and two days later it was apparent that he had pneumonia.  We were going to make him an appointment Monday morning, but during the night he kept getting worse.  At 0430 I finally took him to the hospital.  It was there that they confirmed that he had pneumonia.

The raging fever, accelerated hear rate, trouble breathing, the infection…this could have been a death sentence a relatively short time in history ago.  That is what leads me to my main point.  In some parts of the world today, pneumonia, especially in children, is still a death sentence.  We were at the hospital for maybe an hour and a half. Basic medicine (which we had at home, and were already using) to bring the fever down, couple of chest x-rays to confirm the diagnoses, and a dose of and prescription for antibiotics, and we were on our way, with the certainty that my son would survive the night.  It is only my studies of medicine and history, I feel, that make me sensitive to what a modern miracle that is.  I walked out thinking “everyone should have that.”  That is where the point of this post begins.

Firstly I have always had a bent towards history, and realized my passion in an epiphany when trying to pick my major.  However our long educations make us insensitive to certain things.  I have the theory that in history there are two kinds of people: Historical Figures and just Figures.  Your historical figures are someone remembered.  We will work with examples like Jamestown colony.  We know names like Captain John Smith, he is a historical figure.  However your “figures”are just that, they are numbers.  From elementary school onward we learn things like “over half the colonists died of…” the figures were worse than that, but you get the idea.  The death figures we read over, to us they are facts and figures.  We get accustom to them, and our currently low mortality rates do not help us to think of the ones in the past as being something that borders on fiction.  It is true that a certain normalcy forms when something happens often enough.  A situation in Brazil proved that maternal instinct is more cultural construct than it is total instinct, in that it can be overridden by prolonged and truly desperate circumstances. They were people though, starving, freezing, dying of disease.  They were husbands, wives, CHILDREN.  They were peoples children.  Children died too.  We forget to think about when we read “children that survived to adulthood.”  Let that sink in.  You may have seen my graveyard posts.  The end of all anti vaccine arguments is “I am sorry that you enjoy being able to name your children before they are six.”  We are not so far into a time when children don’t just die.  At least to the people reading this.  That is the second half.

My studies have made me aware of problems in the world.  I knew about them, more than the common man anyhow, due to service in Iraq, seeing the people so poor they didn’t eat enough.  I won’t go into all the details, but with my school I’ve realized it isn’t just war zones.  There are places where people just do not have anything.  If their children had gotten the same sickness that my son had and I consider it minor, their child would be dead.  I am grateful that my son has that, but I am aware of the imbalance in the world.  My son lives, countless die.  I avoid things like commercials of the kids starving because I know I cannot do enough, like I could not do enough in Iraq.  The weight of millions bares down on me.  Past and present.  I ignore the fact that I enjoy the products of this situation.  I sit here on my fancy made in China computer, wearing my Singapore and Vietnam clothes not knowing if they get a decent wage or if they are modern slaves.  The more I study the more the weight heaves on thinking about how there are children forced to be soldiers.  Someone posted an article saying minority children in America do not get to be children.  Fine that may be true in some cases (race put aside) but I wonder if the ones saying we must broaden our thoughts want to broaden far enough to the places where nine year olds carry AK-47’s.  I am thankful my son had a hospital and care and insurance, and I wish everyone had that, but I have this fight club moment when I sit on my Ikea couch and wonder if the guilt will win, or if I just accept that is the way it is?  We journey on, but we wonder, will we always have it so good?

Hrolf the Ganger

We did it we went camping part 1.

 Very This entry is a little backdated, but thats the way it goes sometimes.

10/9/2015-10/11/2015

We did it.  We bit the bullet and went camping.  We made the decision last minute on Wednesday.  We had talked about it back and forth some, and due to Columbus day being the last real weekend before the campsites close down, we went ahead and booked a campsite.  Nature of the adventure beast right?  Just jump in.  We had pretty much all the gear we needed anyhow.  We pull it all out while still working and trying to get through homework and wrangle a three year old.  We did need to buy a new tent and such, the one I have barely holds me and my gear.  We made this attempt all while seeing if we could keep from turning the house inside out (fail).  I managed to chug through enough homework so that I could go without having one of those panic attacks at how much work I was ignoring and ruining everyones trip.  We prepared on Thursday, and Katie dropped Liam and I off at school on Friday.  She went to buy the food and a cooler and put all of the stuff into the car.  She picked us up as soon as school was out and we were on our way to the cape.  Being that it was Columbus day weekend and we were driving to Cape Cod, the traffic was fairly thick, but we made it just fine.  When we arrived we followed the rules and set out tent up before we did anything else.  If you have your notebook handy go ahead and take this down.  Rule #2 shelter first.  It is a part of the trinity of shelter fire food.

 Once the house was set up we went to the camp store to obtain firewood, built a fire and busted out the camp chairs.  Liam showed us that there is an infallible rule involving kids and camp fires.  Children will find a stick, shove it in the fire, pull it out, blow the small flame on the end out, and repeat this process to madness.  It is such a simple form of entertainment, and it is just a natural part of being a child.  Their curiosity is wonderful.  I remember doing this as a child.  Anyhow it seemed to me it was time to do what I had been looking forward to all along, to bust out my pipe and sit in a camp chair by the fire while watching my boy play with a stick.  We built the fire together with a flint and steel and a little homemade tinder just to make sure that he starts seeing how it is done early.  I was enjoying our little scene with my pipe, reflecting on how I was now in the chair that I remember my Grandfather and Uncle being in previously, maker of fire, all great knowing camping sage…

 That is about the time the rain started.  A few drops managed to hit before the weather alert came through.  Cape Cod suddenly went from cool and clear to holy wow thunderstorms.  So rather than a long night of sipping teamed smoking a pipe and cooking marshmallows over a fire, the first of our nights camping will be spent inside the tent, playing cards (war) and listening to Johnny Cash on my phone.  We will count this as being unplugged because we are not using it to sit around and check Facebook, it was just a radio and lots of people take radios camping.  For us this is just part of the experience!  It was great really, minus the fact that the storms were fairly strong.  Also part of the experience is the little mistakes you make along the way that become part of the ritual every time you do this.  This camping trips (first) mistake was that apparently we had stolen some of the batteries from the lantern to put in the army flashlight when Katie needed it, and we did not bring this flashlight with us.  From this point on during the trip all night time activities will be conducted by headlamps.  So now part of our camping ritual will be overpacking every four of battery and socks for the kids because Mistake #2 was an awful parent moment, apparently Liam’s only socks were the ones he was wearing.  Not to fear we brought absolutely everything else he needed and if you pull them up the right way he can wear his mother’s socks…

  
 Liam however did enjoy the concept of getting to pee in the woods.  I mean yes there was a clean facility across the street, but he is three and should get to pee in the woods.  Anyhow we brought the cards for a reason so we decided to bask in the experience of being rained in for the night.  We brought them for the same reason that we brought notebooks, and a book each, and a set of liars dice.  These are the methods that allow people to enjoy each others company and not resort to Facebook when un entertained company becomes just too much.  That is why we are here, we want to unplug for a bit.  To get away from the petty concerns of the day to day and live a little.  Andrew, one of my classmates how I planned to balance this with the massive homework load I would be ignoring for two days.  I told him, and Liam I do hope this holds true, that my son would never remember my GPA, but he would remember camping.  He would also remember if I was always telling him that I am too busy.

  
  
This is what Katie and I are trying to keep in mind, our son is young only once and the clock is rapidly ticking.  We were given stark reminders of the shortness of life this past week.  First the veterans community…and humanity really, lost one of our titans.  Justin Fitch’s battle with cancer is over.  On Sunday October 4th we woke up to find out that the lie we had been telling ourselves, that he would always be there, was not true.  If you have ever been to a team minuteman event up until recently, then you know who I am talking about.  The first time I got to step off with these fine people, Justin Fitch took me into his family, and at the end of it all he had a drink from the horn, despite being on chemo therapy.  “This could kill me you know” he said lowering the horn with beer foam on his face.  After an appropriate freak out from me he explained that it may be the only drink he ever has with me.  It was if you are wondering.  Secondly I basically found our next door neighbor dead.  His back door had been ajar for three days and after leaving him a note about it, it became apparent that he had not been leaving.  Police were called, Alex was dead.  Sixty seven is not young, but it is to young to die in a hoarded up apartment filled with garbage and cat crap, in your sleep.  So todays final words (before part two) are this, remember that you will die.


Hrolf The Ganger.

Rules and tools.

Welcome back.  It is time to go for the second part of this life is an adventure blog.  This is where the rules and tools of the trades come in.  This will strike you as a little zombieland or NCIS, but it is a good way to live.  My Uncle Fred will attest that I have kept a little note book of reminders since before the movie so laugh all you want, but I am still alive.  You are also about to get a birds eye view into things I spend too much time thinking about.  Anyhow let us get right into the good stuff.  Your necessary gear list starts now.  Feel free to write this down hahahahaha (you’ll understand in a moment.)

Necessary Gear

  1.  A knife.
  2. A notebook.
  3. A pencil.
  4. A bag.

So part 1 is a knife.  This is also rule 1.  Again this is not a tv joke.  Live by the quote  A knifeless man (woman) is a lifeless man (woman).  The best tool you can have is a knife.  Multipurpose endless ammunition survival tool never ending uses knife.  Also make a note this is not the place to go cheap.  Your knife is your life, think that through when you are pricing them.

  

Some of my favorite pieces.  You have the Gerber folding tanto based off the IDF fighting knife, A gerber multi tool w/knife, the ever handy much knocked off Victorinox prize bragging rights of the school yard Swiss Army Knife, Skallywag Tactical dagger (advanced users only), the Gerber Bear Grylls survival knife (one of the best despite the name on it), and the beast of the western fighting force the Ka-Bar fighting knife (advanced users only).  Not pictured is the Case Medium Stockman, and the classic Opinel #8.  One day when Im running short on material I will do an in depth on each and every one of these beauties will get the job done, with a couple of caveats.  1.  do not just rely on a multi took, in fact have one of each if at all possible.  I personally have a fixed blade stashed somewhere with a folder in my pocket.  Congratulations you have now started your everyday carry kit.  Now that I have said it once I will henceforth refer to it as EDC.  These tools are not just for adventuring, it is just life.  It is a wacky wacky world.

2.  You are on an adventure! this is your life! write it down.  You need a notebook!  (also yes this is part of why I thought telling you to write it down earlier was funny.)

I love notebooks.  I have one for everything.  I have a journal (you see it in pictures on this blog) I don’t keep so much of a journal for myself anymore…I will work it out.  Anyhow Journal, rule/gear book, a notebook tracking which books I have read (and when), I keep the books in a notebook, a bucket list notebook, a notebook for when I read the Bible, and one day I will have a notebook to track what each notebook is for.  My notebook of choice is the great Moleskine.  It was the simple product of choice for years of adventurers, artists, writers, and whatever your hobby is they probably have a notebook specifically for that.  In the photo you will see some various choices.  Once you have payed for a nice knife you can rest assured that a simple composition book will do.  Whatever it is, there is not quite any feeling like seeing those pages fill up and knowing that it is your life, your story you are writing down.  The simple and sturdy notebook should you choose Moleskine has what you need and no more, a ribbon page marker, lined pages, an elastic strap to keep it closed, and a little accordion pocket for the odds and ends you pick up along the way.

3.  Along with the notebook comes another one of my favorite things in life is the pencil.  Humble lovable pencil, or as some call it The Russian Space Pen.

The pencil is your stylus of choice for any reason you can list.  Do not get me wrong, I love pens too, but the pencil is the way to go.  Reasons you ask?  The pencil doesn’t quit working despite still having ink, it does not dry out, it is unaffected by weird gravity fluctuations (despite the whole space pen, Russian story being just that), they just have that classic feel in your hand, the ink does run when wet, you can erase (some people say thats a reason not to use them), and when/if it breaks or gets dull you can use the knife that you most certainly have to resharpen your pencil, and you will feel awesome for having done so.  I keep a pretty large stash of pencils with me at all times (with my notebooks).  Whats not to love about a good #2???  Some of my favorites? Ticonderoga and Mirdao.

4.  Last but not least, a bag.  You will need a bag to carry everything with you.  The knife, a small notebook, and pencils can go in your pocket, but you can put more in a bag.  A bag holds your various other goodies, stuff you find, or your whole life when you are out on a journey.  Back pack is my norm, but I also enjoy a good messenger bag for a day at school.

These are my two carry all, be all bags for most every day.  Pictured is a black Goruck GR1, and a line of trade messenger bag.  Both of them are top of the line, and their price can reflect it.  The Goruck is meant to carry more crap than you can come up with, and the line of trade while it holds plenty is meant to carry the bare essentials.  I use the go ruck for everything you can imagine, during the week it carries my lunch, gym clothes and shoes, water bottle, and thermos.  The line of trade carries note book, pencils, and every school book and notebook, and computer for school.

These items are the start of your everyday carry and if you want to be able to pick up and go you will put them together.  Do not do it because I told you to, do it because you want to go where your feet carry you.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑