Friday, January 28, 2011

Book of Wisdom

Today's review is of an underappreciated, little-known Classic work of literature, which should be owned and cherished by all people, who, by owning it, would be able to Lift the Spirits of one and all by regularly reading said Tome, the general effect of such reading being the Development of a Proper Perspective on life.  Said book, moreover, begins to solve the question left unanswered in the preceding post:  Should one be an optimist or a pessimist?  Imagine that human nature was malleable.  Would it be better to create a pessimistic or optimistic outlook on life?  The pessimistic outlook has the Virtue of being Accurate, but the Optimistic outlook has the Virtue of inducing a general sense of happiness (well, until the inevitable disappointment comes, says the pessimist (which need not come, says the optimist (but it will, says the pessimist))).

The book in question has brought a cheerful end to many of my most miserable days.  Not long ago, having had one such day, I pulled out said volume, read it, and was instantly reminded that there was no need to be so miserable.  It works every time.

Now one would think that a masterpiece guaranteed to end the feeling of Woe which overcomes one after a most unfortunate event would be more widely known and appreciated.  Indeed, one would assume that every reader of these words is now thinking of this exact book.  But, for reasons I cannot understand, the book is not as widely known and loved as I would think.  It has won far too few literary awards and has never been included on a list of the Best Books of All Time or even the Best books of the 20th century or even the Best books of the 1970s or even, sad to say, the Best Books of 1972. It did win, according to Wikipedia (that font of all knowledge) a few awards of which I have never heard.  It did not win the Nobel Prize for Literature--nor did it win the Noble Prize for Peace, which if the book were better known, it undoubtedly would have won.

And, so, I would like to take this opportunity to offer high praise to this marvelous book, to recommend that all Right-thinking People acquire a copy and keep it handy for Days which induce feelings other than bliss.

The book:

Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

In this book, we read about Alexander's day and we realize two things:
1) My day wasn't that bad
2) Sometimes, days are just bad, and so you might as well just go to bed.

Never has so much wisdom been packed into so few pages.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I've never quite known if I should describe myself as an optimist or a pessimist.  I think the world is falling apart, think the aggregate level of human intelligence is falling (while the population is rising), think that just about all art forms are in irreparable decline, and think that while in the short term Western Civilization will Reign Supreme, it is in the process of committing suicide.  But, I am generally cheerful, think things will be OK, don't dwell on the negatives, and don't worry much.  I tend to laugh at the comedy of human existence.  Does this make me an optimist or a pessimist?

In part to sort out this less-than-earth-shattering question, I read John Derbyshire's We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism.

Derbyshire reliably writes moderately to rather interesting material, and this book is no exception.  (He is one of the few bright spots in National Review--sigh, I just got the latest issue of National Review--how I long for the days when I looked forward to the next issue of National Review.  I haven't even looked through it to see what is in it.)  This book was moderately amusing.  Derbyshire is tired of those happy conservatives--the ones who think that if only the world just became more conservative, things would all work out. (Yeah, he's looking at you George and Sarah.)  He's tired of all those conservatives who think that things are getting better.  They are not.  Derbyshire argues in area after area that things are getting worse.  Much worse.  And there is nothing we can do about it.  They are just going to keep getting worse and worse and worse.  Politics?  Education?  Diversity?  Immigration?   War?  The Economy?  Human Nature?  Culture?  Yep.  All getting worse. And worse. As I said, the book is somewhat amusing for one who likes to laugh at life.  And the joke here is not just on the culture, but also that Derbyshire is so unrelentingly gloomy.  Even the author picture on the back cover is a picture of him scowling.

And here is the funniest part.  In one part of the book, Derbyshire is actually optimistic.  He thinks he is being pessimistic, but he isn't.  The joke is on him.

The subject?  Religion.  Derbyshire can't stand religious conservatives; he is really really annoyed with the Creationists.  And so he has a whole section devoted to showing how Religion is getting worse, that people are becoming less religious, that the new atheists are getting more persuasive and that the whole religious enterprise is going to smash on the hard facts of science.  He writes as if this is yet another side of decline--after all religious faith is declining.  But, and here is the funny part, Derbyshire is obviously pleased about the end of religion.  So, while he writes as if he is arguing that things are getting worse, the fact that in this case he wants to see the forces of Religion lose means that he actually thinks things are getting better.  Derbyshire is an optimist!  And he doesn't even know it!

You want to know how bad things are getting?  Even a thoughtful conservative who wrote a whole book to explain about how bad things are getting sees reason to be optimistic about the future. 

So, you make the call:  Is this a reason for optimism or pessimism?

Monday, January 24, 2011

You are keen, my lord, you are keen

You know the problem of sequels--movie does big business, so they make a sequel even if there is no hope that the sequel will mimic the success of the original.  Well, I recently read--or, more accurately, glanced through--one of the book equivalents.

Hill and Ottchen, Shakespeare and the Art of Verbal Seduction

The authors had an earlier book which collected all of Shakespeare's insults.  That is a funny idea--I had heard of that book, but I have never actually seen it.  And, truth be told, I can't imagine ever hunting it down to see it.  But even still, it is a funny idea.  That book did moderately well.  So, a sequel.  You can just hear the authors (or more properly editors) thinking, "Hmmm.  How can we do this again?  I know.  Love."  So, they amassed a bunch of Shakespeare quotations about love--from meeting someone through consummation (but not of the type devoutly to be wished).  The book is really dull.  Reading insults could be fun.  Reading "your praises are too large" and "what should I do? I confess it is my shame to be so fond, but it is not in my virtue to amend it." and "I dare not offer/What I desire to give; and much less take/What I shall die to want" and "Stand no more off,/but give thyself unto my sick desires,'/Who then recovers." and so on is really, quite dull.  How dull?  Well, here is an interesting measure--nobody has ever written a review of this book on Amazon.  Nobody.  You can still go there and be the first to review the book if you want--but why bother?  Oddly, the book is now available in paperback too--sometimes it is really hard to explain the Publishing World.

Fortunately the book didn't cost me anything--I picked it up at a Yankee Swap (the Easterners' name for a White Elephant Gift Exchange).  I love Yankee Swaps--it is a great way to get rid of things you don't want but feel bad throwing away because somebody might want them and getting things you don't want but have no problem tossing away because after all you got it at a Yankee Swap.  (Janet is always in angst about them, by the way--she is constantly telling me that the things I wrap up to take to such event aren't good enough for a Yankee Swap because, as she notes, "Nobody would want that!" To which I reply--"Uh, that's the point.")  So, Shakespeare and the Art of Verbal Seduction will be available on the Free Book shelf in the Mount Holyoke Library whenever I next wander over to the library, and some Lucky Undergrad will get a book she too will find utterly useless.

I figured it would be good to add a link to a YouTube clip of some song related to the theme here--has anyone ever written a song about Love?

Finally, I thought of one:  that staple of wedding receptions:  I can't remember a wedding reception at which the DJ didn't play that song. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Creepy, Crawly

Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Another book that Mallory has been telling me for months I should read--and again, she was right.  What an excellent little novel.  It's labeled Children's literature and even won the Newbury Medal.  But, like the best children's literature, it works well for adults too.  It is clever, very clever.  Indeed, I think I think I would rank it second only to The Sandman among the Gaiman books I have read so far.  At first blush it is just a creepy story of a kid who lives in a graveyard.  But, it is packed with clever twists and characters.  In Gaiman's fashion, there are all sorts of bizarre creatures---there is, as always, the Shadow world which only our Hero can see.  And the Shadow world in this case is fun--the ghosts of the people buried in the graveyard, but since the graveyard is very old and has of late been turned into a Nature Preserve, all the ghosts are from Olden Times.  And, in addition an array of fantastical creatures, whose nature is never stated, but gradually becomes apparent.  One of the main characters, for example, is a vampire, but he is never actually called a vampire in the whole book.  The story is episodic--Gaiman likens it (in a talk on the book included as an appendix) to The Jungle Book and the comparison is pretty accurate.  It also makes for an interesting comparison for Gaiman--100 years from now, will people still talk about Gaiman the way we talk about Kipling?  Or will he be lost to obscurity?  (Speaking of which, there is a great bit in the book about the ghost of a poet who was so angered about a bad review that to get revenge he posted a note all over town saying that he would never publish another poem, and he never did.  Instead, he had all his poems buried with him.  That way, when in the future people discovered how great he was, they would all lament that the rest of his poems were never published.  And then, when everyone was really sad about never being able to read all his work, it would be revealed that his poems were all in his casket and they would dig up the casket and discover the poems and rejoice.  When our hero asks the poet if they had dug up the poems yet, the poet replied that it hadn't happened yet, but there was still plenty of time.)  Gaiman's future status (to return to the point from before the parenthetical aside) an interesting puzzle.  I suspect the answer hinges on what people 100 years from now think about comic books--when your greatest work is a comic book, your reputation hinges on the perception of comics.  He also has at least two really good children's books (this one and Coraline).  But, his novels, while interesting and fun to read, are not going to make it into Great Book status.  So, 100 years from now, if he is going to have a reputation, it is going to be based on comics and children's lit.  I am not sure if he would be happy with that or not.

I would have hated this book when I was a kid, by the way.  When I was young, I was terrified of the dark.  Ghosts, vampires, etc. scared me a lot.  A lot.  I hated going to bed--the dark room really scared me.  And it didn't take much to scare me--there is a Gilligan's Island episode in which Gilligan has a dream and there is a vampire in it--that episode scared me a lot.  A lot.  I was also frightened by The Count on Sesame Street.  Really--I'm not kidding.  When I start thinking of all the things that scared me, it is a ridiculously long list.  So a book like this would have seriously frightened me.  I have still never watched a horror movie as a result of my childhood fears.  Every now and then, I think I should watch one just to get over the lingering sense of dread, but to date, I have never been able to convince myself to do so.  What interests me about this is that in real life I have no fear of the supernatural or the dark or anything like that.  And, I can't remember the last time I actually thought something in a movie was scary or frightening.  Yet I still have this part in the back of my brain that gets agitated at the idea of watching a scary movie.

So, The Graveyard Book is a children's story that I loved when I read it but only because I didn't read it when I was a child.

And, for a coda: the best Creepy song.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Noah Feldman's Scorpions: The Battle and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices was one of my Christmas gifts this year.  The title alone is good (based on a remark by Alexander Bickle ("The Supreme Court is nine scorpions in a bottle")); the book is even better.

This is casual history of the best sort--a highly readable book, paced with enough detail that you learn a lot in every chapter, but not so much detail that the casual reader gets bogged down.  And, I learned a lot in this book--much more than I would have thought I could learn in a book of this sort.  I actually know a fair amount of 20th century history and I know a decent amount about legal theory, but this book made me rethink all sort of things.  That is about the highest praise I can give a book.

The book centers on the lives of Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson and William O. Douglas; all four were put on the Supreme Court by FDR in the wake of the "switch in time that saved nine."  They were all put there because FDR believed they would help turn the court in a direction he wanted it to go.  All four disapproved of the pre-FDR court.  Yet, as they matured on the bench, these four ended up a very bitter rivals.  Very bitter.  Their constitutional philosophies evolved to be remarkably different from one another.  But, in their Last Act, they were all part of the unanimous Brown decision.  Then, Jackson died, and the rest wandered off into the twilight.

The most amazing insight from the book--the reason the Supreme Court is such a mess these days and has been for the last 40 years is the direct result of FDR's decision to put these four guys on the Court.  The Brown decision is the root of the problem.  But to see that, we need to back up a bit.

As noted, these four Justices developed separate theories of jurisprudence.  In slogan form: Frankfurter developed the theory of "judicial restraint;" Black developed "originalism;" Jackson developed "legal pragmatism;" and Douglas was a pure politician.  They all started reacting negatively to a Holmes-era decision (Lochner) and worked out reasons why that decision was bad.  By the time they had been on the Court for a few years, their theories were pushing them into disagreement.  Now that alone would make an interesting tale.  But, a fascinating thing happened when the Brown case came before them.  All four knew the conclusion they wanted to reach--all four wanted to end segregation.  Yet, none of their legal theories led to that conclusion.  So, they all tortured their theories around to make them support Brown.  After that, the Court was unambiguously politicized, and legal theory was a mess.

The basic problem is that for all four of these Justices, the conclusions they wanted to reach in the case were always first; the legal theory was secondary.  So, rather than starting with the case, the legal theory, and the relevant law and proceeding to the conclusion, they started with the case, the relevant law, and the conclusion and worked toward the legal theory that connected them.  Such a process can work for a few cases, but over time, the problems multiplied.  If you think you need theory A to reach a particular conclusion, then what do you do if later in order to reach a different conclusion in a different case, you find that Theory A stands in the way?  Well, as it worked out, you torture Theory A to make it fit the conclusion you want.  This process was becoming apparent as the cases multiplied, but by Brown, the whole idea that the Theory had any independent relevance to deciding the case was manifestly an obstacle to reaching the desired conclusion.

The problem here is pretty interesting.  Looking back, we are all glad that segregation has ended (well, at least everyone outside the fever swamps is glad that segregation has ended).  But, here is the problem--there are two statements:
1) I think segregation is a really bad thing and should not be legal.
2) The Constitution of the United States prohibits segregation.
The problem is that it is entirely possible to agree with the first sentence but not the second.  So, what do you do if you are on the Supreme Court faced with a decision about segregation?  Your choice is:
a) say that even though you think segregation is a bad thing, there is nothing you can do about the laws in particular states, or
b) say that segregation is a violation of the Constitution.
The first makes you, de facto a supporter of segregation.  You don't want to be a supporter of segregation.  So, you opt for Option 2.

But, then, once you have done that, you have opened the floodgates--now replace "segregation" with anything else in the above.  What is to stop you from simply ruling anything you don't like is a violation of the Constitution?  You have already abandoned any pretense that you are reaching your conclusion based on a legal theory.  So, why not simply issue a ruling based on your preferences?  And suddenly, we have an unelected legislature.

Until now I never understood why the Brown decision became a test of the viability of a legal theory.  I have seen a steady stream of articles in my life in which an author tries to show that the reasoning in Brown is a disaster, but the same end result would be reached in a nice, legally coherent manner using the author's own legal theory.  The problem is that I have never seen how the new argument for the same end result in Brown was any better than the original reasoning. 

Why is it seemingly impermissible to say that the Constitution of the United States allows for bad laws, and that it is the responsibility of the electorate to get rid of bad laws?  (Slavery was bad, after all, but it was pretty obviously constitutionally allowed before the 13th amendment.  The fact that the Constitution didn't prohibit it is not an argument that it was somehow morally acceptable.) And similarly, why it is seemingly impossible to say that the Brown decision was not well argued, but that it is still a good thing that segregation has ended?  The reason is because of the FDR court--by blurring the distinction between legal reasoning and moral reasoning, it has become difficult to express a legal opinion without people hearing it as a moral judgment.  That is not good for legal theory or moral discussion.

Friday, January 14, 2011

So What

A Panoply of Topics of No Concern to Anyone.

1.  Now that was a storm.  We didn't get snow like that when I was growing up in California.  (Actually, we didn't get snow at all.)  This storm added a whole new level of snow removal to my life.  Clearing the driveway is Old Hat now.  But, this year, I had to go dig out Janet's greenhouse.  There was so much snow that the roof of the greenhouse was potentially in danger of collapsing.  But the snow was piled up on the sides, so I had to dig out the sides so that the snow could slide off the roof.  I was wading through snow piles a few feet deep.  But the greenhouse is now safe.  The plants inside are rejoicing.

2. Speaking of California, being back in Davis was really odd.  I left there 17 years ago.  The town looks really different now.  Not only has there been a huge amount of new building in areas that used to be vacant, but most of the stores that were there when I was there are gone.  Our favorite restaurants have survived though--and most importantly, the best Mexican food place is still there.  Dos Coyotes.  I still remember when they opened up--even for those of us who grew up on Mexican food, it was obvious that this place was something special.   If you are ever in Davis, be sure to eat there.

3. In a sign of the times, the old video store in Davis from which we rented VCR tapes is now a Trader Joe's.  It was right across the street from us.  Janet and I would have loved to have lived across the street from Trader Joe's.

4. Speaking of VCR tapes, I mentioned a record store yesterday--Emma laughed at me.

5. I can still feel the disappointment of Trader Joe's coming to Hadley, MA.  One of the best things about Trader Joe's is the cheap wine--they get great wine, slap a Trader Joe's label on it so that you don't know what it is and sell it for cheap, very cheap.  (A great question for Economics students--why would this happen?)  So, as grad students we were able to get very good wine for not much money.  When Trader Joe's came to a town near us in MA, we were really happy.  But, then we learned about MA alcohol laws--no chain can sell alcohol in more than two locations in the state.  So, we have a Dry Trader Joe's.  Annoying to say the least.  Why does MA, which prides itself on being so liberal, still have alcohol laws from the Puritan era?  (Yes, I know that economics students can provide an answer to that too, but that doesn't make it any less annoying.)  It was odd walking through a Safeway in Davis and seeing the alcohol aisle--one forgets how normal that is.

6. I am currently listening to Mumford and Sons.  You can hear them here.  It's an amazing album.  They are Big, but I hadn't paid much attention.  I was talking to Janet one day in the car when the came on the radio, and I mentioned how Amazon had really been pushing this album in their MP3 Deal of the Day section.  $5 download in December.  She said she would like the album, so I got it.  I think I may like it even more than she does.  It's seriously good music.

7.  Meanwhile when in my truck, I am currently listening to Miles Davis.  Listen here.  The album was $4 from Amazon.

8.  I am turning into a walking commercial for the Amazon MP3 download of the day.

9.  None of my kids like listening to Miles Davis in the truck.  Sigh.

10. Interesting slate of games this weekend.  The Steelers-Ravens game is the one to watch if you are only going to watch one.  That should be a fantastic game.  Pats-Jets could be entertaining, but only if the Jets play above themselves--Sanchez is so bad, though, the game could be a blowout.  In the NFC, the Falcons-Packers could be good--but I still have a hard time figuring out the Falcons (quick, name three players on Atlanta--yeah, I can't do it either without thinking about it for a minute or so).  As for Bears-Seahawks--are you kidding me?--how exactly did this become a playoff game?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Travels in Demonia

Since I was flying to to Davis, CA and back (to take care of my grandfather's estate (said journey was a story in its own right--do you know how hard it is to find a flight from Hartford to California on New Year's Eve or Day less than a week after every Northeast airport was shut down for a blizzard? (I ended up in first class on the way out there--I have never flown first class before--it really isn't much different than regular class, to be honest))), I, as usual on such trips, took along a lengthy book that I knew I would never get around to reading were it not for the fact that I would be stuck on a plane for long periods of time with nothing to do other than read it.  This trip's long book:

Vladimir Nabokov, Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (often just called Ada (pronounced Ah-dah (a thing learned in the novel itself)).

Now I picked up this novel because I had recently read Speak, Memory, and Nabokov does write in nice prose.  I also knew the book was long, easily Nabokov's longest novel.  I also knew it was famous.  That is the extent of what I knew.

What is it?  Take Tolstoy, filter it through Joyce, and add a little Pynchon.  What's left?  Honestly?  A mess.

Don't get me wrong.  Nabokov is a great prose stylist.  Great.  The book is nice enough for what it wants to do.  I am sure English Lit types love it.  It has endless puzzles to be solved, including such things as figuring out where it takes place--it's in a place that looks like Earth, but really isn't quite Earth--so one of the many puzzles you can think about if you are so inclined is what we can learn about this Fake Earth by deciphering all the hints.  Or you can just ignore the whole Fake Earth thing and read along merrily, ignoring the fact that the locations are all close to locations like those on Earth, but not quite locations on Earth. (The latter was my strategy.)   Nabokov likes puzzles.

Actually, I like puzzles too, but I prefer an endless stream of puzzles to be in a, well, puzzle.  I like my novels to have things like, well, novels in them.  So, how does it measure up on those grounds?  It's OK.  Not bad, just OK.  There are some nice things in it; some interesting ideas and scenes.  Structurally it is clever--the novel is in the form of an autobiographical series of reminisces, with marginal notes added by the author himself, and Ada (the love of his life), and the editor.  So the book reads like something not quite completed, with notes interspersed throughout.  That part was extremely well done.

The story itself is a love story spanning about three-quarters of a century.  Boy meets girl, they fall in love, and their happiness is delayed and delayed until late in life when they finally live together.  So far, so cliche.

Yet, with Nabokov, there is always a twist.  he made his fame with Lolita, a vastly better book.  Part of the greatness of Lolita is the remarkably clever way the narrator lulls the reader into the thinking everything is normal, when what is being discussed is pedophilia.  Brilliantly done.

Ada isn't about pedophilia.  The two characters in love are only a couple of years apart in age.  But, the girl is 12 when they start engaging in illicit sexual activity.  And, they are brother and sister.  So, the central relationship is incestuous.  Yep.  It all seems perfectly normal, just like in Lolita.  And, to be fair, this is not a book about incest at all.  Insofar as it is about anything, it is a Russian family history.  And the philosophical part of the book is about time and space and everything other than incest. 

Pulling this trick--taking something shocking and being nonchalant about it--in writing Lolita is clever.  Repeating the same thing in Ada is just a cheap parlor trick.

On the whole, then, the book is good; the writing style is very good and there are some clever things, but on the other hand, I liked every other Nabokov book I have read much better.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Curiosity about the Shop

Over the last several months I have been reading Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop.  Dickens novels are nicely structured to be read slowly over time--after all, that is how they were originally published.  This particular novel has long been on my list of books I wanted to read because of Oscar Wilde's remark about it: "One would have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing."  I have long wondered about that remark--was the death of little Nell supposed to be funny or was Wilde making a remark about Dickens' writing?  Presumably the latter, but without reading the book, it was impossible to be sure.  Dickens would also be fully capable of writing a death scene that was sad and funny all at once.

The other famous Little Nell story was of a crowd of people in America meeting a ship coming from England and screaming out to the sailors to ask if Little Nell had died.

Clearly Little Nell is an important person.  So, I finally read the book.

Wilde was making an observation of Dickens at his overwrought best--that scene is so over-the-top, it is impossible not to laugh at it.

But, much to my surprise, Little Nell was not  terribly interesting character.  Quilp, the villain, is much more curious--a purely malevolent character.  And, in one of those things which dates this book--Quilp, the evil Daniel Quilp, is a dwarf, and his stature is clearly designed to amplify the horror of his soul.  Imagine someone writing a book with an evil dwarf in it today.

The other big surprise, the shop in the title is irrelevant to the story--sure there is a shop, but it is abandoned shortly after the novel starts, never to reappear.  I'd have a hard time coming up with a more misleading title of any novel than this one.

So, the evaluation of the book:  It's Dickens,  It is exactly what one would expect from Dickens.  Charming with lots of caricatures--but caricatures in the best sense of the word--very clever portraits in which the caricatures become perfect illustrations of character types.  Dickens stands alone among novelists--there is really nobody like him.  And one thing about him that really intrigues me--it is really hard to rank his books in order of quality--there is a uniform goodness throughout his work.  His shorter novels get assigned more often in school, but I suspect that is less an evaluation of relative merits and more a desire to assign a shorter book.  English Lit types like to talk about Early Dickens and Late Dickens, with the later books being the more weighty (at least I think that is what they mean), but honestly, I have a hard time seeing all that much of a difference--even in Late Dickens there are amusing characters and happy endings.

I am getting close to the end of Dickens, though.  I only have four of his novels left unread (Barnaby Rudge, Martin Chuzzlewit, Dombey and Son, and Little Dorrit).  Fortunately, with Dickens, I look forward to starting all over again once I finish all his novels for the first time.  (I also haven't read much of his shorter work and his non-fiction, but I have not heard much about those things, so I am not sure how good they are.)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

C. A. Grubb, RIP

My grandfather, Clarence Arthur "Chuck" Grubb, died on December 30, 2010.  He would have been 92 on January 4.  I have been out in Davis, CA since Saturday dealing with all the paperwork (I am the executor of the estate).  The last few days have been odd--a combination of lots of busywork and lots of reflection about my grandpa.

He was an interesting guy.   He grew up in the middle of Idaho, living on ranches and doing all sorts of things.  His father went broke in the Depression--at one point, his father took something like $1.13 out of his pocket, showed it to his two sons, and said, "That's all we have."  When Pearl Harbor was bombed, my grandfather joined the Navy and spent most of his career there, retiring as a Captain.  After that, he worked at Stanford Research Institute for a while, and then moved back to Idaho to build houses.

The most interesting thing my grandpa did in the Navy was work in all the nuclear testing after the war.  He used to say he had been in more nuclear explosions than anyone else--he was part of the crew that would go out after the explosion to measure radiation activity.  He lived to be 92, so the radiation didn't seem to do him much harm.

I learned a lot from my grandparents.  (My grandma died some time ago.)  They always treated me very well; indeed, I think they both liked me a lot--but, they were never the real emotional types.  They helped me pay for my college education which was an immense relief to me all the way through college.  I learned about cocktail hour from them  Janet and I used to love cocktail hour when it rolled around when we were visiting them.

In his later year, my grandfather started a foundation, designed primarily to help out the people in rural Idaho where he grew up.  He was particularly interested in making sure the cemeteries are well-maintained.  I am now the trustee of that Foundation; it is nice to think about carrying on his vision.  My grandfather was a very patriotic man; he served his country well and honorably, and never forgot the place where he was born and raised.

He had three daughters.  All three of them have done some great things in their lives.  From talking with him, I know he was proud of all three, but again, he was never real emotional about it.  His death has obviously left a big hole in the hearts of all of them; he will be missed.

He lived in a retirement community for the last 15 years.  Everyone there spoke very kindly about him--I think he was well known for his sense of humor and his gentlemanly ways.  In his papers, he had printouts of about a zillion of those joke e-mails that get forwarded around--I suspect he kept a ready supply of them so that he would always have a new joke to tell.  I didn't read them all (I am not a big fan of the genre), but I was amused to note that a fair number of them were rather racy.

All in all, he was a good man.  I am very glad that I knew him.