Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sorry for Technical Difficulties

From time to time, like all things electronic, there are technical difficulties here on the site (some more embarrassing than others). I am sorry for any inconvenience this gives and for the confusion that sometimes occurs thanks to the gremlins in the machine. 

Thank goodness these are few and far in-between. Anyway, all the best and thanks for stopping by.

Americans and Work: Not Getting It Right

Americans are stuck in the past where it involves work. 
By JIM PURCELL

Americans work longer than Europeans and that drives up the need for increased healthcare but for some reason -- God only knows why -- American conservatives seem dead set to allow people of limited means the absolute right to die in the street. Of course, Europeans are not struggling with this, and seem to get by fine with universal healthcare, more vacation time and a less demanding work week.

Why the United States is unable to adopt good ideas from somewhere else is as mysterious as why the Jets cannot put together a winning season without help from the divine.

Alright, let's throw a log on the fire and see how it goes: If you work more hours, you are not going to have the same quality of life as someone who works fewer hours. You will need more healthcare, and it would make at least some sense to take more time off. But, that is not the state of affairs in the United States.
Americans: The Jets of the work world?

According to an article in Forbes, by staff writer Steve Landsburg, the average American works 25 hours per week, while the average Britain works 21.5 hours per week, the average Frenchman works 18 hours per week and the average Italian works only 16.5 hours per week.

In 2013, a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), based in Washington DC, showed the U.S. lags behind Europe badly in paid vacation time. CEPR reported that 77 percent of private sector companies in the U.S. voluntarily offered their employees some paid vacation time (to the tune of about 21 days). However, in Europe the average number of paid vacation days amounts to 34, in Austria, 31 in Italy and France, and 35 in both Germany and Spain.

Meanwhile, insofar as universal healthcare, every developed country in Western Europe has had universal healthcare in place since before the Mets won the 1969 World Series, though each nation administers it slightly differently. Some European countries have single-payer systems, such as Great Britain and Spain. Other European states, like France, have systems that are employer-based, but law compels insurance companies to adhere to strict government regulations -- unlike in America where they can do anything they want so long as they report enormous earnings every quarter for their respective boards of directors.

Why must Americans insist on doing things their own way, even if it is a total catastrophe (e.g. our public education system)? I will say this, and it is not the whole problem but at least some of it -- we have Bible bangers who come up with bizarre ideas that link Christianity (at least their version of it) to work, healthcare and insurance. And, the last time I checked, at no point did the Lord Jesus Christ bring up the merits of HMOs versus PPOs, yet still the conversation rages.

What is the rest of the problem? Well, I just do not think Americans look outside their borders much for good ideas. I believe there is a sort of nationalism about good ideas that has been ingrained in us; 'If it wasn't thought up here then it's a bad idea.' Utterly ignorant actually.

It is like there is something wrong with doing good for the greatest number of people in the United States, at least in the minds of some. And, how these people are elected is quite beyond me. Yet, they are.

America fails when it comes to not only its work hours, vacation time off, healthcare -- but also in its public education system, mass transportation and gun control. I am sure there are biblical arguments crafted by some Right Wing nut-job or other about keeping children stupid, shooting people and leaving them stranded. Now, there is a tough weekend -- someone shoots you, leaves you stranded away from mass transit and the poor person isn't educated enough to follow a map back to town. Yes, the perfect American get-away.

This is about work, though, and there doesn't seem to be any common sense on the horizon here in the Old U.S. of A. My father, God rest his soul, was a big union supporter. He and my mother were union workers for their entire careers. At some point, perhaps just to be different, I argued the point of view of business owners to him. He said if business owners had all of the power they would abuse it. He was right. He was wrong about a lot of things -- but not that.

It makes no sense how we go about work in this country. Collectively, via NAFTA, we made it a point to send all of our manufacturing and industrial jobs overseas. Then, where it involves those poor bastards of us left behind, we get the worst healthcare, working hours and vacation time in the developed world. Maybe it was sound more cheery if I compared the American status quo to China or developing countries.

Instead of building a wall along its southern border, maybe it would be more constructive to get a decent universal healthcare measure finally set (that isn't politicized beyond all get out), and do something to advocate for workers. This might be a nice flourish given the fact unions are all but dead in this country.

Other than all this, things are wonderful with the state of work in this country.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Gospel of Philip (Human Voice, Read Along Version)





This is very interesting for the Christians out there. The Gospel of Philip, though not included in Scripture during Nicea, has been considered a substantial work for millennia. If you have an interest in hearing it, check it out.

Praise You In This Storm - Casting Crowns

The Largest Galaxy in the Known Universe [IC 1101]

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ignore Communities of Need at Our Collective Peril

By JIM PURCELL

I hear a lot of non-linear thinking going on about disproportionate military and law enforcement spending by people all hopped up about Right Wing politics. Well, there is a balance needed in things; this is true of our individual lives, our families, the communities we live in and the larger communities we live in.

I work with the homeless, the jobless, those in recovery from addiction and, by the way, every single client of mine is a military veteran. And, I am here to say there are no 'disposable populations' of people. People are not disposable, as much as some might want to wish them so.

Homeless people are not made less of a problem by putting them in jail overnight. I have heard the arguments from some people that most homeless people like being homeless. Well, let me dismiss that fairy tale out of hand, as I am someone who was homeless and, rest assured, not only was I on the streets because I had nowhere to go but the vast majority of homeless people have nowhere to go or they would be there. By rounding up the homeless every night and putting them in jail does nothing to curb the problem of the homeless. They need somewhere to go, they need access to health care and to vocational training, food and essentials if they are ever going to move beyond being a problem by those who do not want to see them anymore.

What company wants to move into a place where the homeless gather? What family wants to move into that neighborhood? More police -- and more violent police -- will still not give a homeless person someplace other to go than the street. And, frankly, there is a move by the Trump administration to de-fund places like homeless shelters, supportive employment programs, meal programs, vocational rehabilitation programs and the like.

In the news, it was recently reported that, because President Trump saw a report where a little Syrian girl was gassed in an attack by the Assad regime in that country, he had the Navy fire 60 tomahawk missiles into an airfield there, after the White House called the Russians to alert them that the strike would occur. During that strike, the U.S. spent $31,500,000 in missile, according to Wikipedia. The politics here are strictly Machiavellian. Why tell the people you are shooting missiles at the missiles are coming if you are going to fire any missiles in the first place? So, it can be expected that, upon seeing any random image of grief anywhere in the world that our president will shoot tens of millions of dollars of ordnance there and then sail away -- his anger abated? Well, $31.5 million would have cured homeless in New Jersey -- perhaps permanently.

Meanwhile, by building the largest standing military in the world, the president does something else -- he creates the largest pool of veterans in the world. There have already been rumblings that these veterans will not receive the same level of benefits that their predecessors did. Certainly, Post-9/11 veterans do not receive the same long-term veterans as their fathers or mothers, unless they are service connected. Yet, here is a vital question: What other military in the world asks kids to travel all over the globe and assume any mission given by their country -- sometimes thousands of miles from their home country? I say giving veterans the benefits and rights they have since World War Ii is simply the cost of doing business and the reason why American young people do and should sign enlistment papers into the various services -- and that amendment of their rights and benefits constitutes a serious mistake and breach of trust between veterans and the nation they protect or protected.

I bring up veterans because they are a notable population within the homeless population. And, by attacking the homeless, there is the consequence of attacking the homeless veteran population also. I would say, though, that regardless of whether someone is a veteran or not they should receive great consideration from the government because it is in the government's best interest to reduce the number of homeless effectively. By 'effectively' I do not mean putting them in jail or putting them up in a homeless shelter for a year. I am talking about housing them, retraining them and moving them into real work restoration -- so they can become taxpayers instead of tax drainers.

Individually and collectively, we reap what we sow. Rest assured that some random missile strike in some Third World country will not sow the United States anything but what it has created in recent years -- more enemies overseas looking to target our interests here at home. Meanwhile, re-investing into actual areas of need will do nothing but solve problems that are plain to the naked eye.

Enough of my ranting for the moment.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Reflections about work and what that means

By JIM PURCELL

Does our work define who we are, how we see ourselves? Well, it shouldn't, but I think it can and often does....and it is a shame. I have known many wonderful people in my life who had very working class jobs; perhaps someone might have been a custodian, but they were a fine man or woman. They cared for their family and the community. They worked hard and made peoples' lives better for having known them. And, they were steady in their work and in their lives. No, I do not think it would be accurate to summarize this man or woman as simply a "custodian."

Photo by Jim Purcell
Meanwhile, some of the worst human beings I have known have enjoyed lofty titles at work...so many of them were elected at that. High title at work does not inform anyone about someone's character, or lack thereof, or their trustworthiness or their heart and generosity. If anything, our titles at work can be a mask that is worn, and one of those masks put on and taken off can be one of great splendor. The, when taken off, the very faulty man or woman beneath is in full view of their most truthful critic -- the man or woman in the mirror. 
Photo by Jim Purcell

No, a man or woman is not made more or less gentle by their profession. It is the content of their character that does that, and there is no salary afforded for those whose characters are better than others. I am writing in a dispassionate voice throughout this, my little diatribe. In my fairest estimation, I can say I am not the best nor the worst man I have ever met, but somewhere in between (with much company).

I began working at eight years old, and I suppose my first work duty titles were 'dishwasher' and 'pet store assistant.' I earned literally pocket change with my friend, Paul Fiquet, but it was some of the hardest money I have ever earned. I was made aware of muscles I never knew existed when I began working hard. My parents were OK with me working and Paul's was OK with it too. Like everything else with children, we worked for awhile and then it lost our attention and we were back to unemployed nine-year-olds like the rest of them.

Mostly, the work I did throughout my life was fun. I cannot imagine doing anything well that one does not essentially enjoy. There were times, though, when I was unfortunate enough to fall into jobs I did not like. In my travels, I guess the jobs I disliked (and was very poor at) included: stock clerk at a dollar store; security guard (there were times when sleep got the better of me); volunteer firefighter (upon doing it I found I had neither any talent or desire for it); military police officer (never was someone more wrong picked for that field); book store employee; party tent installer (yes, it is a real job and is as dreary as the title); nurse aide (now, there is a ferocious amount of gut-wrenching work); receptionist (just...bad); telemarketer (who does that for a living?); political campaign manager (it's like wrangling cats for a living); copy editor (I almost fell asleep editing other peoples' stories more than once); and bar tender (there is good and bad in it, but mostly there is a lot of work and a fair amount of politics).
Photo by Jim Purcell

The jobs I liked better were: soldier (every teen-aged and 20-something young man loves being a soldier); Army non-commissioned officer (the best job you'll ever love and hate at the same time); intelligence analyst (no comment); flea market manager (it's like running away and joining a circus that doesn't move); journalist (there is so much good and bad to it I have nowhere to begin); newspaper editor (interesting stuff); newspaper publisher (one might as well be a politician); blogger (lots of freedom and no money); and peer specialist, if you don't love helping people it will drive you to hate them through and through.

For a time, I was a clergyman...I do not know judge this time as good or bad. It was both, perhaps in equal portions if put on a scale.

Are the people that one meets at work the best thing about working? Maybe...I would not argue that point. I admit that, even the bad experiences I had with people have become brighter over time in my memory. My work people were among the best and worst I ever met. Now, staring into my own retirement more and more -- even the good experiences and the most wonderful memories make me tired. It occurs to me that my first work experiences were 43 years ago...a lifetime ago...maybe a few.

I cannot remember all of the moments, good or bad. For too many memories, I only remember that I once remembered them. I still have more than enough for a good old fashioned '80s montage if I thought about it enough, but why bother?
Photo by Jim Purcell

As retirement closes in on me, it is not with dread or immense joy that I look back at my work days -- it was a life I lived. There were so many moments in there that made me who I am today. And, I am grateful....for all of the good and for all of the bad, and for all of the in-between. I am tired, though, all the way through to my bones. I have given my time and what few talents God gave me to my jobs and that work life. On the whole, I am very satisfied with the effort, with some minor exceptions. Before I learned how to work smart, I found success in working hard and brutishly long. It could have saved me a few tanks of career gasoline if I had walked more gently through a few things. Yet, one should not try and nit pick themselves...because Monday morning quarterbacks don't produce many yards during game time.
Photo by Jim Purcell

I do wish I were younger and strong again. I think, as long as I could know everything I do now, I could be a lot better for work. But, once the miles are put on a car you cannot put it back in the showroom. It's closer to the junkyard than the showroom after many years.

This is where people are different. People go on, and are not cars. We do not go to a junkyard. If we retire then we have a rare opportunity to heal our bodies, minds and souls from the storm of our work lives. Retirement is the ending of one journey, but it can begin another one also -- one of self-discovery and real joy. All any of us have to do is be brave enough to take the journey and set a new course -- instead of staring vacantly into a television set while nursing a beer.

I look forward to staying up all night and listening to the rain now. I cannot wait until I lose weight and again try to coax my body back into good health. I will relish playing every vinyl record over and over, and I do look forward to staying in one place long enough to really know it as 'home.' I guess it is about time.





Wednesday, April 12, 2017

To retire or not...that is the question

The next few days are no pressure. Just going to figure out if I can retire immediately or not.

Monday, April 10, 2017

'Fat, drunk and stupid' is no way to go through life

The guy driving this wagon 300 years ago was smarter than kids now.
By JIM PURCELL

It used to amaze me when my mother or father wrote something or did mathematics, especially my father. He was born in May, 1919, the son of Irish immigrants, straight off the boat from Leprechaunville. His penmanship was immaculate, and he did math in his head -- totally accurately. He did not do "long division" or carry this or that. He thought about three or four large sums, rolled his eyes a bit and there was the answer.

Both my mother and father's penmanship was near perfect and, though both of them were high school drop-outs, they both wrote cursively in a way that would have made for excellent invitations to a formal gala. Both of them could recite all of the presidents until Herbert Hoover, and then they lived through the other ones so they didn't have to think about those. They each knew when the Declaration of Independence was signed, where it was signed, notable signatories, when the Constitution was signed, who basically made it and could give you a mini-lecture on states' rights if you had the time. Again, they were drop-outs from public school. 

Dad had to work for his family, to make ends meet, and Mom, who was a few years younger than Dad, left school during the outset of World War II to help make tank parts at the future Revlon plant in Edison. Of course, Mom stayed at the tank plant until it became the Revlon plant, so she could have drawn you a schematic of the building. 

The point is that even though these people were not educated in any way anyone would consider 'meaningful' today, they had a lot more effective education than those who did finish high school later. Indeed, their vocabulary, though smaller than those of some others, was strong. They could spell very well and use grammar, including colons and semi-colons, the way it is supposed to be used. 

How things have changed. I know college graduates who cannot spell or use grammar effectively. If not for the calculators on cell phones, how would sums ever be calculated? As for knowing the English language in the written sense, I ask you this: If you cannot fluently use the spoken and the written language -- do you even know the language at all? Is English just becoming an oral tradition that now includes emojis and computer jargon? I will take the leap and say that this bridge has already been crossed. I am saying people are so ignorant and dim today that they do not even know how much they do not even know anymore. 

Computers seem to be the measure of intelligence now -- but no one even remembers how to program using Computer Basic language, So, the one thing -- computers -- that people are supposed to be 'smart' at, and they do not even remember how to program in fundamental language anymore. 

I am taking a long time to make a simple point: We are living in the dumbest era of American history right here, right now. Yes, we have Dr. Stephen Hawking, and this is an era of great scholars, but they are the very few and not the many. The knowledge disparity between the very smart and the very dumb is as steep an angle right now as the angle between the very rich and the very poor. To put it plainly, people are so stupid today that I am surprised they do not go about their business wearing a football helmet to buffer their craniums from minor slip and fall accidents, should they arise. 

Today, the United States ranks 28th in the globe among First World nations in education, far behind Japan and South Korea, and even lagging behind Ireland (where there are still thatch, one-room multi-grade school houses) and Canada (which closes some of its schools for months at a time for inclement weather).

What is the answer to this mess? Well, the answer is to start educating children correctly and I think that means worrying more about curriculum than what deity is or is not paid homage to first thing in the morning. I think the teaching of creationism should be a flogging offense in science class, and English class needs to have a lot more -- English in it. 

I hear there has never been young people so obese than today, and that young people have never faced more concerns about drugs in school. So, I will sum this up with the sentiment of Dean Vernon Wormer from the movie "Animal House," when he looked at one of his freshmen and said, "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."

I agree.

Can we, as a country, do better? It might very well be that, if we all collectively tried, we could not do worse. 


FLASH FICTION FOCUS: The Death of American Business By JIM PURCELL

FLASH FICTION

"I have been doing it this way for 20 years. I don't need to hear this from you," Malcolm said. He set his jaw and gave his 30-year-old boss a fish-eyed stare that dared the younger man to 'do something about it.'

"OK, you have been doing it the same way for 20 years, which is great, but the company has been losing money doing it your way for the past 15 years," said Charles Saginaw, the new publisher.,

"Well, how is that mny fault? I can't do anything about it!" Malcolm retorted.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Jersey Shore -- All photos by Jim Purcell

Union Beach, New Jersey

Wildwood, New Jersey


Wildwood, New Jersey

Middletown, New Jersey

Union Beach, New Jersey

Cape May, New Jersey

Red Bank, New Jersey

Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Wildwood, New Jersey

Middletown, New Jersey

Keansburg, New Jersey


Middletown, New Jersey
Keansburg, New Jersey


My interview with Valerie Persaud, September 2011



Inline image 2

By DAVID KERR 

Here is my interview with Valerie Persaud of “Inside Social Work” taped in September 2011[1].  I thought it appropriate to post again since it describes much of the long-term cost-effective self-help philosophy that I have seen work for many hard core addicts and even the present day “suburban addicts” who are finding themselves trapped by the harmful lifestyle of addiction.  The penalty that people and families are paying for ignoring addiction grows quietly and insidiously.  Often people don’t realize what they are doing and what they have done to themselves, their friends, their employment and their family, until it is too late.  

Sickness and death from highly toxic painkiller overdoses are reported nearly every day in the news media in 2017, far in excess of that seen and reported in 2011.  Now they know that they are addicted and need help yet they often face long waiting lists for treatment.  The treatment though is a good beginning but the real recovery begins once they leave the safety of the residential or out-patient center.  They must know that their recovery will take a minimum of five years in order to lock in to a new safe and healthy lifestyle, drug and alcohol free.  For starters, I suggest calling Integrity House (973-623-0600) and describe your problem or that of a loved one; or feel free to email me as well for advice at dkerr.recoveryadvisorygroup@gmail.com.  If you need emergency detoxification one suggestion is to call Bergen Regional Medical Center at 973-967-4000 or click on http://www.detoxlocal.com/

Click on the following link to see and hear my thoughts on addiction, treatment and recovery in the 2011 conversation with Valerie Persaud on “Inside Social Work.”  Hopefully you will find the 25 minute interview interesting and informative!  What I said then is even more applicable today. 

from “Inside Social Work” with Valerie Persaud: “Integrity House for Alcohol and Drug Recovery”
Valerie Persaud    https://www.google.com/#q=valerie+persaud&*

Here is my blogsite: 

My book “The Voices of Integrity” can be found on:
If you would like this book, send me an email and I will follow up sending it to you at a reduced rate.



[1] I retired from work at Integrity House in March 2012 and I am pleased that the program is now in the very capable and experienced hands of long-term Integrity House staff member Robert Budsock.  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What is Brownian motion? | The Chemistry Journey | The Fuse School



Brownian motion is, according to Wikipedia, the "random motion of particles suspended in a fluid (be that a liquid or a gas) resulting from their collision with the fast-moving atoms or molecules in the gas or liquid."

This was named after Robert Brown (who would have guessed "Brownian theory" was named after someone named "Brown"?). Anyway, in 1827, while squire Brown was peering through a microscope at particles trapped in cavities inside pollen grains in water, he made note that the particles moved through the water. He saw no mechanism for this movement. Why did they move? No answers at first.

However, in 1905, physicist Albert Einstein, in an epic move to be a smart aleck, published a paper that explained how motion that Brown observed occurred. It occurred by the pollen being moved by the water molecules. Later on, someone even smugger than Einstein actually received a Nobel Prize, in 1908, for related work on the subject: French physicist Jean Perrin, He noted that the direction of the force of the atomic bombardment is constantly changing, and at different times the particle is hit more on one side than another, leading to the seemingly random nature of the motion. Can you believe they gave the guy a Nobel Prize for that? Well, it was pretty clever.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

What are you doing in retirement? It should be more than just watching TV

By JIM PURCELL

There comes a time when a middle-aged person pauses and considers what is next. At 51 years old, I am not an old man, but I am at an age where I can peer into that future and can see the shapes and forms of what can be. There are some at my age who simply say that it is not time to consider what is next for them. In some ways, I wish I could be like that, but it has come to me that I want to do more than just keep on being as I am, working as I am, digging a deeper foxhole than the one I defend now, so to speak.

I do not see retirement as an end to the light and the beginning of some dark thing. Rather, I see it as a reward I can give myself for the life I have lived, the work I have done, the labors I have been through. Of course, there is a very serious financial planning side to retirement. And, this essay is not about that. For the purposes of this essay, let us just say that side of the house is watertight and coming along well.

I think one of the great mistakes of people contemplating retirement is that they only speak about the financial planning dynamics to retirement. At no point do some people stare into the mirror and say, 'What will I do with myself?' OK, you have a place to live, and in your planning it is taken as said you can afford your monthly bills and are comfortable enough with your medical care and such. Who is around you in retirement, what does your day look like? What are you getting up for in the morning?

Well, I want to paint. I am informed as much about art as the next person, studied it during my bachelor's years in school, and also as part of my Master's program. I love the wondrous, limitless potentials of a blank canvas. A blank canvas, for me, is a place of endless possibilities into creation.

As part of the financial side of my planning, it has always been my objective to move from the Northeastern United States to the mountains of North Carolina, within some proximity to Asheville. Far from a whimsical idea, North Carolina has the kind of tax structure and economy where retirees can not only sustain themselves, but they can thrive. I would not and will not try to envision me painting as some business or other. The fact of the matter is I have only nominal talent. It is not to create the great masterpiece that I will insinuate myself as part of some larger Asheville art scene. Rather, I just want to travel with the herd. See the sights. Enjoy creating a small garden to grow vegetables. Maybe do some freelance work for the local newspaper if they need someone to cover a budget meeting or give an account of some dry chicken dinner by local squires.

In my last career, I was a professional journalist for weekly and daily newspapers.What I wrote paid my mortgage, my car note, afforded my groceries and lifestyle. I have no want of this life, and that is not the writing or the painting I am discussing. No, I just want to be in the moment and feel the use of whatever I am doing. Not everyone will be inclined to writing and painting. They do not have to be.

Maybe some mechanic who has done his or her years wants to build the dream car, or some accountant for a large firm wants to open up a coffee shop. The direction of the creativity of this wonderful part of our lives, retirement, can travel in any direction -- like beams of light.

The point of my 'career after my second career' is not to make a living. I must see to it that my financial strength can support me and my significant other by its own merit. Yet, these endeavors, painting and trying to show and maybe penning some articles are not the beginning of some mighty new chapter. They are simply for me to enjoy the days. Because these will be the days to be enjoyed.

After living life for a half century, no one gets to do that without knowing disappointment, success, great joy and sadness, love and the retraction of love. It's part of the human experience. Our walks in life may be varied, but some of the same signposts are along all of them. I choose to make the last part of my life, my retirement, not the quiet, desperate chapter where I stare into a television set and dwell upon my victories and defeats in life. I do not want to re-live the big game or withdraw into seclusion. I want to make new friends, embark on a new journey....learn and do things I have only daydreamed about from desk.

I will never get a gallery show at a swanky, upscale hotspot. The New York Times will not come to one of my shows and proclaim the next Van Gogh. But, with a little luck, maybe I can be part of a show at a local volunteer fire department, or coffee house. Maybe I can make some art friends and discuss the thing I love -- painting -- with some regularity. Maybe I can grow a perfect tomato one day, or help some Elks lodge looking to raise money for a good cause by getting a couple lines in the local (print) newspaper. No, this is not a great ambition. It is just a reason to wake up and go outside. It is a reason to step lively from my bed and to set my alarm.

Retirement is my time when I will actually take dancing lessons with my girl, rather than just rely on what my Mom showed me when I was nine years old still. I was not blessed with a family in life, as many people are, and that is how it was supposed to be. Why curse the night because it is not day? I have done so many things, though, and gone so many places, worn so many hats and worked in so many different things. I had a life. I have a life.

If things in life are not perfect, then it is as it is supposed to be. Any artist can tell you there is no perfect line. There is no perfect painting. It might be said that a painting is not just measured in those things done well within it but also in the eccentricities of the work: the imperfections. Like all lives, all paintings have their imperfections. Artists ruin perfectly lovely work all the time trying to rub out some imperfection, only to make a charming flaw into a hideous blob.

My life was my greatest work, not perfect but a well-earned canvas. I want to savor the days and enjoy my dabblings now. I go to work and, to some degree, I guess I am like that anxious kid in the third grade, who cannot wait until the freedom of the bell releases him from the duldrums of school only to run home as fast as he can and grab his baseball mitt and bat and head for the local field to find a game of ball to play.

Life is many things, and encapsulating it into a few lines is ridiculous. It is big, wide and as vast as the widest, mightiest forest. It is filled with so many things. I am so glad to have experienced the things I have. But, I certainly cannot wait until that damn bell rings so I can get the heck out of class and go indulge my inner eight-year-old all over again.




Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Augusta's War: The Forgotten Angel of Bastogne





During my days in the Army, it was my experience to do about 10 months with the 1st Battalion of the 327th Infantry Regiment, in 1990-1991. It is a unit rich in its history, but no moment shines quite so bright for that storied regiment more than its defense of Bastogne, Belgium, during the winter of 1944. This is the story of one of the unsung heroes of that legendary defense, a heroic nurse named Augusta Chiwy who, along with Renee LaMair, saved so many lives among the wounded of the 101st Airborne.
FLASH FICTION FANTASY

The car was hot. He was traveling with his buddy, Bill, in his shit 2000 Crown Victoria. Why does he keep the windows rolled up? The electric roll down was out. It needed to get fixed. Damn it was hot. Hot like Mississippi or Tangiers. His buddy, Paul, was yammering on about the Jets, but all Bill could think about was German submarine movies:

The guys are all gathered around the periscope. The skipper has an announcement. Their T-shirts soaked with sweat, someone is nonetheless smoking. The fresh water is out. Depth-charges shake Das Strudel as the bearded leader of the small underwater tribe gives them the bad news -- "We have only air for 10 more minutes." Bill knows what it's like now. He's right there with them...a spectral image behind the sonar...sweating with them....thirsty and ready for one gulp of fresh water.

"...and I told her to go fuck herself. Yeah, go fuck yourself, bitch! I want my senior discount!" Paul cried victoriously, bringing Bill back to the moment.

'Can we stop, Paul, I need some water?' he queried.

"Just 10 more minutes," said Paul, replacing the cigar in his mouth.

Now, it was Bill's turn to feel the silent ghosts of the long-dead German submariners around him. In broken English, he could hear the shade of the white-capped skipper saying, "Ve know your pain, Beeel."

"Now stop being a whiny bitch, going to Arby's is worth a little extra drive," Paul concluded.

You Will Be Judged By History


STRICTLY SPEAKING
With BLOGGER
ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Republicans , you are so concerned with your party winning that you are willing to be complicit in treason. Devin Nunes is the United States Representative for California's 22nd District. He is also the chairman of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Nunes would rather promote the narrative that President Donald Trump was incidentally surveyed, implying that the Obama Administration spied on the future president than deal with the issue of the involvement of Trump and his administration's cover-up. 

Mr. Nunes -- and House Speaker Paul Ryan -- you will go to jail.Is it worth it to be the reigning party if you have to deliver the United States to Russia? Because, don't fool yourselves, that is what you are doing. Here is something you may not have thought of: If the Russians control the Untied States via proxy, it won't matter if you have the majority. 

Democrats, don't be afraid to get aggressive with Republicans; speak clearly and truthfully. The Republicans seem to have a 'win at any cost attitude' and I don't think it would be wrong to get more aggressive while still maintaining your morals. 
Rupert Murdoch: Another bad man with no hair?


People, do something! Before this year, I had not voted for a long time and have never posted on a blog, but I feel that the current president is dangerous to America and the world. Make your actions meaningful. Voting is very meaningful and so is educating your fellow man. 

President Trump: Ignorance is not an excuse! I'm not talking about ignorance of the law. Because you know you are skirting the law. I'm talking about using your personality as an excuse. One thing that has seemed to happen with every president in recent history is that, once they assume the mantle of the highest office in the country, they become president for the people. Not president for their party. Not president for their economic interest, but president for the people.

Right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch, you are so friendly with Russian leader Vladimir Putin that you want your network to push this terrible narrative of Putin as 'friend to the United States'? All the time, Putin is romantically entangled with Murdoch's former wife.

No, there is something very rotten in the state of Denmark, or should I say the United States Government. And, there are things and people that should simply fade before they do too much harm -- like bad haircuts from the 1980's or Beta VCRs. Yet, the Trump Administration and this Congress, and these very bizarre alliances are not going anywhere anytime soon, apparently. No, the reality show that is the Federal Government has just begun its season, and it has all the class of a Jersey Shore reunion special. 

(Blogger Abraham Lincoln is the pen name for a New Jersey resident who is 'Mad As Hell And Isn't Going To Take It Anymore.')

[The opinions of Blogger Abraham Lincoln in no way reflect the attitudes or opinions of The Purcell Chronicles. Rather, the website is a venue for those who wish to articulate their views and points of views in a civil way. All points of views are invited to request space. Of course, this is no way assures same will be given. Management reserves the rights to present columnists at its discretion. --JJP]










Friday, March 17, 2017

Beautiful Chinese Umbrella Dance





Wonderful dancing and presentation: a real treat.

‘One of the Most Compassionate Things We Can Do’: Mulvaney on Whether Bu...





Social service assistance is necessary for tens of millions of Americans. I find it hard to consider cutting services from the most vulnerable of our populations as a good idea.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

On the benefits of growing old gracefully

By JIM PURCELL

Now that I am officially beyond the half-century mark, I feel credible to speak to at least a few things I have learned along the way. These are life lessons, some I lived and others I just picked up along the way from seeing the times other people had. In all cases, they left a lasting mark with me and that has led me to write them down.

1. Eat vegetables, drink water  and try to stay fit: There are any number of reasons, all perfectly reasonable, why life gets the best of people and they gain weight and lose their good health. I am an example about what not to do at this point, though I have been trying to take some of my own medicine and have religiously begun to eat vegetables and drink more water. I suppose part of this is staying away from anything that tastes amazing made of sugar, and this includes soda.

2. Use tobacco and drink if you can do it in moderation: Well, no one ever wanted to grow up and be an alcoholic or die of lung cancer. But, it happens. In fact, alcohol and tobacco are life ruiners and it is best to avoid them entirely. However, all things being equal, if these vices are going to be indulged in, it should only be with great moderation.

3. Get your sleep: Lack of sleep can kill someone when done enough. Maybe worse than that, someone who has not had a good night's rest is libel to make some very bad decisions. Being excessively sleepy is not that dissimilar from being on some narcotic. It is just a better idea to get as much sleep as you need.

4. Exercise in moderation: I over-did exercise as a youth. Because of that, there was a lot less of my body to work with when I got older. If I had to do it over again, I would have kept it to a normal, healthy work out regiment and not tried to push myself beyond what was normal. It doesn't work out on the Back 9 of life.

5. Staying married or staying single: There are some people who were made to be in marriages, whether they are gay or straight. And, there are some people just made to be single. The problems happen in peoples' lives when people who are supposed to be paired up aren't, and when people who aren't are. There is no clearer way to put it.

6. It is good to have hobbies: A person should indulge their creative side, if not for profit and gain, just to regularly use those parts of their personality and psyche. It must be very hard to become adled if one's mind is always at work.

7. In all things, do the best you can where it invovles God. Don't let anyone tell you how to pray, or what to believe, or how to have your own private relationship with your creator. Just do what feels natural and let the religious types bark at the moon.

8. Be kind whenever you can, and that means being kind to yourself too. You count.

9. Do the best you can at work: Work hard but don't give your life to a job. It's a cheap way to spend a life given you for only the small number of years we are given.

10. Be social to the extent you can: There is nothing worse than being an old codger yelling at kids to get off their front lawn. Just don't be that guy.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The 2nd Armored Division (Forward), Lucius D. Clay Kaserne, Garlstedt, FRG


By JIM PURCELL
Former Intel Analyst, 
4th Bn, 41st Infantry Regiment 
"Fix Bayonets" Battalion
2nd Armored Division (Forward)

I was trying to find a few photos of Lucius D. Clay Kaserne, Garlstedt, then-Federal Republic of Germany (circa mid-1980s) and could not find any. At the time, East Germany was known as the German Democratic Republic -- ironically (not a lot of 'democratic' anything going on over there from what I saw). I learned the U.S. Army re-designated a kaserne in Wiesbaden Lucius D. Clay many years after I left Germany, so I am writing about the original Lucius D. Clay Kaserne, which I was stationed at while I served. Afterward, I figured I would post about it because there was not that much on it anywhere else on the Internet. All I found was this rather grainy, black-and-white photo that was undated and really only gives a sense of the kaserne itself. Even a lot of the story of the kaserne has been lost. So, without any further adieu, here is something about LDCK.
41st Infantry Regtiment

I arrived to Lucius D. Clay Kaserne in early December, 1986 from the 21st Replacement Detachment, in Frankfurt. I was transferred from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and there had been winter there -- but nothing like what I had experienced in Frankfurt, and certainly nothing like what I came to find at LDCK, in Garlstedt. 

At the time, the kaserne hosted the 2nd Armored Division (Forward), which was an 'infantry heavy' forward brigade of the 2nd Armored Division (Main), then based at Fort Hood, Texas. I was at the replacement for the Division (Forward) for a brief time and then assigned to HHC, 4th Battalion, 41st Infantry. The other infantry battalion on post was the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry. The 2nd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment was also headquartered there. To the best of my ability to remember, so was the 4th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment; a signal battalion and a support battalion (whose designation I have forgotten over the years).

I caught pneumonia almost immediately at LDCK. though back then that was no reason to go on Sick Call let alone go to the hospital. In fact, the Army back then had its flaws -- common sense sometimes lacking being one of them. Eventually I was treated for pneumonia, though it was only when it nearly became very bad. 
66th Armored Regiment

LDCK was a small kaserne with its own LTA (Limited Training Area). It was one of the first places where the Bradley Fighting Vehicles (M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, M3 Scout Vehicle) were introduced. Every soldier was required to attend the HOW Academy once at LDCK. "HOW" stood for "Hell on Wheels."

According to the fine folks at the HOW Academy, the 2nd Armored (Forward) came to Northern Germany in 1978, as a result of a decision by then-President Jimmy Carter to assist British operations in the NorthAG (Northern Army Group) of NATO. The Division (Forward) as it was known, supported operations of a British armored division, as I recall. And, the British had operational control of the Division (Forward) in sector. Indeed, later on, when 4/41 Inf. rotated back to Fort Hood, in 1988, its final pass in review at LDCK was taken by a British two star and his wife. And, in general, there were infrequent visitors in garrison by British Army dignitaries, though this was known to me only by reading The Forward Edge, which was the kaserne's local newspaper. 

So, I was assigned to the S-2 Section at 4-41, which was known as the "Fix Bayonets" battalion because it was the greeting between officers and enlisted men upon passing. The 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry held the greeting "Straight and Stalwart" and the 2nd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment  greeted each other as "Iron Knights."

My NCOIC (Non Commissioned Officer In-Charge) initially was SFC Craig Fisher, who was a 25 year soldier, the Intel Sergeant at the section when I first arrived. He was a long-time 'Germany soldier' who had spent most of his years in uniform in the FRG. SFC Fisher was an infantry soldier, and was given the position of S-2 NCOIC. I learned some history from him about the unit. At the time I arrived, 4-41 was in itself relatively new, as it had recently been designated such after being the 2nd Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment when he originally arrived at LDCK (what year that was I have no idea anymore). 

There was something different about this post. It was located in 'cow country' in Northern Germany. The locals were a mixed bag: Younger people seemed to enjoy the young, wild GIs from the Division (Forward) in the nearby towns -- Osterholz-Scharmbeck, Bremerhaven, Bremen. Meanwhile, many older Germans gave off the distinct impression they did not, though largely they were courteous to us. I lived on the economy, in Osterholz-Scharmbeck, with my wife at the time. 

As well as being among the first units to receive Bradleys, 2nd Armored (Forward) was also among the first to receive the then-brand new MI Abrams Main Battle Tank. Another first was that infantrymen (originally designated 11B) from LDCK were among the first to go through specialized Bradley training to become the MOS 11M (a Bradley designator for infantrymen). Of some note, when the M1 first was fielded, it had a 105mm main gun, which was later dropped in favor of the 120mm main gun. And, while I was at LDCK, its improvements included going from homogenous steel to depleted uranium. Only later in my tenure at LDCK would the M1 receive the designation M1A1.

At the time, the Division (Forward) was commanded by then-Brigadier General Tommy Baucum. He was flamboyant, and very well regarded by everyone within the command. Meanwhile, 4-41 Infantry was commanded by LTC John Voessler, who was someone I came to respect very much and who taught so many of us so much. Of some note, I find no reference to LTC Voessler's name anywhere online associated with 4-41 Infantry, which is a shame because "Pale Rider," as was his fixed call-sign, deserves to be remembered with the unit he cared so deeply for in its history. 

There were some hallmarks of service at 4-41 Infantry, as well as the rest of the units at LDCK. The Division (Forward) spent an inordinate amount of time in the field, compared to either the units I had served in at Fort Bragg, North Carolina or in Ft. Ord, California. 

The weather was harsh. Division (Forward) soldiers were very used to operating in extreme cold environments and cold-weather safety was second nature to everyone. Where soldiers from Southern Germany used to receive cold weather training in Northern Germany every year, the Division (Forward) (which was the northern most home of American maneuver forces in Europe) annually received its cold weather training in Boris and Oksbol, Denmark. There was a former refugee camp in Oksbol that had been converted into military use over the years and regularly headquartered visiting units. Boris and Oksbol are the coldest places where I have ever been and never before or since have I seen anti-freeze freeze. 

The Division (Forward) was in garrison more than its three maneuver battalions, and it was no surprise if one or two of its maneuver battalions were gone at the same time doing some training or other somewhere. 

Between regular gunnery in Grafenwohr-Hohenfels, REFORGER, certain rail exercises, cold weather training or whatever else came down the pike, 2nd Armored Division (Forward) soldiers were, it seemed then and now, mostly living in the field. However, the 'field' was occasionally different from what I was used to as a soldier. This unit was very good at rail movements for armored vehicles, which is art and science. Railcars we used to transport M113s, Bradleys, M1A1s, M88s and the like and were not designed to such specifications perfectly. And, these vehicles only just fit on the railcars. If drivers or ground guides were as much as a few inches off when guiding these behemoths onto these cars, these vehicles would have capsized onto the ground. How could that be good for anyone? So, one either learned how to do this well, or things became very scary. 

There were times when encampments were in occupied villages or towns, or just outside of them. There were times when armored vehicles convoyed on busy public highways or thoroughfares. Maneuver training sometimes happened in areas occupied by German nationals, though the Army went out of its way to work as unobtrusively as possible. Frequently, American units worked with Dutch, FRG and British forces. In one instance, the Division (Forward) even worked with elements of the French Army in training.

In short, garrison life was short-lived in the "Iron Deuce." In the rear soldiers, particularly those from the maneuver battalions and the artillery battalion, seemed to be given some leeway with schedules to allow for time with families and time off. The soldiers were young and prone to frequently going out and getting in trouble the way that soldiers have always, in time immemorial fashion.  At the kaserne, though, in my experience at 4-41, vehicle maintenance, field readiness, personal fitness and tactical training were paramount. Yes, the fellows were given a longer rope than ordinarily back at the kaserne, but no one wanted to be on the wrong side of training requirements. Business was business. 
Then Specialist Jim Purcell at the Hohenfels Training Area (1987)

The Division (Forward) was a family, in the truest sense of any word I have ever known. In 4-41, we knew each other better than our wives and loved ones did, we certainly spent more time with each other in almost every condition than they did. It was a clannish place, where friendship was taken very seriously, and soldiers were very lucky to have leaders they could generally respect very much. Good leadership is not something assured in every army, at every post, at every time. This was a very combat-ready unit that was used to working in extremely harsh weather and terrain environments and which was easily able to work with a wide array of NATO units. By modern standards, I suppose, much of its equipment was antiquated and basic. Still, if given the choice, 4-41 Infantry and the Division (Forward) would have been and still is my first choice to have served in would the balloon have gone up for the Third World War in Europe during the 1980s.

I was made a corporal in Germany, and after returning to Fort Hood, Texas, in 1988 with the unit, an exception was made and I was assigned as the S-2 intelligence sergeant. Normally, the S-2 NCOIC job went to a senior infantry non-commissioned officer. However, the then-commander, LTC John Vermillion, thought it was a good idea to retain me there instead -- and I was promoted to sergeant, E-5 and served at this despite being an intelligence analyst and not serving in an infantry MOS at that time. 

No one can capture the whole spirit of a unit with words, or pictures. These are the things left to memory, sad to say since memory is such a fallible thing. It was the finest unit I ever served in, though, and there were many fine units I was assigned to during my tenure in the Army. However, those are other stories.