American Romantic, 2014, Excerpt and Review


Suggested by George Lynch:

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An excerpt from Ward Just’s novel, American Romantic, 2014

Harry was quiet once again. Then he said, I grew up in Connecticut. That’s like growing up in your chateau country down near the Loire. Most Sundays we’d have a splendid lunch with the squires, our neighbors, a congresswoman and her husband, a professional soldier and his wife, two bankers , other locals, including a retired ambassador and various characters who had been in and out of government. The congresswoman was an excellent mimic and hilarious as she went about describing the legislative sausage machine. Brigadier General Candless was similarly superb on military science and tactics, including the Bulge in 1944. He had taken part in it. The bankers were entertaining as they went about demystifying Wall Street, or trying to. Where my mother and father fit into this company I cannot say, except they were fine hosts. Everyone was fond of them. I think it’s fair to say my parents established a sphere of intimacy, almost of confidentiality, at their Sunday table. No one had to say, This stays in the room among us. Everyone knew that the conversation stayed in the room and the remarkable, or contradictory, fact was that indiscretions were rare. These were people of the wider world and sexual or financial escapades had no real interest for them unless a president, a secretary of state or defense, or the speaker of the House was implicated, whereupon the worm of malice began to crawl as at any other table. But that aside, the company rarely spoke of current events but of things of the past, the general’s campaigns, the congresswoman’s battles with Senator Joe McCarthy. Elections won and lost, wars won, stalemated, or lost, promises kept, promises broken. I would say also that the atmosphere was often melancholy. At my father’s table failure was more instructive, more revealing, than success.

The admiral nodded thoughtfully, adding a ghost of a smile. Thing was, Harry went on, all the stories they told had something missing. This, it seemed to me then as it does now, is common among government people. Congresswoman Finch, for example, in describing the eternal struggle over foreign aid was meticulous in her account of who said what to whom and when, the politics of it, the influence of the lobbyists. But at a certain point she shrugged and changed the subject. To go beyond that certain point might have – would have- undermined faith in the system. She had realized she was addressing – I suppose the word would be civilians. Brigadier General Candless was eloquent on the progress of the Battle of the Bulge, an account drawn from a set-piece annual lecture he delivered to senior cadets at West Point. He had the names of the principal officers and their units, which performed well and which performed badly. The flow of the engagement. He had the German order of battle. He noted the weather, the terrain, and the fortifications. He quoted from diaries and after-action reports. Still, there was something between the lines where you found a hint of something else, something excruciating, beyond words, unspeakable. The hint was indistinct, a single voice in the chorus of a thousand. Brigadier General Candless was an intelligent man and knew a blank space when he saw it, and the same was true of Congresswoman Finch, even the bankers. As they were talking there would come a moment when their voices trailed off and any attentive listener would know they were deep in their memories, pondering what they were unable – not unwilling but unable – to say aloud. The missing piece. All the stories had missing pieces that spoke to motive and perhaps misprision or something very like misprision. This was something personal and inexplicable, the fact that refused to fall in line with the other facts. A black sheep fact, important enough to make a tidy account a little less tidy. To grasp it you had to have been there. More than any other single thing you had to understand the context, what was at stake and the consequences. No civilian could know that, even the worldly civilians around the Regency table at my father’s house. These were inside jobs. That was the world they lived in.

Review in Booklist:

In this deft portrait of a promising young foreign service officer, Just reaches back to the earliest, hazy days leading up to the “misbegotten” Vietnam War, a time and place he witnessed firsthand. Though he never names the country Harry Sanders is posted in, Just describes it with molecular particularity, from the roiling city streets to the malevolence of the deep jungle, creating an arresting visual lexicon drawn from the paintings of Matisse, Vuillard, and Munch. This adds evocative textures to Just’s lushly sensuous and moodily introspective tale while also conveying Harry’s cultural legacy as a man born to privilege in orderly Connecticut, the opposite of this dense, lacerating land. Stubborn and idealistic, Harry envisions a bright future as a diplomat with the beautiful if haunted Sieglinde at his side, though they hardly know each other. She tags him as an “American romantic.” He sees himself as a “connoisseur of the counterfeit and the inexplicable” after a dangerous, clandestine mission and Sieglinde’s abrupt disappearance leave him hobbled and scarred. As Just circles forward and back to tell their dramatic stories, he dissects the romance, presumption, nobility, and futility of the diplomatic life and weighs the stoniness of the past. Master writer Just’s eighteenth novel is elegantly structured, worldly wise, shrewdly suspenseful, and profoundly satisfying. –Donna Seaman

About Ward Just and his work.


Skateboarding on Rings



A ‘Post Modern Skateboard’ That Ditches The Board

The Sidewinding Circular Skates are a modern hybrid of skates and skateboard.The Sidewinding Circular Skates are a modern hybrid of skates and skateboard.     Hammacher Schlemmer

The Sidewinding Circular Skates consist of a pair of 10-inch rubber wheels with foot platforms. Apart from riding with a sideways stance, the gadget appears to be a futuristic take on roller skates.

Rather than pushing off the ground like a traditional skateboard or skates, the user gains momentum from a Segway-like propulsion by leaning side to side. Braking is achieved by touching one’s toes to the ground.

An optional rod connects each wheel to give the skater more stability.An optional rod connects each wheel to give the skater more stability.  Hammacher Schlemmer

The separate wheels allow the skater to coast in a weaving motion and lean in to propel forward.

While the Hammacher Schlemmer online catalog is selling the $100 product as “Sidewinding Circular Skates,” other tech sites have taken off with the term, “Post Modern Skateboard.”

More than a skateboard, though, the contraption might resemble the Heelys from the 2000s. The sneakers that converted into roller skates at the lift of a sole got a bad rap for their hazards to children, which may have cut the craze short.

The Sidewinding Circular Skates’ design gives skaters as much mobility as the expert skateboarder. Independent wheels allow the skater to coast in a weaving motion and spin 720 degrees.

The product comes from China and Hammacher Schlemmer and does not have a manual yet — so we’ll have to take a cue from the demonstration video on how it’s used.

Emma Bowman is an intern with NPR Digital News.

Newcomers !


photo 1

Alice is so happy !

Last evening in Vermont Rachel Brodie gave birth to River Vinicio Foote. Dad Michael Foote, Alice’s son, caught the baby.  All are well.


In about six weeks, Jesse Foote, Michael’s twin brother, and Beth Huston  will have their third child in Colorado.  Their twins Hazel and Paloma are now nearly 2 1/2 years old.

Animal Healers

Krystal Nieves, 17, reaches out from her hospital bed to Jennie, a certified therapy animal.

Healing power of animals
Therapeutic benefits to human patients is increasingly recognized
By Terri Colby Special to Tribune Newspapers  3.25.15

   Sometimes, a little horseplay is just what the doctor ordered.   Just after lunch on an ordinary Tuesday, three children, all wearing pajamas covered in cartoon tigers, almost simultaneously left their hospital beds for an extraordinary event.   Ten-year-old Anjanette Davis and 6-year-old Eli Huerta wheeled their IV stands through the doorways of their adjacent hospital rooms. Just across the hall, 3-year-old Elle Thompson walked up to the doorway.  

What drew their attention and prompted their similarly wide smiles? Two miniature horses were standing in the hospital hall, wearing tiny gym shoes from Build-A-Bear and bandannas around their necks.   Mystery and Jennie, 26 inches and 28 inches tall, respectively, are registered miniature horses and certified therapy animals. But they look a little more like fairy-tale creatures or something out of a children’s story. The tiny gym shoes — Mystery had pink ones; Jennie wore black — put an exclamation point on their whimsical appearance.  

The horses — two of the most unusual therapy animals in the country — were making a repeat visit to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, charming not just the patients but the doctors, nurses, staff and medical students. And the gym shoes were not just a fashionable touch; the tiny hooves can slip on tile floors, so the shoes are necessary.  

Animal therapy is not new but appears to be on the upswing, according to Pet Partners, a Washington state-based nonprofit organization that registers and trains volunteer teams across the U.S. in providing animal-assisted therapy as well as more casual animal interactions with humans.   “Anecdotally, we continue to see an increase in the number of facilities seeking volunteer teams to provide animal-assisted interactions to a wide variety of clients,” said Mary Margaret Callahan, Pet Partners senior national director of program development. “In 2014, more than 1 million visits were provided in all 50 states.” 

  Dogs are the most common type of animal used for therapy in health care settings, but rabbits, pigs, horses, llamas and other animals also are used.   Mystery and Jennie are part of the six-horse Mane in Heaven organization in suburban Chicago, founded by nurse Jodie Diegel and staffed solely by volunteers. Mane in Heaven takes horses to visit nursing homes, schools, hospitals, veterans centers and places that work with people with development disabilities, homeless people and survivors of domestic violence.  

It costs more than $400 per visit, but Mane in Heaven doesn’t charge to bring the horses out, relying solely on donations.   A 2014 article in the Annals of Long-Term Care notes that the therapeutic benefits of animals to humans is being increasingly recognized, leading to more health facilities providing animal-assisted therapy.  

Author Lorraine Ernst writes that, during the 1930s, Sigmund Freud used dogs to help facilitate communication with patients. Commenting on a 2007 study evaluating the impact of hospital visits with therapy dogs, Ernst writes that patients “experienced a reduction in both the mental and physical effects of the excited sympathetic nervous system, as demonstrated by improved cardiopulmonary pressures and decreased (anxiety).”   Additionally, a 2004 study investigated changes in immune function when participants petted a dog, concluding that the action may improve the ability to fight off infections.  

In Florida, Dr. Mark Roh, president of the University of Florida Health Cancer Center in Orlando, said a pet-therapy program begun there in 1991 with two dogs now has 40 pet-therapy teams making more than 55,000 patient visits a year.   “The impact that these volunteers and therapy dogs have when they walk into our patients’ rooms or sit at the feet of a chemotherapy patient undergoing cancer treatment is truly amazing,” Roh said. “Pet therapy may be the softer side of health care, but it’s critical to what we do every day. It reduces patient stress, calms fears and anxieties and, in turn, results in much quicker healing times. Our four-legged volunteers can change the mood of a patient just by walking into a room; that’s pretty impactful.”  

In Washington state, Evergreen Health Hospice volunteer coordinator Melissa Lubatti said animal-assisted therapy offers unconditional love and acceptance, benefiting not just patients but families and staff as well.   “Our volunteer handlers and their animals help us to provide an additional therapy that supports a holistic approach that we as human caregivers simply couldn’t achieve without them,” she said.   Robyn Hart, director of Child Life Services at Rush, knows firsthand the value of animals in hospital settings.   “Animals have a marvelous capacity to raise people’s spirits, to calm kids down,” she said. “When the horses go through the halls   — the kids and the staff, their eyes just widen.”  

Because the miniature horses are so unusual, Hart said, they “have this kind of magical quality about them, kind of like mythical animals and a little bit of ‘My Little Pony’ all rolled into one.”   It was clear that the animals were making a difference for patients.   Anjanette’s mother, Antoinette Davis, said that because of her daughter’s sickle cell anemia, the child has been hospitalized at least once a month for the last five years.   “She’s actually excited to come to the hospital because she knows the horses might be here,” the mother said.  

Next door, Eli Huerta was not feeling so well. He had abdominal pain following an appendectomy and needed to get up and move around. After he made his way out into the hall to pet the horses, his nurse said that was the farthest distance he had walked all day.   Across the hall, Elle Thompson and older sister Jayla Lovett reveled in an in-room visit. “I’m totally going to tell my friends,” the older girl said.   The hospital also has a resident rabbit named Coco who “can be pulled out whenever she’s needed,” Hart said.  

Rush also has taken the unusual step of allowing patients to have their own pets visit them. Such visits also are allowed at hospitals in other states, including Iowa, Maryland and Minnesota, all a testament to the healing power of animals.

PHIL VELASQUEZ/TRIBUNE NEWSPAPERS PHOTOS Anjanette Davis, 10, pets miniature horses Jennie, left, and Mystery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Eli Huerta, 6, perks up and comes out of his hospital room to see Mystery.

Slips in Language


Suggested by Beth Lynch

20 Common Phrases Even the Smartest People Misuse                                          By Christina Desmarais of Inc.                                                                                         Source

When you hear someone using grammar incorrectly, do you make an assumption about his or her intelligence or education? There’s no doubt that words are powerful things that can leave a lasting impression on those with whom you interact.

Another True Story

Image result for hospital nigeria photo

By George Lynch

A few years ago, a church in Tariffville, Connecticut and Faithcare, a medical missionary outfit, partnered in a challenging medical relief mission to Nigeria. A friend of mine, a pediatric physician assistant on the project, told me this story.

“When we arrived at an ancient British hospital in Obudo, Nigeria to dispense free medical care, we were met by a thousand or more people, some who had come great distances on foot. Our first task was to separate them into groups by complaint and then form lines within the groups. There were lines for children, adults with general medical problems, gynecology issues, surgical conditions, and eye problems. The numbers were so overwhelming we could not possibly attend to everyone, so those in line were triaged, sorted into categories of priority of treatment. A ticket was given to those selected for medical evaluation. Necessarily, there were only so many tickets.

“There were times when mass hysteria would break out. Fearful people in their anguish would raise their voices and there would be some pushing and shoving. The police would have to restore order. What happened was that some of the stronger people forced their way to the front of the line to get tickets. Some of those that they pushed aside were weak from having walked for days from outlying villages. Most commonly these folks were the old and infirm who could not physically compete with the younger men.

“People who had walked for many days to get to the hospital were sleeping on the verandas, the large open concrete porches extending along the sides of the hospital walls. When evening came, they just lay down outside on the hard surfaces and slept. They were crammed in together in all available space off the ground.

“Our first evening back at the hotel, Dr. John, our team leader, made an announcement.  He told us that he would like to do something for those who had traveled so far to seek medical attention and might not be able to get tickets in the time left. He asked for two or three volunteers to return to the compound that night and give tickets to all those outside. Three volunteers, one American and two Nigerians, agreed to return to the hospital in the darkness. It was a completely clear night in the bush; the stars were brilliant.

“The volunteers began at the nearest veranda, gently touching the shoulders of those who slept. They whispered ‘ticket, ticket’ while folding the paper into their hands. The sleeping woke as if angels had touched them.

“Everything seemed mystical as they quietly worked their way down the verandas. A murmur of whispered voices began to float out of the darkness; soft sorrowful sounds like the gathering of a collective sigh.   The patients were singing a song giving thanks, a muted angelic chorus.

“The song began to gather momentum with more and more voices joining in, a crescendo of praise to God.  The American volunteer recalled, ‘We gave out all the tickets and these people are singing’. I stepped off the veranda in the darkness and looked up into the heavens. I had the feeling I was peering into the depths of the universe, seeing stars I had never seen before. There was an overpowering sensation of the presence of God.”

“I said to my friend, ‘You know, back home, I went to church and threw some money in the offering plate. I didn’t really pray much and only read the bible occasionally, but now, now, after looking into the heavens and listening to these people who have absolutely nothing singing praises to God in the darkness, I know, I know for sure, that it’s all true’ .”

Gandhi Back in London


When I was a child, Mohandas Gandhi led the people of India in their struggle for independence from the British Empire, introducing non-violent resistance to the world.  rjn

 New Statue Of Gandhi Unveiled In Britain’s Parliament Square

KRISHNADEV CALAMUR  National Public Radio
British Prime Minister David Cameron shakes hands with Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Mohandas Gandhi's grandson, beneath a new statue of the Indian independence leader by British sculptor Philip Jackson, after it was unveiled today in London's Parliament Square.

British Prime Minister David Cameron shakes hands with Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Mohandas Gandhi’s grandson, beneath a new statue of the Indian independence leader by British sculptor Philip Jackson, after it was unveiled today in London’s Parliament Square.      Matt Dunham/AP

Winston Churchill once described Mohandas Gandhi, the Indian independence leader who challenged the might of the British empire, as a “seditious Middle Temple lawyer.” On another occasion, he said Gandhi “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant.”

Wonder what he’d make of a 9-foot-tall Gandhi statue unveiled today, near his own, in London’s Parliament Square?

NPR’s Ari Shapiro, who reported on the story for our Newscast unit, says the “statue underscores how much the relationship has changed between the U.K. and India since Gandhi fought for independence from Britain nearly 70 years ago.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron watched as Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley unveiled the statue to mark the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa to start the movement for independence from Britain.

“This statue is a magnificent tribute to one of the most towering figures in the history of world politics,” Cameron said. “Many of his teachings remain as potent today as when he first made them.”

Jaitley said the statue “marks an important, historic moment celebrating the strong bond between our two nations.”

The statue is the work of British sculptor Philip Jackson. It’s based on photographs taken of the independence leader, also known as Mahatma Gandhi, outside the British prime minister’s offices in 1931. It joins the statues of Churchill and other British leaders, as well as President Lincoln and South African leader Nelson Mandela.

The Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust, which raised $1.5 million for the statue, placed it lower than others in Parliament Square to reflect Gandhi’s projection of himself as a man of the people. They wanted the statue to stand among the visitors to Parliament Square.

More on Gandhi with videos

More photos, other statues

Most Dangerous Trail

First–a note on a safe trail:

When Alice and I went to northern Spain, part of our plan was to hike the Cares River Trail, cut into the cliffs above the Cares, about 7 miles long,  not at all dangerous.  We stayed in a small family-run hotel, their kids playing in the lobby, in the town of Arenas de Cabrales in the Picos (mountains) de Europa, an area know for its blue cheese made from cow, goat, and sheep milk.

We drove out of town along the winding Cares to the trailhead just above the hydroelectic plant which receives water in great pipes from high in the canyon. Fly fisherman were working in the river.

Alice was concerned for my fear of heights, but I felt great as we walked up to the trail. Then we reached a point several hundred feet above the river where the trail narrowed to 3 feet and was going to make a blind turn.  I wished Alice well, probably kissed her cheek, and returned to the trailhead.

From there I wandered around, watching the small groups of brown goats grazing here and there.  I spoke briefly with a man who came by.  He smiled and said,  Cabra (goat).  I smiled and said, Si, cabra.  He waved and walked on.

I  found a sign for a tavern up a hill  on a paved road.  It was a nice walk until I came to a shady place in the road completely filled with resting goats–ewes–I saw the ram lying on top of a wall at the roadside watching me closely.  I thought, “OK, it’s your road”, turned around and walked back down.

Much later I returned to the trailhead and eventually saw Alice, coming down in the rain, tired and happy.



 Caminito del rey: World’s scariest footpath to re-open

Take a walk in VIDEO at source

The Caminito del Rey, often dubbed the “world’s scariest footpath”, will reopen to visitors in southern Spain next winter – although it is unlikely to have quite the same fear factor

The trail, which translates as “the King’s walkway”, skirts the edge of the narrow Gaitanes Gorge in southern Spain.

Millions of people have watched YouTube footage of dare-devil walkers negotiating the rickety, metre-wide path (see above).

However, both entrances were closed to the public following fatalities in 1999 and 2000. Despite the closures, walkers have continued to try to navigate the trail, much of which has fallen into a state of disrepair.

In places, only slim metal rails remain, with walkers needing to have sure footwork to prevent falling into the Guadalhorce River far below.

In 2011, the regional Andalusia government and the city government of Malaga, agreed to share the costs of its restoration, which are now estimated at more than €5million.

Work began in March this year, with authorities hoping the new walkway will provide a boost for tourism in the area. The 1.2 kilometre trail was originally installed to allow workers access to the Guadalhorce dam.

The royal association derives from the dam being inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII in 1921. His great-grandson, King Felipe VI, has been asked to open the new camino next year.

Once it reopens to the public – in January or February next year, according to the most recent report – the trail will be free to visitors for three months. There will then be a charge for tourists to walk along it, although the amount has not yet been decided, with only a limited number of tourists allowed to go on the bridge each day “for security reasons,” according to the Malaga council.

Before and after

A section of the route as it looked prior to restoration

How it will appear once work is carried out

More at Wikipedia

Read more

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Attractions around the world that vertigo sufferers should avoid