Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Snow to Come

February 8th, 2013

Little stuff in prep for the 2 to 3 feet and 70MPH gusts…

unstorm As a reference for the white nasties, our front looked like this before the flurries started.
Easter abandoned, perhaps with hope for future candy, in an open lot on upper Milton Avenue. Surely no one felt the need to discard old baskets in preparation for the storm. exeaster
birdswait The birds were not deterred by the flurries. Rather they crowed awaiting shots at the feeders.
No warning to the lilacs that are eager for spring. prelilacs

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once. Click images to enlarge.

The claw comes to us

October 31st, 2012

Hail to Da Mare and his minions. Post-Sandy, we’re feeling good about city services here in Tom Menino’s city of Boston and neighborhood of Hyde Park. The big old tree is gone. The last of it just went away in a big old truck.

We aren’t uninjured. A good sized limb was driven into the garage roof. We’ll need to fix that or have it fixed.

The tree though…the tree. A chum in Winchester had the same situation in the storm. A large pine fell on his property. There was no damage to his house, but he’s gotten estimates of a thousand for a clean up and $3,000 for the works including tree removal.

Here on Fairmount Hill:

  1. a 40 to 50 foot pine in our front yard fell across the yard, sidewalk, street, and neighbor’s sidewalk and yard
  2. my wife and numerous neighbors independently called 911, the local police station and Public Works
  3. within a half hour, crews worked in the wind and rain to clear the street
  4. a Public Works truck could haul away some of the smaller pieces they had gotten off with a chain saw
  5. a Public Works loader moved the big trunk pieces to our lawn and sidewalk — four massive trunk pieces and the huge root structure
  6. the crew head said (to my incredulity) that Parks would be by to pick up most of it and if we were nice all of it
  7. this morning a contract tree firm showed up to chip and take away the branches
  8. they ended up also loading up the two smaller diameter trunk pieces, clearing the sidewalk
  9. a few minutes ago a green truck (Parks contractor?) showed and took away the rest

Here’s overkill on boys-with-toys. The final process, pix because I have ’em.

The trunk remainder was pretty massive still.
The guy operating the truck and its arcade-claw-machine style crane was clearly not new to the job. He made quick work of our residue and was off to the next job.
A single trunk piece was too inefficient or slow or not fun enough. He doubled up.
The Public Works crew had also sawed through the trunk at the root structure, or he would have had it all at once.
Double dump.
He had to swing the claw back for the roots. (It made me think of Toy Story — “Farewell, my friends. I have been chosen. I go to a better place.”)
The nasty, gnarly root structure was up…
…and gone. And like The Lone Ranger, “Our work is done here,” and he was gone too.

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once.

Actually, I thought the Public Works crew was optimistic. I have a small electric chainsaw and two bow saws. I considered what lengths I’d cut and such.

But I didn’t have to.

Sandy just bruises us a bit

October 30th, 2012

Here’s best hopes and wishes for those in Sandy’s path. We had comparatively little damage here. Our flooding, lost power, and tree-on-house destruction would normally be sources for self-pity. With this monster storm though, we feel lucky.

Here are a few snaps of our hill in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood.

Well, there was that tree. This 40 to 50 foot pine fell without creaking or other sound, suddenly blocking the road. The car normally in its path was not and it fell both away from our house and short of the neighbor’s.
Everyone, his brother and niece seemed to have called the city. Plus a Public Works big shot lives nearby. They told us they didn’t know when they could get to it, but were there within a half hour. They took about half the tree but used a loader to move the rest off to the sides so folk could drive through.
Pre-Sandy old coot (and weatherman/woman) wisdom was it would be a waste of time to rake before the storm. That was partially true. Here is our formally totally clear patio after the blow.
On the other hand, we got trash, recycling and yard-waste pick up all on Monday. So 16 big bags or cans of leaves went to the city compost piles.
A neighbor’s R.I.P. Halloween tombstone ended up in the gutter flood of leaves and water. I retrieved it and one of the downed-tree gawkers recognized it, taking it off to the rightful owner.
Our several maples were denuded by the big winds. The three big basswoods in the back haven’t even bothered to turn color much less give up their foliage. This dogwood held on to about half its covering.
The skies still misted and more rain is allegedly coming throughout the day. Yet, early this morning, the sun tried to peak and promise.
With the big winds gone and guts down to 20 MPH, the political yard sign went back up.

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once.

We know numerous chums who lost power and had water damage both here and in New Jersey. I hear that my WV buddies and getting a foot or two of snow as well. However, Sandy was relatively kind to us and Boston did a fine job.


Goofing With The Bees

June 25th, 2012

My scream, I was told, would have curdled milk. Until that defining moment, I had a serious fear of bees…apparently a common phobia.

At around 7 or maybe 8, my very intimate, in-the-shirt encounter with what I recall as a huge bee changed all of that. Previously, bees and like critters such as yellow jacket wasps hurt me physically a bit and emotionally substantially. While an outdoorsy, tent-camping, walk the woods, leas and cow pastures, garden in my grandfather’s one-acre “patches”  kind of little guy, I dreaded the next sting. I’d walked barefoot on bees, which in retrospect understandably stung me. Sitting at family picnics dripping watermelon juice, I’d get attacked by a bee or yellow jacket for no reason I could fathom. In short, the pain, itching and swelling came on me suddenly and with no malice on my part.

Then came the gigantic bee in my shirt.

My grandparents’ backyard in their house where I summered, abutted the Mytinger place (apparently the oldest house in the state and at the time very neglected property). With my family’s carefully planted and cultivated flowers, and the neighboring overgrowth, there were flowers galore. In particularly right on the border, my grandfather had planted hollyhocks, which were basketball-player height and jammed with blossoms that bees loved.

Several of us kids where playing right there when a huge bumblebee flew down the back neck of my tee-shirt and scampered way down inside.

My grandmother loved slapstick and to her the essence of humor was schadenfreude, not surprise. That evening, she said how sorry she was that she missed the event. She added immediately that the neighbors who did hear me thought I was being killed. Apparently I let out a loud, enthusiastic and, as it turned out cathartic, bellow of terror. Then I literally tore my shirt off, shredding it.

To this day, the humor to me is that not only did the normally benign (just ask a country kid) bumblebee did not sting me. Rather, the incident with its scream exorcised the fear. From that moment, I’ve had no dread of any critter in that family. I keep a judicious eye on the unpredictable bad actors, such as hornets, but bees and wasps are just other insects to me.

If I’m sitting outside and a bee or two land on my arm. Well, a bee or two landed on my arm. I might let them crawl or just blow them away. No foul.

Thus recently, I have been taking a few snaps of bees making love to flowers (as above). Those are not telephoto, rather with the lens an inch or two from the subjects. When people ask if I am afraid of being with the bees, I just tell them no. Rarely, I’ll add my tale of tee-shirt release.

The bee interplay does remind me of that charming The Point! album by Harry Nilsson. Its bee scene has the protagonists hiding in a hollow log from a bee swarm, when the log rolls downhill into the Rock Man. He looked at them and said, “Say – what’s happening with you boys . . . it looks like you’re pretty shook up, been goofing with the bees?”

I can relate.


Morbid Floral Fantasies

June 20th, 2012

Spurred by Facebook and Twitter truths, several hundred of us queued for Morticia this morning at Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo. We came prepared for the sprawling visual glory of the titan arum, a.k.a. corpse flower, and a bit trepid over a promise of dreadful stench in the temporary greenhouse kept at 80-something humidity and temperature.

Visually, she as the staff said, did not disappoint. As for bad smells, you’d do worse with durian fruit or happening across a decomposing mammal in the woods or maybe that camp outhouse. I eavesdropped to hear people apologizing to each other for their “failure” to get disgusting enough smells after all the anticipation and trepidation.

The zoo has a nice profile of botany of Morticia, here. Plus there’s info on the donor, who presented this one and four others to the facility.

They also realized what a winner they had here. Two of these monsters have bloomed in the same year. Fester, also named for a creepy  Addams Family character, recently finished its cycle. As these bloom on their own mysterious schedules only for about two days every five to 15 years, this mini-run was a delight to plant freaks.

The zoo intends to keep all five in a more permanent greenhouse elsewhere on the grounds after Morticia fades. Others in the quintet are in various stages of development. The staff told me they had no idea when the other three might bloom…a year, five, ten?

This time, the zoo really accommodated us curious types. They had pre- and post-zoo hours just for gawking and sniffing, and set up the greenhouse right inside one of the gates. They also did not charge admission for those special times (8 to 9:30 AM and 6 to 8 PM). Zoo members and paying visitors who came at regular hours could also visit the flowers.

In addition to self-appointed alerters, the zoo updated developments and included photos of each change over the past week of pre-blooming. Their FB page had it all and their Twitter handle carried abbreviated versions. Coupled with not charging for a peek, they clearly wanted to plug people into the zoo. Smart marketing, says I.

When I arrived this morning a little before 8, I sank like a butterfly in the rain. The cars in front of me on Blue Hill Avenue were turning maybe a third or more of them into the park. The two semi-circles of parking spaces by the zebra entrance were jammed and backed up. So was the huge lot by the golf course. Cars were parked all along the drive a quarter of a mile down. The auxiliary lot doesn’t open until 9 either. I went ahead and parked in the little lot by the other entrance and across from the golf course, a  lot I generally use in winter when I cross-country ski there.

Ah, but good news, as I returned to the zoo, I heard the loud speakers at the golf course. There was some sort of links tournament there. So not the entire world just had to see Morticia. In fact, as I entered, I estimated I was 150 or so people back in line. A similar number came behind me in the next 20 minutes. If this was Disney World, that line would be nothing for any attraction worth the trouble.

Pix notes: Click on an image for a closer view. These are Creative Commons. You’re welcome to use and abuse them. Just give Mike Ball credit the first go.

As it turns out, these flowers blow it all in preparation and blooming. Once they open up, they let off their smells to attract pollinating bugs and such. They they quickly fold up show. Fester was nearby and showed what happens as the exterior parts fold down back onto the corm. It looks very woody and extremely dormant.

They let us in double groups of 10, so 20 sweating camera bugs at a time would be around the two corpse plants, with the next batch of 10 replenishing as folk exited.  Certainly, they did not want to spend a lot of time inside. The air was hot and wet. You could pretty well see and photograph and smell from various sides in five or 10 minutes at most. By then, your camera lens was likely to fog and your shirt was wet from your own dew.

Yet, I think we were largely disappointed at not being disgusted by the aroma. That may well have been oversold. Perhaps Fester was more fetid?

On the other hand, Morticia was one big honking flower. She was nearly five feet tall at at least four feet across. The colors of the open blossom were splendidly rich and a bit lewd, looking very vulvar both in folds and hues. The outer green cup of the flower was gloriously fluted too. As fond and proud as I was of my giant parrot tulips, I bow before Morticia.

I can’t say I’ll keep close tabs for the next five to 15 years. I have seen and smelled a corpse flower in bloom. On the other hand, if I’m near one at the right time, I’ll make the effort. Who knows what grand colors…and repulsive smells….that one will produce.

Big Old Ears

March 29th, 2012

When I saw the images of Pope Benedict and Fidel Castro glad-handing, I noticed the ears. The 84 and 85-year-old guys exhibit big, old ears, a.k.a. hypertrophy. The image here is cropped and pushed together so you can see what I did.

So, I clicked around that net place to get some figures on how our head projections grow, how quickly, how big on average and such. In high school, private reading and in college, I had heard from various biology and medicine folk that cartilage continues to grow slowly, even as we get shorter with age.

I was surprised to read that folk wisdom at least questions that. Numerous pages claim with no evidence that just isn’t so.

There are few scientific studies that do the real thing. They compare by age and gender, left and right, and so forth. Actual numbers from experiments, like here and here, confirm that I’d long heard. Old folks’ ears and noses look bigger, because they are.

I don’t find this unpleasant. In fact, there’s an elegance and almost sculptural glory in a large ear — so long as it does not spew hair out of the canal. I think immediately of a dear family friend we called Justice, which was has last name as well as an apt epithet, had fine ears and a nobly wrinkled face. Likewise in my childhoo, the old guys sitting on the nail kegs near the pot-bellied stove in the Farm Bureau in Romney, West Virginia, tended both to sun-and-wind weathered skin and impressive noses and ears.

I read also today that some rich oldsters have plastic surgery to lift sagging nose, shorten elongating earlobes, and remove cartilage from their ears. That’s vanity that affronts natural beauty from normal development.


March 22nd, 2012

For only one more example that, for crying out loud in a bucket, we as a species are not multitaskers, consider the young woman who walked off a pier into cold Michigan water while texting. Sure it happens widely and rarely makes the news, except on the level of ridicule by acquaintances and relatives.

I’ve ridden this horse for years, like here and here.  For over a decade, I’ve seen adults and kids in malls walk into objects and people…because their brains are too single-stream to use a phone and travel simultaneously.

I lay special blame at the feet and graves of the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. As marketing ploys, they blithely told consumers and managers alike that humans multitask well. This dovetails perfectly with the managers’ belief that lazy employees should be doing three or more complex tasks simultaneously (and well) instead of sucking away company money for goofing off.

Unfortunately for that fantasy, having several computer programs running and one or more phone calls connected and maybe even a meeting or oral conversation at one time is plain stupid. To belabor the computer context, we simply don’t have the RAM, processor speed, or disk to deal with many threads concurrently. A tiny fraction of us have brains capable of multitasking and the odds are high that you are not in that group. Give it a rest.

We believe we do only because software companies and bosses say that is so. This delusion has become so pervasive I’m a multitasker has joined I’m a people person in the list of top meaningless self-descriptions.

The fault, dear humanoid, is not in the handheld device or app, but in ourselves. Do one thing at a time well and avoid rear ending a vehicle or falling on your face.

God Bless Giraffes

January 19th, 2012

Hamisi1Truth be told, giraffes are my favorite animal. They are beautiful and have an elegant stride, oh, and compelling eyes.

So, I have been emotionally caught up in reportage of Europeans and Americans who shoot giraffes for sport. Trophy hunting of giraffes is by no means dangerous, but it is very expensive $10,000 or more for the experience (plus $2,000 trophy fee).

No Screams

An understandable giraffe myth is that they make no sounds. While they often do not vocalize, they can — moms bellow for lost offspring, males hoping to mate snort, all will bleat on occasion and such.

More obviously, both in the wild as well as in zoos and preserves, they munch plants all day. They run and play with each other. They are gentle herbivores, who are violent rarely. Their only real weapon is a super-strong kick, which can maim or kill a predator such as a lion. Males will sometimes fight each other over a female by swinging their heads at each other.

While I eat meat, I do not believe nor understand hunting for sport.  With mammals as benign, as harmless as giraffes, it makes no sense at all. I have read and seen enough, and have enough hunter relatives and acquaintances, to know some of the other side, such as:

  • Tracking and killing large cats, bears and such is perilous, manly and an expression of a primal struggle for life
  • Hunters of deer and other ruminants cull the overpopulated herd, keeping the survivors healthy and in stasis
  • Some hunters butcher and eat what they kill, equating it with store-bought meat, with the benefit of pelts

Giraffe trophy hunters don’t have any of those arguments. Instead, per that article in the Sun linked above and numerous safari-company sites, it runs:

  • A half dozen African countries allow legal giraffe slaughter
  • The countries use the fees to support their local economy
  • When the residents know hunts are legal and they can get paid for these, they do it rather than poach giraffes for their skins. As one safari guy put it, “Rhino and other animals have been saved through conservation and the most money for conservation is generated from hunting.”

Hierarchy of Affection

Another truth from me is that I am no adherent of ahimsa. I swat mosquitoes, for example, although yesterday, I did remove a fair sized spider from my bathroom by hand, placing it on plants on the deck to scurry off to safety.

Moreover, I regularly eat muscle meat and fish that I purchase. I’m country enough to know chickens don’t grow in shrink-wrapped packages. In fact, I’ve eviscerated fish, plucked chickens and such. It is the sport aspect — the thrill of the kill — that I have never wanted nor understood.

I grew up around hunters. I think of my mother’s brother and his three sons. They loved shooting animals and particularly pleased my country grandmother when they showed up with a deer haunch. They butchered it and we had venison out of the freezer for many meals, including actual mincemeat pie.

I have species prejudice. The idea of killing a whale or any cetacean appalls me. They are far too close to us in brain capacity and are very human in many ways, short of being cruel and ambitious.

From there, I feel an affinity for the great and lesser apes. I identify less and feel less protective of other species, particularly vermin sorts like rats and squirrels. For learned emotional reasons, I would not kill nor eat a cat, dog or other pet variety.

Because I Can

796px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_105-DOA0377,_Deutsch-Ostafrika,_GiraffeWhile not strongly anti-hunting, I do listen to hunters, who like fishermen love to talk about what they do. Many I have known from childhood, into school and college and as an adult, fall into several types. A few truly seem to be those conservation type. They enjoy the outdoors, truly believe that they keep herds healthy through culling, and eat their kills.

My emotional problem is with the many I have known or heard who plainly simply like to kill. The glee they express in describing shooting animals and watching them struggle and die is freaky, scary. We should be glad they have an outlet and are not driven to turning on us.

Likewise for giraffes, there are numerous descriptions and short videos that illustrate both types. Search trophy hunting giraffes to find both safari companies and people opposed to such doings. Oddly, the videos of tourists killing giraffes, posing (invariably under an arced neck) and bragging about it are on both types of sites. One family’s murder is another’s adventure.

Giraffe hunting is not new, of course. The picture above is a pre-WWI one with natives who with their prey. They would eat the animal and sell the hide — old style and not for amusement.

Seeing the videos of the modern version reminds me of a visit to the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. Mr. Photography loved killing African mammals. His rooms share the building with photography museum. There are elephant and other heads on walls, desks covered in hippo hide and such, and outsized artifacts like umbrella stands made of elephant or hippo feet.

He was quite a control freak, it seems. His journals specify how he micromanaged each trip, down to how many socks of what type each person would bring and precisely what the provisions would be for every meal. In the end, so to speak, he hunted himself as well. He was getting physically feeble and rather than forgo such excursions, he brought in acquaintances one or more at a time, conversing at length to show he was rational (and his will would not be contested), and then killed himself with his favorite pistol. The journals and pistol are on display a floor above the animal trophies.

Long-Necked Muses

Back to giraffes, I am fond of them. As they threaten no one and they are not overpopulated, why should anyone kill them? Short of because humans are atop the food chain and can fairly much slaughter animals at will, I don’t see any good reason.

Those who walk near these 16 to 19 foot tall herbivores and shoot them dead speak on those videos proudly. It does not seem like much of a challenge or accomplishment.

Contrast that with the account in the 1897 The Encyclopaedia of sport, Volume 1 (page 452):

In South Africa the giraffe is invariably hunted on horseback a form of sport which has always had great attractions for English sportsmen. There is nothing finer in nature than the sight of a troop of giraffes in full flight and the excitement of the find and the run up is intense. In its slower paces the giraffe with its curious gliding walk is extremely deceptive It is in reality travelling at a rapid rate. When thoroughly roused these animals are capable putting first rate hunting horses to their utmost speed. It is well to remember that unless the hunter plies sjambok and spur and rides his very hardest at the flying troop in the first two miles of chase he may lose them altogether. At a steady slinging gallop giraffes will travel for hours and wear out a horse but if chased very hard and forced beyond their pace early in the run the hunter will be enabled to ride close up to the particular beast he may single out and put in his shots from the saddle. Some hunters prefer to get up within a hundred yards jump off and fire. In the opinion of the writer and of many experienced African sportsmen it is better to push one’s horse close up to the stern of the giraffe and within a few yards fire from the saddle. A good South African hunting pony needs little guiding in a run of this description and the rider can drop his reins and safely use both hands. The best point to aim at whether on foot or on horseback is the root of the tail. The giraffe’s body is very short and a well planted solid bullet travels right into the vitals of the animal and speedily brings it down broken limb will also effectually bring down giraffe.

The same text notes that giraffes are defenseless against humans. The only danger is if one is dumb and clumsy enough to come in from behind and get kicked.

Anyone with a rifle can kill a giraffe. The guides drive a short distance away. There’s no pony chase, mounted shooting or risk. The giraffes are not skittish and seem to observe the hunters with curiosity, at least until the shots bring down one of theirs.

Putting money into the local economy does not seem at all a justification here. Again, there is no need to cull giraffes, they harm no one and nothing, and hunting them is neither challenging nor dangerous. It seems the hunters should be ashamed to return with a hide or head of these gentle giants.

As the guide company repeatedly point out, such hunts are legal in numerous countries. They offer menus such as on this page, with the per diem as well as the trophy fee, for the long list of animals you can kill. I suppose that’s free enterprise, African style, although U.S. and Canadian hunting preserves have similar plans on less exotic beasts.

It is not in my nature to hunt for sport. I am sad that beautiful, gracious, gentle giraffes die for the titillation of tourists. With the many fulfilling ways to get pleasure in this life that do not bring pain and death, they have chosen most poorly.

Acorn Agon

November 16th, 2011


Nearly two months ago, a friend of my wife lamented the lack of acorns in these parts. She has a stake in it, as a wild foods type. She leads foraging tours, including gathering oak fruit to make bread with as a reward. Not this year.

Folks at the Globe covered the dearth today (unfortunately behind their rapacious paywall). Not even the experts they quote are exactly sure why. It may be that two years of lots of acorn output depleted the oaks. Alternately, the heavy rains of the past two years might be to blame. It seems it takes about 18 months after such moisture that prevents pollination for the effect to be seen in acorn output.

Regardless, everyone paying attention agrees that there aren’t many this year and that may continue into 2012’s fall.

For us that will have some small, but nasty effects. Our wild rodents will be hungry. The chipmunks, squirrels and such are seeking other food. That will likely be out of the trash, those expensive bulbs we, including I, recently planted for the spring and summer flowers, and next year’s vegetables.

While inconvenient to us, this will be fatal for a majority of those rodents. The experts quoted say up to 90% of chipmunks and maybe half the squirrels will die.  Beyond that, the birds and mammals that prey on the rodents will hunt other food, like raptors killing more birds instead. Bigger critters, like deer, bears and raccoons will like survive, but may come closer to humans, and mess with more trashcans.

Niner One One Respite

September 14th, 2011

Through the accident of calenders and school schedules, we headed to Block Island on September 11th. The side effect was a relief from the relentless, if understandably expected, leaping, braying 10th-anniversary commentary.

Leading up to and in that morning’s papers, NYT and Globe definitely included, were all 9/11, from not-news to full-page ads, to editorials. Americanism points were in the tally for everyone. Advertisers see a chance for another few bucks by association. Editors feign insight or wisdom where they had none. No one it seemed wanted to appear less patriotic and involved than the next exploiter.

We had long before found that this year, Sunday, 9/11 would be the very end of the tourist season there. Rooms were more available, enough restaurants were still open to satisfy, and we would not be madras to polyester with other interlopers.

We took cell phones for family contact…if necessary. However, Even though our guest house did not brag about WiFi, I figured that there’d be lots of free wireless around. Hence the decision about whether to go three days without internet, news or social media. I admit to a Jones on all.

We receive multiple newspapers (each of us having been newspaper and magazine writers and editors). We’re on the tubes throughout the day, and blog, tweet and blah blah blah.


Yet when it came time to pack, I looked at laptops and the iPad. I realized I had lots of room and any of them would be light. Upon arriving, I could fire one up or not.

The planned or-not won. I took nothing.

We left early, right after breakfast and the Sunday papers. We didn’t speak of 9/11 and had no reminder until the ferry left Port Judith. There and then a Coast Guard gunship paced us to and beyond the breakwater, well into the open sound.

That’s not usual and almost certainly a date-specific display of caution or precaution or something. It was certainly unnecessary and suited only for those simpleminded who are wont to chant, “Better safe than sorry.”

For three days and two nights, we did just fine. We spoke to each other, of literature, of the wildlife and other nature we saw or touched or photographed, of our kids a bit, of our current and earlier selves more, and of the comparative textures and tastes of food and drink before us. We biked every paved foot of the island. We marveled in the deep tones of the shingles — round pebbles thumping insistently to beat of the tide — as we walked upper Crescent Beach. We toured Indian and white-settler cemeteries.

Returning Tuesday PM to the newspapers, the net, and the news, we missed nothing. Commenters had nothing original nor insightful nor wise not palliative. They spoke flatulent words only competitively, because everyone else was doing it.

As emergencies and wars and crushing disappointments prove our mental and intellectual mettle, so do eulogies and memorials demonstrate our compassion and understanding. The many efforts we saw on returning failed. If the worst of times brings out the tritest of clichés in us, we had best speak aloud to ourselves what we intend to say…and then keep quiet.