Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Phat and Fat: Hungry?

April 27th, 2012

Several times in my adult life, I’ve trimmed down. The old way followed the platitudinous calories-in/calories-out advice that most medical and nutrition sorts still flog. I have come to disdain that after much reading and experimenting.

Those seeming death marches featured deprivation. Feeling hungry to ravenous seemed like an affirmation of will, of virtue. Pounds disappeared, at the cost of feeling self-punished. I could hardly wait to reach a target weight and stop that silliness.

In contrast, nearly all the low-carb versions I’ve seen and one I’ve adapted for myself go for sustainable eating patterns. Unlike just-eat-fewer-calories-than-your-body-needs, eat-right-foods-until-you’re-comfortable is, as the newer cliché goes, a plan. There’s no rush to escape.

A fundamental principle in Atkins or Duke or so many other low-carb regimens is worrying far less about calories, and instead counting carbs. Have four, six, even eight ounces of fish or meat for lunch or dinner. That of course depends on your size and activity level of the day. Do without the bread, potatoes, rice and other starches. Have a cup or two of greens and other low-carb veggies.

I confess that the veggie part is easier for me than some who grew up food picky. I worked with my grandfather in his gigantic gardens for 11 summers. Asparagus, lettuce, squash, kale, string beans, cabbage, peppers and on and on were in my hands and on the table shortly after picking. We ate what we got to the table and it was all damned good.

Those who didn’t grow up with an abundance of fresh vegetables or got mushy ones from cans might have a problem. For us, my grandmother froze and jarred many hundreds of pounds of them for winter and spring.

If you’re considering low-carb, keep the key concept in mind that you won’t go hungry. If you’re masochist, you can always stick with the modified starvation plan so popular in medical circles.

This series includes:

Call it Lifestyle on the intellectual and emotional commitment to low-carb
Watching the Struggle on my grandmothers diet woes
Wrestling with Fat on overcoming fear of dietary fats
Hunger? do you starve on a low-carb diet?
Low-Carb Eats on what’s on the menu in the regimen
How Much of What Food on calories-in/calories-out cliché
Dr. Cadaver on mindless trust in group averages
Who’s Counting on body fast v. weight
Part 1 on pants don’t lie


1870 Fairmount Rumble

February 19th, 2012

agwMy hill in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood has had its moments. When we moved on Fairmount Hill over two years ago, we figured it looked like just another undistinguished almost-suburban area. Heaven knows the few plaques (at the bottom of the hill, thank you very much) say little and nothing political. However, we did learn that the Grimké sisters, Sarah and Angelina, lived here. Angelina (right) with her husband, Rev. Theodore Weld, and Sarah next door.

Their houses are gone. While Victorian homes of the period are on the block, modest brick two-story ones (and no plaque) are there now. Maybe the UUA will chip in. They like to claim Weld, and in truth, at least late in life, he and Angelina did become Unitarians.

I already cited their abolition and women’s suffrage work. There is a a link also to the tale including the mixed race Grimké brothers Archibald and Francis whom the sisters supported, saw educated and helped into starting successful careers as a lawyer and diplomat and a preacher. That was the good side of do-gooder guilt, a.k.a. social activism. The sisters discovered that their brother who remained in South Carolina has fathered the boys by their enslaved mother. Nothing like blood to bring anti-slavery sentiments full circle.

The brothers Grimké and one’s daughter, likely American’s first published lesbian poet as well as activist in the family mode, Angelina Weld Grimké all spent time on this hill. For Weld and the sisters, it was a base of operation to correct the wrongs of slavery and suppression of women. I like to think that if there are such things as spirits, those of the several generations of these remarkable people hum and inspire here still.

Over at Marry in Massachusetts, I just added a wee rant on what may befall the creeps and crazies throttling women in November. We can extrapolate pretty easily as to what Sarah and both Angelinas would make of the current GOP boys’ policies. Plus, now they’d have a vote to do something in addition to writing and talking.

Parity, Parody, Identity

February 15th, 2012

Wasn’t it the Brits who muttered their wait to sports fairness standards? How did we Americans become so team-parity obsessed?

As a boomer, I grew up with a few great teams in various sports drubbing the feebs. It really did work. It really did fit American history and ideals. Yankees, Celtics, Cowboys, Lakers, Canadians, Packers and a small set of sports bullies were the top. It was as Willy S’s Cassius had it:

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable grav

Instead, along the path of sports entertainment, the oligopolies and monopolies permitted by law as well as custom could not have that in the mundo world of advertising and broadcasting contracts. With millions to hundreds of millions of dollars looking for pockets, parity became the watchword. With artificial and intrusive aid, the very worst teams in a league were supposed to be pretty damned close to the very best.  That resulted from business decisions, what would maximize the advertising and broadcasting cash flow. To hell with excitement and ideals!

Unlike the American cultural norms boomers heard from their WWII parents, survival of the fittest became everybody has a chance to be the winner. We saw that creeping pseudo-equality, feel-good artifices starting for us in the 1980s. Our first son went to the hippy-dippy Beacon Hill Nursery School and then played Little League on the Hill against other downtown teams. He was a member of the league championship team. What that really meant is that they always had at least one superior pitcher. That was by far the single victory margin…game, after game, after game. By the time second and third sons were playing soccer, the parity factor was in total control.

It was not at all like real life of business or even a decent college. There, brutal unfairness was the norm. Boss’ child? Fellow alumnus? Sorority sister? Trivial controlled the real.

In the 90s and beyond, on school and kid-sports levels, it mirrored the professional athletic world. With no intent to disparage the developmentally disabled, we can note that the aptest comparison is special Olympics. Everyone’s a winner. Everyone’s a medalist. We, as my eldest parroted his nursery school mates, have the same.

It was more elaborate and rigid in professional sports. Artificial mechanisms like salary caps, luxury taxes, and most heavy handed, player drafts that gave the teams with the worst records first pick of the college and high-school grads are now the norm. There was no attempt to disguise the aim. Even the poorest teams in the smallest markets were supposed to have what is euphemistically called a level playing field.

Back to the thrilling days of post-WWII America (for me) and earlier for my parents and grandparents’ generations, the best teams really did seem like dynasties. Lesser teams and their fans rejoiced if they beat one of the big kids. On those rare years when the traditional champions were not in the playoffs, there was Cinderella magic on the radio, TV, in the newspapers and surely in public conversation. There was that American set of ideasl of aspiration, of bettering oneself, of coming from low to climb high.You know,  success through work and talent.

Now the best are severely punished. How dare they show up the petty men?

Maybe it was in part because I moved ever few years as a child. I would glom onto winning teams. Then I was a fan. My mother’s family came from the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia, with no professional sports, but close enough to D.C., Baltimore and with a stretch, Pittsburgh. Instead of those cities’ teams, I had the freedom of the nomad in picking my heroes, my champions. As a young’un, I’d stand up to my uncles, great-uncles and such with their fandom of the Orioles, Pirates, Senators, and Steelers and such. I’d recite the glories and stats of the Yankees, of Y.A. Tittle’s Giants and such. I was a sports slut, one who loved winners.

Those picnic debates no longer work. Not only are my great-uncles dead, but plastic parity humbles the mighty. It also robs the athletes and fans of both dreams and pride. Like the Japanese cliché that the nail that stands up will be pounded down, the parity police either did not know or lost the ideals of American culture, literature, theater, movies and television. We were a nation whose people won in the end despite shortcomings, being outnumbered, and without expectations of victory. Any American could succeed with determination, some luck, and relentless optimism.

We lost that and are poorer for it. We have the same.

Big Tree in Small Town of Hyde Park

November 27th, 2011

I know small towns and attended a lot of parades, tree lightings, and speeches in childhood. This afternoon’s tree lighting in Hyde Park’s Logan Square had that feel.

Yeah, yeah, there was Boston’s Mayor Tom Menino on stage with Police Commissioner Ed Davis, state Rep. Angelo Scaccia, Councilor Rob Consalvo, Council President Steve Murphy and a local bank head. Fact is though, it was pretty small town…and delightful.

HPTM Da Mare loves this stuff. He’s at his best working crowds and going one on one with present and future voters.
An unusual appearance by his shy wife, Angela, got her a reward of a posy. HPmeninos
HPtree This was the 31st lighting of one of the few living Christmas trees on Boston property. The 45 footer was grown from its original 8 feet. Who’s counting, but the MC read that it has 1200 lights.
The one-way guys, Murphy, Consalvo, Menino, Scaccia HP1wayguys

Pix Notes: These are far and without flash. You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons.

Several hundred HP’ers milled around the stage when they weren’t at the kiddie rides or grabbing fried dough. It really was a small-town event.

The steps and plaza of the municipal building had maybe 100 kids from elementary through high school. There were carols and Broadway holiday tunes, a local version of the Rockettes, and sincere singing all around.

The minister giving the invocation went oddly on and on about 9/11 and the hopes we retained afterward. It ended up not being so strange.

The local tie-in was when the emcee and the mayor spoke of Mark Bavis, a local hockey player who grew up to be a pro hockey scout and who died on Flight 175, which hit the South Tower on 9/11. His mother, Mary was on stage, next to Angela. They presented her with a large framed image of the tree.

In a very nice, very Tom Menino touch, he had her pull the  lever to light the 1,200 bulbs.

He is mayor of Boston, but he’s also the unofficial mayor of our shared neighborhood.

The Colonel’s Surprise

November 14th, 2011

Not the Dead Sea Scrolls, but the cookbook that Harland Sanders left may be useful and amusing. A.k.a. Colonel Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, he hand typed 200 pages of his favorite country foods, replete with anecdotes. That manuscript recently appeared in Yum! Brands files. Word from the company is that they’ll make the book available online.

Photo Note: I claim fair use of this crop of a Stars & Stripes pic of Harland Sanders. There seems to be no known public-domain images of him and this appears adapted and to illustrate him, with credit.


It’s certain without seeing the work that his recipes will be more authentic and tasty than what the KFC chain serves. It’s had three owners since he sold his interest in 1964. Along the way, the chicken allegedly has kept its secret 11 herbs and spices he specified, but little else.

The company may withhold some of the book’s recipes and is testing some now. Among the personal snippets it revealed was his two life rules — Do all you can and do it the best you can. It’s the only way you ever get that feeling of accomplishing something.

The only time I ever chatted with him was by phone the year before he died, 1980. I was doing an article for American Management Association’s Management Review maggy on the ramifications of when the CEO has celebrity status, which was pretty uncommon at the time. I don’t think I ended up using any of his material, but I found him charming.

First of all, he’d have none of the celebrity thing and second, he had nothing to do with the company’s board or other management in a long time. He was delightfully humble, admitting to being the founder of the giant franchise operation, but referring to himself as “just a chicken plucker.” He had run gas stations, frying chicken to supplement that, and considered himself still a country boy.

As he said to others, he was not happy with that the subsequent owners did to all the side dishes that would make a Southern meal out of just fried chicken. He had particular criticism for the new versions of his mashed potatoes and gravy. He said the result tasted “like wallpaper paste.”

I’ll be checking the Yum! site. What would the Colonel eat…and cook?

Yellow Flowers by Black Creek

November 10th, 2011

The uxorial unit led the trip to South Carolina. She comforted a recently widowed girlfriend from college days, enjoyed a couple of days with the godmother of one of our sons, and had several days with her elder second cousin. I arrived two days before we drove furniture from her late parents’ house back to Boston.

There were the clichéd and expected, plus a colorful flora surprise.

Thick accents and thicker grits were parts, as were tall biscuits (White Lily flour certainly). Thigh-high cotton fields in full fluff lined the roads. Every town had at least one Piggly Wiggly. Nobody cut off another driver or honked at anyone slow off the traffic light. In fact, slow was just fine. People held doors for each other and said, “Ma’am” and “Sir” without irony or sarcasm.


A nice extra was only a quarter of a mile from her cousin’s house in Hartsville. Kalmia Gardens is a combination arboretum with labeled plants and a formal Southern garden and a boardwalk beside the cypress swamp that is Black Creek.

As so many Southern splendors, this is a rich woman playing with her money for visionary pursuits on a local level. In this case, it was not to name it after herself or her husband nor to restrict it. She gave the resulting property to Coker College, which was named for her wealthy family. She fixed up the neglected, trash heap of land (rather paid people to do that), designed the walks, plantings and more.

It has been open and free to the public since 1935.

Coming down from Boston after our slush fest on top of our usual brown fall, I was pleased to see so many plants still in bloom. Amusingly, the specimen sugar maple has yet to turn color, while ours are long defoliated. My snaps from the walk around are here.

My wife’s cousin has not been down to Black Creek, although she did host an engagement dinner on the grounds above. It is 94 steps down to the uneven boardwalk…and 94 steps back up, unless you lie down and die. We thought it was worth the stairs.

Too Much Virgin Mary

October 11th, 2011

micpietaBoy, did I get sick of the Pieta.

Michelangelo’s marble gasp maker (here in a Creative Commons pic) became a yawn maker in 1964 and 1965. Everyone, her brother, three kids and friends had to see it at the New York World’s Fair. It was what we now call a meme and was a quiet but relentless must-see object for millions of Americans.

Sometimes, I thought they were all staying with us. Relatives we hardly could place and numerous chums from the many states we’d lived as a family suddenly remembered us in our new location 20 some miles west of NYC. We were a pied à terre for many, many feet.

“Oh, yes, we definitely want to see the Pieta when we go to the World’s Fair,” they say. They’d all say.

So, there I was, a teen and tour guide. My mother either worked or maybe hid from some of these trips, but my sister a bit and I a lot found ourselves trucking to Flushing, Queens again and again and one more time.

It’s a nice piece of work. I think I originally found it strikingly beautiful, but after dozens of viewings, I found it a commercialized irritant.

To Roman Catholics, this was more than a famous work of art. There were the Holy Mother and the recently dead Savior by one of the world’s greatest sculptors in one of the world’s greatest cities in one of those rare world’s fairs. Moreover, transporting this was a huge deal, logistically, economically and even diplomatically. In fact, the Vatican had a reproduction commissioned to ship to prove that the original could make it flawlessly. That remains in a seminary in New York State a half century later — suddenly disposable. Moreover for the Catholics, the Pieta was herald and harbinger for Pope Paul VI, who wrapped up the statue’s visit with one of his own, plus, of course, mass. The science-fiction-movie scape of the fairgrounds remains, replete with skeletal gigantic globe and a plaza marking where the Pope’s slippers stood and he prayed.

As a non-Catholic, I was less than blessed. What I knew is that the summers and holidays would be scheduled tightly with religious and art tourists.

In fairness, many were Southerners and gracious and generous. They’d treat me to transit and food. Yet, each was intent on riding the holy conveyor belt by the image of the dead Savior.

And a conveyor belt it was. The fair organizers were nothing if not efficient. They projected quite accurately that the curious and devout alike were each was a potential constipator of the great viewing tract. There could be no prolonged gawking or praying time. There certainly was no rosary saying.

The Pieta got overhead lighting and appeared ghastly white, far more morbid than the image above as it appears in the Vatican. the background, the whole room, was dark blue. I assume that represented the heavens, with the white lights kind of standing in for stars. There actually was a people-moving conveyor. You’d wait on line, then step lively onto the moving walk, and be literally and maybe figuratively transported past mother and son.

That got pretty old. By the time I was into my second dozen viewing, I would have liked to be able to double or triple the conveyor speed. You want holy statuary? Here. Pow! Thank you and good-bye.

Instead, I regret not buying a shrunken head.

The first few times I was there, I saw clearly fake shrunken heads, in the international pavilion. I think they were from Ecuador and the Jivaro there. I had rubber rats and skulls and such and admired the detail of these models, but they were pricey for me at the time, I think  $50. I didn’t spend all my money on one.

As it turns out, they were real. The Times and Herald reported that the pavilion tendering them was informed to their surprise that such human parts were illegal to import and sell in this country. And I could have had a truly disgusting artifact, had I been sharp and quick enough.

Many of my tourists left with Pieta nicknacks, but none had any interest in shrunken heads.

Saving and Sorting Lives

October 10th, 2011

sA Microsoft researcher in England has thought more about our life traces than the rest of us have. In The future of looking back, he interweaves the pluses and problems of personal artifacts from his grandfather’s photographs to current digital and online tools we use to the newest stuff around his Microsoft Research in Cambridge UK.

The book is as much philosophic as technical. For his work and avocations, Banks understands collecting, analyzing, storing and retrieving artifacts of human lives. The result of all that could have been a huge, turgid work, but is not.

In 141 pages, plus supporting references, he presents the qualities and uses of our photos, data, video, audio, journals and more. He uses simple declarative sentences, which makes even the complex concepts easy to follow. Coupled with his clever design questions at the end of chapters, the reader ends up thinking about how to make the fullest, safest uses of inherited and current material. We shall be better librarians of our lives after reading this.

He’s straight-ahead in dividing the book into three sections — Stuff and sentimentality, A digital life, and New sentimental things. Those would be the nature of the objects we use to remember, the hows and whys of reminiscence, and new and pending tools for doing so. I’m fairly observant, but he bring in details, down to the weight and texture of photographs. He catalogs our now-digitalizable range of artifacts. I considered my many objects like they were suddenly laid out before me.

That would be enough, but his design questions are truly thought provoking. For just one example, he asks, “How might we design ways that allow parents to clear out or archive their child’s digital things when they leave home?” These chapter enders did slow me down, in a good way. I am thinking of my own set of several generations of objects with these in mind.

How might we design ways that allow parents to clear out or
archive their child’s digital things when they leave home?

I only have one complaint. He seems to assume that more is always better, and to let the future users draw on technologies to sort and prioritize. I think instead that as we complain of information overload, storing many millions of artifacts would work only for someone with a team of biographers to reconstruct the life and times. I vote for selectivity and subsets in what we store.

Richard Banks
Microsoft Research, Cambridge, UK
The future of looking back
Microsoft Press, Redmond, WA, 2011
184 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7356-5806-6
$24.99 paper, also available in Kindle editions, O’Reilly or Amazon
Review Shtick: This starts a series of book review on technology and other topics that interest me.

Hole in Ground Zero

September 26th, 2011

Yeah, yeah, Boston skies were raining hard at 4:46 AM when I left. So, I decided not to bring a camera and risk ruining it. I was headed to NYC for two days and a night. Traveling without my digital companion was odd, feeling naked odd. I would have the cellphone, with its sort of pic ability. A few of those follow.

My wife was down for a multi-day company meeting. Their NY HQ was directly connected to the 9/11 catastrophe site. The new one was rebuilt two blocks away. The company-designated hotel is adjacent to the WTC site, Club Quarters New York World Trade Center. I was intellectually prepared to be there. As a Bostonian of decades and a former Manhattanite, I had it covered.

Emotionally, I turned out not to be.

During our dovetailed stay, my wife and I refreshed each other on the 9/11 personal presence. I had been in an important (I knew at the time) meeting with my international software company. I was a principal, leading a discussion with our local engineers and the Israeli test and development team. I had gigantic paste-ups of MS Project sheets and was brimming with busyness.

Our conference room was packed with intense, intent geeks when Jeannie, the office manager, opened the door. She didn’t knock, which was unlike her. She was pale and wide-eyed, which was rare for her too. She said something like, “Someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center. You need to stop your meeting.”

We all walked next door to a room with a TV, watched the second plane hit and the towers collapse.

So, just after 10 years later, I had a grip on it….or not.

cranesnycLast weekend, we overlooked the site. From the 18th floor, we could see directly into that pit. From the restaurant on the top floor, the 20th, we could look west to New Jersey and north to the new WTC 1 building. Everywhere, we could see and hear the 24/7 reconstruction of the site. Machinery I knew well from a previous life as a trade-journal editor lifted for the new and dug to prepare for the new-new. Cranes were a hand clasp in the sky. Hydraulic excavators (some Cat dealer is making a fortune on this contract) dug for the foundations for WTC 2 and 3.

Any trip by or to the windows displayed one massive truck after another heaped with dirt and rock from the site before pulling out. All day, all night, America was righting what Bin Laden ruined.

dignycI found it wrenching. I thought a decade on, many hundreds of thousands of words read, sounds heard, images seen that I was fine. Yet each glance or stare from the 18th or 20th floors ate at me. I also slept poorly, even though the hotel walls and windows were well insulated from sound. I just knew.

Apparently my disquiet is not universal. My wife was in meetings when I arrived and I sat by the entrance to the 9/11 memorial on a Jersey barrier. One phalanx after another of t-shirted firefighters crowded and knelt for snaps with the site and new WTC 1 building as backdrop. Their shirts were from stations in Ohio and California and Pennsylvania. They posed and waved.

I saw clots of middle-aged women with the stereotypical mannishly short easy-to-care-for do trailing hubbies and sons, lining up with their tickets for the site tour. On the hour, people queued concert-style behind metal frame chutes to walk the mud, see the two pools, and crook their necks at WTC 1.

I saw more Amish than I had outside of Pennsylvania and Ohio. There were women and girls from 70 to 14 dressed in their full drabness with their gauzy white plain caps like yarmulkes. Dads had suspenders and all looked terrifically un-New York but very comfortable in themselves. They paused and photographed too.

After checking into my wife’s room, I had lunch two blocks south. The two active tables were filled with firefighters from distant places in their station t-shirts.

FFsIn meals on the 20th, many diners of all ages posed on the balcony with the WTC 1 as backdrop. Most smiled their here-I-am-at-the-notable-location grins. Some were reflective, but nearly all were gleeful as any tourist at any site, loading up the slide-show lineup.

Sunday morning, we happened upon the 10th tunnel-to-towers run, just south of the hotel. The pipers were piping, the cops keeping people behind barriers, and 343 uniformed NYC firefighters lined the Battery Tunnel exit, each wearing a photo placard of one of their brethren who died rescuing those trapped on 9/11.

The run has raised millions of dollars, mostly destined to build houses for quadriplegics from the current wars. It traces the route Brooklyn firefighter Stephen Siller took that day. He was off and headed to play golf with his brothers when he heard about the first plane on the scanner. He drove to his station, loaded up with his 60 pounds of gear, found the tunnel closed, and ran the three miles through it to the towers…and his death.

A decade later, there are many tears, both from the firefighters and the surviving family members and the runners.

Daunting Sound Tracks

September 7th, 2011

September 11 in Boston carries that odd guilt along with the sadness and anger virtually all Americans feel. Just this week, I’ve heard and read more from people ashamed a decade later that the terrorists left from Logan that morning.

That night, I became aware, frighteningly aware, of what we heard and did not hear…in our skies.

Many country folk as well as virtually all city dwellers have commercial aircraft as ambient noise. The hums, drones and occasional roars are literally in the air of modern life. For the vast majority of us who are not very close to airports, these sounds are only remarkable in odd conditions, like huge banks of heavy clouds that amplify the engines.

So around here on 9/11 and two weeks after, two sonic phenomena changed it all for us. First, no commercial or private aircraft were allowed anywhere in our local skies. We were inured to the jet noises, low, powerful and distant…and suddenly we were aware of what was not above us by its absence.

Then, far less frequently, we’d hear the fighter jets. Military planes patrolled far too frequently after 9/11. If the intent was partially to comfort Bostonians, it failed. Those were war machine, as unlike regular airplanes as PT boats are to yachts. These wailed above us, “People want to kill us. We are ready to kill them first.”

figherjetAs a child, I recall hearing military jets at night. Those were rare, as I did not live near airbases, even though I was born on an Army base (artillery). Fighters on night training and maneuvers would occasionally pass over where I was living. That, in fact, was both comforting and exciting. To us boomers, particularly boys, we romanticized WWII as our parents had. Jets with machine guns and missiles under their wings were the stuff both of plastic models and puerile fantasies.

My childhood also brought the Soviet menace and yellow peril scares that remain with at least the early boomers in odd ways. To hear the TV reporters, pols, and our parents say it then, the Chinese maybe and the Russian commies for sure were likely to attack at any moment.

They of course remembered Pearl Harbor and the horrors of the war. We were unborn fruits of their relieved return and celebration, not living that except through movies and books. As the Korean Police Action (as it was originally euphemized) plodded its bloody way, we were subject to regular terror drills in anticipation of a Russian missile assault.

duck-and-coverWhat now might seem comical to today’s youth sure wasn’t then. The dreadful duck-and-cover drills and films spoke to the hopeless of the nation within the reach of annihilation at any moment. Asininely, teachers would have my entire generation tucking ourselves under our desks in the even of a missile attack, as though that offered any meaningful protection.

Moreover, we were conditioned to a sound virtually unknown to modern youth — air-raid sirens. Cacophonous loudspeakers on poles are largely gone, but were ubiquitous after WWII, originally left over from the war, but put to scary good use to warn and/or terrify the children.

When we heard the sirens and the concomitant or alternating Civil Defense alerts on the radio, we never knew whether it was a drill or death. Hell of a way to grow up. To this day, boomers’ hearts thump and lungs heave hearing those siren bellows if we’re near a place that still tests them.

Then in high school and college, Latin and Greek professors would have us read commentary from ancient historians about such terror. They wrote of the very real possibilities of their city-state or such being totally destroyed by war, with those who survived enslaved by the conquerors. In fact, then the likelihood was great. A single battle could literally decimate an army, killing a tenth. A war could mean a people disappear.

As a boomer, I related to that, as we all do now in the new age of terrorism. People have feared destruction by those sworn enemies for a long time and usually for good reasons.

It is not a way we would choose to live, but it is how we do live.

I’d like to say the boomers as a group survived, with some implication that all is swell. Yet, we boomers were scared and scarred by the fears of death and war where we lived. We still feel it and the post-9/11 version heaps on more of the same. I am sad that my children also think and feel that there are bad people who would kill them, lots of them, any time. The best outcome would be if we and they and their children if necessary can work to restructure our world so that children can stop feeling those fears.