Monday, June 30, 2014

Making it personal: Lex Anteinternet: Es ist nichts, Es ist nichts...

Lex Anteinternet: Es ist nichts, Es ist nichts...: Society of the Military Horse • View topic - Today in the history of mounted warfare  And so it began. Tuberculitic Gavrilo Princip, ...

June 28, 1914, was a Sunday.

So, putting a personal spin on this, if you subtracted whole to the year 1914, and lived in that century, how would this news have realistically impacted you?  That is, if your life played out in a reasonably predictable manner, with hindsight.  That's not always an easy thing to do, as things have changed very much.

But, if you lived a century ago, would this have amounted to much more than sad news to you? When would you have even learned of it?  I'm posting this on June 30, and I'd guess I would have known by Monday June 29, 1914, but I certainly wouldn't have thought the world on the verge of one of the great wars of human history, on that following Tuesday.

 Tragedy of all types carried on, the August 1, 1914 killing of French Canadian Reservist Antoine Nottar by a Sergeant of the 5th Highlanders.

The Big Picture: Susquehanna Bridge

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Es ist nichts, Es ist nichts...

Society of the Military Horse • View topic - Today in the history of mounted warfare

 And so it began.

Tuberculitic Gavrilo Princip, on this day, assassinated Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife lighting the fire that would kill millions in the next four years.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Construction Crew

Yesterday morning when I went to work, a construction crew from the city was moving a heavy planter and doing work with front end loader where a car had recently crashed into an old planter (how on earth that happened I had not a crew).  They were doing a quick efficient job, early in the morning before traffic could crowd the street or parking lot.

When I cross the street something occurred to me, remarkable in this era only in that I noted it.  Every single member of the construction crew was a young woman.  Probably none of them were over 30 years of age, and not one man was on the crew.

This isn't really remarkable, except that it wasn't all that long ago when women construction workers were a real rarity. Heavy construction with heavy equipment, such as this, was certainly almost all male, not all that long ago.  Indeed, a couple of years ago some heavy construction crews downtown were both all male, and all Hispanic, reflecting a traditional situation in which these jobs often went to immigrant men.

Well, not this crew.  An interesting sign of how times have changed.

Friday Farming: U.S. School Garden, World War One.

Goats In The City? Making A Case For Detroit's Munching Mowers : The Salt : NPR

Goats In The City? Making A Case For Detroit's Munching Mowers : The Salt : NPR

Monday, June 23, 2014

Instant Communications and the Erosion of Leisure?

Recently I worked on a Saturday, like most Saturdays.  I think I left work that day about 3:00.

I don't "push" my email to my cell phone, like a lot of other people do.  I don't do this intentionally, as I don't have the discipline not to check it.  The only time that I do that is when I'm on the road.

The prior day, a client had called me with an emergency.  I called the opposing attorney, who was not there, and left a message and followed up with an email. All I could do, under the circumstances, late on a Friday.

After I left work on Saturday, my client emailed me twice.  Once to inform me that the problem still existed, and then to inquire why I hadn't yet solved it.  Only 24 hours had gone by, most of it in a weekend.

The following day, the opposing attorney emailed me, which I didn't realize as I don't check my work emails while I'm in town, and not in my office, as a rule.  But he apparently does.

I'm sure this isn't unique to the law, but its bad all the way around.  Twenty four hour a day communications has risen to the level of a 24 hour work expectation.  This means that, at some level, peoples lives now are more their work than ever, and they are what their professions are, with no other life that cannot be invaded.  As trends go, people like to cite to instant communications as an advancement, but I doubt it really is.  Time for the personal life is gone.

We see now where over half of all Americans are disenchanted with their employment and in high stress occupations this is particularly so.  I can't help but thing people leaving their Iphones on all the time contribute to that.  Well, don't do it.  It'll wait till Monday.

The Big Picture: Florida East Coast Hotel Co. Fishing Camp, Long Key, 1912

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Wyoming State Bar - Wyoming State Bar - Musings of an Old Country Lawyer

Wyoming State Bar - Wyoming State Bar - Musings of an Old Country Lawyer

It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave -

It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave -

Or so says The New York Times.

But is that really an unprecedented trend, or a return to the historical norm?

We're used to the idea that children grow up, "move out of the nest", and go on to lives of their own.  And any right thinking parent wants a child to have his or her own life as an adult, to be sure.  And it's always been the case that the young tended to move on to that life. As Genesis tells us regarding marriage; "For this reason, a man shall leave behind his father and mother, and he shall cling to his wife; and the two shall be as one flesh."

But is the phenomenon of  a person being at home into their adult years, if unmarried, really all that odd and distressing.  Not really.

We've addressed it here, but men and women leaving home before their married, while certainly not uncommon, wasn't all that usual if they stayed in one location.  In eras with thinner resources, which is most of human history, young men and young women tended to stay at home with their parents until they were married, unless they moved away for work or for some other reason.  That was pretty much the norm.

There were a variety of reasons for that, a lot which had to do with resources or ready resources.  Prior to the post World War Two era, it just wasn't that easy to live independently on your own.  Cooking meals, washing clothes, etc. took a lot more effort in prior eras, and attempting it on your own often wasn't easily possible.  The same technological revolutions that made it possible for women to have jobs outside the home, made it possible for men and women to live singly on their own easily.

Up until now, that is, apparently.

What we're seeing is probably due to a contraction of resources, even though we live in the richest era in human history.  Just as with our story on homesteading of the other day, the cost of living on your own has increased for the young.  It's increasingly difficult for them to find work, and housing costs continue to be prohibitively high for many, maybe most.

And, of course, there's an aspect of this story that has to do with family, and perhaps that's a good thing.  At some point in the 1950s or 1960s people became accustomed to "youth rebellion", but that isn't the historical norm either.  We're seeing, it would seem, a return to an era when children strongly identified, even as adults, with their families.  Social commentators who can recall only back to 1960 or so might lament that, but I don't know that they really should.

A legal Gerontocracy?

There's a bill pending in Wyoming's legislature which proposes to remove the mandatory retirement age for the judiciary, which is presently 70 years old.

The cited reason for this bill, which has passed at least one reading in the house, and which I guess will pass, is that the sponsoring legislators were distressed by a relatively recent retirement of a Wyoming Supreme Court justice, whom they regarded as a legal treasure.  Of course, that cited basis is somewhat insulting to the newly appointed justice, but apparently they aren't so worried about that.  They claim, at any rate, that Wyoming's mandatory age 70 retirement means that great legal minds are being deprived from continuing on in the judiciary because of an arbitrary retirement age.  Fans of such legislation also tend to note that people are living, and working, much longer than they used to.

They ought to rethink it.

All of the cited basis for the legislation may well be true.  But equally true are a hosts of physical and social reasons why this is a bad idea.

First of all, I'm not stating that people shouldn't work past age 70 if they want to. That's their own business, if they work in the private sector.  But in the public sector, and particularly in a position of great importance in which the worker was appointed by the Governor, it's another matter entirely.

Most people, even now in our modern age, do not escape the ravages of time. We all hope to, but very few of us really do.  The impacts of age and infirmity impact different occupations differently.  It's rare, for example to find a 40 year old rig hand, they're just too old, just as its rare to find a 40 year old professional football player. The body cannot handle it.  For mental occupations, however, 40 years old might be young.  A 40 year old Governor is extraordinary rare.  Barrack Obama, Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were all regarded as young Presidents, where as they'd otherwise be regarded as middle aged men during those same time periods.  A 40 year old judge is not uncommon, but still fairly rare.  A judge appointed at age 40 will have been practicing law for about 15 years, not a particularly long legal career, and just five years past the point where most practicing lawyers regard a lawyer as proficient.  I've known quite a few lawyers who were still practicing law at age 70, or even 80.  So what's the problem?

Well, one of  the problems is, for a cerebral occupation, some people's minds will begin to go starting in their 50s, but it will not really set in until their 60s.  Quite a few people, so many that's its regarded as a massive public health crisis, begin to suffer from dementia in their 70s or 80s.  Generally, a high percentage of people who suffer from these conditions have a bare inkling when the problems commences, but they have no real idea that they've slipped into it.  It might not be so obvious to others recently.

Indeed, I've experienced that personally.  My mother has fronto temporal dementia.  She cannot live on her own, at age 86, and has not been able to for two years.  But she seemingly remained sharp enough up until about age 80.  Oh, there were signs, but not so much that I was willing to believe them.  Her decline, in the end, came on extremely rapidly and very traumatically.

Surely this is not a problem for an older judge, correct?  After all, it's been pointed out, there's a process to remove a sick or disabled judge.  Well, in order to invoke that process, the judge has to be noticeably sick or disabled, which is not like flipping a switch.

Indeed, I have a couple of lawyer friends, now in their 60s ,who have remarked to me on more than one occasion how their memories were just shot.  One is practicing, the other is not.  The one who is not was frank that he had to quit, as his memory just couldn't match the requirements of the work.  Prior to that he had given up adversarial proceedings, as his memory was no longer suited for it.  That's admirable, but even today I can only barely tell that this is his condition.  I can, but only barely.  I can also, with the lawyer that remains in practice, and has no intention of retiring.

Several years ago I tried a case against a lawyer that very clearly was suffering from some sort of mental decline in his advanced age.  He was in his 70s.  His clients must not have noticed it, and the Court certainly did nothing about it.  His representation of his clients was bizarre to some degree.  And many years ago I had a case against a lawyer who ultimately withdrew from representing his client, who actually was so infirm he fell asleep during a deposition.  In none of these cases did anyone step in to cause the lawyer to step down.  I don't think, by and large, that average people necessarily grasp that a lawyer's skills are declining, and I'm not sure that any of their colleagues are willing or able to do anything about it.

All of that, of course, is from private practice, which people have a right to keep doing. But in a public trust would things be much different?  I doubt it.  And if they were, it'd be at the point where things were so bad that the only thing we'd later remember about that judge is that he had to be removed for mental infirmity. 

And that's just the most obvious case.  Being a judge is actually a fairly grueling line of work, at least for trial judges.  I've tried cases in which the judges became severely ill, but because there was an ongoing trial, they kept on keeping on. They really had no choice.  For older judges, with a greater list of ailments, this would be an increased problem.  Time off the bench means that nobody is there, or in a trial setting, perhaps a court commissioner, a part time judge, is there.  However, Wyoming's voters recently declined to allow a constitutional amendment that would legalize the practice of allowing commissioners to sit on the bench if the judge remains in the county, so that's a limited option.

And, frankly, perhaps its just not in society's interest to have lawyers in their 70s and 80s sitting on the bench, or perhaps particularly on the  Wyoming Supreme Court.  Critics would note that this is already the practice on the Federal bench, but on the trial level, the Federal court's mostly rely on very set law, or on state law.  On the appellate level it can be argued that the examples we have may not really support keeping judges on until, basically, they die.

The law really belongs to the people in the end.  There's a great deal to be said about stability in the law, but sometimes that stability can be a negative stability.  Judges that come on to the court as a species of reformer, either conservative or liberal, end up remaining on the court as a bulwark against change.  At the U.S. Supreme Court level the practice has been to appoint ideological judges who are relatively young, with the idea of cementing the movement o the day in the courts.  It only partially works as the judges end up staying, in some instances, for 30 or 40 years.  That's good, and bad, but do we really want it at the local level?

The Wyoming Supreme Court is not the U.S. Supreme Court, and no great issues of the Federal Constitution will come in front of it.  A lot of important local issues will, however.  If the retirement age is removed, this will mean that the justices, who are often in their 50s, may be on the bench for 30 years.  That's a long time to have a potentially fixed set of ideas in control.

Indeed, on the score, the U.S. Army of World War Two provides an interesting example.  Going into World War Two the Army had a large number of elderly generals.  George Marshall, the senior general of the Army, determined, with the expansion of the Army in 1940, to forcibly retire almost all of them.  It's sometimes erroneously believed that he retired all over 50, he did not, but the impact of his actions had that practical result.  The Army, therefore, went into the war with young generals, some actually only in their 30s.  Why?  Not because the older ones were infirm, it's just that their thinking didn't evolve during an era of mechanized war.  It was fixed in an earlier era.  There's be no reason to expect judges would be any different.

 George S. Patton at age 59. He and MacArthur were unusual for US field commanders in that they were retained even though they were over 50 years of age in 1940.  Patton is believed to have suffered from some temperament problems, however due to head injuries sustained as a younger man, and what his condition would have been like in his 60s and 70s is open to question.

Indeed, keeping the Army example up and going forward, the Army of the 50s, 60s, and 70s reflected the fact that a lot of those World War Two officers did not go when they could have, and should have. The Army changed its retirement policy during the war to allow retirement after 20 years, but many hung on to the required retirement age of 60, and that reflected itself in our strategic thought for a long time.  It will be noted that in at least one war of the 1960s, we did not do so well.

 Major General James Gavin, a legendary airborne general, in his mid 30s.

Every time a position like this is opened up for somebody of advanced age, it's closed for somebody of a younger age. If judges are allowed to add another decade or so to their service, ti means that some who would have become judges will not.  It would not be possible for those judges to really make the career adjustment for a variety of reasons later.  Quite a few Wyoming judges in recent years have been in their 40s.  Given another decade of practice would the same individuals still opt for the bench?  A lot of Wyoming judges are appointed in their 50s.  Those individuals will not be opting for the bench in their 60s.

Indeed, while I like all the judges I know in their 60s, the argument can almost be made to adopt the Army's current policy and require the judges to retire in their 60s. Army jurist, like other soldiers, must retire at age 60s, well before Social Security eligibility.  That does insure that all of the up and coming jurists have a place.  I don't know that this same policy would be good for Wyoming, but I can see an argument for 65, or even 63.  Yes, it's young, and perhaps too young. But it also would mean that retiring jurists would make space for lot more younger judges, and there'd be more who were judges over time.  That seems like a good idea to me.

Finally, for those who are able and want to remain working, it allows, or perhaps forces, their talents to be applied elsewhere, which may be to everyone's benefit. Some retired judges have gone on to late interesting and valuable careers.  One became a famous baseball commissioner, for example.  One Wyoming district court judge in recent years went on to be a valuable appointed office under Governor Freudenthal.  There are other roles they can play.

Even with all of that, I suspect that this bill will pass.  People don't like to contemplate the grim realities of later life much, and like to pretend it won't occur.  And people really don't look out much for the younger age groups as a whole, even though people like to claim they do.  My prediction is that this bill will pass, and as a result, the judiciary will be lost to many fine individuals who would have made good judges, and we'll eventually have the embarrassing sceptical of somebody having to be removed for infirmity.


From the June 5, 2013, New York Times.
  ALBANY — At 74, Justice Sidney F. Strauss loves his job and has no desire to stop working. But at the end of 2014, he may be forced into his golden years by a mandatory retirement rule.

“Fifty years ago, when the life expectancy was 61, if you said, ‘You want to work to 76?’ They’d say, ‘You should live so long,’ ” said Justice Strauss, a State Supreme Court judge in Queens. “But as long as I am physically and mentally capable of doing this, I want to keep doing this.”
Each year, judges across New York and the rest of the country grudgingly hang up their robes because of these rules, many of which were inscribed in state constitutions well before the eras of penicillin, cholesterol drugs and hip replacements. More than 30 states and the District of Columbia have an age limit on jurists, according to the National Center for State Courts: 70 is the limit in many states; in Vermont, it is an optimistic 90.
In New York, judges have to retire at either 70 or 76, depending on their courts. But this year, a reprieve seems possible.
The Legislature has been considering a bill that would amend the State Constitution, if approved by voters, to extend the retirement age to 80 for hundreds of judges statewide, including the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, Jonathan Lippman.

Goodness.  Law belongs to the public, and a person loving their job has little to do with that.  Moves such as this effectively mean that people can live in some judicial districts had have the same judge presiding over it their entire lives. That hardly seems fair, or wise.  People may, due to improved healthcare, live to very advanced years, but does that mean that they should get to treat the office of judge as a personal possession for those long lives?


Earlier this week I posted an item from the Federal Court list serve on the 70, that's right 70, Federal judges who are still serving on the Federal bench in some capacity who are veterans of World War Two.

I suppose differently, but that of course means that these gentlemen way up there in years.  I mentioned this to a couple of people, and received a couple of different reactions.  Frankly, having had to deal with the problems my mother's dementia creates for her, and therefore by extension us, has caused me to really, really doubt the wisdom of allowing somebody to work in this capacity for so long, and I wasn't the only one.  My mother thinks she's fine, and if she were a Federal judge, she'd probably be refusing to retire.  She certainly is in exceptional health for a person her age, except for mentally.

One reaction was a shocked "why would a person do that" which a teenager expressed to me.  "You could retire and do whatever you wanted."  Frankly, I feel that way too, although at age 51 I'm beginning to see how it becomes the case you can no longer do whatever you'd want. Still, I had that question myself.

A question of that type was one of the things the interviewer asked the various judges. Here's one of the answers?
Q. What makes you continue to serve on the bench?
A. I was appointed for life and I’m going to serve out my term. … it’s a performance of a duty, the same as I was doing when I was in Europe. I’m very big on duty, I was given a duty by President Nixon, and I have done my damnedest to carry it out for the 40 years I’ve been here.
Well, okay, but that perhaps demonstrates why these appointments probably ought to have a cap for retirement on them.  Nixon was a while back there. 

Another jurist just enjoyed doing the job:
Q. You’ve kept up an active workload as a judge. For those who don’t have a lifetime appointment, what is that keeps you judging at this time of your life?
A. Well, I respect the court, and I’m interested in what I’m doing, what I have been doing over the years, so I’d like to continue doing as much of that as I’m physically capable of. Well, it’s partly just the satisfaction of doing this kind of work. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have stayed on as long as I did, because I could have retired or gone elsewhere many years ago. This is just what I like to do most.
I like that answer a lot better, quite frankly, although it still bothers me that a person can occupy a limited special occupation for so long.

 Judge Leo Glasser provided this reasoning:
Q. Why do you continue to work full-time on the bench?
A. Well, to begin with, I love the law. The United States District Court is without any doubt the greatest court in the world, in the sense that it deals with everything from admiralty to zoning – every conceivable aspect of the law. Also, if senior judges all decided to go fishing, I think the federal judiciary would be in a great deal of difficulty. I don’t remember the percentage of federal cases that senior judges deal with, but it’s substantial. We perform a significant service to the judiciary, and to the country by extension.
 Judge Arthur Spatt's view was similar, implicitly.
Q. Why do you continue to work as a judge?
I carry a full load, absolute full load, same as my regular colleagues. This is the most extraordinary judicial position. …  I have both civil and criminal cases. I have diversity cases, where a citizen of one state is suing a citizen of another state. Every kind of case, whether it is an automobile accident or an action on a promissory note or a contract. I am so fortunate to be able to have this judgeship. … It’s as stimulating  as  the first day I was in it. Every case presents new things, innovative things, interesting things, challenging things.
I can't say that any of this changes my view. Rather, in some ways it reenforces it.   The job doesn't really belong to an individual the way other jobs do, but rather to the country as a whole.  It does charge that person with a duty, but does that duty include occupying it until death?  I don't think so.  Perhaps a larger duty exists to allow it to be occupied by a younger generation at some point. And no matter how much a person might enjoy it, enjoying it wouldn't seem to be a justification for continuing to occupy it.

The "Greatest Generation". Admiring the generation while disliking that monkier.

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
    But one ten thousand of those men in England
    That do no work to-day!
KING. What's he that wishes so?
    My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
    If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
    To do our country loss; and if to live,
    The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
    God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
    By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
    Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
    It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
    Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
    But if it be a sin to covet honour,
    I am the most offending soul alive.
    No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
    God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
    As one man more methinks would share from me
    For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
    Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
    That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
    Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
    And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
    We would not die in that man's company
    That fears his fellowship to die with us.
    This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
    He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
    And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
    He that shall live this day, and see old age,
    Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
    And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
    And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
    Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
    But he'll remember, with advantages,
    What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
    Familiar in his mouth as household words-
    Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
    Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
    Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
    This story shall the good man teach his son;
    And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remembered-
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition;
    And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
 From Henry V.

 Members of the 4442nd Regimental Combat Team in action in Italy. The 4442nd's enlisted ranks were entirely made up of Japanese Americans, largely recruited from internment camps.  It is the most decorated unit in the American Army of World War Two.

The recent anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy, which commenced on June 6, 1944, and which started the nine month period in which the Allies in the west marched towards Germany, and into it (while of course the Soviets marched  in from the east at the same time) has caused a lot of public recollection of the nation's World War Two veterans. And that's a good thing.  But one of the things we hear a lot in such recollections, not by the veterans themselves, but by those recalling them, is the term applied to them by Tom Brokaw in his book about their generations; i.e., "The Greatest Generation".

It may be a minor thing, but the term has long bothered me to a certain extent.  I was surprised recently when author Rick Atkinson, who wrote the phenomenal three volume series on  the American Army in the ETO during World War Two, The Liberation Trilogy, stated the same thing, in much blunter terms, in an interview on the occasion of the release of his third volume, The Guns At Last Light.  He flatly stated that they aren't the "greatest" generation and was slightly condescending regarding the term.

I don't mean to suggest that the American generation that fought World War Two isn't highly admirable, I think they were, but I am glad to hear at least Atkinson make that comment.  Here's why.

For those with long memories, or perhaps just for those who grew up in the 60s and 70s, "the war" meant World War Two.  We all knew a lot of World War Two veterans.  So, "the war" was World War Two.  Even when Korean War veterans like my father spoke of "the war", they meant World War Two.

A soldier comforts a comrade grieving over the death of a wounded comrade.  Fought using a mix of new and World War Two weapons, the Korean War caught the American Army off guard when it featured conventional combat recalling World War Two and World War One.  It never achieved the status in the public's mind that World War Two had, and it quickly seemed to be forgotten by the nation during the booming 1950s.

Unless people were speaking in the present tense.  In that case, the "war" was the Vietnam War, which the country fought actively from 1965 to 1973, and which came to its final end the year before the nation's bicentennial, in 1975.

American soldiers in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.  Fairly significantly younger on average than their World War Two counterparts, they were also better educated and more ethnically diverse.  In spite of the common myths about them, they had volunteered for service in Southeast Asia in fairly significant numbers and their desertion rate was one of the absolute lowest of all time for a U.S. War (the Mexican War has the highest) up until the wars following 1990.

It's important to remember that life went on for the survivors of World War Two, who remained active in public life well into the 1980s, and in many instances well into the 1990s.  And they resumed, or in many instances sort of started their lives, after World War Two.  Indeed, one of the greatest films of all time, for those who like to follow movies, is 1946's The Best Years Of Our Lives, which dealt with the subject of restarting a life while that topic was still a bleeding wound in American society.  It's stunning, watching it, to realize the war had just ended when the film was made.

When I was a young, it was common to call this generation "The Depression Era Generation", and in some ways that term is a better one than "The Greatest Generation", as it includes the larger population of men and women  and it stretches the generation out a bit on both ends, including people whose age or occupation exempted them from service in World War Two, or who were a little to young to serve in it.  Be that as it may, a feature of this generation is that they'd grown up in an era of economic strain and deprivation that's nearly unimaginable now and went on to fight a war that was so Titanic we frankly can't imagine it now.

Food line, 1937.

None of that is  news, nor is it news that a "baby boom" followed the war as that generation returned home and made up for nearly 15 years of lost time.  

It's Holscher's Fourth Law of History that "war changes everything." and this is certainly true of World War Two and the generation that fought it as enlisted men (it's often forgotten that the oldest American commander in the war had been in the Army during the Spanish American War, and that there were plenty of old soldiers in World War Two in every army).  The war opened up education and opportunity, following the war, for the survivors of it in a way that had not existed before. Very often missed by current commentators, the war and the Depression produced a political outlook in that generation that was quite Liberal in political orientation, while remaining socially conservative.  That expressed itself in a definite comfort with the Federal government being active in funding and expanding education, with education otherwise remaining traditional in its structure.

The net result was that the fortunes of those who fought World War Two were fairly good following the war, although for a variety of reasons, and by the 1950s this was expressing itself to even a greater extent in the fortunes of that generation's children, who were reaching university age.  For the first time in American history a university education went on from being a privileged to a middle class expectation.

And its here were, I think, we return to the term "The Greatest Generation."  The Depression Era Generation was a great one, and suffered and rebuilt in ways we can hardly imagine, but pretty early on, as a generational characteristic, that was lost on their children.

This is a broad statement, of course, and nothing that can be said about any one generation is true of everyone in the generations, which is extremely important to remember. But it is also the case that people grow up in an environment and accustom themselves to it, unless they are aware its abnormal.  The Depression Era Generation regarded the Depression and World War Two as abnormal, which it certainly was, and they reminded their children of that quite a bit.  Their children grew up in a time of economic plenty and educational opportunity, and regarded that as normal.

In our society, we're accustomed to speak of youthful rebellion as a norm, and something that repeats itself every generation.  But there's no good evidence of that whatsoever. By and large, that doesn't occur, and quite often the difference between one generation and another is thin indeed.  But the difference between the youth of the Boomers and the lives of their parents was vastly different.  And this seems to have at least contributed to the massive social upheaval in the western world in the 1960s and 1970s.

During that period, it was pretty common for those in their early adulthood to hold the World War Two generation in contempt, and those holding that contempt were their children's generation.  Individuals certainly admired the lives of their individual parents, but there was a pretty widespread contempt as a generational aspect.  Frequently the World War Two or Depression Era generations were regarded as "squares" or the like, with their children probably not even grasping the extent to which their parents lives had been transformational.  Contempt tends to be returned, and to some extent in this case it was, but with not much of an effect.  A person can't take this too far, of course, but that it was a feature of the climate of that times can't be really denied.

This really began to change in the 1990s.  By that time the aging Boomers had abandoned revolution themselves and were looking back to an imagined more conservative time for  guidance.  In doing that, the generation began to redress some things had felt guilty about from its youth.  In regards to the Vietnam War, it's interesting how the Boomers who fought that war, and who had been vilified to some extent for doing so, were suddenly regarded as heroes.  And shortly thereafter, the same generation rediscovered their parents and were awestruck by the ordeals that their parents had endured.  With a short view of history, they went from regarding their parents as squares to their being "The Greatest Generation".

But are they?  Well, that's a pretty long claim, and a person has to look at it pretty carefully. For one thing, if that claim is a valid one, does it apply to those in that generation form any of the Allied nations of World War Two?  The Great Depression, for example, was even worse in Canada than the United States, and Canada entered the war in 1939.  Shouldn't the term apply to them as well?  And certainly it must to the generation of British youth who served in the war.
The Winnipeg  Rifles land in Normandy, June 6, 1944.  Up until late war, Canadian solders serving overseas, including my Uncle Terry who participated in Operation Overlord, were all volunteers for overseas service.

Those British youth, it should be noted, if university educated (which only a tiny minority were) had infamously declared in the early 1930s that they'd never serve in another war, turning their back on the sacrifices of the UK during World War One. But when the time came, they more than rose to the occasion.

What about Soviet youth?  No European nation had suffered more in the first half of the 20th Century than the Russians, although often at their own hands. Those who fought as young men in the Red Army had grown up in a period of horrifying oppression and deprivation, and they died in droves during World War Two.  Over 80% of all German battlefield deaths were due to the Red Army, and yet at the same time, but at the same time the Red Army served a political leadership that was as evil as any that the world has ever produced.

Taking it out further, however, is The Greatest Generation greater than the generation that fought the Civil War?  That seems a pretty tall order.  Or what about the generation that fought in the Revolution?  For those men, who signed up to fight on the side of the Continental Congress, they were taking a step which arguably made them criminals for a crime punishable by death. And even if the British did not take that view, at the time they engaged to serve the new nation, the volunteers did not know that and could not be assured that the view of Parliament would not change. 

Union cavalry, Civil War.  By the second year of the Civil War those entering the service had no illusions about winning quickly, but they showed up anyhow.

And what of the generation that fought World War One?  Recently I've heard a couple of interviews of authors who wrote on that generation of Americans and their findings are shocking by modern standards.  That generations seemed to have regarded the war as one more hard bad thing in a hard life, not expecting much going in, and not expecting much going out.  If they aren't perceived as great it might be because they expected nothing much out of life other than hard work, and World War One was just one more example of it.

First Division Victory Parade, Washington D. C.  The sign nearby is still urging the public to "Save Food".

Sometimes the term The Greatest Generation is used ironically by those now in the Boomer generation to castigate the youth of today.  No doubt the world and our nation has changed enormously since 1945, but much of the change that commentators now complain about came about due to the "revolution" that that very generation brought about.  If the youth of today do not seem to have the values and views of the generation that fought World War Two, and which we now so admire, perhaps the generation that brought so many changes about and created the world that the youth of today are living in should take stock of that, and no doubt many do.

But also, that just sells the youth of today short.  There are plenty of reasons to worry about things, including culture and society, but to assume that people would not rise to the occasion is to assume a lot without much evidence.  What we have seen is that today's youth has volunteered to fight in three wars in 25 years and it has done so without compulsion.  No draft exists today, as it had for every American War since the Spanish American War leading up to the first Gulf War. Indeed, the war in Afghanistan is the first American war that has ever been fought in which the combatants were 100% free of some sort of compulsory service at some point.  There has not been a draft since 1973, but the last soldier brought into the Army via conscription retired only last year, that being a long serving NCO who had first come into the Army as a conscript.  Up until 1865 every American male had some sort of compulsory militia duty and there were still men who had entered service in that fashion, or through Civil War conscription, serving as late as the Spanish American War. This current generation of servicemen is therefore really unique.
Solder of the 1st Infantry Division, with M14 rifle, in Afghanistan.

All that goes to say, I suppose, that some generations rise to their times, and some sink.  The World War Two generation certainly rose to theirs, but then the one that immediately followed and served in Korea did as well. The one that had fought World War One also had, and certainly the Civil War generation did as well. The current generation lives in the richest times the country has ever known, in spite of a widespread assumption to the contrary, and while it faces a lot of challenges, those challenges aren't of its making.  All in all, they're doing well. 


Recently the Federal Court interviewed some of the seventy (that's right, seventy) World War Two veterans who are still serving on the Federal Bench.  I'll comment on that elsewhere, but one of the questions the interviewer asked is whether they thought they were the Greatest Generation.  The answers were interesting.

Federal Judge Tom Stagg, a Nixon appointee who plans on serving on the bench until he dies, sure thought so:
Q. Do you consider yourself to be part of a “Greatest Generation”?
A. Compared to what I see today, yes. I think you get duty pounded into you, or did in those days, and you learn it as boy, as a Boy Scout, as a member of a military unit. You have assigned duty and you have to do it. You even want to do it. I would no more have stayed home during World War II. I can’t imagine doing that. This is my country. I’m proud of it.
They didn't all feel that way, however.  Here's the quote from another serving Federal Judge who is a World War Two veteran:
Q. Do you like the phrase “the Greatest Generation”?
A. I don’t like it. I think it glosses over the imperfections of the American society in that time. They forget that we were terribly racially biased in the Army. Black troops were treated miserably. … This is part of the Greatest Generation that isn’t mentioned, and I’ve seen terrible things that the military did. That inevitably will happen. I think it’s overblowing the character of the people who were in the Army, were in the Navy, in the Air Force. Which is not to diminish what they did, or in any way detract from their contributions, but I think to blow up any particular generation as the Greatest Generation is a mistake.
Judge Leonard Wexler, however, also agreed with the Greatest Genreation tag:
Q. Do you like the phrase “the Greatest generation”?
A. Yes, I like it. I think it fits. We were the greatest generation. I mean, everybody was united. Everybody stood together. I’ll give you an example. When I got home and I would take the train, a Brooklyn kid, I had a cane, everybody would stand up to give me a seat. Everybody was so nice. I really felt good that we were a great country at one time, united.

Judge Jack Weinstein sure didn't, however:
Q. Do you like the phrase “the Greatest Generation”?
A. It’s nonsensical. Every generation is great. We responded to difficulties of the depression and the war, and people I see today are responding to other problems. Every generation has greatness, and it has despair and has things that it should be ashamed of doing. For us, it was no different. I remember seeing things that were absolutely disgraceful—the way African Americans were treated and the way women were treated. Ours was not the greatest generation.

Judge Arthur Spatt agreed with the term, but had a more nuanced view:
Q. Do you feel you were part of a “Greatest Generation”?
I think the greatest generation was this country as a whole. It was united. Everybody worked toward one goal, whether it was giving up your food, rationing, or becoming an air raid warden on the block to make sure the lights were out at night. Everybody participated, with a full heart and no dissent. So, when in the history of this country does this ever happen?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Stress may be killing law students' brain cells, law prof says

Stress may be killing law students' brain cells, law prof says

Oh my.

In The Making Of Megafarms, A Mixture Of Pride And Pain : The Salt : NPR

In The Making Of Megafarms, A Mixture Of Pride And Pain : The Salt : NPR

Friday Farming: Alfalfa Field, Las Vegas Nevada, 1910

I'll often pass on commenting on these photos, but I can't help but comment on this one.  Sometimes when I post these I wonder "what does that look like today?"  I suspect some of these places don't look much different, some quite a bit different.  I've posted photographs before, for example, of urban San Francisco, and I can recognize a lot of what I'm seeing from the couple of times I've been there.

Well, here's one where we can be sure that the photo doesn't depict a current scene.  Las Vegas before gambling interest and the mafia converted the town into a giant gambling playground.

Life On a Kansas Cattle Ranch: Top 10 most dangerous jobs in America---farming is #10!

Life On a Kansas Cattle Ranch: Top 10 most dangerous jobs in America---farming is #10!

Not news really.  Agriculture has always been a pretty dangerous job.  According to at least one statistic I've seen, male deaths in agriculture were sufficiently high such that children being raised by a single mother in the late 19th Century was as common as it is today, but for a different reason.

Another one that people sometimes are surprised by is commercial fishing.  It's quite dangerous.  And Taxi driver is also very dangerous.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

WWII Profile: Leonard D. Wexler | United States Courts

WWII Profile: Leonard D. Wexler | United States Courts

WWII Profile: Jack B. Weinstein | United States Courts

WWII Profile: Jack B. Weinstein | United States Courts

WWII Profile: Tom Stagg | United States Courts

WWII Profile: Tom Stagg | United States Courts

WWII Profile: S. Arthur Spiegel | United States Courts

WWII Profile: S. Arthur Spiegel | United States Courts

WWII Profile: I. Leo Glasser | United States Courts

WWII Profile: I. Leo Glasser | United States Courts

WWII Profile: Arthur D. Spatt | United States Courts

WWII Profile: Arthur D. Spatt | United States Courts

WWII Profile: Dickinson R. Debevoise | United States Courts

WWII Profile: Dickinson R. Debevoise | United States Courts

WWII Profile: Arthur L. Alarcon | United States Courts

WWII Profile: Arthur L. Alarcon | United States Courts

Still Serving Their Country: Nearly 70 WWII Veterans Remain on Federal Bench | United States Courts

Still Serving Their Country: Nearly 70 WWII Veterans Remain on Federal Bench | United States Courts

USDA Blog » Agriculture Remains the Backbone of West Virginia

USDA Blog » Agriculture Remains the Backbone of West Virginia

Saudi America? North America faces challenges on path to energy independence - Energy & Resources | The Irish Times - Mon, Apr 28, 2014

Saudi America? North America faces challenges on path to energy independence - Energy & Resources | The Irish Times - Mon, Apr 28, 2014

Some of you may have missed this article in the Irish Times. . . .okay, everyone missed it in the Irish Times.

Interesting view from the Old Country, so to speak.

And what a remarkable change we've seen.  The US was an oil exporting country up through the Second World War, but an importing one by the 1960s. We were desperately dependent on Middle Easter oil by the early 1970s.

Now, we're a net energy exporter (which is different from just considering oil alone)  and there's a move to open up the export ban on oil.  This all brought about, really, by technology in the oil patch.  At the same time, American fuel consumption has gone flat, something was never really expected, and may actually start to decline.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Pentax digital DSLR K-x Camera, and Pentax 35 mm ZX-M film camera below.  The K-x has a Vivitar 200 mm zoom lens afixed to it, which was originally for a Pentax M-X 35 mm film camera.  It's stock zoom lens is next to it.

I really like cameras. Anyone who has looked around any of my blogs knows that.  Our Holscher's Hub blog is pretty much nothing other than photographs, with rare exception.  And we have dedicated blogs to photographic topics alone.   

Churches of the West is a blog that we do just based on photos of churches we run into traveling about.
Courthouses of the West does the same for courthouses.  


Painted Bricks was our very first blog, and it was originally dedicated solely to the painted sides of Casper Wyoming buildings, although it has since branched out to include buildings that interest us that way anywhere. 


Railhead addresses solely things associated with railroads, a blog I started as I thought the old station in Newcastle Wyoming was interesting.  


Some Gave All features mostly war memorials, although a few other memorials are also included.

So, we clearly like to take photos. And, while we make no pretensions to being the greatest photographers of all time, or any time, or anywhere, we like cameras a lot too.

Cameras are something that I like and use all the time that have undergone a stunning change in recent years.  I suppose they've been continually evolving for a long time, but I didn't really appreciate it until the digital camera evolution.  

I learned to take photographs in a junior high school class with a 35 mm  Argus C3 camera.  This model of camera was amazingly common, and we had one at home from my father's youth.  It says something that a camera my father had before he went into the Air Force was still a basic introductory camera later.  It says even more when you realize that the C3 was a camera that was introduced in 1939.  The camera itself was made into the 1950s, but it kept on being used as an introductory film camera for at least twenty years thereafter.

Argus C3.

Soon thereafter I went to a Pentax M-V 35mm SLR camera.  I knew very well that "single lens reflex" cameras were superior to rangefinder cameras, and my father usually shot film with a Zeiss Contaflex SLR that he obtained while in the USAF.  I always thought that camera a super camera, but it really wasn't as user friendly as the Pentax.  In that era, Pentax cameras were everywhere, and my introduction to them was really accidental as my father got me the camera as a gift.  It was an entry level SLR, but it was such a good camera that it held its own for about 20 years until it was damaged when I forgot that it was on the gun wall of my pickup truck and drove off.  It still works, but it has never been quite the same thereafter.

The M-V featured an automatic light sensor, which was a really nice addition to the camera as opposed to the C-3 or Contaflex.  With those older cameras, you needed a light meter to really set the camera accurately, although my father was so good with the Contaflex that he often didn't bother with the light meter, as he knew the light ranges and camera settings by heart.  I'd learned how to use a light meter in school, but I frankly forgot how pretty quickly once I had the M-V, as I really didn't need it.  Otherwise, however, with the M-V the photographer set the lens settings manually.  The camera came with a stock 50mm lens, but as Pentax's used, and still use, the revolutionary Pentax bayonet mount, switching to another lens just took (and takes) seconds to accomplish.  With screw mounts on other cameras the process was much more cumbersome.

My wife replaced that camera after I damaged it with a second Pentax 35mm film camera, a newer Pentax ZX-M with many automatic features.  Sticking with Pentax was important to me as I had a really nice Vivitar telephoto lens for the first Pentax, and of course one lens will fit any other with the same mount.  That camera also came with a really nice telephoto lens of its own.  And the new automatic settings were shockingly automatic, as it chose nearly ever setting, and focused, all on is own unless a person chose manual settings, which you could do.  I loved the camera (and I still like it).  However, soon thereafter the digital revolution was upon us.

Digital cameras came into our house with a compact Canon that my wife wanted.  While only a compact camera, it was soon doing yeoman's work as a camera and being used for more photos than anything else.  Soon I found myself borrowing it, where formally I would have taken by Pentax 35mm.  That old Canon compact digital camera is now fairly long in the tooth, but I still carry it with me on trips. As its compact, and still works, I can pack it easily while traveling for work, and I very frequently do.  As it doesn't work perfectly anymore, however, we've replaced it for my wife with a Canon SX-230 compact, which for a compact camera is an absolutely super camera.  I'd prefer a Pentax compact as they make a nice all weather one (which may be flagged under the Ricoh name now) but the Canon SX-230 is a heck of a compact camera.

Well, anyhow, because of the first Canon, I finally yielded to a digital camera, but only because Pentax introduced its digital DSLR.  

It seems that everywhere you go, of course, you see Canons, which have managed to take over the SLR world now that digital cameras dominate. But Pentax's are unique in a couple of ways and retain my loyalty, in spite of the massive decline in their market share in the US. For one thing, Pentax's will still take the old lens.  

That's right.  Unlike a Canon, I can still mount my old telephoto lens.  Indeed, any Pentax digital SLR will take any lens made for a Pentax bayonet mount.  Any. And they all work with them.

You do have to know how to use them on a digital camera..  If they're really old, with no internal automatic features, you have to set the camera and camera lens setting to manual, and know how to set the lens settings. But you had to do the same thing with the lens of that vintage on the 35mms of that era, you just do it differently.  They will, however, work.  The one throwback to the old era, if you do that, that you must adjust to is that you theoretically are back to the era in which you had to use a light meter, and I have downloaded a light meter on my cell phone that takes care of that.  Having said that, to my surprise, like my father, I've gotten to where I really don't use the light meter much, as you pretty much have the settings memorized anyhow.

Cow elk, photograph taken with a Vivitar 200mm lens on a Pentax K-x DSLR.  This lens was made in an era when nobody even dreamed of a digital camera and the elk was so far off it was barely visible without the lens.

When using a later film lens, such as the 80mm zoom lens my second Pentax film camera came with, you can use more of the automatic settings but you have to focus the lens manually, which is no big deal.

Indoor photograph with a 80mm zoom lens, taken without flash, with a Pentax K-x digital camera. The lens was made for a late Pentax 35mm film SLR.

Of course, with the fully automatic lens it came with, and a really good film card, it takes spectacular photographs.


Haleakalā, Maui, Hawaii.  Pentax K-x with standard lens.

A second feature of the Pentax is that its an all weather camera.  That's a big plus to an outdoor photographer.  They're as tough as nails and they don't care about rain or snow.  This isn't true of every DSLR.  That matters to me.

Having a really good photo card turns out to be a must, as at first I was actually a bit disappointed with the quality of the photos the camera took at first, with a standard computer card.  My son repeatedly told me to get a better card, and when I finally did, I was stunned.  The colors are so vivid, it reminds me of the reaction people had to Kodachrome in that they may be more vivid than real life.

Lions, photographed through glass, at the Denver Zoo.  Shoot, this was sort of late winter, early spring. Were the colors really that vivid?

 Kodacolor 35 mm slide photograph of Wake Island, from about 1954 or so, taken with a Zeiss.  Vivid images, but you were limited to a roll of about 24 photos.

But I can live with that.

But what a change in photograph this revolution has brought.  For one thing, the former need to load film every 24 or 35 shots is gone.  That's was a stunning development at first, and for a long time about every 24 shots it would dawn on me.  Indeed, I've had one singular occasion when I nearly filled up the photo card, but on that occasion I'd taken hundreds and hundreds of photographs over a period of days, including some video images.  I bought a second card, but I never loaded it.  I have no idea how many photos I actually had, but it was a pile of photos.

A byproduct, of that, is that you can take a lot of bad photos. That may sound odd, but with film, you really picked your shots.  You took a lot fewer photos, but you made sure they counted.  I've found that my photographic skills have actually declined somewhat since I started shooting digital, because I can waste shots.  I've recently undertake to address that, but it's hard to avoid in some ways.

Something that is increasingly hard for users of digital cameras to appreciate is that all film cameras, good or bad, were slaves of film and therefore of film development.  Generally, with a 35mm camera, you took about 24 shots and then loaded a new role of film. At that point, you had two options, those being to have the film developed (by far the most common option) or to develop it yourself, if you had the equipment.

When I was learning how to use a 35mm camera I also learned how to develop black and white film, which isn't all that hard.  Still, it wasn't instant.  Developing film involved unloading the film, in a dark room, into a developing canister and filling the canister with developing solution.  After the solution was in the canister for the appropriate amount of time, you washed the film with distilled water, took it out of the canister, and let it dry.  Thereafter you put the negatives in a devise that was essentially a projector and projected the image onto photo paper, which was essentially another type of film.  You then washed that image in another solution, and hung it to dry.

Depending upon how skilled a person was at this, there was actually a lot that could be done to the film in the developing stage. Beyond that, there was a lot that could be done at the point where you printed an image onto the paper, including choosing different types of paper. All this went into deciding what sort of image you would ultimately produce.

Of course, part of what determined what sort of image you produced depended upon what sort of film you had chosen, which also varied.  Not only was there a choice between black and white, but between different grades of light sensitivity of the film.  Generally, the less light sensitive it was, the "grainer" it was.  The finer the grain, the more light sensitive.  With black and white film, you could go all the way down to 60 ASA, fairly easily, which was a film that was not very light sensitive and good for any brightness, although fairly rarely used.  100 ASA was more common.  For mixed indoor and outdoor, 400 ASA was common, but not anything much higher than that.  Once you got up to high ASA film, like 600 or 1000 ASA, you were probably limiting yourself to indoor photography.

Photograph of NCHS football player, 1980 Oil Bowl, probably taken with 300 ASA film and developed and printed by author.

This described the process for black and white film. For color film, which I've never developed myself, the process was similar, if somewhat more complicated.

Most people didn't develop their own film of course, they took it to a place that developed film. When I was young, this meant that the film here was shipped to Denver and came back in about a week.  Later, we had a selection of one hour film developers.  Knowing how film was developed, the one hour concept always bothered me a bit, but generally it was pretty good.  Later, places like Walmart and Walgreen's had developing centers, and at least here the Walgreen's still does. Still, unlike digital photography, you ended up with a set of prints or slides.  Now, in contrast, you can view your images instantly, but you still can't handle them instantly.  If you are going to handle them, you still have to print them somehow.

This all presumes, of course, that you weren't shooting a Polaroid Land Camera.  Polaroids dispensed with the film developing step by using a special sort of photo paper that was loaded directly into the camera, and which only took a few minutes to develop after the photo was taken, and the paper removed from the camera. The process changed over the years, but for many years the photographer held the paper tight between a couple of steel plates for a few minutes and then the photo was ready to view.  This allowed the photo to be viewed immediately, but the process sacrificed quality for speed.  Now, I know that some will maintain that some really fine photos could be taken with a Polaroid, and while I know doubt would agree that a few eccentric people probably developed the talent for taking really nice photos with Polaroids, they'd be a distinct minority as the camera was really marketed for snap shots, which was generally fine with the user.  Probably more home photos and photos of children were taken with Polaroids then anything else.  Sadly, the Polaroid photo tends to fade very rapidly, so many of those photos are fading away.  My mother had a Polaroid camera for many years.

Another aspect of the digital revolution is that now digital cameras are simply everywhere, including in our phones.  Some of them take amazingly good photos, and they're all capable of taking some good photos.  I was very skeptical of this at first, and indeed, didn't want to believe it, but its true, to a degree.  This means that everything is getting photographed all the time, and quite a few things are getting photographed that shouldn't, and a lot of really bad photography is going on all the time.  In some ways, things are a bit over familiar.

Cathedral of the Madeline, Salt Lake City.  Photo taken with folding cell phone camera.

Included in this, in my view, is a trend to video every single deposition that a party takes, which some lawyers now do.  I haven't really addressed video cameras here, as I like still frame cameras better, but the distinction between the two is blurred now as most "photograph" cameras will not take video, and probably most video cameras will take photos, should the user be so inclined.  Anyhow, some lawyers, principally plaintiff's lawyers, now video every single deposition they take.  The usability of such videos in courts is questionable, if that's the goal, and presumably it really isn't.  It's probably a trial preparation tool, really, but a questionable one in my view as most witnesses do not really present the same way in front of a judge or jury as they do in a courtroom setting.   Anyhow, the smallest of these cameras are now so small, they have the appearance of cell phones.

Anyhow, what a change in photography.  Early in the 20th Century professional cameras were massive affairs, but the Brownie camera, an amateur, low cost, film camera had come in.

Serious professional camera, early 20th Century.

There were a wide variety of 35 mm cameras by the 1920s, and popular personal photograph got an enormous boost with the 1939 introduction of the Argus C3.  Through the lens reflex cameras made their appearance in the 1920s, but it wasn't until 1949 that the prismatic SLR was introduced, sparking a revolution amongst photography enthusiasts.  Nearly every serious camera maker soon introduced one, and they dominated in the serious photography market until the end of the film era.  My father bought a really good SLR Zeiss camera while serving in the Air Force, and the camea was so good that he used it hte rest of his life.

 Zeiss Contraflex.

Lens barrel for Contrafex, which fixed the existing lens on an extension for a telephoto effect.  I never actually saw this in use, and it does strike me as difficult to use.

My father also had a Yashica 120 mm camera. These cameras used big film for a finer detailed photograph, much the way "full frame" digital cameras due today (while most people don't use full frame digital cameras, the lack of one is a source of ongoing angst for Pentax fans, as Pentax does not make a full frame DSLR, just their regular DSLR).  It was a nice, if cumbersome, camera and my father used it less over the years, probably due to that.  And film became very difficult to obtain.

 Yashicaflex with lens caps on and viewer closed.

 Viewer cover opened.

Top of camera, with viewer opened.  You viewed the object through the top of the camera and saw the image reversed.

Digital photography seemed likely to put a big dent in SLR cameras, and it did at first, but now they've revived, particularly in the form of Canon cameras in the US.  But most of the old SLR manufacturers, save for Zeiss and Leica, which dropped out of the SLR market, still make one, and a couple of makers have entered the field who did not make film cameras.  But, just as I suppose more photos were taken with Kodak disposable and compact 35mms back in the day, more now are probably taken by cell phones.

Still, what a revolution in photography, even if things remain familiar.

Originally published on June 17, 2014.

Updated on June 18, 2014.

Mid Week at Work: Female mechanic in UK, World War One.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It will kill you. . .but it's good for you. . no, wait, it'll kill you . . .

I don't pay very much attention to health related news.  Perhaps I should, but I largely do not.  There's probably a variety of reasons for that, but one of them is that as I have an undergraduate degree in one of the sciences, I tend to be skeptical about the theory de jure to some degree.  I'm not a skeptic of the sciences, but I'm aware that at any one time a previously barely vetted theory is likely to be problematic.  Also, as that science was geology, which tends to take the long view of things, I tend to be skeptical of any health related news, particularly dietary news, that doesn't.

Also, I guess, I'm lucky to not have a lot of the food related problems that inspire theories designed to some degree to be unconventional or easy fixes.  In my middle age, I'm heavier than I have been at any prior point in my life, but I'm not overweight and was really much too think when I was still in my early 20s.  I don't each much for breakfast or dinner as a rule, so a lot of the concerns people have there basically don't apply to me.  So I guess I can afford to be skeptical.

But, given the way health news whips around, I'm amazed everyone isn't skeptical.

Take some items that have been in the news recently, that is in recent years.  Let's take, for example, coffee.

I like coffee (and have blogged on the topic previously) and I drink several cups every morning, typically while waiting to take my daughter to school.  At one time I used to drink it at work as well.

World War One YMCA poster showing one of their volunteer women workers who handed out books and, as you can see, coffee, for which I would have been most grateful.

When I was a kid you use to hear the canard that coffee would stunt your growth.  I have no idea where that fable came from, but my folks never believed it and I started drinking coffee in the morning when I was in high school. About that time, in the 1970s, you'd sometimes hear some snarky remarks about coffee containing an addictive drug, caffeine, which of course it does but as an addictive drug its in the category of ones that human beings are probably evolved to handle and its pretty darned harmless for the most part.

In college I was a confirmed coffee drinker.  I've been drinking coffee every morning now for decades.

I did cut back at work and no longer drink it there.  The reasons were self evident, however.  I was just drinking too darned much and it was making me jittery and messing up my sleep.  One Lent I gave it up entirely and when Lent was over I never went back to drinking it at work.

Several years ago, all of a sudden, some newstory came out that coffee might ward off Parkinson's Disease.  Hurrah if true!  Not a reason that I'm going to keep drinking it however.  Some time after that, however, some story came out that at a certain level it was bad for your heart.  Boo.  Still, not going to change my morning habits.  This past week I read that it might help stave off Alzheimer's.  Hurrah again.

Well, what about coffee's traditional rival, tea?

 YMCA poster supposedly showing a volunteer pouring a cup of tea, according to the Library of Congress, but my guess is that's coffee.

Given as its apparently the caffeine in coffee that has alleged benefits, presumably the benefits and risks, if any, of coffee, apply to tea as well.  But I'm not going to take it up, as I'm not really keen on tea.  My son likes it for some reason, and my daughter likes a custom tea drink called a London Fog.  I have no idea what a London Fog actually is.

Anyhow, awhile back there was a rage over Green Tea.  As I like Ice Tea, I bought a bottle figuring tea was tea.

Green tea is vile.

Supposedly green tea contains antioxidants, meaning if you drink it, you will not rust.

No, actually antioxidants are supposedly good for your heart.  I don't know why, but they are.  Well, as good as they may be, I'm not going to drink green tea as it is truly icky.

And my heart is apparently in pretty good shape.  I know that as a year ago I had one of those "stress tests."  This came about as I was having chest pains, although they were not of the type that a person typically assumes come from a heart problem.  Better safe than sorry, they gave me the test.

It was an odd experience, as in a stress test they elevate your heart rate by having you walk an incline plane.  A rising treadmill, as it were.  They told me that they were going to raise my heart rate to a certain level in order to do that.  As it went along, they kept raising and raising it, but my heart wasn't getting there.

"Do you run?'


"Hmmmmm. . . . . ., do you work out a lot?"


"Hmmmmm. . . . we'll raise it a bit more."

By the end, I was walking ain incline plain approximating the difficult face of the Matterhorn.  My heart made it to the appropriate rate and they proclaimed "no problem."

 The Matterhorn.  Apparently my heart is so solid that I could jog up it without ill effect.

Which means that my problem was probably a hiatul hernia or probably true indigestion, for which I am grateful.

This conversation is one that I repeat, on an occasional basis, with my physician, who routinely asks me a series of set questions which are probably designed to encourage folks to exercise, which no doubt is a good idea.  I'm sure that I don't get enough exercise.  Anyhow, what I'll get is "So are you getting any exercise?"  "Um, not really."  "Just ranch work and stress eh?"  "Yeah."

Stress, and not of the stress test variety, does kill, I'll concede.  It's an occupational hazard in my office line of work, which brings me to my next topic, smoking.  Before I do I'll note that awhile back I read that being employed in an occupation, like law, that requires a lot of mental activity can stave of dementia, although I've known of a couple of lawyers who suffered from that.  I'm not sure, however, that stress has any physical benefits.

Anyhow, I don't smoke and never have.  But couple of the lawyers I know at one time smoked cigars during moments of high stress.

Some time ago I read something that claimed that the occasional cigar, like caffeine, might stave off Parkinsons.  Obviously this opinion is suspect, as the occasional cigar would have to be extremely occasional as the risk of cancer would obviously override any benefit that tobacco might conceivable have.  How an opinion like this even gets generated leads a person to wonder about some of these efforts.

If smoking is the topic of such studies, than surely drinking must be as well, and indeed it has been.

This probably isn't too surprising, as alcohol is a poison (which it actually is) that humans beings are acclimated to, to a degree, such that its evidence that humans started ingesting alcohol, for some legitimate reason, in vast antiquity.  Indeed, it's known that beer is not only the single most consumed manufactured beverage on earth but that its one of the oldest.  Maybe the oldest.  Recipes for beer date back to Mesopotamia, and pretty much every culture on Earth has brewed it.

Speculation is that beer was originally brewed as it was a form of liquid food. Bread, basically, that would keep.  At some point it became safer to drink than water out of streams or rivers.  The same is true of wine.  To some degree, the alcoholic beverages of the ancient world to the Medieval one were based on region rather than purely taste, although qualitative differences in both go back into antiquity.  Suffice it to say, both drinks were the normal drinks for many people on a daily basis for much of human history.

Which does not mean, of course, that they were uniformly safe up until modern times. The danger of excessive drinking has always been there.  And just as records of drinking as a common practice go back into vast antiquity, the dangers of drinking too much have been noted back that far as well.

Americans, it should be noted, have a weird panicky relationship with their food and always have.  Alcoholic beverages are no exception to this.  The founding of the nation itself was tied up with alcohol a bit, but a strong anti alcohol streak developed relatively early in the nation's history, leading ultimately to the Prohibition movement after the Civil War.  Given as the early 19th Century was truly sodden, perhaps that's not a surprise.

Prohibition is often recalled today as a morals based campaign, but a concern for drinkers' health was a strong aspect of it.  Nonetheless, it was World War One, and the resultant concern that U.S. Doughboys, after having been exposed to French wine and French women would return as reprobates pushed it over the top.

Busting beer barrels in Prohibition.

One of the remarkable features of Prohibition in the US is that it not only was brief, 1919 to 1933, but it also immediately spawned efforts to repeal it.  No sooner had the country decided to ban alcohol in the name of morals and health, than people were buying it illegally and arguing for Prohibition to be repealed.  The health concerns seemingly forgotten.

Women were prominent in the temperance movement, and in the repeal movement as well.

The Great Depression followed by World War Two effectively put an end to temperance in the US for a long time, in spite of some county's remaining dry. By the early 1970s some states had dropped the drinking age down to the teens, such as Wyoming which had a drinking age of 19.

Following that, people became concerned once again about the health and social costs of drinking.  The Federal government sponsored an effort to get the states to raise the age up to 21, which all subsequently did, although highway safety was the main concern there. Still, the danger of excess consumption became increasingly known.

Then, starting at some point in the 1980s, the health news started to announce that may some drinking wasn't bad for you, in moderation.  Nobody seems to be able to define moderation, but it was noted that it seemed to be the butter consuming French had low heart disease rates.  So then it came to be asserted that perhaps a glass of red wine per day wasn't bad for you.  Ultimately it came to be asserted that perhaps a drink of about any alcoholic beverage per day wasn't bad.

Following that, however, was the inevitable counter.  In the UK the government really started to discourage drinking, in a nation that had a beer culture.  And this week, coming out of the UK, is the news that perhaps just two drinks per day, in the middle aged, would accelerate mental decline.  That amount, in men, is the same amount which previously had been in the safe category which you could consume per day out of a concern for your heart.

And all of this is, of course, just the major or popular stories of this type. At any one time, in the US, the latest fad diets are circulating around. Eat this, don't eat that, wait, don't eat this, eat that.  People leap on these things as the latest fad, whether their scientific based, or just slickly hawked.  It doesn't seem to dawn on a lot of people that they're eating a very unnatural diet that may be bad for them, and that countering with an extremely unnatural diet is likely not a very good idea.

Set in other terms, eating three meals a day out of boxes is probably a poor idea.  For that matter, three big meals a day may make sense for farmers and ranchers, but probably not for office workers.  Nonetheless, that's what a lot of people do. And then, when that has an inevitable impact, they go for some diet that might make sense for an ill rabbit, but not a human being.  If you are eating a series of meals that you prepare in a blender, you've lost sight of the fact that your forebearors were hunter gatherers, and biologically, so are you.

In its most extreme form, we have the think blanch, mostly white and urban, folks who have decided to go to war with nature and become vegans, a diet which ironically only a heavily industrialized society can support.  In a "self sustaining" natural environment, you'd be dead in about two weeks on that diet, as it requires industrial support to even exist.  Be that as it may, in that environment most people would come to their senses and be out slaughtering a buffalo in less than a week.  Still, it's interesting that we now have some people who are so afraid of the nature of their food, and of real nature, that they'd rather eat in a wholly fake manner.

At the same time, in the typical American fashion, we now have television channels dedicated to nothing but food.  And some that food would blimp you up in a big hurry.  Hosts go out to diners and survey the heaviest duty, most caloric, stuff imaginable.  And folks watch them do it.  Odd.

Truth be known, of course, nobody lives forever.  And sitting around in an office all day isn't really very good for you.  We no doubt have some dietary concerns, and nobody can realistically maintain that there's any benefit to some things, like smoking.  Don't go overboard on anything seems about as solid advice as anyone could really hope for.


Something related to this, to chew the fat on.

Postscript II

Well, the current issue of Time has butter on the cover, with the words "Eat Butter".

I haven't read the article yet, but liking butter, and having never given it up, I'm pleased.