Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I have been reading a lot of books, mainly history, about Syria and Egypt, plus taking Arabic lessons, plus I have a working knowledge of Hebrew -- but I have not actually been to the Middle East ....... Anyway, you add that up, and I feel like I know a little bit, but way short of someone who lives in that region and also short of various Middle Eastern experts -- academics, state department people, people with business interests over there -- those are all people who know more about this than I do......

Studying, learning, traveling, doing business over there -- all those things increase your knowledge but you can STILL be completely wrong. To me, the ancient countries have many layers, and the more you delve into it, the more layers you discover, and there's always more layers.

I feel it is worth the effort to learn about these countries, although I cannot point to any tangible benefit.

Pres. Obama will make a decision about what to do in Syria and we will be living with the consequences. Let's hope for the best.
Willie and Joe

When I was a kid, I wanted to be like Willie and Joe when I grew up. Willie and Joe were the chief characters in Bill Mauldin's book, Up Front, about American combat soldiers in Europe in World War II.

I used to look at the cartoons over and over again. I thought it was really cool that they got to dig holes and didn't have to take baths.

As an adult I have spent a great deal of my working life digging holes and moving earth around, so this became my life. I do bath regularly however.

As for fighting the war, which is what Willie and Joe did -- I didn't do that. I could have gone to Vietnam -- that's an issue men my age still debate.
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Dancing in Your Underwear
I saw Miley Cyrus dancing in her underwear on TV last night. Then this morning there was furious discussion about whether this was a good or bad thing -- a debate between the prudes and the libertines.

Rather than take a side in this, I look at her performance from the vantage of being a trend watcher and this is how to explain it.

What happens when people dance around in their underwear?

It's a trend, and trends are started by attractive young people who look good when they dance around in their underwear. But then trends start to grow and spread across the land, even to places like Nebraska. Then old people and funny-looking people and people-who-aren't-the-least-bit-cool-or-attractive begin dancing around in their underwear -- it doesn't look that good. Next time you're in a crowd someplace, look at all the people. Imagine all of them dancing around in their underwear. Is that a good movie?

Trends start in places like Los Angeles and they die in places like Nebraska..........

In LaConner in 1980 the Town Council met around the Ping-Pong table at the Volunteer Firemen's Rec Hall

I didn't look this up, I am reciting from memory --- Mary Lam was the mayor. Council members were June Overstreet, Judy Iversen, Neva Malden, Roberta Nelson, and Don Wright. Kathi Ernst was the Town Clerk, The town attorney was a woman named Goddard, I think. Pat Sherman was the town treasurer, but she did not sit at the table on a regular basis.
So what we had was an all female govt. but for Don Wright as the Lone Patriarch. What this proved was that it didn't get any worse or better under female leadership.

A few years later Mary Lam persuaded the town council to approve bonds to build a new meeting room across town where the sheriff's dept. is now.
That cost around $180,000. I was opposed to this venture because I thought the ping-pong table was big enough for the council and there was room for 20 or 30 chairs for the citizens, so why spend all that money.
Mayor Lam did not like being a guest of the Firemen however, so the ping-pong table era ended.

What I realized years afterward was that people like Mary Lam and Roberta Nelson, who grew up in LaConner, got kind of tired of the town's rundown condition and hoakee-finokee reputation. They wanted something new and bright and beautiful, something lively and fresh. So the Town Hall Annex, which Mary Lam built for Council meetings, was in fact a very nice building, historic in architecture, but modern in construction. Maybe it was worth the money.
Note: The council meets today in a room at Maple Hall no bigger than the old Fireman's Rec Hall. So maybe I was right all along -- we could have just stayed at the Ping-Pong table.

Back in Santa Barbara. Laurie and I visited LaConner for several days and had a wonderful time. She had not seen LaConner before but she liked it quite a bit. Now we are back in Santa Barbara -- it can get hot and dusty in Septemver in this country, often the hottest time of the year. But, you know, Santa Barbara, it's like they passed a law against having bad weather. It's nice almost all the time. Harsh climates build character, but I believe my moral fiber will survive the easy breezes around here.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Monday, August 26, 2013

the Ghost of Syria

President Obama has been positioning naval vessels off the coast of Syria. Is this a good idea?
The use of chemical weapons seems to be an understandable trigger point.

Obama can look to the example of Clinton who bombed the be-jesus out of Belgrade with great civilian casualties, but without the risk of American troops on the ground -- and that worked. We can hardly remember the dictator's name -- Milosovic -- he has been blotted from memory, and peace, or an ugly calm, pervades the Balkans.

Or Obama can follow the example of Geo. Bush who invaded Iraq, but not to the benefit of the Iraqi people nor to the benefit of regional security.

"It could be worse" -- we sometimes say that in our country. But they don't say that in the Middle East, they make some bitter joke instead.

Still they survive these wars and the olive trees still grow. Read a history of the Crusades or a history of the Roman Conquest, and the names of Tripoli, Homs, and Damascus are mentioned as battle sites. Syria recovered then, it will recover again this time.

"Syria" as a geographic entity has often included Lebanon, Palestine, and what we know call Israel -- with more trouble per square mile than any place on earth. And still it is beautiful. It must be worth fighting for. Nobody wants to leave, or if they do leave they make desperate efforts to return.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Flat Tire foils Thieves

We're getting on the train in Santa Barbara on Monday and going up to Seattle to visit my daughter, then up to LaConner for a few days to see old friends and enjoy the country.

We might stop in at Rexville for the White Trash Food Festival next Saturday, or walk the beach on Guemes Island -- whatever seems like fun.

Flat Tire Foils Scrap Metal Thieves

I sent Jack Rice an email, but he didn't respond, he might have been out of town or he just didn't want to talk about this.

I often visited Jack at his office at the Texaloy Foundry, just to get away from all those women at the Wilson County News where I worked as a reporter. That was 2006 in Floresville, Texas, near San Antonio.

This excellent weekly newspaper was staffed by 21 women and 2 men -- which was okay, but sometimes I just wanted to get away, and I might go over to Texaloy and have a visit with Jack.

He had a comfortable couch in his office and a picture window view of the foundry he owned and managed.

We talked about deer hunting and other things.

The story is about how one of his employees was stealing scrap metal, driving it right out the door on a trailer and selling it. The thief and his outside accomplice overloaded the trailer -- got greedy! -- leading to a flat tire by the side of the road, which excited the curiosity of a local cop who might have noticed their nervous attitude, and then asking questions, found out the goods were purloined -- were, in fact, the property of Jack Rice, and he was a generous man and a fair employer but he did not give stuff away especially if you didn't ask.

They were arrested. I wrote the story. That was seven years ago. I hope the two arrested men have realized the error of their way. I hope they made amends for the theft and have gone back to making an honest living.

That's why I sent Jack Rice an email on Friday -- to find out about that. But it was seven years ago and it doesn't really matter too much by now.

Except for the morality tale --- how the thieves got greedy and overloaded their trailer and that's how they got caught.
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001