Wednesday, May 19, 2010

From Behind the Bar

I wanted to break in here to solicit some input from some of our more silent servers. Specifically basil, sheerah and Lisa have been very quiet lately. I've talked to jim about this, and he and I have agreed to take our feet off the bar rail for a little bit in hopes that we can get some more conversation from some of our staff who may have felt a little...overwhelmed by the volume that we produce.

Al and Publius, too, have been posting some good stuff, and, as always, more is better when the beer and the conversation is good.

So how about it?

Oh, and before I shut up, let me toot my little Portland horn a bit for my beloved Portland Timbers. We may be small, and we mayn't be able to do better for sister cities than Mutare, Zimbabwe; Ashkelon, Israel; and Khabarovsk, Russia, but how about Boca Juniors and Manchester City? In three months? To play our Boys in Green? We may be small, but in footy terms, we'll roar up yer lobby.We'll be coming, we'll be coming, we'll be coming down the road...when you hear the noise of the Timbers Army boys, we'll be coming down the road!


  1. Yes, I've been a naughty girl only showing up on Ladies Night to quaff and leave; I deserve chastening.

    I'm honestly intimidated by the depth and breadth of knowledge here. Though I do feel like Butterfly McQueen at Tara sometimes, I promise to add something by next week to however feebly justify my presence among this august gathering.

  2. It's my sense that too much of what we're doing here isn't relevant to the issues of the day. We're a military blog and we're not talking about current military issues. I intend to address that in the next couple of days. Historical stuff is fine, but if it's not tied in to the present, I'm generally a little lost when it comes to caring. Example: Seydlitz and Clausewitz. We all know Seydlitz loves Clausewitz; so do I. But some of you may note that I consistently note that Clausewitz is no longer relevant to anything I care about, simply because it's clear that today's military doesn't care about the old gentleman. I'd like to see Seydlitz discuss the modern military's failings and provide some prescriptions. We all know what Clausewitz said; what's more important is why nobody who matters seems to care about him any more.

    I am concerned about Basil and I wish he'd weigh in and let us know he's all right. I know Sheerakahn is OK because I see him posting elsewhere. So I'd like to ask Sheer right now why it is he isn't providing any input here. I think his answer might be illuminating.

    I, myself have been very remiss in what I view as my duties to the rest of you. I've been in a funk for some time, viewing our military as being pretty hopeless these days, populated as it seemingly is with warlovers who don't know how to conduct a war. You ever talk to great salesman? He'll tell you the difference between the rookie and the professional is that anybody can "sell," but professionals "close." Our military today is all about sales, but not about closing the deal.

  3. Maybe some topics to spark some conversation:

    The military in cinema, from Delta Farce to Hurt Locker, are movies any better now than in the days of Sgt Striker?

    Speaking of Sgt Striker, the WWII propaganda machine cranked out film after film during that war. Where are those efforts today?

    We've been through the debate over high tech weaponry and its misuse on the battlefield. What high tech weaponry has the military used properly?

    I broke and nothing went in a pocket. Any pool sharks want to knock a few in?

    Rats, the wife is calling, I gotta run.



  4. Publius: I agree with you, to a point. First, I will argue that this is as much a "military blog" as we want to make it. A lot of us are interested in military and geopolitical issues, yes, but I personally would like to see us avoid the (to me) endless technical and tactical masturbation that seems to be a feature of the "milblogs" like Blackfive and Abu Muquwama.

    Second, your point is about the U.S. military is pretty accurate - circa 2010 we've become a kind of self-licking ice-cream cone; looking inwards, not outwards, for answers to the geopolitical problems we face. We don't look towards the "big picture", towards the sort of politico-military strategy our man seydlitz's man Clausewitz kept advising his patrons to keep their eyes on. What can we contribute to this circular firing squad, other than observing that it is unlikely to end well?

    I think I feel like you do to some extent but I wouldn't call it a funk, exactly. Rather, I believe I've said all I can say. If I piled up all the posts I've written over the past five years, between her, GFT, Intel Dump and comments on other blogs saying "Sending maneuver units and airpower to fight colonial and civil wars in central Asia is a mug's game and is unlikely to end well..." I could fire from defilade from behind them. I just don't really have anything more to add to "WASF"...I wish I could... but if Gates and Obama aren't listening to Andy Bacevich, what the hell can I add that will help?

    Wourm: You might say that our modern propaganda flicks are here, they're just more subtle. "Blackhawk Down", for all its overtly nihilist style, is a hell of a piece of war porn. So is "Avatar" in its way - note that the Thundercats don't square things away until the U.S. Marine shows up in blueface to Little Bighorn the humans?

  5. "What high tech weaponry has the military used properly??

    I think this is a good example of the very sort of thing that Publius was talking about. Let's take, say, pilotless aircraft. Hell of a useful tool, right? Real time eyes-on without the size of a conventional aircraft and the risk to the pilot, capable of ground attack, altogether a pretty neat little package.

    And what has the effect been in SW Asia? Decidedly mixed, I'd say. We've hit some high-value targets...and some weddings, funerals, ice cream trucks and donkey carts. The locals are intimidated by the things, sure, but they also tend to make us look like high-tech weenies, inspiring a certain contempt and increased hatred.

    So while the military does "sell" its high tech weaponry, and while it may work well tactically, does it do more to help or harm "closing the deal" in obtaining the political objectives of war as, in this case, when so much of the war is about politics and perception rather than sheer weight of metal?

  6. FDChief: circa 2010 we've become a kind of self-licking ice-cream cone; looking inwards, not outwards, for answers to the geopolitical problems we face.

    Excellent description.

    Since we've faced only one, vague and endless military challenge, what would you expect? We came to some similar situations during RVN, but at least we were constantly seeing fresh minds due to conscription. Today, we have a relatively isolated military taking on, with no corresponding sacrifices on the home front, a constant series of rotations to Iraq/Afghanistan. How could you expect anything else?

    Sorry I haven't been more involved here, but we are up to our necks in planning these two adventures and the next 5 or 6 weeks we will be in even deeper executing. One of these times, some of you need to join us. Great times and an interesting age/occupation spread.

  7. To all,
    This site is a free fire zone imho, and i always concern myself with simple issues like why instead of how. I do talk about how, but usually do so in theory rather than discussing crap like drones in minutia detail.
    Contrary to Publius's cmt, i think my entries do address todays issues ,even if they are oblique in nature. I am not atk Publius nor do i feel atkd, i'm just sayin'.
    As for war movies, all i see today are garbage and don't reflect the Army that i served.Hell, in fact, that Army is as dead as my old dick.
    Yes Publius-that's waaay too much info.
    I love you guys, even the Marines.

  8. jim: The last war movie that reflected the "Army I served" wasn't a war movie at all but an oddball rumination on people, greed and deception (self- and of others), "Three Kings". Anyone else see "Buffalo Soldiers"? Ridiculously over-the-top and set a decade too late (1979 would have been more like it - there was a lot of weed and even some guys with heroin jackets still in before the Eighties; '89, not so much) but it did kind of catch the feel of the bored-colonial-army of the Reagan Years.

  9. Publius, Chief,

    I think you guys are being a bit too cynical. Clausewitz is alive and well in the military and while there are certainly warmongers, after almost 10 years of conflict there are many more who aren't. I think there is a healthy debate in the military which is evident at places like SWJ, and anywhere the "Gentile-ists" and "Coindinista's" collide, LTC Yingling's famous essay and many other places. I humbly suggest you guys look around a bit more before concluding the military is a bunch of insular warmongers with no inclination for strategy. The loudest and brashest voices don't necessarily speak for the majority.

    IMO, the biggest problem with the military is that it is institutionally mired by its industrial-era bureaucracy, particularly the personnel system. If there's one thing to fix it's the methods for advancement, especially at LTC and beyond. Our late-1940's era military institutions are in desperate need of reform.

    There is also a big generational division within the military between the more senior officers and NCO's and those junior in rank. This is particularly evident in regards to DADT, but it extends far beyond that. Not surprising considering most of senior rank got there during the 1990's and most of junior rank have spent much of their time deployed and/or fighting.

    As far as "high tech" weaponry goes, why should anyone expect any particular piece to "close the deal?" Except for nukes, I think it's rare in history when a particular piece of military equipment has a decisive effect.

    Finally, I think it's hard to simply focus on the "military" because there are so many factors that affect the military. US policy and strategy, set my our civilian masters, funding and other action from Congress, technology, culture, the economy and many others have big impacts on the "military." It seems to me you can't talk about one without addressing the others unless you limit it to talking about, as Chief puts it, "technical and tactical masturbation."

    I'm not a contributor here, but my advice that as long as the topic is related in some way to the military then it should be fair game.

  10. Thanks Andy-

    Am I taking it too personal? But then I don´t even rate a mention as a contributor on the original post. Google "MilPub" and see what comes up. What has been picked up by other milblogs . . for what it's worth.

    I gave a presentation today to a college faculty, an application of strategic theory to international organized crime. Got a great response and very interesting questions afterwards . . . but here, among my own . . . is it soooo hard to understand the applications, the poverty of strategic thought today and where it has led us?

    I'm not going to do any diva routine and walk out, but am a bit disappointed. Geeez, if you guys can't get it, what hope do we have.

    I need a drink.

  11. seydlitz: "We don't look towards the "big picture", towards the sort of politico-military strategy our man seydlitz's man Clausewitz kept advising his patrons to keep their eyes on. What can we contribute to this circular firing squad, other than observing that it is unlikely to end well?"

    Does that count as "getting it"?

    And you weren't mentioned specifically because I thought that 1) your stuff has been terrific and 2) because it was jim and I who had been papering the walls lately and needed to STFU. Mind you, here I am blathering on. So I'll shut up now.

    But wait!

    Andy: "I think there is a healthy debate in the military which is evident at places like SWJ, and anywhere the "Gentile-ists" and "Coindinista's" collide"

    Not sure I'd call it a "healthy debate". It's more like an ecumenical council; the homoousians (or COINdinstas, if you will) state their position based on their faith that the principles of COIN, properly applied, will Lead to Victory. The homoiousians (or "Gentileists") reply that there has never been a substantiated case of that happening outside of Malaya, which was sui generis. The homoousians repeat their position, slightly louder. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

    The real debate - whether sending maneuver elements into central Asian internal wars is a good idea - has been pretty thoroughly elided, mostly because it calls into question the central mission of the armed services in the "war on terror" and that, it seems, can never, ever be admitted.

    "I think it's rare in history when a particular piece of military equipment has a decisive effect." The stirrup? Horse bows? Gunpowder? The machinegun and barbed wire? The tank-radio-tacair combination?

    Of course it's not the hardware alone...there has to be smart soldiers to figure out how to use it. But, still, c'mon...

  12. Seydlitz,
    Maybe it's you that doesn't 'GET IT".
    I repeatedly tried to get WW1 cmts into the present tense and you keep going back to yonder years.
    I don't give a flying fuck about Karl or theory, all i care about is that mt Army and country are presently in crazy feel good meaningless wars.
    Words and theories don't ameliorate this reality.
    I don't write to be erudite, my concern is keeping just 1 soldier from disaster, and hopefully end this folly.
    I really don't care what some German said a long time ago. Fuck him and the emperor etc...
    Who cares really?
    I'm simple and that's my simple statement, we are all not War College material.
    I for 1 just don't get it , and i doubt that i ever will.

  13. I'm going to have to support Seydlitz's concentration on strategic thinking, and especially that put forth by von Clauswitz. Without same, we are just conducting a futile exercise, or calling law enforcement activities "war".

    Without a geo-political objective, what are we fighting to accomplish? And if that geo-political objective is not attainable by military means, or the military means selected, they why are we applying that military means?

    There is nothing wrong with tactical or operational thinking. Without tactical and operational success, strategy cannot be applied nor strategic objectives achieved. But without attainable strategic objectives, tactical and operational success wins battles, but not wars.

    We can and should discuss both here. Understanding the strategic errors and successes of past conflicts can better prepare us for future conflict. WWI is an excellent study. Along with everything Seydlitz has mentioned, one can also look at the impact of the varied and shifting political objectives of the allies. They surely prolonged things. Or, look at the impact of "Total and Unconditional Surrender" along with Morganthau's "Permanant Agrarian State" on WWII - surely prolonged that war. Both had no impact on operational or tactical considerations in the ETO, but still had profound strategic and geo-political ramifications.

  14. Chief-

    Sometimes a knock on the head with a pool cue is just what is needed to make a valid point. Thanks for that . . .


    Up until this post I thought the blog was going swimmingly, so the argument that we are somehow out of focus or I am out of touch came as a bit of a shock.

    I think the value of this blog is that we do come from different backgrounds in the military, and thus can offer different perspectives. That is that I might not get it at the "tactical" whereas you might not get it at the "strategic" would be part of the larger truth.

    I see a post coming on through this . . .

  15. Al-

    Well put as usual.

    Hot in Greece? It's boiling here in Portugal . . .

  16. Good comments so far. I'll only add to what I said early by suggesting that diversity is good and it's the differing perspectives that make this site more interesting than most.

  17. The why I haven't been posting...hmmm.

    I think it has more to do with the fact that when I'm...reading/learning...I tend to be very quiet. No sound, no's the only way I can focus.
    Chief, you, Al, Jim, Publius, Seydlitz (and yes, i do get it :) ) are like professors to me.
    My experience is not as well rounded as I would like it to be.
    Not sure about Lisa feels about herself and all this, but she writes with a passion as well that I just find fun and encouraging to read.

    My two months in the Marine Corps, with most of it being in the "he's on his way out med" brigade, doesn't really amount to much of military experience.
    And I dare not speak of it because one...pfft...Al would more than likely roll his eyes, and probably send me a email telling me that I'm embarrassing myself if I were too. But more importantly, even I recognize that a baby at birth has near zero life two months in the Marines doesn't amount to a hill of beans.

    However, my seven years as a courier/gofer for a defense contractor (though I was still a techie at heart, a job is a job) I can rely on that background, and talk about gadgets.
    And of course, biowarfare, chemical warfare, and.../snort....entomological warfare (and the Germans thought they had it bad when the wind shifted the Mustard gas back into their faces...ha!).

    You guys are special to me...I read your thoughts and when I'm to describe this?

    Think about sitting in the auditorium of your childs musical play. Of course, your smiling, and expecting a cute rendition of a Christmas song that's been done better by older singers.
    But it's your kid, and so the bar is set low, the expectations is just to see your child on the stage...and then out walks Bing Crosby holding your child's hand on one side, and David Bowie holding your childs other hand and all three bust out singing a mind blowing rendition of every Christmas song you have ever heard...

    Yeah, that is what Milpub is to me...and guys...without a doubt, that is the beauty of this site. Not any one contribution, but the whole all wrapped up in collage of knowledge, life experience, and cannot find this mix anywhere on the web.

    I'm sorry guys, but you are all awesome...and so I read, and focus my own thoughts, and hopefully...just maybe...I can contribute something smart and interesting.

  18. Relatively cool here. 16 Vespa fanatics arriving from US, UK and Canada Tues for 10 days of merriment and riding.

  19. Seydlitz,
    I don't think that there is a problem here.
    This whole discussion started b/c i asked Chief IF i'm sending too much stuff over from RAW.
    I don't want to flood the plain since my stuff is so different than what you other guys write.
    I really believe that NOTHING of a tactical or strategic viewpoint will ever come of these goat fuck wars. Hence my inability to discuss the topic.
    I know what you are saying and why you say it, but to me it's just futility to even talk about it.
    I do understand and respect every word that the bartenders utter on these pages.
    Every word, and nothing i say is an attack, just my pov.
    Nobody asked, but it's raining here in Cleveland , ohio.

  20. Jim,

    You live in Cleveland? My better half is from there - North Olmsted to be exact.

  21. FWIW, I'm just happy to see all of the stuff you guys (and gal Lisa) write and publish here. It's all good even when it really does rub the wrong way.

    As to Andy's point about why the military's broke, he gets it when he says the personnel system simply has not produced the fighters and leaders we need today. There are many reasons. But I hold the greatest of these is that our military has not "lost" since 1979 (EAGLE CLAW). Or at least that is its own institutional propaganda, well believed by those on the inside who are too intellectually (or morally) weak to admit to themselves that we haven't really "won" since 1945.

    When I went to War College, Clausewitz as still THE philosopher this service (steeped in decisive, maneuver warfare in uncertainty) wholeheartedly embraced. But what was also taught was the emergence of Clausewitzian thought in relation to (self-)acknowledged defeat in Vietnam. Clausewitz was seen as radical precisely because he wrote from a position of defeat himself and the embrace of his ideals could only occur because of our defeat. (I'll note I attended WC well after the "victory" of Desert Storm.)

    Anyways, today's services rot from the top, filled with senior leaders oblivious to the mental strength needed to confront the very uncertain world they knew they would operate in. The senior leadership has yet to shake the careerist, zelo-tolerance and risk adverse spin imparted by the post-Desert Storm downsizing culture. And since we continue to "win" in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is little desire to accept defeat, learn our lessons, and radically restructure our services as a result. (We should also acknowledge the second great vampire squid - besides GoldmanSachs - of the military-corporate-think tank-politician complex.)

    Please folks, keep it up and in the words of the USNI, Think. Write. Speak.



  22. Why, one would ask, if the mission of the military is to execute the lawful orders of the government, should we be promoting strategic education and thinking in the ranks. After all, our real job is virtually one of tactics and operational art.

    The answer, in my mind, is that when presented with the "impossible mission", the soldier has the professional obligation to tell his superior that it is just that and why, before saluting and carrying out his orders. Wouldn't it have been nice if Little Tommy Franks had been bright (and honorable enough) enough to point out the severe strategic ( as well as operational) flaws in the plan he was given? If we (the military) are going to provide the muscle, shouldn't we develop the intellect in the ranks to know if the fight we are about to pick is going to amount to more than a waste of national treasure?

    If GWB had climbed into Marine One and said, "OK, Major, I have a meeting with Tony Blair in the morning. Fly me to London", the pilot would have said, "Sir, in this helo, that would be impossible." What GWB might have done in the face of such a response, no one knows, but no one in uniform would have questioned the Major's perfectly professional and correct answer.

    Yet, an equally ill advised request to invade another country, with the attendant loss of lives, was hardly challenged. Our senior officers need to start thinking like a helo pilot and speak up when a major directive is professionally questionable. That's why we need to encourage not only strategic thinking, but courage. Yes, we may still have to face a stupid but lawful order that runs against our judgment, but we owe our superiors a hell of a lot more than a knee-jerk, "Yes, Sir. Yes, Sir. Three bags full.", especially when we know the bags are empty.

  23. Aviator,
    As for Tommy boy- the first rule of the old SF was- the man on the ground does the concept of the opn based on the cmdrs guidance.
    If a plan was imposed on Frank dog then this violatesa basic tenet and who is calling the shots.
    The HQ that writes the plan is the hq that writes the plan-you know- unity of cmd, economy of force and all that good stuff.
    We were fucked from square one when you put a jockey on the wrong horse.
    My parents live in Euclid and they are doing poorly hence my visit. I'd rather sandpaper my ass and sit in salt than to be in the area, but i must .
    It's a sad mission.
    I didn't know you were WC grad.
    It's my belief that they teach you guys Clauswitz, besause it looks good on the poi and wows the tradoc inspectors.
    I'm sorry that i didn't pick up on your schooling sooner, it forces me to tighten my shit up.

  24. Sheerah,

    Thank you, and I am absolutely with you: Simply put, "you are all awesome".

    Also, the piece I have in mind was spurred by a past comment of yours @ RAW. We both love biological science, Sheerah, and that is the area from which my topic arises.

    I read with appreciation, and feel MilPub's task of exegesis and critique is an important one. You all bring such passion, knowledge and light to bear on your topics, whatever they may be. Like the defunct IntelDump, this is a rare gathering.

  25. p.s.:

    I see the efforts here as an antidote to the "quiet desperation" defined by Jon Winokur in the Encyclopedia Neurotica as:

    "Mute resignation to a life blighted by the grinding conformity of postindustrial society"

  26. Those Vespa rides must be cool.

  27. Well, I guess I've got my buddy Seydlitz pissed at me. And rightly so. There is no right or wrong in what we're doing here; I just tend to be impatient and perhaps too demanding. FWIW, I'm very much of a mind with Ranger, in that current issues are viewed as so pressing that the long view—Seydlitz's forte—loses much of its importance. Seydlitz's input is no less valuable as a result of my age and impatience. I believe these wars are stupid and I believe they were lost even before they began, in large part because those who should be reading what Seydlitz has to say have no apparent interest in doing so.

    Serving Patriot offers the old fish analogy: rotting from the head. I like that. It sums our government and military very well. I guess one can cut the civilians some slack, but people such as Franks, et al, are supposed to know better. In fact, they do know better, so all we can say about our military leadership is that they are cowards.

    All of which goes into my intemperate singling out of Seydlitz. I confused the messenger with the message. But I'd still like to see Seydlitz compare and contrast Clausewitzian precepts with how our government now goes about its national security business. And I'd like him to focus on the civilian side of government because I've long believed that Clausewitz may be fine for generals, but he doesn't matter if the civilians who actually make the policy aren't on board. Does anybody think that Barack Obama knows anything about Clausewitz?

    Relevancy and immediacy: We've got two expatriats in our family. One lives in Portugal; the other lives in Greece. I'd like to see something from them about what's going on in their neck of the woods. A lot of us here in the U.S. are losing investment money these days due largely to events in the so-called "Club Med" countries, with Greece and Portugal numbered in that club.

    To Sheer and Lisa: I'd say you're here for a reason and it's not to silver tongue some old dudes. We're no better than you; we just have more miles. So, please, give us the benefit of your insight and wisdom. You've both got lots. Don't be shy. And spare us the encomiums.

    But where is Basil Beast?

  28. Good logo for your team Chief, considering that during WW-1 Portland was Division HQ for the Spruce Division of soldier-loggers that supplied the material for airframes for Rickenbacker and company. Quite a deal, we nationalized an industry because the timber barons only wanted to log Douglas Fir and saw no profit in Spruce, and on the labor side the IWW was giving everyone the red scare.

    I second Publius' motion to see Seydlitz's thoughts on defense strategy by our politicians. Would also like to see the presentation that Seydlitz mentioned he had just given on application of strategic theory to international organized crime. And any other Clausewitzian thoughts he wants to share are fine too, but please keep it simple for an old guy like me.

    And whatever happened to the historical posts from Chief? Those were top notch and made this blog stand out. Although I would also like to see Aviator47 or Andy or whoever post some tidbits on historical air battles.


  29. Publius-

    "Pissed" ain't really the right word, more like "frustrated", but as in "was frustrated", not "am frustrated".

    It's the gulf between understanding a situation, or rather seemingly understanding it, and having the power to act. While we may see the hopeless confusion of military means matched with supposed political ends and purposes, we are also aware that the actual purposes are never openly defined let alone defended.

    Rather our political leadership returns again and again to the Rovian dream of absolute and unrelenting power making reality its bitch, which of course is a delusion, but one that those in control are loathe to give up.

    As to whether Obama understands Clausewitz . . . Remember his first West Point speech of a year ago? His second one was this last weekend, and while I have not read it all yet, it seems that - just as with the first - that yes, Obama has read Clausewitz (or rather has a adaquate grasp of strategic theory). But then the task of comparing his words with his follow on acts starts and we see that the words speak of a new beginning, but the actions betray a sellout to the same old snakeoil show . . .


    Been thinking about the glaring lack of historical context in modern US society and its effects - following my recent read of Trow's "Within the Context of No Context" . . . will post the PP presentation I did last week too since that might get some of those students who were in the audience to share their views on the usefulness (or not) of strategic theory . . .

  30. Seydlitz -

    I would also be interested sometime in the future of a post by you on your opinions of Jon Sumida and his thoughts Clausewitz and Mahan.

    I note that his book: 'Decoding Clausewitz' is on the recommended reading list for all Marine officers including Colonel thru General.

  31. Publius:

    But where is Basil Beast

    Still stuck in the Middle of Nowhere and I confess, longtime AWOL. I'm afraid I've been fighting to keep my nose above water lately and haven't been keeping up with bar duty as I should.

    This is my home email for anybody that wants it.


    but the actions betray a sellout to the same old snakeoil show

    Ain't it the truth? And that Gulf down south of me is 20% and growing full of that very snake oil.

    I'd almost pity the coasters but they've been electing shit-for-brains leadership down there for ages.


  32. Publius,
    We have 4 expats
    -You live in SC and
    -I live in red neck Fl.
    Thats a lot farther away than Portugal and Greece.

  33. jim and Publius: We here in the People's Republic of Portland will also never accept the COG (corporatist occupation government). Count us as no more than resident aliens.

  34. Hey, Ranger, watch that expat stuff! We be Murricans here in South Carolina.

    I'll bet a lot of you wonder just why in the hell someone like me voluntarily relocated to South Carolina. I often wonder myself.

    Big prize for the winning guess.

    Basil, I am very happy to learn that you're still with us. Now, how about not scaring us anymore and doing something like giving us some of your good stuff? On a serious note, I hope whatever burdens you're bearing aren't too vexing. Just remember, you've got friends here. May not matter all that much. But then again, it may.

  35. Golf?


    Grits, greens, & gravy?

  36. Assuming I had an idea for an interesting topic that doesn't fit into my blog.
    Whom could I contact? It seems as if most if not all here seem to hide their e-mail addresses.

  37. Not so difficult . . .

  38. Sven: Or you can contact me at

    The E-mail address thing seems to be a Blogger thing. I don't particularly care one way or the other, but Blogger doesn't really give you an option to post your e-mail.