A toast on Whiskey and Cigar Day 2015: Excelsior! to Mark Twain’s and Winston Churchill’s births (November 30)

November 30, 2015

Mark Twain, afloat

Mark Twain aboard a ship, on his way to Hawaii. Young Samuel Clemens apprenticed to be a Mississippi river boat pilot, and held a fascination for water-going vessels his entire life. His pilot years are documented, and analyzed, in Life on the Mississippi.
This photo of Twain remains one of my favorites.

(Whew! Nearly let the day get by without noting it.)

November 30 is the birthday of Mark Twain (1835), and Winston Churchill (1874).

This is the traditional Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub post to remind you. Both Twain and Churchill were lovers of good whiskey, and good cigars. Surely they would have toasted themselves with a drink and a smoke.

Even if we don’t, we can pretend we did.

In 2015, we have the benefit of having had a years to digest Twain’s Autobiography, and Volume II; and we have the benefit of new scholarship from a great book on Churchill, William Manchester’s and Paul Reid’s The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965.

We have special need for the wisdom, and wit of each man in a year marked by terrorism and unholy war on educators.

Twain had a comment on the Texas Education Agency and State Board of Education:

In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.

Following the Equator; Pudd’nhead Wilson‘s New Calendar

The Nobel literature committees were slow. Twain never got a Nobel in Literature; he died in 1910. Churchill did win a Nobel in Literature, in 1953.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1953 was awarded to Winston Churchill “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

Both men were aficionados of good whiskey and good cigars. Both men suffered from depression in old age.

Both men made a living writing, early in their careers as newspaper correspondents. One waged wars of a kind the other campaigned against. Both were sustained by their hope for the human race, against overwhelming evidence that such hope was sadly misplaced.


Winston S. Churchill, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1941, copyright 1941 by Time Magazine. Churchill’s career was built much on his work as First Lord of the Admiralty, a position he took in 1911.  While he was the goat of the Battle of the Dardanelles (and had to resign as a result), his earlier work to switch Britain’s Navy to oil power from coal, and to use airplanes in combat, kept the British Navy as an important and modern military organization through World War II.

Both endured fantastic failures that would have killed other people, and both rebounded.

Each possessed a great facility with words, and wit, and frequently said or wrote things that people like to remember and repeat again.

Both Churchill and Twain rank near the top of the list of people to whom almost any quote will be attributed, if the quote is witty and the speaker can’t remember or doesn’t know who actually said it.

Surely they said something like any piece of wisdom, at some point in their lives, right?

Both men are worth study. And wouldn’t you really love to have had them over to dinner?

Twain, on prisons versus education:

Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” – Speech, November 23, 1900

Churchill on the evil men and nations do:

“No One Would Do Such Things”

“So now the Admiralty wireless whispers through the ether to the tall masts of ships, and captains pace their decks absorbed in thought. It is nothing. It is less than nothing. It is too foolish, too fantastic to be thought of in the twentieth century. Or is it fire and murder leaping out of the darkness at our throats, torpedoes ripping the bellies of half-awakened ships, a sunrise on a vanished naval supremacy, and an island well-guarded hitherto, at last defenceless? No, it is nothing. No one would do such things. Civilization has climbed above such perils. The interdependence of nations in trade and traffic, the sense of public law, the Hague Convention, Liberal principles, the Labour Party, high finance, Christian charity, common sense have rendered such nightmares impossible. Are you quite sure? It would be a pity to be wrong. Such a mistake could only be made once—once for all.”

—1923, recalling the possibility of war between France and Germany after the Agadir Crisis of 1911, inThe World Crisis,vol. 1, 1911-1914, pp. 48-49. (Obviously, and sadly, Churchill was wrong — twice wrong.)

Yet we continue to make those mistakes, and then to seek out the wisdom of Churchill or Twain to get out of the mess, and to tell us we won’t be in such a mess ever again.

Image of Twain aboard ship – origin unknown. Image of Winston S. Churchill, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1941, copyright 1941 by Time Magazine.

More on Mark Twain

More on Winston Churchill

Orson Welles, with Dick Cavett, on Churchill, his wit, humor and grace (tip of the old scrub brush to the Churchill Centre):

Yeah, mostly this is an encore post from past years.

More, contemporary reports from 2012:

And in 2013:


Should you fly your flag today?  Congress doesn’t list this dual birthday as an event for flying the U.S. flag.  But you’re welcome to fly the flag any day.  Go ahead, if you want to.

If I get one, it will be the only cigar I’ve had this year. Or this decade.

I will break out the Scotch.

At a very minimum, click on some of the links and read the works of these two great writers. Nothing else today will be so profitable.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

December 2015, flag-flying days

November 28, 2015

Mural of Alexander Henson planting the American flag at North Pole, by Austin Mecklem, at the Recorder of Deeds building, built in 1943. 515 D St., NW, Washington, D.C. Library of Congress image

Mural of Alexander Henson planting the American flag at North Pole, by Austin Mecklem, at the Recorder of Deeds building, built in 1943. 515 D St., NW, Washington, D.C. Library of Congress image. Santa Claus may have been out of town when Henson was there.

November offers several flag flying days, especially in years when there is an election.

But December may be the month with the most flag-flying dates, when we include statehood days.

December 7 is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.  It’s not in the Flag Code, but public law (P.L. 103-308) urges that the president should issue a proclamation asking Americans to fly flags.

December 25 is Christmas Day, a federal holiday, and one of the score of dates designated in the Flag Code. If you watch your neighborhood closely, you’ll note even some of the most ardent flag wavers miss posting the colors on this day, as they do on Thanksgiving and New Years.

Other dates?

Nine states attained statehood in December, so people in those states should fly their flags (and you may join them).  Included in this group is Delaware, traditionally the “First State,” as it was the first colony to ratify the U.S. Constitution:

  • Illinois, December 3 (1818, 21st state)
  • Delaware, December 7 (1787, 1st state)
  • Mississippi, December 10 (1817, 20th state)
  • Indiana, December 11 (1816, 19th state)
  • Pennsylvania, December 12 (1787, 2nd state)
  • Alabama, December 14 (1819, 22nd state)
  • New Jersey, December 18 (1787, 3rd state)
  • Iowa, December 28 (1846, 29th state)
  • Texas, December 29 (1845, 28th state)

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, marking the day in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was declared ratified; but though this event generally gets a presidential proclamation, there is no law or executive action that requires flags to fly on that date, for that occasion.

Eleven flag-flying dates in December.  Does any other month have as many flag flying opportunities?

Have I missed any December flag-flying dates?  11 events on 10 days (Delaware’s statehood falls on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack).

Here’s a list of the days to fly the flag, under national law, in chronological order:

  1. Illinois, December 3 (1818, 21st state)
  2. Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7
  3. Delaware, December 7 (1787, 1st state) (shared with Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day)
  4. Mississippi, December 10 (1817, 20th state)
  5. Indiana, December 11 (1816, 19th state)
  6. Pennsylvania, December 12 (1787, 2nd state)
  7. Alabama, December 14 (1819, 22nd state)
  8. New Jersey, December 18 (1787, 3rd state)
  9. Christmas Day, December 25
  10. Iowa, December 28 (1846, 29th state)
  11. Texas, December 29 (1845, 28th state)

Fly your flag with respect to the flag, for the republic it represents, and for all those who sacrificed that it may wave on your residence.

Appropriate to a snowy December.

Appropriate to a snowy December. “The Barn on Grayson-New Hope Road. This barn with its old truck and ever-present American flag, is often the subject of photographs and paintings by the locals.” Photo and copyright by Melinda Anderson

Thanksgiving 2015 – Fly your flag today!

November 26, 2015

Mt. Timpanogos and the U.S. flag. Photo by Bob Walker of Orem, Utah; from Orem, circa September 2012. That's Mt. Baldy on the left. This site is about six miles from our old home in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Mt. Timpanogos and the U.S. flag. Photo by Bob Walker of Orem, Utah; from Orem, circa September 2012. That’s Mt. Baldy on the left. This site is about six miles from our old home in Pleasant Grove, Utah, where we celebrated a few dozen Thanksgivings.

Fly  your flag on Thanksgiving — it’s one of those dates Congress designated specially to fly the flag, in the U.S. flag code.

Americans load up this particular holiday with significance, often for no particular reason.  As a holiday, it is really rather uniquely American.  There were feasts of thanksgiving from time to time throughout recorded history, but most often they were one-shot affairs, after a particular event. Some of the first thanksgivings in America, by Europeans, predated the New England celebrations by a century or more (nachos and margaritas at Palo Duro!).

In America, Americans eagerly seized on the idea of one day set aside “to give thanks,” both with the religious overtones some wanted to see, and with the commercial overtones others wanted, especially during the Great Depression.  In our 239th year since the Declaration of Independence, the 226th year since the Constitution was enacted, we come to Thanksgiving as a major period of travel to old family homesteads, to Thanksgiving as a period of genuine thanks to American troops fighting in foreign lands half a world away, and as a commercial celebration that sucks the sobriety and spirituality out of all but the most dedicated of profiteers, or bargain hunters.

Vintage Thanksgiving greeting card, from HubPages

In the early 20th century, some people sent greeting cards for Thanksgiving; this is a tradition overtaken by Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years cards, today. (Image from HubPages, unknown year — credit for cards, “Images courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

Thanksgiving often stumbled into controversy.  George Washington issued proclamations calling for a day of thanks, but struck out all references to Christianity.  Some president’s issued similar proclamations up to the Civil War, When Abraham Lincoln used the holiday as a time to remind  Americans that they had a lot to be thankful for, partly as a means to keep Americans focused on the war to be won, and keep supporting troops in the field.  During the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt juggled dates for Thanksgiving, moving it earlier in November to create a longer Christmas shopping season, hoping to stimulate sales, and thereby push America further out of the Depression.

In 2001 George W. Bush urged Americans to go shopping so terrorists would know America was not defeated by the attack on the World Trade Center, knowing that a stimulus to the economy would help garner support for other policies.

Vintage thanksgiving card, Boy riding turkey with American flag, from HubPages, original date unknown

Children riding large turkeys, waving American flags, made popular images in several years of the early 20th century.

2012 saw controversy over Big Box stores and other major, national retailers pushing their post- Thanksgiving, Christmas sales, into Thanksgiving day itself.  Is this fair to employees?  Is this too much emphasis on purchasing, and too little emphasis on family and giving thanks?

In 2014, we had the same arguments about Big Box stores pushing “Black Friday” into the holiday, and even more arguments about Christmas creep reducing the importance of Thanksgiving to Americans. In 2015, REI announced their stores would be closed on Black Friday, and urged Americans to go outdoors for recreation. “Ditch the malls and head for the hills,” Time Magazine said.  REI is on to somehitng.

You can be sure of one thing:  It’s safe to fly your American flag on Thanksgiving, as Congress suggested.  It won’t make your turkey more moist  or your pumpkin pie taste any better.  It won’t boost your sales, if you’re a retailer, nor find you a bargain, if you’re a shopper.

If you have the flag, it costs nothing.  Flying the flag makes no particular religious statement, supports no particular political party, supports no one’s favorite football team.  Flying the flag earns you nothing, usually.

But as a free act of patriotism, support for our nation, and our troops, and a demonstration that even after a divisive election, we’re all one nation, it’s a pretty good deal.

Fly your flag today.


Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

With fondness, wishing it were true in 2015: Remembering “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving” by Thomas Nast, 1869

November 25, 2015

November 1869, in the first year of the Grant administration — and Nast put aside his own prejudices enough to invite the Irish guy to dinner, along with many others.

With a nation whose emotions are raw from events in Ferguson, Missouri, and Paris, France, and rejections of desperate refugees from was being rejected in their calls for asylum, could there be a better, more timely reminder of what we’re supposed to be doing?

(Click for a larger image — it’s well worth it.)

Thomas Nast's "Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving," 1869 - Ohio State University's cartoon collection

Thomas Nast’s “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving,” 1869 – Ohio State University’s cartoon collection, and HarpWeek

As described at the Ohio State site:

“Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner” marks the highpoint of Nast’s Reconstruction-era idealism. By November 1869 the Fourteenth Amendment, which secures equal rights and citizenship to all Americans, was ratified. Congress had sent the Fifteenth Amendment, which forbade racial discrimination in voting rights, to the states and its ratification appeared certain. Although the Republican Party had absorbed a strong nativist element in the 1850s, its commitment to equality seemed to overshadow lingering nativism, a policy of protecting the interests of indigenous residents against immigrants. Two national symbols, Uncle Sam and Columbia, host all the peoples of the world who have been attracted to the United States by its promise of self-government and democracy. Germans, African Americans, Chinese, Native Americans, Germans, French, Spaniards: “Come one, come all,” Nast cheers at the lower left corner.

One of my Chinese students identified the Oriental woman as Japanese, saying it was “obvious.” Other friends say both are Chinese.  Regional differences.  The figure at the farthest right is a slightly cleaned-up version of the near-ape portrayal Nast typically gave Irishmen.

If Nast could put aside his biases to celebrate the potential of unbiased immigration to the U.S. and the society that emerges, maybe we can, too.

Hope your day is good; hope you have good company and good cheer, turkey or not. Happy Thanksgiving.  And of course, remember to fly your flag!

More: Earlier posts from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

And in 2013:

Yes, if you’re a faithful reader here, you’ve seen it before.

WordPress glitches

November 25, 2015

Apologies, Dear Reader: WordPress is glitching. The usual list of important articles, just below the masthead, has disappeared.  I’ve got no notice on it, and it appears the WordPress “help” button may also be missing from some editing screens.

See the blank line below the masthead? It's supposed to list important articles for first-time visitors, and for me.

Something’s missing. See the blank line below the masthead? It’s supposed to list important articles for first-time visitors, and for me.

Stick with us while we try to track down some solution.

WordPress is an admirable host, and easy to use for blogging. I have no reason to complain often — but I wish I could figure out how to fix this.

Muslims carrying special IDs challenge Trump to show his

November 22, 2015

Tweet showing several Muslims serving in U.S. military, in response to calls for Muslims to get "special ID" or be tracked on a "special registry."

Tweet showing several Muslims serving in U.S. military, in response to calls for Muslims to get “special ID” or be tracked on a “special registry.”

Donald Trump keeps talking about a “registry” of Muslims, and forcing them to carry “special identification.”

Several Muslims have taken to Twitter and other social media to note they ALREADY DO carry special ID, and wondering, where is Trump’s?

According to Trump, he performed his military service at a special facility along the Hudson River, before he was 18 — pranking people.


See also:

And be sure you see this:

Wisdom: How to tell your classroom technology helps

November 21, 2015

This is much an encore post from a couple of years ago.

Wise man Alfie Kohn Tweeted a photo of this list by Bill Ferriter. I’d blogged about it before.

It’s still solid, and most school administrators still miss the point. Teachers get sent to courses to “learn to do a PowerPoint,” but rarely can anyone leading those courses tell when to use a PowerPoint, or Keynote, and when a simple list on a chalkboard/whiteboard is more effective, or perhaps when having students copy a list would be more effective, or when students making a poem/song/poster of a point would be more effective.

An international law firm recently directed that it’s army of a couple thousand lawyers would, henceforth, use Prezi instead of PowerPoint.  Nevermind that the lawyers hadn’t mastered PowerPoint and don’t have a clue what to do with Prezi: Some “managing co-partner” was taken in by the swoops of Prezi.  More than four years ago I learned Prezi at a technology course for technologies my district later decided not to support (money, use, lack of internet connections, etc., etc. — I suspected a lack of planning and thinking about how technology could be used).  In the course, I asked the instructor how to tell when to use Prezi instead of PowerPoint — and how to embed YouTube videos for classroom use of a Prezi.  After working for too long, we decided we couldn’t figure out how to embed videos, and so PowerPoint might be more useful.  Then the instructor confessed he didn’t know how to embed videos in PowerPoint, either.

Let alone, when does a video work better than other instructional methods?  Long or short? Notes, quiz, or oral feedback?

Many Texas districts struggle to teach “keyboarding” to students who have difficulty printing notes, letter by letter, because they don’t know cursive writing (and therefore, cannot read their teachers’ comments on their written work).

Is “integrating technology” really the problem?

Anyway, here’s Mr. Ferriter’s list, a checklist to tell whether you’re getting close to actually using technology, or whether you’re just ringing the bells and tooting the whistles of machines on the desks.

Cheat Sheet: What do you want kids to do with technology? By Bill Ferriter

Cheat Sheet: What do you want kids to do with technology? By Bill Ferriter The Tempered Radical blog.williamferriter.com @plugusin


What do you want kids to do with technology?

Wrong answers Right answers
·         Make Prezis ·         Raise awareness
·         Start blogs ·         Start conversations
·         Create Wordles ·         Find answers
·         Publish Animotos ·         (Answers to
THEIR questions)
·         Design flipcharts ·         Join partners
·         Post to EdModo ·         Make a difference
·         Use Whiteboard ·         Take action
·         Develop apps ·         Drive change

Technology is a tool,
NOT a learning outcome


“Technology is a tool, not a learning outcome,” Bill Ferriter says.  He’s right, of course.

Tip of the old scrub brush to April Niemela@AprilJNiemela.

Alfie Kohn’s Tweet:

More, generally:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


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