2nd book finished of 2010
It’s been a year for starting books – I had 2 mysteries going at my parents’ house and left them both there. But when I got home I decided to finish off my bedroom book – Stalin and His Hangment: the tyrant and those who killed for him, Donald Rayfield. Yeah, yeah – not great reading for the winter, but a friend gave it to me when he was leaving Geneva this fall, and I’ve been reading a bit here and there.
I’m not all that interested in Stalin, but I’ve read most of Solzhenitsyn and am fascinated by the systematization of evil in the 20th Century. Is it bureaucracy that lets us pull it off? I think so. I think that Henry VIII was a complete totalitarian, but he couldn’t pull it off with the resources he had. Diocletian certainly was, but without modern communications he just couldn’t do what he liked.
The portrait of Beria is especially creepy. Not recommended for winter reading – save it for brighter weather.

Embrace the Winter!

Embrace the Winter!

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

This will be my first winter in Geneva since 2007 (Rome 2008, then Freiburg 2009). Thursday and Friday were pretty grim – I was starting to feel a little trapped on Thursday and Friday. Luckily yesterday and today have been very sunny and Currier and Ives looking.

I bought snowshoes yesterday and went tromping through the woods and around the cemetery behind Houghton House. I feel very much not cooped up!

Nazi Loot for Christmas

The first book I finished in the new year was The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. Quite a good survey of the northern European campaign to save and return Europe’s treasures.
The author did a good job of weaving Nazi documents into the story – and the ‘dramatizations’ were all worthwhile. I recognized the names of most of the Monument Men – they were mainly mid-century famous art historians. The most important to me was James Rorimer, a medievalist who ended up as director of the Met.
The most interesting person, though, was Rose Valland, a staffer at the Jeu de Paumes who tracked Nazi looting thoroughly enough to steer Rorimer to the right salt mines in Germany to find things looted from Jewish collections.

Acts of God. Or Fate. Or whatever.

There is some chance that Justice Kennedy might be say, injured in a tennis accident and wake up thinking, “Maybe . . . I should . . . just . . . follow the law! Yeah, that’s it! I mean, who died and made me king?” But probably not. I’m not holding my breath.

That’s Prof. Smith at the Right Coast thinking about whether the Supreme Court might possibly think about the constitutionality of Obamacare – and deciding that, no, Our Lord does not work in those ways.

One of the greatest modern inventions – refrigeration!

Something I lived without for 44 hours.
So Monday I’m in the Fedex/Kinkos store shipping Christmas gifts back to myself and my phone rings. It’s the landlord’s son – and he’s grateful that I’m alive and answering my phone.
You see, there’s a horrible smell coming from my apartment.
NOT that he’s opened the door to see if I’m lying there on the floor decaying, but still.
So I assure him that I’ll be home by 9:30 p.m. When I walk in the smell is – um – like burned brussel sprouts. Despite the 14 degree outdoor temperature (welcome back to Upstate New York!) I open a few windows. I make 3 trips to the dumpster with the fridge/freezer contents (welcome back to Upstate New York!). There wasn’t much in the fridge, but the freezer was packed with meat; I’m a good shopper! Luckily the Wegman’s airtight packs hadn’t burst – though they were all fully inflated and pillow-like. All the ziplock bags and plastic freezer boxes of leftovers, though, had popped open and spewed. And rotted in the heat.
You see, the machine wasn’t dead and sitting there at ambient temperature – it was running hot.
I cleared the freezer and called Nick. He promised to have me a fridge the next day. The next day I called him. And again. And another time. Today I called again. And half an hour after the promised delivery time. And texted. And finally got a brand new Whirlpool at about 5:45.
And while I was in the hall watching Nick and his brother manhandle the fridge all the way down to Apartment Thirteen I checked my email – and found out that we have been approved for Rome 2011. Yay!

Tales of the Deluge

University of Illinois – mandatory furlough for 11,000 employees.

Faculty and academic professional staff will take four furlough days – a temporary leave of absence without pay – between the four pay dates of Feb. 16 and May 16. Monthly pay will be reduced by one day for each of the four payroll periods. The president, chancellors and other senior administrators will take 10 furlough days between February and June pay dates. Their pay will be reduced by two days each month during the five-month period.


The University of Illinois has received only seven percent ($51 million) of its state appropriation since the start of the 2010 fiscal year in July 2009. The amount owed to the university is $436 million as of Dec. 31 and increasing each month