Thursday, February 15, 2018

HAPPY YEAR OF THE DOG | Good Luck Year, But Not for Trump

Happy Chinese New Year!
It will be the Year of the Dog in the zodiac calendar. It is the Year of the Earth Dog. (The twelve years of the zodiac cycle within a larger 48-year cycle governed by the four ancient elements, fire, water, earth, air, similar to the length of the Kondratiev cycle.)
This can be a lucky year, because the dog is loyal. But it is an unlucky year for those born in a prior Year of the Dog.
Donald Trump was born in such a prior year, 1946 (he, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were born within three months of each other).

Those who take the feng shui of the zodiac calendar seriously are predicting that Trump will have bad luck in this year, from February 16, 2018 through the beginning of the next year in February 2019, which will start the year of the pig.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

BIRTHDAYS | March 2018 (Children's Book Authors)

Women's History Books for Kids

2 - Dr. Seuss, 1896-1991
3 - Erik Blegvad, 1923-2014 - Patricia MacLachlan, 1938
4 - David A. Carter, 1957 - Peggy Rathman, 1953
5 - Mem Fox, 1946 - Howard Pyle, 1853
6 - Sid Fleischman, 1920 - Chris Raschka, 1959
8 - Peter Roop, 1951 - Robert Sabuda, 1965 - Kenneth Grahame, 1859 - International Women's Day
9 - Margot Apple, 1946
11 - Peter Sis, 1949
12 - Marguerite De Angeli, 1889 - Virginia Hamilton, 1934 - Carl Hiaasen, 1953
13 - Diane Dillon, 1933 - Death of Claire Huchet Bishop, 1993 (b. 1899, date unknown).
St Patrick's Day is March 17
15 - Ruth White, 1942 - Heidi Whitaker
17 - Penelope Lively, 1933 - Patrick McDonnell, 1956 - Wendell Minor, 1944 – St Patrick's Day (during the month before this date, a special discount is offered to previous Boissevain Books customers; you should have received an email about this on Feb. 17 or 18)
18 - Douglas Florian, 1950
20 - Mitsumasa Anno, 1926 - Lois Lowry, 1937 - Bill Martin Jr., 1916 - Louis Sachar, 1954
21 - David Wisniewski, 1953
22 - Randolph Caldecott, 1846
26 - Betty McDonald, 1908
27 - Dick King-Smith, 1922 - Patricia C. Wrede, 1953
30 - Anna Sewell, 1820

Boissevain Books LLC is a publishing company created by the six children of Hilda van Stockum – five of them (Olga, Brigid, Randal, John and Elisabeth) alive at the end of December 2017, Sheila having sadly died on September 25, 2017 in Watford, UK. The primary mission of Boissevain Books is to keep Hilda van Stockum's 25 award-winning books for children available for purchase and remembered after her death in 2006.

Other Months of Birthdays of Writers4Kids: February 2018 January 2018 . December 2017 .  November 2017.  October 2017 .  September 2017 . August 2017 . July 2017 .  June 2017 . May 2017 . April 2017 . March 2017 . February 2017

All original content in this post © 2006-2018 by Boissevain Books LLC.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Denis at our house in Vero. He calls this our national security
strategy meeting. He was born in India. His father was a
British Army Brigadier. Denis served in the U.S. Army.
Products of the English Benedictine Congregation had several mini-reunions in Vero Beach, Florida this past week.

First we had a formal lunch reunion, about 30 people, at the Moorings Club, south of Vero Beach, kindly sponsored by alumni members of the club. 

Several representatives of Portsmouth Abbey School visited, including the incumbent headmaster, as part of an annual tour of retired Portsmouth alumni in Florida. The tour usually takes in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach as well as Vero Beach.  
We were joined by the family dog, Hachikō.
Denis holds on to a palm leaf to restrict its growth.

I attended the event in 2015 and again last year when relatives of the late Fr. Damian Kearney were there who reside in the Vero Beach area.  

A few days later, I had a visit from Robert Denis Ambrose, who was known as Bob at Portsmouth and as Denis at home and currently. 

Denis was at Portsmouth for the two academic years 1953-1955, first in the Barn, headed then by Fr Bede, and then at St Bede's House, where the housemaster was Fr Hilary. Denis says he has fond memories of these years. He remembers also Fr Aelred ("Barney") Wall and the Associate Headmaster, Cecil Acheson, from Ampleforth.
We looked over the potential attendance list for the Portsmouth
Class of 1958 60th Reunion, planned for Newport, Sept. 28.

Denis then transferred to Ampleforth College, at St Wilfred's House. He told me it was a bit of a shock to go from the more laid-back environment of Portsmouth to Ampleforth. 

Denis recalls many moments of his time at Ampleforth, and personalities such as Regimental Sergeant Major Hennessy, Father Julian, the swimming coach and the teas after swimming meets, especially the away matches where the teas were a schoolboy's dream. 

Denis was taken aback by the number of rules at Ampleforth, many more than at Portsmouth, and the fact that they were effectively enforced. Boys were not allowed to eat candy bars on public streets, for example, and were forbidden to sit on radiators.

He has strong memories of his study of history at Ampleforth. He says that one theme that recurred was: "England's foreign policy is and has been about maintaining the 'balance of power'." 

(My own recollection is studying the Wars of the Roses to death. I learned that a red rose of Lancaster does not smell as sweet as a white one of Yorkshire.)

England may no longer rule the waves, but that doesn't mean it will now Waive the Rules. The central heating in British schools and universities, he thinks, is still not turned on till late November. He likes a book by Jeremy Paxman, The English

Despite the rigors of the English classroom and plumbing, Denis believes, both Ampleforth and Portsmouth hold out a model of peace and tolerance, the Benedictine way of life, that is a worthy one to follow.
L to R: Denis, John, Bill.
After three years serving in the US Army, Denis trained as a civil engineer, spending several years designing bridges and obtaining a Professional Engineering License. 

Subsequently he obtained a bachelors degree in business from the University of Pittsburgh and an MBA from Lebanon Valley College. He was engaged in economic feasibility studies and valuation studies for water and wastewater projects including certifications for bond issues and rate covenants and presentation of testimony before regulatory agencies.  He still provides consulting services on a limited basis. 

The same summer of 1955 in which Denis was heading across the Atlantic from Portsmouth to Ampleforth, I was going the other way. 

I found the transition relatively painless. I had been at Gilling Castle and the Junior House at Ampleforth College for three years.
The academic environment at Ampleforth was austere, Old School... My brother was in the upper school and used to visit me with the late Johnny Encombe, who also had a younger brother at Gilling.

L to R: John (pushing back on a fast-growing Bougainvillea), Bill and Denis.
I started learning Greek at Gilling Castle as well as continuing Latin and French. Our ancient history teacher, Fr Bruno, gave us vivid descriptions, which have stayed with me more than 60 years, of the Battles of Marathon, Salamis and Thermopylae.

Denis stayed with us in Vero for a few days, during which time we paid a visit nearby to Bill (Gregory) Floyd, Portsmouth '57 and former Abbey headmaster. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

WOODIN(G) | Did Will Woodin's British Ancestors Bear Arms?

If you search online for the name Woodin or Wooding (which sometimes seem to have been used interchangeably in the 17th century in Britain and the United States), you will find Coats of Arms attributed to them. I found them and sought advice from William Hunt, former Windsor Herald of the College of Arms. I sent him three designs of Arms attributed to Woodin(g) in which the dominant charges are Pheons, Owls, and Roses. All three employ chevrons, which suggests that this is the common theme among Woodin(g)s.

Pheons. A phone is a barbed arrowhead, which can have its points up or down. The first looks as though it would be blazoned: "Sable a Chevron Argent between three Pheons Argent points upwards Sable" and the historical background below the Arms says it is in Burke's General Armory in 1884.

Hunt, who after retirement in 2017 is now research assistant to John Petrie, Rouge Croix Poursuivant, looked for a record of grants of the claimed Arms and found none. His report to me on this design is that Arms looking like this were confirmed, but not to anyone named Woodin(g).
[It] was confirmed to William Sulyard of Eye at the Visitation of Suffolk in 1561 (G7.24b). [Blazoned with a different tincture, "Argent a Chevron Gules..."]
Hunt did a thorough search and found no arms for Woodin(g) except for a recent (1994) grant to a Wooding.
I have checked our records and can report that there has been no confirmation or grant of Arms to someone of this name [before 1994]. I have checked the grants made in Scotland before 1972, and there is none there either. We have photographs of the Arms granted and pedigrees recorded in the Ulster Office, which was the heraldic authority under the British Crown 1552-1943. Despite what Burke’s General Armory says, there is no reference to this name there either. 
Owls and Roses. In addition, I sent two designs featuring owls and roses. Both have been attributed to a Woodin(g). One was blazoned "Gules a Chevron between three Owls Argent" (below, left) and the other featured roses (below, right):

The response on these two designs was equally negative:
[The design] with the owls [was confirmed] to Sir Samuel Sleigh at the Visitation of Derbyshire in 1662 (C34.4b) and the one with the roses was confirmed at the Visitation of Norfolk in 1563 as the unidentified 4th quarter in the Arms of Mary, one of the heirs of Henry Bures of Acton co Suffolk, who was married to Thomas Barow of Wynthorpe co Lincolnshire (G1.25). As you are no doubt aware, a difference in colour is not a difference as far as the Laws of Arms are concerned, as a design must be unique when seen in black and white or on stone, silver, etc.
Too bad. The upshot is that if the Woodin family wants a coat of arms, it will have to design one anew and have it registered, possibly borrowing from the 1994 Arms that have been granted to Mr. Wooding.

[The link for this post is]

Monday, December 25, 2017

MEXICO | Christmas in Navidad, Mexico

We are staying on the Bahía de Manzanillo.
Yesterday we went up to the Barra de Navidad.
Manzanillo, Mexico, Christmas (Navidad), 2017 – Alice and I celebrated yesterday by driving through the culebra (snake) of a Colima coastline that ends in Barra de Navidad (Christmas Sandbar), in Jalisco.

We played tennis and had lunch at the Grand Isla Navidad. The tennis-court base is a mat covered with loose clay. It works well in the Mexican climate.

Tennis on a mat with loose clay at Grand Isla
Navidad. Photo of us by Juan, the tennis pro.
Christmas in Mexico is a three-week festival. Before Christmas are Los Posadas – the days of The Inns, commemorating the traveling of Mary and Joseph from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for the Census. 

It must have a been a busy time for the innkeepers of Jerusalem, and doubtless they were charging a Census Premium to make sure that the well-off had ample options. It's no wonder Joseph had trouble finding a room in his price range.

(Los Posadas are in addition to the better-known 12 Days after Christmas, ending on January 6, the Epiphany, when the visit of the Wise Men, the Magi, is celebrated.)

In remembrance of the Holy Family, children in these parts go around to different homes. Each is a posada for the evening. The kids are given candles and a board with a painted-clay figure of Mary on a donkey and Joseph walking alongside.

They walk around the streets with this board and call at the houses of neighbors, singing a song about Joseph and Mary asking for a room in the house.

At each house, the children get the message that there is no room, and they must go away. Only at the end of the evening do they eventually reach the posada where they are welcomed. At this home they say prayers of thanks for the birth of the Savior and then they celebrate with food, games and fireworks.

A favorite game is with the piñata, a decorated clay or papier-mâché donkey (or bird) filled with sweets and hung from a tree or ceiling. Sometimes it is in the shape of a ball with spikes representing the seven deadly sins. Children are blind-folded and take turns hitting the piñata with a stick until it splits and the candy spills out. The climax of celebrations is on Christmas Eve, when a manger and sheep and  shepherds are added to the board. When the welcoming posada is reached, a baby Jesus is put into the manger and then families go to Midnight Mass, the Misa de Gallo – Mass of the Rooster.

It's called that maybe to signify that only the roosters are awake by the time they get home.

Or maybe because all four evangelists reported that (1) Jesus predicted that his apostle (St) Peter would deny knowing him before the cock crowed and (2) Peter did exactly that. After the Mass, more fireworks celebrate the start of Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

BIRTHDAY | John F. Karl

John Karl gets ready to blow out the
candle on his cake.
Yesterday I attended the birthday party of a great lawyer and good friend, John F. Karl.

The crowd of well-wishers, many of them from the extended Karl family, assembled in Washington, D.C.

There were several of us from the New York City area and some from as far away as California.

He succeeds.
The birthday cake featured John as a young man destined for success. 

His handsome portrait also appeared on a tee shirt that he spread out proudly over his tuxedo and red bow tie.
John as a handsome youth.

Mrs. Karl, the effervescent  Tyna Coles, cut the cake with energy and dispatch. Everyone had enough, and more, of tasty food and quality beverages.

Tyna cuts the cake.
I met some interesting new people. We talked about the Civil War and related battlefields, the Spy Museum in Washington and George Washington's under- appreciated role as spymaster of the American Revolution, the return of subprime housing paper to the marketplace, the worrisome growth of the value of cryptocurrency and other signs of a bubble, the problems facing Federal Reserve supervisors and policymakers, the Borgia family in Italy and the Mexican Riviera.

The tasty desserts included éclairs. I got to discussing the origin of the word éclair as the name of a pastry.

The 70th birthday tee shirt.
An éclair pastry is of course a hot-dog-roll-sized pastry filled with custard or whipped cream and usually covered on the top with chocolate or coffee icing. 

But why is it named after the French word for a flash of lightning?

The consensus of people with whom I spoke at the party supported my derivation:
"An éclair is French for a 'lightning flash'. A hot-dog-roll size pastry filled with custard or cream is called an éclair because, if left on a table, a lightning flash is its expected half-life."
Alice and I were grateful for being invited to this heart-warming event in honor of a man who has done more effective advocacy for individual workers than anyone else we know.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

LORD OF THE RINGS | Listen Again to Sam's Speech to Frodo

Sam (L) and Frodo in a Difficult Time
A message for us from J.R.R. Tolkien


It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really matter: full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes, you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was, with so much bad happening? 

But in the end, it is only a passing thing. The shadows – even darkness – must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine all the clearer. 

Those are the stories that stayed with you — that meant something – even if you were too small to understand why. 

But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back. Only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding onto something.


What are we holding onto, Sam?


That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for!

To toast to J.R.R. Tolkien during the holiday season, or especially on his birthday, January 3, the Tolkien Society advises that you be upstanding and hold your glass in your right hand (if you are right-handed) and say two words: "The Professor". An alcoholic beverage is not required; if your beverage is alcoholic, do not drink to excess or in contravention of any law.

*Sam's Speech is from the end of The Two Towers, Part Two of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. A clip is here: Sam's Speech re-posted with thanks from a post by Andy Schmookler.