Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Doomsday clock ticks

It's not a great week for print journalism.

Although I can't find any direct mention of this on the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) Web site, Editor & Publisher reports that the respected daily is dropping its daily print edition in favour of online reporting. The 100-year-old CSM will print a weekend magazine to accompany the Web site.

The CSM will host a webcast next week on the future of journalism which will no doubt go into great detail concerning the switch.

Newsweek, meanwhile, has announced a first-half drop in net income of 73%, thanks to an 18% drop in ad sales and lower ad rates due to a reduction in readership of about 15%.

Newsweek's primary competitor, Time, is laying off 600 people, about 6% of its workers. Magazine publishing house Conde Nast is reducing budgets by 5% across the board.

Feel free to start reading the Magazine Death Pool.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

There's a freaking inch of snow on the ground

When did that happen?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Nice day for a white wedding

Children Two and Three arrived home from school at 4:25 Friday, which is normal for their schedule, and we finalized preparations for a family drive down to Connecticut for my cousin's wedding.

Google Maps warned us the drive from Montreal to Stamford, Conn. would take six hours and nine minutes. It took us about an hour longer because of traffic leading to the Champlain Bridge and a stop for gas and food.

We rolled in to our hotel around 12:30, unloaded, unpacked, and got to bed. As I get older, I dislike long drives more and more but I was consoled by the fact that I wasn't my sister, who would leave Toronto in just a few hours and roll in to the hotel 12 hours later.

We had a seedling of a plan to spend the day in New York City with my brothers, sister-in-law, baby nephew, and quite possibly a girlfriend (although I'm not sure of that status). The morning was spent greeting family and nurturing our plans. By noon, we knew we'd take the train to Grand Central Station instead of driving, but some of us wanted to head to the AMNH while others were more interested in heading south, specifically to the Statue of Liberty. The train guy and some locals helped us decide that we didn't have enough time to take the ferry to the statue.

Once in Manhattan, we walked near Times Square and found some lunch - shish kebabs from a cart for most of us, pizza from a place without wheels for the mincingly discriminating.

My gang all decided to head for the AMNH - surprise - along with my youngest brother and his girlfriend/not. I think he got frustrated by the line, and finally lost patience when a guard told him he couldn't take in his tripod, so he joined my other younger brother and family walking around the neighbourhood.

We didn't have time to see the entire museum. We spent the two hours we had on the fourth floor (pics here), which by the way is run by Mark Norell, who was hanging out as a post-doc when I was in my first year of my Ph.D. program at Yale. I was never sweaty and naked on a beach in winter with him, which is not something I can say about another head curator, the guy in charge at the DMNS (pics not known to exist).

We found seats on the 5:37 express to Stamford - rather, we thought we had. At 5:31, an intercom announced that the train we were on was not an express. The express was two tracks over, scheduled to leave at 5:34. We ran down the pier of Track 19 and got to the first car on Track 21 and ran into my brothers. There were no seats available, so the five of us leapfrogged cars to get to emptier cars. We found seats and settled in after I kicked Child Three in the nuts, pretty much accidentally.

That night, we drove up the many faces of Route 1 for an out-of-towners meal at Portchester. Practically everybody attending the wedding was an out-of-towner. The happy couple live in Manhattan, but the rest of their families live in Montreal and Toronto, with spikes in Houston, Scottsdale, and Israel, and others here and there.

I didn't get much sleep that night. A ventilation fan outside our room kept contributing white noise, but every once in a while it or something else would power up and sound like a turbojet. I had a headache, too. Surprisingly, the five lichee martinis hadn't helped.

The wedding was a success, helped by the calm, pleasant day. Our day in New York was gray, gusty, and a bit drizzly. It was held in Greenwich, Conn. and not in Mianus. How come I've never heard about that place before?

The groom employed the classic "fornication/for an occasion" pun to start his wedding speech, my youngest brother danced like Samwell, and a cousin from Holland gave a moving speech about his relationship with the bride's late father, my uncle.

Elvi volunteered to drive the entire way home, and I felt so drowsy, I let her. Our drives were eased by an iPod FM tuner I'd bought a few weeks ago, and by my Clubbery and my Top Tunes playlists. It sure beats trying to find a decent radio station, or talking.

After waking up at noon today, I snagged myself a pair of jobs, one a short-term Mac consulting gig and the other a paid script consulting job. Neither job will keep me in caviar or even taramosalata, but they beat a kick in the nuts, or even a kick in your kid's nuts, I'm sure.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hockey twists

Child Three is in Novice B this year. So is the other goalie I thought he was competing with. The Novice A team pulled out a dark horse and is using that kid in net.

I had thought that Child Three in Novice B would mean that I'd be a head coach, but for reasons I can't quite fathom, that didn't happen. I'm an assistant coach this year. The head of Novice selected one of last year's Novice C head coaches ahead of me. Really, I can't figure that out - but I'm not raising a ruckus over it because that wouldn't change anything and could make things a whole lot worse for the kids. It's just a label, and it means I don't have to do a lot of the off-ice crap while still being able to contribute my 37 years of hockey experience.

Still, I can whine here, can't I?

Bonus Googlewhack:

A Googlewhack is a search term that results in a unique search result: one and only one page in Google's database shows up as a search result for that term or phrase. (By the way, Elvi and I saw Dave Gorman in Dave Gorman's GoogleWhack Adventure as part of Just for Laughs a few years ago.)

I discovered that I own a Googlewhack. The nature of the phenomenon is such that you can't mention the search term on a second Web page without destroying the Googlewhackness, but I can tell you here that the term in question means "moose cock" in German and can be found in 101 here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Update to 319

In my lectures, I touch on the point that news needs to be new and important (for whatever definition of that which applies) in order to be news. You never read about fender benders on the highway, but if a truck gets into an accident and releases a load of livestock, that will make the news.

The same considerations hold true in the peer-reviewed scientific journals. If a scientist devotes research time to whacking volunteers with a hockey stick, and concludes that this whacking causes bruises, the resulting paper is not likely to get published because the journals want to use their limited space for more important work.

Yes, these are ridiculously overblown examples, and so is the banana example I talk about in class, but I hope it helps to illustrate the principle. The important corollary is that this is, in fact, a bias. Scientific journals only accept papers with new and important conclusions but studies that reach wrong conclusions are more likely to appear to be novel than studies that conform to conventional wisdom - and so they are more likely to make print.

That's subtle, but it looks like it's a real phenomenon. In fact, there's a peer-reviewed paper on it (go get a coffee, tea, or beer to help your brain recover from this paradox). The Economist has an article with analysis in a level of sophistication falling in between my few paragraphs and the original paper.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Uneventful weekend

It's been a while since I wrote a note, but the mundane forces of life have been clawing at me. A lot of it is driving kids here and there, and the rest isn't much more exciting than that, although Saturday provided some muted highlights. We hosted the managing editor of comment at the National Post and his family in the morning. He and Elvi went to university together and he recognized me because we used to play in the same softball league. We discovered another common hobby, wargaming, and I introduced him to my archaic favourite, Combat Mission: Afrika Korps. In the afternoon, the wife, Child Three, and I attended a Geek Out and played a few hands of Naval War.

Just as I have for last 25 years, with one or two exceptions, I missed this week's broadcast of Saturday Night Live, but it's up for sharing now and Sarah Palin (the real one) makes Alec Baldwin look wooden. In his defense, he had more lines to read off the teleprompter. And I love the random llama in the background.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My election day

I woke at 7:00 a.m. to the clock-radio I'd set the night before. I had to be at the church in Montreal West but first I had to hustle Child One out of bed (the other two kids had no school) and shower. I thought about shaving, but I didn't put my contacts in. I can't see to shave the right side of my face without the contact lens in my right eye and once I was in the water I wasn't getting out.

The trainer Saturday had warned us that we needed food for the whole day. The polls schedule no breaks. That meant lunch, supper, and snacks. Monday night, I built myself a sandwich of turkey, mayo, and pepper jelly on a whole-wheat baguette. I also packed two cans of Coke Zero, two apples, two snack bars, a tube of yogurt, and a small container of sweet-potato casserole. I needed to use two lunch bags. I also took the Gazette, three books, a notebook, and an iPod - for the slow periods.

I lifted my shoulder bag with my food and entertainment, picked up the ballot box stuffed with poll supplies, and went to my van in the driveway. I'm positive that I left the cardboard voting screen print side down in the back seat since picking it up Saturday, and that I hadn't used the van since, but the screen now rested on the floor and sported a few dirty shoe prints. I'm still stumped. My car was locked. On one occasion when I'd forgotten to lock the car, it had been ransacked and some spare change stolen, but that was obvious: open compartments, drawers, etc., and the car was unlocked. I have no idea who pushed the screen off the back seat but otherwise left my interior pristine - and locked the doors behind them.

I puzzled over that for minute, then drove to the church in Montreal West to work.

Despite the two hours of training and that I did indeed familiarize myself with the materials the night before, as required, I still felt the slight uneasiness of someone doing something for the first time as I set up Poll Station 130, which is a prideful name for two guys and two pieces of elaborately folded cardboard. My poll clerk had done this before, which helped, but this was my kingdom for the day.

Canadians know the process. The deputy returning officer (DRO; that's me) greets you and asks for ID, which can be a single piece with address and photo or two pieces, one with an address. The poll clerk looks up the voter (which we officially call an elector) by name on the electoral list and normally, name and address on the list match the ID. If they do, the DRO approves the elector for a vote and hands over a folded ballot. The elector goes behind the screen, unfolds the ballot, votes, folds it up again, and brings the ballot to the DRO, who rips off a stub with that ballot's serial number (called a counterfoil). The DRO hands the ballot to the elector, who drops it in the ballot box. The DRO keeps all the counterfoils in a plastic bag as a double check on the ballot count.

Polls opened at 9:30 and by noon, 60 people had voted at our station. We'd already encountered most of the typical problems. We had people who hadn't registered to vote but filled out a form that would let them. We had people without sufficient ID, who were able to vote after another elector eligible to vote at our station took an oath that they were eligible (and were in formed of the penal consequences of a false oath). We had folks who had misspelled names, or IDs with maiden names and voting registration with a married name. Some voters had transfer forms, indicating that they could vote at my station even though they were registered somewhere else in the riding.

It wasn't too tough, but it wasn't mind-numbing work either. We had stretches of time with nothing to do, so we read my paper or went to the bathroom. We couldn't go far, because the poll station cannot operate with only one worker present, and we never knew when an elector or six would show up.

Our church polling site had six polling stations set up. The flow for each varied by more than you'd imagine. Some were busy in the afternoon while we had it easier. Our big rush started at 5:30 and lasted more than an hour.

Some voters are quick. They go behind the booth, you hear them slam the pencil down, and they're handing you the ballot ten seconds later. Others think more back there, but none took more than, oh, 45 seconds. The process at best was taking about three minutes per standard transaction, and the bottleneck was finding the elector on the list. Of course, non-standard situations took longer, and some of these people have been waiting in line for a quarter hour or more during busy parts of the day.

All in all, we had a successful day. Of the 239 electors to visit my station, four left with corrections to their voter registration (I could have filled out more if I'd been more diligent), six registered on-site, six required another elector to vouch for them, and two had transfer forms. All but two left without raising their voices. But those two....

The first unhappy customer was listed on our poll list as having voted in an advance poll. There's nothing I can do in that case. He simply cannot vote, even if the list is in error - which he vociferously argued it was. He left, mumbling that another vote for Marlene Jennings (the Liberal candidate) wasn't going to make a difference.

Our second angry man was a father in his 30s, I guess, who had come with his wife and baby. The wife voted first, and her ID was fine. They had only recently moved, however, and this man had no ID with his current address. I had already handed him his ballot - a poor assumption on my part that if his wife checked out, he would, too. When I told him he couldn't yet vote, he got mad. I tried to explain that he could vote once he and his wife took an oath, but he said it was a waste of time and tore up his ballot in rage. (Elvi's chuckling now because I once got similarly mad at a customs agent who wouldn't let me inform my father-in-law that our bags were missing and we'd be late out of the baggage claim. I crumpled or tore something - tickets, or a customs form maybe.)

The man stormed out. I retrieved his torn ballot and put it in my spoiled-ballot envelope.

Both upset customers were right about their votes lacking impact. Our riding has voted Liberal for 50 years, and it did again yesterday by a healthy margin.

Our poll closed at 9:30 p.m. and we cleared our table. I counted the ballots as my poll clerk tallied my count. He got it wrong, so I recounted twice more.

Once we had a definite count, we had to check the number of ballots cast against the combined total of electors crossed off the poll list plus votes from transfers and new registrations. It didn't match, which is a big no-no.

With the miscounted tally in mind, I double-checked my clerk's count of the poll list. I got a different number. I did it again, and got a third number. It was late and we were fried. I counted the counterfoils and was one short with those, but I knew there had been two electors who hadn't given me the chance to remove them and I'd only found one during my ballot counting. Just about the next ballot I touched was the one with the counterfoil I'd missed, thankfully.

The only place we could have an error was in our poll list, counting the electors crossed off for voting. We combed through that poll list about five times before we became consistent in our count, but by the end of that, about 11:30 p.m., we were kosher. All our counts added up properly.

It took another 20 minutes to pack everything into the proper envelopes and the ballot box and you know what time I got home.

It's a long day. I wolfed down my sandwich, two Cokes, yogurt tube, and one granola bar in light periods, but it's amazing that each poll is staffed by the same folks for all 12 hours of voting. That's something you don't realize on the elector's side of the table.

I tried to keep it light. If I thought an elector could appreciate the joke, I'd say goodbye with "Thanks, and come again soon." I got a few delayed laughs.

The pay is pathetic, and unfortunately attracts the quality of people who would spend 24 hours in total for less than $10 an hour. Elections Canada should double that rate and make the jobs attractive to bright students, although the current system seems to work.

One man in the morning complained that the system of paper ballots is archaic, but I think it's repeatable and extraordinarily hard to cheat. We have no hanging or dented chads or software bugs or memory glitches. Our ballots are simple and easy to count. Even the count at our station, which took longer than it could have although which was not the last station to close at our site, had discrepancies not in the ballots but in the cross-checking.

Our poll station's results followed the riding more or less, with the Liberals taking 151 of the 238 ballots. The only fun result was that for us the Green candidate topped the NDP candidate for third place (behind the Conservative candidate). I can't tell who cast the two votes for the Marxist-Leninist candidate, but I have my suspicions.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Just walked in

Closing my poll took longer than expected and there's no way I'm going to write about it now. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Deputy Webs

In my neverending quest to present my dear readers with blog posts on topics other than sports and my whining, I applied to work for Elections Canada during Election Day next Tuesday. I've never done that before, but I figure it would be educational to see what goes on from the inside. Our process is not technologically advanced - we use plain old paper ballots that simply require you to mark a circle next to the name of the candidate of your choice. Straightforward, but nonetheless a process that I wouldn't mind seeing from the inside

I expected to get a job taking names and handing out ballots, but in its boundless wisdom Elections Canada asked me to be a deputy returning officer, which puts me in charge of an entire polling station. The lady on the phone said that although I have no experience, they were impressed by my resume and thought I could handle it.

Maybe I should shift my job search to the civil service.

I have a two-hour training session this afternoon, after which I'm qualified to help protect the fate of the country. I have a 14-hour day waiting for me on Tuesday. The total pay for this living lesson in democracy is $220.

Bonus evidence of a canine learning disability:

While I was playing hockey last night, the rest of the family put the dog out and forgot about him. Despite three previous encounters, Crash has still not learned that skunks are bad and he took another shot in the face (skunkakke!). Maybe that canard about the sum of beauty and brains being a constant is true.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Make laundry fun

I'm betting that when I build this, the kids will love to help put away clean laundry. I may have to build three. OK, OK - two.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Novice hockey

Quebec adjusted the ranks of its minor hockey leagues over the summer. For example, Novice previously consisted of kids in grades two and three - in other words, the age cut off roughly matched the age cutoff schools use, of September or October.

The province moved the age cutoff date to January 1, so that novice this year consists only of players born in 2001 and 2000. All kids born in the last third of 1999 move straight to Atom after one year of Novice.

My Novice B team from last year, 14 kids, is returning only three kids to Novice. Child Three is one of them, and he's the most veteran goalie remaining in NDG at the level. Last year, NDG had seven Novice teams: two A, three B, two C. Each A team had a goalie and each B team had two. Of those eight goaltenders, six have moved to Atom and one is now a skater. Child Three alone remains.

Novice this year has many fewer kids. We'll only have four teams (one A, two B, one C). On top of that, the quality of the skills at the Novice level seems to have dropped. I hope that trend holds citywide, or it's going to be a long year for NDG at this level, especially considering the league championships we won last year at A, B, and C.

The winnowing of the kids into the levels is more secretive this year. Even the coach selection has become bureaucratic. Last year, we had a big happy meeting of volunteers. This year, some board has to approve all requests to coach. I asked to return as a head coach, but I don't know the status of my application.

Although I'm not privy to the process of grading the kids, from what I see on the ice, there are two goalies in the running for the A team: Child Three and another goalie in her first year of novice. They play different styles and are about equivalent prospects. The other goalie makes more stops right now, but Child Three is more dynamic and I think will be the better goalie by the end of the year. Still, it's a tough call, and one of these two goalies will be on the A team. Another consideration is that I think the other goalie has a temperment better suited more competitive hockey. Child Three gets too frustrated and discouraged at times.

I'm concerned by the goaltending quality. I hope it's a byproduct of the change in age-ranking and of what we see among the skaters, but none of our goalies are as good as the ones we saw on any team in Novice B last year. I hope it's the same in other regions.

I have mixed feelings about Child Three's prospects for other reasons. If he makes the A team, I have a feeling I won't be the head coach - other volunteers have been asked to rank the kids and I have not, mostly because this year's Novice brain trust is a clique of parents who know each other and not me. Yet I excel at head coaching, I think. I could be an assistant, but I want to teach a team of kids my way. My team improved so much last year and I want to succeed at that again. That's a possibility if Child Three plays in Novice B, a better possibility than were he to make A, for sure.

All should be resolved by the end of the week.

Friday, October 03, 2008


I don't usually watch political debates, but last night's American vice-presidential "debate" was going to be entertaining no matter what happened. It wasn't a debate but a bipartisan question and answer session, but I wondered how far Sarah Palin would recover and how Joe Biden would handle any opportunity.

I'm a bit late to the party, but I did have a running commentary going at AGW (see link at right) and I thought I could post here what I wrote there.

9:13 p.m.: If Palin says "darn right" once more I'm throwing a shoe through my TV.

9:28 p.m.: A hard blow just shook Palin up. She's shaky on her legs after getting hit with that "windfall tax in Alaska" punch. But she recovers....

9:36 p.m.: Good use of buzzwords, but Palin makes no sense on the energy/global warming question. "Clean, green natural gas"??? Biden's too boring, but makes more sense.

9:38 p.m.: LOL. Palin: "Some of my best friends are gay."

9:43 p.m.: Who cares. She's hot. Anybody else naked?

9:50 p.m.: Palin: "Diplomacy is bad and irresponsible. But no, diplomacy is very important, but it's hard."

9:58 p.m.: Palin likes to get all her notes in. She probably wrote too-long essays in university. She also likes to show off that she knows her facts. She's trying too hard. She's ducking questions she has no notes for and isn't being called on it.

10:04 p.m.: Palin lands a punch on the vote for war, if what she says is true. It's tough to know. Biden says it isn't true and points out where to look. Palin's shook up and doesn't recover well: "McCain knows how to win a war 'cause he's been there."

10:09 p.m.: Stupid question of the night: what if your president dies? How else are they going to answer?

10:18 p.m.: An unexpected question on whether the vice-president is part of the executive branch and Palin goes down in flames. I'm surprised she didn't mention health care in her answer. Biden rocks the answer.

10:23 p.m.: Biden chokes up talking about his kids and could win the debate right there. Palin's rattled again, but calms down when she finds her way back to her talking points.

10:28 p.m.: I just realized that my daughter will vote in the next US Presidential election. Good lord, I'm getting old.

10:37 p.m.: Palin proves she's not a buffoon, but she didn't do well enough to change anything. Both sides can call this a win - accurately, I think, but Palin needed a knockout and only got a tactical victory on her side. It's a question of goals. It's not a zero sum game.

Biden was there to get his points across and establish why his ticket is a better choice. He did that. He didn't need to knock her out, he just needed to maintain the status quo. Note that he never addressed Palin's competency. His points were all directed at McCain.

Palin was there to show that she's capable. She did that, sort of. Ducking questions didn't help, and she got rattled at times, but overall she leaves the debate a viable vice-presidential candidate, which is a step up from what she seemed to be going in.

In order to make a difference in the race, however, Palin needed to trounce Biden in the debate and that did not happen. The only thing that will save the Republicans at this stage is a Democratic catastrophe.

But Palin stopped the hemorrhaging - a win for her as she pulls out of the death spiral. And Biden sails forward, steady as he goes - also a win.

10:38 p.m.: Is that old hooked-nose guy Palin's dad? Her Israeli puppeteer?

10:41 p.m.: Chris Wallace must have read my analysis during the break, the copycat.

Bonus injury of the week:

I popped a blood vessel in my pinky during the post-hockey handshake ritual tonight. My pinky is purple.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tuesday at the Canadian War Museum

I've been debating posting about my Tuesday because the events as they happened could embarrass Child Three, but I've concluded that the humour of the situation trumps his feelings. It's no wonder they call me Superdad.

The kids had Tuesday off for Rosh HaShanah - even Child One at the non-Jewish school - and in a surprising development, I knew that ahead of time. Two weeks ago, I hatched a plan to take Child Three and possibly a friend and siblings to Ottawa to spend the day in the Canadian War Museum. My girls had no interest (freaks!) and the friends we asked couldn't make it so just the two of us went.

I had told Child Three the day before that we should probably leave around 9:30. He woke me at 9:31. We packed a knapsack with snacks and a reference book, and I took along a plastic cup with my lukewarm morning coffee. That will become important.

The first two hours of the drive passed uneventfully. We chatted, we listened to the radio, Child Three used the iPod. About 20 minutes from the museum, still in a rural environment, Child Three said he had to use the bathroom. I asked him if he could hold it and he said he thought he could. I told him that if he thought he couldn't, to tell me and I'd stop to let him pee.

We drove a few minutes more and the boy started to rhythmically repeat, "Good... good... good...."

"What does that mean?," I asked.

"It means that I'm good and don't have to go to the bathroom." I drove on with "Good... good... good..." coming from the seat behind me.

The boy piped up again, "OK, now when I say 'good' it means that I have to go."

"That's confusing. Just say 'pull over, I have to go' and I'll know I have to pull over to let you go."

"OK." About 20 seconds passed, then: "Pull over, I have to go."

I think Child Three had been waiting until we passed some fields and got near some trees that would hide him better. I pulled off the road, and he could see that the trees, which look close to the highway at speed, were actually about 50 meters away and that grass twice his height grew closest to the shoulder.

He took a look at the grass and told me he was fine, we could keep driving. I told him to get out of the car and pee on grass. No one would see and it was just like the trees. He got out of the car and meandered to the grass, then meandered back to the car. "It's OK, I'll wait."

Superdad knew this would not end well. "Are you sure? I'm telling you, if you pee in my car I will be livid for the rest of the day. You asked me to stop so you could pee, so you should pee. If you get back in the car, you better be absolutely sure you can hold it in the rest of the way." He got in the car.

As we entered urban Ottawa, I heard a rhythmic thumping behind me in the car. I asked and the boy explained that he was kicking to take his mind off his bladder. I asked him if I should stop somewhere and he said that I really should.

We drove around what seemed to be the Chinatown area of Ottawa and we saw no gas stations or fast-food places with easliy accessed bathrooms. Nor were there any alleys or trees to pee in or behind. I told him the museum was just down the street and asked if he could hold it. He said he thought he could.

With the museum in sight, Child Three sounded worried. There was still no place for him to go, so I offered him the cup that had held my coffee. He accepted it because he couldn't last those last three blocks.

In case you were wondering, and eight-year-old boy's bladder holds about half a cup of urine. He didn't spill a drop. He wanted to hand me back the cup, but I told him to hold on to it and make sure it didn't spill. He put it in his cupholder.

I spilled the pee down the sewer drain in the parking garage and Child Three washed it out in the bathroom. It stayed in the car while we toured the museum, reference book in hand because they don't allow backpacks in the exhibit.

If you visit the museum, do bring a reference book. Ours added much value to our visit. The basement gallery is filled with guns and vehicles that the museum explains only briefly, often with only a name. Fortunately, I have enough knowledge of the small arms and heavy weapons (machine guns, mortars, grenades) that I didn't need a book for those. If you're driving in from out of town, you might also want to bring a cup.

Bonus war story:

There's a video on YouTube of an interview with Jack Cohen, whom I also interviewed by proxy several years ago. My interview was conducted by my late friend, Michael "Burbank" Hyde, who was also a gracious host to my brother when he toured Australia.

Here's Jack: