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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Romania," A Word Meaning Beauty, Faith, Struggle, and History

As dusk approached on January 11, 2009, I was driving east on RO 1, aka EU 60, into Transilvania Proper* from Bihor County, Romania.  I had just enjoyed a bowl of ciorba de burta cu pâine (tripe soup with bread) at the Restaurant Vegas at the road's summit at the eastern edge of Bihor County, and was bound for my apartment in Cluj, having spent my Sunday touring downtown Oradea with fellow-Fulbrighter Nancy Sherman-Hayes, who taught there.  The church above appeared, glowing in the distance, the last brightly lit object in view.  In awe, I stopped and took a couple of pictures, this one with the shadowed haystacks in the foreground providing contrast.

This week I happened to choose one of those pictures (below) for my Facebook Timeline header photo.  Then I realized that I didn't recall where this beautiful church was, except that it was on the road from Oradea to Cluj. 

Today, with the help of Google Earth, I found it to be in Bucea, Comună Negreni, Județ Cluj, just east of the mountains that form the western boundary of Transilvania Proper, in the valley of the river Crișul Repede.  There is a story (in several languages) on the website of this New Church (Biserica Noua) that explains the title of today's post.  I hope that you have time to read it.  Here is a LINK to the English version.
Biserica Noua de Parohia Bucea
*The counties of Satu Mare, Bihor and Maramureş are Transilvanian in culture, though they lie, in the main, just outside of the ring of mountains that encircle the legendary region that geographers have long called Transilvania.  Hence, I distinguish between Greater Transilvania, which includes them, and Transilvania Proper, which does not.

Monday, March 26, 2012

In the words of Dewitt Jones: "Celebrate what's Right with the World!"

My daughter Piper e-mailed me this YouTube link today, with the following message:
Dad you have to see this.

Generally, I do not much enjoy "TV Talent" shows, but this episode celebrates much that I find worthy of celebration.  I hope it goes viral.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Honor thy Father ... W9IV

As this blog's faithful readers know, son Jesse recently published a book.  Somehow, his moving introduction to that book dealing with his grandfather, also published online as an article, garnered the attention of one Mr. Michael Carroll, creator and editor of an amateur radio memorial site called the National Silent Key Archive.  Mr. Carroll wrote to Jesse, as follows:
From: National Silent Key Archive <>
Date: March 21, 2012 9:29:28 PM EDT
Subject: Your Grand Father (SK)

Mr. McDougall,

I invite you to set up a ham radio silent key memorial page for your grand dad at the National Silent Key Archive. Working with only the few bits of info your provided in your article,

"The Content of Your Communication Is What's Important - Not What Carries It"

I came up with two possible call signs for your grand dad.

W9IV and W4PQA. These two links will take you directly to each call sign page respectively.

Once at the correct page, you can add photos, an obituary or biography, and attach other documents, like copies of his license, QSL card, or additional photos.

If neither of these call signs was your grand father's, I might be able to dig a bit deeper if you provided a bit more info about your grand father; location (QTH) and exact birth date, etc.

Thank you.

Michael Carroll - N4MC
Founder, The National Silent Key Archive
 Jesse asked me to respond.  I have just done so:

Dear Mr. Carroll,

I am replying to your thoughtful and accurate research report to my son, Jesse (J.S.) McDougall, which he has forwarded to me.  Indeed, my Dad was W9IV, formerly W9CVQ, back when he was operating from the Chicago area, between 1948 and about 1987.

At my office I have, I believe, one of Mac's QSL cards,  If I can find it, I will scan it and send it to you.

I am attaching a photo of Mac, and one of his grave marker.  Here is a brief summary of my memories regarding Dad's long history in ham radio. 

Dugald Stewart "Mac" McDougall

Born May 15, 1916, and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Mac's boyhood hobby was building radios, which led to his learning Morse Code and getting an amateur radio license in 1929, when he was 13 years old.  He held that license continuously until his death at age 91, on September 15, 2007.  The son of George McDougall, a railroad freight agent, and Effie Barclay McDougall, a high school math teacher, the precocious Mac entered the University of Chicago at age 15, took a 6-year program that included both undergraduate and law schools, and graduated in 1937, at age 21, near the top of his law school class, with both a B.A. in history and a J.D.

As a boy in Wilmette, I used to sit in the basement next to Mac's workbench, watching as he soldered and fiddled, modifying or repairing the surplus WWII military radios that were then his favorite toys.  Thus, I heard lots of stories. One of the best stories Mac told about the effect of amateur radio on his life had to do with his four years in the U. S. Navy during World War II.  To the best of my memory, it went like this:

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, I volunteered for the Navy's Officer Candidate School.  ("Why the Navy, Daddy?")  My father had told me that the food was better in the Navy.

I went through OCS, and on through Communications School, and was about to graduate to the fleet, when an announcement appeared on the bulletin board of an entrance exam for something new, called Radar School.  Intrigued, I asked my commanding officer whether I might sit for that exam.  He explained, "I am sorry, Ensign McDougall, but the Navy's Radar School (located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at Harvard and MIT) is restricted to electrical and electronic engineers, and I see you were a history major."  I told him, "Sir, I have been a ham radio operator since I was 13, and I have built all my own radios.  I believe that I understand the theory."  My commanding officer handed me a book, and said, "The exam is in the morning.  I will add your name to the list." 

Mac passed the entrance exam, completed radar school, then served about six months at sea on a sub chaser, escorting convoys from Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they joined more ships for the long and hazardous voyage to England or Russia.  Then, Mac commanded the Radar Repair Squadron at the Charlestown (Mass.) Naval Base.  Thereafter, he was sent back to the Radar School as an instructor. 

Hence, in August of 1943, I was born at Chelsea (Mass.) Naval Hospital, where my delivery and my mother's two-week hospital stay cost the family a total of $37.50.  (Mac told me once that I was worth every penny of that.)

The rest of the story is that in 1944, the Navy's Bureau of Personnel (BUPERS) ordered Mac, whom it had identified as a lawyer who knew radar, to move to Washington, D.C. to serve in the Navy's Patent Department.  This move led to Dad's long and distinguished postwar career as a patent and trademark lawyer. 

In that career, Mac was a modest man.  We four sons discovered only in 2012, almost five years after his death, this web page:  We'd known that Dad spent a lot of time traveling to various federal courts, but had no idea that during his career, Mac had argued some eleven cases at the Supreme Court of the United States.

After his retirement at age 70, Mac and Judy, our stepmother, made two trips around the world, largely to visit his ham radio friends.  Mac had radio friendships of some fifty years' duration in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and in many other countries. 

When his time to die was fast approaching, my wife Shirl and I visited Mac in Haines City, Florida, and were discussing his final resting place with him.  Shirl found Mac's Navy discharge document, and we had gone up to Webster, FL to see the National Cemetery there.  I told Mac that he had the right as a veteran to have his ashes interred there, "With your fellow WWII veterans."  Mac replied, "I wouldn't have any objection to that." 

So, that is where W9IV lies, in silence.
Mac is survived by his wife Judy (Stephen) McDougall, and his four sons, Dugald George, Duncan Carl, Walter Allan and Robert Stewart McDougall, plus thirteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  R.I.P., Dad.


Duncan Carl McDougall
Letter received following 2011 Reunion of my Wilmette Jr. High School class. The QSL card above accompanied this letter.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Feeling the Blues

As Spring Break 2012 comes to an end, I am wondering if it was a mistake to stay home and try to muster the gumption to clean the basement. If I'd driven south I would have been too busy to think about the stuff that has been churning around in my head this week.

Friends are in Florida, sending back links to Ft. Lauderdale scenes, our son Jamie in Orlando has been on the phone to discuss his and Amy's house hunting, and I am here in New Hampshire, where we are having beautiful spring weather, buried in a dusty, musty cellar poring through mildewed Harvard Business School MBA case files from 1968-70, Boston University teaching and research and consulting files from the 1980s, PSC/PSU course files and student records from 1976-80 and 92 to the present, and, basically, throwing away my past in hopes of...

Of what?

I guess maybe I had a case of The Blues.  I am not really sure, because I pretty much live life as a "cockeyed optimist."  Still, I had some pretty strong  low feelings last night.  Actually, I lay awake for a few hours, which is extremely rare for me.

So this morning, like a fireman to the rescue, my New Trier classmate, Jim Kucera, posted this link on our New Trier '61 Facebook page:

 Jim Kucera
Dont Be Ashamed Of Your Age, 60years old John Prine and 82years!! old Mac Wiseman
The Blog's moral is thus reinforced: There are no coincidences.

I'll hang in there, Lord, because You keep making it so plain that You still want me around.  Thankful for this life, I'll smile, too!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Patsy, Where Are You?

Cleaning a basement can be a moving, if sneezy, experience.  On Monday, while helping me to clean our cellar, Valer S. discovered this somewhat moldy photo, taken at Waupaca, Wisconsin, in 1960 or 1961.

For seven years of my life, I was a springboard diver, and used to look like the guy posing with that lovely young girl in that picture.  She, Miss Patricia (Patsy) Burmeister went on to earn a master's degree at the Eastman School of Music - University of Rochester , to become Miss New York, 1968, to become a Top 10 contender for Miss America, and to sing with the Miss America USO Troupe in the Vietnam Era.  In addition to being a soprano whose perfectly-pitched tone was so clear as to be called angelic, she was an accomplished violinist, having won the coveted concert mistress' chair in the New Trier High School symphony orchestra as a sophomore.  (Those familiar with New Trier will understand what an honor that was.)

I was privileged to escort Patricia as her boyfriend for my senior year at NT, and was invited to her family's camp on a lake near Waupaca during the summer.  We lost touch after college, and I have no idea where to find her, but I hope Patsy knows that she still has my respect and affection.  Finding this picture has brought back fond memories.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Second Second Son of the Second Son

I am the second son of my father. Back in 1968 I had a son (Brian, father of Moses) with Midge (Cross), my first wife.  Shirley and I produced our eldest son (Jamie) in 1976, and in 1978, along came Jesse.  That makes Jesse The Second Second Son of the Second Son.  (If that doesn't sound mystical, what does?)

Jesse Stewart (J. S.) McDougall is an author.  Not of fiction, exactly.  Nor of non-fiction, exactly.  He writes "How To" books.  Most deal with some aspect of Internet marketing and/or with social media.  His latest has just appeared, and he is starting today a 5-day "Book Bomb," which he describes as follows:
A book bomb is an "organized buying time period" for a particular book. By asking all (potentially) interested people to buy or help promote the book during a specific week (...this week...)—as opposed to spread out over several weeks or months—we are able to push #tweetsmart up Amazon's "movers and shakers" pages—thus increasing our chances of getting noticed by a larger audience. (And, therefore, catapulting the book onto other readings lists maintained by The New York Times, Oprah Winfrey, Ashton Kutcher, Zeus, and the Queen of England....)
So, dear readers, please realize that this blog is, for better or for worse, my gift to you, freely given without ads or solicitation.  So, if you have any interest at all in social media or in Twitter, please return the favor by buying Jesse's latest book (thereby helping to keep our guest rooms free for Romanian (and other) visitors).

Thank you!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Stellar Hobby

Here is an image of Mars taken recently in Cluj by my friend Horatius FLUERAŞ, owner of   I had a great chat with Horatius today, and learned that he now owns the largest and most powerful telescope in Romania, and is about to build himself an observatory in which to install it.

Onward and ever upward, prietenul meu!  Bravo!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Flying, and Oklahoma!

Curtiss Robin, introduced in 1928. (Photo source
My mother, Carol Brueggeman McDougall (1914-1968) of Chicago, B.A. in English, U. of C. Class of 1935, while at that University took flying lessons at an airfield near her home on the northwest side of the city.  She flew in an airplane called a Curtiss Robin.  She never completed pilot training, but became a huge fan of Amelia Earhart, and was therefore always very understanding of my youthful passion for aviation, and of the model airplanes that decorated my room.  The airfield Mom flew from was called Orchard Field, later Orchard-Douglas Field, after a Douglas Aviation assembly plant was built there early in WWII.  Hence, it acquired the symbol ORD.  Today, it is known as O'Hare International Airport.

In the morning, I shall be heading back to Oklahoma for the first time in close to three decades, and changing planes at O'Hare.

Oklahoma is not only one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's all time great Broadway musicals. Oklahoma is also a state that used to be Indian Territory (that was its name), a major source of wheat and fossilized energy, and the home of some 3.8 million fine residents of America's Heartland. 

Back in 1975 and '76, I worked about half of my year in Tulsa and in southeastern Oklahoma, when I was with the ICM Corporation's subsidiaries called Coal Reclamation Company and Arkoma Coal.  We had projects going in Pennsylvania and in the region around Poteau, OK.  As it happened, I took my flying lessons at both ends of that axis.

Ground school I took at Allegheny County Community College in Pittsburgh, and I did my primary flight training in an all-metal Cessna 140A with CFI Stan Siggins at Finleyville Airport, a leveled hilltop on his farm south of Pittsburgh.
1950 Cessna 140A
Stan had been a WWII Army pilot instructor, and told me he had "soloed" over 700 pilots.  I became another of his graduates when I soloed and made three landings in an incipient snowstorm on January 7th, 1976.  (It is easy for an American to remember the date, 1776.)  Stan was a great teacher.  Ever after, I was comfortable flying low and slow (which I do not recommend), thanks to Stan's excellent training in slow flight, in landing a tail-wheel airplane, in slipping to landing in a crosswind, etc.

Then, while working in Oklahoma, I started spending my evenings taking lessons in a Cessna 152 at the Cessna Pilot Center at Tulsa International Airport. 
Cessna 152
The plane was not all that different from the 140 (save for its nose-wheel and complete set of radios) but the flying environment could hardly have been more different: wide concrete runways, commercial jet traffic, Midwestern thunderheads, and Ground Control, Departure Control, Approach Control, etc.  There my instructor taught me air traffic control procedures, radio discipline, took me through the rigors of advanced training, more and more practice in managing stalls, precision navigation, turns on a point, flying a true rectangular course in a wind, night crosswind landings, etc.  And there I made my first solo cross-country flight, first to Sallisaw, OK, then to a grass strip in Arkansas, where it took awhile to find someone to sign my logbook, and back to Tulsa.  (Later, I flew my "long cross-country" while on vacation in Florida.) Any pilot will have stories about his student days, and I have some great (and some embarrassing) memories from that period, as well.

Then came that evening in Tulsa when, having logged the required 50+ hours as a student pilot, I took my FAA check ride, and got my private license.  After we landed, as I walked out to my car, I looked up at a darkening Oklahoma sky, where a thunderstorm was starting to roil the sunset-edged cumulous clouds, and told Carol Brueggeman McDougall, "Mom, I made it!"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Vox in Deserto Clamantis?

A colleague who joined me two or three years ago on the Board of Commissioners of an academic accreditation body here in the U.S. wrote to me this week  He closed his letter as follows:
"I REALLY miss you on the commission!!"
Here is the relevant part of my reply:
Thank you for those kind words...
I also miss being on the board.  It was an eye-opening experience, not only in convincing me that the Accreditation Council is a very human organization, one with good intentions, but also in reinforcing my sense that American education is in the hands of people who equate self-esteem with awards received rather than with learning and accomplishment achieved.  Whether by a student or by an organization, self-esteem must be earned.  As an accomplishment that justifies a school's self-esteem, Council Accreditation must be earned.  It must never be for sale, and should not come without an organization's serious attention to the intent of, and practical application of the standards and criteria.
Keep the faith, my friend.  There needs always to be an outspoken idealist on the Board to play the role of Jiminy Cricket.  I know you are up to the task.
Duncan C. (for Curmudgeon?) McDougall

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Short E-mail to My Eldest Son


Please save this link, and one day, show it to my grandson, Moses.  
I am sure that you will know the right day for it, in the fullness of time.



Sunday, March 4, 2012

Angel Has Her Wings

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  
Blessed be the Name of the Lord." 
 -The Book of Job

It has been reported this Sunday evening that Angel Babcock has died in the Kentucky children's hospital to which she was flown after being discovered in an Indiana field following the tornado that destroyed her home and killed the rest of her family.

Now you are back with your Mom and Dad, sister and brother.  R.I.P., darling child.

Miraculous Survival

Found alive in a field ten miles from home after a tornado?  Angel, indeed. 
Angel Babcock
 (Mail Online News Photo)
I have been moved to tears by this story, and am still in awe.  Here is the newspaper account.
This story was especially poignant for me, as I once played (and still identify with) The Wizard of OZ, and as my Dad grew up in central Indiana.