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Monday, April 30, 2012

Greg "Pappy" Boyington reunites with a Squadronmate (and I make a friend)

Larry Forand, USMC
On Saturday, 28 April, 2012, Shirl received a call that she had been dreading.  It came from Norma Forand in Florida, who reported the death of her husband, Larry.

Larry Forand had been Shirl's music teacher from the time she was nine years old through high school, in Westborough, Massachusetts.

Larry and Shirl had a special friendship, and it had grown over the years to involve all of our two families.  Larry and Marion, his first wife, lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for most of the years that Shirl and I were raising our four kids .  So, Ft. L. became a regular stop on our family's winter vacations.  Each time we saw the Forands, we felt as close to them as if we saw them every day.  They were good people.  Then, in 1989, Marion died of cancer.

A few years later, Larry met and married Norma, and she became our new friend.  I sometimes thought she was a bit curious about the close relationship between Shirl and Larry, but she came to see that it was nothing she had to worry about.  They were simply two simpatico souls with similar values, kind hearts, and a shared sense of humor about the absurdities of the world.

Larry has been fading for the past several years, and at 88, his ailments finally took him from us.

After receiving Norma's call, which reported that Larry would be buried in the Lake Worth National Cemetery today with full military honors, since he had been in the U.S. Marines in WWII.  Larry served on Guadalcanal, and in an aviation support company for the F4U Corsairs of VMF214 ("The Black Sheep Squadron") in the Solomon Islands, under the command of Major Greg "Pappy" Boyington.

Shirl and I discussed whether we, or she, should make a trip to be in attendance at the burial ceremony.  As I have responsibilities today at the University, and as I had committed to attending a WWII submariner's funeral in Vermont yesterday, Shirl decided to fly down alone, to rent a car, and to attend Larry's service at Lake Worth.  Kindly, our friend Alexandra Mutiu volunteered to drive Shirl to the Manchester Airport late Sunday morning for her afternoon flight.

So yesterday, I donned my warm jacket (chilly, windy day), and rode to rendezvous with some fellow Patriot Guard Riders (NH PGR) at the McDonald's in Hillsborough, from which we would travel as a group to Bellows Falls, Vermont to stand in a flag line at the Larsen funeral there.  In the parking lot at McDonald's a Harley rider arrived, towing a wooden micro-camper trailer behind his bike. It was a home-designed, self-built rig, and its owner introduced himself as Merlin Bianco of San Francisco.  His rig had California license plates, so I invited him to "Hotel New Hampshire" for the night, if he needed a place to "crash," and was willing to ride another two hours north after the funeral.

Merlin said, "Is there a shower?"  I said, "Of course!"  He said, "Then I accept."

We rode over to the funeral home in Bellows Falls, about an hour from Hillsborough, and there, in the parking lot, as we were setting up for the flag line, I explained to Merlin that I was "batching it" tonight, since Shirl was on her way to Larry's funeral.  I mentioned that Larry was a Marine, and had been in Pappy Boyington's squadron.  "Yep," said Merlin, "VMF214.  I knew Pappy for the last four years of his life."  They had met while both were working airshows on the West Coast.

By the way, there is a motorcycle ministry in California called "The Black Sheep Ministry," and Merlin Bianco spent some six years as a lay minister in that organization.

Adevarat!  Da, da, da, da.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Just figured this out: Mood = f(Gender) in Romania

Romanian women are endlessly charming.  Their intelligence and talent in conversation (in an irresistible accent), coupled with their ability to maximize their attractiveness with feminine wiles such as playful flirtation, clever use of the eyes, and subtle cosmetics, have made them famous among men of all nations.  They are, therefore, characterized by self-confidence.  They are amazing.  (And that is coming from a man who first went to Romania at age 65, who has lived there for about 18 months in several prolonged visits, and who has remained faithful to his beloved American wife of 38 years, throughout.)  But do not take it only from me.  Ask any man, from anywhere, who has visited Romania for more than a few days.

Most of the Romanian men I know are intelligent, strong, capable, and yet tend to a dour countenance, and a pessimistic outlook on life.  For years now, I have been falling into the trap of blaming their prevailing mood on the country's history of economic struggle, international conflict, and political change, or on its much-criticized bureaucracy, or on their having to put up with myriad taxes that foster corruption, or on the psychological conflict of knowing right from wrong, yet having to compromise their principles in order to survive economically, and to feed their families.  But now I think I've figured out the real reason Romanian men walk around with long faces.

Could it be that Romanian men are depressed because they are doomed to compete with all the men in the world for the affections of their attractive, smart, endlessly charming countrywomen?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Two "Girls" and a Dog

Shirl will be taking Alexandra to a Red Sox-Indians game at Fenway Park in Boston next month, so A3 has been watching a few games on our TV to get a handle on baseball.  Trot is in the picture below, too.  He is the black hole in the middle.  We have very much enjoyed having A3 in New Hampshire!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Undergraduate Business Programs (and Other Evils?)

Late last week my friend Daniel Moore sent this note to the business faculty at Plymouth State University's College of Business Andinistration (CoBA):
Sent: Thursday, April 19, 2012 9:09:07 AM
Subject: Something to think about

This little WSJ article might suggest that we take some time to ponder our purpose and curriculum:

Daniel P. Moore, PhD
Vice Provost
Please check out that link.  [In case it has expired, it was an article entitled, "Wealth or Waste? Rethinking the Value of a Business Major." It makes the time-honored argument that teaching business at the undergraduate level is an exercise in futility, that does the students little good.*]  

Here was my response to Dan and to my CoBA colleagues:

My dear old Dad would have applauded that WSJ article.  When I was eighteen, he refused to let me apply to an aeronautical engineering school, saying, "Son, I'll help you go for an engineering degree, if you still want to, after you've completed four years of liberal arts college."  His mantra was, "The purpose of college is to teach us to think."

My bachelor's degree in fine arts did not stop both General Motors and Ford from offering me jobs as a manufacturing trainee early in 1966.  I chose GM.  Two-and-a-half years later I applied for my MBA program because I realized that, as a somewhat successful supervisor at Chevrolet Flint Manufacturing, I still didn't know a debit from a debenture, and that I had to learn more about business if I were to advance, and be worthy of doing so.  I had been a C-average student in college.  By contrast, in graduate school, I did well.  Why?  Every course in that two-year MBA program made sense.  I understood why each was in the curriculum.  I knew I needed them all.  And that was after I'd worked for only three years post-college.  Experiencing the problems of managing on a GM factory floor had made all the difference.

Was it  H. L. Mencken who wrote words to this effect?  "If I were able to eliminate three evils from the world, they would be cancer, war, and undergraduate schools of business."

Frankly, Dan, I have struggled with my philosophical concerns about the efficacy of teaching business to inexperienced kids ever since joining PSC in 1976.  What I decided was that if it is going to be done, then it had best be done well.  Both here and at Boston University (where I taught operations management from 1980 through 1988), I threw Harvard Business School (and other) case studies into my courses, from which act I learned that the students at first struggled, then thrived on the challenges that were presented by those real-world decision problems.  The human and organizational context provided by the cases gave life to business terms, and the decision focus of the classroom discussions constituted vicarious experience that made the theories presented in the textbooks more readily understandable.  Out of this experience came my ongoing teaching policy:

Problems first, theories after!**

We have the teaching talent in CoBA to make our undergraduate business programs excellent opportunities for our students to learn to think.  I'd like to see us begin a series of pedagogical discussions on how best to connect with our students, in order to improve their ability to grasp the subject matter of business, in all its complexity.  I hereby volunteer to open that program by offering an initial pedagogical discussion meeting within the next three weeks.

*To be fair, I must add that other recent articles have reported that business majors still do better in both job placement prior to graduation and starting salaries than do all other newly minted graduates except engineers. 
** With thanks to the late Arnold Boris Arons, Ph.D., my extraordinary physics professor at Amherst College in 1961-62, who used to exclaim, "Ideas first!  Names after!"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

By Classic to Alaska : 1982 Honda 500 or 1983 Suzuki 1100?

My internal debate this spring is whether to choose my 1982 Japanese motorcycle or my 1983 Japanese motorcycle for a June-July ride of some 10,000 miles (16.093 Km) to Fairbanks, Alaska and back.
1982 Silver Wing
The first candidate is a Honda Silver Wing Interstate, a 500cc touring bike with a full fairing and hard luggage, a liquid-cooled engine and shaft drive.  I bought it in 2004 and in 2005 it carried me safely on a 13,800 mile (22,200 KM) six-week ride around America, through 33 states, including all four "corner states," California, Washington, Florida and Maine.  This is a wonderful motorcycle, on which I rode today from Campton to Hampton, NH, some 240 miles, round trip.  The bike is running very well.  It is about to turn 44,000 miles old, which is not many for a 30 year-old bike.  I have no doubt it could make the trip to Fairbanks and back, and it would offer me the comfort of the big fairing and windscreen.  But, touring is almost too easy on such a machine, a bit "autoesque."  And as a 500cc twin in a heavy, air-draggy bike, it feels pushed at over 70 MPH, a pace oft-exceeded in the West.  My 2005 ride taught me that at speeds above 70, the Silver Wing's fuel economy falls from about 46 miles per gallon (5.11 L/100km) at about 60 mph to about 35 mpg (6.72 L/100km).  That may still sound good, but with only four gallons of usable fuel, it reduces the range at high speeds to a risky level, given the wildernesses we'd have to traverse between here and Fairbanks.  

1983 Suzuki GS1100E
The alternate choice is my 1983 Suzuki GS1100E.  This 1100cc "E-bike" has some 54,000 miles on the odometer, cruises 70 mph at about 1/8 throttle, and gets 50 MPG quite reliably at that speed, so range is less likely to be a problem.  And, though when used for touring its chain must be oiled both mid-day and nightly, and must be adjusted each morning, it is a proven road-burner, having taken me from New Hampshire to California and back in 1995, in the company of my sons Jamie and Jesse (on their own 550cc Suzukis).  Then, in 1998, Alex McD. and I rode Suzi two-up to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, and ferried her over to Port-au-Basques to tour Newfoundland.  Finally, she has carried Piper and me to Florida and home again.  So, though sold as a superbike, not as a tourer, Suzi does the latter job very well.  But, she has only a bug-deflector for a windscreen, and will require that I use soft saddlebags, which I own, but which are somewhat less convenient to use than the Honda's built-ins.  Also, I wonder how much rain and cold I might face on the ride to Alaska.  Both bikes run fine in the rain, but I get wetter faster on the Suzuki.  Finally, there is the fun factor.  The Suzuki is a great handler, and has thrilling power on tap anytime one cares to call for it.

I know, it is a fun debate to be having, and I am lucky to have two such fine bikes.  (My Scottish blood relishes the fact that I bought the Honda for only $1100 with 16,700 miles on it in 2004, and the Suzuki for a measly $600 with only 15,900 miles, in 1991.)  But the debate is not over, by any means.  If you have an opinion, I'd sure appreciate your input.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Paște Fericit!

Biserica de Lemn, Breb, Maramureș (The Church of Archangels Michael and Gabriel)

It is Easter in Romania!  Hristos a înviat!

God bless you, my dear Romanian friends, abroad and here in America!

Beți o țuica pentru mine, va rog!

Noroc, și sănătate!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Conversation with the Valedictorian

 The valedictorian of FSEGA's Englishline in 2009 was also the Romanian National Spot-Diving Champion for that year,
(Photos all are from Alina's Facebook page.)
and is now a business consultant, a wife, and

the mother of this happy child in Bucharest.

It will be Easter weekend for the Romanians of the Orthodox Christian faith.  Hence, today I had the following chat with my former star student, Alina Meda Sime (AKA, Doamna Boeru):

  • Alina Meda Sime
    • I guess you had Easter last sunday , no?
  • Duncan C. McDougall
    • I cannot say yes. I did not go to church, and I cannot go to the Orthodox services Saturday night, either, because I am teaching all weekend. So I will have to say "Adevarat a înviat!" in a private way. But, He will still hear. Nu este aşa?
  • Alina Meda Sime
    • asa este:)
    • you are still good in Romanian!
  • Duncan C. McDougall
    • I will be staying and teaching at the hotel where Alexandru Mican works. The Silver Fox Inn in Waterville Valley.
    • I am learning more Romanian each week. Prof. Alexandra Muțiu is now teaching me here, as well as two UBB grads in our MBA program, and Alexandru.
    • I am holding you and your family in my most special thoughts. May God keep you well and thriving.
  • Alina Meda Sime
    • thank you very much! It means a lot for me!
    • we are thinking of you a lot!
    • at clinceni when I look at our Cessna I always think of you. We are waiting to fly also one day:P
  • Duncan C. McDougall
  • Alina Meda Sime
    • please say hi and also send my best wishes and good luck there and also happy easter
  • Duncan C. McDougall
    • I will do so. Now, tuck in the young men, and get some sleep yourself!
    • Happy Easter, nepoata frumoasa!
  • Alina Meda Sime
    • I just read the story! It is very nice! I didn't knew your mother also flew!
    • I'm going to sleep. have fun to the meeting and also I wish you have a wonderful weekend!
    • Thanks for all the wishes and Happy Easter for you too and all the best to you family!'
  • Duncan C. McDougall
    • Multumesc! Noapte buna!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Fritz Visits a Fulbrighter & New Friends from Romania

Fritz, as purchased, November, 2011.

Fritz, Renewed, April 2012
When I acquired Fritz late last fall, I had in mind owning a cousin of Klaus here in Campton.  Fritz was in fact three years older than Klaus, and much farther down the road, 271,000 miles (436.132 Km) versus Klaus' under 150,000 Km (Less than 100,000 miles).  A 1990 BMW 525i, Fritz had been sitting outdoors for two years when I found him at J & M Imports, an auto repair garage in Campton that Shirley and I have been depending upon to care for our many older European cars for some twenty years now.  Mark Shultz, a Plymouth State College business graduate, is the owner of J & M.  He is also a previous owner of Fritz, so when I asked him about the car's history, he had quite a bit of information.  "It needs work," he said, "but nothing too major.  The engine is sound, and it still goes down the road pretty well."  I offered its owner $800.  We settled at $1000.  Since November, I have been having a blast with this car.  He has been a great toy, and I wanted him also for Alexandra M., who would be coming from UBB-Cluj to teach here in the spring term, and did not know how to drive a car with an automatic transmission.

Since A3's arrival (A3 is Alexandra's nickname in the McDougall house), Fritz has mostly been in her sphere, so I have had little chance to use him.  But when A3 went to Florida over spring break, she could only rent a car with an automatic transmission, so I taught her to leave her left foot on the floor by letting her drive my Santa Fe.  Hence, I could swap cars a bit, and this weekend I did so in order to make the 620-mile round trip to NY and Connecticut that I planned for Friday and Saturday.
Fritz, Renewed
You see, this past week and weekend, Shirl was on a road trip to Boston to meet with some Facebook friends and to show them her favorite city.  So, I decided to take the newly painted, newly tanked, newly clutched, and newly re-emblemed Fritz on a shakedown cruise. 

Some months ago, I'd invited 1987-Fulbrighter-in-Romania Dr. David Hadaller (pronounced "Hadler") and his wife Mirela to visit us in New Hampshire.  This weekend, I renewed that invitation, but as they could not come at this time, the Hadallers turned the tables and invited me to visit them in Upstate New York.  It seemed a perfect opportunity to meet them, and to give Fritz a road test.
Mirela Hadaller, their friend Mona Monescu, and David H.
Mirela told me, "My mother is here, so come have a real Romanian dinner!"  "If she makes ciorba de burta, I'll be there!" I replied.  Mirela said, "Sorry," but offered instead ciorba de perisoara. I said, "Sure, that would be great!"

It was great.  Romanian hospitality in New York.  And on the way, I stopped at a convenience store in a nearby town for directions, and met a half-dozen Hasidim.  They gave me perfect directions.  When I told the Hadallers about this, I learned that the local Hasidim were descended from immigrants from Satu Mare, Romania.  In fact, I remembered that some might have come from Sighetu Marmaţiei, as at the museum there in Elie Wiesel's birth home, I had read of a Rabbi there who had escaped the Holocaust with a large group of his flock during World War II, and had ultimately settled in a village along the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York. As it turns out, this was Rebbe Teitelbaum, and in fact he did hail from Satu Mare, the county just west of Maramureş, and not from Sighet, which is in Maramureş.
Fritz, Re-emblemed

Dinner was indeed Romanian, prepared by Mirela and her mother Stella Mustaca, and included salata de vinete, ciorbe de perisoara and de fasole, sarmale, and cosanac for dessert.  Delicious.  Then, David and I proceeded to talk over wine until 2:00 AM.  Our lives have some remarkable connections beyond our both having been Fulbrighters in Romania.  We were both born at Chelsea Naval Hospital, some eleven years apart.  His father and mine were both in the Navy, and his father and my brother both served aboard The U.S.S. BOSTON (CAG 1).  David's dad left that ship about two years before George McDougall went aboard her as a communications officer in 1965.

On Saturday morning, a family friend of the Hadallers, Prof. Dr. Mona Monescu of Columbia University arrived bearing a container of ciorba de burta that she had bought just for me at a Romanian restaurant in New York City.  I felt very special to receive such a gift.  And I assure my Romanian readers, it was the real thing, and absolutely the right breakfast following a night of wine and conversation.  Many thanks, Mona!  I shall not forget you, and you are invited to my home in New Hampshire, where I will cook for you my very best ciorba de mazare, or ciorba de fasole, as you prefer!
Matt, Cela, and Diana
From Highland Mills, I headed down to the Tappan Zee Bridge, and across Westchester County to Connecticut.  My next stop was New Canaan, where I had a lunch date with the authors of The Little Book of Romanian Wisdom, whom you have met previously in this blog.

Matt and Diana introduced me to her cousin Cerasela (Cela) Feraru, who is now living in Connecticut.  We had a fun time, a scrumptious lunch at the New Canaan Diner, and then excellent coffee at Zumbach's Coffee House.  The ceiling at Zumbach's is decorated with college pennants, and Amherst is right next to Smith, as well it should be, and The University of Chicago (The U. of C.) where my parents both graduated is right next to the University of Colorado (C.U.), where my daughter Christal graduated.  Nice.
Following my time in New Caanan, I drove to Westborough, where I spent a fun hour chatting with Barbara Kimball, my 96 year-old mother-in-law.  Barbara is a delightful person, and I am glad that she was there and happy to sit awhile and chat.

While in Westboro, I filled Fritz with 18.45 gallons of Mobil Premium gasoline (benzin).  He had come 489.9 miles on this tank of gas, so had achieved an average of 26.5 MPG (8.9 L/100Km).  I checked the oil, too.  It was as it had been the morning before, just below the full mark. And on the odometer were 272,170 miles (438015 Km).
Fritz's leather interior

Do you see why I love both Romanians and BMWs?

Most drivers' last view of Fritz.