How I Got My Name and the Conqueror of Ossory

The following incident took place sometime in 1169 or 1170 during
Strongbow’s conquest of Ireland.  Ossory was a petty kingdom of Ireland at
the time.  The occasion of the Irish conquest by Strongbow was at the
behest of Dermot Mac Murchada, King of Leinster who, after stealing
another king’s wife, was dispossessed of his kingdom.  Strongbow was
promised Dermot’s daughter Aoife (MacDermot) by her father, if he would
help him (Dermot) get his kingdom back.  Strongbow‘s real name was
Richard Fitzgilbert De Clare and his wife thus became Aoife MacDermot De
Clare when she married Strongbow.  (And that is from whence comes my
name.)  There is a famous painting depicting the marriage of Strongbow and Aoife in the Irish National Gallery.  Dermot, who was responsible for Ireland
being conquered by Strongbow and held in subjugation by the English from
that time until the 19th or 20th century, depending upon how you look at it,
is one of the great villains of Irish history.

Here’s what happened before the conquest of Ossory during that war,
according to Gerald of Wales in his history The Conquest of Ireland.
(Gerald was not only a medieval historian, he was also the tutor of  two sons
of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, King of England, i.e. Richard the
Lionheart and John Lackland, later King John.)

…Duvenald, the prince of Ossory, was the most implacable of all the
enemies of Dermitius (Aoife Note; Dermot) and some time before,
when the son of Dermitius was his prisoner, having become jealous of him,
he carried his vengeance to such a pitch, that he put out his eyes. …

Dermot’s, or actually Strongbow’s, army assaulted Ossory and won the day.
Dermot wasn’t exactly gracious in victory.

…The victory being thus gained, about two hundred
of the enemies’ heads were collected and laid at the
feet of Dermitius, who, turning them over one by one, in
order to recognize them, thrice lifted his hands to heaven
in the excess of his joy, and with a loud voice returned
thanks to God most High.  Among them was the head of
one he mortally hated above all the rest, and taking it up
by the ears and hair, he tore the nostrils and lips with his
teeth in a most savage and inhuman manner. …

And we think we live in violent times.  Talk about needing an anger management course.

If I could go back in time and speak to Dermot, I think the conversation
would go something like this:

“Now, ya just gotta reel it in a notch or two.  Calm down.  Y’know, attenuate your responses just a tad.  Here, I have something for you.  It’s called Prozac. Really, take one, you’ll feel much better and maybe won’t be so high strung.  No, I am not possessed of the devil, it’s just a pill.  Hey, put down that sword…”


Hurricane Tips from a Storm Survivor

Hurricanes are kinda fun if you’re a kid, a pain in the butt if you’re not.  My first was before I was two years old.  I’ve been through more than a dozen, including going through a cat 4 one, alone,  in a tin roofed cottage on the beach on a tiny island in the Caribbean.  The airport blew away and help didn’t arrive for days, so everyone was on their own.  Jeez, in that one much of my neighborhood was gone–and I mean GONE— in a few hours.  My next door neighbor’s home was crushed by a tidal wave–which, fortunately, I did not see because the storm was so intense that visibility was only a few feet when it happened.  That storm was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve had plenty of scary moments.

So here are a few tips (that I learned the hard way) for those of you in the path of big storms.

If you have to leave in a storm, or if you stay and lose a roof or windows blow in, you’re going to get wet.  Pack a bag ahead of time, ’cause you might wind up having to leave during or after the storm.  Two gallon ziploc baggies are a perfect size to hold one set of clothes, a set of sheets, some shoes, or a towel.  Where I live in Florida you can get them at Publix (but not Winn Dixie).  Don’t get the kind with the zipper-they break.  The ones with the double-locking seal will hold.  Just buy a couple boxes of them ahead of time so you’ll have them if you need them.  Before the storm gets to you,  just put whatever you’re going to need/want in them & squeeze all the air out like a mini-storage bag, so they don’t take up much space.  They’ll fit easily into a suitcase. (Actually this is a useful packing tip for any trip.)  It saves you from having to root around among everything in a luggage bag & will keep stuff dry until the rain stops or you get someplace where it’s dry.  You just pull out a baggie with a set of clothes & nothing else gets messed up.  Don’t throw the empty baggie away–when the clothes are dirty, you can put them back into it so your luggage won’t smell like dirty clothes.

If the power goes out, no telling when it will come on again.  You can do without food but you gotta have water.  And it’ll be hot so you’re gonna want something cold.  Freeze a bunch of half-liter bottles of water.  (A larger size will split open so don’t try that.)  This way you have cold water for a few days after the storm, depending on how often you open your freezer when power is out.  It’s a godsend when there’s nothing cold available for sale.  It takes about a half hour for the bottled ice to melt, so you can sip it as it melts, and you can put it against your  skin to help stay cool.

If you have to leave there’s no telling when you’ll be back. Before the storm or before you leave, take everything except the frozen water bottles out of your refrigerator and wipe down the interior surfaces with a bleach solution (so mold won’t grow in the heat).    This will prevent you from having a hideous stinking mess when you come home.  Duct tape the freezer door(s) closed so the bottles can’t fall out in the wind.

Close the lids of your toilets.  If the ceiling caves in this will prevent you from having to dig out a bunch of plaster, etc. from inside the toilet bowl. (Ick!)

Sprinkle Clorox 2 on your carpets.  If they get wet this will help prevent mold growing.  If the carpets don’t get wet you can just vacuum it up after the storm is gone.  If they do get wet, you may be able to just let them dry and then vacuum the dried powder up.

Gas up your cars, and fill up some five gallon containers (don’t leave them in the house though).  Even though there may be plenty of gas available after the storm, there probably won’t be any power to pump it.  (Fla. governor Jeb Bush once famously sneered at everyone getting gas before a hurricane.  He said there’d be plenty of gas after the storm.  There was.  It just couldn’t be pumped.)

The most important thing to have?  Water, water, water!  Being hungry is uncomfortable but not life threatening for quite awhile.  You’re not gonna starve.  But you can only go two or three days without water.

Hope you find these tips interesting but don’t have to use them.  But if you do they could save you some effort afterwards, and keep you more comfortable (dry clothes, sheets shoes and towels) during and after, once you get to someplace dry.


Here’s a tip about mosquito spraying.  Its effectiveness is inextricably tied to the size of the spray’s droplets.  The maximally effective droplet size is between 7 and 22 microns.  Most spraying results in much larger droplets.

Some years ago mosquito spraying in Collier County, Florida resulted in a die-off of fiddler crabs, which resulted in restrictive sanctions against the spraying.  And, the insecticide used in spraying is expensive.  So a Charlotte County mosquito spraying pilot, Richard Howe, who also happens to be something of an inventive genius, figured out a way to increase the percentage of appropriately sized droplets and decrease the amount of pesticide by 90%.  He met with great resistance from various vested interests.

Mr. Howe, and his brother Bob, are legendary pilots among certain segments of South Florida.  I mean, those guys can fly!  They can do pinpoint spraying that other pilots just do not have the ability to replicate.  Richard Howe tinkered with any number of ways of getting costs down and effective kill rates up.  He finally came up with spray nozzles and flying techniques that accomplish both.  The droplets, being so small, hang in the air longer than the much larger droplets most spraying applications produce.  Since it was the droplet size, not the pesticides, which was the operant factor, research showed that much lower pesticide concentrations could be used to achieve maximal spraying effectiveness.

So, now that the Zika virus has reportedly caused paralysis in 30 people in Puerto Rico, maybe local governments could start taking the virus seriously.  It’s not just a threat to the intrauterine development of fetuses.  According to a news item of a few days ago, someone was saying that, well, paralysis is rare and temporary and nothing to worry about.  Unless, that is, the muscles that get paralyzed are the ones involved in breathing.  Yeah, that might be a problem.  Ya think?  Jesus, what does it take to get people to wake up?

Remember polio and the “iron lung” machines of the 1940’s and ‘50’s?  Polio victims whose breathing muscles were paralyzed had to be kept in the machines, which artificially pumped the air in and out of their lungs.  Do we really want to go there again?

Again and again, disasters of all types are linked to one common cause–lack of
imagination in people who are responsible for preventing them.  So, while people are wasting time trying to get the U.S. Congress to get its collective sorry asses in gear to get some research funding into the pipeline pronto, if not sooner, maybe South Florida and Caribbean local governments could think about contacting Mr. Howe’s company, Application Dynamics.  Y’know, to at least look into some less environmentally intrusive and destructive ways to kill mosquitoes, for the time being.

Because, while the infected mosquitoes may only have a range of about 400 yards or so, that of the people they infect has a considerably wider radius.

Just sayin’.

I’m a 40-hyphen American

I don’t get the fuss about ethnic hyphenation.  It seems kind of silly and in my case, cumbersome.  The hyphenated American profile of my direct ancestry, which goes back many centuries, is 40 geographic/ethnic places/peoples long.  And that’s just the great to the Nth grandparents I know about–no telling from whence the thousands of unknown ones might hail.

Here, in no particular order, is my hyphenated ancestry/ethnicity, i.e. what kind of American I am.  I’m a Dutch-Danish-Norwegian-Swedish-Jute-Northumbrian-Finnish-Pictiish-Saxon-Norman-Welsh-English-Irish-Kentish-Mercian-Bernician-Austrasian-Nuestrian-Burgundian-French-Spanish-German-Russian-Polish-Scottish-Bavarian-Belgian-Flemish-Asgardian/Asian-Czechoslovakian-Ukrainian-Byelorussian-Bretagneian-Franconian-Prussian-Austrian-Roman-Italian-Luxembourgian-Colonial North American-American.

If a hyphen is required, as so many people who wish to distinguish themselves from other ethnic groups seem to think, it would be shorter and easier to just call myself a not-Portuguese American.  That’s one of the few places in Europe where I don’t have any direct ancestors–at least not that I’ve been able to find.

A number of my ancestors came to the colonies in the early 1600’s.  The earliest arrived in the 1620’s. On the flip side, one grandmother was an undocumented immigrant who entered the country legally.  At least, she and her family came on a European ship in the late 19th century.  Her name and those of her parents and siblings, are on the ship’s manifest.  But there’s no record of her ever formally becoming a U.S. citizen, or having a visa or other certification so I’m not sure what that makes her–legal or illegal.  But those family members were farmers, so that makes them undocumented migrant farmworkers, doesn’t it?  Grandma’s parents never learned to speak English either according to old census sheets. They spoke (Prussian) German.

I’m guessing there are many, many Americans who look down their noses at undocumented migrant farmworkers, not realizing that’s exactly what their ancestors were.  Back in the day in the 18th and 19th centuries, when this country wanted to increase its population, no one was asking too many questions.

So be careful who you stigmatize–you could be talking about your own family.  I think in the USA we’re mostly a bunch of mutts.  Some people refer to that as “the melting pot”.   But growing up, in my family there were no hyphenations.  We just thought of ourselves as “Americans”.

“Lock Her Up” “Have him flogged” “Lock Her Up” “Have Him Flogged”

To the humor impaired:  This is satire.

Q.  What Do Donald Trump and King Henry II of England Have In Common?

A.  They both made remarks that were construed as hinting that they’d sure appreciate it if someone would get rid of a political opponent, and then gave passive aggressive responses to the resultant firestorm of criticism.  (”Whaaat?” “Was it something I said?” “I was just kidding.”)

Maybe King Henry II’s voluntary penance (flogging) for his faux pas of seemingly wishing for political assassination could be extended to Mr. Trump as well.   Think of it.  It’d be a huge media event that would entertain millions.  The Donald would get tons of attention, which he seeks as resolutelyly as Diogenes, the ancient Greek with the lantern who was unendingly searching for an honest man.  Maybe the pros would outweigh the cons for the ever-surprising Mr.
Trump and he’d agree to the gaudy spectacle.

Henry II was famous for his rages when anyone opposed his will.  After his best bud, Thomas a Becket became Archbishop of Canterbury the two had a falling out over the separation of Church and State.  They had a huge fight about it and in 1164 Thomas ultimately had to scoot to exile in France, where he remained for six years.  (King Henry was really pissed off!)  Eventually, in 1170, Henry and Thomas were reconciled and the archbishop returned to England.  But it was an uneasy truce.

Only a few months after Thomas returned to Canterbury, the two were again at
loggerheads.  The precipitating issue was whether Church or State had judicial authority over clerics.  Apparently many monks had been overly frisky, some even murderous.  Thomas believed only the pope had any authority over religious matters and denounced some bishops during his mass on Christmas Day, 1170, which was interpreted as him excommunicating them.   Henry wanted them reinstated, because he maintained that the clerics’ misdeeds were up to the State to punish (or not).   Thomas said no.

Henry was, as usual, enraged when he didn’t get his way.  He was, in France at the time,  and huffed “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” or something along those lines.  Four of his knights were only too happy to oblige their liege lord.

The knights crossed into England and raced for Canterbury.  On December 29, 1170 they caught Becket at the cathedral saying Vespers.  They carved him up. Literally.  The crown of Becket’s head was cut off.   One of the knights delivered a crushing blow to the prostrate Thomas’s head, spilling his brains out right in front of the altar.  Ick!  Even for a king having an archbishop’s brains squashed out at a cathedral’s altar was way too over the top.

So Henry was forced to agree to do penance, which included being publicly flogged by the monks of Canterbury, in the cathedral.

Even though, fortunately, no one took the Donald up on his provocative solicitation of violence, there are plenty of people who’d still love to see him publicly flogged.  It could be done at St. Edward’s Catholic church in Palm Beach–there’s plenty of parking behind nearby Green’s drugstore. (Finding parking is a real problem in Palm Beach.)

Mr. Trump ‘s handlers could sell the idea to him by focusing on the linkage between him and a king.  Yeah, the Donald in sackcloth and ashes, the Catholic priests whaling on him (the Episcopalians at Palm Beach’s Bethesda by the Sea church might go too easy on protestant Trump) cameras rolling, media flacks gabbling like excited geese–it would be the event of the election season.

Maybe some RNC members could be induced to join the floggers.  Catholic Paul Ryan would go for it, and Reince Priebus might be all in as well.   Maybe it could be a bi-partisan fund-raiser for charity.  MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and
Mika Brzezinski could be the fair and balanced moderators. (Or maybe Stephen Colbert would be a better fit–he’s Catholic.)  It would be awesome theater.

And it would give Democrats an answer to the Republicans’ chant of “Lock her up”.   Dems can start start chanting “Have him flogged”.

Somebody, please, start a petition to have the Donald do penance the Henry II way.   Pretty sure it would garner the number of signatures required for the White House to address it.  President Obama, always a good sport, would probably be okay with it.

What would Jesus say?  “Flogging doesn’t sound so bad compared to what I had to do to save your damn souls.  Go for it.”

Say Hallelujah.  This is an idea whose time has come.

Borinquen’s Monica Puig Wins Gold, Island’s First Olympic Medal

Great tennis play on the part of Monica Puig!  So happy she competed for Puerto Rico and brought home the gold for them.  The island has had a pretty rough year and this had to have been a thrill for Borinquen!

You go girl!

Mercy or Vengeance

Diarmat Mac Murchada (Dermot) King of Leinster, had been dispossessed
by the High King of Ireland.  He sought assistance from Henry II, King of
England to regain his kingdom.  Henry gave his knights permission, if they
wished, to join Dermot’s cause.  Richard “Strongbow” Fitzgilbert De Clare,
Earl of Striguil took him up on it.

Dermot even threw his daughter Aoife overboard, metaphorically speaking;
as an incentive, he gave her as wife to Strongbow.  There is a famous painting
in the Irish National Gallery, “The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife”
which depicts this event.

In 1170 Strongbow sent an advance party of ten men-at-arms and 70
archers, led by Raymond le Gros, to Ireland.  Near Waterford, at Dundonolf,  about 3,000 men of Waterford engaged Raymond’s small band and, due to the
inopportune tactics employed by the Irish, amazingly, Raymond’s contingent won the day.  It was a long fight and Raymond and his men grew so weary of cutting people down with their swords that they finally resorted to just throwing the Irish off a cliff into the sea where they drowned.

But they also captured 70 Irishmen and there was a public debate about
what to do with the captives.  The noble Raymond pleaded eloquently for their lives, but a more practical knight, Hervey de Montmaurice, was of another mind.  The debate is relevant and apropos today, given the issue of terrorism and the war on it.  Here is how the debate went.

Raymond’s Speech
“RAYMOND, contending earnestly for the liberation of the prisoners, spoke
thus :”
…Their enterprise was honourable, and they are not to be treated as thieves,
insurgents, traitors, or freebooters.   They are now in such a position that
mercy ought rather to be shown them for example’s sake, than cruelty to
torture them. …
…Let our clemency, therefore, procure for us the noble distinction that we
who have conquered others can conquer our own fury and wrath. …
…How worthy is it of a great man, in the midst of his triumphs, to count
it for sufficient revenge, that vengeance is in his power? …
…It is the part of a brave man to consider those as his enemies with whom
he is contending for victory, but to consider the vanquished as fellow-men;
that while courage brings war to an end, humanity may add to the blessings
of peace.  Mercy is, therefore, much more worthy of a noble man than
victory; the one is a virtue, the other the effect of fortune. …
…but as they were made prisoners, their lives were granted, and they have
been readmitted from the rank of our enemies to the common fellowship of
men, it would be a great stain on our honour, and bring us to great disgrace,
if we were now to inflict on them the punishment of death.

“His discourse…was received by a murmur of applause from the people”

Then Hervey had a go at it.
Hervey’s Speech
…Was that the way by which Julius Caesar and Alexander of Macedon
conquered the world ?  Did the nations voluntarily flock together from all
parts to such spectacles of mercy, or were they not rather compelled to
submit to the yoke by force of arms and the terrors of cruelty? …
…Raymond argues with wonderful mildness, as if we had already
subjugated these nations, and we had only to do with treating them kindly,
or as if our enemies were so few, that, with such valour as ours, it matters
not that we augment their numbers, whereas the whole population of Ireland
are leagued for our destruction, and not without reason. …
…Tell me, I pray you, whether Raymond’s acts are not inconsistent with his
words. Let him answer me whether, if the enemy should advance to storm
our camp, and by any chance should succeed, they would deal mercifully
with us. …
…We must so employ our victory that the death of these men may strike
terror into others, and that, taking warning from their example, a wild and
rebellious people may beware of encountering us again. …

How did it work out?

“Hervey’s opinion was approved by his comrades, and the wretched
captives, as men condemned, had their limbs broken, and were cast
headlong into the sea, and drowned.”

So much for “The quality of mercy is not strained”.

The account is taken from The Conquest of Ireland, by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales), a 12th century historian and tutor to  two kings, Richard the Lionheart and his brother, John.