Thursday, April 30, 2009

Up, Up, and Away?

Catching up on Dow Theory...Yesterday we got a Dow Theory "buy" signal. Whether this is a bear market rally (likely) or the start of a new bull market (less likely), the short term indicators are that the market will go up. It is a reasonable time to add to a position in DIAs (hopefully with better results than I got in January).

Everyone seems to agree.
Richard Russell, Jack Schannep, and even Charles Allmon (who is a sage advisor but not a Dow Theorist) all say the market should now rise, though caution is warranted.

From a strict
charting point of view, however, the technicals are looking rather extended to me. The RSI has been around 60 since March 23 and the MACD is looking peaked out. So, I'm not sure there won't be some kind of at least mild correction to the down side soon. But, that's just me - what do I know. No more DIAs for me though.

I might buy more
gold, however. It is showing some weakness right now but the support is basically holding up. A good sign.

From a Dow Theory standpoint, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (
INDU) and the Dow Transportation Index (DJT) both reached new recent highs on April 17, closing at 8131.33 and 3094.90 respectively. But, both averages immediately dropped significantly the next day, so these became the new targets for a bull confirmation.

On April 23 the Transports bettered their previous high, closing at 3108.84. DJT continued to rise the next day, closing at 3137.76. But, the Dow itself did not "confirm" the rising Transports. Ideally, in Dow Theory, both averages would go to new highs to signal a buy.

Meanwhile, INDU stubbornly refused to go to a new high...until yesterday's close at 8185.73. Theoretically, this should mean all is well for now in the markets. They should continue to rise. However, there is a bit of caution in the air. It is not a perfect scenario because four trading sessions passed in a non-confirmation mode. Plus the Transports traded yesterday lower not higher than their most recent high. Still, there is more reason for optimism than we have had at any time since the Great Recession began.

This April was the best month for the market since 2000.

To date, both averages represent a rather rapid and powerful rise of about 20% from the lowest points of the bear market in March. This is not without historical precedent, as I indicated in an earlier post. What is unique about this rally is that (so far) it hasn't corrected, leading many financial gurus to contend that the bear is over and a new bull market has emerged. This would be a rather remarkable historical occurrence, however.

Then again, everything about the economy in the last two years seems to have been historic.

I have written about how historically bear markets last at least a third as long as the preceding bull market. Since the previous bull market lasted 25 years the bear should last much longer than 17 months.

Still, arguing with the markets is like arguing balls and strikes with an umpire. The market does what it does and no one can control it. It is a great part of our functional society - human beings all wrapped up in a mega-system that controls THEM, not the other way around.

Hopefully, we're going up for awhile and - just maybe - the worst of this Great Recession is behind us.

That's cool with me. Let's make money. "Money makes der Welt go 'round", eh?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Selling off our future

"Make no mistake. We are selling off our future and the future of our children to prevent the bondholders of US financial corporations from taking losses. We are using public funds to protect bondholders of some of the most mismanaged companies in the history of capitalism, instead of allowing them to take losses that should have been their own." -John Hussman's market comments yesterday.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


The recent few years of drought took its toll on a variety of plants on our land. We lost about 70% of our dogwoods, for example. Our spirea also suffered. Late last summer they were pretty much burnt up, with long leafless branches standing out like brittle spikes. This winter and spring has been wet, however, and many plants have recovered, especially the spirea - though it will take a bit more time for them to return to their former glory. The thing I like best about our particular kind of spirea is that it seems to glow on cloudy days or just after the sun sets. You can look out on a gray spring day (or in early twilight) and the spirea jumps out at your eye - as if it gives out more light than I recieves. Very beautiful.

Our spirea borders our woods. These are about half the size they were before the drought. Behind some of our remaining dogwoods are in full bloom.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Unfashionable History

Marc Egnal’s new work on “The Economic Origins of the Civil War” is sure to raise plenty of eyebrows. As he himself admits on the last page of the book, his perspective is “hardly fashionable”.

In a nutshell, Dr. Egnal opines that throughout America’s great era of compromise (the Nullification Crisis, the Missouri Compromise, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act) our country was closely tied to common, agrarian economic interests which allowed people of differing opinions on the issue of slavery to work through whatever crisis faced the country. Political divisions were based more on class (the wealthy and the urban dwellers were Whigs, while smaller farmers and workers were Democrats) than on regions.

However, with the industrial development of the northeast and, more importantly, the mid-west, these ties gradually became more regionalized. “This economic interpretation emphasizes the materialist roots of secessionist ideology. It grounds the defense of slavery both geographically and temporally. For the most part, the champions of secession came from the southern reaches of the states from South Carolina to Mississippi and similar districts in the other cotton states. Typically, these Southern rights leaders had little involvement with manufacturing and took no part in the overland exchanges that were transforming the Border States, parts of the Upper South, and scattered districts of the Lower South.” (page 264; the emphasis on geography and time is Egnal’s.)

Personally, I have always found that the role of slavery as a cause of the war, though certainly significant and fundamental, has nevertheless been mythologized. The war was a highly complex event and, in my opinion, came about as a result of a range of issues with slavery being the most emotional. These emotions fired the politics of abolitionism and secession alike.

I believe why Americans fought our bloodiest war cannot be fully understood in any political or even racial sense. My preference is for a more sociological interpretation. A clash of cultures, as it were. Tribes. But, this isn’t about my take, it’s about Clash of Extremes, an interesting new work of history.

Dr. Egnal observes that ardent southerners left the union in two waves, not all at once. First, the Deep South left rather quickly because it did not have the intrinsic economic ties alluded to in the above quote. Those states clearly seceded because they thought the north was going to choke the lifeblood out of slavery, the foundation of the southern economy.

But, the Upper South and the Border States chose not to secede immediately. This is rather significant because, while there were fewer slaves in these states, this region contained large majorities of whites who believed slavery was a natural part of life. Yet, secessionists in these states could not persuade a majority to vote for disunion with the mere election of Abraham Lincoln.

These states held more direct interests and ties to the booming mid-western economy and, therefore, believed that compromise was still possible as in the past. It was only when Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers against the Deep South that the Upper South found enough cause to secede.

The Republican Party was born an anti-slavery party. But, it recieved no serious respect until the 1856 elections. Suddenly, in two states – Michigan and Wisconsin – the Republicans lead in the majority of counties. Throughout the lower mid-west, New York and Pennsylvania a very large minority of counties became Republican. The New England states were almost solidly Republican.

But, this still wasn’t enough impact the outcome of the 1856 election. Afterwards, several influential Republicans steered the party toward the issue of internal improvements, building rails and canals by which greater commerce could flow. This, along with its position on tariffs, caused the party to become more acceptable to a wider range of people. The economic message of the Republican Party, along with the radicalization of the Democratic Party by prominent southerners, solidified the north.

You must recall that the other major party in the 1856 election was the Whig Party, a party that had been around for many years. The Whigs vanished during this election, many of them becoming Republicans. Egnal doesn’t emphasize this point but the fact is a major political party (the Whigs) lost one election cycle and was virtually erased by a party (the Republicans) that only a record of about 2 - 4 years existence. That was a rather remarkable, abrupt occurrence.

The abolitionist appeal that the enslavement of Africans was morally and ethically wrong, wrought the emotional birth of the Republican Party, but the destruction of the Whig Party came only after the Republicans seized the banner of economic progress and won the election of 1860. The split of the Democrats into a "northern" and "southern" party also was signifcant.

The shock that the dissolution of the Whigs and the rise of the Republicans had on secessionists was like lightening. Egnal points out the largest fight to stay in the Union among the Deep South took place in Alabama because northern Alabamians were tied by economic infrastructure to Tennessee and Kentucky and beyond. South Alabama was tied more to the port at Mobile. Slavery was prevalent in both sides. The difference was that northern Alabama still didn’t think Lincoln’s election was sufficient to leave the Union.

There was a basis for believing in compromise. Egnal writes: “During the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s North-South patterns of trade, the strong growth of the cotton kingdom, and parties rooted in class rather than geographical divisions kept the country together, despite contentious sectional issues. After midcentury the rise of the Great Lakes economy along with the spread of antislavery sentiment transformed the North. In the South the disappearance of fresh soils and concerns about the long-term survival of slavery altered the outlook of the cotton planters.” (pp. 347-348)

The act of secession, according to Egnal, “reflected the rational interests of one group of Southerners.” Further, “an appeal to ‘slavery’ as the cause of secession no more explains the deep divisions in the South or the timing of protests, than do references to repression and paranoia. A reasoned response to economic change provides a more satisfactory explanation for secession and the Civil War.” (page 286)

Egnal’s attention to the fact that secession occurred in two phases for different reasons is a powerful argument. Also, his reasoning is sound that the sudden end of the Whig Party, a national political force historically aligned with the ideals of compromise, and replaced almost overnight (in a political sense) by an anti-slavery party galvanized radicals on both sides.

But, the Republican Party’s performance in 1856 was bettered in 1860 only after it tempered the slavery issue with the at least equally important economic concerns of the day. The slavery issue alone was insufficient to get Lincoln elected and the election of Lincoln alone was insufficient to lead to the secession of the Upper South. These facts put slavery in its rightful place, as the issue of critical importance only to abolitionists of New England and to secessionists of the Deep South. For the rest of our nation, the economy drove much of the ensuing events, according to Egnal.

I find this interpretation appealing, though personally I feel the issue is still more complex than Egnal makes it. For me, the best way to interpret the coming of the War Between the States is more of a sociological one rather than political or economic. It was a clash of two cultures, one traditionally agrarian, and the other progressively industrial. The factors that supported each culture (which include slavery, of course) en total bring the picture better into focus.

Still Egnal’s work is significant because it offers a reasoned, factual counterpoint to the revisionist social criticism that masquerades as history in contemporary academia. (Ken Burns comes to mind, though I respect his artistic style.) Slavery was no more or less a cause of the war than the disintegration of the Whig Party itself. It was merely the most emotional of many reasons.

For me personally, I’ll stand by Clement Eaton’s rationale as offered in his classic work A History of the Old South. Speaking of the Southern Confederacy, “The rise of this new nation was a part of that romantic nationalism of the mid-nineteenth century that was agitating Europe. Far more important among the emotional forces propelling the Southern people to seek independence, a motivation that has been grossly underestimated by historians, was the call to uphold Southern honor (today, in contrast to 1860 in the South, honor seems to be in disrepute).” (page 504)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Basic Dogness

Left to right, Nala, Parks, and Charlie on our front porch. So happy together.

When we married, Jennifer came complete with two indoor cats. In fact, I shacked up with the cats in our first home a couple of weeks before we entered wedded bliss. It was a kind of get acquainted time for the cats and myself. That was about 21 years ago.

I hate cats. Always have. So, love conquered all where my betrothed and felines were concerned. Some years later, shortly after my daughter was born, both cats passed on - as we say in respectful company. It wasn't really a relief for me though. By that time I had repressed my hatred and actually came around to almost liking them. I'm far more adaptable than my OCD, routine-infested life might otherwise suggest.

At any rate, growing up I always had a dog or two at my parent's home. I enjoyed taking long walks through woods and open fields with them. We had no neighbor children so dogs were my playmates. We would run and rough-house together. Dogs are way cool and I read them well. If I get to spend any time at all with one it will usually bond with me.

When my daughter turned three we thought it would be nice to give her a collie mutt puppy as part of her birthday. Bad idea. She played with the puppy but she couldn't feed the puppy. Puppies tend to really appreciate whoever feeds them and gives them water and can play with them a bit more intensely than a 3-year-old. That would be me.


So, Nala (we named her after Simba's girlfriend from The Lion King) became attached to me. My daughter - being still pretty much three - didn't even notice.

Years passed. Nala - who, like all my dogs, is an outdoor only dog - went through her digging-holes-everywhere phase and her grabbing-everything-that-wasn't-nailed- down-and-chewing-it phase. We made it to maturity and there was peace. I can recall many sunny afternoons on my land just laying on the good, grassy earth with my dog and watching the sky as I had done so often as a child with other dogs other places long passed.

One weekend when my daughter was old enough to start playing tennis, she and Jennifer returned from the recreation park with a spitz mutt that had been abandoned down at the park. It was a middle aged dog. Very sweet. My wife had never been a dog person at all. She was all cat. Our relationship is dynamic that way. Be that as it may, my daughter was having a fit to keep the dog and my wife thought he was "just the cutest thing." That was that.


Suddenly, magically, Jennifer was transformed, attached to this mutt who we appropriately dubbed Parks. Parks was a spirited and vociferous being but not overly so. He was a joy to be around. He was also exceptional at training humans.

To begin with, since I had never allowed a dog to be in the house, he was an outside dog. But, after a couple of mornings of finding him asleep at the foot of our carport door (causing my daughter to go "awww" and my wife to discover yet another level to his seemingly bottomless depth of cuteness), we decided to let him in the house during the day.

Next, we decided he could stay inside but only on the lower floor and never on the sofa. Next, it was ok to sleep on the sofa (as long as it was covered with a sheet) but not go upstairs. Then, he taught us that sheets were completely unnecessary and upstairs was fine too, in fact we put a doggie bed up there for him (but just for afternoon naps). Finally, he taught us that he could sleep just fine in the house, when to feed him, when to let him out, and exactly how long to wait before checking to see if it was time to let him back in.

Parks trained us well. Nala didn't seem to mind. He had his domain, she had her's and all was right with the world.

Parks' prissy cat-like coat.

Then Parks aged and late last year we learned that he was suffering from a terminal cancer. He seemed fine. His behavior involved a bit more sleeping but otherwise you'd never know anything was wrong with him. Jennifer decided to give him a course of chemo, which damn near killed him after the second treatment.

But, once again, Parks trained us well. We cancelled all further treatments, put him on a steroid to perk him up and decided to await the inevitable. Jennifer was shattered. She spent several days crying over the impending death of Parks. At one point she thought we would have to put him to sleep any day now. She dropped all restrictions on feeding him treats.

The dog thought he was already dead and had gone to heaven. He was being fed practically anything he wanted. We didn't even bother to make him sit or anything anymore. We were COMPLETELY trained now.

Partly to compensate for the impending death of our beloved Parks, Jennifer suggested we get "our daughter" an indoor dog. And she had found a perfect one. He was an english setter mutt five months old and looking for a good home. His name was Charlie. My daughter checked him out and declared "he's my dog."

Charlie (a.k.a Chuck, Cha Cha, Charliemane).

So, Charlie came into our once dogless and cat-filled home to reside there as Parks passed slowly into oblivion.

Only that didn’t happen.

Parks hasn't died yet. The vet told us he had "about 2-3 months" to live. As of now that was four months ago and Parks doesn't show any signs of keeling over. In fact, those steroids and the constant diet of treats "just for doing nothin'", as Jennifer says, perked him right up. Sure, he has his slow days, but overall he's enjoying a fine spring.

So now, we have another puppy - this time inside with all our stuff - who loves to dig and chew and has more energy than my 10 acres can possibly subdue. He sleeps in my daughter's room, Parks sleeps in our bedroom, and Nala continues to enjoy the freedom of being an outside dog.

Parks hates Charlie. Who's idea was it to bring this goofy shit into the house?! What were y’all thinking??? But, there's no way to train us to get rid of Charlie. It's a tough time for Parks. He acts out. Completely house broken (as is Charlie by the way), Parks proceeded through the late winter to cast judgment upon the lot of us by peeing on every piece of carpet in the house. And when he had trained Jennifer to store all the rugs away until his eventual passing he started peeing on our wood floor.

Charlie "sharing" Parks' cushion. Parks has become a rather sloppy napper of late, often sleeping with his head spilling onto the floor, his robust belly shamelessly awash in the sun.

Charlie doesn't mind. He bounces around licking everything, oftimes squirming on his back, legs flailing in every direction, tongue hanging out, emitting a shameful squeak for a bark and trying to get me to play with him and one of his seemingly endless supply of chew toys that litter our house like a debris from some grotesque doggie explosion.

Nala doesn't care much for Charlie's rambunctiousness either. Charlie has learned to stay away from Nala's bowl - a sincere growl is enough to educate even the most curious pup.

The three of them really don't do anything together at all. Charlie doesn't understand. He just wants to be friends. Parks, the Perpetual, doesn't want friends. He just wants to continue his new found life of treats for doing nothing. Nala's always been a loner herself and just wants me to rub on her thick coat slowly but vigorously while telling her what a sweet dog she is for about 10 minutes each evening before I feed her.

They will all three go for walks in our woods with me. Also, Nala and Parks will sit around and watch Jennifer teach Charlie how to fetch a tennis ball - which he is becoming very good at. For treats, of course. Charlie runs for his treat while Parks gets one for “just doing nothing.”

More importantly, Charlie being a very bright puppy, he knows what “Come, Charlie” means when we’re outside. So no leash is required and he behaves…mostly. Well, there’s a jumping issue but we’re working on that.

For awhile there Parks wanted Charlie's food and Nala wanted Parks' food and Charlie wanted every one's food. Jennifer insanely tried to keep the three different kinds of foods separate. That was way too much work for me. My solution? Let them all eat whatever they want. They'll be tired of it in a week anyway and all curiosity and jealousy will vanish.

For now things seem to have settled into an unsteady doggie routine. Domains are defined. Nala is the alpha dog outside, Parks inside, Charlie would be the bitch if the other two cared to exert themselves to that degree. But they don't because they are both rather old and one of them is already supposed to be dead.

But he isn't. So we go on. My daughter sort of having “her” dog whenever the mood strikes her. Charlie playing more with Jennifer and myself. Training us a bit. How? Well let's just say when I'm in my chair reading, listening to some classical greatness and Charlie suddenly appears, tail wagging, two growing front paws in my lap, eyes dark but happy, and a rather large, stuffed, squeaking orange toy that’s a cross between a duck and platypus with huge bug-like eyes and a rope for a tail in his eager mouth - well - I know what to do.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Adam Lambert

I do not watch American Idol but over 30 million Americans do. It is a cultural phenomenon that I do not belittle simply because it largely disgusts me. However, I keep up with cultural phenomenons. My daughter and my wife are into the show. It is, by default in my house, my background noise. My wife has the total hots for Adam Lambert. It is an interesting thing to behold, her enthusiasm.

Anyway, last Wednesday before Lost (which is the only TV show I watch religiously) came on I sat down and watched the last 10 minutes with her before changing the channel. Adam Lambert gave this performance. Most importantly, Simon Cowell responded the way he did - a standing ovation. My bet is that it's the only time he has done anything so highly complementary live on the show. The moment was magic.

I told Jennifer later, after watching that week's episode of Lost, that I think as far as American Idol goes I nailed it in actually experiencing something brilliant for possibly the only time in the show's popular history.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Gaming Chancellorsville

Jennifer and my daughter took a long weekend trip to New York City and left me here with the dogs. I enjoy solitude so this doesn’t bother me. By coincidence, on Friday I got in the mail a new wargame I ordered recently. HPS Chancellorsville, the latest in John Tiller’s Civil War Battles series. I spent much of the weekend tending to dogs, mowing and weed-eating, taking some pics and playing this game.

This particular game is a computer wargame. There are all kinds of wargames. I have played wargames since I was a teenager. Mostly, these have been board wargames. See my friend Matt’s blog for an understanding of board wargames. My favorite board wargames include OCS Case Blue, Red Star Rising, Ukraine ’43, Prussia’s Glory, SWWAS Midway, and Thunder at the Crossroads. I favor wargames regarding the War Between the States and East Front of World War Two, just as I favor these subjects in my military history reading.

I own a lot of computer wargames. Almost the entire Tiller Civil War collection. The games have specific rules that more or less mimic historical formations - line, column, disorder, rally, defensive fire, and assault. Each unit has a quality rating which is how the game represents veteran troops from recruits that have little battle experience. As long as you play another human (or yourself) and not the computer (these games have dumb AI’s usually) these computer games can be very exacting in simulating the conditions of a given historical battle.

I play them just as much to learn about military history as I do for the joy of the game.
In this case, the battle is Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee’s greatest victory which came at the price of his most brilliant subordinate, Stonewall Jackson’s death. The battle was a disaster for General Joe Hooker’s brief career as head of a Union army.

The Tiller game is scaled on the regimental level with each strength point representing 25 men. Artillery is represented as batteries of individual guns. It is critical to your performance to maintain a chain of command from the brigade commanders to the division – corps – and ultimately the army leaders – in this case, Lee for the South and Hooker for the North.

In Jackson’s flanking attack he is “detached” and on his own as far as leadership is concerned. In this case that’s a good thing because Jackson has excellent command ratings. He will hit the Union right flank. Firing and assaulting into a regiment’s flank or rear multiples the force of the attack and increases the chance of routing the enemy.

At the regimental level many regiments can rout, often simultaneously. It is rare (but possible) to rout an entire division, however. Your goal in playing the game is to drive your enemy and take geographical objectives which are scored in victory points, it is a game after all.

All the basic mechanics of 19th century warfare are represented in the game. When you play you get a real feel for the issues involved. Regiments can force march, run low on ammo, recover from fatigue, etc. In the Tiller games a regiment’s fatigue level often determines its ability to fight and change formation without disorder. To me it is in some ways better than reading a book about the battle. Or I should say, the games greatly expand my appreciation of my reading.

Anyway, these games take quite an investment in time to play the large full battle scenarios. I played the smaller scenarios mostly. A small map 10-12 turn scenario can be played in less than two hours. I played the historical sideshow fight at Salem Church a couple of times to renew my familiarity with the rules of this particular system.

This shows the navigation display for the game. It reflects the historical situation at Salem Church during the Battle of Chancellorsville. I have highlighted the Union corps commander John Sedgwick as he readies a Union division to attack the Confederate position. This is a small map scenario in the game.

Then on Sunday I played the opening 2 hours of Jackson’s historic attack. I managed to rout most of Howard’s division, though – playing also as the Yankee – I was bringing over reinforcements and Howard himself was in command of his last remaining organized brigade, attempting to hold the line with lesser quality troops against the II Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

This is several screen shots stitched together. The larger battle scenarios are huge and take many hours to fully play. This accurately reflects the audacity of the smaller Confederate army splitting itself in a (successful) attempt to surprise the larger Federal army at 3pm on May 2, 1863.

Some additional screen shots of play follow. The game features three different zoom levels, depending upon what you wish to view. 2D Normal, 2D zoom-out, and jump map which is an extreme overview of the entire map. There are 3D levels but the graphics are so bad I never use them in play. Each “hex” represents 125 yards of actual terrain. The maps are highly accurate.

This is the jump-map, an extreme zoom out of the whole battlefield. Each blue dot is a Union regiment. Each red a Confederate. Hooker has smartly maneuvered his army behind Lee forcing him to change facing, if not retreat. It was a good strategy by Hooker. This is the situation at 2pm on May 1.

By 3pm the next day, Jackson has moved his entire corps behind Hooker without being detected. This is largely due to the heavily wooded terrain and the lack of good roads for either side to use. Lee and Jackson benefited from the assistance of local citizens to find a way around Hooker. Jackson proceeded to drive Hooker. Confederate troops would shoot Jackson accidentally and kill him in the twilight of the evening. Jeb Stuart would take command of the corps on May 3 and successfully continue the attack.

I always keep my books close by when playing these games. Of the Battle of Chancellorsville E. Porter Alexander, whose memoirs are among the most insightful of the war, wrote: "Had Gen. Lee been present on the left, during the Sunday morning attack, and seen Stuart's energy and efficiency in handling his reserves, inspiring the men by his contagious spirit, and in the cooperation of artillery, with the infantry, he might have rewarded Stuart on the spot by promoting him to the now vacant command of Jackson's corps. Ewell, who did succeed Jackson, was always loved and admired, but he was not always equal to his opportunities, as we shall see at Gettysburg. Stuart's qualities were just what were needed, for he was young, he was not maimed, and he had boldness, persistence, and magnetism in very high degree. Lee once said that he would have won Gettysburg, had he had Jackson with him. Who so worthy to succeed Jackson as the man who had successfully replaced him on his last and greatest field?" (Military Memoirs of a Confederate, page 360)

Another of the plethora of "what-ifs" about the war. As an aside, Alexander would be criticized when his memoirs were published for critiquing General Lee's decisions throughout the war. The suggestion that Lee made any mistake whatsoever was a touchy subject at the time (and remains so today in certain quarters).

One aspect of the game that shows how it recreates the conditions of warfare at this time can be seen in the fact that victory is often as brutal on the victor as on the defeated. A case in point is to look at the condition of two brigades that were involved in the beginning of Jackson's attack.

Doles Brigade of Georgians flank attacked von Gilsa's brigade. After three turns of the game, the Yanks are routed. The Confederates, after taking heavy fire from it, also managed to capture a battery of artillery. I have stitched together the individual regimental displays for all the troops involved so you can see the results in gaming terms. There is a lot of information available. Notice that the routed units are in column formation, that is, they cannot form a line of battle until they are rallied. All other units are in line. Notice also that the "victorious" Doles has his hands full with only one regiment left still organized to fight. In wargame terms, as in real life, it is time to bring up the reserves to follow-up on this initial assault.

Among the Confederate reserves yet to be brought forward is one of finest brigades in either army, the one Stonewall Jackson used to command. Fresh, top quality troops.

I get a lot of enjoyment out of these games. They keep my mind active, offer some recreation from the activities of work and home, and - as I mentioned - they add greatly to my reading and study of military history.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Wisteria Being

There's a space in my woods that smells very sweet this time of year. For several years after we first bought this property we did battle with wisteria. It was covering part of our forest alive. Totally out of control. Now, it keeps coming back - though it is much more subdued - and it blooms so sweetly in the very early spring. Bees have returned over the last two weeks in great numbers.

I can recollect on the unique aroma, a thick sweetness pervading the air. It takes me back to the same smells of my youth and early music of Dan Fogelberg, how I listened to his Wisteria.

Our tulips are blooming.

Jennifer recently took an outstanding close-up of one of our better tulips.