Views of the Monkeynut

by   Peter R. Lloyd-Davies

Road trip in Europe, 1963 New Hampshire 1998 How to hate high culture 2003
Europe 1997 New Hampshire 1999 On Kittens and Cuckoos 2004
Disney 2000 New Hampshire 2000 On the Theater 2005
Europe 2000 Seattle 2000 My Uncle Edward 2006
Southwest 2001 New Hampshire 2001 My War Journal 2007
Cape Cod 2002 Seattle 2002 The Current Unpleasantness, 2009 2008
Opila reunion 2002 New Hampshire 2003 More cat thoughts, 2014 2009
Christmas 2002 Toni in Alaska, July 2008 Why I can't afford to run for office, 2014 2010
Honk! - February 2003 The Geezers ride again, 2009 Socialism in South America 2011
July 4 2003 Thoughts on immigration 2012
Maine, August 2003 My thoughts on Covid-19 2013
Lake Winnipesauke, 2004 A conversation about George Floyd, June 2020 2014
Russell is 90, Sept 2004 1. Why is socialism more popular now in the US? 2015
Europe, August 2005 2. Why do economists hate socialism? 2016
A mighty wind, 2006 2017
Turkey, 2007 2018
Xmas 2007 pictures 2019
Mike's graduation, June 2008
Puerto Rico, January 2011
In and around Austin, 2011
Romping with the dinosaurs, 2012
Trip to Southeast Asia, 2012
We belatedly celebrate our arrival in Texas
Off to New Mexico in August, 2013
Big Bend National Park, April, 2014
Antonia in Cameroon, 2014
Europe, 2015
Skydiving, 2016
Our trip to Italy in June, 2016
Lynch reunion in Sugarland Texas, 2016
To New York to see Hamilton, May 2017
Total solar eclipse, August 2017!
One Big Holiday, in the Dominican Republic, March 2018
One big wedding, in Tulum, June 2018
Off to Tanzania, January 2019
To the Caribbean, March 2019
Our trip to the Northwest, July 2019
The wedding of Madeleine and Phil, October 2019
To Phoenix, February 2020
Caddo Lake, August 2020
More kittens!, November 2020

Views of the Monkeynut presents a vivid multimedia adventure unfolding the splendor of the Lloyd-Davies and Lynch atomic family, featuring, as the nucleus, Peter and Louise; as the electrons, Madeleine and Antonia. Discover the agonies and ecstacies of their latest travels, or study the history of their adventures from conception to the present through a vast archive of photographs, scientific facts, questionable rumor, text, graphics and videos.





New from the Monkeynut - the big Texas chill, February 2021. First question - why did we come to Texas? Answer - to get away from those damn Yankees. But also to get away from being cold and having to shovel snow. Now the entire country is laughing at us as we struggle with extreme cold, tons of snow and bursting pipes.

Some were lucky and could shelter at home to wait out all of these horrors. But others had to deal with horrors in their homes. And we were part of the latter group - at some point in the wee hours on Monday February 15, I heard a sinister beeping coming from my study. I got up to investigate and saw that my backup power source was about to run out of power. Before I could do anything, it expired and all my electronic devices that were plugged into it shut down. My study, which had been lit up with seemingly thousands of colored status lights, turned black. No more electricity. No more light. No more heat.

For us, Monday was tolerable because the house had a certain reservoir of heat which takes a while to dissipate. The indoor temperature slowly declined and stood at 53 by the end of the day - nothing a warm sweater couldn’t handle. We have a gas stove, so we could make tea and boil water for our neighbors. No TV and no computers, but, by God! we’re tough enough to do without. And we still had our phones until the batteries ran out, so we could send whining texts to our friends.

Tuesday was less fun because we had to acknowledge that the blackout could last quite a while. The authorities had initially announced that there would be rolling blackouts of no more than an hour, but that was before they had assembled all the facts about how much power generation had been knocked out by the storm. The temperature in the house dropped to 42 - definitely out of my comfort zone. Back in the day, I would have thought nothing about sleeping in a tent at that temperature or scaling a mighty mountain peak. But somehow I have lost my zeal for such things. Louise and I started to squabble about which of us should eat the other first. (Finally decided by arm-wrestling, so I started licking my lips.) The cats felt the cold, even the Siberians, and all of them spent both nights with us on the bed - Boris cuddling with the kittens, Gus propping herself on my leg. We were nearly crushed by the weight of 100 blankets plus four cats but we were not cold.

Antonia and Mary were worrying about us, given our exalted years and shaky health. They had power at their house the whole time and offered to house us until our power came back. I told them how tough we were and thanked them for the offer but turned it down. Antonia understood and chalked it up as yet another pathetic attempt at character-building on my part. Later in the day, they renewed their offer, only this time they weren’t going to take no for an answer. They explained that there would be a serious ice storm that night and this was our last chance. Furthermore, since they had four-wheel-drive vehicles, they were going to come down and drag us away. This was such a thoughtful and loving offer that we gave it some serious thought. One drawback was that Antonia and Mary had already taken in some refugees from the cold, so it would be standing room only in their house. I was also concerned about leaving our house when there were still bad things that could happen - pipes cracking, etc. So, we ended up refusing again, but with the proviso that if our power was still out on Wednesday and the streets were navigable, we’d take up their kind offer then.

We ended up going to bed on Tuesday about six o’clock - too dark to read regular books and our laptops, on which we might be able to read kindle books, without much juice left. The cats joined us and we went to sleep. But later on, something woke me. It was 11 p.m. Maybe I needed to go to the bathroom? I looked over at the bathroom and - mirabile dictu! - its light was on! I had to fiddle a bit with the thermostat but then the heating came on and all the clocks started flashing 12:00. We still had to sleep under all the blankets and cats, but our outlook had changed radically for the better. And, sure enough, when we got up, the temperature in the house was up in the 60ies and life was good. I did notice that the water pressure seemed to be much lower than before, which I ascribed to all those poor devils in the neighborhood with broken pipes gushing water from their walls. But we had heat, light, TV and all the rest. We stayed up late watching an excellent British TV series and luxuriated in all the warmth and light.

Thursday started badly. I had been worrying during the night about the reduced water pressure so I walked around the house looking for evidence of burst pipes. Seeing nothing, I thought maybe I should look outside. And, sure enough, there was a gusher coming out of the back of our garage into the back yard. A peculiarity of Texas houses is that the water cut-off valve is under a small manhole cover in the sidewalk. Of course, the sidewalk is covered in ice, so you first have to locate it by bashing off the ice. Then you remove it and see that turning the water on or off needs a special tool that I did not possess. Fortunately, some kind neighbors came by and helped us turn off the water and then provided us with a couple of gallons of water and some divine home-smoked salmon. Bless you all!

We now prepared to face new challenges. We were enjoying being warm, but not having water can be a bitch. We had some reserves for face washing and toothbrushing. We gathered snow from our backyard and put in a bathtub to fill the tanks of the toilets. But, with a gallon a flush, the tub was not going to last us long. We called a couple of plumbers and left messages for them to please rush to save us, but of course everyone else was doing the same, so we didn’t get our hopes up. Later in the day, the mayor announced that because of possible contamination, all water should be boiled before drinking. I laughed hollowly.

Things got worse, ironically, on Saturday, when the temperature climbed all the way to 60. This quickly melted most of the rest of the snow in our yard, so there went our toilet tank reserve. The outlook was grim, but then Louise was talking to a friend on the phone, telling her of our woes. The friend said - well, my husband is a retired plumber - we’ll be there in an hour. And they were. And her husband marched into the garage, felt that the sheetrock was wet, ripped it off and exposed the pipe, along with the split where the water had been coming from. Fifteen minutes later, he had finished plugging the pipe and turned the water back on.

I feel that I can’t finish here - surely there is an asteroid hurtling towards our house which will destroy us all? But actually things look pretty good for the moment. The sun is shining, and the temperature outdoors is 67. There is not a speck of snow to be seen. Once more, life is good.

New from the Monkeynut - Riots in the Capitol, January 2021 Following an election, there is generally a call for unity, an end to the partisan cacophony that always accompanies an election. President-elect Biden gave just such a speech. And yet now the winning party seems determined to ramp up the level of hostility all the way to 11. How did this happen?

I've not been a huge fan of Trump, but he has been and still is supported by a large fraction of the electorate. I am sure that there was plenty of sneaky malfeasance in the counting of the votes, probably on both sides, but I am also reasonably confident that Trump still lost the election fair and square. I kind-of understand all of his posturing and declaiming about how he really won the election - his basic modus operandi in any conflict is to keep banging away, using any weapons at hand, until he wins the battle. But he should have realized the election was a lost cause and thrown in his hand long ago. Even before the riot in the Capitol building, his surly behavior was fodder for conspiracy theorists believing he would never relinquish power voluntarily and imagining that he had secret troops at the ready to enable him to hang on by force. And then the riot provided Democrats with evidence to take the claims from the fringe and sell them to the rank and file.

Did Trump incite a riot? The Democratic leaders claim so; House Speaker Pelosi said "The president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go." Was it an insurrection? Was it an armed rebellion? And did Trump incite it?

It was definitely a riot, although by the standards of some of the rioting last year it was not a very large one. Nevertheless, a riot in the Capitol building should definitely be considered more serious for that reason alone. But an insurrection is something else - according to the Cambridge Dictionary, it is: "an organized attempt by a group of people to defeat their government and take control of their country, usually by violence." Was the goal of the rioters to defeat the government and take control of it? I haven't spoken to any of the participants but it seems clear that their prime motive was to make their opinions about the validity of the election results heard loudly and clearly. Their strongly-held beliefs were that the election was stolen from Trump, and there is no doubt that Trump is responsible for this narrative. More than that - Trump certainly appears to believe it strongly himself. But the idea that a few hundred Trump supporters in the Capitol building is a vital first step to seizing the reins of government seems ludicrous. According to one journalist who accompanied the rioters into the building, many of the Trump supporters were seen taking selfies of themselves - there was no apparent plan to consolidate their position in order to put new pressure on the government. Only Schoedinger's Trump could have planned this invasion - at the same time, cunning enough to outwit the Capitol police and break into the Capitol building; dumb enough not to have any idea what to do next.

So my call is, no, it was not an insurrection, even if there might have been some among the rioters who dreamed of it. How about a rebellion? A rebellion, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is: "Violent action organized by a group of people who are trying to change the political system in their country." This seems to be a couple of small steps up from an insurrection - definitely violent, and with the intent to change the system, not just to take control of it. I don't believe that Trump has shown any desire to change the political system - all of his complaints and whinings about how the election was stolen from him are strictly within the framework of the constitution. So my conclusion is that it was not a rebellion either. One additional word from Pelosi is "armed", which certainly seems consistent with the dictionary definition of rebellion. Were the rioters armed? Probably some of them were, but I have seen no evidence that they used their weapons to gain or to hold their position. One Capitol policeman, Brian Sicknick, was killed in the riot, but that was from being bashed in the head with a fire extinguisher. As far as I know, the only person to be killed during the riot by gunfire was Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, shot in the head by a policeman while she was trying to enter the building through a window.

Now, let us take the first phrase of Pelosi's comment - "The president of the United States incited this..." There is no doubt that, as a general matter, Trump is a provocateur, which in popular parlance is pretty much one who incites. His popular appeal is not built on carefully reasoned arguments that people sit around and discuss before deciding to support him. Instead, he plays to their feelings of being marginalized and dealt with unfairly. Ever since he began to run for the presidency, he has delivered speeches designed to inflame these feeling and create strongly motivated supporters. His speech to his supporters on January 6 certainly included some inflammatory material, telling his supporters to "fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Of course, inflammatory speeches are nothing new in politics; indeed, they are pretty much par for the course. Ayanna Pressley, one of the House "squad", is quoted as saying last year "There needs to [be] unrest in the streets." And there has been unrest in the streets and many people have died and billions of dollars of property destroyed. Pelosi herself has been quoted saying much the same thing. Should they also be run out of town for incitement? There is a delicate issue here, since, as a legal concept, incitement has had to be carefully distinguished from protected free speech. As a result, a lot of inflammatory speech from politians is safe from legal challenge.

So, while Trump was definitely whooping up the troops, it seems unlikely to me that it constituted incitement in the legal sense. In addition, Trump included some more moderate exhortations to his followers, including: "I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard." It would be a hard sell to convince any disinterested party that Trump was inciting anything with this statement, although the split infinitive might have enraged any grammarians in the group. Later on, after the Trump supporters had broken into the Capitol building, he sent another series of messages, urging obedience to the law.

But then, let's face it, the purpose of Pelosi's statement is not to convince a disinterested party; it is to whoop up people (mainly, but not exclusively Democrats) who are tired of Trump's beligerent insistence that he won the election so that they can have the satisfaction of booting him out. I can understand that point of view myself - for a while now, I have been asking myself why couldn't he go out with some dignity, with some hope that his presidency will be remembered for some decent legislative and administrative achievements, instead of the guy who whined himself out the door like a spoiled child? I think it was a typical Trumpian bad decision to encourage his most ardent followers to protest during the counting of electoral votes, but no matter what happens now, he will leave in disgrace, rather than merely a self-centered whiner, with a big black mark against him in the history books.

One more comment on Pelosi's statement - "He must go." And go he did, but she means of course that the Democrats should have the pleasure of booting him out themselves. But what happened to the call for unity? Can't she see how she is enraging Trump's supporters, who constitute a sizable fraction of the country? When Democrats started calling for impeachment before the ink was dry on Trump's inauguration, she resisted them, presumably because she saw it as unnecessarily divisive and unlikely to succeed. After some time passed, I think she felt forced to give into the more radical elements of the party; Trump was impeached and the result was as expected - more anger on both sides, a lot of time and money wasted, and a foregone conclusion to acquit in the Senate. But this second impeachment is a more serious folly, which may help solidify some Democratic votes but at the expense of the nation as a whole. And this time Pelosi is out in front - shame on her! I hearby award her the Trump medal for divisiveness, first class.

New from the Monkeynut - More kittens, November 2020 Antonia and Mary recently got two kittens from the animal shelter. They were concerned about how their dog Rusty would take having two new high-energy animals to deal with, but it actually went very smoothly. They are now totally besotted by the kittens, who are, it must be said, totally adorable.

Not to be outdone, we then started our own quest for more feline friends. Not that Gus and Boris are inadequate in any way, except that they are adult cats who mostly lie around the place. Kittens are somewhere at the other extreme. Louise checked out a breeder of Balinese cats and for a while it seemed that we might get a kitten from them, but it didn't work out. We then checked out kittens for adoption from the animal shelter. It was unsatifying looking at the ones in cages at the shelter because you couldn't do anything but wave at them through the glass. Finally, though, Louise tracked down a nearby family who were fostering a litter of kittens on behalf of the shelter. They were very little - maybe six weeks old - but Louise fell in love with one of them, a sweet orange guy named Ron, after Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter books. She and I went to see them again 10 days later. Ron was indeed delightful, but so was his litter-mate Hermione who took more of a shine to me. What should we do?

Eventually the obvious solution presented itself - we should take them both. Not only would Louise and I each have the kittens we liked best, but the kittens would have each other, which would make for a happier integration in our household. They were neutered/spayed on Monday the 23rd and we picked them up the next day. They came with post-op instructions, which included "do not allow your kitten to jump until the incisions are healed", which gave me a good laugh. Jumping is what kittens do - you might as well say to make sure that they don't breathe.

Louise had planned a carefully controlled introduction of the kittens to our cats, as prescribed by cat guru Jackson Galaxy. My plan was to toss them together and hope for the best. As a result, she and I argued about how to do it for several days until Jackson Galaxy finally agreed that it would be OK to let them play together. Our Ruskies were interested in the new arrivals, but not in a hostile way. The kittens were not scared of the Ruskies at all, although there was so much to see and so much fighting to do with each other that they didn't try to press things. Pictures here.

New from the Monkeynut - Caddo Lake, August 2020 Our vacation plans took a beating from the pandemic, and we had resigned ourselves to sheltering in place. But Antonia and Mary took pity on us and organized a long weekend trip for the four of us to Caddo Lake, a magical place in far-eastern Texas, not far from Shreveport. We stayed in a lovely house on one of the many winding waterways that make up the lake; the weather was perfect and we swam, ate, boated and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Pictures and details here.

New from the Monkeynut - Bruce is gone, June 2020 When Antonia was doing her Peace Corps stint in Cameroon, she adopted a tiny kitten whom she named Bruce. (Because his frontal silhouette looked a bit like Batman.) When she returned to America, she carried Bruce, now a one-year old cat, in a cat carrier on the planes with her. Bruce became a Texan, although he still had his native Cameroonian street smarts - he seemed constantly on the alert for a charging rhino or a black mamba. He was an outdoor cat and occasionally would limp home after a dust-up with another wild animal. But he was well-loved by Antonia and Louise and me and even Mary, after a suitable period of adjustment.

Recently, he became withdrawn and began to lose weight. After numerous visits to the vet, Antonia concluded that he had probably contracted feline lymphoma. He continued to lose weight, although he would interact to a reduced extent with his family. Finally, he started having seizures, so Antonia sadly took him to the vet for the last time. RIP Bruce, beloved by us all.

Bruce in Cameroon Bruce in Texas

New from the Monkeynut - Protesting racial bigotry, June 2020 Because of the Covid-19 lockdown, I assumed that nothing was happening in the wider world and I made no attempt to keep current on the news, with the exception of Covid-19. At some point, Louise started to complain that we were approaching the end of times. I initially thought she was talking about the pandemic, but then she explained that a dozen cities in the U.S. were in flames. Good Lord! I hastily brought myself up to speed about the death of George Floyd and all the subsequent protesting. My thoughts about it here.

New from the Monkeynut - Covid-19! May 2020 Boy, did this come as a surprise! It is not uncommon for some dreadful infectious disease to emerge somewhere in the world, spread across national boundaries and kill many in its path. Then they go away. Two of these - SARS and MERS, both caused by coronaviruses - actually emerged relatively recently, in this century, and caused havoc for a while in some countries, but the USA was largely spared. So when China finally conceded that it was experiencing a new coronavirus outbreak in January, it didn't initially seem to be such a big deal for Americans. When March began, however, the disease was starting to get a solid hold in Europe and the numbers of infections in many countries became alarming. By mid-March, it was clearly on the march in the USA. Hardest hit, unsurprisingly, was New York City, a place where people are crowded into the subways, making it an ideal place for the infection to spread. I kept saying - hey! what's the big deal? A bad flu season sometimes kills close to 100,000 and it doesn't even make the front page. Texas didn't get much affected until the end of March, and mostly in the huge megapolis of Houston. Nation-wide, there have been around 1.5 million cases reported and deaths are already nearly 100,000.

While the number of deaths is likely to keep rising for a while, our efforts to slow the expansion of virus are also exacting a terrible toll on the economy. States are enforcing lockdowns, so that only essential business or those that can be run remotely are functioning. I fear that: 1) the lockdowns will not do much to protect us from the virus, 2) the effect on the economy will be a lot worse than many imagine, and 3) the attempt by the Federal government to throw money at the economic problem will cause even worse problems. Further ramblings and cogitation here.

New from the Monkeynut - We visit Joanne Fortune in Scottsdale, AZ, February 2020 Our friend Joanne Fortune, who lives on the frozen tundra of upstate New York, is spending some time in Scottsdale, AZ, so we took a trip out there to see her. The weather was beautiful - sunny and warm - and Joanne kindly ferried us around to see the sights, including Sedona and Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home. Pictures and details here.

New from the Monkeynut - Madeleine gets married, October 2019! Madeleine and Phil have been an item for over a year, so they decided that it was time to tie the knot. Rather than have a Grand Event in St. Patrick's Cathedral, with hundreds of guests, brass bands playing, dozens of bridesmaids in co-ordinated outfits, they thought they would just nip down to city hall and do it without any fuss or stress. Of course, there's no such thing as a wedding totally without fuss or stress - the families of the bride and groom had to be there, plus a few very special friends, and there had to be meals organized and of course everyone had to be on their best behavior. But this wedding went very smoothly and it was truly a joyous occasion. Pictures and details here.

New from the Monkeynut - Lynch Reunion in Chicago, August 2019. It is three years after the last Lynch reunion in Texas, so it was time for another one - this time in Chicago. The locations were divided between the south side, with the Coglianese family, and George and Rick's appartment in the city. It was so nice to renew aquaintance with family members who came from all over the country and we celebrated by consuming large amounts of food and drink.


New from the Monkeynut - Trip to the great Nortwest, July 2019. A number of our good friends now live in the northwest and we haven't seen them for a while. Therefore, a trip was indicated. We flew to Portland, then up to Seattle, with a side-trip to the Olympic peninsular. A very pleasant trip, reliving old memories and creating some new ones. Pictures and details here.

New from the Monkeynut - Cataract surgery, April 2019. When I have gone for my annual eye exam for the past several years, my eye doctor has been telling me that I have cataracts and that they can be fixed for free, courtesy of Medicare, with no pain, no fuss. I have almost no adverse symptoms - maybe it has got a little harder to read in low light, but - hey! - that's what lights are for. However, the prospect of being able to see without glasses for the most part is pretting appealing, so I finally told her to go ahead. Before the surgery, I had to select what kind of lenses I wanted. "Only the finest!" I said. Well, it turns out that Medicare only pays for them to put a piece of window glass in my eye, so that I should be able to see OK at intergalactic distances, but would need glasses for everything else. If I wanted lenses that would correct for the shape of my eye, with appropriate adjustments for astigmatism and focusing at a reasonable intermediate distance, it would cost me $10,000. (I would still have to wear reading glasses.) So much for free.

But the surgery was as advertized - no pain, no fuss. I had them done two weeks apart and in both cases I was astounded by the change in my vision, especially color. My goodness - the sky really is blue! My blue-jeans which I had thought were grey are bright blue! Who'da thunk? I can see distances just fine and can even work on my computer without glasses. And a simple pair of drug store glasses works fine for reading. The only down-side of the operation has been that my eyes seem to be sore all the time. I consume gallons of artificial tears, but they don't seem to help much.

New from the Monkeynut - Cruising the Caribbean, March 2019. Following our adventure in Tanzania, in March we had an adventure in the Caribbean. We signed up for a cruise of the Windward Islands - a series of smaller Caribbean islands, starting somewhat to the east of Puerto Rico and going south almost as far as Venezuela. The trip was sponsored by a number of University alumni associations, including Rice. The ship (boat?) was a modern sailing vessel called Le Ponant, holding only about 60 adult passengers, so this was not like a Carnival Cruise where you are stuffed in with a few thousand shipmates. We started in Grenada, heading north as far as Martinique and then turning south to St. Lucia, ending up in Barbados. Each day we could scramble off the boat and board a tour bus that would show us around whatever island we were anchored by. The weather was lovely and everything was just fine - except that I came down with bronchitis, was sick as a dog, and ended up missing about half the tours. So I can't say I got my money's worth, although it is definitely a trip I shall not forget. Pictures and details here.

Le Ponant, our home for a week

New from the Monkeynut - Tanzania, January 2019. In January, Louise and I had an adventure in Tanzania. Actually, Louise left before I did to do some screenplay research in Uganda, but then we met in Arusha, Tanzania, for a safari - the first time for either of us. We visited two major national parks, including the Serengeti, over a period of four days. We were signed up with Bobby Tours; they had no-one else wanting to do that same trip that same time, so it was just the two of us and the driver in a fine safari vehicle with a pop top so we could stand and take photos. And did we take photos, thanks to a new camera I purchased for the trip! We saw pretty much everything there was to see: elephants, lions, cheetahs, baboons, zebras, antelope, leopards and one rhino. A memorable trip!

After the safari, we flew to Zanzibar for some relaxation. We swam in the hotel pool, sizzled on the beach and walked around Stone Town, the ancient capital of Zanzibar. Pictures and details here.

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