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Taking on Water

PANDA started off with a bang. Before getting down to book discussion, there was a brief conversation regarding one of our PANDAs who had recent heart flutters as he started to play tennis the other day. He turned down several offers of friends willing to drive him to the hospital, but this PANDA is stubborn as the day is long. He wound up driving himself to the Veteran’s Hospital where he was immediately admitted. Then transferred to our local hospital the next morning, he underwent a quadruple plus by-pass operation. Thankfully, this PANDA is well on his way to recovery. Does it pay to stubborn???

Wow! We actually had all PANDAs present for this illustrious gathering to talk about Dead Wake by Erik Larson. Everyone agreed the book was written in true Larson style. The personalities of both the submarine commander and the captain of the ocean liner were a direct conflict to each other. The German commander could care less about the many lives involved in the sinking of the ship. All he was interested in was tonnage. The bigger the ship, the better for him and his crew for the recognition they would get from the Kaiser. Despite his good record, the British captain was severely criticized for not taking evasive action. It was later brought out in the investigation that he could not have turned the ship toward the Irish coast due to the severe damage. Did this clear him of any wrongdoing?

Fifteen hundred passengers on board, mostly Brits, and possibly 150 Americans were involved in the sinking. Eleven hundred souls did not make it despite the calm waters. Major screwups by the British Navy in not sending their fastest ships to the rescue for fear of being torpedoed did not help matters. Many, many lives could have been saved. That’s not even taking into account the incompetence among the crew in regard to the lifeboats.

Both Winston Churchill and President Woodrow Wilson were not presented in a very positive manner. The American president focused his attention on a new-found love after his wife had died—not on national security matters. All members actively participated in the lively discussion.

Dialogue ceased for a much needed break to congregate and partake of the delicious collection of food laid out by our host and his wife. Trays of pastrami, salami, varieties of breads, nuts, grapes, chips, salsa, several types of cheeses, and some special vanilla cookies with chocolate innards were enjoyed by all. Mmm.

As usual, we revisited our soft cushions to discuss—what eles?—politics, Democrats, Republicans, Tea-Party-ers, loose cannons, and a few others. One PANDA took it upon himself to bring up the death penalty. Here again, all had their say about this topic. After all was said and done, we’ve decided that the upcoming election is going to be one for the history books. Hard to say who will win at this time, but we all agreed that these are some really scary times for the political future of U.S. politics.

Well, Happy Thanksgiving to all. We’ll meet again afterwards to waffle over My Promised Land by Ari Shavit. Then in the new year, we’ll look forward to Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

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