Pride Goeth Before a Fall

Eiffel Tower (Photo: ©Howard E. Daniel, 1965-2018) Have you ever been too embarrassed to dust off your high school French or Spanish when you’re in a country where you’re actually immersed in that linguistic environment? It can be pretty uncomfortable, as I can attest from witnessing any number of such situations. Some people — even […]

Cuneiform and Clay Tablets — the Only Thing More Cumbersome Than 3 x 5 Cards for Taking Notes

Cuneiform tablet This month marks the 70th anniversary of what, when I was studying there from 1966 to 1968, used to be called the Russian Research Center. Today, this modest corner of scholarship at Harvard University is known as the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and it is housed in a much newer, […]

Climbing Fuji

Fuji-san in summer, free of snow Scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday morning, I spotted a post by my cousin Ken Kelley, who, with several friends in the Anthem Ranch Hike Club, recently climbed Colorado’s highest peak, Mt. Elbert (14,433 ft./4,399 m). Ken reported that it took them not quite five hours to ascend 5,000 […]

Another Bombshell for Pearl Harbor?

Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Tojo (right) Wow! I’d always believed that the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event that brought the United States into World War II, was the responsibility of the aggressive military clique behind Hideki Tojo, Japan’s wartime prime minister. However, after recently reading an article that describes a meeting between Tojo […]

One of the World’s Great Museums Is Also the Czar’s Attic

Winter Palace, home of much of the Hermitage’s collection Two recent events — one mundane, the other calamitous — came together in my mind and prompted me to write this short piece about one of the world’s greatest museums, the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The mundane event is my recently begun exploration of the […]

The Power of Supercortemaggiore

Back in the summer of 1965, my friend Arlee* and I drove through several West European countries. We picked up our car – a Fiat so tiny it made VW bugs look like whales – in Milan and headed south. Driving in a new country was exciting. I remember the amusing (to me) name of […]

Adventures at the DMV – and Elsewhere

My Soviet driver’s license (and, yes, I certainly needed a haircut!) I’ve just passed the written and vision tests needed (perhaps thanks to advancing age) to renew my driver’s license. The experience with the California Department of Motor Vehicles reminded me of a long-ago brush with Virginia’s DMV. It happened in 1978, shortly after I […]

Blowing Smoke: Memories of 8 a.m. Russian Class

Since I couldn’t find a suitable photo of a cigarette-smoke ring on Google, here are some shots of a volcano puffing one out. Wow! Last November, in writing about the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, I recalled the birth of my interest in Russia and the Soviet Union. I wrote that when I began […]

Nuts and Alligators

Here’s a Foreign Service story that’s too good not to share. Back in the early 1980s when I was working in Washington, D.C., I was assigned for two or three years to USIA’s Foreign Press Center, just three blocks from the White House. It was a great job. The FPC was located in the National […]

Risking Life and Limb for a Good Photo

Arc de Triomphe at the center of the Place de l’Étoile – a hub with 12 spokes Back in 1965, I made my first trip to Europe. In Paris, I learned you could go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. But how to get there? It stands in the middle of the Place de […]