Alex J Szabo Obituary


Commander Alex Julius Szabo (USN, Retired), Father, Aviator, Veteran, and Entrepreneur, passed from this life on Tuesday, November 19th, 2019, at his home in San Antonio, Texas. He was 82 years old.

Alex was born on November 13th, 1937 in Miller Heights Township, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to Julius Szabo and Julia Elizabeth (Polgar) Szabo. He attended Bethlehem High School and graduated from Moravian College in 1959 with a Bachelor of Sciences in Economics and Business Administration. On August 25th, 1962, he married Rozella Louise Byrd at the Naval Air Station Chapel in Pensacola, Florida.

He entered the US Navy in 1960 and trained as an Aviator. While assigned to Naval Air Transport Squadron 3 at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, he flew one of the planes in Operation Dominic, the last above-ground testing of nuclear bombs. He later served 2 years “on the Ice” in Navy Squadron VX-6 at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, as part of Operation Deep Freeze. Szabo Bluff in the Queen Maud Mountains in Antarctica was named after him. Alex also flew C-130 cargo planes into combat zones during the Vietnam War. He finished his military career in the Reserves at squadrons out of NAS Dallas, Glenview NAS Chicago, and finally NAS New Orleans.

In civilian life Alex flew for Braniff Airlines, mainly flying to South America. He was also on the crew of the Concorde during it’s time in the US, one of the few US pilots granted that honor. He completed his flying career at United Parcel Service, working as a Pilot Supervisor in Louisville, Kentucky. During his time in the Louisville area, living in the small town of Lanesville, Indiana, Alex was an active member of the Lions Club and served on the Town Board of Lanesville for several years.

After his retirement, he and his wife enjoyed traveling in their Airstream trailer, having adventures all over the US and Mexico. They settled in San Antonio, Texas to be closer to their grandchildren. Alex enjoyed travel, old cars, airplanes, and was a keen bridge player. He leaves behind his wife of 57 years Rozella, and their two children, Maria Louise (Robert) Gilson of Olathe, Kansas, and Alex Jeffrey (Christie) Szabo of Helotes, Texas, as well as their two grandchildren Emma and Kaitlin Szabo. He is predeceased by his parents, Julius and Julia Szabo, and his sister Helen Kranitz.

A Memorial Service will be held on January 3rd at 10:30 am at Crossroads Baptist Church, 8300 Tezel Road, San Antonio, TX. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Disabled American Veterans.

Resquiat in Pacem, Daddy

By the water’s edge
The hummingbirds whispering
In the summer air
And in that moment I knew
I would not see you again

Alex Szabo
November 13th, 1937 – November 19th, 2019
Father, Aviator, Veteran, Entrepreneur


How to Read Japanese Poetry, a book by Steven Carter

I recently got a copy of this book, How to Read Japanese Poetry (New York; Columbia University Press, 2019) ISBN 978-0231186834, and have been enjoying it thoroughly. Steven Carter is the author of several books translating Japanese poetry into English, and his Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology (Stanford; Stanford University Press, 1993) ISBN 978-0804722124 is usually the first book I recommend to people who want to explore Japanese poetry. This book is a little more intimate, where Carter presents poems in a variety of styles, with translation notes and historical background. Less poems than his earlier book, but he digs down into further detail. If you are at all interested in Japanese poetry, definitely add this book to your library.


In process English translation of Gosenshū

Of possible interest to poetry enthusiasts: Christopher Kern, a visiting professor at Auburn University, is in the process of translating the Gosenshū (Gosen Wakashu), collected about 951 CE, which was the 2nd of the great Imperial Anthologies. He has put up a Wiki with what he has so far, including sources used and analysis of the poems. Check it out here:

There is a short wikipedia entry about the Gosenshū here:

And a brief entry concerning the 21 Imperial Anthologies here:


October 1, 2008 – November 1, 2019

Princess of the Moon
What mirror can I fashion
That reflects your heart?
The shadow in the corner?
That silent step on the stair?


Tsuki crossed the Rainbow bridge today, curled in my arms. The test results from the vets showed that her liver levels were worse, and the medicine we’d been giving her had no effect. Any further treatment would have required surgery, and we’d put her through that last year. It was a gut-wrenching decision. I take comfort in the fact that she had 11 good years with us, and I spent a lot of time with her this past month. Tsuki was a strange little cat, very timid, with a constant expression of melancholy. But she was very sweet. She loved gathering up the cat toys in the house and hoarding them on our bed. Sometimes she would deign to bring one down and share it. She enjoyed watching bird videos on TV and climbing all over Robert whenever he tried to sit and read a book. Rest well, Princess. I shall always miss you.

This is a rare personal post. I set Inktober aside when my cat Tsukihime was diagnosed with liver disease in early October. I spent much of the month caring for her, until we had her tested again yesterday (November 1st) and found that her illness was worse. I made the painful decision to let her be put to sleep.

Spent most of yesterday in tears over Tsuki. I think it was the shock of it. I didn’t even realize she was sick until her checkup in October, and while I knew the prognosis was poor, I had let myself hope that she was getting better with the medicine. So it was very hard to hear that the meds had done nothing at all for her. And I knew we had to let her go. The Vet offered to let me take her home for a final weekend, but I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with her all month, and I didn’t want to drag it out. She died as she had lived, timid, her head tucked in my arms. My poor little kitty.

Thank God Robert had started his vacation, although he was at a rescheduled doctor’s visit and didn’t find out about Tsuki until I came home without her. As for Robert, he took some blood tests (results next week) and got some antibiotics for that sinus infection he can’t seem to shake off. Tsuki’s loss hit him hard as well–she was actually more his cat than mine in many ways. I rescued her, but she fell in love with Bob at first sight, and was always crawling up on him when he was in bed or at his desk or watching tv on the couch.

Tsuki and Robert…the saga begins.

On the Couch

Tag-team with Nabiki

The last picture I took of Tsuki. With Robert, of course.

She was loved and is missed.

We’re down to one cat, something that hasn’t happened to me in nearly 30 years. It feels lonely, although Ryoko seems to be enjoying her free run of the house. She’s very confused. She knows there should be another cat around somewhere, but Tsuki is nowhere to be found.

We kept Ryoko and Tsuki separated (I’m not sure if I even have a picture of the two of them together) because Ryoko bullied Tsuki so badly that Tsuki was terrified of her. They knew the other was around, and would occasionally catch a glimpse of each other through a briefly-opened door, but otherwise, they had very little contact with one another. Each of them was allowed a half-day of freedom, otherwise they were kept pent up; Ryoko in my office, Tsuki in our bedroom. Tsuki had more room and got to sleep with us at night (unless I was in my Comfy Chair with insomnia), but the bedroom has blackout curtains due to Robert’s weird work schedule, so no outside view. My office is smaller, but there’s a window looking over the backyard with a nice view.

In a perfect world, we could have worked out the problems between the two cats and all lived in (semi) harmony, but we tried everything and those two just hated one another. The vet suggested rehoming one of them, but both had personality issues (Tsuki being incredibly shy and Ryoko being aggressive) and so it would have been difficult to place either one of them. So they lived in their separate worlds in our little house.

Now Ryoko is all we have left. We cleaned up the bedroom and washed all the bedding so there was less of Tsuki’s scent. Ryoko was a bit shy about going in (mainly because we’ve been chasing her out of the bedroom any time she managed to slip past us before), but she’s figuring it out. She slept with us on the bed for the first time last night and was quite happy.

Because we’d been having to give Tsuki meds at night (and waiting an hour after that before we could feed her), I had gotten in the habit of sitting in bed with her after medicine time, watching Bird TV videos on YouTube. Tsuki absolutely was wild about Bird TV, as you can see from the pictures below:





She would watch the Bird TV while I would listen to the birdsong and read. It was peaceful and relaxing, and we both grew to enjoy the ritual. Tsuki knew what the TV controls were and what it meant when I went to get them. I only wish we’d found out about this earlier.

Last night, I decided to see if Ryoko liked the Bird TV as much as Tsuki did. She was certainly riveted by the action and sounds, although she’s not a jumper like Tsuki, so she stayed on the bed to watch.


So I think I may continue the practice of Bird TV. It is relaxing and does give me time to read, while entertaining the cat.

I don’t know how Ryoko will change now that she’s an only cat. We’re hoping she’ll calm down some. She seems to enjoy being in the room with either one or both of us. She used to keep her distance but in the past year has become more of a lap-cat.

Unfortunately, with her temperament, we’re not sure if we can add another cat to the household without her going wild on us. As badly as I want a multi-cat household again, we may have to wait. Given our current reality, with my father’s illness, upcoming house repairs, and that cruise Dad wants us to take, we’re not in a good position to take on another cat (or cats) for awhile.

My heart, it hurts so much. Tsuki was a strange little cat, but she was firmly ensconced in our hearts. She was also the last active tie we had with our old home in Dubuque, and I found that wound torn open as well. It’s strange, as we’ve been here in Olathe almost seven years, but for some reason, it still doesn’t feel “real” to either of us.

But I type this now in my office, with the door open, yet Ryoko is here with me. She’s barely let me out of her sight today. Maybe I won’t be so lonely after all.


And a poem for today, November 2nd:

Darkness in my heart
And yet the sun is shining
The air, fresh and clear
A cloak of leaves, shimmering
Autumn eases my sorrows

Inktober Day 1


百花斉放 ひゃっかせいほう HYAKKA SEIHOU “A hundred flowers blooming” A blooming of the arts and sciences. I thought it was a fine sentiment to begin Inktober with.

I won’t be doing this every time, but I wanted to show a little of the background work that goes into this seemingly simple piece. Alas, I had no one around to take pictures as I actually brushed things out, but here’s an outline of the process.

百花斉放 is a yojijukugo, a four kanji character compound that acts as a proverb. There are thousands of these in the Japanese language, many of which came from Chinese works, which can make them a little challenging to translate. Jim Breen has a collection of them here, although I’m not sure what order he used. I found mine via this book here which was put together by my shodo teacher, Tony K. Skeen. In this book, the yojijukugo are in kana order (a,i,u,e,o/ ha, hi, fu, he, ho…etc) and therefore easier to find.

The first thing I do when I find a phrase I want to brush out is to cross-reference. In doing so, I double-check the translation, figure out the stroke order, and find examples of the style I want to brush out. This takes me across at least 3 or 4 dictionaries (or the internet if I can’t find what I need in the books).


I use the New Nelsons Japanese-English Character dictionary, Hadamitsky/Spahn’s A Guide to Writing Kanji and Kana for stroke order, and a 3-style Japanese Calligraphy Dictionary 現代書道三体字典 : コンパクト Gendai shodō santai jiten : Konpakuto (Modern shodo in three styles dictionary, compact version) by KISEKI Motohashi for the style examples.

Side note: if I am working on something for an SCA project, I will usually also try to find some style examples from extant historical documents. I know that there are some historical Japanese calligraphic dictionaries (I have seen a few), but with my middle-school Japanese, it’s hard for me to track them down easily.

So in the next four pictures, I cross reference each kanji from Hadamitsky/Spahn to the Gendai shodo santai jiten. I skipped taking pictures of looking up things in the Nelsons as it is a thick book and I couldn’t balance the camera!


Hyaku 百 meaning “100”


Ka 花, which is the ON (Sino-Japanese) pronunciation of hana, meaning “Flower”


Sei 斉 meaning “equal” or in the case “all at one time”


Hou 放 meaning “release” or “set free”

So literally, one hundred flowers released at the same time, or as we might say more poetically in English “one hundred flowers blooming” or “a hundred flowers blossoming”. Translation: it’s both an art and a science! In this instance, the phrase is referring to a blossoming of the arts and sciences, like what we might call a golden era or renaissance.

I’d like you to notice a few things in these pictures. Compare the computer kanji that is in this entry to the written kanji in the larger book, and then the three examples in the smaller book. THIS is the difference between just writing kanji and doing calligraphy. One of the things I see so often is people using computer kanji as their basis for kanji used in SCA scrolls. NO. PLEASE DON’T DO THIS. It’s like using the Times New Roman font as an exemplar for a 14th century scroll!!

If you notice, the smaller book shows three types of writing for each kanji. From right to left (and remember, the Japanese read right to left, not left to right), the styles are Kaisho (block script), gyousho (semi-cursive script), and sosho (cursive script).

While I chose to use sosho for my phrase today, I still practiced the kaisho. The reason for that is to get the stroke order correct and notice how some of the elements transmute when used in cursive. The gyousho is very helpful for seeing how the change happened, and while it was and is a widely used form, I don’t like it much.

So next, I had to consider the paper I was planning to use. A merchant had sent me some samples of this handmade washi paper and I thought it might be nice to try. However, I had to take into consideration that the size is smaller than the paper I usually use, as seen below:


I often use phone book or newspaper to practice kanji on when I am trying to get a sense of the shape. Here’s a comparison of my small phone book paper to the sheet I wanted to use. I would have to keep the size difference in mind as I practiced.


Again, I apologize for the lack of in-situ pictures. Here’s my normal set-up when doing brush calligraphy:


Examples to the left so I can see them, brushes and suzuri (ink stone) to the right, paper up top. Bunshin paperweights hold the paper in place and below the paper is a shitajiki, felt that absorbs ink since it tends to seep through the paper. The garish plastic placemats are extra protection since I’m doing this work on my dining table!

So here are some practice runs on the various kanji, in both kaisho and sosho forms:










And a few run-throughs of Hyakka Seihou. I’m messing a bit with the placement of the kanji in reference to each other. Sei especially wants to run larger than the others and is being a pain!




And finally, brushing the phrase on the special washi paper. I was actually going to do a couple of runs at this (because I wasn’t sure how the paper would take the ink), but the first one came out fairly well.


I actually wanted to do more practices, but honestly, there’s just a time when you have to do it and be done. It’s never going to be perfect to my eyes. The one thing I might have changed is leaving a bit more room at the left side for a seal signature. However, since I haven’t finished designing and carving my inkan (seal) yet, I felt the point was moot.

Hope this walk-through helps explain the process. The result is very simple and understated but there is a lot of work that goes on in the background!

Prepping for Inktober

Decided to try Inktober this year as a way to encourage me to get into a daily art habit. I’m sure there will be challenges, as this is always a difficult time of year for me, and moreso this year, but in art is solace.

I don’t intend to follow any prompts. My only goal is to do something inky. And some of it will be modern and not SCA-related, because I get a bit weary of how SCA takes over all my hobbytime. Anyway, I intend to try different media and different types of things. There will be shodo, sumi-e, regular ink drawings, maybe some knotwork? I just want to play with the medium. Most of my drawing experience has actually been with graphite and charcoal, so there is a learning curve.

Here are some sketches I did today (to ink during October):





I also prepped by finding several yojijukugo (four kanji compound sayings, kinda like shorthand proverbs) that I want to brush out. Probably in sosho, but we’ll see how I feel on the day of. I’m using the book Yojijukugo: 4 Character Compound Reference Source for Japanese Brush Calligraphy by my shodo teacher, Tony Skeen. He’s been urging me to do this anyway, so Inktober is a perfect excuse.

With the calligraphy, there is a lot of prep that goes into each finished project. I get the kanji from the book, but then I need to look it up in Nelson’s Japanese/English dictionary, then cross-reference it to one of my exemplars (different sources based on the style). This is to get the stroke order and also get a sense of what the stylized kanji is supposed to look like. Next comes the practice, where I get comfortable brushing out the kanji and also working out size and spacing. I’ll brush the whole piece out a few times before doing a final one.

(Arrgh, that reminds me, I still need to finish designing my inkan stamp!)

With the sumi-e, I have some instruction books with some exercises to work through. While I would love to do some color work, I think I’ll stick with black and white for this month. Same thing with the knotwork. I’ve done some knotwork on scrolls in the past but never felt very comfortable with it, so I’d like to play around with it a bit. Maybe mess about with some vinework, too.

Really looking forward to this. It’ll be fun!