Massey's (artificial) Christmas tree


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Formal dinners at Massey College have already ended for the term, and the last cafeteria-style lunch, dinner, and breakfast are on Thursday and Friday.

After that, we will be on our own until January 5th.

My main plan is to continue to rely on the staple I developed at Morrison Hall the summer before last, where kitchen facilities were restricted to a fridge, sink, and microwave. Frozen vegetables microwaved, mixed with canned beans, microwaved again, and served with hot sauce provide an economical and reasonably nutritious form of sustenance.

I will need to be both sustained and kept on track, despite the absence of many commitments to help structure my schedule. Beyond the grading and term paper that still occupy me tonight, this break demands the completion of a much more detailed version of my PhD research proposal, ideally accompanied by the completion of the update to the divestment brief.

It seems the first board meeting will be on January 15th, so we also need to sort out our formal bylaws by then.

Based on the last two years, I know how empty Massey will get right around Christmas time. I don’t mind the quiet and the solitude, for the most part, though there are friends here who I will certainly miss, along with the pleasure of spontaneous conversations at meals and in common spaces.


Reading by the fire


“The merciless shelling had no pattern. It was aimless and incessant. Each day it seemed to increase in intensity. Mortars and the grinding howl of rocket-firing Katashkas soon added to the din. Most people now spent much of their time in cellars, air raid shelters, flak tower bunkers and subway stations. They lost all sense of time. The days blurred amid the fear, confusion and death that was all about them. Berliners who had kept meticulous diaries up to April 21 suddenly got their dates mixed. Many wrote that the Russians were in the center of the city on April 21 or 22, when the Red Army was still fighting in the suburbs. Their terror of the Russians was often intensified by a certain guilty knowledge. Some Germans, at least, knew all about the way German troops had behaved on Soviet soil, and about the terrible and secret atrocities committed by the Third Reich in concentration camps. Over Berlin, as the Russians drew closer, hung a nightmarish fear unlike that experienced by any city since the razing of Carthage.”

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. 1966. p. 420-1 (italics in original)


“‘I have no doubt,’ Von Manteuffel told his staff, ‘that on Hitler’s maps there is a little flag saying 7TH PANZER DIV., even though it got here without a single tank, truck, piece of artillery or even a machine gun. We have an army of ghosts.'”

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. 1966. p. 395


Common room with Christmas tree


“By now confusion was beginning to sweep the German lines. Shortages were apparent everywhere and in everything. A critical lack of transport, an almost total absence of fuel, and roads thronged with refugees made large-scale troop movements almost impossible. This immobility was producing dire consequences: as units shifted position, their equipment, including precious artillery, had to be abandoned. Communication networks, too, were faltering and in some places no longer existed. As a result, orders were often obsolete when they reached their destinations – or even when they were issued. The chaos was compounded as officers arriving at the front to take over units discovered nothing to take over, because their commands had already been captured or annihalated. In some areas, inexperienced men, left leaderless, did not know exactly where they were or who was fighting in their flanks. Even in veteran outfits, headquarters were forced to move with such frequency that often the troops did not know where their command post was or how to contact it.”

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. 1966. p. 394


“In all, one third of Reymann’s men were unarmed. The remainder might as well have been. ‘Their weapons,’ he was to relate, ‘came from every country that Germany had fought with or against. Besides our own issues, there were Italian, Russian, French, Czechoslovakian, Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian and English guns.’ There were no less than fifteen different types of rifles and ten kinds of machine guns. Finding ammunition for this hodgepodge of arms was almost hopeless. Battalions equipped with Italian rifles were luckier than most: there was a maximum of twenty bullets apiece for them. Belgian guns, it was discovered, would accept a certain type of Czech bullet, but Belgian ammunition was useless with Czech rifles. There were few Greek arms, but for some reason there were vast quantities of Greek munitions. So desperate was the shortage that a way was found to re-machine Greek bullets so that they could be fired in Italian rifles. But such frantic improvisations hardly alleviated the overall problem. On this opening day of the Russian attack, the average ammunition supply for each Home Guardsman was about five rounds per rifle.”

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. 1966. p. 383


“From Speer’s office Reymann made a quick visit to one of the defense sectors on Berlin’s outskirts. Each of these inspections only served to deepen Reymann’s conviction that Berlin’s defenses were an illusion. In the strutting, triumphant years, the Nazis had never considered the possibility that one day a last stand would be made in the capital. They had built fortifications everywhere else – the Gustav Line in Italy, the Atlantic Wall along the European coast, the Sigfried Line at Germany’s western borders – but not even a trench had been built around Berlin. Not even when the Russians drove with titanic force across eastern Europe and invaded the Fatherland did Hitler and his military advisors act to fortify the city.”

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. 1966. p. 380