Yet Another Snow Day

Athena has had school two days in all of February so far, thanks to a combination of being ill and then several snow days. So today was supposed to be a makeup day, even though it was President’s Day, i.e., an official holiday. But then nature decided today would be the day it drops an additional six to nine inches of snow on the area, so — yet another snow day. Athena is currently spending it on my office couch, eating an apple and watching episodes of iCarly on Netflix streaming.

Me: I’m worried that everything you’ve learned is now just falling out of your head.

Athena: What? Like I will forget how to walk and breathe?

Me: No, like you’ll forget about the War of 1812. What do you remember about the War of 1812?

Athena: They ran through the briars, and they ran through the brambles. And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go.

Me: Hmmm. I’m going to let you slide on that one.

Because, to be fair, what do you remember of the War of 1812? Yeah, that’s what I thought. And you don’t have the snow day excuse.

89 Comments on “Yet Another Snow Day”

  1. Your daughter is HILARIOUS, and deserves a million bonus points for that. :) Please tell me she actually said that and it wasn’t you embellishing for comedic effect. And if she DID say that, give her a high five from me.

  2. I remember that we kicked your collective American butt. *cough* But we’ve kissed and made up now, so no worries. Here, have some toffee.

  3. Hmmm. I think it occurred sometime around, uh, 1812. And actually, being from Michigan, I remember that the fort on Mackinaw Island was surrendered because they didn’t know war had been declared, so the whole thing sort of came as a surprise. Ah, how communication technology has changed.

  4. First: You’ve raised a fine child there Mr. Scalzi. I speak with the authority of a YA Librarian. Which is not very much, but still, a tip of the chapeau to you sir.

    Second: I was an asthmatic kid who spent a good 1/4 of the school year in the hospital or at home for much of middle school. If you’re a reader with an active mind, which is sounds like your daughter is, in spades, you’re almost (almost) better off with some self-guided learning.

    Semi-obscure Johnny Cash references? Seriously, write a parenting book and buy your gold castle made of other, smaller, gold castles.

  5. Man, that’s going to be stuck in my head ALL day. Last week I had 99 Red Balloons stuck in there for TWO days. That one wasn’t Scalzi’s fault, I just wanted to share.

  6. I memorized the Johnny Horton version of that song a looong time ago! And “Sink the Bismarck”, too. I am so up on my history. :)

    We, too, were supposed to go to school today to make up for an earlier snow day. It snowed. You’d laugh at our puny 1.5 inches, but here in North Alabama it’s a big deal.

    My best to the Scalzi family.

  7. The history channel did a good documentary on the War of 1812. it is probably on netflicks. The documentaries are usually online. Alot of Ken Burns documentaries are on there. The Civil War one is probably the best documentary ever.

    You could give her a red pen and she should edit your book?

  8. I think I remember that it was an unpopular war & by the end was referred to as “Mr. Madison’s War.”

  9. Was she referring to the Battle of New Orleans or the Battle of Kookamonga? In my (totally screwed up) musical education I learned the lyrics to that song LONG before I first heard the original.

  10. @10: What’s really, really important is that Cajun star Zachary Richard — who likely had ancestors in the fight — did a cover with the one thing most sorely missing from all the others: beaucoup accordion, mon frere! (I can’t find it online, though. It’s on the Zack’s Bon Ton album.)

  11. You should order the free Netflix streaming disc for your PS3. Then again, Athena looks awful comfy.

  12. @ 10. Terry Brown

    hmmmmmm. i thought johnny horton heard a who. or did he hatch the egg? i’ll have to check my sources. . . .

  13. I thought the War of 1812 was the one where the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.

    (For wars in the 20th century, there’s a 93.1% chance Germans were involved and/or to blame somehow. Kicking off unwinnable wars was sort of our national sport back then.)

  14. I love this. Athena actually knows the lyrics to that old Johnny Horton song? Now, it is going through my head, where it will probably remain all day, and I still haven’t gotten over New Orleans beating the Colts!

  15. It all depends on your cultural background. You mention war of 1812, I think Napoleon, Russian and Tchaikovsky. You have to love a symphony written with parts for canons

  16. Oh gods, why did A.J. bring up Kookamonga? Now there’s an earworm from hell that I had repressed for decades!

  17. I’m with #1 — The Battle of New Orleans was the most decisive of American wins. Total victory and I believe the American side had no casualties. The only trouble was that the peace treaty had already been signed. Oops, no call! It’s a form of relativity due to getting your news by sailing ship. (grin)

    Also, before the British burned it, the Executive Branch’s mansion was not called The White House.

    Dr. Phil

  18. Dr. Phil @28: Indeed, the Executive Mansion, though it may have been known informally as The White House earlier, wasn’t officially known as that until Theodore Roosevelt put it on his official letterhead sometime during his Presidency (1901-09).

    Yes, I watch a fair amount of The History Channel. Can you tell?

  19. As a rule, I am not that fond of the Children… I think I would enjoy yours, though… she sounds like all the best parts of kid combined with Scalzi-tude.

  20. First off, this is proof that you are doing something very, very right as a parent in your raising of this child.

    What I know about the War of 1812, apart from the things already mentioned, is that it grievously lacking in original music. There’s only like 2 songs about it at all and they were both written roughly 150 years after the fact.

  21. Yes, we lost the War of 1812. And wound up expanding our territory and taking over the city of New Orleans. Ah, the terrrible price of defeat.

  22. There was the bit where the surrender of Detroit was delayed while they dug the general out from hiding in his closet, I believe. That was a pretty good bit.

    Also: I agree with other commenters that you need to write a parenting book. Search your heart, you know it to be true!

  23. For all the Brits and Canadians declaring victory in the War of 1812, please consider these data points:

    1. We crushed the British Empire at sea. Well, not really but we did give you folks a frightful scare which went a long way toward the peace process. (And which was a harbinger of things to come).

    2. On land you won many battles but lost the war. Which was what your Duke of Wellington predicted when they offered him the command and he turned it down (too much territory to attack/hold and far too little in the way of resources allocated to the task= disaster, especially as the spirit of American independence would necessitate huge standing garrisons for generations to ensure a lasting victory). Winston Churchill later opined that the War of 1812 underscored that the ‘new’ U.S. was sufficiently cohesive and powerful that its status as an independent soveriegn was assured (a fact not many in Britian wanted to acknowledge prior to the war).

    3. As to the losing the war claim, the British obtained NONE of their military objectives. So it is a more accurate statement that the Americans (my side- yeah!) won the war. Though as stated above, you won most of the land battles. And while you did burn the Washington and the White House, most Americans sympathize with those acts. So no hard feelings.

    4. The Americans, on the other hand, expanded their territory (mostly in Florida and Alabama at the expense of Spain- never let an opportunity go to waste), gained fishing rights around Nova Scotia (a British concession) and received compensation from the British.

    5. Strategically, the war was a long term disaster for Britian as it signaled the eventual eclipse of Britian by the U.S., as it convinced America of the need for a competent standing army and navy, and directly lead to the expansion of the American navy (it was after this war that the U.S. entered the world stage as a naval power) and West Point, to ensure a supply of officers who were versed in military tactics (as opposed to electing the most popular guy in each company).

    6. Future peace was somewhat assured as American invasions of Canada, though rebuffed twice, demonstrated the weakness of the British defenses. The Brits were convinced that a third war would result in the loss of Canada to the U.S. which was a strong motivator to avoid future hostilities (and was one factor considered when the British decided not to intervene in the U.S. Civil War- the thinking was that even though they could break the northern blockade, and perhaps supply the South with enough equipment/men to ensure Southern autonomy, the North could easily retaliate by taking Canada and the British lacked sufficient numbers and/or ability to project sufficient force to prevent it as the North was, by this time, a military and industrial powerhouse and the British officer cadre was not keen to take them on, especially on the Americans home territory).

    7. On the issue of land battles, we got a decent, though belated, consolation prize with the Battle of New Orleans.

    8. Finally, we got not one, but TWO cool songs out of the deal. The Battle of New Orleans (quoted by Athena) and the Star Spangled Banner. What more can one ask for?

  24. I’m with Avocado (#25) the war of 1812 was in Russia and I think the French lost but high school history was a long time ago.

  25. We are on something like 10 days without school here. If it weren’t for Netflix streaming and iCarly, we simply would not have made it to today. Crossing fingers that today’s snow doesn’t cancel school tomorrow.

  26. Isn’t that the war where the Americans thought they could take over Canada too, and the Canadians basically said: Nope. Oh, and we’ll burn Washington down just fun.

    Or something like that.

  27. The British are coming, the British are coming!

    Now the ride of Paul Revere set the nation on its ear,
    and the shot at Lexington heard ’round the world…

    wait that wasn’t 1812!? Dammit, School House Rock, there are no songs about the War of 1812!

  28. Well I always think of the War of 1812 as the Revolutionary War Redux; where the Brits kinda forgot they lost the first time and tried again.

    The results of course were a bit less decisive mostly because the “reasons” for the war disappeared while the war was on-going and everyone got tired of fighting so everyone just went home. The war didn’t have a winner so much as it just kinda lost steam and petered out.

    Now could argue that because of that war, Ohio is not part of Canada. Hard to say of our host thinks this is a good thing or a bad thing.

  29. The War of 1812 was in that part of history where the same year kept on recycling over and over again in order to prevent the Napoleonic wars from finishing too early (if you read Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series).

  30. The main thing to remember about the War of 1812 is that for two generations whenever someone in Britain or the US were hot to trot militarily in regards to some outstanding Anglo-American issue they were dosed with cold water.

    Also, that the battle of New Orleans happened after the treaty was signed is irrelevant; the British would have cheerfully handed Louisiana back to the Spanish if they had won.

  31. OK, I admit I did forget about the Star-Spangled Banner. But in my defense, that wasn’t actually from the war. Key’s poem was, but it didn’t get set to music and all until later. I was thinking more along the lines of Yankee Doodle, When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, Tenting Tonight, Over There, Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag, etc.

  32. What I remember is that my Great Great Grandfather Jeremiah Freeman was captured by the British at Fort Miami in Ohio in September of 1813…His life was saved through the intervention of Chief Tecumseh when the British Officers stood back and watched as the indian warriors massacred many of the captives.

  33. I remember Dolly Madison moved everything out of the White House to save it when the British moved on the Capitol.

    Or something like that.

    We’re watching The Dark Crystal on Netflix Streaming through our XBox right now. We decided it was time our 8 year-old daughter experienced the horror of the Skeksi. Netflix streaming rocks.

  34. What do I remember about the War of 1812? It made the Iraq War look like the friggin’ Normandy Invasion in terms of execution and post-battle planning.

    Lessee. The Brits offered a peace deal on the same day the US declared war. Telegraphy might have come in handy for that one.

    America burned York (now Toronto), and unlike Atlanta (which I firmly believe burned in a conspiracy between Confederate highway planners and Sherman), York/Toronto took the hint that maybe, just maybe it should do a better job with its roads.

    The Brits burned DC, tried to burn Baltimore, and ended up with “Anacrion in Heaven” plagiarized to become “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Modern American sports was born soon afterward, insuring it became the national anthem.

    The Brits couldn’t fight their way out of a bathtub the way they fought on Lake Erie, thus insuring plenty of tourism dollars in Put in Bay for generations to come. (And unfortunately, crappy wine, too.)

    Andrew Jackson reminded the British in New Orleans that they lost the Revolution because of their stunning red coats that made for lousy camouflage.

    The whole mess was a draw.

    What else you wanna know?

  35. @stevem, you get the history win of the day. (From one Napoleonic Wars buff…)

    On point three, however, I disagree. The British did achieve one objective with enormous geopolitical consequences. They successfully blocked trade between the mid-Atlantic, West and Southern states with France (New England traded with Britain before and throughout the war, defying everybody who told them not to… ah, the New England Yankee character *grin* ), thus weakening critical French supply lines and damaging Bonaparte’s ability to conquer Europe while marginally strengthening the British. That gave the Sixth Coalition one of several small advantages, none significant, that let Europe beat Bonaparte out of Prussia, Austria, Spain and Portugal. Had the Sixth Coalition failed, Napoleon probably would have held most of eastern Europe. Russia probably would have stood but allied eventually, but Britain would have fallen to Napoleon within a decade or two. There would have been no exile on Elba, no Congress of Vienna, no Hundred Days, no Waterloo. A world without a Napoleonic Empire was probably positive; certainly Europe got most of a century of peace out of it. (The rest of the world didn’t fare so well, but that would have happened even under a Napoleonic empire; Bonaparte wasn’t any better to the French colonies than the British were to theirs.)

    Canada’s victory equals ‘We didn’t get invaded!’ and the US gets ‘We got a Navy and some territory *!’ and Britain gets ‘We distracted those yahoos long enough to get some real work done and for a relatively small price,’ but the ultimate losers were the Native Americans. The British were trying to supply them with arms and resources to develop a neutral buffer state of their own in what is now the upper Midwest. After the war, Britain abandoned them and that idea, but the USians didn’t really get over that notion for a long, long time. (Note the next couple centuries and the strings of broken treaties.)

    So yeah, the most important thing that came out of it (besides Key West) was a couple of songs.

    *from a third party, who was too busy elsewhere to really complain much…

  36. Thank you SO much, John & Athena. I will be singing Johnny Horton for the rest of the day. *facepalm*

    OTOH, major props for Athena’s quick wit and obscure music references. :-) Not to mention her fine education in classic country.

  37. Actually I believe the White House was originally pinkish, but the soot damage required it to be whitewashed — hence it became the White House after the British burned it.

    Dr. Phil

  38. @53: You’re partially right, Dr. Phil. But the reason it was pinkish was that in 1811 two of the Adams children (I believe it was Peter and Robert — John’s sons by a previous marriage) exploded a giant vinegar-baking soda-and-red food coloring volcano in the Rose Garden. Before that the house was white. I don’t have a citation.

  39. I’m an American, but I still think of the War of 1812 as the disastrous Russian campaign. If only Napoleon had talked to Vizzini first, he might have avoided the #1 classic blunder.

  40. “If only Napoleon had talked to Vizzini first, he might have avoided the #1 classic blunder.”

    Not to get involved with a Sicilian when death is on the line?

  41. Yeah and if he had avoided that classic blunder we would have lost one of the greatest bits of classical music ever (oh yeah and we would probably still be dealing with the fallout of a tyrannical French empire in Europe).

    Still MAJOR props to Athena on the song reference.

  42. Ah, Louis Geoffroy’s “Napoleon And The Conquest Of The World” or “Napoleon Apocryphe” from 1841.

    “In it Napoleon subdues Russia in 1812, invades England in 1814 and goes on to become the enlightened ruler of the Earth. The book details with great and methodical precision the conquest of the rest of the world by the Emperor, and the technical and scientific achievements made by a united planet under Napoleon’s wise leadership: electric-powered dirigibles, weather control, flying automobiles, typewriters (called “writing pianos”), miracle cures, making sea water drinkable, and even the discovery of a new planet: Vulcan.”

  43. I remember that we (i.e., the US) lost the war, yet won the peace treaty. I guess that’s the important part.

  44. My mum is Canadian, and my dad is American, so growing up I loved discussions about the war of 1812… they’d always end up as arguments over which side won… very entertaining for my 12-year old self :)

  45. ….and then the zombies came. While the vibrant discussion about about the War of 1812 wages on Whatever, and Athena peacefully lounges watching iCarly and says very clever things, something very different is happening at Casa de Kathy E., where a house full of 11 year old boys battle zombies in Left for Dead 2, and spew such comments as: ‘Dude! Go get the machete!…. Hey, I just chopped off her arm!!! HA-ha-ha!!!!’ I’m such a bad parent.

  46. I have loved the historiacal back and forth, and I do always love a good “what if” alternative history, but as a resident of southwest Ohio, I must ask “Where am I going to put all of this #@*%%” snow??????”

    could I have handled that better if I had been Canadian…probably…

  47. @Rachel:
    “It all depends on your cultural background. You mention war of 1812, I think Napoleon, Russian and Tchaikovsky. You have to love a symphony written with parts for canons”
    Haha, me too. I don’t think a minor Anglo-American skirmish counts for much in comparison to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.

    “the war was a long term disaster for Britian as it signaled the eventual eclipse of Britian by the U.S.”
    So this would explain why the 100 years immediately following it has been described as ‘Britain’s Imperial Century’, the time when Britain’s power reached its peak… ^^

  48. 1812? Isn’t that when Tschaikovsky and Guy Fawkes blew up Parliament? Lots of cannons and bells, right? And the Marseill- Marsiell- …that song from Casablanca?

    John, your daughter is amazing. I don’t know how you can just stand back taking pictures when she’s clearly about to be possessed, or maybe eaten, by a Being Of Pure Energy from Star Trek.

    DemetriosX 45: Key’s poem was, but it didn’t get set to music and all until later.

    Not so much set to music as sung to an existing tune, The Anacreontic Song. Here are the original words:

    To Anacreon in heaven where he sat in full glee,
    A few sons of harmony sent a petition,
    That he their inspirer and patron would be,
    When this answer arrived from the jolly old Grecian:
    Voice, fiddle aud flute, no longer be mute,
    I’ll lend you my name and inspire you to boot!
    And besides I’ll instruct you like me to entwine
    The myrtle of Venus and Bacchus’s vine.

    The stuffy claim it’s not “really” a drinking song, but give me a break, look at those last two lines! They’re about getting drunk and laid.

  49. CZEdward at 51: You are 100% correct. The British blockade of American ports, coupled with their blockade of European ports, did starve Napoleon of desperately needed supplies. So in that regard the British obtained at least one military objective.

    Cudos from one Napoleonic Wars buff to another. :)

    Charles at 67: Yes, Britian had its century of paper dominance with its farflung and ultimately unmanageable Empire. In the meantime, the U.S. was expanding from sea to sea, creating an ’empire’ which was geographically, politically and economically cohesive, unlike Britian’s failed experiment. Demonstrating that as of 1914 forward the U.S. was the real deal.[1]

    Of course, before you interpret my comments as being blinded by unbridled patriotism, I have to concede that China is now on track to eclipsing the U.S. I don’t think that this will be proven to be a good thing, long term.

    [1] What I think is one of the great ‘what-ifs’ of history is what if George III had gotten better advice from his ministers. Voting seats in parliament for each of the 13 colonies in the 1770-1775 time frame, treating them as Englishmen as a form of both political and legal rights, would have gone a long way to establishing lasting British dominance of the world.

  50. Let’s see, what do I remember about the War of 1812?
    1. The New England states wnated to leave the Union because of it.
    2. The British burned down Washington D.C.
    3. Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Bangled Banner” and it was put to the tune of a English drinking song.
    4. Andrew Jackson was the hero of the Battle of New Orleans and told our city fathers that he would burn the city before he would surrender it.
    5. Jean Laffitte and his bold band of Baratarian Privateers were the real heros of the Battle of New Orleans! If it was not for the cannons and musket flints they brought, the Americans would have lost the battle and the city of New Orleans.
    5. Johnny Horton wrote and sang the song Athena quoted-“The Battle of New Orleans” as well as the un p.c. “Johnny Reb”
    Happy Lundi Gras!!
    A proud member of the Who Dat! nation.

  51. True fact: If the War of 1812 had lasted a few months longer, all of the New England states (and possibly New York, too) would’ve seceded from the USA. Why is it that no one’s written that alternate history novel?

  52. Not to keep going on about it (which means I will), if New England had seceded, then there would be no united states, but 2 separate countries, New England and the Southern “USA.” Eventually, the north would be abolitionist, and the south permanently slave-holding. Any war between the 2 wouldn’t be a civil war, but an international war.

    Westward expansion would be a contest between the 2 countries to expand territory at the other’s expense. Would the native Americans be able to slow their divided aggression? Would “America” evolve as several small countries, like Europe?

    New England would clearly ally themselves with the British Empire, but who would the Southern USA side with? The French, the Spanish? Would Mexico retain control of its territories, which are now a huge part of the USA? Would WWI happen in the 19th century and be between Britain and New England on one side, and the South, Spain and France on the other? Would the Prussians and/or Germans start what we call WWI? Because they would win without American troops, and thus there might be no WWII–at least as how we think of it. There might also be no Russian Revolution.

    I’d buy that alternate history novel! Wish I could write it myself, in fact. But we’re not living in an alternate history where I could do that.

    Whoever wants to steal that scenario, be my guest. But leave me a note in your book’s acknowledgements, and send me a free copy! ;)

  53. Now that you’ve posted this, you can have Athena read the comments and learn what she probably didn’t learn in school and it will be more interesting and succinct than if it had been taught in school.

    Athena’s reply was full of win. You probably have exactly the child you deserve. (And I mean that in a good way.)

  54. Bill at 74: This legend is overstated. By dim memory, the New England states did not want to succeed, and only wanted to take more control over their militia forces as they viewed the federal government as not deploying them effectively. There was no real movement to succeed.

  55. Yeah, no snow day, but it is “Louis Riel Day” here in Manitoba. So, day off. Also? Reading Week, so I have the week off of class. But I’m working, so no rest (or much studying, which I desperately need to do) for me!

  56. @# njgarrod
    “There was a REALLY cool song made about it.

    That’s what the 1812 overture was about, right?”

    Well, actually the 1812 overture is about the French invasion to Russia.

  57. I always have the that the question “who won the war of 1812” is actually impossible to answer in a meaningful sort of way. Because the results of the war were a bit of mish-mash and no-one really got what they wanted out of it, answering the question means defining victory. Unfortunately the definition of victory in this case ends up getting you the answer.

    Our country (Canada) was probably born out of this conflict. Prior to the war we were colonials and proud of it; this colonial attitude has stuck with a portion of our populace for almost 200 years. After the war, some of us began to thing of ourselves as something other than colonials. The long process of becoming an country called “Canada” probably got it’s start with the war of 1812 and its aftermath.


  58. Stevem,

    I don’t think your conclusions of American victory are accurate.

    Given that the stated objective of most of the American politicos behind the War of 1812 was an easy opportunistic land grab by seizing Canada – it was Thomas Jefferson who stated the seizure of Canada would be “a mere matter of marching” – coupled with the fact that Canada managed to stave off the US invasion and remain proudly Canadian to this day means, whatever your Treaty of Ghent claims, you LOST THE WAR.

    so….neener, neener neener!

  59. Wow, that was way cool that Athena knew the lyrics. The Battle of New Orleans and Sink the Bismark were probably the two favorite songs of my Scout troop.
    @stevem that’s a terrific summary of the war and consequences thereof.

  60. @CZedwards You make some very good points about Native Americans, though I’d nitpick that the Brits deserted Tecumseh even BEFORE the end of the war. But on the gripping hand, would the world really had been a better place in the long run had Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet succeeded? It certainly would have been different….(my murky crystal ball shows a world that might have been dominated by Nazi Germany). It’s questions like this that probably drive my affection for alternative histories.

  61. Deano at 81: I appreciate the pride you take in your country. Speaking as one flag waving nationalist to another, bravo!

    But to correct the record, we COULD have taken Canada by marching north (though it obviously would have taken more than one effort as you folks were being unreasonable). But then we realized two truths. First, the Canadians didn’t want to be part of the U.S. demonstrating terrible judgement on their part. Second, its COLD in Canada. Snuggling with polar bears in igloos does not sound like a good time. So we changed direction and went South, taking Florida, Louisiana and Alabama. Much better real estate.

    And because my writing skills are sometimes deficient, please accept this post as an effort at humor. Canada is a great country, if only because Crown Royal is distelled there.

  62. I am the Last Tasmanian Badger. I. Was There. Man!. You don’t understand what it was LIKE. Basra was much worse though. I was artillery. Dropped like doom from above.

  63. I thought Mindior was attacked by Batarian slavers in 2170…
    Oh, wait, you said Baratarian. Never mind.

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