Life, Writing

An Aleutian Latrine

Can you help me determine the author of a humorous World War II poem about toilets?

While I was clearing out my late father-in-law’s attic, I came across three cases of Kodachrome slides taken by his late cousin David Tewes, who had been a soldier stationed in Alaska during World War II. Among the slides was a group of photos taken in Attu, Alaska during the War, and one of those photos, labeled “An Aleutian Latrine — Our XMas Card”, contained an unattributed poem and a shot of a soldier doing his “business” in the snow.

The poem is transcribed below.

An Aleutian Latrine

An Aleutian Latrine

Out on the wind swept tundra,
A place where howling winds will play
Stands a new three hole cabin
Overlooking a cold, cold bay.
It’s a very rugged country,
For here nature lovely calls.
You have a choice of constipation
Or a dose of frozen whatsis.
When the mercury says zero
And the weather’s very mean,
Then a man must be a hero,
When he visits our latrine.
For the seat is white with snowdrift
And the breeze blows thru the hole,
So your whosis gets frost bit
And your whatsis blue from cold.
It’s a struggle thru high snow drifts,
While the howling winds cut cappers
With a sigh, you sink on frozen boards
And reach out for the toilet paper.
Then gloom surrounds you, no paper is there
While you are in a bad position.
You can not act, nor seek relief,
Till channels clear that requisition.
I’ve seen brave men stoop to sugar bowls
Even paper bags and cans
And some even lost the fight
And did it in their pants.
It takes guts to serve your country,
As a sailor or marine…
But a man must be a hero
When he visits our latrine.
It takes guts to be a soldier,
And to heed your country’s call.
It matters not the whosis be cold
And although you loose your whatsis.
For when the work is over,
and the bloody war is won,
If you’ve used our ole three holer
Then — you are a man, my son.

* “whatsis” and “whosis” are placeholder words used to avoid giving offense. Use the rhyme scheme to decode their secret meaning!

I have not been able to find another copy of this poem; Google definitely doesn’t know about it.  I would love to track down the author if the author is known.

It’s possible that David wrote this poem, although he did not sign his name to it. Based on his photos and his hobbies shown in his other photographs, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did write it.

Chris Steller pointed out on Twitter that the author Dashiell Hammett was stationed in the Aleutian Islands at the same time that David was there. It would stand to reason, however, that if Hammett had written the poem, David would have wanted to note that, since Hammett was well-known for his book and movie The Maltese Falcon.

The rest of David’s photos from Attu are posted on the website I built to showcase his photography, in case you can find any clues therein.  Any and all tips, ideas, or wild speculations are welcome in the comments below!


Inline Preview, Plugins, Programming, WordPress, Writing

Inline Preview Plugin for WordPress

Notice: Inline Preview has been intentionally abandoned as of WordPress 4.9.8.

Problem: When creating a post in WordPress, previewing your post in a separate tab can be slow and/or complicated.

Solution: Show the preview right next to the editor.

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 1.32.59 PM

Inline Preview is a plugin for WordPress that adds a zoomed out preview of the current post next to the post editor when the user clicks Preview instead of opening in a new tab.

It’s just an idea I’m playing with for streamlining the post creation process, and if it feels familiar, it’s probably because it is: through version 2.1, WordPress contained a preview iframe at the bottom of the post editing screen, but this is a more elegant implementation. Feel free to install the plugin and try it out for yourself.

Update: I’ve updated the plugin to add a close button (a translucent “X” in the upper-right of the preview) and to make the preview frame resizable by dragging its left edge. The new width of the preview is persistent each time it opens, even across pageloads.

Blogging, Writing

Somebody’s Gonna (Write a Book About The) Lotto

tl;dr: I’m writing a novel about the lottery at

I’ve always wanted to write a book; it’s on a list I made about ten years ago of things that I’d like to accomplish in life. I’ve had a couple of topic ideas floating around in my head, but the lottery is one that I think I can really run with. (Sentences ending with prepositions are just one of the literary treats you’ll be party to if you read my book.)

I don’t get many opportunities to write fiction, although some of my co-workers might argue that my comments explaining how my code is supposed to work would count. This is also a chance to see the platform I work on every day in a different light as I use it for sequential story-telling rather than blogging.

By publishing the sections as soon as I write them, I’ll be able to benefit from immediate reader feedback (assuming that there will be any readers). I suppose this is a sort of crowdsourcing turn on the editor feedback model of traditional publishing, and I’m not sure whether it will be a blessing or a curse.

When I finish, I’ll package the whole thing up as an e-book and learn a little something about that process too. Until then, I invite you to read along as I write my way towards a conflict and its eventual resolution. The first portion was posted a couple of days ago, and part two will be up this week.

Life, Writing


I found this poem today that I wrote in college. I think I used to be much more cynical.


They trudge out to the Yard
Wearing the standard-issue uniform,
Forming single file lines to get their designated time of fresh air.
The new ones, the fresh meat,
Cower, fearing the cruelty of the “old pros.”
Bells ring, and they all get back in line
As they are herded back through the corridors
And into each of their assigned spaces.
All those admitted wile away the hours
Daydreaming about freedom,
And, finally,
The three o’clock bell rings.
They hand their homework forward
And go home until tomorrow.