01 October 2014

Book list - Jul-Sep 14

1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies - AH, by Eric Flint and Charles E Gannon
Mairelon the Magician - historical fantasy, by Patricia C Wrede *
Magician's Ward - historical fantasy, by Patricia C Wrede *
Skin Game - urban fantasy, by Jim Butcher
MASH - Korean War fiction, by Richard Hooker
The Good, the Bad, and the Emus - mystery, by Donna Andrews

Only six books this time round, two of them rereads (marked by asterisks). And I'm still at 58 of 75 on the Carnegie Medal winners.

28 August 2014

Medal of Honor to be awarded for Civil War and Vietnam

ZUI this White House press release dated 26 Aug 14:
On September 15, 2014, President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and to Army Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat for conspicuous gallantry.

Command Sergeant Major Adkins will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions while serving as an Intelligence Sergeant assigned to Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces. Then-Sergeant First Class Adkins distinguished himself during combat operations at Camp A Shau, Republic of Vietnam, on March 9 through March 12, 1966.

Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions while serving as a Machine gunner with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. Specialist Four Sloat distinguished himself during combat operations in the vicinity of Hawk Hill Fire Base, Republic of Vietnam, on January 17, 1970.

President Obama also approved the awarding of the Medal of Honor to Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing for gallantry in action at the battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. Additional details on the award to First Lieutenant Cushing will be announced separately.

First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions while serving as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac. Cushing distinguished himself during combat operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863.

05 August 2014


25 Dec 06.

A month or so before my daughter's first birthday, we put her in her stroller and took her for a walk down by the river, not far from where we lived at the time.  A few blocks into our walk we met a cat and stopped to say hello to it.  It was a young cat, very friendly, and when we walked away it started following us.  Every now and then it would head up the front walk of a house we were passing, but then it would turn around and hurry to catch up with us.

There was a small embankment between us and the houses along that street, so every one of them had a few steps in its front walk.  The embankment didn't run straight - it meandered a bit, so at some houses those steps were right out at the end of the walk, where it joined the sidewalk along the street, while at others they were set back, closer to the house.  And it didn't take us long to notice that whenever the cat stopped to investigate a house, it was always one where those steps in the front walk were right out next to the sidewalk.  So we figured the cat was lost, and while it didn't know where Home was, it knew what Home ought to look like.

It had been following us for several blocks when a woman out working in her garden as we passed commented on what a pretty cat we had.  We explained that it was a stray that had attached itself to us, and she offfered to loan us a cat carrier so the poor cat wouldn't have to walk all the way to our house, which was still a few blocks away.  We accepted and carried it the rest of the way home.

The next morning we printed up some "FOUND CAT" signs and set out to post them in the area where we'd found the cat.  Just after we finished attaching the first sign to a telephone pole two teen-aged girls came up and stopped to see what we were doing.  After reading our poster one of the girls said, "Oh, that's Megan's cat!"  My wife recognised Megan's name - she was a young lady who had been murdered a week or so earlier by her estranged husband - and remembered her address, so we walked over to have a look at her house.  It was a block or two from where we'd first met the cat, and sure enough, it had steps at the end of its front walk, right out at the sidewalk.

So we went back home and discussed the cat.  She was a grey tabby, similar to one we'd lost the year before, very friendly, and she seemed to get on well with our other two cats, so we decided to keep her.  According to the vet we took her to she was around a year old, or perhaps a bit more - a month or few older than our daughter.  We picked the name Seshet* from a list of Egyptian goddesses, and she settled right in.

26 Nov 09

A year later we transferred from Norfolk to Groton.  We were only allowed two cats in Navy housing, and we still had two of the three my wife had had before we were married, so Seshet went to live with my in-laws, in the next town over.  The other two cats died over the course of the next few years, but by then Seshet had become used to being an indoor/outdoor cat, which wasn't permitted in housing, so she stayed on at my in-laws' place, even after I retired and we moved out of housing.  She's still officially our cat, though, not theirs.


It's now a few weeks shy of eighteen years since that walk with our daughter and a poor, lost cat.  Seshet has gone deaf, and arthritis has set in; she can still jump up onto the porch railing, but she can't sit properly - she squats, with her butt still an inch or so off the ground - and she's no longer flexible enough to clean herself properly.  Recently she's begun losing bladder control, and forgets to use the litter box.  So it's been decided that tomorrow she'll make her final visit to the vet....

We'll miss her.

5 Aug 14

* Wikipedia prefers the spelling "Seshat."

150 years ago: Mobile Bay

On 5 August 1864 a US fleet commanded by Rear Admiral David G Farragut, supported by 1500 soldiers under General Gordon Granger, attacked the defences at Mobile, Alabama, the last major Gulf port east of the Mississippi still under Confederate control. Farragut's flagship was the screw sloop USS Hartford; other ships present were screw sloops USS Brooklyn, Monongahela, Oneida, Ossipee, Richmond, and Seminole; screw sloop-of-war USS Lackawanna; gunboats USS Galena, Itasca, Kennebec, Metacomet, Octorara, and Port Royal; ironclad monitors USS Manhattan and Tecumseh; and ironclad river monitors USS Chickasaw and Winnebago.

Tecumseh sank after hitting a mine - in those days called a torpedo - on the way into Mobile Bay.  Brooklyn, leading Farragut's main column (because she had more forward-firing guns than the other sloops), slowed to ask for instructions, causing Farragut to order Hartford to take the lead with the famous if apocryphal "Damn the torpedoes!" Hartford and the other ships passed successfully through the minefield that had claimed Tecumseh.

The defending forces included the ironclad ram CSS Tennessee and side-wheel gunboats CSS Gaines, Morgan and Selma, under Admiral Franklin Buchanan. Farragut's gunboats made short work of the side-wheelers, capturing Selma, seriously damaging Gaines (which was beached and burned by her crew), and forcing Morgan to take cover under the guns of nearby Fort Morgan. Tennessee took more work, but was eventually battered into submission and surrendered. Farragut's ships then provided fire support for Granger's attacks on the three forts - Powell, Gaines, and Morgan - protecting the harbour. Fort Powell was abandoned that day; Fort Gaines surrendered on 8 August, and Fort Morgan on 23 August. (The captured CSS Tennessee was repaired, commissioned into the US Navy as USS Tennessee, and sent to join in the final attack on Fort Morgan.)

96 men (88 sailors, seven Marines and one civilian pilot) were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions on 5 August.

USS Brooklyn (23): Ship's Cook William Blagheen, Captain of the Forecastle John Brown, Landsman William H Brown, Coxswain John L M Cooper, Ordinary Seaman Samuel W Davis, Sergeant J Henry Denig, Boatswain's Mate Richard Dennis, Coxswain William Halstead, Sergeant Michael Hudson, Seaman Joseph Irlam, Coxswain John Irving, Seaman Nicholas Irwin, Quartermaster Barnett Kenna, Boy James Machon, Captain of the Top Alexander Mack, Coal Heaver William Madden, Engineer's Cook James Mifflin, Quartermaster William Nichols, Corporal Miles M Oviatt, Coxswain Edward Price, Corporal Willard M Smith, Coal Heaver James E Sterling, Quartermaster Samuel Todd

USS Chickasaw (2): Chief Boatswain's Mate Andrew Jones, Master at Arms James Seanor

USS Galena (4): Seaman William Gardner, Quartermaster Thomas Jordan, Quartermaster Edward S Martin, Coxswain Edward B Young

USS Hartford (12): Landsman Wilson Brown, Ordinary Seaman Bartholomew Diggins, Coal Heaver Richard D Dunphy, Coxswain Thomas Fitzpatrick, civilian pilot Martin Freeman, Coal Heaver James R Garrison, Landsman John Lawson, Captain of the Forecastle John C McFarland, Ordinary Seaman Charles Melville, Coal Heaver Thomas O'Connell, Landsman William Pelham, Shell Man William A Stanley

USS Lackawanna (11): Seaman John M Burns, Landsman Michael Cassidy, Landsman Patrick Dougherty, Captain of the Top John Edwards, Landsman Samuel W Kinnaird, Seaman Adam McCullock, Boatswain's Mate William Phinney, Captain of the Forecastle John Smith, Armorer George Taylor, Quarter Gunner James Ward, Quartermaster Daniel Whitfield

USS Metacomet (8): Seaman James Avery, Quarter Gunner Charles Baker, Ordinary Seaman John Donnelly, Captain of the Forecastle John Harris, Seaman Henry Johnson, Boatswain's Mate Patrick Murphy, Landsman Daniel Noble, Coxswain Thomas Taylor,

USS Oneida (8): Quartermaster John E Jones, Coxswain Thomas Kendrick, Landsman David Naylor, Ordinary Seaman William D Newland, Landsman John Preston, Sergeant James S Roantree, Quartermaster James Sheridan, Seaman Charles B Woram

USS Richmond (28): Yeoman Thomas E Atkinson, Quartermaster John Brazell, Captain of the Top Robert Brown, Master-at-Arms William M Carr, Coxswain James B Chandler, Quartermaster Thomas Cripps, Chief Quartermaster Cornelius Cronin, Boatswain's Mate Charles Deakin, Chief Boatswain's Mate William Densmore, Coal Heaver William Doolen, Boatswain's Mate Adam Duncan, Coxswain Hugh Hamilton, Coxswain Thomas Hayes, Captain of the Top John H James, Captain of the Top William Jones, Captain of the Top James McIntosh, Sergeant Andrew Miller, Captain of the Top James H Morgan, Captain of the Forecastle George Parks, Seaman Hendrick Sharp, Coxswain Lebbeus Simkins, Captain of the Forecastle James Smith, Second Captain of the Top John Smith, Coxswain Oloff Smith, Ordinary Seaman Walter B Smith, Orderly Sergeant David Sprowle, Coxswain Alexander H Truett, Quartermaster William Wells

01 July 2014

Book list - Apr-Jun 14

The Mysterious Island - adventure, by Jules Verne *
The Grand Tour - historical fantasy, by Patricia C Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Mammoth - time travel, by John Varley
Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy 1900-1945 - naval history, by Christopher McKee

Only four books this time round, one of them a reread. And I'm still at 58 of 75 on the Carnegie Medal winners.

Travelin' Tuesday: Guam

The Talofofo Falls are on the Talofofo River (which flows into Talofofo Bay - I detect a pattern here), in the southeastern part of Guam.  I'd heard of them long before I ever went to Guam (probably from George Tweed's Robinson Crusoe, USN), and they were one of the first places I wanted to visit there.  A bit of a drive, as I recall, but it was well worth it.

Photo taken November or December 1988.

24 June 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Massachusetts

On 5 Oct 1818 the Essex Agricultural Society held a cattle show in Topsfield, Massachusetts. What grew into the Topsfield Fair has been held every year since then, except for three years during the Civil War and three years during World War II.

It's similar to most agricultural fairs in the US - county, state and otherwise - with exhibitions and competitions for animals, produce and farm crafts (such as canning, baking and quilting), and of course a midway. The All New England Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off has been held at the fair since 1984, when the winning entry weighed 433 pounds; the current record was set in 2012 by a 2009-lb monster.

Pictures taken 8 Oct 05 (middle) and 7 Oct 06 (top and bottom).

17 June 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Thailand

Pattaya, on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, is a popular tourist city. One thing that struck me was the number of German restaurants there.  (They even had a newspaper printed in German.) The blue pickups with benches in the back are songthaews; commonly known as "baht buses," they're the Thai equivalent of Filipino jeepneys.

Picture taken 24 Jul 88.

10 June 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Slovenia

Slovenia is the northwesternmost piece of what used to be Yugoslavia. Piran is a lovely little town (pop 4092 in 2012) at the western tip of the Slovenian coast; that's the Gulf of Trieste in the background, and Venice, on the other side of the Adriatic Sea, is somewhere over the horizon near the left edge of the picture.  Most of the wall built across the base of the peninsula in the late 15th and early 16th centuries is still there; this is the view from the top of it. Visible near the centre of the photo is Tartini Square, with its statue of violinist and composer Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770), who was born in Piran. The large building on the right side of the town is the Church of St George, completed in 1637.

Picture taken 2 Jun 03.

03 June 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Portugal

The Royal Monastery of Saint Mary of Bethlehem (commonly known as the Jerónimos Monastery), in Lisbon, was built in the 16th century. Originally a home for the Order of Saint Jerome, it is also the site of the tombs of various members of the Portuguese royal family, the explorer Vasco da Gama, and others. The Naval Museum is also located on its grounds.

Picture taken 12 Jun 91.

27 May 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Italy

Before World War I, Trieste was the fourth-largest city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the war it, like the South Tyrol and other pieces of the former empire, was taken over by Italy in accordance with the Treaty of London. The city was part of the Free Territory of Trieste, under direct control of the United Nations, from 1947 until it was returned to Italy in 1954. Long before these events, the city - then called Tergeste - was part of the Roman Empire. The forensic basilica was built in the 2nd century CE; its ruins are located on San Giusto Hill next to the 14th-century Cathedral of San Giusto (St Justus) and San Giusto Castle.

Picture taken 19 Jun 03.

23 May 2014

Medal of Honor to be awarded for Afghanistan

ZUI this article from the New York Post:
His name is William “Kyle” Carpenter. He’s a corporal who was medically retired for wounds suffered when he used his body to shield a fellow Marine from a Taliban grenade.

Some 30 surgeries after he was written off for dead, he will next month become the 15th member of an elite company of men: those who have been awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

20 May 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Shenandoah

The Shenandoah Valley, part of the Great Appalachian Valley, runs between the Blue Ridge Mountains to its east and the Ridge-and-Valley Mountains to the west.  Stonewall Jackson, the only Confederate general to have a submarine named after him, led the Yankees a merry chase up and down the valley a couple of times in 1862; Jubal Early was much less successful two years later.  Shenandoah National Park, established in 1935 as the 18th US national park (and only the second one east of the Mississippi), is in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Here you see the view looking west across the valley from a spot near the northern end of the Park.

Picture taken 17 Aug 08.

13 May 2014

Travelin' Tuesday: Gibraltar

The so-called Barbary ape (Macaca sylvanus) is actually a monkey - a tailless macaque.  They're the only macaque that occurs outside Asia; most live in North Africa, from Morocco to Libya, but a couple hundred live in Gibraltar - the only primates other than humans native to Europe.  Legend has it that if they disappear from Gibraltar, the British will lose control of the colony.  They therefore receive good care; the British Army's Royal Gibraltar Regiment was responsible for them until 1991, when they turned the apes over to the government of Gibraltar.

Picture taken 25 Jul 03.