30 November 2006

This day in history: 30 Nov

1803: The Spanish transferred Lower Louisiana (including the city of New Orleans) to France. (Twenty days later, the French transferred it to the United States.)

1804: The US Senate began an impeachment trial against Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase. This was the third impeachment trial, and the only such trial to date of a Supreme Court justice.

1853: The Russians destroyed the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Sinope - the first battle of the Crimean War.

1864: The Army of Tennessee, under General John Bell Hood, attacked Union forces at Franklin, Tennessee. The battle was a Pyrrhic victory for the Confederates, with almost three times as many casualties as the Union had.

1936: The Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire.

1939: Soviet forces commanded by General K A Meretskov invaded Finland.

1940: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were married, in Greenwich, Connecticut.

1942: Eight Japanese destroyers, commanded by Raizo Tanaka, defeated a US force consisting of five cruisers and four destroyers,in the Battle of Tassafaronga (aka the Fourth Battle of Savo Island). Destroyer Takanami and heavy cruiser USS Northampton (CA 26) were sunk; three other cruisers were damaged.

1954: An 8.5-lb meteorite crashed through the roof of a house in Sylacauga, Alabama, bounced off a radio, and hit Mrs Ann Hodges - the only verified case of a person's being struck by a meteorite.

1966: Barbados became independent from the United Kingdom.

1974: The Australopithecus afarensis female known as Lucy was discovered in the Afar Depression, Ethiopia.

1989: Aileen Wuornos killed her first victim, Richard Mallory, in Palm Harbor, Florida.

King Edmund II "Ironside" (989-1016), Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), General Sir Arthur Currie GCMG KCB (1875-1933), Sir Hubert Wilkins MC and bar (1888-1958), Herbert Khaury (1932-1996) and Gertrude Ederle (1906-2003) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Andrea Doria (1466-1560), Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Oliver Winchester (1810-1880), Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), Sir Winston Churchill KG (1874-1965), Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942), Efrem Zimbalist Jr (1918-TBD), Allan Sherman (1924-1973), Richard Crenna (1926-2003), Robert Guillaume (1927-TBD), G Gordon Liddy (1930-TBD), Sir Ridley Scott (1937-TBD), my sister (1944-2000), Colin Mochrie (1957-TBD), Ben Stiller (1965-TBD) and my niece (1969-TBD).

29 November 2006

The Cybils: 2006 long lists

Last month I mentioned the Cybils - the new Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards, for the best English-language children's and young-adult books of 2006.

Nominations (which were open to anyone who wanted to participate) closed last week. Now the nominating committees are reading the books; they have until the end of December to narrow the choices down to five books per category. The short lists will be announced on 1 Jan 07, after which the judging committees will select the winners. The date for announcing the winners hasn't been promulgated yet, but it will probably be in early February.

Here are the long lists:

Fiction Picture Books: 111 books
Non-Fiction Picture Books: 40 books
Middle Grade Fiction: 63 books
Young Adult Fiction: 80 books
Fantasy and Science Fiction: 87 books
Graphic Novels: 35 books*
Poetry: 26 books
Non-Fiction (Middle Grade and YA): 37 books

I've already added a few titles to my Amazon wish list....

* Due to the extreme variation in the books nominated for this category, there will actually be two awards: Graphic Novel (12 and Under) and Graphic Novel (13 and Up).

27 November 2006

The Sky People (S M Stirling)

I was about ten years old when my sister brought home two utterly fascinating books. Thuvia, Maid of Mars featured wild adventures and weird beasts on the dried-out sea bottoms of Mars, which was called Barsoom by the natives. The People That Time Forgot was about people, dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals on an island in the southern Pacific; the explorers had apparently arrived on a German U-boat. (The story was set during World War I.)

I'd never read anything like either of these books before, and I was hooked immediately. They were written by someone named Edgar Rice Burroughs, and I started looking for everything I could find by him. Fortunately, this was the mid-1960s, and Ace and Ballentine were republishing almost all of his books in paperback. Over the next few years I managed to get hold of most of them - the rest of the Barsoom and Caspak books (Thuvia was the fourth in a series of eleven books; People was the second of three), all 24 Tarzan books, all six Pellucidar stories (seven if you count Tarzan at the Earth's Core), all five Amtor books (though the last wasn't published until I was in high school), and a host of independent tales. I loved almost all of them. (My favourites are Tarzan of the Apes - the original story of Viscount Greystoke - and Beyond Thirty.)

There were other books, too, by other authors. There were Tarzan clones, of course, some more, some less, close to the original: Bomba, Jongor, Kioga. And there were other planetary romances, set on an old, dry Mars and a young, wet Venus, like Barsoom and Amtor. Unfortunately, I only managed to get my hands on one of Otis Adelbert Kline's books (The Swordsman of Mars, I think it was). But some of Heinlein's juveniles fit the mould (especially Red Planet and Space Cadet), and there were Farley's Radio Man stories; Lucky Starr on Venus was another wet-Venus story. And there was a host of short stories, too, such as those by Brackett, Kuttner and Moore.

Then science came along and spoilt everything: No more canals and dry sea bottoms, no more exuberant jungles full of dinosaurs and primitive (or at any rate, less highly civilised) peoples. Sure, the occasional story came along; David Drake's Surface Action, for instance, was originally meant to be a sequel to a Kuttner story set on Venus, though it mutated into something else.*

Now we have The Sky People.

It's an alternate history, set in a universe where spectroscopic analysis of Mars and Venus showed in the '30s that both planets had atmospheres which would be breathable by any humans who could find a way to get there. By the early '60s, orbital observations had shown cities, roads and other signs of intelligent life. The first EastBloc (Soviet and Chinese) lander reached Venus on 14 Jun 62, and showed grass, flowers, trees - and humans. An American lander reached Mars the following year, and again found life. Both West and East began putting most of their resources into the space race, eschewing military conflict in favour of scientific progress.

By 1988, when the book is set, there are two colonies on Venus. Jamestown, the American one, is near from the most advanced group of natives, the Bronze Age city-state of Kartahown. The Soviet-Chinese base is located further away, though not too far from the westerners. Both groups are thoroughly puzzled by the Venerian flora and fauna, which are in some cases not just highly similar, but near-as-dammit identical, to Terran forms. There are dinosaurs, sabretooths, pterodactyls, giant insects (a slightly denser atmosphere and lower gravity make for some incredibly large flying critters), buffalo and other beasts. The geological record looks odd, too, with a thick layer where life seems to have sprung out of nowhere and exploded all over the planet; after that new species, all very similar to contemporaneous species on Earth, suddenly appear every few million years.

Then one of the EastBloc orbital shuttles crash-lands in the wilds, thousands of miles away from civilisation. The emergency beacon is triggered, showing that at least one of the three personnel on board has survived. The Americans have blimps which can reach the crash site (the shorter-range EastBloc blimps can't), so their assistance is requested. A rescue party sets out, and the adventures begin....

What do I like about this? To begin with, of course, there's the fact that books like this were my first introduction to science fiction, and it's always good to see another one come along.

Stirling's strong world-building and descriptive passages are seen here, as in his other books. There are proper concerns for the cost of imports from another planet:
He flicked off the computer, rose and stretched, looking around and smiling wryly. Jamestown wasn't all that short of housing; adobe brick was—

Cheap as dirt, he told himself.

And they could hire local builders for not much more. Anything that came from Earth was expensive and in short supply, of course, which made for some odd contrasts; the computer was connected to all the others in town with the latest in fiber-optic cable, but the water system was based on shamboo pipes and elm logs bored hollow and pegged together.

The rugs on the tile floor of the big living-room-office would have fetched plenty on Earth, and the furniture was hand-crafted of tiger-striped woods; lustrous furs covered the benches built into the walls. The windows were of thin-scraped 'saur intestine, and translucent rather than clear; the available glass was better, but not much—the first Kartahownian shops were just getting the knack, and it was wavy and full of bubbles. The heating system was an arched kiva-style fireplace in one corner, where a low fire of split oak soaked warmth into the massive walls and radiated out again, keeping the raw chill of the winter day outside at bay. A special research effort back on Earth had been necessary to produce the everlasting fluorescent lights above. It was cheaper to make light-bulbs that cost thousands of dollars each to send to Venus, rather than send replacements for forty-five cent ones that burned out. Even so, residents were 'encouraged' to use alcohol-fueled lanterns as much as possible.

The kitchen-dining area was behind a doorway closed with strings of wooden beads. It had the same mixture of luxury and primitivism; broad counters and an island of polished honey-colored wood whose grain swirled with scarlet streaks, but the stove was built of brick, its main luxury cast-bronze disks set in the top. He'd hired some kitchen help for today, a middle-aged woman named Ametri and her daughter. They were chopping vegetables as he came in, and looked mildly scandalized as he moved over to the oven—in Kartahown cooking was woman's work; there weren't even male chefs. Both of them wore simple ankle-length gowns of what amounted to linen; Ametri had her hair up under a kerchief as befitted a widow, but and her teenaged daughter wore her long black locks tied back with a headband and woven with scarlet ribbons.

Another nice touch is the filling in of background material by use of "excerpts" from the "15th edition (1988) of the Encyclopaedia Britannica." These appear at the beginning of most chapters, and provide historical and planetary data.

What don't I like? It's too damn' short - only 301 pages, as opposed to the 486 and 497 pages of his last two (TPW and AMaC, respectively). The epilogue was a little annoying, though of course it's a set-up for the second book (In the Halls of the Crimson Kings, to be set on Mars). And that next book won't be out for another year.

As usual with Stirling's books, you can test-drive it before you buy; the prologue and the first six (of fourteen) chapters can be found here.

Go. Buy. Read. And read again....

* See here.

This day in history: 27 Nov

1703: The first Eddystone Lighthouse was destroyed in the Great Storm.

1868: The 7th US Cavalry, under Lt Col George Armstrong Custer, attacked Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village on the Washita River. Over 150 Indians were killed - including women and children - for the loss of only 23 soldiers.

1924: The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in New York City.

1934: Lester Gillis, aka Baby-Face Nelson, was killed in a shoot-out with FBI agents in Barrington, Illinois.

1940: British and Italian warships met in the Battle of Cape Spartivento. (The picture shows HMS Renown.)

1942: The French fleet was scuttled in Toulon harbour.

1971: Mars 2, launched from Baikonur on 19 May 71, crashed on Mars - the first manmade object to reach the Martian surface.

In addition to Gillis (1908-1934), Alexandre Dumas, fils (1824-1895), "Butch" O'Hare (1914-1943), Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953), John Carradine (1906-1988) and David White (1916-1990) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Anders Celsius (1701-1744), Robert Livingston (1746-1813), L Sprague de Camp (1907-2000), "Buffalo Bob" Smith (1917-1998), Bruce Lee (1940-1973), Eddie Rabbitt (1941-1998), Curtis Armstrong (1953-TBD), Bill Nye (1955-TBD), Caroline Kennedy (1957-TBD) and Kirk Acevedo (1974-TBD).

That big hunk of metal back aft

Look - it's a skimmer!*

And here's another one.**

What do these two ships have in common? Well, they're both big, grey targets, of course. But besides that?

They're doing something that submarines almost never do - riding at anchor.

Sure, boats have anchors, but they don't use them very often. In fact, during my thirteen years on submarines, we anchored out exactly four times, thrice on my first boat and once on my last. One problem, of course, is that we only have the one anchor, unlike skimmers, which have backups, both forward and aft. Another is that anchoring out means keeping the plant up, which in turn means that while the coners are ashore having fun, the nucs are still on the boat working.

The first time I anchored out was at Frederiksted, St Croix (US Virgin Islands), in November or December of '84. They had a pier, but as I recall the story was that it had been damaged by the last hurricane that blew through (that would have been Klaus) and hadn't been sufficiently repaired by the time we got there. I couldn't find any pictures of the boat at anchor; I'm not sure if I even got any, though I do remember being topside the morning we got under way and taking pictures of the liberty boat alongside, and the work party transferring all the cases of booze aboard.

The second occasion was during our first visit to Lahaina, Hawai`i, in July of '86. It was a very enjoyable port call; I especially remember the banyan tree, and the free ride - with all the drinks I wanted - I was given on one of the harbour-tour boats because I was almost the only person aboard who was willing to give up his boat ballcap. (We'd run out during our visit to Olympia, Washington, a few months before, and the rec committee hadn't restocked yet.)

We visited Lahaina again the following year, but that time we had an AD with us - they did the anchoring, and we tied up alongside. (We'd done something similar when we visited Hong Kong in early '87 - tied up to a generator barge that provided power for us.)

The third time was off Pattaya, Thailand, two years later.

Pattaya was another interesting port. We were on our way ashore in the liberty boat when someone say, "Hey - look at that!" There was a lovely, sandy beach, with a row of palm trees separating it from the street that ran parallel to the shore. And just the other side of the street was a large A&W Root Beer sign. I think a lot of guys went straight from the liberty boat to a hotel, checked in, dropped their bags, and headed over to the A&W for a root beer float - I know Jay and I certainly did.

Here's another picture. We weren't the only Yanks in Pattaya that week - if you look closely you can see USS Towers (DDG 9) and USNS Mispillion (T-AO 105) at anchor in the background.

The final time at anchor was in Cartagena, Spain, in the summer of '01. This is one of my favourite pictures from that deployment.

Cartagena was really cool - the mediaeval cathedral rising straight up out of the ruins of the old Roman amphitheatre, the other Roman ruins, and even a section of the Carthaginian wall. There were some really nice restaurants, too; I'll never forget the gazpacho, the paella and the fresh Manchego cheese.

* USS Yorktown (CV 5), to be precise, in 1937.
** Hr Ms Sumatra, a Java-class light cruiser of the Royal Netherlands Navy, sometime in the '30s.

26 November 2006

Victoria Cross: J. C. Richardson


Piper, Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s)

Born: 25 November 1895, Bellshill, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when [on 8 Oct 1916, at Regina Trench], prior to attack, he obtained permission from his Commanding Officer to play his company "over the top."
As the company approached the objective, it was held up by very strong wire and came under intense fire, which caused heavy casualties and demoralized the formation for the moment. Realising the situation, Piper Richardson strode up and down outside the wire, playing his pipes with the greatest coolness. The effect was instantaneous. Inspired by his splendid example, the company rushed the wire with such fury and determination that the obstacle was overcome and the position captured.
Later, after participating in bombing operations, he was detailed to take back a wounded comrade and prisoners.
After proceeding about 200 yards Piper Richardson remembered that he had left his pipes behind. Although strongly urged not to do so, he insisted on returning to recover his pipes. He has never been seen since, and death has been presumed accordingly owing to lapse of time.

(London Gazette Issue 30967 dated 22 Oct 1918, published 18 Oct 1918.)

Note: Piper Richardson's pipes were recovered from the battlefield by a British Army chaplain and have been on display in a school in Scotland. They were recently returned to British Columbia. See here and here.

Medal of Honor: R. W. Young


Private, US Army; 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division

Born: 28 April 1918, Tiffin, Ohio
Died: 31 July 1943, New Georgia, Solomon Islands

Citation: On 31 July 1943, the infantry company of which Pvt. Young was a member, was ordered to make a limited withdrawal from the battle line [on New Georgia] in order to adjust the battalion's position for the night. At this time, Pvt. Young's platoon was engaged with the enemy in a dense jungle where observation was very limited. The platoon suddenly was pinned down by intense fire from a Japanese machinegun concealed on higher ground only 75 yards away. The initial burst wounded Pvt. Young. As the platoon started to obey the order to withdraw, Pvt. Young called out that he could see the enemy emplacement, whereupon he started creeping toward it. Another burst from the machinegun wounded him the second time. Despite the wounds, he continued his heroic advance, attracting enemy fire and answering with rifle fire. When he was close enough to his objective, he began throwing handgrenades, and while doing so was hit again and killed. Pvt. Young's bold action in closing with this Japanese pillbox and thus diverting its fire, permitted his platoon to disengage itself, without loss, and was responsible for several enemy casualties.

25 November 2006

This day in history: 25 Nov

1120: William Atheling, the only legitimate son of King Henry I of England, drowned after the White Ship sank in the English Channel.

1177: A Crusader army led by Baldwin IV of Jerusalem and Raynald of Chatillon defeated Saladin at the Battle of Montgisard.

1542: English forces under Sir Thomas Wharton defeated the Scots at the Battle of Solway Moss.

1809: Sir Benjamin Bathurst walked around the horses.

1863: Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee was defeated by Union forces led by General George Thomas at Missionary Ridge, near Chattanooga, Tennessee.

1876: A Cheyenne village at Bates Creek, near the Powder River, was attacked and destroyed by US forces under Col Ranald Mackenzie.

1950: "The Great Appalachian Storm," a snowstorm which dumped up to 62 inches of snow on the Appalachians and the northeastern US, began.

Besides William (1104-1120), Andrea Doria (1466-1560), Theobald Boehm (1794-1881), U Thant (1909-1974) and Flip Wilson (1933-1998) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Piet Hein (1577-1629), Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), Karl Benz (1844-1929), Carrie Nation (1846-1911), Ricardo Montalban (1920-TBD), Poul Anderson (1926-2001), Ben Stein (1944-TBD) and John Kennedy Jr (1960-1999).

Rack, sweet rack

A while back, I posted this picture of my rack taken during my last deployment (USS Providence, June '03):

Here, for contrast, is the same bunk, different boat, other side of the world, fifteen years earlier (USS Olympia, June '88):

24 November 2006

"On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness"

A really short poem for this Friday. I ran across this one (by Arthur Guiterman, a chap I'd never heard of) a couple days ago whilst researching something palaeontological.
The tusks which clashed in mighty brawls
Of mastodons, are billiard balls.

The sword of Charlemagne the Just
Is Ferric Oxide, known as rust.

The grizzly bear, whose potent hug,
Was feared by all, is now a rug.

Great Caesar's bust is on the shelf,
And I don't feel so well myself.

23 November 2006

The United States ... Is? Are?

I was reading through Language Log this morning, and found this interesting article by Benjamin Zimmer about how "the United States" changed from a plural to a singular term.

22 November 2006

Early apes and earlier whales

Two interesting posts out there in the world of blogs today.

First, from Afarensis we have a review of The Ape in the Tree (Alan Walker and Pat Shipman), a new book about the Miocene ape called Proconsul.

And from Olduvai George, who after an absence of several months has recently rejoined the blogosphere (huzzah!), we have this post about Pakicetus, the coyote-sized Eocene "walking whale." And a hint at more to come....

You learn something new every day

Had to go to the Commissary the other day, and whilst there I saw they had a decent price on Old Orchard Blueberry Pomegranate Juice, so I bought some. Not bad. Not bad at all - I even went back and bought a couple more bottles.

Of course, it's not just a mix of blueberry and pomegranate juices. In fact, down in the corner of the label, in small type, it says "Flavored 4 Juice Blend From Concentrate." Reading the ingredients, I see that it contains filtered water, apple juice concentrate, pomegranate juice concentrate, aronia berry concentrate, blueberry juice concentrate and a handful of chemicals.

"Aronia berry concentrate"? What the **** is an aronia berry?

See here, or here. Aronia melanocarpa (aka Photinia melanocarpa - pick a taxon, any taxon), the black chokecherry, is a woody shrub of the family Rosaceae, native to eastern North America. According to the folks at WSU, the plants grow to six to eight feet tall, and landscapers like them for their "clusters of creamy white flowers in late spring, and colorful flame-colored autumn foliage contrasting with dark berries."

From WSU (the first site linked to above):
The commercial use of aronia is mainly for juice, either alone or blended with other fruit juices such as grape or apple. Other reported uses are for syrup, tea, soft spreads and food coloring. Aronia juice and juice blends are commercially marketed, such as Wildland Aronia Juice (available at supermarkets), R. W. Knudson's Mega C and others. One innovative introduction is a dry sparkling beverage, Aronia Cassis, produced by Riggs & Forsythe as a nonalcoholic adult alternative to soda pop. The main source for juice at present seems to be fruit grown in Europe, though the Cornell report mentions a small (unnamed) commmercial grower in Oregon. Test plantings have also been established by the USDA's Plant Materials Program at 11 sites in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Interest in the health benefits of aronia juice is based on its very high levels of anthocyanins and flavonoids, five to ten times higher than cranberry juice, with beneficial nutrients such as antioxidants, polyphenols, minerals and vitamins, that may include compounds that specifically fight cancer and cardiac disease. Dr. David Siegler at the University of Illinois is presently engaged in research to evaluate the health potential of aronia. Other research by Dr. Bernadine Strik at Oregon’s North Willamette Research Station involves testing of a number of aronia varieties to determine the ones that perform best in quality and production.

Fruit consultant Lon Rombough reports that in Russia, aronia and apple juices are combined and fermented to produce red wine. In Lithuania prize winning dessert wines have been made using aronia juice, alone or blended with other fruits. Tom Plocher at Minnesota has been experimenting with aronia as a blending agent to improve the color, tannin level and sugar of grape wines (aronia has measured up to 24 brix when fully ripe.) Plocher has been trying a European technique to graft aronia onto sorbus trunks to raise the fruiting area up higher for ease of picking. With fruit from the Mount Vernon trials, Drew Zimmerman of the Northwest Cider Society successfully used a blend of aronia and apple juice for a test production of hard (fermented) cider, and we look forward to results of his further trials.


This day in history: 22 Nov

498: Symmachus and Laurentius were elected pope following the death of Anastasius II.

1718: Edward Teach (or Thatch) - the infamous Blackbeard - was killed in action after attacking HMS Ranger, commanded by Lt Robert Maynard, RN.

1922: Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon* opened Tutankhamun's tomb.

1935: Trans-Pacific mail service began when the Martin 130 China Clipper took off from Alameda, California, bound for Manila.

1943: FDR, Winston Churchill and Chiang Kai-Shek met in Cairo to discuss strategy for the Pacific war.

1944: HM submarine Stratagem (P234) was sunk in the Straits of Malacca by a Japanese destroyer. Eight men successfully escaped to the surface and were picked up by the Japanese; only three survived until the end of the war.

1963: JFK was assassinated in Dallas. By someone.

1975: Juan Carlos was declared King of Spain, following the death of Francisco Franco.

In addition to Blackbeard (ca 1680-1718) and JFK (1917-1963), Sir Martin Frobisher (ca 1535-1594), Robert Clive, KB, Baron Clive of Plassey (1725-1774), Sir Arthur S Sullivan (1842-1900), Jack London (1876-1916), Shemp Howard (1895-1955), C S Lewis (1898-1963), Mae West (1893-1980), Scatman Crothers (1910-1986), Charles Upham, VC and Bar (1908-1994) and Mark Lenard (1924-1996) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (1428-1471), Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784), Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), Wiley Post (1898-1935), Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004), Robert Vaughn (1932-TBD) and Terry Gilliam (1940-TBD).

* George Herbert, fifth Earl of Carnarvon.

21 November 2006

Now they're really being stupid

Right here:
A spicy sausage known as the Welsh Dragon will have to be renamed after trading standards’ officers warned the manufacturers that they could face prosecution because it does not contain dragon.

This is so idiotic it defies comment....

1822 24 Nov: icWales had more to say:
The consumer watchdogs swooped after being tipped off that the sausages were in breach of the 1996 Food Labelling Act of misleading description on their Welsh Dragon Sausage.

The trading standards department ran a full analysis - and proved there was no dragon in it. The firm was informed it was an offence and they were breaking the law because of the misleading name.

Mr Carthew was told that no further action was being taken but officials would be keeping a check on his products by taking samples in future.


A Powys County Council spokesman said, 'The product 'Welsh Dragon Sausage' was not sufficiently precise to inform a purchaser of the true nature of the food. I don't think anyone would imagine that dragon meat was being used but we would not want vegetarians to buy the sausages believing they were meat free.

'We have recommended to the establishments that they include the type of meat in the name of the food.'

20 November 2006

Sub collides with ship off Japanese coast

This time, however, it was a Japanese sub.


Updated: 32 minutes ago

TOKYO - A Japanese submarine collided with a civilian vessel Tuesday in southern Japan waters, news reports said.

The Maritime Self-Defense Forces submarine collided with an unidentified civilian boat during surfacing exercise off the coast of Miyazaki on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, Kyodo News agency and public broadcaster NHK said.

Further details to follow....

Update 0741 21 Nov: According to the Globe and Mail, the ships involved were the Harushio-class submarine Asashio (SS 589/TSS 3601) and the Panamanian-registered Spring Auster.
The Maritime Self-Defence Forces submarine grazed the civilian vessel during surfacing exercises about 50 kilometres off the southeastern coast of Miyazaki on Japan's southern island of Kyushu, a defence agency spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity in accord with agency policy.

No injuries were reported among the 75 crew members of the submarine Asashio. But the spokesman said officials found a dent in the top part of the sub, the apparent result of striking the hull of the ship while surfacing.

The civilian vessel was identified as Panamanian-registered 4,000-ton Spring Auster, heading for China, Coast Guard spokesman Takatoshi Nagasaki said.

He said that none of its 17 crew members — 16 Philippine nationals and a South Korean — were injured, but the extent of the ship's damage was not immediately known.

Beef execution

See here.

19 November 2006

Pennsic XXXV

Darter the Chronicler has his pictures from Pennsic XXXV up on his site now.

Not as many photos as in last year's gallery, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Medal of Honor: H. Breault


Torpedoman Second Class, US Navy; USS O-5 (SS 66)

Born: 14 October 1900, Putnam, Connecticut
Died: 5 December 1941, Newport, Rhode Island

Citation: For heroism and devotion to duty while serving on board the U.S. submarine O-5 at the time of the sinking of that vessel [in Limon Bay, Panama]. On the morning of 28 October 1923, the O-5 collided with the steamship Abangarez and sank in less than a minute. When the collision occurred, Breault was in the torpedo room. Upon reaching the hatch, he saw that the boat was rapidly sinking. Instead of jumping overboard to save his own life, he returned to the torpedo room to the rescue of a shipmate whom he knew was trapped in the boat, closing the torpedo room hatch on himself. Breault and Brown remained trapped in this compartment until rescued by the salvage party 31 hours later.

Note: Breault had served four years in the Royal Navy before enlisting in the US Navy.

Victoria Cross: M. F. M. Meiklejohn


Captain, The Gordon Highlanders

Born: 27 November 1870, Clapham, Southwest London
Died: 4 July 1913, Hyde Park, London

Citation: At the Battle of Elandslaagte, on the 21st October, 1899, after the main Boer position had been captured, some of the men of the Gordon Highlanders, when about to assault a kopje in advance, were exposed to a heavy cross-fire, and having lost their leaders, commenced to waver. Seeing this, Captain Meiklejohn rushed to the front and called on the Gordons to follow him. By his conspicuous bravery and fearless example, he rallied the men and led them against the enemy's position, where he fell, desperately wounded in four places.

(London Gazette Issue 27212 dated 20 Jul 1900, published 20 Jul 1900.)

18 November 2006

RIP: Milton Friedman

Says The Independent:
Milton Friedman, the Nobel-winning monetarist economist who was an intellectual architect of the free-market policies of Republican US presidents, and an adviser to Margaret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister, died yesterday in San Francisco. He was 94.

Over half a century, Mr Friedman, the son of Hungarian Jewish immigrants, established himself as arguably the most influential economic thinker of his time. Over that post-war period, "Friedmanism" - the belief that changes in money supply dictate fluctuations in the economy - supplanted Keynesianism as the dominant economic philosophy of the industrial world.

Inflation, he believed, was caused by too much money chasing two few goods. Conversely, deflation was the result of too little money in the economy. He argued that the Depression was not a failure of capitalism, but of government, as the monetary authorities in the US and Europe reduced liquidity in the system, thus making a bad situation worse.

As Mr Friedman celebrated his 90th birthday in 2002, Ben Bernanke - then a Federal Reserve governor, now chairman of the US central bank - sought belated forgiveness for the error: "Regarding the Great Depression, you're right," Mr Bernanke acknowledged. "We did it. We're very sorry." Those monetary beliefs underpinned the 30-plus books that appeared under his name, most notably perhaps A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960, as well as a host of other writing including a regular column in Newsweek magazine. He urged deregulation and individual initiative as the keys to economic success - a view embraced by the US presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan, and by Mrs Thatcher in Britain.

From gulfnews.com:
Underpinning Friedman's economic principles was a belief, shared with contemporaries such as Friedrich von Hayek, in the moral values of individual freedom. "The preservation of freedom," Friedman wrote, "requires limiting narrowly the role of government and placing primary reliance on private property, free markets and voluntary arrangements".

He believed that tax-funded government spending was appropriate only to the most limited set of "public goods", such as national defence, and spoke wistfully of the pre-1914 era when only three per cent of America's national income was in the hands of the state; on his 80th birthday in 1992, he observed that the proportion had reached 44 per cent, and that America had unwittingly become "half-socialist".

He was opposed to welfare in all its manifestations, proposing instead a system of negative income tax (partially adopted by Lyndon Johnson) to provide cash for individuals in poverty while doing away with the expensive and inefficient machinery of direct welfare provision.

He also disapproved of America's public (state) school system, arguing that, as a socialised monopoly, its product was the educational equivalent of East Germany's Trabant car.

In California, he campaigned for education vouchers as a first step towards the ideal of a private education industry competing vigorously to offer parents a choice of schools to suit different pupils.

As to business, Friedman believed that entrepreneurs would always find ways to circumvent excessive tax and regulation. "An overtaxed economy breathes through the loopholes," he said, "as grass grows through concrete". He had no time for minimum wage laws, rent controls, federal regulatory agencies, securities regulation or licensing boards for occupations and professions.

16 November 2006

This day in history: 16 Nov

1384: Ten-year-old Jadwiga, daughter of Louis the Great of Hungary, was crowned King of Poland.

1632: Protestant forces beat the Catholics at the Battle of Lützen, though King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden was killed during the battle.

1857: The second Relief of Lucknow. 24 Victoria Crosses were awarded to British soldiers - the most ever won in a single day.

1885: Louis Riel was hanged for treason at North West Mounted Police headquarters in Regina, Saskatchewan.

1907: Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory combined to become the state of Oklahoma - the 46th state.

1943: USS Corvina (SS 226) the only US submarine sunk by a Japanese submarine, was torpedoed by I-176 south of Truk. All 82 men on board were lost.

1959: The Sound of Music, starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel, opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, on Broadway.

1965: Venera 3, the first spacecraft to reach the surface of another planet, was launched from Baikonur. It crash-landed on Venus on 1 Mar 1966, though the communications systems had failed before planetary data could be returned.

1973: The Skylab 4 mission (Carr, Gibson and Pogue) was launched from Cape Canaveral.

1981: Luke Spencer and Laura (Webber) Baldwin were married on the soap opera General Hospital.

In addition to Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632) and Louis Riel (1844-1885), Clark Gable (1901-1960), William Holden (1918-1981) and Jack Finney (1911-1995) died on this date.

And happy birthday to David Kalākaua (1836-1891), George S Kaufman (1889-1961), Burgess Meredith (1907-1997), Daws Butler (1916-1988) and Robin McKinley (1952-TBD).

15 November 2006


Perhaps I can do a bit better with this list, which I found on line (here, to be precise): the top 100 SF books.

Instructions: Mark the selections you have read in bold. If you liked it, add a star (*) in front of the title; if you didn't, give it a minus (-). Then, put the total number of books you've read in the subject line.

Dune – Frank Herbert
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Foundation – Isaac Asimov (read half of the first sequel, then got distracted and never returned to the series)
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (couldn't get past the first chapter)
1984 – George Orwell
Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert A Heinlein (tried reading this twice; the second time, I think, I made it into the second chapter; one of only two by RAH I couldn't finish)
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
- Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
* Starship Troopers – Robert A Heinlein
I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K Dick
- 2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C Clarke
* Ringworld – Lary Niven (wasn't impressed by the sequels, though)
The Time Machine – H G Wells
Childhood’s End – Arthur C Clarke
Hyperion – Dan Simmons
* Rendezvous with Rama – Arthur C Clarke (didn't like the sequels at all)
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
The War of the Worlds – H G Wells
* The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A Heinlein
Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card
The Forever War – Joe Haldeman
- The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury
The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K Le Guin
Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
* The Mote in God’s Eye – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Ender’s Shadow – Orson Scott Card
- A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle (as I recall, I enjoyed it in fourth grade, but I find it unreadable now)
- The Man in the High Castle – Philip K Dick
Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny
* The Caves of Steel – Isaac Asimov
Gateway – Frederick Pohl
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
Solaris – Stanislaw Lem
Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester
Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter Miller
Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
The Gods Themselves – Isaac Asimov
Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
UBIK – Philip K Dick
Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
- Time Enough for Love – Robert A Heinlein (though parts of it were good)
A Fire Upon the Deep – Vernor Vinge
The End of Eternity – Isaac Asimov
- The Sirens of Titan – Kurt Vonnegut
Red Mars – Kim Stanley Robinson
* Lucifer’s Hammer – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
The Dispossessed – Ursula K Le Guin
The Shadow of the Torturer – Gene Wolfe
The Demolished Man – Alfred Bester
Eon – Greg Bear
- Battlefield Earth – L Ron Hubbard
The Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton’
- To Your Scattered Bodies Go – Philip Jose Farmer
Player of Games – Iain M Banks
Journey to the Centre of the Earth – Jules Verne
Contact – Carl Sagan
Startide Rising – David Brin
Use of Weapons – Iain M Banks
The Reality Dysfunction – Peter F Hamilton
The Diamond Age – Neal Stephenson
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch – Philip K Dick
The City and the Stars – Arthur C Clarke
The Stainless Steel Rat – Harry Harrison
* The Chrysalids [aka Re-Birth] – John Wyndham
* The Puppet Masters – Robert A Heinlein
* Have Space Suit – Will Travel – Robert A Heinlein
Burning Chrome – William Gibson
* The Door Into Summer – Robert A Heinlein
The Uplift War – David Brin
Doomsday Book – Connie Willis
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Mark Twain
The Invisible Man – H G Wells
Way Station – Clifford Simak
The Lathe of Heaven – Ursula K Le Guin
* Citizen of the Galaxy – Robert A Heinlein
The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenberger
The Postman – David Brin
VALIS – Philip K Dick
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
* Earth Abides – George R Stewart
More Than Human – Theodore Sturgeon
City – Clifford Simak
Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner
Blood Music – Greg Bear
The Cyberiad – Stanislaw Lem
Titan – John Varley
* Alas, Babylon – Pat Frank
* A Princess of Mars – Edgar Rice Burroughs (the fourth book in this series was my introduction to SF; I've read all eleven)
Pattern Recognition – William Gibson
Out of the Silent Planet – C S Lewis (hated the sequels)
Ilium – Dan Simmons
Revelation Space – Alastair Reynolds
Roadside Picnic – Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

Still less than half, though....


Once again, this comes from Bloomabilities by way of Big A little a.

Instructions: T.S. found this list of the 100 best children's book on the National Education Association's page (from 1999, I think). Mark the selections you have read in bold. If you liked it, add a star (*) in front of the title, if you didn't, give it a minus (-). Then, put the total number of books you've read in the subject line.

(Alvina also added a question mark (?) to indicate indifference or mixed feelings.)

Charlotte's Web - E. B. White
The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg
*Green Eggs and Ham - Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat - Dr. Seuss
Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
Love You Forever - Robert N. Munsch
The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle
Where the Red Fern Grows - Wilson Rawls
*The Mitten - Jan Brett
Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown
Hatchet - Gary Paulsen
*The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis
Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein - Shel Silverstein
Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson
Stellaluna - Janell Cannon
Oh, The Places You'll Go - Dr. Seuss
Strega Nona - Tomie De Paola
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - Judith Viorst
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? - Bill Martin, Jr.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
The Velveteen Rabbit - Margery Williams
-A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
Shiloh - Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Dr. Seuss
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs - Jon Scieszka
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom - John Archambault
Little House on the Prarie - Laura Ingalls Wilder (started it once, but never finished it)
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
*The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh - A. A. Milne
The Boxcar Children - Gertrude Chandler Warner
Sarah, Plain and Tall - Patricia MacLachlan
Indian in the Cupboard - Lynne Reid Banks
Island of the Blue Dolphins - Scott O'Dell (flipped through it, but haven't actually read it)
Maniac Magee - Jerry Spinelli
The BFG - Roald Dahl
The Giver - Lois Lowry
*If You Give a Mouse a Cookie - Laura Joffe Numeroff
James and the Giant Peach - Roald Dahl (can't remember if I've read this one or not)
Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Mildred D. Taylor
*The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien
The Lorax - Dr. Seuss
Stone Fox - John Reynolds Gardiner
Number the Stars - Lois Lowry
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - Robert C. O'Brien
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott (I liked the sequels better)
The Rainbow Fish - Marcus Pfister
Amazing Grace - Mary Hoffman
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Barbara Robinson
Corduroy - Don Freeman
Jumanji - Chris Van Allsburg
Math Curse - Jon Scieszka
Matilda - Roald Dahl
Summer of the Monkeys - Wilson Rawls
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Judy Blume
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 - Beverly Cleary (I've read the Henry Huggins books, where Ramona and her sister started out, but only a couple of the Ramona stories)
The Trumpet of the Swan - E. B. White
Are You My Mother? - Philip D. Eastman
*The Chronicles of Narnia - C. S. Lewis (redundancy alert - we've already had the first book from this series on this list. I've read all seven of them several times each)
Make Way for Ducklings - Robert McCloskey
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish - Dr. Seuss
-The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster
The Snowy Day - Ezra Jack Keats
The Napping House - Audrey Wood
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble - William Steig
The Tale of Peter Rabbit - Beatrix Potter
Tuck Everlasting - Natalie Babbitt
The Wizard of Oz - L. Frank Baum
Anne of Green Gables - Lucy Maud Montgomery (this has been on my read-this list for years, but....)
Horton Hatches the Egg - Dr. Seuss
*Basil of Baker Street - Eve Titus
The Little Engine That Could - Watty Piper
The Cay - Theodore Taylor
*Curious George - Hans Augusto Rey
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge - Mem Fox
Arthur series - Marc Tolon Brown
The Great Gilly Hopkins - Katherine Paterson
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse - Kevin Henkes
Little House books - Laura Ingalls Wilder (redundancy again - we've already been asked about two of these)
The Little House - Virginia Lee Burton
The Runaway Bunny - Margaret Wise Brown
Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Louis Sachar
Amelia Bedelia - Peggy Parish
Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh
A Light in the Attic - Shel Silverstein
Mr. Popper's Penguins - Richard Atwater
My Father's Dragon - Ruth Stiles Gannett
*Stuart Little - E. B. White
Walk Two Moons - Sharon Creech
The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Elizabeth George Speare
The Art Lesson - Tomie De Paola
Caps for Sale - Esphyr Slobodkina
Clifford, the Big Red Dog - Norman Bridwell
Heidi - Johanna Spyri
Horton Hears a Who - Dr. Seuss
The Sign of the Beaver - Elizabeth George Speare
The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 - Christopher Paul Curtis
Guess How Much I Love You - Sam McBratney
The Paper Bag Princess - Robert N. Munsch

A lot of these books didn't exist when I was a kid, and even some of the ones that were around then didn't get read until later - I don't remember reading Goodnight Moon, for instance, until I was in my 40s and had a kid of my own. And there are even books I've never heard of on this list.

(By way of contrast, Kelly has read 83 of these, Alvina has read 86, and Fusenumber8 has read 85. But I was reading ERB at ten, Alasdair MacLean at twelve, and Heinlein at thirteen. Not a lot of kids' books there....)


Kelly at Big A little a found a couple of new book memes posted by Alvina at Bloomabilities. First, this one....

Instructions: In 2005, Time magazine picked the 100 best English-language novels (1923-present). Mark the selections you have read in bold. If you liked it, add a star (*) in front of the title, if you didn't, give it a minus (-). Then, put the total number of books you've read in the subject line.

(Alvina also added a question mark (?) to indicate indifference or mixed feelings.)

The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow
All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren
American Pastoral - Philip Roth
An American Tragedy - Theodore Dreiser
?Animal Farm - George Orwell
Appointment in Samarra - John O'Hara
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume
The Assistant - Bernard Malamud
At Swim-Two-Birds - Flann O'Brien
Atonement - Ian McEwan
Beloved - Toni Morrison
The Berlin Stories - Christopher Isherwood
The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Thornton Wilder
Call It Sleep - Henry Roth
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger (HS)
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
The Confessions of Nat Turner - William Styron
The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon
A Dance to the Music of Time - Anthony Powell
The Day of the Locust - Nathanael West
Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather
A Death in the Family - James Agee
The Death of the Heart - Elizabeth Bowen
Deliverance - James Dickey
Dog Soldiers - Robert Stone
Falconer - John Cheever
The French Lieutenant's Woman - John Fowles
The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing
Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin
Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
A Handful of Dust - Evelyn Waugh
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers
The Heart of the Matter - Graham Greene
Herzog - Saul Bellow
Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson
A House for Mr. Biswas - V.S. Naipaul
I, Claudius - Robert Graves
Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
Light in August - William Faulkner
*The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis (I've read all seven of these books, several times each)
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
?Lord of the Flies - William Golding
*The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
Loving - Henry Green
Lucky Jim - Kingsley Amis
The Man Who Loved Children - Christina Stead
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
Money - Martin Amis
The Moviegoer - Walker Percy
Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
Naked Lunch - William Burroughs
Native Son - Richard Wright
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
1984 - George Orwell
On the Road - Jack Kerouac
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
The Painted Bird - Jerzy Kosinski
Pale Fire - Vladimir Nabokov
A Passage to India - E.M. Forster
Play It As It Lays - Joan Didion
Portnoy's Complaint - Philip Roth
Possession - A.S. Byatt
The Power and the Glory - Graham Greene
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
Rabbit, Run - John Updike
Ragtime - E.L. Doctorow
The Recognitions - William Gaddis
Red Harvest - Dashiell Hammett
Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
The Sheltering Sky - Paul Bowles
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
The Sot-Weed Factor - John Barth
The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
The Sportswriter - Richard Ford
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold - John Le Carre
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller
Ubik - Philip K. Dick
Under the Net - Iris Murdoch
Under the Volcano - Malcolm Lowry
Watchmen - Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
White Noise - Don DeLillo
White Teeth - Zadie Smith
Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

Well. That certainly didn't take long. Let's go on to the second one....

(By contrast, Kelly has read 47, and Alvina has read 23. But then "best-seller" was never a criterion I used when looking for something to read.)

This day in history: 15 Nov

1533: Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadors arrived in Cuzco, Peru.

1777: The Continental Congress approved the Articles of Confederation.

1942: The three-day Naval Battle of Guadalcanal ended. Japanese losses included battleships Hiei and Kirishima, heavy cruiser Kinugasa, and destroyers Akatsuki, Yudachi and Ayanami; the US lost light cruisers Atlanta (CL 51) and Juneau (CL 52), and destroyers Cushing (DD 376), Laffey (DD 459), Barton (DD 599), Monssen (DD 436), Walke (DD 416), Preston (DD 379) and Benham (DD 397).

1959: Herbert Clutter, his wife and their two children were murdered in their home in Holcomb, Kansas - the basis for Truman Capote's book In Cold Blood.

1966: Gemini XII (Jim Lovell and Edwin Aldrin) landed after a four-day mission which included the first fully successful space walk.

1969: The first Wendy's fast-food restaurant was opened, in Dublin, Ohio.

1970: The Lunokhod 1 lunar rover landed on the moon and began operations (which lasted until 4 October 1971).

1988: The Buran space shuttle was launched for its first - and only - flight.

1990: Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched with a five-man crew (commanded by Col Richard O Covey) on mission STS-38.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), John Witherspoon (1723-1794), Tyrone Power (1914-1958), Vil`yam Genrikhovich Fisher (1903-1971) and Margaret Mead (1901-1978) died on this date.

And happy birthday to William Herschel (1738-1822), Erwin Rommel (1891-1944), Claus Graf von Stauffenberg (1907-1944), C W McCall (1928-TBD), Petula Clark (1932-TBD), Sam Waterston (1940-TBD), Daniel Barenboim (1942-TBD) and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (1945-TBD).

14 November 2006

Phorusrhacids again

Darren Naish wrote four posts recently on these fascinating prehistoric birds. I linked to the first couple earlier; for convenience's sake I'm going to link to all four of them now.

Terror birds

More on phorusrhacids: the biggest, the fastest, the mostest out-of-placest

Giant hoatzins of doom

Goodbye, my giant predatory, cursorial, flightless hoatzin

Phorusrhacos longissimus painting by Zdenek Burian (1905-1981).


Not even halfway through November yet, and I had to spend all day yesterday and today listening to Xmas songs at work. *#$&%&!!! And the Xmas displays went up the first week in October; even my ten-year-old (now eleven) was annoyed by that.

It's things like this that make me hate Xmas more and more each year....

Good news

Got an e-mail from an old friend (the girls' honourary grandmother) a couple days ago. Her youngest son, a sergeant in an Army artillery outfit, is home from Iraq. With all body parts intact and in proper working order.

Make that great news.

13 November 2006

Which SF crew would you best fit in?

You scored as SG-1 (Stargate). You are versatile and diverse in your thinking. You have an open mind to that which seems highly unlikely and accept it with a bit of humor. Now if only aliens would stop trying to take over your body.

SG-1 (Stargate)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


Serenity (Firefly)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Moya (Farscape)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Your Ultimate SF Profile II: which sf crew would you best fit in?
created with QuizFarm.com

Sounds like the best choice to me. Second best would probably be DS9....

12 November 2006

This day in history: 12 Nov

1912: The bodies of Capt Robert Falcon Scott, Dr Edward Wilson and Lt Henry Bowers were found on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica.

1944: The German battleship Tirpitz was sunk in Tromsö fjord by British bombers.

1948: General Hideki Tojo, former prime minister of Japan, and six other Japanese officials were sentenced to death for war crimes.

1970: The Oregon Highway Division blew up a whale.

1980: Voyager 1 made its closest approach to Saturn.

1996: 349 people were killed when a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-100 collided in midair with an Ilyushin 76, near New Delhi, India.

The Hill Valley lightning storm in the movie Back to the Future took place on 12 November 1955.

King Canute the Great (ca 995-1035), Sir John Hawkins (1532-1595) and Penny Singleton (1908-2003) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Louis-Antoine, Comte de Bougainville (1729-1811), Gerhard von Scharnhorst (1755-1813), Maximilian Reichsfreiherr von Weichs zu Glon (1881-1954), Jo Stafford (1917-TBD), Grace Kelly (1929-1982), Brian Hyland (1943-TBD) and Nadia Comaneci (1961-TBD).

Medal of Honor: G. L. Street III


Commander, US Navy, commanding USS Tirante (SS 420)

Born: 27 July 1913, Richmond, Virginia
Died: 26 February 2000, Andover, Massachusetts

Citation. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Tirante during the first war patrol of that vessel against enemy Japanese surface forces in the harbor of Quelpart Island, off the coast of Korea, on 14 April 1945. With the crew at surface battle stations, Comdr. (then Lt. Comdr.) Street approached the hostile anchorage from the south within 1,200 yards of the coast to complete a reconnoitering circuit of the island. Leaving the 10-fathom curve far behind he penetrated the mined and shoal-obstructed waters of the restricted harbor despite numerous patrolling vessels and in defiance of 5 shore-based radar stations and menacing aircraft. Prepared to fight it out on the surface if attacked, Comdr. Street went into action, sending 2 torpedoes with deadly accuracy into a large Japanese ammunition ship and exploding the target in a mountainous and blinding glare of white flames. With the Tirante instantly spotted by the enemy as she stood out plainly in the flare of light, he ordered the torpedo data computer set up while retiring and fired his last 2 torpedoes to disintegrate in quick succession the leading frigate and a similar flanking vessel. Clearing the gutted harbor at emergency full speed ahead, he slipped undetected along the shoreline, diving deep as a pursuing patrol dropped a pattern of depth charges at the point of submergence. His illustrious record of combat achievement during the first war patrol of the Tirante characterizes Comdr. Street as a daring and skilled leader and reflects the highest credit upon himself, his valiant command, and the U.S. Naval Service.

Victoria Cross: R. D. Sandford


Lieutenant, Royal Navy; commanding HM Submarine C-3

Born: 11 May 1891, Exmouth, Devon
Died: 23 November 1918, Eston Hospital, Yorkshire

Citation: For most conspicuous gallantry.
This officer was in command of Submarine C.3, and most skilfully placed that vessel in between the piles of the viaduct [at Zeebrugge, Belgium, on 23 Apr 1918] before lighting his fuse and abandoning her. He eagerly undertook this hazardous enterprise, although well aware (as were all his crew) that if the means of rescue failed and he or any of his crew were in the water at the moment of the explosion, they would be killed outright by the force of such explosion. Yet Lieutenant Sandford disdained to use the gyro steering, which would have enabled him and his crew to abandon the submarine at a safe distance, and preferred to make sure, as far as was humanly possible, of the accomplishment of his duty.

(London Gazette Issue 30807 dated 23 Jul 1918, published 19 Jul 1918.)