30 May 2007

This day in history: 30 May

1431: 19-year-old Jeanne d'Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, France.

1536: King Henry VIII of England married his third wife, Jane Seymour.

1574: Henry III became King of France on the death of his brother, Charles IX.

1854: The Kansas-Nebraska Act became law, establishing the US territories of Nebraska and Kansas.

1868: Decoration Day - the predecessor of the modern Memorial Day - was observed in the United States for the first time, per John A Logan's General Order No 11 of 5 May.
That same day, Privates Edgar R Aston and William G Cubberly, L Troop, 8th U.S. Cavalry, with another man, volunteered to search for a wagon passage out of a 4000-foot valley where an infantry column was trapped. The three men passed through six miles of hostile Apache terrain looking for a passage. On their return trip down the canyon, they were attacked by Apaches, who were successfully held at bay. Aston and Cubberly were awarded the Medal of Honor.

1914: RMS Aquitania, at the time Cunard's largest ocean liner at 45,647 tons, sailed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, England, to New York City.

1941: At Sphakia, Crete, a platoon commanded by Second Lieutenant Charles H Upham, 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force, was ordered to deal with a German party which had advanced down a ravine to near Force Headquarters. Upham climbed the steep hill to the west of the ravine, placed his men in positions on the slope and himself went to the top with a Bren Gun and two riflemen. At a range of 500 yards he shot 22 of the German soldiers, and caused the remainder to disperse in panic. For this, and for his earlier actions at Maleme and Galatos, Upham was awarded his first Victoria Cross.

1942: The first Allied 1000-bomber raid was launched, with Cologne as its target.

1958: The bodies of unidentified soldiers killed in action during World War II and the Korean War were buried at the Tomb of the Unknowns, in Arlington National Cemetery.

1967: The eastern region of Nigeria declared independence as the Republic of Biafra, starting a civil war.

1971: Mariner 9 was launched from Cape Canaveral. The first spacecraft to orbit another planet, it arrived at Mars on 14 Nov 71; though the mission terminated on 27 Oct 72, Mariner 9 is expected to remain in orbit until 2022.

In addition to Jeanne d'Arc (1412-1431) and King Charles IX (1550-1574), Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), Arnold Joost van Keppel, 1st Earl of Albemarle, KG (c 1670–1718), Wilbur Wright (1867–1912), Tōgō Heihachirō OM (1848-1934), Georg Ritter von Trapp (1880-1947), Leó Szilárd (1898–1964), Claude Rains (1889–1967) and Tex Beneke (1914-2000) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Mel Blanc (1908–1989), Benny Goodman (1909–1986), Hal Clement (1922-2003), Clint Walker (1927-TBD), Alexey Arkhipovich Leonov (1934-TBD), Meredith MacRae (1944-2000), Colm Meaney (1953-TBD) and Wynonna Judd (1964-TBD).

29 May 2007

28 new exoplanets discovered

ZUI this from Space,com (posted 28 May):
Astronomers have discovered 28 new planets outside of our solar system, increasing to 236 the number of known exoplanets, revealing that planets can exist around a broad spectrum of stellar types-from tiny, dim stars to giants.

"We added 12 percent to the total in the last year, and we're very proud of that," said one of the study team members Jason Wright of the University of California at Berkeley. "This provides new planetary systems so that we can study their properties as an ensemble."

The planets are among 37 new objects spotted within the past year. Seven of the objects are failed stars called brown dwarfs, with masses that dwarf the largest, Jupiter-sized planets but too small to sustain the nuclear reactions necessary for stellar ignition.

John Johnson of the University of California at Berkeley and his colleagues presented the findings here today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).


One of the exoplanets, orbiting a red M dwarf just 30 light-years from Earth, was discovered two years ago, but recent observations have allowed astronomers to pin down its mass, radius and density. The ice-giant planet circles the star Gliese 436 (GJ 436) and has a radius and density that are surprisingly similar to that of Neptune.

Weighing in at 22.4 Earth-masses, the exoplanet is the first Neptune-sized planet observed to transit a star. The previous record holder, dubbed HD 140926b, weighed in at 100 Earth masses, and Jupiter is 320 Earth masses.


At least four of the newly spotted planets belong to multiple-planet systems, supporting the idea that at least 30 percent of all planet-parent stars have more than one planetary companion. Since smaller planets and those outside our solar system are trickier to detect, Wright predicts this percentage will continue to rise as detection methods improve.

And three of the just-discovered planets circle stars that boast masses between 1.6 and 1.9 times that of our Sun. Planets orbiting these so-called A- and F-type stars, which are typically difficult to detect because they rotate fast and have pulsating atmospheres.

27 May 2007


27 May 1941: The German battleship Bismarck (Kapitän zur See Ernst Lindemann), which had been severely damaged by an aerial torpedo the day before, was attacked by a force consisting of battleships HMS King George V and HMS Rodney, heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk and HMS Dorsetshire, and five destroyers*, under Admiral John Tovey DSO.

Rodney opened fire at 0847 at a range of about 22,000 yards; King George V followed a minute later. Bismarck returned fire against Rodney at 0849. By 0940, Rodney had closed to 4000 yards, and the two cruisers had joined in. Soon all weapons were silent on Bismarck, though she was still flying her colours and showed no signs of surrender.

With all guns out of action, Lindemann ordered the ship scuttled. Charges were set in the engine room, and the order to abandon ship was given. The charges detonated at about 1000, while the British ships were still firing. Bismarck remained afloat, however, and Dorsetshire moved in to launch torpedoes. Two hit at 1020, a third at 1036, and Bismarck finally sank at 1039.

116 survivors, out of over 2200 men on board, were rescued. Among those lost were Bismarck's CO and XO, and Admiral Günther Lütjens; the senior survivor was the ship's fourth artillery officer, Kapitänleutnant Burkard Freiherr von Müllenheim-Rechberg.

Bismarck (all pictures above)

HMS King George V (above) and HMS Rodney (below)

HMS Norfolk (above) and HMS Dorsetshire (below)

For more information and photos, ZUI this page and this.

* 4th Destroyer Flotilla, under Captain Philip Vian DSO and Bar: HM Ships Cossack, Sikh, Zulu and Maori, and the Polish destroyer ORP Piorun.

Victoria Cross: J. W. Linton


Commander, Royal Navy; commanding HMS Turbulent

Born: 15 October 1905, Malpas, near Newport, Monmouthshire

Citation: From the outbreak of war until H.M.S. Turbulent's last patrol [in March, 1943] Commander Linton was constantly in command of submarines, and during that time inflicted great damage on the Enemy. He sank one Cruiser, one Destroyer, one U-boat, twenty-eight Supply Ships, some 100,000 tons in all, and destroyed three trains by gun-fire. In his last year he spent two hundred and fifty-four days at sea, submerged for nearly half the time, and his ship was hunted thirteen times and had two hundred and fifty depth charges, aimed at her.
His many and brilliant successes were due to his constant activity and skill, and the daring which never failed him when there was an Enemy to be attacked.
On one occasion, for instance, in H.M.S. Turbulent, he sighted a convoy of two Merchantmen and two Destroyers in mist and moonlight. He worked round ahead of the convoy and dived to attack it as it passed through the moon's rays. On bringing his sights to bear he found himself right ahead of a Destroyer. Yet he held his course till the Destroyer was almost on top of him, and, when his sights came on the convoy, he fired. His great courage and determination were rewarded. He sank one Merchantman and one Destroyer outright, and set the other Merchantman on fire so that she blew up.

(London Gazette Issue 36028 dated 25 May 1943, published 21 May 1943.)

Note: The same issue of the Gazette reported that three officers from HMS Turbulent had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and that eleven members of the crew had been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (including one Bar), "for bravery and devotion to duty in successful patrols in H.M.S. Turbulent."

Medal of Honor: J. Thayer


Ship's Corporal, US Navy; USS Constitution

Born: 1853, Ireland

Citation: For rescuing from drowning a boy serving with him on the U.S.S. Constitution, at the Navy Yard, Norfolk, Va., 16 November 1879.

26 May 2007


ZUI this post from The Stupid Shall Be Punished.

Anybody up to translating a Chinese video?

Books that defined their era

The Guardian published a list of fifty books, selected by a panel of booksellers, editors and other (mostly) book-related people, that defined the twentieth century - from three to seven books for each decade, from the 1900s through the 1990s.

They were asking people to vote for the single book "that defined the century," but unfortunately the closing date was 25 May and I didn't find out about it until the 26th. The winner, however, will be announced on 2 June.

The complete list:
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Interpreting Dreams, Sigmund Freud
Kim, Rudyard Kipling

Howards End, EM Forster
The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford
The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry, edited by Jon Silkin
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell

Lady Chatterley's Lover, DH Lawrence
Relativity, Albert Einstein
The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
The Waste Land, TS Eliot
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Brighton Rock, Graham Greene
Right Ho, Jeeves, PG Wodehouse
The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

1984, George Orwell
The Diary of a Young Girl, Ann Frank
The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
The Outsider, Albert Camus

From Russia With Love, Ian Fleming
Look Back in Anger, John Osborne
The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett

Ariel, Sylvia Plath
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth
Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John le Carré
Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann

Carrie, Stephen King
The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M Persig

A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
Money, Martin Amis
The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe
The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks

Birthday Letters, Ted Hughes
Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby
No Logo, Naomi Klein
The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi

The page linked to above has links to other pages that describe the books and talk about how they were selected.

Looking at the list, I can say that I've read six or seven of them. There are even more than that, that I don't think I've ever heard of....

H/T to Betsy.

100 years

John Wayne
born 26 May 1907

This day in history: 26 May

1637: A combined Puritan force under Captain John Mason, accompanied by Mohegan warriors, attacked a Pequot village in Connecticut, near modern-day Mystic, and massacred approximately 500 men, women and children.

1736: French troops, commanded by the Sieur de Bienville, and their Choctaw allies attacked the Chickasaw village of Ackia, near present-day Tupelo, Mississippi, but were repulsed by the defenders.

1805: Napoleon assumed the title of King of Italy, and was crowned with the Iron Crown of Lombardy in the Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral).

1828: Kaspar Hauser was discovered wandering the streets of Nuremberg, Germany.

1830: The Indian Removal Act was passed by the U.S. Congress; it was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson two days later.

1864: Montana was organized as a United States territory.

1865: Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, commanding the Confederate Trans-Mississippi division, surrendered at Galveston, Texas - the last Confederate general to surrender.

1868: The impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson ended. Johnson was found not guilty by a margin of one vote.

1938: The House Un-American Activities Committee began its first session.

1940: Operation DYNAMO, the evacuation of Allied forces from Dunkirk, France, began.

1941: Over thirty hours after British forces lost contact with the German battleship Bismarck, she was spotted by a PBY Catalina flying boat. Two air attacks were launched from HMS Ark Royal; the first group of Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers mistakenly attacked light cruiser HMS Sheffield, but the second group scored two or three hits, one of which jammed Bismarck's rudder.

1943: Private Joe P Martinez, 32d Infantry, 7th Infantry Division, was taking part in an attack on Japanese positions in the mountains of Attu Island, Alaska, when the attack faltered. Despite severe enemy machinegun, rifle, and mortar fire, Martinez, an automatic rifleman, rose to his feet and resumed his advance. After clearing one position, about 150 feet below the main Holtz-Chichagof Pass, Martinez again led the troops on and up, eventually reaching the pass itself. Just below the rim of the pass, Martinez encountered a final enemy-occupied trench and was mortally wounded whilst firing into it. Martinez was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1944: When his platoon was held up by enemy fire during an attack on the German Anzio-Nettuno defense line near Cisterna, Italy, First Lieutenant Beryl R Newman, 133d Infantry, 34th Infantry Division, advanced alone to clear the enemy positions. By the time he was done, he had, single-handed, silenced three enemy machineguns, wounded two Germans, killed two more, and taken eleven prisoners. Newman was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1948: The U.S. Congress passed Public Law 557, permanently establishing the Civil Air Patrol as an auxiliary of the US Air Force.

1969: Apollo 10 (Thomas P Stafford, John W Young and Eugene A Cernan) returned to earth after a successful eight-day test of all the components needed for the forthcoming first manned moon landing.

1972: The United States and the Soviet Union signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

1977: George Willig climbed the South Tower of New York City's World Trade Center.

Edmund I of England (921–946), Samuel Pepys FRS (1633–1703), Sir Sidney Smith KCB (1764–1840), Abd al-Qādir (1808-1883), Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933), Edsel Ford (1893–1943), Lincoln Ellsworth (1880-1951), Friz Freleng (1906–1995) and Eddie Albert (1906–2005) died on this date.

And happy birthday to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722), HSH Princess Mary of Teck (1867–1953), John Wayne (1907-1979), Jay Silverheels (1912–1980), Peter Cushing OBE (1913–1994), Peggy Lee (1920–2002), James Arness (1923-TBD), Hank Williams Jr (1949-TBD), Sally Ride (1951-TBD) and Genie Francis (1962-TBD).

25 May 2007

Friday cat - 25 May

It's been a while since I last posted a cat picture, so here's Sextus (aka The Incredible Sneezing Cat) on our bed.

24 May 2007

HMS Hood

24 May 1941: A German force consisting of battleship Bismarck (Kapitän zur See Ernst Lindemann) and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen (Kapitän zur See Helmuth Brinkmann), commanded by Admiral Günther Lütjens, met up with a British force consisting of battleship HMS Prince of Wales (Captain John C Leach), battlecruiser HMS Hood (Captain Ralph Kerr CBE) and four destroyers*, under Vice-Admiral Lancelot E Holland CB, in the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland.

Action began at 0552, when Hood opened fire at a range of approximately 25,000 yards. At about 0559 Hood was struck by Bismarck's fifth salvo; there was a great explosion, and within minutes Hood was gone.

There were only three survivors** out of the 1418-man crew.

HMS Hood (all pictures above) and HMS Prince of Wales (below)

Bismarck (above) and Prinz Eugen (below)

For more details, ZUI the HMS Hood Association's website. The wreck was located in the summer of 2001; photos can be seen here.

* HM Ships Electra, Echo, Icarus and Achates.
** Midshipman William Dundas (1925-1965), Able Seaman Robert Tilburn (1921-1995) and Signalman Ted Briggs (1923-TBD).

23 May 2007

How many words do you know?

Ok, you're smart, but you're not THAT smart. Time to put a number on that reading ability of yours: How many words do you know?

Your Score: 55278 words

Congratulations! You scored 174!

You scored as knowing approximately 55278 words and word meanings. This officially qualifies you as "loquacious."

Link: The How Many Words do You Know Test written by 476herschel on OkCupid


The Classic Leading Man Test

What kind of classic leading man would you make? Would you light up the silver screen with your classy good looks and suave demeanor? Or would you be a tough-talking man's man who needs a strong, steamy dame by his side? Maybe you would be funny, friendly and a little bit of an underdog. Find out how the chips fall for you in this test of your classic male film star aptitude.

Your Score: Jimmy Stewart

You scored 19% Tough, 4% Roguish, 80% Friendly, and 0% Charming!

You are the fun and friendly boy next door, the classic nice guy who still manages to get the girl most of the time. You're every nice girl's dreamboat, open and kind, nutty and charming, even a little mischievous at times, but always a real stand up guy. You're dependable and forthright, and women are drawn to your reliability, even as they're dazzled by your sense of adventure and fun. You try to be tough when you need to be, and will gladly stand up for any damsel in distress, but you'd rather catch a girl with a little bit of flair. Your leading ladies include Jean Arthur and Donna Reed, those sweet girl-next-door types.

Find out what kind of classic dame you'd make by taking the Classic Dames Test.

Link: The Classic Leading Man Test written by gidgetgoes on OkCupid

Fascinating.... Actually, I can think of many worse people to be than Jimmy Stewart. Did you know that he was a brigadier general in the USAF Reserve? He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (x2), Air Medal (x4) and Croix de Guerre* with palm for his service as a bomber pilot during WW II.

* French

22 May 2007

Cutty Sark burnt

Cutty Sark? ZUI this from The Independent:
There is no ship anywhere like the Cutty Sark. She is the last, beautiful remaining product of the golden age of sailing ships, when Britain had world's greatest navy and had perfected the technology to make some of the most elegant cargo ships in history.

Since she has been dry-docked at Greenwich, 15 million people have paid to look inside her, and up to seven million people a year pass through Greenwich gardens to see her from the outside.


Her global fame is not just a reminder of the great age of sail, but of Britain's history as an island nation whose success depended on maritime prowess.

She is the only tea clipper still in existence, built in 1869 at the height of British imperial grandeur, named after a character in a Robert Burns' poem and designed to win the annual - and lucrative - race across the globe from China to London to bring the first tea of the year.

But even in her own day, in late Victorian times, she was a very famous ship. Everybody who was interested in sailing ships knew about her and her history. She had several good runs to China and back, but what really made her famous was when she was used as a wool clipper between Australia and the UK.

Cutty Sark, which has been a museum ship in Greenwich, London, for the past several decades, was severely damaged by fire yesterday. ZUI this early report from ABC Online:
The Cutty Sark, the world's last remaining tea clipper and one of London's tourist attractions, has been damaged by fire.

The boat-museum, under reconstruction and due to reopen in 2009, was on fire at 5:30 am (local time) and firefighters were concerned gas canisters on board for repair work could explode.

Sky News showed firefighters saying the ship was "100 per cent on fire" and played amateur footage of massive flames climbing towards the sky.

Police evacuated nearby buildings and closed off the area.

"There is substantial damage," a London Fire Brigade spokesman said.

"We've got eight fire engines and 40 firefighters there."

By 7am local time the blaze had been brought under control.

And it may have been arson. From the Beeb:
A fire which swept through the famous 19th Century ship Cutty Sark may have been started deliberately, police say.
The vessel, which was undergoing a £25m restoration, is kept in a dry dock at Greenwich in south-east London.

Police are analysing CCTV images which are thought to show people in the area shortly before the fire started.

A Cutty Sark Trust spokesman said much of the ship had been removed for restoration and the damage could have been worse.

Half the planking and the masts had been taken away as part of the project.

H/T to LawDog.

21 May 2007

NYC to Glasgow

Need to get from New York City to Glasgow? Let Google Maps provide directions. (Read carefully....)

H/T to Tom Cerul for this one.


Your Personality is Somewhat Rare (ISFP)

Your personality type is caring, peaceful, artistic, and calm.

Only about 7% of all people have your personality, including 8% of all women and 6% of all men.

You are Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving.

I remember doing this test a long time ago - whilst in Hawai`i, I think - but I have no idea what result I got then. But this seems reasonably accurate to me....

H/T to Kelly.

20 May 2007

Victoria Cross: B. C. G. Place and D. Cameron


Lieutenant, Royal Navy; commanding HM Midget Submarine X7

Born: 19 July 1921, Little Malvern, Worcestershire


Lieutenant, Royal Naval Reserve; commanding HM Midget Submarine X6

Born: 18 March 1916, Carluke, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Joint Citation: Lieutenants Place and Cameron were the Commanding Officers of two of His Majesty's Midget Submarines X7 and X6, which on 22nd September 1943 carried out a most daring and successful attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz, moored in the protected anchorage of Kaafiord, North Norway.
To reach the anchorage necessitated the penetration of an enemy minefield and a passage of fifty miles up the fiord, known to be vigilantly patrolled by the enemy and to be guarded by nets, gun defences and listening posts, this after a passage of at least a thousand miles from base.
Having successfully eluded all these hazards and entered the fleet anchorage, Lieutenants Place and Cameron, with a complete disregard for danger, worked their small craft past the close anti-submarine and torpedo nets surrounding the Tirpitz, and from a position inside these nets, carried out a cool and determined attack.
Whilst they were still inside the nets a fierce enemy counter attack by guns and depth charges developed which made their withdrawal impossible. Lieutenants Place and Cameron therefore scuttled their craft to prevent them falling into the hands of the enemy. Before doing so they took every measure to ensure the safety of their crews, the majority of whom, together with themselves, were subsequently taken prisoner.
In the course of the operation these very small craft pressed home their attack to the full, in doing so accepting all the dangers inherent in such vessels and facing every possible hazard which ingenuity could devise for the protection in harbour of vitally important Capital Ships.
The courage, endurance and utter contempt for danger in the immediate face of the enemy shown by Lieutenants Place and Cameron during this determined and successful attack were supreme.

(London Gazette Issue 36390 dated 22 Feb 1944, published 18 Feb 1944.)

Note: Additionally, Temporary Sub-Lieutenants Robert Aitken RNVR (X7), Richard H Kendall RNVR (X6), and John T Lorimer RNVR (X6) were appointed Companions of the Distinguished Service Order, and Engine Room Artificer Fourth Class Edmund Goddard (X6) was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.