31 August 2007

Top 15 great science-fiction books

The List Universe has posted a list of the top 15 great SF books. In their opinion, that is. You can see their comments (as well as those of dozens of other folks) at the link above. Here are mine.

1. The Time Machine - H G Wells
This was one of the books I had in comic-book format back when I was a kid (lo, these many years ago), along with The First Men in the Moon and The War of the Worlds, by the same author. TWotW is the only one of the three I've gone on to read as actual books, though I keep meaning to do so with the other two.

2. Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert A Heinlein
One of only two books by RAH I've started but been unable to finish). I think I got a few pages into the second chapter the second time I tried it. The phrase "incredibly, unutterably boring" doesn't come close to describing it.... (The other book I didn't finish was Job: A Comedy of Justice; I got about halfway through it before losing interest.)

3. The Lensman series - E E “Doc” Smith
I've read Triplanetary, the first book in this series; can't remember what I thought of it at the time (~35 years ago), but I didn't go on to read any of the other six books. I did, on the other hand, enjoy The Skylark of Space and its three sequels.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C Clarke
This was originally a short story called "The Sentinel," which I really enjoyed; the book was okay. I'm ambivalent about the movie version, which had a great sound track and opening sequence (the apes) but left me totally confused at the end.

5. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
I've read this one twice, once back around 4th grade and once a year or two ago. Enjoyed it rather more the first time round.

6. The Foundation series - Isaac Asimov
I enjoyed these, at least as far as I got with them. I read the first one (Foundation), and started the second (Foundation and Empire) but didn't finish it - not because I didn't like it, but because I was distracted by other books. Someday I really will go back and finish it. (I do prefer Asimov's non-fiction to his SF, though.)

7. Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
I've only read one book by Vonnegut: The Sirens of Titan. That was enough to keep me from ever developing any interest in any of his other works.

8. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
My roommate in the barracks at Pearl Harbour had a single-volume collection of the Hitchhiker books. I read the introduction, which talked about ths history of the stories - books, radio, telly, &c - and found it fascinating. Then I tried reading the book itself, and couldn't work up any interest at all. Not sure if I finished the first chapter or not.

9. Dune - Frank Herbert
I bought this book and what at the time were its only sequels, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, as a set from the SF Book Club back around '78 or '79. Still haven't read them.

10. Neuromancer - William Gibson
I'm not real big on cyberpunk, so this is another book I've never been tempted to read.

11. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K Dick
I've seen a few minutes of Blade Runner, the film based on this book. (Thanks to being on submarines, I've seen a few minutes each of many, many movies, glimpsed as I passed through the mess decks either on watch or whilst getting coffee.) Never have gotten around to reading the book. Dick also wrote "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," which I loved (it had a much better ending than the film version, Total Recall), and The Man in the High Castle, which I didn't (boring, though at least I did finish it).

12. Gateway - Frederik Pohl
The cover, as shown in the Wikipedia article about the book, looks familiar; I think it's another book I started but didn't finish because I was sidetracked by other books.

13. Ender’s Game - Orson Scott Card
I read and enjoyed the original novelette, but wasn't interested enough to pick up the novel or any of its sequels.

14. 1984 - George Orwell
Ah - at last, another book I've actually read! And liked! I think I liked Orwell's Animal Farm a little better, though on the other hand I've reread 1984 but not AF.

15. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Read this one back around high school, too, and thought it was all right - not as good as 1984, though.

Yes, I freely admit that I'm not one to read books just because they're considered classics, or because of the awards they get....*

The folks who wrote this list admitted that they would have included something by Jules Verne if they'd been able to decide on a single book. I would have included a different book by RAH, as well as books by Anderson and Piper.

H/T to Sherry at Semicolon.

* Okay, so I'm reading my way through the Newbery Medal winners, and considering going on to the Caldecott Medal winners. Sue me.

30 August 2007

Rum and Coke JWL

Many, many years ago, when I was stationed in Hawai`i, I was fond of rum and Coke. I'd use Bacardi 151 rum, and I'd substitute Jolt for the Coke. Then one day I was discussing this habit with my two-bit senior chief, and he offered me his recipe for rum and Coke, which I'm going to share with you now.
  • Pour eight ounces of rum into a glass.

  • Show the glass a picture of a bottle of Coke.

  • Drink and enjoy.

I'm not sure what rum he preferred, but I would use Pusser's or Myers's. The real key here, as he pointed out, is in step two: Make sure you only show the glass a picture of a bottle of Coke. If you show it a real bottle, the rum gets diluted too much....

This day in history: 30 Aug

1813: Hundreds of settlers, mixed-blood Creeks, and militia were killed by Creek Red Sticks at Fort Mims, Alabama.

1862: Confederate forces under Major General Edmund Kirby Smith routed a Union army under Major General William "Bull" Nelson in the Battle of Richmond. Estimated casualties were some 4900 Yankees, and only 750 Rebels.
That same day, Major General John Pope's Army of Virginia (USA) was defeated in the Second Battle of Bull Run by Robert E Lee's Army of Northern Virginia (CSA). Private Richard Conner, 6th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, returned with a single companion, under heavy fire, to retrieve his regiment's colours, which had been abandoned on the field; the other man was killed, but Conner successfully off the flag. Private Myron H Ranney, 13th New York Infantry, despite being wounded, also rescued his regimental colours after the colour bearer was shot. Conner and Ranney, along with three other men, were awarded the Medal of Honor.

1909: The Burgess Shale fossils were discovered by Charles Doolittle Walcott.

1942: The Battle of Alam Halfa, between Montgomery's Eighth Army and Rommel's Panzerarmee Afrika, began.

1943: First Lieutenant Kenneth A Walsh, Marine Fighting Squadron 124, flying a Chance Vought F4U Corsair, developed engine trouble during an escort mission in the Solomons. Walsh landed at Munda, acquired another plane, and proceeded to rejoin his flight. He was still separated from the rest of the escort group when he encountered approximately 50 Japanese Zeros. He attacked without hesitation, destroying four of the enemy before being forced to make a dead-stick landing off Vella Lavella. For this, and for previous actions at Vella Lavella on 15 August 1943 (when he shot down two Japanese dive bombers and a fighter), Walsh was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: British forces liberated Hong Kong, which had been occupied by the Japanese since 25 December 1941.

1983: Guion S Bluford Jr, a former USAF fighter pilot*, became the first black astronaut to reach space, aboard the space shuttle Challenger (mission STS-8). With him were mission commander Richard H Truly, pilot Daniel C Brandenstein, and mission specialists Dale A Gardner and William E Thornton.

1984: The Space Shuttle Discovery (Henry Hartsfield Jr, Michael Coats, Judith Resnik, Steven Hawley, Richard Mullane and Charles Walker) took off from Cape Canaveral on its maiden voyage, mission STS-41-D.

Theodoric the Great (454-526), Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), John Bell Hood (1831–1879), Charles Bronson (1921–2003) and Glenn Ford (1916–2006) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797–1851), Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, OM PC FRS (1871-1937), Joan Blondell (1906–1979), Fred MacMurray (1908–1991), Nancy Wake AC GM (1912-TBD), Kitty Wells (1919-TBD), John Phillips (1935–2001), Jean-Claude Killy (1943-TBD), Molly Ivins (1944–2007) and Gary Gordon (1960–1993).

* An F-4 pilot, Bluford flew 144 combat missions, including 65 over North Vietnam, during the Vietnam War.

29 August 2007

This day in history: 29 Aug

1350: The English fleet under King Edward III defeated a Castilian fleet of 40 ships, commanded by Don Carlos de la Cerda, at the Battle of Winchelsea (or Les Espagnols sur Mer).

1526: The Ottoman Turks, led by Suleiman the Magnificent, defeated and killed Louis II Jagiellon, the last Jagiellonian king of Hungary and Bohemia, at the Battle of Mohács.

1533: Inca emperor Atahualpa was executed in Cajamarca by Spanish Conquistadores led by Francisco Pizarro.

1862: Confederate General James Longstreet's corps arrived on the field on the second day of the Second Battle of Bull Run (or Second Battle of Manassas).

1907: 75 workers were killed when the Quebec Bridge collapsed during construction.

1911: Ishi, the last member of the Yana tribe, emerged from the wilderness near Oroville, California.

1916: USS Memphis (CA 10)* and USS Castine (Gunboat #6), at anchor off Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, were attempting to get under way to avoid heavy seas, when a tsunami struck. Castine, though badly battered, got clear, but Memphis was driven ashore. Lieutenant Claud A Jones, Chief Machinist's Mate George W Rud and Machinist Charles H Willey were awarded the Medal of Honour (posthumously, in Rud's case) for their heroic efforts in Memphis's fire room after her boilers burst.

1917: The 11480-ton SS Milazzo - the largest ship claimed by an Austrian submarine - was sunk by the U 14 (commanded by Linienschiffsleutnant Georg Ritter von Trapp).

1943: Germany dissolved the government of occupied Denmark. Most of the Danish navy was scuttled to prevent its being taken by the Germans for their own use.

1949: The Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb, a 22-kiloton device called Joe-1, at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan.

1958: The 1145 cadets of the United States Air Force Academy class of 1959 - its first graduating class - moved to the new site in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

1967: Dr Richard Kimble finally caught up with the one-armed man, in the final episode of The Fugitive.

1982: The element Meitnerium (symbol Mt, atomic number 109) was first synthesized at the Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt, West Germany.

2005: Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi, flooding New Orleans, killing more than 1836 people and causing an estimated 81.2 billion dollars in damage along the Gulf coast.

In addition to Louis II (1506-1562) and Atahualpa (ca 1502-1533), Edmund Hoyle (1672-1769), Brigham Young (1801–1877), William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), Lowell Thomas (1892–1981), Ingrid Bergman (1915–1982) and Lee Marvin (1924–1987) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr (1809–1894), Charles Franklin Kettering (1876–1958), Ingrid Bergman (1915–1982), Isabel Sanford (1917-2004), Charlie "Bird" Parker (1920–1955), John Sidney McCain III (1936-TBD) and Elliott Gould (1938-TBD).

* Memphis was commissioned 17 July 1906 as USS Tennessee (ACR 10). She was renamed Memphis on 25 May 1916 so that the name Tennessee could be used for a new battleship (BB 43).

26 August 2007

Æthelmearc War Practice 2007

This year's Pennsic (XXXVI) was held earlier than has been the practice in the past, and pictures are already appearing on the 'web. It just occurred to me that I hadn't looked at Darter the Chronicler's pictures from Æthelmearc War Practice yet. They're here.* Beautiful....

* Go here and you can see all of Darter's SCA photo galleries from the past few years.

Victoria Cross: Willis, Richards and Keneally


Captain, 1st Battalion The Lancashire Fusiliers

Born: 13 October 1876, Woking, Surrey


Serjeant, 1st Battalion The Lancashire Fusiliers

Born: 21 June 1879, Plymouth, Devon


Private, 1st Battalion The Lancashire Fusiliers

Born: 26 December 1886, Wexford, Ireland

Joint Citation: On the 25th April, 1915, three Companies and the Headquarters of the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, in effecting a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula to the West of Cape Helles, were met by a very deadly fire from hidden machine guns which caused a great number of casualties. The survivors, however, rushed up to and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy, and after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained.
Amongst the many very gallant Officers and men engaged in this most hazardous undertaking, Captain Willis, Serjeant Richards and Private Keneally have been selected by their comrades as having performed the most signal acts of bravery and devotion to duty.

(London Gazette Issue 29273 dated 24 Aug 1915, published 24 Aug 1915.)

Captain Willis's medals

Serjeant Richards's medals

Note: Willis, Richards and Keneally were elected under Rule 13 of the Royal Warrant of 29th January 1856. Captain C Bromley, Sergeant E E Stubbs and Corporal J Grimshaw, also of the 1st Bn the Lancashire Fusiliers, were later awarded VCs for their parts in this same action. (Grimshaw originally received a DCM, but this award was cancelled when he was awarded the VC.)

Medal of Honor: C. A. Jones


Commander (then Lieutenant), US Navy; USS Memphis (CA 10)

Born: 7 October 1885, Fire Creek, W.Va.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession as a senior engineer officer on board the U.S.S. Memphis, at a time when the vessel was suffering total destruction from a hurricane while anchored off Santo Domingo City, 29 August 1916. Lt. Jones did everything possible to get the engines and boilers ready, and if the elements that burst upon the vessel had delayed for a few minutes, the engines would have saved the vessel. With boilers and steampipes bursting about him in clouds of scalding steam, with thousands of tons of water coming down upon him and in almost complete darkness, Lt. Jones nobly remained at his post as long as the engines would turn over, exhibiting the most supreme unselfish heroism which inspired the officers and men who were with him. When the boilers exploded, Lt. Jones, accompanied by 2 of his shipmates, rushed into the firerooms and drove the men there out, dragging some, carrying others to the engineroom, where there was air to be breathed instead of steam. Lt. Jones' action on this occasion was above and beyond the call of duty.

Note: USS Claud Jones (DE 1033) was named in his honour.
Chief Machinist's Mate George W Rud and Machinist Charles H Willey also received the Medal of Honor for their actions in Memphis's engine room.

25 August 2007

This day in history: 25 Aug

1537: The Honourable Artillery Company, the oldest surviving, and the second most senior*, regiment in the British Army, was formed.

1758: Frederick II of Prussia defeated the Russian army, commanded by Count William Fermor, at the Battle of Zorndorf.

1768: James Cook began his first voyage, aboard the barque Endeavour; after visiting Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia, he would return on 12 June 1771.

1814: The White House, along with much of the rest of Washington, DC, was burned by British forces.

1835: The New York Sun published the first of six articles about the supposed discovery of life on the Moon.

1914: Lance-Corporal George H Wyatt, 3rd Battalion The Coldstream Guards, was fighting the Germans at a farm near Landrecies, France, when the enemy set alight some straw sacks in the farmyard. Wyatt dashed out twice, under very heavy fire, and extinguished the burning straw, making it possible to hold the position. Later, although wounded in the head and ordered to the rear, he returned to the firing line and continued fighting. Wyatt was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1916: The United States National Park Service was created.

1944: General der Infanterie Dietrich von Choltitz, commander of the Paris garrison and military governor of Paris, surrendered to General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, commander of the French 2nd Armoured Division.

1950: President Harry S Truman ordered the US Army to seize control of the nation's railroads in order to avert a strike.

1968: Sergeant William W Seay, 62d Transportation Company (Medium Truck), 7th Transportation Battalion, was driving in a convoy carrying ammunition and supplies from Long Binh, South Vietnam, to Tay Ninh, when it was ambushed by a reinforced battalion of the North Vietnamese Army near Ap Nhi. The convoy was forced to stop by intense fire from a well-concealed and entrenched enemy force. Seay took a defensive position behind a vehicle loaded with ammunition and, when the enemy approached to within ten meters, opened fire, killing two of them. He then spotted and killed a sniper in a tree. When an enemy grenade was thrown under an ammunition trailer near his position, he left cover, picked up the grenade, and threw it back, killing four more of the enemy. Another enemy grenade landed near him, and he again left his covered position to throw the grenade back at the enemy. Despite being wounded in the right wrist, Seay continued to fight and to direct his fellow soldiers until he was mortally wounded by a sniper's bullet. Seay was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1989: The Voyager 2 spacecraft, which had been launched from Cape Canaveral on 20 August 1977 to explore the outer planets of the Solar System, made its closest approach to Neptune, the outermost planet in the Solar System. (Pluto was still considered to be a planet at that time, but its eccentric orbit had carried it inboard Neptune's orbit, thus making Neptune the outermost planet anyway.)

1991: Belarus declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

Louis IX of France (1215–1270), Sir James Douglas (1286–1330), Sir Henry Morgan (c 1635–1688), Sir William Herschel FRS KH (1738-1822), Michael Faraday FRS (1791–1867), John Birch (1918–1945) and Carl Barks (1901–2000) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Ivan IV Vasilyevich (1530–1584), Allan Pinkerton (1819–1884), Bret Harte (1836–1902), Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845–1886), Walt Kelly (1913-1973), Maurice Halperin OC (1921-TBD), Sir Sean Connery (1930-TBD), Frederick Forsyth CBE (1938-TBD) and Tim Burton (1958-TBD).

* The senior regiment are the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia).

23 August 2007

Intelligent Whale

I'm really not sure who named the Intelligent Whale - that's certainly a strange name for a submarine, especially one owned (however briefly) by the US Navy. The boat was designed by one Scovel S Merriam, and was built in the 1860s in Newark, New Jersey. An operational test was conducted by Brigadier General Thomas William Sweeney, who donned a diving suit, locked out, and planted a charge under a scow before returning on board. The charge was successfully detonated, and the scow sunk.

She's currently on display at the National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt, New Jersey.

H/T to Eric at The Sub Report.

19 August 2007

Victoria Cross: Abdul Hafiz


Jemadar, 9th Jat Regiment, Indian Army

Born: 4 September 1915, Kalanaur Village, Punjab, India

Citation: In Burma, in the early hours of the 6th April, 1944, in the hills 10 miles North of Imphal, the enemy had attacked a standing patrol of 4 men and occupied a prominent feature overlooking a Company position. At first light a patrol was sent out and contacted the enemy, reporting that they thought approximately 40 enemy were in position. It was not known if they had dug in during the hours of darkness.
The Company Commander ordered Jemadar Abdul Hafiz to attack the enemy, with two sections from his platoon, at 0930 hours. An artillery concentration was put down on the feature and Jemadar Abdul Hafiz led the attack. The attack was up a completely bare slope with no cover, and was very steep near the crest. Prior to the attack, Jemadar Abdul Hafiz assembled his sections and told them that they were invincible, and all the enemy on the hill would be killed or put to flight. He so inspired his men that from the start the attack proceeded with great dash. When a few yards below the crest the enemy opened fire with machine-guns and threw grenades. Jemadar Abdul Hafiz sustained several casualties, but immediatetly [sic] ordered an assault, which he personally led, at the same time shouting the Mohammedan battle-cry. The assault went in without hesitation and with great dash up the last few yards of the hill, which was very steep. On reaching the crest Jemadar Abdul Hafiz was wounded in the leg, but seeing a machine-gun firing from a flank, he immediately went towards it and seizing the barrel pushed it upwards, whilst another man killed the gunner. Jemadar Abdul Hafiz then took a Bren gun from a wounded man and advanced against the enemy, firing as he advanced, and killing several of the enemy. So fierce was the attask, and all his men so inspired by the determination of Jemadar Abdul Hafiz to kill all enemy in sight at whatever cost, that the enemy, who were still in considerable numbers on the position, ran away down the opposite slope of the hill. Regardless of machine-gun fire which was now being fired at him from another feature a few hundred yards away, he pursued the enemy, firing at them as they retired. Jemadar Abdul Hafiz was badly wounded in the chest from this machine-gun fire and collapsed holding the Bren gun and attempting to fire at the retreating enemy, and shouting at the same time "Re-organise on the position and I will give covering fire." He died shortly afterwards.
The inspiring leadership and great bravery displayed by Jemadar Abdul Hafiz in spite of being twice wounded, once mortally, so encouraged his men that the position was captured, casualties inflicted on the enemy to an extent several times the size of his own party, and enemy arms recovered on the position which included 3 Lewis Machine-guns, 2 grenade dischargers and 2 officers' swords. The complete disregard for his own safety and his determination to capture and hold the position at all costs was an example to all ranks, which it would be difficult to equal.

(London Gazette Issue 36627 dated 27 Jul 1944, published 25 Jul 1944.)

Note: A Jemadar was an Indian Army cavalry or infantry junior officer equal to a Lieutenant.

Medal of Honor: G. I. Gordon


Master Sergeant, US Army

Born: 30 August 1960, Lincoln, Me.

Citation: Master Sergeant Gordon, United States Army, distinguished himself by actions above and beyond the call of duty on 3 October 1993, while serving as Sniper Team Leader, United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. Master Sergeant Gordon's sniper team provided precision fires from the lead helicopter during an assault and at two helicopter crash sites, while subjected to intense automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fires. When Master Sergeant Gordon learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the second crash site, he and another sniper unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After his third request to be inserted, Master Sergeant Gordon received permission to perform his volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fires at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Master Sergeant Gordon was inserted one hundred meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Master Sergeant Gordon and his fellow sniper, while under intense small arms fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Master Sergeant Gordon immediately pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. Master Sergeant Gordon used his long range rifle and side arm to kill an undetermined number of attackers until he depleted his ammunition. Master Sergeant Gordon then went back to the wreckage, recovering some of the crew's weapons and ammunition. Despite the fact that he was critically low on ammunition, he provided some of it to the dazed pilot and then radioed for help. Master Sergeant Gordon continued to travel the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. After his team member was fatally wounded and his own rifle ammunition exhausted, Master Sergeant Gordon returned to the wreckage, recovering a rifle with the last five rounds of ammunition and gave it to the pilot with the words, "good luck." Then, armed only with his pistol, Master Sergeant Gordon continued to fight until he was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot's life. Master Sergeant Gordon's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit and the United States Army.

Note: USNS Gordon (T-AKR 296) was named in his honour.

16 August 2007

My life, rated

This Is My Life, Rated
Take the Rate My Life Quiz

Your Life Analysis:

Life: Your life rating is a score of the sum total of your life, and accounts for how satisfied, successful, balanced, capable, valuable, and happy you are. The quiz attempts to put a number on the summation of all of these things, based on your answers. Your life score leaves room for improvement. You can make changes to improve your trouble areas, and this will bring you greater satisfaction. Focus on your weakest points and set about to change them. Do not delay your happiness and success.

Mind: Your mind rating is a score of your mind's clarity, ability, and health. Higher scores indicate an advancement in knowledge, clear and capable thinking, high mental health, and pure thought free of interference. Your mind score is not bad, but could be improved upon. Your mental health is not weak, but you are not achieving full mental clarity and function. Learn how to unclutter your mind. Keep learning, keep improving, continue moving forward.

Body: Your body rating measures your body's health, fitness, and general wellness. A healthy body contributes to a happy life, however many of us are lacking in this area. You have a rather low body score, which means that your physical health is not in a good condition. You must put a higher priority on your body, focusing on nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction. Proper focus will lead to great improvement, leaving you feeling energetic and happy.

Spirit: Your spirit rating seeks to capture in a number that elusive quality which is found in your faith, your attitude, and your philosophy on life. A higher score indicates a greater sense of inner peace and balance. Your spirit score leaves room for improvement. Consider making a concerted effort to redefine your attitudes and focus your beliefs. Boosting your spirit will lead to greater life satisfaction.

Friends/Family: Your friends and family rating measures your relationships with those around you, and is based on how large, healthy, and dependable your social network is. Your friends and family score is not bad but can be improved. Maintain your current social net, while you try to expand it. Try new things and form new friendships. You will be rewarded greatly.

Love: Your love rating is a measure of your current romantic situation. Sharing your heart with another person is one of life's most glorious, terrifying, rewarding experiences. Your love score is in good shape, meaning that things are going well. Do all you can to maintain it, and continue to grow and move ahead.

Finance: Your finance rating is a score that rates your current financial health and stability. Your financial score indicates some trouble. Raise your score over time by making changes which will lead to greater prosperity in the future. Be sure to live within your means today.

H/T to LawDog.

15 August 2007

This day in history: 15 Aug

1040: Duncan I, King of Alba, was killed in battle with his cousins Macbeth, Mormaer of Moray, and Earl Thorfinn of Orkney, at Pitgaveney, near Elgin; Macbeth (hero of Shakespeare's play) took the throne.

1057: Macbeth was defeated and killed at the Battle of Lumphanan, in Aberdeenshire. He was succeeded as king by Malcolm III Canmore, son of Duncan I.

1599: Irish forces led by Hugh Roe O'Donnell defeated English forces, led by Sir Conyers Clifford, at Curlew Pass, in County Roscommon.

1843: Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest extant amusement parks in the world, opened in Copenhagen, Denmark.

1914: The Panama Canal opened to traffic, with the the cargo ship SS Ancon making the first transit.

1917: HM Armed Smack Nelson was engaged in fishing in the North Sea when a U-boat surfaced and attacked her with gunfire. Skipper Thomas Crisp DSC, Royal Naval Reserve, was hit and partially disemboweled by the seventh shell. Despite the severe wound, he remained conscious and continued to command his ship, fighting until the ammunition was almost exhausted and the ship was sinking. He refused to abandon ship with the rest of the crew, his last request being that he might be thrown overboard. Crisp was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

1944: Allied forces landed in southern France (Operation DRAGOON). Sergeant James P Connor, 7th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division, landed at "Red Beach," near St Tropez, and led his platoon in clearing a vastly superior enemy force from strongly entrenched positions on Cape Cavalaire. Though seriously wounded by a mine which killed his platoon leader, Sgt Connor refused medical aid and led the platoon across several thousand yards of mine-saturated beach through intense fire, personally shooting and killing two snipers. The platoon sergeant was killed and Sgt Connor became platoon leader. Wounded twice more, he discovered that he was unable to stand, but continued to direct his platoon from his prone position. The platoon, though reduced to less than one-third of its original 36 men, killed seven Germans and captured forty, along with three machine guns, and took all their assigned objectives. Connor was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: Emperor Hirohito's announcement of Japan's acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration was broadcast.* (The actual surrender documents were signed in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945.)
That same day, gasoline rationing ended in the United States.

1965: The Beatles performed for a crowd of over 55,000 people at Shea Stadium, in Queens (New York City).

1977: The Wow! signal was detected by the Big Ear radio telescope at Ohio State University.

1995: Shannon Faulkner became the first female student at The Citadel; she resigned after one week.

In addition to Duncan I (1001-1040) and MacBeth (1005-1057), Alexius I Comnenus (1048–1118), Philippa of Hainault (c 1314–1369), Will Rogers (1879–1935), Wiley Post (1898–1935) and Dame Te Atairangikaahu ONZ DBE (1931–2006) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Blind Jack Metcalf (1717-1810), Napoleone Buonaparte (1769–1821), Sir Walter Scott, Bt (1771–1832), Edith Nesbit (1858-1924), Ethel Barrymore (1879–1959), Elizabeth Bolden (1890-2006), Karl-Friedrich Merten (1905-1993), Julia Child (1912–2004), Huntz Hall (1919–1999), HRH The Princess Royal (1950-TBD), and Terry Daniher (1957-TBD).

* It was still 14 August in the United States, so VJ Day is celebrated on that date.

13 August 2007

Today's great quote

"Please be assured that your order has not been lost, misplaced, stolen, hijacked, ditched, deleted, misfiled, misallocated or defenestrated." -- Doc Nickel

FY08 CPO selectees

The list is out - I saw three names I knew (a nuc ET, an A-ganger and a shower tech), plus one probable (a comms ET) and a guy I don't really know (nuc MM) who got to Prov about the time I retired.

Congratulations to all the selectees.

H/T to Joel at The Stupid Shall Be Punished.

RIP: Yone Minagawa

Yone Minegawa
4 Jan 1893 - 13 Aug 2007

The world's oldest person has died. ZUI this from IOL:
The world's oldest person, a Japanese woman who counted eating well and getting plenty of sleep as the secret of her longevity, died Monday [13 August] at age 114, a news report said.

Yone Minagawa, who lived in a nursing home but was still sprightly late in life, died "of old age" Monday evening, Kyodo News reported.


Despite her advanced age, Minagawa was said to enjoy eating sweets and counted eating well and getting a good night's sleep as the secrets of her longevity.

Her reign as the world's oldest person lasted just over six months. The Guinness Book of World Records certified her as the world's oldest person after Emma Faust Tillman, the daughter of freed American slaves, died in January.

Tillman (22 Nov 1892-28 Jan 2007) had held the title since the death of Julie Bertrand (16 Sep 1891-18 Jan 2007).

According to the Gerontology Research Group, the world's oldest person is now Mrs Edna Parker, who was born 20 Apr 1893 in Shelby County, Indiana, followed by Maria de Jesus of Portugal (born 10 Sep 1893) and Bertha Fry, also of Indiana (born 1 Dec 1893). The oldest living man is Tomoji Tanabe of Japan (born 18 Sep 1895), who is the 25th-oldest living person.*

ZUI GRG's list of verified supercentenarians (people who have reached their 110th birthday), which as of today contains 76 names - 69 women and 7 men.

* The oldest living man in the US is George Francis, born in Louisiana and currently living in California. He and Henry Allingham, the oldest man in the UK, were born 6 Jun 1896 and are the 53rd- and 54th-oldest living people.

12 August 2007

"What book got you hooked?"

FirstBook polled a bunch of people on what book (or series) got them hooked on reading; below is the top fifty list. Just for fun, look it over and put a plus in front of those you remember reading (or being read) in your childhood, a minus in front of those you don't remember reading.

+ Nancy Drew series, by "Carolyn Keene"
+ Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr Seuss
- Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
+ Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
+ The Cat in the Hat, by Dr Seuss
- The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner
* Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
- The Poky Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey
+ Go, Dog, Go!, by P D Eastman
+ Are You My Mother?, by P D Eastman
+ Curious George, by Margret and H A Rey
+ Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell
+ The Little Engine that Could, by Watty Piper and Loren Long
* Goodnight, Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
+ Dick and Jane series, by William H Elson
* Ramona Quimby, Age 8, by Beverly Cleary
+ The Bobbsey Twins series, by "Laura Lee Hope"
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls
- The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
* The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley
- The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
+ Heidi, by Johanna Spyri
- The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
+ A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle
* Harry Potter series, by J K Rowling
* Clifford the Big Red Dog, by Norman Bridwell
+ Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
- Anne of Green Gables, by L M Montgomery
- Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
- Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
+ The Hardy Boys series, by "Franklin W Dixon"
+ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, by Dr Seuss
* The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C S Lewis
- Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
* Winnie the Pooh, by A A Milne
- The Baby-sitters Club series, by Ann M Martin
+ Horton Hears A Who, by Dr Seuss
- Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish
+ Hop on Pop, by Dr Seuss
+ Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Songs
* Encyclopedia Brown series, by Donald J Sobol
+ Mrs Piggle Wiggle, by Betty MacDonald
+ The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
+ The Wizard of Oz, by L Frank Baum
* Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans
+ The Bible
+ Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson
+ Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
* Ramona the Pest, by Beverly Cleary

I've varied the procedure slightly by placing an asterisk (*) in front of the books I've read, but which I didn't read as a child. (I'm using 12 1/2, the age at which I moved from Michigan to Illinois, as an easy cutoff date.)

And which book got me hooked? My sister says she used The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, to teach me to read when I was three; that's certainly the first book I remember. Other books I remember from early days are The Guns of Shiloh, by Joseph A Altsheler (I had a heck of a time convincing the school librarian that a second-grader was capable of reading that book); The Sinking of the Bismarck, by William L Shirer, the book that really got me interested in WW II, and by extension, history in general; and The People That Time Forgot and Thuvia, Maid of Mars, which - when I was ten - were my introduction both to science fiction and to Edgar Rice Burroughs.

H/T to Jen, quoting Blog from the Windowsill.

Victoria Cross: A. T. Moore and J. G. Malcolmson


Lieutenant and Adjutant, 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry

Born: 20 September 1830, Carlingford, Louth, Ireland


Lieutenant, 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry

Born: 9 February 1835, Muchrach, Inverness, Scotland

Joint Citation: On the occasion of an attack on the enemy on the 8th of February, 1857 [at the Battle of Khoosh-ab, Persia], led by Lieutenant-Colonel Forbes, C.B., Lieutenant Moore, the Adjutant of the Regiment, was, perhaps, the first of all by a horse's length. His horse leaped into the square, and instantly fell dead, crushing down his rider, and breaking his sword as he fell amid the broken ranks of the enemy. Lieutenant Moore speedily extricated himself, and attempted with his broken sword to force his way through the press; but he assuredly would have lost his life, had not the gallant young Lieutenant Malcolmson, observing his peril, fought his way to his dismounted comrade through a crowd of enemies to his rescue, and, giving him his stirrup, safely carried him through everything out of the throng.
The thoughtfulness for others, cool determination, devoted courage, and ready activity shewn in extreme danger by this young officer, Lieutenant Malcolmson, appear to have been most admirable, and to be worthy of the highest honour.

(London Gazette Issue 22409 dated 3 Aug 1860, published 3 Aug 1860.)

Lieutenant Moore's medals

Medal of Honor: W. Badders


Chief Machinist's Mate, US Navy

Born: 16 September 1900, Harrisburg, Ill.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession during the rescue and salvage operations following the sinking of the U.S.S. Squalus [SS 192] on 13 May 1939. During the rescue operations, Badders, as senior member of the rescue chamber crew, made the last extremely hazardous trip of the rescue chamber to attempt to rescue any possible survivors in the flooded after portion of the Squalus. He was fully aware of the great danger involved in that if he and his assistant became incapacitated, there was no way in which either could be rescued. During the salvage operations, Badders made important and difficult dives under the most hazardous conditions. His outstanding performance of duty contributed much to the success of the operations and characterizes conduct far above and beyond the ordinary call of duty.

Note: Chief Badders had previously been awarded the Navy Cross for "extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty" during the salvage of USS S-51 (SS 162) in 1926.

11 August 2007

Deathly Hallows discussion

For those who are interested, Michele is hosting a discussion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows over at Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone.

10 August 2007

Sweet Home Alabama

Suomi (Finland, to you) is an amazing country, full of amazing people doing amazing things. Like this incredible piece of musical ... something ... for instance:

(Video player requires Flash Player.)

Though how they got the Red Army Choir to go along with it, I don't know. (Reparations for the Winter War, perhaps?)

H/T to Charles at Little Green Footballs for this one.

What's it worth now?

My blog is worth $12,984.42.
How much is your blog worth?

I checked this last year (6 Oct 06), and the value then was only $3951.78 - a 228.6% increase in ten months. Wish my bank accounts would do that....


15,000 years ago, the plains of North America looked like the Serengeti - large herds of animals everywhere. Then the animals started dying - the native American horses and camels, several types of large ground sloths, mammoths, mastodons, giant beavers, odd antelope species similar to pronghorn, short-faced bears larger than our present grizzly, sabertoothed and scimitar cats, and the American lion (which was larger than the current African lion), amongst others. Some blame the climate changes at the end of the last ice age, some blame the humans who invaded from Asia around that time, some suggest other causes, some say all of the above. Whatever the cause(s), some 40 species from 30 genera of large animals ("megafauna") became extinct.

This article from the Cornell University News Service was published two years ago:
If Cornell University researchers and their colleagues have their way, cheetahs, lions, elephants, camels and other large wild animals may soon roam parts of North America.

"If we only have 10 minutes to present this idea, people think we're nuts," said Harry Greene, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell. "But if people hear the one-hour version, they realize they haven't thought about this as much as we have. Right now, we are investing all of our megafauna hopes on one continent -- Africa."

Greene and a number of other highly eminent ecologists and conservationists have authored a paper, published in the latest issue of Nature (Vol. 436, No. 7053), advocating the establishment of vast ecological history parks with large mammals, mostly from Africa, that are close relatives or counterparts to extinct Pleistocene-period animals that once roamed the Great Plains.

The plan, which is called Pleistocene rewilding and is intended to be a proactive approach to conservation, would help revitalize ecosystems that have been compromised by the extinction of many of the continent's large mammals, many of them predators. It would also offer ecotourism and land-management jobs to help the struggling economies in rural areas of the Great Plains and Southwest.


For example, 4 million years of being hunted by the now extinct American cheetah (Acinonyx trumani) was probably why the pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) -- an antelopelike animal found throughout the deserts of the American Southwest -- developed such blinding speed, clocking in at around 60 miles an hour. Introducing free-ranging African cheetahs back to the Southwest, the scientists assert, could restore strong interactions with pronghorns and provide endangered cheetahs with new habitat.

Other living species that are counterparts to Pleistocene-era animals in North America include feral horses (Equus caballus), wild asses (E. asinus), Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus), Asian (Elephas maximus) and African (Loxodonta africana) elephants and lions (Panthera leo).

Now it's being propsed that something similar be done in Europe. ZUI this article from the May issue of Scientific American:
In many ways, Europe is a more obvious candidate for re-wilding than North America. The reason: a large portion of species lost in the Americas do not have any close living relatives. Europe has also seen its share of extinctions, including the scimitar cat, cave bear, woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, steppe rhinoceros and giant deer, but many of Europe's lost species still survive or have close wild or domestic relatives elsewhere in the world. Europe also has a historical advantage: The disappearance of its megafauna to a large extent occurred more recently than in North America, with many species persisting well into the Holocene.

Europe has already succeeded in reintroducing some previously extinct species. The bison, which was extinct in the wild in the early 20th century, has now been reestablished in scattered populations across eastern Europe. Small populations of musk ox that lived in Europe in cold climates until the late glacial period have been successfully reintroduced in Scandinavia's mountains. The fallow deer, the closest relative of the now extinct giant deer, survived marginally into Europe's Holocene, but persisted in Asia Minor. After several millennia of reintroductions, the animal now prospers in most European countries. The successful re-wilding of these species bodes well for larger scale projects.

But re-wilding initiatives in Europe must also include reinvigoration of megafauna populations already there that have suffered severe range constriction. Among them: the wolf, brown bear, lynx and moose. Scientists should also consider reintroducing 11 additional megafauna species: the Asiatic lion, leopard, spotted hyena, dhole, horse, cattle, Asiatic wild ass, Asiatic elephant, hippopotamus, water buffalo and hairy rhinoceros.


Haiku, of course, is a Japanese poetry form. Last September I posted directions for how to write it. Rather than make you go looking for that post, I'll just repeat it here:

Some five syllables.
Another seven go here.
Finish with five more.

Traditional haiku is about nature. The first line often contains a word or phrase which tells what season the setting is.

An old pond;
A frog jumps in--
The sound of water.
Matsuo Basho (1644 - 1694)

From a bathing tub
I throw water into the lake -
slight muddiness appears.
Hekigodo Kawahigashi. (1873-1937)

(The syllable counts aren't right in these two because they're translated from the Japanese; the originals did have the right format.)

Here's a traditional-style haiku about a rainbow:

Curving up, then down.
Meeting blue sky and green earth
Melding sun and rain.
Donna Brock

And some more traditional-style haiku:

watching the snow
a cup of coffee balanced
on my briefcase

A squirrel's light touch
On the Queen's great oak sends down
A drift of rain drops.

hot air so heavy
even the crickets can’t breathe
time slows to a stop

Americans, not as tradition-bound as the Japanese, have adapted (or perverted - your choice) this form of poetry to all sorts of other things. For instance, there are cat haiku:

You never feed me.
Perhaps I'll sleep on your face.
That will sure show you.

Grace personified,
I leap into the window.
I meant to do that.

Humans are so strange.
Mine lies still in bed, then screams!
My claws aren't that sharp...

And of course there are also dog haiku:

I lie belly-up
In the sunshine, happier than
You ever will be.

How do I love thee?
The ways are numberless as
My hairs on the rug.

I sound the alarm!
Mailman - come to kill us all -
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

I even found some horse haiku:

We Run in Circles
Faster, Faster, it's so fun!
Who is "Whoa Dammit"?

Forty hooves pounding
Tails stream, dirt flies, sharp whips crack
Bright silks shimmering

Getting away from the animal world, there are airplane haiku:

the plane has landed
the people are excited
here come the cell phones

Computers, of course, are a wonderful subject for haiku.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

No keyboard present
Hit F1 to continue
Zen engineering?

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.

Here's a silly one I wrote a while back, just because:

Monsters in the streets!
But the people need not fear -
Scooby-Doo is here.

Here's a more serious (and more traditionally styled) one I wrote as part of a group of submarine-themed haiku:

On the snowy pier
A shivering topside watch
Waits for his coffee.

And finally, my favourite haiku of all:

How can I express
A complete thought in only
Seventeen sylla

Click on the "Poetry Friday" button at left for this week's round-up, which is hosted by Kelly at Big A little a.

09 August 2007

Universal health care?

ZUI LawDog's post on the prospect of government-run universal health care in the United States.

Everybody in Philadelphia....

ZUI this amusing post from Language Log about The New Yorker, Philadelphia and Harry Potter.

This day in history: 9 Aug

48 BC: G Iulius Caesar defeated Gn Pompeius Magnus at Pharsalus, Greece.

378: A Roman army led by Emperor Valens was defeated by the Visigoths at Adrianople (modern-day Edirne, in present-day Turkey). Valens and two-thirds of his army were killed.

1173: Construction began on the campanile at Pisa, Italy. After a few pauses, it was finally completed in 1360.

1483: The first mass was celebrated in the Sistine Chapel. (The famous ceiling paintings by Michelangelo were done during the period 1508-1512.)

1842: The Webster-Ashburton Treaty, establishing the United States-Canada border east of the Rocky Mountains, was signed.

1862: Confederate General Thomas J Jackson narrowly defeated Union forces under General John Pope at Cedar Mountain, Virginia. After a regimental colour-bearer was killed, Captain George W Corliss, C Company, 5th Connecticut Infantry, seized his fallen flag and carried it forward in the face of a severe fire. Though he himself was also shot down, permanently disabled, he planted the staff in the earth and kept the flag flying. Corliss was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1877: US forces commanded by Colonel John Gibbon defeated Nez Percé Indians, led by chiefs Joseph and Looking Glass, at the Big Hole River in Montana. Five members of the 7th US Infantry and one from the 2nd US Cavalry were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the battle.

1902: Edward VII, who had been King of the United Kingdom since his mother's death in January, 1901, was crowned in Westminster Abbey. (The coronation had originally been scheduled for 26 June, but was postponed due to the king's appendicectomy.)

1936: Track star Jesse Owens became the first American to win four medals in one Olympic Games.

1942: A Japanese force consisting of five heavy cruisers (Chokai, Aoba, Furutaka, Kako and Kinugasa), two light cruisers (Tenryu and Yubari) and one destroyer (Yunagi), commanded by Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, entered the waters near Savo Island (off Guadalcanal). The Allied warships present - cruisers USS Vincennes (CA 44), USS Astoria (CA 34), USS Quincy (CA 39), HMAS Australia (D84)*, HMAS Canberra (D33) and USS Chicago (CA 29), and destroyers USS Helm (DD 388), USS Wilson (DD 408), USS Patterson (DD 392), USS Bagley (DD 386), USS Ralph Talbot (DD 390) and USS Blue (DD 387), under the command of Rear Admiral Victor Crutchley VC DSC, RN - were taken completely by surprise. The Japanese torpedoes and gunfire proved extremely effective; Quincy, Vincennes, Canberra and Astoria were sunk, and Chicago, Patterson and Ralph Talbot were damaged, with a loss of 1077 men. The Japanese had three ships (Chokai, Tenryu and Kinugasa) damaged, and lost 58 men.

1945: Some 40,000 people were killed when an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.
That same day, aircraft from HMS Formidable attacked Japanese ships in Onagawa Wan, near Tokyo. Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray DSC, RCNVR, flying a Chance-Vought Corsair from HMS Formidable, was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Despite being wounded, and his plane's being in flames, he pressed his attack, sinking the escort ship Amakusa, before crashing into the bay. Gray was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

1969: Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Jay Sebring and Steven Parent were murdered in Los Angeles by followers of Charles Manson.

1974: President Richard Nixon resigned from office, making Gerald Ford the only US president who was not elected to the office of either president or vice-president.

In addition to Fl Iulius Valens (c 328–378), Lieut Gray (1917-1945), and Sharon Tate (1943-1969) and her fellow victims, Sir Frank Whittle OM KBE FRS (1907–1996), Gregory Hines (1946–2003) and James Van Allen (1914–2006) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Izaak Walton (1593-1683), Amedeo Avogadro (1776–1856), William Barret Travis (1809–1836), Pamela L Travers OBE (1899–1996), Tove Jansson (1914–2001), Robert Shaw (1927–1978), Sam Elliott (1944-TBD) and Gillian Anderson (1968-TBD).

* HMAS Australia survived the Battle of Savo Island, but has the distinction of being believed to have been the first ship damaged by a kamikaze attack, and to be the ship hit the most times by kamikazes.